Amy Abbott

Sep 162022
 

Wikimedia Commons Images

September 16, 2022 — I will be one of many Americans who rise early Monday to watch the funeral service of Queen Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, Regina.  I’m not even sure I got her name correctly. But as a history lover, it’s fun to watch history being made, even if I’m not feeling a personal loss.

As an American, it’s difficult not to cast an eye at British history, which is even more complex than our own, with five hundred more years to review. I share a few random observations; honestly, I don’t have an overall point. History itself will tell us what her life and long monarchy meant.

On the media: I can’t remember a single death having this much coverage in my lifetime. I was a first-grader when JFK died, and we didn’t have 24/7 news coverage.

The formal mourning period is ten days, and I’m sure that our media networks have caused airline stock to rise because many of their pundits and stoolies are near the room where it happened.  (It does not have anything to do with Alexander Hamilton, adding the relevant cultural reference, the result of a writing class I took earlier in the week. Can you tell when I’m being snarky, er, cheeky?).

There have been plenty of important news stories affecting Americans this week, but we’ll hear about them after QEII rests at St. George’s in Windsor.  AND NOW I’M SHOUTING.  DID YOU KNOW THAT ROGER FEDERER IS NO LONGER DOING TOURNAMENT PLAY?  Now that is a story for the ages, among others.

I expect Kerry Sanders in his polo shirt and Bermudas outside Heathrow, discussing the winds over the airport.  Stay tuned.

One more thing: I credit the friend who brought it to my attention (though I can’t remember who it was).  Our networks did not recently broadcast our President’s speech on democracy but will BROADCAST THE FUNERAL OF A FOREIGN QUEEN.  How do you feel about them apples?

On those who got away: Seeing a photo of QEII’s children walking behind her casket on the way to Westminster Hall, I noted three men walking behind Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward.  The photo caption identified William and Harry, but there was a third man. Thinking through the lineage, I wondered if it was one of the husbands of Andrew’s fascinating (see what I did there?) daughters, Eugenie and

Wikimedia Commons

Beatrice?  One has a husband with a name that sounds like an Austin Powers villain.  Brooksbank?   Nor was it Mr. Crookshank.  It was Peter Phillips, the son of Princess Royal Anne and her ex-husband, Captain Mark Phillips.  Young Peter was not given a peerage title after his 1977 birth, even though he was fifth in line to the crown. Among his many accomplishments is a liaison with the cod liver oil heiress.  Can you imagine going through life being known as the cod liver oil heiress?  I think I’ll keep my title as the ag teacher’s daughter, thank you very much.

The Crown: My brother sent me an article about the various headpieces worn by QEII.  The article highlights five headpieces, the most magnificent of which, the Imperial State Crown, rests on her casket lying in state. She wore it for her coronation and all but three times in opening Parliament.  I cannot imagine how heavy it must have been with thousands of gems encrusted on the gold base.

A Few Random Gripes: A friend sent me the AP Stylebook’s British Royal Family update upon QEII’s death. It was interesting reading for those who only have written in these common colonies. I object to the American press using “The Queen” as a first reference, which always happens. Americans don’t have a queen except for Beyonce, and I wish her a long and healthy life. Should the first reference be “The Queen of England” or one of her many other titles?

If you want to get confused, research “what is Charles’s last name?”  The answer to this question goes back one hundred years when Charles’ father, Philip, was a Greek royal. When QEII ascended to the throne upon her father’s death, Prince Philip wanted his family name Mountbatten used. The Brits still disliked anything German-sounding (despite both families BEING German or a reasonable facsimile thereof), and the Powers That Be decided the royal name would continue to be Windsor. In the early 1960s, the rule changed so those without a title could use Mountbatten-Windsor.  Now let me get this straight.  Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, went by the name of Harry Wales in the military, but his children are Archie Mountbatten-Windsor and Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor. Got it? Oh, and Charles doesn’t have a last name.  His last name is the Third.  (And for a trip down the royal rabbit hole, read further about Charles I and Charles II.)

