“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes”

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‘Unless, of course, they come with a chocolate bunny’

That quote up top is from Thoreau. I don’t know much about little Henry David’s family or what they did for Easter, but I’m thinking he may have felt a tad better about new-clothes-requiring occasions if he’d had a nice mommy who sewed him a sport coat. Not to mention a Bunny to leave him an Easter basket.

Younger Brothers Scott and Roger and I show off our Easter finery, which was most likely made by our mother. No, that’s not the Easter Bunny. That’s Sandy, the Dog of Our Youth

Last weekend was Easter. It was also my Youngest Brother Doug’s birthday. Since he is waaaay younger than me, and I wasn’t around for many of his Easters, I don’t have a photo of him lined up with the rest of us wearing Easter duds. But I do have this shot of him in his (almost) birthday suit.

Doug, looking clean and shiny and very proud of himself indeed. Maybe getting ready to dress himself for Easter. (Note string tied to bathroom door as an escape mechanism in case the latch caught)

Easter was a big deal when I was growing up. Not as big a deal as Christmas, of course. But when we were kids, any occasion when adults insisted that Jolly Old Elves or Big Bunnies were going to sneak into the house and leave you gifts was pretty darned exciting. The Tooth Fairy was cool, too, what with the money left under your pillow and all. But nobody, as far as I know, has made a chocolate effigy of the Tooth Fairy. Maybe because of the tooth thing. But probably just because nobody knows what the Tooth Fairy looks like, except kind of like your dad, in pajamas.

An early Easter. When the crowd of dressed-up Henry Kids consisted of, um, me. Good thing I was too young for Dad’s Tooth Fairy duty; he was away, doing other duty off in Korea 

And any occasion that required new clothes was also a big deal. Easter was a biggie. Mom usually made our outfits as well as her own. She famously made my brothers sports coats — and matched the plaids. Which, if you sew, you know is very hard to do. I made my own clothes too, when I got big enough for my foot to reach the treadle. Where we grew up, sewing kind of came with the territory. Especially if you wanted to wear anything, well, trendy. My HS BF Norma sewed a ‘granny dress’ but she got in trouble wearing it to school because it didn’t meet the dress code — it was too long.

Nope, it’s not Paris. It’s me at another new-clothes-requiring occasion: Prom. I’m with High-School Hunk Brad, wearing a dress I made myself. Thank goodness it had dots, not plaids

But back to Easter. On Easter morning we’d wake up to find an Easter Basket by our beds. It didn’t matter how old we were; this happened every Easter. Even when I was a Hulking Proto-Adult home from college on Spring Break, I would wake on Easter morning to find an Easter Basket by my bed. And I bet if I’d been back home for Easter this year I would have found one there too.

There were little foil-wrapped chocolate eggs in these baskets, plus a big old chocolate bunny, but no dyed eggs. The dyed eggs were for hiding. They were hard-boiled eggs dyed in the kitchen with our Mom, using food coloring (these being the days before those dying kits with dissolving pellets, and way before the advent of those horrible pull-apart plastic eggs). We used to draw on our eggs with white crayon — our version of batik — the crayon wax would keep the dye from ‘sticking’ to the designs, and we could create some pretty nifty effects.

Our Mom — or in later years, the Big Kids — would hide these eggs. I have to confess that I much preferred hiding to finding. It was a blast to think of clever places to put the eggs. I remember one in the crook of a tree that remained undiscovered for weeks. (Our family liked to put things in crooks of trees; my Dad once put the ‘portable phone’ — remember those? — in a tree crook, and no one found it for months.) Besides enjoying the hiding, it was also super fun to traipse around on Easter morning behind the Little Kids going ‘you’re getting warmer…cooler…warmer again! You’re hot! very hot!’ while they searched.

And what did we do with these eggs? Well, we didn’t eat them. Eating was for the chocolate eggs. And the big ole bunny. Our family was divided between the eat-the-bunny-right-now faction (my brothers) and the save-some-bunny-for-later group (pretty much only me). As a ‘saver’, I would nibble on, say, one chocolate ear, then hide the rest. Of course, my smarty-pants brothers knew where to look and would eat my bunny as well as theirs.

