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

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

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

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

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York City. February 2019

 

“I seen smallah”

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‘Alice’s Adventures in Underwear’

You just gotta love the Seventies. Well, at least I did. One reason was because in the Seventies, even in the Midwest where I was living at the time, underwear — at least of the brassiere type — was optional.

Me. In the Seventies. When I didn’t wear, um, glasses

See, I hate wearing a bra. Which is kind of funny because when I was 12 or 13 or thereabouts I could hardly wait to wear one. I remember feeling all embarrassed in PE (what you may have called “Phys Ed”) when we girls were changing into our bloomers (honest injun, we wore bloomers in PE) and I was the only one sporting an undershirt.

Do little girls still wear undershirts? Well, I’m sure as heck wearing one in the school photo at the top of this post. You can see its telltale outlines under that big “A”. (My Mom made that dress, and no, that letter “A” was not scarlet.)

Modeling (hah) my first bra. This was Confirmation Day, and that’s my Gramma and Grampa P

I begged my Mom to get me a bra — they called them “training bras” back then; what we were “training” for, I’ll never know — though I honestly didn’t need one. I’d stuff Kleenex into its Triple A cups so it wouldn’t moosh flat under my blouse, but when I  raised my hand in class the whole contraption would ride up practically to my shoulder.

That’s High-School Me — the one with the long hair — back when wearing a bra — and a pair of “nylons” too — was de rigueur

Speaking of contraptions, we’d also wear “nylons” and “garter belts”. (Look ’em up, O Lucky Ladies Who Don’t Know What Those Are.) And slips. Remember slips? They used to rustle and/or ride up, those being the days of Static Cling Before Static Guard. Instead we sprayed our slips with hair spray, like Aqua Net, which you probably don’t know about either. And no purse was complete without a little bottle of clear nail polish, a dab of which was used to halt the runs in our stockings. (That’s “ladders” to you UK readers; a much more descriptive term, in my opinion.)

This slip, along with that watch and those shades, was a gift. Yes, I still have all three, though do I wear any of them?

But back to Bra Trouble. I didn’t grow up near an ocean, but the public swimming pool was the center of summer social life. And owning a “cute” bathing suit was Very Important. Back then all bathing suits (which we called “swimming suits”) came with a bra built right in. This was a firm foam structure with a life of its own. If you were “frontally-challenged” like me, you learned to sort of squeeze your shoulders together to let some air in when exiting the water. Otherwise the cups would collapse and you’d look like you had little volcanoes strapped to your chest.

That’s foam-rubber-enhanced Me at Jantzen’s Resort. I’m thinking that’s my uber-glam Mom in black

Anyway. I was super-glad when the Seventies rolled around and bra-wearing, at least among My Set, was optional. Except for formal occasions, like my (first) wedding. (Yes, I was Married Once Before. You can read about it in “My Polio-Shot Marriage”.)

Time goes by, as is its wont. The Starter Marriage stopped, I moved to New York, met The Dude, had The Child. Huge “Etc.” goes here. But suffice it to say my topside stayed pretty much its same small self. Once I was with a friend (Hi Sande!) in the old Loehmann’s, the one with the communal dressing room. We were trying stuff on when she said “My goodness, you really are flat-chested!” Another time, while getting a mammogram, I was apologizing to the technician for making her job harder (there not being much to grab onto for positioning and all) when she — holding her clipboard and cracking her strawberry gum — looked me up and down and said, “Eh. I seen smallah.”

The dress I got at Loehmann’s that day. Which, yes, I still have. And still wear

And now, even though it’s no longer fashionable to go braless, I’m nevertheless able to get away with doing so pretty much most of the time. Though, you’ll no doubt be relieved to hear, I do draw the line, these days at least, at “topless”.

That’s me, the not topless person, next to my totally non-inhibited Dad

New York City. January 2019

Lucky Thirteen

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‘A match made in high school heaven’

I once read that some people are so freaked out by the number thirteen that many buildings just skip that floor. Kinda makes you think about that dentist on “14”, eh?

