More Gifts

January 23, 2012





“…Oh, and I loved the red necklace you wore yesterday….such a nice bright pop of color.”  I had to smile as I read her words in the email earlier this morning.  I wrote back and told her there was a story about that “necklace,” then laughed at myself again as I remembered it….

I had spent a glorious 3 1/2 hours in Philadelphia at our daughter’s this past Saturday, sorting out double and quadruple Lego units for our 3 1/2 year old Lego-Engineer-Extraordinaire-grandson, while soaking in his excitement over each piece.  Often seated side by side, sometimes with his little leg draped over my own, I was savoring each small speck of our circumstances.  I was still full, in after-glow, on Saturday night when I decided to unwind by catching up on the day’s facebook posts.  As soon as I logged in, there was a new picture of a young fb friend and her companion decked out in their newly-created pinterest scarves.  My eyes widened, my ears buzzed, my memory quickened:  where had I heard that word “pinterest” before??  After googling it, I got it, and with a little Lego-lovin’ lust in the creative process, I thought, “I can do that!”  (I’m always thinking I can do something at the last minute, so I bang away at it till the idea takes shape and I have it in my hands.)  So all agog and all aglow, I searched for the perfect t-shirt needed to satisfy my own pinterest interest.  …But there were no perfect t-shirts.  I’d hunted in all of my t-shirt squirreling-away places, but I came up with Snap.  Zip.  OK.  Never mind.  It was late anyway.   I went to bed.  Sunday morning arrived.  But I was still thinking of the pinterest scarves, wishing I had one.  Then:  lightbulb!  I did!  Well, sort of.  It was an ursatz one but it might do.  It actually was an old hairband that I used to wear when my hair was longer.  (Tee hee, I can’t believe I’m even thinking of draping my beginning-to-wrinkle 58 year old neck with a recycled hairband–is this what happens to us as we age??)  But oh, what the heck;  I draped my neck and off I went.  Of course, the thing was a bit itchy (it was meant for hair, after all), and I was a teence preoccupied with myself–made it harder to completely focus on the words in the songs during the service–but it didn’t seem like the thing to do to rip it up over my head in the middle of church so after a decision to quell my pinterest spell, I calmed down, grinned at myself and almost forgot about it.

And then I got the email this morning.  You just never know…A small thing.  Silly, even.  But then a few small words come, and you find yourself with a gift in your hands….

Picture two homeless guys:  one, an old, tired major league wannabe/current custodian and the other, a young boy.  (From Maniac Magee, Jerry Spinelli, 1990, pp 113 – 114):

As in all happy Christmas homes, the gifts were under the tree.  Maniac gave Grayson a pair of gloves and a woolen cap and a book.  The book did not appear to be as sturdy as the others lying around.  The cover was blue construction paper, and the spine, instead of being bound, was stapled.  The text was hand lettered, and the pictures were stick figures.  The title was The Man Who Struck Out Willie Mays.  The author’s name, which Grayson read aloud with some difficulty, was Jeffrey L. Magee.

     Maniac, in his turn, opened packages to find a pair of gloves, a box of butterscotch Krimpets, and a spanking, snow-white, never-ever-used baseball.

     He was overjoyed.  He rushed to the old man and hugged him.  The old man put up with that for a second, then pulled away.  “Hold on,” he said.  He went to one of the baseball equipment bags and reached in, tunneled down to the bottom, and came up with another package, this one wrapped crudely in newspaper.  “Hiding this’n,” he said.  “Didn’t know if you’re the kinda kid sneaks looks.”

     Maniac tore it open — and gasped helplessly when he saw what it was.  To anyone else, it was a ratty old scrap of leather, barely recognizable as a baseball glove, fit for the garbage can.  But Maniac knew at once this was Grayson’s, the one he had played with all those years in the Minors.  It was limp, flat, the pocket long since gone.  Slowly, timidly, as though entering a shrine, the boy’s fingers crept into it, flexed, curled the cracked leather, brought it back to shape, to life.  He laid the new ball in the palm, pressed glove and ball together, and the glove remembered and gave way and made a pocket for the ball.

     The boy could not take his eyes off the glove.  The old man could not take his eyes off the boy.  The record player finished the “Christmas Polka” and clicked off, and for a long time there was silence.

     Five days later the old man was dead.

Gifts.  You just never know.


