Regarding Sheetrock, or Drywall: Back When

 

A slow drip leading to a leaking pipe leading to several brittle pipes and serious drips, and finally to a plumber, have brought contractors in to cover holes left in the drywall of the laundry room, and appreciation for a landlord who responds to problems without delay.

With strangers in the house, William is lurking behind the cedar chest. Ernest is folded up on the bottom shelf of an empty bookcase still hidden by boxes and facing the patio window. They don’t enjoy the process. I do.

I grew up calling drywall sheetrock. Well into adulthood when drywall cropped up, I asked what had happened to sheetrock and learned that it’s properly Sheetrock. More properly it’s Sheetrock™, a trade name that’s become a generic term like Kleenex (Kleenex™).

Frank Waller, aka Dad, dressed for painting me dressed for watching, ca. 1953.

I learned about Sheetrock in early childhood because my grandfather, sometimes assisted by my father, did remodeling and repair around town. Once or twice I got to watch.

Dad was meticulous. Unlike some I’ve seen, seams he taped and floated disappeared, the drywall mud flush with the Sheetrock. Seams in my parents’ living room remained invisible for a good fifty years.

When he painted, the brush moved slowly from side to side, no slopping of paint onto floors, windows, or doorknobs. Stray paint was immediately cleaned up.

During my family’s brief sojourn in Del Rio, we lived across the street from a young man who, post-high school, had briefly lived on the farm with Dad after his parents moved away from Fentress. While visiting, Dad found Dick painting the walls of his kitchen but getting paint on the ceiling, where it didn’t belong. Dad took the brush out of his hand and finished the job himself.*

(My father was almost as particular. He and my mother stopped in to see neighbors who were hanging wallpaper. My dad had to leave because he said they weren’t using enough paste, and the paper was going to fall off almost before they got it up. He couldn’t watch.)**

When Dad was painting Dr. Luckett’s clinic, I dropped by and insisted on helping. He tolerated more from his nine-year-old granddaughter than from adults, and handed me a brush. He knew I wouldn’t last. After about twenty minutes, I stopped to play with a ball of putty, (unsuccessfully) keep my puppy, who had followed me to town, from getting into the paint, and generally get in the way. Not long after that, I went home to air conditioning. My parents had recently elected to move back home from dry Del Rio, and the South-Central Texas humidity was killing me.****

Me with San Marcos River catfish caught by Frank Waller (still aka Dad).

Dad was famous for taking off in the middle of a job to go trotline fishing. Family shook their heads and said, “Well, that’s just Dad.” If people complained, they did it out of our hearing. Many were relatives—extended family lived all over town—and they expected him to disappear for a while.

Or he might have shared his fish. He caught enough to spread some around.

Once in early spring, he did some work for a sister- and brother-in-law who had a peach orchard beside their house. His helper said, “Mr. Frank, I sure wish we were going to be here when those peaches get ripe.” Dad said, “Don’t worry. We will be.”

For years, I thought leaving like that was a character flaw. When I heard that other contractors sometimes take time off in the mid-project, I thought it was a tall tale. People who worked for me finished in a timely fashion. Then a fellow who was repainting the door of a previous apartment—the blazing west sun hit it in summer, so it required paint that wouldn’t peel—told me he did a lot of painting, but he took off and went fishing whenever he wanted, and he didn’t ever apologize for it either. Business as usual, I guess.

The Sheetrock people have gone. They left no sign they’d been here. Dad would be pleased.

###

*My grandfather had other crotchets, too. My mother claimed that when he was driving down the road and saw a sunflower, he would stop and pull it up. (Farmer.) He let most things go much further than other folks would, but certain things he could not abide.

**As to my father’s other requirements: After retiring, he worked for some farmers he was acquainted with, hauling maize from the field to wherever it went.*** He enjoyed driving, and he liked the men, but after a week or so he resigned. He said they let Johnson grass grow up at the edges of their fields. (Farmer.) He wasn’t obsessive about anything else, but his fields had to be clean, and his fences tight, with sturdy cedar posts and six strands of barbed wire, so his cows couldn’t escape, except for big, fat, sleek Hereford Opal, who lay down and rolled under. Impossible, we thought, but he finally caught her in the act.

