A Cousin

“A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”

I’ve read that quote more than once and I believe this to be the absolute truth. You all know how I feel about family. If we share the same blood/family we are members of a very special club. Ain’t nobody getting kicked out of it. Even if we no longer see each other very often.

I have more than twenty-five first cousins. But when I was a kid most lived in Ireland and some in England.

So, sadly, I didn’t share a childhood with all of my cousins. But that was just reality.

The ones who I did share my childhood with consisted of three families who lived in the U.S. like me.

They were my Dad’s sister, Rose Marie and her family in New York. In Rhode Island we had the families of Mom’s sister, Patsy and her brother, Jimmy.

Summer holidays and other times during the year were spent with the New York cousins.

Christmas, Easter, cookouts and regular Sunday visits to the grandparents were spent with the Rhode Island cousins.

Oh, what fun we had when we were young.

There were the older cousins in our (my brothers and me) age range and then a few younger ones came along in the 1970s. That was pretty exciting for us. Everyone liked babies and they were just absorbed. Welcomed into the fold.

That’s the funny thing about babies. They are not like the future in-laws who take awhile to break into the family. To be a part of the club and inner circle. Going through the initiation and all.

But a baby? Born into the family? The bouncer just lets that little bundle of joy right into the club! Like a celebrity with status. No stopping at the door, stamping its hand or questioning their right to be there. They’re totally in!

One of my baby cousins died on March 18th. John was just shy of his forty-seventh birthday. He will be interred tomorrow with his beloved mother.

I last saw him when he made the trip to Rhode Island for my Dad’s funeral three years ago. Even though it was a sad time I was really happy to see him and so many family members. These days everyone lives in different places and reunions are not always easy or frequent. So weddings and funerals are the “go to” places for the big catch ups.

John was a beautiful child. An adorable kid with a mop of curly red hair. He was intelligent and good humored. He was a nice and decent boy who grew up to be a nice and decent man.

He died young. Too young.

For the record, I think all deaths under the age of eighty are sort of tragic.

Today is no different.

John died because he was a human being. Lest we forget -we are all afflicted with that title.

A death reminds us that we are all human. Some might dodge the bullets of life. Others aren’t so fortunate and get hit head on. But we all know, really, that sometimes we just have no say or control. Our expiration date, like a milk carton, might (I say might) have been printed long ago. Even if we argue or beg that it could have been/should have been different.

It’s still tragic. It’s heartbreaking and sad.

One of the benefits of being in the cousins’ club is that there is only love. No jealousy or judgement. We’re family and are grateful for the shared and special memories. We take joy in the success and happiness of each other. We are sympathetic when one is experiencing family problems, job loss, illness and other maladies of life.

There is profound and utter sadness when we lose one of our gang.

When John was a baby I was sleeping at his house one weekend. Poor little thing couldn’t pronounce my name (Mary Beth) but he tried. In the morning I heard a little voice coming from the crib, “Maybell?”

Since then it’s been “ours” and we didn’t ever let it go.

So every year on our birthdays and other Facebook messages we used Maybell instead of my real name. Now, I’m wondering if he actually ever knew what my real name was.

Anyway, it was like we were little kids. He in his forties and me in my fifties. In a way, a simple word brought us back in time and kept us young. Even if it was for a minute. It was a shared memory.

See, because a cousin is a little piece of childhood that can never be lost.

John will always and forever be a part of my childhood that can never be lost.

We will miss you, John. Rest in peace. Like one of your sisters said, “Rest is not so easy right now on this side of Heaven.”

The club will no longer be the same, little cousin.

With all my love,

Maybell

 

 

In memory of John J. Kelly

1971-2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Old News

A friend and I were recently discussing a guy who grew up in our neighborhood.

When Kyle left to serve his country in Vietnam I would have been about five years old. He was eighteen or nineteen. Same age as my youngest daughter who is now in her first year of university.

Kyle was not the only young boy from the neighborhood who went to Southeast Asia during that time.

Of course, I don’t remember when they left. I was too young.

I do have memories of when the American boys came back. Watched the grainy news footage on television with my family. Of planes on the runway depositing our men. No longer youthful.

I remember the POW bracelets that people bought and promised to wear until the service people captured or missing came home. I heard all of the scary stories. I remember that it was a time of protest. I remember who served in Vietnam.

War is horrific and I cannot wrap my head around it. But some wars are worse than others. The Vietnam War would be one of those filed under “worse than others.”

