The client who wanted to have breakfast at Tiffany’s

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‘Memories and more for Memorial Day’

Nah, that’s not a Tiffany’s breakfast special in that photo at the top of this post. That’s a typical breakfast at the diner we used to go to on our Cape May birding trips. I say “used to go to” because this place, our beloved Uncle Bill’s — which we had frequented faithfully for 30 birding years or so — was under new (very crabby) management last time we went. (They wouldn’t seat us till our “entire party” was there! And we were literally the only ones in the joint!) So we took our business elsewhere.

Three of our intrepid birding group — full of delicious Flight Deck breakfast — just a couple of weeks ago.

Now we go to the Flight Deck Diner, with much better food (Real fruit! Not canned! And they have grapefruit juice!) and service so thoughtful and sweet (Our waitress brought me real milk for my coffee on the second morning! Without me asking!) that we tipped 20 bucks on a 15-dollar tab.

But back to the point of this story.

As most of you know, I used to work in advertising. Back in the glory days — or at least my glory days — the eighties and nineties at Ogilvy, New York. Ogilvy was exciting and sophisticated; New York was exciting and sophisticated. The clients, sometimes not so much.

Annie (who never ever changes) and unrecognizable me, back in our Ad World Glory Days. We’re on an AmEx shoot on Okracoke Island

We had this one Kimberly-Clark client who liked to abuse his clienthood. Not only did he always want to go to the most expensive places, once there he would always order the most expensive things on the menu. I say “things” because sometimes he’d get the steak and the lobster — because he couldn’t decide, he’d say. It was really because, as a client, he could.

I spotted these signs from my Jitney window on the way to A’sett for Mem. Day. I don’t know which is sillier: “Waxing Facial Lashes” or “Walking Tea”

He was greedy, but not necessarily lacking a sense of humor. Once, while dining at the Palm, a very pricey steakhouse indeed, he excused himself to use the men’s room. Well. Apparently, there was something going on in there that is usually done by adolescent boys alone in their rooms, because after he reported it to our shocked-into-silence table, he added, “Well, I guess that’s why they call it the Palm.” Hmmm. Now that I think about it, I wonder if what he said happened really did happen, or if he just wanted to make up a dirty pun?

Anyway. One time he came to town and asked if we could go have “breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Honest. None of us knew where to look.

The Child et moi not at Tiffany’s. But on Amagansett Main Street some Memorial Day in the misty past

These and other stories came up in breakfast-time conversation over Memorial Day Weekend because our nephew and his wife were here visiting. Not only do they like coming to Amagansett, they like hearing our stories. Here’s an excerpt from their thank-you email: “You and Wayne have so many interesting stories. I think Sally [Mrs. Nephew; not her real name] is going to be dealing with some snake trauma (from the things that can f**king kill you segment) for the next few weeks 😄”

Nephew and Mrs. Nephew hiding from snakes

Of course, this nephew is referring to “Crocodile Dumdee,” my piece about how everything in Australia can kill you. Read it and see what else can kill you, not just snakes. If you dare, that is.

We also told a bunch of awful jokes. If you’re in the mood, you can get a taste of these in “Kangaroo Walks Into a Bar.” Here’s one that’s not in that piece and probably shouldn’t be in this one, either, but I can’t help myself. Middle Younger Brother Roger gets the credit. (Or the blame.)

The Child, ready for her standup routine, is introduced by her Grampa at his retirement party. Get the gist — and the jokes — in “Kangaroo Walks into A Bar”

This guy is visiting his friend when he notices his friend’s dog “giving himself a bath.” (If you get my drift.) The guy sighs, looks at his friend and says, “Gee, I wish I could do that.” The friend replies, “You might want to pet him first.”

Mr. and Mrs. Nephew loved that one. They’re welcome here any time.

Amagansett, New York. May 2024

“Lucky”

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‘I have a mom and I get to go visit her today’

Whenever somebody in our family does something that my Middle Younger Brother Roger wishes he could do, he says, “Lucky.”

So I’m crediting him with the comment before making it myself. But this time I get to do the lucky thing, not just hear about it: I get to go visit my mother.

