Tag: Sarah

Memories from Mom

“Grandma, were there any camp traditions that you loved that have been discontinued?”

Sarah was interviewing my mom again last night.  This time she was recording it for a retrospective that the camp is doing.  They’re trying to get oldtimers to share memories.

“Well, that’s an interesting question.  And you’re probably going to be surprised by my answer.  One thing I really liked at camp that I know they don’t do anymore is hold chapel services on Sundays.  You know, I was raised in a pretty secular household.  We didn’t really go to any kind of services, but at camp, I really liked “Chapel.”  

“We would sit outside at the boys’ camp and we always sang really pretty hymns.  I don’t really remember the words, but I always thought they sounded beautiful…of course not because of yours truly.  I never could carry a tune.”

“That sounds nice, Grandma.  Was there anything else you remember about it?”

“Well, I remember that it was a beautiful spot.  We sat in a small clearing in the shade of giant pine trees.  It was really very peaceful. I do remember one sermon.  Actually, it’s funny, I saw my friend Carol a few years back…well, a few years, it was probably 15 years ago, and we both remembered that same sermon.”

“Do you remember what they said?”

“Well, it was fifty, no sixty, no seventy-five years ago, so I don’t really remember all the words, but I do remember the idea.  It was a young counselor from the boys’ camp who gave the sermon.  He told the story of one of the boys at camp when he was a camper, and the boy had a uhh, what do you call it… a cloth thing…a sampler, that’s it.  He had a sampler that he hung over his bunk.  The boy was very well-liked.  He always treated everyone well.  He was very kind and courteous.  Anyway, he had this sampler, and it said, “I am third.”  That’s all it said. The other boys in the cabin had no idea what it meant, but this counselor who was telling the story says that at the end of their summer together, when they were packing up, he asked the boy what that sampler meant when it said, “I am third.”  Now this very kind and considerate boy said that it was something he always wanted to remember.  He said it meant this, ‘God is first, the other guy is second, and I am third.’  

“I was only 15 years old, and, as I said, I was not really religious, but I’ve always remembered that chapel service.”


I’ve been watching other slicers experiment with golden shovel poems, where they take a line of text from a story or poem and use those words as the first words or last words of each of the new poem’s lines.  I decided to give it a try.  It was going to be a separate exercise, but when I noticed that the line I’d pulled had the word “third” in it, it seemed to connect well with story the above. Thanks to fellow slicer, Fran for encouraging me to try this form.

I Am Third 

A golden shovel poem inspired by a line from Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi

The boy’s motto, “I am

Third,” the 

Key to his kindness.

She stowed away what the counselor

Said as he shared

A sermon in nature’s chapel, a

Sip of sublime in a grove

Of pines.  Wise words outlasting

Old traditions, echo forward from a bygone


Note:  The service my mom recalled took place in 1945, when my mom was 15 years old.  She’s nearing 91, now.  I am quite certain that in the 1970s when football star, Gale Sayers made “I am Third” more famous as the title of his autobiography, my mom was not aware.

Hockey Night in Connecticut

It’s Saturday night and we’ve just finished dinner.  Sarah glances at her watch.  “Oh my gosh, we’re missing the game.”

“It’s okay.” I assure her, “I’m taping it.”

Sarah and I have become big hockey fans over the past few years.  Actually, we’ve been fans for a long time, but since she’s been living at home, we’ve been watching more and more games.  We root for the Washington Capitals, even though we live in Connecticut.  I’ve never been able to give up my childhood teams.   As a kid, I rooted for the Caps from their very first year in the league, even though they were a truly hapless team back then.  I’ve stuck with them over the decades as they’ve become first just respectable, then good, and now one of the top teams.

For a while, we only watched when they were on TV in the New York area.  Then my nephew showed me how to find the “free” live stream. Having access to every game was a big temptation.  I started watching much more regularly.  The fact that the Caps happen to be a very good team who wins regularly and makes the playoffs every year makes them even harder to resist.  

It’s time to get ready.  

Step One: I dash upstairs to get my jersey (I know, they call it a sweater in Hockeyland.  I call it a jersey).  Sarah grabs hers, and we head to the basement.  Farley seems interested tonight, so we get him suited up, too.  He has something that’s a cross between a vest and a cape.  He likes it.   He doesn’t have a number or a favorite player’s name on his back, but he looks like a fan.  Nancy is not a hockey fan.  She enjoys an in-person game, but at home she prefers the less dramatic, Guy’s Grocery Games.

Step Two:  We plop down in our usual positions.  I’m in my bouncy Ikea chair, and Sarah and Farley are sharing the couch.  We turn on the TV and switch to the DVR.  The Caps are playing a New York team, so we can watch on honest TV tonight.  Unfortunately we have to listen to the New York announcers.  Very biased. 

We’re about 35 minutes behind real time.  This is good.  We’ll be able to fast forward through commercials and at least the first intermission.  

Step Three:  We both put our phones away.  This is important for two reasons.  One, it prevents us from accidentally seeing the score, but more importantly, I discovered during the 2018 Stanley Cup-winning season, that having my phone out during a game was very bad luck.  I discovered this early in the first round of the playoffs, when, as I texted with a friend during the game, the Caps lost badly and fell behind two games to none.   I blamed myself.  Fortunately, the coach didn’t find out.  He has a bit of a temper.  Also fortunately, by correcting my habits, I was able to guide the team to its first ever championship.  Since then, it has been a strictly-enforced rule.  Sarah has negotiated for phone rights during intermissions, but that’s it.

Step Four:  I grab the remote.  This too serves multiple purposes:  First, and most obviously, it allows me to do the fast-forwarding through commercials, but second, and equally important, it helps the players with their focus.  They might be worried that I’ll switch to the Grocery Games. Anyway, whenever I hold the remote, they play much better…except when they don’t.  But that was probably just a flukey thing, or maybe the batteries were weak.

Step Five:  I press Play…and they do.