Friday, December 23, 2011

One Less Bell to Answer

Dad was always hard to shop for.

If you asked him what he wanted for Christmas, he'd give the ever helpful answer typical to dads, "I don't need anything."

Mom wasn't much help.  "He could use some socks,"

Ah. Thanks. Socks. That should effectively express my love and gratitude to the man who struggled and sacrificed to raise me.  Who needs Frankincense and Myrrh when Target is having a sale on Gold Toe socks?

Dad was a golfer, so that was something to go to in a pinch.  As a knitter, golf club covers were a nice bet. But how many sets does one man need?  Golf themed photo frames and tchotchkes - he had 'em all. One year I knit a golf ball pillow. It still sits on the floor in my mom's house. That was a good one.

Mom didn't fare any better. She'd always buy him stacks and stacks of new clothing that she thought he'd look nice in. He put it in the closet with the tags on, preferring to wear the clothes he already had, which were, as he often proclaimed, perfectly good.

A few years ago I got him a plaque that I, quite frankly thought was a little trite, but I was at that desperate place - it was the plaque or more golf balls.  It was about family bonds and such. I handed it to him tentatively - not confident that I'd done well. He opened it, started reading it aloud, became choked up and couldn't finish reading. I exchanged a "what the hell?" look with my sister and my mom said, "He knows our time as a complete family is limited."

"That's dumb." I said, smiling inwardly at the fact that I'd produced the gift that had elicited so much emotion - especially from a man who wasn't known for being terribly emotional.

"It isn't Christmas 'till somebody cries!" said my sister.

We laughed.

Life went on.

Dad was always hard to shop for.

It's a hardship I miss more than I can say.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Picture Post Card, A Folded Stub, A Program of the Play

When I was in high school I kept a scrapbook.  It wasn't anything formal or fancy - but it was more than a photo album.  I kept mementos - scraps, if you will - taped into a big book with no archival quality paper or adhesives or sheet protectors.  Just a book of scraps - ticket stubs and programs and newspaper clippings, nametags and feathers and photographs - if it would lie relatively flat, it found its way into my book.

I continued this process in college and for the better part of a decade beyond.  Sometimes I added little snippets from magazines if I found something that fit - something that provided narrative to my story and served to make it look a little bit like a ransom note.  "Help!  I'm being held hostage by the present!"

Those books ended up forgotten in storage in a cubby hole in my mom's house where they became yellowed and brittle and the tape lost any adhesive qualities it may once have had.

After Dad passed away, Mom went on a huge house purge.  Dad was a depression-era hoarder and Mom goes into conniptions at the very thought of clutter.  You can imagine.  They had worked out a compromise of sorts - but when compromise was no longer necessary, she got to work getting everything that she didn't need out of her house.  She enlisted the help of my sister and I, not wanting to make the mistake of throwing out something that she viewed as junk and we might view as treasure.

It was in this already sentimental, vulnerable state that I came across my scrapbooks.

Friends that died way too young smiling at me from a time when they were even younger, relationships that had long gone sour looking fresh and sweet and new, flowers pressed from a dance with a boy whose face looks familiar but whose name is elusive - these are just a few of the things that were preserved - albeit unprofessionally - within those pages.

It was overwhelming.

It was wonderful.

I don't keep a scrapbook anymore.  I haven't kept a scrapbook since 'scrapbook' became an acceptable  verb.  I didn't think it was pure. I thought it took something away from the purpose - storing memories - and turned it into an almost competitive craft - something to show off rather than to treasure quietly.  Something impersonal.  Classes on how to craft a beautiful page - bah!  There was really nothing beautiful about those scrapbooks I found in my Mom's cubby hole, but they were among the most lovely things I'd ever seen.  I thought the perfectionism of the craft diminished the sweet sentimentality that was inherent in a 'real' scrapbook.  ('quotes' around a word twice in one paragraph - tread carefully there, Tammy - it's a slippery slope...)

So imagine the mixed emotions that went running all around in my brain when a digital scrapbooking company offered me the opportunity to do a really sweet giveaway.  Digital scrapbooking is not for me.  But I knew the moment I read her email that a lot of my readers would really like it.  And while I don't grok the concept of scrapbooking as it has evolved, I fully understand the need to preserve today's memories for tomorrow.  Just because I'm an opinionated dinosaur doesn't mean everyone has to be one.  So I accepted the offer.  But I will not be using and reviewing the product.  I will leave that to Lea - my eldest - who was thrilled with the prospect.  So.  Great giveaway coming up soon.  Watch this space.

I'll leave you with a little Billy Joel, because it seems appropriate.  And speaking of music - I hear there's a way you can listen to it now straight from your phone.  I'm more of a vinyl gal, m'self - although I did succumb to CDs.  Easier to listen to in the car.  But I hear they're about to become obsolete.  I hear this phone business works in the car, too.  *shakes head in wonder*  What will they think of next?  (I'm only sort of kidding...)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Marriage Bed

Tom went upstairs this afternoon to read his book.  I smiled when he announced this.  My grandmother made it a habit to go upstairs and read the paper every afternoon.  She would never admit to enjoying a nice midday nap.  A good, industrious woman would not succumb to sleep in the middle of the day.  (My grandmother was a wise woman, but we part company when it comes to that particular sentiment.)  She saw nothing wrong, however, with  propping oneself comfortably on one's pillows while reading one's daily newspaper.  If that level of comfort sometimes led one to snore, well, so be it.

Tom is usually more straightforward.  He is not quite as motivated by the thought of being an industrious man.  He has been known, on the weekends, to take a good honest nap before he's even gotten out of his pajamas.  I will not even feign superiority on this point, as I have been known to do the same.  I'm an early riser.  Sometimes I take my first nap before anyone else has even gotten up - leading them to the erroneous conclusion that I've slept in.  I never sleep in.  But I am not averse to a nice morning nap.

Today, when Tom went upstairs to read, I gave him a few moments then joined him.  I didn't bother to bring my book.  Those of you who spend a lot of time watching happy marriage porn and are expecting this story to take a turn for the bow-chicka-bow-wow are about to be sorely disappointed.  I  apologize in advance.  

I found him as I expected to, sound asleep with his book on my pillow and his glasses on top of it.  Bless his heart, it looked like he might have given reading an honest effort before ditching it in favor of sweet, sweet daytime sleep.  I put the book and the glasses on the nightstand, kicked off my shoes, and slid in next to him.  His arm found its way around my waist instinctively, without disturbing his slumber.

We have a small bed.  A full sized bed.  The sort of bed most people nowadays buy for their children.  Initially, we didn't opt for anything larger because I had inherited a lovely antique bedroom set from my grandmother - the same bed she'd lie on to read the newspaper every afternoon.  It would only accommodate a full sized mattress. When the time came to buy a new mattress, I broached the subject of getting a larger one.  Sure, it wouldn't fit perfectly, but who would know?  It's not like we have a daily parade through our bedroom or anything.  But Tom said no.  At first, I thought he was just cheaping out - and I was preparing to react in the traditional passive aggressive manner of a woman who has been cheaped out upon.  But before I'd even managed to work up a good, "I suppose I don't deserve a bigger bed", he said, "I don't want a bigger bed.  I like having you right next to me.  Sometimes when we sleep in hotels or other people's guest rooms - in a king sized bed - I can't even find you.  I don't like that.  I sleep best when you're right next to me."

