This news has been in process for some time, but I’m thrilled to share an essay I wrote about the loss of retail business, featuring my hometown Kalamazoo, Michigan. I am so thankful to editor Wesley R. Bishop and the journal North Meridian Review for publishing this essay. NMR is a super cool journal hosted by academics from several Indiana Universities and specializing in interdisciplinary scholarship, culture, and art. In other words, NMR is a hybrid entity, straddling the creative and academic worlds.
“A Long Time from Burdick Street” is named thus because Burdick Street was an important artery for retail in days past–and still is the heart of the downtown. In fact, Kalamazoo was known for building the nation’s first outdoor pedestrian mall. Time changed, and eventually the downtown section of Burdick had to be reopened to traffic, but I grew up with the mall. Further south on Burdick Street my grandfather grew up–his family home and parents’ businesses were on Burdick–and he stayed there and raised his own family, running a Sunoco gas station at the corner of Burdick and Balch.
Disclosure: I used a fake name for the gardener because he’s such a private person. I keep changing his identity in my writing. Maybe he won’t be able to find himself that way. 😉
Here is a link to the issue–you can find my essay starting on page 104:
My MIL painted the mall when the gardener and I were first going out. It had been commissioned by Irving Gilmore, of the department store family. She used to sit in her burnt orange Opel hatchback, painting. When she picked me up from work her car smelled like oil paints.
I’ve written in the past on this blog about the loss of retail: RIP Dreamland. At that time, I was focused on the loss of Marshall Field (“Field’s”) and shared a photo of the location of my family’s 19th century retail business in the Netherlands.
What do I see and hear and smell on a walk near my house?
From the moment I step outside I smell flower fragrance. So I take a big sniff and keep walking. I hear songbirds singing.
Next I see the seedpods. Everywhere. Here are just a few.
Then I see the pretty Mexican bird of paradise plant. See how fiery and unique the blossoms are!
I come upon flowering saguaros.
The sounds I hear are silence, then a rush of cars, then this: babies in their nest–inside a saguaro.
Apparently some baby birds are very noisy when being fed.
On the writing front, I wrote a little essay this weekend. We’ll see what happens with it. Best part: #amwriting
Make it a good week if you can figure out a way!
Leaving you with a wild baby in my yard. This is a baby kingsnake. They are not only harmless to humans, but they kill rattlesnakes. We have been nurturing a family of kingsnakes ever since we moved here. Isn’t he cute?!
I finished another story scrap for my SCRAPS scrapbook–finally.
As a reminder this is the first post. Click the photo to read it.
When I was a preteen, my grandmother sewed me shorts sets from cotton blend prints. She made the tops and shorts out of the same material, but the tailoring was fairly sophisticated, so the end product had more in common with a summer dress than a romper. I don’t know where she got the idea from or if it was in style in the sixties. At least one fabric was made into matching mother-daughter shorts sets for Mom and me.
But my favorite set was in a fabric that I found very cheering. Balloons in varying shades of spring greens, both solids and prints, float on a white field. The shorts were mid-thigh, and the top had a fairly high neckline. Because Grandma made it for me, the outfit fit perfectly. It was comfortable, and I felt good wearing it.
Not that I didn’t love to wear my denim shorts and short-sleeved sweatshirt. But Grandma’s short sets were lighter weight than my other play clothes and much more convenient than dresses.
In this photo I am posing alone–to see the one with my mother look at the finished pages at the bottom of the post.
In our old photos, I found myself wearing the balloon set on two different dates. The summer photo came first. It was on the occasion of our trip to Canada to attend Expo 67. In fact, in a scrapbook, Mom labeled the picture, “Mother and daughter enjoying a rest.” A body of water is behind us. Below that photo, my mother had pasted another photo and labeled it, “Sawmill at Upper Canada Village.” There is another image of just me in the same spot but without my mother (the one above). From examining the few photographs I could find online, I do think these photos of me are also from Upper Canada Village.
In the photos, I am wearing the shorts set, with its matching triangle headscarf tied at the nape of my neck. I also wear a blue ¾ length sleeve cardigan that Grandma knitted for me. On my feet are navy blue Keds-type shoes.
