Throwback Thursday... I found this old Word doc that never seemed to make it to my old blog. And I cozied up, reading it through, and it reminded me about why I first fell in love with books, with ephemera, with history and information, in general... I thought I'd share it with you.
"As a librarian, I am constantly surrounded by books. And I love that – the feel of them, the smell of the crisp pages on a brand new book. We recently got something new on physics and quarks, and I’m not even exaggerating when I say that the pages smell like grapefruit. A lovely blend of citrus and something pulpy…like cardboard or wet oak. These pages are delicious. The words aren’t bad either. But I digress.
I met a wonderful gentleman who has been bringing us boxes of precious books from his father’s house: he had quite a well-kept library of his own, was a war veteran, and has donated many World War II titles to us. We are always grateful for donations, but I appreciate them so much more when I learn about the people and stories behind them. When someone hands me a box of books and their eyes fill, and they say: “He loved these books, he loved to read, and he’d want them to be read again…” Well, I fill up as well. The books become humanized, they come alive with stories and a feeling of their own. I believe a memory, an essence of the reader, imprints upon the books.
In the second delivery we received from this man, I found something unique: “Letters in a Box.” I looked it up in the county-wide catalog and then, the worldwide catalog – no one else had it. Odd, I thought. And then…I got excited. Something rare, something special. I did a little Internet searching and made a discovery: the book was compiled of handwritten letters by Robert L. Stone, who was not only a First Lieutenant in the South Pacific during World War II, but also led as an accomplished executive in corporations such as: Hertz, Colombia Pictures, and a few well-known television companies. Quite a resume. And an inspiring human being with a wonderful story to tell.
What really struck me – the magic here, as I see it – is that only six-hundred copies of this book were printed. They were given out to family and friends; shipped from a small school, with the help of students and the local Post Office in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Six-hundred copies – printed nearly two-hundred miles away. And here it is; in my hands. I am grateful to become acquainted with it. Its pages smell a bit like gasoline, metal, and wood pulp, but in a good way – as if it had been read in the garage while re-fabricating an old ’57 Chevy, in the summertime, while nursing an ice cold beer – a fresh pile of sawdust on the cement floor from an earlier project.
Olfactory pleasures aside, this volume is an absolute treasure trove of scanned postcards, handwritten letters, memories, photographs and newspaper clippings. Primary, first-hand, WWII source material, folks, the kind that we are losing access to more quickly than I would care to admit. Now, I am not one to run up and down the streets praising the idea of war, but men in my family have served and I love and appreciate them. And I respect and appreciate the history of the aircraft, the roles the bombardiers played, the stories and emotion and struggle that these people went through – so far from home. Many of them not even coming home. This book is a moving tribute, put together by a very dedicated and caring family; honoring the life and legacy of their fascinating, hardworking, and memorable father. I am smitten with it. And while I do want to squirrel it away for myself, I feel that it needs to be read and shared. It will be added to the collection and I’m happy to give it a home, where it will be read by many.
At the end of the book, tucked in the back pages inconspicuously… was a bookmark made in Topeka, Kansas. Wounded Warrior Project. This is an amazing project and they have a great approach to long-term post-war recovery. I had heard the name before, but it slipped my mind and never came up again. Until now. An important reminder to not just study and learn from the past, but to take care of our veterans in the present.
Veterans of war, here and abroad, past and present… thank you for your service. You are not forgotten."
I later recorded an episode of The Jelly that discussed veterans of wartime; it's always been a paradox of a subject for me, since childhood.
I hope you all enjoyed the holidays, and if not... hang in there! The madness is almost over!
It's almost January. I had a wonderful Christmas, spent cherished time with family, and ate too many sweets. :facepalm: So good though.
I am on Day One of a refreshing cleanse, and boy, do I need it. Reset. All I want is lettuce, I'm not kidding. I'm turning into a cookie. It's like that old episode of the Cosby show where Bill lets Theo drink as much as he wants...and he gets so sick of it, he just has no interest in drinking, ever again. It's like that, but sugar.
