“If you’re cold, put on a sweater.”

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‘And keep your paws off that thermostat.’

The other day I rushed home from an event and found myself stripping off layers as I strode through the door, said event having taken place at a particularly overheated venue. Every stitch I was wearing had to go in the laundry or the (ka-ching) dry cleaning pile. (The Child, on her last visit home: “Mom! Do you know what they charge at that dry cleaner’s on Lex?”)

Honestly. I swear I don’t know what’s happened this winter. Every place I go — restaurants, museums, busses, the subway, the opera even — has the heat cranked up to the absolute max. Could it be that people are cold from all those outdoor activities during Covid? (I must admit I did not take part in these, at least not voluntarily. Oh, there was the occasional outdoor restaurant date with Concerned Covid-Avoiders, but few in my cohort really got into Outdoor Covid Stuff — unless it was something that usually happens outdoors anyway. Like, say, a picnic. In summer.)

Here’s someone who looks really cold. An not because I turned down the heat, but because it was, like -29 up there in Canada

While I can’t control the heat in public places, I like to think I can do so at home. But there’s the indisputable fact that I do not have exclusive control of the thermostat.

Nope. Dude Man lives here too. And, as I like to say, our marriage runs hot and cold. As in I’m always hot, and he’s always cold.

(And before you get all kinds of snarky ideas about the state of my hormones, my overheatedness has nothing to do with that.)

One of the reasons he’s always cold: Dude Man wears a tee shirt, no matter the weather. At least here he has a nice warm kitty to hand

It’s just that I’ve always “run hot.” My mom was the same way. In fact, she’s the one who used to say not to touch the thermostat and if you were cold to go put on a sweater. Of course back when I was growing up, keeping the thermostat on the low side was done more to save money than because everybody liked a cool house. This was even more apparent in the summer, when the air conditioning was not only set to a high temperature, but only turned on when company showed up.

Sometimes, instead of sweaters, my family would put on spoons

So yes. I tell Dude Man to go put on a sweater when he’s cold. Of course this is a guy who likes to sit around in a tee shirt even in the depths of winter. Often clad only in his underpants as well. (See “I’m the sheik of Araby.” for hilarious — and swear-on-a-stack-of-Bibles-true — details.)

Helmet: check. Shirt: check. But pants?

You may or may not know this about me, but I am never not knitting a sweater. And, trust me, I’ve knit The Dude dozens: pullovers, argyle vests, grampa sweaters with pockets, even a camel number with leather buttons stamped with little camels. Which he never ever wears.

My latest sweater, featured in an Instagram post by the pattern designer. Nope, it isn’t for The Dude

On the rare occasion when I can get Dude Man to put something on over his tee shirt, it’s invariably something in polar fleece. So, no. I don’t knit him sweaters anymore. (See “Is that for me?” for more.) And while I’m beefing, what is it about Cold People always marrying Hot People? Personally, I have yet to meet a couple who is thermostatically matched.

Someone who actually wears the sweaters I knit. (And not just for a photo, like His Dudeness is in the shot at the top of this story)

Someone else who actually wears my sweaters. But then, he is a baby and has no choice

But, as I’ve pointed out in the past, I am rapidly turning into my mother. (Heaven knows I am looking rather uncannily more and more like her every day.) And Mom has gone from running hot — to She Who is Always Cold.

That’s Laura on the right. That person on the left morphing into my mother — is me. (Note Mom swathed in warm scarf)

Perhaps, one day, it will be my turn to be She Who Is Always Cold. Until then, I’m hogging the thermostat.

Amagansett, New York. January 2023

 

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Socks

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‘The Child’s footwear phobia, conquered at last?’

It’s been cold here in the Great Northeast. Why, last weekend, the temperature dropped from 51 to 15 in twelve hours. But it’s even colder where Her Childness has been spending the Holidays. She reported twenty-nine below on Christmas Day up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where the SIL’s family — bless their rugged little hearts — is based.

Forget the frankincense and myrrh. Somebody bring the Holy Family a space heater

And what has The Child been doing every single day she’s been up there in the Frozen North? Why, running, of course. She made a resolution at the beginning of the year to run every single day, no matter what. And, by golly, she’s kept it. Neither rain nor snow nor sleet has kept her from her appointed running rounds. All year long.

