I felt guilty even as I was dialing my sister’s phone number. This was the first time I had called her since the pandemic started, but what better day than on her birthday?
She answered on the third ring, saying, “Hello” in the way she always does, as if it’s a final statement, not a question. I sang Happy Birthday to her.
She was surprised to hear from me but not being the emotional type, I could tell she was glad I called.
“So what’s news?” I asked her. (I may as well get this over with – my sister can talk non-stop for fifteen minutes, at least.)
“Oh, nothing much. I’m staying home a lot, not going out much. But I keep myself occupied.” My sister lives in a senior community where she’s involved in many things. During the pandemic it’s slowed down, but not completely.
“How are your beautiful granddaughters?” My sister has two very cute granddaughters, aged six and five.
“Oh, they’re fine. Ginny is really getting into distance learning with Molly. The teacher has the kids doing projects. They go around to various places to experience them, they look for things, like a scavenger hunt. Ginny says she’s exhausted, what with her new job and Molly’s kindergarten teacher keeping her occupied!” My sister chuckled as she said this.
“Sophie’s okay. I’m worried about her though – she’s getting confused, first with remote learning, then living in the house with only her mom one week and her dad the next week…”
“Huh? Why’s that?”
“Oh, I thought you knew. Nate and Julie are living apart. They each have their own place to live, so Sophie lives in the house all the time, and the two of them alternate living there with her.”
“Weird. Expensive, too, I imagine.”
“Oh, yeah. They couldn’t agree on who would get the house, so they left it to their six-year-old!”
“Why are they split up?”
“Well, a lot of things built up over time — Nate’s been taking this computer course, you know. He dropped all his piano students to do it, while Julie works all the time. Apparently she also suspects him of infidelity, but he doesn’t have a perfidious nature. Nate can’t handle her frustration and accusations, so he blows up at her. Then she rants about how she’s having to support the family, while Nate gets to just ‘do his thing,’ you know.”
“Wow, I’m so sorry! They’ve been together so long! I hope they reconcile their differences.”
We moved on to lighter topics and chatted for another fifteen minutes.
Posted for Fandango’s One Word Challenge, Ragtag Daily Prompt, and Your Daily Word Prompt.
I have had many opportunities lately to feel nostalgic, mainly because we are preparing to move to a senior community in six months, so we have to drastically downsize. This means going through boxes in the basement that haven’t been touched in decades!
I have found old photos of myself and my family from the 1970s – 1990s, drawings I did in 1972 and artwork my son did in elementary school, as well as old journals (as far back as 6th grade!), comics I made and stories I wrote.
Most valuable to me at this current time is a journal that I started in 2007 which I found in a drawer of my desk. Just 12 years ago, I had only written in the first 10 pages or so. So now I am carrying it around to encourage me to write and draw instead of playing games on my cellphone! Right now it’s an all-out war between my phone and my journal! The problem with a journal is that it is larger than a cellphone and writing by hand is getting more difficult lately – my hand cramps up and nice, legible handwriting after a page or two becomes erratic and less legible! However, a journal doesn’t need to be charged after using!
Here are some of the things I found in the basement that made me nostalgic.
My son’s childhood
My family used to gather around the piano every Christmas and sing carols. This might have been the last time we were all together (1967). My mother probably took the photo because she isn’t in it. I am standing (2nd from left), while two of my sisters were at the piano.
In high school I had a boyfriend who taught me how to develop photos in a darkroom. These are three photos I took and developed back then. The top two were taken at my school, Verde Valley School; underneath is the front of the house of a family that I stayed with in Oaxaca, Mexico, during my senior year.
Here I am with two of my sisters at my high school graduation! They had graduated from the same school years earlier. (I’m in the middle.)
When I was in elementary school – and even before that! – I loved to draw more than anything else. My mother used some of my drawings on the family’s Christmas cards a couple of times. This one made the local newspaper! I was 7 at the time.
In 1973, I went to Mexico with a college boyfriend (my future 1st husband) and we traveled all over the country. This photo was taken at Uxmal, Yucatán. I am climbing down a very steep Mayan pyramid, holding onto a chain as I descended. It was scary!
After my mother became a widow, she made arrangements to move to a retirement community. She moved there after her dog died. In this photo copied from a scrapbook, taken in 2003, I am posing with her after a concert my church choir performed at the retirement home. My mother lived there many years, first in independent living, then she moved to assisted living, and finally to memory care, where she passed away in 2014.
This morning we visited Valley of the Kings, where there are 62 tombs of Egyptian nobility – specifically, pharaohs, including Tutankhamen. They date from Thutmose I of the 18th Dynasty to Ramses XI of the 20th Dynasty, all rulers of the New Kingdom, and most of the tombs have been raided by tomb robbers. Howard Carter hit the jackpot when he accidentally discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922: most of the burial items had been left intact, giving archaeologists insight into the artifacts that would have been buried in the king’s tomb and outlying chambers.
