“Do we have any snacks?”

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‘If a husband says this, it means “Get me some snacks”‘

We were recently graced with a visit from The Young Couple, formerly known as The Child and The Beau.

The Young Couple share a few-days-into-marriage moment

Yes, in case you have been holed up in a blogless burrow, here’s the news: Child and Beau made the plunge on the rim of the Grand Canyon on May 1. (You can revel in the details — and drool over the gorgeous photos — in “Runaway Bride” and “Tough Act to Follow.”)

One of many cinematically-gorgeous bridal shots

It was fun having them here, and for more than just a couple of days. It gave us all a chance to get into some normal hanging-out rhythms. Like, they both were working like crazy and commandeered sections of the house for no-go zones. Unfortunately, New Son-In-Law (whom I will henceforth refer to as “The SIL”) chose the kitchen, which is already my no-go zone. Or was.

Roses from a bush my Dad gave us, foreground. The SIL’s work setup, background

We worked alongside each other companionably enough, though more than once The SIL’s concentration was broken by whatever I was working on. SIL: “What is that?! It smells amazing.” (He ultimately decamped to the library, which has no windows for looking out, but also has no cooking aromas wafting in.)

In the kitchen again. But this time, decidedly not working

Speaking of food, one afternoon I heard The SIL ask The Child, “Do we have any snacks?” Well. I couldn’t help but overhear her response: “You mean ‘get me some snacks!‘” Clever girl. She is a quick Bridal Study. It only took her a couple of weeks to realize that when a husband asks if we “have” anything — beer, ketchup, a needle and thread — it really means he wants you to go get it. (In the case of the needle and thread, it means he wants you to sew on a loose button.)

Two husbands and a bride on a birding walk. Nope, that’s not a rare bird they’re looking at — it was a bunch of locals trying to get their truck unstuck

I must admit that it warmed the cockles of my heart to realize that “Husbandese,” as I’ll call it, knows no age (The SIL is not quite 30) and no boundaries (he is Canadian). I also caught him saying to Her Childness after a minor disagreement — I think it was about the title of a movie, which they googled to check — “You might be right.” This, of course, is Husbandese for “You are right.” I know because His Dudeness says this to me all the time when confronted with irrefutable proof that I am absolutely correct about whatever-the-heck it is.

Newlywed Us, probably arguing about something. But in a cute newlywed way

We once had an epic argument about whether Frank Langella was alive or dead. We happened to be walking in the theater district at the time and I had only to point to a sign advertising the play Frost/Nixon to prove my point (um, “alive”). His response? “You might be right.”

Dude Man demonstrates his sunglass method. This has nothing to do with this story, but I like it — and the fact that The Child appreciates it (!)

I didn’t get a chance to discover whether The SIL shares the pants-avoidance Husband Thing. Thank goodness he remained suitably be-trousered whenever I was around. And so, mostly, did The Dude, who was on his best we’ve-got-company behavior. (If you want to know what the heck I’m talking about, you can find out in “I’m the Sheik of Araby.” Warning: It’s a little racy.)

Dude Man wearing a motorcycle helmet — but no pants

Sigh. It’s been a couple of days since both The SIL and The Child (er, The Bride) decamped for home. And of course I miss them. There is one thing, though, I don’t miss:

Waiting in epic lines for snacks — and other comestibles — at the IGA

Amagansett, New York. June 2021

 

 

Nesting Instinct

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‘At long last, bicoastal birdies come home to roost’

It had been 599 days since I had last hugged my Mom. And, gosh-darn it, I wasn’t going to let another momless, hugless day go by. I zoomed one last time — in an airplane instead of on a screen — and got myself out to Vancouver, Washington, where my Mom was settling into her new nest.

Mom shows off her nest, including her new Smart TV

The newly-hitched Child dragged herself away from her (sounds so weird to say it) husband to join us. And, bless her, she handled everything: Air bnb, car rental, the works. Once we got there, she even did an InstaCart. All I had to do was be where she said to be at the time she said to be there.