As years went by, I got better at foiling them, though. I once hid a big pinwheel lollypop I got at the Clinton County Fair so well that I forgot all about it. Till I heard scratching and squeaking coming from a dresser drawer where a family of mice had established a sort of rodent condo — with my sweaters as their bed and the lollypop as their pantry.

Anyway, about those dyed eggs. Even if we hadn’t had the chocolate eggs to distract our taste buds, we kids weren’t overly fond (if at all) of hard-boiled ones. Especially dyed hard-boiled eggs. If you’ve ever shucked yourself a home-colored HB egg, you’ll know that the dye tends to seep into the egg itself, and a blue-tinged egg can be sort of a deal-breaker when you’re, say, seven. Even adults find purple egg salad a tad off-putting. So, as the Little Kids found the eggs, they’d slip them to our Dad, who would rouse himself from his supine-on-the-couch position to peel them and pop them whole, Cool Hand Luke-style, into his mouth.

Oh, when it rained, we didn’t cancel the hunt; we just hid the eggs in the house. One year, about a week after Easter there was this horrible smell in the living room. Turns out one of the eggs had been hidden too well, and was still buried beneath a couch cushion. We didn’t give that one to Dad.

Jump ahead to Easter with The Child. Even though we are not what you’d call ‘religious’, we did get a kick out of dressing up and going to church with Aunt Eleanor. That’s because Aunt E went to the Methodist Church, where they sang awesome Easter hymns. Really resoundingly good ones, like that one that goes ‘Christ the Lord is risen to-daaaay…ha ha ha ha HAH lay-eh ooo ooo yah!’ We would drive home from the service with the sunroof open ‘hallelujah’ing our hearts (and lungs) out.

Ready for some Easter-hymn bellowing at Aunt Eleanor’s church, headgear and all. I’m ashamed to admit I did not make The Child’s dress, though I did knit the sweater she’s wearing in that shot at the top with the giant chocolate bunny

This post is getting about as long as a Lutheran hymn (six or seven verses, all sung in a mournful minor key, even the joyous Easter ones), so I’ll wrap this up with another cute Mom-and-Child Easter photo. I didn’t make The Child’s dress. Like the one in the picture above, The Child’s Doting Aunt Linda bought it for her. And no, I did not make my suit. Don’t tell the Easter Bunny.

The Easter Tradition continues, sans hats. But definitely with Easter baskets (not shown)

New York City. April 2017

Kangaroo walks into a bar

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‘We got a million of ’em’

Last week’s silly family sayings (see ‘What’s not to lichen?’ for some nifty examples) seemed to strike a chord, so I thought I’d regale you this week with some equally silly family jokes.

(I was going to write about late March snowstorms and sprinkle the story with some extremely cute photos of kids hiding in snow forts and whatnot, but I can’t get my darned scanner to work. Oh well, maybe it’s for the best. Snow — even funny stories about it — seems so over now that’s it’s finally Spring, don’t you think?)

Speaking of regaling, the photo at the top of this post shows The Child wowing the crowd at my Dad’s retirement party (that’s Dad,  making the introductions). She had two guaranteed-to-crack-’em-up jokes at that age, and she told them both. Here’s the first one: Continue reading

What’s that in the road — a head?

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‘On Swedes and their noggins’

Last week, in ‘Close, but no cigarette’, I wrote about malapropisms. You know, like when someone warns about ‘upsetting the apple tart’ or says they put too much ‘canine pepper’ in the soup. (Thanks for that one, Ruth!) Infamous Chicago Mayor Richard Daley once mentioned ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’ in a speech. And, of course, Donald wants our nuclear weapons to be ‘top of the pack’.

This week, I’m going to write about Swedes and their heads, a subject dear to my heart, since I am in possession of a classic example. But first, speaking of heads, did you ‘get’ the title? ‘What’s that in the road — a head?’

When I was a kid, our mother would regale us with stuff like this all the time. Like, she would say (or sing, actually) ‘She has freckles on her but…she is nice’ (with extra dramatic flourish on that word ‘but’) and we kids would absolutely crack up. There’s nothing like the word ‘but’, with or without that extra ‘t’, to make a little kid weep with laughter. Incidentally, the next verse was ‘and when I’m in her arms, it’s paradise’. Continue reading

“I’m watchin’ him!”

