Ode to Stuff

Okay, this is no ode – poets write loads of odes, and to everything; urns come to mind, but I don’t believe I’ve seen one to “stuff”. When I was trying to think of stuff to write about this month, my erudite husband suggested I write about “stuff”. Now, who was the English Lit major?? Not him! Anyway, we all have our stuff, usually unique to the individual, and very dear to him or her. Beanie babies, Cabbage Patch dolls and pet rocks were a lot of folks’ obsession a few years ago. Then there are thimbles, paperweights, cups and saucers, old bottles, books (yes!), stamps, old coins, chickens, old tools, license plates (1909 dealer plate anyone?), art, CAR PARTS – amazing! Many of us have family heirlooms, but where, oh where, to put all of one’s stuff?

It could be put in a stuffing box, but that is a whole other thing, right, old car guys? An addition could be built, another garage, wall- to- wall shelves, hang stuff from the ceiling? Or hand it off to children – probably not, their interests aren’t necessarily ours, so, I say, enjoy your stuff, even flaunt it. Some of our best “stuff” we dug up in our back yard, apparently considered to be “trash” by an earlier generation. So who’s to say what stuff will be collectible, valued, or found in a flea market, o.k., or on line, in the future? As I was writing, I looked around at some of my stuff. Pictures, old books, bottles, old kitchen utensils, a spinning wheel, books, boom chains, rusty iron tools, bowls and baskets, college mugs, coffee grinder, glass and ceramic cats and birds, pewter tea and coffee pots, did I mention books, wooden boxes, Matchbox cars (none made in China), old clocks, 45 RPM records of the 1950’s, old kid’s toys and dolls and more books. Almost forgot, interesting rocks from interesting places we’ve visited, except from England, as “he” wouldn’t let me put them in our luggage, bird’s nests and sloughed off snake skins. Then I think that when I’m gone, these will be what I’m remembered by? Oh well, flaunt our stuff now!!

Are You Mannerly?

I do a lot of shopping at a small village store known for their meat and deli department. For some reason I have an aversion to buying such at the big grocery stores. Why is this? I guess it’s that I trust the village store to sell me quality and for the 27 years of shopping there they have never had a “recall”. This store also served as employment for our 2 sons when they were in high school and still hire a very young staff. Excuse me, but I could, if not careful, get off the reason for this writing. I want to talk about manners or lack of.

The subject is brought to my attention nearly every time I step out my door. I want to tell you that I don’t go with that thought on my mind or “looking for trouble” but there it is!

On a recent trip to the Derby Store, I parked, got out and almost immediately started gathering stray carts. I can’t tell you why but I feel a need to move them from the random areas they have been left. I guess some of the reason is the parking lot is small and it is hard to park with carts taking up space and I have to admit it annoys me that people won’t take an extra minute to put their carts out of the way of others. On this day, I got to the doors with all the stray carts. I need to tell you that the doors are not automatic open. Well, I was having a bit of trouble pushing the carts through the door, when I noticed two young people behind me. Get the picture – 2 people about 20-25 years old, looking very physically fit waiting for an “older woman” to push carts through the door. Now, “the rest of the story”. They saw the situation and (quick thinkers that they proved to be) went in the exit door which gained them a quick entrance and avoided having to wait or help me! Oh, I’m sure their elderly, sick mother was waiting in the car (with no heat) for them to pick up some chicken soup and get her home to bed! Maybe they weren’t raised by a mother but by wolves. Isn’t there a story about that very thing? By the way, I watched them and they were getting a deli sandwich. Well, that explains their behavior. They were hungry. All is forgiven!!

At first I thought that the lack of manners was only in some young people but sadly it seems to cover all the age groups. All this said there are some very mannerly people out there and if you are one, I personally thank you and ask that you pass it on to your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, friends, neighbors, and car enthusiasts. We can win this. For me, I’ve got carts to gather and maybe I’ll review my copy of Emily Post.

Before I sign off, thank you Gary for printing this, thank you members for reading it and a big Thank You VAE members for pushing in your chairs, picking up your empty cups and plates and finding the recycling bin!

