Her Personal Truck

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‘From zero driving to truck driving in no time at all’

Back in the early 80s I dated this guy who also worked in the New York City Ad Biz — he was a producer; I was a copywriter — but he, unlike me, owned a vehicle. This was (and still is) somewhat unusual for a New Yorker.

The few New Yorkers who own cars are all out here

Anyway, this guy was really cool. Still is, I imagine. He was so cool that he not only owned a vehicle, he owned a truck. This was so unusual — and, to me, so cool — that I dubbed this vehicle — I don’t remember the make but it was white — his Personal Truck. As in, “Oh, do we get to go wash your Personal Truck?”

Yup, that’s me. During my ride-around-in-the-Personal-Truck period

I say “go wash” because Cool Guy did not keep his Personal Truck in the City. He kept it at his childhood home in New Jersey. We would hop on the train, pick it up (well, it was a pickup truck, after all), wash it (this was back when you could ride through a car wash, which I enjoyed immensely) and then he would drive it around while I made those swoopy hand-fish motions out the window and felt the wind in my hair.

Please forgive this long meander down Memory Lane. It was inspired by the fact that The Child — yes, that Child — just bought a truck. A F350 pickup, in fact. (You can admire it in the photo at the top of this post.) Which makes my Personal Child only the second New Yorker I’ve ever known to own a Personal Truck.

That’s a diploma she’s clutching, not a driver’s license

What’s truly amazing about this truck-buying is that, until recently, The Child has shown absolutely no interest in driving, much less vehicle ownership. And the fact that her very first vehicle is a truck is, well, to say that I am gobsmacked is putting it mildly.

You gotta crawl before you can walk. But I guess you don’t need to own a car before you own a truck

This truck is, apparently, such a gonzo vehicle that an excited male cousin appeared over his Dad’s shoulder during our weekly Henry Family FaceTime to pipe up with, “Hey! About that truck. We have questions!

Well, so did I, Cousin Joe. So did I.

Turns out that she, The Child, being a Worker in Tech, can perform her job-related duties from, basically, anywhere. So she and her BF (with a similar do-from-anywhere-type job) decided to give up their Boston rental and, well, take off. They’re gonna hit the road and live pretty much wherever they want. (Ideas include Montana in the summer and Arizona in the winter.)

Here they were, driving in Alaska. Well, BF was driving in Alaska

Again. I cannot stress enough how surprising this is. We are talking about a person who had to be forced to take driving lessons. She: “But I live in New York and take public transportation. I don’t need to drive.” Us: “Driving is a Life Skill. Besides, you might not always live in New York.” She: “You don’t need to drive in Boston or even San Francisco! And where else would I live?”

She jumps out of airplanes (on purpose). But does she drive?

She wins alumni awards. But does she drive?

She scuba dives — in Iceland — but does she drive?

She finally did get her driver’s license. After taking the course — and the test — twice. But I’m guessing that she’s logged (and I’m being charitable here) maybe 100 hours of driving in the ten years since she got it. Incidentally, she did drive on that trip to Iceland. But the door of the rental car blew off in a gale, which kind of put a chill on driving for a while.

I don’t know what happened. At one time, she enjoyed driving

But during the last couple of years, now that I think about it, she has indeed done a bit of driving. For one thing, she went to Hawaii by herself to attend Laird Hamilton’s fitness camp. (She must have gotten her taste for pickup trucks on that trip; she rented one which famously got a flat tire outside a fire station. The Fire Guys — of course — insisted on changing it for her.)

So now she’s the proud owner of a 2019 F350. (She saved a chunk of change getting last year’s model. Girl does her research.) We’ll get to meet this truck in a few weeks. She and the BF are driving it down to store some belongings in the attic while they pursue their itinerant lifestyle. (We just cleaned out that attic, but who can resist The Child?)

Ridding the attic of things like this: the World’s Ugliest Vase

I have to admit, now that I’ve gotten over the shock of The Child not only driving but owning a truck — and not only owning a truck but planning to basically, travel the country in it with no fixed address — well, I’m pretty darned proud.

Now let’s see if she can handle the Honda.

She can drive an F350, but can she drive our ’91 Honda (which, yes, we still have)? Three guesses. Hint: It has a stick shift

Amagansett, New York. July 2020

Small place, big personalities

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‘The Colorful Characters of Clinton County’

I was watching a clip of Donald Trump slip-sliding his way down that ramp at West Point and immediately thought of Dennis Rose. “Gription,” Dennis would have said. “Trump’s shoes ain’t got enough gription.

