Pearl Harbor Day [Dec 7]
“Uncle Bob, what is Pearl Harbor?” asked my niece Rachel few days back. I was reading a magazine and she was watching a movie clip from “Pearl Harbor” on TV. Now, when my niece starts asking question about any topic she keeps on bombarding anyone with questions until she knows every detail about the subject. We’ve all concluded that she’d be winning the Nobel Prize in any field one day. She is so curious! I thought it’s better to explain her the history about Pearl Harbor at one go.
I refrained from mentioning to Rachel that the Pearl Harbor attack let the US to join World War II. I feared that it would lead a series of more questions on the war. But I couldn’t escape from her line of questioning. As she listened to the facts wide-eyed, her very next question was “why did Japan attack?”
Now, I am not a historian or a political science scholar so I don’t have a detailed knowledge about the situation back then. So, I tried to put up a reason “well, you see there were some political tensions between the countries and that led them to go to war. All countries were fighting. It was the time of World War II”
Ooops! I mentioned about the WW II. I was holding my breath and watching what she would say next. Thankfully, she didn’t get into the topic. Instead, she posed a more philosophical and to be precise a more difficult question! “Why does everyone fight? Why can’t they be buddies?” I looked at her innocent face. She is too young to understand the complexities of the world of the grown ups and I don’t want to ruin her innocence. “You see, there are problems…” I replied.
“But I am always told not to fight with anyone. Then why is everyone fighting?” implored Rachel.
I had no answers for her. Do you have it? How do you talk to kids about this stuff?
Winter Flowers Day [Dec 8]
Everyone knows how fond Mrs. Bradley is of her garden. While we think winter is a time for dead leaves and wilted flowers, my neighbor Mrs. Bradley’s garden thrives with colors in winter. Yes, you read it right. Even in winter! Mrs. Bradley’s garden is bright with colorful winter flowers and shrubs like Winter Jasmine, Japanese Pieris, Glory-of-the-snow and god knows what. Hats off to the lady for being so passionate and meticulous about her gardening! But it’s Kong, my pooch who always create trouble in her garden. If ever he gets a chance, he would stealthily slip into her garden along with his pal Pirate and dig everywhere!
Her rose beds are their favorite playground. Of course, I can’t blame him. I did the same pranks in my childhood. But you know what? Mrs. Bradley loves Kong! And it was proved last year on Winter Flowers Day.
Mike, Mrs. Bradley’s son, came from London for a vacation and we were invited for tea at her house. By ‘we’ I mean Kong and myself. After we reached, there we came to know that it was Mike’s birthday!
“Hey Bobby, I didn’t want any birthday present or party! I just wanted to meet you all” said Mike, patting on my shoulder. I was too embarrassed for not having any gift for him. We had a good evening. There were ginger bread cookies, and a homemade cake with coffee and special treats for Kong too. As we were busy chatting, I didn’t realize that Kong slipped away from the room into the garden.
Suddenly, Mrs. Bradley gave a shriek. “Has Kong gone into my garden? Where is he?” We looked around and there was no sign of my four-legged companion. I rushed to the garden followed by Mrs. Bradley and others. Just as I thought, Kong had marched over the rose beds and made a mess around the nursery of the winter flowers!
“Kong!” I screamed. Though most of the time I saved Kong after his mischief, it was too much for me to bear on that day. The brat just ruined my prestige! SIGH!!
Kong, without even glancing at me, took some flowers in his mouth and went to Mike. Kong, silently put the flowers near his feet and started wagging his tail innocently. I was just about to unleash my anger on him, when Mrs. Bradley interrupted, “Don’t scold Kong. He just wanted to give Mike some presents. He understood it’s his birthday.” She solemnly looked at Kong and if I am not wrong, her eyes were moist. Kong barked softly as if to say, “Yes”. Mike looked at his mom and then stared at the dog that was still wagging his tail and looking at Mike humbly. A smile came on his face.
“O my poor Kong. You didn’t need to give me gift,” said he and started cuddling the pooch. Kong accepted it with much glee and everyone started laughing. I stood speechless, looking at the scene.
Homemade Gift Day [Dec 9]
I look forward to the holidays because all the folks at the office make homemade cakes, cookies, and other sweets and leave them in the coffee room for the rest of the staff. Well, I’m known for my sweet tooth and have been known to be waiting with both hands ready to taste any new recipes my colleagues are trying out. Yesterday, as I was trying to look busy after making coffee, Donna came in with what looked like banana bread. I rubbed my hands together in glee.
“What you got there, Donna? Banana bread?” I asked.
“No Bob, I’m trying out a new recipe for zucchini bread,” she answered. I stepped back. I’m not a big fan of zucchini – vegetables usually don’t take up much room on my plate. I couldn’t imagine what a zucchini would taste like in a sweet bread. She took a step forward. I stepped back again, with my hands up.
“No thanks, Donna. I had a big breakfast,” I said. Just then my stomach started rumbling nosily, betraying me. Donna laughed.
