“What’s that smell?”

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‘There’s something rotten in the State of Illinois’

It rained this Easter. Which wasn’t really a problem, not for me anyway, since I don’t have any little kids to take on an Easter Egg Hunt. (More’s the pity.)

But I remember very well, being the Oldest Kid and all, what happened one time when it rained on our, er, Easter Parade.

But first, a word about Easter.

My family was Lutheran. Which is sort of like being Catholic, but stripped-down and rather basic — kind of like the black-wall tire of religions, or like being the Catholic B-Team. We were jealous of our cousins who were Catholic and enjoyed the full-on religious package; they got to have First Communion and wear fancy dresses and patent leather mary janes and hats with (gasp) veils and get sprinkled with Holy Water. They even got to kneel. (When you’re seven, you think kneeling is incredibly cool.)

I remember that purse. I loved that purse; I distinctly remember putting my collection envelope in there — and (gasp) am I wearing a hat?

But even we Lutherans got to go all out for Easter, with new clothes and everything. My Mom usually made the more spectacular outfits. I’m pretty sure she made the dress I’m wearing in the picture at the top of this post. I know she made my brothers’ little suits.

The Child scores Big with her Easter Basket. No, I didn’t make her dress. But yes, I knitted that sweater

And of course we went to Easter Services. I remember that even we Lutherans had some pretty good hymns on Easter. Big loud joyful ones you could really belt. (“Christ the Lord is risen to-daaaay…ah-ah-ah-ah-ahhhh-lay-yay-ooo-ooo-ya!”) As opposed to our usual minor-key dirges with nine zillion verses droned dutifully through on regular Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’ occasions. (I found out much later, after I married The Dude, that Methodists have the Best Easter Hymns Of All Time. Every Easter for years The Child and I would go to services with Aunt Eleanor and sing our little lungs out in her Methodist Church — continuing to sing on the drive home, belting away with the sunroof wide open.)

But the best part of Easter (well, maybe after the Easter Basket) was the Easter Egg Hunt. A word about Easter Baskets. If I’d showed up at my mother’s house for Easter this year (or any year), I’d have found an Easter Basket by the side of my bed on Easter morning, big honkin’ chocolate bunny and all. That’s just how my mom rolls, Easter-wise.

As the Oldest Kid, I don’t remember hunting for the eggs as much as I remember decorating — and hiding them. We decorated eggs by dying hard-boiled eggs with food coloring. I mention this because I don’t think people do this that much anymore in this time of putting-candy-inside-two-plastic-egg-halves. Which I think is fine; I’m not getting that old and crabby.

An early Easter when Mom and I were living at my Gramma P’s. Dad was in Korea, but I got a hat

But there was something to be said about doing the dying thing. You’d learn, say, that if you put an egg in the blue dye first, then the yellow, you’d get a green egg. Or a blue plus a red gave you purple. (You’d also learn that if you put that purple egg into the yellow you’d get a nasty indescribable color. But no worries; Dad would eat it anyway.)

If it was nice out, we Older Kids would hide the eggs outside. Then, after Church, but before Easter dinner (which invariably featured ham — my Mom hating lamb, thinking it smelled like “hot wet sweaters”) we’d direct the hunt for our littler siblings. (“You’re getting warm…you’re getting cold…now you’re warm again…hot…you’re boiling hot!”) They’d find the egg, put it into their now-emptied-of-chocolate-treats baskets — and beam.

Another shot of my brothers in their cute little Mom-sewn Easter suits. Because why not?

But did we eat those Easter Eggs? No way. It’s not that we didn’t like hard-boiled eggs. (Well, actually, we didn’t like them much.) It was more that, when you peel a home-dyed egg, the whites tend to be the same color as the shell. And, while we weren’t inordinately picky children, eating a purple egg just didn’t, well, appeal. So we’d feed the eggs to Dad. He’d be lying on the couch watching golf on TV, waiting for us to get done with the hunt so he could eat his ham, when he’d whip off that shell in one practiced move and pop that whole egg, purple parts and all, into his mouth. 

And if it rained on Easter Sunday? No problemo. We just moved the Hunt indoors. Our house, being a rather large and messy one (there were seven people living there, remember) had plenty of good hiding places. Perhaps too good. I distinctly recall one memorable rainy Easter when the hunt had been particularly enjoyable. Many eggs hidden; many eggs found — and our Dad almost too stuffed with Hunt Bounty to do justice to his Easter Ham.

But, for weeks afterward, we’d walk into the living room and go “What’s that smell?” (In a house with a Dad and three Brothers, my Mom and Sister and I had our suspicions.) But eventually, as the smell got worse and worse (“Gosh, it smells just like rotten eggs in here!”) we found the problem: a gaily colored, highly scented, weeks-old Easter egg, hidden just a bit too well under one of the couch cushions. Needless to say, even Dad wouldn’t eat that one.

Here’s hoping you had a highly-enjoyable and non-stinky Easter. See you next week, even if it rains.

An early Easter with The Child. This was in the Gerard Drive house — so small that her bed and the piano were in the same room. Good thing we did’t lose any eggs in there

New York City. April 2019

No bottles, no binkies. Just Beach Boys

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‘Why being an Aunt is so Great’

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday to my Selfie

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‘Reflections on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone.’