Thanks for going with me on my journey of observations from this privileged Queen of Her Own Office.

History, as always, has the last word.

Please share on your social media if you find this helpful, amusing, horrific, entertaining, whatever.

PS.  Want more?  Read about Queen Victoria’s funeral.

 

 

Jul 042022
 

July 4, 2022 — Mom, it’s hard for me to believe you’ve been gone for over a decade. When you died, you had been long lost to us already. Your passing brought a strange relief. Yet, I’ve never gone a day without missing you, especially on your birthday, my birthday, holidays, and sometimes just random moments.

In the last 12 weeks, I’ve missed you more than ever. Mom, you wouldn’t believe how the world has changed in the last decade.  I hope you know only the good things.

Do you remember when your two grandsons were born a few months apart?  The oldest — mine — came two weeks late. Darn stubborn, he would not come out, even after an entire day spent at the hospital. You and Dad were driving down from home. The plan was that I would be admitted and induced at six a.m., and by your arrival at six p.m., the baby would be here or arriving soon.  God laughs when we make plans. The hospital released me, and we all went to Olive Garden for dinner.

We were back at the hospital two days later at six a.m., and you and Dad followed.  You came in and out of my labor room, and I tossed all my pain and anguish on you rather than Herman. I told the nurse  “Get that woman out of here.”  She removed you, and you came right back, patting my shoulder, giving me ice chips, talking to me in a soothing voice.  And no, I didn’t deserve it after how mean I was to you.  But you kept being my loving mother.

I didn’t want you in the delivery room. But as soon as your first grandson arrived, his father took a Polaroid picture (remember those?) and took it out to you and Dad in the waiting room. No one could deny the fatherhood of our son. Draw a little beard and mustache on him; he was a dead ringer for his daddy. You and my Dad came into the delivery room, and Herman first held the baby, and then you did.  I was too shaky from the delivery to hold him.

A few months later, your second grandson arrived five weeks early. No one expected him to arrive, though his father arrived three weeks early in 1960. I was two-and-a-half, but I remember my annoyance at finding my grandparents in your bed. My grandmother told me, “You have a baby brother.”  I think my response was the two-year-old equivalent of “Big whoop.” You and Dad had left our home in the middle of the night and my grandparents flew in from the farm to ride shotgun for me. You had my little brother so quickly that Dad was back at school in time to teach his 8 a.m. class.

And thirty years after the last baby was born in our family (my brother) you and Dad became grandparents of two boys in four months.  You reveled in being a grandmother — you were over-the-moon with your babies. You stayed with us for two weeks, teaching everything from bathing to holding to feeding. I cried when you left. When grandson number two arrived, you and Dad flew to Iowa to meet him and sat under a big shady tree while your son told you every precious detail of his baby’s early delivery.

And now you’ve become a great grandmother, Mom. That tiny baby born in Iowa is now a daddy.  He married the most brilliant, beautiful girl he met at college five years ago, and their baby boy came this spring. While we probably should not have been surprised, he came early. Way early. Six weeks early.

Oh, Mom, your great-grandson a beautiful baby. He has dark, big eyes and dark hair that swirl in a circle in the back just like his daddy. He has a few cowlicks like his grandpa. I hope you can see his daddy and mommy tend to him; it will melt your heart. The baby came six weeks early and had to be cared for in a NICU by angels on earth.  It was hard on your grandson and his wife, but they were rock steady.

You were the first thing I thought of when I heard he was here. Mom. I felt it in my bones that you were especially watching over him. Of course, he has your son and grandson’s nose and eyes. I found Dad’s old Ektachrome slides of my baby brother as an infant that proved my point.

Yesterday, the baby made his first trip to Wrigley Field; yeah, that place you burned your knees so badly on your first visit. On subsequent visits, you learned to wear a hat and long pants and enjoyed nine innings of watching other people’s babies until you had your own to watch. Both of your grandsons grew up to be rabid baseball fans (one Cubs, one Reds, as Dad would say, at least it’s the national league.)

