Mao and the Holy Ghost — Strange Bedfellows for a Pandemic



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The other day, as part of my routine of checking in on friends hither and yon, I sent a text to M who lives downstairs. I could have just pounded on the floor but we hadn’t worked up a code for bangs before the pandemic grounded us. M is one of the most diligent followers of social isolation among my friends. This is partly because from the early days of the pandemic, she has been receiving regular WARNINGS! and YOU-BETTER-DO-THIS! messages from her mom who got stuck in China where she was visiting her mom. A mother’s protective care for her chicks has no boundaries. I, too, have benefitted from Mom’s advice and M’s care for me.

Anyway, I miss her so much and our weekly binging of Crazy Ex Girlfriend episodes that I feel sad if I don’t at least get her texting words and occasional drawings — she is an amazing illustrator. So this week was no exception. The text exchange started out normal enough:

Me: How are things downstairs?

M: It’s good. Just working …

See, all normal, then M writes:

M: Writing about seeing Mao in the first grade.

Me:  The Mao?????

M:  Yeah, but he wasn’t alive.

Me:  This gets more interesting

M:  We saw him at the “Mao Tse Tung Memorial Hall”

I had no idea that Mao had been embalmed and put in a cooler for M and her first grade class to visit. Sort of weird and scary for those little kids. I remember seeing one of my uncles in his coffin at his wake and was freaked out for months (maybe years? still?) afterwards. Actually, I can still remember trying to move my kneeing knees backwards out of his line of vision as we said a rosary for him. But, he wasn’t put in a cooler for later visits, thank goodness, because I know the Eyerman kids would have had to go visit him.

The conversation continued. Me, not wanting to be outdone by a Mao sighting, wrote:

Me:  Me and my whole first grade class once thought we saw The Holy Ghost in the form of a white pigeon. Felt Blessed.

M:  LOL. That’s great xD

Hmm. I didn’t LOL about Mao but didn’t bring that up because I was now deep into the memory of my Holy Ghost sighting.

Me:  I just remembered that day and even that I was wearing this cute, little plaid dress.

M:  Would you say it was more of a peaceful experience rather than crazy and weird.

Too bad I didn’t ask her that same questions about her Mao sighting.

Me:  Exciting.

And it was. We had been on the playground at St. James the Less Scool when the sighting happened. We told our nun teacher (Sr. Melita?) all about it and, she, God bless her soul, took us back outside so we could have another look , Then, just like on cue, The Holy Ghost came back for an encore fly-by so we would not be laughed at by grown ups. I mean, after all, it was these same grown ups who told us that those little foot prints on our little reading chairs were made by the book fairies and not some creepy animal that lived in the building — which was probably the real story.

I’m glad that Mao and the Holy Ghost — aka Holy Spirit — made a return visit to my life here in the age of isolation and fear. I needed those memories as I think M needed hers. And we both needed the laugh.







One Word at a Time Will Get Me On My Way



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Now that I’ve made the promise to myself, that this year, this 2019, I would do things differently, think new thoughts, try scary things and break through some of these fears and self-doubts that I’ve been wearing all these 72 years, I’m finding that it ain’t as easy as writing the words. I didn’t think it would be a breeze, but I had convinced myself that I was ready and even eager to take this challenge on. I thought I was ready to propel myself into this adventure but forgot that all of those fears were still sitting inside of me waiting to rear their ugly heads and put the brakes on my otherwise rosy plans.

All this self-recrimination started when my good friend, M, sent me the seat sale for Westjet. She didn’t write anything, just sent me the advertisement. We had talked about it earlier in the week and she had told me that their sales were fantastic. So her intentions were all good and I had told her — and myself — that this year I was going to travel. Go Someplace Where I’ve Never Been Before, I boasted. Get myself back to an ocean somewhere in this world. I was going to pack my bag and head off to one of my great unknowns. But I couldn’t do it that day. I couldn’t be spontaneous and just pick a date out of the blue, pluck my credit card down, and plan the trip afterwards.

I was greatly disappointed in myself. I felt like I had, in the first month of this new year, negated all my promises. I sent M an email and asked her if she thought my reluctance to just go-with-it and get a reservation was a sign of my “old demons” rearing their ugly heads. She wrote back that only I could answer that question.

That made me feel worse.

I had to do something to pull my spirit out of the toilet. So I decided to put the whip back in the closet and stop the shaming voice inside my head — which, as you probably know, is utterly worthless. Instead, I took a smaller, but a very important, step towards my 2019 goals. I started reading one of the books on my Ann’s 2019 Reading List.

Earlier this year — can you even say that when you’re still in January? — I decided, as part of this New-Ann-In-2019, it was time to wean myself off of the steady diet of period mysteries I have been reading for the past ten years or so and challenge my mind with something a little more substantive. I knew I couldn’t be trusted to pick out a new reading list on my own. I’ve had too many disappointments in the past. After reading glowing reviews of books in the New Yorker or in the paper, I would eagerly put them on hold at the library. By the time they came in, I couldn’t figure out why the hell I ordered it as I struggled to get beyond the first fifteen pages. (My friend, L, told me never to trust book reviews, “They’re written only to sell the books, Ann.”)