Honest Injun. I was going to write a piece about iPhones and ringtones anyway. But as I was reading the Times (er, procrastinating) with my zillionth cup of coffee, I happened upon the news that the iPhone came out ten years ago today.

My my my. It seems like just yesterday that I was sharing a (very tiny, so it’s a good thing we got along) freelance office with an art director I dubbed Svenska Boy, who was the very first person of my acquaintance who had an iPhone. He waited hours in line outside the Apple Store in Midtown Manhattan to get it. Sigh. Technological memories are so bittersweet.

Take that early selfie at the top of this post. Please (!) It’s not only fuzzy, it’s taken in a mirror. Because the phones back then didn’t have that reverse camera. Or maybe I just hadn’t realized it was there. Oh well.

Selfies before iPhones. I take a picture of my reflection with a thing called a camera. Actually it was a Flip Video Camera. Remember those?

But back to the reason I was going to write about phones in the first place. It has to do with sounds. I was at the Amagansett IGA a few days ago, stocking up for my umpteenth wave of weekend house guests, when I spied a woman who used to date one of The Dude’s cousins. (Hey, I’m alone all week. When I run into someone I know, even vaguely, they simply must be prepared for a bit of social interaction.) Continue reading

Looks like we got ourselves a HooHah!

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‘The Family Reunion, taken to a whole new (Henry) level’

Well, no one who appeared in one of my commercials died this week. (Are you still out there, Betty White?) Or not that I know of, anyway. So “HooHah” story it is.

Now let me be clear. The Henrys did not invent the “Family Reunion.” Family reunions have been around, oh, I’d say probably since the invention of Large Extended Families. No doubt some of you readers can recall sticky gatherings of seldom-seen aunts, uncles, and cousins featuring picnic tables laden with summer dishes like jello salads (urk) and glorified rice (yum). Games like Corn Hole (a real “thing”, I kid you not) and wiffle ball and sometimes even croquet would be played (though our “croquet” was decidedly non-Downton-Abbey-esque, involving lots of violent “sending” of opponents’, i.e. younger cousins’, balls, resulting in much wailing).

Gathering of the Henry Clan featuring sweaty, crying cousins (I’m down in front next to the boy sucking his thumb)

The other side of my family, the Petersons, had Family Reunions too. They even gave theirs an idiosyncratic name. I dimly recall attending something called the PAL Reunion in Belvidere Park. (This was in Belvidere, Illinois, the closest metropolitan area/gathering place for my farm-residing relations.) The “PAL” stood for, I believe, Peterson, Anderson, and Lindstrom. Yup, these were the Swedes.  Continue reading

The Days of Wineberries and Roses

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‘Listening to the Warm: sensational summery sounds’

Forget Rod McKuen. It was Henry James who nailed summer. He once famously said that the two most beautiful words in the English language were ‘summer afternoon’. Go on; say them out loud. Better yet, murmur them.

‘Summer af-ter-noon‘. Mmmmmmmmm. You can practically feel that hammock swaying.

Now you’ve already heard me go on about the tastes of summer — I’ve waxed ravenously poetic about such seasonal delights as watermelon and corn and berries-somebody-else-picks and glorified rice and even (yum!) Jello Cake.

But I haven’t talked much about summer sounds. You know the ones I mean; sounds that really say summer. Fireworks. The ice-cream truck. And, for me anyway, that fwap fwap fwap sound that happens when you clip playing cards onto your bike spokes with clothespins and ride home from the Carlyle Municipal Pool gnawing on a frozen Milky Way.

Continue reading

Everybody into the Gene Pool

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‘There’s no such thing as too many cousins’

I guess it’s the Silly Season. Newspapers in the UK are publishing pictures of baby Queen Elizabeth doing a mini Nazi Salute. The New York Times today featured a cover story on (yawn) Hilary Clinton’s Dad. And bloggers are publishing pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Looks like summertime-desperation-for-readers has set in. I’m thinking that it’s the time of year when just about anything I write won’t be able to compete with the beach. The only thing worse for my stats would be if it were Christmas. Or if I wrote about the ding-dang South Pole again.

So here goes. Cousins. I worry, what with the trend to smaller families and all, that the whole Cousin Thing will be experienced by fewer and fewer in the future. The Child, for example, has seven Henry Cousins, five of whom are pictured at the top of this post. Of course that’s waaaay more than the measly three the Whitmores managed to eke out. From six siblings (!)

I mean, when I was a kid, we had cousins. The Petersons, who were Swedish and Lutheran and played Scrabble and drank coffee, produced this batch: Continue reading

The Incest Mug

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‘Aha! So that explains it’

‘Incest’, eh? You might be thinking that’s a frisky topic for Lutheranliar. But I figure now is a perfect time to get this story out of my system, since almost everybody’s away from their computers doing their Christmas shopping. And all the other people not away from their computers are probably doing their Christmas shopping too.

So, hah. I’m thinking the chances of ruining my social standing and/or becoming shunned by polite society are fairly slim since nobody’s going to read it anyway. So, here’s the story.  Continue reading