Who Knew The Last Day of July Was So Momentous?

According to Facebook Memories, a lot of things happen (to or around me, anyway) on this day of the year. Observe:

Last year I was in Minnesota.
minneapolis art

Visit walkerart.org. Or just visit the sculpture garden.

Three years ago I completed my first of four units of CPE.
11882587_10153595181992472_1522761613487611416_o.jpg
And ten years ago, evidently, I took a nap. Which I probably need to do again from the sound of things.
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Roots

Sometimes you just gotta get back to your roots, I guess.

This morning, after having Uncle Phil and the Girl Cousins–as well as Mom and Dad–over last evening, my Paul and I went to Mom and Dad’s to join the whole crew for plätter (Swedish pancakes) for breakfast. Grandma was always the extended-family-gathering plätter maker, but she’s not doing as well as she used to, so Mom’s carrying on the tradition, much to our delight.

Grandma can still play the piano and sing, though, as you can plainly see. This hymn is one to which Uncle Phil wrote the words.

Now we know where he got it in the first place. (Grandpa could also sing.)

Grandma was pretty happy to have her youngest son and all her granddaughters with her today.

Grandmother and granddaughters

Grandmother and granddaughters

She kept saying what a nice surprise it was. “This might be the best time I’ve ever had in my whole life,” she said. “Except, I suppose, the day I got married.” Let’s admit that her memory isn’t the best anymore, but still–she didn’t even say one word about having been to Sweden, so it must have been a pretty good day.

It WAS a good day.

It WAS a good day.

 

Afterwards I went back to my usual environs and had supper with five of my classmates from my Small Christian School. Some of us have not seen each other for (ahem!) 24 years. We are planning our first class reunion ever for, you know, next year when the length of time we haven’t seen each other is more five-ish.

Because it was a Small Christian School, we share a lot of memories, and some of them go back long before high school. It was fun blending stories of things we all remembered (or had forgotten we remembered) with stories of things we’re doing now. It seemed inordinately wonderful to see each other again. Our graduating class only had 24 kids in it, and it seems like we’ve all been through kind of a lot, but that things are settling down for most of us these days. We laughed a lot.

Impromptu reunion "committee."

Impromptu reunion “committee.”

Sometimes, I guess, you just gotta get back to your roots.

Family Friday

Family Friday

Today is kind of a big deal. Today Uncle Phil and the Girl Cousins, and Mom and Dad, were here for dinner. Uncle Phil and his daughters live many states away, and the other Girl Cousin on Mom’s side of the family (a.k.a. Travel Cousin) lives a few states away, and Mom and Dad only live 15 minutes away, but it’s astounding how comparatively little we see them, so having all of them here was pretty exciting.

So exciting that I took this barely-blue milk of magnesia bottle that my Paul pulled out of the ground the other day, and put some marigolds in it in front of the fire pit for a decoration. I'm not sure anyone saw it before we had to move them so we could put a fire in the fire pit, though.

So exciting that I took this barely-blue milk of magnesia bottle that my Paul pulled out of the ground the other day, and put some marigolds in it in front of the fire pit for a decoration. I’m not sure anyone saw it before we had to move them so we could put a fire in the fire pit, though.

We had supper on the boat.

Uncle Phil and the Girl Cousins...would make a good name for a band? Well, at least these three would make a good band.

Uncle Phil and the Girl Cousins…would make a good name for a band? Well, at least these three would make a good band.

Then we had dessert around the bonfire.

The bonfire which looks like an Adventure Time character.

The bonfire which looks like an Adventure Time character.

We talked a lot–mostly about things rarely talked about in our family. Like farting. It was a good time. I’m gonna go now, so I can rest up and hang out more with these awesome relatives tomorrow. G’night!

The Search

A number of years ago, Uncle Phil put out a CD named after a British pub in, of all places, Britain, called Three Horseshoes. On it was a song called “Ain’t Comin’ Home for Christmas This Year.” I myself lived out of the country for a number of Christmases, so I can’t be sure of it, but I’m not sure he ever did come back to New England for Christmas after that, until this year. True, it’s not quite Christmas, but this week he brought his two daughters (i.e., my cousins) up to New England and made the family rounds.

photo by Jim Grosser 2012

The family round . . . the table, for example.