The “lucky” ones came back.

My next door neighbor, Dick, came back home. With a terribly scarred face and a black eye patch covering the socket.

Pretty frightening to see when you are a kid.

Wait, he was only a kid when his life was in such peril. So how freaking frightened was he?

Kyle also made it back home.

But some scars are visible and some are not.

Kyle was a cousin of our friends and he lived across the street on the corner. I would see him around but actually only met him in my teen years. The age difference and all. I didn’t know him well but he seemed like a nice guy. Good humored. Cute in a long, shaggy hair, five o’clock shadow way. Remember a bunch of us at a party and having some good laughs. He was in college and studying theater then. A group of us attended a Shakespeare performance of his at Rhode Island College.

Kyle died, one year ago, at the age of sixty-six. The cause of his death was the Vietnam War. He was exposed to deadly chemicals during his time there. Everyone has heard of Agent Orange. For Kyle, chronic illness and an early death were the results of his exposure to it. I’d say he died from friendly fire.

Just like using a jug of Round-Up. Spray and kill. These chemical weapons (that is what they were) would be dumped on vast areas from planes and defoliation took place. Benefits were two fold. 1) No bad guys can hide in the jungles or forests without the cover of green canopy. 2) Kill all the crops so the bad guys will starve and die.

Obviously, Agent Orange was just one piece of the huge horror show called Vietnam. But its harm continues to reverberate to this day.

The spraying didn’t help. It only hurt. The destroyed crops led to widespread famine and innocent civilians starved to death. The environment was damaged. Our boys came home and began to get sick. Every spray inflicted harm. Illness, genetic damage and death were all a part of its ripple effect. The U.S., Vietnam and other countries who were exposed during the war all suffer the effects.

This could be viewed as old news. But it’s not. It’s continuing news. Because people are still dying. Kyle did.

We sent our fresh faced boys into a jungle war that they had no chance of winning. No one came out of it unscathed. Those who did make it home were changed and scarred, one way or another, for the rest of their lives.

That is our history and our responsibility.

I suppose, in a way, this is a posthumous thank you to Kyle for his sacrifices. Tinged with sorrow for his suffering. It shouldn’t have ended like that. Terribly unfair.

A thank you to all the young boys who left our neighborhoods. Those who made it back home and those who didn’t. Bless them all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One More

Here is one more story about social media. And using it responsibly.

Maybe it’s more about responsible parenting.

I saw a posting/link on Facebook that someone shared.

About a father in Virginia teaching his ten-year-old son a lesson. The kid was kicked off the bus for bullying others.

Dad made his son run the mile to school each morning. Even in the rain. He filmed the kid’s punishment from the car.

It went viral.

His message to other parents?

Don’t be a friend. Be a parent. That’s what kids need these days.

He felt like filming his son’s punishment and sharing it with millions of strangers was a good parenting move. And I suppose some type of public service announcement for the world.

The father received a lot of positive feedback.

“Good for you!”

“Great parenting!”

“Yay!”

No one wants their kid to be a bully. I’m on the same page and I certainly appreciate his “no bullying” stance.

I don’t agree with anything else.

Good God, I hope he doesn’t run for elected office. Laugh out loud. You all know how crazy stuff can go down. Like a locomotive picking up steam.

I’m not into family shaming. At all.

Why on earth would I publicly shame my own kids? Or even my dog, Thumper?

I didn’t name any of them Hester Prynne.

They trust me. As their parent.

I’m not sure that kid is ever going to trust his old man. Any time that guy whips out a camera everyone is going to stop, drop and roll.

It’s our job, as parents, to determine why a child is bullying others or behaving inappropriately. What is the root cause?

Sure, punish the kid. Even make them walk everywhere because they lost the privilege of riding the bus.

But film it? And share it?

Sounds like something a bully might do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read an article that was just terrible. I know. I know. So many articles out there are terrible.

This one was about a young lad who was in a Welsh medical school.

Seems he had a fling with a young woman. Also a student. That has been known to happen. So far. So normal.

He then chose to share this information with his rugby buddies in a private on-line group.

That’s where it started to go bad.

His “pals” decided to share his postings with hundreds of others on social media. And the young lady became aware.

Who knows how she reacted.

The fellow then becomes worried that his words could even cause expulsion from the school.

He hanged himself.

I don’t know all the details. The newspaper gives you bits and pieces.

But this is how I imagine it all.