So we spent the next few years cuddled up like two cliched spoons in a drawer.  Because what woman could resist a position like that?  A bigger bed would put you farther away from me.  I want you closer.  Sweet.  You people in larger beds must not be nearly as adored as I am.  I envy thee not.  (Apparently the more self-righteous I become, the more likely I become to use phrases like:  I envy thee not.)

This was swell, until the hot flashes came along.  Suddenly that proximity to another warm-blooded being in the middle of the night became unbearable.  We would still fall asleep the way we always had, but a couple hours later I'd end up on the floor or the sofa or - basically anywhere where I could escape the feeling of heat emanating off of me, hitting him, and bouncing back at me in an amplified state.

What a drag it is.

So we're taking the plunge and shopping for a king-sized bed.  We figure there's plenty of room in the middle for us to fall asleep in the manner to which we've become accustomed, then to roll away as the night progresses and actually get a decent nights sleep without having to leave the bed.

You don't suppose that once we start sleeping well at night, we'll give up our afternoon naps, do you?  I hope not.  They are delicious.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hatrophobia (Fear of Red Hats)

I have said it before and I'll say it again:  When I complete my 50th trip 'round the sun in ten and a half months or so, the first one to buy me a red hat gets a punch in the throat.

I mean it.

Ok, I probably don't mean it.  The pacifist in me never could throw a decent punch and the nice girl in me could never scoff at a gift - no matter how snarky.  (Yes, there's a little bit of nice girl in me.  I keep her under wraps most of the time, but she's there...) But I'd punch that person in the throat in my mind.

Fifty is rough.  My mom is one of the most youthful thinkers I know.  I can't keep up with her sometimes.  Well into her seventies, she still often says things like, "But I'm not middle-aged yet!" and shudders - as if to ward off the very thought.  (I'm not sure exactly how old she plans to be - but I'm guessing it's at least a little older than 150...) Anyone who knows her will back me up on this.  My mom thinks young.  Yet she was not immune to the curse of fifty.  That youthful, optimistic attitude left her for the few months preceding and following her fiftieth birthday.  She breezed through thirty and forty and sixty and seventy - but fifty brought her to her knees (albeit briefly).

You know who else thinks young and is over fifty?

If you're not familiar, then - oh, who am I kidding?  You're familiar.
I'm a little afraid of them.

(Ok, I had my own little not-so-secret society in college that wore a lot of red and purple (holla, sisters and sweethearts of Alpha Nu!), but that's another story for another day.  Today's story is about Red Hats.)

I had a bit of a rough day today and decided that cooking was an additional drudgery I just couldn't bear to face.  "Take me out for a nice dinner!"  I said.

"Put on your Sunday best, we're going to O'Charley's!"  was the reply.

Anxious to relax and unwind a bit, we were led to our table.  "We have several margarita specials tonight." our server said, as she showed us into a room off the bar.

"So I see....."

It took me a few minutes to take it all in, but only a split second to realize what had happened.  We had been seated on the perimeter of a Red Hat Society Halloween Party.  A group of a dozen or so women of a certain age were gathered in the center of the room.  There were elaborate red and purple centerpieces on several tables and a huge collection of gifts on the floor, gaudily presented in red and purple and sequins and feathers.  Huge.  Like - not quite wedding reception huge, but darn close - and with way more red and purple.  A broomba in a red witches hat with a long veil bumped our table and cackled.  What's a broomba, you ask?  I don't know if that's what it's really called or not, but it was like a roomba with a broom on top.  And a red witches hat.  I mentioned that, right?  

Did I tell you that the women were in costume?  Because they totally were. There was a cigarette girl, complete with red sparkly hat.  There was a Native American with long gray braids and a strand of red and purple beads.  There was a prairie woman with a red calico bonnet.  There was a flapper.  Groucho Marx and Tweety were in attendance. There was a gypsy fortune teller with a beautiful red silky head scarf.  There were two women in fright wigs and otherwise typically Red Hat attire - red hats, big boas - they were each wearing name tags.  From what I could glean, they were dressed as each other.  These costumes, by the way, were not just thrown together.  They were well thought out and really elaborate.  There were a lot of margaritas.  

A lot.

It was quite a spectacle.  And these ladies were having a ball.  They grouped and re-grouped for photographs.  (And no, I didn't take any.  It didn't seem sporting.) They laughed and talked and ordered more margaritas.  The servers had a hard time herding them to their tables to take their orders.  As soon as that task was accomplished, they were up and laughing again.

Lea said, on the way home, "I can't wait till I'm old enough to join that club!"

Spectacle is kind of her thing.

I said, "Not me.  The first person to buy me a red hat gets a punch in the throat."

"I am so buying you a red hat."

I gave her the stink eye and raised my fist in a manner that I hoped was light-hearted, but still menacing.

"I'll risk it"

"Right in the throat, kiddo!"

I do look pretty good in purple, though.  And I do like margaritas.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Scenes From a Marriage: A Play in Three Acts

Act I

The stage is split to indicate two separate apartments.  In the apartment on the left, a woman is sitting on an overstuffed off-white sofa eating from a take-out container.  Two cats have settled into her lap and she holds the container above their heads as she eats.  It is awkward, but she doesn't want to disturb them.  The large console TV is on and her empty eyes focus on it.  There are books on the coffee table and baskets filled with yarn and abandoned projects overflowing onto the floor.  There are free weights under the table that serves as a bar, but they are covered with a thick layer of bohemian velvet.

In the apartment on the right, a man is sitting on a brown and tan sofa with simple lines.  He is eating a bowl of cereal.  His eyes are focused on a TV in an entertainment center that also houses an elaborate stereo system.  The decor is minimalist - the apartment is clean and tidy, with the exception of the dining room table.  The table itself - as well as every chair surrounding it - is piled high with papers, envelopes and magazines. A glimpse into the bedroom reveals a framed poster of a cut-away of the Starship Enterprise hung carefully over the bed.

This scene lasts several minutes - long enough to make the audience uncomfortable with the loneliness being represented.

He consults a piece of paper and sighs.  He shrugs and picks up the phone.  We hear it ring in her apartment.  She picks it up and smiles.

They move to the front of the stage and a curtain drops, obscuring the apartment scene.

Both still with the phone to their ear, we see other characters swoop in and out - men embracing her, women embracing him - they move on and off the stage quickly, as the couple step slowly towards each other.  Sometimes they are both being embraced by another - sometimes just one, while the other waits on the phone - their movement towards each other is slow, but it is steady and inevitable.  When they finally meet, center stage, they take each others hands.  The cats purr and rub up against their ankles.  They bring their heads together in a kiss.  They embrace with one arm each, while the other reaches out to grab the curtain and pull it around them, obscuring them from the audiences view.

Act II

As the curtain rises, the man and woman are sitting side by side on a plaid sofa which is located to the side of the stage.  The room is littered with toys.  A toddler is playing on the floor and an infant is sleeping in a wooden cradle next to the sofa. The woman puts her head on the man's shoulder and he embraces her.  The toddler abandons her toys and crawls up so that she is somehow occupying both parents' laps. The embrace that began between the parents happily opens up to accept the child.  The baby cries and the mother extricates herself from the group hug and leans over the crib to pick up the infant.  She paces the floor, patting the baby, while the father and the toddler look through the pages of a book  They catch each others eyes and smile.

