Saturday, September 18, 2021

Christine's Coat

It was wool, its color dimmed and lost in time. It had mud on it, the kind a three-year-old gets when she plays outside on December days when the weather warms up. It was folded away in a dress box tied closed with...something. I don't know what the binding was, just that what was in the box was saved to protect part of my mother's heart. It was Christine's coat. Christine who died the winter of 1941 when she was three.

My mother saved a lot of stuff. So did my mother-in-law. The sheer amount of it lent me a determination not to save that much. I think I'm safe in saying 99 percent of the people in my generation feel exactly the same way. 

But we need to be careful. In what we save. What we use. What we throw away. 

Other than being a trifle excessive when it comes to shoes, I don't think I'm a "things" person. If I don't use it, I don't want to have it. However, sometimes a memory will be connected to a thing, and there you go. Upstairs in a closet hangs a blue nylon dress my sister bought for me when she was still in high school and worked at Senger's in the 50s. I wore it and my daughter wore it. Since my shortest granddaughter is in the six-foot range, I doubt she'll be interested in it. 

And yet...

I broke the spoon rest that had belonged to Aunt Gladys. I moaned about it, glued it back together, and put it up in the cabinet where I wouldn't damage it anymore. Yesterday, I got it out and returned it to its rightful place beside the stove. I'll use it and wash it every day. I'll think of Aunt Gladys playing pool on her lunch hour and sending cards with violets on them to my mom to let her know she wasn't alone with memories and thoughts of a little girl who'd left them too soon.

So I'll keep the blue dress and the spoon rest just as Mom kept the coat. For memories of my own. And that's reason enough.

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

On this Day... by Liz Flaherty

On this day, we grieve as a nation. We have mourned the losses of 9/11/2001 for 20 years. Regardless of Facebook memes and accusing tweets and ghastly opinion pieces to the contrary, we have not forgotten. Not for a single day.

I went to a meeting the night it happened, and Bobette Miller told me what she'd been doing on December 7, 1941. She remembered it in detail.

On November 22, 1963, I was sitting in study hall when President Kennedy was shot. The girl across the table said, "I wanted him out of office, but not that way," and it was my first realization that the political divide went deeper than I'd imagined.

Martin Luther King was killed on April 4, 1968. I will be forever ashamed that although I was so sorry it had happened, I didn't realize the depth and breadth of the pain that loss caused.

On June 5, 1968, my mom woke me to tell me Bobby Kennedy had been shot. That was when, more than a political divide, I learned about hate. My own. Sirhan Sirhan, who killed RFK, has been recommended for parole. Fifty-three years after he committed his crime, I am still horrified by the thought that he'll be free to walk the streets.

Columbine. Sandy Hook. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Since Columbine, according to the Washington Post, more than 256,000 children at 278 schools have been exposed to gun violence. At least 151 children, educators and other people have been killed in assaults, and another 323 have been injured.

I remember Nine Eleven. Where I was and what I was doing and that at first I thought it was just a dreadful accident.

I remember those other days, too. As I said, we grieve as a nation. We grieve, but we don't learn, do we? We never learn.

Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

About the time change...and other things


There is little I like less than the biannual time change. It takes me two weeks to get used to it and a good deal longer than that to stop complaining about it. I have asked many times over the years for legitimate documentation that demonstrates that the change is good for the majority. Or that the majority wants the time change. I have pleaded with lawmakers to explain its reasoning and to at least take some kind of poll to see how their constituency feels about having their lives upended by a tyrannical clock twice a year.

No documentation has been forthcoming. Ever. If lawmakers do bother answering my requests, it is with form replies that appear to address a multitude of possible situations that have never affected any Hoosier in the 200-plus years of our statehood. None of which have anything to do with changing time.

Since the time change isn’t scheduled until November, you may wonder why I’m starting my complaints so early. Do I really intend to keep going on about this until Thanksgiving, when my mind turns to more important things like food and family? Did I just hear mumbles of Get over it already! wafting through cyberspace?

Well, maybe, but I’m talking about it now because of how the sky looked when I came out to my office at six-something this morning. It was so beautiful I stopped in the driveway with the cats and just enjoyed it. Watching the changes that had nothing to do with legislation and taking a picture that isn’t a hundredth as good as the real thing was.

Now I’m at the point—perhaps you recognize it, since it happens almost every week—where I realize I don’t know where I’m going with this.

I think I’ll go this way.

Although the lawmakers have seen fit to legislate the clock, they haven’t yet found a way to shut down or charge for the ongoing and ever-changing beauty of the sky. I’m fairly certain they’ll find a way to tax it or perhaps put a bounty on people who’ve watched too many sunrises and sunsets to suit them, but we’re not there yet.