To get to the Valley of the Kings, we took a motorcoach out into the desert.
To get to the tombs, there were trams shuttling groups of people back and forth.
We were only allowed to take photos inside the tombs if we paid 300 EP (Egyptian pounds), the equivalent of about $15.00. Only one member of our tour group was willing to pay to take photos. Dale and I decided not to pay and refrain from taking photos, but in hindsight, I should have paid the 15 bucks – after all, it helps the Egyptian economy. Dale is too cheap, in general, to pay and he usually finds a way to take pictures anyway, which he did.
I opted, instead, to pay the equivalent of $30 for a 2-DVD set, including one containing over 11,000 photos taken by Egyptologist Mohammed Fathy all over Egypt. I figured that way I would have photos of everything, including what I missed. I have already posted a few of these photos to “fill in the blanks” and will do so again here.
We visited four of the tombs. The first was Ramses IX, which is the first tomb encountered when entering the Valley of the Kings via the modern entrance.
The king’s body was found in 1881 at Deir el-Bahri, also known as Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple, which we would visit later today. Some of the funerary items are now at the British Museum.
Entering the tomb was via a shat which opened into a long corridor with steps down into another corridor. This tomb map and some information is from the web site The Tomb of Ramesses IX, Valley of the Kings, Egypt .
There were a lot of tourists visiting, and Dale noticed some Asian tourists taking photos with their cellphones and getting away with it (he didn’t know if they had paid the 300 EP). So he started taking pictures surreptitiously. (The unlabeled photos are his.)
Along the walls, there were inscriptions and paintings, no doubt extolling the pharaoh’s victories in battle. Every surface was covered and much of the color has been preserved.
The texts and decoration inside royal tombs contain illustrations of spiritual texts, including the Book of the Dead (on the left wall). These texts were to accompany the deceased pharaoh through the netherworld into the afterlife, with the expectation of eventual rebirth. Here are two photos I took recently at the Field Museum in Chicago. The first is a piece of a replica of the Book of the Dead. The second is a diorama illustrating the second phase of the deceased’s journey to the afterlife, receiving protection from the gods during his journey.
Continuing on down the corridor, everywhere we saw spectacular artwork all around us. It must have taken many years for the pharaoh’s artisans to prepare this tomb to receive his body.
Niches line the corridor which contain representations of different gods. Below is a collage of photos taken by Mohammed Fathy of various scenes in Ramses IX’s tomb. The large red circle depicted in several of these photos represent the sun disk.
At the end of the corridors was this doorway, decorated overhead by a snake, the scarab holding the sun disk on a boat, and the eye of Horus, a symbol of protection for royalty.
In the burial chamber, the god Nut is represented on the ceiling as part of another spiritual text, the Book of Night.
The burial chamber is empty – it does not contain a sarcophagus.
These photos taken by Mohammed Fathy show details of the ceiling of the burial chamber.
As we made our way back, a man approached Dale, gesturing wildly and demanding, “Ticket! Ticket!” He meant the ticket issued if you pay to take photos. Of course, Dale didn’t have one. He acted all innocent, saying, “I didn’t know” and “our guide didn’t tell us” but the man wasn’t buying it.
I suggested to Dale that he delete the photos with the man watching, but instead the man grabbed Dale’s cellphone and turned to leave with it! Of course, Dale had to follow. Outside, he asked Dale, “Where is your guide?” Whether Mohamed was within view or not, I don’t know, but Dale wasn’t going to point him out. He just looked around and said vaguely, “He’s around here somewhere.”
The man got frustrated and didn’t know what else to do, so he gave Dale his phone back and walked away!
The next tomb we went in was that of Ramses VI, which was better preserved and contained a sarcophagus!
Dale once again took a few photos! He was caught again, but once again talked his way out of it, so we do have these shots he took with his cellphone.
He even took a photo of me in one of the corridors of the tomb!
This tomb’s structure was basically the same as that of Ramses IX.
These photos are all from the collection of Mohammed Fathy, from the DVD I purchased.
Fathy even included a photo of the mummy!
Next was KV 14, the tomb of King Tausert/Setnakht.
Dale took a few pictures again, but this time did not get caught!
The fourth and final tomb we visited was the long anticipated tomb of Tutankhamun. It was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 after digging for six years – no one knew who this young king was, but his name had appeared occasionally on ancient writings and artifacts so Carter began excavating in the Valley of the Kings, presumably where his tomb would be.
