Radio Diaries

Radio Diaries: Old Words

Oct 9, 2017

There was a time when a browser was someone looking around a store, when a server was someone taking your order, and when Spam was a food you didn’t request.  Nowadays, however, those words are more likely to refer to the Internet.

There was even a time when the word “Internet” was new.  So was email, blog, broadband, download, hashtag.  And while I welcome these new words—and the technologies they describe—it makes me yearn for some of the old words I don’t hear anymore.  Words my grandparents used.

Radio Diaries: Differences

Sep 29, 2017

I once worked in the marketing department of a large organization where I was responsible for advertising and publications.  I loved the creative side of the job—coming up with ideas and copy and design.

I didn’t like the business side of the job—coming up with estimates and costs and budgets.  I’m a word person, not a numbers person.  Which is why I’m always intimidated by people who know their way around a balance sheet.

Radio Diaries: Campfires

Sep 22, 2017

It’s the week after Labor Day and my husband and I are camping on the shore of Lake Superior. We come every year at this time for a reunion with his two sisters and their companions.  After busy days, we gather around a campfire.

Tonight, there’s a cold wind off the water and we pull our canvas chairs closer to the warmth.  My husband has cut up a big pile of driftwood which we take turns feeding into the flames.  I watch the smoke rise through the pine trees into a starry sky—and feel deeply grateful for this simple pleasure.

Radio Diaries: Start at the Bottom

Sep 15, 2017

When I moved to Traverse City in 1970, I had a master’s degree and years of experience but I couldn’t find a job.  Desperate to pay the rent, I followed up on a “Gal Friday” position at the local newspaper.

Nobody would use that term today, but back then it described a kind of all-purpose assistant on the bottom rung of the organization.  “Reading proofs, delivering proofs,” the advertising director told me.  “You know you’re overqualified.”  I knew but I needed the work.

Radio Diaries: Secret of Popularity

Sep 11, 2017

My mother puts the kitchen timer on the piano and sets it for 15 minutes.  I sit on the bench and open my practice book.  First I do scales and then the stupid little songs about snow flakes and rain drops and spring flowers.

When the buzzer goes off, I quit playing and bolt from the piano.  “You could at least finish the song,” my mother says in her disappointed voice.

“I hate practicing,” I say as I open the refrigerator.

Radio Diaries: Another Pair of Eyes

Sep 5, 2017

As we slide the canoe into the Betsie River, I tie a bandana around my hair and pick up a paddle.  The water looks high but before I comment, my husband says, “Water is low; I wonder if they’ve lowered the dam.”

“Water is low?” I wonder, glad I didn’t remark otherwise.  Staring down at the muscular stems of water lilies, I remember Mary Oliver’s poem—how she says the blossoms look perfect but when she gets up close, each has a defect.

Radio Diaries: Quitting

Aug 25, 2017

My mother was in the hospital with internal bleeding.  “They say I have liver trouble from drinking,” she said in a puzzled voice.  “Maybe it was those Pina coladas I had on the cruise.”

I knew it wasn’t the Pina coladas.  Twenty years earlier, as a young girl, I had asked my mother about the wine in the cupboard that disappeared so quickly.  My father told me not to mention it again.

Radio Diaries: Knowing How

Aug 18, 2017

I am carrying my old desk lamp into the elegant lighting store, trying to slip past the   crystal chandeliers on my way to the repairs department.  Standing in line, I stare at the clutter of parts I can’t even identify.  “Can I help you?” the man asks.

“I need a new switch,” I say, gesturing at my old lamp.  “When I turn the three-way bulb on the lowest setting, it flickers.”

The man removes the shade and the bulb.  “A 50-100-200-watt bulb is kind of hard on this switch,” he says, “but the switch itself is fine.”  Then he holds my bulb up to his ear.  “Listen,” he says.

Radio Diaries: Home to the Highlands

Aug 11, 2017

As soon as I got off the plane in Glasgow, Scotland, I felt at home—although I’d never been there.  The ruddy, angular faces and thick accents seemed familiar somehow.

Half Scottish on my mother’s side, I yearned to know this place my grandfather had left and longed for.  So when I finished college, I accepted an invitation to visit my friend, Betty, who was spending the summer in the highlands.

Radio Diaries: Forecast

Aug 4, 2017

While the rest of the family is still getting dressed, my father has already walked around the motel parking lot for exercise.  Popping back in the door, he says, “Rise and shine; the weather’s fine.”

We already know the weather isn’t fine because we heard the thunder last night and can hear rain pattering on the pavement.  “It’s clearing in the east,” Dad says.

Radio Diaries: Claire de Lune

Jul 29, 2017

As a child, I learned to recognize a certain melody whenever it came on the radio because my mother would announce, “That’s ‘Claire de Lune’ by Debussy.”  She never told us why she loved that piece of music—and I realize I never asked.

My mother had a beautiful singing voice and majored in music at college, hoping to pursue a career as a performer.  Traveling to California to find her fortune, she had several impressive offers but didn’t take any of them.

Radio Diaries: Catalpa

Jul 21, 2017

The tree was already huge when we bought the house many years ago, a handsome catalpa that stood beside the back door with an eye bolt sticking out where previous owners might have hooked one end of a hammock.

Two enormous limbs reached high above our house and the neighbor’s house, and its broad leaves provided blessed shade. As the seasons passed, the eye bolt disappeared into the trunk and then bark started falling off.

“But it leaves out beautifully,” I said to the forester who came to look.

Radio Diaries: Blame the Cabbage

Jul 14, 2017

The green cabbage was too big to grip and slid out of my hand, rolling down into the carrots just as the overhead spray came on, misting the vegetables and my shirt.  Finally, I wrestled the cabbage into my cart and onto the check-out counter.

