Eclipse 2017

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At the time when I scheduled a dentist appointment to replace a filling that had come out, I had no idea what an auspicious date August 21, 2017 at exactly 2:30 p.m. would be.  Not until all of the hype on television began did I realize that at the time the moon would be eclipsing the sunshine here in the Cleveland area leaving a thin crescent of 20-23% of the great star visible to the naked eye, I would be in the dental chair with my eyes closed and my mouth wide open.

I did not manage to obtain a pair of the ISO approved glasses for viewing the event, and I did not want to risk the potential damage, though I do not know that I have not done some damage with all the photos I’ve taken over the years aiming the digital camera right at the sun, so I got to my destination about a half hour before the appointment.

I have heard that looking at the sun through the camera’s viewer was okay, which is how I have gotten my pictures of the great fiery orb.  The dentist and his assistant were talking about the next eclipse, expected to cross Ohio in totality in 2024.

Here the sky did not darken but did look a bit drab and there were some streaks of lightning off to the north east.  I went on to the local Walmart which had been up-scaled to include a vast array of foodstuffs.  I walked around for about an hour and picked out a few things including some supplements my local drug store no longer carries, like ginger since it is said to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Happily there were many really good pictures on the assorted news programs showing the eclipse as it traveled from Oregon, Carbondale, Illinois and down to Tennessee and South Carolina.  It was almost as much fun to see all the people, especially the children as they watched the sky in awe.  There were some great looking tee shirts too.

There’s a Star in Town

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Getting the car washed is one of those chores it seems difficult to squeeze in between days when it rains and the other busy to and fro of daily life, yet I noticed rust starting some damage on the driver side of the car just as the metal is bending to the underside, so it had become more important to get done.  I pulled into a nearby carwash on the way home from church Monday.  Goodness but the car was so shiny and clean.  The professionals do a much better job than a simple rain shower does and I need to be more diligent about getting this task in more regularly.

Back at home I called Star’s cousin, Patrick in Cleveland Heights to leave a message, since there was no answer.  I thought they might not be back from the airport in Columbus yet when Star got onto the line.  We laughed and talked as we always have when she said Patrick said I might come to dinner that evening if I’d like to.  After a quick mental check of my dance card, I said I could definitely come out.

Lucky for me Patrick’s house is very distinctive and easy to recognize and amazingly enough there was a space right in front of his tree lawn where I was able to park.  It had been a few years since she has flown out from southern California but I was surprised when Patrick said it had been four years since her last visit.

Star and I met while we both worked at the Higbee Company downtown when we were eighteen years old.  We had many adventures together, gone to many concerts and taken multitudes of walks through woods and along creeks as the years played out.  She married and moved to southern California a few years later but we kept up our friendship and visited whenever they were in town.

While I ended up in California too, I was in the Silicon Valley area, a one hour flight, so our visits were less frequent, but her husband’s brother worked in Palo Alto, which was also a draw for them.

We sat around the table on Patrick’s porch drinking white wine and enjoying a grilled vegetable and chicken salad that he prepared.  Reminiscing over our lifetime of shared memories the evening slipped away just as the years of our friendship had.  When I got home and started looking back at old pictures on the computer I realized it had actually been five years since Star’s last visit.

Old friendships don’t erode with time, the ease of companionship and conversation just resumes as if it had only been a few days since our last visit.

Summer Wedding

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Oh, an invitation to Jonathan and Mara’s wedding, yes, I’d love to go, let’s see, nothing scheduled on the calendar, I filled out the RSVP card and mailed it the next day and thought nothing more about it until the date got closer and I decided to check to see where I needed to go for the celebration.  I’ve only always seen them at my cousin Raymond his wife Elaine’s home I had some notion that the wedding might be in that general area.  To my surprise the invitation said the location was Wakeman, Ohio.  What!  I’ve never been there.  I had already committed to attending so I had to get there somehow.  Not only was this far from my usual haunts, the name of the place for the festivities:  Riverdog.  Oh my, is that a place where people got married? What have I gotten myself into, I wondered.

For anyplace I might need to go which is west of Parma, Ohio, I turn to my usual source for answers, Danny at the office.  He took one look at the invitation and said he knew nothing of the area and couldn’t help me.  Oh no.  After some chatter between a few folks in the office it was declared that Molly lived out that way, so Monica called her and said, “Can you come to my office, Rose has a question.”  I was astonished that she summoned Molly and in a moment she arrived and we explained to her where I had to go and I showed her the invitation.  In minutes Monica had MapQuest up and in another minute directions from my home to the Riverdog were printed out and my apprehensions evaporated.  I didn’t want to bother my cousin for directions because I imagined all the activities they would be busy with in preparation since Elaine is the groom’s mom.

