Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries Tagged as 'My Back Pages'

My little sister

May 29th, 2009 · 2 Comments

My little sister

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

My little sister barely 20 years old and looking much younger, proud of her beautiful giant baby, seen here with her then-habitual cigarette.

She beat her smoking habit, brought up her baby, made it back to college and through law school, made a busy courageous life for herself, made the lives of so many others so much better, and in a twist on the old-style fairy story, found and loved and married her Prince Charming sometime in her late forties.

She died this morning after a long long battle with ovarian cancer. I haven’t felt like blogging about her, and I haven’t been feeling like blogging not about her. We are going to miss her so very much.

Tags: My Back Pages · Sister Age · Wide wonderful world

NH librarian in Sweden and the NY Times!

February 3rd, 2008 · Comments Off on NH librarian in Sweden and the NY Times!


From today’s NY Times, here you see mother and daughter jaunting and laughing through summertime in side-by-side bus seats, because “My daughter and I wanted to see the Swedish countryside, and a bus is a good way to do it.”

I always love visiting Mary in her lovely and welcoming small-town NH library. I’m glad NY Times photographer Jacob Silberberg captured her and Kerstin in such a lovely but truly typical moment. I’m also glad he mentions that Mary is 60.

It seems to me that the natural active fun for a person at any age is whatever stuff that exact person has real fun doing.

My Time Goes By friend Ronni Bennett pushes back when older people talk about being active or happy as feeling young. I know why she does–for the same reason I once wrote about “I’m too bleeargingledly for my shirt.” But I think what most people mean by “feeling young” is just that we don’t feel some (bad) way society told us we’d feel when we got “old.”

My mom when she was 80 liked gardening and doing crosswords and reading Colette, and far be it from anyone to say that she should have been out riding back roads on a giant Harley while clad in black leather. Though that’s an image that would have made her smile…

And far be it from anyone to say she shouldn’t have ridden those roads and that Harley if she wanted to.

Tags: Go go go · My Back Pages · Sweden · Travel

Toto, I don’t think…

January 19th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Toto, I don’t think…

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

…we’re in NH any more!

This is what a pet food display looks like, in at least one large Auckland supermarket.

It is a big refrigerator case, in case you can’t tell, showcasing meat that people will cook and feed to their pets.

Actually, my mother also liked to cook her own dogs’ food but no local groceries offered any dog meat that wasn’t canned or dried and kibbled. Her dogs got the people food, cooked without salt or butter but often with garlic.

I bet she would enjoy the New Zealand section of heaven.

Tags: My Back Pages · Travel · Wide wonderful world

And my porch doesn’t have a business model either!

January 12th, 2008 · Comments Off on And my porch doesn’t have a business model either!

1958 dog party, part 2.

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

“My phone doesn’t have a business model. Neither does my porch. I still like having a phone and a porch because they help me meet new people and communicate with people I know. Same with my blog and podcast.”

That’s a quote from Dave Winer…thanks, Dave, and not least for sending me back to this old Flickr porch photo of mine, a dog birthday party, 1958 or thereabouts. Here’s a better photo of the same party.

My mother holds a tray of raw hamburger to treat our neighborhood dogs, because my mostly-spaniel Suzy was having a birthday.

Yes, in those innocent days before Big Agriculture discovered that cows could be fed plastic pellets and ground-up carrion, nobody had yet invented “mad cow disease.”

I guess that’s a digression–but hey, that is my blogging model!

Tags: Metablogging · My Back Pages · Wide wonderful world

Christmas melancholy and relief

December 25th, 2007 · Comments Off on Christmas melancholy and relief

Christmas melancholy and relief

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

The presents have been unwrapped–the wonderful, wonderful presents you see in this picture from my childhood, two huge dolls and a dollhouse we’re going to share. As you can see also, the Devine kids are exhausted, having been up with our stockings and anticipation since long before dawn.

It’s interesting that my father decided to save forever this moment of Christmas melancholy from the late 1950s.

If you look closely, our ninety-something year-old Aunt Harriet wears a quite different expression – maybe satisfaction? The shopping and cooking and organizing are over at last and perhaps very soon even grownups can have a nap.

In more recent news, sorry about the light blogging. Frank and I were both laid low by a completely miserable post-travel cold. But like Aunt Harriet, we feel relieved and happy that we still managed to spend one more family Christmas with our wonderful family.

