A spiritual bouquet

I am sending my mom a spiritual bouquet.

You Catholics out there know what I’m talking about. This usually happened for Mother’s Day, which is in May and the month when Mary is honored with May Crowning. That was a very big deal for this Catholic family because we belonged to Queen of Angels Catholic Church and we were pretty much all about Mary.

Since it’s still May, I decided to take a break from weeding my actual garden to pick a bouquet of prayers for Mom.

In order to put this bouquet together, the person who intends to pray promises Hail Marys, Our Fathers and a Mass or two to be said in honor of the recipient of the bouquet.

I can honestly say Mom preferred this gift to any gravy boat or salt shaker set we would have otherwise given her. I’m pretty sure she thought we didn’t pray enough so our elaborately decorated cards promising to pray were always welcome.

I hadn’t thought about this for years but my sister Therese called today and said Mom was feeling poorly. So I called Mom and she did indeed sound weak and tired.

I promised to pray for her even though, “You prayers are much stronger than mine, Mom.”

“Oh, no,” she replied, with more pep her voice. “All prayers are good.”

I guess that’s something the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration know a little bit about as they continue to pray around the clock day after day, year after year.

So, Mom, I’m sending you a spiritual bouquet. I won’t draw the card because, really, my artwork hasn’t improved much from fourth grade. But add my heart-felt Hail Marys to your own and get a good night’s sleep and I hope you end up on the road to recovery.


My vintage life

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t like vintage.

Of course, I didn’t always know what that was. But when that container full of hand-me-down clothes arrived from our never-met cousins in California, I was in heaven. Gaudy paisley and Hawaiian shirts were just my style.

When I moved to La Crosse, vintage was all I could afford. I developed my style in the garages of La Crosse, picking up old furniture and refurbishing it.

Vintage really grabbed hold when I discovered auctions. Soon, my house couldn’t hold all the wondrous things I was accumulating.

That’s how I ended up in my sister Therese’s backyard last weekend as the co-presenter of a vintage sale. I hauled my rooster collection, vintage table cloths, cast-off canister sets and old suitcases to be unloaded into canopies in her backyard. At sale’s end, much of what I brought there ended up back in my car.

I was thinking of all those vintage treasures as I drove down Hwy. 52, headed for home. And that’s when I started noticing the old water towers.

Hampton has one. So does Zumbrota. Austin, Minn., where I grew up, has two.

But La Crosse doesn’t have any.

I’ve lived here for 37 years and this is the first time I noticed that we don’t have water towers. I guess it’s all that spring-fed water that makes our beer so great — no need for water towers.

Still, I wish we had one. There is something about a water tower that screams 1960s teen comedy. You just know the school’s quarterback and his friends are going to climb up there and write something on the tower and then run away just before the cops get there.

So no water towers here, but plenty of vintage. Stay tuned and I’ll soon have details about my own vintage sale June 5-7. No water towers, but there will be some vintage roosters.


Camptown Races

Camping season has begun.

I know this because my sister-in-law, Pat, posted on Facebook that she and my brother Jim are setting out on their first camping expedition of the season tomorrow.

My only question is why?

They are fully grown people who are not being dragged off to experience nature by a father forcing them into a nine-passenger station wagon. (Somehow, we fit 12.)

Incredibly, Dad’s wilderness spirit was passed along to Jim who likes nothing better than to hit the open road with his wife Pat and then sit around a campfire.

Granted, he travels in a bit more style nowadays. But me, I can never shake the image of that  first used wood camper my dad bought so that he could haul his large brood of children all over the state of Minnesota for a paltry sum of money. Sure, years later he graduated to a better model. But it was never good enough for me.

Jim, being the oldest boy, was the one who had to help Dad set up the camper. Which meant he endured a lot of yelling in the process because I can’t remember a time where the camper went up smoothly.

The rest of us jumped out of the station wagon and ran out around the campground like hooligans. I’m sure everybody was really glad to see us.

From a very early age, I disliked the lack of creature comforts of camping. I didn’t like the morning damp that permeated our sleeping bags. I didn’t like the primitive showers and toilet facilities.  I didn’t like the bugs. And, often, I didn’t like the family I was crammed into the camper with for too long a time.

When the family expanded to include 10 kids, my dad bought canvas cots that fit over one side of the tent. It was his version of bunk beds and we had to rotate through all the positions, the inside bottom being the worst.The night it was my turn for inside bottom, I instead roamed the campground all night. I just couldn’t crawl in there.

It seems wherever we went there was rain and storms and even tornadoes. It seemed whenever we stopped, there was shouting. It seemed whenever we traveled, Dad got wildly angry about the “Are we there yets?”

But camping became Dad’s passion, the thing he lived for all year. This was his vacation and we had all better enjoy it, by golly.

Once, long after I came to La Crosse to work at the La Crosse Tribune, I agreed to meet my parents at Whitewater State Park, their favorite camp site. I emphasized it would be only for the evening and that I would be bugging out before the camp was locked down for the night.

Dad fondly recalled his clearest memory of me at the camp site — “You’re sitting on the tailgate of the station wagon reading a book by lantern light with bugs buzzing all around you.”

No wonder I didn’t like camping. One year he actually tried to ban us from reading on “his” vacation. The second week in he broke down and let us go into town to buy books because we weren’t going to be at peace until we had reading materials.

I didn’t mind hiking. I didn’t mind accidentally tipping my father out of the canoe. I didn’t mind eating s’mores. I just wanted to go home to my own bed at night.

Now, Jim and Pat are purposely seeking out these kinds of experiences. And in keeping with the finest Parlin tradition, storms are predicted.

Dad must be smiling up in heaven.


Bloom, gosh darn it, bloom

I saw my first crocus and dandelion in bloom today.

Luckily, the crocus was in my yard and the dandelion was a mile away.

Today, even at 7:30 a.m., the sun dazzled my raggedy boulevard into looking like the emerald green of Ireland — or maybe I wasn’t quite awake yet and my eyes were deceiving me. After days and days and days of the plants shivering in the bountiful but chilly rain, I swear the daffodils and tulips grew an inch overnight.

Even the Siberian squill, which had been tantalizingly blue in bud, finally fully opened today. They are tiny but pack a punch.

Of course, the weeds are growing faster than anything else in the garden, but that just makes them easier to pull. At least, I hope it does.

I finally braved the overnight low temps and decided to plant my bareroot plants. I’ve had them for nearly a week and they don’t like sitting out of the ground so I decided they had to get planted. So far, so good.

After a rough winter and a soggy spring, it’s good to be in the garden. Hope you get in your garden, too.