A Record Can Be a Madeleine

I came across a snippet of an interview with William Shatner whose latest memoir, Boldly Go: Reflections on a Life of Awe and Wonder, came out last October. In the article ninety-three-year-old Shatner said soemthing along the lines of, “We’re here and then we’re gone. I  mean, who even remembers Danny Kaye any more?”

That got my dander up. I remember Danny Kaye!  Fondly. Dearly. Not necesssarily for his movies or that sui generis rapid fire partee.  No, I have had a special place in my heart since I was four years old.  My mother bought a children’s record album of his that came out in 1960. Danny Kaye retells six stories from around the world. In one, a young girl becomes a maid for an eccentric man who calls his cat White Faced Siminee and his house High Topper Mountain.  Sixty-three years later I can still recite the final line of this story. The stingy close-hearted protagonist in Nail Broth learns to share. In a tale from Russia, a wealthy egocentric home-owner learns the value of modest living. A daft father-to-be consults with the village wise man whose answers even a four-year-old could figure out.  Each story had its own musical composition which deepened the magic of each of the tales.

Shatner’s comment about no one remembering Danny Kaye set me on a search to find this album if I could. I  had kept my copy for decades and even played it a few times for Elliot and Emma when they were young but somewhere along the way it vanished. Google to the rescue.  A pristine copy arrived in the mail last week, the red cover as vibrant as I remembered it. The record, within its pristine white sleeve, was flawless. Slightly giddy with anticipation I centered the record on the platter and watched as the tone arm found its groove.

Danny Kaye’s voice was just as I had remembered it — warm, light, rich with all sorts of cadences and accents. The words of each story came flooding back to me as did images of the Atlanta apartment we lived in at the time. I was my four-year-old self again, sitting on the floor completely caught up in my imaginings as Kaye told  his tales.

Olivia and Leah are coming next week. I hope they’ll enjoy the record even half as much as I did. Danny Kaye just might be will be remembered deep into the 21st century.

*Master of All Masters!  get out of your barnacle and put on your squibbs and crackers for White-Faced Siminee has gotten a spark on her whiskers and if you do not get some pundalorem soon, all of High Topper Mountain will be on hot cocolorem.

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Three Guesses

Each month, Martin’s photography club assigns a new challenge.  This month they were to take a walk around town and capture abstraction in the mundane.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it here again, I love to see the world through Martin’s eyes.  This one (have you guessed it yet?) took my breath for a moment or two and then again when I figured out what he had photographed. Don’t stop, Martin.  Don’t ever stop showing us the world as you see it.

photo credit: Martin Darvick

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What Does Patience Mean?

The Hebrew word for patience is סבלנות, pronounced sav•la•noot I learned the word when my brother was in nursery school; it seemed the teacher used the word with him in those days.  I had occasion to use it with three-year-old Leah recently when she got into the loop of asking when we were going to the park. “Soon,” “When Grandpa gets back,” “After your nap,” did nothing to short circuit the loop. When three-year olds want something they want it NOW!  (So do 67-year-olds but we’ve learned to curb the agitation. Outwardly, anyway.)

Thinking back to my brother  I said, “Savlanut, Leah.  Have a little savlanut.” I could have been offering her a plate of spanikopita for all she knew. “Do you know what savlanut is, Leah?”  She looked up and me and replied, “God?” Out of the mouths of babes.

Leah sensed I was using a Hebrew word, and she knew that Hebrew had to do with synagogue and synagogue had to do with God. It was a perfectly logical guess. I love it when my children’s and grandchildren’s innate leaps of wisdom stop me in my tracks. They cut away all the clutter and get right to the essence. Jewish tradition holds that there are seventy names for God among them: Shepherd, Healer of the Sick, Master of the Universe. Why not Patience?

I imagine if I were the Divine I would often look down and think, “Again? Again you haven’t learned to get along? Still bickering, stil polluting? Still taking lives? How many more millennia is it going to take? OK, so I’ll wait some more.”  Maybe there are days the One Who Sees leans micro. Divine patience is offered in silent compassion to a couple struggling with infertility or a patient aching to be well.

I went over to Leah and told her that savlanut meant patience and that she was right it is a Hebrew word. “And,” I continued, “I think Patience is a great name for God, too.” With that, I got her sneakers and we headed out to the park. On the way, we called Grandpa to meet us there.





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Order is Golden

I finally got around to doing something I’ve wanted to do for ages. It has nothing to do with a bucket list. I didn’t even have to leave my house. In fact, getting the house in order was the whole point. First I cleaned out the linen closet. No matter how hard I try to keep it neat, it quickly descends into a percale jungle. Why was I holding on to sheets and pillowcases from college? They were in very good condition; surely someone else could use them.  And why not store the sheets for the guest room bed in the guest room?  Voila!  Those two moves gave me the space to fold and store the remainder.

Next up, the shallow closet that despite the labeled bins, had once again devolved into total disorder. The extension cord, heating pad, and chandelier bulbs irked me with their perennial falling off their shelf.  The arnica cream (for sore muscles) had migrated into the bin labeled “tummy and toes.” Face wash definitely didn’t belong in the basket with contact lenses and eye drops. I rehoused toilet paper, the heating pad, and the lightbulbs on a linen closet shelf and fashioned from an oatmeal box a nifty holder for the extension cord.

Next up was a kit for touch-up paint.  Earlier in the month I’d spent a few hours repairing the nicks in the wood trim throughout the house.  It was a cumbersome task with a near disaster or two with a paint can.  But when it was all done I was quite happy with the job.  Gone was the shallow gouge in a door. When I come up the stairs I am no longer met with a nicked newel post niggling me for a spot of paint.

The world is steeped in disorder and chaos. There is so much I cannot repair. But I can bring order to my own little corner. I can smooth and fold, scrub and fix. What a gift that is, isn’t it?

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House Tour

Martin celebrated his 75th birthday a couple of weeks ago. Elliot and his family came in as did Martin’s sister.  It was a great weekend hanging out at home, playing in the snow, playing dress up with the girls.. We were all sad to say goodbye. A couple of days later our son called to Face Time.  “Leah wants to see your house,” he said.  She piped up from the background, “I want to see your kitchen. Where is Grandpa?” Actually, “Where is Grandpa?” was likely the first question.


So began our impromptu FTHT — Face Time House Tour. Kitchen first where I  reminded Leah that she and her sister had finger painted at the kitchen counter during their visit.  Then on to the living room, stopping for a bit of art education. I showed her a floral still life passed down from my grandfather to my mother and then to me. Painted by A. S. Baylinson, a Russian artist who was fairly renowned in his day, I pointed out the red and yellow flowers; we played find the circles. After the livingroom we headed upstairs to the room she and her sister usually sleep in. Leah wanted to hear the music box that isn’t really a music box but a painted china figurine of Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddleduck. We also needed to wind up the Rabbit Mother rocking her bunnies to sleep.

Returning to the kitchen at the end of the tour, Leah said, “I miss you, Aviva.  “I come to your house soon?”  “Yes, Sweetheart,” I replied.  “You’ll come to my house soon.” Oh how a brief FTHT  leaves tiny footprints upon the tour guide’s heart.



photos courtesy of Debra Darvick


















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