A Thanks to Our “VAE Family” and…

The first thing I want to say this month is a heartfelt “Thank You” for the caring condolence cards sent us by VAE members after Wendell’s mother passed away in December. She was 107 years old, which was amazing, but she truly was an amazing lady and gave a whole new meaning to “Mother-in-law”. She was “Mom” to me as well as Wendell. Makes me glad all over again to be part of the VAE family! Our VAE Christmas party seemed like a family get-together as do most of our meetings. How often do we actually look forward to a “meeting”?? Now for something completely different.

I was recycling the other day and noticed, once again, how many people don’t bother to read what is accepted as recyclable. I grant that most, at least, aren’t tossing it out their car windows, but that’s another story. Apparently our legislators aren’t doing a very good job either, according to an article in the Burlington Free Press recently. Which brings me to mention throwing trash in with recyclables, tossing plastic silverware and glasses away when they can be washed and reused. It really doesn’t take much time to rinse out cartons, jars and cans, fold out cardboard boxes, remove small lids. And then there’s soda cans and bottles that are returnable for money – they should be rinsed out as well. Our son, in his younger days, worked in a bottle return center and I always think of the yucky smell, especially beer cans and bottles, and particularly in the summer. So I’m a little fanatical about this subject. Of course, there is also my wanting to ‘clear up’ after a meal or a meeting, which goes back to my waitressing days. It drives Wendell a little crazy, but I just feel I have to help “neaten” up, clustering the cups and glasses, etc., for easier removal by our server. My fellow writer, Nancy Olney, and I are on the same page with this “neatening up”, should I say, hang-up!? Anyone who has been to our home probably wonders why I don’t practice what I preach – my answer is, too busy baking!

How to Keep Your Mate Interested! (in old cars of course!!!)

The following will be some do’s and don’ts regarding, what for many a woman, is the 5th season of the year the dreaded “car show” season. If you are just starting out and introducing her to the car show, this will prove to be the easiest time to cultivate a love or at least a liking for such things (if done right!) If you are a veteran of such, it will be harder but certainly with the right attitude, can be achieved. I will start with the don’ts:

  1. DON’T spring it on her the morning of the show! ASK her about the date at least 2 weeks before.
  2. DON’T expect her to pack the lunch, get the cooler ready, pack all the things needed for children (if there are any) and then wash the car!
  3. DON’T arrive at the show and disappear after shouting over your shoulder, “ Get me a hot dog (light on the mustard) and 2 drinks at 12:30.”
  4. DON’T offer to walk around with her and then pause at each car, for no less than a hour, and talk to the owner (which when done- it brings at least 3-6 other men who want to talk and so you end up seeing about 8 cars in the 12 hours you are there!)
  5. DON’T forget that while most “car guys” don’t need food, drink or a restroom, the rest of us do!!
  6. DON’T think that you get any trophy for being the last one to leave the show!
  7. DON’T forget that if children are involved, everything is much harder!
  8. DON’T give her a crash course in what the car is and has (unless she asks you to!) I have found that most “car guys” will believe anything you tell them!

Now some do’s:

  1. DO introduce “car shows” in small doses. Be sensitive to how much fun everyone is having.
  2. DO offer to take the children while she strolls through the flea market.
  3. DO make sure she has a chair, food, drink and a good book, if she is to be left alone at the car. (and only if she wants to be left alone at the car- I have found that is MUCH preferable!)
  4. DO try and introduce your mate and curtail almost all lengthy conversations and do your best to “move along”!
  5. DO take pictures but don’t feel you have to wait for every spectator to leave the field, besides, I’ll bet you already have a picture of the car back home, somewhere!
  6. DO return to the car from time to time so you can ask if she needs anything and she can be sure that it wasn’t you being taken away in the ambulance that left the field earlier!

Now, go and have a good time but remember in almost all cases, everything is easier to do at HOME!!

