“Do we have any snacks?”

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‘If a husband says this, it means “Get me some snacks”‘

We were recently graced with a visit from The Young Couple, formerly known as The Child and The Beau.

The Young Couple share a few-days-into-marriage moment

Yes, in case you have been holed up in a blogless burrow, here’s the news: Child and Beau made the plunge on the rim of the Grand Canyon on May 1. (You can revel in the details — and drool over the gorgeous photos — in “Runaway Bride” and “Tough Act to Follow.”)

One of many cinematically-gorgeous bridal shots

It was fun having them here, and for more than just a couple of days. It gave us all a chance to get into some normal hanging-out rhythms. Like, they both were working like crazy and commandeered sections of the house for no-go zones. Unfortunately, New Son-In-Law (whom I will henceforth refer to as “The SIL”) chose the kitchen, which is already my no-go zone. Or was.

Roses from a bush my Dad gave us, foreground. The SIL’s work setup, background

We worked alongside each other companionably enough, though more than once The SIL’s concentration was broken by whatever I was working on. SIL: “What is that?! It smells amazing.” (He ultimately decamped to the library, which has no windows for looking out, but also has no cooking aromas wafting in.)

In the kitchen again. But this time, decidedly not working

Speaking of food, one afternoon I heard The SIL ask The Child, “Do we have any snacks?” Well. I couldn’t help but overhear her response: “You mean ‘get me some snacks!‘” Clever girl. She is a quick Bridal Study. It only took her a couple of weeks to realize that when a husband asks if we “have” anything — beer, ketchup, a needle and thread — it really means he wants you to go get it. (In the case of the needle and thread, it means he wants you to sew on a loose button.)

Two husbands and a bride on a birding walk. Nope, that’s not a rare bird they’re looking at — it was a bunch of locals trying to get their truck unstuck

I must admit that it warmed the cockles of my heart to realize that “Husbandese,” as I’ll call it, knows no age (The SIL is not quite 30) and no boundaries (he is Canadian). I also caught him saying to Her Childness after a minor disagreement — I think it was about the title of a movie, which they googled to check — “You might be right.” This, of course, is Husbandese for “You are right.” I know because His Dudeness says this to me all the time when confronted with irrefutable proof that I am absolutely correct about whatever-the-heck it is.

Newlywed Us, probably arguing about something. But in a cute newlywed way

We once had an epic argument about whether Frank Langella was alive or dead. We happened to be walking in the theater district at the time and I had only to point to a sign advertising the play Frost/Nixon to prove my point (um, “alive”). His response? “You might be right.”

Dude Man demonstrates his sunglass method. This has nothing to do with this story, but I like it — and the fact that The Child appreciates it (!)

I didn’t get a chance to discover whether The SIL shares the pants-avoidance Husband Thing. Thank goodness he remained suitably be-trousered whenever I was around. And so, mostly, did The Dude, who was on his best we’ve-got-company behavior. (If you want to know what the heck I’m talking about, you can find out in “I’m the Sheik of Araby.” Warning: It’s a little racy.)

Dude Man wearing a motorcycle helmet — but no pants

Sigh. It’s been a couple of days since both The SIL and The Child (er, The Bride) decamped for home. And of course I miss them. There is one thing, though, I don’t miss:

Waiting in epic lines for snacks — and other comestibles — at the IGA

Amagansett, New York. June 2021

 

 

Nesting Instinct

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‘At long last, bicoastal birdies come home to roost’

It had been 599 days since I had last hugged my Mom. And, gosh-darn it, I wasn’t going to let another momless, hugless day go by. I zoomed one last time — in an airplane instead of on a screen — and got myself out to Vancouver, Washington, where my Mom was settling into her new nest.

Mom shows off her nest, including her new Smart TV

The newly-hitched Child dragged herself away from her (sounds so weird to say it) husband to join us. And, bless her, she handled everything: Air bnb, car rental, the works. Once we got there, she even did an InstaCart. All I had to do was be where she said to be at the time she said to be there.

One of many beautiful trees adorning the grounds at Mom’s place. Anybody know what it is?

Our visit did not disappoint. In addition to multiple sessions of much-anticipated hugging, it was packed with Scrabble (I managed to win a game!), Cubs games, gabfests and even some Corner Gas (Canada’s answer to Seinfeld).