What happens when you run every day — including days when it’s -29

I’m not worried about the running-in-all-weathers. Nope, as a Concerned Parent, I’m just hoping that she’s had an attitude adjustment toward socks. 

See, when Her Childness was an actual child, she hated socks. (Well, except for her Christmas stocking, which you see her brandishing in the picture at the top of this post.) It wasn’t a fashion issue, the hating-sock thing; she was notoriously anti-fashion, preferring to dress with the utmost simplicity. She once rejected a gift tee-shirt because it was embellished with a practically microscopic applique of a flower.

I trust there are socks down there. Somewhere

No, it was the way socks felt. Apparently, they crumpled up and caused great distress to her tender little feet. If I didn’t get them on just right, she’d howl. During the normal course of things this didn’t bother me too much. I’d just skip the socks. Though I did get sharp looks from well-meaning interfering old ladies. “Aren’t her feet cold, dear?” “Well yes. And so is her head, since I can’t keep a hat on her either.”

Now, a mixing bowl on her head? Different story

The problem was school. There was a uniform, which, one would think, would make dressing every day a breeze. But this uniform included socks. Which meant that dressing every day was a battle.

The Child, at prime sock-hating age, dressed in her school uniform. You can’t see them, but there are socks on her feet. I think

Middle Younger Brother Roger can attest to this. Once, after a lovely visit with him and Aunt Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jenn, we almost missed our flight home — we were going directly from the airport to school — because we couldn’t get the socks to feel right. (Somewhere there is photographic evidence of this; in this long-lost-but-memorable shot, The Child wails while Roger holds aloft the Offending Sock.)

She likes some socks, at least socks on other people. She gave me these as a gift one year

Could antipathy toward socks be an inherited trait? There are some pretty wacky inherited traits. (See “Hands on Clocks, Hands on Hips” for a particularly nutty example.) I wonder because The Child’s great uncle Buddy never ever wore them — not even riding his bike in the dead of winter. (He never drove, either.) Of course it didn’t get down to minus 29 here in Amagansett. But if it did, I betcha, being a Whitmore, he would have stuck to his sockless guns.

A Whitmore Wish to all for a warm — and warm-sock-filled — Holiday Season

Amagansett, New York. December 2022

 

Chilling Effect

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‘The Icebox Cometh. The Refrigerator Taketh.’

Harrison Ford is 80.

Yes, that Heartthrob of the Seventies, he of Han Solo and Indiana Jones fame, is old. Older than me, even.

“Ain’t he neat?” Harrison when he was not old. In my favorite role — that uncredited drag-racing devil in American Graffiti

Even if they hadn’t given his age in this interview I read in the NY Times, he would have given the game away, age-wise, by referring to a certain kitchen appliance as an “icebox.”

Incidentally, Harrison gave the interview to promote a new role of his — playing somebody’s great-great-great uncle — which is also a rather elderly thing to do. But, hey. More power to you, former carpenter-who-made-it-big!

I’m just glad you’re older than me, Harrison. So few people are these days. Well, my mother is, but I get mistaken for her sister. A lot.

“My sister” “My daughter” “My sister” “My daughter” (movie reference!)

But back to “iceboxes.”

Chances are, O Reader, you are too young to remember when these contraptions were called “iceboxes,” much less why. (It had something to do with cooling with actual ice, which came in blocks, delivered by an iceman. Hence The Iceman Cometh.“)

I too am too young to remember iceboxes, thank god. (It’s nice to be too young for something.) Oddly enough, The Dude’s family didn’t have an icebox either, but he calls our SubZero “the icebox” all the time. And he — you guessed it — is younger than me.

Youthful Dude when he was genuinely youthful, yet still younger than me

I do remember that our refrigerator had a very important ancillary function in my childhood household. It was used as sort of a chilling area. No, mom wouldn’t stick a kid in there. But if, say, we’d fight over a toy, that toy would get put “on top of the refrigerator.”