Me, hanging around JFK prepping for a previous Mom Visit

I’m getting on a plane in a few hours — writing this post is one way to keep from pacing around the very small Ken & Barbie House and wearing a path in the tile — so I may have to cut this post short. But maybe not, especially if I keep it short.

I should take this card along with me. Or maybe get a “keep calm” tee shirt. Or maybe just get a manhattan in the Delta Lounge

Basically, what I do when I visit my mother is sit around with her, drinking coffee and/or wine and reading and knitting. Talking a lot too, of course. Reminiscing. Gossiping. Solving the world’s problems.

Oh, there’s also walk-taking. Since I get up super-early (I’m on Eastern Time but even at home I’m up irrationally early), I go for a long walk through Mom’s nabe while she’s still sleeping. Then later, fueled up by coffee, we go on walks together. I do a lot of walking on these trips.

I can hardly wait to walk by this school again so I can check the grammar on their sign

Sometimes, if we’re feeling really frisky, we play Scrabble. (That’s me celebrating a seven-letter word in the photo at the top of this story. Talk about lucky.) But Scrabble is more fun with more players, so we usually skip it and do more reading.

My lucky necklace. I wear it every time I fly. Guess who gave it to me? No, not Mom. But close: my one and only Sister

Oh, did I mention that I sleep on Mom’s pullout couch? Actually, it’s much bigger than my bed at the Ken & Barbie House. But it is in rather close proximity to Mom’s fridge, which rumbles off and on through the night.

But hey. Those are not problems. Not at all. I have a Mom — and I get to go see her. Nyah nyah nyah.

Added bonus: A Sister Sighting! Here’s Mom and me with Laura

New York City (but not for long). May 2024

 

 

Only connect

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‘Reflections on small town life in New York City’

Well. I’m either really late with this week’s post, or extremely early for next week’s. I guess I’m not much like Larry McMurtry, the Lonesome Dove guy, who died not long ago. Here’s what his biography, which I just finished, had to say about good ole Larry:

“When he’s in public, he may say hello and goodbye, but otherwise he is just resting, getting ready to write.”

Larry sure sounds like a good guy. And his small town was even smaller than mine

I do spend a good part of each day writing — mostly emails, but still, it’s writing. Problem is, I spend a good part of each day doing bunches of other stuff too. Today I rode my bike to East Hampton and back, finished a baby sweater, made a vat of pea soup, and did my Vector. (Which is what I call my one car trip per week: to the dump, the IGA and the post office.) Oh, and I read one of Larry’s novels, All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers. See, I like to read a writer’s biography while reading — or re-reading — his or her books. I just finished “doing” Larry. I think Alice Munro‘ll be next.

One of today’s many projects

Anyway. Here’s the real subject of today’s post. (Not how busy I am nor how quickly the days go by when you’re retired. Kitty Carlisle Hart nailed that one: “By the time you get to be my age it’s like you’re having breakfast every fifteen minutes.”)

It’s how living in big ole New York City (sheesh! I’m channeling Larry!) is really like living in a small town. True, a small town that’s butted right up against many other small towns, but still. See, in New York, your neighborhood — the four- or five-block area in which you live — is just like a small town. You have your grocery store, your post office, your dry cleaner, your coffee place. Your locksmith, too, which you might not find in an actual small town, but in NYC they repeat every four or five blocks just like drugstores do.

You don’t go to the Gristede’s ten blocks away; it’s not in your neighborhood. It’s not your Gristede’s. I’ve written about this before, in “Small Towns, Big City.” (Getting older means you repeat yourself, too.) But I haven’t touched on the emotional aspect of New York City small town-ness.

I’m talking about how the City rewards you with little moments of personal contact. Since it’s a street town, like small towns are, you actually encounter people. People who are not in their cars. People who are free to connect with you.

And they’re off. At the very least, their dogs will connect with other dogs

Now, this doesn’t happen all the time. After all, if you made contact with everyone you met on the street in New York City, you’d be exhausted, at the very least. But when you do make smiling eye contact with the guy whose dog is staring down a squirrel, or share cousin stories with a car service driver, or get a hug from your doorman when you share a piece of family news, it’s pretty nice. And, to a small town girl like me, feels like home.

