Delights: May 20 to May 26

May 20: Alexander Hamilton; Alexander Ham-il-ton. “There’s a million things I haven’t done, just you wait.”

So I waited. And waited. After seven years of reading everything I could find about this extraordinary show, after seven years of memorizing every beat and rap on the cast album, after nearly two years of stubbornly ignoring the filmed version, I saw Hamilton.

Thanks to my brother-in-law Loyd here in Des Moines, Kevin and I sat three rows from the stage. The actors could have been singing right to me. (I beamed my biggest, most encouraging smile just in case.) I whooped and clapped and didn’t sing. At the end of the first act, I am exhilarated and exhausted.

Oh, the lights are dimming. The second act begins soon. I can’t wait.

We were this close. Wow.

Bonus: I lied. At the command of King George III, I joined the entire audience in singing the final lines of the King’s first song: “Da da da da DA, da-da-da-da di-ya DA, da da da ….”

Double Bonus: Is it possible that this was the best part? Kevin and I sat close enough to the stage that, during the standing ovation, we could read in the actors’ eyes their joy and gratitude and relief as 2,000 exuberant fans wildly cheered their love. 

Whirling beauty in the Iowa State Capitol.

May 21: OMG. As I waited in the lobby of our hotel for tonight’s minor league Iowa Cubs game, I spied, at the reception desk, a young man with a fountain of braids flowing from the top of his head. I interrupted him after he collected his take-out. “Excuse me. You look like someone I’ve seen before.” 

He paused and then he smiled. Now I was positive. “I just saw Hamilton last night. Third row. Did you play John Laurens and Philip Hamilton?” He smiled even more broadly, and then my fountain of fandom erupted. I told him how much I enjoyed the show and his performance. I asked about his career, his tour, everything. He asked my name and told me his: Elijah Malcomb. I pointed to the time (“doesn’t tonight’s curtain go up in 90 minutes?”), but he said it was fine and kept chatting with me. 

His company is coming to Washington DC soon. I am definitely buying another third row ticket so that I can smile at him one more time.

Loyd, Ella and I enjoy the Iowa Cubs game. I didn’t get a selfie with Elijah Malcomb (Laurens/Philip). But — in the best 20th century tradition — I did write him a nice note.

May 21: The Iowa Cubs couldn’t catch the Columbus Clippers but they could help to catch a mouse. 

At the game last night (once again, we sat in the third row), my niece Ella pointed to the wire holding the protective netting between our seats and the ball field. A mouse scampered along the wire 25 feet over our heads toward the Cubs dugout. Then, to the horror and delight of the fans, the mouse started moving head first down the netting, eventually scrambling across the dugout roof. An usher approached with a broom and dustpan, but the mouse scampered away. A Cubs player helpfully stuck his hand up and guided the mouse into the dustpan. To cheers (and some boos — people were really rooting for the mouse) the usher carried the mouse away. 

Five minutes later I bumped into the usher and his dustpan. “Where’d you put the mouse?” Gate A. (Doors open at noon for tomorrow’s game…)

Our view from the third row at the Iowa Cubs game. That’s the Iowa State Capitol in the distance. No mouse in this picture.

May 22: Yesterday morning with Kevin’s sister Susan, I wandered among the overflowing stands of Des Moines’ enormous farmers market. I purchased a Dutch pastry, a Polish sausage, jewelry and handmade greeting cards. We marveled at the street-corner singers and so many dogs. (Indeed, one can buy a tote bag illustrated with “the Dogs of the Des Moines Farmers Market.”) 

Then Susan and I stopped to chat with an elderly man and his daughter who were selling handmade bird and butterfly houses. These miniature whimseys were trimmed with ornamental doorknobs, Victorian hinges, and roof tin discarded from the Iowa State Capitol. I recognized the craftsman’s Italian accent: strange, because almost no Italians emigrated to the United States between 1924 (when the doors to Eastern and Southern European immigrants slammed shut) and 1965 (when they opened again). 

The craftsman told me that he secured an immigration “number” in the 1930s. His number was finally called more twenty-five years later, and he decided to come over. His daughter — who is roughly my age — was born here. 

During our visit, I felt like I was talking to my own grandparents, who had arrived in the United States a few years before the 1924 immigration law took effect. According to a remarkable book I read recently called The Guarded Gate, by Daniel Okrent, more than four million Italians immigrated to the United States between 1880 and 1924. In 1921 alone, nearly a quarter million Italian immigrants entered the country (possibly including my mother’s parents). In 1925, the number plunged to 2,662.

Although I was charmed by the birdhouses, I have so much more to remember him by.

Bonus: The full title of the 2019 book is The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law that Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America, by Daniel Okrent (who, interestingly, also appears as a baseball expert on Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary).

May 23: I bought an Iowa Cubs baseball cap for Jeremiah but couldn’t find a way to pack it safely. So I decided to wear the too-big cap on the airplane, undaunted by the foam-finger-waving “Iowa” cartoon on its crown and the wobble around my ears. At the gate, I saw a young man wearing not two but four cowboy hats on his head. We smiled at each other and agreed: it looks goofy, but it works!

May 24: Our word in yoga today was “linger.” I thought of Goethe’s Faust: how Dr. Faust at last exhaled “stay, thou art so fair” only when it was too late. I thought of the Psalm: “Be still and know that I am God.” And I thought of the time in Noank, Connecticut, when, striding through my exercise walk, I suddenly halted to savor a small quiet view. 

I enjoy museums and vistas, where I’m supposed to linger. Will I open myself to linger somewhere today completely by chance?