As in, “If you two don’t stop, that cap gun” — yes we owned toy weapons — “is going on top of the refrigerator!” See, the top of the refrigerator was too high for a child to reach, so it was the perfect repository for Things That Were Taken Away From Kids.

Cap guns got put up there. Yo-yos. Sets of jacks, decks of cards. Chocolate Easter Bunnies. Pretty much anything we’d grapple over. Messy or annoying toys went up there too. (Play-Doh and harmonica, I’m talking about you.)

Thank your lucky stars, O Child. If you’d had siblings, that tiara would have ended up on top of the refrigerator for sure

You might be asking, why not just stick these things in a closet or drawer? Well, for one thing, we kids were pretty good at finding even the most well-hidden treasures. (Birthday and Christmas presents were famously “hidden” under the parental bed.) But the most important reason was the inherent reprimand of having something you dearly wanted put in an inaccessible place where you could see it and thus be constantly reminded that you were naughty enough to have had it taken away.

Pretty perfect parenting trick, that. I’d recommend it, but these days refrigerators tend to be built in to a bank of cabinets. So there’s no way to stick something up there in a tauntingly reprimandish way. Oh sure, you could stash that slingshot in the fridge-top cabinet, but if your kid can’t see it and whine to get it back what’s the fun in that?

I’ll end here with a shot of two kids who look like they did get stuck inside the refrigerator — or maybe even an icebox:

Amagansett, New York. December 2022

How much is too much to pay for a party dress?

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‘Read this before handing over your credit card’

Apologies for being (sort of) late with this week’s post. Unless you’ve been living under an undecorated rock, you too have been attending party after holiday party and don’t have a lot of time for relaxing pursuits like blog writing.

Part of the fun of these parties, for me anyway, is dressing up. What’s the fun of going to a party if you can go “casual?” Since I retired, “casual” is how I dress pretty much 24/7. I like a little duding up.

Speaking of “duding up,” here’s his Dudeness looking extremely spiffy in black tie. Dressing up is so easy for guys

I was at a party last week where I admired a woman’s earrings. (Hi, Elizabeth!)  Coincidentally, we were both talking to another woman who was also wearing stunning sparkly earrings. (Hi, Kim!) Turns out they both got them at the same time, from the same jeweler. And they both spent outrageous sums on them. (No, I did not ask how much.)

I’ve worn this fur hat so much it’s now practically free. Read on to see what the heck I mean

Their Spending Guilt prompted me to reassure them with my CPW Theory. Simply put, CPW (Cost Per Wearing) means that the true cost of an item of apparel is not how much money you spend on it. No, the true cost of that item is how much money it costs each time you wear it. In other words, it’s the cost of the item divided by the number of times you wear said item.

This taffeta skirt is the same taffeta skirt in the previous shot of dressed-up peeps in an elevator. The elevator wearing was 22 years ago. But there was a glitch this last time: read “Skirting the Issue” to find out what it was

Say you spend $500 for a coat. (Is this expensive? It’s been years since I bought a coat.) Anyway. If you pay 500 bucks for a coat and wear it once, well that coat cost $500. But you usually don’t wear a coat just once, do you? I have a black plaid Burberry that I’ve owned for 20 years that I’ve worn, oh gosh, 20 years. That’s 20 winters at 4 months a winter at 4 weeks per month times 3 days a week. That’s 960 times. Even if that coat cost a thousand bucks — which it didn’t; I got it on sale — its true cost is about a buck a wearing.

Too bad you can’t see the rest of the Burberry coat here. Trust me, it’s a keeper

On the other hand, say you pay a mere pittance for something like a bargain at Target or TJ Maxx. Something like a spangly top for $20. (Yes, I have done this.) I fell for the spangly top, wore it once, then gave it away. It was sort of itchy and hot, and very very spangly. So guess what? According to the CPW Theory, that was not a cheap top. It cost me $20 per wearing. So. More expensive than the Burberry.

(Notice that I am wearing a sort of spangly top in the photo of The Child and Me admiring ourselves in the mirror while drinking Birthday Veuve. That’s not the top. This one I got on e-Bay. For 80 bucks. So far I’ve worn it twice. But it’ll get out there again. You’ll see.)

