Mostly stuff about my own family, but if you’re interested, feel free.
Not such a happy time. Florida. No friends. Heat like a beating. Lawns watered with sulfurous well water. A four mile bike ride to the worst school I had ever seen. 35% dropout rate: They called them “dysfunctionals”. It smelled like broccoli and peanut butter. They hit kids with a wooden paddle to punish them 1. There was no fresh air. The windows were permanently sealed slits of frosted glass. Kids had desperately scratched at the windows for a glimpse outside. A social studies teacher talked about how black people had better natural rhythm in the course of teaching class. I started to curl up and surrender inside. I began bringing a novel every day and refusing to participate. Then a four mile bike ride back.
1 One fond memory: My Dad called the Principal and told him if he ever used that paddle on me he’d come straight over and use it on him.
I didn’t know that at the time but one day the principal called me out of class to say: “I’d just like to reassure you that we will never use the paddle on you.”
Some memories of when my son was little.
I suppose these range from around age 4 to 8 or 9.
- The other day I said “Sometimes I wish life could be more interesting and surprising.” Isaac said “If you mean you’re tired of the same old thing all the time, I’m with you.”
- Streaming a very funny anime (Sgt. Frog.) on Netflix with Isaac. Isaac says: “Have you noticed that every anime has hot teenage girls in it?” me: “Um. yes.”
- The other day I was reading to Isaac and he looked up at me and said: “And the winner of the longest nose hair award is…my Dad.”
- Isaac complained about the cutesy little notes his Mom puts into his lunchbox so today I slipped a note in there that said: “Did you forget about the amazing space lizards?”
- Isaac: “Dad, where did crows eat before there were burger joints?”
- I spent the afternoon playing video games with Isaac and when I grumbled about needing to get some work done he said “Lazy Butt!” and I said, “Well you should know, you’re a chip off the old butt.”
- It was a beautiful warm spring-like day. Isaac and I went out to the beach, turning over rocks in the low tide zone, finding hundreds of little crabs. We picked up a few on our shovel and they tried to fight us. As we were leaving he said: “I guess we gave them some great stories to tell their grandchildren.”
- Over at Isaac’s school celebration for Winter vacation. A woman came over to help me open the beverages I brought. She said, “Oh, by the way, I’m Mikey’s mom.” I said, “Hi, I’m Isaac’s mom!” She noticed a beat before I did.
- Isaac put refrigerator magnets together that said: “So I pounded an elaborate bitter goddess”. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
- The other night Isaac started painting a big piece of styrofoam all sorts of weird colors, with glitter here and there. He said he was making decorations for April Fools Day.
My Great Grandfather, Karl Oscar Lundstrom wrote this letter to his wife, my Great Grandma Henrika.
Dieppe the 20th of June 1883
My dear beloved wife, live well. Many thanks for your welcome letters which came today, it was a great joy for me. Any other earthly joy can’t be compared to this one, when I heard that you are still alive and in good health. I am in good health too, thanks god, till now and God, may these simple lines find you, my noble wife by the same precious gift of grace. I don’t know anything better to wish for than that.
We have to be separated, but in thoughts we can embrace each other I hope. If God helps me, then I can take your hand once again just like the hands here above and I can press you to my heart with devoted love. May god give us soon that day.
We stayed here longer than we thought to, but now the cargo is taken in and we are nearly ready to go out to sea. I wrote a letter the 13th of this month. You hadn’t had it yet when you wrote your letter but perhaps even got it the next day, I don’t know. Please write to me again as soon as you can, so I can know how you are. Remember me to Father and Mother, sisters and brothers, relatives and friends. Tell the first and last of them, you are all remembered.
My consolation, my joy, Goodbye.
If you haven’t had the first letter yet I write the address here
Sailor K.O. Lundstrom
The Swedish ship FRANS
My Grandma, Aina Helena Sundberg wrote this quick little reminiscence about Christmas during her childhood in Nykarleby, Finland.
Sleighs and jingle bells and candles in the window! She was born in 1887 and died in 1982 at 95 years old.
“Little Christmas,” the 13th of December, was the day for school children’s festivities in our all-girls school.
Our vacation had started the day before. We were all dressed in our best bib and tucker as we trudged through the snow to our school in the mid-afternoon. It was all dark — there were only four or five hours of daylight. Our one-room school was all lit up. There was a big tree to the ceiling, colorful decorations and live candles, ten or twelve inches high burning brightly on the tree, There was an air of expectancy all around. I can still remember feeling the warmth of that room and the crowd.