Tags: My Back Pages · Wide wonderful world

Tracking my mom’s 1963 journal through Ireland

October 16th, 2007 · Comments Off on Tracking my mom’s 1963 journal through Ireland

Corbett Court, Mitchelstown

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

On the plane trip to Cork, I finally got around to reading my mother’s 1963 journal. She and my dad visited Ireland in mid-October of that year. 

Summary: They rented a car and took off to see–everything! That is, everything compatible with sleeping late, taking naps, picking up hitchhikers, and making stops to drink tea. They hadn’t made a single hotel reservation–something that on this trip they never regretted. They enjoyed everything they saw, every person they met.

Left Limerick 10 a.m. 10-14-63.
3 sheep or cows? in Croagh
Thatched roof with TV antenna in Adare
Ruined church and fortress
Gypsy carts
Hitcher to Abbeyfrale–peat smoke. No talker.
Farmers market — cows, horses, pigs (in ricks), boxes of cabbages and of apples
Spent 3 hours going 56 miles. Ferns like a miniature ferngully.
Lunch delicious fricasseed lamb. Castlerosse Hotel. JMD [my dad] bought an Arran sweater 6/13.
Looked at various hotels in Killarney. Some stuffy, others quite unappealing. Settled on Hotel Europe, out of town on “lower lake,” lovely neat new hotel (German) fabulous view and food. Nap.
Dinner — sole — wow!
After dinner went into town. Bought Irish coffee glasses 6 for Mary 6 for us–all sent to Mary. Also 6 charms for cousins.
To bed. Awoke to howling wind–but warm.

10 – 15. Too cloudy for Ring, so going to Cork. Left K 11 a.m.
Aghadve — ruined cathedral and towers.
Filled tank 14 shillings. Button for battery. Blue-tail sheep.
Picked up lady near Low Bridge who was on way to a funeral in Ballyvourney cemetery next to Ballymakeery.
Took picture of fortress outside Macroon.
“Anglers Reast” in Beamish, prop. R. P. Leary. “Road Up.” Slate roofs with moss.
Lunch of tea and sandwiches at The Four Seasons in Dripsey. Irish Sweepstakes man–
Road to Blarney. hunter with dog. School bus — no one over 7 got off.
Blarney Castle — no lighting on wellworn circular stairs. Rooks. Boiling oil. Trees along walk–vines have to be cut off lest they weigh down the turrets and topple them. Old man at Druid’s well. Blarney indeed!
Into Cork through the Blackpool area. Whellbarrows of steaming mash. Man lying directly in road to check underside of car.
“Garda” in re map — “You’ll get me all confused with this thing” i.e. map. “It won’t take you any time at all, at all.” He was right.
Imperial Hotel. Victorianism is a Johnny-come-lately here! Heated towel racks–double pulley windows. V. comfortable. Good food. Wandered around town in evening just looking. Called Kim and Grampa 1:30 our time.

10 – 16 Slept over. Had fine breakfast in our room. 11:45 a.m. left.
Called Dr. Atkins. Retiring.
Men secretaries, lady bartenders.
Mother’s Pride Bread–unwrapped bread.
Stables marked by horse’s head.
Aghada — miles of fortifications to protect Cork harbor. No Murrays there now.
Church in Soleen (?) hooked shut. Flock of sheep–blue tail, red tail. Fat lady singing.
Midletown–poppies and daisies wild by the side of road–Prosperous town.
Bought harp charm 6/3 ear rings pin 16/ pendant for hockey 7/6
“I’ll have to ask himself.”
Stopped for early tea at the Blue Dragon Inn and Bar 5 mi. outside Mitchelstown–down the road from the Glocca Maura.

Mitchelstown–talked to 3 men–story of Jack Devine the laboring man and the rosary. Talk with Mr. Barrett at the tax collector. Visit the grave year–lichen covered crosses — old church — a hollow shell for vines. No perpetual care. Nettles.

But what was the story of Jack Devine and the rosary? The fat lady singing? Who was the “Irish sweepstakes man”? I’ll never know.

Frank and I, tracing part of their path, stopped for a delicious lunch at the Corbett Court–which turned out to be their own Blue Dragon Inn.

More in some later blogpost–we’re in Dublin now.

Tags: My Back Pages · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Headed for Devine country in Mitchelstown

October 13th, 2007 · Comments Off on Headed for Devine country in Mitchelstown

From Kilworth To The Galtees

Originally uploaded by Kman999

On April 21, 1851, young Patrick Devine (he was 9) set sail with his auntie Elizabeth (she was 27) from Liverpool to New York City. (How they got from their birthplace–Mitchelstown, in County Cork–I do not know.)

