Friday, May 31, 2013

Kindness from a College Friend

Today’s act-of-kindness story takes place in September 1954 when I began college at Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas. Just three months before, I’d graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Independence, Missouri, a small town with a population of about 30,000 at the time. St. Mary’s was also small. Its entire enrollment was only about 140 students, of which 30 or so of us were seniors.

My senior picture, sans eyeglasses. The photographer “prettied” me up!

         Mom drove me up to the Mount in early September where I encountered a freshman class of about 140 students—as many as the entire student body at St. Mary’s High School. Many of these young women had come from small towns as had I; but many others were from Chicago and eastern states like New Jersey and New York.
         It seemed to me then that I was a true hick among sophisticates. And so I became tongue tied. To make matters even worse, I’d lost a tooth filling on the trip up to the Mount. I was going to college on a scholarship and Mom didn’t have the money to give me to go to a dentist in Atchison so I had to find a way to keep the cavity secret.
         Every time I smiled at some one in the dorm or the halls of the administration building, I kept the right side of my mouth stiff so as to cover what seemed to me to be a gaping hole in my lower right-hand canine tooth.
         In my mind, I thought that everyone must see me as that strange, cavity-ridden, acne-faced kid from the town where President Truman lived. I was miserable and after two weeks of awkward smiling and talking, of hearing stories about plays on Broadway, and about air travel, I knew that I didn’t belong in college. I was just a country bumpkin.

Mount Saint Scholastica College Administration Building—1954

         One of the freshman—Marge Tansley from Chicago—befriended me during those two weeks. Somehow she found something to like in me despite the dark hole in my tooth. As Marge and I sat in the rec room on the first floor of the ad building, I dolefully confided my decision to quit college and return home. I moaned about my gaucheness, my ineptitude, my ignorance, my lack of social graces, and on and on and on.
         Marge took me in hand. Instead of calling me “Dolores,” the name by which I’d always been known, she welcomed me into the kingdom of nicknames. Surely that meant she liked me!
         “Dee,” Marge said, “you belong here just as much as any of us do. Give us a chance. We’re already friends. You’ll make lots more. Come on! Stay! Stop thinking of yourself all the time.”
         I protested. She insisted. I moaned some more. She shook me by the shoulders. I finally relented. “Okay. I’ll stay four more weeks. Just four.”
         She hugged me. And that, my friends, changed my life. I stayed at the Mount, made many friends among the student body, got an excellent education, became involved in student government, and on April 10, 1957, in my junior year, I realized that I wanted to enter the Mount convent after I graduated the next year.
         For me two roads diverged: stay or leave. I stayed and that “has made all the difference” as the poet Robert Frost would say.
         That difference came about because of Marge Tansley, who entered the convent after our freshmen college year. We met again at the sesquicentennial celebrate this past weekend. She is yet another blessing in my life. As are all of you. Peace.

Here I am as a freshman in St. Lucy’s dorm
 after Marge encouraged me to stop thinking of myself
 and to start concentrating on my classmates.

PS:  Tomorrow, I’ll post one more story about the kindness others have extended to me. But before I do that I’d like to explain what prompted these postings. They are part of the Wayman Publishing blog fest, which ends today—Friday, May 31.
            Wayman is offering ten e-books as free downloads to you. Other books are offered at a greatly reduced press. Both of Dulcy’s e-books—A Cat’s Life and A Cat’s Legacy—are available. The first for 99 cents and the second for free.
         Almost seventy other bloggers are participating in this celebration of random acts of kindness. If you’d like to read other stories of how we gently touch one another’s lives, please click here to find information on the other bloggers and their postings as well as the names of the ten free downloads.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Kindness of the Mount Community: Part 1

(Continuation of postings on random acts of kindness . . . )
Nearly forty-seven years ago I left Mount Saint Scholastica Convent in Atchison, Kansas, after living there for eight and one-half years: as a postulant for six months; as a novice for a year; as a scholastic, having taken first vows, for three years; and as a professed nun, having made final vows, for four years.
            Many changes took place in the Roman Catholic Church after the ending of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. One of those changes was that many nuns left the convent. I myself walked away from that life of prayer and work on Christmas Eve in 1966.

Part of a stained-glass window in the choir chapel. It portrays Saint Scholastica.