It was lovely enough for a walk along the Columbia River

Favorite Sister Laura had us all over for a backyard barbecue, which was, of course, amazing. And in more ways than one. While Best Bro-in-Law Dave was working his grilling magic, Laura showed us a nest that a robin had constructed in the wreath on her front door. (See photo at the top of this post.) Laura has an eye and a talent for interior decoration, so at first we all thought she had constructed the wreath/nest as a stylish accent.

“No, no!” she insisted. “The nest is real.” (Even Dave was fooled. “Come on, you can tell me,” he whispered to me as I ferried a glass of wine to him grillside, “Laura made that nest. Right?“)

“Hey, I made this nest,” says Mama Robin

Nope. Laura didn’t make the nest. But she and the rest of her brood sure made the evening special.

Mom and Me, with matching closed eyes, whoop it up at Laura’s (That’s her behind Mom). Grillmaster Dave and Cousin Aaron flank Niece Natalie

Next day, it was more flying. For The Child and I as well as the birds. We JetBlued back to the East Coast to be able to greet Nephew Alex and his family, whom I hadn’t hugged in 713 days.

Vaxed and masked and in the air

They — Alex, Kathleen, and their three beyond-adorable little girls — have been visiting us on or about Memorial Day since Cora, the oldest, who is nine, was crawling around in diapers.

Reconnecting with the grand-nieces at long last. Tessa introduces me to Georgie, her monkey, whose nose was rubbed raw from kissing

We too played loads of games (it rained all weekend) and, oddly enough, also had an up close and personal bird encounter. The aforementioned rain, plus chilly temperatures, meant that the purple martin colony at the South Fork Natural History Museum needed human help. Rain and cold mean no flying insects. And no flying insects means no food for the martins.

We loaded ourselves into two cars and headed off to help. At SoFo, we took matters into our own hands — literally. We tossed chilled-but-alive crickets (chilled so they can’t hop away, poor things) into the air, where the starving martins swooped in, snapped them up and ate them mid-flight.

 

There was one stunned, very weak, martin we fed with tweezers until she was strong enough to fly away.

Eventually, the skies cleared, the sun shone, the kids played outside — and it was time to say good-bye.

Uncle Wayne gets into the swing of things

Just as they drove off, I got a West Coast nesting update from my sister. Not only had my Mom settled in nicely, so had Mrs. Robin.

The eggs in the nest in the wreath on the front door

Amagansett, New York. June 2021

 

 

Narrowing the Generation Gap

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‘Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom get together again’

Pictured above are a daughter, a mom (who is also a daughter) — and her mom. Three generations of a family who, like many others, loves nothing more than to get together but hasn’t been able to in ever so long.

Same trio, same positions — Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom — on another visit long ago. Which doesn’t actually feel that long ago

The last time this threesome was in the same room at the same time — not to mention the same positions — was in October of 2019. When the extended Henry Clan gathered to celebrate our matriarch’s ninetieth.

Same room, same time, some celebration (!)

That was some shebang. (You can read all about it in “So far, so good.”) There was cake, there was wine, there was dancing and joking and all-around foolishness and hijinks.

Dancing in pjs. A must at any Henry party

One can only wonder what we would have done differently had we known it would be the last time we’d see each other for more than a year. I certainly can’t think how we could possibly have enjoyed ourselves more.

I can think of one thing I’d do differently: have waaaay more of those delish deviled eggs, seem here being created by the Amazing Jen

Funny how you can take in-person stuff for granted. A hug, a kiss, a game of Scrabble, or even a family-gathering tussle over who gets the next turn in the shower or the last cup of coffee. From now on, slap me if I pass on any of these again.

Scrabble chez Mom. She’s smiling because she’s winning. She smiles a lot when she plays Scrabble

Trust me, the only way I want to Zoom these days is to get on a plane and go see my Mom. Which is what I am doing this Sunday.

We crack each other up at one of our weekly Family Zoom sessions

Yes, at long last — and fully vaccinated (see “My Morning at Jabits Center”), I am jetting out for a real, in person Mom Visit. And I’m not the only one. When I mentioned this visit to The Child, she asked to go along. (Or “go with,” as they say in the Heartland.)