Well, if “gription” isn’t a word, it oughta be. Dennis used it to describe what was wrong with his own sneakers during a basketball practice one afternoon long ago in the Carlyle High School gym. (I didn’t witness this word coinage myself, those being pre-Title IX days, when the sportiest we girls could get was playing dodge-ball in that same high school gym. While wearing bloomers. Honest. Bloomers.)

Dennis’ locution was colorful, but, trust me, there were other Clinton County denizens who made him seem pasty-pale in comparison.

There was the guy named Bill who rode his bike everywhere. Sure, no one bats an eye at an adult on a bike now (even sealed in Spandex), but back then a grownup riding a bike caused, well, comment. Indeed, we kids were told to “stay away from that man.”

Kids riding bikes was another kettle of handlebars entirely. We went everywhere on bikes. Well, except not to school. Bike riding to school–even on a swell banana bike like Rog’s–was considered very uncool and just was not done

Come to think of it, there was at least one other bike-riding adult in my very small town — Orie, the guy who ran the Linotype machine at the Carlyle Union Banner. And yes, I stayed away from him too. But mainly because he didn’t suffer summer-job-holding high school girls gladly. (Read about these, my first workplace adventures, in “Those Were Banner Days Indeed.”)

Me, in the Carlyle Union Banner office. I wish I still had that dress

In addition to Bill and Orie, the bike-riding adults, we had Skinny Man and Skinny Lady. (Note the capitalization; this is what they were called, by one and sundry.) Skinny Man and Skinny Lady was a mother-and-son duo — and we are talking a grown son here, like in his forties — who were indeed very skinny. Maybe because they walked everywhere. They walked to church. They walked to church chicken-and-noodle suppers. They walked to church fried chicken suppers. They ate a heck of a lot of pie at those suppers. And still they were very skinny.

Alas, I have no photo of Skinny Man or Skinny Lady. So I will share another shot of my colorful Dad. Not eating pie, but balancing a spoon on his nose

Oh, before I forget, there was also Regina, whom I dubbed the “uncleaning lady.” Regina had the most colorful language of anyone in Carlyle or even Clinton County. What came out of the mouth of that tiny little lady would make a sailor blush. I missed most of her tenure, my mother not having “help” when I was growing up. But I sure heard the stories. “Out of your nests, you $%#&%&* kids!” she’d shout as she stomped up the stairs to move dust around and gather laundry to shrink. Bless her heart, she was a terrible cleaner, but no one had the heart to tell her, much less fire her. Besides, she adored my Dad, whom she called “Henry Dale.”

Henry Dale and his clan at a hot sweaty Henry Reunion in hot sweaty Carlyle sometime in the early aughts

One of our town’s most colorful characters — besides my Dad himself; we’ll get to him in a sec — just passed on to the Technicolor Land On High. My Middle Younger Brother Roger, he of the scandalously short shorts in the photo above, sent me the obituary. Until I read it I never knew his real name was Clarence. This guy, known by one and all, young and old alike as “Dugie,” was a legend in his own time.

When Dugie wasn’t playing wiffle ball (“He put the game of wiffle ball on the map,” Roger says) he was hanging out at the Texaco Station, trading stories and Dugie-isms with the other local characters. One day, completely out of the blue, he announced he was getting married. “Man can’t spend his whole $#@!!! life hangin’ out at the Texaco Station,” he famously proclaimed.

Here, just to break things up, is a rather colorful float in a Clinton County Fair Parade, mid-90s

Speaking of the Clinton County Fair. My Dad, as previously mentioned, was pretty darned colorful himself. Not only did he have a wide circle of Coffee Buddies he would regale with stories every morning at the McDonald’s at the edge of town, he did things like compete in a Clinton County Fair contest called “Mr. Legs.” Well, maybe it was the Chamber of Commerce. But at any rate, some civic group cropped the heads off photos of a bunch of local men wearing shorts and displayed the photos around town, whereupon the citizenry was urged to vote for the one with the prettiest legs. Dad, of course, won.

I don’t have a photo of him holding his Mr. Legs trophy. Darn it. But here he is in his pickup truck. Too bad he’s not wearing shorts

Now it’s time for me to wave bye-bye too. Until next week, here’s wishing you shoes with great gription, a banana bike to tool around town on, and a bunch of buddies to hang out with at the Texaco Station. Or whatever colorful equivalent floats your particular boat.