Last week Herman and I got to meet the baby. During our visit, the new grandpa and Herman went to Wrigley Field to watch two of the worst teams in the National League duke it out.  Yes, you guessed it, the Cubs and the Reds.  I held the baby and whispered to him, away from his parents, “Gloriana, Frangipani,” a wisp of the song you sang to me as a child. I felt like I was holding him for you as I held him. I could feel you channeling your love for babies through me. It’s funny, but now I notice babies more; maybe it is your genetic influence.

I fully understand now that life is a river that bends and changes. While history and remembrance exist, one never sees the same river twice. We are all connected by the ebbs and flows that life gives us.

Usually, I  would not quote myself from past writing. But this paragraph I wrote the week my mother died resonates again with me today as I contemplate the birth of her first great-grandchild and the sublime grace I felt in meeting him for the first time.

Grace appears, and we reach out to grab it, like the tiny, milky seeds from a dandelion plant on a hot summer afternoon. I find it in the old stories, connecting the dots, comfort in the words. Maybe it is telling this story for others who are beginning the journey. Maybe it is just learning to absorb and soak up every ray of sunshine, a glorious blooming flower, and a child’s toothless grin and fill one’s soul with the goodness ripe for the taking. 

 

Indie writers need love also, please feel free to share on your social media if you have received enjoyment from this post.

 

May 162022
 

May 16, 2022 — A few minutes ago, I saw Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General, state on CNN that more than 100 people were killed in shootings across the country over the weekend.

I am sick to death about every death.

I am sick to death that our black brothers and sisters must be constantly under attack for their color.  I am sick that hate has persisted across four centuries in this country where we are all from other places, except the Native Americans.

I am sick to death that a man who was a Buffalo police officer for many years died as a grocery security guard, protecting other people.

I am sick to death that a teenager (hospitalized a year ago when he made a murder-suicide threat at his high school) could procure the weaponry and armor for a terrorist-style attack on a grocery store. I am sick to death of people saying it’s not about the guns.

I am sick to death that these shootings will cause people to buy more guns, and more ammunition and stack them neatly in their homes, awaiting Armageddon.

I am sick of repeating every trope every time this happens.  Nothing changes. It’s always somebody else’s problem. When people are interviewed after a shooting that has taken their loved one, they always say, “I didn’t think it would happen to my family.”

We are the only country that has this many shootings. Why is that?  Because we allow the everyday person to own military-style guns. Do you think the second amendment meant that every person should be able to own an AR-15?  Why not give every citizen a musket and musket balls? Would that be more in the spirit and times of the second amendment?

Don’t tell me that my stance means I’m against all guns. I’m not — I grew up and live in farm country. People feed their families by hunting; some do it for sport. Sometimes people even shoot an errant snake. And some believe they need guns for protection.

From “The Street” one hour ago, “A mass shooting occurs, the news covers it, calls for gun control or reform grow louder for a while, nothing of impact happens legislatively, the country forgets about shootings until the next big one.

Anyone paying attention can see that pattern and there are plenty of examples to choose from.

This year there have been 202 mass shootings — shootings with 4 or more victims other than the gunman — and nine mass murders in the U.S., according to gun control advocacy group Gun Violence Archive.”

But no one — and I mean no one — who is not in a military conflict needs an automatic rifle.

Why do people insist on lumping all guns together?  And why do gun sales continue to climb while Congress has no consideration for any sensible gun laws? I gave up after a nutjob blasted into an elementary school and killed a classroom full of innocents. I knew there would never be any change

But they are all innocents. The finger of blame can go many places, and it rests firmly on the shoulders of every person who defends all guns in this country.  Or the person who allows for racism is behind many of these attacks.  I am an immigrant just like African Americans, though my ancestors weren’t forced to come to this country against their will and be enslaved. We owe them a debt—black lives matter.

