In honor of all the Fathers out there, and in celebration of their “Day,” I’ve been saving up a small cache of poems. I love that all three are written by, or about men who are/ were fathers.
All are very different pieces, and all speak to different facets of the condition known as “manhood.” One is of the Veteran who never watched “War Movies.” One is of a man wishing to resurrect his younger years fathering his son and sharing adventures in a canoe. And the third, was written about the camaraderie and ritual of having breakfast, lunch, and “coffee” at Jack’s Place, the restaurant and small town bee-hive operated by my husband’s Coon Hound raising grandfather.
Happy Father’s day to All Dads– both here now and those who have already gone on. Know that you will live forever in the fiber that swaddles us up together as a family
#1 Sailor Man
T. D. Richards
Hope dead that it will be reborn
in this life, the canoe lays upside down in
a field of weeds.
A warped bottom proudly shows
a roadmap of its weathered history.
Anyone interested can see it has lived long.
Early on, a companion for father and son,
it now seems to be in the way. It can’t
help it wears heavy metal and is extra long.
How to compete with youngsters
who are sleek and sexy in fiberglass.
What really matters though is
who’s left to recount it’s connection
with its’ family of origin?
Who gets excited telling of its passages?
Who can thrill by reciting its blustery
as well as its halcyon days?
Who is there who can point out
which dent came from Sugar Creek
in Parke County and which came from
the West Fork of White?
Like few others she is not totally forgotten.
Some believe that there’s a river
to cross when you die.
Father to son, refit the old lady
when it’s time for my last voyage.
If it’s true, I’d like her to smooth the way.
#3 Coffee Shop routine
I originally wrote this post several years ago while the “Mom blog” was in its infancy. But after watching a good friend pridefully chose “just the right spot” to display her new, official and authentic family crest– complete with expensive frame and mat–freshly purchased while visiting a Theme-Park-Mega-Land…I thought we could all use a refresher. We Americans just don’t “get” the whole Heraldry and Flying the Family Colors thing. But boy, we sure want to participate! Here’s the real scoop, along with a bit of my own shame showing 😉 I’m not sure, but I believe it was PT Barnum who said “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
What I am sure of is: I am one of those suckers.
The other day I was clearing out a drawer and ran across a family crest certificate that my husband and I had purchased many years ago. Can you hear the Merry-go-Round music yet? It came from a very “proper” looking shop. I believe that it was even spelled “shoppe” ~ a spelling meant to further endorse the authenticity of fake stuff. But we were young and silly and newly married. So we scraped together the $35.00 ( a pretty Royal sum for us 30+ years ago) and bought a “fully researched and authenticated, heirloom quality” piece of paper with our last name slightly misspelled on it.
Wow. How cool is That ?
What I have learned since ( ironically for free via library books) is that we were totally duped. A crest is only “good” for the original “owner.” A father may have a certain design, but it does not pass down verbatim to his children. When important families married, as was generally the plan, their crests were merged to create a new one for the identity of the newlyweds.
Maybe there was an Earl of Momenhousen who bore the crest in my drawer a bazillion years ago. However we, the current-day Momenhousen family, have no claim to it.
Heck at this point, I don’t even know what happened to the receipt ! I do have an excuse though…I am an American. Almost all of us are about one inch away from obsession with “the Old Country.” Additionally, we are also generally convinced there is a Demi-Czar, a Baron or at least a Bergermeister in our family pedigree somewhere.
Therefore, it stands to reason that we (meaning the immediate “us”) must have claim to a heraldic shield, a family crest, or something that verifies we are from a stock above serfdom. Thanks Mr Barnum, you have given a name to this madness~
The real truth is that Heraldic Design is pretty much about Art. If you are Canadian, you may claim a crest for your lineage if you wish to go through a long and arduous process. For better or for worse,if you are looking for something cool to put up on the wall, its time to do some doodling. Although I did some intensive research on the topic and found a few favorite books that I think are very good for being technically correct, I just recommend the use of an artsy relative.
Simply by Googling “Heraldry” or” Heraldic Design”, or” Colors in Heraldry” you can save yourself some time and money. If you are looking for good books on the subject (and you can persevere for a few months to get through one) I would recommend one of these three. And please note, the third one is not an opening chapter, it is the title of the book:
1. A Guide to Heraldry by Ottfried Neubecker
2. Concise Encyclopedia of Heraldry by Guy Cadogan Rothery
3. The Manuel of Heraldry a Concise Description of the Several Terms Used and Containing a Dictionary of Every Designation in the Science with 350 Illustrations by Sir Francis James Grant
If these all sound too scary, have a sit down with your clan and start brainstorming what it means to be a “Dipfenhoffper” or “Smith.” Think up some words,symbols, and colors to use to represent You. Maybe then craft a family logo~for your ” house”. Remember, siblings should be allowed to represent the same ancestry with their own selection of colors, symbolism and mottoes. Consider using a string of words that spell out your last name as a motto like the poems kids are so fond of writing out of their names .