Amagansett, New York. June 2020

“Don’t be in such a hurry,” said my wise mother.

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‘”You’re going to be a grownup for a very long time.”‘

I had my heart set on using this seriously cute photo of The Child wearing my shiny brown hand-tooled cowboy boots. (They look more like hip boots on her three-or-four-year-old form.) In this lost photo she is also sporting a pair of big ole dangly pearl clip-on earrings. Painfully cute.

Never fear. I have a plethora of painfully cute Child photos

I could keep on looking, but the clock just keeps on ticking and it’ll be Wednesday before this Tuesday post is done if I don’t just forge on ahead.

Speaking of clocks ticking, I’ve had time on my mind as well as on my hands during this period of pandemic pandemonium. Mostly as in “gosh time goes by so quickly.” I don’t know about you, but it seems like the part of the day where I’m drinking coffee turns into the part of the day where I’m drinking wine alarmingly fast.

The Incest Mug. Grab a cup of java and read all about it here

But back to the bit about The Child dressing up. She was, of course, pretending to be a grownup. I used to do the same thing, only with my Mom’s high heels instead of cowboy boots. (I doubt if my Mom ever owned a pair of cowboy boots, though nothing would surprise me. She was once thought to be what was known at the time as a “Party Girl,” which wasn’t in fact the case, but sure made a great story.)

Not only did I raid Mom’s closet, I begged to paint my nails and wear lipstick. And don’t get me started about the Bra Thing. I wheedled my way into a “training bra” (training for what exactly?). Oh, and I used to round my age up to the next year. To this day I have to stop myself from doing this. “No! You are not 69 yet. That’s not until November.”

Me, flanked by my Peterson Grandparents, proudly sporting my “training bra.” You can read about that in “I Seen Smallah”

At any of these antics, my wise mother would simply shake her head and say, “Don’t be in such a hurry. You’re going to be a grownup for a very long time.”

And, boy was she right. It seems like it’s been about a century since I declared myself a Grownup with a Capital G. (It wasn’t when I turned twenty-one; it was when I got married. Which was at Age Twenty; early marriages also being a Thing in the Olden Days.)

So, at this point in my life I’ve been a Grownup for, like my mom said, a very long time. Of course, she has been a Grownup for even longer.

Grownup on the left is The Child. Grownup on the right is my very wise Mom

Anyway. The Corona Craziness has had me thinking about all this more than I usually do. And hoping against hope that my Mom’s saying holds true — that we all can keep on being grownups for a very long time.

Amagansett, New York. May 2020

The Zoom Zoom Room

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‘Connecting in the Time of Corona’

I don’t know about you, but my head is spinning these days. No, it’s not from the craziness of the News Cycle — though the suggestion of ingesting bleach or zapping the inside of my body with “light” is rather mind-boggling — no, my noggin is spinning from all that Zooming.

I’ve been Zooming (or FaceTiming or Facebook Messengering) with West Coast Cousins of The Dude, members of my New York City Ladies’ Club, the Curator of the Frick Museum, and even Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah. (I’ve already written, in “Apocalypse Now,” about Zooming with John Krasinski.

Why, the whole Earth is zooming! (Thanks, New Yorker)

And that was just this week. It’s kind of funny, actually (if anything about this Corona Crisis can be funny), but I’ve been feeling more connected than ever during these weeks of isolation.

Somehow I thought that isolation would be more, well, isolating. But, as it turns out, I’ve got my coffee with the ladies on Mondays, my art lecture on Tuesdays, my Family FaceTime on Wednesdays. And this week, I’ve added a Cocktail Hour with my Bridge Buddies on Thursday. I hardly have time for those endless hours of curled-up-in-a-big-chair-under-an-afghan reading I’d pictured myself doing.

I have, however, found plenty of time to knit. Turns out I can do it while Zooming

Why, if I wanted to, I could be Zooming every single day — and not just once. I’ve turned down Zoom Bridge and Zoom Birdwatching and even a Zoom Birthday Party. Why, a girl’s gotta make time for her new Best Friend:

I have forged an intimate and satisfying relationship with my Garland Range

I’ve written enough already about Cooking in the Time of Corona. There’s some funny stuff — and great recipes — in last week’s “Pots and Pandemics”, in case you missed it. Oh, that pork shoulder calas? Let’s just say that tonight I’m back to chicken thighs. Specifically, NY Times Cooking’s “Sheet-Pan Chicken with Jammy Tomatoes and Pancetta,” only I’m using bacon, “pancetta” being a bit frou-frou for this Midwestern Gal. (Besides, if my IGA doesn’t have TP, I doubt it’ll have pancetta.)