***Once upon a time, I knew where maize went, maybe. But I wasn’t a farm girl, and I was busy reading in the air conditioning and didn’t pay attention. I wish had, because now when I set a story in a rural area, I have to look things up.

****After a zillion years, the humidity is still killing me.

Letter from the North Pole, 1957

Lacking a fireplace, I mailed my letters to Santa Claus at the post office in downtown Fentress. My list of preferred gifts was always extensive. I knew I wouldn’t get everything I wanted, but there was no harm in asking.

One year Santa wrote back. As proof, I’m posting not only the letter he wrote, but the envelope as well. Judging from the postmark and the reference to Sputnik, I’d just turned six.

It takes a lot of stamps to get a letter from the North Pole to Texas.

It also helps when your Uncle Joe is the postmaster.

Beware This Boy

 

Spirit of Christmas Present: Will you profit by what I’ve shown you of the good in most men’s hearts?

Ebenezer Scrooge: I don’t know. How can I promise?

Spirit: If it is too hard a lesson for you to learn, then learn this lesson.

Scrooge: Spirit are these yours?

Spirit: They are man’s. They cling to me for protection from their fetters. This boy is ignorance. This girl is want. Beware them both, but most of all, beware this boy.

***

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol during a period when the British were exploring and re-evaluating past Christmas traditions, including carols, and newer customs such as Christmas trees. He was influenced by the experiences of his own youth and by the Christmas stories of other authors, including Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold. Dickens had written three Christmas stories prior to the novella, and was inspired following a visit to the Field Lane Ragged School, one of several establishments for London’s street children. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a selfish man to redeem himself by transforming into a more sympathetic character are the key themes of the story. There is discussion among academics as to whether this was a fully secular story, or if it is a Christian allegory.

Published on 19 December, the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve; by the end of 1844 thirteen editions had been released. Most critics reviewed the novella favourably. The story was illicitly copied in January 1844; Dickens took legal action against the publishers, who went bankrupt, further reducing Dickens’s small profits from the publication. He went on to write four other Christmas stories in subsequent years. In 1849 he began public readings of the story which proved so successful he undertook 127 further performances until 1870, the year of his death. A Christmas Carol has never been out of print and has been translated into several languages; the story has been adapted many times for film, stage, opera and other media.

Author William Thackeray “wrote that A Christmas Carol was ‘a national benefit and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness.'”

~ Wikipedia

***

Images

“Ignorance and Want” by John Leech, from the original edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,1843. {{PD-US-expired}} Via Wikipedia

Charles Dickens in 1842, the year before A Christmas Carol was written, by Francis Alexander. {{PD-US-expired}}

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A Christmas Carol (1951), Alistair Sim

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Calming, Part II: The Cat Lounge and Other Stuff

Ernest, still calm

Ernest arrived at the veterinarian’s under the influence–that calming spray is magic–and was immediately ushered into the cat lounge, a small room with four comfortable chairs for humans and just enough space in the middle for a carrier.

Wall pheremones were plugged into an electrical socket, and music filled the air: the album Music for Cats. David Teies, a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra, worked with animal scientists to develop music designed to help cats de-stress.

Eleanor Stanford, reviewing Teies’ CD for the New York Times, describes it as, “a series of whirring, lilting and at times squeaky musical tracks designed for cats’ brains and ears.”

In some tracks, sounds similar to the chirps of birds are overlaid with hurried streams of staccato for an energizing effect; in others, crescendos of purring and suckling sounds are designed to relax.

“To a human ear,” she says, “the sounds are otherworldly and at times soporific.”

Regarding cats, Charles Snowden, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who worked on the project, reports,

My cat, Pocket, could do with some music-induced relaxation. She was found wandering the streets of the Bronx, and when we took her from the New York City Animal Care and Control shelter to her new home in Brooklyn, she developed a nervous habit of running full speed down the hallway, smacking her head against doors along the way.

Listening to the track “Cozmo’s Air,” built upon soothing vibrato sounds, she sat still. By the end of the four and a half minutes, she had curled herself around the speakers, purring.

William, always calm

A link to one of the tracks, “Katey Moss Catwalk,” appears on Youtube. A link is below.