One of many beautiful trees adorning the grounds at Mom’s place. Anybody know what it is?

Our visit did not disappoint. In addition to multiple sessions of much-anticipated hugging, it was packed with Scrabble (I managed to win a game!), Cubs games, gabfests and even some Corner Gas (Canada’s answer to Seinfeld).

It was lovely enough for a walk along the Columbia River

Favorite Sister Laura had us all over for a backyard barbecue, which was, of course, amazing. And in more ways than one. While Best Bro-in-Law Dave was working his grilling magic, Laura showed us a nest that a robin had constructed in the wreath on her front door. (See photo at the top of this post.) Laura has an eye and a talent for interior decoration, so at first we all thought she had constructed the wreath/nest as a stylish accent.

“No, no!” she insisted. “The nest is real.” (Even Dave was fooled. “Come on, you can tell me,” he whispered to me as I ferried a glass of wine to him grillside, “Laura made that nest. Right?“)

“Hey, I made this nest,” says Mama Robin

Nope. Laura didn’t make the nest. But she and the rest of her brood sure made the evening special.

Mom and Me, with matching closed eyes, whoop it up at Laura’s (That’s her behind Mom). Grillmaster Dave and Cousin Aaron flank Niece Natalie

Next day, it was more flying. For The Child and I as well as the birds. We JetBlued back to the East Coast to be able to greet Nephew Alex and his family, whom I hadn’t hugged in 713 days.

Vaxed and masked and in the air

They — Alex, Kathleen, and their three beyond-adorable little girls — have been visiting us on or about Memorial Day since Cora, the oldest, who is nine, was crawling around in diapers.

Reconnecting with the grand-nieces at long last. Tessa introduces me to Georgie, her monkey, whose nose was rubbed raw from kissing

We too played loads of games (it rained all weekend) and, oddly enough, also had an up close and personal bird encounter. The aforementioned rain, plus chilly temperatures, meant that the purple martin colony at the South Fork Natural History Museum needed human help. Rain and cold mean no flying insects. And no flying insects means no food for the martins.

We loaded ourselves into two cars and headed off to help. At SoFo, we took matters into our own hands — literally. We tossed chilled-but-alive crickets (chilled so they can’t hop away, poor things) into the air, where the starving martins swooped in, snapped them up and ate them mid-flight.

 

There was one stunned, very weak, martin we fed with tweezers until she was strong enough to fly away.

Eventually, the skies cleared, the sun shone, the kids played outside — and it was time to say good-bye.

Uncle Wayne gets into the swing of things

Just as they drove off, I got a West Coast nesting update from my sister. Not only had my Mom settled in nicely, so had Mrs. Robin.

The eggs in the nest in the wreath on the front door

Amagansett, New York. June 2021

 

 

Narrowing the Generation Gap

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‘Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom get together again’

Pictured above are a daughter, a mom (who is also a daughter) — and her mom. Three generations of a family who, like many others, loves nothing more than to get together but hasn’t been able to in ever so long.

Same trio, same positions — Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom — on another visit long ago. Which doesn’t actually feel that long ago

The last time this threesome was in the same room at the same time — not to mention the same positions — was in October of 2019. When the extended Henry Clan gathered to celebrate our matriarch’s ninetieth.

Same room, same time, some celebration (!)

That was some shebang. (You can read all about it in “So far, so good.”) There was cake, there was wine, there was dancing and joking and all-around foolishness and hijinks.

Dancing in pjs. A must at any Henry party

One can only wonder what we would have done differently had we known it would be the last time we’d see each other for more than a year. I certainly can’t think how we could possibly have enjoyed ourselves more.

I can think of one thing I’d do differently: have waaaay more of those delish deviled eggs, seem here being created by the Amazing Jen

Funny how you can take in-person stuff for granted. A hug, a kiss, a game of Scrabble, or even a family-gathering tussle over who gets the next turn in the shower or the last cup of coffee. From now on, slap me if I pass on any of these again.