I’ve written before about our Expo 67 visit, but we also went to other tourist sites in Canada during our trip. Upper Canada Village was one of the places we visited. Niagara Falls was another.
My grandmother must have made this outfit for me in the spring of 1967 when I was finishing up elementary school (6th grade). I started junior high in September.
The other photo revives vivid memories. It was taken 31 October 1967, Halloween, probably around 6 PM. I remember my mother posing me in front of the living room fireplace. I have very few memories of actual picture taking, so this is very special to my heart.
I am wearing a heavenly sheer green silk flapper dress that had been owned by my grandfather’s cousin Therese Remine. It was heavily beaded, and over time, the silk had weakened, and the beads were too heavy for the thin fibers. By the time I got home that night, the dress had already begun to rip. You might wonder why my mother would allow me to ruin an expensive vintage dress by wearing it one night for Halloween. I wonder that myself, but my mother’s value system is limited. To sum it up: she didn’t have any interest in the dress, so she didn’t care what I did with it.
Because the dress was sheer, I had to choose clothes to wear underneath, and the only thing that seemed to my 12-year-old mind to “go” was the balloon shorts set because both outfits were green. I made myself a flapper headband to match and carried a handbag that must have belonged to Therese, although I am not positive about that. You see, I used to collect old discarded fancy wear and had quite a collection from a few women.
It had been my mother’s idea to make a headband. I don’t know how much I knew about the 1920s, and I probably needed her suggestion to visualize the whole outfit. I have mulled over the question: where did I first learn about flappers with their bobbed hair and short skirts? Their narrow flat outlines so like my own. I don’t remember what movies or books might have shaped whatever image I had by age twelve.
An essential part of my costume that night was the large diamond-shaped earrings. I’m not sure where those dangly earrings came from. I hope I didn’t lift them from the dime store at the plaza.
While I stood in the middle of our living room, smiling into the camera, my mother pulled her face out from behind the camera and pinned me with her gaze. “This will be your last year trick-or-treating. You’re getting too old.” So that was that. I felt compelled to enjoy myself this one last time.
The living room accessories in the photo were accumulated from various places, generally from other people. The big brass candlesticks were heavy. The painting was not a copy, but an inexpensive original painting. The Don Quixote figures had been displayed at a home décor shop. My father had purchased an old house on Westnedge on a land contract and rented it to an interior decorator who opened the shop. When she went out of business, she gave my father some small furnishings in lieu of back rent. That was how we ended up with the large wood fork and spoon that hung on our kitchen wall for years (yes, like in Marie’s kitchen on Everybody Loves Raymond).
I look so young in these photos, and yet poised on the brink of burgeoning womanhood. I remember how I felt wearing that flapper dress. The twenties was my era, and I felt as if I belonged.
As my photograph was snapped, the bell rang. My friends had arrived so we could begin the house-to-house process. That’s when I realized I had to wear my wool coat over my costume. Or rather, my mother informed me I had to.
We trudged from front door to front door, but the knowledge that this was my “last time” weighed on my mind. My fingers grew chilled from the cold that had arrived early to Michigan. That’s where this memory ends.
In September I posted photos of the fabric scraps I still have from my childhood. The inspiration for ruminating on what to do with them came from a couple of sources. One was Dawn Raffel’s book The Secret Life of Objects. The other was Swedish death cleaning–getting rid of stuff so my kids are not one day burdened with it.
I promised I would do something with the scraps, and I have not forgotten. I am far from the point of actually getting rid of the fabric, but did start a project that was suggested by sarahsouthwest.
I’m making a scrapbook of scraps! For each page I plan to include a fabric remnant, a story or description of the memory it stirs up, and, if possible, a photograph of the garment made of the fabric. So far I’ve only made the cover and one page, but thought you might want to follow along with the process. I’m not very good at crafts, but hey, it’s mine, baby, all mine.
First, I chose an ugly on-sale scrapbook and then padded it and covered it. I selected a print corduroy from the late 1960s for the front cover and a gingham from the early 1960s for the back.
You can see what my first page looks like in the slideshow above. I decided to keep the page very plain and even left the raw edge of fabric visible. In the photograph you can see me wearing the sleeveless tent dress that my grandmother made for me. It has a high yoke decorated with large embroidered white daisy appliques. I loved that dress. It was so comfy and very pretty. The type of fabric was called “whipped cream,” and was lightweight, airy, with a little texture to it. My mom’s cotton or cotton/poly fitted dress, also sewn by Grandma, was very Barbie-style.
