Day 10: Kimbark Chronicles, The Dining Room

Dining Room 1940s
Dining Room 1940s

The Dining Room

The dining room was the hub of activity for our house. Big dinners were everyday occurrences.

By this time Ted and Jean Bloch had arrived to stay two weeks–that was a month ago.  Jean and my mother worked things out well in the kitchen.  I loved being in the kitchen with them as they planned the shopping list along with the ration stamps.  My job was to set the table.  It was to be for 8 this evening.

It was a usual family dinner except this time it was Thanksgiving.  We all were gathered round the long dining room table.

A man walked into the dining room, “Good evening, It looks like a delicious meal.”  He said.

“Happy Thanksgiving.” my father replied.

The man walked around the table checking out the turkey, vegetables and olives.  As he walked by me, he put his hand under my chin and raised my face to look at him.  He did the same thing with my brother.

“Who was that?” Ted asked.

“That was Mr. Boyer.  He comes to see Miss Peabody who is currently staying in the third floor apartment.” My mother explained.

My father commented, “When we bought the house we agreed to let the previous owner, Mrs. Nordstrom use the third floor apartment for a period of five years whenever she came into town. She asked us later if her friend, Miss Peabody could stay there for a while.”

“We can’t go up the stairs to the third floor.  That is off-limits.”  I added.

Mother continued, “We don’t know when they are here and it is not very often.  It is only Miss Peabody’s gentleman friend who feels free to come into the dining room.  We don’t really mind.”

When dessert came it was that wonderful chocolate cake that mother made with the icing my brother and I liked so much. I the habit of taking off the icing to save it and eat it last.

“Jannie, you should eat the cake and the icing together.” My father requested.

“But, Daddy.” I said as my father reached over to take the icing off my plate and eat it himself.

“Oh well,” I thought.  “I know where the cake lives after the meal.  Everyone in the family would stop by the pantry, take off the lid that covered the cake, cut a sliver of a slice and then put the lid back on.”

I started thinking after the meal was over about how much I liked the dining room.  It was a room full of surprises.  One time I came in while my parents were having a party in the living room. The dining room was dark.  I saw a man lying under the buffet.  When I asked my mother she told me that was Buster, a friend of the family.  He was fine.  He was just tired and was taking a nap and that I should not wake him up.

Then there was the time my father shouted, “Look at those zebras in the back yard.”

Tommy and I raced to the window and saw nothing.

“April Fool.” My father replied.

Sometimes when my mother had really big parties, we put another table next to the regular one. Then put a really long table-cloth over both of them so it looked like one long table.  She had me put little cards with people’s names on them at all the places.  It was like this: one family person, one guest person, one family person, one guest person.  My mother always sat at the end of the table that was near the pantry door.  My father sat at the other end near the windows where there were no zebras outside.

 

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Day 9: The Red Sweater Twist

The Red Sweater Twist

The Red Sweater Twist

THE RED SWEATER TWIST

Why do I feel these fingers pulling at me?

Why are needles pushing at my strands?

Who is doing this to me and why?

I was just lying curled around myself like a slinking snake in a basket filled with slinking strand creatures like myself in blue, green, purple, black, brown, white and yellow.  Yes, we are such a peaceful world even with our many colors.

Please, please stop.  You are hurting me.

I don’t know why I am having so much trouble making this little sweater for the baby Noah who was born at the end of last year. It is as if the yard is fighting me.  I need to be kind to the yarn maybe it was not ready for this birthing process.  Perhaps if I just soothe it by giving it a gentle touch and not so much of a tug.  It could be that this yarn has feelings like a tomato when it sinks screaming into boiling water.

Wait just a moment.  Suddenly the pulling and tugging has stopped. Now l feel fingers laying on my strands and petting me in the direction of my strands.  Oh, this is so comforting. I could almost fall  a s l e e p.

Now that is so much better.  The yard has begun to relax and not resist.  Maybe I was just being too rough.  I will be gentle with the yarn.  Perhaps if I think of this red yarn as baby red yard it can grow without so much pain. There, there, baby red.  Your great-aunt is just making you ready to surround a new human baby. 

Oh, I must have dozed off. I can feel I am being twisted and pulled but so gently.  It is like the gentle stretch I did before starting the special yoga class for strands.  Breathe in and breathe out.  Feel the pain.  The pain is not bad.  It is transforming me into a new shape. I am not curled up around myself.  I am a super long twisted, coiled. . .  I don’t know what I am.   Now l feel fingers laying on my strands and petting me again.  Oh, this is so comforting.

