Gypsy Rover

I don’t remember how it came up, but the other day Ted and I were talking about The Womenfolk, my first girl-crush and a major musical influence. I threw out the comment “Gee, I suppose they’re all dead by now” and a few minutes later he was showing me a web page by my favorite womenfolk member, Leni Ashmore.
“There’s a post from earlier this year so I bet she’s still around” he said.
Well then.
I pulled up the contact page and I wrote her a letter. (This is a longer version of what I said)

Dear Leni
When I was 4 1/2, my aunt started to play her folk music records (Kingston Trio, Tommy Maken and the Clancey Brothers, etc) for me, with the result that ideas were put in my head. One day nothing would do but that my mother take me to Lazarus in downtown Columbus Ohio to hear a live concert by my favorites, The Womenfolk.

I remember being transfixed. Live music is always stimulating for a young kid, and all the guitars and harmonies really fixed in my neural network and set me vibrating like a tuning fork. And most of all, I remember you.

I was anxiously awaiting the song “500 miles” because it was my favorite (after The Great Silkey which you didn’t perform) so my mother leaned toward the group between numbers and called out, “How many more songs will you be doing?”
You turned to her, held up 3 fingers and said “Three”. You trilled your R!
I know- right? Of such small moments are lasting impressions made.

I thought you were beautiful and exotic. I loved your deep, rich voice. I wanted to look and sound just like you. I wanted to BE you! My family did a fair amount of singing, my mother and her sisters arguing over who had to sing melody for Sweet Violets or On Top of Old Smokey. Between that and singing church hymns next to my mother’s strong alto, singing harmony was in my blood.
As was folk music. I sat in my little rocking chair for hours listening to my one Womenfolk album, looking at your faces, learning all the parts, picking out your voice from among the layers. (To be fair- I did the same with my sister’s Beatles albums.)

Fast forward to college. I decided to study a brand new field: music therapy. For my audition to the School of Music I played the guitar and sang a folk song that I had written myself at age 14. They were… less than impressed; however, it must have been a slow year because I was admitted as a voice principle.
Pity my poor voice instructor. First he had to tell me that I was actually a soprano (aaaaugh!) and then radically change my musical diet. Folk music wasn’t considered real music at that school (well, they had only recently decided that Jazz was real) so he dragged me into the world of “Art Song” and operetta. I did my best.

One day he played for me a recording of the great operatic alto Leontyne Price and when it was done, said “I played that because I believe, if you would work harder, you could sound like that!”
I was shocked. I was touched. I was sad.
“Mr Zook” I said at last, “I know that was a great compliment. But I don’t want to sound like Leontyne Price!I want to sound like Leni Ashmore.”

We both soldiered on.

In the end I became a nurse, and a mother, and did a decade as the music director for a very small church where I was able to fully satisfy my need to sing harmony. My kids heard Little Rag Doll and The Great Silkey as I rocked them when they were sick and sang Rickety-Tickety-Tin and The Green Mountain Boys around campfires. Because folk music is not music to study- it’s the music you live.

Last month my dad turned 90. At his party we had a sing-along with me on guitar, my husband on ukelele and dad on his washboard (we’re an odd bunch). After we annoyed the neighbors by belting out my dad’s favorites like Darktown Strutter’s Ball, Shine On Harvest Moon, etc. one of my sisters said, “What about that ah-de-doo ah-de-doo-dah-day song?” So we closed the party with the Womenfolk version of The Whistling Gypsy Rover.

 All this is my very long-winded way of saying, from that scrawny girl back in 1964 to you today– thank you for so many years of music!

Posted by Tracy on Jul 20th 2019 | Filed in General | Comments (0)

My Living Prayer

It will not be easy.
But it will be

Life is worth the fight.
Love is worth it.
I am worth it.

Summer clouds are worth it
The smell of baking cookies is worth it
Laughing ‘til your sides hurt is worth it
Curling up in front of a fire is worth it
The first opening of a new butterfly’s wings is worth it
The connection of singing in harmony is worth it
Crickets under a sky full of stars is worth it
Bright pebbles in a stream are worth it
The sound of rain on a tent is worth it.

Baby goats are worth it
Paint moving through water is worth it
The soft fur on Tucker’s face is worth it
The sound of Ted breathing in sleep is worth it
Easing into a tub of hot, fragrant water is worth it.
The smell of pine trees is worth it
The belly laugh of a baby is worth it
A storm when you’re safe and dry is worth it
A cold night when you’re warm inside is worth it.

