April 3, 2018Dear Friends,
I am fortunate to have a wide variety of friends throughout the country. I have friends right here in Santa Barbara. Yesterday I had a stimulating conversation with Hugh Kelly. Hugh is our guiding spirit at the Mesa Harmony Garden. He is often present and usually engaged in some productive task. Someone left a half-dozen Bachelor Buttons in four-inch pots, to share with anybody who wanted one. Hugh encouraged me to take one because this was Crop Swap Day at the Mesa Garden.
Bachelor, bachelor, I mused to Hugh, it's an interesting word. My Uncle Ralph was a bachelor. Never married. He lived less than a mile from our house and he used to pop in for a quick visit. My dog loved Uncle Ralph. My dog's name was Mack and he used to squilp for joy when Uncle Ralph opened the front door and peeked his head in. Being a relative, he didn't knock.
But he was a bachelor. He lived with his sisters, my Aunt Carolyn and Aunt Tessie. My two aunts were spinsters and never married.
How extraordinary, Hugh exclaimed, never married, no children. The three of them formed a household. Actually Carolyn and Tessie and Ralph never left home. They took care of my Granpa and Granma for all their years.
Granma died in 1955 when I was nine. Granpa died in 1958 when he was 94. He used to chew tobacco, being the only person I knew who did that.
But back to the words. We don't say bachelor and spinster anymore. Bachelor acquired the highly inaccurate flavor of some gay blade out on the town -- hardly befitting of my Uncle Ralph who worked as a milk man for Glenora Farms Dairy in Evanston, Illinois -- a close by suburb of Chicago, just to give this account a setting.
Ralph was a bachelor and he lived quite modestly. My dog loved him and most other people did too.
Spinster acquired a negative flavor -- that of a dried-up unwanted lonely woman who pined for love and sat quietly in a dimly lit room.
My Aunt Tessie and Aunt Carolyn were hardly like that, especially Tessie. They went out on the town to concerts and museums and took vacations together in the summer. They seemed to have a fair amount of fun without the bother of seeking a man's company.
They did however look after Uncle Ralph to some degree. I am not aware of of their division of labor, but I expect he kept the yard and the garage, and they kept the kitchen.
Not having children under foot, they could afford to buy cute little ceramic figurines and perch them on the coffee table in the living room.
We visited often and no running and jumping around. Good manners. But the aunts weren't old stuffy things. They wore nicely floral perfume and they scolded us in the most generous manner. I actually wanted to be a gentleman when I grew up under their tutelage.
Anyway, I told Hugh, I thought that was normal. I thought everybody had old maid aunts. But it was just at our house and it was like having two extra moms.
Now we don't say bachelor or spinster. we say single. Single is a word without any flavor. It's accurate, but no more than that. The language is impoverished.
Well, dear reader, I think that is enough for today. We can hear more about Uncle Ralph another time. And we can hear more about current affairs -- the culture and the politics -- but now I am only tinkering with the format. And it might look different.