Example (bad one, really bad one):
Bravery In The Hood Masked At Night (Bithman)
In my post titled “Managing the Help(ers)” I talked a little bit about dividing this task up among different factions of the family. It’s a great way to get everyone started with helping without driving you nuts. And, as a bonus, if you can get everyone to create their own crest, then the cover design for their copy of the finished project will already be done.
Wow, how cool is that?
It’s also as authentic as the “Heraldry” you buy in a glitzy little shop or from one of the online retailers. This is my fabulous furboy, posing as the Lord of a fictitious family who lives out their on-screen lives in a private home rented annually by their production crew.
I’d rather have this photo any day over one printed out with an ink-jet from a tourist trap! If you’d like your baby, or yourself, transformed into Napoleon or Marie Antoinette (before that whole unfortunate beheading thing) get in touch with Julie, you can have royalty “your way” as the great American (Burger) King says 😉
Pets may not sound like a big deal when it comes to writing a good family history, but just try asking about an animal in a photo and see where the path unfurls!
Ponies, chickens, hound dogs, cats, and even prized hogs and rabid coons have all been a part of many of my stories. Sometimes just hearing the animal’s name and then asking where the inspiration came from opens a stream of new conversation. I recall Ellie, Mr Pooch, the triplets Red, White and Blue, Purp, Mable, Bunny, Chopper and Johnny to name a few. My Great Grandpa loved to talk about his best milk cow, Soupy, who he named after comedian Soupy Sales.
Take a look at the photo below, not exactly of a family pet, but viewing it and asking about it’s origin actually turned into a long chat about the whole family going to the Cincinnati Zoo one weekend. This then led into the stories told about the building of I-74 which you may now take to get to the zoo from Indianapolis!
Sometimes an expression you have heard a million times will only make since once you can finally connect the dots.
My dad has always referred to the movie “Fatal Attraction” as the “Kill Chickens” movie.
Now, I thought he was just using some weird code to indicate that it was time to change the channel if the grand kids were around and it happened to come on TV. But one day, I was listening to him tell a story about his grandfather during the war years when food and everyday items were under rationing restrictions.
Just keep “Fatal Attraction” = “Kill Chickens Movie” in mind
My dad had a pet Rooster (a chicken to city folks) named Elmer. He won him on a little traveling midway fair and square and had raised Elmer from chick-hood. One day when Little-Kid-Dad came home from school, Elmer was no where to be found. He found it odd that Elmer was not pecking around in his pen. That night, with his own Grandfather visiting from out of town as an honored guest, chicken and noodles were served for dinner!
Oh Dear Lord!
So ask around, if you dare, about the animals you see in the background of photos. Or learn a little something about how GG Grandpa raised his prize winning Blue Tick Hounds (cover your ears for the “runts” fate). Was there a famous comic cow in your family barn? We had a crawdad the size of a small lobster named Alfred…but he really smelled up my brother’s room. Somehow he escaped from his tank and was never seen again. Hmmm…
Maybe someone should write that down…
About 2 years ago, I posted this rather (understatement) disturbing art image and posed the question “Did anyone ask Laura Nelson,” the woman portrayed in the image, if she wanted to be remembered that way? Now, a couple of years have passed and I am no less disturbed by this “art.” But, I am re-posting it in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day. I am also adding the odd and far-reaching twists and connection that I have learned about this lynching. It seems that one of the people who was in the mob and a highly willing participant was the father of folksinger Woody Gutherie, famous for singing “This Land is your Land” and also in turn for fathering Arlo Gutherie of Alice’s Restaurant fame. Life is weird. History is weirder. The truth of our pasts and presents is weirder still… This was first on my blog January of 2013 Today I had planned a very different post, but last night’s local NBC affiliate station WTHR here in Indianapolis ran this story as a “night cap.” I tossed and turned quite a bit thinking about this poor soul, Laura Nelson, and her image, taken from a 1911 photo, hanging from our city’s fancy new library’s ceiling…quite awkwardly coincidental since the subject of the photo is her lynching, and brashly portrayed as “art”on fabric.
It’s a painful image to see.
Meant as a piece of the Black History Month observance display, I “get” that this quilt is not meant to be pretty. It’s about a painful fact of our History. Most importantly (in my opinion), the vignette is about the pain of Laura Nelson herself. How awful. How unspeakably awful.
The reporter interviewed several library visitors and the Arts Curator as well. The comments were understandably mixed…one man (literally) applauded the portrait for its representation of what happened so commonly. Others expressed concern over it’s potential to emotionally terrorize children stumbling onto this life-sized image of a horrible death. Not just any death, a cruel and ugly death.