            Because only a handful of nuns had left by then, the convent had no procedure for wishing a woman well on her journey. All of us there were still wearing the habit and the convent provided no “lay” clothing or any money with which to get started in that new life.
         Of course, we had brought nothing to the convent, such as a dowry, so the convent had no obligation to give an allowance or stipend to anyone who left. In fact, I didn’t expect anything because I was the one leaving the convent; it wasn’t leaving me.
         My mom and dad drove up on December 24 with clothes my pregnant sister-in-law loaned me. For the next four weeks, I stayed at home with Mom and Dad until starting to work for a publishing company in Dayton, Ohio. The company flew me to Dayton and gave me an advance on my salary so that I could rent a room at the Loretta Home for Working Women and pay for my meals.
         Within six months of my leaving, the Atchison nuns had voted to change from their habit to “regular” clothes and to provide a basic wardrobe and a stipend to anyone who left. This was in keeping with the Benedictine tradition of responding compassionately to the needs of others. And it speaks to the generosity of the women there—a generosity that continues to this day and that was in great evidence this past weekend.

The statue of Saint Benedict at the Mount, with the choir chapel in the background.

         The Mount monastery—this designation is more in keeping with the Benedictine Rule than the word convent—is celebrating its sesquicentennial throughout 2013. As part of that celebration the Mount invited all its ex-nuns to return to be part, once again, of a community that helped form each of us into the women we are today.
         Sister Mary Grace—who is truly full of grace—headed the committee that researched which ex-nuns were still alive. She sent out 135 invitations and 45 of us accepted. Of those 45, however, only 43 arrived at the Mount on Saturday, May 25, because two had fallen ill. (In fact, one of them died this past Monday.)
         A friend from convent days—Paullene Caraher, whom you met in my Tuesday posting—now lives in Arizona. She arrived at my home on Thursday evening and we began our visit.
         Neither of us had married, so we had no pictures of children and grandchildren to share. But our friendship, which began in the fall of 1962 when we taught together, rested on a solid foundation, so there was no awkwardness despite the fact that we hadn’t seen one another since about 1985 when she visited me in Minnesota.
         We spent Friday talking a mile a minute about our former lives as nuns, what we’d done since leaving the convent, and our plans for the future. When we drove up to the Mount on Saturday morning for a day and a half of visiting with the nuns still there and the ex-nuns who’d returned, we continued to talk and laugh and talk some more about all that had happened in the past fifty years.
         Most of us had been Benedictine nuns in 1963 when the Mount celebrated its centennial. Between that time and today, so much has changed in the monastery. And it is those changes, as well as the hospitality of the nuns still there and their kindness toward each of us who returned, that I want to share with you next Wednesday when I return to my regular posting routine.  
         So my random-act-of-kindness story today is simply the graciousness of a group of nuns living in Atchison, Kansas. They reached out to those who had once prayed and worked with them and said, “You have been and will always be part of our community. Peace.”

Both photographs are from the Mount website and are shared here with the consent of the prioress.

PS: I’ll continue my five random-acts-of kindness stories on Friday and Saturday. You’ll meet Marge Tansley, who was at the Mount this past weekend, and Sister Madonna. Next Wednesday, I hope to conclude today’s posting on the sesquicentennial and the Mount. Click here to go to the monastery’s website for photographs and explanations of its prayer and work and the living of the Rule of Saint Benedict.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Change in Plans

(Continuation from Tuesday of postings on random acts of kindness . . . )

Hello All, 
Today I had planned to write about the kindness and hospitality of the nuns at Mount Saint Scholastica Monastery in Atchison, Kansas, during my recent stay there for the sesquicentennial.
            However, that will have to wait until tomorrow because one of those Meniere’s headaches had settled in my brain and I need to lie low today. A friend was in a pickle this morning and I was glad to be able to listen and help her clarify her thoughts, but now I need to simply rest.

Matthew, one of the three cats with whom I live, lying on our bed.

            So tomorrow’s posting will be about the nuns at the Mount; Friday’s will be on Marge Tansley, whose kindness changed my life during our freshmen year of college; and Saturday’s will be about Sister Madonna and her graciousness toward me when I left the convent. Then no more posting until next Wednesday when I’ll return to my regular routine.
            Also, I haven’t responded yet to any of the comments that some of you wrote for Tuesday’s posting. I’ll get that done when the headache decides to lift itself and fade away.
                                                ( . . . to be continued tomorrow—Thursday.)

