As I stared into my refrigerator on this, my grandmother’s 112th birthday, I was reminded of her frugality and creativity with food.
Gram would, as many of her generation did, save every unused ingredient and unchewed morsel in the freezer for insane lengths of time. It made sense; she came of age in the starving-est time in American history (…so far) and that stinginess, that resourcefulness came in handy back in the Depression and the War and served her well up right until the end.
Thus were reheated lasagna rolls never more than a few minutes in the oven away.
Thus was frittad never more than a few eggs, some onions, and a jaunt to the garage freezer for God-only-knows-what-else away.
Thus were vegetables snuck into chocolate chip cookies, which, now that I think about it, was not merely for the sake of sneaking nutrients into children’s diets, but for the sake of stretching various foodstuffs as far as humanly possible. The sense of betrayal was never enough to keep us from eating the cookies, and yielded, as the years passed, and as I had to reduce dessert consumption anyways, to appreciation for her wisdom.
We would joke about how long ago any particular dish or ingredient was first frozen, partly because it was probably better not to know the truth, partly because it was one of the Old Girl’s trademarks. But so long as Gram made it in her kitchen and served it at her table, it was good either way.
I’ve been much worse than usual this year about updating the blog. At the speed events move these days, it feels like either I don’t have the time or I don’t make the time to comment before a day’s headline becomes yesterday’s papers. Or at least that’s the excuse I’ll make for now. But I’ll make time for the digital remembrance of my grandparents’ birthdays.
My grandfather would have turned 122 this year, which would blow my mind more if I didn’t then remember that everyone else I know, myself included, is getting older, too. No photo this year. There are so precious few photos of our ancestors compared to the avalanche of snapshots and selfies that we have today, but I was nonetheless taking too long to settle on one and decided to get to typing. I have a year to settle on one for next year.
This year marks the hundredth anniversary of his graduation from high school at age 22. I should’ve saved his graduation photo for this year. Oh well. Back then it was more acceptable to finish high school in a less-than-timely fashion, if at all, especially if your formal education was delayed by having to work to help take care of the family, or– as in some other cases back then– by a world war, or a global pandemic, and so on. But he did graduate from high school, and then from the former Armour Institute of Technology, and then MIT.
So he did OK. Because back then, what else were you going to do, aside from the best you could?
The block editor on this rinky-dink WordPress thingy is a nightmare. It has frozen and kicked me out three times in the last 15 minutes, maybe because it’s been so long that it doesn’t recognize me anymore.
Dr. Hmnahmna reminded me that I hadn’t posted yet. So here, presented with no comment other than my hope that your Christmas was and remains Merry, is this year’s digital Christmas card.
Not literally everyone; I expect there’s going to be enough of that going on economy-wide in the next year or so. I just mean everyone on the coaching staff and in the front office of, as I think Sandburg once wrote, “a certain team, from a certain Mid-western town, that starts with a ‘C,’ ends with an ‘O,’ and in the middle is ‘HICAG.’”
This is the first time in ages I’ve felt like writing about the Bears, and the first time in even more ages I’ve actually written about the Bears.
Last week’s nightmare against the Browns almost left me as hopeless as when Trestman was coaching. Almost. Idiot coach? Check. Horrible performance? Check. Losing the locker room? Perhaps. There was a shot of Nick Foles on the sideline clearly saying that Nagy’s offense wasn’t working, and there were other hints–body language, effort, postgame tweets– of the team starting to give up.
But this week, Nagy had the good sense to let Bill Lazor call the plays. Either that, or someone in the front office had the good sense to force Nagy to do it. We now have statistical proof that Lazor runs the offense ~8 times better than Nagy (47 yards on offense last week), and the passing game 185 times better than Nagy (…one net passing yard last week). Fields had great run support, had enough time to throw some midrange and long dimes, didn’t screw up on short passes a la Trubisky, and didn’t spend half the game getting slammed into the ground. This week, a crumb of hope appeared at the bottom of Pandora’s box. Granted, it was against the Lions, but there’s hope nonetheless.
And yet, Nagy must go. The Bears cannot afford to take the chance that he’ll start calling plays again. It’s happened before; last year he gave the play-calling duties to Lazor, but took them back during the offseason. That cannot be allowed to happen again. Let Lazor, or Desai, or even Pettine take over.
Maybe you let him keep his job if they win the Super Bowl this year. I was going to say “if they win a playoff game,” but given the expanded playoffs, that’s not enough progress and too great a risk of keeping him for my taste.