The only downside to practicing CPW is that, if you wear an item enough, people start to recognize it. As in, “Oh! I remember you — I recognize that dress.” Which happened with this one. So I finally gave it away

Back to that Burberry coat for a sec. Every time I wear it, I get a compliment. So there’s that. In fact, I told my earring-bedecked friends that even if they didn’t wear those pricey earrings lots and lots of times, they could modify the CPW Theory to be Compliment Per Wearing. So. Still a good investment, I say.

I’ll close with the ultimate in CPW, as practiced by the one and only Child.

New York City. December 2022

The birthdays just fly on by

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‘What happened to “You sure don’t look it!”?’

I’ve whined (er, written) about birthdays before. (Thank you, Loyal Readers, for your patience with my elderly musings: “Sixteen Candles. Plus Another Sixteen. Or So.” “All Saints’ (Birth)Day.”  “Skirting the Issue.” There are way too many — kind of like the number of candles on my cake.)

A scene from one of many random birthday celebrations. I believe this one was not actually mine — I was just trying on the tiara for size

I’m actually grateful for reaching the astounding age that I have reached — especially when I consider the alternative. One of our friends, even older than I, has a motto: “Every day above ground is a good day,” with which I heartily concur.

Having a very nice time above ground with a tiara and a glam group

Last year I celebrated a Landmark Birthday — seventy, it was, for heaven’s sakes — with a fancy party and all the glam trimmings. I was riding high on birthday glory when — about a week later, it felt like — I turned seventy-one.

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Sitting Pretty

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‘And pretty much just sitting. Thank goodness.’

Perhaps you recall my saying that I had a couple of good excuses for going Blog-AWOL back in August. One, of course, was the much-anticipated wedding celebration of The Child and the SIL. Read all about it — and see lots more pretty pictures — in “Two Weddings Are Better Than One” and “No, I Didn’t Skinny-Dip At That Canadian Wedding.”

Oldest Younger Bro Scott captured this image of the Happy Couple

The other excuse?

Me and my other excuse

I was visiting my Mom. Where, thank goodness, we pretty much just sat around talking. Oh, sometimes we’d drink coffee and talk. Other times we’d drink wine and talk. But sitting around was our preferred activity.

Sitting around having lunch at Beaches, our favorite riverside restaurant

There were two reasons for this. One was that I was all tuckered out from the wedding. No, not from helping with the wedding. As I told many of my friends who asked, “How are plans going for the wedding?” I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Nothing to do with the flowers, the food, the music. Not even the guest list. This summer, in a show of mother-of-the-bridely concern, I asked The Child what her colors were, and she looked at me like I had grown another head. “Colors? My colors? I don’t know.”

Colors? Who needs colors? What you want are scads of adoring friends and family. All picked by The Child and the SIL

Nope. All I had to do for this wedding was show up. I didn’t even need to buy a dress. When I asked about that, I was told to just pick out something from my closet.

The winning dress? This little navy number I’ve had for about 20 years. Those gorgeous accessories? I’ve had them even longer — all 3 of my brothers and my one and only sister

No, the wedding was exhausting because there was a whole week’s worth of activities leading up to it. And not activities like shopping or having tea or touring stately homes. These were activities like hiking mountains. Scree was involved. So were grizzly bears.

Why, there was even a hike the morning of the wedding. Here I am being supported by a strapping young grand-niece

The wedding itself wasn’t too exhausting. Not for me, anyway. There was a bit of stress involving hair and makeup. And I had to give a toast. Though I think the fact that I was giving a toast was more stressful for The Child than for me. She was terrified that I’d riff on her old boyfriends. “Me? Make fun of your old boyfriends?” “Well, you have made fun of them. Lots of times.” “Not at your wedding. That would be tacky.” Meaningful silence.

Appreciating a hilarious toast by either the bro or the dad of the SIL. (Neither made fun of The Child’s old BFs.) At least we got to sit down

Oh, and after dinner there was lots of dancing. Some moves were fairly strenuous. Thank goodness my twirling days are over.

