Listen My Children…

Listen my children and you shall hear of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere

Twas the 18th of April, ‘75, hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year

As he said to his friend, “If the British march by land or sea from the town tonight, hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch of the North Church tower as a signal light.

One if by land, and two if by sea, and I on the opposite sure shall be ready to ride and to spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm for the country folk to be up and to arm” (Longfellow)

Miss Meehan, my 5th Grade teacher at Woodland Street School in Worcester, MA wrote this on the chalkboard and had the students memorize and recite it. I’ve never forgotten it. Of course, there’s lots more to the poem.

About 1981, on April 18th, was driving along the New York State Thruway, Rte 90, at an excessive speed. Why so fast? Because I was reciting this poem out loud, caught up in a bit of patriotism. At least that was my story to the state trooper who commented, “I bet Paul wasn’t going this fast”, as he handed me the speeding citation.

I will never forget the poem, the officer, the patriotic deed by Paul snd friends, nor Miss Meehan.

Steve

Happy Patriots Day to all Bay Staters today, as well as Boston Marathoners and my beloved Red Sox (who are losing as I write this post)

4549…Broccoli, It’s Just A Number

I could see he was fumbling for it, so I blurted out, “4549”!

“You know this stuff, eh”, he acknowledged with a grin.

“I should, I get broccoli every week. Yams, 4817, cauliflower 4079. Every week, they’re on her list. Grapes, 4023. Every week, same thing. And I don’t deviate. It’s one of the benefits of coming here, brain training”.

With a smile of approval and freshly printed price sticker, he steered his small cart to bananas, 4011, but not before professing his status as a neophyte in this grocery shopping game. Professing wasn’t necessary, not knowing the broccoli code was a dead giveaway.

It’s true, though, grocery shopping is a game, a numbers game and a theatre game: codes, weights and measurements, BOGOs, coupons, increases and decreases, mostly the former as inflation becomes an even bigger number. Know the numbers and you’ll save time.

A theatre game, too, almost a contact sport, with participants panning out around the partitioned layout like pawns on a puzzle board. Step back, yourself, and watch.

Some shoppers attack the store with, seemingly, no semblance of order, helter-skelter, snaring items off the shelf and into the cart, sometimes without even looking. Always in a hurry.

“Out of my way, where’s the Guiness”, I imagine them saying.

At $10.99/6 pack, 72 ounces, that’s a much higher number than gas at $4.07/g, 128 ounces. Oddly, no one complains. It’s beer!

Others shoppers, like me, take their time. I’m deliberate because I’m a gabber, I’ll talk to anyone who might slow down or be idling nearby. The speeders detest my type, we interfere with their plan, ‘get in, grab it and get out’. My MO is ‘stroll in, search for stuff and socialize’. That’s why I save frozen to the end.

Then, there’s the checkout. I have favorite cashiers, they know my act.

“Paper, please, and every space is a new bag”, as I empty my cart.

The smart cashiers like my system, it’s one less thing they have to think about, the bags weigh less, and I can transfer items into the fridge and cabinets faster at home because I organized it on the belt. I might pay a couple of extra nickels for bags, but that, too, is part of the numbers game, time management.

Shoppers behind me often change lines. Probably the speeders.

Last stop, the Service Desk to pick the winning numbers.

“Two lottery tickets, please. looks like a big number for tonight’s drawing”,

“Sure is, but you know the odds for winning don’t favor you”.

I didn’t have to be reminded, of course I know the odds, I’m a numbers guy. But you don’t win if you don’t play. And, if I do win, well…..

…that’ll be the biggest number.

Steve

April 2022

To fellow shoppers who enjoy the game and know your numbers. If you see me at Wegmans, stop and chat.

WordPress: srbottch.com

Instagram: @srbottch

Listen My Children…1775

‘Listen my children and you shall hear…of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…T’was the 18th of April, ’75…’ (H. W. Longfellow)

A little bit of US history as memorialized in Longfellow’ long poem, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.

My 5th grade teacher, Miss Meehan, wrote several stanzas on the blackboard (remember those?) and we had write them, ourselves, then memorize them.

I’ve never forgotten those stanzas and am reminded of the history and Miss Meehan every April 18th, today. It’s important to remember our history and important people in our lives. Miss Meehan was a good teacher and that period in US history was, well, what can I say.

It’s also important to understand our past, as a country and an individual, so we can learn and make in-course corrections as we continue to grow.

Paul Revere wasn’t the only rider that night and the British grabbed him before he got carried away with his warnings to the public. However, HWL chose to use him in his narrative and now his name is synonymous with revolution and liberty.

I hope you find the poem to read, yourself. And, as I like to do, read it aloud. It seems to resonate better with me when I do.

Remember history, and the teachers who made it come alive for you.

Steve

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: The Facts, Just the Facts… ‘Did You Know Abe Lincoln Had A Sense of Humor’?

‘We miss your facts’, a student at my school crossing post offered. ‘Well, here’s something, did you know that President Abraham Lincoln had a great sense of humor?’ No, she didn’t and neither did other students. I didn’t, either, until I recently read* more about Lincoln.

‘His pictures always show him looking sad or serious’, another commented. ‘Well, he was often sad and serious. He had much to be both sad and serious about in his life’.

One can get a potpourri of facts by reading.

This is the stuff we talk about at the Curbside Classroom. Facts. But there’s more. And the kids love the ‘more’.