There were between 30 to 40 of us girls, and anyone who wanted to come was welcome to see us perform — singing, reciting, doing ring dances, imitating “Little mouse, watch out for the trap — little pussy cat tiptoe; little rabbit, sound asleep, better wake and hop before the wolf comes,” etc. We had our fling around and around. Last of all came refreshments of candies, cookies and red rosy apples and Children’s Christmas Magazine, with very colorful pictures and interesting stories, with one for each pupil to take home. By that time we had had our fill and we ventured out into the cold, homeward bound. Our ages were between 8 and 13, We had four classes, and one teacher. We had attended the “Children’s Cradle” school for two years previously. There the first year was kindergarten, and the second year there was reading, writing, and arithmetic.
The 14th of December was the boys‘ school entertainment. They were more favored/in that their school was located on the teachers‘ college territory. There were four buildings in all, so they had individual classrooms. In the last year of the teacher’s’ course of four years, they practiced their teaching ability in the boys classes, observed and judged by the principal and the professors of the seminary, as it was called. All students were males. The boys’ Christmas festivities took place in the big gym and assembly hall I of the seminary. The seating was about the same as at our gala, but everything was on a bigger scale. Some boisterous plays were performed in costumes. Last of all, there was a real, fur-coated Santa Claus who was very generous with gifts for the boys. They all got the same simple useful things. There were goodies for all the children present. You can bet we girls were there too, as were the boys the day before, at the girls‘ celebration. Continue reading
As Boy comes up to his 4th birthday I have to marvel at how fast it has all gone. Of course, that is exactly what veteran parents always say. As my friend Walt told me; “Remember, you can’t go back and take pictures.”
As Mindy lay recovering on his first night the nurses escorted me to his incubator. I have to strain to remember what he looked like at first: That tiny little red person left high and dry in an incubator. He looked like a little old man in a nursing home but he still felt like a vibrant little person. He was so delicate but I could hear life humming in him. He had to be tough to hold on as he did. My wordy mind just sort of shut down as I watched him. Inside I heard a strange machinery coming fully online. It wasn’t verbal or conceptual, it was just a new fact of my life. Translated it would have said: “This is mine. This is my job. I’m your guy.”
I reached my hand through the little window and touched his hand. His hand closed around my index finger and held on warm and solid.
(rediscovered – out of sync Cribsheet)
Well Isaac continues to amaze us in so many ways. Those of you who are about to get to see him will notice right away how much more he is like a little boy than a toddler now. He is temperamentally much the same little person we’ve been keeping company with for going on three years but the articulate and funny expressions of that person pull me up short sometimes – I love where we’re at but I find I already miss the little baby and the tiny toddler of yesterday, I know his Mom does too.
- Here are some tiny little word snapshots of Isaac, recently.
We were at the park in the playground. As usual, we were playing with pebbles in this boat like structure. He was gathering piles of pebbles on the bench seat sides of the thing and pretending they were food and he was cooking them. He named and offered them as he cooked:
“These are chingosans – would you like some?”
Oh yes, Isaac they’re delicious. And so on – he is remarkably comfortable making up crazy words and just using them in conversation. There were things like glernytibs and wimbledimps -sort of like a Dr. Seuss restaurant menu.
- Anyway, I told you all that to tell you this – he picked up handful of pebbles and looked at me sweetly -“Sorry, Daddy” He said. I got out something like: “Oh Isaac, you have nothing to be sorry -” before he whapped me right in the face with the handful of pebbles. He had an impulse, knew it was wrong, very thoughtfully apologized and then went ahead and did it! I should have been mad or corrected him but I laughed till I fell down.
- Around the same time he took to asking me where the *********** was? With “**********” standing for a noise that really sounds like a word but you can’t quite make it out – the first few times I said stuff like “I can’t really understand what you’re saying” and asking for clarification but I suddenly realized he was just having me on – and when he’d ask I’d say “It’s over there in the corner” or “it’s right behind you” and he would be perfectly satisfied!
I taught him the Banana-fana song and he loves it, you know like: “Isaac Isaac bo-bisaac
banana fana fo fisaac
He made me sing it with the name of every person we know (granpa granpa bo banpa) and then on to every kids show character – (Thomas Thomas bo bomas) and all was well till we got to a Bob the Builder character named Muck. I started in confidently Muck, Muck bo buck
banana fana fo – UH OH
you see the second line always uses F instead of the person’s proper initial.
So I said it – I said it as simply and nonchalantly as I could so it wouldn’t stand out as anything special that he would home in on and start repeating loudly in public somewhere – to my knowledge we’ve both been pretty good about not cursing in front him (someone almost smashed into us in traffic the other day and I called him a fool) and he didn’t seem to notice anything special about it so I thought I was off the hook.
Till he said “sing penis!”
That’s a bit of segue, isn’t it. He clearly has a reference point for “naughty stuff’ even though I never see any sign of self consciousness in him or awareness of naughty things.
