Kittie Howard

Monday, November 30, 2015

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Large red bows anchor the fireplace mantle. In-between are three groupings of red apples and lemons, all tucked among sprigs of pine laced with small lights. We put up the Christmas tree, with a red bow on top, in the study yesterday. A much smaller tree, with another red bow, centers the kitchen table. Outside, wreaths (with red bows, natch!) and lights are on the lamp posts and front door.

It's nice, sitting here in the living room, feeling the quiet of small lights.

Last year at this time, this place was a mess. But walls have been painted -- Revere Pewter in the powder room, cut 50% for the upstairs spare bedroom; International Khaki on one wall in the study, its deeper khaki mate in Mr. H's man cave; Svelte Sage in the dining room, cut 65% in the living room; a historic gold (with sage undertones) in parts of the kitchen; and matched white paint elsewhere, including the garage.

We did most of the painting ourselves, including squeezing 17 tubes of caulking as we went along. Appliances and the gas fireplace logs have been replaced. Roller shutters on back doors are in. A fan was installed on the porch ceiling when the lamp posts were installed.

And so it went -- from replacing faucets and overhead lighting and blinds -- to having trees cut down and replanting, putting in flower beds and a rose arbor -- yes, so it went, for a year it seemed to be one project after another. But it finally came together -- and under budget as we did so much ourselves. The house that was a mess turned into a home.

We're settled, not in a castle, but in a home that's our castle, not a fortress -- the spare bedroom is often occupied; people drop by; we chat with neighbors who, like us, chuckle at the constant drip! drip! drip! of pine straw.

But within the projects and goals found among those in our lives here and elsewhere and in both of our families, it's been a good year. Nieces and nephews have accomplished much and continue to work toward goals. Parents are pleased with these firm footings (as they should be!) and reaching out to do things that were put on hold.

It's not that those in my world are unaware of world events and those at home, in the States. They are, very much so.

It's not that they are unconcerned. They are, very much so.

But the prevailing philosophy is, nothing positive gets accomplished if one falls prey to fear.

My grandmother used to say, depending upon the situation:

1. Don't worry so much; you'll get wrinkles;

2. Never believe the one who talks the loudest. He (or she, depending) will make you worry about his/her problems . . . then you've really got a problem;

3. If you've got time to worry, you've got time to mop my floor. (hands mop to worrier)

After mopping more than a few floors, I can honestly say it's difficult to mop and worry at the same time.

But it's also easier to worry than to mop, to which my grandmother said when one took the easy way out: That's a problem of your own making.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, Marines, and Connection to Tun Tavern

(Source: National Museum of the Marine Corps)

November 10, 1775 is the official birthday of the United States Marine Corps. When the War for Independence (also, Revolutionary War, 1775-1783) ignited, the Second Continental Congress gave the order to "raise two battalions of Marines" for the armed conflict between Great Britain and 13 of its North American colonies.

Legend has it, Samuel Nicholas, former Quaker and, later, the Marine Corps' first commandant, executed the order at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The tavern's manager, Robert Mullan, was the "chief Marine Recruiter." The first Continental Marine Company was comprised of 100 Rhode Islanders and commanded by Captain Nicholas.

Although some historians say the actual tavern where the historic event occurred was the nearby Conestoga Wagon tavern, owned by the Nicholas family, legend prevails and Tun Tavern is officially recognized as the birthplace of the Marine Corps. Among other events, the tavern, later adding a restaurant, "Peggy Mullan's Red Hot Beef Steak Sandwich," hosted a meeting of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress.

Tun Tavern stood at a location now occupied by Interstate-95, where it passes Penn's Landing, a waterfront area along the Delaware River, and Tun Alley, at the intersection of King (later called Water) Street. Although the original tavern burned down in 1781 and much of the area's historic flavor has been lost to subsequent development, a commemorative marker on the east side of Front Street indicates the site.

I am location specific for two reasons: (1) Wrapped in tradition from the day they enter the Corps, Marines know the Tun Tavern's location, often quoting it to each other on this historic day and (2) when my husband, a former Marine, and I visited the commemorative marker's site, it was a personally scared moment for him to feel the Corps' beginning and be as one in spirit with past and present Marines. It can't be overstated that this feeling of oneness is at the heart of the Marine Corps.

As such, wherever Marines serve, they celebrate the Corps' birthday and their unity as one in remembering the past and serving the future with various tributes, from quiet gatherings in remote locations to gala balls on bases and elsewhere.

Part of this observance involves the cutting of a birthday cake, with the oldest Marine present passing a slice to the youngest Marine present. Everyone then partakes of the cake, symbolizing the unity birthday's unity. Even when my husband was in Vietnam, the Corps found a way for combat Marines to have a slice of birthday cake, more accurately, pieces of cake that survived being dropped from a helicopter.

 The National Museum of the Marine Corps, located almost directly off I-95 in Triangle, Virginia, and about a half-hour south of Washington, D. C., has a Tun Tavern-themed restaurant for visitors. Approximately 500,000 visit the museum yearly. Built entirely from donations and maintained by volunteers, admission is free.

True to its linguistic heritage, tun from the Old English for a barrel or keg of beer, the museum's tavern serves beer (and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages), but also included on its menu is non-alcoholic bread pudding, a staple from Colonial times popular with Marines that's served in many of its mess halls and dining facilities. (Note: Along with interactive exhibits for kids, the museum has a kid-friendly place for families to eat.)

So, having shared in the cake ceremony at an earlier event, now, 240 years after the birth of the Marine Corps, my husband is either at the computer or using his iPad or on his iPhone, sharing birthday greetings with Marines of all ranks and ages, what Marines do on this special day. Tradition triumphs, even in a technological age.

And with Veterans' Day being celebrated tomorrow, a salute and a thank you to those past and present who've served our nation with honor, dedication and sacrifice, including my husband (USMC) in Vietnam, First Gulf War and Somalia; my father (Army) in World War II; and my grandfather (Army) in World War I.

Today's Tun Tavern at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. As much as things change, they stay the same. (Source: National Museum  of the Marine Corp)

Interior of National Museum of the Marine Corps (Source: Wikipedia)