Oh, I feel like I am transferring my quiet happiness to baby red. It is so soothing to be relaxing on this park bench.  Oh I better not fall asleep.  If I fall asleep, they may send for the paramedics and think it is my time to pass.  I am not ready for that.  So I will take up baby red, put him in my lined yard basket along with all the other yarns.  OK, baby red, I am lifting you back so you can join the other yarns while I walk back to  . . . .

“Hey, lady.  Are you all right?  Who are you talking to?  Do you live around here?  Is there someone we could call?  I thought you were talking to someone but there is no one else here.”

“Oh, Officer.  I am just fine.  I was here knitting.  I just got up to leave.   No need for concern.”

No one else here?  How could you say that?  I am baby red and I am right here in the basket with all the other strands.  You be nice to this lady.  She was kind to me.

“Well, I was concerned but I can see that you are with it. Do you want me to walk you home? “

“Thank you, Officer.  I can walk by myself.”  That was a close one, little red.  We almost got caught.

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Day 8: Entrances and Exits

ShilpgramArtUdaipurENTRANCES AND EXITS

I fly through today to tomorrow.

Do entrances /exits

Take on special meaning?

Way in / way out

L’entrée / la sortie

Departure / Arrival

Depart / Arrivée

The first time

You enter a building,

A room,

A relationship Or a country You pause.

That moment of entrance

burns your senses.

Eyes find focus.

Ears hear symphonies.

Touch smooths out difference.

That moment of exit

Enables A Dream To Linger And Inspire.

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Day 7: Give and Take, Take 1

 

“Here, take this.”
“No, you take that.”
“Are you going to give up?”
“Are you going to take up?”
“Take up what?
“Take up the cause?”
“What Cause?”
“What matters?”
“What matters to you or what matters to me?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well, it is not clear. Is this for you or is this for me?”
“I give up. I am gone.”
“Is that gone girl?”
“I am not a girl. I am a woman.”
“Whose woman are you?”
“I am my own woman. Whose man are you?”
“Why, honey. I am your man.”
“Do opposites attract?”
“Look at us.”

“I want the last word.”

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Day 6: A Man Who Lept onto the World Stage

Delhi Gallery with Ravindra and exhibiting artists

Delhi Gallery with Ravindra and exhibiting artists

In the lobby of the Prime Deluxe Balaji Hotel in New Delhi,  the wind swept in and delivered one wiry, handsome, remarkable man known as Ravindra   A broad smile spread over his face like the sun breaking out of a rain cloud.  As we had talked by phone the night before,  I was expecting a positive personality but what I saw was a man who lept onto the world stage, ready for any situation that life offered.

I had been traveling nearly three weeks in India and the stay with Servas Hosts Ravindra and Shyamali  in Noida had been arranged over a month ago. Servas, http://usservas.org is an organization that promotes world peace by enabling individuals of different cultures to meet and converse.)

We moved swiftly out of the hotel into the small street where dozens of auto rickshaws were standing.  Ravindra asked how much.  I believe the driver replied 150 rupees. Ravindra hand flew up in a gesture of negativity,  “No.”  We stated to walk down the street.  The Auto Rickshaw driver cut us off blocking our way.  He accepted Ravindra offer of a third of the original amount.  Wow.  I thought to myself.  I had been seriously overpaying. (150 Rupees = US$2.40, 50 Rupees = US$0.80)

We headed off to the metro station that did not require making a connection to get to Noida.  The metro car was packed with people.  Ravindra’s eyes flashed and he started making gestures to the men sitting in front of where we were standing.  One of them jumped up to offer me a seat.

Off at one of the Noida stations where Ravindra retrieved his car.  Shortly after we were at his house where I met his gracious wife, Shyamali.  Both Ravindra and Shyamali made me feel so comfortable like I had known them all my life.

That evening, we went into New Delhi to an art gallery reception where Ravindra knew most of the exhibiting artists.  I then realized that he was a well known artist in Delhi and beyond. He introduced as an Contemporary Artist from San Francisco. I had fascinating conversations with a number of artists and greatly admired the marvelous art.  I thought I had died and gone directly to Art Heaven.

The following day as Ravindra drove me to the metro station so I could visit the Akshardham Temple, his car stopped in the middle of a busy intersection.  We both got our as vehicles swirled around us .

The last evening I was in Noida, Shyamali and I went to Ravindra’s studio in Greater Noida where over 90 artists have live/work studios.  It was huge.  Three floors and all with very high ceilings.  He holds curated exhibits there frequently.  One had just closed.  I was able to see Ravindra’s sculpture  and paintings both of which I really liked.  The first two floors can be either work space or exhibit space.  The third floor has two bedrooms.  Each floor has a bathroom and the top two floors have kitchens.  I was nearly in shock as my studio is quite small in comparison.

