Sunday, June 25, 2017
But I'm no artist. And so I was left with the question of what should I put in a notebook that would not be disposable. What notes would I want to keep? And so I decided to keep a running list of books I have read, starting January of this year, titles and authors.
Entry #22: Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
I wonder if I am reading more books now that I am recording them, competing with the empty pages of a blank notebook. Nonetheless, Girls of Atomic City captivated me.
Atomic City, for those who may not have guessed, was Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I grew up on the other side of Anderson County from Oak Ridge, but my father remembered growing up in Oak Ridge itself, when it was indeed a secret city. It was on no maps in its early days, and you had to have government credentials to come and go.
According to Kiernan, nobody in Oak Ridge talked, not even among themselves, about what they did there in the early days. My grandfather never did. I asked my mother recently, as she was always close to her father-in-law, if he had ever shared those details with her. He had not. I do know that the family arrived in Oak Ridge sometime between late 1942 (my father was not born there) and 1948 (when I have a dated letter by my grandfather detailing his thoughts to a patent lawyer). I know they had left by 1953, when my uncle would have graduated from Norris High School.
The women in Kiernan's narrative often arrived in Oak Ridge without knowing where they were going or what work they would do there. It may have been Oak Ridge where my grandmother moved into a house she'd never seen, but I have no other details about my own family's arrival there.
I have an address (from the same 1948 letter) on East Drive. That is all. Kiernan describes the "Cemestos" (asbestos and cement composite) houses intended to last only a few years, though many still stand and house families, like that house on East Drive. Alphabet houses, given letter names for the size and style of the houses, I wonder how my grandfather rated a "D" house. (A houses were the smallest.)
So now when I find pictures of Oak Ridge, I wonder who those nameless people are... women in a store (does she have my grandmother's nose? could we be related?) boys building a soap-box derby style airplane (could that be my uncle?)
Kiernan's women were real women, many still living when her book was published in 2011. Their stories of mud, "hutments," radiation, and secrecy have me captivated. I wish I could interview my own Atomic City family and hear their own stories.
Friday, June 2, 2017
With all that comes with it.
Black lung, mine rebellions, violent endings
both to the rebellions and to human lives.
Family photos of young men in caskets,
when there was no war abroad.
Poverty, feuds, wizened grandmothers,
My grandfather was a union organizer.
A migrant worker
after he left the mines.
He went where the money was.
Cincinnati, New York, Radford, Oak Ridge.
An air raid warden,
leaving my grandmother frightened in the darkness
with two small boys,
while he roamed the town,
attending to the compliance of other homes.
An old man, stooped over, chewing tobacco,
he wanted more for his sons.
A quick mind, sparkling eyes, he wanted more for our world.
My grandfather was a backyard inventor--
a water engine, clean technology.
Safety and efficiency.
He would have been fascinated by your smart phone.
He would have marveled at your hybrid vehicle.
Solar roofing tiles would have delighted him.
He would have reveled in an Ohio River safe work and play.
He would have been shocked by your loyalty to the coal that slowly kills.
My grandfather used to say,
"We can never destroy the earth,
We will only destroy ourselves first."
My grandfather was a coal miner.
But my father was an engineer.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Fresh and fragrant, daffodils blooming in the bright sunshine -
They open their little buds in vibrant yellows, white, and orange-
Bursting forth in a riot of blooms, *clip, clip, clip* a bouquet.
Friday, February 3, 2017
When I was young, teachers were teachers. They lived at the school, as far as we were concerned, and surely had no other interests than the subject they taught. Sometimes they would tell us that they had families, but part of us never really believed that. They were unseen and therefore not part of our reality.
The only difference was Mrs. Thurman, whose daughter had been in my class since first grade. I had been in their home. We played Trivial Pursuit. She made spaghetti with actual meatballs (something I thought only existed in the movie Lady and the Tramp and was surely too good to be true). She was also my ninth grade geometry teacher. And frankly, that was a little weird. But it was only weird for an hour or so a day, at the beginning of the year. Then I compartmentalized Mrs. Thurman again, with teacher this time instead of friend's mom. It was okay.
I had teachers I adored, but they were still teachers. They had no first names. Their mothers surely named them Mister and Missus at birth. I had teachers I did not quite adore, too, but they also were teachers. They were on the dark side.
Pastors were the same. Our pastor from the time I was twelve (until the time in my teens that I left for Anglicanism) took an interest in kids. He took us on retreats and outings. He was interested in leather working and golf. We got to know him. Still, he was our pastor. When our assisting pastor went to work for the region, he moved compartments in my mind. It was dissonant. He was the regional youth pastor, but we had some claim on him, surely, because he had been our pastor. My brother thought he looked like Jesus.
That worked through college. Professors, no matter how closely you worked alongside them, were still professors. And their mothers named them Mister, Doctor, Missus, Mizz. Surely. Very fore-thoughtful mothers, no doubt.