In spite of all of the flurry around the wedding including family coming in from Indiana, Elaine called me and asked me how I was driving and when I told her about my MapQuest directions she offered a few more suggestions which I found clarified what information I already had and the next evening when they returned home from the rehearsal dinner, Ray called me himself to be sure I had a thorough understanding of the route, including names of streets I’d be passing as I went through Oberlin.  It turned out that all of his added instructions were very helpful so I did not make any unexpected detours and the drive, while long, was direct.  Whew.

Once the car was parked, I got my cane and began to slowly walk over the grassy, uneven ground toward the art gallery for the “meet and greet” when a tall white haired gentleman approached me and said if I wanted, he would get his car and drive me right to the door.  That didn’t take much thought, and I found myself getting into a car with a stranger and as promised, he did drop me right at the door of the first venue.   I thanked him after asking his name and telling him mine.  Inside the foyer of the gallery filled with stylishly dressed women, nary a pair of slacks to be seen made me glad I was wearing a dress too.  I wandered around looking at the artwork, found Ray and Elaine then they headed one way and I continued to thread my way around the interior perimeter of the structure taking pictures as I went.   Back in the front room I found Mara and she gave me a big hug and then I complimented a young lady on her dress and she turned out to be one of Dave (Elaine’s brother) and Bonnie’s two daughters.  I found the edge of a seat to perch on and Ray came along to say where to get a drink, so I went and got a little bottle of something bubbly, not champagne, but close.

The Bride and Groom stood under the Riverdog sign to address the crowd which was followed by toasting the happy looking couple and everyone exited through paths of flowers heading uphill to an open field that was covered with folding chairs.  Ray and Elaine along with the rest of the immediate family were in the first couple of rows so I sat where there was an empty chair and had a fine view.

I have no idea if the two young men presiding over the ceremony were representatives of any religion, or just bought a license to perform marriages, but they took turns reading from a script and then Jonathan and Mara took turns reading the vows they each wrote themselves.

They were both glowing and several times Jonathan was so moved he had to just stop and catch his breath before resuming his words.  The professional photographer kept the immediate family down there for about a half hour.  I proceeded to the large tent where the tables had been perfectly set by Elaine with cloths and matching napkins on each table and each plate was beautiful and different. They had been bought at goodwill and resale shops to add color and flowers to the settings.  One of the ladies in Mara’s family grew all of the exquisite flowers and put a vase of them on each table.

We were directed to the little tent to select a glass and then get it filled; the glass would be a favor from the wedding each guest could take home.  Once all the tables were filled, we made our way back to the little tent to fill our plates from the barbeque selections and sit back down to dine.

From the large tent people began to walk up another hill to a barn where the dessert bar awaited; there was the wedding cake and there was music for dancing.  A young lady who sang at the ceremony and played a ukulele helped guide me up the hill so I didn’t stumble.  I listened to her story about how she knew Mara, and I liked her.  I liked everyone I talked with and by the time I was ready to leave I knew my world had been expanded.  I found Jonathan at the edge of the step up into the barn and I asked him to tell the others I had left and he offered to get my car from the parking lot so I didn’t have to walk all the way back there.  I was really touched that one of the two most important people of the evening would take the time to help me, and he did.  The gentleman who drove me to the door when I arrived offered to get my car, but Jonathan had already gone and then Ray walked me down the hill to the car.

When I got home and back to my own comfy bed my head was swirling with all the new faces, new views, and multitude of kindnesses I had experienced but eventually I drifted off to sleep.

Dinner Out

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The daytime traffic of vehicles, and people darting around shouting and gesturing in multiple languages, arms laden with heavy bags of locally grown and produced goods at our well-known West Side Market can be daunting.  I dreaded driving down there and bumbling around trying to find a place to park.  I said yes to the invitation from my cousin Barb, who came in from near Ann Arbor, to be with her eldest daughter and family, all of whom had gone to Cedar Point the day before and were now spending the day at Cleveland’s Museum of Natural History and decided to have dinner at one of the many new restaurants adjacent to the Market and along that stretch of West 25th Street.