And there is also blame to go to the media (Tucker Carlson et al.) and social media for fomenting hate speech. But, frankly, without access to guns with large magazines and tactical gear, there would be far fewer deaths. This is not a red herring, it is the gospel truth.

When churches and grocery stores aren’t safe, no place is safe. Our country has always experienced violence, from the wild west to the lynching and riots.  We are a hateful people made worse with the present of weapons that can bring down an armed security guard, just doing his job, in a minute. I am enraged. When will we ever learn?

 

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

.  Support my voice with your shares on social media.

Mar 282022
 
See the source image

Elizabeth Taylor at the Academy Awards

March 28, 2022 — All anyone can talk about today is Will Smith’s reaction to a joke in poor taste told by Chris Rock on the Academy Awards stage last night. It’s so hard for me to imagine that almost everyone in the media has overlooked the big, and I mean the big story of the night. The proliferation of the Side Boob.

When it comes to body and fashion, mostly I got nothing. God did not gift me good looks, and my penchant for penny candy has made me larger than life in several ways. But when it comes to cleavage, baby, I’m number one. (Rather number 42DD.)  I don’t care if it is a memorial service for Wendell Willkie or the circus coming to town; there will be a lovely décolleté showing if I have to dress up.  When you got it, flaunt it. When it’s all you got, flaunt it greatly. And I have noticed a few male eyes looking at my boobal region when I take the girls out for a fancy event.

My husband was a low-budget wedding photographer for a 1986 ceremony where I served as a bridesmaid. The girls were so young and perky, still not thirty, and always up for a test drive. The bride chose hot pink gowns for her maids, with a neckline somewhere south of Patagonia. Let’s put it this way: I was a standout in the crowd.  The girls were still poised, proud, happy, and seriously upright.

When the many rolls of pictures came back from the drug store, my chest featured prominently in many of the photographs. It was a little bit too obvious. That marriage where I was a bridesmaid and he the photographer didn’t last.  I wonder if that had anything to do with it.

On the Oscar stage last night, the three hilarious co-hosts came out at the show’s beginning, and sure enough, Amy Schumer presented herself with something beyond cleavage, like grapefruit in a transparent grocery bag. She’s hilarious, but lemme tell you; she needs wires like the Roebling Brothers used for the Brooklyn Bridge.  The Side Boob is not a good look for her, but she could rock cleavage.

And I swear I saw some nipple on one of the Williams sisters. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but if I see some cleavage, I would just as soon as the nipples do not show.  Wardrobe malfunction, indeed.

After watching the boobs trot out for an hour, we changed the channel to watch “The Weakest Link” and missed the most exciting adventure on the stage since a streaker ran behind David Niven.  I saw that one life, long ago, in a world where we all went to the theater and enjoyed films together. We ate popcorn with too much butter and our feet stuck to sticky floors.

That was a long time ago, but I remember the streaker.  He bared his nipples, but that wasn’t anyone’s most enduring memory. What I remember and indeed others do as well is what Niven said,

“But isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”

Girls, if you’ve got it, flaunt up, but do it the old-fashioned way with wires and pulleys like your grandmother did.

Mar 252022
 

From the collection of my grandmother and her two sisters. Abt. 1919

July 17, 2021 — My book is finished. Now, my office is a complete mess, a space that looks like Dorothy Gale’s house during the Kansas tornado.  My office is usually a mess, but after 29 months of slavish devotion to one project, it is worse than usual.  I am not Marie Kondo.  There will only be the appearance of clean and organized, not the actual state of clean and organized.

Victrola, anyone? There are many things I need to do, and probably, the most important is decide what I’m going to donate to various museums, societies, and libraries out of the family stuff I’ve worked with for the book.  I have been unable to convince my son, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in a city, that he needs Great-Great-Grandfather Long’s walnut library table or the 1918 Victrola and all the records.  Imagine what fun he could have at parties with the greatest hits of the 1920s?  He isn’t buying it, either.

