Tag Archives: memories

R. S. V. P.


R.S.V. P.

For No One in Particular

I am requesting
The favour of a reply.
From you.
And of course, you may
Accept with pleasure
Decline with regret.
The choice is yours because
I can’t really tell you what to do.
I never could, after all.
If I did, you wouldn’t like it,
And that would be the end
Of a beautiful friendship.
I’m trying to round up the usual suspects,
But if you can’t or won’t come
We’ll always have Paris
And a few other cities I can think of,
In alphabetical order they are:
Amsterdam, Atlanta, Berlin, Bogotá, Buenos Aires,
Charleston (South Carolina), Denver, Hong Kong, Istanbul,
Johannesburg, Lima, London, Los Angeles, Montréal,
Moscow, Mumbai, New York City,Paris, Portland (Oregon),
Reykjavik, Rio de Janeiro, San Diego, San Francisco, São Paulo,
Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai,Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto,
And Washington, D.C.
We’ve been a lot of places
And had a lot of laughs
Yes, didn’t we have a blast?
Didn’t we have fun?
And while I’m asking questions,
Are we still a pair?
By your refusal to respond (if you please)
I see this party’s over and
It’s time to call it a day,
Time to stop quoting from
Popular songs and movies. So,
So long, kid. It was real and
It was fun, but here at the end
It wasn’t real fun.
H here’s lookin’ at you,
Which I would do
Were you here,
But you aren’t.
To use a little more French
The language of love,
C’est bien dommage.
N’est ce pas?
It’s too bad,
Isn’t it?
Isn’t it just?




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September 11

It has been twelve years, but the memories of that day are still fresh in my mind. We had been in school for about week. Mid-way through the second period of the day, our principal Ann Monday came over the PA system to say that an airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. We had been atop one of the Towers just three weeks earlier, and I remember looking down and seeing a Cessna flying along the Hudson below us. I figured it was a light aircraft, and that couldn’t do much damage. My students were working on an assignment, and I looked quickly at my computer for a news feed. What I saw were the shocking images we are all too familiar with from that day.

The students finished their assignment, and were curious to see what was happening. We had a news feed on the classroom television, so I turned that on, telling them that they probably didn’t want to see it. They didn’t  react much, but left in silence. Then, chaos ensued as students gathered, hugging and crying, especially as news leaked out of the attack on the Pentagon where some of their parents worked. I remember especially one of my students who had come from Afghanistan holding another student whose father worked at the Pentagon.

Parents began arriving in droves to pick up their students because the phone lines were tied up. Classes were clearly done for the day, so I helped parents find classrooms. The buses came early, and soon the school was deserted. The teachers went to their cars and left.

I drove home listening to the news on the radio, thinking that the brother of one of our daughter Amy’s college friends worked on the 101st floor of one of the towers. Matthew Horning did not survive. We remember him every year with a donation to Heifer, International, which provides families around the world with livestock to allow them to improve their lives.

Everything was canceled that dark day, and our daughters joined us for dinner. There was no school the next day, and with all flights cancelled, an odd silence in the skies as no giant airliners came above our house on their way to land at Dulles Airport.

And so we remember…sacrifice and courage, and the day that “the world stopped turning.” May we never forget.

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Fixing the Beans

Green Beans

Fixing the Beans

I would like to be a better cook, but I don’t stand a chance. I am part of a family of phenomenal cooks, including my wife, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my daughters. When it comes to special family meal occasions, they do the heavy lifting and I am consigned to making the iced tea and rice (Uncle Ben and I are tight like that). I can make a few things, but at this point I don’t think I will ever achieve Paula Deen or Rachael Ray status.

There are even specialities within the family menu: my mother-in-law makes wonderful deviled eggs; my sister-in-law does incredible rolls and baked products; my younger daughter has a deft touch with a taco dip; my older daughter has green bean casserole (GBC) all tied up; and my wife fixes green beans that could serve as a meal by themselves. Recently she ran into a time crunch before a family meal and asked me to snap the beans. I was excited to be asked to be part of a signature dish. I cut the ends off the pile of beans and then broke them into pieces. I am here to report that beans, or at least the ones we used, do not have the strings they used to. The agronomists have done some good work over the years. Back in the day you ended up with a piled of bean strings as big as the pile of beans. And they were tough enough to weave a rope that Indiana Jones could use.

While I was snapping the beans I found I soon fell into a rhythm that was comfortable and familiar. Then I remembered all the times my mother asked me to help her string beans. It was not my favorite chore–in fact, I didn’t have any favorite chores since I was a lazy slug and preferred reading and watching television. So I would reluctantly string the beans, missing enough that my mom had to go back through then. When I broke them up, I broke them into large pieces that would take less time. Again, she had to redo them. It’s a wonder she asked me to help. Maybe she was thinking I would catch on. I’m pleased to report that I did, decades later, and can break beans with the best of them.

Sometimes we learn from our parents in ways we’re not even aware of later on. My love of poetry and music came from my mother. She would walk around the house reciting poems she had memorized, Tennyson and Browning mostly, and I ended up majoring in English (with more poetry classes than anything) and teaching English for over 30 years. She also sang as she worked in the house or the garden, and music has been an important part of my life from the days of teaching myself to play guitar to currently being in four musical groups. She was also an inveterate reader, as I am.

Of course, not all of her interests took. She was a master gardener, and I can’t make anything grow. Gardening always seemed like hard work to me. I know, there are rewards but I can’t seem to get to them. A number of years ago I told her I was considering putting in a vegetable garden. She looked at me and said, “Just go to the farmers’ market instead.” She knew.

I never thanked my mother as such for these interests that she gave me, but I believe she understood without my saying how much they meant to me. She wasn’t much on expression through words or overt recognition. She didn’t care at all for Mother’s Day, thinking it was a false and extravagant occasion. She said, “Everyone is nice to their mothers on Mother’s Day and mean to them the rest of the year.” I told her I would be mean to her on Mother’s Day and nice to her the rest of the year. I always saw her then or if I couldn’t, I’d call her and tell her I was doing so because that’s what you were supposed to do on Mother’s Day.

So, with these thoughts in mind, I hope you will express your thanks to your mother for all she has done for you if you are able. If you do not have a good relationship with your mother, I hope there was someone who acted as a mother for you. If you are unable to tell your mother in person, I hope your memories of her are good and strong. And to all you moms and all you women who have acted as moms, thank you.


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