Archive for February 2020

ANTICIPATING LENT (February 26 – April 9, 2020)   11 comments

Time out from focusing on “My Father’s House” to pay attention to the church season ahead. Yes, it is in the Christian tradition, but I hope it will be of interest starting with my atheist friends and on down, because I think we all care about the ultimate goal of the season – at least as I understand it.

To tell the truth, the season never meant terribly much to me personally before I grew up in my much later years. I do remember the year when I wanted to be like so many of my friends, so I gave up something – reading the comics. That was a major sacrifice given that my parents were scared to death about the effect the “funnies” might have on me. After all, I did greedily consume the violent ones. I guess maybe that sacrifice accomplished something – I found I had the strength of will to survive such a long period of time without a comics fix.

I was probably about 13 years old the year I gave up boys. I’m not really sure in recollection what that meant since I was certainly not busy dating, or even particularly attractive to the other sex. I do know there were times when Hallie had to go off to dances (or something) by herself because of my determination. What did that sacrifice accomplish? I don’t know – maybe a respite from having to deal with whatever changes were going on inside me.

I remember a friend in college who gave up pistachio ice cream for lent – her least favorite ice cream, I think.

And I began to hear of Catholic friends who celebrated something called Tenebrae at church on the Thursday before good Friday, working the way to Easter.

Then there was the very fortunate discovery that, at least to the Catholics in the family I married into, Sundays were a kind of day off from the Lenten fast, as was Saint Patrick’s day. That worked out well because my son’s birthday was March 17, so my Lutheran family and Lou’s Catholic family could all enjoy birthday cake between meals at his celebration. That’s when I realized that the forty days of Lent really were forty days.

As you can see, I was a slow learner. It happened one day when I was reading the gospel lesson on the crucifixion at a women’s meeting at church that I started to cry. My son was the age of Jesus when he died on the cross. The sadness washed over me. This was real! No wimpy story of some magic that happened on those two pieces of wood crossed together at the front of the church.

Finally, when I was old enough that I should have known better for decades, I realized that Tenebrae began on Maundy Thursday. Why “Maundy?” Because that’s the day that Jesus, knowing the torture, humiliation, and death he was about to endure, gave his disciples – and us — the new commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Now I can say this next thing without censure, because the Lutheran church was wise enough to block my idea of being a minister – wrong body type (until sometime in the 60s by which time I did the church the favor of giving up on the idea.)

Maundy Thursday is the most important day in the church calendar year. The new commandment – love!

Awake at 3:30 am last night, I tried to terminate the sad thoughts of all the suffering going on in the world so I could go back to sleep. Warm chocolate almond milk and raw cashews enjoyed in my comfortable chair, distracted by reading, usually does it. This time I was reading “Sojouners” with a series of articles on Lent and my thoughts piled up on “What can I do to make this Lenten season meaningful?” Giving up something just doesn’t hack it. Just as eating everything on my plate didn’t feed the “starving people in India” when I was little. It’s not about satisfying my need for personal goodness. Do something? I’ve always been a physical coward and now my age just gives legitimacy to such avoidance.

What do I do as I enjoy my comfortable chair in my comfortable home with comfortable food available with a walk down the hall? I don’t know. Sign petitions? Donate for social justice? A drop in the bucket. Maybe that’s enough. It takes many drops to make an ocean.

I know it’s important to feel the pain, but not so much that I can’t feel the joy, or even spread it. Any suggestions?

I’m hoping …

 

OUTTAKE – GREAT DEPRESSION CHURCH MONEY RAISER AT THE FIREHOUSE   Leave a comment

The following Sunday, the talk at church turned to the annual affair to raise money. It wasn’t just money the congregation needed, but something to lighten the heavy mood. It would have to be something that gave everyone a chance to do something different and feel good about it. So a talent show was planned to be held on the second floor stage of the firehouse at the end of September. There would be a bake sale, a white elephant table, and a grab bag for the children. John Havir would be the auctioneer for items contributed by members of the congregation, and even some local businesses.

From Carl and Jennie’s family, Harvey would do a violin rendition; Thelma would contribute a reading; and Carl would be the tenor in a barber shop quartet. Jennie would be sure Thelma had a special dress for the occasion. Others would offer vocal performances, and there would be at least one dancer. Linnea Johnson would lead a committee to provide for the sale of refreshments. There would be plenty of activity in the next months preparing for the event.

