When in doubt, blame the weather

This article in The Oregonian blamed last weekend’s amazing weather for the fact that Portland’s annual Wordstock literary festival was “as quiet as a library.” Several attending authors were mumbling similar sentiments: who wouldn’t rather be outside in such a gorgeous weekend, likely the last such weekend of the year?

From my vantage point at the Oregon chapter of the SCBWI table, I wouldn’t have suspected the downturn in attendance had I not heard others commenting about it.  It was my first Wordstock; I was pleased that this year it had been scheduled on a weekend when I was not out of town/laden with previous engagements.  Sure, “traffic” seemed a little slow, but my tablemates and I performed our volunteer duties – touting the benefits of SCBWI membership to inquiring writers and illustrators – while, of course, looking for opportunities to show our own works.  I sold a whopping one copy of The Mighty Quinn (which I considered to be gravy, as the primary mission of those volunteering at the SCBWI table was to promote SCBWI)…and at least I didn’t end up with a negative inventory. [1] Also, I enjoyed meeting and chatting with other SCBWI members, including illustrator Carolyn Conahan (whose works include the delightfully illustrated and titled Bubble Homes and Fish Farts). Carolyn and I shared a Saturday afternoon shift and, it turned out, a mutual loathing of the terms platform and industry.

FISHFARTS

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I never wore an engagement ring, for a variety of reasons, including this one.  I just didn’t get the point of it – excuse the senior moment.  Yeah, right.  Make that, I damn well got the point of it, and what I got about it made me ill.

Would you wear an engagement ring? I asked MH, a long long time ago in a dating world far, far away, when we were discussing Our Future ®.  If a woman and a man are both engaged to be married, what’s the point – other than that point which is analogous to dog pissing around a certain spot to mark its territory [2] – for the woman and not the man to wear such a signifier?

engagementring

MH, knowing me well, [3] didn’t bother with The Ring when he proposed marriage. We later chose simple gold wedding bands with a double weave design (and had the date of our wedding engraved on the inside of the band, for those pesky moments when you need a memory prompt.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As of this writing, neither MH nor I are wearing our wedding rings. A couple of weeks ago MH said he wanted to tell me, in case I’d noticed and had wondered [4] his ring was “missing,” that he’d been experiencing painful arthritis-like symptoms in his finger joints and had removed the ring in order to massage the joint. He feared he would be unable to remove the ring later if his joints continued to swell.

The next day I took off my wedding ring.  Since then, I’ve discovered (after looking and asking) that quite a few married couples do not wear wedding rings, usually for medical or similar reasons. [5] My motivation for ring-doffing was similar to my not-wanting-an-engagement-ring reason.  There was no spite or snit fit involved; just pure and practical (to me) relationship logic: I’m not going to wear my ring if MH isn’t wearing his.

I notice my ring’s absence several times a day, when instinctively performing what has become my après-hand washing ritual for the past twenty-five years (twisting the ring and blowing on my ring finger to dry underneath the ring).  I’m aware that it’s not there, but I don’t exactly miss wearing it. I was never a ring-bling person, and other than the two months in high school when I wore the class ring my parents insisted I purchase, [6] I’d never worn a ring prior to getting married (not counting the groovy Man From U.N.C.L.E. spy ring I got in a box of Cracker Jacks).

man_from_uncle

If you want us to wear wedding rings, I said to MH, perhaps we could have new ones designed, with some kind of custom feature (a latch of sorts, that would not pinch the skin) to make removal easy and allow for future, uh, joint expansion.  Belle seems rather pleased with the solution she proposed for our ring dilemma: finally, a legitimate excuse reason to urge her parents to get “tatted.”

RING TATS

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Happy Trails to you, Aunt Bug.

Vesta Lucile Parnell Parker died on Sunday, the day after her 85th birthday.  My Aunt Lucile never went by her first name.  She was nicknamed “Bug” in childhood, and was always “Aunt Bug” (pronounced in her Tennessean lilt as Aint Bug) to her nieces and nephews.  Lucile was the youngest of the my father’s five siblings, and although you’re not supposed to play favorites when it comes to family, it was obvious to me that Bug was Chet’s favorite.  She married at 18, had five children, and remained in her home state of Tennessee.  Her brother (later my father) Chet, made his life in California after his gig in the army during WWII.