There were idiots interviewed too...I hope I don’t get attacked just for being white after someone sees this…
Perhaps the most telling part of the story though was captured by the news station’s photographer who caught the unfiltered reactions of those who “happened upon” the display with no warning.
I wonder how Laura herself would feel about this “art project”? Would she be proud, humbled, hurt…would it make her sad to be remembered 100 years later only as a photo representing terror and wrong doing by others who were also “human.”
Last night I was finally able to drift off to sleep when it occurred to me that maybe somewhere on the same night, someone was becoming inspired to write the bigger story of this woman. The story of Laura. The life of Laura Nelson. Maybe a Grandchild, or a distant cousin, or cherished neighbor, or friend.
Maybe, no, I am sure…
Someone should write that down…
This link will take you to the full story, it is disturbing, or it is beautiful ~it is as you perceive it. One thing is for sure, it is not easily forgotten.
Mom recently had a birthday. I don’t think I am ready to admit which one, but let’s say that I’ve done enough of them to hope I still have a certain percentage left! I am also old enough to recall getting greeting cards in the mailbox from a generation or two older than my own grandparents. I wish I still had some of these treasures, but I don’t.
Year after year, I recall getting a card from a mystery aunt. I do not recall ever seeing the woman alive. She was the aunt of my great grandmother if you can fathom that! I also don’t think that she ever left her own house at any point during her golden years. Maybe she couldn’t fit through the door? I don’t know. I remember my uncles and dad joking that she’d have to be buried in a piano crate.
Sometimes they would talk about it and laugh and someone would start up a rousing riff of “Fatty Fatty Two by Four” on Gramcracker’s old upright piano. Everyone would sing along. I liked the song. It was naughty…especially the part: “couldn’t fit through the bathroom door–so she pee peed on the floor– poor old Fatty Two by Four!”
I never felt bad about singing along when I was a kid. No one seemed to notice that I joined in on the “bathroom talk.” They were too busy laughing and singing themselves! And I also liked it because they seemed to be crooning happily about this mystery aunt who always sent me empty birthday cards. Never a gift–always a card, with odd old lady sayings on them. “Happy Birthday, and Many Joyous Returns.” No $5. Signed in swirling old lady script (which I have inherited by the way) “With Fondness, Aunt Lolly.”
As a child I was dragged to more than my healthy share of funerals, I’m sure. But since I do not ever recall going to one with a piano case front and center, I’m pretty sure I missed Aunt Lolly’s. Maybe I had tonsillitis or something when she died. I got out of a lot of stuff because of my tonsils. They were pretty much terminally ill.
So, with that off my chest…yes, I’m getting old and I count my unappreciative, non-sympathetic attitude toward Aunt Lolly and her agoraphobia/obesity woes as things to repent for. Let’s move forward with the birthday thing shall we?
I am asking you all to talk about, write down, and reflect on the day and circumstances of your birth.
Wow, did we just step in a little bit of something there? If you are very fortunate, you may now have, or perhaps have had in the past access to an “unfiltered” elder. You know, someone with loose lips and one foot in the grave. I’m telling you now, suck up to these people and then hold on! They are golden if you want the real truth on a whole lot of stuff. Prepare to have your hair curled!
In my own family, my dad has a rather compulsive obsession (see how I skated around that one…I used the words slightly out of their standard order) with calling me or visiting each year specifically on my birthday. He needs to tell me the story of the day I was born. Now, my mom joins in with her part of course, but mostly, this is the territory of my dad. Since they are both past 80 now, when Pop called this year to tell me the story once again, I wrote down the phrases that he uses doggedly year after year to describe that day. Here are some excerpts:
December 11th it started snowing– That morning your mom said she thought she was having some pain– I put the chains on the tires– It was our 57 Chevy–We drove out the old highway–Doc said “get her here”– The snow was “Ass deep to a 10 foot Indian”– You were born 13 minutes before Midnight on the 12th– Mom said she didn’t want any kid born on the 13th.
I’ll fill in the details some day in my Memoir. The point is, I have heard those exact words year after year in the telling and retelling of my birth. I don’t want to forget them, the words. I know the story, but now, the exact words are what I need to get down on paper, for my OCD dad and for me– a chip off the old block–and for my own kids on down to and including Dollbaby.
Of course I have taken to doing the same for my kids now. Boring them each year over their festive dinner and cake…talking about the way they came into the world. One was a late fall baby, two were born in the summer time. I haven’t found colorful words to cling to and repeat…no 10′ Indians or tire chains. But some day, they might be glad that they can tell the stories to their own families. Perhaps they’ll sing naughty piano songs about their crazy grandmother? Who knows.
Maybe someone WILL write that down…