I was also quite content that Shyamali went to the studio as she often is at home caring for her frail and elderly mother.  She was glowing happy as we chatted of art and matters of the world

“You know, Janet, I help a mentally challenged boy by teaching him how to make clay models.  Here, have a look at these.” Ravindra pointed to a long shelf filled with excellent models.  “First I do one as an example and then he does one.”

I added compassionate to my growing list of Ravindra’s  qualities. Up to that point I had  his attributes:  artistic, energetic, helpful, assertive and very open.  We had some similar experiences in that he had lived and created art in Italy and I had lived and created art in France.

A short time later,  a number of artists arrived.  We had snacks and drinks and conversed in-depth of art.  I then visited several of the other artists’ studio and saw their work.  It was all so wildly contemporary.  I saw block prints, mixed media, screen prints, oil paintings and watercolors.  I think I may have gotten bruises from pinching myself asking if this were not a dream.

On the day I was to leave India, Ravindra took me to New Delhi to see some of the major art venues of the city.  While in one of those venues on the third level, we noticed an office chair partially blocking one of the artworks.

Ravindra asked the Security Guard, “Why is that chair placed  in front of the art?”  The guard just shrugged.

Next Ravindra moved the chair to the doorway of that exhibit space and then out into the hallway. I believe that someone from that venue approached Ravindra to speak with him privately.  I did not hear what was said but the chair stayed in the hallway.

I totally was in agreement as the chair was in fact a distraction to seeing the art.  Clearly placed there by someone who did not have a clue about art. Add speak up for Art to the attribute list.

Drinking Chai sitting on a wall  by a sidewalk near some of major art venues.  It was a pop up chai drinking venue–that is everything was brought in cups, thermos.  It was most delightful.  As we were chatting and drinking someone recognized Ravindra. They had a brief conversation and I was introduced. Afterwards, Ravindra told me it was someone he had not seen in 30 years.

It seemed wherever Ravindra was there was action.  He truly is an amazing person, eccentric as are most of my friends.

Ravindra Reading

Ravindra Reading

Shyamali in Studio

Shyamali in Studio

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Day 5: Fragments Flying in the Wind

Oh, it has fallen right in that pile of wet leaves. It’s fragments of some old paper. Maybe tissue paper. Whose is it?

Wait, it is a letter from Christmas past. No, that is not possible. Pasts don’t write letters. But letters write pasts.

Some of the words are obliterated. . . .  It looks like. . . .

Dear Santa

My mommy is so sad. Can you bring her a cuddly, soft toy? So she does not have to sleep all by herself in that big bed. Maybe a fish would be good.

Daddy liked to fish but now Daddy is gone. I don’t know where Daddy has gone but Mommy says he is never coming back. She says he is in a better place like over the rainbow.

Thank you Santa. I have been an extra good girl ever since Daddy flew over the rainbow.  Is that where you live Santa?

I hope you found the brownies I left.

From Millie with the long brown pigtails.

I wonder what time zone this was from?  Who is or was Millie.  I guess I will have to imagine her life.

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Day 4: Lost and Found, Part 1

Floating Face

Floating Face

Sometimes you feel you have lost something really important in your life but in the end it provided the motivation to change. I remember a time in my life when I had moved to Honolulu to be with a new partner.  “The man” and I had met the previous year and he had made several trips to Colorado to entice me to move to Hawaii.

My daughters were freshman and junior in High School. My older daughter had just returned from being an exchange student in Denmark. I discussed at length with my daughters the possibility of moving to Hawaii.  We talked about the pros and cons.  I told them to let me know what their decision was.  I emphasized that if they did not want to make that move, we would not.  The next morning they told me, they were good to go.

We left Colorado on a snow swirling December morning.  When we arrived in Honolulu, it was 80 degrees fahrenheit.

I was able to buy a car soon so my next project was to get a job.  Easier said than done. I was told, most companies do not hire anyone who has lived in the Islands less than one year.  I needed to support myself and my daughters.  What to do?

Then I was contacted by a major airline to be considered for the position of Sales Representative. Subsequently I had several phone interviews about that position.  I assumed they thought that I would be a good fit for the job as I had previously worked for an airline and also for travel agencies.

I was thrilled to be invited to Chicago for the interview.  In Chicago, I met a number of the other applicants who had previous experience as Sales Reps for drug companies or insurance companies.   I thought that because of my “inside experience” I would be the better candidate.

