Thursday, February 27, 2014

Anecdotes of note

Some of the best emails in my inbox these days come from my nonagenarian grandmother, containing sweet notes, punny sayings, and then gems like this that are deserving of a wider audience.

In the excerpts below, Grandma remembers the three times when my late grandfather got hurt as an adult, or almost hurt in one case:

"He had few physical injuries even though he led a very active life. The one time I remember was when he sprained his ankle when the paint crew was working on a church in Rochester. As I recall they wanted a metal star removed from the steeple and your Dad climbed the ladders, removed it and proceeded to carry it down. All went well until he tripped on the bottom step, fell and ended up with a severely sprained ankle!"

"Anyway it never deterred him climbing ladders. [One summer] he was painting on a house at the corner of 7th Ave. & 36th St and in putting up the metal ladder it hit an electric line. Fortunately he was standing on the ground and although it burnt a rung on the ladder he felt only a strong shock. It did put out the lights on part of College Hill for awhile."

"I'm sure you've heard his story of riding an English bike, falling and breaking a wrist just a few days before the D-Day invasion, and when it came time for his company to take part in the invasion he pulled his sleeve over the cast and told the commander the doctor had OK'd his going in with the troops."

Considering his service in World War II, his years working in a Pennsylvania steel mill, and then decades of activity as a shop teacher and painter, plus just the kind of person he was, the fact that these were apparently the only three scrapes he got himself into is quite remarkable to me.

Grandma's ability to recall these and so many other stories is equally remarkable.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Original valentines

Garren McKelvy was his name. He happened to be absent on fourth-grade picture day, and I remember very little about his appearance, except that he evoked everything that is tall, dark and handsome.

I'd been patient all year, and my concealed feelings longed for an outlet. As Valentine's Day neared, I had a brilliant idea. This year, I'd create my own valentine cards, paying particular attention to the design and message of Garren's.

Most of the bright, construction-papered creations were warm but light-hearted and utterly cliché, informing my classmates that they were the cream of the crop or number one or a great pal. I saved Garren’s valentine for last. It consisted of two dark-blue hearts lovingly pasted together. I thought about using pink and red, but that seemed a little girly for him and too lovey-dovey. I needn't have worried about the color, though, considering the valentine’s not-so-subtle message, which I will never live down yet somehow don’t regret. "Dear Garren," it began, "One heart isn't big enough to hold the love I have for you. Happy Valentine's Day. From Evie."

Mercifully, the holiday fell on a Friday that year, so I didn't have to face Garren or the other boys in the class for a few days after the party that afternoon turned sour. Garren's reaction wasn’t what I’d hoped for, quite. I'd imagined him quietly pocketing the valentine greeting and finding me on the playground later, where he would reveal his own, corresponding affections, perhaps with a peck on the cheek or a confiding note. Instead, while my fellow students and I each sorted through our individual, decorated bags of obligatory valentines, a crowd of pint-sized gentlemen formed around Garren's desk. And before I could even guess at the topic of interest, one of the meanest ones suddenly cried, "Hey Evie, there's your lover boy!" Then they all laughed and I stared at my shoelaces, waiting for the bell to ring so I could sprint home and weep away the weekend.

I say I don't regret what I wrote to Garren, and I mean that. "Better is open rebuke than hidden love," a certain proverb insists, and I would have to agree. So would Saint Valentine. According to legend, this imprisoned Roman priest fell in love with his jailer’s blind daughter and miraculously restored sight to her eyes. When the romance was discovered, Valentine was sentenced to death. He sent the girl a farewell note on February 14, the morning of his beheading, signed, "From your Valentine." When I fear rejection, I can recall this original Valentine and find comfort in the notion that at least rejection is better than beheading.

Anyway, I've moved on to greener pastures, as you can see from this picture.