Even the dancing was strenuous

So. After all of this activity I was really looking forward to a week of recreational sitting. And, lo and behold, Mom’s place was perfect for it. My sister had scouted out the perfect furniture for Mom’s previously-underutilized balcony. And, trust me, we gave it a workout. The only time we went inside was to watch Cubs’ games. Oh, and to get more coffee and/or wine.

We even engaged in some rock-related activities at Mom’s: arranging these Maine specimens sent by Youngest Bro Doug. No scree, as you can see. And yes, Mom is watching a Cubs game

I was truly and duly relaxed after a week at Mom’s. Why, so relaxed I almost forgot about the wedding. Kidding.

One more wedding photo (thank you, Joanna!) taken after the freak thunderstorm, but before the ceremony. Happily ever after, folks!

Oh! Here’s one last photo, for this week anyway. Taken from my plane window on my way home:

Saying bye-bye to Mt. Hood. I am sitting (of course) and sipping wine. Airplane wine, but still

Amagansett, New York. September 2022

 

 

No, I didn’t skinny dip at that Canadian wedding

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‘But I did get up close and personal with scree.’

First let me remind you that I had a darned good reason to skip a couple of blog posts in August. (Actually, I had a couple of good reasons, but The Wedding is the one I’m talking about today.)

Dude and Child walking down the aisle to the shore of Lake Louise

Another reminder. This was the second of The Child’s two weddings. The first — and legally binding one — was held last May on the rim of the Grand Canyon. The second — the one family and friends could attend — was held a couple of weeks ago on the shores of Lake Louise.

The Child Bride at her first (legal) wedding. Yes, the groom was there too, but that was about it

The wedding itself was gorgeous but not without drama — though not of the will-the-groom-show-up kind. A thunderstorm blew in one hour before I Do Time, so freakalicious that it capsized several canoes on the lake, sending their (luckily) lifejacketed occupants — including one woman clutching a lapdog — into the forty-degree drink.

Me, with view of Lake Louise out our window. No capsized canoes in evidence. Yet.

Speaking of gorgeous, I was invited to the bridal suite to have my “hair and makeup” done. I was relieved when informed that I needn’t bring my own makeup, since I really don’t have any. I did relate a cautionary to the makeup artist. Once upon a time, my late lamented sis-in-law Patty got all dolled up to go out, whereupon her young son Aaron exclaimed, “Mommy! You look just like Clowny Boy!” (This was a stuffed toy of Aaron’s that looked, ahem, like a clown; Patty did not take this as a compliment.)

Neither Aaron nor Clowny Boy could make it, but his brother Joe sure did. That’s him with his dad, Oldest Younger Bro Scott

When I went back to our room all groomed and polished, I struck a pose in the doorway, and said, “Well?” To which Dude Man replied, “Huh?” I did a little spin, explaining about the hair. “Oh. It doesn’t look as stringy as it usually does.” I didn’t bother pointing out the makeup.

A gaggle of Henrys — plus Susan, my Scree Coach (read on), on the right. That’s me in the hair and makeup

But enough already with hair and makeup. What about that scree? Well. One of the cool things about Wedding #2 was, not only that we got to go to it, but that there was a whole week’s worth of fun run-up activities. Most of these took place in and around Banff. Which I swear is spelled with two “fs” because there’s just too much fun for one. (Or, as my experience will prove, maybe too much fear.)

Dude, Child and great-niece at the top of Sulfur Mountain, Banff. Yes, all three climbed the mountain. Me too

Most of these activities — mountain-climbing, white-water rafting to name a couple — were pitched toward the Younger Set. Dude Man and I did accomplish a couple of the more family-friendly climbs. But one day, puffed-up with our success at scaling Tunnel Mountain, we decided to “do” the glacier hike. Which ever after became known as the Horrible Hike — and not just by the seventy-somethings (us.) In fact, one of the Younger Set, a most fabulous female neurosurgeon whose hobby was pole-dancing (honest), is the one who dubbed this the Horrible Hike.

Nope. Not the Horrible Hike. Yet another beauty shot of Dude and Child

Before I heard her refer to it this way, I had been calling this hike just “Scree!!!” — pronounced just like you think, very loud and like a scream.

Me, practicing how to say “scree!!!!”

