Digging deeper into the pile of organizational pain my parents left me…from God-only-knows-how-many ancient relatives…I found a series of plastic baggies holding postcards with dead people, bluebirds, Santa Claus, pixies, and random bridges…
My grandfather, who lived in a time period when big, bound dictionaries were as valuable as a starter-yacht, purchased a set of dictionaries from a traveling salesman. This effusive little man- not my grandfather, who was not little- instructed my grandfather that two payments would suffice.
When the first volume arrived, it instantly became the heaviest book in the house. How heavy was it? It could kill a mouse, a squirrel, or a peaceful moment in one swift, declining drop. At 1,344 pages, from “a” to “pocket veto,” it was a treasure, albeit outside the cedar treasure chest.
My grandfather, following his education, had a passion for knowledge, and taught himself engineering to help him advance in his career. But, he would have rather been a sailor or a ship’s captain, on account of his love of the sea and of a good boat. When he was on his boat, he would fish, and become less studious, and become disgusted with himself, because, after all, he’d paid all that money…and not a little…for the most extensive dictionary volumes one could buy.
My father grew up with the two volume The New Century Dictionary…and a large set of encyclopedias….as the main sources of information outside of the wit and wisdom of the Seanachai, the storytellers in the family. They might have had a way with history, and the encyclopedias may not have measured up in some cases, but the dictionary stood as the final say for spelling…and though increasingly dated as the decades passed, a first source for the more eclectic vocabulary that my grandfather acquired.
This two-set volume from 1927 has passed on to me, as the caretaker of a now-dated work of reference and amusement. It contains fine phrases and explanations from the Roaring Twenties that may not be the best source for the Terrible Twenties….I mean the 2020s.
Glancing through the New Century, one finds many words not in vogue in the second decade of the 21st Century.
But, for the character of the 1920s, the books are a gas, a sensation, a talk-of-the-town. Here you’ll find all the dirt on “frippery” and how “tawdry” it was…essentially silly…as “she who wore a hat wore a statement of absurdity.”
A sanitorium was a good place, not a place for mindless ninnies. Pennies from Heaven were a good thing, a penny for your thoughts had no attachment to financial value, and references to the appearance of a “bluebird” was a happy occasion. Conversely, one sang “Bye bye” to a blackbird.
The pages are adorned with drawings of a “barb” (a linen covering for the throat and breast), a whelk, and examples of 15th century gorgets. Every page contains at least one, and as many as four, artistic details. The finery is remarkable, particularly considering the low-tech methods used in publishing said pages.
Although the collecting of old books has faded in popularity as the screen has taken over the common world, an antiquated book can be a great substitute for the mindlessly predictable entertainment from the programmed screen world and the equally predictable “print” world via screen. Like the new Century Dictionary, it can be light reading while waiting for your dinner to cook, or your mail to arrive, or for the children to come home from school.
One of the blog-world’s more interesting bloggers here on WordPress.com is L.A. from “Waking Up On The Wrong Side of 50.” She is today engaging in a reflective blogging style that requires one to post Ten things about “my day,” both good and bad. This simple habit must surely be one way to catalogue our life stories in a way that does not necessarily require us to tell our life in daily stories (which is probably what my tendency would be, actually). Call it cathartic, call it anecdotal, but…without further ado, I shall attempt to explore the ten most interesting and nauseating things that happened today, January 7th, 2023…
I got out of bed. Accomplishment # 1.
I brushed my teeth. All of them. I left the toothbrush in the bathroom so that I did not venture forth brushing other people’s teeth today.
After eating an expansive sausage-egg-bacon-cheese “mess” for breakfast, I drove around a town square looking at Christmas decorations in the town whereChristmas lives yet another day…
A local Save-A-Lot was having a two day sale. The sign said “Friday and Saturday.” I thought it might be important to go inside and see if they could sell Sunday and Monday instead. They couldn’t. Strangely enough, all items for sale were identified with giant black and yellow signs hanging from the ceiling…and, that seemed alarming like…
…the DG sign beckoned, with it’s beautiful black and yellow sign, but I drove past it, reminding myself that life was about more than filling my face …and your face…with little swiss chocolates.
I bought a furnace filter at the hardware store. I saw a peanut butter chocolate pie behind the counter. No one was eating it. Two teenagers with acne stood watch over it. That pie would not have survived in my teenage years….
I did laundry, then forgot to wash dishes…then ate a prepackaged dinner. Excitement.
I watched two…or three…episodes of Doc Martin alone. Pathetic.
I spent an hour and a half on the phone with my sister. See called me just before I called her.
I brushed my teeth again.
Well, I did it. Not a very exciting day, but you’ll have that. Mama never told me there would be multiple days like this in winter. Saturdays are just not too exciting.
For all those out there who have lost someone close this year, it is best to remember that every day is another day, regardless of the holiday name beneath the date on your calendar. Feelings of loss may heighten on such days, when certain expectations, traditions… and memories…collide to create a day you may dread. As we know, this day shall pass, as all days will, and the next may not be such an emotional burden.
