Saturday, August 21, 2021

Remembering Jay

Every year since my late husband died, I've done something special on his birthday to remember him. Some years I've walked along one of his favorite beaches, either the fresh water of Lake Washington or the salt water of Elliott Bay. Sometimes I've enjoyed a lunch or dinner at one of his favorite restaurants (either upscale and fast food), always ordering what I imagine he would order. (After our long marriage, I know well what particular items on the menu made the restaurant a favorite of his.) Finally, I try always to visit a nearby location the two of us walked to frequently.

This year I had a new idea to commemorate his birthday. I would drop coins as I walked. Why? Because for as long as I knew him, he never walked past even a penny without stooping to pick it up. No matter what parking lot, what sidewalk, what store--anywhere at all--if there was a coin on the ground, Jay would lean over to pick it up with a general quip about a found coin being a lucky one. 

On Monday, August 16, I counted out eighty-two cents (the age he would have been that day) in pennies and dimes and let my offspring know what I was planning. Several of them did the same where they live, making it especially celebratory. It still makes me happy to think a number of people might stop to pick up the coins and in so doing--albeit completely unaware--would be bowing down to the memory of Jay O. Glerum. 


Monday, August 9, 2021

Not the good old days, but . . .

I'm not one to wax eloquent about the 'good old days.' I believe we should appreciate our past but not worship at its feet. Move on and find the good in the now. That said, ahem . . . yup, I'm getting there . . . remember when a gas station offered premium perks if we filled our gas tanks at its specific location?

These square Corningware containers were all earned at a Seattle gas station--I can't remember if it was Atlantic Richfield, Mobilgas, or Standard Oil, but I do know we made a point of using a specific station in the late sixties because I wanted a free set of these versatile storage containers. And here I am almost sixty years later and I STILL have them, and they are none the worse for their constant wear. I've used them multiple times every week for decades and prefer them to any other containers for food storage. They withstand the freezer, the oven, and the microwave (which was still years away from being known about or available to the average person). I love these little dishes.

Nowadays, I'm embarrassed to be seen standing at a gas pump. I should be biking, walking, bussing or driving my electric car. At the very least--my car should be a hybrid. The days are long gone where I will be rewarded for buying a full tank of gas. But I will never forget proudly earning little square Corningware dishes as a result of consuming gasoline, and I'm happy I did.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Proof of Fairies?

Do you believe in fairies? I'm beginning to think I do. This morning I found this tiny ring outside my laundry room  door. It was not there yesterday (or the day before, or the day before that), and no one under the age of forty-seven has been in my house for at least ten days.

I tried to take photos that would put its tininess in perspective.  Of course, I could have set out a measuring tape, but that would have been too logical. How could I be logical when I looked down and saw this circle of 'rubies' just lying on the floor by a closed door inside my house?  I am imagining a fairy was passing through my home (would it have been tiptoeing or flying?) last night as I slept--maybe slipping past the screen on an open window (screens wouldn't prevent fairies from getting in, would they?) to my basement level garage where it is delightfully cool. I am utterly flummoxed regarding a rational answer. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Cottonwood Perspective

When the cottonwood trees bloom in my neighborhood, we joke that it looks like it's snowing. The fluff that transports its seeds is so lightweight it is blown everywhere and often accumulates along the sides of paths and roadways to look like pretend snow that a Hallmark movie director has ordered for a wintry effect. People complain. It gets into window screens and fans and clings to cobwebs on windows. It's tracked inside and can make your new black pants look like you live with a white cat. And it makes many people sneeze from their cottonwood allergies.   

Size of one seed
But deadly? I don't think most of us would think twice about answering that question in the negative. And yet, recently I saw something that made me think a lot about perspective and how it's so different, depending on who/what you are. Every trouble, every woe, every challenge is relative. As inconvenient as some people find cottonwood's bloom, or as beautiful as others believe it to be, everything depends on who, what, and where we are. 

When I saw a little bee crawl-hopping across the street, I did a double take. Bees fly! The aren't pedestrians on a street. I stopped to investigate. A single cottonwood seed with its fluffy conveyor had landed on the bee. Maybe it had been flying, maybe it was gathering nectar from a blossom on the nearby rhododendron . . . we'll never know. What was clear is that the seed had adhered to the bee's wing to make flying impossible. I watched the bee struggle, standing on its front feet and shaking its body, opening its wings while performing a little jump-ity jump step, trying to shake off the seed off. As much as I wanted to help, I knew there was no way I could keep my touch light enough to not injure it. I held up a leaf in front of it; it walked on, Then I carried the leaf and the bee to the closest garden and laid it under a shrub. At least it would not get run over.

