The time we left The Child by the side of the road

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‘The terrors of taking a toddler on a trip in a car’

Last week I wrote about the dangers one encounters on a trip to the Tropics. This week I to thinking about another trip we took — Out West, this was, years ago when The Child was about two — and those Bullet Ants started sounding downright cuddly. Because there’s nothing quite as dangerous as a Toddler Tantrum on a road trip.

Notice that I don’t say “The time we almost left The Child by the side of the road.” Nope. We honest to goodness left her. Not for very long, and no, there wasn’t anyone else around, but still. If we did this today, we’d no doubt get into some deep doodoo — like that hapless New York Times reporter who left her screaming spawn in the car while she ran into a 7Eleven.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Yes, still Before Road Trip, we hang out with The Dude’s Aunt Elsa, who had the Toddler Touch, even on a trip to the children’s zoo

It all started when we flew out to Arizona for one of The Dude’s Doctor Meetings. (You can read about another childlike meltdown on another of these Doctor Meetings in “Let me go; I want my mommy!”  Why, oh why, did we do this kind of thing — and more than once?)

We used the end of the meeting as the start of a Road Trip, which is (still) our favorite kind of vacation. (Of course, most of the time we’ve gone on a Road Trip, it’s been sans toddler.) I’ll spare you most details, but suffice it to say that, by and large, it was a success. We drove across Death Valley, we visited Lake Tahoe, we went to a ghost town that used to be an old mining camp.

The Child and The Dude, with friendly local, by the side of the road in the Ghost Town

At the start of the trip we even visited The Dude’s college roomie who was living in Kingman, Arizona. This was the same time that Timothy McVeigh was living there. Though, since he (McVeigh, not the roomie) hadn’t done his Oklahoma City bombing deeds yet, we were blissfully unaware of this.

The Child and I, by the side of a road. But not the road where we left her

Speaking of blissful, so far so good with the Road Trip, toddler and all. Oh, we’d had a few hiccups. There were a few stretches where I had to sing “If I Only Had A Brain” from The Wizard of Oz on pretty much endless repeat. (God forbid I cheat and hum a few bars; “Mommy, SING! No dah-dah-dah-dah dah!!!“)

The Child and I, by the side of (yup) a road. But not that road

Oh — before I forget. We had received a Christmas Card from the roomie, which was a favorite of The Child’s that year. It was bright and sparkly and had a vividly colored portrait of The Madonna on the front. We told her it was from Dad’s friend Don Casey, whereupon she’d point at it and say “Don Casey…Don Casey!” (Hi, Don!) You should have seen the look on her face when we introduced her to “Don Casey”. He didn’t have gorgeous robes, much less a halo.

The Child meets the roomie who is decidedly non-Madonna-like

But somewhere, around the third day, I think it was, The Child just sort of hit the wall, road-trip-wise. We were out in the middle of nowhere, about to visit an ancient pueblo, when she just sort of snapped. There was wailing, there was screaming, there was the dreaded Stiff-As-A-Board Thing. We tried food, we tried water, we tried the endless-singing-of-the-Scarecrow-Song. Nothing worked. And since we’d driven quite a long way to see that darned pueblo, well, we were gonna see that darned pueblo.

The Dude, in the act of leaving The Child by the side of the road (er, path)

So, yup. We left her. Right there by the side of the road. Well, er, pueblo path. And The Dude and I climbed right on up and checked that pueblo out. Of course, we could see the bright-red-parka’d Child at all times. We could even see when her mouth finally closed, indicating that the screaming had ceased and that it was safe to go back and collect her. Which, of course, we did.

All’s well that ends well, pueblo-and-tantrum-wise

The Child, of course, survived to tell the tale. Well, actually, she was too little and does not remember, so I get to tell the tale instead. But she ended up none the worse for wear, as you can see by this somewhat-recent Road-Trip-Without-Us photo.

The Child by the side of a road in Iceland. Where no one left her, not even for a second

New York City. February 2019

 

The time the New Year almost started without us

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‘Cancelled flights, skidding limos, and a surprise side trip to a Holiday Inn in Jamaica’

Somewhere there is a photo of a seven-something Child, slumped in one of those ‘exotic’-looking high-backed wicker chairs that corporate decorators like to install in chain-motel lobbies in the tropics, looking a tad tired and more than a little pathetic. The Child, not the chair. Well okay, maybe the chair too.