“Wow, a giant,” the woman said.

“Too big,” I said as a puddle formed beneath it.  “And too wet.”

“Blame the cabbage,” she said—and when our eyes met, I knew we were thinking the same thing.  Thank goodness we had something else to blame, something as blameless as a cabbage.

Radio Diaries: Bad Day

Jul 10, 2017

I don’t even notice that I’m getting out of bed on the wrong side until I grab for my socks and shove my toe into the heel.  And I wonder whether I should climb right back in and call it a day… a bad day.

“Hey, don’t be so negative,” I tell myself in my fake-positive voice.  “It’s just a sock.  Get a grip.”  So I get a grip on the coffee pot and manage to slosh it all over the kitchen counter and onto the floor where I soak my socks.  And when I throw the paper towel at the waste basket, I miss.

Radio Diaries: Into the Current

Jun 30, 2017

After so much preparation, we are finally at the river.  My husband slides the canoe into the water and almost before we pick up our paddles, we are swept into the current, gathered in, as if into the arms of a loved one.

Dick and I have been paddling together over thirty years and he taught me how.  I remember how graceful it looked when he showed me, how awkward it felt when I tried it.  Dip, pull, lift, twist in one seamless movement.

Radio Diaries: Special Offer

Jun 23, 2017

The picture on the back of my comic book looked so real.  World War II army soldiers were firing guns and running with bayonets.  Best of all, you could get a hundred for just one dollar!

I didn’t want them for myself but for my younger brother who loved playing “army.”  Bob had a few toy soldiers but he didn’t have a hundred!  I didn’t have a dollar either but I saved my allowance and finally had enough to mail in with the coupon.  When the package finally arrived, it looked pretty small for a hundred soldiers—and then I found out why.

Radio Diaries: Sheer-to-Waist

Jun 16, 2017

When I went back to college for a master’s degree, I had no money so I worked at the undergraduate library.  It was nicknamed the UGLI which was the right word—a glass and steel box set down in the middle of all the ivy-covered brick.

But it had one redeeming feature:  You could meet everyone on campus in its big main lobby.  I loved working at the front desk and seeing the world go by.

Radio Diaries: Miss Curry

Jun 9, 2017

Miss Curry was my eleventh grade English teacher, a small woman with thick glasses and fuzzy brown hair.  After class one day, she invited me to join a “Creative Writing Group” and I accepted, although I had no sense of myself as a writer.

There were six of us that evening—six awkward students who didn’t fit in at school but who were welcome in Miss Curry’s living room where we sat in a circle and read our secret poems and stories.

Radio Diaries: Fixing the House

Jun 2, 2017

There’s an old gray house in my neighborhood that I walk past every week.  Pink insulation sticks out where the asphalt shingles are missing.  The people who lived there tore off the screen door and hauled a washer out onto the lawn.  Then they moved out and left a toilet in the driveway.

After that, the house sat empty for a long time but I never saw a “For Sale” sign.  “It has possibilities,” I thought, sounding like a real estate agent.  But I knew it was more than a “fixer-upper.”  It was a “starter-over.”

Radio Diaries: Memorial Flags

May 30, 2017

It’s Memorial Day and I’m visiting my parents’ graves at Oakwood Cemetery—a lovely scene of well-kept lawns and ancient trees.  Many families are here and single people, older people—lifting flowers out of cars, enacting private rituals of remembrance.

I sit on the grass and talk quietly with the two people whom I dearly miss—despite our various conflicts.  My father’s simple bronze plaque identifies him as a Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy, World War II.  And next to the stone is an American flag—as there is on every veteran’s grave today.

Radio Diaries: Down to Basics

May 22, 2017

After a day of hiking and canoeing, my husband and I sit by the campfire awhile.  Then, when cold and fatigue get the best of me, I crawl into the tent.  Zipping up my sleeping bag, I review what’s important.

It’s not the same checklist that I have at home when I often fall asleep reviewing what work assignments await me the following day or what’s in the refrigerator for supper.  No, my sleeping bag list is much more basic and carefully prioritized.

Radio Diaries: Convertibles

May 15, 2017

A young man cruises past me in his convertible with the top down and I’m supposed to be impressed.  I’m supposed to say, “Oh, wow, that is SO cool.  I wish I had a boyfriend with a convertible.”

But I don’t say those things because I had a father with a convertible.  Harold Anderson was the most conservative man imaginable except for his car.  He always drove a late-model Buick convertible in metallic blue or canary yellow.

Radio Diaries: Clay Feet

May 5, 2017

On the first night of the writers conference, a famous poet was at the podium.  Witty and eloquent, he spoke about writing as a sacred calling.  “Art makes the mystery of life deeper,” he said and we all nodded.

Then he picked up his new book to read his glorious poems—and the one that knocked me out was about his wife.  Such love, such devotion!  Ah, to have a husband who wrote you poems like that.  I bought three of his books.

Radio Diaries: Civility

Apr 28, 2017

When I was growing up, my mother always wore a dress—a housedress for housework and something nicer when she went out.  Women wore hats, too, and so did men—hats with brims that they took off indoors.

Things were different for children, too.  When adults came into the room, we were expected to stand up.  And we addressed them as Mr and Mrs, not by their first names.

Another formality—strictly enforced in my home—was writing thank you notes.  Even before I could write, I learned to print the words “thank you.”

Radio Diaries: Being Loved

Apr 24, 2017

My first year in college I met a fellow who was a couple years older—a good-looking, take-charge kind of guy who made me feel special and cherished.  Soon, he persuaded me to go steady and then began talking marriage.

I was dazzled by his attention—so dazzled that I couldn’t see clearly, couldn’t see him at all—his interests and goals—and whether we were really compatible.  But I convinced myself that I loved him—and much later realized I was only in love with being loved.

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