I haven’t been in the City all week. The baristas at my Starbucks are going to wonder where I’ve been.

Amagansett, New York. April 2024

“I’ve got fillings older than you.”

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‘Eventually, you have to find a new dentist.’

I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I hate more than going to the dentist, it’s having to find a new dentist.

Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often. The first time I had to find a new dentist was related to jury duty. I was in a huge pool of potential civil-court jurors when the Court Guy asked if “anyone knew the defendant, Dr. Blank,” who was being sued for dental malpractice. I raised my hand; Dr. Blank, until that moment that is, happened to be my dentist.

I stuck with the next dentist for ages. He was Dude Man’s dentist. (Interesting side note. Dude Man is an ophthalmologist. I wish I had a dime for every time someone thinks he’s a dentist. Close enough. “Eye-teeth,” right?)

Dude Man, long before medical school, displaying a nice set of young pearly whites

Anyway, Dude Man’s dentist, Dr. B, and I got along like a house afire. For one thing, Dr. B had a sense of humor. (His name, which I am withholding for my usual privacy reasons, started with a B. But everyone actually called him “Dr. B.”) Good ole easy-going Dr. B had funny dental posters on the walls and a silly animated skeleton that writhed around in a toy dental chair. He didn’t mind that I called the room where he did his work (as opposed to the room where the hygienist did hers) the “Pain Room.” And he thought the new specialty I came up with — “dentacology” — was pretty funny: a dentacologist being a doctor who took care of women exclusively, combining dentistry and gynecology in one easy visit. (The exam chair would tilt both ways.)

About the only thing more nerve-wracking than going to either the dentist or the gynecologist? Walking on a scary-ass swinging bridge

Speaking of the hygienist, I liked her even more than I liked Dr. B, which was saying a lot. In fact, I liked her so much that when, eventually, I had to change dentists again — Dr. B died — I didn’t pick the dentist that Dr. B’s widow sold the practice to. I picked the dentist where the hygienist went to work. (She — the hygienist — didn’t like her — the widow. And, heck, if I trusted her to poke around in my mouth with that Sharp Pointy Thing, well, I trusted her judgment in widows and the dentists they sold my name to.)

The grownup Child’s remarkably perfect teeth. Because who wants to see a photo of someone at the dentist? (Much less the gynecologist?)

Why, on my first visit to the New Dentist, I told everyone who’d listen — including The Dentist Herself — that I was there because of The Hygienist. Oh, I liked The Dentist too, but she was disconcertingly young. In fact, when introduced, I removed that little Sucky Thing out of the corner of my mouth, looked her up and down and said, “Why, I have fillings older than you!” She didn’t laugh. But The Hygienist sure did.

Another cute shot of Dude Man and his cute shiny smile. Because why not?

This was a couple of years ago, but, like I say, I told everyone who’d listen about the wonderfulness of The Hygienist — and collaterally, of The Dentist. In fact, I got an email from Google last week telling my that my review had been viewed more than a thousand times.

I’m going in for a routine checkup next week. Wonder if I can get a discount?

Amagansett, New York. February 2024

 

 

 

She put the “giving” in Thanksgiving.

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‘Thank you for everything, dear Aunt Eleanor’

It’s blowing a gale here in Amagansett. The bird feeders are down, the grill’s been knocked cattywompus and the windows that Dude Man painstakingly washed on Sunday? Well, let’s just say they’re clean.

I say all this because I can’t possibly go for a walk, much less a bike ride. And it’s too early to start baking the pies. (My SIL, who arrived late last night from San Fran, is still jet-laggedly sleeping.)

So I have no excuse to postpone (yet again) writing about Aunt Eleanor.

Aunt Eleanor died almost two weeks ago. And, though she was 98 years old, I still can’t believe she’s gone. I’ll spare you all the cliches. But suffice it to say that even when a person is very very old, it can still be a shock when they die. Maybe even more of a shock, since you’re so used to them being around. (And note that I say “die,” because that’s what she did. I know this may be an unpopular view, but I bristle at the use of the term “pass” when you really mean “die.” Please say “die” when I do it. Please.)