So, this time, I didn’t put my reading future into the hands of strangers. No, instead, I sent an email to a bunch of my wonderful, eclectic friends, and asked them for the titles of their two, or three favourite books. The results have been amazing. I have a list of 24 books so far that are as varied and interesting as the people who gave them to me. There are classics I’ve never read, a trilogy on witches and vampires, another trilogy described by the friend who recommended it, as an “Indian soap opera,” tell-all memoirs, a heavy Canadian content that I have avoided reading these past 23 years, and lots more. I probably won’t like them all but I’ll read them all. It’s another one of those promises I made myself.

And, there are added bonuses to this method: 1) I have my friends right here to talk with about the books afterwards and, 2) when the time comes when I do make that reservation to go someplace I’ve never been before, I’ll not have to even think about what I’m going to take to read on the trip.

Now I’m off to start Book II on the list.

Home Never Looked So Good


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I mean really, I still  haven’t finished the telling of our six-day road trip-journey-adventure to OHIO (Yes, Virginia you can have all that in Ohio). Virgil could have gotten Aeneas around the Mediterranean a dozen times and told about each one in the same amount of time. Geesh.

Without further ado, here’s the rest of our escapades.

We left our story with the dynamic duo arriving at Mary’s house welcomed by the four O-H-IO flamingos in the front yard, then ordering yummy Italian food and, finally, spending the evening watching a weird docudrama with Joan Collins’ telling her equally weird life story. The other entertainment, and much more interesting, was watching Lil Joe, the resident cat. explore his box.

Being that we only had three more days here and seven more siblings for Sue to meet and me to cherish being around live and in person, our days were carefully planned out, but definitely not inflexible. So Wednesday morning we headed out to cross one more thing off Sue’s must-gets-list and over to hang out with my sister Kate.

Kate is the only one of the twelve of us who can claim to have been an only child. If she wasn’t so wonderful, I’d be jealous. But she is full of laughter and stories of our mom and dad and hiding from landlords and loving all the little ones in her family even after she had six of her own. She showed Sue pictures of all her kids and grands and great grands. It is a huge number of people, many of whom I have never met.

But it was time for lunch. Never one to miss a lunch out, Mary came on down to Kate’s after her doctor’s appointment to join us. When I was little Mary and Nancy, my wonderful older sisters, would take their little sisses, me and Susie and Peg, shopping downtown and afterwards they would take us to lunch. This was a big deal. sometimes it was the counter of Woolworth’s with the pictures of unappetizing dinners over the counter. But other times, they splurged and took us to the restaurants on the upper floors of F & R Lazarus department store. We’d sit at a table, not the counter, and order dressing with gravy, my fav.

But, we must be off. The plan was to show Sue German Village where our Dad grew up and then of course, to have lunch.

I love to go visit German Village when I’m home. The brick streets and the little brick houses tucked close to one another takes me back to my year in Germany living in a little town that smelled of cows. My dad worked with his father, a builder, on some of these houses until his dad died and he, at age 16, went to work for the A&P, but that’s another story. As I recall, he always wanted a brick house but alas, that and the Cadillac never materialized.

Sue smiling for lunch

But, enough of that, we all needed to eat. And, if you’re in German Village well you’re not going to order pizza right? You need sauerkraut and bratwurst and schnitzel and spaetzel and other fattening delicious food. We decided on Schmidt’s Sausage Haus partly because they had a parking lot and we were just too hungry that we didn’t want to drive around and around.

Fed, and a bag of cream puffs for later, we went forth in search of the little brick house where my mom and dad lived and Kate was born — her year as an only child. I had been there once with mom and dad, but lost the picture so we had only Kate’s memory to go on — which is amazingly sharp for an 87 year old. The third time around the block, she was sure, absolutely that this little house was The One. We told her that there really should be a brass plaque on it or at least a banner announcing the site of her birthplace. It would have been a lot easier to find it if there was.

My mom told me one time that when she lived there and the baby (Kate) was asleep, she’d wait for the Ladies’ Home Journal to come in the mail and she’d go upstairs and lay on the bed and read the stories. I imagine it summer with the windows open and her garden blooming in the yard of this little house.

But there was more on the agenda for our Wednesday in Columbus. I really wanted to show Sue the Topiary behind the main library in downtown. The first time I saw it, it had just been planned and planted so it was more wire than bushes but now it’s all grown up.

It is a topiary of Georges Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”. It is truly a magical place. Mary and Kate waited on a bench in the shade while Sue and I went exploring in French just to set the mood. It was great fun and very hot — the Ladies on the grass would have been shocked.

