Up In Flames

My paternal grandmother Throcky rarely went out anywhere with me. I wanted to do so, very much, but she was prickly and difficult and prone to surprising changes of mood. And I was unfortunate. I remember when I was little more than a toddler (before I had started school) and Grandmother Throcky took me to lunch at a fancy restaurant downtown where the diners were dressed up and well-behaved. I felt very grownup when I spread the cloth napkin in my lap and my grandmother helped me chose which silverware to use. I had a shrimp cocktail arranged on the rim of a small cut glass crystal bowl of crushed ice, and a taste of my grandmother's Waldorf salad.* But she never took me out again. I

Cracked Brown Egg On His Face

For about a year I took oil painting lessons at a little art studio in a small town near Kansas City owned by a very elderly (90's?), very spry, very skillful woman named Rita. If she is still alive I thank her again for teaching me wonderful oil painting skills. I hope she lives and teaches forever. Each week I drove two hours roundtrip in the evening to go to Rita's classes, and I almost never go out in the evening so as to avoid nighttime troubles. Rita's lessons were so good, so exciting, and so popular that she had many too many students. But she turned no one away, instead she fitted all of her students into her classroom by literally seating us shoulder to shoulder and easel to ea

Debating A Farcical Hemorrhoid

As I have written about earlier in this blog, in 1980 while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa, I suffered a blow to my rear end during a motorcycle accident. This wound abscessed, then developed into a fistula-in-anal* which threatened my life. For the next two years I underwent six surgeries to correct the tunnel that formed from anal canal to exterior skin on my rear end. The operations ultimately closed the passage (for the most part) but extensive internal scarring made child-bearing less of an option of me. And externally I was left with an unsightly, sometimes painful, scarred skin fold located several inches from anus which medical personnel now find unfathom

Stop—This Healthcare Is Only For Illegal Immigrants!

Twice in life I have been told by a medical facility where I sought urgent medical assistance that it was "only for migrants" (read illegal immigrants). These are the two instances that I remember: 1. Scottsdale, Arizona. In 1995 when I was teaching sociology as adjunct faculty (without any health benefits) at Scottsdale Community College, I suffered a stroke and had such subsequent erratic heart activity that the emergency room team kept me in intensive care from Friday through to Monday. On Monday, when the hospital administration learned that I had no health insurance and no way to pay the $30,000.00 bill that I had already accrued, I was abruptly dismissed from the hospital, and they

Memorial Day Thoughts On My Uncle Edward McGrew, veteran

For many years, my homosexual uncle Eddie hung out at the Pilot Travel Center truck stop, out by the interstate highway, without a thought for how that might embarrass me, without a thought for how people might respond to him and also to anyone related to him, without a thought for how his lack of participation in society might have failed to provide support to any of his many nieces and nephews. Under conscription (the draft) Eddie served in the United States army, spending his service time in Germany playing cards, and true to form. When my parents joked that he was too lazy to be a second-story man, I realized they meant that he was a thief. I had wondered how he supported himself over

Maybe I Could Have Saved One.

The children were shy when I first moved into the village, but soon they came by often to visit. When they showed up in my courtyard I bent down and shook their little hands one by one. I said hello to each, and other little pleasantries in English. It would have been a lot of fun if my assignment had been simply to teach the children in my village, but my work was to be with the adults. This motherless little girl was the last to learn to shake hands and say hello. She was always too shy and ran away at the last moment, but then one day she touched my offered hand and heart, light as a butterfly wing. Happy child, may blessings find and follow her forever. I wanted so much to adopt he

A Child Is A Child

When I moved into my little mudbrick house in the village to which I was assigned in Mali, West Africa, I brought drawing supplies for children because I thought mothers would bring their children when they visited me and I wanted something fun to welcome them with. Also, I wondered what children living in a mudbrick village would draw. I was amazed at their sophistication. Without television, without textbooks, without knowledge of the world other than what might drive by them or fly overhead, they drew the same complex and fanciful ideas as children anywhere else might draw. Children are children wherever one goes. I managed to save just these few drawings before my work with the adul

No Timbuktu

United States Peace Corps volunteers typically travel to see the world before their assignment in country, during their assignment, and/or afterward. But I was so intent on doing something for the pitiful people in the little village to which I had been assigned that I mostly stayed put and tried to work through my own health problems and Peace Corps assignment logistical difficulties to see if I might accomplish something. By the way, I put in an expensive, desperately needed, Peace Corps-funded latrine, I covered the village well for sanitation and safety, and I acted as a good-will representative of America connecting villagers to English language studies and other resources. I will al

I Sold My Coin Collection

I remember one period in my life when I would treat myself to a new coin each week from a small, local coin dealer. The owner showed me which coins had the least blemishes and how to discern fraud from fancy. He sold me beautiful silver dollars and such for curiously low prices. I suspected that he switched prices to give me a lower, special bargain. He kept a large shoe box of random foreign coins under the counter that he would let me rummage through for some pretty ones. I found a lot of coins that I remembered from my childhood there. I also enjoyed collecting commemorative science coins, subway tokens, and foreign coins from my own travels. I carefully collected coins from Mali*