The last time I clapped eyes on Eleanor. Last summer, at a family cookout, holding court, as usual, glass of champagne at hand

Anyway. You can read her obituary in The East Hampton Star right here for the public details of Eleanor’s extraordinary life. How she didn’t just read to kids, she founded a day care center. How she didn’t just bake, she baked cookies to lure kids to Sunday School. And how, at the age of 45, she set out to “do everything I’ve always wanted to do.”

Eleanor with her daughter Christine at her 90th birthday party. By this point, she had accomplished most of “everything I always wanted to do”

I’ve been putting off writing about her because it’s so hard to sift through all the memories I have of her. See, she was more than “just” an aunt. Dude Man’s parents died quite a while ago; his mom in 1985 and his dad in 1995. Eleanor’s house was just a couple of blocks away, so she and Uncle Buddy became like surrogate parents to us. Especially since mine were so far away.

Speaking of my mom, she and Eleanor got to know one another rather well. We got together when Mom came to visit. And there was the memorable occasion of The Child’s college graduation, when we experienced the nightmare of an out-of-control GPS system (it directed us on the “shortest route,” which meant navigating downtown Providence, RI, an experience which, trust me, you do not want to replicate) and sharing an Airbnb in Inman Square which was supposed to be “conveniently located” to the Harvard campus but which was most decidedly not. If they hadn’t bonded before then, well, they were now effectively joined at the hip.

The scene at The Child’s graduation. Eleanor and Mom are in there. Somewhere

The Dude has some particularly good Eleanor stories, since he spent many summers at her house when he was small. He recalls her dropping him and his two cousins off at Reed Pond with nothing but sleeping bags, fishing poles and a couple of cans of beans and picking them up the next day. She’d honk the car horn and they’d emerge from the woods. They were seven, eight and nine at the time.

Dude Child practicing his snake-handling as his Bro Bill and Cousin Charlie look on

My memories are more recent ones, of course. She and I bonded over books. I’d ride over on my bike to drop one off, and she’d invite me to sit with her on the screened-in porch and dish. “He can’t marry that woman,” being one of her more famous observations on the fiancee of a shirt-tail relation. And we’d speak on the phone fairly regularly. She didn’t dish out sentimental remarks, but I treasured the time she ended a call by saying that she “loved talking to me” and “wished we lived closer.” Me too, Eleanor, me too.

Eleanor with her niece Amy and her pseudo-niece Me, at her house a couple of blocks away

Oh, and even after Eleanor sold her house nearby, we would get together in the summers at her son Charlie’s and wife Chini’s infamous Taco Tuesdays out on Lazy Point. At one of these, one of Chini’s incredibly hunky sons walked by after a surfing session, his wetsuit stripped down to the waist revealing his perfectly-toned vee-shaped torso (these are casual affairs, these Taco Tuesdays), when Eleanor remarked, “He has a nice figure, doesn’t he?”

Eleanor and me at a Taco Tuesday. (So sorry the wetsuit-suited son isn’t also in the picture)

Well, as they say on TV, there’s “much much more.” But I can’t handle any more.

Besides, there are pies to bake.

Pies from a Thanksgiving repast, past

Happy Thanksgiving, Aunt Eleanor. You gave us a whole hell of a lot to be thankful for.

Amagansett, New York. November 2023

 

Hangin’ with Gouda, Jook and The Dude

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‘Those Dartmouth Boys do love their nicknames’

Many of you Faithful Readers think that I’m the one who dubbed The Dude “his Dudeness.” An honor I would love to claim, were it the truth.

But no. Wayne was The Dude way before I clapped eyes on him in the late lamented Shabu Shabu on our first date. (You can, of course, read about this sacred event in “The Time I Had A Blind Date with an Eye Doctor.”)

What The Dude looked like on our first date. Well, except he wasn’t wearing that white doctor coat at the time

He was christened “The Dude” because he showed up at the freshman mixer at Dartmouth College wearing a tie. This was in 1970, when Dartmouth Men were sporting fringed suede vests and/or leather hats instead of ties. (I have this on good faith from the suede-leather-vest guy, a perfectly lovely man nicknamed “Crud,” for some reason I’d really rather not know about. The Dude was the one with the leather hat.)