See, scree is a toxic mixture of dirt and loose pebbles. When a mountain trail is composed of scree, especially at, like, a 45 degree angle, the Hiker has little, if any, purchase on said trail. There is lots of slipping and skidding, and, if you’re afraid of heights like me, a panic attack or two. There were a couple of times I was frozen mid-slope, clinging to a root or a rock rather like that poster of the cat hanging from a ledge by its front paws.

Dude Man and Me, pondering our next move (straight up that scree-covered right-angled slope in the background) with Susan and Suzanne

The Younger Set had, of course, scampered up to the glacier’s edge well before the rest of us. In fact, I heard that The Child spied me below, mid-scree-festooned climb, and said, “I can’t believe my mom is doing this!”

The Younger Set, all set up by the glacier at the top

Well. I couldn’t believe it either. But, with Scott’s Squeeze Susan’s coaching and James’ Aunt Suzanne’s encouragement, I made it (almost) to the top.

Look in that circle to see me leading the line of descenders — The Child right behind me providing moral encouragement

Dude Man and I joined a group descending only when told the extra 100 yards or so — more or less straight up — weren’t “worth the extra effort.” Scott and Susan pushed on. “We’re only here once!” was their attitude.

Scott on top of the world — and a whole heck of a lot of scree

Their go-for-it attitude meant they missed quite possibly the scariest part of the Horrible Hike. We had made it all the way to the parking lot at the trailhead when someone said, “Look! There’s a bear!” Of course we all ran back to get a glimpse. We were only about ten feet away, peeking through some bushes, when someone said, “Gosh, he’s brown…and has a hump. It’s a grizzly — and he’s heading this way!”

Dude Man and our fresh new SIL stuck around long enough to photograph Mr. G. Yikes

So. I got up close and personal with a grizzly and hiked the Horrible Hike. But did I skinny-dip? Nah. That would have been waaaay too scary. Besides, it would have wreaked havoc with my hair and makeup.

Amagansett, New York. August 2022

 

 

Two weddings are better than one.

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‘Especially if they both involve the same two people.’

Yes, I’ve been AWOL for a couple of weeks now. But I have a very good excuse. (Many good excuses, actually, but I’ll stick with this one for right now.)

*sigh* The gorgeous Lake Louise setting. The Child pointed out that this is the second time she’s tied the knot in a National Park

The Child had a big ole wedding up in Canada. At Lake Louise — which, if you haven’t been there, is well worth the trip — with a whole week’s worth of ramp-up activities in Banff the week before. (Ditto Banff.) There was so much going on — hiking and rafting and gondola-ing and line dancing — that I didn’t have time to do my PT much less weigh in with blog posts.

Gondola-riding with a Great-Niece

Now, I have time — but so much material I can’t possibly put it all in one measly post. So I’ll focus on explaining why, since Her Childness has been legally hitched for more than a year (see the delightfully scenic “Runaway Bride” for the story) — why, oh why, she and the SIL had another wedding.

Wedding Number One: If you make a toast in the Grand Canyon and there’s no one there to hear it, are you really married?

I’m going to crib a bit from my wedding speech here. (Yes, I was asked to say a few words — but only after reassuring The Child Bride that I most absolutely would not entertain the wedding crowd with tales of Old Discarded Boyfriends.)

Child and SIL take their turn at the podium, Child looking decidedly relieved at my not mentioning old BFs

I started by pointing out that His Dudeness and I had not had a wedding. Yes, we got married, but that was pretty much it. We thought at the time that we would have a party for our family and friends after we got back from our wedding trip. Then it was, “Oh, we’ll have a party on our first anniversary.” Well, that anniversary passed, and so did the fifth and the tenth. The twentieth and thirtieth.

Mr. and Mrs. Dude, almost 40 years ago. A hot dog stand, but no party

And, gosh, the ole anniversary odometer will be turning over to 40 before too long — and still no celebration. (See “Party of Two” for a story of one of our non-celebrations.)

Another shot of Dude and Child strolling the aisle. Note uncanny resemblance. Yup, I was a conduit

Okay, you may be asking, but who cares? Why is having a celebration so important? I mean, other than that it’s so much fun to drink champagne and make toasts and dance like a crazy person and go skinny-dipping at two AM.

