Monthly Archives: October 2019

Sharing a work cubicle (a short story) by L. Claire Groshans

Sharing a Work Cubicle

She arrived at their shared cubicle before him. It was often a relief for her to come to work. Home was complicated. Linda sat in her swivel office chair so she could take off her walking shoes and replace them with the low heels that were “business professional”. On her tidy desk, there was a photo of her with her husband. They had been happy the day that photo had been taken, but that was no longer the case. She kept her marital problems a secret while at work. She was not ready to tell anyone that her personal life was crumbling in spite of her daily efforts to think of any way possible to make her depressed husband happy and engaged again.

“Top o’ the Morning” her boss announced before even making the turn into their cubicle. Linda looked up just in time to see her boss’ broad boyish smile. He was wearing a tailored overcoat. As he took his coat off, he also set his quality leather brief case on top of his desk.

Each morning as he entered the front office doors, Neil carried that briefcase with obvious intention so the statisticians, writers and managers would see him looking very professional, important and hard at work. But, the brief case contained a secret. He had shared that secret with Linda nearly 6 months ago when she had started as his assistant. The secret was that the briefcase contained only a Tupperware container of trail mix. “Top Secret” he had told her when he first showed her these contents. She laughed out loud. And after that one loud office laughter episode, Neil had Linda practice with him to learn a “silent” laugh. Because their cubicle was so closely situated and sandwiched between the more serious work-a-day co-workers, they pledged to do their best to laugh without drawing attention to the fact that they were having fun.

“Do you remember what we are doing today?” he asked as he sat down at his desk. They were facing each other now, but when the work day officially began they would swivel their office chairs towards their desks, so their backs would then be towards one another.

“I remember” she said and then continued, “but first I have to tell you that the custodian is going to rat you out. He left a note.”

“Cripes” he looked at her in a mock horror. “Don’t tell me I spilled some pumpkin seeds out of my trail mix.”

“Living dangerously” she replied and then did the quiet “laugh thing” they had nearly perfected.

“Well, should we get on with it?” he asked. Today was her first employee review with the firm. The Human Resource Department had a deadline and she was actually hoping for a nice raise. Her work was good. Neil was the editor of the business professional periodical they worked on. Linda’s clever use of vocabulary and her artistic eye helped with layouts for the magazine.

“Yes” Linda said.

“Great” he replied. “Grab a legal pad and a pen.”

“Why?” she asked?

He waited while she retrieved a yellow legal pad and a pen. They now faced each other and he made an attempt to look quite seriously at her. “Let’s have fun and play a game.” he said.

“Another game?” she asked. Linda knew her review had already been prepared and was ready for submission to H.R. After all, she had proof-read it herself before typing it up. She liked the games though that he suggested almost daily. She had fun and that was something that was happening at home less and less.

“OK” he said. ” I have been wondering how many phrases we can come up with that describe being inebriated.”

“What the heck?” she said. This was odd, but Neil was odd . “OK,” she replied “Games on.” And at that moment they both twisted their chairs back to face their desks and they began the assignment. Neil set a timer to give them a full 3 minutes each.

The timer made a small ding. “OK, he said, time to read our results and whoever thought of the most original phrases will be the clear champion of the day.”

“Stink faced” she said. He did the quiet laugh while making a face that caused her to laugh too.

“Three sheets to the wind” he retorted quickly while trying to look extremely serious about the assignment.

“Snockered” she said.

“Tipsy” he said using a dainty voice.

“Blotto” she was proud of that one. What a funny word.

“Drunk” he said.

“You can’t use that. That is too basic.”

“OK, how about this one. “Cheers”

Then, he used his hands to make a halt sign and to stop her from continuing the game. “Well, that was what I wanted to tell you. I wanted to tell you Cheers and good work. I am so glad I have such an efficient admin working for me. You make me look good Linda, so Cheers, and thanks!”

She smiled. “Speaking of looking good, should we do some actual work today?”

“Not yet. Let’s go to the lake first.”

The Lake was in fact their name for another office game they had created. Some time ago, Neil’s wife had picked out an oil painting of a lake that he had hung on the back empty wall of their cubicle. The game that Linda and Neil had concocted was to “go to the lake” by facing both of their chairs side by side looking out at the never changing view of the painting. Neil had told her that when they played the game, they should imagine themselves years into the future as old folk, sitting on the front porch of the retirement home. “You have to always pretend to be old” he said. “That part is important.”