That’s Crud, seated left, with Dude and me. That’s Eleanor, Lady Shearing (“Ellie” to us) standing in back. Her husband was knighted by the Queen. Which is a great story: “She’d Better Put a Bell on It”

Like I say, those Dartmouth Boys do love their nicknames. It’s been ages since The Dude last sported a leather hat, but he and his bros still call each other by their college monikers.

Earlier this summer, one of Dude Man’s roommates, a man with the perfectly good name of Ken, contacted us to say he’d be in town — he and his lovely wife Ellen (no nickname that I know of) live in LA — and would we like to get together to have lunch?

“I’ll make a reservation, but it won’t be under “Jookbock,” was how he ended the conversation. See, Ken was quickly renamed “Bookjock” at Dartmouth because all he did was study. He studied all the time because he didn’t like Dartmouth (He really really wanted to go to Harvard) and wanted to get out of there as fast as he could. So he hit the books — “Bookjock” — and graduated early. Well, for some reason, “Bookjock” morphed into “Jookbock” (more fun to say, maybe? Dude Man can’t remember) and was eventually shortened to “Jook.” Which is pronounced like “book,” only with a “j.”

That’s “Oooo Come On,” or even more familiarly “Oooo” with The Dude and The Child as an actual child. He was called “Oooo Come On” because he was always urging himself on while playing squash. At D’mouth, of course

Also at this lunch was a guy named Gouda, whose mother named him Scott — a perfectly lovely name. I know because I have a brother named Scott. My Scott owes his Actual Name to a nickname — something I found out about at his Living Wake last week. (A thoroughly enjoyable event you can read about here.) Turns out Scott was named “Scott” in honor of our Dad’s nickname: “Scottie.” Dad got called this because when he was little his mother used him as kind of a dress dummy so she could pin up the hem of a skirt she was making for one of his sisters. Dad loved wearing the skirt and didn’t want to take it off. It was plaid — so, “Scottie.”

Two Younger Brothers at the Living Wake event last week. That’s Doug on the left and Scott-named-after-our-dad’s-nickname on the right

But back to the Dartmouth Scott. It was his mother who was responsible for the name “Gouda,” since she used to send him care packages of cheese. (At this point I have to wonder what kind of mother sends cheese care packages. My mom sent brownies, or sometimes Rice Krispy Treats.)

(Before I forget, I must point out, in the spirit of full disclosure, that the three Dartmouth guys in the photo at the top of this post are not, alas, Jook and Gouda. If they didn’t have nicknames, they certainly compensated with what appears to be a very nice marijuana crop.)

I’ll close by mentioning that The Dude and I did in fact have a most marvelous lunch with Gouda and Jook. Their wives too, though as far as I know, they don’t have nicknames. At least not nicknames they get called in public.

A gaggle of Dartmouth guys — all with nicknames

Amagansett, New York. August 2023

My Brother’s Living Wake

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‘Scott Henry turns seventy in style’

You know you’re getting long in the tooth when your brother turns seventy — and he’s your younger brother. Scott’s birthday is in August, and mine is in November, so, for a few months he’s only one year younger than me instead of two. Every year when his birthday rolls around, I like to think that he’s catching up to me.

On another of Scott’s 70 birthdays (this was his first) his Big Sister had to have a cake too

But hey, Scott’s not only younger than me, he’s funnier too. He pitched his birthday party as a Living Wake. He said he got the idea after attending one of those big sendoffs — the kind with a slideshow of the life of the Dearly Departed, tribute speeches from family and friends, and, of course, tons of food and gallons of booze — and hearing people say, “Gosh, he would have really loved this.”

So Scott’s like, “Hey, if someone’s gonna throw me a wake, well, I want to be there to enjoy it.” And so his bestie, Susan, did just that. With some help from family and friends:

And it was a doozie. Yup, there was a slideshow, plus plenty of tribute speeches, and you wouldn’t believe the spread. There were even tears.