Anyway. Take care of yourselves. Read books. Stay kind.
It's been a long few days.
First, I nearly collapsed in the car, after leaving urgent care for an excruciating headache, fatigue, and when what my son calls "too-hard boogers." :shrugs: #momlife
Antibiotics in my bag, I called in sick to work and had to stop at the store for some goodies: Sambucol (elderberry/zinc/Vitamin C gummies that I SWEAR by...) a bath bomb, cuz, well... I knew there would be a good soak. Broth, all the broth. And fresh veggies for homemade soups. A large branch of fresh ginger root. I stocked up on all the recovery stuff.
I got back to the car, after packing the trunk, and nearly fainted behind the wheel. "I am burnt out," I kept thinking. "It's too much, it's all too much...I do too much, still..."
"How did I get here? Again?"
I thought that I had learned to take care of myself pretty well, and yet, I felt worn out, exhausted, lethargic, really low in mood...and I couldn't figure out why. I surrendered to rest.
Next, my little boy (6 years old) woke up with even worse symptoms. I took him to the pediatrician... Flu B. So, forced break-down. Slower. Using up sick time, which I hate doing. But sometimes, we must. Snuggles, kids' movies, soup, tea, tissues, and so much sleep. I was glad for it, believe it or not. I needed the break.
Days go by, fevers reduce, as they do... viruses cycle out, and energy begins to return.
And in the downtime, with nothing expected of me, and nowhere to go... I found myself in the kitchen. Making more soups. Baking (?!). Cleaning countertops and washing dishes and breathing in all that good steam. It was wonderful.
We made Gluten-Free Chocolate-Cinnamon Banana Bread (photos above...I had no chocolate chips, so I split the batter in two, and mixed cocoa powder into one, then marbled them in the same way. Decent result. Not as creamy/chocolatey. But decent.)
And something so utterly simple began to settle in... I don't really cook anymore. I blend, I mix, I prep, I grill, I "throw-together." I scurry. I hurry. I rush.
I used to love to bake. To dream up something tasty and recreate it, and try it out. Somewhere along the line, I got accustomed to fast n easy: salads, shakes, bars, and bought food. There's nothing wrong with this, really. I make healthy choices there, too.
But... I remember how much I cherished the time in the kitchen, in the days when I used to have so much of it: warm and cozy, something always cooking, a stocked fridge with healthy choices, always. Always on my feet, cooking or washing or organizing, and absolutely loving it. Music playing. Dancing, mixing, dancing, chopping, dancing, measuring. Family walking through, talking, discussing, coming together, hatching new ideas. The kitchen was always the center of the house for me: it's where all the great ideas happened, where the best meals were made, where the cookies were tasted.
Where we gathered.
The women in my household, in my extended family, always gathered in the kitchen - it was a sacred space. Recipes were shared, sauce was simmered, chops were spice-dusted and thrown on the BBQ out back. And the children, often, too (not BBQ'd but I mean to say that they would also gather in the kitchen.)
And so, here I was... shaking and making, feeling groovy, and my son was beaming. "May I please have more juice, Mama?" :cough, cough: "Mama, I love you..." Calm. Well-Mannered. Coloring and word-searching. Relaxed. I smiled and wondered how I'd allowed myself to get so busy that moments like this felt rare and special, when they should be the norm.
Slow. Simple. And a wave of deeply familiar and soothing nostalgia washed over me. I took a breath and exhaled... Home. A simmering kitchen just feels like... home.
And how desperately I wanted that same feeling of... home. For my son.
And I took a deep look into my schedule, my work life, my health priorities, my creative pursuits, just everything. And I began to map it out, again. (This is something I do often, but at a minimum, once a year.) I saw that writing books was incredibly time consuming, supporting my books was as well. And I looked hard at what my life (and the life of my son) really, truly needed to thrive.