Today was the first day of classes, and the first day with all the kids back in the building. It seems strange to have to point out that those are separate things. Last year, almost all of my classes were a mix of brick-and-mortar students and on-line students. I couldn’t find a headset that sounded clear enough to the students or in the recordings, so I was anchored to my desk in front of my laptop. This arrangement was functional: the on-liners could hear me lecture, and I could interact with the live chat if necessary. But the constant view and angle were mind-numbing.
But this year, there are no on-liners. It was strange to not have to rush to set up new on-line meetings between classes, or to record every class, or to wonder whether someone was actually present. It was strange to see so many actual reactions on actual faces. Even the ones that were still masked. Even if the reactions were eye rolls, or exasperation, or simple expressions of boredom.
And sometime during my second class of the day, it clicked that I could pace up and down the central aisle, like in the Before Times. And I did for a bit. I could even teach from the other end of my classroom. And I did for a bit. It was liberating.
I even thought about putting the beat-up old lectern back in the spot it inhabited for nearly a decade prior to the lockdown, in the northeastern corner of the room, and leaning over it to yell at the kids for emphasis, and rapping the front with the Waking Stick to demand and win everyone’s rapt attention. Like in the Before Times. I didn’t stop class to set it up today, but it will be set up by the first bell tomorrow.
It’s going to be a good year.
The poor kids were stuck in their seats for an hour-and-a-half, but that’s beside the point.
Happy 245th birthday to the United States, and happy 149th birthday to Calvin Coolidge! I just realized I typed in the wrong number for Cal’s last two birthdays… but he wouldn’t have said anything about it anyways.
This year’s post is brief: my photo of Henry Hudson Kitson’s Minuteman statue, which stands on the Lexington Battle Green, where the war began in 1775.
The statue has come to symbolize one Captain John Parker. It’s not actually him, partly because there are no known paintings of him and partly because he was a member of the non-minuteman majority of the Massachusetts militia. But the locals say it may as well be Parker, reputed to have ordered: “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” It began there.
Roughly once out of every seven years, my grandmother’s birthday falls on Mothers’ Day. This year sees such an instance, so after the 2pm Mothers’ Day dinner, we sang “Happy Birthday” and had cake. It was good. Here’s Gram celebrating a birthday, presumably her birthday, at my late aunt’s house in the late ’90s or early double-aughts:
Can’t quite nail down the date because a] I don’t remember the year she finally let her hair go white, which looked sharp on her; and b] if it was her birthday, counting the candles wouldn’t help because after a certain point, you just use a whole buncha candles.
Anyhow, happy 111th birthday and happy 86th Mothers’ Day to “the Old Girl”!
Every year I post a digital birthday card for my grandfather– even if I apparently post nothing else the entire year–so here comes this year’s edition. This is Grampa as a young man of presently-unknown age.
Looks like it would be a high school graduation photo, but he graduated from high school at 22 and I think he was a bit younger than that here.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to my niece about our ancestors, and trying to put in perspective how long ago Grampa was born, how long he lived, and how much had changed in the meantime. That was a fun conversation. Was he alive for this president, or that war, or this assassination? Were there “wall phones”? Had this been discovered? Was that person alive? How many states were there? And so on.
This got me thinking about the simplest way to explain the most drastic change in his lifetime. The best I could come up with was that when he was born, there were no planes, and taking photographs using “dust” (flash powder) was expensive enough that we have very few pictures of him before age 10. By the time he died, we had close-up photos of Neptune.
Grampa would’ve turned 121 today if he hadn’t died stopping the salt vampires from stealing our oceans.
Sir Sean Connery, who won an Oscar for playing Irish beat cop Jim Malone in The Untouchables and portrayed Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez in Highlander, Captain Marko Ramius in The Hunt for Red October, and Michael MacBride in Darby O’Gill and the Little People, died today at the age of 90.
Connery’s career spanned seven decades, including turns as Dr. Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Zed in Zardoz, Robin Hood in Robin and Marian, and SAS officer John Patrick Mason in The Rock. He was a strong supporter of the Scottish film industry, breathing life into Scotland’s first computer-animated film, Sir Billi, in 2012. Connery was also Peter Jackson’s first choice to play Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, and was approached to play Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
A former bodybuilder and Royal Navy gunner, Connery was voted People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive in 1989 and Sexiest Man of the Century in 1999. He was knighted in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II, largely for his early roles as a British mid-level civil servant.
Connery also championed Scottish independence and supported Rangers FC of the Scottish Premiership. R.I.P.
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