The Postcard

Monday Morning Musings:

My husband found a postcard from my dad.

It lay hidden in plain view

Among old papers and road maps

To places that may no longer exist

Except in our minds.

How long had it been there

Waiting to be rediscovered?

A record of the past,

A time capsule

Compressed into a flat rectangle.

Once it had traveled across the United States,

Now it carries me through time.

It was strange to read his words,

To see his handwriting

When he has been gone so many years.

He had been traveling out west.

He wrote of the sights.

He wrote that he needed to see

His ophthalmologist when he returned.

He wrote that he would see us soon,

And signed it “Dad/Grandpop Lee.”

It was a typical postcard.

Nothing profound.

Nothing remarkable.

But striking now

Because the words were his

And I pictured him writing them


Heard his voice in my head.

A shadow world between then

And now

Where both exist for a split second,

The time it takes for a memory to surface

And go.

I went looking for the postcard today,

But it has vanished.

Perhaps it was merely a reminder

Of the ephemeral nature

Of life

Of words

Of memories, too.

Perhaps it was a reminder

To cherish the memories

Of those long gone,

But to savor the present

With those who are with us.

Update: The day after I wrote this. I saw the postcard propped up on top of the roll top desk in our dining room. I’m certain I looked there. . .

The Vanishing Postcard from my dad.

The Vanishing Postcard from my dad.

My dad and I when I received my Ph.D.

My proud dad with me when I received my Ph.D. about two years before the postcard.

©Merril D. Smith

The Deliciousness of Life

Monday Morning Musings:

“Sitting down to dinner, at any age, should be an invitation to the fabulous banquet that is life. The most important lesson we learn at the table is that great awards await those who take chances. Do we really want to be telling our children ‘Just eat your nice chicken nuggets?’ It make so much more sense to say, ‘Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.’”

–Ruth Reichl, “Teach Your Children Well,” Gourmet Magazine, March 2007

The sunrise was spectacular this morning. I looked up from my seat at the kitchen table, coffee and newspaper in front of me, cat purring on my lap, and took in its beauty. Even if I had the photographic skills to capture it, it would have been difficult to do so—in seconds the sky went from shades of violet to deep flamingo pink to orange and then to apricot. If I could taste this sunrise, it would have been a rainbow sorbet, a swirl of sweetness melting on my tongue and then gone.

“When I come in here, it’s like I’m surrounded in sweetness. Sweetness and love,” my niece said to me on Saturday night. It was the night of our family holiday dinner (the weekend in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, close enough). Her words filled me with sweetness, too.

My summer was busy—much of it wonderfully so—after all, our younger daughter was married and we gained a fantastic son-in-law—but still, it was busy. I had a very large test-writing assignment to complete, which I finally did this past Wednesday. My husband and I went to the movies to celebrate and saw Learning to Drive, a sweet and sometimes funny movie that gently reminds its viewers of some important life lessons, such as always wearing seat belts, checking your road rage, and being aware of what’s going on around you, both on the road and in your life. Now it seems the summer is over. As summer turns to fall, and the summer sky grows lighter a bit later each day, I have some time to reflect. And cook, of course.

Those who say “food is just fuel” are missing something. Food is not simply fuel, and sitting around a table with family and friends is one of the great joys in life. On Friday, a dear friend, who I have not seen all summer, came by, bearing sushi—actually complete lunches for both of us of miso soup, salad, and sushi (shrimp tempura and sweet potato rolls). I was preparing for the next night’s dinner, but took a nice, long lunch break. We sat at my kitchen table and caught up. How lovely to have friends like that!

Our Saturday night dinner was relaxed. I had done most of the cooking before that day—so much so that I said to my husband early Saturday afternoon that I felt like I had forgotten to do something. After slicing the meat in the morning, I went to the gym, and then after lunch I even had time for a brief rest. He told me that it was just that I had done it so many times, that I had it all under control. He had done much of the cleaning, however, which always helps.

So after our guests arrived, we toasted the new year, 5776, and dipped apples in honey and ate challah. (I baked 8 over the course of the week because, oh my God, what if there isn’t enough? Do you remember that time we bought a new freezer simply because I needed it to freeze Rosh Hashanah challahs?) It is traditional to eat lots of sweet foods for Rosh Hashanah. We had yellow split pea-pumpkin soup; it is slightly sweet and spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and pepper. Life needs a bit of spice, too, right? The gold color symbolizes wealth and prosperity.