During the dancing, but before the skinny dipping

The reason is that weddings are pretty much the only time the family and friends of the bride and the groom ever get together. (Well, except for funerals, though I tactfully omitted mentioning that in my speech.) This was the first time I’d seen my brothers since my Mom’s 90th birthday party three years ago.

Here we are, all dressed up and ready to party: all five Henry kids, together again after three long years

And where else but a wedding am I going to get to trade sibling stories with the SIL’s great aunt on his mother’s side? Or scramble up a mountain with his Dad’s sister? Or dance with members of his college track team?

SIL’s Dad’s sister, plus Oldest Younger Bro Scott, Dude Man and Me, plotting our next move on the Scary Horrible Hike (story to follow, or not)

Yes, having another wedding — a wedding celebration — was a pretty cool idea. So cool, that maybe The Dude and I might rustle up a celebration for our 40th anniversary, after all. Though I think we’ll skip the 2 AM skinny dip. That’s a memory that would last a lifetime — but for all the wrong reasons.

Photo courtesy one of the 2 AM skinny-dippers (not me, thank goodness)

New York. August 2022

 

 

 

If at first you don’t succeed, pretend you’re a squirrel.

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‘Third time’s the charm for this tenacious little critter.’

Apologies for being late this week, but I’ve got a good excuse. Rather, several good excuses — and they’re all named Whitmore. Basically, we had Whitmores coming out our ears — staying with us (Dude Man’s sis and squeeze), eating with us (cousins and such) — and celebrating with us (various and sundry).

The fete at the Eleanor Whitmore Early Education Center had Dude Man and Cousin Girl rapt (Hi, M! It was great seeing you!)

We were dining out and going out till I, for one, felt quite like copping out.

The inimitable Aunt Eleanor, founder of the EWEEC, in a rare moment of repose

But, as they say, be careful what you wish for. Because now I’m sitting here all by my lonesome, wishing for all the hub and the bub — and the people who caused it — to come back.

The Child *sniff* just about an hour ago. I’ve already cleaned her room, erasing all traces of her recent occupation — a technique I highly recommend for beating the just-left blues. (See “To Clean, or Not to Clean?”) 

Of course a little blog-writing can also help keep me from deeply sighing as I pass The Child’s empty room. So here goes.

This is the story about the crazy squirrel that I was going to tell you last week — until I remembered that June 21 was the anniversary of my Dear Dad’s passing on to the Great Rosebed in the Sky. (See “Remembering Dad and the Sir Launch-A-Lot.”)

Dude Man tends the rose bush that Dad gave us

There are several species who frequent our feeders — but they’re intended for birds, not squirrels. In fact, The Dude has fortified these feeders with very efficacious squirrel deterrents.

The Dude hand-feeding the species for whom the feeders are intended. (Yes, they land on his hand!)

So, imagine my surprise when, while devouring my New York Times one morning, I spied a squirrel wrapped around the bottom of the biggest feeder, holding on to the bird perch thingies with three paws while transferring bird seed from the little feeder holes to his mouth with the remaining paw.

Squirrel taking a break from hanging from the feeder, no doubt getting ready to chomp on a deck chair

How on earth did he get there? I wondered, as, having eaten his fill he casually dropped to the ground. I went back to reading about the untimely death of Roe vs. Wade (no, we’re not going there today) and — wouldn’t you know it — I glanced up and there he was again.

This time, The Child parked herself in front of a window and waited, iPhone camera trained on the scene, to catch Mr. Squirrel in the act. Here’s the surveillance footage. Be sure to watch till the end:

Well. Dude Man was not having this. For one thing, they are definitely not going hungry — there is so much seed that gets spilled on the ground, those squirrels are practically round they’re so well-fed.

Fat sassy Squirrel Man digesting on our deck

These are the same furry culprits who have been eating our deck furniture and even our house. Seriously. I caught them red-pawed one day, gnawing away at the siding.

Gnawed-upon corner of the house. Fortunately, a friend told us about a spray that makes the wood taste nasty to squirrels (Thanks, Ken!)