Another Chapter

Cars are bedded down for the winter, holidays are over, there are still remnants of cookies and fudge and decorations, so now you would think that we could all settle in for the cold and snowy days ahead. Maybe catch up some of the reading you have wanted to do or some “winter” project that you want to get done. If you are like us, these “projects” have been begging to be done for several winters. But, this is the year to get it done. Sounds good, doesn’t it? As usual, something seems to get in the way of all our good intentions. Let me tell you about ours.

About March of 2012, a skinny, scraggly, dirty cat showed up at our door. He was very skittish and extremely hungry. So we started to feed him and he came every morning about 6 AM and scratched at the door and waited for us to give him his breakfast. This was repeated again about 6 PM and we soon learned his schedule and tried to comply, even asking a neighbor to bring his meals when we had to be gone. We named him Willys (Willy) and tried to get friendly with him but making friends was on us, he continued to accept and maybe I should say, demand, service but didn’t seem to get any “closer”. At one point he bit Gary, bad enough to draw blood. While not exactly the behavior we had wanted from him, it would have been ok if there hadn’t been a rabies scare in the area. From the look of Willy, with his crooked tail and a piece torn out of his ear, with no shots, Gary could be at risk. He contacted someone involved in catching stray cats and they set up a “have a heart” trap. If caught, Willy would be taken to a vet, get a checkup, have shots, be neutered and taken to a farm in the area that accepts “refurbished” cats. I don’t know which of those things Willy objected to most (Gary seemed to think he knows) but Willy had other ideas! Half in the trap, it triggered the door, faster than lightening, Willy backed out and was gone! Back to square one and the days before Gary would have to start rabies shots were ticking down. Advice from the vet, and Gary’s doctor: watch the cat (if he returned) and see if he displayed any strange behavior. To make a long story short, Willy returned to eat and eat and eat. No friendlier, no less demanding but thankfully not sick.

Since then, Willy has been spending the cold nights inside, in my chair. You would think we have our teenagers back the way we worry about where he goes for sometimes hours. Willy now likes us to pet him, give him treats and make of him. He checked out our grandchildren at Christmas and decided to make a fast exit until they left. We check the door when he is out and about, making sure he isn’t waiting on the doorstep to come in. Willy went out New Year’s Eve and was still out when we went to bed about 12:30 AM. At 2:45, he was at the door and I was there to welcome him home. Now, we could sleep! We can’t believe his attitude: he ignores us, and he doesn’t seem to be concerned with how we fuss over him and will just walk away or turn his back. All the teenage years come rushing back. Just thankful he doesn’t drive. Have to cut this short, Willy’s supper time.

The Eighty Days of Christmas

If my memory is correct, I believe it used to be the twelve days of Christmas. This year the Christmas “stuff” started to appear in two local stores at the same time the Halloween candy appeared in August. Back “in my day”, the Christmas season started when the Sears Christmas catalog appeared around Thanksgiving. Many an hour was spent pouring over that book, pencil in hand, to mark all the dreams a child could muster. Dream as we did, we also knew, somewhere in the recesses of our mind, that we might get one toy or game or maybe nothing from the catalog at all. Growing up, Christmas gifts were made up, mostly, of what we needed – not wanted. This was the time to get new PJs, socks, warm clothes – things that we had worn out or outgrown. Many gifts were geared toward what the whole family could use – like a toboggan or skis or skates for the oldest and you would get the equipment passed down. I remember opening the “used” with the same enthusiasm as the new. My Mom would always add something to the used to make it seem new, such as, new laces, paint touched up, polished and maybe our name stenciled on the item. Actually, one of the highlights was our stockings from Santa. Many a Christmas Eve, my Mom was woken before dawn, to find four children creeping around in the semi-dark house on a mission to see if Santa had come and gone. Again, the stocking held things like toothpaste, new toothbrush, candy cane, and always a nice orange in the toe! It was a wonderful, magical time that I think has been lost since Christmas starts coming at us in August. Also, who needs anything? I would admit I have quite a few wants but certainly, at this writing, no needs.

