Monday, April 25, 2022

The BARE Den becomes the BEAR Den

Many years ago now the day arrived when it was time to dismantle my late husband's home office from which he conducted his consulting business. One of my offspring helped: we took apart a large L-shaped glass-top desk, sold it on Craig's list and offered up, free to anyone who'd like them, custom-built bookshelves and three tall file cabinets. In one afternoon the bulky furniture was carted away by people thrilled to have office furnishings. We then rearranged the remaining several shelves along the walls and essentially closed the door. 

The space ceased being Jay's office and became just a bare room, and the shut door was a way of not missing him so much. Within a few weeks I began to refer to the room as "the Bare Den," as a way of having a little fun with words. That's when it occurred to me: MY BEAR COLLECTION could live there! Multiple stuffed bears were currently stored in boxes in a closet. I wasn't quite ready to give them away, but I didn't want them cluttering our condominium, either.

One-by-one I set them out and now the BARE DEN stayed open and morphed into the BEAR DEN, which is what I still call it today, seven years after the take-down of Jay's office. Lately, I've been doing a series of daily physical therapy exercises for my knees and hips while lying on a yoga mat in the Bear Den. As I lie on the floor I can see the bears in their 'caves,' a storage shelf Jay built back in the day when we had hundreds of LP records. I have to admit, it's really fun looking at the bears as I do my repetitive and boring exercises. Please meet my stuffed cuties that I look at as I exercise on the floor. I'm liking their company.

Friday, April 8, 2022

While living alone recovering from a mild case of Covid-19 (omicron)

You've decided on a menu for lunch using the diminishing selection of food in the fridge. After all, you've been in isolation for five days . . . and without a housemate, a loving family member, or a lady-in-waiting to prepare something delicious, you make do with what you have. Grilled cheese--that sounds good, even if you won't be able to taste it. Nourishing comfort food--just what a patient recovering from her coronavirus might like. 

So you heat the skillet, slice the cheese, spread butter on the bread, and start the sandwich, while you wash an apple, set the table with a napkin and placemat, and pour a glass of water. Is it time to turn the sandwich? Probably. 

This is what happens when you cook without a sense of smell.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Unwitting Gifts are Anywhere

In the Poetry Potluck sponsored by the local YMCA we write poems to semi-monthly prompts given to us by our poetry facilitator or his designee. We meet over Zoom for an hour twice a month to read aloud and chat. Through our poetry prompts and the resulting poems, we've become what feels like friends, yet most of us have not (and may never) meet in person. It's been a lovely perk during the other 'P' even we've all experienced in the past two years. Thank you, Y!

The most recent prompt for a poem was "advice/words of wisdom received." Instead of writing about a specific gift, I wrote a poem about one of my favorite notions--something a person hears inadvertently that becomes advice and can even be profoundly helpful. Nine years ago I wrote a post on the topic and published it on this blog, which I reference in this link

Here is my poem written last week on the same topic.


Anyone can give you an unwitting gift, 

and that anyone will likely never know it.  

Offhand or sloppy is how the gift is wrapped,

its ribbon like a crumb stuck on a sleeve

            that draws you in, but goes unnoticed by another.

It’s a gulp of truth spoken in passing,

expelled like breath and enveloping you 

with an ah-ha, and unravels a knot of

worries and concerns or questions inside 

            that helps dissolve an undigested mental lump. 

Maybe you hear something on the radio 

and as your ears swallow the phrase, you realize 

how starved you were for this very thing, 

word-food which silences an unknown craving

            that soothes your insides from the inside out. 

 You might receive an unwitting gift in a checkout line,

or as anecdotal sharing in a good-friend chat, 

even from a person you don’t much care for,

but someone has brushed past you with the dustpan

            that holds the puzzle piece you didn’t know was lost.



Saturday, March 12, 2022

A new discovery about an OLD item

As far back as I can remember, my father had an intriguing desk. Called a "Governor Winthrop" style, it had a dropdown desktop that folded at an angle when not in use. Before it was Dad's, it was his father's, and when my mother died, she specified in her will the desk was to be mine. Thus it came to live with the Glerums in 1969.

It very much looks its age--a century plus, but I don't know its exact provenance. Not only is its finish badly worn and marred, but its legs were chewed on by our family dog in the late '50s. Our English bulldog, Winston, apparently found comfort in gnawing away at the claw-like legs when we'd leave him alone too long. The desk resided in the part of the house that Winston was confined to when alone, so there wasn't much we could do but scold him when we noticed the increasing damage. Of course, it never happened when we were home.  