The man takes the toddler by the hand and leads her offstage.  The mother, carrying the infant, follows them.

The man enters the stage again and sits on the sofa.  He picks up the remote and turns on the TV.  The woman enters the stage shortly thereafter. She picks up the toys on the floor and places them in a bright pink toy box.  When she is through, she sits next to him on the sofa.  They hold hands.

A preschooler enters the stage.  She is dressed as Princess Leia.  Her wig - made of yarn - is askew and she is struggling with a plastic light saber that is taller than she is.  She makes it to center stage and bows. At the sound of applause, she bows again, with more flourish.  She bows to the left.  She bows to the right.  She curtsies.  The parents rise from their spot on the sofa and gently coax her offstage.  She peeks around the curtain for one last bow.

A school aged child and a pre-schooler enter the stage.  The older child is wearing round eyeglasses and is carrying a book.  Her younger sister is dressed in a blue and white checkered pinafore over a white blouse.  Her socks are blue and her shoes are red and glittery.  She carries a basket with three stuffed dogs - one black, one brown and one gold.  She is walking quickly to keep up with her sister.  The older child crosses the stage and sits on the sofa.  She opens her book.  Her parents flank her and become engrossed in the pages with her.  The youngest puts her basket down on the stage and dances with her stuffed dogs, each one in turn.  As she twirls her way off stage, the oldest picks up her abandoned basket and follows her.  The parents close the gap on the sofa, meeting in a half embrace.

Two school aged children enter the stage.  They are wearing capes and battling each other with wands. The oldest grabs an upright bass from offstage.  She drops her cape and begins to play it with her wand.  The youngest pulls a second wand from a pocket inside of her cape and begins playing air drums wildly and dancing.  As she reaches her sister, she spins the bass, pulling both girls and the instrument off stage.  The mother rests her head on the father's shoulder.

Two pre-teens enter the stage.  They are both dressed in black.  One is wearing gothic makeup.  Both are wearing concert T-shirts.  They cross the stage as though each step they take is torture.  The parents shake their heads at each other and smile. They lean towards each other and kiss.  The curtain falls.


The curtain opens on the man and the woman at the dinner table.  The table is at the front and center of the stage.  It is set beautifully and they are sharing a bottle of wine.  He lifts his glass to her and she meets it with her own.  A teenaged girl with bright pink hair crosses the stage behind them quickly, takes a roll from the basket on the table and exits just as quickly.  Her phone never leaves her ear. She is talking animatedly and barely looks at her parents during the brief moment that she is onstage.  Another teenaged girl with long brown hair enters the stage from the other side.  She sits with her parents for just a moment before her phone buzzes.  She looks at it, smiles, and leaves the table - walking then running offstage.  She looks over her shoulder briefly just as she exits.  The man reaches across the table and takes the woman's hand.

Act III isn't finished yet.  But I bet it will be good.  Because that man and that woman?  They sure do like each other.

Happy Anniversary, Darlin'. Sixteen sweet years and counting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From Huey Lewis and the News

First, Huey let us know that it was hip to be square.  This was good news for a chickadee who has always been decidedly more L7 than not.

He reminded us that the best drug would be 'one that makes me feel like I feel when I'm with you".  Why, being with you is legal (in most states) and has no known side effects.  Once again, rockin' good news.

He informed us that there wasn't much you couldn't accomplish through the power of love.

Good lessons, all.  We don't always give Mr. Lewis his philosophical props.

Recently my family took a giant step and cancelled our landline.  I realize that this brings us pretty firmly up to date.  As long as the date is 2006.  There is probably a Back to the Future reference there, somewhere, but I'll let you figure it out for yourself.


I'd balked at this decision more than the rest of the family had.  I knew it made sense.  I knew it was the reasonable thing to do.  I knew I - we - needed to step into the 21st century.  I knew it - but I didn't love it - and I couldn't quite figure out why.

Then Huey Lewis and the News, in their infinite wisdom, figured it out for me.

I was in a store and they were playing Stuck With You on the canned music.  The answer - as I might have known it would be - was right there.  When they got to the lyric, "We are bound, like all the rest - by the same phone number....." I stopped listening because I was busy experiencing a eureka moment of divine revelation.  That was what had been bothering me.  That was the source of my reluctance.  We - Tom and I - Tom and the girls and I - were no longer bound by the same phone number.

We had been divided.

I think this struck me as particularly sad because my girls are certainly at an age where they are testing their wings.  I had always prided myself on the fact that family dinners were much more the norm than the exception.  Now they are rare.  "I'll just grab something on my way to ___________" is much more common.  Two of us are there - or three - in various configurations - but rarely all four.

The girls would much rather be in their rooms - on the rare occasions when they are home - than in our shared living space.

This is normal.  This is reasonable.  This is even - probably - desirable - at least on some hypothetical level.

Knowing that it's normal and reasonable and psychologically desirable doesn't make it any less sad.

The rest of that lyric goes, "We are bound, like all the rest - by the same phone number, all the same friends, and the same address..."  Soon, we won't all share the same address, either.

Oh, Huey, you are a fount of deep and profound knowledge!  Where is the song about living through letting my baby birds leave the nest?  It may be normal, reasonable and desirable - but it's also just damn sad!

Help me, Huey Lewis.  You're my only hope.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sunrise Over the Suburbs

My Seasonal Affect Disorder has been well documented (and I do apologize for that).  There is an upside, though.  The depression that I feel in the absence of the sun is rivaled in intensity by the elation I feel in it's presence.  And no sunny days are better than the first sunny days of spring or the last sunny days of autumn.  But I'll take a sunny summer day.  Hell, I'll even take a bright sunny winter day.  It's those gray winter days that.... no - we're not talking about that today.  Today is all about the sunshine.  It's a sunshine day.  Sunshine, almost all the time, makes me high.  Works for the Brady Bunch.  Works for John Denver.  Works for me.

I drive both of my girls to school.  With the exception of those dreary days that we're not talking about today - those long short days of winter - I get to watch the sun rise every morning.  It is always a pleasant way to start the day.  Sometimes it is spectacular.  Sometimes it just - strikes me.

This morning was one of those times.

I was taking Liv to school when I first saw it peek it's gorgeous orange face over the horizon.  The sky around it was pink and the starkness of the silhouettes of the trees juxtaposed against the softness of the sky was nothing short of breathtaking.  I mentioned this to Liv.

"I love that big ole orange sun!  I want to hug it and kiss it and squeeze it!"

"Don't.  You would die."

My youngest is quite logical - not prone to flights of fancy or romance. 

"Metaphorically.  I want to hug it and kiss it and squeeze it metaphorically.  Not actually."

"Good.  Because it's just a big ball of gas, anyway."

"Oooooooh!"  I squealed, as we turned a corner, "Look at it in the rear view mirror!  It even looks good from behind!  Oooooooh I just want to kiss it on the lips!'

"It doesn't have lips, Mom.  Big ball of gas.  Remember?"

Now she is not quite as cynical as this is making her sound.  She was smiling.  We were playing.  It was that delightful sort of play when the parent knows that she is being over the top and embarrassing and the child rolls her eyes and pretends she's mortified but in reality is pretty amused.  (I'll keep telling myself that, anyway.)

"I'm gonna pull in here and take a picture."

"You can't go in there, Mom - it says buses only."