The only way to “go with” back in the day. The Henrys visit the Peterson Clan

“Of course you can come,” was my pleased-as-punch reply. The Considerate Child even offered to drive. (She has had beaucoup de practice tooling around in that F350, and I am woefully unfamiliar with the operation of any vehicle newer than a ’98 4Runner. “What’s this thing do?” was my response to seeing one of those newfangled key thingies the last time I rented a car.)

So. Next time you hear from me I will have had actual, physical contact with both my mother and my daughter — my mother in her new home; my daughter in her new status as a Married Person. (See my last two posts for glorious wedding — er, “elopement” — details. More than one person remarked that the photos were so gorgeous it looked like a movie. “Yes, a movie that I couldn’t go to,” was my retort.)

Daughter in F350 as Married Person

But I do get to go see the two most important women in my life. And soon. Watch this space for a brand new Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom photo. Everybody in it will be smiling. Even those of us who lost at Scrabble.

Amagansett, New York. May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

I left my heart in San Francisco

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‘And my life between the moon and New York City’

This is a story about how The Child almost didn’t come to be.

I had almost forgotten about her near miss with existence. But, just the other day, my memory was jogged by Her Childness herself when I asked, “Where are you now?

See, The Child, as you well may know, has taken the concept of working remotely and sort of super-sized it. She and The Beau gave up their apartment, stored their stuff (mainly in my attic), bought an F350 with a BigFoot camper shell, and hit the road.

Trailer Hitch: Child and Beau a few months after the start of their trip — and a few weeks after their engagement

(If you can do it without going all green with pent-up-in-my-darned-house-for-almost-a-year envy you can read about some of their adventures in “Her Personal Truck” and “Deeds of Derring-Don’t.”)

Well. It turns out The Child is in San Francisco. When I heard this, my soul was suddenly filled with longing.

The Traveling Two entering the Golden Gate

I have previously regaled you with the story about how I got myself to New York. (It’s a pretty good yarn called “Take a Letter, Miss Henry.” A rubber chicken is involved.) But I failed to mention in this story that my other very-seriously-considered option was to move to San Francisco.

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The Imaginary Kitty

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‘Few people saw Wombat. Now no one ever will.’

My Oldest Younger Brother Scott swore that Wombat was an imaginary cat. He and his sons stayed with me in Amagansett a whole week and never saw her once. Oh, maybe one of the boys glimpsed a little black shape slinking down the stairs in the middle of the night, but not well enough to establish that it was an Actual Cat.

Can you find the cat in this picture? Wombat was notoriously good at hiding. Sometimes in plain sight

Well, I’m sorry to say that yesterday Wombat left this earth and went to Wherever Good Animals Go. Perhaps she is hanging out with Mango. (I would say Mango and Tuna, but Tuna had issues. (See “Tuna finds the Baby Jesus Sweet Spot” for details.)

Once in a while Tuna would deign to play

Tuna wouldn’t sit on your lap or even let you pet her. Which is really all you ask for in a cat, yes? But even though she didn’t do her Cat Job, Tuna had her fine points — for one thing, she loved The Dude’s playing so much she would sit on a pile of music books next to the piano — so I’m betting she’s Up There teaching Wombat some bad heavenly habits right this very minute.)

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Groundhog Gal

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‘Caught in the continuous Corona Lockdown Loop’

Ten minutes ago when The Child was ten years old she was allowed — nay, encouraged — to invite friends out to Amagansett for weekends.

How many friends? As many as the car had seat belts for. If somebody didn’t mind a middle seat, that meant three. The car ride from the City could take ages, but those kids were pretty good at entertaining each other. They’d play car games, like Count The Cows (you lose all your cows if you pass a graveyard) or that one where you say a word starting with the last letter of the previous word. Some smart aleck would invariably contrive to use the word “xerox.”

See all that traffic on the left? Guess which direction they’re going

Once we got to the house, things were fairly easy too. At that ten-to-twelveish age — kind of the sweet spot of kiddom, in my opinion — the Host Mom (at least a Host Mom like me with an easy breezy parenting style and a safely-isolated home location) could pretty much just throw those tweens outside and let them fend for themselves. 

The Child (right) with one of her easy-to-entertain pals

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Before the parade passes by

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‘Believe it or not, summer’s almost over’

I’ve written about the astonishing swiftness of summer before. (See “The Days are Long, but The Season is Short.”) And more than just that one time. (See “Yup, Summer’s Officially Over,” etc. etc.) One would think that by now, with so many summers under my baby-boomer belt, I’d be used to the swiftness of it all.

