When Son Adam and Grandson Elliot visited St. Louis, it was convenient for us to see the Missouri Botanical Garden Glow because Brother Mark and his wife, Robin, live on Flora Place, right at the edge of the park. It was only about a two-block walk to get to the entrance of the Glow, which promised a million lights.
There were “picture frames” dotted about where you could stand in line to make “art.” There was a brisk wind blowing on our way to the display, but it died down to a chilly, but not horrible evening.
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Like a pig in a python
I didn’t shoot a lot of photos. The lighting was spectacular, but the crowds were so heavy that I felt like a pig in a python, being inexorably pushed forward.
Another challenge was that the lighting was constantly changing colors. You’d get ready to capture one effect, then, just as you were getting ready to press the shutter release, everything would change. That was great for watching, but hard to photograph.
At that point, you could either hope the right combination would cycle back through, or you’d start walking.
Gallery of lighting exhibits
Click on any of the gallery images to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the picture to move through the gallery.
Kid Adam took his oldest son, Graham, on a business trip to Washington, D.C., recently. He thought he owed middle son Elliot a trip, so they hopped on a jet for a weekend in St. Louis. Graham, is 7; Elliot is 5, and Kid 3, Finn, is 3.
Being a born and bred Florida boy, he wasn’t quite sure if he liked cold Missouri weather. (You can click on the photos to make them larger. Once clicked, you can use your arrow keys to step through them)
First stop: City Museum
I don’t have many photos from the City Museum because Elliot could go through places the fire department would have to cut me out of. Even his skinny dad contorted his body into shapes I didn’t think possible.
There’s a saying that there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots. I was perfectly content to let Elliot be bold while I played old.
When we got to the gift shop, I told him to pick something out. He found a stack of shiny stones that WERE quite attractive. When he went to check out, the cashier said, “Four dollars.” She must have seen my face, because she quickly said that the four bucks would buy a tiny pouch that he could fill with as many stones as would fit.
He managed to cram four stones in it, and he played with it the whole time he was in town. Money well spent. His Uncle Mark (actually, I guess he’s his GREAT-uncle) kept scheming to try to entice the rocks from him for some sundry good or service, but he resisted.
Earlier visits to City Museum
The rooftop was closed for the winter when Adam and Elliot were there, but I DID manage to convince Curator Jessica to ride the Ferris wheel in 2014. (Despite hearing her mutter, “You’re standing on a banana peel on the steps to eternity, but I’ve got a lot of life left, and I don’t intend to die on a Ferris wheel in St. Louis.”)
Elliot was afraid his tongue would stick to the stainless steel arch since it was a cold day, so I told him that he only had to stick it out for the photo.
I’ve had various results convincing first-timers that it’s customary to lick the arch. See the results.
The scale of the Arch was lost on a 5-year-old who was getting cold and tired.
He thought the tram ride to the top was kind of interesting, but it didn’t take long before he said, “I’m bored.”
Pulitzer Arts Museum
Our first stop the second day was the Pulitzer Arts Museum. He and I weren’t all that impressed by the “art” that was displayed inside.
We liked “Joe” a lot better. Here’s the official description of it. It reminds me of why I often wish I was wearing high boots in art museums.
Commissioned by Emily Rauh Pulitzer as a permanent feature of the courtyard, Richard Serra’s Joe articulates a space that reframes perceptions of scale and movement through its subtle, shifting contours. As a counterpoint to Tadao Ando’s angular forms and immutable concrete, Joe conveys an evolving sense of the organic; the walls of the sculpture’s spiral path expand and contract, conveying you to its center—a vast expanse of sky, framed by a ribbon of weathering steel. Named in homage to the late Joseph Pulitzer Jr., who commissioned the artist’s first site-specific sculpture in 1970, Richard Serra’s Joe stands as a testament to the forces of life that influence and shape us.
At the top of the stairs in the museum was a phonographic turntable with some vinyl records. Elliot, a child of the digital age, was fascinated. He suggested that we chill and listen to some music.
Before long, he and his dad were dancing.
National Memorial Family Church of God in Christ
While we were driving around looking for a place to eat, we ran across the ruins of the National Memorial Family Church of God in Christ. The remaining walls of the church had been reinforced, so it was safe to walk in.