Back when kitchens had people in them, and not just bacon

My favorite Zoomarific weekly activity is the aforementioned Family FaceTime. Every Wednesday, at 10 AM PDT, all five of us Henry sibs get on the virtual horn to our mother. (You can see us — all of us, divvied up like Hollywood Squares — in the photo at the top of this story.)

Mom lives alone and has been sheltering safely in her Oregon apartment ever since This Nonsense began. Mom has fantastic, caring neighbors who get her mail, run her errands and bring her goodies. But still: she is alone and has been alone for what seems like a century now.

We spend about an hour on our Zoomy call, sharing our experiences and fears, showing off our pets, looking out each other’s windows. It’s not like actually being together, certainly. But we live so far apart — New York, California, Maine, Washington, Illinois — that being “together” once a week is the most we kids have seen or talked to each other in, well, years.

A non-virtual moment from our last non-virtual get-together: Mom’s 90th birthday party last October

Speaking of Family, there is an exception in my Inner Circle to the Zooming Craze, and that’s The Child. She’s not that into FaceTiming or Zooming, maybe because she has to do it so much for work. But she has graduated from texting to talking. That’s right — The Child calls us up to speak to us. And this is a person so unfamiliar with talking on the phone that she had no idea what to do with a dial on an old phone we found in a closet. Seriously. You can read about it in “Touch M for Murder.”

FaceTiming in the Olden Days: Thanksgiving 2013, when The Child was studying Across the Pond. Gosh, maybe this was Skyping. Remember Skype?

So gosh. I guess if there is a silver lining in the Corona Cloud, it would be this new craving for connection. And, even though it’s virtual, I’ll take it. For the time being, that is. I hereby make a resolution to get on an actual plane so I can make an actual visit to my actual mother — as soon as Dr. Fauci says I can.

Amagansett, New York. April 2020

 

Pots and Pandemics

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‘Cooking for the Apocalypse’

Okay. How many of you out there know what “pork shoulder calas” is? Hint: it’s not pork butt.

Pork shoulder calas is what I scored from the almost-empty meat case the other day when I made my once-weekly foray, gloved and bandanna’d, into the local IGA. I go at around 8:30 because, even though it’s “seniors only” from 9:00 to 10:00, they only let in 30 shoppers at a time. (I found out the hard way that getting there at 9:00 means standing — er, shivering — in a socially-distanced line, waiting until one of the lucky First Thirty exits the store.)

A fully-laden shopping cart in Happier Days. When it was filled with what I wanted rather than what I could get. I would kill for those paper towels

While I’m waiting, either in the car (when I’m early) or on the line (when I’m not), I go over my shopping list.

Then, when I get inside, I realize my list isn’t worth the scrap paper it’s scribbled on because, basically, nothing on there is in there.

Empty bread aisle, also from happier days. Then it was 4th of July hoarding, which was at least temporary

As a senior who’s earned her early-groceries stripes, I didn’t think much could surprise me anymore. But every week when I go IGAing, I’m stunned at the total absence of once-familiar items. There are whole sections of the store that are empty. The usual suspects — peanut butter, oatmeal, eggs, canned tuna — have been missing for weeks, not to mention toilet paper. Which is such a classic Corona MIA that my Beloved Only Younger Sister joined in the TP fun. Yup. Her post went, ahem, viral.

And yeah, I get it. Everybody’s cooking at home so soup stocks and dried beans and flour are gone. And then they’re doing the dishes, so the sponges and dishwasher pellets are gone. After that, they’re storing the leftovers, so ziploc bags and plastic wrap are gone.

Even The Child is buying flour. She’s made this NY Times bread, like, eight times. In one week

But who’s taking the frozen lima beans? And what gives with no seltzer? I can’t even find the Polident thingies I use to clean what I call my “biter” and my dentist insists on calling my “nightguard.”

I can’t resist a shot of The Child doing another cooking-related activity

So, with whole categories of formerly-stocked stuff virtually gone, I’ve had to get whatever I can get and make do the best I can.

I buy a bunch of parsley and use it in everything from soup to salad. No frozen spinach? Frozen kale was (sort of) fine. Oh, you’d be amazed how many recipes there are for chicken thighs. Like, a zillion. And who knew squash was so versatile? You can turn it into soup, you can roast it, you can even slice it and cook it with — you guessed it — chicken thighs.