One would be wrong.

What made me realize that this particular pandemic-plagued summer was already sailing inexorably into its sunset was a photo my beloved Favorite Only Sister posted on Instagram recently.

Here it is. Showing a mixed assortment of Clinton County Parade spectators. Looks like I missed a *sniff* swell time that year

She posted it because, yes, it’s Clinton County Fair Time again. The Parade pictured was enjoyed during a time when we kids were all grown up, some of us with kids of our own. I was, alas, missing from the scene that particular year. But I did get to witness the “Surfing the Internet with God” float (pictured at the top of this post) on another similarly-memorable Parade-watching occasion.

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The Zoom Zoom Room

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‘Connecting in the Time of Corona’

I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning these days. No, it’s not from the craziness of the News Cycle — though the suggestion of ingesting bleach or zapping the inside of my body with “light” is rather mind-boggling — no, my noggin is spinning from all that Zooming.

I’ve been Zooming (or FaceTiming or Facebook Messengering) with West Coast Cousins of The Dude, members of my New York City Ladies’ Club, the Curator of the Frick Museum, and even Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah. (I’ve already written, in “Apocalypse Now,” about Zooming with John Krasinski.

Why, the whole Earth is zooming! (Thanks, New Yorker)

And that was just this week. It’s kind of funny, actually (if anything about this Corona Crisis can be funny), but I’ve been feeling more connected than ever during these weeks of isolation.

Somehow I thought that isolation would be more, well, isolating. But, as it turns out, I’ve got my coffee with the ladies on Mondays, my art lecture on Tuesdays, my Family FaceTime on Wednesdays. And this week, I’ve added a Cocktail Hour with my Bridge Buddies on Thursday. I hardly have time for those endless hours of curled-up-in-a-big-chair-under-an-afghan reading I’d pictured myself doing.

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A Merry Minimalist Christmas

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‘And a Happy New Decade’

Yes, yes. I’ve told you enough already about the Downsizing. (For those of you out of the loop, blogwise, The Dude and I are soon to move from a normal-sized New York apartment to what I call The Ken and Barbie House. Which is itty-bitty, to say the least. And I do mean the least.)

Floorplan of K & B House. Yes, that’s a 6×6 kitchen

But have I told you about the Staging? In order to move into the teensy apartment, we have to sell our normally-sized apartment. And, in order to sell it, our arms were twisted to Stage it. “Staging” means you, basically, get rid of anything in your home that gives any clues to your personality: photos, artwork, memorabilia. This also (at least in our case) meant getting rid of anything that provides comfort and coziness: carpets, pillows, lamps.

Stripping the living room. Only things left are the piano and the cat bed

“Our” living room, after the Stagers had their way. Sigh

Living in a staged apartment is rather like living in a hotel room. The stuff isn’t yours (those are rented couches; the coffee table isn’t ours either) and god forbid you spill anything. It’s also rather echo-y and noisy, what with the carpets and curtains gone. And don’t get me started about where on earth to put a cocktail — all my end tables were banished.

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So far, so good

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’Wise words from my mom, the Birthday Girl’

I just love birthday parties. Especially when they are somebody else’s. In my personal opinion, birthday parties are just absolutely the best. (Weddings are a close second — or, hey, maybe even a tie.) With both, you get to celebrate a happy event, see a ton of friends and relatives — then you get to eat cake and make a bubbly toast.

This particular birthday was my mother’s (gasp) 90th, and we got to eat cake twice — while making multiple bubbly toasts. The first time was on her real, actual birthday last Wednesday, October 9. (The way-cool picture at the top of this post featuring my Two Favorite Women in All the World is from that happy occasion.) And we got to do it all over again on the weekend at a big Open House we held for family and friends.

Zillions of friends and ka-jillions of relations prepare to eat mucho cake and sip major bubbly

In case you’re wondering, my mom won’t mind me giving away her age. Not this time, anyway. She used to quail at being asked, “How old are you?” She, like me, was brought up to consider this an incredibly rude question, but you’d be surprised how many people — people who do not work for the DMV or even the Social Security Administration — ask it.

My mom used to answer Rude Age-Asking People by counter-asking, “Why do you want to know?” Which worked. Sometimes. For tips and pointers my Mom taught me on how to handle awkward questions, see my story titled, (naturally) “Why do you want to know?”

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