Following and Leading with Family and Fish

Monday Morning Musings:

“Where you lead, I will follow

Anywhere that you tell me to

If you need, you need me to be with you

I will follow where you lead.”

–Carole King, “Where You Lead “(Gilmore Girls Theme Song)

 

“So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

–The final message of dolphins to humans, as they leave Earth before it’s destroyed. Also, the title of the fourth book of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.

 

“I sustain myself with the love of family.”

–Maya Angelou (Tweet, on 23 May 2013)

 

After a long, long week,

a very long week

when we are in shock over the leader

many of our fellow citizens want to follow,

my younger daughter suggests we watch The Gilmore Girls*

while we eat Chinese food and chocolate,

so we sit, comfy in PJs and sweatshirts

while my husband goes for the Chinese food

(General Tso’s chicken for him,

the mock version for us)–

followed by chocolate.

Of course.

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No one can eat like the Gilmore Girls,

but we try to get in the spirit,

choosing an episode from Season Two,

we hear this:

Paris: “That’s crazy. People would rather vote for a moronic twink who they liked over someone who could actually do the job?”

“We can’t get away from it,” sighs my daughter.

“Oy with the poodles already,” I reply.

 

The next day we go to my sister’s house.

meant to be a combination birthday-victory celebration

with a fish tray and bagels.

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It is instead, a much needed gathering of family,

the love of family to sustain us.

 

Son-in-law has never eaten lox–or any of the fish on the platter,

he is forced to try them all.

(“It’s my heritage,” his wife says, though she is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish.)

He thinks the whitefish is too oily,

the lox too salty,

but the kippered salmon is tolerable—with lots of onion.

Daughter says, “He would have gotten along well with Grandpop.”

We remember my dad’s love of onions–

onion sandwiches

onion and sardine sandwiches

onion and sardine sandwiches on onion rolls

( with extra onions).

Did I mention he liked onions?

My father liked food,

and gatherings,

and gathering over food.

We sustain ourselves with family and family memories.

 

My mother wants coffee,

demands coffee

I want it now she says

with my meal.

She would fit right in with the Gilmore Girls.

 

You don’t argue with a 94-year old woman who wants coffee.

My sister gets her some coffee.

Remembering how we are sustained by family, love, and annoyance.

 

We discuss the current political situation,

daughter worried about how her students will react.

(She has not seen them since the election.)

I say I think she is a good leader,

and hope they will follow her lead.

Her husband, a veteran, deployed three times,

and not happy with the elected leader,

talks to my sister about getting involved in politics.

Sustained, and upheld by family.

 

My mom says she’s lived through many scary times.

I say I remember being terrified during the Cold War–

duck and cover drills and the Cuban Missile Crisis–

“But there were more sane people in control then,” my niece says.

Sigh.

Oy with the poodles already.

Sustained by love of family.

 

My sister and niece say, if we’re going to discuss this

we need to drink–and chocolate.

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drink, drink, drink

 

In truth, we really do not drink,

and then my niece accidentally knocks coffee onto my mom’s lap.

We’re clumsy, but lovable.

And sustained by the love of family.

 

Time for dessert!

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The cake is placed strategically in front of my daughter, so she can pick at it,

and “clean up” the icing.

(Love of family and food sustains us.)

 

My niece, who lives in a divided household

(in a red part of the state)

says she has needed this gathering,

though we’re not celebrating the election,

we are celebrating family.

We’re sustained by family—

and food.

 

We move to other subjects—

Thanksgiving (and food).

I have safely delivered the squirrel mold

(encased in bubble wrap)

to my niece,

the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce tradition

can continue.

We talk of social media

and kids,

and gender identity

and sex education,

a teenage boy taking lotion,

“I don’t understand—why does he want lotion?”

asks my mom.

(She’s so innocent.)

We hear cheers from the next room,

my sister-in-law and husband are watching football.

It is time to go.

We leave, sustained by family,

full from all the food we’ve eaten,

carrying packages of fish and bagels,

bits of love,

like life, delicious and a bit smelly,

So long, and thanks for all the fish,

and all the memories, too.