"All the buses are gone.  And I'll only be a second.  Here", I said, handing her my phone, "jump out and take a quick picture."

"I am not jumping out of the car."

"Fine.  I will."

I took the picture.  It was pretty.  Not as pretty as the sunrise actually was - it was taken with my phone, for Pete's sake - but pretty.  I jumped back in the car.

"You are a rule breaker."  

"I am a scofflaw."

"Scofflaw?  One who scoffs at the law?"

"It's a real word.  I looked it up.  Isn't it great?" I said, as we pulled up to the drop-off point.

"It's pretty great."

It's all pretty great.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

World Teacher's Day

Today is World Teacher's Day.

Please try not to die of jealousy if you do not have a sport coat this groovy.  It doesn't work for everyone.

As most of you know, I spent the better part of my adult life as a teacher.  Although I am no longer in the classroom, my immediate response to the question, "What do you do?" is, unfailingly, "I am a teacher."  This was my response no matter what grade or subject I was teaching.  This was my response even in those years when I'd walked away from my profession altogether and was a full-time stay-at-home mom.  Teaching was more than a job to me, it was the source of my identity.

I am a teacher.

I come from a family of teachers.  Many of my relatives are teachers.  Some have retired or moved on to other lines of work, but I assume that they - like me - still identify as teachers.  I know I still think of them in that manner.

My dad was a teacher.

He was one helluva teacher.

He was never voted teacher of the year, or anything like that - and it bothered me a lot more than it bothered him.  He said that he was there to teach - not to make friends - not to have his students like him or think he was cool - to teach.

And he did.

He was extremely dedicated.

If a student struggled in his class, all they needed to do to get his help was ask.  He was always willing to put in extra time and effort to make sure that his points had gotten across.
Algebra is easy.  Once you know the right equation to use, you just plug it in and crank it out.

He cared.

Most students saw a strict teacher who taught an unpopular course.  Some of the lucky ones saw a man with an extra dry wit. It's cool that not everyone recognized or appreciated that.  It made it all the much sweeter for those who did.

Recently I was going through some old pictures with my mom.  I suppose it's something folks tend to do when a loved one passes on.  We came across a whole box of pictures of him that had been taken for the yearbook.  My mom, upon seeing the way I lingered over those shots, offered them to me.  I didn't take them all, but I took the ones that were taken during the time that my being a high school student intersected with him being a high school teacher.  At the time, by the way, I really hated that. Funny how time changes perspective.  

I had been having some difficulties dealing with my father's passing.  I was at his bedside, along with my mother and my sister, when he died.  We were all glad that we had been there - no regrets.  The problem was - in the months following his passing - that became the source of my predominant memories of him.  When I thought of him, try as I might to make it otherwise, it was as he was in those final painful hours.  

Somehow, those pictures helped.  How lucky was I - to know my father as the man he was in the home and also as the teacher he was in the school.  I still haven't been able to pull up more recent memories with any degree of clarity, though I am trying - but now - thanks to these pictures - I am able to remember him in a capacity that was lost to me many years ago.

Or was it?

For me, it was his legacy.

Thanks, Daddy.

Monday, October 3, 2011


As part of my job, I found myself in a kindergarten classroom today.  As I was walking in the door - I hadn't even gotten the teacher's attention yet - a little boy I'd never met before looked at me with the most earnest big brown eyes, literally dropped his jaw, gasped aloud and said, "You're pretty."

I thanked him and smiled, then went about my business with his teacher.

Now let me be clear.  I have worked with little ones a lot.  I know that *gasp* you're pretty doesn't mean the same thing coming from a five year old that it means from a teen or an adult - teens and adults have established standards of beauty.  From a five year old the more likely interpretation of  *gasp* you're pretty would be something like, *gasp* you really resemble my mommy (or aunt, or babysitter, or someone else who loves me and makes me feel special.  I suppose at my age, grandmother would have to figure into that list, too.  Sigh.).  It could mean, *gasp* you look kind and I think I want to see if I might like you.  It might even mean, *gasp* you are wearing my favorite color.

I know this.

I fully grok this.

And yet.....

Even with complete cognitive awareness of where the compliment came from and how it was probably intended, it was still a darn nice way to start the day.

May you have a gasp-worthy day as well!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rainy Day Confessions

'Tis rainy here in the center of Ohio.

A friend of mine recently lamented her Jr. High aged daughter's lack of enthusiasm over the prospect of donning rain gear. The child is not a fan of slickers.  Doesn't much care for the old mackintosh.  No rain coat for that girl, no way, no how.


As responsible adults, of course, we see the folly in her line of reasoning.  But a Jr. High girl isn't quite ready for that lesson.  Appearances are everything and there is nothing cool about the way one appears when one is actually dressed for the weather.  Somewhere along the line, we learn that it is also not cool to ruin your hairdo, sit around for hours in wet clothes, chafe..... but for my friend's daughter, that lesson is not yet relevant.  She's not biologically ready to hear it.

My immediate response to my friend was to ask if she'd tried to make her wear rain boots, too.  Except I didn't say rain boots, I said galoshes, which is a much cooler word.  Ask anyone.  And rain boots are so cute these days, why would anyone - even someone plagued by Jr. High girl sensibilities - refuse to wear them?  I'm pretty sure no one calls them galoshes, though.  And to be honest - it wasn't the first word that popped into my mind, either.  No.  The first word to pop into my mind was - rubbers.  Because when I was still tender and sweet and not wise to the ways of the wide, wet world, my mother insisted that I wear rubbers - huge red chunky abominations that slipped over my shoes to protect them from the puddles.  Sometimes she called them galoshes.  But usually she called them rubbers.

No matter what you called them, they were awful.

On rainy days I would try to sneak out of the house under Mom's radar, but in just the second before I would pull the door closed behind me I would inevitably hear, "Tammy!  Do you have your rubbers?"  There was no use in lying.  If I tried to lie, she'd figure it out and I'd run the risk of her delivering them to the school.  I could just hear the office secretary's voice over the intercom, "Excuse the interruption.  Could you please send Tammy Hunter to the office?  Her mother is here with her rubbers."

This was the mindset I had when my slightly older and much cooler cousins went to see Summer of '42 and wanted to tell me about it in that way young girls who have not yet learned the fine art of summarizing like to tell you about movies or books or TV shows or - anything.  That is to say, they left nothing out.  Every detail was included in their description.  I hadn't seen or read it yet at that point, so I wasn't positive, but I was pretty sure they didn't miss a thing.

When they got to the part about Hermie going to the drug store to buy rubbers - and how embarrassed he was - and how he bought other things - a comb and some other sundries to draw attention away from the offending rubbers, well, I laughed more than might have been appropriate for someone of my age and (lack of) experience.  I was, of course, imagining how AWFUL it would be to have to actually pick up a pair of rubbers and buy them WITH YOUR OWN MONEY.  And why did he need rubbers for his date, anyway?  Were they calling for rain?  Poor Hermie!  The humanity!  The concept of prophylactics - of condoms - was FAR in the future.  I didn't even know they existed.  Didn't know much, beyond vague and exotic whispered half-truths on the playground, about the act that might make them necessary.  But I sure knew that buying rubbers would be mortifying!

As a side note, they went on to tell me about the boys in the movie taking a couple girls to the movies.  One was trying to touch his date's boob and spent an inordinate amount of time instead massaging her elbow.  Again - inappropriate laughter from me.  Trying to touch her boob!  Why on God's green earth would he want to do something as dumb as that?  Boys are so weird!