I’ve made that recipe for chicken thighs and squash twice. And yes, that red wine is for cooking. It just doesn’t go in the recipe

Which brings me to the pork shoulder calas. I was craving a bit of a break from chicken thighs, and there was this big ole Pork Object. It wasn’t pricey, so in the cart it went. Well, when I got home and after oh-so-carefully doing the Unpacking and Sanitizing Thing, I googled it. Turns out it isn’t what I thought it was — a cut of shoulder called “pork butt.” Which is awfully confusing since I wouldn’t have guessed a “butt” is on the “shoulder.” The “butt” is what you use to make pulled pork. Which I must admit I was kinda hungry for.

Something else I get hungry for: Magic Meat. The recipe is right here

But — and I use that word intentionally — this was no butt. I googled some more and found that the “calas” is lower down on the shoulder, more towards the leg, and is used to make a classic Puerto Rican dish called “pernil.” 

This “pernil” isn’t something we Swedish Americans from Southern Illinois had every week. But it’s in the oven even as we speak. And smells pretty darned delicious. I’ll let you know next week how it turned out. And whether I’ve got to return to an all-chicken-thigh-all-the-time menu.

In the meantime, here’s another photo of Kitchens from Non-Distancing Times. Enjoy. And if you get a sec (hah), try any of these NY Times chicken-thigh recipes. Trust me; you’ll be able to find winter squash just fine.

Best thing to have in your kitchen: a sister

Amagansett, New York. April 2020

Viral Smiles

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‘Making the world a better place, one grin at a time’

A couple of nights ago, The Dude poked his head into the kitchen and asked, “What are we doing for dinner tonight?” Well. Ordinarily I wouldn’t find this hilarious. But ordinarily we are not cooped up together 24/7 in state-suggested social isolation.

The Dude asking what we were “doing” for dinner reminded me of my Old Days in the Ad Biz when we Ogilvy Peeps would fly Midwest Express out to Appleton, Wisconsin, to call on our client Kimberly-Clark. (You can read about that wackiness in “HooHah Time is Story Time.”) Bless their hearts, the stewardesses (yup, “stewardesses”) would put a cloth napkin on your tray table and ask sweetly, “Will you be joining us for dinner tonight?” I always wanted to reply, “Oh, I don’t know. I was thinking of going out.”

Well, it’s Day 32. (Only Day 32?) And our dining options, at least out here in Amagansett, are limited to A) eating in our kitchen or B) eating at the counter in our kitchen.

Where we eat: A) the kitchen B) the kitchen counter

Oh, one night we tried getting take-out from the Mexican Place That’s So Good We Can Never Get In. But after driving there and meeting this masked and gloved guy in a parking lot and having him pass bags through our car window and then drive home and sanitize the packaging and dump all the food out on fresh plates, it was cold — and we were sad. And, by the time we added in an extravagant tip, the whole transaction not only felt like a drug deal, it was just about as expensive.

My new God is Sam Sifton of NY Times Cooking. That’s one of the recipes behind that bottle of wine

So. Make that one sort-of dinner out — out of 32. The rest have been all in — and all me, all the time. (Nope, His Dudeness does not cook. Not unless you count the time when he was in medical school and sharing a house and it was his turn and he stuck a knife into the peanut butter jar and put a cracker at each place. Something, actually, that one of my brothers did once, too.)

But enough about me and my cooking. This story is about my sister — and her cooking. One day, as she was preparing the umpteenth dinner chez Schneed, she noticed something, well, funny about the onion she was chopping.

Is that a smile on that onion’s face, or is he just glad to see that spoon?

Next thing you know, that onion gets famous on Instagram. And I wasn’t the only one who thought he was smiling:

Well, in case you hadn’t figured this out already, I am not the only creative and/or funny person in the Henry Family. After the smash debut of Mr. Onion, my Favorite Sister (yes, she is my only sister; my mom used to call her only sister, my Aunt Marilyn, her “Favorite” Sister too) started posting smiling food every day.

And guess what? I smiled every time I saw one of those delicious grins. She posted smiley smoothies, friendly fruits and all sorts of toothy treats.

Pretty soon, my sister was seeing smiles just about everywhere: in her house while she was stuck at home — and all around her when she ventured out for a (gasp) walk.

