Back to School

Today was the first day back at school after a 17 day winter vacation. I had to mark the day in some way as it seemed rather daunting to return to school after such a long, refreshing, rejuvenating and satisfying vacation. During the first week our older son and his family came for a splendid visit that included celebrating holidays; seeing the Bronx Botanical Garden train show; a visit from and meal with my brother, his family and my Aunt; and a visit to Long Island to see the newest member of the family, a 7 week old.

For most of the second week my husband and I huddled indoors, aided and abetted by frigid temperatures, almost a foot of snow, howling winds and wind chill that made it difficult to walk more than half a mile. Nonetheless, we found ourselves contentedly reading, feeding the birds and watching their comings and goings, and munching popcorn as we watched a movie or two. With intense dedication to completing the job, I went through every single folder on my laptop resulting in a better-organized, less "bulky" laptop.

Making the switch to a schedule no longer determined by me, I chose an intentional outfit to make me feel comfortable and uplifted!

Speaking of uplifted, and it being winter, I am looking up at Fred's most recent sculpture: The Four Seasons. And in a nod to Sheila of Ephemera, I looked up the last wearing of this outfit and it was in November 2015. Scroll down for a closeup of the sculpture.

Voting Day 2008

The national weather service has upgraded today's weather to Blizzard Warning. What better way to spend the day than perusing and organizing files on my laptop! (Plus occasional hot cocoa with marshmallows.)

 I came across this Keynote presentation made after the 2008 election. The head of the middle school where I was then teaching had asked if I'd be interested in sharing how I spent election day. (I had asked for the day off in order to help get out the vote in Pennsylvania.) 

The Hudson River Museum

Second week of winter vacation, yippee! My husband and I took a drive cross-county to Yonkers to visit the Hudson River Museum, a first visit for each of us. I had been interested in seeing the permanent exhibit of the Hudson River that several teachers at school had told me about and my husband was interested in seeing the art.

What wound up interesting me even more than the exhibits was Glenview, the building next door to the museum. Alas, it was closed for removal of holiday decorations. I was curious about the home because it initially housed the museum, which opened in 1924 one year before the birth of my Dad (who was born and raised in Yonkers.) My husband and I realized there was a possibility that my Dad's parents might have taken him to the museum when it was housed in the mansion. Fun to ponder the possibilities!


The Books I Read in 2017

I read a lot, as perhaps my list of books read in 2016 and this year attest. I've been keeping a list on Goodreads because I like to be able to check back and see my thoughts about a book, remind myself of books I've forgotten about reading, and because I enjoy writing about my responses to a book.  


Ridge Road, Yonkers, NY

This past August I wrote about my visit to the South Broadway apartment in Yonkers where my Dad grew up during the second half of the 1920s and second half of the 1930s. In between, the family spent several years living in a house. Sandwiched below between my Dad's words, from his 1993 single-spaced 37 page memoire, is a photo of the house taken this fall. I teach in Riverdale, which borders Yonkers, and often will exit the highway early to avoid traffic and take the local roads. The Rumsey Road exit takes me past Wendover Road, which intersects Ridge Road.

We lived in the Parkhill Gardens (apartment at 272 South Broadway) for about 8 years, moving to a rented house at 68 Ridge Road. That move took us to the Park Hill section of town and a new school. It also brought me into contact with some rocks across the Street that harbored a stand of poison oak. Aunt Celia, the mother of cousins Paul and Harvey visited us one day and asked me to cross the street and pick some "of those nice flowers", and I began a multi-yeared trial of poison oak suffering. However, I recall it also kept me home from school at World Series time, when I could listen to the Giants play on the radio. The driveway to the house was entered by making a right angle turn down a steep grade and then a right angle turn into the garage. The garage door also had a latch. If you threw a rubber ball at the latch, it would result in the ball bouncing in a variety of directions. Especially intriguing was a stone wall to your left as you stood at pitching distance facing the latch. If you hit the latch in the right place, the ball would veer to the left and either hit the wall, or even go over the wall and end up in the field below (for a Home Run!). I spent many an hour as I pitched imaginary NY Giant games playing the role of crowd, batter, pitcher, announcer, and probably hot dog vendor--and of course, ball retriever--all played at my own private Polo Grounds, home of the Giants. (That latch remained just as it was when I was a schoolboy until about 2 years ago when I drove by, got out of my car, walked down the steep grade and saw that the occupant had replaced MY LATCH.) (about 1993.)