Every now and then I'll feel the urge to watch that movie again.  The title music is just so lovely.  Gary Grimes plays Hermie with poignant beauty.  And Jerry Houser's character is a tool, but he's such an earnest tool that you can't help but root for him.

Y'know what?  You should put on your rubbers and wade through the puddles to rent it at Blockbuster!  Or maybe you'd rather minimize the embarrassment and just order it from Netflix.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Calgon, Take Me Away

It was one of those days.  No big drama, just little thing after little thing after little thing that prevented me from getting to the things I really wanted to do. Two o'clock rolled around and I hadn't found my way to the shower yet.  I was beat, but when I tried to take a little catnap, I couldn't turn my mind off.  Like I said - no big thing - lots of little things - life.

I needed that shower - it couldn't be put off any longer.


I needed a bath.

Maybe I'd have a glass of wine after my bath.


DURING my bath.

I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before.  Wine is relaxing.  A warm bath is relaxing.  Put them together and it's - well, it's a little bit of decadence is what it is.  I poured myself a glass and headed up the stairs to start the water.  


I needed bubbles. 

I was going this far, there was no point in half-assing it now.  Darn.  No bubble bath.  Shampoo then.  I poured a capful into the tub and the resulting suds were luxurious.  Decadence on a budget.  I placed my glass on the edge of the tub and made sure my towel was within reach.  Wet hands on glass would not be a good idea.  I stepped into the warm bubbles, took a long sip, and relaxed into the tub.

Calgon (ok, Suave...) take me away.

I closed my eyes, but instead of picturing myself falling into a field of wild flowers, or whatever womanly vision the old Calgon ads portrayed, I remembered a bath from years ago.

I was twenty.  I was in Paris.  I had a room with a claw foot tub in a bathroom with a balcony that overlooked the Paris Opera House.  I don't remember what floor I was on, but it was high enough that I felt comfortable opening the doors (the french doors...) to the balcony while I bathed.  I filled the tub with bubbles (french bubbles...) and decided the only thing the picture needed to be complete was wine (french wine, of course). I wrapped myself in a towel (french terry cloth, no doubt) and made my way to the honor bar. I read the price list, dismayed.  This was shaping up to be a cool moment and all, but holy moley.  I pushed the wine aside and grabbed the only thing in the honor bar that was in my price range - a Diet Coke.  Ok, there was Evian, too.  But it was Paris.  Coke was imported.  There was Evian everywhere.  They pumped Evian through the bidets, for Pete's sake.  (Ok, that part is a lie.  Or maybe wishful thinking.  Can you imagine?  All that effervescence.....)

Oh my.

I seem to have digressed.

I opened the Diet Coke.  I poured it into a wine glass.  The aesthetic could still be there, even if the fruit of the vine could not.  I stepped into the tub - the bubbles - and gazed out over the city.  A light rain began to fall.  Nothing that would warrant a mad dash to close the balcony doors, just a gentle drizzle.

It was divine.

I thought of that bath as I let the bubbles and the wine do their job while my kids did their homework and my house remained uncleaned.

Calgon, take me away.

"Remember that nap you tried to take earlier?" the wine whispered to me.  "You might want to take another go at that when you get out of the tub, Gorgeous."  Wine always calls me Gorgeous.  Vodka calls me Sexy and gin calls me DangerBroad.  Rum calls me Baby - BabyDoll with the right mixer.  Coffee calls me Hun or Pumpkin.  Champagne calls me Dahling.  Tequila just calls me Woman.  I think that might be because it's heard me roar.  Whiskey doesn't call me much anymore.  That's probably for the best.

But today was wine.

Just one glass - not enough to do much more than smooth off the rough edges.  It didn't take me to a field of wildflowers (maybe that's because I used the Suave instead of the Calgon), but I didn't feel like I was tiptoeing through a minefield anymore.  And wine was right.  About the nap, not necessarily about the gorgeous.

Just a little nap.

Just enough.

Hey, world.  You look nice.  Are you doing something different with your hair?

Wine in the tub.   With bubbles.  I can't recommend it highly enough.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Particular Sadness of Potato Pancakes

There is a book which is titled The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  I didn't much care for it.  I didn't get all the way through it, actually, but the premise was an interesting one:  The protagonist in the story would feel, upon eating, all of the emotions that the person who prepared the food had been feeling.  Lots of potential there, eh?

Execution?  Meh.  (One readers humble opinion, of course.  Your mileage may vary.)

There is, though, something to the idea that different foods conjure up different emotions or feelings.  I know I'm far from alone in this - there are specific foods I need to eat when I'm in certain geographical areas.  There are particular foods which can evoke a certain mood.  The perfect food - like the perfect song - can transport you to a different time and place.  Some make you feel young, some like you're on vacation, some taste like the comfort of home.  Some foods bring certain people to mind - even if you haven't thought about them in ages.

This brings me to potato pancakes.

My dad passed away just before festival season began this year.  He loved a good festival - he never wanted to miss a thing.  He listened to every band and tasted nearly every food.  That man fested with gusto.

His favorite festival food by far was potato pancakes.  He would stand in lines a full city block long for a potato pancake, lovingly made by the little old ladies of the local churches.  (I feel obligated to tell you that not all of them are little and not all of them are old and not all of them are even ladies, but there is something about the phrase "little old church ladies" that appeals to me.)  He always knew who had the best potato pancakes and would advise me on the best time of day to acquire the same.

Yes sir, he did love him some potato pancakes.

I visited my mother this past festival weekend, during this year of first-time-without-Dad events.  As a side note, I have been personally feeling the loss of my father more profoundly this week than I have since the first days after his passing.  When I call home (or home calls me) it's always Mom who does all of the talking.  Twice a year, though, Dad would call me (at Mom's insistence, I'm sure, but that is entirely beside the point).  Those two times would be my birthday and my adoption day.  When I went to bed on the night of my birthday without having received that call - knowing that I'd never receive that call again - well - you're a smart person.  You know how that played out.

We're getting through those firsts.


My mom has been unable to attend many festivals this summer, so caught up in the memories is she.  As I headed out the door on Saturday, I said, "Are you sure you won't join us?"

She shook her head.  "I don't want to go.  But I wish", she added wistfully, "I could have a potato pancake."

"I can bring one back for you", I offered.  I understood why she didn't want to go, but was pleased that I could possibly offer a treat - a consolation.

She shook her head again.  "I couldn't eat one", she said, choking back tears.

I nodded, understanding.

When we passed that particular booth, Tom and Livia decided to partake.  I found that I just couldn't.

Not this year.

Not yet.

Maybe next year.

I'll try next year.

Those little old church ladies do make a fine potato pancake.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Another Trip 'Round the Sun

Yesterday was my birthday.

In my own little ego-centric universe, that marks the beginning of the year for me much more accurately than January first does.  If resolutions are to be made, I tend to make them birthday to birthday rather than calendar year to calendar year.  Reflecting over the past year takes place at this point, too - the good the bad and the ugly.

Every year, it is so easy to say, "Well THAT one was rough!  I sure am glad to put THAT behind me and start with a fresh slate!"

There are, of course, a couple problems with that particular line of reasoning.

