Friday, December 28, 2012

Sentimental Journey

Try as I might I can't keep myself from looking down at the living room rug in the place where Kodi usually stretched out at the foot of my recliner, for when I do, or even when I think about it, the sobs form in a special place in my cheekbones and I am unable to stop them. It takes ten to fifteen minutes to compose myself, during which time I am unable to answer the phone or do anything productive and there is a heaviness right in the middle of my chest that feels like a big grapefruit. Oh, Kodi, I miss you!

For my first Christmas here Catherine and her house guest Kate came over Christmas Eve and we ate turkey, dressing, mashed and sweet potatoes prepared from the small Oakmont market here.  I took them out of the tightly stuffed 8" x 10" hard foam boxes, reheated the contents in the oven, and served all of it on Lee's Mom's lovely china. Several unpacked boxes from Cathy Lane were inches from our feet.

My guests' admiration of the dishes gave me an excuse to tell the story of how Lee's mother came to get the dishes. Juanetta and Verne were anything but wealthy yet Juanetta yearned for pretty china. She searched and searched, finally finding in Breuner's bargain basement in downtown Oakland a large wooden barrel, slightly opened. She fished through the packing material and spotted this china, gold rimmed with paintings of roses, chrysanthimums and blue bells. She knew it had to be hers. The back side said made in Chekloslovakia. She adored them, as do I.
I have treasured them for about fifteen years now, and on Cathy Lane had them displayed artistically in her large china cabinet (which recently got ruined in the storage locker flood).
My story gave Catherine permission to tell the story of her Mother's Noritake china which she now uses, although mostly grey it is not to her taste.  Eva was a young bride, married to an Air Force officer assigned to Japan at the end of the 2nd World War. Waiting for a troop ship, the wives and children were billeted temporarily at Fort Lawton, in Seattle.  Curiously, I lived at that time only a few miles away, though I was still in high school and Eva was not to become my best friend till about twenty years later.
Eva was excited, scared, and lonely. She was also pregnant, being a good Catholic bride. Her frugal German mother sent her some money so that when she was in Japan she could buy a good set of china. Eva took the money instead and opened a charge account at what was then Frederick & Nelson, in downtown Seattle.  Why Frederick's, as we called it?
They sold a delicious chocolate mint, called Frango's. I vaguely remember them from my childhood. Each week Eva would buy the mints using the new credit card, and soon the china money was all gone.
Returning home to Oakland after his assignment in what was called Occupied Japan, Catherine's grandmother became furious that her daughter brought home no lovely china, all the money having been spent on her daughter's chocolate fix. Eventually Eva got a part-time job at Capwells (now the Emporium) selling hankies until she had sufficient to buy a set of china which was on sale there with the inscription on the back: made in occupied Japan. We hope her mother forgave her.
Frederick's is now Macy's and I am advised they still sell Frango mints, in several flavors, especially popular at Christmas. I love the story.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

End Of An Era

This week marks the end of an era for me. I wish so deeply that it would be the end to violence in war and shootings everywhere but alas, I fear that is not the case. Meanwhile the country is obsessed with the tragedy in Connecticut this week in which 20 little children were murdered. How I hate guns.
A different kind of sad closure occurred for me this week as I made the decision to relieve my beloved dog of his suffering from neurological and intestinal problems.
When Lee and I chose Kodi at the Oakland SPCA almost 12 years ago he was just seven weeks. He fit snugly in one hand, such a furry bundle of sweetness. They had named him Frankie for his Sinatra like blue eyes. "Half pure-bred siberian husky and half traveling salesman" the woman volunteer stated. She offered that he would probably grow to 40 pounds. (Hah! At times he topped 100.)
Lee's health was already complicated by heart and lung problems but the dementia that characterized her last two years was to come later.  All huskies are escape artists and Kodi was no exception. Having raised dogs most of my life I'm a pretty experienced trainer, but no trick in the book helped. He simply never learned to spell "c-o-m-e". Until about a year of age he was a total mischief maker. Too much energy. In all other ways he was a charmer; healthy, beautiful in appearance, loving beyond measure. He captured everyone's heart. But Lee was the clearly the object of his devotions and she returned it in measure. Their bond was incredible. His thick coated chest was always inches from her recliner or wheelchair. Occasionally I felt jealous of their closeness. At the same time I was filled with gratitude that he so enriched her life. Since her death five years ago Kodi has grown closer to me, serving as both a companion and a guard dog. His dog walker even brought him to the hospital to visit me as I recovered from my hip surgery. Granted, folks in the hospital elevator stepped back. His wolf eyes scared them. They could not know he was really a mush-pot. My responsibility for his care in his senior years gave me an urgent reason to recover. I'm grateful for that. Do you suppose the heaviness in my heart will pass one day and I will again be able to picture him running full speed through the woods, or perhaps even the clouds?
Below, two of my favorite photos of Lee and canine companions, the first being Max who wandered in the back door of her frame shop, a skinny runt. The vet thought he was part beagle. Another misconception. He soon topped 100. He slept beside her at home at night but accompanied her to work as a guard dog for about ten years. The second is Kodi at about three years.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Whimsy Not Flimsy