Honeybug Gifts

January 14, 2012

It was a white ceramic Williams & Sonoma quiche dish decorated with painted red strawberries that I got at the W.I.N. store for $4, but it did seem to be a treasure to our guest who came right downstairs after finding it, hugged me tight, and thanked me for their anniversary gift.

It’s important to me to hunt for the little things that might matter. You just never know where someone might’ve been before he got to you.

“Maybe in those first few years my life slowly opened, curled like cupped hands, a receptacle open to the gifts God gives”…. But there was the “moment the cosmos shifted, shattering any cupping of hands.” pp 1, 2, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, 2010.

By the end of third grade, most of the kids’ baby teeth were gone. The permanent ones had arrived in their mouths. Around fourth grade something similar happens with their eyes. The baby eyes don’t drop out, nor are there eye fairies around to leave quarters under pillows, but new eyes do arrive nevertheless. Big-kid eyes replace little-kid eyes.
Little-kid eyes are scoopers. They just scoop up everything they see and swallow it whole, no questions asked. Big-kid eyes are picky. They notice things that the little-kid eyes never bothered with: the way a teacher blows her nose, the way a kid dresses or pronounces a word.
Twenty-seven classmates now turn their new big-kid eyes to Zinkoff, and suddenly they see things they haven’t seen before. Zinkoff has always been messy and atrocious and too early and giggly and slow and more often than not wrong in his answers. But now they notice. They notice the stars on his shirts and his atrocious hair and his atrocious way of walking and the atrocious way he volunteers for everything. They notice it all….
It is in the first week of June of that year that Zinkoff is most profoundly discovered. It happens during Field Day….

They file by. Some whisper the word. Some say it aloud. Each pronounces it perfectly.

He hopes his parents won’t ask him about Field Day at dinner, but they do. …
And he thinks he’s out of the woods when Polly pipes up: “Didja win?”
He screams at her. “No! Okay?”
And everybody stops chewing and stares and he runs from the dinner table crying. He half expects his father to follow him up to his room, but he doesn’t. Instead, he calls up: “Hey, want to go for a ride?” Zinkoff is always asking to go for a ride, and his father always says not unless there’s someplace particular to go, or it’s a waste of gas.
Zinkoff doesn’t need to be asked twice. he flies downstairs and off they go in Clunker Six. There’s some chitchat in the car, but most of it goes from his father to the jittery dashboard. “Easy there, honeybug…no big deal…I’m right here…” The rest is just a ride to no place in particular, wasting gas galore.
Even in bed that night Zinkoff can still feel the shake and shimmy of the old rattletrap, and coming through loud and clear is a message that was never said. He knows that he could lose a thousand races and his father will never give up on him. He knows that if he ever springs a leak or throws a gasket, his dad will be there with duct tape and chewing gum to patch him up, that no matter how much he rattles and knocks, he will always be a honeybug to his dad, never a clunker.
pp 98 – 100, 107-108, Loser, Jerry Spinelli, 2002.

A gift here. A few homemade cookies there. Who knows? Maybe even a honeybug word. You just never know.

The Gift of Details

January 9, 2012

I received my online notice that The Art of Racing in the Rain would be due in 3 days and it reminded me that I’d been thinking about adding one more quote to a blog post. The passage that I’d marked was so lovely and sensitive that I’d wanted to.

It’s only early January and occasionally holiday thoughts still creep into my mind. I can’t remember the exact train of thought that spurred this thinking; maybe it was the other day when our friend said that the elderly can become invisible. When a person loses the ability to do the everyday things, like walking outside to get the mail, or to go to the grocery store on his or her own, she observed that this was when the invisibility could happen. And that made me think about how, after the holidays, it can be quite natural for younger family members to sort of check other extended family members off their mental lists — having assuaged their consciences that they’d “done their holiday duty” so that they were good for another year. (And this is nothing shocking; it’s simply a by-product of living in the 21st century. The days of the leisurely Sunday drive dropping in on extended family has gone by the wayside.)This can be the cause of stress on all sides, but this brief passage written by Garth Stein in The Art of Racing in the Rain cast a loveliness over the gift of details which can be shared year-round when some degree of invisibility is necessary.