Well, apparently my parents weren’t freaked out — or maybe they just liked to tempt fate — because they were married on the thirteen. I don’t know how many times their anniversary fell on a Friday, but I do know that their umpteenth-gazillionth would have been this past Sunday. I say “would have been” because my Dad, unfortunately, is no longer with us to celebrate. Interestingly enough, The Dude’s parents also got married on the thirteenth. Of, maybe, November. (Why not ask The Dude, you’re probably thinking. Well, I did, and he said “Heck if I know.” Men.)

I called my Mom anyway, because hey, any excuse to call my Mom. She is remarkably fun to talk to. And it gave me a chance to quiz her on some family marital lore.

For example. I had always known that my Mom and Dad didn’t have a fancy wedding, but I wasn’t totally sure of the circumstances. Were they poor? Were their parents mad at them? Turns out that it was a Religious Thing. My Mom’s family was Lutheran (but you knew that), and my Dad’s was Catholic. Not Seriously Catholic, but enough to nix a Church Ceremony.

That’s my Dad, looking on as Someone Else gets to kiss a bride in a church wedding that’s not his

Also, I knew that my parents were high school sweethearts. I also knew that my Dad took my Mom to the prom in a milk truck. (The Henrys didn’t own a car, so yes, they were poor; not desperately poor, but perhaps enough to give a girl’s family pause.) I even knew that, out of a total of twelve kids in my parents’ graduating class, four couples married each other — and stayed married. That must have been some high school. What I didn’t know was that two of my Mom’s aunts didn’t, well, approve of my Dad.

That’s one of the Disapproving Aunts there on the left, posing with her sister, my Mom’s mom

One was my Gramma’s sister Annette. She’s the Aunt, you may recall from my story “Great Aunts and Glorified Rice”, who wore a hair net. Which is why we kids thought she was called “Aunt Net”. She was a Lutheran Deaconess, which is sort of like being a Nun but without the cool Sally Field outfit. So, natch, she wouldn’t have liked a Catholic Boy.

That’s Aunt Nellie in back next to my Mom’s Dad. She didn’t like my Mom’s BF either

The other one, Aunt Nellie, was, according to my Mom, “one of those people” who like to “boss other people around”. She’s not quite sure why Nellie wasn’t fond of her Boyfriend-before-he-was-my-Dad (maybe it was the Poor Family Thing?) but there you have it.

Could it really have been because my Dad was so devilishly, dangerously handsome?

Of course, my Mom wasn’t exactly hard on the eyes either.

My Mom during her Homecoming Queen days

I also knew that both my Mom and my Dad dated other people after high school. I discovered this scandalous fact when looking through a big box of old photos on a rainy day when I was a kid. “Who’s this guy?” I asked my Mom, discovering a snap of a guy with his arm around my Mom. “Oh, that’s Jim.”

Turns out Jim was totally smitten by my Mom when she was in nurse’s training. He had red hair, which you couldn’t tell from the photo, it being black-and-white. I remember being fascinated by this, since I didn’t know anyone with red hair. “Gee, if you had married Jim, would we have red hair?” I remember asking. I can’t remember how she answered us, but at least she had the good grace not to tell us that, red hair or not, we wouldn’t have existed if she’d married Jim.

My Mom, looking marvelously fetching during her nurse’s training and Jim-dating period

There really wasn’t much danger of Mom marrying Jim. For one thing, Mom’s Older Brother Ronald used to refer to him as “that pasty-faced redhead”. So there’s that. For another thing, according to Mom, Jim liked her more than she liked him.

So bye-bye Jim, and hello again Dale. They got married, disapproving Aunts be darned, on not-a-Friday Thirteenth. My Dad got his engineering degree — and me — at about the same time. After which they moved to, as I called it, “Vine Grove Tucky”, where they lived over a garage, and Dad (who was an ROTC Guy) was stationed at some air base.

Dad clutching his diploma — and me

Their marriage went on to be full of many adventures — way too many to relate in one measly Tuesday-after-their-anniversary post. (Check out “Kissing Daddy Good-Night” for a real doozy.)

And so what if they didn’t have a fancy wedding? They sure got to go to plenty. Here they are enjoying my Middle Younger Brother Roger’s. Looks like my Dad has the same smile on his face as he did at his own wedding lo these many years ago.

