Combo Plate


Something good, linked via “and” with something else good, becomes twice as nice.
Love and marriage, bacon and eggs, buttons and bows, Mickey and Minnie.
A lot of my favorite things double their pleasantness when I join them.
I started a list of some favorite combos, old and new. (The new haven’t replaced the old. Just joined them to make an even more superior combo.)

Favorite Combos by the Prude

Quote and the reason
New: “I have made this letter longer than usual only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” (Blaise Pascal)
And I am always in a frenzy of word-cutting to get my manuscripts pared down to the required length.
Old: “Be not the first by whom the new is tried nor the last by whom the old is laid aside” (My father quoting his father quoting someone else.)
And it kept me from being trendy, gave me a horror of group-think, and helped me fight an inborn tendency to stodginess.

Scan 150770000

Dad, trying a new combo of his own

Beverage and concurrent activity while imbibing
New: Bulletproof coffee and watching local news
Old (very old. 1970’s old) Diet Dr. Pepper and sunbathing

Author and character
New: Patricia Wentworth and Miss Maud Silver
Old: Josephine Tey and Inspector Grant

Color combination
New: Sage and red
Old: Sunshine yellow and cobalt blue

Sacred song and place to sing it
New: “Merciful God”* and a worship service with my brothers and sisters
Old: “How Great Thou Art”** and a country road, walking, as a melancholy teen. Feeling all nature-y.

Word & its association
New: Hiraeth—A nameless longing and homesickness for a home you can’t return to, or that never was. And the longing for a Home that we’ve never seen.
Old: Serendipity—A happy accident. And my dad explaining the meaning.

Entertainment and simultaneous drudgery task
New: Old B&W Falcon or Charlie Chan detective movies and ironing.
Old: “A Christmas Carol” (1938 or 1951 versions) at midnight and wrapping Christmas gifts.

New: Any color and any other color as long as it results in a riot of color
Old:  Wild chicory and Queen Anne’s LaceSONY DSC

New: Balsam and Cedar
Old: Pumpkin and Spice

New: Dark chocolate caramel and sea salt
Old: Clotted cream and jam

New: Naked cheese curds and ranch dip (Wisconsin is basically bathed in ranch dip)
Old: Chili and cold white milk

Poem and location to read/recite it
New: “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
and sitting on the patio just after sunset when it is still light enough to read. With feet propped up on the sandbox.SONY DSC
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Old: “Irish Peasant Song” by Louise Imogen Guiney and walking along country roads being melancholy. (no car as a teenager meant my pensive self was resigned to moody trudges along country roads.)

Version 2

This is it. The road I walked along as a melancholy teen, reciting poetry and singing hymns. Sort of the opposite of Betty and Veronica

I try to knead and spin, but my life is low the while/ Oh, I long to be alone, and walk abroad a mile;/ Yet if I walk alone, and think of naught at all/ 
Why from me that’s young should the wild tears fall?

The shower-sodden earth, the earth-colored streams/  
They breathe on me awake, and moan to me in dreams/ 
And yonder ivy fondling the broke castle-wall/ 
It pulls upon my heart till the wild tears fall.

The cabin-door looks down a furze-lighted hill/ 
And far as Leighlin Cross the fields are green and still/  
But once I hear the blackbird in Leighlin hedges call/  
The foolishness is on me, and the wild tears fall!

There you go. Some of my favorite combo plates. Got any others you can share?

*Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Stuart Townend

**Carl Boberg

Garfunkel isn’t all you need

Some of those childish dreams and cringing humiliations of our past need to be pulled out and gently chuckled over. It helps exorcise them. This particularly mortifying bogie has now been relegated to a manageable discomfiture. But youthful foolishness can bear the fruit of adult insight.


A song, I realized that fateful night, wasn’t going to change the world. At least not via me. I couldn’t sing, for Pete’s sake. Why hadn’t anyone told me? I couldn’t play guitar. (Actually several people had told me this, but I  assumed they just hadn’t heard me at my most soulful.) I had bullied my friend into supporting a naive and humiliating venture in futility. Worse, people had witnessed it. People I didn’t know.

It would be years—decades—before I began to comprehend the hopeless mess we humans are, the mess we’ve made of the world, and the nastiness we inflict on each other. Nothing we could generate from inside our grimy broken selves, no matter how pretty and sincere, could change ugliness and evil. We require something—SomeOne—outside of us.
Once we realize that, we needn’t feel frustration about our inability to change the entire world. We can, however, change the parts of it in which we live and move and have our being.

We work at being good friends, like Nan.
We do our best, like my Calvinette leaders, to guide silly, giggling pre-pubescent girls with love and grace.
We enjoy beauty and truth, because by God’s common and uncommon grace, it is everywhere.

God made the music of the spheres to begin with, He keeps the song going in spite of raspy voices and broken strings, and He’ll make the song new and perfect someday. He just requires that we hum along faithfully in our own spheres, whatever their size and scope.

