A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
Photo of my wife (second from left), her mother, and two of her sisters. We were married in December 1952 so this Easter was our first Easter after marriage. I was finishing my degree at the University of Wyoming and would graduate in May 1953. Fortunately, my wife had a job and could make the payments on her engagement ring. Little did we both knoiw that Easter that we would be headed for four more years of college.
With four of our five kids (the fifth was yet to be born in Laramie WY) in Ann Arbor Michigan when I was finishing my Ph.D. dissertation and we were living in a second floor two bedroom apartment with an occasional mouse.
We were late getting to St. George in early December since Michelle and Josh decided to get married the end of November. Now, only a few months later Josh has about finished his first year of teaching high school science stuff and coaching wrestling and Michelle continues her super MBA-type professional career. Plus they are building a house a hop and a skip away from a Rio's Mexican restaurant so they will never be without food. This photo just happened to be on my photo list of pictures taken to get us from Salt Lake to St. George.
Once upon a time this grove of trees surrounded a little plain weathered brown house where I was born in 1932. The location is in Penrose Wyoming, a little valley by the Shoshone River 12 miles west of Powell Wyoming in northwest Wyoming. I lived and grew up the first nine years of my life in this little house with no running water, heated by coal and cottonwood chunks, no electricity until 1937, no washing machine, an hour each way to school at Powell Wyoming on the ancient and primitive school bus, no indoor plumbing. In many ways these nine years were the most formative years of my life. We weathered the Great Depression under my mother's watchful and frugal care while my dad was gone most of the time trying to find a day's work here and there. We had no car while dad was gone, and we had no telephone. But we ran among the apple trees and the cottonwoods in the summer and tromped through the high snow drifts in the winter and scraped the ice crystals from the bedroom windows so we could see outside. We had very few toys, very few books, very little of anything. But I and my (then) three sisters used our imaginations and invented things to do, schemes to act out, holes to be dug in the orchard to hide away from mother where she could not (we thought) find us, strawberries and peas and corn and radishes and carrots and everything else that would grow in the summer to pick, with the wind whistling through and around the tall cottonwoods and lulling us to sleep in the summer. Now in the autumn, if not the winter, of my life, I look back on those struggling years with longing and gratitude to my parents, and especially my mother, for perseverance and for the love that kept us bound together through the blizzards of winter and the violent thunder storms of summer. We grew and we survived and we prospered in all the things that mattered.
I bought my first camera, a Baby Brownie, when I was about 12 or 13 years old. Taking pictures meant buying film and paying for developing the film and printing the photos. Some turned out fine, some were awful. During the early years of school and in the beginning years of our marriage, film and developing and printing were expensive, so picture taking was limited. A general feeling that common place things and scenes of daily life were just too mundane to bother photographing was a huge mistake. Here are a few examples of photos I wish I would have taken (or taken more of):
Pictures of the houses where we lived, including rooms, furnishings, and yards.
Pictures of the streets and neighborhoods where we lived.
Pictures of the towns and cities in which we lived.
Pictures of the schools we attended.
Pictures of our friends.
Pictures of our siblings, our parents, our grandparents, and our other close relatives.
Pictures of the trips we took.
Pictures of our prize possessions.
Pictures of the seasons.
Pictures of the beauties of nature and the surrounding countryside.
As we go through the humdrum of daily life, it usually never occurs to us that today's commonplace will be tomorrow's cherished memory. What did that room look like? Describe the street where you lived. Do you have a photo of you with your grandparents? One of my sisters reminded me the other day that the only photographic family history we have for several years while we were growing up was from my Baby Brownie and, a bit later, my Box Baby Brownie. Then my sisters took over my early cameras and continued to take pictures. But when memories fog and we try to remember and we think fondly of scenes, sights, people, belongings, and family history, we often regret that we did not pay attention and take more photos. Today's commonplace is tomorrow's cherished memory. Take more photos. Even a bad photo of an important person or event can become a tearstained memento of inestimable value later in life.
In September of 1953, we left Laramie for Bozeman Montana where I had been awarded an assistantship to study for a Master's degree in agricultural economics. I turned 21 on September 17 and Velna was 20. We had an apartment in a sumptuous row barracks building used for temporary housing during and after WWII at Montana State. The accommodations were primitive. Velna endured a rather long labor and her doctor believed in natural childbirth. So then on November 5 Russell M. Blood became the firstborn in our family. We survived that year by counting pennies. We traded babysitters with another couple that we had known at the University of Wyoming, scrounging for $1 in change to go to the double feature at the Ellen Theater. Velna worked part time, and when she returned from work we used her coat for a blanket to keep Russell warm. Russell thrived no matter how many times we moved him around the country. Af the age of five, he was clearly the best loader and packer of stuff so he never relinquished that job. He was never at a loss for something to say and we said early in his life that he would make a good lawyer. We have been forever grateful that he is our son and we wish him joy and happiness on his birthday. I know that his fondest wish will be to get a $25 gift certificate to go to IHop, his favorite gourmet restaurant. Happy Birthday, Russell. From your Mom and Dad.