But no, I was not chosen.  I did not get that word until a week after my return to Honolulu. I was disappointed. I was quite intrigued by the job description requiring Sales Representatives to be willing to move every 2 to 3 years.  I thought I was qualified for that as I had already lived in San Francisco Bay area, Colorado Springs and in the environs of Paris, France.

I was disappointed but I kept saying to myself that something else even better would happen in my life.  I looked at myself in the mirror and made an evaluation.  Not bad looking, not movie actress material, but I had a fresh look and a positive disposition.  I shook my finger at myself in the mirror and said:

“Watch out world, you may have given me this strike but I will break out one of these days and do something extraordinary.”

What I did decide was that my current relationship was going nowhere, so why stay? Why stay in a place that was so limited in cultural things like great museums, concert venues, an active group of artists.  If these things existed there, I had not found them.

As my current partner liked to lie on the couch and watch game shows, that was no life for me.  I walked the beaches for hours each day. I had the most fantastic tan you can imagine.  Also my teenage daughters were not overly happy there either.  They were attending a public high school where for the first time in their lives they were in the minority.  The three of us were a family unit. I really wanted our life to be more meaningful.

So after the “We had so many fine applicants for this position, but unfortunately you were not one of them.”  (Or words to that effect) That letter, that rejection letter motivated me to make a change for the better.  I decided to move back to the San Francisco Bay Area which I had always considered home.

The four month stint in Honolulu was a learning experience for all three of us.  When we arrived back in the Bay area, I gave myself two weeks to find a car, a job and a place to live.  I wanted to find a good high school with excellent standards for my daughters who were quite bright.  They both had been in “gifted programs” previously.

We landed at SFO (San Francisco International Airport) and we were off and running. I got the car right away.  I had job offers from a travel agency in San Mateo and a travel agency in Marin County.  There were good schools in both areas.  In the end I chose the job in Marin County where I had lived before.  I found an affordable apartment in Kentfield. Redwood High School in Larkspur had a very good reputation.

Finally, we were settled.  Or were we?

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Day 3 Mood Indigo

“You ain’t been blue” is how it starts.  I recall as a teenager playing that record (a disk with grooves that when encountered with a special needle produced sound) over and over again.  I would dance and dance around the room singing with the music, getting dizzy and singing louder each time it played.  But with every new start I would need to place the needle back to the beginning.  The more times I did that, the happier I would become.  It was so wonderful that I felt my feet lifting about a foot off the floor as if I were flying.

Once I confided that to my mother.  She told me. “You must have been dreaming.”

I never thought that. Perhaps it was some type of trance.  After about 20 rounds of  Mood Indigo, I felt so well, so free and so completely clear in clear in my mind.   next, I would open the dormer window to look out over the Kenwood area of Hyde Park.  It was quite a good view of all the old Victorian homes.  Some had carriage houses.  Ours had a two car garage.  It seems many years ago the carriage house had burned down.  It was so wonderful to have my own private room.

For many years, the third floor of the house on Kimbark Avenue had been rented.  About a year ago, the renter moved out.  As I was the oldest, my parents offered the third floor bedroom to me.  It even had a bathroom next to it.***

I really loved having my private space.  I loved to listen to lots of records.  Mood Indigo,was my definite favorite.  I also had time to read poetry from my father’s leather bound complete works of Shakespeare.   So many poems I totally loved like “Let me not to the marriage of free minds admit impediment” .  At that time I was a timid, quiet girl who preferred to be alone with my imagination when I was at home after school and on the weekends.  I loved to have Mood Indigo take over my mind and my body.

*** Thinking of that gesture many years afterwards, I don’t really understand why. Maybe the rest of the family did not feel the way I did about Mood Indigo.

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Day 2: The Beulah House Revisited

Beulah House in 1945

Beulah House in 1945

 

My grandmother and her two sisters lived in the small town of Beulah, Colorado. Nora Annie England Challinor Thomson was an intellectual, talented woman who was always positive.  She had a deep sense of caring for all people.  My grandmother was dignified, had a keen interest in history, played the piano and loved to read. Born in Liverpool, England, she came to live in the United States when she was just nine.

I loved the entire house that my grandparents had purchased in 1915 as a summer home, but my  favorite space was the my grandmother’s bedroom.  The house was expanded, updated and a bathroom put in the early 1950s.  It was at that time the house became an all year home, not just a summer house.

