Monday, February 06, 2017

Enterprising Strangers and Cherished Family

Mercy, but it's been a while. Still, my brother and his lovely wife came to visit last week, and that is definitely worth dusting off the keyboard for (Okay, that was a big fat lie. My keyboard gets more than enough use; it's just not been This use.). But first, and on the topic of "writerly" honesty, I have a funny story to share! Not hugely funny, but it certainly has provided me with some entertainment!

So. I have an account at Goodreads, where I  chat with online friends about books, read friends' reviews, keep track of what I'm reading, and post my thoughts about what I've read. It's fun, and there are some really nice people there. Anyone can read reviews attached to books listed there, and recently I got a surprising message from a total stranger (who initially identified herself only as "M") regarding a book I'd reviewed. I was so amused by the message -- the sheer gall of asking a stranger to contribute to your research project, and also the effort that this person was going to to avoid doing the research herself (I assume she wrote to many, many people who had reviewed books on her assigned topic) are kind of impressive, in their own way -- that I shared the message with online homeschooling friends on Facebook. A FB friend asked how I was going to respond, which I hadn't really planned to do. But ...

(Hopeful stranger)
Hi Melora
I saw that you have read the book "SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard". Please can you tell me the types of social activities that were carried out in Roman towns? Thank you

Dear M.,
I would be only too happy to help you with your project! It's been a little while since I read Mary Beard's S.P.Q.R., and, sadly, my memory is not what it once was, but I am flattered by your request and will try to be of use. As I recall, social activities in Roman towns were not much different from those you'd find in American towns. After all, if you think about it, they were residents of a republic at the time of Mary Beard's book, and so, thankfully, are we! History, they say, is forever repeating itself, so it only stands to reason that the social activities we enjoy will repeat too. Now, as to details, and please remember that my memory is inclined to be a tad fuzzy... I am sure that I remember reading that residents of the Roman republic were keen bridge players. Scrabble, Monopoly, and cribbage were also popular. Young Romans enjoyed croquet, baseball, and other sportsy activities, while adults likely recreated with bowling and golf. Social activities involving dancing and drink are perennial favorites, and, unless my memory fails me, tea dances and cotillions were favored by the more bourgeois, while the more daring sorts participated in raves and disco-type events. Social clubs were important, of course, and Kiwanis, the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes, and Junior Leagues were surely as prominent a part of the lives of Roman residents as they are for Americans today.
I hope this is useful to you and wish you the best of luck in your future scholarly endeavors!
Goodreads Member

P.S. While I'm sure your schedule is very busy, you may want to do a little research yourself to double-check this information.

(Hopeful Stranger)
Dear Melora, thank you for your response, it is helpful. Is there anything you know about social activities from any other books? What evidence is there that these activities took place - any archaeological evidence? Do you still have the book with you - it would be helpful if you could take photos of the pages that discuss the social activities. 

Thank you,
Em (Emma)
M (Goodreads user)

Dear M,
What an Enchanting idea! I am afraid, though, that we probably had better not hold our breaths while waiting for archaeologists to unearth evidence of bridge and croquet playing activities among the ancient Romans. As to my further research efforts on your behalf, I’m afraid that, regretfully, my schedule will not afford me the time. I wish you all the best, though, with your remarkably innovative research technique and hope you will enjoy the success you deserve.

Kind regards,

You'll note that I'm lying again here, as I could manage the time to unearth some more Roman facts for young "Em," but I feel that I've done enough. Probably more than enough. Unfortunately, I neglected to check on her location, and she appears to be a British slacker rather than an American slacker. So my justification for assuming that the Romans enjoyed baseball and all because we do will seem a bit less convincing. Maybe that's just as well.

And now on the the good stuff!!!
As is our "tradition," we went to Stone Mountain for a picnic. In the freezing cold. If you stood right beside the fire it was almost tolerable!

The lighting of the grill. A fraught occasion, but manly determination prevailed.

Here everyone is wishing I would scuttle back to the fireplace and leave them to freeze in peace. There was no dilly-dallying over the food, and clean up was impressively quick!

Phew! Back to the warm house! Where, rather than sit on comfortable chairs in the living room we hunkered around the kitchen table and peered at the side of my liqueur cabinet. My brother's cell phone has a nifty little projector attached to it, and he showed Star Wars 7 on it. Astonishing.

Happily (but not coincidentally), my mom's birthday fell during the visit!

I'm not sure that a seed cake (and one from a recipe I found on Allrecipes, not the lovely one she used to make, for which I don't have the recipe) was what my mom had in mind, but my dad says it was (probably still is, since they put things in the freezer and eat them very slowly) good. But anyway, I also made a batch of the raspberry truffle brownies that she liked many years ago, and turns out that she still likes them! So that was nice.

And we played lots and lots of Bananagrams. Our thoughtful guests brought us three new bags of tiles, so we played Big.

And I can't remember how he did it, but between my brother and my dad, they got my mom to laugh!

Kim, who is a joy in many regards, has the very fine quality of being a dog person, and Finny was So glad to have her to play with. I think she must have explained some things to him while they were out back, as he's been much better behaved (one dining room chair aside) since their visit!

And here's Mom supervising my work on a very sticky batch of herb rolls that Katie mixed up for me. Despite the stickiness they turned out just fine, and the batch she made since is perfect.

And the whole adorable crew, at the leave-taking. It was a very nice visit.

And now we're back to doing what we do around here! (The piles of paper and box are Katie's mess -- her life is such a wild social and educational whirl these days that she just can't keep up with being tidy too. Though she never was before either.)


Anonymous said...

How fun! What a pleasant update, although I'm not sure about the winter camping. Winter and I are best friends when I'm indoors. Lovely to see a smile on your mom's face, I'm sure :)

I'm wondering if you could please elaborate on the social activities of those pesky Romans, beyond copying Greek works of arts and generally conscripting everyone in sight? Oh, and the baths? If you could tell me more about how they made the baths, that would be super-helpful, with references please.

Queen Guinevere said...

I love reading your updates! Jenni

Melora said...

Thanks, Carol! I prefer to admire the beauties of winter from indoors too.

I really was astonished by young Em's request! I expect a proper bibliography and MLA formatting would have been next. I've never Heard of anyone doing that before, but I wonder if it is a new "research" technique? I have a hard time imagining it yielding worthwhile results.

Melora said...

Thanks, Jenni!