While sorting through books this morning, I came across this gem stuck between the pages of one of the books. This masterpiece comes from the family of my second son, Ron, and his four daughters. Since this list may be of value to others in reducing the costs of family therapy and in providing family management insights not gained in college or from past experience, I am pleased to reproduce these rules here in their entirety. (To Ron's family: Forgive me for not asking permission, but given the fact that these rules could have wide applicability, I was certain you might approve. )
RULES FOR THE BLOOD FAMILY
No fisting, handing, footing, teething, knifing, forking, spooning....anyone at any time.
No calling people retarded (Dad) or stupid (Mel).
No disobeying Monica (or otherwise doing anything against her will).
No saying shut it or shut up (Mo).
No singing Willy Wonka (Monica).
No making new rules (Melanie--which means you already broke rule #1)
No singing David Hasselhoff songs (Dad).
1st time: time out for 4 hours 27 minutes.
2nd time: get beaten up.
3d time: get kicked out of the family
*unless you are Dad. If you are, then follow the following consequences:
1st time: eat a spoonful of peanut butter.
2nd time: eat a bowlful of peanut butter.
3d time: be sent to an island with an endless supply of peanut butter: no other food.
Yes, dear reader, the Curmudgeonly Professor has become an even more ancient geezer than he was two days ago. Monday September 17 was my 80th birthday. I never thought I would live that long but, on the other hand, I never intended to die either. Now I must face up to the fact that I am really, really old. Many people my age have already passed to the Great Beyond. Others are written up in the obits as having gone their way "due to incidents of old age." I am not sure that young people today are much in awe of old people because most young people by the age of 5 are more tech savvy than the average geezer. No one ever has to ask a geezer for info because kids can ask Google, who knows all, and the info is likely to be more up-to-date and reliable than stuff I make up.
After three days of lunches, parties, and being the center of attention I am now abandoned and on my own once again. I asked my wife last night what she was going to do for my birthday yesterday, one day past the 17th, to which she replied "nothing." But, I protested, you said you loved me in your birthday card. Well, she says, I don't love you that much. Saturday was lunch with my wife and her two sisters and a trip to the farmer's market. As I was buying corn, some maniac jumped up right in front of me and got in my face. I was about to clobber this maniac when I realized it was my son Jim from California who had made a special trip to surprise me. He had pulled this stunt once before, when my wife and I were in one car and Jim and family were in another and I left an hour before he did for southern California. At Hesperia, just at the top of Cajon Pass, some maniac jumped up in front of me while paying for gas and about gave me a heart attack. Turns out it was Jim. Jim claimed I was driving really, really slow.
I had given my wife and sons explicit instructions not to have a birthday bash because it would make me feel self conscious. Sunday we were on our way over to my other son Russell's for Sunday dinner when, suddenly, my son Jim pulled into the HOA club house at Russell's neighborhood. I'm doomed, I said. I was met with balloons, crepe paper, small great grandchildren trooping up to me with their handwritten birthday cards, and about 30 posterity and family. How was I to know. I didn't think anyone would care that I had turned 80 because they would merely think I was an even bigger grouch and, besides, I am a Democrat, and, heaven knows why, they are all Republicans. But I did escape from what actually was a wonderful party with a new super-duper-top-of-the-line iPad, which I had been coveting for some time. Now I can enter the realm of the unsociables who sit around at a get together twiddling their thumbs over their iPhones and iPads and ignore everyone else in the room. I also was blessed with a digital photo frame and a few other odds and ends and cards.
Monday, my actual birthday, was then a trivial day since all the celebrating, singing, etc. had vanished. My daughter-in-law, Susan, had given me a "Nixon now more than ever" button years ago and apologized for not being able to find another George Bush birthday card, a genre with which she had aggravated me several times in recent years. So I prevailed on son Jim to haul me to Temple Square in downtown SLCity on Monday so I could take pictures of the flowers. I was then in 7th heaven for a couple of hours, trying to find and photograph every different flower in the magnificent flower beds of Temple Square itself and the large Church Office Plaza flower gardens just to the east of the temple. Then we went to lunch at the Nauvoo Room in the former Hotel Utah, now the Joseph Smith Building. The Hotel Utah holds a special place for my wife and me since that is where we stayed nearly 60 years ago (this coming December) when we came from Laramie WY over icy roads to be married in the Salt Lake LDS Temple.
Now, apparently, my birthday is over. Twenty three facebook wishes,which is a lot more friends than I thought I had. An annual birthday card from my neighbor in St. George who deliberately flies his big red U of Utah flag whenever he thinks it will irritate me. There were no cards yesterday. No emails. I had to fix my own lunch. I had pleaded for a trip to Panda Express for some walnut shrimp, but my piteous pleas fell on deaf ears. I came to the realization that my birthday was over, that no one cared one whit now.
So today I am still editing the 350 photos I took of the wonderful flowers at Temple Square. For three wonderful days I was at peace with my friends and family, grateful beyond measure for the blessings of life, and for my wonderful wife who engineered all of these surprises despite her chronic pain even though I knew I wasn't worthy of any surpirse for being such an annoying (but entertaining, please) husband. For two wonderful hours I lived among the flower gardens of Temple Square and now I can live with the photos I took which will long outlive the flowers themselves, soon to be victims to the harbingers of frost and autumn. Life may be uncertain, but, as my wife's physician in St. George keeps reminding us, we are grateful for one day at a time. May your life be as rewarding as mine has been for eight decades.
From the flower gardens at Temple Square and the Church Office Plaza.