Gardening since 1944
I completed a graduate degree in History May 2012 at age 70. Before I retired, I was the manager of an economics group in a large corporation until 1989. After that. I worked for the Census Bureau and retired permanently in 2006.
When I am not reading, I am gardening.
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The photo shows my oldest son, Richard, age about six months, who will be 50 tomorrow. Happy Birthday Richard. I pulled out the old photos to find some of Richard as a child for his son Jacob who is assembling a “family tree” as a school project.
Jacob has many relatives from all over the place. On his Mom’s side he is a mix of European and Mexican, on Richard’s side — Dutch, German, English and Polish. Jacob having a mind of his own on this subject has decided he is Hispanic, according to his Mom. This example begs the question: what does it mean to be Hispanic in the US?
The Census Bureau says you are what you say you are, so if Jacob says he is Hispanic, he is.
A few years back some folks of Italian descent decided they would be Hispanic. The court frowned on this decision. The Italians argued that for many years Italy and Spain were a single entity, so they must be Hispanic. The court said No. The concept of self-identification does not work everywhere.
What I know from studying the genealogy of my family, and history, is that nation-states did not exist much before the Industrial Age. For example, Germany and Italy were “combined” in the nineteenth century. Owing to WWII, my parents always stressed Great Grandma Anna came from Bavaria which she did. They thought if Anna was Bavarian she could have no connection to those awful Nazis. They were wrong. The Nazi party started in Munich which is in Bavaria. (see Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road to the Third Reich by David C. Large)
As late as the late nineteenth century, the French government was trying to convince the peasants they were Frenchmen. (see Peasants into Frenchmen: the modernization of rural France, 1870-1914, by Eugen Weber). This didn’t work well, as anyone who has traveled in the provinces of France knows.
So, my first point is that nationality is largely a social construct.
The second point is that with the Industrial Age came great waves of migration. Although many folks think immigrants only come or came to the US, guess what, they migrate from anywhere to everywhere. The story of the fifteenth century forward is mass migration, which really grew in the nineteenth century.
We all descended from a wide variety of individuals who come from goodness knows where, and our ancestors migrated all over the place, and almost no one I know has been able to keep up with the various flows of groups of people. The best you can do is identify Mom, Dad and grandparents. Don’t forget, go back 10 generations and you have a thousand ancestors. That’s 2 to the tenth power (try it on your calculator). That’s 2-4-8-16-32-64-128-256-512-1008) So you must be whatever you think you are.
June is a busy month for me. I have birthdays galore, Wendy, the 9th, Richard the 19th, John the 21st and Joy the 26th. Is it any wonder I get mixed up? Wendy and Richard are turning 50 and John is turning 48. Joy will be 20, I think. I must always look up dates of birth and calculate ages. Once per year I catch up.
I wouldn’t know how old my dogs were, but for our vet, who keeps records of such things. And David tells me I am always adding a year on his age and forgetting our anniversary. I remind him, I have been married before and had other anniversaries I am trying to forget. Some have selective memory, I have selective forgetfulness.
Keeping up with grandchildren is also a challenge. They keep graduating from this, that and the other, then they go on and get other degrees. Amelia graduated last year from the University of Virginia. She’s going to start a graduate program in the fall.
Daughter Connie graduated from George Mason University three times since I retired (BA and two MAs). This summer, she is working on another degree in Latin. She told me I shouldn’t mention the program as it is small and she does not want it broadcast all over the web.
All the hoopla over government spying makes me laugh. Yes, it could be a problem, but with Americans moving around the way they do and undertaking various activities in fits and starts, I wonder that anyone can keep up with anything. As one who worked with metadata for years as part of my job, one thing I am sure of, is that no one cares what I am getting up to. Mostly, I am getting older and forgetting things.
Marketing researchers have been tracking us for years. I know, did marketing research before I went to work for the government. After I went to work for the government, I worked with Census records, a very large file indeed. Census employees are sworn to secrecy. All workers dealing with others personal information should be. Anyone who takes an oath and breaks it is dirty, rotten, lying bum — can’t think of enough bad names to call them. So, I won’t share what I know about personnel records and huge data sets, but tell you as Kevin Bacon did in Animal House…”remain calm.”
The weather finally taking a turn for the better, David and I worked outside the past few days. My gardener John came over today to help clear out a pathway along the fence for Johnny (my dog) and relaid the stepping-stones in the middle bed. After the vegetation grows back, I will post before and after photos.
Now John is off to get married and take a honeymoon to Venezuela. His to-be bride, a lawyer on K Street in DC, made all the arrangements. He says he just does what she tells him to do. Smart fellow.
John tells me the Smithsonian Zoo has offered him a job as head gardener. Grrrr they can’t have him. He says he likes what he does, working for a small landscaping company during the week, and doing odd garden jobs on weekends and holidays. That’s fine with me as he does great work. Now, I am off to visit another garden center.
Below, some photos (from Facebook) of the university and summer farms (both organic and sustainable agriculture) where granddaughter Joy works.