 

Now, if these goofy grins didn’t make you smile you’ve been watching waaaaay too much Trump. And, gosh, isn’t it nice to know that there’s something happily going viral in this crazy corona world? Follow uneedtheschneed on Instagram; all the nice people do. I’ll be seeing you seven smiles from now, Favorite Sister and Friends. Until then — hold this thought:

Amagansett, New York. April 2020

Yep, there is a place called Yap

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‘But can you find it on a map?’

Please forgive the Green Eggs and Ham cadence; I couldn’t help myself. Everyone’s been so crabby lately. We’ve got the Secretary of State yelling at NPR reporters while waving maps — “Go on, Missy! Find Ukraine! I double-dog dare ya!” (She does, then tells on him. What did he think she’d do — she’s a reporter.)

Then we’ve got Our President congratulating the Kansas City Chiefs — from the Great State of Kansas — on their Super Bowl win. This time Claire McCaskill got a little testy:

I’ll let that one slide since she was pretty hilarious, and also because she used to be a senator from, ahem, Missouri. Which is where the Chiefs are actually from. (I used to be from Missouri, too, having spent my formative post-grad new-to-advertising years there. But those are whole ‘nother stories. Which you can find under the “Adland Lore” tab in the sidebar if you are bored and it’s raining like it is here.)

Me, doing something Important as Creative Director of a fair-to-middlin’ size ad agency in Kansas City, Missouri

“But what about Yap?” you may be thinking. Is that Yap up on that map? Well, yes it am, Sam I Am. And why do we care about Yap? Well, I was chatting away on the phone with my mother and we got to talking about the Henry Family. There are waaaaay more of them (my father having been one of eight children) than we’ve got on the Peterson Side.

A mere fraction of — tho quite a few — Henry-Side-People were on hand for my afore-mentioned mother’s 90th birthday celebration last fall

Anyway. We were talking about how we get such a kick out of those Henrys but we’ve lost track of a lot of them, and not just because there are so many. They also have a tendency to move Far Away. We’ve got members of the Henry Family Tree not only in places like Detroit, we’ve got a branch in Spain and even a twig in Montenegro. (Which is next to Albania; I just looked.)

And then Mom mentioned the Cousin in Yap.

It’s a good thing I had just finished my coffee, because I would have spit some all over the rented oatmeal-colored staged-for-selling-the-apartment couch. “Yap?!? There is a place called Yap?” “Yes, there is indeed a place called Yap,” my mother assured me.

Another map. Of Yap. Note there is a town called Maap. I’m dying here

And not only is there a place called Yap, my dear mother continued, “but I’ve been there.”

“You’ve been to Yap?” I was beyond astonished. You think you know a person, right? Well, I’ve known this woman for, well, all my life and I had no idea she’d been to Yap. Will wonders never cease. Or maybe it’s “still waters run deep.” Whatever. I was gobsmacked.

A Threesome of Henrys. So glad they don’t live in (on?) Yap, since they wouldn’t have made it to the party. Or maybe they would have?

I was laughing so hard I didn’t get the details about what on earth my mother was doing on the other side of the earth in Yap, of all places. (I think it had something to do with a plane layover during their trip to Australia and New Zealand years ago.) And I most definitely did not get the full story about the Cousin Who Lives There. (I think she’s the daughter of a cousin; a first cousin once removed — removed all the way to Yap.)

I promise to ask Mom next time we’re on the phone. If I can stop laughing long enough.

New York City (definitely not Yap). February 2020

 

A Merry Minimalist Christmas

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‘And a Happy New Decade’

Yes, yes. I’ve told you enough already about the Downsizing. (For those of you out of the loop, blogwise, The Dude and I are soon to move from a normal-sized New York apartment to what I call The Ken and Barbie House. Which is itty-bitty, to say the least. And I do mean the least.)

Floorplan of K & B House. Yes, that’s a 6×6 kitchen

But have I told you about the Staging? In order to move into the teensy apartment, we have to sell our normally-sized apartment. And, in order to sell it, our arms were twisted to Stage it. “Staging” means you, basically, get rid of anything in your home that gives any clues to your personality: photos, artwork, memorabilia. This also (at least in our case) meant getting rid of anything that provides comfort and coziness: carpets, pillows, lamps.

Stripping the living room. Only things left are the piano and the cat bed

“Our” living room, after the Stagers had their way. Sigh

Living in a staged apartment is rather like living in a hotel room. The stuff isn’t yours (those are rented couches; the coffee table isn’t ours either) and god forbid you spill anything. It’s also rather echo-y and noisy, what with the carpets and curtains gone. And don’t get me started about where on earth to put a cocktail — all my end tables were banished.