And it was...less. I didn't need more of anything, but time. Space. Freedom to move and be and wash veggies and bake tasty banana bread and stick to workout routines and craft a slick budget and stellar experiences for 2020. I didn't feel the bursting need to "say" anything. But to do things. For me. For family. For home.
And I heard that voice inside, again. The one I always hear when I slow way, way down:
"You're allowed to take care of yourself. In fact, you ought to. You really need to."
So, I vowed to take a break from hard-core writing, deep-diving, exploring, and trigger-busting. I'd done it. I'd let my heart lead me full-circle, from this kitchen, around the country, through my murky past, and right back here... to my home. My heart.
It's a rather rebellious act for a recovering people-pleaser to opt out and insist on simple and inward-searching things like self-care, home re-organization, new shelf-liners in cabinets, and streamlined budgets and financial goals. It's not so exciting. It's not very flashy. It's not very loud and awe-inspiring.
But it's steady and fulfilling. It's cozy and inspiring, in small ways. It's healing and rejuvenating. An old house, and the items within it, is a treasure trove of learning, just waiting to tell it's secrets.
How very audacious I feel, rolling my shoulders back, knowing of my other talents, and simply saying, "no." Not right now. I have other pressing matters and more worthwhile priorities. And it's all okay.
I've cut my screen-time and social media time way, way down for the week. And I've basically been utilizing my work-self at home. I'm librarian-ing everything, and it feels so, so good. Old ceramics have no use way up on the top shelf, where they can't be accessed. Just like any good piece of information: it's of no use, unless we can access it. Utilize it. Allow it serve us, in some way.
So, Winter into Spring, and maybe for the whole of 2020... is dedicated to self-care and home life. Of course, I still journal daily, so any insights and nuggets of wisdom that I find along the way will either be blogged or written in silence, for later. Maybe another book down the line, maybe not.
But no chasing for me. Just standing. Here. Now. And...making that lemonade.
Until next time... I hope you're well. I hope you're taking care of yourself and not running yourself into the ground. It's so easy too, these days.
Thanks for listening.
I've been sorting, moving, and constructing new things, lately.
I stumbled upon a treasure trove: old notebooks and binders from school days... I've come across things like this before. Piles of old sheet music from Sam Ash or All Music. A random ziplock bag of guitar picks. Napkins with names and beeper/pager numbers from Munchaba Lounge or LIBC or New York Ave (a bar that always had great (ok, mediocre) live music from local bands...) or some equivalent. Paradise Rock Club or The Kells, if in Bean Town. Any number of sticky-floor, dimly lit dives with bad PAs and red solo cups, in the village. My mind went back to Culture Club, Pac-Man, Debbie, Tiffany, Boy George. Max Headroom. Marty McFly. All that jazz.
And these notebooks. Again. Always, always, smitten and longing for the unseen and out of grasp. I think I was just born with a poet's heart. And I can't help but notice how it's fallen out of fashion, these days.
Some of my favorite music was played in the key of melancholy. Sinatra was the king of melancholy. I was in a jazz club once, in the city, blabbing about heartbreak and life and all the rest and how that side of me was dead. The music-writing side. That I listened, I enjoyed, but I couldn't write. And this old guy, who could've been a sax player for Dorsey or something, looked at me and said... "you never let the blue out, babygirl. It'll fester until you sing the blue notes..." or something like that. It always stuck with me. The shadows. The dark. The blue. The minors. They have to find air to dissipate.
And these days, with the world the way it is, and the way it feels, we all want to feel good. And I do, a lot of the time. I hack my perspective by noticing the beautiful things, kind things, sacred things, and lingering in them. But, I just like to wander through the old days, they feel like warm, cozy, worn-in sweatshirts with faded, pitted elbows. In only the best way.
And I leaf through all of this and every lyric still resonates and has a note beneath it. Still. 25 years. The melody remains. What is it about music? What is this thing, that can etch itself so deeply into our minds and consciousness? Connect us like this? Like a time machine, it can put us right back into an emotional moment or memory. It's some sort of special language and one that I'm glad I get to participate in.
