Friday, March 26, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010


My grandson, Kaden, is almost three years old. He was invited to visit the fire station where Ben, my son-in-law, works.

For days, all Kaden could talk about was the fire station. He had his pre-school classmates, his fellow playmates at McDonald's, and every child he encountered thrilled and excited about his upcoming trip.

Even Julianna, Kaden's 1-year-old sister, was interested - vocal, if not verbal - in her enthusiasm about going to the station

Then came the big day!

We all drove to Ben's fire station. Kaden continued his spirited conversation about the upcoming treat.

"Kaden drive the fire truck, Mommy," he told Nicole repeatedly.

"Here we are!" Nicole cried as she and Daddy, Misha, unstrapped the tots.

"There's Ben!" she yelled, as Kaden pulled her across the parking lot towards the fire house. "Yea!"

"THERE'S THE FIRE TRUCK!" she continued. "Yea!"

Kaden arrived at full roar, stopping short at Ben's feet and looking up at Ben and the HUGE fire truck.

"Wahhhh!" he screamed, hiding his face in Nicole's knees. Instantly, Julianna joined in the chorus, "Wahhh!" She clung to Misha, tears rolling down her cheeks.

All the adults stopped their breathless advance as the smiles faded into bewildered faces.

"Kaden! It's all right!," his parents said repeatedly.

Calm, soft-spoken Ben offered a friendly hello. PawPaw and Grandy tried directing Kaden's attention to the shiny red fire truck.

"Wahh!" screamed Kaden and Julianna.

We walked into the big garage housing the fire engine and ambulance. Ben offered Kaden a plastic fireman's hat.

"No! Wahhh!" Kaden yelled, hiding his face again. "No Mommy, I scared!"

After a little struggle, Misha sat in the fire truck and Kaden let himself be handed up. Julianna simmered down, now that Kaden was quiet. We all relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief as Misha held Kaden in his lap and Kaden looked around the big truck. Then, as they started to climb down, Misha (bless his little pointed head) pressed the button that activated the siren.

"WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo" bellowed from the truck.

"Wahhhh!" bellowed from Kaden. Julianna joined in.

Aren't kids fun?

The kids calmed down as I tried on Ben's equipment, which weighs TONS. Imagine wearing all that and carrying heavy hoses (or people!)

Eventually, Kaden and Julianna allowed themselves to be lifted into the truck, although Kaden admonished his dad, "Don't push the button. It's too loud. No do that."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Most of us are ready, even eager for the first signs of spring after winter's barren landscape begin to pall.

It may be that this is especially true in the South, where we have very little snow to lend its eerie beauty to the colorless, seemingly lifeless land.

Because forsythia is one of the first plants to flower, I look hopefully each day for the tiny yellow bells, heralds of spring

Actually, these heralds tend to mislead us sometimes. Once it has endured a few cool days, foolish forsythia (as I call it) breaks forth at the slightest excuse.

It most commonly starts bursting onto the scene after near-balmy days in February here in Atlanta, but I have seen its bright sprays joyously blossoming as early as December.

This habit of optimistically springing into bloom endears the plant to me. Each warm day from December to March, forsythia tries again and again to proclaim "spring has come."

No matter how many times cold temperatures blight the flowering, forsythia never seems to suffer permanently, nor to become inhibited -- no matter how harsh the icy admonition.

When I see the forsythia bounding gracefully into the air like a fountain, or cascading over a wall like a golden waterfall, I am stricken, not only with it delicate, fairy-like beauty, but with its message.

Forsythia keeps offering its opinion that spring is near, that rebuffs don't really matter, and that it is worth the risk to put forth one's tender endeavors in an uncertain world.








This is the last post of our Scotland trip. Please comment, if you like, and let me know what you thought.

We parked at the base of Craigphadrig Wood and CLIMBED UP THE HILL. Holly, bless her, sprinted gaily ahead of me. (I was beginning to hate Holly). The earthen, vitrified walls still exist, though rounded by passing ages and covered with grass. Vitrified walls, made by imbedding wood into the earthen bank and burning it, strengthened the defenses. Historians today cannot duplicate this technique completely.

Craigphadrig Rock was probably the best "ruin" for Holly's research. She lingered and walked all around the top or "rock" of Craigphadrig envisioning the fort's location and how supplies and food were transported. I enjoyed the sun, bird song, and peacefulness of the area, inhaling the strong scent of the tall pines swaying in the wind.

As we ascended to the Rock, we came upon a tree with bits of cloth and rags and even a police officer's uniform tie bound to its bare branches. We discovered this is a clootie or rag well, one of the few still actively venerated by locals seeking cures. The "rags," tied onto a tree as part of a healing ritual, struck us as strange in our modern age, but somehow belonged to the misty and mystical Craigphadrig Rock.

In Pitlochry we stayed in a Victorian house, nicely decorated, with stained glass doors and windows. Our host there, Paul, who has two daughters near Holly's age, let her borrow 2 books overnight that helped with her research. He also gave us directions and suggestions for our trip. All of the people we met were friendly and tried to help us. Scots are most hospitable when not behind the wheel.

On Saturday, we went to see Dunfallandy Stone -- an example of Pictish artwork. The family cemetery containing this stone sits on top of a hill, and this was the only time our Weather Angel failed us. We scrambled up to see Dunfallandy Stone in a chilling, blowing rain -- no pleasant "Scottish Mist" this time!

Our last touring day was busy. We visited a crannog --an artificial island with wooden palisades and buildings built in the loch on stilts. A high, peaked roof crowned the round wooden house. Our guide, Amanda, took us inside and we sat on skin-covered benches as she told us what is known and speculated about crannogs and their builders. These crannogs date from the Iron Age but were still in use in Scotland's Dark Ages.

Amanda told us the houses were built in the loch for defense reasons. In the Iron Age, an iron axe was a "treasure to be protected from thieves." Adolescent daughters were apparently routinely "stolen", so they and the livestock were kept in the crannogs overnight and when danger threatened, as well.

On a sad note, I must report that the "NeverLost" lost its mind at the airport, where we had to return it and the rental car. We raced frantically all around the Edinburgh airport, needing to turn in the car by 7:00 p.m. I suppose the proximity of the airport electronics confused our "lady" who calculated our route again and again without ever guiding us to the Hertz parking lot. We arrived (only after telephoning the return point for directions) within seconds of the closing time. And without a scratch on the car, I'm proud to say. All that steely-eyed, white-knuckled determination paid off.

It was a wonderful Spring Break and I greatly enjoyed being with Holly. Who knows whether we will ever get a chance to be together like this again?

As to the trip home, that is another long, sad story. Delta and British Airways apparently do not communicate with each other and between this and a delayed take off from Edinburgh; we missed our connection in London.

"Where are our tickets?" we asked the British Airways agent in Edinburgh.

"Oh, we cannot issue a ticket for your Delta flight from London," she replied airily. "You will not need a paper ticket. It's all done electronically. No problem."

Oh, really? Tell that to the security person who would not let us go from the 5th to the 4th terminal of Heathrow once we got to London.

"You need documentation," she explained sternly. "Don't you have a ticket or some sort of paperwork? Of course, you MUST have some documentation to go through Security."


Well, after all, it was April Fools' Day. Enough to say that we arrived home a day late and MANY dollars short. But we did arrive and so did our luggage -- albeit a few days later.