In order to make room for all our downsized stuff, we had to clear out the attic in Amagansett. It did not break my heart to get rid of this, the World’s Ugliest Vase

But enough whining. Let’s get back to Christmas! If you look closely at that staged living room, you can see a little potted plant on the hearth. Well, no one watered the darned thing over Thanksgiving (there wasn’t anyone there to do so) and it shriveled up.

Rather liking a plant in a pot and it being close to Christmas, I replaced it with the teensiest Tree I could find. When I told our broker I had put a Christmas Tree in the apartment, she immediately asked, “How big?” When I assured her that this artifact of Seasonal Cheer was less than a foot high, she made me promise not to put up any more of my “usual decorations,” especially not a “wreath on the door.”

I cheated and hung The Child’s stocking on the mantel with care. (Though I did put it away again immediately after it was emptied)

Of course, I’ve never been much of a decorator (See “Deck the Halls with Bough of Holly” for non-glittery details) so it didn’t exactly break my heart to skip the wreath or the bowl of shiny ornaments this year.

The Child sometimes even decorates herself at Christmas

In fact, we almost completely skipped Christmas this year. As you may have noticed from my last two posts, we spent the Actual Holiday in the wilds of the Amazon Basin in Brazil.

Christmas morning on a tributary (Rio Marie) of a tributary (Rio Negro) of the Amazon River

But The Child intervened, and we did celebrate, albeit a bit early. We even had pot roast — after which, we presented The Child and her BF with the pot roast pot. (Downsizing, you know.)

“Christmas” morning. December 14

When The Dude and I got back Saturday, we immediately repaired to the East End, where we got to enjoy a wreath after all.

A wreath on a bench on a beach

Amagansett, New York. December (31!) 2019

Splendor in the Grass

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‘When family photos were snapped “en plein air”‘

Part of the pleasurable pain of downsizing is sorting through zillions, even gazillions, of family photos. Deciding which to keep, which to “gift”, which to strip from their soon-to-be-donated frames and consigned to the manilla envelopes and file folders of history.

One of the things I’ve noticed while sifting is a years-ago trend to pose hapless members of one’s family (mostly helpless babies) smack-dab in the middle of a patch of grass. I’m not sure exactly why this isn’t done so much anymore, though I’m betting that chiggers and deer ticks might have something to do with it.

Me, smack-dab in the middle of a patch of grass. Before the invention of ticks and chiggers, I’m hoping

Another photo fashion I’ve encountered repeatedly while scanning and sipping a big ole cocktail (scanning being rendered much less tedious when accompanied by bourbon) is a propensity to pose subjects with cars in the background. (Even that last photo had a car in the background, albeit a toy one.)

Look at me. In the grass: check. Car in background: double-check

Here are some more for your viewing pleasure:

Yup, grass. Yup, car

Well. I am in the grass in this one. But that’s a cat, not a car

Here’s one with the requisite car(s), but with a stylistic variation: baby in gravel, not grass

The photographer’s shadow in that last one is a nice touch, n’est-ce pas? Speaking of French, that phrase found in the subhead, “en plein air”, means, in case you don’t know already, “out in the air” or just plain “outside”. Kind of like “al fresco”, only not Italian.

Sometimes a whole extended family was lined up in front of a car

My forbears were more Swedish than French and not Italian at all, but they sure did like to put us kids outside and snap away. Maybe the light was just better?

Hmmm. Nice shot, cute kids, but that flash glare is a tad distracting

Speaking of flash, indoor photography in those days required flashbulbs, which were actual bulbs that went off with a loud pop and a blue glare so bright it left an afterimage on your retina, prompting Infant Me to try to grab it while shouting “moon moon!”

Let’s go back outside. Here’s a dandy with not only cars–but a motorcycle. And a great-aunt for good measure

Anyway. I could go on and on. But I have more sorting to do, and it’s not of fun photographs. Hint: drawers full of receipts are involved — and it’s too early for bourbon. But before I go, I did happen to find a quasi-contemporary photo of cute kids on grass:

The Child and her Cousin, plopped 50s-style in the grass. Cute enough to compensate for the lack of a car — or even a cat

Oh, and I found at least one example featuring yet another years-ago photography trend:

Kids posed in a tub. Definitely no risk of ticks or chiggers. But blackmail entirely possible

New York City. December 2019

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Turkeys

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‘The worst Thanksgivings are still pretty darned great’

Those of you who follow along with me each week already realize — no doubt because I’ve told you way too many times — that Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. (Speaking of giving thanks — thank you for reading, Favorite People.) See “Turkey Shoot”, “In the Kitchen with Dad (and the Coal Miner’s Daughter)”, “Flipping the Bird”, and “My Breast is in no need of a rub, thank you very much” for pieces stuffed with reasons why.