Mm. Nostalgia. Childhood. Naiveté. Dreaming and bliss and unfettered imaginings and endless infatuations and has it all changed so much, or do we stifle it all, beneath collared shirts and desks and very grown up activities and drop-offs and pickups and matured behaviors and ways of moving and being in the world?
Truth? I still "crush."
I think it's part of the human condition, if you're having any fun, single or not. To muse. Aimlessly, freely, it churns the restitched pieces of my poet's heart back into rhyme or rhythm, sometimes. I soak it up, like bourbon into a dry piece of shortbread. There can be great inspiration in sweet abstraction. There always has been, for me. It's where the art lives. Where the magic lives. Where hope and wonder and adventure and traveling to new places lives.
So it is, with most artists I know or know of. Dreamers, all.
I must say, before any others I may have mused about, there was Dave. I found him in '94. Look at this. We all went. The local kids. We all talked about it. He was it, man. I still don't know the actual words to some of the songs...so, so stylized. "............take these chances...leave them simply, absotimbly..." Yeah, I have no clue. I should Google it. But I loved every minute, regardless. Those first few bars of Ants Marching were electric. An anthem. Like a call to worship. So, so good. Still. I just put it on YouTube, actually.
It always feels cathartic to look back and reminisce. I'm a sucker for nostalgia. I still go to diners. I stalk old sweet shops, especially the ones with vintage soda-shop counters. I obsessed about Colony Records, in Manhattan, for years. I heard that it closed. I pouted. I survived.
But the nineties. I was finishing high school. Bangs.
Oh, and this girl... my Brandy girl. Best-est. Dog. Ever. Cold nose. Hot breath. And that thump, thump, thumping tail when she refused to get up, but still showed her excitement... here's me and my pooch and my shiny, saturated with light, big face.
And trouble. And going out. And Webster Hall and bad dates and Parliaments and crashing weird parties...I believe this was a random Lions Club benefit, or something, and we wanted the free beer. I remember protesting this picture, because I wanted to hide my smoking habit. No, no, no...oh the horror.
You're welcome..."life is demanding, without understanding..." - Ace of Base
I've got so much. Boxes and piles of nostalgia, steeped in music, feeling, a chaotic life, upside-down beliefs, and journals that tell a much richer, deeper, hidden story. I was this girl, here...and I was a lost and searching artist, in the wee small hours. When I was alone with my guitar or keyboard, or journals, or a walkman and jazz standards and Frankie, and liner notes from albums, and usually a tall can of Pringles and some Nerds. I lived on absolute garbage, back then. (Not proud, I wasn't very healthy.)
Anyhow. I hope you've enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Fun times. A mess, I was. I think we all were. Waiting train wrecks, counting the years until life smacked us around enough to show us what's what.
No regrets. I like it here. Forty-something has its perks, too. Maybe we can't nosh on snacks and booze all night with a Pepto-chaser at dawn and then hit the gym before work, anymore... but we've got other talents. We've got some wisdom. We've earned some stripes. We've tried some things. We've loved, lost, and maybe loved again, some of us.
It's not even half-time. So much game left. I feel like I kinda get myself now. Okay, I'm ready, life. Let's do this. That first forty was a warm up...
Goodnight. I hope your Saturday was spectacular. If you went out, I hope you tore it up and had great fun with good people and ate all the good food. I hope you tried that thing you never try and always say you're gonna. If you stayed in, I hope Netflix or your book or your lover or your dinner was amazing. And if you had lots of laundry put away, a great kid to play with and snuggle with, and you got things organized and clothes to donate, well, you're just amazing.
"...lights down, you up and die..."
Can't believe how much more this song means, now that I've looked up the lyrics.
Wow, Dave. Yeah. They all do it the same way.
© 2019 - 2020 Stacie Hammond