Denny, the main character in the book, (well, other than the dog, who is the narrator), lost his wife and then his little girl for a period of time: grief on top of grief. It was difficult for him to breathe. After the visit when his friend, Mike, and Enzo, his dog, were allowed to see his daughter, Zoe, Denny had a few questions that he’d wanted answered…

“How did she look?” Denny asked Mike.
“She looked terrific,” Mike said. “She has her mother’s smile.”
“They had a good time together?”
“A fantastic time. They played all day.”
“Fetch?” Denny asked, thirsty for details. “Did she use the Chuckit? Or did they play chase? Eve never liked it when they played chase.”
“No, mostly fetch,” Mike said kindly.
“I never minded when they played chase because I know Enzo, but Eve was always…”
“You know,” Mike said, “sometimes they just flopped down on the grass and cuddled together. It was really sweet.”
Denny wiped his nose quickly.
“Thanks, Mike,” he said. “Really. Thanks a lot.”
(P 222)

I’m not “invisible,” but I speak as one who does receive this gift regularly and I treasure each one. Details don’t have to be big; they just have to be. It all “counts.” Just a tip for the new year. 🙂

And now I must return the book, but it’s OK. I’ll get another. Thank you, Garth Stein.

“Buff Your Brain” ** at a B&B!

January 7, 2012

**Newsweek, January 9 & 16, 2012, Sharon Begley, “Buff Your Brain,” pp. 28, 31-34.

“31 Ways To Get Smarter in 2012” — Using the guidelines contained in this Newsweek list, one can get smarter simply by booking a room at Simply Bed & Bread! In fact, out of the 31 prescriptions for personal percipience, 12 of these brain buffing bonus bonanzas can be built on in one booking!

# 2 – EAT TURMERIC – OK, I don’t usually put this in an omelette, but there’s a first time for everything! If it’ll get you closer to your genius-in-the-gray-matter goal, then just speak the word and it’ll be done. Check.
# 6 – SLEEP. A LOT. The pillow top California King feels like heaven. You can do this. Check.
# 11 – EAT DARK CHOCOLATE – No problem. No words necessary. Check.
# 13 – WIPE THE SMILE OFF YOUR FACE – I’ll smile at you, but you don’t have to return it. Perspicacity is your goal, not politeness. Check.
# 16 – EAT YOGURT – Greek, granola on the side. (Surely granola makes you smarter, too, don’t you think?) Got it.
# 20 – HYDRATE – Ice cold water in each room. I’ll fix you a glass downstairs, too, even if you don’t smile at me. That one’s covered, too.
# 24 – WRITE BY HAND – There’s a notepad w/ pen, plus note cards, if you forget your own. Check.
# 26 – ZONE OUT – One of our overstuffed chairs would be the perfect spot for this! Check.
# 27 – DRINK COFFEE – Ubiquitous in an inn. Check.
# 28 – DELAY GRATIFICATION – Decide you want to get away, then make yourself wait a while. You can do it. Check.
# 30 – WRITE REVIEWS ONLINE – It absolutely makes my day when I get one of these! So go ahead; make my day. It’ll make you smarter. Check.
# 31 – GET OUT OF TOWN – Helloooo…What on earth have we been talking about?? You really DO need to get out of town, don’t you? Check. Now CHECK IN!

Eat too much over the holidays???

January 4, 2012

Do you have to travel to Chestertown for some reason, but you feel like you’re going to scream if you don’t get some exercise and start eating right after the holiday binges? We’ll help you along!

Our rowing machine is in the basement in a multi-use room, and it’ll be an exercise option for you, if the temperatures are too cold for a walk to the water.

And how does an egg white omelette sound, one filled with sauteed fresh veggies instead of with cheese? And before that, a fresh fruit cup could get you going in the right direction — maybe some juicy orange and grapefruit slices with a pomegranate seed garnish — that’ll make you feel healtheir just to look at it! Toast made with homemade wholegrain bread can be the perfect complement, and then we’ll tuck a couple of clementines and some carrot sticks into a treat bag for you to take along at check-out time for when the curse of the munchies hits you as you’re driving in the car to your next location.

We can’t be your New Diet Policemen, but we can surely give you a few B&B “tickets” to give you a better shot at success while you’re away from home!

Call us if you have other dietary requests or needs, and we’ll be happy to see what we can do!

Location, Location, Location.

You might notice the WAC Administration Building cupola out of the corner of your eye as you walk onto Simply Bed & Bread's brick path, since our house is just a stone's throw away from the college. Or it might be the ...
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