Yellow Split Pea-Pumpkin Soup

Yellow Split Pea-Pumpkin Soup

Our younger daughter brought this delicious salad with a maple balsamic dressing.


We had noodle kugel. That’s kugel, not Kegel.


For the meat-eaters, there was brisket


And turkey. Because (see above) we might not have enough.


My husband is eating lots of leftovers this week.

We drank wine. We talked, and then it was time for coffee and dessert.

Apple Cake (It is much better than it looks in photo!)




And brownies. . .because. . .well, you know, chocolate, and with a hint of sea salt because. . .well, you know, chocolate and salt.


The next day, my husband and I, along with our younger daughter and son-in-law went to the Heritage Wine Festival, a two-day event in Mullica Hill, NJ. My son-in-law has earned huge points for offering to be our designated driver. We were pleased to see some wineries there that we never visited before. My husband and I ended up buying a bottle of Rossa della Valle from Hopewell Valley Vineyards, a Chambourcin-Cabarnet blend. Our daughter bought the same, plus a bottle of their chocolate port. We also bought a port, Vat 19 Port from Unionville Vineyards. We’re thinking we’ll open that at Thanksgiving, when our older daughter and her wife will also be here.

We brought food—challah, anyone? I have a couple in my freezer. We tasted, we sat, ate, walked around and enjoyed the beautiful weather. It was a beautiful September day. We shed the sweatshirts we wore earlier and basked in the sun. Daughter and I were thrilled to find a farm stand amidst the vendor booths. We split a basket of peppers and each of us bought lovely, ripe Jersey peaches. It was a perfect sweet ending for a weekend of sweetness and love, a weekend of celebrating family and friends, and the joy of conversation around food and wine. Wishing all of you joy, peace, and many opportunities to taste the deliciousness of life.

Heritage Wine Festival, Sunday, September 20, 2015

Heritage Wine Festival,
Sunday, September 20, 2015

“So sweet it seems with thee to walk,

And once again to woo thee mine—

It seems in after-dinner talk

Across the walnuts and the wine.”

–Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

“The Miller’ Daughter”

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100 Interesting Facts about Famous Authors


So many fun and interesting facts here!

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

100 fun facts about writers and their fascinating lives

On Twitter we recently reached the 100,000 followers milestone. (Hurrah! And do follow us @InterestingLit if you’re also a tweeter.) To celebrate the occasion, we’ve gathered together one hundred of our favourite facts about famous authors. We hope you enjoy them! Where there’s a link on an author’s name, we’ve linked to our post about that particular author (usually part of our five fascinating facts series – indeed, if you like these facts, check out that series).

Virginia Woolf was the granddaughter of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.

Aldous Huxley was the great-nephew of Matthew Arnold.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, lived next door to Mark Twain.

Evelyn Waugh’s first wife’s name was Evelyn. They were known as ‘He-Evelyn’ and ‘She-Evelyn’.

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Monday Morning Musings:

“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

–James Baldwin


Today is Rosh Hashanah,

the start of the High Holy Days.

We say “Shanah Tova,”

and wish people a sweet year.

The weekend began with

the anniversary of 9/11.

Never forget.

As if we could.

Then caring for our grandpets.

Doggy kisses

and kitty purrs.

A party.

People with different jobs,



drinking and

playing volleyball.

No, not me.

I’ll just watch.

Having fun.


the beautiful evening.


The man with the hair

whips up hate.

Throughout history

demagogues have appeared.

He is merely the latest.

A little man

for all his wealth.

Seeking to rise by

finding a scapegoat–

as all demagogues do.

It is nothing new.

It’s their fault,

they declare.

You don’t have money,




It’s because of them.

Migrants, Jews,


People with black skin,

or yellow skin.

Educated people.

Illiterate people.



It doesn’t matter.

They are Others,

not one of us.

Nativists, Know Nothings, and Exclusion Acts—

We don’t want your kind.

“Give me your tired, your poor.”

Lady Liberty cries,

But not too tired, not too poor.

the followers yell.

