THAT NIGHT — 11/23/63: a Different Mother’s Day

the hospital was full that night

of mothers come to term

too soon

mourning the young president

 

a nurse brought masks for tears

scribbled nothing

in her chart

 

six contractions —

Catherine in my arms

 

less time

than it had taken him to die

and certainly less pain

 

(Rochester, Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic, the world into which I had conceived and born my daughters, altered for all time!)

NOT ‘ROSES ARE RED’ — current poem

I know, I know.  Poets are supposed to be writing about wine and roses, the arrival of spring, zephyrs, and so forth.

My Muse isn’t the least BIT interested — this is her truth this ‘cruellest month’…  Bear with me…

 

CALL IT BLASPHEMY

 

listen, God

I’ll trade You

I’ll take those three hours, any day!

 

forget this sentence of eight entire decades

even the scourging – what was that

an hour or so?

 

when you have a cruel mother

you are afraid everywhere

even in utero

 

o.k., so there was the Via Dolorosa

mine the VIE Dolorosa

and nobody helped carry the heavy wood burdens

 

no kind person wiped tears from my face

on that foreign balcony above a sea

when I finally realized that both daughters

 

were now the property of a cult

–over thirty years ago, Lord,

longer than they were IN my life

 

ah, You say, but there was the Agony in the Garden

indeed, every seed and bulb I planted

was the attempted burial of agony

 

“Will you not watch one hour with Me?”

I have been watching eight decades, Lord

waiting for faith like a mustard seed

belief in just touching the hem of Your garment

 

believing in mercy

 

Listen, God

I’ll trade

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

April 12, 2018

 

 

 

 

THE HUSHED TIME

St. Mark's with birds

 

THE HUSHED TIME

 

it is not quite dawn

in the petite hotel

tucked into a corner

of Venice

 

in their room

my girls sleep as though enchanted

pink peignoirs neatly folded

onto two ornate chairs

slippers tucked beneath

 

everything so quiet

but, too wide awake,

I slip into warm slacks

a gondolier’s shirt

sensible shoes

for striding cobbles and bridges

 

venice-gondolier-neil-buchan-grant

 

tiptoe out of our room

into the paneled corridor

thread my hushed way through

that flowery forecourt

 

silence thick as clouds

or fog, renders all the bridges

different in dim light

 

I turn my lens

toward St. Mark’s crests

realizing I am the only

person in the piazza

gondolas bobbing, tethered, at my feet

 

2gondolas tethered

 

abruptly!  every bell in Venice

starts its hollow clamor

echoes chasing clangings

across wrinkled waters

 

the gilded clock awakens

bell-ringers moving so stiffly

 

Bell Ringers Clock St. Mark's Square

 

it’s Easter

every bird in Venice on the wing

 

Venice-pigeons-on wing

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

March 3, 2018

 

 

 

 

Christmas Arrives in Unexpected Settings

 Waterville Valley Vistas

When one has a difficult mother,  it can become essential to distance one’s self and  family, particularly at the time of significant holidays.  If one has a courageous husband, he may announce, as the parental car pulled out of our Princeton driveway after a particularly grueling visit, “That’s it.  We are not letting her ruin another Christmas.  We are going skiing at Waterville.”

My husband, Werner Oscar Joseph Edelmann (for full effect say with German accent) was 100% Swiss.  Although he had not grown up skiing, we took it up as a family, the year we moved to Princeton – 1968.  Shore friends, sitting on their dune-cushioned deck, insisted that our families learn together.  It was August and steamy.  Winter?  WHAT Winter.  We said yes.

I secretly hoped some disaster, like a broken leg, or death, would intervene before that crucial February challenge.  None did.  So we all began to learn to ski.  The girls were in kindergarten and first grade.  At Killington, they looked like bunnies in their fuzzy snowsuits and fat mittens, among a gaggle of other little beginners, huddled at the base of ‘the bunny slope.’

They, being half Swiss, did not remain beginners very long.  In the year of our deliverance from my mother, they were teens who preferred ‘bombing the black lines’   – the expert slopes.  Especially “Oblivion” in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.  The White Mountains were Werner’s choice for our runaway Christmas, because their ski school and an authentic Swiss lodge were run by Paul Pfosi.  All Paul’s instructors were Swiss.  Extremely demanding.  “Ski marks on the inside of your ski boots” to prove you had your legs close enough together.  Off-slope, they all delighted to converse in their native (unwritten) language with this tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed very determined American skier.  Stein Eriksen in those years was our hero, our model.

stein_eriksen

No one would mistake us for Stein, but his example formed Pfosi’s Instructor Corps.

