Forever in Blue Jeans

Money talks

But it don’t sing and dance

And it don’t walk

And long as I can have you here with me

I’d much rather be

Forever in blue jeans

Neil Diamond, 1979

 

Many moons ago, when I finally got my driver’s license ( after failing the first time), my first solo driving adventure was to the Willowbrook Mall to buy a pair of Gap jeans.  They were button fly hip hugger bell bottoms, the kind when you bent over, you could see- you know what!

Over the years, the styles have changed but I’ve worn them all- flared, bootcut, faded, and even the dreaded Mom jean.  Today, I favor skinny jeans, or their popular knockoff, the jegging.  But I draw the line at those distressed jeans worn by the young or wanna be young.  Some of those ripped up masterpieces cost up to $600!

Blue jeans!  Icon of American culture and arguably the world’s most popular article of clothing.  Consumers in the US buy approximately 450 million pairs of jeans every year. Levi’s, Gap, Wranglers, Guess, Calvin Klein, Lee, Tommy Hilfiger, the brands are endless.

Dressed up with a slinky top and heels, or dressed down with a flannel shirt and boots, jeans can fit everyone’s taste and budget.

Where did it all begin?

Jeans are pants made from denim or dungaree cloth, and are named after a city in Genoa, Italy, where cotton corduroy, called either jean or jeane, was manufactured. They were invented by Jacob Davis and Levi Stauss in 1873.  Davis was a Nevada salesman who came up with the idea of using metal rivets to reinforce the stitching of work trousers.  Strauss bankrolled the idea, and jeans became the workwear for miners during the Gold Rush.

The popularity of jeans grew in the 20th century, as servicemen in the ’40’s and ’50’s favored them as off-duty wear.  Thus, a quintessentially American “cowboy lifestyle” was born.

Wearing jeans became a symbol of youth rebellion during the 1950’s when James Dean wore them in “Rebel Without a Cause.”

By the 1960’s and ’70’s, jeans became synonymous with the freewheeling hippie lifestyle, and by the ’80’s, aided by the sexually charged Calvin Klein ads- with Brooke Shields claiming that “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins”, Wall Street had reached Main Street.

Today, jeans are worn by practically everyone, from toddlers to senior citizens- of course, some of today’s seniors are those same hippies who wore them in the first place!

Sometimes I have to wonder if the popularity of jeans will diminish in time.  For example, where are those lady’s gowns and bonnets, those men’s breeches and waistcoats worn by the Victorian set?  Or even the tea length dresses and pill box hats, the fedoras and double breasted suits so popular with folks in the not-so-long ago 1940’s and ’50’s?

Will jeans eventually become a distant memory, something our great-grandchildren will make fun of when they see pictures in the cloud, ( or whatever technology they will be using then?)

Will we be “forever in blue jeans”?

Probably not, but for now, how relaxing to slip on my favorite pair, dressed up or down, and greet the day.

Advertisements

We Turn the Page

“Fast away the old year passes,

Hail the new, ye lads and lasses….”

Deck the Halls

Traditional

 

 

As the year 2018 winds down, I assign this chapter to the book of life.

So much to be grateful for: my health and well-being, a loving family, friends who care for me, and activities both rewarding and useful.  On the downside, the personal loss, the angst, the worries, the cost of being human.  Then there were the natural disasters, and turmoil in the church, the country, and the world.

And yet we look forward to a new year.

Why?

New Years is an ancient holiday with deep spiritual roots.  For eons, people have been observing the end of one year and the beginning of another.  Because the winter solstice is the turning point of the year, beginning the lengthening of days, it has been viewed as the birth of the year- by pagans celebrating the birth of the sun, and by Christians welcoming the birth of the Son of God.

In England, the twelve days of Christmas were considered omen days which could be used to predict the weather of the coming year.

For ancient Babylonians, the days between the winter solstice and the new year were seen as a time of struggle between Chaos and Order, with Chaos trying to take over the world.

These days, it sometimes seems as if Chaos is winning!

For we modern Americans, New Years is seen as a time for both reflection and resolution, a time for getting rid of the past and setting things straight.

An elderly, bearded Father Time, lugging a scythe and hourglass, morphs into a chubby, diapered Baby New Year.

One million will pack into Times Square to watch the ball drop.

Perhaps this will be the year we will lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, quit drinking, pray more, write more, stress less- the list goes on.  Although, according to Psychology Today, of 3,000 people followed for a year, 88% failed to achieve the goals of their resolutions.