Elliot found a small piece of stone inside, and wanted to take it with him to remember the visit. I felt a strong generational bond. I have bricks from Athens, Cape, my grandfather’s liquor store in Advance, and a “convict brick” made by Ohio prisoners and used to build a school. We weren’t sure the TSA would be happy with it in his carry-on, so I mailed it to him later.
St. Louis Science Center
Uncle Mark, who lives in St. Louis, knows all the tricks, so we saved $10 by parking for free at the McDonnell Planetarium, which is connected to the Oakland Building by a walkable Skybridge over Interstate 64/Highway 40. The skybridge is neat because it has holes where you can look down on the traffic below. It also has radar guns and speed displays. In the days when radar detectors were more common in cars, it was fun to watch drivers lock down when their warnings lit up.
He got to check out dinosaurs and see how he’d fit in one of their footprints.
He got to feel wild winds, build a an arch out of foam blocks, and learn all about electricity.
One of the coolest things was a board where you placed elements to show the flow of electricity from the power plant to the substations to transformers to neighborhoods of houses.
He was playing with the blocks when a boy of 8 or 10 walked up and patiently explained the whole concept to him. They played for quite a while, learning how eliminating one house wouldn’t make the rest go dark, but losing a substation or a transformer could.
After the old boy wandered off, Elliot stuck around trying different sets of blocks. A little girl about his age showed up, and Elliot took on the role of tutor, passing on what the older boy had told him. Girls, apparently aren’t much interested in electricity, so she didn’t hang around long.
Finally, it was time to rehydrate and head back to Uncle Mark’s house for another treat.
Lime-S Electric Scooter
It seemed like bright lime-green electric scooters were buzzing around all over town. Mark explained how they were rented, and Adam located an unused one about two blocks away.
You can learn how the concept works by going to the Lime website.
He scored it by putting some money in a smartphone app, then he and Elliot went cruising up and down Flora Place. Mark loaned him a helmet and tried to charge his nephew four rocks for it, but the transaction didn’t happen.
I only have the one shot showing him rating the ride two-thumbs-up because I concentrated on video.
Next up will be night shots of the Missouri Botanical Gardens Glow Garden.
I figured I’d better get this posted before another Christmas rolls around. (It was supposed to go up before 2016 went to sleep, but the software didn’t want to upload the pix). I normally take two to 2-1/2 days to make it from Cape to West Palm Beach, a distance of 1,110 miles, no matter which route I take. I had the traffic day from hell going through Chattanooga and Nashville. I spent almost all day making less than 200 miles. Even Atlanta, caught at rush hour in the dashcam photo above, only took an hour to clear.
That put me at Son Matt’s house just in time to chow down on Christmas Eve with Sarah, Malcolm and Wife Lila. I was too tired and too busy eating to take pictures of the festivities there.
Christmas at Kid II
Christmas Day found us out at Son Adam and Carly’s watching Grandsons Graham, Elliot and Finn playing with Santa’s leavings. Wife Lila had made each of the boys a unique Christmas ornament out of palm fronds from the yard, and she wanted to get a shot of the three of them holding them.
Since she had that angle covered, I shot what it was like to herd mischievous cats.
Boys can make blasters
This goes to prove that boys can make blasters out of anything, not exactly the Christmas spirit image Gran had in mind.
True confession time
I make a tiny percentage when you shop on Amazon after pressing the Big Red Button at the top of the page. I try to shop locally, but I find myself hitting the Red Button on a regular basis. Since I rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions, I feel it only fair to review stuff I’ve bought.
Have you ever read a review where somebody confesses that they received the item for free or at a discount? Well, I must have written enough reviews that vendors are starting to send me discount and free offers to review their stuff. One of the items was a set of Maggift 30 Pcs Magnetic building blocks.
That sounded like a great stocking stuffer, particularly for free. The older boys were too into their battery-powered toys to be excited by this, and Finn was initially more interested in destroying things his mother made with the blocks than making things himself.
Hey, these things go together
It didn’t take him long to discover the magnets made it easy to stack the pieces together by shape. The box says ages 3+ but Finn, who is half that, found them fascinating. They look too big to be a choking hazard, and the magnets are affixed well enough that I don’t think they would break off.