Anita Kathriner and Raphael Wyss make Alpkase, Mutschli and butter by hand in the traditional manner in a giant copper kettle over a wood burning fire at their cheese-making hut above Wengen, Switzerland

Swiss Copper Cheese Kettle in situ

Pfosi’s Lodge held the huge copper kettles we’d first seen in Emmenthaler, in which magnificent Swiss cheeses were precisely concocted.  Only Pfosi’s kettles overflowed with silky evergreen boughs from nearby endless forests.  Swiss Christmas music, such as relatives had carefully sent to Diane and Catherine over the years, pealed from hidden speakers.  Conditions were ideal on the slopes, and for any number of days we almost forgot it was Christmas.  But not quite.

Our family, over the years, had no experience of that Holiday beyond our own formal tree and hand-made-ornament tree, one by the living room fireplace, one by the family room’s slate hearth.  Heaven to us was a fire in each room, the three of us in long plaid skirts and white lace blouses, playing our guitars and caroling for Werner in the family room.  There’d always been the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center, and caroling in the neighborhood near Princeton’s Snowden Lane.  Could Christmas find us in New Hampshire?

There was a tiny church in the village below the lodge.  It felt very odd to go to church in ski clothes and apres-ski boots.  Instead of a jungle of poinsettias in the Princeton church, but two tiny ones ‘decked’ this austere altar.  Instead of instruments sustaining voices back home, a motley choir with cracking voices sang in a small wooden balcony high overhead.  But it was Midnight Mass, and it did hold all the magic we needed.  And the quivering voices underscored a somehow more memaningful reality.

We drove back up the mountain, past the restaurant where we’d had Christmas Eve Supper.  We’d sat next to a live birch tree, somehow able to live and thrive indoors, reaching for the midnight sky.  Between dinner and church, we’d been astounded by stars beyond counting, which seemed nearly blinding.  But between church and the lodge, no stars.  Instead, white swirls, glistening to be sure, of new snowflakes — no more welcome blessing in ski country at Christmas.

Swiss Santa in Boat

Back in our rooms — it must have been near 2 a.m. by now — we found dark Swiss chocolates wrapped in bright gold foil upon our pillows,.  Pfosi’s had signed lacy old-fashioned Christmas cards with gilt arabesques, such as those which arrived every year from Tante Li, Onkel Joni, Cousin Vera and the rest of the family in and near St. Gallen.  I cannot spell their Christmas message, but we all knew how to say it in Swiss — it sounded like FRO-LIKKA-VIE-NOCKTEN.  One said this with certain notes in our voices which the girls had heard since babyhood..

Frohlichi Wiehnacht Swiss Christmas Card

Diane’s and Catherine’s room was right across the narrow hall from ours.  They burst in, laughing all over.  “Come Quick!  Come Quick!  Carolers!”

We “thrust open the windows, threw up the sash” onto a scene I will never forget.  Snow circled, enfolding us as though we had been transported into the Milky Way. itself, Horses snorted and their visible breath mingled with the flakes.  Yes, sleigh bells jingled.  Tucked into hay in an old fashioned sleigh were male and female carolers, dressed as we had been for Mass, in ski parkas and ski mitts and knit hats.  These voices sounded like tiny silver chimes, like bells, rising into the heavens in celebration.

And we’d thought Christmas was only in our family room…

It wasn’t every Christmas morning that opened on a trail named “Oblivion”!

The Mountain, Waterville Valley

May each of you find your special holiday exactly as you need it this year — and may its real message of Peace on Earth, Good Will, suffuse our entire planet.

Here is an ad from the 1970’s, when we were there:

ski watervi w va NEW HAMPSHIRE PFOSI S LODGE Willkommen! Paul Pfosi, Director of the Waterville Valley Ski School, invites you to enjoy the Swiss-American hospitality of Pfosi’s Lodge. Alodge unique in every way combining old world charm with the most modern American accommodations and conveniences; …

The future would bring Christmas in other realms:

Aspen skiing scene,jpg

In Aspen, we could ski through forests.

In Zermatt, the Materhorn always tantalized:

Zermatt Materhorn from Internet

 

But the slopes held the magic:

 

Swiss skier from Internet

BUT NOTHING EVER TOPPED CAROLERS IN THE HORSE-DRAWN SLEIGH OUTSIDE THE OPEN WINDOWS OF PFOSI’S LODGE OF WATERVILLE.