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013

    A Friend Recognizes My Desperation

    (Continuation from Monday of a random and unexpected act of kindness . . . )

    Yesterday I shared the story of the European trip two friends and I took in 1976. That posting emphasized the kindness of Evelyn, a friend I met when teaching in Dayton, Ohio. Accompanying us on that trip was Paullene Caraher. She and I had been in the convent together.

    Paullene, on the right, and Evelyn in Amsterdam.

             In 1963, Paullene and I taught together in Kansas City, Kansas, and became good friends. By 1968, both of us had left the convent, but remained friends. Thus it was that she visited me during Thanksgiving vacation in Claremont, New Hampshire, where I was teaching 268 juniors during the 1972-73 school year.
             The year was being difficult. In 2011, I posted three stories about how the Claremont students and I clashed for the first three months. If you’d like to read those stories, click here. And here. And here.
             While Paullene and I prepared Thanksgiving dinner, the russet potatoes unexpectedly boiled over. The ring of fire beneath the stainless steel pan flared high, fingering a dishtowel I’d foolish left on the range. The flaming cloth reached upward toward the framed picture on the wall.

             Even as Paullene began calmly to search for baking soda to smother the flames, I panicked. “We’ll burn the building down!” I shouted.
             Grabbing another towel, I swiped the flames. The second towel caught fire in my hand. Dropping it on the floor, I stomped the flames. Then I ran to the window, threw it open, and tossed the tattered cloth outside.
             Frantically racing back and forth, I bumped into the kitchen table, the counter, the windowsill. Now the smell of gas filled the kitchen. “It’s gas,” I shouted at Paullene. “We’ll die!”
             All the while she quietly and efficiently smothered the flame, turned off the gas, and cleaned the dark smudges from the stovetop.
             Halting my frantic activity, I watched her. My breath slowed; the panic subsided. Silently, I slide down the wall to the floor and began to sob.
             It was then that Paullene said, “Dee, what’s wrong?”
             I just shook my head. I didn’t know. The students seemed to despise me. The teachers seldom spoke to me. Life had become unbearable.
             “Dee,” Paullene continued, “you haven’t smiled once since I came. You haven’t laughed.”
             I continued crying.
             “That’s not like you,” Pauline said as she sat down on the floor next to me. “Not like you at all. You’ve always been able—even in the convent—to see humor in everything. What’s happened?”
             Haltingly, I told her about coming to Claremont. About how confused I was. Lonely. Muddled.
             Paullene wrapped her arms round me and rocked me back and forth, crooning, “It’s going to be alright. We’ll get help for you. We’ll find you a psychiatrist to talk to.”
             Biting my lower lip I moaned, “I don’t know how to get a psychiatrist. I just don’t know.” I felt helpless. Totally unprepared for survival.
             “We’ll find help tomorrow,” Paullene assured me. “Now let’s mash those potatoes and have supper.”
             That night I slept as if dead. When I woke, Paullene had news for me. She’d called Dartmouth College. “I made an appointment for you with a woman psychiatrist there,” she said. “She’ll see you on Monday at 4:00.”

    The Latin motto for Dartmouth translates to
    “a voice crying out of the wilderness.”

             I stared at her, amazed. She made it all seem so easy. School would be out at 3:30 and I could drive to Hanover in a half hour. It was all so uncomplicated. She’d unmuddled my muddle.
             “You’re going to be alright, Dee,” Paullene said. “You’ll smile again.”
             I must have looked doubtful for she said, “Trust me. You will.”
             And I did.
             And even now my heart smiles in remembrance of her kindness when I wandered in the desert of my own despair. When she arrived in Claremont I was lost. With her great good sense and her own steadfastness she rescued me. Such is the strength of a caring friend.                                               
                                          ( . . . to be continued on Wednesday
                                                          with a Random Act of Kindness
                                                                      at Mount Saint Scholastica Monastery.)

