I recall the situation as if it were yesterday, even though it happened about 55 years ago.
My mother was all excited. A grand person…a colonel…was expected to visit. He was coming to see us, the family of a first year “Plebe” at West Point…my brother.
My brother wouldn’t be accompanying him, however, for Plebes remained on campus for their entire first year.
Travel (for any purpose) was disallowed.
That’s why we, as a family, went to West Point, for Christmas. My parents and we 3 kids holed up in a hotel room in a nearby town, visiting him, while I groused over the fact it wasn’t “Christmas as usual,” in our family, but a rather bleak occasion that saw us journey back and forth over Bear Mountain, whose ice stalactites, menaced.
But we were proud of our cadet.
It was the era when “The West Point Story,” showcasing West Point cadets, was a weekly series on TV. And because one of our own was one of that Illustrious Line, our family faithfully watched, glued to the TV set, each week.
Today, an important personage, a member of the Army’s upper echelon, would make a personal visit.
Mom and I worked all day, tidying and cleaning. She’d made snacks, too, appropriate for a hot day…lemonade and cake. We knew how to entertain, even if we were small town people who daily lived against the backdrop of 12 working mills.
He came…tall and resplendent, in uniform, still looking fit, even for his older years (60’s?)
My Mom ushered him into the living room, where we all sat about the coffee table. The adults chatted, in opening rounds of engagement: “Where was he going? Where’d he been?” (all through the New England states, checking in with families of Plebes.)
Then, my Mom, wanting to clear space on the coffee table, for refreshments, said to me…”Colleen, please move the vahse, dear.”
I stared, blankly, at her.
She repeated her directive: ”The vahse…the vahse….” willing her eyes in a sideways direction, toward the item she wished me to move.
Again, I stared blankly (I hadn’t a clue what she wanted.)
In desperation, she finally said: “The vase…Move the vase.”
I snapped to…Now, I knew.
But I’d wrecked her bid at affecting gentility.
In later years, I considered how she so desperately wished to put distance between our small town reality and what she hoped for us.
That’s why, too, I always get a chuckle at PBS’s “Keeping Up Appearance’s” main character, Hyacinth Bucket (say it French, as in “Boo-kay,” even tho’ she must constantly abide all others calling her “Buck-et), as she attempts to affect high-born status.
Unfortunately, her family never allows the ruse to play out long enough…
They don’t know, what a “vahse” is, either….
Next post up–on the 31st. of June (woah, where’s this month gone?) is “The Cicadas Are Coming” based on an Asheville artist who does extraordinary work and his PR person, Nancy Swift (Hint–You can buy his work via his website, too.) And if you click on the hyperlink “cicadas,” in next Monday’s post (remember that term from last post?) you can learn about those amazing insects.)
But relax Rhode Island; Leo’s work will fascinate you, also. He does “water subjects,” too, as you’ll see with my personal FAVE, “the boat.” He’s standing in front of it at top of the next post…
He’s like no other artist you’ve seen before–I promise! Til next Monday…
P.S. As to where I got that terrific ‘vahse’ in the above pic, I’m a frequenter of Rhode Island School of Design Store, in downtown Providence. Can’t recall the artist’s name but I love its minimalist design that allows the flower to be the focus. See–I do know what a ‘vahse’ is……now.