I can’t find the picture, and to be honest, it’s probably just as well.

It was New Year’s Eve sometime in the late 90s, and, instead of being in Bonaire as planned, We Whitmores had been shunted unexpectedly to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Where the only room to be found anywhere was in the Holiday Inn.

No, we’re not at the Holiday Inn. No pictures exist of that memorable New Year’s Eve. Not that I can find, anyway. Here we are, celebrating in New York City sometime in the mid-nineties

If memory serves, the whole shunting-to-Jamaica Thing was due to weather. Or maybe an Air Jamaica malfunction. Or both. Whatever the reason, we were (sort of) grateful to have a roof over our heads, what with the Holiday Crowds and all. Believe you me, that Holiday Inn was packed. And packed with families.

Families who were making the most of the all-inclusive amenities. There were pools, there were water toys, there were activities leaders. There were even young women who would braid your hair in dreadlocks. This was a very popular amenity. You have never seen so many Bo-Derek lookalikes in your life. And, trust me, most of them were not “tens”.

Nope, still not the Holiday Inn. Here we were at a Big Fancy Party to ring in the New Millennium

The Child and I passed on the dreads. But we were interested in the pools and eager to try out the outdoor spa. That is, until we actually saw them. Let’s just say that the requirement for showering before entering the pools was, um, relaxed. And yes, the spa was nice and steamy — but it was so full of children that it resembled kid soup. Kid soup with a nice rich brown stock, if you get my drift.

Speaking of food, “all inclusive” also meant you could eat all you wanted, as long as the food you wanted was on the buffet. And, since The Child was in her Extremely Picky Eater phase, that meant the only thing she wanted that was on the buffet was bacon. She literally ate huge plates of bacon, and bacon only, three times a day. Good thing her beverage of choice was water.

In retrospect, we should have known this trip was doomed. Even before we got shunted to Jamaica, we’d had a misfire in leaving New York City. We’d travelled all the way out to Newark Airport only to have our flight cancelled because of snow. We grabbed a recently-vacated stretch limo and slipped and slided our way back to the City in mob-boss comfort (there was a very well-stocked bar) — where we grabbed a couple of hours’ sleep, then went right back out to Newark, where we boarded our ill-fated flight to Bonaire (er, Jamaica).

Me, pursuing my favorite New Year’s Eve activity. Nope, this was not taken in Jamaica

Anyway. Here we were, stuck in a Holiday Inn on New Year’s Eve. The Dude hunkered in our itty-bitty windowless paper-thin-walled room while The Child and I searched for adventure. It was New Year’s Eve, for pete’s sakes! And adventure there was — Jaws III (right up there with the worst movies ever made) was playing on big suspended screens. (There was no sound, but it really didn’t matter.) As for sound, that was the year of “Who Let The Dogs Out”, (which Rolling Stone ranked at number 8 on a “worst songs of the 1990s” poll) and all you could hear was a joyful sort-of-melodic barking while a big conga line snaked around the grounds. Yes, we joined it.

The Dude spends another New Year’s Eve in another room, another trip. As you can see, he still prefers to hunker

I’ve forgotten exactly what happened at midnight, except that it must have been fairly G-rated, since there were so many dreadlock-bedecked children participating. I do recall sipping from a plastic cup of “champagne” while wearing a funny hat and yelling “Happy New Year!”

New Year’s Eve adventure, 2018-style. Yes, I did have some champagne. And yes, I did stay up till midnight

When we two Celebrants returned to our room, we found The Dude curled up in bed, his head stuffed with ineffectual earplugs, trying to ignore the whooping and hollering of all our neighbors. Fat chance. There was a party going on.

Next day, we were able to make our way to Bonaire, our intended Holiday Destination — where there were no dreadlocks, no dog songs, and not even any bacon-laden buffets.