He changed the world for the better. Dr. Jonas Salk did that. I was working on March 26th and reminded the kids about Dr. Salk and his successful research into developing a polio vaccine on this date in 1953. We discussed what we could in the very brief time before crossing.

Tying the polio epidemic and the successful vaccine then, when I was a kid, to the Covid-19 pandemic, I thought, was interesting for the kids, as well as a couple of teachers or adults who happened to benefit from crossing at the Curbside Classroom, that day. Understanding that events in history often repeat themselves was a good lesson. And to have an eye witness, me, who experienced the anxieties of both, tell them about it, was a plus.

Some of these kids are graduating this year and it’s exciting to see them planning their future. It’s been a challenging year because of the pandemic but kids are resilient and they seem to have handled it fine, for the most part.

I like to think that the Curbside Classroom helped them kick start their days. I hope it will be a fond memory, as they continue along a successful Life journey and maybe, just maybe, change the world for the better.

Congratulations, Class if 2021!

Steve

* Team of Rivals’ by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin

Today, I Shoveled Snow

Here’s another story that I first wrote several years ago. I thought it was worth reposting in view of this winter’s weather. Enjoy!

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow…” RW Emerson

Today, I shoveled snow. Yesterday, I shoveled snow. And the day before that, I shoveled snow. It’s winter in western New York and we live with a steady diet of snow

Along the winter shores of Lake Ontario, steady snowfalls are the norm and removing it is more than a daily ritual. It’s a right of passage for youngsters and an absolute necessity for adults who get up, get out and get to work. Commerce doesn’t stop for weather, here.

Growing up in central Massachusetts, where measureable snowfalls also were a common occurrence, kids there learned to shovel at an early age, too. It was not an option in a blue collar neighborhood where dads had to be at work early and on-time.

All able bodied males in the house, young or old, manned shovels, clearing driveways and walks to help get workers on their way. Plow service and snow blowers were an unaffordable luxury for most families.

All that was heard on eerily quiet, ‘three decker’ lined streets the morning after a nor’easter, was the scraping of metal shovels over frozen pavement, and dry, fluffy snow squeaking underfoot with each twist of our black buckled boots. The task of finishing a job fell to the young school boys with nothing but time on their hands. Time and energy.

Snow shoveling is a low skill task, even the tools are simple and aptly named, ‘shovels’.  Bend, scoop, lift, toss, use your legs not your back. But those weren’t instructions my dad gave. He was more direct, knowing that I could figure out the mechanics, myself.

“I expect this driveway and sidewalk shoveled by the time I come home from work”, he announced, without mentioning my name or even looking at me. It was understood whom he was addressing, the skinny kid and the only one left home after he and big brothers went to work.

My dad’s directives were always clear and concise. The fewer the words, the stronger the message. Besides, mother always made sure the work got done, as prescribed.

And when the jobs were done, the neighborhood became a bevy of street hustlers, as I and other like-minded junior entrepreneurs with shovels slung over our shoulders, eagerly slipped and slid through heavy snowdrifts, knocking on doors with wet mittens, competing for whatever snow removal opportunities were left at neighboring houses.

We had no business plan or even understood the value of our labor. Regardless, we would shovel walks clean to the pavement, keeping tempo to imaginary cash registers ringing in our collective heads, totally dependent on the client’s generosity. Sometimes it was good and other times, not so good. But the greater lesson of work and reward was invaluable.

Now, I still find myself taking on the task of snow removal. It rekindles frigid memories of finger and face freezing days under the watchful eyes of my father and the lessons he ‘taught’ me.

One thing is certain…I can’t wait for the return of summer in western New York!

srbottch

“Whosis, Whatsis and Whatchamacallit”

ALERT: this story isn’t for everyone, just those in long term relationships, say 30, 40 or 50 years. However, you’re still welcome to read it…

“Honey, I’m home from, ah, whatchamacallits. Whosis was there, she’ll see us at, you know, whatsis place Saturday.”

“Okay!”

And with that exchange, we affirm our relationship is stronger than ever…again!

Do you recognize it? Sound familiar? I expect those of you in long term relationships are nodding in the affirmative.  You know each other so well that substitute words suffice in place of real words, the ones that escape us momentarily. Gibberish fills the void and, strangely enough, we understand each other. How does that work?

This behavior confirms my belief that as we grow older with our life partner, our spirits, habits and language meld, allowing us to behave almost as one. There must be a term for it?

With a certain bravado, I proffered this theory to my whosis, a nonbeliever of most of my ‘proffers’. Almost had her convinced until the suggestion that we’re even starting to look alike, the longer we’re together. With a stare that would stop a charging ‘whatchamacallit’ in its tracks, that notion destroyed whatever credibility I may have had with her.

You may disagree but think of your own situation. Do you finish each other’s sentences? Do you say something like, “honey, I know what you’re thinking”? Do you both start to express the same thought on cue? See, you’re coming around, right?

How did all this ‘oneness’ happen? Where did our habits, idiosyncrasies and brains not just intersect, but converge and become of one mind on the graph of Life? When did I start letting her pick out my clothes? And when did she trust me with grocery shopping?

Whenever and however, the fact remains that it happens. And it’s a good thing it does. Think of the waste of time trying to remember the real words when gibberish will do. So,  when the time comes that you can’t think of each other’s names, just throw in some ‘gib’, keep the conversation going, enjoy yourself, no matter who your with, or think you’re with!

“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.”
Friedrich Nietzsche*  

To all my friends and their whatchamallits…

Steve
Srbottch.Com
October 2018

*(Goodreads.com)