So. You think you can just jump up there and devour all our bird seed, Mr. Squirrel? Hah! Let’s see what happens when we raise the feeder a couple of inches. I mean really. Let’s see what happens:

Kinda looks like somebody threw him from behind that tree trunk like a furry little football, doesn’t it? But you’ve got to hand it to that squirrel. He never — ever — gives up. Remember him when you’re feeling frustrated or ineffectual. Or just hungry.

Speaking of hungry, I could use a taste of those berries The Child is offering her Whitmore Grampa. Actually, forget the berries, I could use more Child

Amagansett, New York. June 2022

 

The Dude shares a bird-day

Standard

‘Felicitations to a newly-minted 70-year-old, his cousin — and some future purple martins’

Last Thursday Dude Man celebrated a Very Big Birthday — his seventieth. (Gosh, that birthday is not only big, it’s really hard to type.)

Oh. If any of you are shocked — shocked, I say! — at my “outing” my husband’s age in this public way, let me assure you that I’ve already outed myself. I turned big ole scary 70 last November — and boldly and unabashedly wrote about it too. See my story “Skirting the Issue” for proof. (And fun party details.) See also “Doing the Math” for how one’s attitude changes upon reaching this hoary landmark.

 

Me, celebrating 70 in style — and with a heck of a lot of veuve

But enough about my birthday. We’re here to celebrate Dude Man and his 70 trips around the sun. Speaking of the sun, he happens to own a gizmo called a “sun scope” which he sets out on the second-floor deck and commandeers all and sundry to come up and squint through. Yes, you can see the sun. Okay, fine. But somehow I don’t quite get it.

The sun scope wasn’t a present. No, we’ve reached the stage in our relationship where we pretty much get what we want on our own. (Like that, um, sun scope.) Though I did get a request from The Dude. He wants a nice notebook in which to record the antics of his gift from Mother Nature — a flock of martins.

Dude Man’s martin house. There are martins in there. Finally. And yes, that’s the ocean in the background. I mean, what martin wouldn’t want to live here?

It was about fifteen years ago when The Dude got his martin house. And every year he’s cleaned it and doctored it (more gourds, fewer gourds, higher gourds) and watched over it. He’s opened the little doors, closed the little doors, mounted some of the gourds on the roof. Last year he played a loop of martin songs on an old iPhone that he rigged to a tree. (Incidentally, you can see the martin house over The Child’s shoulder in the photo at the top of this post.)

Nothing. For fifteen looooong years.

Then, this year two showed up. Then three, then four. They chased away some wren interlopers and kicked out a pair of flycatchers who’d settled in, eradicating their nesting materials with contemptuous tosses of their beaks.

And, on Dude Man’s birthday, this happened:

Martin eggs. Yes, you can lower the whole martin rig and open little doors on the gourds to look inside. The martins don’t mind. At least I hope not

Even more exciting (for me anyway) somebody else besides martins flew in. Last Sunday I got a call. Child: “Hey, what are you doing for Dad’s birthday?” Me: “I offered him a party, but he said no way. So we’re going to Smith & Wollensky.” “Really? Would it be okay if we came? It’s a Big Birthday.” “Of course you can come. He’d love that!”

News spreads of The Child and Hub joining us. But no, that bird is not a martin

Now, Her Childness lives in Flagstaff, Arizona — which is not exactly a hop, skip and a jump away. Which is why I hadn’t bothered to mention this dinner to her. But guess what? She booked herself and the SIL on a flight that got in the afternoon of the dinner. And when that flight was cancelled, they drove to Tuscon to catch a flight that would get them there.

“But what about the cousin?” you may well be asking.

Here’s the cousin (in back) sharing a snake — instead of a cake — with Young Dude (in front)

This cousin — a Whitmore; no doubt he puts his hands on his hips Backwards-style — has a birthday a couple of days after Dude Man, so we often get together in Amagansett to commiserate (er, celebrate.) And this year was no exception.

The other end of the birthday table, featuring Dude and SIL — and Carvel cake

So. Birds flew in. Kids flew in. And a cousin was the icing on the cake. Happy Birthday times were had by all!

Amagansett, New York. June 2022