Monday Jan. 30, 2017

0:00/ 0:00

What She Taught Me

She taught me linking verbs, predicate nouns,
long division, have a Kleenex ready, an apple
a day. She taught me three-quarter time, Greenwich

Mean Time. She taught me do re mi, Mexicali Rose,
Rose, Rose, my Rose of San Antone. She taught me
Peas Peas Peas Peas, Eating Goober Peas.
She taught me that a peanut is a goober pea

in certain parts of the world, that it is fine
for things to be different in different parts
of the world, no two goobers alike in their

dry red skins, their pock-marked pods,
that there are latitudes and longitudes we have
never seen, that she had seen some part,
and so would I, that I need not

forego either the swings or baseball, that spelling
is on Friday and it is OK to learn more
than one list, including the hard list; it is not

showing off—it is using what you have.
That using what you have will not please
everybody, that marrying a man of a different stripe

is not a popular thing in a small town in the fifties,
and divorcing and coming home with a child
is even worse, and that you
get up every morning anyway,
and do your work.

“What She Taught Me” by Marjorie Saiser from Lost in Seward County. © The Backwaters Press, 2006. Reprinted with permission.  (buy now)

Today is the birthday of historian and author Barbara Tuchman (books by this author), born Barbara Wertheim in New York City (1912). She was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize: once for The Guns of August (1962), a detailed account of the first months of World War I; and once for Stilwell and the American Experience in China (1971), about an American general who played a major role in China during World War II.

She said “I want the reader to turn the page and keep on turning to the end,” she said. “This is accomplished only when the narrative moves steadily ahead, not when it comes to a weary standstill, overloaded with every item uncovered in the research.”

Today is the birthday of the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882). He was born in Hyde Park, New York, to one of the oldest and most prominent Dutch families in the city. His father made money in railroads and coal, and Roosevelt’s mother doted on her son, so much so that later in life, when he married Eleanor Roosevelt, his mother lived next door to them in her own townhome, which Roosevelt’s wife did not appreciate. When he was five years old, his father took him to the White House. Grover Cleveland, who was then president of the United States, greeted the boy by saying, “I have one wish for you, little man: that you will never be president of the United States.”

He was 39 years old in the summer of 1921 and on vacation in the Bay of Fundy when he went swimming in the icy waters, went home to nap, and woke up with no feeling in his legs. At first, doctors thought he had blood clots or spinal lesions. He was finally diagnosed with infantile paralysis, or polio, and retreated from public and political life to rehabilitate himself.

He swam three times a week in a pond and in the Astor pool. He visited the thermal mineral baths in Warm Springs, Georgia, and eventually bought it, making sure children and less fortunate adults could get therapy and care. In the 1920s, most people with disabilities were banished to asylums. Buildings then did not have adequate access and most wheelchairs were clunky and once-size-fits-all. Roosevelt designed his own wheelchair: it had a seat like a dining chair, slim and efficient, and bicycle-like wheels.

Roosevelt said, “Once you’ve spent two years trying to wiggle one toe, everything is in proportion.” He and a friend began throwing annual “Birthday Balls” to raise money for polio research and care (1933). The tag line for the dances was “Dance so that others may walk.” The balls became so popular that an organization was started called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Children were encouraged to donate 10 cents apiece to form a “march of dimes” all the way to the White House, and that’s how the March of Dimes got its name. A young researcher named Jonas Salk benefited from the donations; he eventually developed the polio vaccine.

It’s the birthday of poet and novelist Richard Brautigan (books by this author), born in Tacoma, Washington (1935). He wrote Trout Fishing in America (1967), his best-known work, on a portable typewriter while sitting alongside the many trout streams. He committed suicide in 1984, two years after the publication of his last novel, So The Wind Won’t Blow It Away (1984). He was famous for his whimsical, surrealist style. He wrote: “The sun was like a huge 50-cent piece that someone had poured kerosene on and then had lit with a match, and said, ‘Here, hold this while I go get a newspaper,’ and put the coin in my hand, but never came back.”

It was on this day in 1972 that British army parachutists shot 27 unarmed civil rights demonstrators in Derry, Northern Ireland — an event known as “Bloody Sunday.” The protestors had been marching to oppose the new British policy of imprisoning people without a hearing.

The Northern Irish conflict stemmed from a peace treaty signed in 1923 after Ireland’s successful war for independence from Britain. The treaty partitioned Ireland, designating the largely Catholic south as an independent nation, while leaving six counties of Northern Ireland, which had a Protestant majority, as part of the United Kingdom.

On this day, parachute troopers were given the OK to fire on the protestors. The first person killed was shot in the back. Thirteen people died — half of them were teenagers. All of the protesters were unarmed.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®