Here’s my brother, Curt, a master woodworker, cook and now violinist. He taught himself how to play watching YouTube videos during the quarantine.
"There are 24 useful hours in a day to do things." My son said that at least twice on Sunday as we drove to Jamestown for an early Easter dinner.
It was amazing. Chicken and dumplings, gravy, mashed potatoes, green fluff and kuchen. Fit for a king, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law. It was the first time we could visit my father, who lives in the Heritage Centre, just one block north of my brother's house.
Naturally, there were no hugs, and face masks were only mandatory at the assisted living place. We were comfortable but a little guarded about the whole thing even though nearly everyone there had had two injections already.
So, back to the 24-hours-day.
Before we sat down to eat, I came out of the bathroom to see my brother playing a tune on an old violin. I was shocked.
First, the violin was left in the attic of our old house in Gackle by the former owners. We moved in sometime in the late 60s. The attic in the old Lehr house was almost larger than the second story, an apartment. You see, in the old times, those large two and three-story homes were meant to house the young family on the main floor and while aging parents eventually moved up a story and up another story to be close to relatives that took care of them.
This I know because I rented the third story of a large blue house in Fargo, just off Broadway Avenue. I loved it. The sun is shinier way up above the treetops.
The attic of the old two-story in Gackle wrapped around the outside of the house; it was stocked with curiosities and things we were not supposed to touch. But we snooped anyway.
The old violin rested on a dusty shelf protected by a very worn velvet-lined case for all the years I lived there. When my parents moved to a smaller place in Jamestown closer to doctors and grocery stores, they could only take a select number of items with them.
The rest of their lifetime collection of "stuff" disappeared as most of our things eventually. It makes me wonder why we keep so many things?
Then, my younger brother, a twin, never played an instrument in his life. At least not that I am aware of.
Not that we don't come from a musical family. My grandfather could play nearly any available instrument you put in his hand. There was an old pump organ in the farmhouse's back room, which one of my cousins currently houses and maybe even plays. My uncle, Ellon, was the go-to accordion player for most of his life in Wishek. I have a whole family of cousins that live near Medina that sing and play guitars and pianos. One of my cousin's sons, Mark, sang at his step-father's funeral. It was beautiful.
So, it's not that we don't have some musical talent in the family, but this…
It was so unexpected.
"Is that the old violin from the house?"
"Yes, it is."
"Did you have someone refinish it?"
"No, I did it myself."
"Did you take lessons from someone."
"No, I watched some You-Tube videos."
Well, that explains it. My son, my brother, our mother, all display the same need to create 24-hours-a-day. Our family DNA has provided us with the unique talent to pick something up easily by watching YouTube videos.
Okay, back in my early years (and my mother's later years), we read books to learn how to do things.
We continue to learn, or instead teach ourselves, how to do things. And we do new things all the time.
Case in point. When we arrived back in Bismarck, after we dropped off our son and his son, he went to work recreating a window cling for a friend and me. When he sent me the photo of his latest creation, the accompanying text read: "Like I said. There's 24 useful hours in a day. Made two, as per your request."
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
What did you learn how to do over the COVID quarantine?
March in the rearview mirror means I just made another trip around the sun. According to Facebook, this marked day was a milestone in my life’s journey. But, like Mae West said, “It’s mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Remember the poem “When I am an Old Woman?” If not, as in if you are too young, you can find both the poem and the backstory https://laterbloomer.com/jenny-joseph/.
At one time, that poem made the rounds at the art fair circuit, around the late 80's and early 90's. After that, the Red Hat Society was formed and well, the rest is history. Now that I think about it, I don’t see too many purple dresses and red hats at lunches anymore.
However, NOW, that I am an old woman I am finally giving up wearing purple. The color doesn't suit me as well as red and orange. You may have deduced that as I am an Aries – a fire sign.
But soon I will not care about what color to wear. My uniform will be baggy work trousers without a matching shirt. There will be stains on the bottom of that tee shirt from carrying unwashed vegetables from the garden to the house. The hem on my pants will be worn and thready, but if need be, I can roll them up to my knees, but not past, since I might have to garden on my knees and need the protection. Shoes are optional.
I will rarely comb my hair and allow the wind to style it in waves and tangles. Someday you may find a ladybug, or two, sunning themselves on the twigs that wind their way through the curls. The curls, of course, becoming curlier from the sweat on hot summer days or on the rare occasion when it's going to rain. I wish it would rain. I will love the rain and will stand in it with welcoming arms and with prayers of thanks for thunder and lightning and precious water to nourish my tomatoes.
Oh yes, now that I am an old woman, my desire is to drive less, and walk more. Stay out of closed rooms and work outdoors. Eat all the fresh bread and butter and vegetables that I can. Order my toilet paper online and hand the UPS driver a fresh-baked cookie when he or she delivers my box.
My grandchildren will come out to visit me as often as they can and lift heavy bags for me because both Grandpa JC and Grandma Sue BB have to start thinking about avoiding lifting. You know you have to watch your back when you are an old woman, never letting that stop you from pulling those weeds or thinning those carrots. There’s no shame in getting down on your knees in the fresh moist soil and communing with the precious earthworms and insects that keep that soil alive.
I will daily say my prayers and listen for the sound of God the Father, Son and especially the Holy Ghost, in the wind and every living thing that crosses my path. In the morning I will stretch like Walter, our cat, and give thanks for the sun. In the evening I will watch the moon rise and give thanks again.
If I have time, I will continue to write my memoirs and tell a story that can only be told by me. If you are my friend, expect a card or letter in the mail someday because hand written notes are still the best.
So, now that I am an old woman and can say whatever I want, I will begin by thanking you for all the birthday wishes and cards.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.