I’d just about bet it ticks them off that even though they’re able to make six o’clock into five o’clock come November, they can’t make the sky change its stripes accordingly. The days will still have only 24 hours in them and just as many of those hours will be dark as before.

Think about it. Government can mandate how we set our clocks and what women do with their bodies, but they won’t insist people wear masks as a safety measure. They permit all kinds of chemicals and endless fossil fuel emissions to permeate the air we all breathe, but understate the importance of a vaccine.

At the same time, they’ll encourage the use of an unapproved mostly-for-animals medication. Not just for themselves, which would be fine with me, but for others who will take their medical advice because they almost certainly know more than medical personnel and other scientists, don’t they?

Sometimes I wish they’d just leave things alone when they don’t know what they’re talking about, don’t you?

And while they’re at it, getting rid of the time change would be nice, too.

Have a great week. Stay safe. Be nice to somebody.  

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The Treatise on Bales of Hay by Liz Flaherty

I feel kind of cheated sometimes. Drawing ideas for columns from the news is something every columnist I know of does. Or used to. The only ones who can do that anymore are political or religious writers. They know they will have support from those whose beliefs coincide with theirs and will be called names and have their intelligence and education questioned by those whose do not. They know it going in, so that they won't be surprised when people they don't know talk mean stuff about their family members, pets, and how they voted in 1992.

Well, okay, that's the way it is. Sigh. But for people like me, whose ideas are limited to begin with, whose skins are too thin for name-calling, and who wants everyone to like her, it gets dang difficult.

So let's talk about hay.

I've been sitting here looking at the round bales in the field just west of the yard. They're framed by trees, and I have been enjoying the picture of them ever since they were baled a few weeks back. Their outer color has changed, losing its verdancy in a segue to gray that makes them less pretty, but no less attractive. 

It's like people age, isn't it? They lose hair color and sometimes hair, their skin loses elasticity, and their shapes get a little less...shapely. They're not as pretty as they were in their springtimes for the most part, but they're attractive nevertheless. They still look great in a frame.

Bales of hay probably aren't all that big of a deal to everyone. If you never played in the haymow with kittens...or hid in the haymow because you hated everyone and everyone hated you and you wished you were dead...or maybe spent some haymow time with the boyfriend of the summer...or shared confidences with friends (about the boyfriend)...well, chances are you don't see the charm.

But hay in the barn offered a place of privacy and quiet and sometimes even spirituality. If there was a rope to swing from, it was also a place of adventure and a possible concussion. 

Bales of hay are dusty and scratchy, but they smell so good--especially when they're fairly new--that describing the scent is a lot like answering when someone says what is love? It's different for everyone. 

Before hay is baled, it's cut and then left in tidy windrows to dry. Hay isn't the only plant that makes it into the bales. There are grasses and weeds and prickly things. There are other things, too, that I'm not going to go into here. You know, in case some cow is reading this and decides she's not going to eat that, after all. And leaves a mean comment here and calls me names.

I'd venture to say my little treatise on bales of hay won't change anyone's mind about them. If you didn't think they were interesting before--beyond possibly thinking when they're dressed in their white covers, they look like tractor eggs or steroid-filled marshmallows--you probably won't be too impressed by them now. If you liked them already, you're going to know what I've been talking about and you're going to remember spending some time in a hayloft. Or maybe you're going to itch. Either way, you'll like it.

This is how it needs to be if a columnist writes something drawn from what's in the news, isn't it? If you don't like it before, you probably won't like it afterward, either, but you haven't been hurt by it. You can argue its point without feeling the need to malign either the writer or what is written--no matter how intensely you may dislike bales of hay. If you do like it before, you will feel represented, something we all need, and maybe you'll say something nice. 

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Ole Olsen Memorial Theater Presents Little Women by Debby Myers

As I sit here at the director’s table watching rehearsal with my assistant director, Anne Loy, I am still in awe after all these years of the talent within our small community.  I’m directing the opening show of the season for Ole Olsen Memorial Theater. After having to cancel last season due to COVID, I am anxious for patrons to be able to enjoy our live entertainment again.

I’ve been asked why I chose Little Women. It’s because I love to look at classic stories through fresh eyes. There are more than 50 translations of Little Women, so I wanted to add one more. Mine takes an adaptation written in 1998 and adds scenes from the 2019 movie screenplay plus pieces I wrote myself to run between scenes, because I don’t like silent awkward gaps in the show. I call it mine, but it belongs to everyone in my cast now. I’m a believer after directing 25-plus plays that casting is the key to an unforgettable show. I have a stellar cast! 