We don’t want people who

look different.


none of that foreign talk here.

Speak English.

Wave a flag,

like a true patriot.

A clerk in Kentucky claims religious freedom by

denying others their rights.

Doesn’t she know that liberty

is inclusive,

not exclusive?

Hate does not win.

Hate brings more hate.

Hate combusts and burns

like the brushfires out west,

consuming everything it touches.





tame the flames,

to a warm glow,

enough to sit around,

enough to bake bread.

I baked challahs yesterday.

The kitchen smells

Of bread and memories.

And love, too.

“Bread and roses.”

Fuel for body

and soul.

Dip the apple in the honey.

Taste its sweetness.

It is everywhere.


It is all around you.

Can you see the sweetness

of life?


Just look.

Do you see it?

Can you look past the hate?

Can you see how beautiful

Our Earth is?


Wishing all of you peace and a sweet new year!

©Merril D. Smith

Asking for Help – Please Share and Help Me Find My Sister


Reblogged on Yesterday and today. Hope you find your sister.

Originally posted on A Good Blog is Hard to Find:


[This post has been edited from the original]

I have tried before to locate my sister. I have failed. Part of me wants to never try again. A lot of me hates that part of me. I will try again because there is always a chance she might see this. One can hope.

My name is Jason Chandler Cushman and I was born in Pusan, South Korea in 1981. I have a sister who is a few years older me. I believe she is probably 37 now and her name was Ahn Jung Hee, my birth mother’s name is Kim Ie Soo. Our mother left us on a street when we were young. I was 2 years old and my sister was 5 I believe. We were taken to an orphanage and my mother later returned for only my sister. That was the last time I saw her. I found this…

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Triple Challenge: Wine and Tears

This is the result of a triple challenge. Jane Dougherty of Jane Dougherty Writes came up with one of her usual gems in response to ronovanwrites’ Haiku Challenge.  I told her that there was much more to the story in the John Singer Sargent painting she chose. (You can see the painting by clicking on the link to Jane’s blog post here.) She challenged me to tell it. Although I’m not quite certain this is the true story, I’m posting it anyway.

She wore her hauteur like a mask at a masquerade ball. It was a flimsy veil to hide her true feelings, one that might easily slip, revealing the depth of her misery. She had been the queen of the county—the proud Marguerite Sommerville, living in the ground house on the hill. Now her husband was dead, leaving her with debts she had not known existed. There was also the discovery of other women in other towns who claimed his name for their children. The neighborhood gossips relished each tidbit as it was revealed; each dainty morsel multiplied and divided like fish and loaves. I remained her friend. She needed a true one. I would pour her another glass of wine and wait for the mask to slip. The salty tears would soon come. Tomorrow she would don her mask again, and I would help her face the future.

So Long, Summer

Monday Morning Musings

“By all these lovely tokens

September days are here,

With summer’s best of weather,

And autumn’s best of cheer.”

–Helen Hunt Jackson, “September”

Sunday morning, and I’m in the car. The windows are open to the cool breeze, the sun is shining brightly, and Bob Dylan is singing.

“When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on
Don’t think twice, it’s all right”

–Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”

And I think, “OK, Summer, just travel on then. Don’t think twice, it’s definitely all right–because this September morning is truly glorious.” It’s a beautiful morning and a beautiful day, and to quote another American classic, “The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye.”

Yes, I know that technically it is still summer. The autumnal equinox falls on September 23. But the sun comes up later now, and it sets earlier. The early morning bird chirps are giving way to the honking of geese as they fly in V formations across the clear, azure sky. (Were you wondering why they fly in a V? Here you go.)

And today is Labor Day in the U.S., which marks the unofficial end of summer. It is a time that many celebrate with barbecues, picnics, or a final day at the beach or pool. At the same time, people prepare to return to work or school. It is day that looks back to summer and forward to the fall, a combination of melancholy and excitement, a bipolar day.

