A Bad Gifter

Pamela Hill NettletonEssaysLeave a Comment

I give bad gifts. Size 5 shoes to size 11 feet. Yogurt makers to the lactose intolerant. Diaries to the discreet. Sheet music to the relentlessly tone deaf. It’s not that I am thoughtless—I’m thinking, I’m thinking, believe me. It’s just that I have this holiday weakness of idealizing my friends and family, sometimes to the point of making them unrecognizable. Since they are the finest people I know, and you would think so, too, should you ever have the good fortune to get to know them, I choose to believe that they are nearly flawless. At least, come shopping time. Trying to select the perfect scarf, handbag, or tie for the people behind the names on my list, I … Read More

Christmas Jell-O

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IT JUST WOULDN’T be Christmas without Jell-O. Holiday traditions are built around this concoction of sweeteners, dyes, and stuff that hardens like amber to preserve the items that are lovingly placed in it. The lunch ladies at St. Raphael’s Elementary School were masters of suspending the four food groups in Jell-O. Carrots were an odd and particular favorite—not traditionally sliced, but shredded in a frenzy. Flurries of carrot peelings, snowing in Jell-O. Now that I am an adult and have struggled myself with kitchen mysteries, I wonder how they managed to get those carrot peelings to stand on end as the Jell-O hardened, forever ethereal in a vertical dance of keratin. My pitiful attempts only result in a clotted mass of … Read More

True Grit

Pamela Hill NettletonArticles, Essays, U.S. CatholicLeave a Comment

Some folks just know what they’re supposed to do. He never wanted to be anything else. Sitting at a desk and pushing pencils in an office justwasn’t his style. The nubby grip of a good suede glove, the creak and groan of a broken-in saddle, the strip ofrawhide wrapped around his hand—they felt right from the first time he climbed to the topfence rail to watch his daddy work the quarter horses. His left wrist hasn’t been the same since that last trip to the emergency room in Abilene. Hiswalk has a bowlegged roll that will never go away, even if he takes to wearing wing tips and athree piece suit, which ain’t likely. A little sawdust, a lot of … Read More

Breakup Joints

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Anyone can think of a romantic spot to dine on Valentine’s Day, but finding the right restaurant to leave your lover is another story   I’M NOT A GOOD dumper. I have no style. Well, at least not the kind of style you might expect from a woman who has had as many husbands as you have fingers on your right hand. When it is time for me to check out of a relationship, I am gone. Not always gracefully, not always politely, but gone. I am not inclined to hang around for weeks planning a dramatic exit. Nevertheless, I can certainly make a case for leaving a man with a lingering memory of me in black velvet and pearls, … Read More

Ready to Rumble

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AH, FALL. The time of year when the mice I chased out in the spring move right back into the house. Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter illustrations suggest the unlikely but charming notion that domesticated rodents run around on little mice freeways directly beneath our feet, commuting up and down between layers of floors as though they were high rises filled with little mouse beds and mouse larders and mini-mouse schoolrooms. Mouse grandmothers setting tables with thimble bases filled with flower buds and dinner plates crafted of paint chips, mouse mothers knitting dryer lint into baby’s quilts, mouse fathers stacking up toothpicks like cordwood, mouse children clamoring for another treat from the cookie crumb jar. These sorts of utopian mice … Read More

Power on the Podium

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Leonard Bernstein once warned Eiji Oue: “Keep conducting that way and you’ll die of exhaustion” THIS PAST AUGUST, Hiroshima native Eiji Oue guest conducted seven Minnesota Orchestra musicians in Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale. The performance so stunned the audience that one musician was moved to visible tears, a percussionist gushed to performers “You’re all my heroes!,” and Libor Pesek, another Sommerfest conductor, announced it was the greatest conducting he had ever seen. The Minnesota Orchestra wants to play under Eiji Oue (say it A.G. OH-way). And if some orchestra management types around the country were surprised by the winter announcement that the relatively unknown music director of the Erie Philharmonic was picked to succeed Edo de Waart, the musicians … Read More

Have Pie, Will Travel

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I COLLECT excellent pie-eating experiences the way some people collect Fiestaware. Deep in the dark winter months when no local fresh fruit is in season, I stare into the fire and dream, not of loves long lost, but of that slab of cherry perfection I consumed seven years ago in a tiny town somewhere between Rochester and Iowa. My ideal pie is a rustic one. Not for me those anemic, perfectionist crusts that speak of skill in the kitchen but deliver little satisfaction per bite. A crust should reveal the elbow grease that went into it. Brushed with egg white and crystalized with sugar, the top crust should stand up to over-baked fruit bubbling up through its pierced pastry. The … Read More

Parents Paying for Tuition

Pamela Hill NettletonEssaysLeave a Comment

IN MARCH, I took my first midterms since 1976. At the advanced age of never-you-mind, I was a student again. Along with acquiring notebooks-full of stuff about journalism ethics and history of the media, I’ve learned two other things. One: They still use those little blue books for midterms. Two: It’s hard to be a student. I’m not whining. I have certain advantages over teenagers. I am not trying to hold in my stomach, snag a mate, get laid, figure out my sexual orientation, determine my political leanings, separate from my parents, conquer homesickness, and figure out how to make macaroni and cheese. I am not trying to find out who I am, choose what I stand for, learn how to … Read More

Hey, Four Eyes!

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I’VE BEEN AS NEARSIGHTED as Mr. Magoo from birth. In grade school, I never had to be ordered to sit in the front of the class. I couldn’t imagine why any kid would head for the back, where they would never be able to see. In senior high, a boy on a date took off my glasses, but instead of saying, “Really, Miss Jones, you look beautiful,” he said, “Wow! You have eyes!” I guess those lenses were thick. LASIK didn’t tempt me, since I had worn glasses since third grade and they felt as natural to me as skin. But my eyesight was worsening, my optometrist told me he couldn’t improve my vision enough to make me less crabby … Read More

Gales of November

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THERE IS THE meditative beauty of what is undisturbed, what seems to be content with itself, what allows itself to be entered and explored. And then there is the beauty of turmoil. Of tempests. Of warring forces that forged the earth. Some like the water placid, still, serene as the color blue. But some like the look of a lady when she’s angry. There are things revealed only when the spirit moves beyond restless, things to be seen when the water reaches for the sky and when the sky reaches back and whips the sea. There are those who love the lake when she is quiet. And there are those who love the storms.   This accompanied a photo essay … Read More