A quiet moment
Any toy that will keep an active toddler occupied and quiet is a good toy. I’ll end up filing a 4 out of 5 star rating for it. A four because the product arrived on time and was as described. Something has to really knock my socks off to get five stars, something I point out to vendors before I agree to review it.
Bear with me while I get around to my real topic. When I started kindergarten, we stopped moving from job site to job site in a small trailer and settled down in a rental house at 2531 Bloomfield Road. I could look out my bedroom window to watch the traffic on Hwy 61 in the distance.
One morning around 2 o’clock, when I was six or seven years old, I woke my parents with a strange pronouncement: “I just realized that I will never see those cars and trucks again.” What I meant was that the world was fluid, and the folks who were flying down the highway would never appear in that configuration ever again. I can clearly remember saying that, but I’ve managed to suppress their reactions.
That’s the moment when I think I became a photographer, even though it was half a dozen or more years before I would actually pick up a camera.
You see, while other kids were dreaming of time machines that would let them go forwards or backwards in time, what I really wanted was something that would freeze time and never let it get away.
The “see you later” picture
I’m not exactly sure when I started taking a photo every time I left Cape. Maybe it was when I realized that Mother and I lived 1,110 miles apart, and she was getting to the age where every goodbye might be the last one. Maybe that’s why always said, “See you later,” rather than “Goodbye.”
Most of those photos were taken in the living room, or outside in front of the living room window, or at Kentucky Lake. Most recently, I started posing Mother with family, friends and road warriorettes under the flag at the side of the house. The light was good there, and the colors vibrant.
Even though we were usually smiling, the ritual had its bittersweet moments. I learned early on that once I had climbed in the car, I had to pull out of the driveway, give two toots on the horn and disappear. If I needed to fiddle with anything in the car, I did it out of sight of the house. Those smiles were fragile.
I was afraid this might be the last picture
Mother had 92 good years, but she started slowing down in the fall of 2014. She was using the clothes dryer instead of the clothesline; she would still hop in the car to ramble, but she usually wouldn’t get out. By the spring of 2015, she had gotten to the point she couldn’t walk by herself and she would fold up in a C-shape and roll out of the chair if you weren’t watching her.
I had to go to Ohio to set up a major photo exhibit, so Brothers David and Mark came to Cape to spell me.
There was no way she would make it outside for the traditional flag photo, so I brought the flag inside. I spent about 10 days in Ohio waiting for The Phone Call, but it didn’t come. Mark, David and Mother came to the conclusion that she needed more help than we could give her, so she agreed to go into the Lutheran Home to build up her strength so she could come home, even if she needed assistance.
Couldn’t make it to the wedding
After a few low spells, she seemed to rally. She decided that she didn’t have the energy to make it all the way out to Tulsa for Granddaughter Amy’s wedding on June 20 – “I have to save my strength to be able to go home” – but she WAS able to speak with the new bride and groom via Facetime right after the ceremony.
One good thing about having the wedding was that my two sons and their families stopped by Cape on the way to Tulsa and had good visits. She perked up and told them stories that even I hadn’t heard. In the four-generation picture above, she has the dress she had worn to two weddings, had planned to wear in Tulsa, and had asked to be buried in.
I didn’t take a last picture
I checked in with Mother, did some prep work for the coming Dutchtown flood, and blasted out of town on Saturday June 20 to make it to the Tulsa wedding. Mother was in good spirits and seemed satisfied that I’d be back in a day or two. For the first time in probably a decade, I didn’t take that waving goodbye photo.
I had car trouble, so I called Mother Sunday night to tell her I’d be a day late getting back to Cape. Her voice was strong, and she didn’t seem concerned.
Monday morning, at 7:10, I got The Call from the nursing home that Mother was found dead when they went in to get her for breakfast.
As close as I can figure out, this is one of the last, if not THE last picture I had of Mother. She’s holding her new great-grandson Finn, and they are both enjoying it. THAT’S the image I want to hold onto.
Mark sent me a letter “not to be opened until June 23.” He closed it this way:
As I find myself at the bottom of this page, I couldn’t decide which to end it with, so you get both. Put it into context if you will. (Enclosed was a photo Mother sitting in his kitchen.)
“My memory loves you. It asks about you all the time.”
“Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks.”
Stories about Mother
I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford a Missourian obit that told all of the stories I had collected about this remarkable woman, so I complied them into one big blog post, followed by an account of her funeral.