Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Returning to drawing on cave walls may well be the best way for us to communicate with each other. Since we have made such gigantic strides in brutalizing the English language in just about every other forum, it certainly can't hurt.
There was a time in the Good Ole USA that “reading, writing and arithmetic” were cornerstones of our basic education. But that was long ago and far away. Nowadays some people with college degrees are just as likely to butcher a sentence as little boys and girls in the first grade of elementary school. Allow me a bit of leeway here, dear reader. In my own family struggles abound. Some of us are successful in meeting these challenges, some not so.
Just short years ago, my middle daughter mastered consistent use of “y'know”. She used it before, after, and sometimes in the middle of sentences. At some point she abruptly abandoned the field leaving it to Chris Evert (aka” Chrissie”) to continue as undisputed champion in the use of this non-word. One of my sons-in-law cringes at the use of “at” at the end of a sentence, as in “where's it at?”. This leads to all hands using it at every opportunity to test the level of his blood pressure.
When I was a teenager many of us living in the leafy suburbs of Philadelphia attended Lower Merion High School which was, and still is, a highly regarded institution of secondary education. Within those hallowed halls diminutive Mrs. Margaret Hay ruled English language territory with a firm hand. Mrs. Hay has since ascended to the Great Schoolhouse in the Sky but her influence rolls along through the loyalty of her disciples. My pal David is one such. He was the fiercely competitive captain of the football team. Nowadays he guards the flame of proper English in the same passionate way. Whenever or wherever friend or foe misspeaks, David quickly pounces, invoking the battle cry “Remember Mrs. Hay”! It is intimidating and we always promise to reform.
None of us is grammar-proper all the time. When I struggle with these periodic communiques to you, I can turn to my eldest daughter who is an editor. Most times she is an effective life preserver.
Another bump on the English Highway is the misuse of the Plural versus the Possessive. With the holidays coming on, you might as well gird your loins, or whatever, to face versions of “Happy Holidays from your friends the Smith's” in place of “Happy Holidays from your friends the Smiths.”
Still, it may be the thought that counts.......
If you think of Mel Brooks and his routines about “Jewish Mothers”, you'll get the picture in a heartbeat. Mistresses of the guilt trip, JMs are capable of putting sons (especially) and daughters into mental dungeons for supposedly failing to appreciate a Mother's Love. Several Jewish mothers are among my intimate friends. But they are far afield from the portrait that Brooks paints of their concern about every single thing that touches the lives of their offspring. Along with large dollops of “don't worry about me, your mother, it's YOU that I cry over.”
Skipping from Ireland to Israel is not an easy trip but I did it recently while worrying about our brand new great-granddaughter, Huntley, who caught a cold. She is a Manhattanite, albeit a very young version of that species, and as yet unaware of Bloomingdale's, Grand Central and Central Park. Huntley caught a cold somewhere, we suspect from her wonderful working mother who insisted on balancing business and imminent delivery right up to the moment when contractions kicked in. (The courage of young women who manage such feats is surely the topic for another column, but for the moment Baby Huntley is the focus.)
Many a parent or grandparent takes comfort in the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy – as in what you don't see or know allows you to stay in a sea of serenity. Not so for me in Florida. I worry about every one of these 1358 miles between our house and Huntley's crib. My Wasp wife, no Shamrock she, as well as the Jewish (and all other) mothers in our gang, take a pragmatic view of situations generally. And specifically in the case of my attempts to micro-manage health concerns when her mother and grandmother are right there in the NYC scene watching Huntley like the two Mother Hens they are. Ah, well. Such is life.
I also wondered if Mel Brooks has a routine centered on the plight of males who are parents, grandparents, great-grandparents whose sole role in the miracle of birth seems to be limited to one-liners during Happy Hour.
Thursday, December 8, 2016
Guys, it's time for the compulsory year-end review. Buckle up.
The big story of course is Donald Trump. Which is pretty much the way he would like it.
To a point that is. Almost all of us, I suspect, are much more interested in what goes on in our immediate worlds. Joan and I have a brand new great-granddaughter, Huntley Alden. She is immeasurably more important to us than Mr. Trump. You can throw in Hillary and Bill too. I like Melania Trump. Not just because she is a gorgeous lady, although she is that, but because she is forthright and deserves a break from all of us. Where is it written that Melania should not be “acceptable” because she posed near-naked, or naked, during her modeling days? As I pass the mirror after showering even a casual peek assures me that I should call 911.
There is a larger lesson here. Much of what goes on is beyond our control. Absolutely. The network news and the newspapers guarantee heartburn. Why torture ourselves? Take it all in once and then move on to those positive things in life – like children, grandchildren, and if you are really lucky, great-grandchildren. By the way, these young ones don't have to be your own – just enjoy the miracles of young boys and girls. And pray that they will live long happy lives. That's all you can do now that 2016 is in the history books.
And not so by the way, thank you for reading my columns and blogs during this year now past.