“Trust me, Bob. You’ll like it,” she said as she set the serving plate down on the counter. She took a napkin, placed a slice on it and offered it to me. I ran from the room. Ducking, I stealthily crept into my cubicle and went straight to work. All day, every time I moved from my computer, I found a neatly wrapped slice waiting for me when I returned. Once on my seat, once on my keyboard, and once balanced on my coffee cup. I had been able to return it to the coffee room each time.
As 5:00 PM came close, I felt assured to have escaped the dreaded zucchini bread. I packed up my stuff and just as the clock chimed five, I stood up to go. Donna was standing there, blocking my way.
“Bob, you’re not leaving until you try my zucchini bread,” she said. The rest of the ladies on staff were crowded around her. My way was blocked! I had no way to escape! I took the little paper plate with the slice of bread. I racked my brain trying to find a way to keep from having to put this evil looking greenish colored bread into my mouth, but my mind was blank. All eyes stared at me. I slowly unwrapped the plate, eyes darting from right to left looking for anything to help me out of this. Everyone was watching. I was going to have to do it!
I tore a small piece from the edge and gingerly placed it in my mouth. It was moist. It was sweet. It didn’t taste like a vegetable. It was very, very good! Folks, I will never look at the lowly zucchini as a mere vegetable again. Zucchini bread has now become my favorite!
When I scooped up the rest of the slice with a sheepish grin, I asked, “Is there any more?” Everyone laughed. Some of the ladies clapped and Donna promised to make another loaf of zucchini bread just for me. I guess this is my lesson for life this week: try EVERYTHING! You never know what you’re gonna like!
Hi Neighbor Day! [Dec 11]
When I was a kid, our neighbor, Mr. Grady used to drive his horse-drawn cart with hay down to the corner store. This wasn’t that long ago, but it always seemed something out of an old movie. His horse was a big Clydesdale with huge feet. All us kids thought he was weird. He was always cranky and lived in a shack near his fields. We were all afraid of him because he was as old as dirt. One day, after the harvest, we watched Mr. Grady delivering his hay. We kids were hanging around with nothing to do that Saturday and decided to check out Mr. Grady’s place. I was double dog dared to go. I was scared of him, but I wasn’t going to show my fear to anyone.
It was a beautiful, late autumn day. The air was bright and crisp and the trees were bare of leaves. After the hike to his house, we noticed no one was around. We approached the house carefully. There was a twist of rope around the doorknob.
“Probably his idea of a key,” said Steve. I opened the door. The shack was no bigger than my bedroom at home, but it was a real mess. I had this idea to clean it up. Everyone thought I was crazy. I found a broom behind the door, and started to sweep. Steve started picking up the dishes on the table, and then we realized that there wasn’t a sink.
“Where’s the sink?” We looked around. Mr. Grady had no plumbing.
“I wonder how he stays warm,” I said. My friends and I started feeling sorry for Mr. Grady. We took his dishes outside and found a well. The water was cold, but we managed to clean everything with a rag we found in the house. We made his bed and got everything as sparkling as we could. As we were finishing up, my friend Paula piped up. “I want to get some asters from Mrs. Lennon’s house, I’ll go ask her if it’s okay.” She ran off to see what she could do. Meantime, Steve had been outside shaking the dirt out of the rag rug that had been on the floor. He came back in with it in pieces.
“It just fell apart. I’m gonna go home and ask Mom if he can have one of the rugs in our basement.” I continued dusting the furniture and started scrubbing the warped and creaky wooden floor. I didn’t hear the cart come up, but I did hear the heavy footsteps coming up to the door. My heart skipped a beat. There was nowhere to hide! Mr. Grady hesitated at the door, probably noticing the missing rope. I stood in the corner, holding my breath and nearly sobbing looking at my feet.
Mr. Grady saw me and yelled at me, “What are you doing in my house!”
I started to cry. He looked around and saw the results of what my friends and I did. He took a couple of steps and sat on his bed with his hands on his knees. Then he whistled. I looked up at him through my tears. He was smiling. Just then, Paula showed up with a vase full of flowers, tentatively knocking at the door. Mr. Grady opened the door. With a gasp of surprise, she handed them to him. He smiled even broader.
“You chillun do this for me?” he said.
“Yes, sir,” I said. I thought he was going to call our parents. Just then, Steve showed up with a rug. He looked just as surprised as Paula had been. He threw the rug at him and ran.
“We broke your rug trying to clean it,” I explained. He smiled at me. I smiled back. “Oh, that’s alright… it was a rusty ole thang anyways,” replied Mr. Grady with moist eyes.
We became good friends that day. After that, whenever we saw Mr. Grady on his cart, he’d smile and wave at us. He’d let us climb up on his cart and ride with him all the way to the store, where he’d sometimes buy us candy. Some weekends, we went back to clean his place. Sometimes he’d make us homemade peanut butter sandwiches and let us spend time watching him care for his horse and chickens. When my mother found out, she asked us why we couldn’t keep our own rooms clean, but were willing to clean a neighbor’s!
For this week’s moment of Zen, I’m reminded of the great artist Michelangelo’s motto, “I’m still learning.” We all are still learning regardless of our age, I like taking baby steps. Make sure you take it easy this holiday season.