My grandmother’s  bedroom was the most intriguing place with its sleigh bed,  tall dresser,  a lower dresser with large oval mirror and the armoire all in a dark stained wood.  Then just in front of one of the four windows that overlooked the canyon was my grandmother’s desk.  It reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture with straight simple lines. I often wondered if my grandmother had sat at this desk to write letters to her love, Harry Albert Thomson whom she married in the early 1900s.  The wall paper in the bedroom was very colorful and somewhat wild and flowery.  It did not seem at all like my dignified grandmother but then it was somewhat quilted and my grandmother had a wild side. She and I would walk out into the night when a full moon was about and howl at the moon.  Her bedroom, as did the other two had built in book shelves.  Books were always present in the house. I loved looking at books in this bedroom, reading them and feeling their thin pages.  In later years when I lived in the house, this room became my bedroom where I would relish the present, dream of the future and embrace the past.

As I look at this big bedroom, I recall the earlier one before the present house was remodeled. Coming up the tiny creaking stairs through my two great aunts’ bedroom,  you had to walk right in the center of the room because the slopping roof. My grandmother’s bedroom had a double bed that was almost as long as the room itself, a small aisle with a single bed off to the side.  At the end of the beds where you would put your head was a window.  As a small child, I would gaze out into the cool Colorado summer nights and feel the chill and see millions of stars. I always felt very safe in this house and particularly in this bedroom.  I would go to bed before my grandmother would come up.  She did not know that I lay awake waiting for her to come so I could listen to the wisps of sound as she turned pages in her book.  Just before she turned out the light,  she would stand over me, touch my cheek and give me a gentle kiss.  I heard the whispers of the sheets  as she got into her bed. When I heard the trill of the light cord, I would be asleep. At dawn I could feel the light creep into the window and start to stretch across the beds. In this room, in this house, I could feel the love of generations.

Beulah House in 1980s after update

Beulah House in 1980s after update

 

Another dining Room I wrote about is here:

Kimbark Dining Room

 

 

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Free Write. Right?

Clear as Glacier Waters

Clear as Glacier Waters

Free write.  Free, right?  Is that really free?  I don’t have to pay for it.  Wow.  Is that the rite of free.  Free what?  Freedom, now that is a good concept.  We all don’t have it but aspire to it. Write, right, rite.  Is it a rite to write?  If it is whatever comes to mind or do I stop the thought.  I often stop the thought.  Why stop? Interruptions inhibit freedom to write, right?  If I were free, what would I do, where would I go and why would I go there?  I would go to a quiet space anywhere in the world and contemplate the question. In order to be free you need to have a plan, a list or some organization.

Before I had my first car, I would dream of driving off anywhere to see what I could find.  Once I got it, I did just that.  It seems that is what I do with writing also.

So many demons and angels looking over my shoulder asking why are you writing that?  Is it useful?  No, it is not useful but it sure is fun.  See how you can play with words.  All play can be fun but Word Play. . . .  Is that a play on words  or is overhanded or underhanded or a handful of playwrights?  Play with words.  How do they sound?  Do they splutter, squawk, sing, carol, shout, whisper?  Do they come spilling out all at once?  Do you try to catch them?  Or do they come out one word at a time or one letter at a time?  I never liked the slow letter times.  I would much rather try to catch as many words as I could and make them into something.  Mind craft, word craft, witch craft?

Making words from other words can be useful but making words from random letters I like better. In fact I really like random. I once wrote a poem called wind blown thoughts but maybe they were only wind blown words not quite gathered up enough to be thoughts.  I may have to reconsider  my past or my past mistakes.

I find mistakes very useful as you always or usually learn from them.  So my motto is make mistakes but make each one random and different.  Make a mistake that is essentially you.

Mine would definitely be overloading not words, but things to do. To do with words now I like that thought even if it is not a mistake.

Then there is the present where we all are.  The past that we are either escaping or wishing ourselves backwards. But it is only future that we can attempt to plan for or plan a word for.  Do I have control of my future?  Not exactly but whatever happens I can attempt to control how I react to it.  Now what word would that be? React, ignore, relish, run from and embrace with open arms and open mind.

About the open mind is that a real concept?  Sometimes I try to have an open mind but some things are not of my interest like sports.  But I like sports in that it interests so many people and I am so glad those people have somethings to be interested in.  Now did I really say “those people”?  Isn’t that the hallmark of bigotry?    Oh no.  I don’t want to be a bigot.

I would much rather be clear.  Let me clear my mind, clear my thoughts, clear the air and breathe.  In and out.  In and out.

OK.  I am back and clearheaded.  It is so clear it is like glass or an icicle but not a mirror. It is clear like stream water, clear like a bright sky, clear like my  . . . .Well, let’s just say it is Clear.

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