“Nice day” Linda said with a little feeble voice while staring out over the serene painting.

“Yep” he said. “But these days, the lake is starting to look the same to me every day.”

“Well, that’s because you missed the flock of geese that just went by.”

“Did they honk?” he asked.

Then they both started the silent laugh,

Neil turned ever so slightly in Linda’s direction. She could tell he was serious now. Then quietly he said, “I’m glad I get to see the lake with you. Maybe we can see a real lake together when we are old and in the same retirement home. What do you think?”

“Maybe” she said. But her heart thought, “I hope so.” Then they were both quiet for several minutes before turning back to their desks.

John Towns Annis 1791-1871

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John Towns Annis was born on October 13, 1791, in Londonderry, New Hampshire, the son of Mary and Isaac. He married Delilah Coburn in 1820 (he was 28 years old and she was 22 years old) and they had 13 children together. Delilah died in 1853 (she was 56 years old at the time of her death) and he then married Elizabeth Gage “Betsy” Coburn on November 2, 1854, in Londonderry, New Hampshire. {Note: he DID marry sisters.}

John died on April 21, 1871, in his hometown, having lived a long life of 79 years, and was buried there.

John Towns Annis was the 3rd great grandfather of Heidi Thornbladh.  His daughter Miriam Page Annis Watts was Heidi’s 2nd great grandmother.

This is one of the sources used for information:

Genealogy of David Annis of Hopkinton and Bath, New Hampshire : his ancestors and descendants – the book is available online. https://archive.org/details/genealogyofdavid00curr/page/n4

John Annis died

John Annis military records

 

47% German

47

Linda Claire in German mountain climber outfit 1959

I have done genealogy research long enough to realize that this passion of mine is viewed by some folks as quite boring. But, I have always had a preoccupation and interest in where I came from and who my ancestors were. I am born to be a story teller and so I wanted to know the stories of my own roots and my own family history. These stories showed me a pathway to the social and cultural history of my ancestors. They were stories that I memorized and retold.

At a very early age, I begged my mother to tell me the stories of our family. She related the stories of her childhood during the Great Depression and how her grandmother immigrated to America from Germany. OK, I decided, I am of a clear German heritage.

Well, this made sense. After all, all our Christmas cookies were from our German recipes … lebkuchen and springle’s are still my favorite. My Grandmother used German words for household items. Well, correction, I thought she was using all German words. For instance, when she wanted us to get our bumbershoots and we understood that to mean we were to bring our umbrellas, it turns out that the word bumbershoot is from the USA. The first known use of the word was not even until 1876.

One of our family favorite side dishes were German kniffles. Yes, that is a true variation of the word spatzen. Our family was Sud Deutsch. Southern Germany. So, there were some words common to that region that were not generally used elsewhere.

Ann Arbor was settled in part by a large German community. My family was a part of that settlement. Bethlehem Church, where we attended worship, continued sermons in German into the mid-60’s.

Our family sang together. I learned a special yodeling song from my mother. We often sang songs in German. On a family car ride we might sing,”Du, du, liegest mir am Herzen, du, du, liegest mir im Zinn”. At Christmas, our Ann Arbor church on 4th Avenue sang some German carols.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Growing up, it was not uncommon to be asked about my heritage. “German”, I would clearly state. “I am such a German girl”.

BUT…

BUT…

BUT…

wait for it. wait for it. wait for it.

This was literally less than a half truth.

Although my father loved to tell stories, they were really never about his family. I do remember that he had told us we had American patriots in our family. He said that my sisters and I qualified to be Daughters of the American Revolution. We never joined. I was incurious about his family stories because he seemed to be.

Fast forward, in 2016, I spit into a small container to send away to Ancestry.com for my DNA results. Also, by this time, I had done enough research to know what the results would say. During my entire childhood and early to mid adult years, I believed it to be true that I was of 100% German ancestry. Turns out this is actually only 47% true.

47% true? How did we disregard that other 53% of our heritage? That 53% that is represented by primarily English and some Irish roots. This was not represented in our family customs, diets, music, clothing, church, and more. I have now read many historical facts and stories about my English ancestors. You could say, that I am getting to know them.