    Monday, May 27, 2013

    A Friend's Kindness in Paris

    All this week I’ll be posting stories about acts of kindness that have been unexpected and life-enhancing gifts to me during my lifetime. Between now and Friday, you’ll meet Evelyn Sweeney, Paullene Caraher, the nuns of Mount Saint Scholastica, Marge Tansley, and Sister Madonna. Their unexpected acts of kindness enriched my life and in one instance actually changed it.
             I’m offering these stories to you as part of the Wayman Publishing blogfest that continues from today through Friday. Wayman is offering a number of its book as free gifts to you. Other books are offered at a greatly reduced press. Both of Dulcy’s e-books—A Cat’s Life and A Cat’s Legacy—are available.
             Almost seventy other bloggers are participating in this celebration of random acts of kindness. If you’d like to read other stories of how we gently touch one another’s lives, please click here to find information on the other bloggers and their postings.
             I’ll begin my group of kindness stories with Evelyn Sweeney. I met her in 1967, a few months after leaving the convent. We became good friends, despite my initial wariness around her. In a 2012 posting I explained my prejudice and used a pseudonym for Evelyn. She is the “Jeanne” in my story about the Vietnam War protest.
             That story took place in Dayton, Ohio, in 1967. Today’s story takes place in Edinburgh and Paris in 1976.
             In that year, Evelyn and myself, along with Paullene, whom you’ll meet again tomorrow, flew to Amsterdam and visited Holland, England, Scotland, and Paris.

     Evelyn to the left as the two of us stand by an Amsterdam canal.

                 Toward the end of our four-week trip, I raced toward an Edinburgh bus, stumbled, and twisted my right ankle, banging it against the cobblestones. Hurrying to catch the London-bound train, I simply ignored the pain.
             By the time we’d traveled to London, boarded the train to Dover, crossed the channel on the night ferry, and traveled from Dunkirk to Paris, my ankle looked like a baby elephant’s front right leg. As the skin reddened, pain throbbed mercilessly.         
             From the first days of our arrival in Europe, Paullene and Evelyn had talked about visiting Versailles. For them, the palace was to be the highlight of our adventure. That first morning in Paris, I’d already relinquished my highlight—seeing the statue of the Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre museum.

    The second-century BCE marble sculpture
    of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory).

             As I opened my mouth to wish my two friends a wonderful day, I heard Evelyn speak these words: “Paullene, I’m staying with Dee. I’ve got to get her something for pain. You visit Versailles for the two of us.”
             Her words—So solicitous. So selfless. So generous.—brought tears to my eyes. I wept for the sheer unexpectedness of such kindness.
             Evelyn and Paullene left together, one to board the bus for Versailles and the other to find a pharmacy. Soon Evelyn returned with an Ace bandage and pain pills. She knelt, rubbing lotion on my swollen ankle. As she gently wound the bandage round my foot and leg, I saw clearly the woman washing Yeshua’s feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair, anointing them with the finest perfume.
             Evelyn never got to visit Versailles. Yet she cheerfully found a cane for me and helped me totter the few blocks to the Louvre. There, I gazed at the Winged Victory. My heart soared with wonder at its beauty. But even that wonder was as ash next to the everlasting flame of kindness that dwelt within Evelyn’s being. She was—she is—a blessing in my life.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2013

    Sesquicentennial of Mount Saint Scholastic Convent

    Mostly on this blog I post stories from the past, but today’s is a right-here, right-now event. That is, I want to share with you my excitement over the invitation I’ve received from the Benedictine nuns at Mount Saint Scholastica Convent to gather with them this coming weekend to celebrate the convent’s sesquicentennial. All of us who lived as nuns at the Mount have been invited.
             For nearly 1,500 years, Benedictines around the world have been chanting the Divine Office and keeping alive the light of learning.  In recent years, the Benedictines in the United States have been committed to social justice.
             The Benedictine sojourn in the United States began in1852 when three Bavarian nuns braved the tempestuous storms of the North Atlantic; made port; settled at St. Mary's, Pennsylvania; and established a school for young children.
             Five years later, a group of those intrepid pioneers traveled by steamboat up the Mississippi to establish a convent in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Six years passed while they set down roots.
             Then, in 1863, the abbot of St. Benedict’s monastery, situated on the Kansas side of the Missouri River, invited the Minnesotan Benedictines to send a group of nuns to the frontier town of Atchison to teach the children there. 
              Seven Minnesota nuns traveled by train down to Missouri, crossed the river, established a convent, and began to teach children from both the neighboring farms and the burgeoning town. Sixty years later, in 1923, they opened a college for women. 
               It was that college from which I graduated in May 1958, and it was that Atchison convent I entered a month later. There, I praised the God who I believed had beckoned me to the life of a nun. Back, back, back, I could trace the path that had led to that chapel in which I prayed.
             Seventeen other young women entered the convent with me. Many of them were recent high schools graduates. Others, like myself, came from the Mount college. Still others, working forty-hour weeks at a variety of jobs, had discovered a calling to religious life and answered it that long-ago summer.
             For six months, we eighteen studied the religious life as postulants. On January 1, 1959, we received the habit—with a white instead of a black veil—and became novices.

