Save me, Kitty! Save me!

My grandparents’ yard was about an acre of a 40 acre property. There was a fence around the other 39 and a neighbor kept cows there. (He paid my grandparents for the use of the property with half a beef every year.) There was a pasture to the right of the house and a wet weather creek back in the woods. We played all over about 10 acres of that property. We had to be careful in the pasture because there were thistles and cacti all over the place. And if we got too close to the cows, the bull got tetchy.

I am 5 years older than my first sister, 7 years older than the youngest. After one visit from all of us without my parents, my grandparents refused to try to keep up with all 3 of us at one time again. But, we did go singly or in a pair. They were very loving and the only punishment any of us ever got from them (with one exception and I don’t blame them, I was unintentionally very bad) was their disapproval. That was usually sufficient to keep us in line. There were occasional threats of corporal punishment. But, they were never acted on. The idea of being so bad that they would actually spank us was was too horrible to contemplate.

One summer when Amanda was 3 or 4 and I was 8 or 9, we visited them together leaving Ingrid with our parents. Our grandparents had a habit of having a cocktail while they listened to a baseball game on the radio, enjoying the evening in lounge chairs in the back yard. They only ever had one. I think his was bourbon and water. Hers was bourbon and Coke. On this particular evening, I took a walk across across the pasture while Mandy played around my grandparents in their chairs under the mimosa trees.

When I was halfway to the other side of the field full of thistles, cows and cacti, I heard my little sister screaming “Save me, Kitty! Save me!” I turned around to see my grandfather holding her by the arm and she was trying to pull away from him. He was holding a stick half the thickness of my arm like he was going to brain her with it. I started running back toward them, thinking “What do I think I can do to stop him? And please don’t let me step on a cactus!”

And noticing that my grandmother was sitting in her chair, just holding her drink. And laughing. When I got to the fence, I could see that both my grandparents were laughing so hard they had tears in their eyes.

I don’t remember which one of them asked me what I thought I was going to do when I got there. I do remember saying “I had no idea. I just ran because she was hollering.”

When I asked what was going on, Mama told me me Mandy had sassed my grandfather and he had threatened to take a switch to her. So, she sassed him again. Probably saying something along the line of “You will not either.”

He never would have. That was not his way. And part of what was absurd was the tree branch he had picked up. If he’d hit her with that, he would have broken bones. The idea of it was ludicrous.

(The only spanking any of us ever got was 3 swats on a clothed bottom on the side of a very busy road where I had been taking a parade of cousins for a walk. It hadn’t occurred to me that walking beside the highway that ran in front of their house was different than walking on the sidewalk in my quiet neighborhood at home. We scared the life out of all the grown ups that day.)

“Save me, Kitty. Save me.” was one of my grandmother’s favorite stories to tell on us. She was still laughing about it 30 years later when we were grown and he had been dead for more than 20 years.

story grandparents' yard acre 4 - klparmley | ello

This was taken at my parents’ wedding. She was 5 years younger than I am now. He was a year older than her. I was born a year and a half later.

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Remembering my grandparents

I remember my grandmother holding me up to see a cat with new kittens in a dead tree stump that must have been 4.5 feet tall. Because of the shape of the house, I had to have been <4 years old. A renovation took out the porch every one else was sitting on.

I remember sitting in the light of the fire and the Xmas tree lights, eating pound cake and drinking orange juice because she forgot to buy more milk. I think I was 9 or 10.

I remember rides in the cart pulled by my grandfather’s tractor to go pick out, chop down and haul in the Xmas tree. It was a very bumpy ride and it never occurred to us that he already knew which tree he intended for us to choose.

I remember my grandfather letting me hold a baby chick and when I tried to pick one up for myself being chased by the rooster. I was 5.

I remember him taking his pistol outside at dawn because the chickens were making a ruckus. He held up a 6′ rat snake with a rake when we went to the door after we heard the gunshot. I think I was 4 or 5.