Labor Day was intended to honor “the working man.” Never mind that women have always worked—and labored in ways no man can experience. Labor Day was first observed in 1882, when a New York City labor organization, the Central Labor Union, a branch of the Knights of Labor, held a parade there. Over the next few years, Labor Day holidays were celebrated elsewhere. In 1894, Labor Day became a federal holiday. In the summer of that year, President Grover Cleveland sent in US army troops to end the Pullman Strike, which had stopped the railways. At least 30 strikers were killed and more wounded in the ensuing violence. Within a week after the strike was so violently put down, Cleveland signed the legislation making Labor Day a federal holiday. The September date was chosen to distance the holiday from May 1 (International Workers Day), which was associated with the Haymarket Riot in Chicago (May 4, 1886) and protests by labor unions. (Here is a short article on Labor Day. And another.

School terms in the U.S. used to begin the day after Labor Day, although weirdly, many now begin in August. This is the first time in 37 years that my husband will not be entering his school on the day after Labor Day. In his former district, it is still the first day for students. As a public school teacher, my husband has also been a member of the teachers’ union. Yes, the union that our governor has said should get “a punch in the face.” Many Americans have forgotten that it is because of unions that we have child labor laws, eight-hour workdays, work breaks, and other benefits.

Labor Day is also the title of a book by Joyce Maynard made into a movie with Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. It is both a coming-of-age story and a romance. If you read the book or see the movie, be prepared to dream of peach pie. Really. (Here’s the recipe used in the movie. I would use all butter for my crust.)

So what will I be doing today on Labor Day? Well, I’ll be working, of course. After all, I have deadlines to meet. But there will be time to eat some killer nachos and watch a movie with my husband, too. Perhaps I’ll bake a peach pie, as well. It’s a holiday. I will labor, but I won’t forget to enjoy the waning summer.

Well, Look What Arrived At My Door Today!


The World of the American Revolution: A Daily Life Encyclopedia, edited by Merril D. Smith. That’s me!

I also wrote many of the entries.

You can also get it here. Or here.

Your local public or school library certainly needs a copy. Your local historical society or museum does, too.

Apparently Volume 2 is especially tasty.

I love history!

I love history!

Moving Day

Monday Morning Musings


And so the newlyweds have moved.

We tell them about our first apartment—

the cinderblock shelves,

the closet made into a study

with the desk that is now theirs.

It has an ink-stained drawer,

damage done by my husband

when he was just a young boy,

and punished for


But that was long ago.

As newlyweds,

we ate at

a card table

borrowed from my mom,

with four folding chairs

to go with it.

And we felt lucky

to have it.

And giddy with the excitement

of furnishing our first home.

They have the table

that sat in our basement

I think it belonged

to my husband’s grandmother.

But perhaps I’m wrong.

It has a wood veneer top.

To be perfectly honest,

I didn’t particularly like it.

But somehow it is perfect,

sitting in their kitchen alcove.

Their chairs

are the chairs that went

with the first table we purchased.

in that first apartment

with the cinderblock shelves.

My husband has re-caned

these chairs

for our daughter and her husband.

As he sits in their kitchen

my husband reports

that nothing has broken.

He’s joking,

I think.

I hope.

It is cheerful,

that kitchen of theirs.

Newly painted–

and my daughter was right

about the color.

We bring in boxes

and furniture.

Their dog guards it–

and them.

Their cat hides

in a closet.

We think of other moves.

My husband and his friends

moved my dad several times.

It wasn’t so bad.

They were young and strong.

And they got treated to a dinner

each time.

Not the typical pizza and beer,

although perhaps there was beer,

I don’t remember


there was

so much food.

Courses and courses of Chinese delights

At his favorite restaurant.

Perhaps there were other restaurants, too.

My dad loved food.

and playing the host.

In our first apartment

we had a bed

and bureau

bought from my cousin Sali.

We still have them,

the mattress replaced,

of course,

but the frame still sturdy.

There was an old bamboo bookcase, too.

Is it in our basement somewhere?

Moving brings memories,

doesn’t it?

Possessions do not

make a home,


each item packed

and then unpacked

tells a story.

Someday they will get our piano,

the piano I played as a child.

The ivory keys are ragged,

damaged by me,

I’m told,

although I don’t remember.

And I was such a good child.

Never mind.

It makes our piano unique.

I remember the movers coming

to move that piano

when we moved into our house,

our first house

where we still live.

I was pregnant with our older daughter.

We were packing boxes

and dreams.

And now we watch our children

do the same.