So why do we persist in our optimism for the new year?  It may be that the symbolism we attach to this one moment is rooted in the most powerful motivation of all- our motivation to survive.  Despite the unsettling unknown of what lies ahead, we have survived thus far, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

As Alexander Pope put it, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.”

Above all, the new year represents hope.

We turn the page.

 

 

Friends for Life

“The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.”

Hubert H. Humphrey

 

Back in the day, when your friend wanted to play, she shouted your name across the backyard.  Then, you’d be out for hours, clambering over tree stumps and brambles in the nearby woods.  We’d play act that we were pioneers, setting up camp in the newly formed nation.

Or there were the kickball games in the street that went on into the evening, or at least until someone skinned a knee or was called home for supper.  Oh, the freedom of those childhood years, made all the more precious if you had a friend.

By high school, we flexed our newly formed independence by taking the bus into the retail mecca of Dover, New Jersey.  There, we’d shop for cheap shoes at the J.C. Penney- hers in size 5, mine in 9.  Even then, I had big feet.

We’d consume sweet extravaganzas at the Woolworth’s lunch counter: vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, a sprinkle of peanuts, and a cherry.  I still don’t know why they were called Tulip Sundaes.

One time, we miscalculated the bus departure time.  We had ordered huge slices of pizza, dripping with sauce and cheese, and were forced to devour them quickly, burning the roofs of our mouths in the process, rather than miss the last bus of the day.

By college, independence came in the form of a dorm room.  I’d host parties for my girlfriends: muenster cheese, triscuits, and large bottles of the cheapest sangria available.  We’d eat, drink, and blast music on my turntable: James Taylor and Carole King’s Tapestry.  Fun times, until someone got sick, the inevitable result of too much wine and cheese.

Flash forward to marriage and motherhood.  Nothing is more important than a girlfriend, as every young mother knows.  We’d swap babysitting, share recipes, and commiserate about sick kids and sleepless nights.  We’d take our toddlers to the YWCA

for swimming lessons, then afterwards strap them into their umbrella strollers for the short walk to the Maple Donuts.  Oh, those pumpkin donuts and apple cider of a still fall morning!

Girlfriends have been the strong and colorful threads in the tapestry of life. What a comfort to share one’s thoughts and dreams, to have someone who will really listen.

Wherever I’ve been in life, I’ve been able to find companions. Whatever I’m doing, I can usually find a friend to join me in the activity.  I’ve had walking companions, shopping companions, writing companions, reading companions.  Traveling companions!

I flew halfway across the globe to Istanbul, Turkey, with one brave friend, and accompanied her as we traipsed through back alleys as she searched for that perfect vase.  What you won’t do for a friend,

But with the joy of friendship often comes the pain.  Perhaps a friend moves away or divorces, and ties are severed, often forever.  Even more painful is when a friendship ends for no apparent reason.  Suddenly, the phone stops ringing, a party invitation fails to arrive, and you are left wondering, “What did I say?”

Guilt and sadness follow.  Your friend may be gone, and, in time, you grow Biblical and philosophical about it: ” For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3

The seasons have passed. Long gone is the little girl playing in the woods, the high school girl consumed with thoughts of boys and fashion, the college girl away from home for the first time, and the young mother struggling to combine children and career. How fortunate I’ve been to have friends through the seasons of life.

Today, a quick phone call, or more recently, a text message, and I can be off with a friend to the mall for that hard-to-resist handbag, or simply be sharing a bottle of wine on the back porch.

I may be a retired grandmother, but friends are still the greatest gift of my life.

“A friend is what the heart needs all the time.”

Henry Van Dyke

 

 

After Death- What Next?

The autumn has arrived, and with it, the spectacle of changing leaves, a last colorful display before they decay, and fall. The cycle of life, replayed each year.

It has been a sad time, recently. Several friends have passed away, suddenly, some in the prime of life. What is so shocking as unexpected death? What is so thought-provoking as the end of life- something we all must face someday. One of the deepest questions since the beginning of time has always been, what happens after we die?

Perhaps the topic of death becomes more relevant as we age. “The young have an intellectual understanding that death comes to us all, but their mortality has not become real to them. For the old, mortality starts to sink in,” wrote Jeff Mason, a philosophy lecturer, two months before his death of lung cancer.