First of all, we don't get a clean slate.  It just doesn't work that way.  We bring all of our baggage along with us. Throwing away the old calendar or blowing out the candles on the cake doesn't clear the record - it just marks the passage of time.

Second, every year - EVERY SINGLE YEAR - has good stuff and bad stuff.  Sometimes these don't balance out, causing us to attribute particularly high or low rankings to specific years - but if you REALLY think about it - no year is COMPLETELY good or bad.

This past year was indeed a rough one.  I lost my dad, one of the best men I've ever had the privilege of knowing.  I had other family problems I wouldn't wish on anyone.  For a while there, I crawled up so deep inside of myself that I wasn't sure I'd ever find my way out.  It was a rough year.  One of my roughest to date.


I went to some great places this year.  I met some cool people this year.  I ate well and drank well and laughed well this year.  I felt loved this year - often from unexpected sources.  I journeyed a few steps closer to contentment.  I watched sunrises and sunsets.  I grew.  I was humbled.  I was joyous.

A year ago, when the past year was the upcoming year, I christened it "The Ugly Duckling Year".  I had just had a tooth extracted - right up front - and I suffered a lot of private and not-so-private indignities as a result of the prosthetic and the implant procedure.  I thought it would take a year, but it's been pushed back two more months.  That's beside the point.  The point is, I knew that it was going to be an ugly year.  (I couldn't have anticipated how ugly.  I was really just thinking aesthetics when I came up with the name.)  I accepted it.  I welcomed it, even - recalling the story of the ugly duckling - and its transformation into a beautiful swan. I would USE my 'ugly' year.  I would lose weight.  I would learn the 'beauty stuff' that has always eluded me.  I would dress better.  When that crown was finally placed, it would be like a big ole' reveal on a makeover show.  I would be smokin'.

Well, the truth is, the ugly duckling was a swan all along.

I didn't lose weight.  BUT I came a long way towards improving my health and accepting that fabulousness is not one size fits all.  (It's a journey.  I'm not there yet.  But I've made a LOT of progress.)

I didn't really learn any 'beauty stuff'.  BUT I am paying more attention to it and learning.  See above.  It's a journey.  Plus I've started to get regular manicures and it is really astounding how much better a small thing like that can make one feel.  Could proper hair care be next?  Nothing is impossible.  Stay tuned...

I don't know if I'm dressing better or not, but I do know that I'm paying more attention to how much I like something as opposed to how good the sale is.  Again - not a destination, but a step in the right direction.

Bottom line?  I'm doing ok.

A duck is a duck and a swan is a swan and me?  As my tagline states, I'm just a frustrated bohemian suburbanite.  I think I'll spend the next trip 'round the sun just hanging out being the best FBS I can be.

I'm too old to blow out candles - I'm veering into fire hazard territory - so let's just lift a glass together, shall we?


Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Commute

The start times for my kids' schools have changed this year.  Liv starts Jr. High almost a full hour later than Lea starts High School.  This is a problem, because last year I got into the habit of driving them to school.  They both hate the bus.  I still make them ride it home, but I figured if I could start their day on a brighter note, why not do it?  Eliminate that first-thing-in-the-morning stress-er.

When we received notification of the time changes for this year, I told them I wouldn't be able to do it.  It takes me about fifteen minutes to get to the school.  I would have to take Lea, come home, and take Liv.  Over an hour, all told, spent on getting the kids to school.  Ridiculous.  Wasn't gonna happen.  Sorry girlies, you're back on the bus.

They balked, but understood when it was laid out for them.

The first day of school rolled around and they were set to take the bus.  I said, "Aw, first morning, I'll take you - just for today."

Second morning?  You guessed it.

I think I'm going to try to keep it up.  That's crazy, right?  Not entirely.  My reasons are more selfish than not.  For the first time in a long time I get daily, built in, alone time in the car with each of them.

Every parent knows that the best conversations take place in the car, right?

Realistically, the amount of times I'll be able to do this is finite.  Lea will be sixteen in six months, for Pete's sake.

Sometimes when they start talking, I hear the ghosts of their little pre-school voices, chattering at me from the back seat, telling me about their world.  Their world has changed significantly, but my interest in it has not.

"Y'know what?"

"Tell me."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Three Dinners: Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

I am currently attending a training in DC. It is interesting and I am learning a lot - not all of it in the classroom (ask me about my working theories on socialization patterns during out of town conferences someday...) - but a week is a long time to be away from my family - my rock.

The first night I was here was a travel day and I hadn't met any of my fellow trainees yet, so I ate alone in the bar.  Mostly olives.

The second night - after the first day of training - I ate alone as well, but this time I treated myself to a lovely dinner.  I had it coming to me, because I had felt like a kid attending a new school at lunchtime - looking for a group with whom to sit and feeling like I was on the outside looking in.  It's no big deal, right?  I'm a grown-ass woman, after all.  Who cares if I called my mom and lamented, "Why can't I make any friends?  No one wants to sit by me at lunch....."  She dusted off the same speech most parents end up using at one point or another in their parental careers.  She probably thought she'd packed that one up for good, but I like to keep her on her toes.  Just another service I provide.

I comforted myself by reminding myself that while everyone else was probably indeed having more fun than me, I wasn't HERE to have fun, I was here to LEARN.  I was even able to convince myself that this made me just a LITTLE BIT superior. 

I was just warming up my orthopedic shoes for a nice little superior dance on the third night - when Kate said, "Do you want to get a bite to eat?"  "YES!!!" was out of my mouth before she had a chance to put a punctuation mark on the end of her sentence.

Kate and I must have looked like quite a pair as we set off for points unknown with a restaurant guide in our hands.  She was tall and thin - wiry, even - to my short and - hmmmmmm - let's just go with zaftig, shall we?  We are at different places in our lives - her kids are grown and spread out over the country.  She is contemplating retirement.  Mine are at home getting ready to go back to jr. high and high school.  We found that we had much more in the way of common ground, though, than we did in the way of differences.  Our conversation was easy and a high point for me was when she told me that within five minutes of meeting me she had me pegged as - and then she went on to describe me exactly as I am. I was so pleased to think that I actually exude a vibe that is accurate. I worry about that sometimes.  (When I run out of legitimate things to worry about)

We went to a Thai restaurant where we delighted the waiter by asking him to bring us his favorite dishes and he delighted us by doing so.  It was delicious and nothing we would have ordered without his suggestion.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to sit on a stone bench on a bridge.  She wanted a cigarette - "I only smoke at trainings and conferences" and I wanted to rest for a moment.  The sun set and I wanted to hug the world.

The next night, two beautiful women, Cindy and Linda, who I've known since jr. high, met me at the hotel to join me for dinner.  I originally typed, "two high school friends", but that makes it sound like all we have in common is the indiscretions of our youth.  Of course we DO have that in common, but through the glory of Facebook we have been reconnected for years now - so we came together not as women who shared a distant past, but as women who know each others day to day lives.  Conversation did not revolve around nostalgia, but took place right  in the good old here and now.

Our visit was far too fun, and far too short.  I left them for my evening session with a spring in my step.  (This is an excellent phrase, no?  My fifteen year old used it a couple weeks ago and it struck me - because it was so NOT a fifteen year old thing to say.  I was going to say, "...with a spring in my step and a song in my heart", but I didn't want to push it.)


I had dinner with a new friend.