Even though our target time was after close of business for the market, not knowing exactly what to expect, I was unsettled.  Turning off the main street and into the first drive that seemed to be behind the market I found myself in the vendor’s alley which was crowded with crates of all sorts, bits and pieces of vegetables strewn about, people milling around and little trucks for who knows what blocking the passage back out of the exit.  I managed to back up without running anything or anyone over and got out the way I came in, the light in my favor, I swung into the turning lane and pulled onto the next street which just happened to be exactly where I wanted to be – the drive into the Market’s new extended parking lot.  That was an enormous relief and even better was the lack of parking meters at every slot.  I didn’t have to go very far before I found an open spot and pulled in and checked for visual clues where I was so I could find the car again when I was ready to go home.  There was a purple and yellow mural painted on the wall of the brick building directly in front of me and I was not too far from the street I had turned in from so I made a mental note and then turned to face the backside of the market and there in big blocky letters was the name of the restaurant where the group wanted to eat.  Oh Thank You!

Slowly walking from the back outdoor seating area, along the bar to the dining section I found no familiar faces until I came out to the sidewalk and thought I saw my cousin parking half a block down from me.  When she turned around I waved and she waved back and continued plugging coins into the meter.  She was trying to phone the remainder of her party while I walked back toward the entrance to get some pictures of the gentrified looking buildings newly painted since my last time in the area.  She went into the restaurant and got a table for us and as I was heading back toward the outdoor tables, I hoped we would not have to climb up those really tall chairs which seem to be in vogue everywhere in recent years.  Thankfully she picked a table with seating a little lower to the ground and a few minutes after we sat, she ordered us an appetizer of sweet potatoes with bits and pieces chicken and beans on them which were quite delicious.

It was my first meeting with Barb’s two younger grandchildren and of course they were charming, the boy now nine years of age loves reading and at an early age read the first of the Harry Potter books in three days.  The two year old girl is the picture of Barb and is all charm and personality.  Barb’s youngest sister and Barb’s youngest daughter were also with us and I soon learned that the decision to come here was because the menu was largely organic/vegan.  I ended up ordering zucchini pasta with marinara sauce which was very filling but a little flat in taste.  The other choices looked interesting and healthy as well.

As the sun began setting, we were winding up our meal and our visit with pictures being taken and hugs being given, we waved our farewells and headed off in our separate directions.

angels among us

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The bewilderment on my face prompted the thin, older but not elder, attractive lady who appeared at my side to ask again, “May I help you?”  I stepped aside and she launched into making quick work of moving the stuffed green plastic bags on the conveyor belt of the check-out counter into the cart which had been my support as I moved around from aisle to aisle.

Such people, the human angels, I think of them as, appear suddenly and disappear after being helpful.  I am always surprised when they come forward as I am muddling along with one thing or another, like the time last winter as I was sloshing through ankle deep melting snow on my way out of the bank.  I was using my cane and walking slowly, stepping into footprints made by others.  At the stop sign a white SUV halted, the window rolled down and a lady called out asking if I needed help.  I smiled and said, thanks but I’d be all right.  She quickly pulled into a parking slot and hopped through the slush, taking my elbow guiding me to my car door, took my key to open the door, and stood there while I got into my vehicle. Once I was situated and ready to start the car I thanked her again, asking her name, Michelle and told her mine and she said she’d be able to sleep better that night having done that.

Suddenly the snow was falling fast in fat flakes and accumulating.  I was pushing a cart full of groceries across the now covered asphalt toward my little car when a young woman came alongside of me and asked to help, taking over the pushing as I led the way.  She was also calling out to her mother not to leave without her.  I opened the trunk and she got all the bags into the car for me then scurried off pushing the cart into one of the stands for them, again shouting out to her mother, whom I never did see.  I was so thankful to be inside the car, slowly inching my way home.

There are various stories I have heard over the years about people who walk into and back out of our lives like that.  Maybe they are angels or maybe just good people who feel better for helping some who needs it.  Whoever they may be, I am grateful for those helping hands.

The Slovak Language

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The language that my grandparents spoke did make it down to my parents – sort of.  My mother’s family only spoke Slovak and lived in a Slovak-Hungarian neighborhood in Cleveland where the use of English was not required.  St. Benedict’s Church had Mass in Slovak and my mother attended Slovak school in the parish.

My father being the eldest child, learned what he did by communicating with his parents. However, for the most part his parents, like so many immigrants wanted the children to be American in every way including the language, so none of his siblings learned much of it, except my youngest aunt who traveled by ship with her parents back to visit the family left in Slovakia when she was a young child.