And the deeds.  Stacks and stacks of legal documents that relate to the farm sit on a table near me. I will give those to the historical society. These documents contain much beyond what one would expect.  Attached affadavits  prove that Person X knew Person Y.  I just picked one off the top and started reading and was immediately immersed into a property dispute from 1857.  I did not recognize one name; this likely means it was attached to the history of a property that someone in my family bought a century later.  For a history nerd, it is fascinating reading.  I moved the table the documents rest upon, giving the impression in Zoom calls that the space is much more organized than it is.  The table is out of camera sight.

Compact discs.  Yes, some people still use them.  I’ve never been a slave to convention, so I don’t necessarily think that a Journey CD must go into a Journey jewel case.  This drives my husband crazy (librarian that he is.)  In our basement, we have a special place for CDs, and they are in order.  I mean, THEY ARE IN ORDER.

I just opened my CD player and found “Christmas Serenity.”  The jewel case it came out of was for the Broadway version of “I Do, I Do.”  I do not see any problem.  When you live this way, life is filled with delightful surprises.  My “Keely Smith Sings Sinatra” CD jewel case has Bach’s “Brandenburg Concertos” inside  Patsy Cline’s “Greatest Hits” jewel case features the 2009 Spanish-language version of “West Side Story” from Broadway.  I’m Crazy.  I Feel Pretty.  It’s all good unless you insist on perfect order.

Random Books.  We have books in almost every room in our house.  There are some books I want close to me, where I spend most of my day.  Do you feel this about your books?  Do you need to have them close to you?  On my desk, I have an AP Stylebook, a Webster’s word speller (from 1975), Mark Twain’s Quotations, my address book, Poems for Boys and Girls by Helen Ferris, the programs from the last few Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshops, the books I’ve written, and Birds of Indiana.

Close by are my history books, other poetry books, a Bible with a red leatherette cover, and writing books. Always open on my desk is Simple Abundance by Sarah ban Brathwaite.  I need to have these books near me, and I need to see the other books.  You will have to pry these books from my cold, dead hands, to paraphrase Charlton Heston.

Notecards, pens, journals and paper.  Not so long ago, people used to send mail.  This involved various kinds of paper, notecards, etc., as well as a writing instrument.  I took pride in this old-fashioned hobby.  I still have a few pen pals, believe it or not.  The rest of the world wants to send me a message on text, which I can barely see and have to decipher.  “Will I c u soon?”  Having not moved into this century, I still have many notecards, pens, journals, and paper.  I still have a manual typewriter that works perfectly well.  In Pat Frank’s iconic post-apocolyptic novel of the 1950s, Alas, Babylon, a small Florida town copes with life after a nuclear blast.  In this world without electricity, the two most important people in town are the newspaper reporter and the librarian.  The newspaper reporter has a manual press and can reproduce information, and the librarian has books with knowledge and information about most anything needed by those remaining.  When the big one falls, I’ll be huddled in my closet with my typewriter and extra ribbons, my books of poetry, and enough pen refills to last a millineum.

 

 

Mar 072022
 

March 7, 2022 — My paternal grandfather died when my dad was four years old, on June 1, 1934. I know very little about him, although I heard the following story from my grandmother, and it has been passed down for a good reason. Grandpa McVay walked and talked in his sleep. On his wedding night in January 1910, my grandmother woke up to find her new husband missing from the bed. She searched the house, and he was nowhere to be found. Upset, she dressed and went to a neighbor’s house to help find her missing husband.

The neighbor came back with her sheepish husband ten minutes later.  Grandpa had fallen asleep, or sleepwalked, to the outhouse where he was discovered. The picture in my mind from this story has him wearing a raccoon coat, but this may be a detail added by my imagination.

Copyright. Health Conditions.

Many members of my family have experienced sleep talking and sleepwalking.  My brother was particularly agile at the sport.  While sleeping in the State Fair barn near his livestock (as was the customer for 4-Hers and may still be), he would get up and walk all over the barn. Someone found him, led him back to his cot, and covered him with a gate so he couldn’t get up.  He was ten years old.