Ernest huddled in his carrier the entire time we were in the lounge, and I didn’t have a good view of him, so I couldn’t gauge his response, but he remained calm, even, the technician reported, during some unpleasant tests. So who knows?

Anyway, if he didn’t care for “Music for Cats,” I did. It is truly soporific.

Having recently been plagued by insomnia, I may buy a copy for myself.

*

For anyone who hasn’t run across the word before–and I mean no disrespect, since the first time I heard it, I had to look it up, and I was working on a master’s degree in English at the time–soporific means, “causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull awareness or alertness.”

The word appears in the first lines of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies.

It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is “soporific.”

I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.

They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!

From this we may infer than young children can learn big words and will learn them if they’re used and explained in the proper context. It is wrong to underestimate the abilities of children. They don’t have to be graduate students to add grown-up words to their personal lexicons.

*

On impulse, I include Rossini’s “Cat Duet,” sung by Felicity Lott and Ann Murray, also on Youtube.

One comment: “The perfect response to everyone who thinks classical music is dead serious, dull and boring.”

Another: “My cat just left the room.”

And a third: “Dear God I cannot believe two grown women actually did this.”

Ernest listened and appreciated it.

(Note: The comments above refer to a performance by Kiri Te Kanawa and Norma Burrows. But this one is funnier.)

Music for Cats

P.S. Ernest is doing well.

Christmas: Pray, Love, Remember

The Christmas tree goes up on December 1. I love it.

~ Richard E. Grant

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts;  . . . there’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. . . . O, you must wear your rue with a difference.

~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet 

*

 

The Davis tree went up on December 2. I love it.

I always shoot for early December, but I’m calendar-challenged; some years, Christmas arrives almost before the tree.

This time, David said if I didn’t have the gumption to get up out of my chair and into the car, he would choose a tree himself. Not in so many words, of course, but the subtext was unmistakable.

Christmas trees have always been problematic. When we were first married, we had a tree tree. Six-month-old Chloe walked it like a spiral staircase and perched among the branches. We had to close her up in the bedroom so we could decorate. In fact, we had to close her up in the bedroom so we could get it into the stand.

She left off climbing—I don’t know why, certainly not because I told her to—but for the rest of the season, she and Christabel lay on the bunched up sheet (snow) beneath. They were picturesque. Then we discovered them eating needles.

We took the hint (potential surgery) and responded with an artificial tree with lights already installed and an electrical cord for easy twinkling. On a dining room chair, and after only one blip, it attracted minimal attention. Ernest did not chew the cord.

This year David had a brainstorm: Put the tree atop the china closet.

So we went next door to Home Depot, passed up fir, and brought home a small rosemary tree. Nontraditional, but that’s us. One of our most repeated sentences is, “I wonder how normal people do this.”

We also bought a string of 100 lights, some of which now hang down the side of the china cabinet. They add to the the quirky charm. Unless Ernest notices, chews the cord, gets 110 volts, and must again be rushed to the ER.

We found snow (a length of fabric from the Walmart sewing aisle) to keep the pot from scratching the wood where we would never see scratches, but still. Folded, it doesn’t look too bad, and it was cheaper than a lovely felt tree skirt. I think our old sheet-snow was lost in the move.

I insisted on some tiny ornaments. David said there wasn’t room. There wasn’t.

Back at home, I googled rosemary and learned it’s not toxic to cats, and that due to the strong odor, they probably won’t eat it, and, if they, do, they’ll stop at one bite. But the insecticide is toxic. Jolly. If eaten, rosemary can cause gastric distress. The label says the plant should be watered weekly; I’ll be sure to do that, since I don’t want any dropped leaves. We’ve had enough gastric distress to last well into 2020.

The label also says the tree needs natural light, which it ain’t going to get in its current location. David says not much light penetrates our window screens, anyway, so it’ll have to make do with lamps. I might put it outside for a few hours each day. No one is likely to walk off with it.

With any luck, it will last till Epiphany.

So there we have it: Rosemary for remembrance—and we will remember; and a prayer that, although we display our tree with a difference, David and I will get those cats through Christmas without our having to wear rue.

Shakespeare has a line for everything if you’re willing to think hard enough. That’s where the pansies come in.

***