Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Beach Read, Matriarchs, and Cheez-Its

Summer House by Nancy Thayer (2009)

Unlike most beach read paperbacks that I donate when through reading them, this old book is one I've kept. 

It was a pleasant read one night recently when I could only handle a beach read kind of book. I've also held onto another of Thayer's very early books, 1981's Three Women at the Water's Edge that was beautifully layered, about two sisters and their mother as their lives change dramatically. 

In Summer House, the family gathers at their Nantucket home to celebrate Nona's 90th birthday. I love summer books that take place on Nantucket and on Cape Cod, even more than beach reads of the Lowcountry authors of South Carolina, although I've read and enjoyed many of them in years past. 

Rather than talk about the multi-layered family generations in Summer House, I'll only focus on Nona who I connected with when reading this.

Something rather strange had been happening to Nona over the past few years, and it worried her...The older she grew, the more she seemed to love people in general.

I find that to be so true of myself, especially before this cursed Pandemic was unleashed upon the world. I had to watch myself when out in public--now a thing of the past. I would see children with their parents in stores and want so badly to talk to them. 

But I didn't want to be the weird old lady smiling like a lovesick goose at all of them and gushing, "Oh, they're so cute! Y'all are so lucky and I hope you know these are some of the best years of your life!"

I never did for fear of the parents suddenly moving their children away from the crazy lady. But it wasn't just the children. I had the notion that people were pretty wonderful, even with their quirks and idiosyncrasies, ordinary people who just wanted the best for their loved ones.

I am drawn to a matriarch like Nona in Summer House, but then I'm particularly drawn to books where there is at least one grand dame, an older woman with a certain amount of sass and independent spirit. Even when caregivers are necessary.

And if I reach Nona's age, I hope I will have someone as kind as Nona's caregiver, Glorious. She understands that sometimes older people don't necessarily need a balanced meal, they just need something to tempt their appetite.

While Nona's daughter who is visiting there is now set on mothering her aging mother, pushing healthy meals on her, it is Glorious who adds "a china bowl filled with Cheez-Its" to the tray. "About all Mrs. Nona will eat in the morning."

Before her 90th birthday party, when Nona's daughter-in-law suggests a pot of tea and a cheese sandwich for her, thinking it will be late in the party before she will be able to eat supper, Nona counters with, "How about a nice big Scotch and some Cheez-Its. I'm old. They settle my stomach."

 Cheez-It's are verboten in our house now, an item I can't resist. When I called RH to ask him to pick up some Cheez-It's on the way home so I could use them in my pictures, he mistakenly brought home Cheetos, a product that is even more verboten! 

The next day he brought home original Cheez-It's, as I did not think Nona would want the hot and spicy ones, and at last my pictures were taken.

Isn't the little crab dish holding them cute? 

And even though I would prefer a ginger ale with my Cheez-It's if my stomach is queasy, who knows, if I'm Nona's age someday I might just want a Scotch. 

The other books shown above are old Cape Cod books that I hope to review in a post at Dewena's Window soon. What about you, dear reader, what kind of book is gentle on your mind during these days of a hopefully never to be repeated Summer of blasted Pandemic? And would you tell me what snack is verboten around your house now?

Note: after reading Melanie's comment below, I realized I didn't clarify my question about your own verboten foods. I'm curious about what food do you not dare bring home because you know you can't resist it. And if you say that you have perfect self-control and willpower over every tempting food, then I have to say that I admire you but I doubt we could be friends!  😀



Thursday, July 9, 2020

An Eternal Optimist Struggles

In Jan Karon's In This Mountain, Timothy's first bishop tells him...

"Timothy, stop this nonsense of preparing

for the worst 

and spend your time preparing for the best!"

Like Timothy, I am "seldom able to follow it" but as an eternal optimist I believe in its wisdom.  

I wonder, if In This Mountain took place during a Pandemic, would Timothy have had a chance in Halifax? 

On a beautiful July morning I can almost forget there is danger lurking. How could such a normal summer morning hold anything other than good things? 

And then I turn on the news and it all comes back, the danger that is obviously lurking everywhere. I turn off the news and get busy with my day to keep the monster of worry at bay.

As long as I lose myself in what is around me, meals to prepare, laundry to be done, pets to take care of, watching a movie with RH that we both enjoy (there are some!), reading a good take-to-bed book at night, I can honestly say that life is good in my little pocket of the world--if my big family are all okay, that's a given requirement, but then it always has been.

There still come those 2 a.m. thoughts occasionally--you know, those thoughts that overwhelm the mind like the Dementors in Harry Potter that suck every good thing from your mind. A few Bible verses quoted at them usually makes them vanish.

And now while I've been writing this post here I've received texts from a daughter-in-law giving me lots of encouragement and healthy advice. I'm making a list and checking it twice! And you know what holiday that makes me think of. 

I'm going to take the bishop's advice and prepare for the best but also use common sense and try to prevent the worse, as much as I am capable of doing. 

When I sat down to compose this post I was going to stop with Halifax. The rest just kind of came from nowhere so please forgive me for any incoherent ramblings.

I wonder if I have struck any chords with you? Am I the only one with these thoughts on a beautiful July day?