To Boldly Ask What No One Has Ever Asked Before

Playing in the dirt from a young age

Playing in the dirt from a young age

We had just passed a road construction site on the small two-lane state highway on the way from our hotel to my Dad’s house. The new road cuts and construction revealed bright red dirt— really red dirt, even by the standards of the Piedmont Plateau in Georgia.

From the back seat my daughter asked, “Mom, what kinds of worms do they have here in Georgia?”

“The same species that we have in Wisconsin, why?” I answered.

There was a thoughtful silence, then “But they poop out red dirt?”

It is truly a miracle that my husband managed to keep the rental car on the road.

Actually, it was an insightful question. Continue reading

A Definite Article

iStock_000012148387XSmallI was sitting, stumped by the blank Word doc that glared at me from my computer screen. No inspiration was coming for this week’s article. Every time I would think of something to write, I would look a back at my log of recent articles and find that I had written about that topic already.

All of the writing gurus advise “write what you know”. Okay. I’ll start there. What do I know this week? Continue reading

To Grandma and Papa’s She Goes

easter_cMy daughter spent two days with Grandma and Papa this spring break.

On Friday immediately after coming home from school, she marched upstairs and started packing. By bedtime on Friday night, she started hauling down suitcases and bags full of stuff from her bedroom to take on her trip. This continued all weekend. Mariah, our dog, could barely find her food bowl now because of all of the stuff that was going to Grandma’s—which was staged in our kitchen.

My daughter even wanted to go to bed early on Sunday night so that she could wake up extra early on Monday morning to leave.

She even gave her engineer Daddy directions on how best to pack things in the car—for maximum efficiency.

My daughter was just a little excited. Continue reading

Sybil Ludington’s Ride

Ludington statue 800
On the last day of March, one of my college friends wrote an article about “famous” women whose stories many of us don’t know. I was happy that I did recognize most of the women she wrote about in her article, but there was one, Sybil Ludington, that I had not heard of before. She has quite a story and I want to share it with you this week. I do so with no apologies to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, because, frankly this is the poem he should have written (in my not-so-humble opinion).

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of a hero more amazing than Paul Revere
A 16-year old girl, Sybil, and her horse named Star
Rode through a the night sounding alarms near and far

Two thousand British had arrived on shore
Twenty transports and six warships ready for war
Inland they marched to Danbury
Looking for the supplies of the Continental Army

In barns and storerooms they found food, cots, and clothes
Wine and rum too, which they used to warm their toes
Houses of British loyal were marked with chalk
Unmarked buildings were burned like dried corn stalks Continue reading

Feast of Humble Beginnings

st_jos_bThis weekend, as we have done around March 19th for the last several years, our family visited Papa Calvagna’s home parish in Rockford for the Feast of St. Joseph. The Feast of St. Joseph is a tradition that began in Sicily many centuries ago. After a particularly long and difficult period of drought and famine, the Sicilians turned to St. Joseph in prayer for help. Rains came, crops grew and yielded fruit, and the Sicilians said thank you in the most Sicilian of ways—with food.
Continue reading

The State Seal

nunst081Over the years, my daughter and I have engaged in several entertaining conversations about school and homework. However, a conversation took place this week that will be told around the dinner table for years to come. It went something like this:

My daughter: Now, I need to color the state flag.

Me: Wow, the flag will be difficult to draw. It has the state seal on it.

My daughter (coming to my chair with a copy of the state flag): No Mom. That’s a badger, not a seal. Wisconsin doesn’t have any seals.

She was so earnest. She was so polite, but there was just this little edge of “I can’t believe my mom doesn’t know the difference between a seal and a badger” in her voice. Just a touch of patronage.

She was right of course, the animal depicted on the state flag is a badger, and Wisconsin doesn’t have any seals.

She was also wrong, because she was unaware of a larger truth. Continue reading

A Year without Oranges

iStock_000003002073XSmallIt’s silly really, the tears I shed over the lack of oranges yesterday, because I don’t particularly care for oranges. But my mother did. She was a Florida girl, born and bred, and she grew up relishing tropical fruit—grapefruits, oranges. She loved mangoes too. One of her final acts before she died was to send me a case of oranges for my birthday, and I wrote about how I ate every last one, even as they lost their Florida luster and began to gain a little Wisconsin fungus on the outside—a bitter sweet treat.

My Dad read that article, and every year since he had sent me a case of premium oranges from a Florida orchard for my birthday.

This year, however, there are no oranges. Dad died on August 16, Mom and Dad’s anniversary. I miss those oranges.

Thinking about those oranges and how they had become a tradition in the 7 years since Mom died, made me think of other traditions—particularly Mom and Dad’s anniversaries.

Dad worked graveyard shifts as a pressman at the Atlanta Newspapers most of his life. So usually on the eve of their anniversary, Mom would give him an anniversary card before he left for work, and he would return home at 3:00 in the morning with a box of Krispie Kreme donuts from THE store on Ponce de Leon Avenue in downtown Atlanta. (At that time, there wasn’t a Krispie Kreme on every street corner, so a box of these donuts was a real treat.)

My mom loved the donuts (almost as much as she loved oranges), and the next morning she would sit at the kitchen table sipping on a cup of black coffee, with a donut on a small plate next to her. I can still see her sitting down her coffee cup with one hand, and gingerly picking up the donut with two fingers—one on either side as she leaned forward to take a bite.

When Daddy passed away in his sleep on August 16 around 3:00 am, he wasn’t early for their anniversary. He was on time—keeping up with tradition.
I thought about ordering some oranges from that same orchard in Florida for myself. However, I think this year it’s okay not to have oranges.
Maybe next year I’ll order some mangoes.

© 2015 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.