I remember going out to the garden in my underpants with a salt shaker in my hand and picking a tomato to eat it like it was an apple. I was 2 or 3.

Who to blame

A conversation on FaceBook (modified for clarity)

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J: Except many people didn’t vote because they were mad about Bernie.

K: Then, they gave their votes to Trump because they didn’t vote against him. They are as responsible for his election as the people who actively chose him.

J: I agree. But this graphic forgets that.

J: I don’t blame Bernie Sanders. But I do blame a lot of his followers who were too stubborn to vote for Clinton

 K: I don’t care WHY they didn’t vote. They didn’t. Now, we have to live with that choice.

J: Well yes, and no. I mean understanding why people don’t vote is a step toward getting them to vote?

J: I’m starting to wonder if we should have compulsory vote like they do in some countries.

 K: Part of the problem is the Electoral College. And no Republican Congress is every going to kill that evil entity because it keeps giving them elections they didn’t win popularly.

K: I think the 2 party systems is a problem, too. And it will take a HUGE grassroots movement for an extended time to change that. Because it will have to come from very local elections, first.

K: And, no. Understanding why they didn’t vote isn’t a step to getting them to vote. That’s like a vegetarian going to a dinner at a barbecue restaurant and letting their friends order for them.

J: I don’t understand your analogy

K: As a non-eater-of-fowl-or-mammal, going out to dinner with some people has been difficult. Especially when then change in diet was fairly new. Even dining at a place called Beef O’Brady’s, I can find a meal. Not what I would have chosen in someplace like Living Kitchen, but adequate for my immediate need.

K: Voting can be like that. You don’t get what you want. So, you do your best to make the least bad choice.

K: And not voting is like telling a waitress at Beef O’Brady’s to pick a meal out for me.

J: Ah, I see what you’re saying.
L: Or not eating.
K: That’s where my analogy quits working. In the case of voting, not ordering means you get a plate that you must eat no matter what your preferences are. Even if it’s a shit sandwich.
 K: I hold non-voters as much responsible for this as the people who actually voted for the Psycho in Chief.

Conversation with 20-something

Them: If someone’s entire ideology is based around the idea that people like me and people of color have to be violently expunged from existence, even a violent response is self defense. To say otherwise is gaslighting.

Ergo: bash the fash.

Me: What do your peers say is the reason they don’t vote?

Them: “if it were possible to vote away their wealth, the rich would never allow you to do it.”

Typically it’s a pretty in depth analysis of how utterly broken and vile every elected official has been, and how their time is better spent organizing their own communities, and exemplifying direct action.

Me: Do they not know they can do both? And that who they vote for locally is significant?

Them: They despise the government on an even local level.

Me: They will never change it without using the voting booth as one of their tools.

Them: Tbh they’d rather have an actual revolution. Changing the system from within is a joke.

Voting for who is going to not represent your interests bc the other person who won’t represent your interests to a marginally noticeable degree more seems pointless to people who want to burn the entire system down.

Some more literally than figuratively.

Me: This does not give me hope.

Distilleries

Distilleries I have visited in 2017:

Fainting Goat Spirits in Greensboro, North Carolina (Lovely herbal gin and very smooth vodka)

Broad Branch Distillery in Winston Salem, North Carolina (The blueberry flavor of the Smashing Violet whiskey isn’t nearly as strong at the color suggests)

10th Ward Distilling Company in Frederick, Maryland (We brought home lovely applejack)

McClintock Distilling in Frederick , Maryland (We went to a party they hosted. The cocktails were lovely. We didn’t, however, bring any home.)

Dark Corner Distillery in Greenville, South Carolina (Tasting room, not the actual distillery. We brought home Mountain Peak Espresso flavored rum.)

Copperhead Mountain Distillery in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina (Brought home their “Scotch” which tastes more like Irish because there is no peat.)

Dragon Moonshine in Charlotte, North Carolina (I brought Apple Pie and Amaretto rums home.)

My liver may be in danger.

Time to eat!