The decorative cupboard door
You'd think I'd know the nooks and crannies of a piece of wood furniture after living with it for eighty years and owning more than fifty, but yesterday it surprised me. One of the desk's delightful features (and why I have loved it since childhood) is its six slots, five tiny drawers, two secret compartments, and one tiny cupboard inside the dropdown area. For as long as I've had the desk, I've kept tickets to performances in the tiny cupboard at its center and, because of it, I've never misplaced hundreds of paper tickets issued for a season or a one-off performance. Until yesterday.

I intended to get out my old-fashioned paper tickets (you know the kind, maybe 1.5" x 4") for an event this weekend. I pushed aside several folded, home-printed tickets for other events, saw the little envelope I was looking for and went to grab it. But, wait . . . I had just seen it, but it was gone! The small envelope seemingly vanished, which I substantiated by taking everything out of the compartment and reexamining the contents of several envelopes, flyers and pamphlets. What the f - - k!

Probing around with a flashlight helped me realize there was a small gap in the back of the little cupboard. I concluded the tickets must have somehow slipped through to the back of the writing surface underneath the cupboard. But even scraping a ruler underneath that area, I found no tickets! (I did find several rubber bands, a paper clip, a bookmark and a museum guest pass lying there, though.) Next, I opened the top main desk drawer, wondering if the tickets had fallen through to that drawer, but--no--still no tickets! 

Next I removed the drawer where, sure enough, the ticket envelope was lying on its supporting wooden shelf that separates it from the next large drawer. In addition to the tickets were several other larger pieces of paper, two with dates on them that put them back to 2012 and 2013! The two dated sheets were too big and unimportant to ever have put in the locked cupboard, so  I have no idea how they got there. 

I can't remember ever taking out the drawers except when preparing the desk for a move. The last time that happened was 2010. But I'd never dreamed an item in the little locked cupboard could make its way into hiding in an instant, a poof! My point in writing this? For me it's a smack-in-the-face lesson: Never, ever, take anything for granted. For you, it might be a lesson in how aging brings on a recalibration of what's exciting enough to spend time writing about it. (EEK!)   

Monday, February 14, 2022

Paper Flowers

He knew my opinion of the holiday—

greedy retailers had wrecked it for most

by marking up candy and jewelry and cards.

“Just tell me you love me on Valentine’s Day 

I do not need roses at ten times their worth!"


After running some errands and returning back home

I entered my office, then gasped and stopped short

A vase of red roses had been set on my desk

and my anger erupted in the rudest of yells

“What the . . . you know what I think of flowers this day!”


“Yes, I do,” he said as he rounded the corner

to yank up the vase and toss out its contents.

“Dollar Store!” he grinned, then hooted in glee.

It took me a second to fathom the scene. Uh,

no water was spilled and . . . Oh, the roses were fake!


I gulped and I gasped, then I snorted a laugh

and he grinned and extended his arms in a hug.

We chuckled all day at how I fell for his joke.

All these years later I still have those roses

sweet keepsake forever of his laughter and love.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Madame Sylvia Part 3 (and final)

Madame Sylvia Part 3 

And that began periodic visits from Madame Sylvia, always happening around the children’s bedtime. I’d hastily overlay Madame Sylvia’s outfit on top of my housewife garb, kicking off my shoes and squeezing into green high heels as I tied the kimono shut with its sash, and slap on the headscarf and earrings while running around the side of the house to ring the front doorbell. I got very good at this quick change, and made a point of mentioning to the children their dad would get them ready for bed that night because I had to go to the store. Madame Sylvia arrived several times that first year, then tapered off to maybe once every couple of months for three more years. The children always were on best behavior the minute she entered the living room. 

She came to our Seattle house for the last time in the early summer of 1972, ostensibly to say goodbye to the children who were moving (with their parents, of course) to Wisconsin in August. Even then, as children nearly three years older, they never let on if they knew her identity but played into the role of perfect children eager to please the visitor.

She visited us only three times after the Seattle farewell. Once in Milwaukee to the rented house five months after transplantation. She was just passing through Wisconsin, she said, and wanted to make sure everyone was doing all right. The children took polite turns talking with her, telling her about their school and asking her questions. She was never at a loss for answers—ad-libbing her script as fast as it came to her. Several years later she came on Halloween—and offered to answer the door while the children went afternoon Trick-or-Treating. That was a bittersweet visit because it became evident the game was over. In all those years, the children had never pursued the identity of Madame Sylvia. Instead, they gleefully described her to me when I’d arrive back home after my inevitable after-dinner errand. She was a delicious secret that everyone enjoyed. But there was no doubt that afternoon: each of them clearly recognized me, and yet we still did not talk about my double identity. Only a few years ago one of my sons confessed that he had never been entirely certain of Madame Sylvia’s identity until that Halloween.