Girl is absolutely mortified. The sheer embarrassment of it all.

Boy is now mortified that this information was shared. Maybe feels shame and guilt once he knows the girl is aware of what he shared.

Feels hopeless. Can’t imagine that this will ever fade. Starts to think that even his future is doomed if the school expels him.

This could have played out in a few different ways.

The young woman might have been the one unable to handle the situation.

Or there could have been apologies on behalf of the boy. Maybe a suspension.

Life could go on. Human beings make mistakes all the time.

But there is no going back in this particular case.

Just devastated people left behind. Grieving parents.

So many lessons to be learned.

We need to be kind. Especially on social media.

We need to be better at using social media responsibly. Think about the consequences of our words and actions.

It wouldn’t ever hurt to use that quote we have all heard. Before speaking (or writing) ask yourself these three questions. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?

There is a “gofundme” page as a result of this death and it states that the money will be used for projects and forums aimed to avoid a reoccurrence of a similar tragedy.

I certainly hope that those projects and forums will be successful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird Watching

Today, I was looking up into the trees at a local park. There is a bird call that I hear all day long here in Delhi. Belongs to the Brown-headed Barbet. A small bird with a green body.

Took this photo a couple of days ago. Not great quality.

barbet

For some reason I associate this bird’s sound with the noise at crosswalks. The one which signals blind folks that it is safe to cross the road.

So all day, like the Pavlovian dog, I just keep wanting to cross the street. Safely. Thank you, barbets.

I looked up trying to find the little sucker.

Imagine my surprise when this is what I see. In the middle of the day. Again, not the best photo taken with my phone. But I think you can figure out what it is.

owl1

Then I realize there are two sets of eyes on me.

owl2

Definitely not barbets.

So cool.

I was laughing because I attempted to take photos at different angles. In front. Behind. Didn’t matter because his eyes were always on me. Sort of like Jesus’ eyes in a picture my Aunt Rose Marie use to have hanging in her house. Always following. I thought of the old saying, “Eyes in the back of your head.”

It really is fascinating how their heads can do the 360 degree turn thingy.

The first time I have ever seen an owl, outside of captivity, was this past January. My husband and I attended an event at a place in Providence, Rhode Island. A Snowy Owl happens to reside on the roof. We caught sight of him while we were leaving.

Owls are cool.

To me.

I remember when my friend, Maria-Ann, and I ran a resale charity shop for a short while in Kuala Lumpur. We had a cute, wooden owl statue for sale. None of the Chinese customers gave it a second glance.

My friend mentioned that it didn’t give off positive vibes in the Chinese culture.

A lot of folks (from my part of the world) associate owls with age and wisdom.

Plenty of owls (with black, thick rimmed spectacles) on graduation cards in the United States. Every May stuffed owls or statues appear on the shelves in Hallmark stores. Ready to be purchased for the graduate-to-be.

Chinese do not have the same association. Believe owls are bad luck.

I get it. Everyone is different.

Here in India?

Owls are thought to bring good luck around the Diwali holiday.

That’s nice.

If sacrificed.

What?????

Folks looking to improve their financial situation think that the sacrificing of an owl will help.

India protects all of the species but there is a bustling black market that exists. Selling owls for hefty fees. All year round for different cures or luck but especially around the holiday.

You can even pay to have someone do the killing for you.

Now, we all have our beliefs, superstitions, etc. but I’m thinking if a person has to kill a living creature to enhance some aspect of their own life maybe a little regrouping is in order. A look at alternative, legal options in that quest for good luck.

Leave the owls alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bit O’ Whimsy

My girlfriend and I did some exploring near the newly purchased home. On this particular day it was a lunch at “The Square Peg” in the historic, waterfront town of Warren, Rhode Island. Followed by us checking out some of the local shops.

I’m compiling a list to share of fun places to see/explore in the area for my female friends.  Work in progress. So wait for it.

For now, though.

Lunch was so good. We enjoyed it very much. Had street tacos, I believe. I don’t consider myself a fan of corn tortillas (I am a flour girl) but I really liked these. The place was bustling with activity. Older couples possibly retired. Ladies who lunch. Even a couple of families. Not a tourist among them.

I recommend the restaurant.

Now, onto the shops.

Stopped by a welcoming and brightly decorated storefront and decided to enter. A beacon of warmth on a cold January day.

Whimsies.

We loved the shop. From the minute we walked in and saw a dog standing behind the cash register. LOL.