This is the story I wrote about what the dress and the photo remind me of:
In this photo, my parents and I are in Canada, seated at a restaurant in the 1967 International and Universal Exposition.
The summer I turned 12 is the one I will always remember as a peaceful and memorable week with my parents. We left my 4-year-old brother with my grandparents in Kalamazoo and drove to Montreal for Expo ’67, the World’s Fair.
We stayed in Montreal at the winter (city) home of my grandfather’s 2nd cousin, Harold Remine, the Chief Engineer of Quebec Hydroelectric. It was a beautiful and elegant brown brick row house. The dining room was complete with all the requisite china, crystal, and silver. But the house was not large, and I had to share a bedroom with my parents.
Harold and Lillian also had a lovely lake home, which we visited. Harold introduced me to curling, a sport I had never heard about before, by taking us to a curling club.
The Expo itself excited and exhausted me. It had some elements in common with a state fair or Disneyland, a place I had not yet visited. There were snow cone and cotton candy booths, hot dog and burger stands. A caricaturist drew my likeness holding a book. I was disappointed afterward that I hadn’t given him a better hobby. Reading seemed so nerdy. But the truth was that I read more than I did anything else.
Each participating country sponsored a magnificent pavilion that was supposed to reflect the national personality. The U.S. pavilion was a huge geodesic dome—this is a sphere that is built of short struts that follow geodesic lines (the shortest line between two points on a sphere) and form an open framework of triangles or polygons. There were very, very long escalators that seemed to hang in “thin air,” and the park’s elevated minirail ran through the structure. The effect of being inside the pavilion was of being suspended in space. I believe I saw a doll collection and space race memorabilia, but since I was afraid of heights, I mainly remember my fear.
My favorite pavilion was the Burmese one. Under its appealing multi-roofed pagoda design, a gigantic golden Buddha dominated the interior lobby. I suspect that the restaurant in the photo is the Burmese one. To this day, it is my favorite type of food. If you haven’t been lucky enough to eat it, it is a cross between Thai and Indian food.
Habitat 67, a futuristic housing development, was situated near the edge of the fairgrounds. It reminded me of photos of Anasazi dwellings for some reason. I was both repelled by the makeshift quality and fascinated by a new way to conceptualize living quarters.
I guess my parents had decided not to bring my brother because he was too young to appreciate the cultural opportunity or even to go on the fair rides. But when we got home to Kalamazoo and stopped at Grandma and Grandpa’s to pick him up, he was flushed with a high fever. He sat on someone’s lap, and somebody else snapped a pic a second before he leaned over and threw up on the floor. That’s when I started to feel guilty that we had left him behind.
Thank you all so much for your kindness about my uncle’s passing. It felt too daunting to respond to all your condolences, but know that I appreciate each one. I closed the comments over there.
Tiger is feeling better. All of a sudden she started eating much better, and I have not had to take her for sub q fluids lately. I hope she stays well now. Everyone seems to be feeling ok currently (knock on wood). A friend brought them all fresh catnip yesterday, so that was well appreciated by the furkids.
Remember how I posted two weeks ago that wah wah wah I might not make my publication goal for 2019, which by the way is the first time I’ve ever set such a goal for myself. I don’t typically set goals for myself. Even if I am nudged, like on Goodreads, to do so, I usually forget about them. But this one I kept in mind throughout the year. When I last reported in, I was one publication short of my goal. Miraculously, I have had three more acceptances, and I believe these poems and an essay should all be published before the end of the year which will put me two over my goal!
Full disclosure: I also had two rejections in the same period of time!
My big news is that I have begun The Artist’s Way (TAW) program, reading through the book of the same name by Julia Cameron and doing the required and encouraged activities. The two main ones are morning pages and artist dates. Morning pages are three full pages of journaling, preferably written by hand first thing each morning. Artist dates must be done solo, and they require doing something that provides a fresh viewpoint or a burst of inspiration. Then each chapter has other assignments.