The only thing that was different from a traditional wake — well, except for the fact that the body was still breathing — was the presence of a birthday cake. At least I haven’t heard of a birthday cake at a wake before, but nothing much surprises me these days.

And Scott thought THIS was a lot of candles (!) I couldn’t count them, so not sure which of his 70 years this cake was for

But the most appreciated presence was that of our mother. After all, there wouldn’t be a birthday party — or a Birthday Boy — without her.

Mom holds court, Wakeside. That’s one of her courtiers, Youngest Younger Brother Doug, doing a bit of photobombing

I’ll close this story with a little video — thank you, Favorite Sister! — to give you a taste of the party, if not of the cake itself. (Which, like the setting, was as wonderful as it looks.)

Happy Birthday, dear Little Brother. Maybe one of these days you’ll catch up to me. In years, I mean.

Amagansett, New York. August 2023

Missing Mr. M

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‘The end of the end of an era’

Let me start by saying how pleasantly surprised I was, upon googling my late dad’s engineering firm, HMG, to find that it not only still exists, but appears to be thriving — with four, count ’em four offices instead of just the one they started when I was a kid. The home office, however, appears to have relocated from Carlyle Lake Road to somewhere in Breese, which is kind of like the Dodgers absconding from Brooklyn to LA.

Youngest Younger Brother Doug playing cards on the Sir Launch-A-Lot with The Dude. Note HMG-monogrammed promotional beer cozies

“HMG” stands for Henry, Meisenheimer & Gende, the names of the three young gumption-filled engineers who founded this firm back in 1966. Of these, “M” was Last Man Standing. Until earlier this week.

Learning of Mr. Meisenheimer’s demise (I could never bring myself to call him “Hal” or even “Harold”) sent me careening down Memory Lane. Of course, to be fair, just catching a glimpse of, say, a handprint ashtray has the power to do so these days.

(Incidentally, I did start calling Mrs. Meisenheimer by her first name. It was the year I turned 65, and Mrs. M, er “Ruth” convinced me that it was about time.)

That’s Mrs. M (er, “Ruth”) sitting with my Mom and Sister at Mom’s 90th birthday party

See, not only did my dad (the “H” in HMG) work with Mr. M, I babysat for their kids. Which amps the grownups-deserve-your-respect level up another notch, or maybe even two. I babysat for a lot of people back then; I racked up a lot of experience doing this, and not just experience watching kids. See “Alice’s Adventures in Babysitting.

Babysitting at the Meisenheimers’ was my favorite gig. I can’t remember these kids fighting, much less peeing on each other. And they always gave me a goodnight hug. (Sometimes even a kiss.) Also, the Meisenheimers had this beautiful house that felt so warm and comfortable to sit around in after the kids had gone to bed. It was only years later that I realized this was because the Meisenheimers had lovingly restored it and furnished it with antiques — kind of rare for that split-level rumpus-room era. They even had shelves and shelves of books — books that they let me read. I’m pretty sure it was there that I discovered Sherlock Holmes.

Me with fellow graduation marshal Stanley. We were high-school juniors at the time. I was a babysitter; as far as I know, Stanley was not

But back to Mr. H. The photo at the top of this post was taken about the time the firm was founded, and shows him pretty much the way I remember him. I say “pretty much” because it is missing one very important detail: his pipe. I can honestly say that I never saw Mr. M without one clenched firmly between his teeth. He didn’t even remove it to speak. He would just kind of position it in the corner of his mouth and talk around it. Since my dad did the same thing, only with a cigarette, it made for some muffled exchanges. In fact, we Henry Kids called the way they talked to each other “Engineering Speak,” and used to imitate it ourselves. “Hey Harold,” our dad would go, “can you (mumble mumble) me the (mumble mumble) plans?” “Sure!” goes Harold, “Let me just finish the (mumble mumble) first.” This method of conversing was made even more hilarious once HMG built their new office and they communicated over an intercom.

Dad and The Child regaling the crowd at his HMG retirement party

Anyway. The photo of Mr. M in his obituary doesn’t have his pipe. But he looks remarkably like he does in the photo on the HMG website — and in my memory.