By now you can see why I’m writing this. Wouldn’t it be more meaningful and fun to go back to the “twelve days of Christmas”, not eighty? Actually be able to give someone something they need and get something you need. Teach each other that waiting for Christmas to get what may be waiting in your stocking or under the tree isn’t a bad thing but it just makes the anticipation even sweeter. Now, I’m not lobbying for you to not buy new socks or PJs when you need them and if you do, I’m not saying you have to wait for Christmas to get them. All I’m saying is that we all should have a little restraint when it comes to buying. When you can’t think of “anything” to get a person for Christmas – just maybe they already have too much.

I told you that I don’t have any needs. I just remembered I do. I need a haircut – should I wait for Christmas?

As The Leaves Are Falling…

…As the leaves are falling, old cars are being readied for their winter rest, gardens mulched and the lawn mowers put away, I watch farmers trying to get in their corn, chop the last loads of silage, and, of course, spread that aromatic slurry, I marvel at their tenacity in keeping their family farms intact and maybe make enough money to be debt-free. That ethic, in my opinion, is the best of Vermont. Wouldn’t it be nice if those who wish to demonstrate, wave signs, and do “sit-ins” put their energy and enthusiasm into helping folks trying to recover from tropical storm Irene or even help out on a farm. How much better off we would all be if that time and energy were put into producing material well-being. And there are jobs to be had; nothing wrong with a “menial” job – we can’t all be, or want to be, CEO’s. It is necessary to take the first step to get to the next one.

While in high school, I worked as a waitress, in a shop at a golf course (never did play golf), babysat and when in college, tutored a student who was dyslexic. She once asked me how you look up the spelling of a word in the dictionary, if you don’t know how to spell it. Good question since we didn’t have spell-check, let alone computers! I guess my point is, there should be a “point” to what we do in life, and we are so very lucky to live in a country where we have the opportunity to do so. See, I didn’t even mention manual transmissions or trash thrower outers!

When Did I Learn That?

Have you noticed that there are things that you know, that other people don’t seem to? Gary and I have discussed this from time to time. We can’t tell you why or how we know things but seems that we have always known certain things. This was brought to my attention recently, when my left blinker started blinking really fast which is the warning that your directional bulb has blown. Not wanting to take the time to check into it immediately, I decided I could us hand signals for a short while.

WRONG!! Stick your hand out the window to turn left and see what happens! One young lady looked at me like I was crazy and gave me a “look” that said, get off the road Granny! Some blew their horns, saying, use your blinker! I got at least one “wave” back at me! This was something I thought everyone that drives a car knows – hand signals. From this experience, I guess not, but isn’t it still covered on the drivers’ test?? One thing that I hate when driving some of our older cars, you know the ones, the ones without directional’s…. is corners. It is always in my mind, do they know about hand signals?? I can tell you that I decided that a new bulb was in order, sooner than later. Looked in the trunk and then went to the car book of “how to”. I, personally, feel the directions were not easily understood but between Gary and I (and the threat that we might have to ask for help) we got the bulb installed. The book does say that you may have to take the car to the Ford dealer for proper installation. I really don’t think Henry intended that we had to see the dealer to change a light bulb! Changing light bulbs, now that’s something I thought I always knew!