Betty White, one of our most endearing actresses, at 96, seems to have cheated death. Known for her pertinent and humorous quotes, she tells a tale from her childhood. After the death of a loved one, Betty was grieving. Her mother comforted her with the statement: “Don’t cry, Betty. Now they know the secret.”

What is the secret?  What happens after we die?

The greatest minds and the world’s major religions have tackled this question.

Socrates and Plato were dualists who believed the soul to be immortal. They argued that death is not the end of existence; upon the death of the body, the soul moves on to another form.

Mummification was a practice adopted by the Egyptians because they believed that the body needs to be preserved in order for the dead to be reborn in the afterlife.

Buddhists and Hindus believe that the soul is eternal and is passed on from life to life.

Karma dictates which “realm” one is sent to in their next life.

Other religions maintain that the afterlife will be spent in an actual place.

In Islam, heaven is full of pleasures for those at the top level, whereas Jews believe that some version of heaven will exist on earth after the Messiah comes.

Christians see heaven as a place of paradise and peace with God. The  Bible has much to say on the topic of heaven: “My Father’s house has many rooms…I go and prepare a place for you.”  John 14: 2-4

According to Corinthian 2:9, heaven is a place of mystery and bliss: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Concludes famous writer and philosopher C.S. Lewis: “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

So what is it? When our bodies die, is it the end of existence?  Or do our souls live on in another form, or move to a different realm?

What is the secret?

Someday, we will all know.

Cruising the Danube

It’s not about the destination- it’s about the journey.

Travel Quote- Road Trip America

 

Our journey took us on a cruise on the Danube River, through the countries of Hungary, Austria, and Germany.  Like life itself, it had its ups and downs.

On the up side, our long ship was modern, sleek, and classy, the service impeccable, and the food and drink, delicious. What is it about European bread? The croissants, so buttery and flakey, and the wine, so light and fragrant?

On the down side, Europe was in the throes of a massive heat wave. Temperatures soared into the 90’s everyday. Thank God I packed some shorts. River levels were so low that we had to switch vessels halfway through the trip.

But we made the most of what was merely an inconvenience. At each stop along the river, we had signed on for an excursion. In each case, we were treated with more than just the stunning scenery.

A young Hungarian guide shared the history of his unfortunate country: invaded by the Romans, the Huns, the Goths, the Mongols, the Ottomans, the Nazis, and the Communists. He humorously questioned, who will invade next? The Americans? If so, at least we were bringing money!

The charming guide at Gottweig Abbey in Austria extolled the beauty and peace of the place. Monks who produce such excellent wine can’t be all bad.

The tour guide in Saltzburg, Austria, greeted us in lederhosen despite the heat. This disgruntled gentleman waxed on about Mozart but barely touched on the filming of The Sound of Music, which was one of the main reasons we had taken the tour. Apparently, many Austrians were not fans of the film, claiming that Hollywood had messed with the actual events of the von Trapp family.

At lunch, however, we were entertained by authentically costumed singers who performed every classic in the film from “My Favorite Things” to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”  At one point, they had us all singing “Edelweiss.”

The delightful town of Regensburg, Germany, was luckily spared of bombing during World War II and managed to maintain its Medieval charm. From massive cathedrals to window boxes to gelato on the street corners, we were even fortunate to catch a lovely bride and groom on the way to their wedding at the town hall.

Present day Nuremberg is noted for its colorful Christmas markets, or Christkindlmarkt,

but a tour through the city also took us past the somber sites of Hitler’s Nazi rallies.

The trip also featured some down time. One day, while relaxing on the ship deck, I overheard a couple talking with a familiar accent. “If you don’t mind my asking, are you guys from Wisconsin?”

They were! I explained that my Dad was from the Badger state, and my childhood had featured biyearly visits to relatives there. We made fast friends with fun-loving Diane and Greg, and enjoyed getting to know them. I have a fond memory of one glorious afternoon, chatting and sipping cocktails with them on the deck, watching castles along the Wachau Valley glide by.

Cruising the Danube was quite an experience. Yet, it wasn’t so much about the destinations, but the journey. It’s the places you see, but more than that, it’s the people you meet along the way.

 

 

 

 

Cornflower Memories

It was the long ago 1950’s and ’60’s. I was just a kid. It was summer, time for our biannual road trip.