As one who has been through such loss several times, I pray you will reach out to one individual you can trust to pray for you in your time of need.
walking past reflecting window panes, i don’t recognize the man in the sheep herder’s hat walking beside me. he’s graying and has a beard and could have stepped out of an 1800’s photo. he certainly does not look like he belongs here.
i turn the corner into the downtown parking lot- one of too few for this town of 12,000- and lose the gaunter figure.
fall feels like winter and a pall of pelting weather fogs my glasses. the car has equally special problems, though she is, thankfully, not premenstrual- but, she fogs her windshield when i push her button.
while i am waiting for her to de-thaw, my mind wanders back to the conversation i had not twenty minutes before with an older couple from my own town who just happened to be in the same restaurant. he was telling me about her health issues, she was telling me about his home hospital rounds. between them, they co-survived her heart conditions and he learned enough to cook from the back of a box.
“i thought i recognized you,” he said, squinting.
funny, i did not recognize myself. not in the mirror this morning.
my spirit man does not feel the age, but my mind does. i have little interest in the more attractive females walking by. but the souvlaki makes my mouth water as i spread a healthy dose of feta over the spicy lamb.
they have a conversation, but not really with me. somewhere in it, i have a bit part, like a supporting actor with an aside now and then.
the feta is calling…but they aren’t leaving…
back out in the cold, i glance at the store windows. someone is soon following me. i race back to the car and start the engine. in the rearview mirror, the cars move away and i see an opening in the weather. winter is not here yet.
i had a friend…intensely dear…who would wax poetic about the aftertaste of mocha, latte, and anything amaretto. she did not like coffee, she would proclaim, but the taste was a mnemonic link with her past. so she drank it, gulped it. like a never-ending rosary, she recited the line that it was necessary…
there were lines in her face. the ones that never left. the ones the foundation tried to hide. the ones that forced their way through a smile. she could not hide from them. for they were her history.
but i saw love in those lines. i saw gentleness. i saw a passion for life. not the fading years. not the fading promise…
in the stillness, i like to sit at my red and white checkered tablecloth, the candles lit, the flames flickering against reflecting panes, and remember those lines…the ones i said, the ones she said. they were not captured in the wind, nor written in athousand poems, nor remembered on the five hundred miles home. but somewhere they are etched on a window beyond this place, beyond this time...
not everything under the sun has been done yet- like surfing across Antarctica licking lollipops or climbing the world’s tallest ice cream cone with one shoe. and the same can be said for Top Ten lists. sure, you have seen “Top ten sailing vacations,” “Top ten salads of the world,” and “top ten friendly dogs.” but have you seen the top ten stupidest English words and phrases ever invented?
i didn’t think so.
welcome to a trip down semantic lane. please do not trip over your tongue.
10. “You looked!” I have no idea where this stupid reactionary phrase came from but it had to do with a hand gesture…some might suggest it was a sign of white supremacy (like 99% of everything ever invented), but if you looked down at someone giving the OK sign, they derided you with derision (which is the only thing one would deride you with) and ridicule (more on ridicule later). frankly it was about as funny aswetting your pants at the symphony…
9. “Ridicule.” Frankly, they could have chosen a better word to describe the action.It simply sounds like an industrial toilet cleaner or a word for deciphering crossword puzzle blanks. It is much too silly sounding to be taken seriously.
8. “Over the hill.” Not “Over the moon,” which is a grand statement and is just what you need to say in such a situation. but “over the hill?” If I am 50…or 60, am I over the hill? Unlikely, as I would much rather be “down the hill” than over it. it takes too much energy to be over the hill, and I’ve no time for that.
7. “Frankly, my dear.” if you’re thinking Clark Gable in “Gone with the Wind,” you’re thinking along with me. Why would Clark…king of the tactless characters of the world when everything was in Black and White….use the word “frankly,” when he was always frank?
6. “Let me be frank.” Let me be frank about this- Even if Lucy with her beautiful British English used it in a sentence, it would not make this phrase any less ridiculous. If you use “let me be frank” does that mean everything you said before the phrase was insincere…or a lie? no more being frank…as I am no hot dog.
5. “It is what it is.” Excuse me while I gargle with industrial marbles in my mouth. It is what it is…industrial marbles rolling around in my mouth…would mean I had industrial marbles in my mouth. Frankly…no we’re not going there…but why couldn’t we expand the meaning of a word like….ibid…and use that? Much shorter and not a long Wreck-of-the-Edmund-Fitzgerald useless sequence of words employed to say what you just said. Or, as Gaeigle, “Sin e.”
4.“Their poop don’t stink.” Really? Who cares if their poop does stink- do I really want to get into a conversation about feces when I am trying to explain how aloof they are? How about using sophisticated words rather than third grade potty words?
3. “Straight from the horse’s mouth.” Have you ever been close to a horse’s mouth? Or a donkey’s mouth? Well, I have. I had a free range donkey come after me the other day on my agricultural adventures while trying to get photos of a house for a client. That donkey’s breath could knock the buzzard off a ____ wagon, it was so strong. Horses, eating fermenting hay, could use some oral help, so I do not want anything straight from the horse’s mouth…ewww!
2. “Giddy.” When I hear someone say that so and so was giddy, I want to respond in kind with “gosh,” or “gee willickers.” Really folks, how is that still a thing? She was simply giddy with excitement? Yep. And I am five years old again…Giddy up, horsey.
And…Numero Uno. “Woke.” Truly a word created from the depths of semantic hell. How is something “woke” when the people engaging in “woke” are asleep in their own little fantasy world? If she’s so woke that she slept through the lecture at school, I think we have a problem. “Wokeism” sounds like a scientific process to cause the eyes to bulge so no one gets any sleep anymore. I am sure that would happen if I had a steady diet of television “news.” Oh, please don’t woke me when this is over…