How cottonwood could be deadly to a living creature was an aha moment. Yes, perspective is everything. So I can enjoy the sight of cottonwood blowing through the air (or be inconvenienced by it, but to another living creature it's potentially as dangerous as hiking down the middle of a highway would be for me.

Monday, May 31, 2021

If Earrings Could Sing

If earrings could sing, I know what the song and lyric snippet would be.  

Recently my sister and brother-in-law resumed our pre-pandemic Sunday night dinners together. We were excited as we settled into a window booth at Tavern-on-the-Square, a local restaurant run by the quirky and beloved McMenamins hotel chain. When the waitperson brought our delicious appetizer of roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts, we joyfully removed our masks for the duration of the meal and didn't put them on again until we were ready to leave the restaurant, and it wasn't until I was settled into my sister's car for the ride home that I took mine off again. 

Later that evening, I looked in the mirror to remove my earrings and saw I had only one! Quickly assessing where I'd been and how it might have fallen out, I concluded it had happened during mask removal. As a person with hearing aids, I'm super careful to hold onto them while peeling the mask's ear loops away, but clearly I hadn't been equally careful with my earrings.

After asking my sister to look in her car, I got the dreaded news: nothing! I then called the restaurant to ask if anyone had turned in an earring and learned that because McMenamins runs Anderson School Hotel in conjunction with Tavern-on-the-Square, there's a major Lost and Found center in the hotel. I was transfered to it. Subsequently, I emailed a photo along with the date I'd lost it, feeling a bit defeated. I couldn't help thinking about why I cared so much (besides from the fact it was esthetically pleasing) and realized there were three quirky reasons, all people: one a good friend, one an acquaintance, and one a stranger.

The lapis and silver pair was a thank-you gift from Cheryl, a Milwaukee friend, after she visited us in Seattle in the spring of 1987. She and I had driven to the family ocean cottage where we stayed for a few days, and Cheryl was thrilled with the experience. My father had planted huckleberries many years before and they were bearing fruit during our visit. Every time we went outside to walk to the ocean or drive to town, Cheryl would stop and pick a handful of berries to eat. When she ordered the earrings from a start-up catalog company, she wrote on the gift card how they reminded her of huckleberries and hoped I'd think of our beach trip when I wore them. True; I do.

In 2011 I was elected to our condominium community's Board of Directors, serving with four other neighbors, none of whom I knew well. Everyone was friendly, but Bobbie, the treasurer, exclaimed, "You are wearing the exact same earrings as I am!" And sure enough, she was right. When we both showed up at the next meeting wearing the exact same sweater (in different colors, though), we decided it was a sign; we should always plan on wearing one or the other item to every Board meeting to represent our solidarity as the only two women on the Board. From that point on, Bobbie and I wore our identical earrings to the HOA board meetings, and not a Board meeting goes by that I don't think of her, even though she moved away in 2012.

Fast forward to 2017 when I was strolling across the former Worlds' Fair Grounds in Seattle known as Seattle Center. A woman was walking toward me and when she got close, she burst out, "Oh, my god, you're wearing earrings designed by my aunt!" We stopped to talk and she went on to tell me her aunt was deceased, but had been an Alaskan native who'd sold several of her beautiful silver jewelry designs to the same catalog company in 1985. I loved hearing this personal connection.  

All these associations were jingling around in my head on Tuesday morning, so I decided to drive to McMenamins to speak in person to the host at the restaurant and drop off a hard copy of the photo at the hotel's Lost-and-Found. The restaurant host graciously invited me to walk through the restaurant and look around the booth where we'd been sitting the prior evening. Nothing. I then dropped off the picture at the hotel check-in desk where the very nice clerk expressed sympathy but not hope. I walked back through the restaurant and second guessed myself about which booth it had been. A young couple had just been seated at the booth in question, so after hesitating a second, I stopped and asked if--when they were done with their meal--they would mind glancing around the bench and under the table to see if a lone earring was hiding out. "We'll do you one better," answered the smiling man. He jumped up, turned on his cellphone flashlight and climbed under the table. Nothing. He and his girlfriend both expressed sympathy for the missing item.