So I sang it – You might think I’m stupid but I was trying to keep it simple and light -ordinary and no big deal:
“Penis Penis bo benis banafana fo fenis
me-mi-mo menis PENIS!”
And thought I was clear till he said “Sing Chuck!”
Look. We don’t even know a Chuck – I wouldn’t have felt confident that had ever even heard the name “Chuck” but this kid seemed to know what would happen to it on the second line of the banafana song. I told him I wanted to do something else. Scary clever.
The other night I had a dinner for some old friends here and Isaac was in attendance -as dinner wound down Isaac decided to start handing out little golden tomatoes to everyone – we all played along and ate them because he was giddy with pleasure running around feeding us – his joy was so palpable – he ran out of sight into the kitchen for a moment and then ran to see us all smiling at him – he said:
“This is FANTASTIC, people!”
I came upstairs the other morning as Xxxxy was changing Isaac’s diaper – She was laughing and said “What are you doing?”
His little hand was cupped over his mouth and nose and he was babbling quietly in some completely made up language.
“I’m talking to my nose.” He said calmly.
He’s adopted this goofy little baby bonnet at day care and it’s his hat now – It’s so odd and like beyond not stylish but I’ve started to love it on him.
I’m including a particularly goofy pic of wearing reading glasses and the bonnet – he looks like an 18th century farm wife. (real time: Can’t find it)
warm thoughts to you all – Much love, Hugh
(rediscovered Cribsheet – out of sync)
We’re hitting an especially high tone this time, eh?
Greetings to all and sorry to be out of touch so very long. All our well established patterns were broken up by Isaac’s Mom moving to her friend’s house. So now even simple tasks like taking pictures and getting at the computer are more complicated than they were. Isaac and his Mom are upstairs at P’s house and it’s a sweet little space and a nice home. I come in as usual at 7 in the morning to watch Isaac. We go downstairs to play and run into the problem of P’s sweet very old dog Maggie.
Every morning at 7:26 I step in a puddle of dog pee on a once exquisite Persian carpet. Many days worse things lie in wait. Maggie is sweet natured but half out of her mind. She asks to be let out of the back door to go pee in the yard (well OK, not in so many words) and I let her out and she takes care of business – except that lately she has taken to asking to go outside when she doesn’t need to and then she stands around out there looking sort of confused before barking to be let back in.
Then she forgets that she just asked and asks again – and again – and again – and again – and because I am trying to cut down on profound grossness in the living room I am afraid not to let her out. I spend my mornings being ordered about by a 400 year old dog and a two year old boy.
Maggie’s other quirk is The-Look-Of-Profound-Sadness which she nails me with every time I happen to look her way. When she catches your eye you feel a vertiginous drop toward an infinite horizon of ever deepening despair. It is a look of such woe and sorrow that the complete works of Ingmar Bergman on DVD would help you cheer up afterwards.
We generally head for my house about 8 o’clock for Sesame Street and other vehicles of the gay liberal satanic agenda. One show that Isaac likes that completely baffles me is called “Boobah” a show which makes “Teletubbies” look edgy and concerns itself with six primary colored dancing, flying and apparently farting extraterrestrials who make children dance. When they fly or dance the sound track plays “whoopee cushion” noises so frankly, I don’t know what else to think. Isaac thinks they look like penguins. To my eye they resemble brightly colored penguins as much as they resemble some sort of ambiguous genitalia. They name their characters as they leave their UFO style sleeping quarters to dance and I cover ears and make noise so I won’t learn their names. I know the names of everyone on Sesame street – everyone on Mister Rogers – everyone in Thomas the Tank Engine and even, God help me, everyone on Teletubbies. I will be damned if I will learn the names of the multicolored genital-oid dancing flatulent penguins of Boobah!
Isaac has been great. Very dear and funny and we have to constantly revise our sense of what to expect from him. He is braver physically which is a nice thing to watch happen but he still has this odd way of noticing any mention of things to be cautious of and talking about them a lot. Apparently he heard someone say the phrase “pissed her off’ because he randomly shouts of “Pister Offer” with glee and intensity. We pretend nothing happened. It could have been me, but I don’t remember. He babbles a kind of jibbity jabbitty blibbity blabbity scat jazz jabber which is interesting because he also using really complete articulate sentences much of the time. The scat jabber rhymes and he is really getting into things that rhyme – a friend of XXXXX’s gave him a little toy beaver and he was playing with it – because my head is full of nonsense I said:
“Beaver B. Bumpkin.” Isaac laughed and said “Beaver B. Bumpkin, sitting on a pumpkin. ”
Tonight he said:” Mommy, I have a very good book downstairs which I think you’ll like.”
I’ll send more sooner – love and good thoughts to you all, Hugh