While the chapters are meant to be fulfilled in one week, I have discovered that many people take from two to four weeks to work on a chapter. I think I prefer this. I began with the one week plan, but three weeks into this project I felt that I was just scratching the surface of what I could accomplish. I joined a local support group that was just starting out, and we will meet each month to discuss our work with one chapter. So I plan to slow down and dig in deeper.
What is The Artist’s Way? The subtitle sums it up neatly: “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” It’s a way of eliminating what gets in our way to maximizing our creativity. Writer’s block? Writers who have done the program swear it can remove the block. This book has been around for twenty-five years, so there are a lot of people working the program.
One of my favorite writing theory books is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Not only did she write the foreword for my edition, but she and Cameron are friends.
I have already made progress, although the morning pages have been very difficult for me. I wake up to a lot of important emails (perhaps, in part, because I am three hours behind the east coast). In addition, my six cats won’t leave me alone until they are fed and the overnight poos scooped. And at least twice a week something “happens” in the early morning that has to be addressed: exploded water heater that has flooded a room, the early morning call I got that my uncle had passed away, a spilled cat water bowl on my alder floor. Then I want my caffeine, too. I have worked out a compromise. I will complete my morning pages before I go to bed that night. That means I will try to finish them in the AM, but if not, I will do them at some point in the PM.
Now that I have that worked out, it’s more a matter of what to write. I never have an actual writer’s block for poetry, nonfiction, or blogging, but for the morning pages I tend to write like this: “Halfway through now. What should I write about? Um, how about writing about the color red? Color should be the sixth sense. It deserves it’s own place, not just part of vision. OK, what now? I don’t want to write about red. It feels boring.”
This is an idea of what I write about. We are not “allowed” to show our morning pages to anyone.
For my artist date this week I went to the craft store and looked through every single aisle, at all the various types of craft materials sold. My favorite part of a craft store is the items that are displayed by color. I love color coordination.
I plan to keep on with the program, so that might actually be my second set of goals that I am making and will keep. Another good reason to stretch out the chapters, though, is that I don’t have to give up on what is most important. Mom is coming to visit for two weeks for Thanksgiving and her birthday. I don’t plan to do much TAW while she’s here, but rather spend as much time as I can with her. She’ll be 85 on December 2. I might not even do my morning pages on many of those days. We’ll see.
Happy Halloween! I love the fall holidays, and for Halloween I love the witches. I tell my kids this is a self-portrait. They think I’m kidding, but I’m really not.
Last week I posted some photos of fabric scraps leftover from my childhood. You guys (as my Michigan roots instruct me to phrase it) helped me with ideas of what to do with the scraps, ranging from giving them to a church to quilters to sewing cat beds to making a scrapbook. You also gave me an idea of how to get rid of the smell of mothballs (thanks, Michelle). I put them into the dryer, and the smell turned flowery!
I now have plans for the scraps, but it is going to take some time before I can get started. In the meantime I have two more bags of scraps to put through the dryer and leave to air out. So don’t expect to hear back on the scraps for a couple of months!
When I began the process of putting the first bag of scraps into the dryer I discovered that there were a few pieces of unfinished clothing in the lot.
I think all these items were begun during 7th grade, before I had really learned to sew, but was beginning to experiment. These goofy pants crack me up. Were they meant to be pants or pajama bottoms? Judging by the darts, I’d say pants! Thinking back to that first year of junior high, we still had to wear skirts to school. What a different world.
Then there was this top–meant to be strapless, like a tube top in a way. But it turned out to be beyond my ability.
Is this stuff just a hoot? Well, here is a skirt I made and didn’t finish.
Not finishing this skirt did not stop me from wearing it at home. I was halfway through 7th grade, and desperate for new clothes. I also wanted to experiment with styles. So I sewed together the two sides of the skirt and put it on! Then I dressed it up with other pieces. Thought I was the coolest thing ever. And here I am.
I was such a weird kid. But note my bow tie (either my little brother’s or my grandfather’s tie from his Sunoco uniform) and the oxford shirt. I made the vest out of a pillowcase. That turquoise bow on my thigh? PJ bottom peeking out
That table and chairs? Pretty sure it came from Polk Brothers in Chicago. Anybody remember that store? Oh my gosh, I just realized that the napkin holder on the table? I made that that year at home on my father’s lathe. I still have it. OK, weird kid, weird adult. I must save everything the least bit sentimental. I made that thing for my mother on my own on that big piece of equipment. Painted it yellow and slapped on some decals. A few years ago, my mom gave it back to me. I guess she was finished with it ;).