To this day, I’ve been known to carry on entire conversations while sound asleep.  One day last week, I got up very early and went out into the living room to read the paper. I fell back asleep, and my broker called me at a reasonable hour. All I remember is that he called the words “seven percent.”  Unfortunately, we all know that was a declining, not an increasing number, which brings me to the topic of bad dreams.

I will often have a true nightmare, but my dreams are primarily funny little plays of my subconscious.

When I woke up this morning, I immediately remembered a lulu and wrote it down.

My niece will have a baby in June, and her shower, a large affair, is this weekend. She’s registered for several items at an online baby site which I looked at yesterday.

In the dream, her shower takes place in my dorm room circa 1978. The shower is over, and everyone is gone except my husband and me (we’re both our present age) and my father, who is his 1978 age.  We are tasked with taking all the presents and putting them in my car, a 1971 Cutlass parked blocks away. I’m sure this is a throwback to my moving in and out of the dorm. This process involved walking from the car blocks away (very little student parking), going to the main entrance of the dorm and waiting for one of two very crowded elevators (because of Moving Day), rising to the sixth floor, and walking through the lobby of televisions, game tables, etc. to a stairwell at the opposite end, going up two flights of stairs and turning right to my room.  And reverse the process to take things to the car.

This is a labor-intensive event in the dream, and we do it repeatedly.  And as it was most move-in and move-out days, it was steamy hot. We finally finish, and senior citizens Amy and Randy, and middle-aged Bill collapse on the dorm room furniture.  Then my brother and his girlfriend show up, stand in the doorway, and look around.  My brother says, “Wow, wouldn’t this be a great place to go for a vacation?”

At least I woke up laughing.  I have no intention of spending my first post-pandemic vacation in Room 714  of Hurlbut Hall.  Been there, done that.

Feb 252022
 

February 25, 2022 — I did not get today’s Wordle, and I’m horrified. Wordle has become a happy part of my day, and I’ve enthusiastically played every day. My supreme triumph was getting “bloke” in two!  My first guess had two letters in the appropriate places–sheer luck, I guess.

Not so much today. My first two words had no clues at all. Ten letters in two lines stared me in the face. I eliminated all vowels, except for “I” on the third, fourth, and fifth lines. I had a few constants left, X, Z, N, K, V, and D.

I could not get there, so I put the puzzle away, hoping a breather would jog something in my brain.

Copyright New York Times 2022

I went back to the puzzle, and the solution, for me, didn’t appear. If you have completed the puzzle today, you know it had a double vowel and a double constant. My husband got it in four.  But he always beats me at anything involving words (and our son usually beats him, an event in which I feel a strange sort of pride.)

Here’s the lesson: my assumption about the game held me back. I did not get the puzzle because I assumed there could not be two vowels and two constants. And I’m not sure this bias was in my conscious but more deeply held. And that’s nuts. That may be the definition of inherent bias, so deep we don’t know it is there.

A couple of hours later, something happened that wholly reinforced Wordle’s situation and made me truly understand the lesson. I’m taking an online class from a national provider of writing classes. I’m in the eighth week of a 10-week class, and I’ve been frustrated because the instructor’s comments have mostly been without substance.

What’s the cliche?  Don’t always ask for what you want? I got a critique back that had valuable and critical information. Of course, I immediately went to that place most writers go — The I am a Fraud Zone.  Have you been there?  It’s crowded.

But I got on the other side of it because I realized a mistake I made came from a long-held bias. It was precisely like the Wordle — yet time and time again, I’ve let it go.  It took this voice of authority to get through my thick skull.

Writing is an activity that I adore, but I’ve learned that I adore editing more over the years. The great thing about my revelation today is that I can still learn and am willing to put it into practice. And just like with Wordle, that’s how we get better. It makes me wonder what else is hiding beneath the surface that I need to address.

 

-30-

Pray for Ukraine.