The other day, I got to pondering the words we use for meals.  I was on my way to my favorite wine bar where I intended to have an early supper/late lunch and the fact that American’s don’t have a word for that meal got my brain spinning around the ways we talk about dining.

Breakfast, break fast, is just the first food of the day.   A light breakfast is light in weight and doesn’t usually last very long.  Toast, maybe an egg.  Granola.  Hot cereal like oatmeal that you can eat standing up.  A big breakfast has a load of protein and is meant to stick with you.  Frequently there are vegetables, too.  Potatoes in the form of hash browns. Sliced tomatoes in the summer. Onions, peppers and mushrooms in the omelette.  Fruit on egg bread, waffles and pancakes.  A big breakfast isn’t a meal that you grab as you run out the door.

Brunch is a word that means garnish and, frequently, alcohol in your fruit juice.  Brunch is languorous.  It also means I’m not doing anything that takes effort before noon.

Lunch is the middle of the day meal.  Big lunch means you will wish for a nap, later.  Lunch happens anywhere from 11 AM to 3 PM.

Supper is the evening meal.  Dinner is the biggest meal that is not breakfast.  So, lunch or supper could be dinner.   Sunday dinner is almost always lunch.  But, a work day dinner is usually supper.

So, the question that came to my mind was “what is the afternoon equivalent of brunch?”  Turns out, it’s afternoon tea.  My Canadian friends tell me that tea is served around 3:30 or 4:00, there is tea to drink and something light to eat.    We chuckled over a young acquaintance who had fussed at her sister to “eat your tea.”  But, I think I want to adopt that usage.  It’s a handy definition. And while a cream tea is one that includes jam and clotted cream in the snacks, I think a wine tea may become my occasional earlier-than-supper afternoon meal.

And, according to my English friend, high tea is a heavy meal served as workers come in from their labors ready for serious eats.  I expect it comes from afternoon tea that waited a little too long and needed to be more filling since you were ravenous by the time you finally got have food.

Another word I am going to adopt is “fika.” It is a Swedish word and it means to have coffee and a bite and a chat with friends.  It is a thing I love and now have a word for.  It is not time specific.  It is activity specific and it an activity I enjoy immensely.


Addendum:

I learned another meal word from my Spanish friend.   “In Spain, there is an actual meal between lunch (which for them is always the largest meal of the day), and dinner, which is a lunch-sized portion late in the day, like 8 or 9 pm. I was always offered this meal, each day, even in the hospital! “Merienda”. It corresponds to the “tea” idea, but without mentioning tea. Coffee or tea might be offered, or beer or wine, and deli slices, bread, cookies, fruit. Oh, it happened around 5 pm. Very confusing.”

Charlottesville

It’s been a strange time at our house. I’m training for my new position and working 8-4:30 M-F. Being off work on the weekends is really weird for me. Last weekend, we went to Kerr Lake with a couple of friends who have a house there. When we came back, we found out about the Charlottesville debacle.

There were posts on FB about vigils in support of the protesters and I went to the one in our county seat. Our state senator and representative were there. There were half a dozen speakers who talked about supporting each other and caring for everyone in our community for an hour. And they had us introduce ourselves to the people around us, with the intention that we would discuss what we intend to do going forward.

When we were dispersing, someone announced that they hoped we would show up at the Orange County School Board meeting on Monday where the Board was expected to make a decision about Confederate flags on campus grounds. I didn’t go back to check the time because I expected that I would be able to find it online. I was wrong. So, we just went out for dinner and I didn’t have to try to get my fumbling thoughts arranged into something coherent.

I found out on Tuesday that they have banned Nazi, Confederate and KKK symbols on school property. Hallelujah. Why did this even need to be discussed?

I despise Donald Trump and I am enraged that our political system allowed that buffoon to be elected to the highest office in our country. I kept waiting for someone to put a stop to this farce and they haven’t yet. Instead, things get worse and worse. How far down do we have to go before people say “Enough! Too much! This has to stop!” loudly enough, with enough conviction, to be heard?

