Browsing Archives for September 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Bridge

September 28th, 2008


Upon the passing of the great American actor, Paul Newman, I can’t help but think back to two great novels both written by Evan S. Connell, the first being Mrs. Bridge and the second being Mr. Bridge. In 1990, these two novels were knitted together to create a major motion picture starring Paul Newman as the ever reticent Mr. Bridge and his wife Joanne Woodward as the ever disappointed, yet guileless Mrs. Bridge.


I first encountered Mr and Mrs. Bridge while the Country Doctor and I were entrenched in the romantic poverty of medical school and babies. The movie was filmed in Kansas City, in the Mission Hills district, which is a neighborhood full of stately homes built in the early 1900s. Mission Hills was not far from KU Med nor the tiny bungalow we ourselves inhabited, so we often found ourselves loading up a baby or two, scraping a few coins together for a Coke and taking a drive through the tree lined streets trying to decide where George Brett lived and which house we would have for ourselves, if we ever had the chance.

By the time we moved to Kansas City, several years had passed since the movie was filmed, but the nine weeks that Newman and his wife Joanne spent in Kansas City was still much talked about and the movie maintained a prominent spot on the shelves in every movie rental house in town.


At some point, even though I was unfamiliar with the story, it’s relentless display and intriguing cover art, forced me to take it home and watch it. I spent two hours intrigued yet mystified by the story of the Bridge Family. I liked the movie, but didn’t really understand it. It wasn’t until I read the book, Mrs. Bridge many years later, that I came to more fully comprehend and appreciate the story. In fact, I became a devoted fan of the book and later forced it upon my book club, where I then proceeded to dominate the subsequent discussion and exclaim over all the details in the life of Mrs. Bridge to a room full of women who really didn’t think it the book was all that great.

Mrs. Bridge has that kind of effect on people, especially women. In fact, all the reviews I found on line today were written by men. I think Mrs Bridge scares the holy-ever-loving-crap out of a lot of women. I can understand this to a degree. Mrs. Bridge or India – is a woman whose entire life is wrapped up in her family and the tight, social mores of her upper middle class community. She can’t seem to find a way to define herself outside of her own home, family or social strata in any way. Yet, it is not Mrs. Bridge’s inability to step outside the safety of her very small world that is so provocative, but rather how the author, Evan S. Connell, makes this constricted, blase’ life so insanely interesting. It’s all that pent up emotion that lurks just beneath the surface of the two main characters that keeps one wondering when they are going to explode.

But of course…

they never do…

So this funny little fragile balloon-like world keeps right on spinning for them. It keeps right on spinning even as their three children adopt Bohemian lifestyles and marry unsavory characters. It keeps right on spinning as their neighborhood begins to crack open a tiny bit to non-wasp folks. And it keeps right on spinning as the rest of the world heaves with social unrest.

Even when the world does sort of inadvertently brush against one of them in the far more dramatic lives of their servants or their employees, to an extent that they have no choice but to respond, they are hardly up to the task. They simply cannot react… they simply cannot respond. For to respond is to admit something… it is to grasp something… it is to see something… that Mr and Mrs Bridge just don’t want to see. So they react by not reacting… they respond by not responding. And this emotionless existence is what makes their lives so strangely riveting.


Here is a picture of Mr and Mrs Bridge sitting closer together than they probably ever allowed themselves to do in real life. I put them on my porch, because I think they would have liked my porch. It is too warm and too breezy and the furniture is not very comfortable. This discomfort would have given them a chance to be stoically resigned and mildly disappointed. I don’t think they would have approved of my bright red and blue cushions, but neither of them would ever have dreamed of mentioning this… even when they were completely alone… just the two of them… on the long car ride home.

So if you are feeling a bit unkempt… a bit untidy… a bit frazzled and out of control… I would have to highly recommend a heavy dose of Mrs. Bridge followed by a Mr. Bridge chaser. They should neaten everything up for you..

…or make you run like a madman towards the nearest can of spray paint and cover your entire neighborhood in psychedelic colors… just because you can. 

The Statue of Liberty Play

September 26th, 2008

Ethan’s football team has been practicing a special play.
It is called the “Statue of Liberty” play.  

Strangely, I had not heard of the “Statue of Liberty” play and I asked my sons to demonstrate it for me.  
They agreed.

First Ethan explained to me that the ball he was holding was called a football.  
“You throw it mom, ” he explained.  ”And sometimes you kick it… down a field… a football field.”
My son knows me better than I give him credit for…

Ethan cradled the ball to his chest… just like I used to cradle him… when he was my tiny little smudgkin wudgkin cuddle wuddle puddin head.  

Then Ethan said, “Down!”  
And I immediately dropped to my knees.
Then Ethan rolled his eyes and said, “Not you mom…”
And I said, “Oh… sorry…”

“Set!”

“Hike!”

Then Ethan threw his arm up in the air.
See how Ethan is holding his arm up in the air???
That is the “Statue of Liberty” part.

He holds him arm there, because he is trying to fake the other team out.  
He is trying to convince the other team that he is a statue… the Statue of Liberty… and that they should probably not tackle the Statue of Liberty  or they might get hurt.