Liz is not only sponsoring our show but is letting me use this forum to brag on our “Little Women.” The four girls cast bring life to the March sisters in a way that should be admired watching as they interact and perceive their lines and characters in their own way and better than I dreamed. 

We are a few weeks into rehearsal and have impressed me with their commitments to Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. There is nothing more rewarding for a director than seeing the girls work together, laugh together, and learn together. I’ve had friends say, “Little Women is boring. Everyone already knows that story.” While it’s true everyone knows it, it is far from boring. There are no two versions alike. These four girls, and the 14 other cast members we have will make you feel you’re watching it for the first time.                      

The oldest sister is Meg, portrayed by Autumn North. This is her first ensemble leading role. Having directed her before, I knew she fit in Meg’s shoes. Last seen in Terms of Endearment, Autumn was chosen because she brings a softness to Meg. Her voice inflections mirror those you would expect from the character. She gives Meg an elegance, remembering back when her family was wealthy, as well as a bitterness when envying her wealthy friends. Autumn’s smile is contagious, and I’m sure the audience will adore her in this part. 

The next sister is Jo, played by Kiley Stiers. Jo is the March sister that author, Louisa May Alcott, modeled after herself. Kiley started in Ole Olsen in 2014 as part of a team of actors and directors who developed our Shakespeare offerings. She is a talent that we acquired from MHS. She’s been dedicated to Jo since she was cast and is a true performer. Kiley’s portrayal brings energy and confidence. She will make you forget she is Kiley in her powerful performance as Jo March. 

After Jo came their sister Beth, and Sarah Bingham has the part. Last seen on the Ole stage in Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Sarah has been in theater since elementary school. She performed at MHS and at Vincennes University. She’s written, produced, worked backstage, and directed. I chose Sarah to be Beth when she cried real tears while reading parts in her audition. She instantly created the Beth I envisioned. Sarah is talented and her acting is genuine. Her performance will touch the hearts of all watching. 

Finally, the youngest of the “Little Women” is Amy, portrayed by Makenna Johnson. Almost 16, she has already been with Ole for ten years starting at age six. In roles like Gloria in Wait Until Dark, and Lucy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, she has become confident and comfortable on our stage. Makenna was an easy fit for Amy. Her sassiness and facial expressions as the spoiled baby of the sisters snagged her as our choice. She is a committed young upcoming actress in our theater. 

I have to give applause to our supporting actors who make the leads come to life even further by adding depth to their lives and the entire story. Gloria North plays the March girls’ mother, Marmee. Gloria makes her supportive, comforting, nurturing, and strong within. Newcomer Lori Petka is Hannah, the March family’s housekeeper. Lori has taken direction wonderfully. Hannah's bark is worse than her bite with the girls, but she is loyal and hardworking. There’s mean Aunt March portrayed by Tina White. She’s made the grumpy old woman fun to watch with some of the best scenes in the show. And Ethan Kimm as Theodore Laurence aka Laurie will have you rooting for him throughout. Ethan is a veteran to our stage, bringing all his emotions to Laurie. He is mischievous, but serious when the character calls for it.  Jordan Kenyon is playing John Brooke. Brooke is Laurie’s tutor and Meg’s love interest. Jordan will be directing Little Women the Musical in Kokomo in the spring. And our fantastic narrator and stage manager, Kilynn Wallace. 

Other actors include Kathy Bunker, Lily Peebles, Lynae Mast, Aubrey Denney, Doug Working, Todd Riddle, Bob Bryan, and Karter Gilleland.

Little Women relates to women and young girls, showing they have the right to dream and have ambitions of their own. In the 1860s when the story is set, women were kept on the fringes of society. It appeals to men too, and a wide variety of ages. Still today, approximately 1000 copies of the book are sold every month. Please join us for this show. Not for me, but for these “Little Women.” They are fantastic! 

Our dinner theater is being catered by the Hierholzer family. They will serve your choice of ham or turkey w/gravy, green beans w/onion & bacon, Irish potatoes, stuffing, apple walnut salad, blueberry popovers & your choice of pumpkin, cherry, or apple pie. You won’t leave hungry! Seats are limited so reserve yours today. The date is Thursday, September 23 at 6 pm.   

Performances are September 24, 25, October 1, 2 at 7:30 pm and September 26 and October 3 at 2:00 pm at Peru Depot. Go to our website – for tickets! I’ll see YOU at the theater!