Aaaaaah. A conga-line free pool — and with nice clear water at that

Since that ill-fated Eve, we’ve spent very few New Year’s out of the country — or even out of the house, for that matter. But we’ve enjoyed each and every one.

Happy New Year, dear readers. Here’s hoping 2019 is a good one, and that pretty soon I’ll stop writing “2018” on my checks. 

New York City. January 2019

“Is that for me?”

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‘A post about knitting, of all things’

What with Holiday Nonsense and all, my stats’ll probably be in the basement this week anyway, so what the heck — I’ll write about knitting.

Yes, knitting.

Knitting is actually a rather comfy cozy thing to do, especially when it’s cold out and you’re sitting in front of a roaring fire.

Somebody enjoying a roaring fire while not knitting

But I’ve also done my share of knitting elsewhere. I used to do a lot of it on TV commercial shoots. See, on shoots they have this thing called “craft services”, which is basically a big ole table loaded with every kind of tempting snack and/or treat you can think of: chips, cheeses, little pastries and sandwiches, candies of all types, including bowls and bowls of M&Ms. Our producer on a Hershey shoot once got in hot water by stocking M&Ms instead of Reese’s Pieces, which was the client’s product. She had to explain that the client on that particular Hershey shoot had requested the M&Ms.

Here I am, knitting on the beach, for heaven’s sakes

You can read about some pretty funny TV shoot adventures by clicking on Adland Lore in the sidebar. I highly recommend “The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On”.  And no, I’m not the only one on shoots who does some knitting to keep her paws away from that craft services table. I know of several movie stars who do that, too.

Knitting mittens on Amtrak. A woman passing in the aisle stopped and tried one on. Read more about this in “The A-Hole Car”

So how did I get into knitting, you might be asking. (Or not.) Well, it wasn’t my Mom, even though you can see us both companionably wielding our needles in the photo at the top of this post.

Mom taught me many wonderful things, but she wasn’t the one who taught me how to knit. (I’m thinking that having your mom teach you to knit would be sort of like having your husband teach you how to drive a stick.) My dear Aunt Shirley — the one who used to hold me on her lap and lovingly brush my hair while wishing out loud that she had a daughter — was the one who taught me.

That’s my Knitting Teacher, Aunt Shirley, the woman on the right next to Aunt M, holding one of the two terrific sons she had before finally having a daughter

I don’t have a photo of it, but I remember that the first sweater I knit was purple and it was for — ahem — myself. I stored it in non-sweater season in a dresser drawer — the same dresser drawer where I had hidden a huge lollipop my Dad (I think) had bought for me at the County Fair. No, my brothers did not find it, but a family of mice sure did. They made a comfy rodent condo out of my sweater and lived off that lollipop for months.

Not the mouse fodder sweater, but one I knit for The Child featuring non-lollipop-eating reindeer

Oh, once in a while I knit something for myself, but most of the sweaters I’ve produced over the years have been for babies. In fact, I wish I had a nickel for every baby sweater I’ve whipped up. Many, of course, were for my own personal baby.

But I loved knitting baby sweaters so much that I’d knit one for pretty much any random baby with whose parents I had some sort of fond relationship.

I knit little bitty garments for siblings’ babies, cousins’ babies, and friends’ babies, but also co-workers’ babies and even The Child’s teachers’ babies.

I once knit two sweaters for our contractor. He had twins

But then there was, forgive the pun (or not) a Baby Gap. That first batch of infants grew too big — and too picky — for me to knit for them. Trust me, it’s heartbreaking to spend all that time — even if it’s not that much time for a teensy sweater — and find out the recipient won’t wear it.

The Child had a choice about the piano. But not about wearing that sweater

So I hung up my needles and turned to needlepoint. (Which is waaaay more boring to write about than knitting, so I will spare you.) And then, right about the time my couches and chairs just couldn’t hold another needlepointed anything, there was a new baby boom.

Yup. That first batch of babies started having babies. And I dusted off my needles and started up with the knitting again.

So, while I don’t have any grandchildren myself, I’ve whipped up sweaters for Other People’s Grandchildren — the babies of those babies. And, if I ever have one of my own, my own Personal GrandKid will get all The Child’s sweaters as a Starter Kit (yes, I’ve carefully preserved each and every one).