Living it up at Roger and Jenn’s wedding

New York City. January 2019

The time the New Year almost started without us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York City. January 2019

Chop Phooey

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‘All I got for Christmas was egg foo young’

We were in a cab the afternoon of Christmas Eve when we saw Santa driving home from a hard day of ho-ho-ho-ing. We’d just seen Free Solo, which is an absolutely amazing movie about this guy Alex Honnold who climbed 3200 feet up the sheer face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park using just his hands and feet — no ropes! no nothing! — but even after that it was still pretty exciting to see the Jolly Old Elf himself in all his red-suited, white-bearded glory at the wheel of his Chrysler mini-van.

Another Santa we saw this season. This Santa was spotted in his driveway, having just ridden in on the back of a Corvette convertible

No doubt Santa was thinking about the nice home-cooked dinner he was going to have that night in his North-Pole-like outpost in Queens (he was in the traffic lane for the Bridge) before heading out in his sleigh.

We Whitmores were also looking forward to home and our traditional pot roast, a small version of which we three (yes, The Child was home this yearwere planning to polish off before opening presents and hanging out by the fire. (Being of the Swedish persuasion, I’ve Swedishly persuaded The Dude that Christmas Eve gift opening is more fun than the Christmas Morning version.)

The traditional pot roast, as it was consumed in Days of Yore. Meaning when we had Other People over to help eat it

The Dude, who doesn’t have a Swedish bone in his body, goes along with this, I’m thinking, because it’s more fun to open presents with wine than with coffee. Though my Personal Sister, also married to a non-Swede, fuels her Christmas Mornings with what she calls “happy coffee”, which she swears by as a gift-opening lubricant.

The Whitmores’ unwrapping lubricant of choice

So. Everything thing went swimmingly on Christmas Eve, with our tummy-satisfying dinner of beef, and our bubbly-infused soul-satisfying exchange of gifts.

Wombat guarding the Stocking after Santa has arrived from Queens (er, the North Pole), but before The Child has

Christmas Morning was pretty sweet too, since we have not relinquished the custom of the Christmas Stocking — even though now The Child is practically large enough to actually wear said Stocking.

Stockings and Starbucks: our new Christmas Morning tradition. That’s a pomegranate she found stuffed into said Stocking’s toe. Very Dickensian

We loafed around in our jammies pretty much all day, admiring each other’s taste in gifts, until we started to get, well, peckish. There were certainly enough Christmas treats around — caramel corn, toffee, a giant tin of cookies, and Godiva galore — but it was getting on towards dinnertime and we wanted something, well, more substantial.

We’d demolished that pot roast on Christmas Eve (there weren’t even any leftovers), and, silly me (the One Who Cooks), had in the back of her lazy-butt holiday mind that on Christmas Itself I could take it easy and we could just “grab some sushi”.

Hah! (Or should I say “Ho-Ho-Hah!“)

“What? I’m not worried about dinner. Dinner’s in a bowl. On the kitchen floor. Like always.”

As Christmas Day started turning into Christmas Night, I got to thinking of a piece I had read in the New York Times that very morning about how eating in Chinese restaurants got to be a Jewish tradition in New York since they were the only places open on Christmas Day. (When I mentioned this to The Child, she said “Oh, Mom, that’s such a cliche.”) Well, Nervous Me, I got to thinking we should call the sushi place, you know, just to make sure they were open.

The Child shows off a Polaroid shot with a Christmas gift (A Polaroid-like camera) of us hanging around and dandling the cat

Riiiing, riiing, riiinnnng. Nothing doing. I then consulted Open Table. Equally nada. The Child, Millennial that she is, started consulting her apps. Uber Eats had a Thai place that would send takeout. Did we like Thai food? Sure! we said, then proceeded to waste half an hour arguing over the menu. (“Do you like curry?” “Sure, I like curry. But all these have coconut milk. Ick!” “Mom, all Thai curries have coconut milk.”) By the time we agreed on what to order, the place was closed. It was 5 o’clock.

Next she found a taqueria. (“Tacos? Sure, we like tacos. Sort of.”) Closed. Then a poke place. “Poke! What on earth’s poke?” Ditto. Closed tighter than a Hawaiian drum. At around 5:30, we realized we were all out of options. So Chinese it had to be.

