Category Archives: Holidays and other fun times

Labor Day and one big soul that everyone’s a part of

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At Mass yesterday, the closing hymn was “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored

That, in turn, got me thinking of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, which I’ll be teaching again this year. (Interesting bit of trivia: It was Steinbeck’s wife Carol who suggested that he use the song lyric as the title.)

And The Grapes of Wrath got me thinking about labor, and Labor Day.

Have you read the book?  If not, I highly recommend it. It’s a book about the dignity of labor and the laborer, as well as a call to justice in the face of worker exploitation.  Italo Calvino once said that “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”  In a post-Citizens United world,  The Grapes of Wrath speaks as powerfully now as it did during the Depression.  (It also has one of the two best endings of any book I’ve ever read.  It weirded me out as a high school student, but now, I’m in awe of what Steinbeck managed to do in one perfect scene.)

And as I sang along with the rest of the congregation and thought about the book,  I found my mind wandering to labor in general.  As much as we (or at least I) like to think of free time as being the real stuff of life, it’s work that makes this world run.  That’s true whether it’s crews building the roads or  migrants picking the crops or moms bathing the kids or  teachers setting up their classrooms for the start of the school year.

Still,  I think it’s fair to say that society as a whole seems to value some work more than others.  I know women who are disparaged for being stay-at-home moms, and we’ve probably all heard people make dismissive comments about the people who work in fast-food restaurants or work as sanitation engineers.  (And then there’s that saying about how those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach.  That one makes me nuts.)

Looking at the two young boys on either side of me, I realized how much I care about counteracting those attitudes. I want my kids to grow up to respect all kinds of workers  and all kinds of work  (save, of course, something  like dealing drugs).  Whoever we are and however we earn a living, we can only do our jobs because other people do theirs.  No one is an island;  we’re all part of a complex web of interdependence, one that works best when we all recognize and respect its existence.

As the ex-preacher Jim Casy famously says in The Grapes of Wrath, “Maybe all men got one big soul and everybody’s a part of it.”  (If you read the book in high school, I hope your teacher did the instructional equivalent of putting that line in neon lights.)  And if the book teaches nothing else, it teaches that there is a life-giving power when people remember that.  We all share a common humanity, no matter what kind of work we do, and that’s worth remembering all year long.

Twelve years since “I do”

The number twelve has many associations.  Twelve months in a year; twelve apostles of Jesus; twelve donuts in a dozen.

But as of today, it has a new significance for me.  Twelve years ago today, Scott and I said “I do.”

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So happy anniversary to my life partner, my in-home tech support, my coffee roaster extraordinaire, my first proofreader, my seatmate on the wild and wacky rollercoaster of parenting, my rock,  my sweetheart.  I love you forever.

Happy Father’s Day


To all the dads who help us stand tall and walk proud …

Dad

 …Happy Father’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day

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What’s one thing your mom taught you how to do?

Whatever it was, don’t forget to say thank you today.

PAAS be with you

Ahhh, the memories ...

Ahhh, the memories …

I was at the grocery store the other night (people think I’m crazy to go at night, but trust me, it’s easier than taking two small boys who accidentally push the cart into large standing displays of merchandise) when I realized something.  I realized that there is a time to be born and a time to dye, and the time to dye is almost upon us.

I added a box of PAAS and a carton of eggs to my shopping cart.

The first time I dyed eggs as an adult, I was awash with memories.  My mom used to buy one of these kits every Easter, but I hadn’t seen one in twenty-plus years.  Then, all of a sudden, I was standing at the dining room table in my own house, doing a ritual that was exactly the same as it always was.  Every year, you did it exactly the same way.

First, you gathered the mugs from the back of the cupboard.  Then came the filling of the mugs with vinegar, and then the ceremonial dropping of the tablet into the mug, where it would fizz and spin like a thing possessed and the vinegar would turn a vivid brilliant color.

Then you’d take the mugs to the newspaper-lined table, and carefully drop a hardboiled egg into each one.  The PAAS kit came with an ineffectual little copper wire holder, meant to use to dunk the eggs, but it was always far easier to use a soupspoon.  You’d lean over the mugs, looking at the eggs, occasionally lifting them out to check their done-ness.  This was where patience paid off: if you were too quick to remove your egg, it was a disappointing pastel, but if you had the fortitude to leave it in the mug for a long time (and if you could fend off the sibling who really really wanted to use that color), you were rewarded with an egg of brilliant turquoise.   It was always worth it to wait.  (Good life lesson right there.)

The kits would come with a wax crayon, too, and sometimes you’d use it to write your name on the egg before dropping it in a mug.  You couldn’t see the name on the white egg; you just had to trust it was there, and sure enough, when you extracted the egg from the dye, there was your name (more or less) written on the side.

When I was a kid, the kit also had these little transfers you’d rub on the side of the egg — a bunny, a chick, a flower —  and then peel off, holding your breath, hoping the whole image would take.  It never really did, which should have been a lesson in the impossibility of applying a flat transfer to a convex surface.  (Now the kits have stickers, which are slightly less frustrating to work with.)

And at the end of the ritual came the grand finale: the discarding of the unused dye in the sink.   You’d dump each mug in turn, and the splash of color was so bright and pretty for a few split seconds before it gurgled away down the drain.  You’d turn on the water, and it was gone altogether.

But you were left with eggs: some dark, some light, some cracked, some whole, some personalized, some blank.  They’d sit in a bed of fake grass and you were never sure whether to eat them or not, but even if you never did, they looked so pretty and the making of them was so fun that they had more than fulfilled their purpose.

And now, as I gear up to share this ritual with my own boys again, I love that some things never change.   It’s a simple thing, dying eggs … but it’s the simple things that we remember.

 Do you have fond Easter egg memories, too?  What are other springtime traditions you love?