Poem: “The Funnies” — when cartoons brought laughter…

“THE FUNNIES”

 

each Sunday, my father

changed out of church clothes

kneeling on the living room carpet

along with my little sister and me

to read us what was then known as

“the funnies”

 

Marilyn and I could not always

laugh with Dagwood, Katzenjammer

I had been known to have nightmares

over the fate of Prince Valiant

 

once my newspaperman father

had to bring home next week’s

Valiant appearance

proving my hero

was safe from the rats

 

funnies were in color

unlike war news

splashed in oversized black/white

along more serious pages of “the papers”

 

some cartoonists

devoted

their entire week’s “strip”

to sagas of kittens and knitting

 

when the knitter

was elsewhere

tabbies and tigers scampered

to her basket of yarn and new work

 

detaching long needles

unwinding sweater or scarf

scattering yarn balls

across bright living room rugs

 

since this past November

— cartoons no longer laughing matters

an entire litter somehow invaded

the work room

where I left

myself

 

time itself four-footed

undoing all of my stitchery

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

Lathrup Village, near Detroit, Michigan

                                                                      

SUMMER POEMS: ‘SWEET CORN’ and ‘GOOD HARBOR MORNING’

Simple summer tasks trigger memories and poems.  Come with me to Michigan — near Detroit, where I grew up in Lathrup Village; Good Harbor on Lake Michigan in the Leelanau Peninsula.  (Otherwise known as the “little finger” of Michigan.)  Good Harbor was my sister’s and my favorite place in the world.  When I fell in love with Chatham on Cape Cod, as a grown up, it was because it reminded me of Good Harbor.  Experience with me the simple foods and traditions of lower Michigan, in our own backyard.

sweet corn close-up from Internet

Sweet Corn from Internet

SWEET CORN

 yellow corn for lunch

sweeps me back to childhood

–my two hands too tiny

to tug off tough green husks

 

not assiduous enough

to strip every silken strand

–in that time when all corn

was yellow

 

era of sunsuits, sundresses

handmade by our mother

so crisply ironed

donned to welcome relatives

from Tiffin. Ohio

 

I feel prickly “creeping bent”

–that odd named grass—

between unaccustomed shoeless feet

 

our Tiffin cousins brought rare foods:

–curled and spicy hot dogs

all in a knotted string

–darker, far, than any

our father could ever find

in dull Detroit

 

their children carried huge and crinkly bags

of Ballreich Potato Chips

–wrinkled, strong and ready

for mother’s softened cream cheese

sparked with bright chive snippets

from our paltry garden

 

the greatest of great aunts

arrived bearing her catsup

–almost the ‘burnt sienna’ hue

of my favorite crayon

 

Aunt Amanda’s garden tomatoes

were piqued with cloves and spices

unknown to any ketchup in our town

preserved in ‘soft drink’ bottles

–highlight of the meal

home made catsup from Internet

Home-made Catsup, from Internet

 

Daddy’s real charcoal

sputtered and smoked

 

the children’s corn husk ‘haystacks’

burgeoned and tipped

 

butter and salt

joined extra large

thick paper plates

upon colorful oilcloth

on the wooden picnic table

out on our screened-in porch

 

when hotdogs were nearly ready

the women cooked our sweet corn

so briefly,

knowing it was ready

by the scent

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

July 23, 2016

 

twin-lights-from-good-harbor-beach-sunrise-c2a9kim-smith-2015.jpg

Good Harbor Sunrise, by Kim Smith, from Internet

GOOD HARBOR MORNING

 

once, up north, we could not find a bed

 

so my father pulled the bulbous Pontiac

into forest-rimmed sand

at Good Harbor, Michigan

in the ancient region of Leelanau

SH20 Scavenger Hunt 101 "A beach"

Good Harbor Beach, Leelanau County Michigan

 

both parents, my little sister

my littler cousin, and I

–still in our ‘street clothes’

curled like millipedes

upon pale plush seats

expecting somehow to sleep

surrounded by evergreen sentinels

 

waking into Sunday

my father was not there

 

silently, I opened our car door

took off toward the lake

 

peeking through soft dunes

to the far horizon

I saw my father

wearing trousers

but no shirt

 

before a scavenged Maxwell House coffee can

filled with lakewater

he was carefully shaving by campfire

 

CAROLYN FOOTE EDELMANN

July 23, 2016

beachfire Good Harbor Beach Michigan jpg

Good Harbor Beach Fire from Internet

THE FOUR SEASONS RESTAURANT — HAVEN OF EXCELLENCE — R.I.P.

4 Seasons Motif Restaurant Manhattan

The Four Seasons Motif outside the restaurant

Once there was a bastion of excellence, in Manhattan, called The Four Seasons.