It turns out that Uncle Phil is good for my blog, by which I mean the fact that he works for Emmylou Harris is. Apparently a lot of people out in the webi-verse are looking for Emmylou Harris. Like, today, for example–three times. If I look at search terms people used which landed them here (which I did look at yesterday), Emmylou Harris tops the chart, by a lot. And then apparently sometimes people don’t want to find just plain Emmylou Harris, so they search things like Emmylou Harris jeans, Emmylou Harris hot, Emmylou Harris grandmother and, um . . . Emmylou Harris promiscuous. Sorry, Emmylou Harris. Then there are the other Uncle Phil connexions which also often lead here: anything with Elvis Costello or Shaun Mullins, for example, and even Phil Madeira universalist. Apparently people are concerned about that. Anyway, I guess it’s kind of cool that all these famous musicians indirectly benefit my blog, but I kind of wish some people ended up here for me.

Which I guess they do sometimes, because it’s a jenn story has turned up once or twice, and one time just “jenn”. Considering all the Jenns in the world, it’s kind of chuff-worthy to know that a simple jenn in quotation marks sent someone right to this blog. There are also search terms about snake skeletons, children’s book characters made of trash, hippie grandmas, jenn grosser, and wold Jesus have gone out dancing? I want to know the answer to that last question, too. Is there a wold Jesus? Does he dance on the wolds? What is a wold, anyway?

Here are some more of my favourites:

how can i name my hippie bridal shower album – I have no idea what that means, although I guess I can see how those terms conspired to get you here. How can you name it? Or what? Could you just name it “Hippie Bridal Shower Album”?

capybara demotivator – Once I posted a picture of a capybara, but I’m a little unclear about the demotivating bit. Is this blog really that undermining that even capybaras are demotivated by it? Man. That’s a bummer.

i did wear a sari until i went to a wedding – And then . . . it was your wedding, and . . . hopefully the until was actually after? Or weddings somehow put you off saris? In that case, I’d kind of like to know how.

guys i’m dating leaving the country for good – That stinks. Sorry about that.

something like what goes around, comes around like – Filler words in search terms are, like, hilarious.

early christological controversies everyone behaved badly chadwick – Is Chadwick someone who wrote a book you were looking for, or are you speaking to this Chadwick person . . . through search terms. It sounds inefficient, but it could be sneaky. Go for it.

and

i want a steampunk boyfriend

This isn’t a very original question, but what are some of your own favourite search terms? What kinds of random things lead people to your blog?

Take Your Lucky Grandma on the Road . . .

I used to pretend I thought name-dropping was this terrible tasteless crime, and I guess I still do think that, but I’m a complete hypocrite about it because I find the act near-irresistable when I have the opportunity to commit it myself.

(Although, I would like to say that I did resist last year when Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like (book and blog) and Quitter fame came and preached at a Local Church before he became all Mega-Church Staff and kind of out of reach for Local Churches in New England. I’m just not resisting it now, on account of I’m about to go whole-hog with the name-dropping in a minute here. He preached and I hung around him and his wife and made awkward fan-type comments and got him to sign a copy of his first book for TheBro, and I took credit for his presence at the Local Church because I was the one who introduced that church’s leadership to his blog in the first place.)

I come by the name-dropping thing honestly (?) at least. Grandma M is pretty good at it, too, but she, in turn, comes by it honestly because she actually does know or has known personally some pretty big-name people of earlier generations in the evangelical Christian world. (Yes, Billy Graham is one of them.) She and my late grandfather always seemed to make friends wherever they went and were the kind of people who just sort of periodically had fun and special an unique opportunities or privileges handed to them. Sometimes, even though she’s 90, she still does. Like–last month a friend of hers flew her over to Sweden for a month. Did I mention she’s 90?

Sometimes their progeny, if we’re in the right place at the right time, get to benefit from the privileges, too. Like when we got to spend parts of our summers in their friends’ summer cottage on the water. Or like the time, two Christmases ago, Grandma M and I got bumped up to “Premier” class on our way over the Atlantic to see my parents. (That was actually my parents’ “special thing” from which both of us benefited, but the fact is, I was with Grandma.) Last weekend was another one of those memorable, extraordinary moments connected to being with Grandma.

As you know, if you’ve been hanging around my words for any length of time, my Uncle Phil’s been playing in Emmylou Harris‘ band for about three years, and when they come up to New England, I get to grab a friend and go to their show. It is always great, and Emmy is still a very gracious person when she meets me, even though she probably lost count a long time ago of all the random people she’s met at every gig over the years. The concerts around here have so far always happened in the fall, so I hadn’t really been thinking about them this spring, but then somehow I ended up discovering that she was going to be playing at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island this summer.

I have wanted to go to that festival for some time, but have never been. I thought maybe I could scrape together some change and go for the day she was playing . . . even though it was the day before camp started . . . So I wrote Uncle Phil: “Are you playing with Emmylou Harris at the Newport Folk Festival this summer?”