And though wishing my other daughter was also with us,

I am sustained by love of family,

as we head off into the darkness

where a super moon is rising.

We need light in the darkness

and love always.

 

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*Gilmore Girls was a TV series about single mother Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory. The series opened as Rory was in high school and ended when she graduated from Yale. In between, mother and daughter had many adventures, drank millions of cups of coffee, and eat enormous amounts of take-out food in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. A four-episode follow-up will be on Netflix in about two weeks.

Look Around You

Monday Morning Musings:

I saw a van

With the name “Otis”

Neatly labeled on its side.

I thought of elevators.

Of course,

Who wouldn’t?

When our daughters were young,

They noticed the elevators

At my mother’s apartment house

Were made by Otis.

The elevators at my father’s

Were made by another company.

How often do adults observe

Such things?

To us,

The elevators

Were merely useful technology.

To them,

The elevators were different and

Distinct personalities

Leading to new worlds

And adventures.

So many things adults

Never notice

Or pass by

Because they’re commonplace.

I used to sit on the floor

When my children were young,

To glimpse things from their angle,

To anticipate what might be appealing

Or interesting

To their young minds.

Curiosity must be in our genes,

I mean all Earth’s creatures.

Who hasn’t seen an animal explore

What is in that box, bag,

Or hole in the ground?

But humans want to go further.

My husband and I went to the movies.

No, that’s not so far,

But we saw The Martian,

Matt Damon with wry comments

And prodigious feats of memory

Is in survivor mode on Mars.

The Hitchhiker’s Hike to the Galaxy

Says to always carry a towel.

But Matt Damon has potatoes.

And I think about

How ancient peoples

Learned to cultivate the

Toxic tubers.

And make them palatable.

They were grown and

Eaten by the Incas,

Then brought to Spain

By conquerors

Who saw

What they wanted to see,

Who believed they were

In a New World,

When it was merely

New to them.

But they did see potatoes,

Gold of another sort

Becoming a source of fuel for

“The Old World”

Helping to feed

Its people,

And allowing its nations to grow,

While those of the new

Were destroyed

By the conquerors,

Men and microbes.

But exchanges go both ways.

After a time,

The blight traveled, too,

To destroy potatoes in Europe,

And

In Ireland,

Sending more immigrants

From old world

To new.

And helping a

Young nation grow,

At a cost though,

There always is.

Matt Damon’s character

Attempts to conquer

A world that is truly

New–

To humans, anyway.

But it’s a vast universe,

So who knows?

And I wonder about

cross-contamination,

But that’s for another time.

We learn from the movie

That a knowledge of botany

Is important.

So is being able to remember

Past studies,

And to realize

That it often

Takes many minds

To solve a problem.

The movie has fun with music, too,

And I’m reminded of real-life astronaut

Commander Chris Hadfield

Performing “Space Oddity”

Aboard the International Space Station–

One of my most favorite videos ever.

(It’s just possible I’ve watched it over and over.)

Although Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

Remains my ultimate astronaut hero.

What do you mean he’s not real?

Of course he is,

Smart and confident enough

To realize

A child,

Or an alien life form

Might see what others

Do not,

And that “exploring new worlds”

Does mean seeking out

But not conquering.

And music is important

On the Enterprise

And literature

And art

Because these are things that

Make us human.

And our creativity

Enhances our thinking

And ability to solve problems,

Which is important,

Especially if you are ever

Stranded

And left for dead

On an uninhabited planet,

Or anywhere else

For that matter.

I think the lesson,

If there is a lesson

To life,

Is never to stop observing,

To sometimes view things

From a child’s perspective,

And to look at things

In new ways,

And to value your friends

So they will do the utmost

To rescue you

If you are ever marooned,

And to pay attention to every

Little thing–

Because it might save you some day–

And of course,

To bring

Potatoes,

And perhaps a towel.

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“Look at the moon, will you! Tsk-tsk-tsk. Potato weather for sure.”

–Thorton Wilde, Our Town

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”

–Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Chris Hadfield sings David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” aboard the International Space Station. Well worth watching.

This Smithsonian Magazine article gives a brief history of the potato.