When most of my moldy furniture when to the dump last month due to the flood in the warehouse I shopped locally for  replacements of dish cabinets and bookcases. Finding nothing that suited me, I turned to the Ethnic Arts web site in Berkeley. I have long been smitten with the David Marsh hand crafted furniture displayed throughout the house of Stace and Andrea, part of my Hayward "family". David Marsh furniture is whimsical, hand-crafted, and each piece unique. From photos and their endorsement I selected two pieces, a large blue-purple bookcase and a basura stick cabinet, shown above. (Basura means garbage.) They don't begin to hold the contents of my boxes (about thirty yet to unpack) but they are fun, unique, planet friendly, and so why not?
Made in Texas, each piece has the signature on the back of each artist who contributed to it, and my pieces have many. The cabinet is made of pine, recycled wood, marbles, old broom sticks, old yard sticks and pieces of wood I can't identify. One piece is stamped Psychiatric Institute of Fort Worth. Another says TOYS TOYS TOYS.
Perhaps I am turning a corner of being more creative and planet friendly.  Anyway, my house is.  I hope you will come and see for yourself.
Next on my list are 24 x 36 replacement flat files for my own art.  Suggestions welcome.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Reinventing, Part 2

Unlike Alameda County with its Mediterranean climate Sonoma County boasts a sense of seasons.  Everyone around experienced the three storms last week but up here we had almost 8 inches of rain in three days, compared to three in the Oakland hills.  My maple trees so full of color last week are now bare and the gardeners are intently raking up my piles as I write.  "Not sure I can get them all in my truck," the head gardener conveys. Not surprising, though.  I can't even see the patio bricks.
Yesterday was a down day for me. My hip and back were complaining from the slightly more rigorous physical therapy on Tuesday so when I saw the kindly PT yesterday she gave me a pep talk about how well I was doing.  "I only have two sessions left" I whined, "and I can't even get up from a prone position on the floor". Then she informed me that even though I had only scheduled two more, I would need another 12-16 appointments.  "Don't worry, though, your insurance covers it." My chin, already scraping my knees, fell even further. I guess I imagined I would be bouncing around and full of life by Christmas, ready to set the Oakmont community on its toes. Hah!  I'd already given myself to the middle of January to unpack boxes and replace the mold damaged furniture and get on with life.  I wonder how long it will be before I have roots here? I was feeling depressed and discouraged. Worse, last night was one of those nights Kodi choose to howl from midnight on.  Picture me walking him on leash at 1 a.m. in my small back yard, cane in one hand, phone in my robe pocket in case I fall, making husky cooing sounds.  Its a pretty funny scene, really, and I must add the stars up here are twice as brilliant as in my old city haunts. The big dipper was spilling right into my yard.
So I got up with sunshine and renewed commitment this morning.  That is until I tried to toast my English muffin.  Then it was hard to hold back the tears. Suddenly the used white Phillips toaster my friend Nancy bought for me at a garage sale for $5 would not hold down.  I tried every  invention possible.  I even tried the broiler on this fancy oven here which I do not yet understand.  Nothing worked.  Desperate, I tried holding down the toaster lever with my two thumbs but they soon got cramped and exhausted. Nothing tastes worse than half toasted English muffin, but I choked it down.  Then I remembered there was a garage sale today a few blocks from here. I jumped in the car and located it.  Since this is a retirement community and folks are always dying, estate sales are a weekly social event. I sometimes attend but always with mixed feelings.
(One can't help but picture their own demise and sale of their treasures.)
Yes, they had a toaster, a Hamilton Beach that worked, and now I am a happy camper again.  A stuffed toy from the Lion King is adding his two bits.