My parents did not teach my sister and me the language, but used it between themselves to discuss things they did not wish to share with us.  We traveled to Slovakia as a family group with the four of us and our two grandmothers in 1959 and my father sent my sister and I again, in 1968.  On that trip my sister left all the talking and translating to me. Since English is known in part at least, all over the world, we used slang to mask anything we did not wish to share.   I bought a Slovak dictionary on Wenceslas Square in Prague and when people talked, I could get the gist of what they were saying, but to respond, I often put one finger up, saying “moment, moment!” and paged through the dictionary hoping not to be too off course.

When I was twenty, upon the suggestion of my father and the help of The Nationalities Editor at the Cleveland Press for 46 years, Theodore Andrica, I found The General Stefanik Dramatic Society meeting in an old Sokol (gymnastics) hall on the west side of Cleveland and I joined the group where I enjoyed learning the songs and dances of my heritage.  We performed at assorted church functions and even at the International Folk Festival in the big “Public Hall” downtown a couple of years running.

In a memoir class here in the writing festival the book Speak Memory by Nabakov was recommended and I ploughed through all of this Russian master’s lineage which was very tedious and his butterfly collection data equally not interesting to me, but what I did find was a wealth of words, many in Russian which were similar to if not exactly the same as Slovak words, like, voda – water in both languages.

He also used a word for gypsy began with tsi – when I sounded the word out and remembered the Slovak word, ciganka, I understood the Russian word.

When my children and I moved back to Cleveland and attended a local Slovak festival, I was quite disappointed in how poor the quality of the costumes was and how little they resembled the real thing.  I took us back home and dressed Mika in my costume and we went back to the festival where the costume immediately drew attention and admiration, particularly from the grannies in the group who all wanted to know the county in Slovakia that the costume was from.  Luckily I remembered: Nitra.

The year my son turned twelve, my father took him to Slovakia.  I imagine that the trip was life changing for him, as it would likely be for any child.  When he came home he said, “MOM! I didn’t know zuby was a Slovak word!”  From early childhood I incorporated a few Slovak words without thinking about their origin, into my daily vocabulary saying things like “Brush those zubies!” all the time.

While he was playing with some youngsters in the river in my grandmother’s village of Drahovce, another of those words, chudatko, which means, “you poor thing” often my family used it tongue in cheek, came up after he dunked a girl.  She was furious.  He responded to her disdain saying chudatko!  The children who knew he was American and did not speak the language were greatly amused.  He didn’t say if the girl laughed too, or not.

Now that the generation before me is mostly gone, the polka music rarely heard, the language no longer in regular use, though I hear strains of it as I go through grocery stores now and then, and the old Slovak and Hungarian neighborhood forever changed, I find I really miss hearing the sounds so ever present in my childhood.

Hommmme…

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Monday morning came soon and after a hurried breakfast Claudia and I rolled our luggage out of the room and rode the elevator down to the lobby where I checked out and we were out the door with a last glance at the beautiful river before heading out to the highway that would take us back to Ohio.

Claudia’s phone directed us to a detour that took us along a stretch of the Mississippi River, and across a bit of Illinois neither of us had seen before.  It was a beautiful day for driving, not too warm and the bulk of the traffic was coming in the other direction.  Each rest stop was clean more modern than ones I remember stopping at in my drives from Illinois to Ohio years ago.  We made good time and were at my doorstep by seven p.m.

It’s now a full two weeks since we’ve returned and I feel like I’m finally catching up with myself and pretty much back in synch with my normal routine, both at the office and the water exercise class, e-mail, Facebook posting photos, phone calls, re-stocked the fridge, done all of the laundry and most of the assorted chores that no little brownies or elves did for me while I was away.

Last year the wonderfully green and lush grasses and weeds in Iowa City were much taller and more dense than the same growth here in Ohio, but this year ours was better, which I noticed on my annual walk with Wendy, from the Cleveland Ufology Project.

As we ambled along the path that runs parallel to the canal, the vegetation was much thicker than I remembered it being last year and was a huge improvement from the year of the drought, which may have been 2012, when there wasn’t a drop of water in the canal and the weeds there were about 3 feet tall.  It took a few years for them to sink back below water level.

The powers that be, still don’t get it and continue to cut down fields full of trees so they can line their pockets with big bucks as they pave away, keep building and building.  The few stands of trees left around my workplace used to have deer that came frolicking across the parking lots regularly by late afternoon, but it has been a long time since I have seen any of them.