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Evan Hazard Primetime column, Threescore and Ten: 'My Day,' with apologies to Eleanor

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Whatever you may think of her politics, Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR's wife, was brilliant, poised, com-passionate, and a skilled writer. She had a largely non-political column, "My Day," in The New York World Telegram, a Republican paper. It probably also ran in other Scripps-Howard papers. Here's a "My Day" from Nov. 18, 2009, recently rescued from our desktop's Pioneer folder.

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I walked over to Meritcare's optical clinic just before 11 and was shortly called in. As usual, the technician put dilating drops in my eyes. Pupils take time to fully dilate, so off to a waiting room. It was nearly full, and well stocked with magazines. However, nobody was reading, because vision soon gets too fuzzy for that.

There was only one empty chair, between two women who were engaged with the others in lively discourse. I offered to let one of them switch so as not to interrupt, but one said, "No, no, join in the conversation."

So I sat down and said, "Where were we?"

Turns out the group had been discussing kindergarten. Someone asked had there been kindergarten when I was young. Yes, I had gone to kindergarten, but that reminded me of a 19-year-old Bemidji State College student houseguest in 1961.

When I mentioned attending kindergarten, Dianne had said incredulously, "They had kindergarten when you were young?"

Apparently it had been introduced to Deer River only recently. Kindergartens had started in New York long before I was born.

Then someone suggested that the new "pre-schools" were glorified baby-sitting. I noted that, in the early '30s, I had attended "nursery school" at Greenwich House, a well-known settlement house on Barrow Street just off 7th Avenue in Greenwich Village. I liked the teachers and kids at nursery school, and maybe learned something; I don't remember.

Those were the worst years of the Great Depression. Dad was out of work much of the time, and Mom had had to return to work as a secretary at Universal Pictures. In early 1929, when the folks had decided they could afford to have a baby, she had looked forward to permanent motherhood and housewifery. But now Dad was most often at home. On the rare occasions when he had work, I suppose nursery school served as baby-sitting.

During the exchange, somebody recognized me from the photo by this column and "Northland Stargazing." (Then the woman to my right got called in to see her doctor.) We talked about the fun I have writing for the paper, and maybe about some of my topics. Then someone called for a younger man sitting opposite us, and the woman on my left went with him. After a lull, another woman came in and sat down. I welcomed her to "the reading room," noting the irony of the stock of magazines, and mentioned that we'd had a lively discussion going.

She said we could talk about the weather, mentioning what nice, sunny weather we'd had for November. I said yes, except for deer hunters, who would have liked snow on the ground for tracking. That led to talk about whether the local herds had been culled enough for winter survival.

Actually, Elaine and I see more deer than some who live well out of town, because a herd spends its days in the woods between The Meadows and Vista North, and comes out around sunset to feed in "Salisbury Plain," north of The Meadows. We've counted 20 on occasion, and I'd seen 14 only a day or two before.

I mentioned that you can gain insight into deer social dynamics, especially during the fall rut. A couple of years ago, there were several deer in the field, including a nice 8-point buck who was sniffing the air to learn if anyone was ready. I figured he would initiate things if somebody was. But no, a hot-blooded doe well northwest of him suddenly dashed past him and on into the woods. He turned and, with much greater dignity, trotted off after her. One or two of next spring's fawns probably resulted from that encounter.

Then it was my turn. Had an encouraging visit with Dr. Jordan, a retinal specialist from MeritCare Fargo, made an appointment for November 2010, put on my wraparound sunglasses, walked to Neilson Place for a lunch in Elaine's honor, and then home.

With my eyes still fuzzy, best thing was to nap. Discovered afterward that, even with unclear vision, you can play computer solitaire, but have to be careful: the symbols on an eight of diamonds are in a different pattern than the symbols on the other three eights.

Evan Hazard, a retired Bemidji State University biology professor, also writes "Northland Stargazing" the fourth Friday of each month. He also writes a blog, "Up IN The Sky" under Area Voices on the Pioneer home page, www.bemidjipioneer.com.

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