Malian Postage Stamps

A friend of mine in Mali collected postage stamps from around the world, and when he said he was going to the Bamako post office to get some from Mali, I asked him to get some for me too. When he came back from the post office he gave me all of these wonderful, colorful Malian postage stamps. Caption: Postage Stamps of Mali, 1980

Leprosy Bacteria In The Wind

The capital of Mali, West Africa is Bamako*. In 1980 it was built of mud-brick buildings, some of which were faced with cheap crumbling concrete. There were some sewers running along streets in better neighborhoods, they were open drainage ditches of unspeakable filth. The country of Mali had a couple of little "medical" facilities but they would not even qualify as community prompt care units in first world countries. They were primarily a room with a first aid kit and a "doctor" or "nurse". It is my understanding that little has changed.** Where there is no infrastructure to hold back disease, it runs rampant. More is the pity. I did not understand the circumstances in Mali when I a

Best Easy Peanut Butter Fish Cakes Recipe

My mother made fish cakes, my grandmother made fish cakes, and her mother before her made fish cakes, so not surprisingly I enjoy making light, lovely, tasty fish cakes. After half a century of making fish cakes about once a month I had my fish cakes recipe down pat (pun intended). Then one day I started to make fish cakes but when I went to add the final ingredient of crackers I found that I was all out of my usual saltine crackers. All I had were some peanut butter snack crackers. With gustatory abandon I loosely crumbled the peanut butter snack crackers into my tuna and egg mixture, patted out my fish cakes, and fried them in butter. Amazing! I like them even better than my old reci

Family Houseboat Vacation In Lonesome Bay

In 1963 my parents rented a houseboat to travel the boundary waters of Lonesome Bay on Rainy Lake, in Ontario, Canada. This houseboat vacation was very exciting because I have always loved to explore nature and I love the smells and sights of the huge northern lakes. At the time I was fourteen, my sister Carla was eleven, my brother Peter was eight, and my father and mother were thirty-four and thirty-six respectively. I was so very impressed that Father could navigate our family around in the wilderness. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, and I was glad for that. However, I distinctly recall that this was yet another family vacation when I was NOT allowed to participate. I could

Mother's Day 2019—Without Mother

Mother passed six years ago, but I found this last, sweet picture that Father took of Mother and I enjoying Mother's Day in 2009. From the dinner remains on the table on this day I cooked and served my parents a pork roast which was Mother's favorite, sweet potato fries, cranberries, chocolate brownies, and vanilla cookies. I gave Mother some fun gifts in a snazy zebra striped gift bag. I am very pleased that I could keep my parents safe and happy in their own home for so long. Mother's dementia is not particularly apparent in this photograph, perhaps because she put on a suit jacket to improve her appearance and authority. Caption: Father took this photograph of Mother and I on Mother'

Graceful And Beautiful

Caption: My sister Carla Throckmorton Hertz as graceful and beautiful as a movie star in a photograph by her husband Robert Hertz.

Oh No! Not A Fruit Platter!

Despite being the eldest child, and although from time to time I was assigned responsibility for my (3 years) younger sister Carla and my (six years) younger brother Peter while my parents were away from the house, I had zero authority in the family, and my siblings knew it and abused it. One day at lunchtime I decided to assert myself for the education and health of my siblings. I even hoped that they would enjoy what I prepared for their lunch. Instead of peanut butter and jelly or bologna sandwiches and a can of Campbell's soup for their lunch, I prepared them a healthy, generous platter of fruit artfully arranged on a bed of lettuce. My mother did not typically stock fresh fruit othe

Who Was My Aunt Betty?

Before my mother passed it occurred to me that her sister, my maternal aunt Betty, might have been my actual mother because our dispositions seemed similar in so many ways. And my mother was so unlike me in every way. So in a quiet moment I asked my mother if her sister was my mother. She was untroubled by the question, perhaps she was even amused, but she mulled it over with uncharacteristic discretion, before turning away from me with a wry observation instead of a straight answer, "A birth certificate is hard to forge." But not really, because my Aunt Betty worked in the neonatal section of a hospital at the time that I was born and those were still years when people conspired activel

Fasty Nuckers

When I was young I thought that I might volunteer to go if aliens landed and were offering rides out into the universe, but now I know a lot more about life and dying and my only thought is, "Fasty Nuckers, if they were ever here, I hope they don't come back." I post this sentiment on a lot of the alien channels that I watch on YouTube. My self-amusing crudity is a new twist to my personality. Sometimes I do not know what to make of my newly old self. Caption: Fasty Nucker Alien Entity—12-Legged Trotter by Annmarie Throckmorton 2019

Walking Around My Longer Leg

As a toddler I remember quite clearly complaining to my parents that it was hard to walk around my longer right leg, my bobbing stride was awkward, disorienting, and it hurt my hips. In fact I remember in this photograph that my parents had just argued with me to walk out to the end of the boat dock and stand with them so that my paternal grandmother could photograph us. My legs are either uneven with my left leg almost an inch shorter than my right leg, or my hips are misaligned resulting in my uneven stance. I particularly wanted my parents' help because of the pain that I felt when I walked, but my parents and Aunt Betty, the latter of whom was a registered nurse with medical authority

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