Some Truly Remarkable and Thoughtful Parents even send a video:

Okay, about now you may be wondering (or not) why I haven’t mentioned knitting sweaters for The Dude. Well. The Dude used to be my prime sweater-getter. I started with an argyle vest when we were dating and worked my way through vee-neck pullovers (one of which, if I recall correctly, is what I was knitting in that photo taken on the beach) all the way up to shawl-collared mohair delights with set-in pockets, no less. My favorite of these was a camel-colored Ward Cleaver style number enhanced with little camel-emblazoned leather buttons.

In fact, I knit The Dude so many sweaters that, to this day, whenever he sees me knitting anything he will ask “Is that for me?

Yup. He even asked if this little confection was “for me”. Sad note here: the recipient of this confection never wrote to thank me. (Consider yourself outed if you read my blog and see this. Though if you read my blog, I just might forgive you)

So why don’t I knit sweaters for His Dudeness anymore? Well, for the simple fact that he never ever wears them. And why, if they are indeed so handsome and delightful, does he not wear them?

Because, bless his practical heart, he discovered Polar fleece.

New York City. December 2018

“They’re just blankety-blank-blank so good!”

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‘Some Christmas Movies you might not know about’

Well. Another Thanksgiving’s been added to the Memory Bank. The leftovers are long gone, and Mr. Turkey himself has been stripped down to his carcass, the broth boiled from his very bones.

Remains of the Pie. This was a couple of years ago. As you can see, I had not yet perfected my crust

And, as much as I adore my Absolute Favorite Holiday, I honestly can’t look another sweet potato or cranberry in the eye. I don’t even want more pie.

But am I ready to move on to Christmas? Starbucks certainly seems to think so. (Half an hour ago, there was Judy Garland on the speakers warbling “I’ll be home for Christmas” as Miss Barista handed me my carefully non-religious “Holiday”-themed vente latte.)

In spite of an email inbox crammed with cyber deals, I’m so not ready to shop for Christmas. And even though my building lobby is tinseled and lit, I’m not ready to decorate for Christmas either. And thank goodness I know no small children, because I am certainly not ready to bake for Christmas. (Nor will I ever be, unless and until some small children reappear in my life.)

But I am ready to dig into my stash of Christmas movies. I’m the kind of person who really gets into Christmas Movies, even though, as I’ve made perfectly clear by now, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I’d probably like Thanksgiving Movies even more — but, as far as I know, there aren’t any. Well, except for “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles”. And, sorry. As much as I adore Steve Martin (I even had a date with him once, honest) it just doesn’t crack me up as much as, say, “Home Alone”.

“Home Alone” — hilarious. “Love Actually” — hilarious, raunchy, and schmaltzy too

And of course there’s “Love Actually”, which I love, actually. I have whole sections of that one memorized. True, there are some unforgivably schmaltzy parts (that cringeworthy wedding subplot featuring a mouth-breathing Keira Knightly), but I never tire of Colin, God of Sex, telling the caterer that the teensy carrot hors d’oeuvres look like dead baby’s fingers. My kind of humor, that.

Der Bingle, Der Kringle, and that’s Charlie Brown up there in the corner

Now, I’m not going to waste your time extolling the virtues of “White Christmas” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or even “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. (Notice that I do not mention “It’s a Wonderful Life”; I honestly do not think it’s a wonderful movie. Waaaay too sappy for me.)

The Child’s “Miracle Moment”. No, I did not take this photo myself. In fact, I did not even take her to see Santa myself

Rather, I’d like to call your attention to some Christmas Movies you just might not know about. Like “The Apartment”. This one has an utterly marvelous and adorable very young Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon wearing a funny bowler hat to look older and Fred McMurray as the villain, for Pete’s sakes. I dare you to watch it and not cry at the end when Miss Kubelic tells C. C. Baxter to “shut up and deal”.

And how about “Die Hard”? It’s totally a Christmas Movie. With not one drippy drop of schmaltz. And if you’re not a Bruce Willis Fan (which how could you not be?) there’s Alan Rickman. I rest my case.

