The Happiest Day
By Linda Pastan
It was early May, I think
a moment of lilac or dogwood
when so many promises are made
it hardly matters if a few are broken.
My mother and father still hovered
in the background, part of the scenery
like the houses I had grown up in,
and if they would be torn down later
that was something I knew
but didn’t believe. Our children were asleep
or playing, the youngest as new
as the new smell of the lilacs,
and how could I have guessed
their roots were shallow
and would be easily transplanted.
I didn’t even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt
on melon were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they simply
made the fruit taste sweeter.
So we sat on the porch
in the cool morning, sipping
hot coffee. Behind the news of the day—
strikes and small wars, a fire somewhere—
I could see the top of your dark head
and thought not of public conflagrations
but of how it would feel on my bare shoulder.
If someone could stop the camera then...
if someone could only stop the camera
and ask me: are you happy?
perhaps I would have noticed
how the morning shone in the reflected
color of lilac. Yes, I might have said
and offered a steaming cup of coffee.
I slept late -- I feel like the past week's stresses caught up with me with a vengeance -- and had to rush to get ready when Daniel got back from working at Hebrew school, because Frederick County was having a Museums By Candlelight festival at which many local attractions were free for the holidays. We went first to Gambrill House at Monocacy National Battlefield, which we'd seen before from the outside, but never entered; the 1870 building was once the home of miller James Gambrill, but now houses the Historical Preservation Training Center of the National Park Service, and today was offering tours of the Victorian mansion and crafts for children. From there we went to the fabulous Brunswick Railroad Museum, which we had visited near Christmas many years ago when Daniel was still train-crazy; they have a Victorian Christmas display and Santa visits the playroom, but the main attraction of this museum are its exhibits on the development of the B&O Railroad, life in a 1900s Maryland railroad town, and a massive model railroad depicting the stations between Washington, DC and Brunswick through Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Point of Rocks, and Catoctin.
From there we went to Gathland, which we visit each fall to see the glorious woods surrounding the ruins of the Gath estate, but the museum has always been closed when we were there. Today it was open, so in addition to the War Correspondents Arch, we got to see some of George Alfred Townsend's writings and artifacts of his life there with his wife. We headed around South Mountain to the Dahlgren Chapel at Turner's Gap -- another building we have seen many times while visiting Washington Monument State Park on our fall tours, but had never been inside before today. The little church is now deconsecrated, was serving cider and cookies and had its bell tower open for people who wanted to climb up and ring the bell. Since it was nearby, we went from there to the South Mountain Creamery to buy cheese and egg nog and visit the calves. Then we went to Ostertag Farm, which dates to the 1700s and had singers and decorations (including large-scale model trains running on a track around the walls) plus cookies by the fireplaces.
This gingerbread train station -- a model of the one at Point of Rocks -- was on display inside the house, where kids were also making their own gingerbread houses. Adam was given very runny icing, so his house is a candidate for Cake Wrecks, though he ate it happily anyway.
Here is a small portion of the three-room HO train display at the Brunswick Railroad Museum, which also has a big display of larger trains in the basement, plus wooden toy trains in the first floor playroom. The Point of Rocks station is on display in this exhibit too.
The trains in the basement are the same scale as the one around this Christmas tree in this Victorian parlor holiday display, but the exhibit is vastly bigger, with a toy circus, farm, car dealer and lots of other town features surrounded by the trains.
The fireplace in GATH's mansion at Gathland, now the George Alfred Townsend Museum. The weathervane at left on the mantel is a model of the one on the War Correspondents Arch and represents the idea that the pen is mightier than the sword.
The interior of the Dahlgren Chapel from the very small upper balcony, reached by climbing a very narrow spiral staircase that ultimately leads to the bell tower.
Calves and chickens keeping warm in one of the barns at South Mountain Creamery.
The restored German-Swiss bank barn at Ostertag Farm, which has pioneer homes on the property dating from the 1700s. That's Venus glowing above the trees.
I'm feeling very wiped out -- I think this week was more stressful for me than I let on to myself. We had soup and cheese for dinner, then watched The Dark Knight, which I thought might shock me or disgust me or secretly thrill me, so I was surprised to discover that my major reaction was apathy. I was bored during parts of it, thought it went on too long, and really wasn't as impressed by the acting as everyone had told me I would be; Heath Ledger was interesting to watch, sure, but I thought his subtle, intense performance in Brokeback Mountain was a lot more memorable -- don't get me wrong, it's fine with me if he gets a posthumous Oscar for this one, I just don't think the character was written all that well. The only scene I really loved in the whole movie was when the prisoner threw the detonator out the window on the boat. The rest of it felt very heavy-handed and overly earnest even for a comic book movie...perhaps especially for a comic book movie. Definitely not my thing, though preferable to Iron Man in my book!