Look On My Works, Ye Mighty

Teachers, parents, siblings, mentors of every kind leave their mark upon us.  I was in the fifth grade at Isaac Newton Elementary school in Detroit when my teacher, Mrs. Chapman, had us memorize Ozymandias, a poem composed in 1818 by Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Then we had to recite it to our classmates.

I walked to the front of the room and paused, a dramatic device storytellers employ to command the attention of their audience.  Actually, I was just trying not to throw up: it was my first public solo performance.  I was terrified, but it was also electrifying to be able to convey such a compelling story, such unforgettable imagery.   Not only did I not throw up, but I got an A.  And I never forgot that poem.

My mother used to recite poetry to us, like “Daffodils” by Wordsworth and “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes.  Over the years I’ve shared Ozymandias and other gems (okay, sometimes I sing jingles from the TV commercials I watched as a kid), to a certain captive audience–my children.  Occasionally I recognize my own words reflected back to me from the mouths of my babes.  Sometimes to my chagrin, but most often to my surprise and delight.

My son Eli is home between teaching assignments…

 

…and tonight Bea returns from Stanford on spring break.  It will be so good for us all to be back together again.  My ritual, when the kids depart for school, is to tidy their rooms, change the sheets, and drop a tear or two as I make their rooms ready for them to come home to…and they are always grateful.

The last time Eli left I was tempted to hire a bulldozer…

…but it’s like spending a little quiet time with that absent child.

Last night, in a burst of inspired procrastination (he was tired of reorganizing his own room), Eli decided to surprise Bea by cleaning her room, and not just the sort of tidying I do, but a thorough reorganization, including the mountain of books stacked haphazardly in the corner, that pile of her things parked just inside the door, not to mention the surprise found in a teacup discovered under a pile of stuff on her desk.  It’s either a science experiment or a strange new life form.  It took Eli over five hours.  He found so many new ways and places to shelve books that they almost fit on her shelves now!

But nothing comes without a price tag.  In fact, after Eli was finished, everything had a tag on it.  Oh, yes.  He had made his mark.

I love this one…

But my absolute favorite touch was the greeting on the door.

I howled with laughter. “Oh, good,” said Eli. “I didn’t know if you’d get the reference.”  “Do I get the reference?” I asked, launching into a recitation of Ozymandias.  “How did you think of it?”  He said he remembered it from all the times I’d recited it.  Of course I  ran to find my book of Shelley…

When I opened it up in search of the poem, I saw that someone else had made her mark.  Upon the book…


…and maybe even upon me.

I believe those little things that we pass on from generation to generation, the poetry and the stories, whether silly or sad or sweet and heartfelt, will outlast the Mighty, their monuments to themselves, and, I hope, their wars.

Thanks, Mom.  Thanks, Mrs. Chapman.  Thank you, son.  And welcome home, Bea!

All images and words (except for Mr. Shelley’s, of course)

c2013 Naomi Baltuck

Remember The Alamo?

“You can all go to Hell: I’m going to Texas.”

–Davy Crockett—

Summer in Texas is hotter than hell.  I’m a sweater-weather gal from the Pacific Northwest; I just wilt in the heat.  I nearly died of heatstroke while visiting The Alamo while attending a storytelling conference there twenty-five years ago.  And don’t forget what happened to Davy Crockett.

But in a previous post I’ve told you a little something about my very cool cousins June and Haskell

…and the occasion was June’s 90th birthday, which I wouldn’t have missed for a hundred faux fur coonskin caps.  The party was in San Antonio.   I was going to share a room with my Seattle Cousin Nancy, which meant not only a birthday party, but a PJ party every night!

An added incentive was the chance to meet June’s daughters and granddaughters for the first time.  We had a lot of family stories and family history to catch up on.  June’s husband Haskell is a seventh generation Texan, and he spins a good yarn, whether waxing nostalgic about his childhood in East Texas, his service in World War II, or sharing stories of our own Aptekar family, which he knows more about than any of us born into it.  I didn’t want to miss out on that either.

We stayed in the famously haunted historic Gunter Hotel, on which site a hotel has stood since 1837, the year after The Battle of The Alamo.  (Remember The Alamo?)  Mostly the halls were haunted with Aptekar cousins, nieces, sisters and daughters zipping in and out of June and Haskell’s room for Happy Hour.  Best of all, the hotel was spitting distance from the San Antonio Riverwalk.

It’s a bend in the river that runs through the city, where flood controls were incorporated into the design.  Both sides are lined with sidewalks, shops, and restaurants.

In 1929, the Riverwalk was a bold and innovative urban design.

 They built it in a sketchy neighborhood that even military personnel were warned to avoid.  But the Riverwalk was a huge success.  It revived downtown San Antonio, attracting both locals…

…and tourists…


I’ll try not to whine too much about the heat, but understand that in Seattle, at eighty-five degrees, the city issues “Severe Weather Alerts.”   We strolled along the river that first night, after it had cooled down into the eighties.

Our walk was memorable.

The light…

…and shadows…

were compelling.

And we couldn’t have asked for better company.

The next day we all trooped over to the Historic Mexican Market, with my ninety-year old cousins leading the way there…

…and back…

…in a blistering 110 degrees.


I want to be like them when I grow up.

We had lunch at a restaurant…

…with enough local color…

…and twinkle lights to satisfy even my tastes.

Back at the hotel June opened birthday presents…

…and then we went back out to soak up even more of the local color.

Of course, a Mariachi band serenaded The Birthday Girl.

We packed a lot into four days!  Museums…

…and sculpture gardens.

Talking….

Shopping…

 

Storytelling…

Wildlife…

More wildlife…

And really wild life!

AND REMEMBER THE ALAMO!?!?!

Oh, yes, we went there too.

To escape the heat, in an air conditioned IMAX theater we watched The Price of Freedom, about The Battle of The Alamo.


It was a very good recreation.  Don Swayze, Patrick’s brother, has a role in it; those boys definitely came from the same gene pool. The fellow who played Colonel Travis looked strangely familiar–on the poster below he’s in middle of the lineup wearing the white hat.

It was driving me crazy.  I knew his voice, but his name–Casey Biggs–didn’t ring a bell, so I looked it up.  No wonder I couldn’t place him!  He played the Cardassian ‘Damar’ on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!  I learned that Biggs was called in to Paramount Studios to read for the part because the director had seen The Price of Freedom, and liked him.

Not only did The Alamo movie land Casey Biggs the biggest role of his acting career, the Texans’ defeat at the Alamo inspired an unprecedented rush of recruitment into the Texian army.  Right or wrong, eventually Texas was taken from Mexico and became a part of the United States.

And it was also a darn good setting for an Aptekar family birthday party.

I will never forget it.

c2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgia.

Click here for more interpretations of Jake’s Sunday Post: Urban Design.