I also don’t know much about how, some forty years later, Patrick was established in Manchester, NH, as “the” Roman Catholic undertaker. (Patrick and his dad started off as carpenters, making little pine coffins.) Patrick’s second son, Maurice, annoyed both parents by leaving the family business to go to law school. My father J. Murray Devine was the son of Maurice.

So that’s why Frank Wilczek and I are in Cork tonight, headed north to Mitchelstown once we sleep off the minor stress of flying here from Stockholm. I’m told Mitchelstown is most famous for “boring cheese” and that earlier family visits failed to turn up the name Devine, even in graveyards.

Piffle. So what. I want to see for myself.

I’m also carrying with me a small talisman from the other side of my family of origin. My mother kept a journal (on onionskin paper) of her 1963 visit to Ireland, including Mitchelstown, which I am hoping to follow if that is possible. My father organized the trip but my mother recorded it for them.

My mother–who had not one drop of Irishness in her and didn’t like Guiness–considered that the worst scolding insult to one of her children was “You’re a disgrace to the name Devine.” My mother, who was adopted, wrote her own obituary and carefully omitted from said obituary her maiden name.

I’m planning to share more of her stuff with you as we go on.

Tags: My Back Pages · twitter · Wide wonderful world

NH October is red, red, red

October 6th, 2007 · 3 Comments

Happy, happy moment when I was 11

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Bright red is the favorite color of most small children. What a surprise it was, when someone told me this! Oh, you mean I was supposed to change my favorite color when I grew up?

October leaves in Norway and Sweden are rich in dark greens and yellows–but I miss the scarlet extravagance of autumn maple trees. I love this tree image from photoninja Judith Meskill

Even more than that, I’m grateful that Judith added a poem of her own to her maple tree image. Judith’s title was “Walk with me…” For some reason (October melancholy?) her poem made me write my own first-poem-in-quite-a-while, a poem for my friend from childhood Mary Parfitt. Mary died of a brain tumor in 1989, so if I want to send her any messages now, blogging a poem is as good a way as any.

Walk with me
into a memory our past lives inhabit
but we do not.

Walk with me into
remembered October. Remember

the trees,
the beautiful whispering leaves,
scarlet tale-tellers,
undaunted by December.

Inhabiting other Octobers,
I remember

Tags: My Back Pages · religion · writing

Oh, the decisions we make in our 20s!

July 12th, 2007 · Comments Off on Oh, the decisions we make in our 20s!

The decisions we make in our 20s…

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Not that I regret this young woman’s decisions, crazy as some of them were–well, maybe I’m blushing a bit at those orange curtains.

You see in this photograph married grad student housing in Princeton, where Frank and I were living when we got the word–we were pregnant! Well, OK, I was.

So this long-haired black turtlenecked soon-to-be-ex-grad-student, wearing a lotus-y necklace, decides …I’m going to be a mom–time to get serious about my life! No more cigarettes–well, that was a good decision.

Get serious, be grown-up–I know! I’ll get Frank’s grandmother to teach me how to crochet so that i can make a blanket for my baby.

Now, there were a ton of things I didn’t think of. Just for example, since Frank stopped being a grad student and started being a post-doc during my pregnancy–neither of his two different medical insurance groups would pay for the delivery.

But, by gosh, my baby had the most beautiful blanket!

Tags: Frank Wilczek · My Back Pages

After 34 years. still not threatened by gay marriage

July 11th, 2007 · Comments Off on After 34 years. still not threatened by gay marriage

Staatsoper PDA

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

As of July 3, it’s 34 years and counting for Frank and Betsy–not to mention (wow!) more than 60 years now for Frank’s mom and dad.

I still don’t understand why the long-term love of any two people is endangered by the thought that two different people (whose lifestyle couple #1 might not approve) want to promise to love one another forever.

It’s easier to imagine that Hollywood “marriages” lasting 55 hours set a bad example to couples from more normal origins–but I hate to think that our US Constitution needs an amendment fo protect us from poor Britney Spears. (And isn’t she heterosexual, IIRC?)

The best marriage advice, according to my little brother, is to keep on caring about each other, respecting each other. For my more long-winded but heartfelt version, here’s some advice I wrote way back in 2003.

Love is a wonderful thing, and good luck to us all!

Tags: Frank Wilczek · My Back Pages · Wide wonderful world