I had dinner with two old friends. (It goes without saying, I hope, that I mean old in the sense of - I have known them a long time, not in a sense of them being actually old.  They are my age, after all, so them being old is virtually um-possible.)

And I had dinner with a new old friend.  

Shall I elaborate?

The third dinner referenced in the title was with Mary.  Mary and I have known each other a long time, but this dinner was the first time we'd actually met.

As is so common in this digital age, we know each other solely through the blogosphere and Facebook.  We have common ground like crazy.  We have shared stories for years.  Now we have shared Greek food, a little wine, and some pretty darn awesome hugs.  We were both, as the conversation unfolded, a little nervous about meeting the other, but that melted away instantly.  She was as down to earth, funny, and sincere as I knew she would be.  Like there was any chance that anyone as obsessed with Springsteen as she is was gonna be high falutin', right?

When we parted ways in the hotel lobby - she to go home to her family (I miss my famileeeeeeeeeeeee) and I to go to my evening session - I knew that I'd be ok if I had to sit alone at lunch tomorrow.

Sitting alone every now and then doesn't mean you don't have friends.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sleeping in Hotels

I didn't sleep in a hotel until I was 15.  It's not that I wasn't well-traveled, I had just done all of my previous traveling in a camper.  When I was 15, though, my high school marching band took a trip to Disney World and I knocked "fly in a plane" and "sleep in a hotel" off the bucket list.  I shared my room with three other girls.  The first morning - I made my bed.  My roommates teased me, but I thought the joke was on them.  They said a maid would take care of it.  Right.  A maid.  For a bunch of high school kids.  Oh, that was rich.

To my great surprise and delight, they were correct.

Well I'll be.

Since then I have traveled less than most and more than some, I'd say.  I've stayed in the nastiest of nasty rooms as well as the poshest of posh.  Because I do travel less than most, though, I have maintained some (thankfully not ALL) of the innocence I displayed in that first room when I was 15.  I jumped on the beds until I was well into my 20's.  I will spare you the story of the first time I stayed in a room with a bidet. I open every closet, cabinet and drawer - and I always fully unpack.  A phone in the bathroom can still make me giggle and - if there's a room service menu - I can be counted upon to read aloud in my best fafafa voice - "I would like the club sandwich for $17.95, please.  Oh, what the heck, through in a bowl of chicken noodle soup for $9.95.  A liter of Evian for $8.95 and - that ought to do it - oh - wait - may as well send up some ice cream too.  $8.95 for that?  That will be fine.  Thank you, my good man."  I take the notepads and pens and - when I am staying multiple nights REALLY fight the urge to take those little shampoos and soaps every day (I DO take them on the last day.  They are so darn CUTE!)

Nope, not a seasoned traveler.

A traveler capable of delight, though - a traveler who is not jaded.  I'm glad.

I'm glad that I still feel a little silly when a uniformed man insists on pulling my luggage to the desk for me. (Sorry it took me so many tries before I realized that was a tippable service.  My bad.  We didn't have to tip anyone on the campground circuit - it was ignorance, not rudeness.  I know better now, I promise.)  I'm glad a well appointed lobby can still make me say, "whoa".

I'm typing this while reclining between high thread-count sheets.  I was a little intimidated when I first checked in - I felt very outclassed.  But a friend reminded me that it was all a show and I should relax and enjoy it.  It didn't take me long to take that advice.  

I still feel a little giddy when people dote on me, but I've learned to be gracious and accept it with a thank you (and a tip). 

I still have a little trouble leaving the towels on the floor and the bed unmade, though.

But I bet I could get used to it.

It's amazing how quickly the sublime can become mundane.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Son of a Mother, That Was Some Big Bottom

Oh, but there has been a dearth of squealy fangirl posts this summer, hasn't there?  The planets just didn't align properly for me, I guess.  Some summers are like that.  But last night I finally got to a show - and I'm seeing another tonight.  Feast or famine around here, kids. Feast or famine.

Yesterday was Tom's birthday, and months ago he had heard that Return to Forever would be playing our town that night.  Stanley Clarke is one of Tom's earliest jazz influences, so his presence, in our town, on Tom's birthday felt sort of like kismet.

A band like that does not really require a warm-up act.  Tell a certain fanbase that Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Lenny White, along with Jean-Luc Ponty and Frank Gambale are going to be on the same stage and - believe me - they're warm enough.  Tom is firmly in that fanbase.  I generally sit on the fence, but I have to tell you - they blew my mind.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  There was indeed a warm-up band, and that band was Zappa Plays Zappa.

Now ZPZ, we reminded ourselves, is a tribute band.  Tribute bands are just dedicated cover bands, right?  Not generally my cup of tea.  This one gains a little credibility because it was put together by Frank's son, Dweezil.  You may remember him from MTV.  I know I did.  It's hard to forget a boy named Dweezil.  Now Dweezil is an accomplished musician in his own right, but this show isn't about that.  This show is about Frank Zappa and his music.  It is a legacy.

And it was cool as shit.

One thing the junior and senior Zappa have in common is the ability to attract and surround themselves with really really high caliber musicians.  The show was tight, the music was fun, and - oh - did I mention that we were third row, center?  'Cause we totally were. Yes, I think you could say that we were reasonably warmed up.

As the roadies took the stage to tear down the ZPZ equipment and set up the Return to Forever equipment, Dweezil remained at the front of the stage, greeting fans, signing autographs, posing for pictures, and generally presenting himself as a helluva nice guy.

The crowd shifted between shows.  A lot of folks had come just to see ZPZ and left before RtF took the stage.  There was an influx of new folks who arrived late - the purely jazz/fusion crowd.  They intimidated me a little bit, as hardcore jazz folks tend to do.  There is definitely an attitude and it makes me feel dumb and simple and superficial.  They know music - or pretend to - whereas I just feel it.

Maybe you'd rather hear an overview of the concert from them.  It would assuredly be more informative.  (Maybe we can coerce Tom into leaving some commentary.....)  Right here, though, you're stuck with me and my feeeeeeeeelings.

They took the stage and the excitement in the venue was palpable.  We were in the presence of jazz gods.  I don't know jazz, but I know that.  And if I hadn't known it before, I would've known it then - the air was thick with the feeling of worship.

They hadn't taken the stage for very long before I got it.  This was the real deal.

About midway through their first song I found myself thinking about my high school band directors, my college musician-friends, my husband and of course, my dad.  All of those people had, in one way or another, led me to the place where I was able to appreciate this and I was grateful.  I felt their ghosts - or - perhaps it would be more palatable to those of them who are alive and well and perhaps even reading this - their spirits - surrounding me - whispering, "See?  This is what I was talking about."

And then Mr. Clarke sat down with his upright.  Tom held his breath.  He knew what was coming.  I didn't.  Now let me remind you that my husband and daughter are both bass players and that it is not unusual at all for one of them to call to the other to watch some virtuoso bass performance on YouTube.  I have seen and heard some seriously righteous bass playing.  I have never - and I can't emphasize this enough - NEVER - seen or heard anything even remotely similar to what Stanley Clarke was doing with that instrument.  "Holy SHIT!" I said, leaning back into my seat.  Tom registered my shift in position and smiled at me - the way a seasoned veteran smiles at a new recruit.  "I don't even know what that IS!"

THAT, my friends, is jazz.

I promise I won't get all pompous and superior on all of ya'll who haven't reached this stage of enlightenment.  But I DO have a feeling that I'll be spending some time chasing that high. 