Aunt Bug was a musician, favoring country/gospel/bluegrass tunes (and even composed a few).  She played guitar and mandolin and a host of other instruments, and I love the fact that her obituary mentions the name of the bluegrass group she and other local musicians formed and played in for years, The Lizard Lick Old Timey String Band.

A college friend and I stayed with Lucile in Tennessee during the return loop of our post-graduation, cross-country road trip. One evening, after fixing us a tasty if a-bit-too-monochromatic-for-me [7] supper, Bug played guitar while she told a story, about how she’d recently had a lovely time with “a local feller who lives up the road a piece,” who’d heard she did some pickin’ and had stopped by to play guitar with her.  “Carl is the sweetest man, and he sure can carry a tune…”  Upon further elicitation of details, it became evident that she was referring to Carl Perkins !!!!  Down-to-earth Lucile couldn’t figure out why my friend and I were so drop-jaw impressed;, why, Carl was just another country boy, and really, a sight more respectable than that one-time buddy of his, Elvis, “…who was into the drugs and the women but some folks ’round here talk about that Elvis Presley like he was the second coming of Jesus just because he loved his momma….”

Geography (and budgets) being what they were, Lucile’s visits with our family and ours with hers were few but memorable. When visiting Santa Ana she always gave in to the demands of her nieces to get out our dad’s Martin guitar and entertain us with her rendition of the just-naughty-enough-for-primetime song, “That Old Rooster.”

Chet Parnell’s children knew Aunt Bug as friendly and amusing, quick with a smile and a hug and a joke, although we later discovered she struggled with bouts of staggering depression from the accumulation of tragedies that befell her family. [8]

My favorite memory of Aunt Bug comes from one of her visits to California, one night when we were all gathered in the living room and she startled us with a spontaneous demonstration of what she described as an endangered vocal skill. The woman could yodel!  Prior to that I had no idea that our cat could rise up on her back legs and hop about in abject terror.

Aunt Bug’s version (both lyrics and melody) was better, but this is an approximation of what she always called the “That Old Rooster” song:

Lucile was the last of the elder Parnell siblings to pass.  My father’s generation is no more; my mother’s three sisters are gone, and she, a frail 85 years old, is the last of hers.  I’ve no grandparents and now no aunts or uncles left.  It’s a poignant observation, not a lament. I’m not sure if my siblings and I are ready to assume the Oldest Generation mantle, but such is life.  It isn’t as if you are asked if you are ready, or have to qualify in any way for the title (other than by not dying young).

I do, however, possess the secret to eternal youth: cultivate an appreciation for immature humor and juvenile pranks life-affirming exuberance, and keep a ready supply of  _____ ____ on hand.  (hint:  rhymes with  oopie pushins)

And, of course, always let the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!


[1] In two past book fair/author events, I had people walk away with (as in, steal) copies of my first book – which were clearly marked for sale, not for free, when I was distracted.

[2] I’m a hardcore romantic, what can I say?

[3] And yet still wanting to marry me, imagine that.

[4]  I hadn’t noticed, and therfore hadn’t wondered.

[5] Typically weight gain, or joint swelling during pregnancy or as a side effect of medications, etc.

[6] They didn’t want me to miss having that classic high school insignia…which I lost while bodysurfing at Newport Beach.

[7] In true southern style, everything –I mean EVERYTHING, including beautiful, fresh from the garden, ruby red beefsteak tomatoes – ended up yellow (i.e., breaded and fried).

[8] Three of Lucile’s  five children – all of her boys – died young and tragically: two in separate, freak accidents when they were preteens, and her oldest boy, Kirt, committed suicide in his early 20’s. Lucile’s husband, our “Uncle Junior,” took up flying not long after Kirt’s death.  “When he’s up in the air he can just be above all of his worldly cares,” was how Aunt Bug explained the comfort her beloved husband Junior found in piloting his Cessna.  Junior died ~ 20 years ago, when he crashed his plane into a culvert after being unable to pull out of a stall maneuver.