We got to chatting. I’m always curious about a person’s journey.

Andrea, the owner, was super nice. Her store is filled with the work of local crafters and artisans. Takes in items on consignment also. She had a look at the upcycled furniture pieces my friend had on her Etsy website. Liked them and said she was certainly welcome to bring them into her shop. See if they would sell there.

I asked her, “So you love coming to work every day?”

And she said, “I love it.”

Now, this is not something she has been doing all her life. She raised her people and enjoyed it. Then was sort of in the right place at the right time. And took a risk. Starting and running your own business always includes risk. Along with hard work and a whole lot of faith.

So, Andie, as it states on her website, is not only living her dream but helping local artisans pass along their gifts. How cool is that? Really?

See the site here.

What did I take from the shop that day? By making the decision to cross that threshold?

Besides a couple of framed pieces.

Reinforced that the whole notion of kindness and friendliness should be a rule and not the exception. That we need to lift each other up. Always. Women and local artists. People in general. We should shop local. A realization that the journey is not always easy. And that there are people out there actually living their dream. Who will inspire us.

Andrea also recommended other places to shop like Cerulean. Another lovely place with beautiful, locally made items and a friendly atmosphere. Owned by women. They will also be on my list of “fun places to visit” especially when they expand their shop with the next door property and begin to offer classes.

Whimsie’s also has an active Facebook page. Send a request to Whimsies. She posts new shop pieces and links to other fun stuff going on in the area.

I just noticed a link posted about an apothecary class she took at a place called “The Stitchery.” That looks fun! I had a glance at their site and checked out the different offerings.

Also saw photos Andrea recently shared of a facility in Fall River, Massachusetts where a fellow is focusing on bringing back the lost art of scrimshaw. His pieces will be in her shop. So wonderful!

There are so many fabulous people, places and things out there. Just have to get out there and make an effort to connect with your fellow humans. You’ll take away so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literary Travels

Many years ago read an article that I found quite interesting. It was about a literary pilgrimage of sorts.

It listed authors and the places they lived or wrote. Most located in upstate New York and some New England.

I wanted to go but never did. Then one day, nearly four years ago, I threw the thought out into the universe. My cousin, Joanne, was interested. A summer road trip was soon in the works.

It was really fun. Exploring places we never would have seen.

We left Brooklyn and our first stop was Washington Irving’s place, Sunnyside. A beautiful place on the Hudson in Westchester, New York.

Headed to Olana. Another gorgeous property. Also situated on the Hudson River. My cousin, Elizabeth, had recommended this stop. The home and studio of painter Frederic Edwin Church now a historic site and managed by the New York State Department of Parks.

Got there too late to take a tour. No amount of scheming on my part could get us in on the current tour. Not sure if they are just really strict about it or if that particular guy was just a schmoe. My charm was totally wasted on him.

But a fantastic site.

http://www.olana.org

Pedal to the metal and we were off again.

We drove to “The Mount” which is the name of Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts. Her book, Ethan Frome, written in 1911, still gives me the shivers.

This was a beautiful home and the surrounding gardens were lovely.

http://www.edithwharton.org

Had a very nice lunch at a cool place in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Food was really good.

Their gallery hosts story telling, spoken word, book launches and more.

http://www.sixdepot.com

Also located in Stockbridge is the Norman Rockwell Museum.

http://www.nrm.org

Crosssed the border and into New York State.

Headed to Austerlitz, in the woods, to visit Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Steepletop. I had read her life story in my Dallas book club years ago. She lived quite the colorful life. Edna was a poet and a feminist.

Love this poem of hers.

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light!

Interesting that the author of a book I am currently reading now lives in Austerlitz.

http://www.millay.org/visitsteepletop/php

Next stop. Stayed at a neat and simple motel overlooking the lake in Guilderland, New York. This is near Cooperstown.

Browsed the nice shops of Cooperstown and strolled down historic Main Street.

Did not make it to the Fenimore Museum. It is built on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s 19th century farmhouse. Must have been a time issue if we didn’t make it.

http://www.fenimoreartmuseum.org

Anyway, Cooperstown was our last stop. We sure did drive through some beautiful areas of New York and Massachusetts. Stopped at wonderful road side fruit and vegetable stands. Even ended up visiting with a dairy farmer when we drove by his farm.

It was a great road trip that might never have happened. Until I sent it into the universe.

What do you want to send into the universe? Where do you really want to go?