George, Peg, me, Kate, Mary, Tom

To get the best out of our Wednesday, we stopped to say hey to Peg and George in their beautiful blue house. Peg is the youngest of us all, born on my mother’s birthday and one of the funniest, smartest women I know.

Bob, AKA Stark in his days behind bars

My “little” brother Tom came down with Bob — named after a canine character on Poirot.– his rescue dog who took over the cuteness in that backyard. But now it was time to get the ladies home. Sue confessed that it made her a tad nervous to have three of the Eyerman girls in the car at the same time. I don’t know whether that was because of fear of an accident or the conflicting directions she received from the back seat on where to go.

Thursday — Tour #3 — Downtown Columbus

One of the “Must Dos” on my list for Sue when we were in Columbus was to take one of Joe’s tours of downtown Columbus. He used to do it every day on his lunch hour when he worked down on Gay Street. Most times he met up with George and the two of them would walk. Now, they continued with the walks. Not every day, but once a week they take the Cleveland Avenue bus to downtown and walk for an hour or more.

We picked up George then went over to get Joe. Joe and Nance live in the house where we Eyermans have lived our whole lives. If I want to think of “Home” it would have to be that house. I can go in there and remember when I couldn’t reach the same doorknobs or had headfirst races with my sibs down the stairs or screamed as mom chased bats out of the upstairs. I took Sue on a short visit upstairs and she was surprised how 14 people lived in that space with one bathroom. But Joe our tour guide was ready to take us on another tour. So off we went with hugs to Nancy and a peek at the resident cats who were not impressed by our presence.

The one thing that stood out for me as a real difference in downtown Columbus wasn’t the new buildings but the amount of green space there was. Toronto could take a lesson from them. Everywhere on both sides of the river were parks and benches and flowing water. It was calm and beautiful. Places I remember from my childhood have been repurposed for museums or rebuilt. The old Veterans Memorial where I saw Ray Charles and Hello Dolly with Carol Channing has been torn down and replaced with a new strikingly impressive building surrounded by reclaimed land with native plants and, again, running water and benches.

By the end of the day we had walked six miles! We were mighty proud of ourselves. We made our way up to the OSU campus. The boys, toopooped for more walking, waited on a bench supervising a construction job while I gave Sue my tour of the campus. Problem was, there were a lot of new buildings and what I thought was The Oval was really not the Oval and thus made it a trick to find the boys again.

It was so changed I couldn’t really grab hold of those mostly sweet memories of working there after high school. We collected the boys and headed back to more familiar territory.

Friday — Lunch with the Whole Bunch

I feel so blessed that I got to see and talk to and laugh with all of my Columbus siblings. I didn’t get to see theneices and nephews and grands and greats, but they’re another trip sometime. I just wanted for Sue to meet the women and men who influenced me and loved me and showed me what caring was all about. And who have some of the best of the best sense of humours.

Thanks to Mary organizing lunch for us all in a place that was easy for everyone to get to, everyone showed up even my brother Steve who lives the farthest out of town and probably hadn’t seen anyone for about as long as I hadn’t. Even Trish, my brother Mike’s widow, came. I was so overwhelmed by just sitting at that table and looking around, I didn’t even mingle or suggest we take a family pic. Oh well, they’re in my heart which is better than a pic.

Saturday Homeward Bound

I think this was the best visit I ever had to Columbus — not that the others were bad but this one was superlative. I think it was my introvert’s dream family visit. I could talk one-to-one with folks. Maybe it’s that we’re older and that we’ve been zooming for two years or is it three, so we’re more familiar of what’s what in our lives.

Mary, in pjs that sort of match her tablecloth and Nancy having tea and rolls

Nancy and Joe came over to say a goodbye. It made me incredibly happy because I hadn’t properly said goodbye to them at the luncheon. A final gift maybe. I think I can speak for Sue that her wish to meet my Columbus sibs was fulfilled for her too.

There was one last thing on Sue’s list to do before we crossed the border to Canada. She wanted grits at a Country Kitchen. She found one sort of on our way north in Rootstown, Ohio. It was truly an American experience right down to having to pass through the general store gift shop while waiting for a table. But grits were on the menu along with other high caloric entries. This was our only pit stop to eat before home so we imbibed in all the goodness they offered — especially the grit

We meandered through out back roads again through Ohio and made a stretch the legs stop in Jamestown New York whose claim to fame is as the birthplace of Lucille Ball. She has her own museum which we passed over, another gift shop, of course. The most interesting fact was that she also chose to be buried in Jamestown — we were told that there is a path of hearts leading to her grave.

We made it to and through the border with no delays only to be slowed down to a crawl by unexpected Saturday evening traffic. As Sue said, “This traffic is just stupid.” Amen. But we eventually made it home. It was a little let down to me after having so many folks around but Rose had lots to say about the indignity of being left for five days for goodness sake.

Note from author: I may have gotten days mixed up and apologies for not putting pictures in of the luncheon but they were not cooperating and I was ready to end. Thanks.