In 1934 after 5 years in our house, we moved back to the Park Hill Gardens into the same size apartment and wing that we had been in before, being on the 6th floor in place of the 4th floor. ... The "Great Depression" took it's toll on many, including our family. My parents were suffering the same financial strains that everyone else was experiencing, but I at 9 years old was blissfully unaware of these events. A great advantage to me at the time we lived on Ridge Road was the geological fact that we were located on top of a hill that led into another bigger hill (Wendover Road) that went all the way down to the start of a wooded area, all of which is another way of saying: GREAT SLEIGH RIDING! In later years the section near the bottom where the sleigh ride came to a gentle stop, slowed by the wooded area, had the name of the street changed to Gene Krupa Avenue. Gene Krupa was the legendary drummer for the big bands of the '30s, including his band, as well as Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, and more--who had bought and lived in a house there--of which Burt was unaware until he discovered it on one of his tax-season trips to the area. The hills also made bike riding an adventure, in which I participated on my Jr. sized two wheeler, which had great brakes!

The two pictures below are of the street signs. The wooded area my Dad mentions is visible just across the road from Wendover. I can imagine him sleigh riding down the hill! Beneath these photos is a current aerial view from Google Maps of 68 Ridge Road, Wendover, and Park Hill Avenue. The road I come south on is Rumsey Road. Each time I take the local roads thru Yonkers I wind up thinking of my Dad, his childhood, his stories, his life, and every time I wind up with a smile in my heart.

December 19

My Dad would have been 92 today. Just thinking about him and smiling. :-)

And yesterday my colleague Rachel gifted me a lovely scarf, so of course I wanted to wear it today, along with my once a year wearing of a comfy long-sleeve pajama top that I wear because it has a red snowflake, which is perfect for the week before vacation. Add to that my jingle bell earrings, necklace of sea glass gifted from my sister-in-law in Lewes, DE, and Fred's sparkly gold 3D printed miniature ball suspended within a hollow 3D printed triangle, plus a warm, cozy red sweater, my favorite boots, and comfy gray corduroy jeans, and it's a perfect outfit for sitting on the floor with 1st graders!

The pictures, taken of course by Fred, are in our basement, which is mostly his studio space. The structure I am leaning on is a climbing wall he built several years ago when our now 5 year old granddaughter was not quite 2. She still climbs on it, along with her 2.8 year old brother.

Messiah in Mamaroneck

Several weeks ago, when driving past St Thomas Episcopal Church (a drive I have made hundreds of times in the past 30 plus years) I noticed a sign advertising the upcoming performance of Handel's Messiah on Sunday, December 17th. Upon arriving home I mentioned it to my husband, and we both immediately agreed we should purchase tickets, so we did!

The concert was this past Sunday, and what an experience it proved to be! Inspiring, melodic, joyous, heart tingling, smile-producing, head nodding, body wanting to sway…this production mesmerized us from the very first notes, all played on period instruments, including "a large, French 18th century style double-manual concert harpsichord" that Eric J Milnes, music director for the Church, is hoping to purchase for the Church.

Solos were sung by eight professional singers, with the very able Choir of St Thomas Church providing the Ensemble. In scanning the list of choir members I was struck by one name in particular, Rachel Duval. How many singers could there be with that name? And why did it even matter? Well, the Rachel Duval I know of is married to the head of the lower school where I teach, and yup, as soon as the Ensemble walked to their spots I knew it was, indeed, her!