And those who have gone before me are folding their arms over their chests and smiling smugly.  "Told you so."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Trojan Horses

I had a boyfriend in college.  With the advantage of lots and lots of years of hindsight, I can tell you that he was a nice guy, but not a terribly good boyfriend.  He had a routine for handling his many indiscretions.  He would bring me a red rose, look at me with sincere regret, and announce, "the bottom line is, I love you and I don't want to lose you."  He was a bottom line kind of guy.  Then he would tell me what he'd done and we would both cry and I would forgive him and life would go on until the next chippy turned his head.  It got to the point where my stomach would clench in a Pavlovian response every time I saw him approaching my house with a rose.

We broke up shortly before graduation - the last chippy to turn his head turned it real good.  When I went back to my house after the ceremony, I found a red rose on my desk and a note that said, "I'll always love you."  I didn't stop crying for days.  I knew what red roses meant.

I find myself experiencing that same sense of dread now when I come home from the grocery store and my eldest helps me unload and put away the groceries without being asked.  It almost never ends well.  I can almost see the red rose in her hand in place of the canvas shopping bag.  I keep expecting her to say, "the bottom line is, Mom....." She doesn't - how creepy would that be? - but something is usually still said.  Oh yes, something is said.

Trojan horses, right?  It looks like I'm getting something good, and when I let my defenses down, I get annihilated.

That boy grew up.  He married the final chippy.  I like to think he takes her flowers from time to time, and that they mean nothing more than - "I love you".  My girl will grow up, too.  The grocery bag confessions will turn into funny stories we tell around the table when her kids are teens.

Till then, I guess I'll just need to remind myself to slow down every now and then and regain perspective.  I won't stop to smell the roses, though.  And that?  Is the bottom line.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

What I Meant to Say

I had the title for my vacation post all picked out:  Upgrades and Downslides.  It's good, right?  I was going to emphasize the upgrades - of which there were only two, but they were really, really good upgrades - and downplay the downslides - of which there were many, but they were much smaller and didn't really add up to the equivalent of the upgrades.  I was really only going to mention them to keep things real as well as to keep you from dying of jealousy over the upgrades.  I'm generous that way.

Then I thought about a two part post:  Tom and Tammy's Excellent Adventure followed by the obvious sequel, Tom and Tammy's Bogus Journey.  That would've been fun, too - and it would've given me the opportunity to trot out my near frightening proficiency with Bill and Ted quotes/Bill and Ted speak.  It would've been totally triumphant.  Totally non-heinous.

I decided, instead, to talk about one woman I encountered on my trip.  We didn't meet - we didn't even speak - but - as we made our way home - I found that I couldn't stop thinking about her.

Tom and I had just finished eating at White House Sub Shop.  I had, of course, spilled crushed wet red peppers on the front of my shirt and they left an oily stain.  I was a little distraught.  I had planned to wear that shirt later that evening when we would be meeting Tom's friends for drinks.  I only knew a couple of them and I was nervous.  Maximum arm coverage coupled with summer coolness was essential to my brittle self-esteem.  I had almost cried with joy when I'd found this shirt.  Now I wouldn't be able to wear it.  It didn't only have excellent sleeves, it was the perfect color for me.  And I'd ruined it before we even had a chance to check in to our room.  I was NOT off to a good start.  Fat girls have no business eating subs.  This was retribution.

Tom thought my concerns were silly, but he's a smart boy, so he didn't dismiss them.  Instead he said, "Let's go buy you something new."  I have to tell you - I like Tom in vacation mode.

As we walked towards the shops, I resentfully took notice of all of the girls in their tank tops, camisoles, sundresses and even bikini tops.  Some were skinny, some were not.  Some were toned, some were not.  Some were tan, some were not.  None of them seemed to be concerned about their arms - and why should they be?  Their arms were fine.

And then I saw her.

She was walking towards me with her handsome husband and her adorable little boy.  She was a little younger than I was, but just as big.  Even her arms.  She smiled confidently as she gave her husband a half hug and reached for the hand of her little boy, as the crowd was thickening.  She looked beautiful and happy.  Her sundress crossed her shoulders with the thinnest of spaghetti straps.  A young man walked by and gave her a double take.  It was not a flattering glance.  He did not see the same beautiful woman that I saw.  As she drew closer to us, I wanted to compliment her on her beautiful dress.  I wanted to mention how much I loved her aggressively cute pixie haircut.  I imagined her smoothing that dress out in a full length mirror, running a hand through her super-short locks, and smiling at what she saw before heading out the door.  I wanted to tell her that I appreciated it - that it was working - that she looked great.  I wanted to tell her that that boy - who had not gone unnoticed by her or her husband - was an idiot who wouldn't recognize beauty if it smacked him in his stupid little face.

I did none of those things.  I walked past.  It's what people do.  The sidewalk was crowded.  To slow down the flow to deliver a compliment to a stranger would've been weird.  And I didn't want to draw any undue attention to myself with my stained shirt and my own huge arms.  I walked past.  I hoped she had a nice day.  I hoped she knew she was lovely.  I'd meant to tell her...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Little Ditty

I think I might turn into one of those old ladies who doesn't give a fig - like that fabled old woman "who shall wear purple" and who spawned that awful red hat business that I am almost old enough for but will never really be old enough for.

I think this - because today I broke old lady rules and fat lady rules and threw caution to the wind.  It felt amazing.

It is a beautiful day here in suburbia, so after the oppressive heat of the last couple weeks, I decided it was time to read on the deck.  I grabbed my book and headed for my beloved lounge chair, but I paused on the way.  The decking itself was beckoning.  I never do that.  I've mentioned that I have a lounge chair, right?  But the call of the boards was loud and I was helpless to resist it.  I laid down flat on the deck, my knees bent so that my feet rested comfortably on the first step.  My old back - from whom I had expected protest - practically sung in relief.  I'm not sure, but I think the song it sang was Take the Money and Run.  It didn't make sense to me either.  Not right away.

I couldn't figure out a way to read in this position, and the sun was gently forcing my eyelids closed anyway - so I put my paperback under my head  and spread my arms out - a pose I refer to as The Sun Worshiper.  It felt glorious.

But something was missing.

The sun on my face was perfect.  My pose - unlike any of my poses in actual yoga - was flawless.  But....

My hands worked as if by muscle memory - pulling the hem of my T-shirt through the collar and knotting it through once again.  I tucked the sleeves of my T-shirt under the shirt itself.  My arms were exposed, my neckline was plunging and - *gasp* - my belly was exposed.

Now this is the sort of exposure that causes people who aren't very nice to reach for their cameras and post pictures online for other people to laugh at.  Hahahahahaha - get it?  Someone who is not genetically blessed still enjoys the way the sun feels on their skin.  Just like real people.  It's funny, right?


But I ignored the little voices in my head that reminded me of those not very nice people.  I ignored the little voices that told me that no one wanted to see my old, fat mid-section - especially since it has not seen sun in over two decades!  I ignored them and I enjoyed the way it felt to have sun touching so much of me.

It felt like summer.

And that's when I understood why I'd heard Take the Money and Run when my old back sang.  A million years and a lifetime ago, that was part of a summer beach vacation soundtrack.  It's not one of my favorite songs.  It's ok, I guess.  But damned if it doesn't take me to a pretty wonderful place.