Christmas sans schmatlz

Last, and certainly not least, there’s the Christmas Movie from which my title takes its quote. Or something like that. And this is “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”.

A Christmas Carol sampler of sorts. That’s Mr. Magoo front and center

Now “A Christmas Carol” has been done, and done to death. There are at least two “serious” versions, the only one of which I can abide is the Alistair Sim One, shown above. But if I have to watch Tiny Tim, watching him as a Muppet is much less cringe-inducing. And he most certainly is in “The Muppet Christmas Carol”. In fact, the only human in this one is a very uncomfortable-looking Michael Caine. (He must have had a car payment to make.) But it’s worth watching him woodenly interact with puppets to see the Muppet Mice sing “Heatwave”.

But back to Mr. Magoo and his Carol. This was — and still is, I’m thinking — my mother’s Favorite Christmas Movie. Back in the Olden Days we could only watch it when it came on TV. We would scour the TV Guide for its seasonal appearances, and lie on our stomachs on the wall-to-wall carpeting, devouring washtubs of home-popped popcorn (courtesy Youngest Younger Brother Doug, who could barely reach the stove but was still the best corn popper in the family) and/or giant cereal bowls of ice cream, and watch Mr. Magoo do his Scrooge Thing.

What we used to do when we weren’t watching Christmas Movies on TV. That’s popcorn-making Doug on the right

But then a few years ago my Middle Younger Brother Roger performed a Christmas Miracle and found my Mom a copy of the movie on videotape. Which meant that she could watch it any time she wanted. Score, Roger! Best gift ever. And this is the scene she loved best. Which, of course, this being the Age of the Internet, took me just a few clicks on YouTube to find for your viewing pleasure:

Well. That certainly got me in the Christmas Mood. Maybe I’ll get my decorations out. Or not.

Christmas decor, chez nous. The seasonal Switching of the Cocktail Napkins

New York City. November 2018

Wedding Belles

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‘What’s not to like about a wedding?’

In my humble opinion, weddings are simply the best parties ever. You get to dress up, eat free food, drink free wine, and dance like a crazy person. All for the price of a wedding gift.

I can honestly say that I have never met a wedding I didn’t like. I’ve been to weddings in old New England Churches that smelled like mold (the churches, not the weddings), “hip” weddings with folksy preachers and awful guitar playing, weddings where the proceedings were so thoroughly photographed and filmed that you almost couldn’t see what was happening, weddings in back yards and on lawns and even involving hot dog stands (that would be mine to The Dude). And I’ve enjoyed each and every one.

“I Sabrett you to be my lawful wedded husband”

I even went to a wedding in the Vatican, which was pretty darned spectacular. That one got its own story, “La Dolce Vita and Me”, which you might enjoy reading. (Britney Spears makes an appearance — though, sadly, not the Pope.) Continue reading

“There go the roses”

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‘Life as a series of passionate obsessions’

The Dude and I went out on a “bike ride” yesterday — me on my Vespa, he on his electric motorcycle, which is called a Zero. (He purchased it on a hilarious expedition to the wilds of Williamsburg — the hipster Williamsburg, not the colonial one.) He wanted this Zero because it is virtually silent, as in “Zero noise”, and therefore ideal for Biker Birdwatching.)

Dude, in background, stealthily examining some ruddy turnstones he was able to sneak up on — upon his super-silent Zero

Anyway, as we were dusting off our bikes for this jaunt, I couldn’t help but notice various relics of The Dude’s former obsessions: the ping-pong table, the archery target, and the windsurfing gear — all looking rather sad and neglected in the dim recesses of the basement.  Continue reading

A look back: The Guy before The Dude

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‘My short first marriage, in short. Sort of.’

I’ve written about my first marriage before. Specifically, about how I (finally) revealed to The Child the fact that I’d had a Husband Before Daddy. It’s a pretty funny story. Now. Though it was pretty traumatic for the poor Child at the time.

It’s weird to think that your mom had a life before you existed–that she locked her brother in the pantry and tricked her father into letting her go to the drive-in and smoked in the car (just one time, but still) to provoke her mother–much less that she was actually legally wed to Another Person Not Your Parent.