The Church event in September was a success. People bought each other’s white elephants. Some friends and neighbors showed up, happy not only to enjoy a good show, but also to buy the baked goods for which the Swedish ladies had such an excellent reputation. Parents dug deep to give their children pennies for the grab bag. The free will offering far exceeded hopes and expectations. Like the Torsäs neighbors who had given from their poverty at Carl’s departure party, the church members had given beyond what they could afford.

At the end of the evening, Harvey was filled with the warm satisfaction that he had performed his solo well. Thelma was swollen with grown-up pleasure in her faultlessly delivered reading. Jennie and Carl were happy with their contribution. Mona felt the joy as she rode on her father’s right arm as if in a royal carriage. It was a good walk home from the firehouse

OUTTAKE — TAKING A RISK AT THE BRISTOL BRASS   2 comments

Explanatory note: Mr. Willson was the Chairman of the Board of Directors

Then there was the day Mona feared she’d been so bold she would lose her summer job at the Bristol Brass. Mr. Wilson had given her and the other girl the job of verifying his numbers. Two times they entered his numbers into the adding machine, taking turns on who read the numbers and who entered and cranked them. Two times they came up with the same total, but different from Mr. Wilson’s, so Mona reported the difference to him. “Just do it again,” he said. By the third time they got the same result, Mona was more annoyed than cautious. When Mr. Wilson came out of his office to check on them, she couldn’t restrain herself from saying, “But Mr. Wilson, you must have made a mistake.” She was only half aware of the men standing in their office doorways, as if expecting something to happen. But she was aware of fearing she would disappoint her father.

Mr..Wilson returned to his office, coming out later to acknowledge he’d arrived at the same numbers as the girls.

“Sometimes, you just have to do the brave thing,” Carl said on the way home.

 

MY FATHER’S GARDEN   2 comments

This is another outtake from “My Father’s House.” Just a reminder — these outtakes are things I removed to shorten the manuscript.

As winter departed, Carl watched the weather. Bu mid-May the temperature ranged from lows in the 40s to highs in the 90s. Rain was not as frequent as he would have liked. Natural rainfall is better for young grass seed like that planted the previous fall, but on dryer days the water hose kept the potential lawn moist. Everyone had a turn at the daily task of holding a finger against the stream to create a lightly broadcast spray. By Decoration Day on Saturday, May 30, 1930, marking the beginning of the first summer at 187, the lawns both front and back were rewarding the effort with green shoots thickening like an adolescent boy’s growing beard.

Jennie prepared a warm picnic lunch that would become a Decoration Day tradition: Meatloaf and escalloped potatoes. This year she made apple pie for dessert.

But there was deep sadness as those who had given their lives were memorialized. Grieving Swannie’s death, Carl and Jennie found happiness in the knowledge that Mona was lucky, being born at a time when peace, at least, was guaranteed.

Like a prisoner set free, Carl celebrated the summer by exchanging his suit and tie for work clothes as soon as he got home from work. After the meal he headed to the garden, not recognizing the fall of darkness until it wrapped itself around him like a thick blanket.

“You seem like you’re praying when you’re working out there,” Jennie commented.

“It is prayer.” Carl never worked the soil without remembering the barrenness of Torsäs.

Rising from bulbs pressed into the soil in the fall, there were the beginnings of multicolored tulips, yellow daffodils, and delicate white irises with leaves revealing gentle lavender veins. A burst of low-lying deep purple crocuses began to form a delicate wall along the tidy ridge separating the developing green grass from the lawn’s periphery.

In the future there would be geraniums and zinnias, and dreams of phlox to come up in the next spring season. The shadier areas anticipated a multicolored array of impatiens.

From the nearby woods Carl and Harvey brought home small cedars forming a future partial wall marking the end of the property. For this first summer, marigolds would form a protective defense around the trees.

By July an automatic sprinkler replaced the individual finger to disperse water widely and delicately. All that was now required was judicious movement of the hose every half-hour or so. Truth be told, the whole family appreciated the days when a long, gentle spring rain came.

 

AUNT AGNES: ANOTHER OUTTAKE FROM “MY FATHER’S HOUSE.”   4 comments

Some outtakes really hurt, like this one about my mother’s youngest sister, Agnes

“Is Jennie up to talking?” she asked. “Or should I tell you.”

“She’ll be OK,” he said, hearing the urgency in Esther’s voice.

Jennie got herself slowly to the phone and stiffened as soon as the conversation began. “Oh no, poor Agnes.”

Carl moved close to Jennie even as he observed strength and determination flowing into her body.

“It’s cancer,” Jennie told Carl. “Agnes is at Yale/New Haven hospital. They don’t have any hope. Poor Agnes. Poor Esther, alone again.”