Each of the 62 tombs is numbered by the order in which they were discovered (Ramses IX is labeled with K.V. 6). Tutankhamun’s tomb is number 62. Very little is known about this king who died at the age of 18 or 19. He ascended to the throne at the age of eight, as the rightful heir of Akhenaten, the “heretic” king; Akhenaten is believed to be his father, but his mother was not Akhenaten’s beloved first wife, Nefertiti, who bore only daughters. It is speculated that Tutankhamun was the child of one of Akhenaten’s lesser wives, a woman named Kiya. It is also possible that he is not Akhenaten’s son, but rather his much younger brother, next in line for the throne because Akhenaten and Nefertiti had only daughters.
From what I have learned about ancient Egypt, it was very common for pharaohs to have a harem of lesser wives – the principal wife was the preferred mate to produce a male heir, but failing that, the pharaohs had other wives who could produce a son. Whatever the case, Tutankhamun, while officially enthroned at the age of eight (his rule is officially stated as 1333-1323 BCE), had a regent named Ay who was the vizier of his probable father, Akhenaten. Ay had been close to the royal family since Akhenaten (formerly known as Amenhotep IV) was a child. When Tutankhamun was old enough – probably in his young teens – he took the reins of power but unfortunately died after only a few years on the throne.
Although there has been much speculation about the cause of Tutankhamun’s death – a Discovery Channel documentary even theorized that he was murdered – recent improvements in DNA technology have allowed scientists to determine that he died of malaria, which must have been common in Egypt as it was in much of Africa.
Tutankhamun was buried in a hurry; his original tomb (no. 23) was not completed at the time of his death. Tomb 62 is smaller than average for a pharaoh’s burial site. (No. 23 would end up being the tomb of his successor, Ay.)
In 2007, his mummy was removed from the marble sarcophagus where it had been since the tomb was opened to the public. The body, without its mummy wrappings, is now on display in his burial chamber. We had seen several of his coffins, as well as many funerary objects and his burial mask, at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Photography, even if you’ve paid 300 EP, is prohibited in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Even Dale didn’t take illegal photos there – I doubt he would have been able to talk his way out of that infraction!!
The tomb has four rooms, but only the burial chamber is decorated.
Inside the burial chamber is one of the gilded coffins in which the king’s mummy had originally been placed. There was an old man, dressed in the galabeya (a type of afghan) that traditional Egyptian men wear, in the chamber with a flashlight. He smiled at us with a mostly toothless grin and shone the flashlight onto the body’s blackened feet. I’m not sure why he did this, perhaps there was something particular we were supposed to notice about Tutankhamun’s feet. In any case, the rest of the body was covered with a shroud so only his lower legs and feet were visible.
Mohammed Fathy includes these photos (including of Tutankhamun’s body above) in his small collection of photos from the “boy king”‘s tomb, but they are not labeled and I don’t think he took them.
Two views of the burial chamber in different lighting.
Informational signs about Tomb no. 62
Adjacent to Valley of the Kings is the home of Howard Carter, the archeologist who discovered and excavated Tutankhamun’s tomb. We took a short tour through the house.
In 1908, Lord Carnavan was introduced to Howard Carter, who had spent the previous 17 years working in Egypt, but at that time was unemployed and at a low point in his life. In January 1909, Carnavan offered Carter a job and help in building a house, which was dubbed “Castle Carter.”
This poem is written for my son, who turns 34 today. It expresses a mother’s hope for his future.
Today is your birthday…
Someday you will be happy
Someday you will feel confidence
Someday you will love yourself
Someday you will have a steady income
Someday you won’t live alone
Someday you will believe in yourself
Someday you will be in love
Someday someone will be in love with you
Someday you will know how to deal with depression
Someday you will conquer your anxiety
Someday you will meet your soulmate
Someday you will look forward to the future
Someday you will look in the mirror and see
how beautiful you really are.
Even if not today.
Why not today?
Happy birthday, Jayme! I hope 2019 brings you joy!
When we think of autumn, or fall, we think of bright, colorful foliage! Our area has a way to go before reaching peak color, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have falling leaves! The two maples in our backyard have been shedding their foliage since July all over the yard and on the deck and deck furniture. The leaves seem to be falling prematurely because they are affected by a fungus, called “maple tar spots” which, when I looked it up last year, form on maple leaves when they are unable to completely dry, due to wet weather. Once the fungus has taken hold, its spores are carried on the wind to affect other trees.
So I spent this morning sweeping the deck and part of the driveway that were covered with these ugly tar spot leaves! Since maples usually display the brightest colors in the fall, I’m not sure we’re going to get beautiful autumn foliage this year, as the problem is worse this year than last year and seems to be affecting all the silver maples in this area. Apprently the fungus weakens the leaf as it covers much of its surface where photosynthesis takes place, so the leaf falls off.
I can’t predict what the foliage will look like this fall, so here are some photos of fall foliage from past autumns. (The first one was taken at our former cottage on Upper Kaubashine Lake in northern Wisconsin; most of the rest were taken in October 2015, the last time autumn put on an exceptionally beautiful show around here.)