“If you’re cold, put on a sweater.”

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‘And keep your paws off that thermostat.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helmet: check. Shirt: check. But pants?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amagansett, New York. January 2023

 

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Socks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I trust there are socks down there. Somewhere

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

Now, a mixing bowl on her head? Different story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amagansett, New York. December 2022

 

Chilling Effect

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‘The Icebox Cometh. The Refrigerator Taketh.’

Harrison Ford is 80.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to “iceboxes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amagansett, New York. December 2022

“I want to see what I’m eating”

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‘Let there be light. Very bright light.’

We were about to introduce “Tell No One,” a really great multi-watchable movie (I’ve seen it at least a dozen times) to our multi-Thanksgivingable pals Jim and Phyllis (they’ve been Turkey Guests at least 20 times) when Jim says, “I think we could dim those lights, can’t we?”

Jim, bless his dimmer-loving heart, just secured a Thanksgiving invitation for at least the next 20 years. Or as long as I can lift a 20-pound turkey. (Probably not 20 years, but one can hope.)

That’s Jim (in red shirt) describing a cheese. (Note turned-off ceiling lights) Of course, it is still daytime. Barely

See, I hate bright lights. Especially bright ceiling lights. In fact, if it were up to me, there would be no ceiling lights. Just discreetly placed table lamps. Maybe a standing lamp here and there.

I am particularly fond of cabinet lighting, like this in the Ken & Barbie House *sigh*

But guess who loves lights, the brighter the better? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

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The birthdays just fly on by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Garbage in, garbage out

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‘You meet the nicest people at the dump’

I just have to say that my family has way too much fun on our weekly Family FaceTime calls. We started them during the pandemic — and for a couple of years now we’ve been gathering round the ole iPad or iPhone every Sunday at 3PM Pacific Mom Time.

Checking in with Mom and the Sibs on a random Sunday. Jealous of Doug’s Dilly Bar

It doesn’t hurt that every one of my sibs is pretty darned funny. (Those of you who know me in person may be surprised to learn that, in my family, it is not I who is the “Funny One” — or even the “Chatty One.”)

Roger shows off the latest headgear on another random Sunday

To say that we discuss a wide range of topics on these calls would be putting things mildly. Sometimes we’re serious (sort of). Like, this Sunday Youngest Younger Bro Doug reported on the soggy aftermath of a Maine Nor’Easter. (He lost power and his dock got dunked.)

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Tawking the Tawk

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‘”New York” as a second language’

I once worked with a fabulous art director named Jayne. (Hi, Jayne!) She was — and probably still is — not only visually talented, but verbally funny.

I forget now where she grew up, but she was living in New Jersey when we were working together and she was concerned that her daughter was picking up the accent.

“Mommy, Mommy,” the Little Cherub cried while playing on their outdoor deck. “I have a splintah!” It says something about Jayne’s devotion to good diction that she corrected her daughter’s pronunciation before extracting the “splin-ter.

My boss Harvey, the master of New Yorkese. Read about him in the ever-popular and hilarious “Harvey and the Grilled Half Goat Head”

Speaking of accents, you may have a good idea of what a New York accent sounds like even if you’ve never spent time here in the City. (Note: New Yorkers never refer to their town as the Big Apple; it is “the City.” But, yes, some do refer to it as “New Yawk.”)

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Cleaning is a nightmare.

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‘Cobwebs in my brain, dust devils under my bed’

There’s an old saying, scary-biblical in nature, that goes something like “we come from dust, and to dust we shall return.” Which reminds me of the old joke about the kid who asks his mom if that saying is true and then cracks, “Well, gosh Mom. It looks like somebody’s either coming or going under my bed.”

Not sure what was under my bed. But there sure was a lot of cat hair up top. Miss you, Wommie!

I’m glad that smart-alecky kid isn’t anywhere near my house these days because it looks like I’m saying hello or goodbye to a whole Henry Reunion.

What a whole Henry Reunion looks like

See, my theory on cleaning, which you can read about in detail in “To Clean, Or Not To Clean?” is, in a nutshell, that you don’t clean before company arrives — you clean after they leave. My wise Middle Younger Brother Roger is the one who wised me up, pointing out that cleaning thoroughly in advance of guests makes you, the host, uptight. As in “I just Windexed that coffee table, and he’s putting a wet glass on it.

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Sitting Pretty

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‘And pretty much just sitting. Thank goodness.’

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

Oldest Younger Bro Scott captured this image of the Happy Couple

The other excuse?

Me and my other excuse

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

Sitting around having lunch at Beaches, our favorite riverside restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even the dancing was strenuous

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amagansett, New York. September 2022

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me, practicing how to say “scree!!!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amagansett, New York. August 2022