Then seminary happened and our professors were called by their first names. Allen, Rod, Ann. Still, they were professors. They lived in that category of teacher.
Except I went to church with Ann. And somewhere along way I had need to call her at home for something, which seemed at the time like a terrible no-no. You don't call your professor at home. That's why they have offices.
Our priest was supposed to be the same way. Priest, professional Christian who lived at Church the way teachers lived at school. Okay, by then I knew better. I had friends who were priests. But I had yet to have my own parish priest as my friend. Teachers and priests had not yet broken down the walls of their compartments.
And now, old person that I am. They have. Tonight I sat with Ann at dinner, not because she's my former Greek professor, but because she's my friend. We share hobbies together I'd never have expected (she knits, I spin... so we make stuffed sheep together to celebrate special people in our lives) and can call one another just to say hello. Heavens, she texts me. (And I her, of course.) I'd have never dreamed. And we were at dinner to celebrate that same parish priest, whose birthday is today, who broke that wall between priest and friend. Many have since, of course.
I still keep walls, because I am a pretty private person (who blogs, people are full of contradictions) at heart. But childhood me would have never thought of pastors and teachers on the inside part of that boundary line.
I still can't call my childhood teachers by their first names. But I have come to realize that one of the joys of growing up, and yes, growing older, is to come to know people as the multifaceted wonders that they are.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Oh, hello, blog. Its been a while. My fault.
A memory.... I remember, I must have been about ten or twelve, a hike in the woods with my dad. In the snow. Dad would take us on a hike around the property, 42 undeveloped acres, like a king on progress through his realm. This time it was just him and me. I don't ever remember any other snow-hike, just the one. In the home stretch, dad looked down and saw a leaf, bright red and oval with a perfect point at the tip, sitting neatly on the fresh snow. "Look. You don't see that very often." He picked it up and handed it to me. I held on to it, for the rest of the walk, or so I thought. But when we arrived home, somehow, from my mittened hand, the leaf had slipped away. I never see red oval leaves on the ground without thinking of that. People, like leaves, slip away, too often unnoticed, no matter how firmly we think we hold on.
Un mémoire. Je me souviens- peut-être j’avais dix ou douze ans, une excursion dans le bois avec mon père. C’était dans la neige. Souvent, Papa nous emmenait pour marcher à pied autour de la propriété, quarante-deux acres vierges, comme un roi qui fait le défilé à travers son royaume. Cette fois, c’était seulement mon père et moi. Maintenant, comme une adulte, cette excursion est la seule dans la neige dont je me souviens. De quoi ?
Enfin, quand nous sommes retournés près de notre maison, Papa a regardé la neige sous ses pieds et là, il trouva une feuille rouge pourpre et pénétrante, ovale avec une pointe parfaite au bout. Doucement et soigneusement, la feuille restait sur la neige. << Regarde. Tu ne vois pas vraiment cela souvent. >> il m'a dit.
Ensuite, il prit la feuille et me la donna. Ensuite, je l’ai gardée pendant le reste de l’excursion, ou bien, je le pensais. Alors, quand nous sommes arrivés chez nous, je ne sais pas comment, de ma main mouflée, la feuille avait disparu.
Ces jours-ci, je ne regarde jamais les feuilles rouges et ovales sur la terre sans penser à cela. Et, alors, je comprends que les gens, comme les feuilles, peuvent disparaître, inaperçus, même que nous pensons que nous essayons de saisir.
Monday, April 18, 2016
Friday, November 27, 2015
The way I see it, pumpkin pie is the world's first "superfood."
Think about it. Now keep in mind, I was raised in the days of food groups. These food groups were primitive, not capable of organizing themselves to build food pyramids. They were just groups. All groups were equal. No discrimination here. Except for the fruit and vegetable group which was considered more equal than the other groups, especially the vegetable subgroup, for the sole purpose of driving children crazy.
I really didn't understand how brussels sprouts and strawberries were the same "group" but if they were, why did my mother not consider them interchangeable in my diet? I would happily have substituted.
But that's neither here nor there.
So considering. A serving of the meat-eggs-nuts-protein group.... and a serving of the vegetable group, mashed up together with cinnamon which we know has health benefits. Top it with a visit from the calcium rich dairy group. Serve it up on an ambassador from the wheats and grains group, unless you're gluten free... then we have a gluten free option for you.... lower carb, too for you moderns... skip the crust. I do. And voila pumpkin pie. Allergic to dairy, skip the whipped cream (poor fool). No teeth? No problem. Soy free, nut free, and artificial ingredient free. We've got this.
So today I had pie for breakfast. A little post-thanksgiving tradition. Tomorrow its back to normal, cold cereal and warm coffee. But today, it was pie.
I feel healthier already.