And the Chinese food delivered, literally and figuratively. Though we were on hold longer than it took the food to get to us, we enjoyed every MSG-infused morsel. (As you can see in the photo at the top of this post.) The only thing disappointing were the fortune cookies, which weren’t, in my opinion, fortune cookies. They were more like saying cookies, since they said things like “Laugh and the world laughs with you”. And “Hard work is its own reward”. A fortune is something like “You will meet a tall handsome stranger”.

Or, in our case, “You will eat Chinese food on Christmas Day.”

Or maybe: “You will eventually change out of your Christmas jammies.”

New York City. January 2019

A very Marilyn Christmas

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‘A Holiday Tribute to an Aunt I bet Yule wish was yours’

I was feeling a touch of the Christmas Blues the other day. Remembering The Old Days and how we kids used to peer out the car windows at the Christmas trees lighting up the picture windows of the houses in the small towns along Route 50 on the way up to Gramma’s house. And how, once we got there, we’d run as fast as we could to the Tree to see just how big it was and to shake the wrapped presents to guess what was in them.

I think I liked pressing my face against windows. Here I am smudging things up at Gramma’s

When Christmas Blue, what do you do? Well, I called my Mom. (Thank goodness I still have one.) She knew exactly what I was talking about, and exactly what I was missing: The Marilyn Christmas.

Oldest Younger Brother Scott and I caught red-handed checking out the Tree (and the presents)

See, my Mom, like me, was the older of two sisters. (She also had three brothers, but this story isn’t about them. Sorry, Uncles Ronald, Mark, and Carl.) This story is about Aunt Marilyn. And about how gosh-darned terrific was the way she would “do” Christmas.

That’s my Mom, upper right. Aunt Marilyn is the cute little girl in front. Even though it’s summer in this photo, I bet visions of sugarplums are dancing in her head

After the seven of us Henrys — all crammed into a car without seat belts — made that long drive from Southern Illinois, we’d get to Gramma’s house where Aunt Marilyn would greet us wearing little Christmas-ornament earrings. Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis would be playing on the stereo and the whole house would be decorated and smell like Christmas Heaven.

Another tradition: The Christmas Cousin Lineup.

Aunt Marilyn would have decorated my Gramma’s house — including putting out a little gumdrop tree — and helped her make a humongous Christmas Dinner — which was always on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day, which was the Swedish Way. We’d have korv (yum) and lutfisk (urk) and a big ole turkey and later on — after one of my Uncles would mysteriously disappear right before Santa’s arrival — my Dad would make his famous Oyster Stew and my Aunt Marilyn and Aunt Shirley and Gramma and Mom and I would eat fruitcake and play Scrabble.

After the turkey and lutfisk, but before the fruitcake and Scrabble

Somewhere along in here Uncle Carl, who lived in Colorado (which my Aunt pronounced “color” -ado) would call — Aunt Marilyn would answer the phone “Merry Christmas!” — and everyone would pass the phone around to tell him about everything he was missing, including The Game.

The Game was, basically, the centerpiece of a Marilyn Christmas. Every year, Marilyn would think one up that we would play while “Santa” was handing out the presents. This was invariably a word game, usually involving puns — the sillier and groanier the better. Sample: “Who has his own state university?” “Wayne (!)” I know, I know. But, trust me, this was fun. A lot of fun.

Mom takes a turn on “Santa’s” lap. Gee, I wonder where Dave went?

That last Game question was from the Very Last Marilyn Christmas. Which was lo these thirty-odd years ago. (I found a video my Filmmaker Younger Brother Roger made of it. If you have a very large coffee mug you might want to tune in. I don’t think Aunt Marilyn would mind.)

Speaking of Aunt Marilyn, she’s been dreadfully ill these past few years. But I bet she still wears little Christmas ornament earrings — or even little Santas. And I bet she still answers the phone “Merry Christmas”. I’m going to test that theory tonight.

Meanwhile, here’s wishing you all the merriest of Christmases — even if you don’t have a Marilyn in your life.

New York City. December 2018

“Life is short. Eat dessert first.”

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‘Words of Wisdom from One Who Is Older Than Dirt’

Yesterday I was with some super-swell women friends at a really nice Christmas lunch — the kind of Christmas lunch where your plate has a festive little foil-wrapped treat placed right there next to your fork by your thoughtful holiday hostess.