Is that a banana, or am I just glad to see it’s almost Thanksgiving?

And it’s not just me. I grew up with a whole passel of Thanksgiving Lovers. Why, one year we invented a holiday called “Veteransgiving” just so we could get together, calendar be darned. (I bet we’re one of the few families who’s celebrated Veterans Day Weekend with turkey and pie.) It was held at my Favorite Sister Laura’s, and it was One Fun Time.

I don’t have a photo, alas, of Veteransgiving. But here’s one from a Christmas during that same era, also chez Laura

Although Veteransgiving was a little unusual, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “turkey”. No, the Thanksgiving “turkeys” of my memory were these (in no particular order):

The Thanksgiving with the Sad Little Game Hens. Dude Man and I were freshly hitched and, for some reason which I cannot recall, did not decamp to a Family Unit for the holiday. (Maybe we didn’t get enough time off? Maybe we couldn’t decide which family to invade? I honestly can’t remember.)

What I do remember is that, instead of turkey — even a small turkey — I thought it would be a smart idea to roast two game hens. Seeing them on the platter with (of course) no stuffing and no gravy made me burst into tears. Trust me, a Thanksgiving spent sobbing into small poultry is no fun. The photo at the top of this story shows me smiling bravely through some such celebration-for-two. Though not the holiday I described. Too heartbroken for photos.

Me, trying to distract The Dude from the fact that we are having teensy game hens for T’giving dinner. Or maybe this is just another random photo I have from that apartment

The Thanksgiving eaten off TV trays in front of Dolly Parton. This was a holiday spent at the home of my Starter Hub. Yes, I was married before. Very briefly, but long enough to spend Thanksgiving with my mother-in-law Opal in the Ozarks. More shocking to me than the TV on all the time (after all, I grew up in a TV-loving household) was the fact that there was cornbread in the stuffing. (If you’re interested, and who wouldn’t be, you can read about This Guy in “My Polio-Shot Marriage”.)

No, I don’t have photographic evidence of the Dolly Parton Dinner. But I do have this evidence of 70s underwear-aversion

The Thanksgiving The Child wanted to spend in the City so she could see her friends. This was The Child’s first year away at college. She convinced me to spend my Very Favorite Holiday going through a buffet line at The Dude’s fancy-but-still-not-anything-like-home Club. Even worse than having to dress up was the fact that there were no leftovers. She never asked to do this again. See, she didn’t get to see her City friends — they were all away with their families somewhere else having a nice Thanksgiving, thank you very much.

The Child smartened up and started inviting friends too far away to go home to come to our Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving we had hamburgers and cranberry sauce. This was back when The Dude’s Dad was still with us. He was actually a pretty good cook — his popovers and baked beans were legendary — so we Whitmores were pretty excited to gather in Amagansett for the feast. He took a lot of care with the preparations, even asking World’s Best Cook Ever Aunt Eleanor (his sister-in-law) for advice on getting the turkey. She told him to get a fresh one, even where to get it.

One of the few photos I have of the Dude’s Pater. This is a nice one of him with The Child. No turkey, fresh or frozen, on the horizon here

So, Thanksgiving morning, we daughters and daughters-in-law are helping out, and someone says, while opening the fridge, “We ought to be thinking about getting that turkey in the oven, Dad. Where is it?” Well, he’d put that bird in the freezer. We rushed to the IGA, which, amazingly, was open on T. Day, but, not amazingly, had no more turkeys left. We had hamburgers and cranberry sauce. Which actually tasted pretty good, though New Family Tradition it did not become.

Now this is a New Family Tradition that stuck: cranberry-apple pie. Try it; you’ll like it

Well, I think it’s time to wrap this up. I’ve got the Big Beef in the oven, but have yet to make the piecrust. (Yes, I make my own crust. Only once a year, though.)

Time to freshen my Manhattan and have at it.

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful, warm Thanksgiving. See you next week when everyone but me will be thinking about Christmas.

May your turkeys be wonderful and not “turkeys” at all

Amagansett, New York. November 2019