Me, after having been wed to a Person Other Than The Child’s Parent. In my extremely hot, extremely (in retrospect) inappropriate-for-August-in-Southern-Illinois gown

And even though my first marriage lasted only a very short time–I’ve had cars longer than I had that husband–it was still a Real Marriage. There was a Real Wedding, complete with rehearsal (see the top of this post for a photo of us practicing our vows with Pastor Kahre), in my hometown church. With six friends and relations as bridesmaids in homemade-but-pretty dresses, and a reception with a tiered cake and boozeless-but-punchy punch. So I think this marriage deserves, at the very least, its own blog piece. Continue reading

A match made in heaven

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‘A Road Trip and a Wedding. Who could ask for anything more?’

We’ve gotten to the point where we are no longer going to the weddings of friends; we are going to the weddings of friends’ children. Oh, I suppose it could be worse — we could be going to the weddings of friends’ grandchildren.

Say “blind date!” The Dude captures Dad and Mom of Bride, at left

We went to a particularly satisfying wedding last weekend. This one was of note not only because the Parents of the Bride are friends of ours, but because The Dude had actually introduced them to each other. Dad of Bride had been The Dude’s college roomie; Mom of Bride had been a cute hospital nurse. The Dude fixed them up on a blind date — and bingo! The rest — and two gorgeous daughters — is history. Of course we got invited to their weddings. In a way, Dude Man is responsible for their existence.

Future Mom of Bride, center, with Fixer-Upper Dude at right. Not sure who the heck the Blonde is, but I didn’t see her at this wedding. Or at least I don’t think I did

Continue reading

No bottles, no binkies. Just Beach Boys

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‘Why being an Aunt is so Great’

I was going to write yet another post about our Ugandan Trip, to be titled (wait for it) ‘Gorilla My Dreams‘. But then some other little monkeys intervened.

The little Ugandan monkeys who wanted to visit me in the worst way. And ‘worst way’ it would have been, had I acquiesced

The monkeys in question would be my (gulp) great-nieces. They are the absolutely adorbs spawn of my Nephew-By-Marriage and his Thank-God-He-Married-Her equally adorbs wife. I, of course, leave out Actual Names in this blog. But these are The Ones Who Own the Chocolate Factory. (When you’re done reading this story, check out their chocolate. Literally.)

The Monkeys in Question. Right after Numero Tres was added to the mix

Those of you who read my stories regularly (your reward awaits in Heaven) know that I have a large and much-beloved family. My Henry side gave me four-count-em-four aunts (and that’s only counting my Dad’s sisters; there were four other aunts-in-law). Continue reading

How many people can you pack into a gazebo?

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‘No one knows — because no one has ever tried.’

Some time ago (in a piece called ‘What’s Not To Lichen?’) I wrote about stuff that families find funny. (Usually, but not always, it’s only the people actually in that family who find these things funny.) Sometimes, like in the Henry Clan, it’s bad puns. My Grampa Henry had a whole collection of particularly-awful puns. Plus dirty limericks. He wrote one once about his gall-bladder operation. He survived; fortunately, the limerick did not.

Me. Doing stand-up in a bed of you-know-what. Check out ‘What’s Not To Lichen?’ for more punishment (er, examples)

Besides awful puns (and sometimes limericks) there’s usually a set of inside jokes — groaners that never fail to amuse, at least when told (and retold) within the confines of the family itself. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “How many dead people are in that graveyard?” (Answer: “All of them.”) I know, I know. If you can stand it, a good selection of both Henry and Whitmore specialties can be found in ‘Kangaroo Walks Into A Bar’. Just don’t take a sip of coffee before you read it; there’s a Whitmore urology joke that’s killer.

Sometimes this funny family stuff can’t be categorized as a pun or a joke or even a limerick. Sometimes what’s funny just is.

Take gazebos. For some reason, if you’re a Henry, the mere sight of a gazebo is sure to crack you up. (If you’re not sure what a gazebo is, you can click here or just look at the photo at the top of this post.) If a Henry sees a gazebo, and points it out to a fellow Henry, both burst out laughing. If there’s a non-Henry along, he/she can look a bit baffled. Continue reading