RIP, Mr. Meisenheimer. If the angels can’t understand your mumbling, my dad certainly can. Assuming he’s up there with you.

Amagansett, New York. July 2023

 

 

 

Do you speak “Peterson?”

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‘Every family has its own language.’

Well, I guess I owe you all an apology again. I played hooky last week, and I don’t even have a fun reason. Last time I blog-skipped it was because I was out West playing with my Mom. Not this time.

Me, out West having a high old time speaking “Peterson” with Mom and Sis

Nope. This week I blame my goofoffedness on the fact that I had to travel unexpectedly into the City to deal with a sudden onset of flashing lights in my left eye. Those of you who are equally ancient will recognize the danger of a detached retina here. One would think, being married to an ophthalmologist and all, that I could just hop up on the kitchen table and have Dr. Dude sort it out. But no. One needs special gear to peer into the depths of an eyeball. Also, he’s not a retina specialist. So there’s that.

Non-retina specialist Dr. Dude admiring the view from the Great Lawn earlier this week when I convinced him to go with me on my morning walk

I’ll spare you the sturm und drang and back and forth, but suffice it to say that my eye is fine. Or as fine as a 72-year-old eye can be. I swear, once I turned 70 (See “Skirting the Issue” for a breathless account of my fab birthday bash), everything started to fall apart. I’ve started to identify with our ’98 4Runner or even our ’91 Honda — ’cause I’m always in the shop.

There I was, happily ensconced with Whitmore Family members in Amagansett when my eye started flashing

But back to the subject of the week, the Language of Families. My theory being that every family has words or catchphrases that they use with each other — sometimes to communicate, but more often just to crack each other up — that Outsiders simply don’t get.

Like, my Aunt Shirley used to call the soft tissue holding your teeth in your mouth your “gooms” (rhymes with “goons”) because she thought a medicalesque part of your anatomy simply couldn’t be just “gums.” My Mom and her sister Marilyn (both nurses) thought this was hilarious, and started calling the darned things “gooms” every chance they got, even when Aunt Shirley wasn’t around. Especially when Aunt Shirley wasn’t around.

That’s Aunt Shirley on the far left (also on the far left in the photo at the top of this post), hanging out with the Henry Family for a change. Maybe because they didn’t make fun of her for saying “gooms”

So “gooms” entered the Peterson Family Lexicon, along with “grocerots,” which was what my Aunt M. called “groceries.” Not sure why, but she always did. And then the rest of us of the Peterson Persuasion did, too. (Cousin Marcia, I bet you say “grocerots,” yes?)

The Petersons were Swedish (duh), like practically everybody else in their neck of the Northern Illinois woods (er, farmland). Once, when my Great-Aunt Florence had been chatting away to a neighbor for a while, her Swedish must have gotten “stuck,” because she remarked to someone that she was very tired and needed to go get “rosted ooop.” (Go on, say this out loud. Which we Peterson descendants do. A lot.)

I don’t have a photo of Aunt Florence, darn it. But this is my half-Peterson family hanging out at her house with her sister, Aunt Net*

Aunt Florence is the source of another bit of lingo that became a family catchphrase. Want to get a Peterson to snort milk out their nose? Just go “baw baw baw” in a really harsh, strident tone. That was how one of Aunt Flo’s neighbors used to rock her baby to sleep. I wonder if it was the same baby who, when asked its name, its mother replied, “Oh, for now we’re just calling him Squacky.” This is true. I swear on a stack of gooms.

Another shot of Aunt Annette (Net), this time with my Gramma, her other sister besides Florence. *We kids thought she was called Aunt “Net” because she wore a hairnet

How about your family? Do you speak your own language? Even if you don’t, I sure hope you take time out every day to crack each other up. Then you can go get “rosted ooop.”

Amagansett, New York. June 2023

 

Grad School

Standard

‘What I learned by going to reunions’

Last weekend The Child wasn’t here to help celebrate The Dude’s birthday. Which wasn’t too big a deal, because A) it wasn’t a Big Birthday (just one of those annoying all-too-frequently occurring regular ones) and B) she’s here now, so we’re celebrating the birthday this weekend instead.