    The eighteen of us became novices on January 1, 1959.
    I’m the third seated nun from the left.
                We spent a year studying the vows we hoped to make. The following January we embraced the five Benedictine vows—poverty, chastity, obedience, conversion of morals, and stability. We made these vows for three years. I immediately went out to teach while many of my classmates attended college to get their degrees.
             By the end of that time—January 1, 1963—only fifteen of us were left to make final vows. I was among that group. Since that time, three of us that I know of have died: Rose, Norma Jean, and Annette. Three—Marian, Roseanne, and Ann—are still nuns. They live and work at the Colorado convent established by the Mount back in the 1960s.
             Out of the eighteen of us who gathered in the Mount parlor on June 26, 1958, twelve are ex-nuns who live throughout the United States. Thirteen years ago, at another celebration, five of us returned to the Mount. So I’m eager to discover if the same five will be there this coming weekend plus the others who couldn’t make it to Atchison in 2000 for the millennium celebration.
             Unfortunately, I’ve lost touch with most of these women and yet we share truly formative years. I’m eager to see photographs of their families, children, grandchildren. Perhaps we’ll share our life stories: the paths we’ve followed in the years since we left the convent—at various times over a period of about ten years. This weekend offers an opportunity to come full circle with them. I am so looking forward to meeting them again. Peace.

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Snakes in the Outhouse

    Today’s story for my on-line memoir is one that amuses me. It shows just how trusting and naïve I was at age seven. Adults and children also were always pulling practical jokes on me because I could be duped so easily. This particular story is about an outhouse joke.
             When Grandpa Ready died in March 1943, he had completed much of the work on the retirement home he planned for himself and Grandma Ready. She offered the house, which still needed plastering, painting, window framing, flooring, electrical work, to my family for $25 a month rental.
             For the next two months, while I finished first grade at Courtney School, Dad worked in the evenings on the house. He plastered and painted the walls and completed the flooring in every room but the kitchen.
             Dad lived there until his death in 1975. I lived there until 1954, when I went away to college at Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas. I came home only for the summers, and then left for good in 1958 when I entered the Benedictine convent in Atchison.
             Dad never completed the house. No painting of the shingled one-story house, no window framing on the inside, no finished flooring in the kitchen. And no indoor plumbing until after I was in the convent and the city brought water out into the countryside. Every few months, a truck arrived at our home, carrying a supply of water to fill our well.
             Without running water, of course, we had no indoor bathroom and so used a slop bucket, which my brother emptied each morning through the hole in the outhouse seat. It’s that outhouse that Grandma Ready picked as a subject for teasing.

             “Dolores,” she said. “Be careful when you use the outhouse.”
             “Why, Grandma?”
             “Snakes live in the muck. They wait until they see a person’s bottom on that seat. Then they jump up and bite you!”
             I shivered at the thought.
             “They’re poisonous.”
             “You mean they can kill me?”
             She walked to the outhouse with me, opened the door, and pointed to the hole. “They’re hiding down there. Waiting to leap up and bite your butt. They’ll kill you lickety-split and you’ll fall into the muck.”