Then I must have decided to match a gold and white stripe knit top with the skirt. When one of my parents tried to take a picture of my designer-wannabe endeavor, I fled out of embarrassment (my usual state at this age).
That was the end of my designing career.
How’s about that ladder in my tights?
Or, who was that person?
A couple of pieces of fabric in the bag had prices still attached. Look at this seersucker. I bought it at Thrifty Acres, which eventually became Meijer’s.
Joann’s is still selling seersucker, although I’ll bet the quality is not the same. Those old fabrics were excellent, which is why these scraps are 50 years old and look like new.
Now it’s $9.99/yard. It looks like I paid $1.18/yard. I guess the most astonishing thing is that people are still buying seersucker!
My original seersucker was from a time period where we were looking back to the 1920s Gatsby look. What would it be used for today?
It’s been months since I’ve written about the Secret Life of an Object (credit due to Dawn Raffel’s book). The other day I needed to make room in a closet and felt I should confront 3 vacuum-seal bags of old fabric scraps.
My paternal grandmother was a marvelous seamstress and tailor. I wrote in the posts, The Love Factor of Dolls and RIP Dreamland, that she was Head Fitter of the 28 Shop at Marshall Field’s flagship store in Chicago. When I was eleven, she moved to Kalamazoo, just down the block from us, and spent her early retirement years sewing clothes for us–especially my mother and me. In junior high, I learned to sew in Home Ec class, and I began to sew my own clothes as well.
The motivating factor for me to sew was that my father wouldn’t buy clothes for me, but would buy fabric for me any time I wanted it. So if I wanted a new skirt, top, jumper, dress, or scooter-skirt (mini culottes), I needed to make it myself.
I think of the remnants of all this sewing Grandma and I did as Grandma’s fabric scraps.
I decided to unpack one vacuum bag and air them out. You see, some dummy (that would be me) put mothballs in the bag.
Anybody have an idea how to get out the smell of mothballs without having to wash the scraps?
What I found was that a great many of the scraps in this bag were either leftover from items sewn by me or items evoking memories.
In the above pile, you can see a navy gingham and a red gingham. I remember working with these fabrics; at least one item was a smocked top. Either the top or another item used both ginghams together. I wish I could remember it better. The orange floral in the middle was a granny dress with a red border at the bottom. The kelly green with tiny white flowers in the bottom left Grandma used for clothes for my mother and me.
This bright fabric on top with the sunbursts I made into a scooter skirt. It was actually wide-leg shorts with a panel on the front and one on the back that buttoned on.
The hat lady fabric was my absolute favorite. I bought it on sale and made a little flip skirt and bell sleeve top. I wore it all the time. The fabric was jersey, so very comfy and flattering.
Aren’t these fabrics a blast from the past though? Retro, vintage, and ancient haha.
In this pile are fabrics that I remember as well, although most of them were ones Grandma purchased for someone other than me–herself or my mother or my mother’s windows.
Maybe the biggest discovery in this bag, though, was a remnant of the fabric from the curtains of my bedroom when I was very young.
The walls of my room were painted a pale gray. isn’t this fabric great? Maybe these kittens imprinted themselves on me. They could be why I love cats to this day.
Do you have any old fabric scraps?
Since I no longer sew, what should I do with these scraps to give them new life?
Speaking of cats, the shelter I volunteer at hosted a 10 year anniversary gala. The gardener and I went with our daughter and her boyfriend.
I had to dress up for this shindig! Guess what? Jumpsuits are in style! So I bought a black jumpsuit, wore it with ankle boots (for my crummy feet), and was good to go. But some people looked great, including the rest of my family.
I forgot about writing posts based on Dawn Raffel’s memoir, The Secret Life of Objects. Joey over at Joeyfully Stated reminded me, so I’m happy to be back at it. I’ve written about the magical bowls of my childhood snacking and the name sign from my grandmother’s mailbox, as well as some jewelry that holds meaning for me.