I keep thinking of Maya Angelou Tweeting “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” These people are saying “I hate you and I am dangerous.”

thoughts about feminism

http://sites.middlebury.edu/middmag/2012/03/15/gender-violence/

“‘[Gender violence issues] affect women at every level, but I am here to say that the very fact of just calling these issues ‘women’s issues’ is in itself part of the problem.'”

I have been unhappy with the word “feminism” for as long as I have known there was a gender-caused imbalance in the world. In my mind it makes issues related to gender only the problem of women. And men are as constrained by gender stereotypes as women. It usually (often? sometimes?) expressed differently, though.

It is expected that women will be raped and the victims of domestic violence. Men who are raped or beaten by a domestic partner become feminized by the very fact of having the act perpetrated on them. And “feminized” means weakened. Particularly in this context. So, they may be less likely to do something about it. You know, something like report it and get it prosecuted.

Parents doing childcare is a whole other bag of worms. Women are asked if they intend to come back to work after giving birth. Staying home to tend to children is a valid option for us (as a group, not necessarily individually.) Men who choose to be the one giving up a paycheck to do the homefront heavy lifting are often (usually?) required to justify it. Men who actually participate in parenting are praised, as though that isn’t something that should be expected. Who would say to a woman “Aren’t you a good mom bringing the kids to the playground?” Or to a man “Does your wife help with the kids?”

That’s not fair to anybody. Everyone should be allowed to care for their family, Everyone should be allowed to feel safe and to speak up if they aren’t. And language matters.

Racist, homophobic and sexist language is hurtful. Reducing someone to a body part is hurtful. Words like Nigger and Bitch and Dick are slap-in-the-face verbal violence. They all say very clearly “You are less than human. You are a lesser creature than me.” Those are obvious and easy to call out. There are more subtle microaggressions in our language that need consideration and adjustment, too.

I am a gender communist. From each according to their abilities to each accord to their needs. This, until a better word is devised, is what a feminist looks like.

Portrait of a marriage

P1030292

This is gorgeous, rich, lovely mousse. It is made from avocados and organic cocoa. You know. Healthy stuff. 🙂

One of us skims from the top, slivers, slices, layer by layer. And the plastic protector is stretched across the top without risking the loss of any of the tasty, tasty treat.

The other one eats in from the edge and covers the part that is being saved for tomorrow (because it is very rich and luscious) with plastic wrap that is tucked in, blanket-like, around the little mound of delight.

This is us.

Names

My friend has a son who is 10. I have been in a room with him. But, we haven’t actually been introduced other than “This is my friend, Kitty.” directed to his grandmother, who was in the room at the same time. I have no clue what he is expected to call me. It will be interesting to see if he ever actually calls me by name.

When I was growing up, I had an Aunt Nel and Uncle Carl who weren’t actually related. But, they have known me since I was a year old and are still good friends of my mother. I, also, had Mr. Jim, Mr. George and Miss Esther, who were friends of my grandparents. Also, no actual genetic connection. But, close enough not to require the formality of last names.

An African-American friend once told me that her parents taught her never to Miss This or Mr. That to anyone because it was a slave time holdover. And I can see that. But, that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the names we used for the older family friends. I told Diane about Miss Esther and Aunt Nel and she said “Hm. That’s interesting. I’ll keep it in mind when I hear those used in the future.”

My sister works in a daycare. The children there call all the teachers Miss Firstname. So, my sister is Miss Amanda to her 3 and 4 year olds. I’m not sure why the school chooses to do that. It is surely no more difficult to say than Miz Whoever.

Because I am called “Kitty” (birth certificate says “Katherine”), I get the extra silliness of Miss Kitty. If you are of a certain age in America, you watched Gunsmoke on TV. Miss Kitty was the madam working at the saloon in Dodge City. Even the director of my department at work adds that superlative to my name. And that feels odd. “Miss Kitty” from someone under the age of 20 would fit my family’s traditions. But, from people my own age or older, it is just peculiar.