Carl watched Jennie revive. She knows Esther needs her.

“I visited Aunt Agnes in the hospital today,” Mona reported some days later. “I’m so glad I did. She seemed really happy to see me, and really lonely for company.”

“How did she look?” Jennie asked.

“Not as bad as I expected, but it is so sad. She kept saying ‘It’s not fair. I’m the youngest; I shouldn’t be the first to go.’ And you know how she always sort of grasped me as if she wanted me to leave a piece of myself with her…? Well, that’s what she did when I had to leave.”

Late in October, Jennie and Carl asked Mona to come to Forestville so they could take her out to lunch at Johnny’s Restaurant for her birthday. On the way Mona stopped at the Forestville Nursing Center to visit Agnes who’d been there since leaving the hospital.

“I was really angry,” Mona reported. “When I arrived, I told the nurse I was there to see Agnes Galloway. She took me to her room and yelled at Aunt Agnes to wake up because she had a guest. Poor Aunt Agnes. I know she’s been in such pain. Why couldn’t she just let her sleep – or let me go in quietly to be with her. Anyway, I got the impression Aunt Agnes was happy – maybe even eager – to see me, and started talking right away, as if there was something she wanted me to know. But her words were so soft and slurred I couldn’t understand them. I didn’t let her know that, though. I kissed her like I thought what she said was very special – I’m sure it was. And then she went back to sleep.”

 

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Posted February 8, 2020 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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Outtake — Teddy   Leave a comment

If Jennie thought Mona was taking on a lot, she hadn’t anticipated the reason for their next visit to 330 Hill Street. This time it was an urgent invitation to meet Teddy, the new Sheltie.

It wasn’t easy talking Lou into it. He grieved his family’s dog too much when he died after fourteen years and couldn’t stand the thought of loving and losing another one.

“But you should have seen what Mom did,” Doug broke in.

“Well, I studied it and decided the ideal dog for us would be a Sheltie. Then I found a place where they had a litter kept in a playpen in the house, treated like a member of the family – pedigreed and all.”

“So Mom talked Daddy into going to see them,” Lisa explained

“And,” continued Doug, “the people picked up the puppy they said was the best of the litter and gave him to Mom.”

“She let us hold him,” Lisa added, “and then all of a sudden Mom turned around and plopped him in Daddy’s arms so he had to hold him or drop him.”

“He was hooked,” Mona grinned. “So now we have our Teddy.”

“Yes, Mother, he is work, but he’s so good. I feed him, and then take him out in the back yard and run around with him until he does his duty. He was housebroken from the time we brought him home.”

 

Posted February 4, 2020 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

I’M BACK   4 comments

I’m back

Have I been away too long? Have I been away too Long? I hope the tune came up for you so you’re singing the words with me.

At any rate, I’m dealing with a new (to me) method here. It’s supposed to be easier, but it’ll take some convincing .

The news, though, is that I’m finished with the recent phase of “My Father’s House.” (I’ve been working on it since 2003). It’s less that 500 pages which is what I’m aiming for. Now I’m looking for people who’d be willing to read it and let me know if it’s interesting to “real people?” I had an agreement with Booktasters, but somehow I’ve lost that correspondence so I’m trying to get back in touch with them.

Here’s my plan. I removed some pretty good content — I think — and plopped it into an “outtakes” folder. It’s kind of hard to part with my babies, so I thought I’d get back into the blogging swing by including some of them here, starting with a relative short one. In the following outtake, Mona has a summer job with the Bristol Brass Company where her father is Treasurer. Mr. Wilson is now the Chairman of the Board — a pretty important position.

With that background, here it is.

Then there was the day she feared she’d been so bold she would lose her job. Mr. Wilson had given her and the other girl the job of verifying his numbers. Three times they entered his numbers into the adding machine, taking turns on who read the numbers and who entered and cranked them. Two times they came up with the same total, but different from Mr. Wilson’s, so Mona reported the difference to him. “Just do it again,” he said.

By the third time they got the same result, Mona was more annoyed than cautious. When Mr. Wilson came out of his office to check on them, she couldn’t restrain herself from saying, “But Mr. Wilson, you must have made a mistake.” She was only half aware of the men standing in their office doorways, as if expecting something to happen. But she was aware of fearing she would disappoint her father.  Mr..Wilson returned to his office, coming out later to acknowledge he’d arrived at the same numbers as the girls.

 “Sometimes, you just have to do the brave thing,” Carl said on the way home.

Posted February 3, 2020 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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