“Yes,” he wrote back, “But festival passes are harder to get than regular ones.”

That wasn’t what I was asking, and I told him that, but maybe a week or so later, he emailed me and told me that Emmy has been wanting him to bring Grandma to one of their shows for ages, and so, if I were willing to bring her with me, he might be able to use that as leverage to get passes for the two of us.

So it happened that my grandmother and I, in long cotton dresses, ended up at this hippie-throwback festival, sitting on the stage with Pete Seeger (he stole my seat–I keep telling people this and they register greater or lesser degrees of impressedness, depending on if they care about Pete Seeger. Personally, I would never have known what he looked like, but I certainly know who he is, and so I thought it was pretty great to be up there with him). And that was after we had been allowed to drive all the way up into the artist’s area in the fort where the concert was held, and essentially park right back stage. (I parked next to the NPR tents, at their gracious allowance.)

My mom’s (and uncle’s) Cousin Hali had been given a pass, too, and the two of us went nuts with our cameras and smartphones while Elvis Costello played his set and then Emmylou Harris, Uncle Phil and the rest of the guys closed out the festival. We saw the Civil Wars (whom I had never heard before)–not their own set, but they sang a couple of  songs with Emmy and the band. I talked to Pete Seeger, who was appropriately old and smiley-but-eccentric.

“Mr Seeger,” I ventured, mostly because I had seen someone else getting their photo taken with him, “could I have my photo taken with you?”

“No one must know,” he said, both absent-mindedly and cryptically. So I stood near him and smiled awkwardly at Cousin Hali and she took my picture with him kind of behind me. It was shortly after that that he appropriated my chair, which was okay, because then Cousin Hali and I sat on some of Elvis Costello’s gear cases, instead. I took her picture with George Wien, the founder of the festival itself. He actually smiled at the camera. Grandma M almost got an interview with the Providence Journal. Uncle Phil was musically amazing, as always, and got to spend a little more time with us than sometimes happens. At the very end of the gig and before Cousin Hali and I rushed the stage to each tear down one of the five limited edition, numbered festival posters off the back wall for autographing, Pete Seeger got up and led the vast cheering crowds in the “congregational singing” of “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” The sun was setting on the sailboats and glowing on his face and everybody was singing and smiling and I thought something minorly culturally historic was going on, that it was sure fun to be a part of even though I wasn’t around when the original hippies were all starting up.

Probably the only thing I could have asked for, more, would have been that Vanagon to get there in. Although . . . with the grandma pick-up and drop-off, and the insane traffic, it probably would’ve taken more than the four hours each, there and back, to drive one of those things. The thing is . . . I don’t really remember those eight hours, although they were pretty onerous when they were happening. I just remember a really beautiful, really great day, with a little bit of family reunion and a little bit of nostalgia and a whole lot of smiles.

Uncle Phil introduces Grandma M and Emmylou Harris

Elvis Costello

Proud Mother

Pete Seeger tunes up

Uncle Phil

Emmylou Harris smiles . . .

Family mini-reunion

Band of Joy

In contrast to all the whining that has been going on here lately, let me tell you about the Absolutely-Most-Fun-Thing that has happened all year so far.

You know those passing comments when you say you like something and then you totally forget about it? That happened a couple of weeks ago, and then all of a sudden I found myself hanging out with TAG and going to hear Robert Plant and his new Band of Joy. I think I might be one of those people who is subject to suspicion in my newfound fandom, because honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard Led Zeppelin, and if I have, I didn’t know it was them. I only learned of Robert Plant’s individual existence when I was working at Starbucks and we started playing songs off of his and Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand CD. I already knew about Alison Krauss because she sings a song of Uncle Phil’s on one of her CDs from a few years back.

I remember being surprised by Raising Sand because it didn’t fit my uninformed image of Led Zeppelin–and Led Zeppelin fans have told me it didn’t fit theirs, either. But I liked it. I’m not sure when I decided I was kind of a fan, because it’s not like I own it or have exactly been following them or anything.

But let me just say that if my fandom was at all in question beforehand, it’s pretty firmly established now. And maybe it’s lame to become a fan so late in the game, but hey–I like it when people find my blog and decide to read it, no matter when they start. This concert was incredible. Robert Plant’s vocals are astonishing, the band (who includes Uncle Phil’s friend, Buddy Miller) is tight, and they all looked and sounded like they were just having a blast. The result was that the audience did, too. I couldn’t stop smiling. And that, my friend, is a good thing.