My name on an envelope from a friend
The sound of falling snow
Distant lightning illuminating a cloud
The first pink of sunrise
The first bird of the morning
The hallelujah chorus of a pond full of peeper frogs
The roll of distant thunder
Daisies smiling from a roadside ditch
A strawberry, still warm with sunshine

A peach so ripe that the juice runs down your chin
The first page of a new book
The last page of a really good book
Fishing with Grandpa
Sunlight speckles through a sycamore tree onto the water
The first taste of hand-cranked ice cream
Brilliant autumn leaves
A hammock in the shade
The shouts of kids at the beach on a hot day

A heron gliding silently along a river
Evening walks
Spontaneous hugs
The first step in the door when you’ve been long away
Rocking a baby to sleep
Creating something new
A horse running through a field
A difficult job completed
The jelly softness of a puppy’s belly.
Porch swings

The wind in your face
Staying up talking half the night
Sleeping late
That first big stretch of the morning
Seeing seeds you planted sprout
The smell of bacon
The chance to be of service
The touch of skin to skin
The bottom of a small kitten’s paw
The smell of clean sheets hanging in the breeze
A good teacher
The opportunity to teach another
A song that makes you cry
A happy dream of a loved one departed.

Posted by Tracy on Jul 16th 2019 | Filed in General,Poetry | Comments (0)

Possible Abnormalities Detected

“Possible abnormalities detected”

Well fuck. 3 words to change a life.
This has certainly been the longest week of my life: waiting for the repeat scan and the news. So bizarre to realize that today I am me: tomorrow I will probably be “Cancer Patient”.
Something that’s supposed to happen to other people, right? I mean hell- breast cancer doesn’t run in my family!! I’m healthy! I do push-ups, for God’s sake!

I feel like I’ve been going through the motions all week; pretending that I don’t have a sword hanging over my head, which will fall tomorrow at my 10:00 appointment. Watching the clock: 26 hours from now I’ll know…. 24 hours… 22 hours til everything changes…
Last night I woke at 3 AM when Ted got up and couldn’t get back to sleep. I started to have one of those mini-panic attacks that I used to get long ago, where the adrenaline just surges and surges and I’m so clenched I’m almost shaking from it and feel like I’m burning up.
I calmed myself pretty well when I developed a sort of a mantra:
It will not be easy
but it will be Okay.
Life is worth the fight.

Love is worth it.
I am worth it.

Who might I be tomorrow? The brave lady with cancer, who has such a great attitude and a great support network and is gonna beat this thing…. all the cliches people say about people fighting cancer.
I refuse to wear all that pink crap, by the way!

Not looking forward to telling my family. Becky already knows I’m going in, and Ted of course. He’s going with me- I asked him to come. I guess I thought he’d offer, and when he didn’t I felt silly asking him to take off work for something that obviously didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Of course he didn’t hesitate when I asked, and right now I can’t imagine having the focus to drive myself home.
Who do I tell and who do I just say “Well they’re not involved in my treatment so I’m just going to go stealth with them”?
Shit, tomorrow night is book club. We’re having a pot luck dinner to discuss the book “Educated”. I can’t even think about cooking. Even if somehow the news is not bad (I try not to let myself even think of that because if I cling to it and it’s wrong, then I won’t be prepared) I won’t have anything to bring to share. Should I tell Amy that I probably won’t be going?

I’ve made it now to 21 hours from diagnosis without crying but I’m on the verge now. HOW DO PEOPLE STAND THE WAITING? How do they just go about their lives? Will there be oncologists offices and biopsies, or will we go straight to surgery? How much money will this cost Ted? Will they amputate? Radiation or chemo?
How can you make a person wait so long to know? I feel like it will be easier when I”m actually in it: actually having procedures and treatment. This standing at the edge of the pool staring down and wondering how damn cold the water will be Suuuuuuks!

Posted by Tracy on Jul 15th 2019 | Filed in General | Comments (0)

I Believe Her

A woman has come forward and alleged that, when he was in high school, Supreme Court nominee (and guy who gave me the skeevs the first time I saw him) Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her. 
And the entire country knows- that won't matter.