Celebrating not one but two birthdays last weekend. With not one but two cakes!

So, where was Her Childness last weekend? Celebrating her ten-year college reunion, that’s where. And if you think all-too-frequent birthdays give one pause, chew on that.

The Child and I at her college graduation ten years ago. Neither one of us looks one iota different. Well, not to me, anyway

I know, I know. You’ve heard me whine enough already about how quickly time passes. But seriously? Little Sammie Jane has been out of college for ten years?

Dude Man takes the measure of The Child. Then puts a brick on her head

Oddly enough, she did not invite me to go to her reunion with her. Though there is precedent for Mom-As-Reunion Date. My mother attended my ten-year high-school reunion with me. And, yes, she was a splendid date indeed.

Gosh, I don’t know why The Child didn’t invite me to her reunion. I got to go to this graduation party, didn’t I?

I also went to my 20-year and 40-year high-school reunions, though sans Mom. And I went to Dude Man’s 15-year and his 50th reunion, too. It was supposed to be in 2020, Dude having graduated in 1970. But, thanks to Mr. Virus, 2020 was not a year for reunions–or any gatherings, for that matter. And whomever was in charge of rescheduling sort of dropped the ball.

A couple of weeks ago Dude Man and I were happily ensconced in Amagansett with a major rainstorm of the deluge variety raging outside, when he plays a message left on his phone. Something about a 50th Reunion Bash being held that very night. “Did I want to go?” I motioned out the window. “Are you kidding?”

Well, one look at his little classmate-craving face and I caved. Soon we were hydroplaning our way on the Long Island Expressway back to Manhasset. Where 25 or so of his almost-200-strong Class of ’70 were gathered, damp but happy, clutching cocktails and peering intently at each other’s nametags.

The nametags, helpfully, were emblazoned with each attendee’s high-school yearbook photo. Although, sadly, this was not the one on The Dude’s. (hubba hubba)

So here’s where I go out on a limb and share what I’ve learned after going to so many high-school reunions. At the ten-year reunion, the men look better than the women. That’s because the women have tenaciously clung to the look they had in high school. Same hair style, same makeup techniques. But ten years have passed; maybe that flip needs to flop. They’ve also gained a few pounds. The men are still rocking high-school style too, but somehow it doesn’t matter, men’s styles not being quite so, well, changeable.

That’s Stanley rocking men’s style circa 1968. Still works, doesn’t it?

At the 20-year reunion, it’s the opposite. The women have figured it out. They’ve ditched the bouffants and (mostly) the pounds and look pretty darned terrific. Bonus discovery: the wallflowers have blossomed. So much so that (at my own 20-year bash) I heard more than one man exclaim to a formerly-invisible girl, “Sally (not her real name, of course) is that you?!?”

Meanwhile, the men have lost their hair and gained some paunch. Oh well. It pretty much all evens out at the (gasp) 50.

Oh. Before I forget — and before you ask. What about my college reunions? Didn’t I go to any of them? Well, actually, no. And not because I didn’t want to. No, as far as I know, good ole University of Missouri isn’t big on reunions. At least I’ve never heard tell of one. Gosh, maybe the rest of my class has been having incredible bashes every ten years since 1973 — and I just haven’t been asked.

Me, in college. Wouldn’t you want to get together with such a fun-looking girl at a reunion? One would think so.

I’ve been to Dude Man’s college reunions, though. The ten and the twenty. Here’s what I learned. The men at the ten (this was an all-guy’s school) were handsome and successful and showed off their wives and cars. At the twenty, they were (mostly) still handsome, and they were in the same cars — but they had new wives. I can hardly wait to see what they’re all up to at the 50th next year.

Dude and a bunch of Dartmouth Dudes at a reunion. Not sure which one, since The Dude, darn him, never ever changes

Oh, if, unlike me (I’m talking to you, Kim!) you’ve been to a Mizzou reunion, please keep it to yourself. Meanwhile, I’ll just keep going to any ole random reunion that’ll have me. Oh, and birthday parties.

Amagansett, New York. June 2023