As for my preteen self? Did I wallow in self-pity? Of course. For at least 36 hours. But there was more Simon and Garfunkel to enjoy, some Montego Bay and Mungo Jerry, and a glorious first crush on David Cassidy. Changing the world could wait. My pillow transformed into Keith Partridge each night and I covered him with chaste, closed-mouth kisses. I was becoming typical. My parents breathed a sigh of relief.

Late that year, I misplaced my little yellow transistor radio. Then I ran out of requisite-size battery. Finally, my father remembered to buy a pack of 9 volts and my little radio was ready to rumble. Maybe, I hoped, maybe ‘I Think I Love You’ will be the first song I hear. I tuned to WCFL, locked my bedroom door and turned up the volume.

For the first time, singing only for me, Neil Diamond’s ‘He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother’ crooned its way through my little transistor and into my heart.

The next day I dusted off my old string of love beads and wrote a fan letter to the Peace Corps.



Last week I shared my pre-teen dream of achieving peace and love via Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds of Silence.’ It remained just a beautiful dream until I learned that my Calvinette troupe would be hosting the Calvinette banquet. And I knew what had to be done.

What is a ‘Calvinette?’ Pretty much what it says. A little, female follower of John Calvin. Although we owed more to the Girl Scouts than we did the worthy reformer. My particular Calvinist denomination had a Calvinette troupe in each church. Sort of like Awanas for preteen girls. We had a motto. (Grace is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears Jehovah, she shall be praised.) We had a song. ‘Oh Calvinettes March Forward.’
We got badges. I learned to darn a sock over a lightbulb. And every year or so, all the Calvinettes in the state came together for a banquet. As hosts this year, our duty was to provide entertainment.

There was the plum. Sitting in my lap, smiling up at me. “You need a place to start changing the world? Here you go!”
Almost a hundred other junior high girls would be there. They would hear ‘Sounds of Silence.’ It had been off the airwaves since we were mere third graders. But now, on the cusp of teenhood, the world would soon be ours. WE COULD MAKE IT NICE. Every girl in that room couldn’t help, on hearing The Song, to be moved. To go home and cry. And then begin the change that would change everything.
I gathered my friends to share my vision. My vision may have lost something in translation, but no one argued when I suggested that, as the Dream-transmitter, I would sing lead and accompany on guitar. Like polite girls (Calvinettes were well-mannered and supportive) my friends agreed. There were half a dozen of us united on this giddy venture to set world kindness in motion.

At the first practice, only 5 girls showed up. The second had 4 and by the third, it was me and my friend Nan. Who I forbade, on the force of my (actually underwhelming) personality, to drop out.

Why, when offered a chance to achieve greatness and love and flowers and puppies via a song, did those Calvinettes skedaddle? Some had parents who, foreseeing disaster, wouldn’t let them participate. The rest were smitten by self-preservation combined with common sense. Did I mention that I am thiscloseto tone deaf? And that my guitar prowess was the result of 6 half-hour lessons?

Poor Nan. She tried everything to make our duo work. “How about I sing harmony?”
Did you know that to the musically-impaired, harmony sounds like a pig wailing over a stolen corn cob?
I laughed her to scorn. Me. Who had the nickname ‘Gravel Gurdy’ as a child.

But she hung in there, agreeing to sing melody. An octave higher than me.
The night came. THE NIGHT. The night when the tentacles of love would go out and—

“Girls.” One of our long-suffering Calvinette leaders beckoned Nan and I into a private corner. Just before the festivities began.
“We’ve been listening to the lyrics.” Her matter-of-fact tone didn’t fool us. It concealed the deep discomfort of an adult addressing juveniles on carnal matters. “The verse about ‘written on the subway walls’ is not appropriate.”
We looked at her blankly. We barely knew what a subway was. She fidgeted and straightened my Calvinette scarf. “It isn’t nice.”
We obviously were not getting it. She sighed.
“Subway walls have things that aren’t…appropriate…written on them. You’ll have to eliminate that verse.”

My vision of a brighter future crumbled at the edges. But I would not give in. I would not let the music die.

Our names were announced.
Nan stood with the air of one facing the guillotine. I marched forward, guitar hugged to my ribcage.
We turned to face a sea of 11-13 year old female faces. Our Calvinette leaders’ faces were buried in their hands.
I plucked at strings for the opening I’d painstakingly created.

I strummed. I sang. Somewhere around the key of ‘bottom of a deep dark pit.’

Nan, thankful that video phones and youtube were decades in the future, was possibly singing, or possibly just frozen. I couldn’t tell. The blood burbled in my ears and drowned out even my own rumbling tone.
We stopped signing abruptly, just short of the final verse. I faded out with the same soulful, ‘I’m a Little Teapot’ sort of notes I’d started with. The audience sat stunned. I was surrounded by the sounds of silence. Then, grateful it was over, my kind-hearted Calvinette leaders began to clap. The rest of my club joined, and soon the entire room was gently patting their hands together.

Nan and I found our ways to our seats. Banquet-type stuff happened. I went home. But something died in me that night. Right about the second verse of ‘The Sounds of Silence.’

Please come back tomorrow to learn the moral of the story.