Well. The oh-so-elegant and beautifully-dressed woman seated next to me reached right for her shiny red-and-green-befoiled peppermint bark, unwrapped it, and ate it — not only before eating her lunch, but before she’d even ordered.

I must say that I was very impressed.

See, I’m the kind of person who promised myself when I was young that when I finally grew up I would eat dessert first and have sex every chance I got.

Needless to say, I haven’t kept either promise. Not very well, anyway.

The not-eating-dessert-first part had to do with wanting to maintain a svelte silhouette, something that mattered to me more as a matter of economics than vanity. I reasoned that, if I didn’t change size, then I wouldn’t have to go shopping. (I hate to shop, not having inherited the Shopping Gene from my loves-to-shop mother.) This worked pretty well for years and years. It got so that people recognized me from party to party not because they remembered my name or even my face — but because they remembered my dress.

Yes, I still have that dress. It has somehow escaped the fate of some of my other kept-forever items. It seems that, like many Women My Age, my weight has, well, redistributed itself. I have had to part with many choice items because either I can’t zip them or can’t breathe once zipped. The Child has become the beneficiary of this cruel twist of fate. Recently she scored a pair of black lace trousers.

Next up for grabs: the red satin sheath that’s under this apron. (The apron doesn’t zip, so I’m keeping it)

As for the having-sex-every-chance-I-got promise, well. I will kindly spare you any details. But you readers who, like me, have been married for a longer age than the age you were when you got married will totally get what I’m talking about.

I will tell you that I had rather a late start, sex wise. In fact, I didn’t even know about sex until very late in the game. I was so remarkably naive that I distinctly remember convincing my Younger Cousin Marcia that she couldn’t possibly be right about the carnal act she had just breathlessly described to me.

That’s me, left, leading the Christmas lineup of Peterson Cousins. Marcia-Who-Knew-About-Sex is third in line, right after my Oldest Younger Brother Scott

“Seriously, Marcia. You think your mom and dad would do that?!? Take it from me, someone has given you some very bad information.”

I think I was in high school at the time. Or at least junior high.

Me in college. Yup. I’m thinking I knew by this point

So. Where am I going with all this? Let’s start with the part about Life being Short. I won’t belabor this, but trust me when I say that it feels like it took about ten minutes to go from Actual Child to Current Edition.

Life feels so darned short to me now that I’ve started saying things like: “No, we don’t really need the new deck that lasts thirty years. The ten-year version will work just fine.” And The Dude is even worse than I am. When asked why we go on those tropical birding adventures to crazy places like the Upper Reaches of the Amazon or the Marshes of Uganda, he answers, “We need to go while we still can.”

Me, riding in a boat in Uganda — because I still can

Anyway. Take it from me, One Who Is Older Than Dirt, go ahead and reach for that dessert or that mate or whatever it is that floats your perhaps-Amazonian boat. You still have plenty of time.

What I’ll be grabbing instead of dessert

New York City. December 2018

“Is that for me?”

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‘A post about knitting, of all things’

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

Yes, knitting.

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

Somebody enjoying a roaring fire while not knitting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Truly Remarkable and Thoughtful Parents even send a video:

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

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

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

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

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

New York City. December 2018

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

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‘Some Christmas Movies you might not know about’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas sans schmatlz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York City. November 2018

My breast is in no need of a rub, thank you very much

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‘When it comes to turkey, isn’t predictability the point?’

I’m sitting here watching raindrops pelt my newly-washed windows while consoling myself with yet another cup of coffee. I just got back from the IGA, where there were no brussels sprouts to be had. Me, noticing empty bin: “No brussels sprouts?” Store employee, noticing panicky face: “Later, Miss. (She gets points for that “Miss”.) We are waiting for the truck.”

But I did get Mr. Turkey. And he looks mighty fine indeed. Speaking of fresh turkey, did I ever tell you about the time The Dude’s Dad ordered one, then put it in the freezer? We had hamburger and cranberry sauce that Thanksgiving.

On my Quest for the Perfect Piecrust

Anyway. Yesterday, I was scouring my sources for the Very Best Piecrust Recipe, which to me is like the Holy Grail. (No matter how many times I make piecrust, I’m constantly on a quest for a Better Way. The last couple of years I’ve been adding vodka; not sure if it makes a difference, but it’s sure more fun.) Continue reading