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‘The “Playdate”, back in Midcentury Modern Times.’

Last week I wrote about the Midcentury Modern custom of sending a high-school social studies class on a field trip to a maximum-security prison. I say “custom” because, frankly, I was astonished to find that many of you readers out there had done the very same thing. (And that’s not counting those of you who went to the very same high school as me.)

This week I’m curious to see how many of you grew up experiencing the Midcentury Modern version of the “playdate”.

“Playdates”, for those of you who don’t have, haven’t had, or don’t know anyone with children, are when parents or caregivers (what we used to call “babysitters”) set up specific times and places (“dates”) for kids to get together to “play”.

I just love that there is an actual Wikipedia entry for “playdate”. If you don’t feel like clicking, here’s what it goes on to say: Playdates have become common because the work schedules for busy parents, along with media warnings about leaving children unattended, prevent the kind of play that children of other generations participated in.

Hmmm. Just what “kind of play” was this? Continue reading

“Drive,” she said.

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‘On the glories of the Open Road’

Last week’s tribute to my Male Parent and his napping powers included a memory of Dad piloting us on those long drives up to Gramma’s house. (Oldest Younger Brother Scott remarked that Dad was the only person he knew who could ‘simultaneously nap and smoke a cigarette while driving.’)

So true, Scott, so true. But I failed to mention why Dad would get so sleepy on those drives. It was because it was at least six hours to Gramma’s — on charming-but-small-town-clogged two-lane highways — and we wouldn’t start the drive till he got home from work. Sometimes, I remember, we would pull over to the side of the road so everybody, not just Dad, could sort-of-safely sleep. I remember that when we lived in Memphis, and the trip to Gramma’s was more like twelve hours, we had a mattress in the back of the Ford station wagon for the kids to crash on. Very Joad-like, but that’s the way it was. Continue reading

Many happy returns

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‘Observing Boxing Day, the American Way’

Yes, yes, I know. ‘Many happy returns’ is something you say on someone’s birthday, not Christmas. But yesterday was ‘Boxing Day’ (and, incidentally, Monday, which is when I start pondering what the heck I’m going to write about on Tuesday).

I sort of knew that December 26 was a British Holiday that originally had to do with boxing up Christmas goodies for the servants. Who had to work (duh) on Christmas Day (see Holiday episodes of ‘Downton Abbey’ for colorful detail) so they did their celebrating the day after, with the help of said donated largesse from The Master.

But — voila! — when I looked up ‘Boxing Day’ on good ole Wikipedia, there was this secondary explanation:

In modern times, it has taken on the meaning of boxing up unwanted Christmas gifts and returning them to the shop.

Yesterday I also happened upon an article in the Wall Street Journal about stores gearing up for our kind of Boxing Day. Apparently, about 10% of all gifts bought in stores are returned, and 30% of gifts bought online are. But guess how most are returned? In stores. So the smarty-pants stores stock up on stuff that you might really like in exchange for That Thing Uncle Joe Got You. Continue reading

The gift that keeps on giving

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‘It really is the thought that counts’

First, I must extend my heartfelt apologies to The Child for using that photo up top from a Christmas-morning-in-her-early-teens-when-she’d-dyed-her-hair-an-unfortunate-hue. But it’s the only picture I could find of her actually presenting us with Christmas Coupons. So I simply could not resist.

As for the Christmas Coupons themselves, here’s one I had the foresight to save. Too bad it has, alas, expired.

I don't have a photo of The Child presenting me with this, but she was not a teen, and had normal-tinted hair at the time. I'm thinking maybe 8 or 9

I don’t have a photo of The Child presenting me with this. But I’m betting she was 8 or 9 at the time, with untinted hair and pretty impressive cursive

The Child came up with the idea of Christmas Coupons when she was barely able to scrawl with a Number Two pencil on lined paper. Instead of going to the Ben Franklin store to buy her Mommy a teensy vial of Evening in Paris (like I did for my mom, and which she probably still has), The Child would inscribe small bits of paper with promissory notes, usually for personal services. (Her foot rubs were in great demand, by her Dad anyway; I’ve never been able to let anyone anywhere near my feet.)  Continue reading