While the other team is totally faked out and so not tackling The Statue of Liberty… Drew runs behind Ethan and snatches the ball.  

Because Drew is on Ethan’s team and he has inside information that Ethan is not really the Statue of Liberty.  
So while the other team is all “how did the Statue of Liberty get on the field?…”

Drew scores a TD!

Here is a video of the same play.  
I would like to note that no politicians and no snakes were harmed in the making of this video. 

And also – no children were harmed by tackling a fake statue.  

Just covering all my bases here.  
 
And here is the game that made the play famous.

Books on a Hutch, A Giveaway

September 23rd, 2008

I have been having so much fun with these used book giveaways, that I have decided to just make it a regular part of my blog. What began as The Country Doctor’s Wife Summer Reading Program will now be more simply referred to as The Country Doctor’s Wife Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring Reading Program.

That way, it will be more catchy and much easier to remember. 

Since I spent yesterday painting my kitchen hutch – I decided to use it as a staging area for this book giveaway.

And that’s the last thing I am going to say about my hutch.

EXCEPT – you might as well take a gander at those three paint chips on the back of the hutch. That deep yellow is the color of my walls. The two blues are both recommended by Sherwin Williams as colors that coordinate with the color of the hutch. If one of them stands out as the perfect color for the interior of the cabinets let me know. 

I am giving three books away today. Three books in which a house plays a pivotal role. And while we are talking about these books,

Here is a close-up of those colors for the interior paint choices… 

Now onto the books.
I am not going to talk about my hutch anymore.

I am not going to even say the word hutch anymore.

It is starting to sound like a “bad word” to me.

My hutch, my hutch, my hutch… what am I really talking about here?

And why is it called a hutch anyway?

Oh dear! I just googled it and now I wish I hadn’t.

I am not going to be able to say hutch for a while now. I need to think of a new name for that cupboard I am painting. Let’s see – there’s sideboard… which kind of sounds like cyborg… There’s chiffarobe… and armoire… and buffet… and butler’s pantry… I always wanted a butler’s pantry, but I would settle for a butler… or an assistant.

That’s it! I will now refer to what used to be my…hu…my hu… my freshly painted cabinet as my assistant! My assistant Margot. I always thought the name Margot was so crisp and professional and efficient and brisk and a snappy dresser, low heels, neckerchief, bun, coordinating handbag, armed with a blackberry, understands her cell phone, reads directions, never eats candy, wait… NEVER EATS CANDY!!! I don’t know if I can get along with Margot or not.

Now let’s talk book shall we?

The first book I am giving away is House Dreams by Hugh Howard.

Please do not mistake Hugh Howard for Howard Hughes. They are vastly different people with entirely different aims. Howard Hughes was a fabulously wealthy guy who had a thing for airplanes. Hugh Howard is a writer who has a thing for old houses.

Hugh Howard has written several books on architectural preservation and I believe he is also the ghost writer for Bob Vila. The book I am giving away today is the story of Hugh building his own house.

It all starts when Hugh’s wife inherits a small sum and they decide to use it to buy a plot of land and to partially fund the construction of a new house. Their love for older houses leads them down the precipitous path to building a Georgian style home. Hugh designs it, frames it, and does as much of the work of building the house as his wife will let him get away with. He takes the project pretty seriously, but he is a good storyteller. If you like architecture, new houses, old houses, and a good story, you will like this book.

The second book I am giving away today is Two Part Invention by one of my very favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle. Madeleine wrote the classic children’s books “A Wrinkle in Time” ,”A Swiftly Tilting Planet”, and “A Wind at the Door”. I loved those books as a kid and read them many times, but as an adult, I stumbled across this book and it has become one that I must re-read every other year or so. 

The book is primarily set in a house called “Crosswicks” that Madeleine and her husband bought as a refuge from New York City. Madeliene’s husband Hugh was a well known actor on a popular soap opera, but the couple decided to take a break from the glitz and glamour of New York and they moved their young family to the country and to Crosswicks.

The book covers their marriage from it’s beginnings in an abrupt ceremony while they were both part of a touring theater company, through the births of their children, and into their later years of illness and loss. They were both fascinating people involved in theater, literature and the arts, as well as having a family and trying to make ends meet during times when Hugh was not working in theater and Madeleine was not selling any manuscripts.

Madeleine was a master at writing stories about families dealing with unusual circumstances. After reading about her own family life, you will come to understand how she gained that skill. 

My last book is one of my all time favorite, favorite, favorite books. It is House written by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder

In the book, House Tracy follows a spirited construction company called “Apple Corps” as they build a large, classic, two story home. The four men who form “Apple Corps” are highly skilled craftsmen and colorful characters.

Tracy weaves the story of the builders, the architect and the couple for whom the house is being built together as deftly as a master craftsmen himself. This true story is full of humor and humanity and you get to “see” a beautiful house rise from the ground and watch the various personalities in the book sail along with it.

I love this book. I am not even kidding when I say I have probably read it ten times. 

Oh… and this is my friend Liz making a Victoria Sponge in front of my hu… I mean my assistant Margot…

Before Margot went and got herself all tricked out in Cottage Cream.

This giveaway has come to an end.