Archive for November, 2009


Monday, November 30th, 2009

For thirty-five years, whenever I called my father’s office, he would answer the same way, barking “Braestrup here,”  rather than “hello.” 

My father, Peter Braestrup, was a foreign correspondent for most of my early childhood. Then he wrote a book, a history of  how the United States press corps had covered the Tet Offensive during the war in Vietnam.   The book was called BIG STORY, a very apt title since it ran to two volumes in hardcover, with most of the second volume devoted exclusively to footnotes. BIG STORY still serves as a textbook in college journalism classes, and during the first Gulf War, Dad often appeared on television news programs,  offering expert commentary on military-press relations. After one such appearance, my  UPS man insisted on explaining his own views on the subject  before he would give me my package; such are the perils of having an uncommon name. 

Anyway, Dad then went on to become the founding editor of the Wilson Quarterly, a magazine put out by the Smithsonian Institution. After he “retired,” he became  publications director for the Library of Congress, and was still serving in that position when he died in 1997, at the age of sixty-eight.

As an adult, I experimented for a time with answering the telephone the way Dad did, but various friends and relations were mysteriously offended by the crisp brevity I admired,  so I gave it up. Still, whenever I sign on to  my police radio with my call-number (“2107, Augusta, I’m ten-eight!”) I am, in my own mind, echoing my late father’s voice. Braestrup here. 

Vaya con Dios, Dad.

Once a Chaplain, Always…

Sunday, November 29th, 2009


Having made an apple pie once, I now make an apple pie every Thanksgiving.  Having been called upon in, I believe, 2005 to compose and deliver a Thanksgiving grace, I now do it every year, which is a way of warning those who don’t already know this that whatever you do on Thanksgiving risks becoming tradition, and inviolate.  It doesn’t matter if the tradition makes sense. For instance, the ocean in Maine is forbiddingly cold, even in August, but ever since Thanksgiving ’06, when my son Peter  went for a swim off  the beach, a Thanksgiving Swim is always scheduled for late afternoon, when the gloom of a late autumn twilight can add to the bleakness offered by low clouds, sleet or spitting snow. 

The first year, Peter swam alone. Now, other guests join in as gumption or machismo demands, and the rest of us stand around in our boots and parkas,  holding towels at the ready and shrieking in sympathy. Last year, our Brazilian exchange student Olivia took the plunge, garnering points for bravery. This year, our friend Marie went into the water clad in a lime green bikini and white vinyl go-go boots, definitively winning the prize for style. 

This morning, my husband and I  enacted what will be a bittersweet new tradition. Three of our children are, as of this year, in college. So,  on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the college-bound had to be hugged, cautioned about the various threats that might await them on the highway, and waved off down the driveway.  Our house—which has  been noisy and cluttered for a week—is strangely quiet now.


Glass Heart Prayer (from Thanksgiving, 2007)


Blessed is the breath of the glassblower, who

With skilled and steady exhalation

Heats the gritty solid of the heart

And with his breath expands

My heart until a wider vessel is created;

Until my heart’s capacity is such

The whole world can be embraced in love. Blessed Be!

Even though a heart’s walls ache as they expand

Even if glass must, of necessity, grow fragile

To encompass

As it shines.

Allowing light, more light, more light:

May the glassblower breathe and breathe until

With the slightest tap my heart

Flies and shatters into sand.

Blessed be the breath of the glassblower

Craftsman of fragility

Artist of the shatter and the shine.



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Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

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