The Tropical Storm and…

Trying to think of a “Softer Side” topic, I initially drew a blank, so I picked up a new, yellow, lined pad of paper for inspiration. Hmmm, not so inspiring after all. Then came tropical storm Irene and the havoc it wreaked on Vermonters. We were in northern Maine that weekend for a family reunion, where there is no cell phone or radio reception. There were lots of relatives, pine trees, lakes and loons, but no information on the storm‘s track. The last we knew Friday morning when we left home, was that it shouldn‘t affect us until late Sunday afternoon. We left Maine early on Sunday, not knowing anything until well into Vermont. Thanks to VAE member, Ken Squire’s reporting on radio station WDEV, operating on generator power, we were guided safely across northern Vermont and all was well, but, oh, poor central and southern Vermont! Reports of Vermonters helping Vermonters, including several VAE members, men, women and schoolchildren all were working to restore power, repair roads, clean up people‘s homes and posses-sions, bringing in food and water, rescue and recovery operations, were so heartwarming. Such a lot of courage and resilience was shown by all involved. On the lighter side, we have been enjoying the Mountain Slow Spokes and Gypson Tours lately. What is especially enjoyable about old car touring is the great reception you get from people as you drive by. Most people notice and give you a smile and a wave. They all appreciate and are glad to see you. We even pulled up alongside a State trooper who rolled down his window and gave us a thumbs-up, even though we didn‘t have an inspection sticker. When you are in an old car, everyone is your friend. What a shame that some folks miss this experience, and don‘t even realize they are missing it. One can drive an expensive sports car and get attention, but the reaction from observers is more of a single finger wave, than those smiles and waves our classic cars receive. As VAE members, we treasure that reaction and hope more folks will be eager to take the road to that same experience.

Vacation “highlights”

Gary and I just returned from a 6 week vacation. I used the term vacation but perhaps it should be more like an Odyssey. It really wasn’t what I would term a “vacation”. Gary drove (and I rode) over 7,000 miles. That isn’t 7000 miles of new road, it is 7000 miles, some of which is backtracking and going forward, sideways and back again! He likes to tell people that he does all the driving, which sometimes is true but this time it wasn’t. After finding a wonderful collection of old cars, tractors, etc. and parking me in the direct sun, I took matters into my own hands and backed the truck (with camper) into the shade!! Thus breaking his record for doing all the driving! Enough of that subject. My main reason for this article was to let everyone know that all roads lead to cars (in my world anyway) and the cars lead to owners or someone who knows the owners. Everyone we have met has some connection to someone or someplace or something that we do. Sometimes it is almost eerie! We started our trip traveling to Ontario for the 4-cylinder Plymouth tour. That proved to be very enjoyable. We met a few new people and many we already were acquainted with which was good to see them again. We went from there to South Dakota to search out Jim Lay, a “Plymouth” owner who was in the process of restoring his car and had contacted Wendell Noble who had given Gary the information. We arrived at his place without too much trouble, (thankful for cell phones), and found that indeed he was doing a restoration. Of course, you know where that leads so I’ll move on. During their conversation, Jim left to get something in the house. When he returned, he gave Gary a picture of a car on a trailer – Gary looked at it and quickly realized that it was a picture of his 31 Plymouth Convertible Coupe!!! He turned the picture over and stamped on it was; Return to Harry F. Olney, 62 Chester Rd., Springfield, VT. That was Gary’s dad. It seems that Jim’s dad and Gary’s had corresponded about 50 years ago and as you could tell, Jim’s dad never returned the photo!! It is now back in the family’s hands! We were eating with our grandchildren (THEY were the reason for the trip!!) in an A&W in Helena, Montana, when a man drove in (with his grandchildren) and probably wouldn’t have caught our attention but he was driving a ’63 Ford Galaxy Convertible. Waiting for food, Gary went and talked to him and found out he was from Connecticut but had lived in Montana a long time. And of course, found the history of the car! When their food arrived, they left and got into their car. I noticed he had left his wallet and cell on the table. My husband grabbed the items and ran after him and thankfully caught up with him. Needless to say, he was very grateful. The point of this story is that if he hadn’t had that car and Gary hadn’t talked to him, we probably wouldn’t have noticed his left behind items. On our way back to Vermont, after putting on several hundred miles going around the flooding in North Dakota, we were able to link up with Jim Benjaminson. Gary and Wendell wanted to thank him for his 40 years of service as an officer in the Plymouth Club and deliver some of Wendell’s wonderful maple syrup to them. What my husband said would be an hour visit lasted all day! Are you surprised?? But, even I have to admit, it was extremely pleasant. We saw his collection, a museum he is involved with and a nice lunch. I couldn’t ask for more. So on your next vacation, go with the flow but make sure to take along a few books (I read 7), knitting or anything else that helps pass the time when you feel you can’t listen to one more car story.!!!