Mere sexual assault? He only held her down, covered her mouth with his hand and tried to rip her clothes off? Pffff.
51 U.S. senators would vote to confirm Kavanaugh if it came out he’d been imprisoning a woman in his toolshed since 1996!
~ Susan Collins would nod her head sympathetically- and then vote with the party.
~ Jeff Flake and Ben Sasse would write front page op-eds condemning him for kidnapping and sexual slavery, and then vote to confirm 24 hours later.
~ Donald Trump would spend a week attacking the kidnapped woman on social media. 
~ Melania would visit three elementary schools that same week with an anti-bullying message.
~ Paul Ryan would make a brief statement about the president’s tweets, noting that he had no reason to doubt the woman’s story that she had been kept against her will in the tool shed for 22 years, and then he would slowly drift away, like an escaped balloon." 
~ FOX would call her "No Angel", discuss her frequent detentions in HS and a speeding ticket in 2004.
~ Giuliani would insist that letting a woman live in your toolshed isn't really a crime, and lots of folks do it.
~ Newt Gingrich would remind us that Bill Clinton lied about having sex, so 'both sides'.
~ Lindsey Graham would say that he hadn't actually seen the tool shed so he has no opinion on the issue.
~ Lou Dobbs would suggest that the democrats put that toolshed in Kavanaugh's yard so they could keep him off the court 20 years later.
~ Megyn Kelly would suggest that maybe the woman was actually stalking Kavanaugh and chose to lock herself in the tool shed to be near her.

Posted by Tracy on Sep 18th 2018 | Filed in The Daily Rant | Comments (0)

Sentimental Journey

Gonna take a sentimental journey…
Sentimental journey home…

Last week my dad and his recently-minted 89 years came to Columbus, checked into The James Hospital and had 7 hours of surgery for papillary thyroid cancer.

My brother-in-law Joe, being far too well aquainted with surgery at The James, graciously shepherded dad and his wife through the whole ordeal. Dad went back for pre-op at 9 AM. Then there was a delay, and another… and he was 3 hours late going into the OR. Then the grueling hunt for tiny cancer nodes. It was 10 PM before that elderly man and his exhausted 84 year old wife were deposited in a room on the 21st floor to try to get some sleep. Everyone was worn out- even me, and all I did was sit at home and fret!

When I came to visit the next morning, he looked… well- better than I thought he would. His scar (which he would ask for repeated photographs of over the days to watch the progression of the bruising) looked like a nightmare…

But my dad was smiling and cracking jokes.

What's the difference between thyroid surgery and a mugging?
Dunno- what's the difference, Dad?
Nothing! They both take all your money and slit your throat.

We had been told that he would be hoarse after the procedure and there was a small chance he would lose his voice. And so, to enable him to call for people without raising his voice, and in honor of his great love of the Marx Brothers, I bought him a Harpo Marx clown horn. And a top hat, because of course!

But his voice, like the rest of him, bounded back quickly.
After a few days of him neither eating nor sleeping particularly well, the wound drains came out and the doctors let him go. I had volunteered to stay with them at their place after surgery in case they needed assistance, so I picked them up and drove them back to Athens.
I have satellite radio in my car, and a few years ago I had discovered a 40's station that played the artists whose LP's I remember my dad playing when I was a kid and I thought he might enjoy listening to that as we drove. It used to be called "the 40's on Four" because it was on channel 4, but not any longer. hoping they hadn't eliminated it completely, on the way to the hospital I was punching my way through the station offerings at every red light, looking for it. I got as far as #72 but hadn't found it.

After Dad got settled in my front seat and Dawn in the back and we were headed to the freeway, I started checking stations again- and it was the very next: #73, "40's Junction".
"Hey Dad- how do you like this song?"
"Oh this sounds- is that Count Bassie?"
"It is!"

For the next hour and a half we listened to the classics, and Dad tried to name the musicians, or the tune. If he couldn't guess, he at least had some nugget of information about the musician, or the singer, or the style of music they were playing and why it was popular. Good thing he didn't lose his voice, because he talked or sang along non-stop.
At a traffic light after we pulled off the highway for beverages, a song with a particularly good rhythm came on. Dad beat out the pattern on his legs and the car door- i used the steering wheel. We leaned our heads close, he rumbed a soft baritone while I harmonized up high.

And suddenly my eyes were misting up and I had to rub them, because it was one of those perfect, quintissential Dad moments. 
Like working at his basement workbench together, among the smell of wood shavings and machine oil,

Or hiking a trail and listening to him talk about a flower or tree,

or crawling around on the ground to get the perfect photo angle, Dad and the big-band music he loves is my dad at his best. His happiest.


He is recovering well (and was, in fact, doing rather more puttering around in the 94 degree heat yesterday then I thought he should be doing yesterday) but I don't imagine he will be doing those other "dad" things much any more, if at all. And so I am doubly grateful that, thanks to my satellite radio, me and my dad got to have 90 minutes of easy, pure happiness together.

Gonna take a sentimental journey.
Gonna set my heart at ease.
Gonna make a sentimental journey
to renew old memories.

Never thought my heart could be so yearny.
why did I decide to roam?
Gonna take that sentimental journey:
Sentimental journey home.


Posted by Tracy on Jul 2nd 2018 | Filed in General,So I've got this kid... | Comments (0)

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