             From that day forward, I never sat on the hole. I’d put my hands on each side of me to support myself as I held my bottom up above the hole. I figured that if I were three inches above the hole, the snakes couldn’t reach me. They were able, I thought, to jump just to the edge of the hole. That far; no farther.
             Three inches assured no poison. But I was doomed if I sat on the hole.
             Until I was nearly eleven, I continued to do this. The story always rang true to me. Then one day Mom opened the outhouse door, not knowing I was inside. She apologized and then, noticing my position, said, “Dolores, what are you doing? Why are you holding yourself like that? Why aren’t you sitting on the seat?”
             I explained about what Grandma had told me. “Mom, it’s not safe to sit,” I said. “I hope you don’t sit. You’ve got to be three inches higher. The snakes can’t jump that far.”
             “On, Dolores,” Mom moaned. “Your grandma was just joshing with you.”
             “She meant it, Mom.”
             “Believe me. If there ever were any snakes inside there, they’re long since dead.”
             From then on, I sat on the outhouse seat. Much more comfortable, believe me. And Grandma? She said, “Really fooled you, didn’t I?”

    Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    Making Heaven Interesting

    For me, fear and desperate planning filled the first three months of Grade 5. I had to somehow avoid Mr. Jackson’s groping hand when he drove me and his sons and daughter and my little brother to and from school. Grade 6, however, went well. No trauma that I can remember except for Dad’s drinking and the loud arguments between him and Mom. I kept hiding the hammer, axe, and knives for fear that during one of those drunken arguments he’d try to kill her again.
             In fact, I remember the fall months of 1947 with enjoyment for it was then that I first studied ancient history. One November day, while reading about the Grecian city-state of Thebes, I had a déjà vu moment and roamed the streets leading up to its ancient citadel. The present merged with the past and I became Theban. That experience led me to visit Greece in 1993 and work on a Bronze-Age-Greece novel.  
        Remains of Cadmea, the central fortress of ancient Thebes.

             The other vivid memory I have of Grade 6 concerns heaven. Over and over in religion class Sister Mary McCauley talked about the afterlife.    

          Dante and Beatrice gaze at the highest heavens.

             “What will we do in heaven,” I asked one day.
             “Why, Dolores, you’ll praise God for all His glory and beauty and goodness. You’ll sing, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and Earth are filled with your glory!”
             “That’s it?”
             “Yes. Isn’t it glorious?”
             Clearly, she thought so.
             I didn’t.
             The truth was that hell, despite its flames, sounded much more interesting. No mealy-mouthed humans there.

    Medieval illustration of Hell 
    in the Hortus deliciarum manuscript
    of Herrad of Landsberg—about 1180.

             So I thought. And thought. And thought some more about how to make heaven appealing. After alighting from the school bus one afternoon, I ran up the rutted driveway, into the unpainted house, and called out, “Mom!”
             “I’m here. In the kitchen.”
             Dumping my books on the divan, I hurried to the kitchen where Mom stood at the range, stirring a steaming pot of macaroni. 
             “Mom!” I shouted. “You know how heaven being boring bothers me?”
             “God seems so conceited. All He wants is to be praised all the time. And it just goes on and on and on with no ending. It scares me. Everything ends. What’s the end of heaven?”
             “It’s the end of life I know about, Dolores. We die and we’re with God.”
             “But just saying, ‘Holy, Holy,’ all the time gets monotonous. I’d like talking with people.” I paused and then confided that God simply wasn’t enough for all eternity.
             “He’s pretty wonderful,” she said.
             “Well, if dead people have been telling Him that since the Neanderthals”—we’d started our study of ancient history with them that year—“then He must be sort of tired of it all by now. Wouldn’t you think so?”
             “So here’s my idea! When I get to heaven I’m going to ask God—as a favor—if He’d show me a movie of every person who’s ever lived—even those babies in Limbo. Going all the way back to the Neanderthals.”
             “Sounds interesting.”
             “Yes," I agreed enthusiastically. "And that’s not all. I’ll ask to see not only the people but also what they thought and what they said and what they dreamed about! And I’ll see and hear their conversations when they were alive. I’ll watch their whole lives! The life of every person!”
             As Mom drained the macaroni, she summed it up. “So you’re going to see a long movie?”
             “The longest ever, Mom. It’ll go on and on because people keep dying and I’d keep seeing movies of their lives. Maybe God will even give me popcorn! Buttered!”
             I went to bed content that night. An eternity of stories . . . and buttered popcorn.        

    All photographs are from Wikipedia.