Although granddaughter Hannah also works on the summer farm three days per week to support her art works, Joy is in all the photos (I think).
Joy is majoring in agricultural (poultry) and environmental science at VA Tech and sure loves animals even though most are destined for the dinner table in the Washington area.
One of the ideas I gleaned from Samantha Power’s Problem From Hell is that most of the time, genocide is awfully difficult to define until after the fact. Another is that we in the West mostly don’t know what is happening until it has happened. This is true even if we think we are well informed. This insight lead me to think we need a less complicated word and definition to describe uncivil behavior.
At the Census Bureau, I had a friend, a co-worker, who was a refugee from Burundi who had seen some awful things. He would never talk about the specifics of what he had witnessed, only becoming very sad and saying his father had died. Although she does not discuss it very much, I realized reading Power’s book that Burundi had the same Tutsi and Hutu conflict as central African neighbor, Rwanda with much of the same result.
I began to think of all the refugees I have known over my lifetime, beginning with the Polish kid in my fourth grade class. Karl didn’t stay long, he spoke no English, and he seemed frightened out of his wits most of the time. He never took his coat off, sitting silently at the back of the room as if he would flee at any moment. One day he was gone.
This would have been about 1950, just after WWII when millions of refugees were resettling in the US and other places in the Western Hemisphere.
In high school, I met a young Cuban attending the local divinity school near our house. My teacher, who had heard him speak at her church, brought him to the high school to talk about his dreams. He aspired to become a chaplain in Castro’s Army.
I asked him to come to our house for dinner, which he did. He told me after dinner that night, I was more beautiful than heaven. I have wondered since, what became of him. He was so idealistic, and no one knew then Castro was a Communist.
Later in life, one of my bosses, a Cuban Refugee told me he had been brought to the US in the Peter Pan airlift.
While I was a military wife, I met many military wives, women who had been refugees in their own countries (mostly Japan, Korea, and Germany) and married American service members.
For several years, Gloria, a Spanish girl, whose family had fled Franco and moved to Morocco during the Spanish Civil War, was my best friend. She met Virgil, her Marine husband when stationed on Embassy duty in Tangiers.
Years later, another girlfriend, Marianne, who was Armenian-American, told me her grandparents had been buried in the sand up to their necks and decapitated by Turkish soldiers.
I could go on and on recounting my experiences with refugees, and their children (like my husband David). I have known many Jewish survivors of the WWII camps as well as their children (synagogue 3 blocks away).
But I will summarize my life’s experiences, including my private life, graduate school, especially at Georgetown University, and at work, especially the Census Bureau, which led me to meet and form friendships with refugees from Iran, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Somalia, China, Chile, Argentina, Lebanon, Vietnam, and almost anywhere you can name (and some you may never have heard of).
One of the five nuns murdered in Central America, probably by Sandinistas, was a classmate at my undergraduate college, so sometimes I have known individuals who put themselves in harm’s way…journalists, NGO workers, Peace Corps volunteers, military and missionaries.
After a lifetime of knowing, schooling and working with, and living near resettled refugees and their children, plus the education I have received, books I have read, traveling I have done, etc. I have concluded that at times, the world is a difficult ugly place, mostly owing to the in-group/out-group mentality of many individuals. The good old USA is the only place I would ever want to live. (We are not perfect but we are given to introspection and facing our shortcomings.) I have also concluded that no matter how awful conditions are in some other place, the USA cannot be the world’s policeman (although it should participate in UN actions).
Group identity politics are detrimental to good behavior, and I hate them. In almost every instance of genocide, one group has become determined to destroy another group owing to their ethnicity, tribal affiliation or religion. Sometimes, as in the case of Bosnia, these warring people had peacefully (mostly) co-existed for generations.
I think, Eleanor Roosevelt had the right idea: the UN is the answer to settling universal as well as local disputes involving human rights issues (much of the time–this does not mean we should never criticize the UN, especially the World Bank). The US must continue to be a strong member of this organization, and I hope Samantha Power is the right person for the job of US ambassador to the UN.
My next book: A World Made New, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by Mary Ann Glendon.
Yesterday, Big Al wrote about his weekend adventures with ceiling fans, and his tale of woe led me to reflect on my exciting weekend.
Mostly, I read Samantha Power book on genocide. Given the rain the past week and for the forseeable future (dregs of a hurricane), this was probably not the most sane thing I could have done.
When the clouds parted yesterday for two hours, thinking ‘I need a pick-me-up,’ I inveigled David into driving me to my favorite local nursery. I told David I needed pots for the kitchen herbs I am putting outdoors (from under the lamp where they sat all winter). Also, after discovering the Agastache I planted this spring prostrate from lack of sun, I decided to follow the suggestion of a landscaper I know at the nursery, who said Ligularia would work in this spot.
“And the butterflies love it,” Seth told me.
I purchased three ligularia at the nursery, as well as an assembly of lovely blue and yellow pots made in China for my kitchen herbs.