This picture, from one of our family vacations to Florida around (I'm guessing) 1978, illustrates nearly everything that was wonderful about my youth:
First of all, we're in Florida, and among my most treasured memories are those of our annual family vacations. And, as you can see, Jeff and I are playing miniature golf--you probably can't read it, but the oval sign at the left edge of the frame says, "No. 9 - Wooly Mammoth - Par 2." Was there, for a young boy in the 1970s, any place cooler than a miniature golf course with statues of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures and monsters of various kinds? (The answer is No, no place cooler--though admittedly quite a few places equally cool; many of them also happened to be in Florida.)
If you look closely, you can see that Jeff and I are wearing Star Trek and Star Wars shirts. Jeff's shirt has a picture of Chewbacca on it; mine features the star ship Enterprise. There was nothing more wonderful back then, nothing more wonder-filled and pure, than the love of an eight or ten or twelve year old boy for Star Trek and Star Wars. (Equally wonderful, though, I will admit, was the obsession we had back then for the collection of Micronauts and Shogun warriors that we were amassing at home...but that's another story.)
Most important, though, is the fact that somebody took this picture. Somebody cared enough to preserve this moment on film so that more than forty years after the fact I can appreciate it. Somebody loved us enough to have bought us Star Trek and Star Wars shirts, enough to take us to Florida, enough to pay our admission to the miniature golf place.
Over the weekend, Elyse, with some help from her mother, painted a tree on her already well-decorated bedroom wall, and this afternoon she wanted to set up the camera with the remote shutter release so she could take some pictures of herself with the new tree. Here are four of the pictures she took:
She managed to perfectly time a picture of herself holding Hale-Bopp so you can't tell how much Haley hates to be picked up and held:
This is her with her bonsai tree, Myrtle the myrtle:
(Elyse took all of these pictures--and also did her own makeup, I'm pretty sure--but I did some cropping and other adjustments to the pictures before posting them.)
It's a pretty wonderful thing to be a kid in the mid-1970s with a mother who can make cakes like this:
(As I write this, Easter 2020 is less than three weeks away, though the wisdom of the usual Easter festivities right now seems in doubt, given the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing and stay-at-home orders with which we've been living for the past couple of weeks. Maybe I can convince Anna and the girls to recreate the above cake for us this year anyway.)
Mom took a cake decorating class sometime around (I'm guessing) 1975, I think at Sears of all places. Maybe it wasn't Sears; that doesn't matter, what matters is that I remember being amazed that my mother could make these beautiful cakes, which in my memory she was doing almost constantly, for every occasion, such as the one above, which must have been an Easter cake, probably around 1976, and this one:
If you can't tell, it's a Scooby-Doo cake, and must have been for Jeff's birthday, which apparently we celebrated (at least in part) at my grandmother's house in Tucker (where this picture was taken). (And oh how I wish I could remove my ridiculous grinning self from this picture, but I don't want to misrepresent my past, and plus also I remember the navy winter coat I'm wearing here, with its fur-lined hood, with an indefensible fondness. One year I wore it as my Trick-or-Treating costume; I zipped it all the way up and said I was an Eskimo. But I digress...)
Until I found the picture below, I remembered this one as a Scooby-Doo cake; I must have been conflating it in my mind with the one above. I remember Mom meticulously decorating Yogi Bear with frosting stars applied with a piping bag and tip:
I'm happy that my daughters continue the baking tradition. In fact, after I click Publish on this post, I'm going to eat a piece of the Oeey-Gooey Butter Cake that Elyse made for us tonight. It's not decorated, but I'm excited about it nonetheless.
This "Peanuts" strip, from Sunday, May 15, 1966, perfectly illustrates the complexity and unflinching truth-telling for which I love "Peanuts" so much: Charlie Brown's anxiety and disappointment and anger, Linus's wisdom, and the actuality that shows us that Linus's self-help-book advice, good-intentioned and genuinely insightful though it may be, is no match for the Harsh Verities of Life.
Today Jessica and I went out to take pictures. Since the current coronavirus-avoidance recommendations say it's a really bad idea to go to anyplace where we're likely to encounter lots of other people, I chose a spot that seemed almost certain to be deserted, but also likely to be visually interesting: a cemetery. (The fact that we enjoyed our time walking around and shooting in the cemetery in Pembroke last month also figure into this decision.)
(And actually it wasn't deserted, not strictly speaking: in the time that we were there, three or four vehicles came through with individuals or families to visit graves, deliver flowers, and so on, and there was also a woman who appeared to be walking the cemetery's paths for exercise. Still, we were at least six feet away from them--more like 60 or 600 feet away, actually--at all times, and nobody sneezed or coughed on us.)
The cemetery I picked, Chestnut Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, is less than four miles from our house; I've driven by it hundreds of times and barely even noticed it. Here's a picture of one of our first views of the cemetery, from the church parking lot:
Jessica in her typical pose, taking pictures:
The church in the distance:
(The flag on the right side of the frame near the top is across the street, at a used-car lot.)
Jessica righting a vase of plastic flowers (which she does a lot in these places):
Come Ye Blessed
Sept. 11, 1829
May 9, 1910
May he find joy in the
An honest man is the
noblest work of God.
Aunt Jane Ford
Born Nov. 23, 1827
Died Sept. 18, 1901
How I usually see Jessica:
One of our last views of the cemetery, just before we left:
Today is the first day of two weeks of "Digital Learning Days" for Gwinnett County schools as the whole country tries to slow down, maybe even stop, the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Anna will also be working from home all week, and both of the institutions at which I teach (Gwinnett Tech and Georgia Gwinnett College) have suspended classes for this week.
We hope to return to normal life by the time March ends.
Update, one day later: It seems unlikely that we will "return to normal life" by the end of March. At this point it seems much more likely that all of us will finish the school year online, but it does seem that next fall, starting in August, we will go back to regular in-class learning. I don't know about my summer classes at Gwinnett Tech; I'm hopeful that those will go on, on campus, as currently scheduled (the semester officially starts on May 11, exactly eight weeks from yesterday), but I won't be surprised if that doesn't happen.
Update, two weeks later: We will definitely not "return to normal life" anytime soon; now we know for sure that we will all finish out the school year online, and not be leaving the house, except me for the occasional trip to Kroger for things we really need, at all in the month of April.
Today Jessica and I went out with the intention of doing some small town photography. We started by having lunch (or, as it turned out, the brunch buffet) at Pat's Eatery, in Braselton; it was fantastic, and very busy.
After eating our fill, we drove around Braselton and Hoschton for a few minutes but didn't find anyplace that looked worth stopping to take pictures. I drove north, more or less arbitrarily, on U.S. 129 until we got to Pendergrass, which was also fairly dead, at least as far as creating small town art is concerned. However, we did find the Pendergrass Baptist Church and the cemetery behind it (I'm not sure if the cemetery is really connected to the church or not), and Jessica suggested we take pictures there. So we did.
Here are some of the pictures I took:
(This was on the front door, I assume because Valentine's Day was just a couple of days ago.)
(Jessica spent a lot of the time we were there righting overturned vases and putting plastic flowers back in their pots.)
Today Jessica and I went to Kudzu Antiques in Decatur to look around and take pictures (but not actually buy anything; there were plenty of things we liked, but nothing we could actually afford). Here are some of the pictures I took:
After that, we went to Avondale Estates, just a couple of miles away, also to walk around and take pictures:
I didn't know about the Artlot art park ("Building a better block in Avondale"); it was a wonderful serendipitous find, and we enjoyed walking around it and taking pictures:
We ended our outing by heading home and eating supper, rather mundanely, at the KFC in Grayson.