From the Hat: New England Cuisine

I’m at a bit of a loss for a topic tonight. No new news on the prediabetes front, no completed books,* no movies. Things are busy at work, but I don’t blog about work.**

And I’ve drawn about a dozen topics out of the box o’ prompts, but they’ve all been completely uninspiring. (Not sure whether to blame that on the prompts themselves or my current frame of mind.) It’s a touch embarrassing to admit that, however unimpressed I was by this bunch of prompts, I still put them right back into the “hatbox” to haunt me another day.***

But I finally pulled one that—even though I’m not going to answer it in a straightforward manner—at least got me reminiscing about a funny story I wouldn’t mind telling.

Do you remember any of your four grandparents? Any greats? What were their names? Any memories that you have?

Continue reading “From the Hat: New England Cuisine”

25 Songs, Day 3: In Praise of Denim

(Part three of my exploration of the 25 songs in 25 slightly-more days blogging challenge — a way to bank and pre-schedule a few posts for JALC while I’m off a-travelling.)

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Day Song 3: A song that reminds you of one or both of your parents

Obviously, both of my parents were part of the story back for Song #1 when I was discussing ABBA. But let’s be real: even though ABBA was on the list of music we all could tolerate, between my two parents, my mom was much more of an ABBA fan than my dad was.

Dad was a Neil Diamond fan. And his favorite of all of Neil’s songs was Forever in Blue Jeans:

Money talks
But it don’t sing and dance
And it don’t walk
And long as I can have you
Here with me, I’d much rather be
Forever in blue jeans

Honey’s sweet
But it ain’t nothin’ next to baby’s treat
And if you pardon me
I’d like to say
We’ll do okay
Forever in blue jeans

(AZLyrics)

There’s lots of ways Dad was the example of that old Horatio Alger ideal. He grew up in a Pennsylvania steel town; both his parents died before he was out of high school, so he went into the Air Force and then used his GI Bill benefits to get the college degree that helped him start the business career that would (pretty quickly) allow Mom, my sister and me to live in the comfort and middle-class privilege that I remember from my childhood.

jeans-iconThere was one time when I was a little girl that he first shared a compliment with me — with all of us? I can’t quite recall. A co-worker or a boss had said something to him about how he “was as comfortable with a Big Mac as a filet mignon.” That praise meant a lot to Dad. I think it told him he’d managed to “better himself”* without becoming a snob.

And even though I’ve taking things in a much more intellectual and politicized direction, I wonder about the ways that my desire for social justice, and my ongoing practice in unpacking and understanding my privilege is a different flavor of that ideal. From a spiritual perspective, I wonder about the links between Dad’s (admittedly imperfect) egalitarianism and my desire to find compassion within myself  for people and my (hugely imperfect) practice towards the sort of acceptance that would allow me to open-heartedly “meet folks where they are.”

Maybe those are stretched connections. Maybe not.

What I know for sure: I still smile and think of Dad whenever I hear a Neil Diamond song.** And since this summer trip is an itinerary he wanted to bring the family on — we just didn’t have the chance to do it before he died — I might just be thinking of Dad a lot during this stretch of days.

Maybe I’ll load a Neil Diamond playlist on the iPod before I go.

* I know, I know: that’s an incredibly loaded and problematic way to put it. But I do think it kinda captured his perspective on the distinction between his childhood experiences and the middle-class life he was able to build for us.

** Except when I’m tearing up. Even five years later, grief can be a tricky tricky thing.

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Image credit: http://fashiontribes.typepad.com/main/2007/06/forever_in_blue.html

 

25 Songs, Day 1: Music to Wash Dishes By

(Part one of my exploration of the 25 songs in 25 slightly-more days blogging challenge — a way to bank and pre-schedule a few posts for JALC while I’m off a-travelling.)

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Day 1: A song from your childhood

I guess I’m like lots of folks in that I have tons of music memories from my childhood. Sesame Street 8-tracks in the car on long car trips, immersing myself in my mom’s copy of Sgt. Pepper at around the age of 8, watching my parents and their friends try to learn the Hustle in our Sao Paolo living room. But the song I’m choosing today is Dancing Queen, by ABBA.

I’m sure they’re especially front-of-mind right now because we have tickets to go see the ABBA Museum when we’re in Stockholm. But it’s also true that we listened to them a bunch during my childhood and tween years.

abbapicOne of the traditions we had up at the lake house during the summer was that whoever was washing the dinner dishes got to choose the music the house would listen to during that chore. On a nice night, most everyone would be out on the screened porch while the “KP crew” washed and dried and put away, but the cottage is small enough that any music being played loudly enough to reach the kitchen is also going to reach that porch and its occupants.

Clearly, the most liberal interpretation of this tradition hypothetically allowed the KP crew to “inflict” music that the rest of the family hated upon them, but there was also nothing that barred the inflict-ee from complaining vociferously about a particularly-hated music selection. So, during my tween years, I recall some small music wars, broken along generational lines, of course. My sister and me in one camp, our parents in another.

And ultimately, after a few small skirmishes, we all fell into a more nuanced expression of this tradition. For the most part we tried to choose things that maybe one side of the generation gap liked better than the other, but it would be music that we all enjoyed at least to some degree.

And that’s where ABBA came in. One of us would start the tape recording of Arrival while the other began to run the water and fill the dish basin with soap suds. By the time When I Kissed the Teacher was over, we’d be ready to wash. That evening’s DJ would crank up the volume, shimmy over to the kitchen as the opening piano glissando and ah-ah-ahs of Dancing Queen rang out into the air. And away we’d go, singing along as the dishes were done.

I enjoy a lot of ABBA’s songs, and know a surprising number of them by heart. (Even the minor hits and obscurities like When I Kissed the Teacher.) Since my fondness for the oeuvre is so wide-ranging, I almost chose Mamma Mia as my example song. After all, it and its original video have become so darn iconic, so fully representative of the Abba phenomenon:

That’s the song that became the title for the Broadway and movie musicals, and that’s the song that (to my awareness), has has been recreated in any number of endearing fashions, including this twofer from Down Under:

(Yes, Muriel’s Wedding used a different song, but those costumes! The camera angels! Those head turns! That’s a Waterloo/Mamma Mia cross-pollinated homage if I ever saw one! And Priscilla‘s just plain fun.)

But when I think back to my tween and teen years on the KP crew, it’s Dancing Queen that first rings in my head. (Now that our ABBA listening is the iTunes playlist derived from ABBA Gold, that sense of Dancing Queen as the lead-off track has only been intensified.)

Back during those fractious, difficult years, I remember our ABBA dishwashing nights as a small reminder that we all did have some threads of connection and commonality in our family: sister to sister, child to parent. I think that emotional resonance is one of the reasons I still have such fondness for ABBA’s Scandinavian disco fabulousness, and one of the reasons I’m very much looking forward to my ABBA pilgrimage in Stockholm.

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Image credit: http://cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-boland/abba-went-badly-dressed-get-tax-deduction