Madame Sylvia’s final appearance was in Santa Fe at a family reunion in 2002. She wore different earrings (one had been lost) and she no longer fit into her green high-heeled shoes, donated to a thrift shop many years prior. But she knocked on the door of the rented casita where everyone was gathered after supper and entered the room in her purple silk kimono and blue headscarf. Only her husband knew anything of her plan to join them. He graciously and formally introduced her to the people she didn’t know— the grown children’s spouses, all of whom had heard about her. She seemed as delighted to meet them as they were her and shared with each of the women her positive first-hand impressions of them. After a few minutes of conversation, she said goodbye to everyone and excused herself. “Don’t see me out,” she said. “I know the way zee vay.” She has not made an appearance since.

I still have the kimono and sash. A few years ago I asked my neighbor who’s a native of Japan if she would like to see the garment crafted from beautiful silk and dyes from the early-to-mid 1930s. She admired the quality of workmanship with its intense color and pattern. She laid the kimono out and showed me the proper way to fold it, which I did and then wrapped it in acid-free tissue. I didn’t share with her how many times I’d worn it as Madame Sylvia, lest it sounded irreverent and foolish. Only my closest friends have heard about my foray in this avatar who triggered my children’s best behavior. As I tucked the precious tissue packet into a drawer, I could hear Madame Sylvia’s phony-accented voice addressing me. “I am vun of the best ideas you effer had.” I nodded in agreement as if she had spoken aloud.  

The End 

or is it? 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Madame Sylvia--Part 2

Madame Sylvia  Part 2

 “Why of course,” he answered, putting his hand up to his mouth to hide his grin. “Uh, what did you say your name was?”

I am Muh-dahm Seal-vee-a. I haff come from fahr avay to read to your shield-rehn. I haff heard zay are very vell-behafed. Faht ah zeir names?)

With a perfectly straight face, he introduced them each by name. “Say hello to Madame Sylvia, children,” then excused himself (by now he was nearly shaking with laughter) to leave the four small people in the living room with Madame Sylvia. She ordered them to sit in a circle at her feet, which they promptly did. After asking a few questions—without once dropping her thick accent, an essential part of her disguise—about what they had done that day, she accepted the storybook from the oldest child and opened it. “I can see you are good children and would never make an interruption.” She read aloud in a blissfully silent room.

After she finished the book, she closed it and asked one to tell their father she was leaving. When he reappeared, she walked to the door. “You have such polite children, but I must leave now. It was lovely to meet you all.” ( . . . It vuz luffly to meet you all.)

“Will you come again, Madame Sylvia?” 

“Perhaps . . . we’ll see. Goodbye.”

I waited until I rounded the corner of the house to take off the costume, knowing that the children were being escorted upstairs to bed and would not be looking out the window. In just a couple minutes I tiptoed through the back door looking exactly the way I had looked before my transformation. I rushed upstairs to kiss everyone goodnight.

“Oh, good! I got back in time to kiss you goodnight.”

“Mommy, guess what happened!” the three year-old began.

The four year old interrupted. “This lady came and read to us.”

“Really? Why?” I asked.

“She travels to houses . . . it was our turn . . . she only reads to good children . . . we were good.

“Well, I’m glad you were good! Do you remember what her name was?”

“Madame Sylvia,” answered the four-year old, imitating her accent perfectly. “She talked funny . . ..”

“. . . but she was nice.” The six year old, who had been standing in her brother's bedroom doorway, finished his sentence. “I sat right next to her . . . she let me turn the pages.”  

I was surprised no one had yet asked the obvious question. I quickly explained my absence. “It’s too bad I had to run to the store. I would have enjoyed meeting her”

“She looked a little bit like you, but . . ..”

“It wasn’t you . . .you don’t have clothes like that.” 

 “Can you describe what she looked like?” I asked, to divert the sting of a direct fib.

Everyone talked at once—even the eighteen-month-old repeated words from his crib across the hall. “Purple and long . . . purpo . . . bathrobe and blue hat . . . she talked loud. . .  sparkly earwings . . . floppy scarf. . . and green shoes, too. Yeah, . . . Mommy doesn’t have green shoes, so it couldn’t be Mommy . . . but she looked kinda like her . . . sort of . . . ‘cept Mommy doesn’t talk like that . . . nah, it wasn’t Mommy cuz Daddy would have recognized her.”

 “She sounds like an interesting woman. I hope I can meet her someday.  Now, let’s get to sleep, everyone!” I kissed my four now-well-behaved children, closed all three bedroom-doors and descended the stairs to the family room.

“What on earth made you think of that?” my husband asked, chuckling. And was it possible I’d really fooled them? Maybe we all needed a little magic now—especially now—after their Nana’s death.


End Part-2