When I got home I thought of my friend, Monica, who had recently received a call from our close-by supermarket with the news her eyeglasses had just been found after being missing three weeks. She explained to me she'd willed them to be found! Darn it, I thought to myself, if Monica could will her glasses to be found, I can will my earring to be found. With so many memories associated with them, I wasn't ready to say goodbye. 

Right around suppertime the phone rang; the call screen said McMenamins. "Sara? I have good news" is how the caller began. Yes, someone had turned in an earring they found on the floor at Tavern-on-the-Square. I drove to pick it up and on my way home imagined the earring was singing Amazing Grace ". . . I once was lost but now I'm found. . .." I tucked the two earrings together in my jewelry box, wondering if I'd ever let myself wear them again, or if they were too special to risk losing. Nah--I'll just be more careful next time. A found earring deserves to be worn.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Arlene Hershgold

My friendship with Arlene started out when 'the woman across the street' came over to introduce herself to my husband and me that July day of 2010. Crossing the street to shake our hands with a big welcoming smile is an unusual an activity in greater Seattle. Seattleites are known for 'minding our own business,' a euphemism that can come across as just plain indifferent or snooty. 

Within a few weeks of meeting her, I learned that Arlene was originally from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, which let me understood immediately why she was so friendly to us. That's just what Wisconsinites do! Almost forty years earlier, I had been amazed and thrilled to be greeted by neighbors when my family moved into our Wisconsin home in Wauwatosa. Friendly neighbor reach-out was something I was completely unfamiliar with as a Washingtonian. Even though Arlene had lived in Boston, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, she had that friendly Wisconsin beginning.

Within just a few months of being acquainted, I sensed that she and I were going to become good friends. Her wit, curiosity, and engagement with current events made her always interesting and fun to be around. When Jay was diagnosed with his rare form of cancer, Arlene with her nursing background really understood his limitations and prognosis--and without being cloying or sentimental provided support for both him and me.

After Jay's death, Arlene and I got together frequently to chat. As a woman who'd been on her own for a number of years, she was helpful and inspirational to me, the new widow. She was expert at navigating condo ownership, and was a great model for managing a solo household. She was a real life saver for me with her support and insight, not to mention her sense of humor.

When she sold her condo and moved to an adjacent suburb, I missed her as a neighbor, but she was--by then--a good friend, and we got together regularly. Whether it was to talk about what we were reading, share a meal, or just laugh/moan about politics and the antics of our fellow humans, we always had a wonderful time together. We especially enjoyed meeting at inexpensive restaurants for dinner.

In the past several years her health began to degrade, but she was determined to persevere. In her own words: "I'm not giving up!" But then the pandemic arrived, complicating everything for everyone. We didn't see each other for more than a year, and as life would have it (or, in this case, as death would have it), we never made it to the other side of our social isolation. Regularly catching up on the phone, we were counting down the days until she was 'fully' vaccinated (less than two weeks beyond her second shot) during our last phone conversation April 4. We agreed I would visit her apartment to enjoy our first in-person visit since February 2020. But . . . that didn't and will never happen. Arlene died April 13, 2021.

The saddest thing about losing a friend when there's no service or celebration is having nobody to tell how much you miss that person. Of course I wrote condolence notes to her sons (neither of whom I know, although I've heard a lot about them over eleven years), but it's not the same. Not the same as physically gathering with others who are all feeling the common loss. A wonderful aspect of a celebration of life or a church service means that friends of the deceased who may not know each other can offer support just by gathering together. Arlene had lots of friends, but I know only the neighbor-friends she left behind, not her dozens or other friends. And, of course, we both were pretty much beyond the 'party years' when we entertained groups of friends. Lots of people pooh-pooh the idea of a commemorative event after death, but survivors truly have need to talk about their deceased friend and, in so doing, they comfort each other. And that's the underlying motivation for this post. I want to share with anyone reading this how much I will miss Arlene. 

Just looking at her photos here made me smile. Arlene was an accomplished and remarkable woman, a devoted mother, adoring grandmother, hiker, adventurer, WWII buff, fashionista, humorist, and intellect. She stayed current on world events, which she peppered with wisdom and perspective. I loved and admired her, and will miss her always.

RIP, dear Arlene.