Pool Room Four Seasons Restaurant

The Pool Room, The Four Seasons Restaurant

People think it was all about the food.  And, to a high degree, it was.  In that faraway year of 1959, when I moved to Manhattan, here was regionality and seasonality, and therefore savor and freshness and beauty such that no other cuisine could equal.  Not even Caravelle and Cote Basque.  Nowhere.

Metal Rain by Day 4 Seasons

Metal Rain Inside the Four Seasons, by day

Now, The Four Seasons is no more.  Several farewell nights took place, and many articles have appeared.  Nothing conveys the exquisite uniqueness that was our constant experience in every family meal at the hands of Four Seasons staff, from owners, through maitre d’, through waiters, and those invisible magnificent chefs.  All hands created that museum masquerading as restaurant, appropriately the jewel in the crown of the Seagram Building.

Palm Room Four Seasons Restaurant Manhattan

Palms and Tranquility, The Four Seasons Restaurant

The farewell articles go on and on about power lunches and billionaires and of course the movers and shakers of Manhattan.  The focus on guests splashing in what, –to us–, had always been, that sacred reflecting pool.  Seeing that pool room in vivid memory, I realize that its astounding simplicity and tranquility generated the air of haven in the middle of Manhattan’s notorious bustle.  Entering, it was as though a shawl of silence lightly descended upon our shoulders.

4 Seasons Modern Bench Manhattan Restaurant

Four Seasons Art

It cannot be true that all the superb art was reflected in that barely rippling water — yet that is how its multiplied beauty appears in retrospect.  Seeking images on the internet, nothing satisfies.   I am SURE there were Picasso tapestries hanging on stairway walls.  They appear nowhere today.  As Four Seasons appears nowhere today.  Progress and mercantilism dominate this century.  So are we deprived of this sanctuary whose aura to echoes the interiors of Chartres, Ste. Chapelle, the mosic-rich glittering basilicas in Ravenna on sunny days.

Night Scene Four Seasons Restaurant, Manhattan

Night Scene, The Pool Room, Four Seasons Restaurant

A major aspect of family meals at Four Seasons was the silken warmth of everyone’s welcome.  Come with Diane and Catherine, Werner and me, on a scintillating early autumn Saturday.  Settle in at a capacious table, carefully far enough from others so that privacy is maintained.  Hear the girls gently order their beverages; as Werner, their Swiss father, discussed wines with the sommelier.  Watch the girls’ tall gleaming glasses arrive with one waiter, as towering menus are settled silently into our hands.  See Catherine, –the younger but taller, with her long blonde Swiss hair–, open that menu and knock over her Coke.  Empathize with the horror on that young girl’s face..

4 Seasons Final Menu

Four Seasons Menu

See a brigade of waiters and busboys dash to our table.  Watch as though each had been Blackstone, the Magician.  Whisk!  off with the stained cloth and whatever had been so artfully arranged upon it.  Whoosh, floated the impeccable new one, like linens for an altar.

Hear the empathy in the voice of the headwaiter as he soothed our chagrined daughter:  “That’s nothing!,” he’s exclaiming.  “At night, we have grown-ups who catch their menus on fire!”

4 Seasons Plate with specialties Manhattan

Four Seasons Sampling

Laugh with all of us, and see Catherine’s shame erased.  Understand that this gentility was the hallmark of that restaurant.  We were not movers and shakers.  We were suburbanites, –upon whom I knew, as twice-former Manhattan resident–, that town looks askance.  We even dared to bring young girls, who happened to adore rituals and would eat anything (well, except petite friture in Villefranche, Provence, because, “Daddy, they have eyes!”

4 Seasons China

Four Seasons China

Werner knew, and we would come to know, that the poliltesse that suffused The Four Seasons was in the best European traditions, –as in Claridge’s of London, the Plaza Athenee and the Ritz of Paris.  But we weren’t in Europe — we were in America.  And for those few savory scintillating Four Seasons hours, we were experiencing the best of our country.  As with those legendary hotels and their sublime restaurants, what we took place at table rivaled beauty and majesty and tradition we had spent all morning absorbing in the world’s most important museums.

Metal Rain Four Seasons Restaurant Manhattan

Metal Rain by Night, Four Seasons Restaurant

The Four Seasons was not a museum.  It was alive, and its excellence could be counted on, time after time after time, no matter the origins of our guests

WAS alive.

IS no more.

So I must mourn this loss.

America is the less for this finale.

My words are so feeble.  I need Will to give me lines such as “Take and cut [it] out in little stars, and all the world shall be in love with night!”