I guess I am somewhat sad that I can no longer ask my father the millions of questions I have. The good news is that as an adult I have started connecting with my first cousins. They have provided me with stories that my father’s brother (my uncle) knew about the family. The story that I like best is about my ancestors being captured by pirates. Clearly, that rates among my favorites.

Claire’s Closets

Claire’s Closets

She had put off going through her closet for over a year. Even today, she started only by opening the doors to the closet that spanned the entire length of one of the bedroom walls. With the closet doors open and the project at task in plain view, Claire sat down on her bed to “think” through the process.

Her mind wandered back in time to other closet reorganizations. She smiled to remember the boyfriend who had asked, “You’ve got so many clothes. Have you ever considered moving your bed into the closet and using the bedroom to store your clothes and shoes?” Obviously, he had been joking. Or, had he?

She tried to think back to being married. It was so long ago now. Had it really been 24 years ago that it all fell apart? Back then, she had to share a closet. Memories of closet with a his-side and her-side made her feel once again the sadness of a failed marriage. She remembered having to pack all of his clothing for him to take off to a new house with a new woman already in his life. It was a sad time. Claire had a memory of hugging his favorite t-shirts as she packed them. She pulled them towards her chest and fell on her knees. It reminded her of all that old pain.

Ah, it was happier to think of being a mother and helping her children organize their closets. She had made a system that worked well. Her daughter or her son would sit in a chair facing Claire and their closet. Claire would take items out one by one and hold them up waiting for her child to give a thumbs up or thumbs down. All of the unwanted clothes were recycled at the thrift stores. Some of the clothing brought laughter because it was associated with being out of date or had some other hysterical memory attached.

Even during the sad days of Claire’s divorce and healing, she easily seemed to take over the his-side of the closet. Clearly a perk of being single is more closet space. After all, now she was dating and starting a new job. Both of these were activities that needed dedicated closet space for the specific type of outfits she wanted to own. The dating clothing and work clothing were of a very different sort. Dating included some sexy low cut tops and work required a more modest skirt and sweater type look.

She had seen a therapist back then. The therapist had encouraged Claire to take on a persona he called “Mary-Lou.” This persona would be a woman who was so confident in herself that she would say encouraging things to herself before going on a date. A classic Mary Lou statement might be something like, “if a man spends 5 minutes with me, that will be the best 5 minutes of his evening.” It sounds so ridiculous now, but back then, it gave Claire the courage to be a bit daring in her wardrobe and lip stick choices. The therapist said that the Mary Lou persona would stop worrying about what others thought about her and worry about whether she would like them. So Claire used to go out like a female warrior on her dates. Now, many years had gone by and Claire no longer wanted to be a Mary Lou. Claire was now finally comfortable with being herself. No more need to bat the eyes and do the head bobs. Once you get old enough, some of the past is just completely embarrassing.

Claire looked at her closet again. She noticed that now that she had become a grandmother her life felt completely fulfilled.

These days the closet had no low cut tops anymore. She started laughing to remember her friend Heidi calling from a cell phone while she was on her way to a blind match.com date. Heidi had spent over an hour getting all “dolled-up.” Heidi told Claire that she had applied heavy make-up, a flashy outfit, and even a hair extension to capture the attention of her date. Claire asked Heidi how she looked. Heidi replied, “so, basically, I think I now look like a Grandma clown who is wearing too much makeup and trying too hard!”

Claire was helpless with laughter. Once again, she felt so happy to have friends that shared with her. There had been a time for certain alluring clothing, but now, Claire wanted to make sure not to have any part of a Grandma clown routine. Now, clothing could be for comfort. Look neat, look clean, look cozy.

Claire snapped out of her day-dreaming and looked at the closet and the project at hand. She was amazed by something. What got her attention now were all of the clothes with a what-if story. They had only been purchased based on possible scenarios. For example, Claire would say to herself, “what if I get invited to a wedding”, or “what if I need a special dress for the art gallery.” There were also tops that still had the price tag attached because they were so special she dared not to wear them for fear of spilling wine down the front of the embroidered lace blouse.

So, here is the dilemma that Claire had to answer. Should she keep what-if’s and too nice to wear items? Should she just be bold and wear them anyway, should she pack them for some lucky woman to find at the thrift shop? Should she just live or should she keep waiting?

She is still making up her mind. And, while she is making up her mind, it seems best to put the closet reorganization on hold again.