David James is a musician, activist, adjunct faculty member, editor, writer, and grandfather. A first-time homeowner for one-and-a-half years, he hangs his wash on a line, gardens, cans, mows, edges, clears snow, splits wood, and uses tools.
Starting in 1967 and for many years, a bunch of us who were single and courting and subsequently married folk, gathered for Thanksgiving. We divided the food preparation almost by status, with the host gaining the honor of cooking the turkey, and others the subsidiary fare. I started out making a baked onion casserole. Sound strange? It’s delicious. You take Vidalia onions—very sweet—peel and slice them in half, and put them in a glass baking dish with some “cream-a”: cream of mushroom, chicken, onion, celery, or broccoli soup, thickened with flour and some milk.
My mother’s mother was named Ellen Morden Long. She was born in New York City in 1884, but lived her married life in Syracuse, New York. Ellen Long had a grandfather, my three times great grandfather, named Ralph Morden Long. He was born in 1788 in eastern Pennsylvania, but died on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, not too far from Brantford, where he was taken during the Revolutionary War by his grandmother Ann Durham Morden, who must have been a “loyalist”—on the British side, to flee to Canada.
I dug up still another patch of backyard Friday and Saturday, and the same thing happened as last time. My forearms swelled up. For a couple of days I looked like Popeye the Sailor Man. Right now, although the swelling has receded, “I’m itching like a man on a fuzzy tree,” although the other symptoms associated with that song have not displayed. I guess it could be mosquitos, although I didn’t hear them around my ears or see them alight. This pest is maybe chainsaw-us vexans, its cousin hammerdrill-us vexans, or sneakuponus vexans.
From the ethereal to the earthereal, the fun never stops. I woke up Monday morning with my arm hanging limp from my shoulder. A little body English would have swung it around in circles like a mean boy with his sister’s rag doll. Lit-tel story. Sunday I played bodhrán—the Irish frame drum—as I describe it, north-end-of-a-south-facing goat—to accompany a glorious choir, the St. Joseph Valley Camerata. I bought a new suit for the occasion! Know when the last time THAT happened? When I got married-1970.