I’d be so excited about the vacation that my parents wouldn’t tell me we were going until that morning. Then, it was load up the old brown Studebaker and head out for the long trek halfway across the nation from our sleepy little berg of Denville, New Jersey, to my Dad’s hometown of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

The car seemed to be held together with a wing and a prayer. Of course, if it were to break down, my Dad could likely repair it.

Out on the Pennsylvania turnpike we’d lumber. If we made it to the Somerset, Pennsylvania, exit the first night, we were doing well.

My brother, Joe, and I sat in the back seat, sans seatbelts, as far away from each other as possible, to avoid the inevitable squabbles. My face pressed against the warm car window, lulled by the motor, my Dad’s cigarette smoke filling the air, I looked out at miles and miles of blue cornflowers.

Oh, those family road trips! During the day, we often stopped for lunch at roadside picnic groves. In the days before McDonald’s became ubiquitous, it was a sensible and cheap option for a family meal. My Mom would have picked up some cold cuts and bread for a quick bologna sandwich, or maybe we’d get fancy and grill some hot dogs on the charcoal grill. Sitting at the wooden picnic table, we’d often be visited by neighboring squirrels, rabbits, and birds, hoping for a hand out.

At night, we never made motel reservations ahead of time. Instead, we often drove until 10 pm, searching for just the right, inexpensive place. The big thrill was finding a motel with a heated pool. My brother and I could hardly wait to jump in and cool off from the day’s travels.

The route through the flat farmlands of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois was often monotonous, so sometimes we varied the course. One year, Dad chose the Northern route, which took us to the raging waters of Niagara Falls; in a southern swing, we visited the vast expanses of Monmouth Cave in Kentucky.

Whichever the route, all roads led to our grandparent’s farm in the bucolic Wisconsin countryside. Grandma Clara, quiet and kind, greeted us. Grandpa Ernie squeezed my chubby cheeks.  The little grey clapboard house had a steep staircase and a tiny kitchen where my grandmother produced the most delicious and aromatic bread and pies. Talk about aromatic, the outhouse out back, in the years before indoor plumbing, was a singular experience.  Watch out for splinters on the toilet seat!  The day might include helping Grandma collect eggs, still warm, from the hen house, or trudging through the corn rows, hoping not to get lost.

While in Wisconsin, we visited a passel of aunts, uncles, and cousins, from cheery Aunt Betty and Uncle Jerry, to talkative Aunt Harriet and Uncle Glenn, to shy Aunt Nancy and Uncle Elly. Reticent at first, we cousins soon ran wild, happy to see each other after two years.

The grandparents, aunts, and uncles are gone, but I am still in contact with some of those cousins through the magic of Facebook.

The years have passed, but the memories live on.

Let’s Party Like It’s 2031

I recently attended the pre-school graduation of my little grandson.

The auditorium was quiet, as parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends sat in anticipation of seeing their precious five year-olds. Then, to the piped-in strains of “Pomp and Circumstance”, the boys and girls filed in, dressed in white gowns and yellow mortarboards. Their expressions bespoke their personalities: some somber, some happy, some silly, making faces ( like my grandson!) After a few words by their teacher, they were handed their diplomas, then performed a little song.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you’ll go!” The class of 2031.

2031!! What will our world look like, thirteen years in the future?

For one thing, the population will be approaching 9 billion. Less and less arable land due to water shortages and rising temperatures caused by climate change will result in fewer livestock. We all may be eating less meat.  And how about the use of a 3D printer to process hyper individualized meals? Doesn’t sound too appetizing!

In health news, drugs and treatments may be tailored to your unique DNA, and memory erasure could cure all mental disorders.

By 2031, 40% of our travels may be in driverless cars, and 4.5 packages a week delivered by flying drones.

In crime prevention, there will be an explosion in the use of advanced CCTV cameras in public places. Awareness that we are under constant surveillance could deter a large number of incidents from happening in the first place. Big brother is watching you?!

Hopefully, this prediction will come to pass: A generational shift against guns will result in stricter gun sales and ownership laws. One could only pray that gun violence will be a thing of the past.

What are the chances that some of these predictions may actually happen? It may not be so far-fetched!

Back in 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey” opened to amazement, incredulity, and not a little confusion. Yet, the creators foresaw the invention of laptops, smart phones, iPads, Skype, space stations, and a computer named HAL- a prototype Siri?

Who knows what the future will bring?

So, congratulations to all the graduates out there- and especially to my grandson’s class of 2031. May those little girls and boys grow up to be the leaders of a much better, happier world.