The music was played by the Ensemble L'harmonie des Saisons, a Period Instrument Orchestra that hails from Canada. Alas, I do not know which baroque violin playing member of the Ensemble had the solos, but her playing was inspired. And I smiled profusely to watch Danny Mallon contort his body to have a line of sight to the conductor so he would know when to play his baroque tympani in the last portions of the performance.

My husband stated "they did a spectacular job" with the performance, and he is not given to superlatives! There was something magical about Sunday's performance. Walking to the Church, a mile and a half from our home, taking in the winter's air and not driving all added to our delight. Upon returning home I sent an email to the head of the lower school sharing our experience and asking that he share our message with Rachel. The next morning he replied that his wife "came home last [night] beaming about the performance being one of the most powerful musical experiences that she has had in recent years." So it was, for us as well!

Below are pictures from most of the paper program, added here as a memory inducer for when we look back on this post in year's to come.


What I Do at School

Tickled to see the publishing of a video that highlights what my colleague and I do during part of our time at school. We are at the lower school campus of a PreK through grade 12 school. The video below cannot be embedded but if you click the link you will be taken to vimeo, where you'll be able to watch the less than 3 minute video. Having (obviously!) been present for all the filming, it's fun to see how it all came together. 



Warmth

Saved for those bone chilling cold mornings when the thermometer registers under 20 degrees and I have to head out before 8 in the morning to drive to school, this dress is the perfect "blanket" to stave off the cold. Over the years it has probably been worn between three and four times each winter since being purchased some 20 years ago from JJill, the exceptions being those winters when my weight did not comfortably fit into the sleek not-quite-form-fitting line of the dress.

This morning the temperature was 17° and my Toyota Camry, as did the Toyota Highlander before it, had a dashboard light come on to register its discontent with the cold! In this case, the sensor that lit up dealt with tire pressure, which registers as low when the temperature goes substantially below freezing. I pulled the car into the driveway so my husband could add air to the tires, and just before leaving for school looked up to see the sun rising between the tree limbs. What strikes me is the color of the sun as photographed from inside the car looking through the windshield.


The Mighty Oak

[Oops! Thought I had published this several weeks ago. However, discovered this morning that it was still a draft. I do not know how to set a publish date (or if it is even possible) so here it is, posted in December rather than on November 12.]

A towering oak, close to 100 years old by our count of its rings, was cut down last Friday to begin the process of clearing the land for the building of a house. This neighborhood was first begun in the late nineteen-teens; our house was built in 1925 and we have had the honor of living in this house for the past 29 years. During all that time the oak tree stood across the street, part of an extra-wide lot that actually consisted of three lots, with a stately house and its side deck taking up a little over one lot and the remainder of the property landscaped with the trees untouched.

In the wider photo below, the oak is the tree on the right.

The owners, their daughters grown and no longer living at home, recently sold the house to a family with children, and the oak tree's land was sold to a developer. And so the tree came down.

I had no idea it would touch me as much as it did. While the tree was still standing, Fred and I wrapped our arms around it and gave it a big hug. And last Sunday I alighted onto the oak's stump and shared with its spirit a poem by Mary Oliver followed by an homage I wrote. Then I scooped up some of the saw dust and released it to the air, as if it was fairy dust blessing the ground. Had I done my research sooner, I would have learned that Native Americans bless their trees before they are cut down.

When I Am Among the Trees by Mary Oliver

When I am among the trees,

especially the willows and the honey locust,

equally the beech, the oak and the pines,

they give off such hints of gladness.

I would almost say that they save me, daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,

in which I have goodness, and discernment,

and never hurry through the world

but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves

and call out, "Stay awhile."

The light flows from their branches.

And they call again "It's simple," they say,

"and you too have come

into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled

with light, and to shine."

The dinosaur (well, it does bear some resemblance!) was not the tree chopper, but it has been parked on the property since the weekend, portending what comes next. And the small piece of wood is a bit of the oak tree, sitting in a new harbor on a small stone wall by the oft-used side entry to our home, a reminder of the mighty oak.