Maybe the object that I still have that carries my earliest memories is the music box I have had since I was a baby. I know it’s weird, but I am a person with very early memories. I apparently inherited this ability from my grandfather. If you wonder what toddler memories are like, they are exactly like memories from all the other times of your life: vivid and realistic.
When my mother put me down for a nap, she would wind up the music box and set it going. I still remember standing in my crib, looking over the white iron bars, willing the music box to start up again. It didn’t, of course, as it had to be wound by someone.
I think I must have been a hard kid to settle to sleep (undiagnosed ADHD or anxiety?), and I always felt I was missing something. But then again my parents wanted me to nap AND have an extremely early bedtime. As a child I used to play shadow games or read under the covers with my flashlight.
When I became a teen, it was the sixties and incense was very popular, so I used my music box as an incense burner.
Have you ever heard that music is one of the best triggers for memory? Well, my music box–after 60+ years–still works. (Take that you plastic parts in today’s merchandise!)
I did a quick search online for a vintage round metal music box, and there are quite a few that look very similar, even to the color. They are called “powder puff” style. It’s very possible that this music box is from the 1940s and predates me. It could have belonged to my mother or grandmother well before I was born.
Question of the day: what song does the music box play?
Anybody want to play along and write about the secret life of an object? If so, please post the link in the comments here!
On another note, my uncle has been visiting for two weeks and the kids (daughter and BF) are still living here, so for an HSP like me it’s been Grand Central Station over here.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what Geiger wrote. The main point is that you need to read journals before sending your work. You want to find a good “fit,” like a good marriage. I was heading down that same thought road when I published the article From Creation to Publication in The Review Review. I wrote it in 2014, so a lot has happened with my writing since then. Maybe that means it contains some good advice ;)!
But I did a bit of what Geiger does in his article, and that is to assume that if we read the journals we will automatically see which ones are good fits for us.
Hmm. Yes, as I mention in my article, I did discover that a journal I really wanted to be published in was selecting highly experimental (in an unpleasant way) pieces. So I crossed them off my list. But, in general, (I would argue that) there are similar types of poems in the majority of journals.
So what does it mean to find a good fit besides knowing if you want a journal with traditional or experimental writing?
You have to be honest about your own writing to begin with, and I’m not sure any of us is fully capable of doing that. We are too emotionally invested, having written the dang thing and perhaps having lived through all the ins and outs that are found in the poem. But we need to know if our work is fledgling or some point (what point?) beyond that.
If you are incredibly prolific and are looking for high numbers of publications, send it everywhere if you like (I do mention this in the article), but personally I don’t see the point in being able to say my work was published in over 500 journals and magazines. Who cares? I think the quality of the work is most important–and then hopefully you do find a “matching journal,” but it doesn’t always happen that way.
What I am saying is that part of finding a good fit is that the journal and the poem are a similar level of “quality.” This is one of those statements that seems judgy, elitest, you name it. But there are elements of the truth in it, too. The fact that the statement seems kind of ICK is why people don’t really come out and say that is part of why you should read lit journals before submitting.
Another reason to read journals is for the LOVE OF POETRY. If you don’t love to read it, why are you writing it? To do that is just a form of narcissism and maybe also self-aggrandizement. (Yes, you see the bitchy tone creeping in more and more–I’m going to blame the emotional burnout I talked about in last week’s post haha. I no sooner got the daughter off to NYC than my car needed repair and that sucked up a whole day. Then a slew of other home repairs ate up another. However, the good news is that I DID take a couple of naps and focused on my yard and cats instead of the hubbub).
None of these three reasons has anything to do with the implication articles like Geiger’s gives us, which is that we will read journals and have epiphanies in the middle of the pages of some of them when we see exactly the type of style, subject, and form of poems that we write. HAHAHA. Being completely honest here. Never had that feeling in my life.
The closest I have come to it is, for example, when I read the museum of americana and thought of the material and theme of the magazine as perfect for my Kin Types poems based on history, in particular American history. That is because the journal looks for art “that revives or repurposes the old, the dying, the forgotten, or the almost entirely unknown aspects of Americana.” There have been a few such times, but they are rare because most journals have a broader focus. Most of them just want “YOUR BEST WORK.” Um, ok.