Among the Blades between the Flowers…While the Horse Watches…For Those Who Bear/Bare Witness, by Ebony G. Patterson, Jamaican, 2019. This spectacular wall-sized piece composed of beads, textiles, tassels and ceramic beckoned across the galleries of the Des Moines Art Center. The work is in their permanent collection. My niece Ella and I lingered a very long time.

May 25: My lingering yesterday (and today) has collapsed into my grief, as I think about the elementary school children, their teacher, their families, and everyone torn apart from the shootings near San Antonio yesterday. I can see the classroom — my classroom — and the children — my children. I stagger from the horror. 

The library of the Iowa State Capitol.

May 26: And kindness embraces us too. I was puttering around in the backyard when our neighbors  came by to say hello. We planted another Hoogendorn Japanese Holly bush for you, they said. (Great!) We potted one of our banana plant babies for your patio, they said. (Love it!) And — do you mind a suggestion? — we want to teach you how to “stitch” the extension cord for your lights. (Huh?)

They’d seen the coil of cord in the garden across the lawn. They knew I ran the cord over the grass to plug in the lights. And they predicted, as I did, that someday I’d forget to move the cord before the lawnmower roared by. I’d been thinking about digging up the sod to make a trench, but, golly, that’s a lot of work…

They asked me: Do you have a straight-edged shovel? Sure. I handed it to my neighbor, who then plunged the blade two inches down, wiggled it back and forth to make a “stitch,” and repeated the plunge-and-wiggle motion across the grass. Thinking of Tom Sawyer’s fence, I was tempted to keep asking questions until my neighbor completed the job. But guilt forced my hand. I took the shovel, plunged and wiggled the blade, and finished the “stitches.” Together we tucked the extension cord into the tiny channel we’d created and stamped the grass back into place. 

Ta da! I should have known that I could sew better with a shovel than a needle! 

A photo of the town of Priverno, between Rome and Naples, where my mother’s parents are from.

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19 thoughts on “Delights: May 20 to May 26

  1. May 25’s entry grips my soul and my sadness renews itself this morning. When I heard the tragic news I once again wonder how it is that we human beings are so cruel. And my thoughts inevitably went out to all those educators and students I know, particularly in the US … including you and my sister. You shouldn’t have to fear for your lives each time you step into school. And yet, here we are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ju-Lyn. I wondered how to find delight after such horror. Apart from public policy (and mental health) solutions, I firmly believe that our lives depend on my daily goodness and your daily goodness, and the daily goodness of the many kind people we know. Your joy matters.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It begins & persists with each of us. I hold on to this hope & promise … every little step we take forward, every generous actions, every word of grace.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ryan, Anne M - (anneryan) May 26, 2022 — 6:27 pm

    What wonderful snippets of joy this week! Thank you!!! Love, anne

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    Liked by 1 person

  3. As always, such an uplifting post…I need to linger over my afternoon cup of tea at work I think today….. The horror of earlier this week is too awful to contemplate, Kindness and compassion are so important to get us through these times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your posts about food, coffee, tea beautifully illustrate “lingering” and, importantly, the way lingering can enrich relationships. My whole body relaxes when I ready your “coffee/tea” posts, and I linger there with you.

      I think our capacity for kindness and compassion comes in part from that stillness. I hope you do linger over your afternoon tea — and send goodness out into the universe. (You’ve sent it to me!)


  4. Shocked beyond belief to learn about the latest massacre at a US school. My heart goes out not only to those directly affected, but the millions of others – children, parents, teachers like yourself – who must be asking themselves with trepidation “where next?”. I guess the most that you can do, as an individual, is to be the best that you can be in the belief that kindness/goodness is infectious.

    I love that staircase in the Iowa State Capitol. I commissioned a few library builds during my career, but that staircase alone would probably have blown my entire budget for all of them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reaching out with your grief and horror. The unimaginable is not. And as you said, kindness and goodness changes things.

      What an interesting job you must have had! I’d love to hear more about it sometime….I’m a fan of staircases, and the iron swirl in the Iowa State Capitol is indeed splendid. (In my next Delights, I’ll post a photo of a staircase in the building where I used to work. It, too, is beautiful.) And that reminds me: my son Nate worked for five months inside the Iowa State Capitol. He said he was awestruck whenever he ventured into the public spaces.

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  5. So happy for you and your joy during the third row events. 🙂 I bet they all noticed your smile, it is impossible to overlook. Amazing artwork! And that staircase! But I love all the photos, especially the first two. Exceptional!

    In a way I’m glad that the Mavs are out because my sleeping schedule needs to return to normal. Every second day I moved about like a zombie. They will not forget this season so soon, and neither will we. The last opponent was overpowering but they did all they could. I’m glad that I got you onboard for this wild ride.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for praising my photographs! Coming from you, that’s so encouraging. And I agree: the image of the Iowa State Capitol dome is pretty amazing. I can’t believe I composed it! (Although the artists and architects, of course, did the real work.)

      This is just the beginning for the Mavs. I think they won a lot of hearts across the U.S. After beating the Suns (I’m still smiling about Game Seven) they were playing with “house money.” I bet they learned a lot. I can’t wait for next season!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True, Carol Ann. I think I’ll always smile thinking of Game 7. On my birthday too. 😉 And oh yes, your photos are magnificent. Never doubt!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautifully written ! From 20 th May to 26 th May ! Your beautiful experience loved to read it. Thanks 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello again, Priti. We are becoming friends (SMILE!). I very much appreciate your note of encouragement!


      1. You are welcome 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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