Scrabble chez Mom. She’s smiling because she’s winning. She smiles a lot when she plays Scrabble

Trust me, the only way I want to Zoom these days is to get on a plane and go see my Mom. Which is what I am doing this Sunday.

We crack each other up at one of our weekly Family Zoom sessions

Yes, at long last — and fully vaccinated (see “My Morning at Jabits Center”), I am jetting out for a real, in person Mom Visit. And I’m not the only one. When I mentioned this visit to The Child, she asked to go along. (Or “go with,” as they say in the Heartland.)

The only way to “go with” back in the day. The Henrys visit the Peterson Clan

“Of course you can come,” was my pleased-as-punch reply. The Considerate Child even offered to drive. (She has had beaucoup de practice tooling around in that F350, and I am woefully unfamiliar with the operation of any vehicle newer than a ’98 4Runner. “What’s this thing do?” was my response to seeing one of those newfangled key thingies the last time I rented a car.)

So. Next time you hear from me I will have had actual, physical contact with both my mother and my daughter — my mother in her new home; my daughter in her new status as a Married Person. (See my last two posts for glorious wedding — er, “elopement” — details. More than one person remarked that the photos were so gorgeous it looked like a movie. “Yes, a movie that I couldn’t go to,” was my retort.)

Daughter in F350 as Married Person

But I do get to go see the two most important women in my life. And soon. Watch this space for a brand new Daughter, Mom/Daughter, Mom photo. Everybody in it will be smiling. Even those of us who lost at Scrabble.

Amagansett, New York. May 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Proustian Popcorn Pan

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‘My brain explodes with salty, fluffy memories’

I mentioned last week that my One and Only Mom was moving to new digs. All went smoothly, thanks to Only Sister Laura and Oldest Younger Brother Scott, who wrestled furniture and wrangled boxes.

Heck, they even unpacked, which in my experience (most recently with our dreaded downsizing, which you can read about in ‘The Tunnel at the End of the Light’) is way way worse than packing.

Boxes ready to be unpacked in the Ken & Barbie House. (Note that I only show my own unpacked boxes)

Mom to OYB Scott while putting things away in her new closet: “I need to go shoe shopping.” OYB Scott to Mom, after opening box containing literally dozens of pairs of footwear: “Um, what about these?!” Mom: “Well, I like shoes.”

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Youngest Younger Brother Doug, while not present for the Unpacking, played a big part in Mom’s Move too — he was one of the Intrepid Ones who sorted and boxed and toted the stuff from her Seaside apartment. (You can just glimpse him taking a much-deserved Baseball Break in the photo at the top of this post.)

A better view of Doug as he and Mom take a Scrabble Break

Speaking of Doug, this piece is kind of about him. He is the one who used to wield the titular popcorn pan. He was the youngest of us, the littlest of the Little Kids, and yet he was allowed — nay, encouraged — to be the Popcorn Maker. I can still see him — or the top of his head anyway — standing at the stove, vigorously rattling away making that night’s popcorn.

Doug on the living room floor, with Major, not popcorn (this time anyway)

We would scoop our portions from the big pan into cereal bowls, then settle on the living room floor for a night of TV watching. Dad controlled the remote, so thank goodness we all liked the same shows: Bonanza, I Spy, Batman, Mission Impossible, Laugh-In. Heck, Dad even liked Hullaballoo.

Kids still enjoy sprawling on carpeted floors — at least the ones in my Mom’s living room

I say this piece is “kind of” about Doug, because, like most of my stories, it’s really about memories. Today’s is about how crazy it is that they can be triggered so easily by something as beaten and battered as an old popcorn pan.

Why, when I saw that picture of Mom holding that Proustian Pan, I was hit by a virtual memory tsunami. I could see the light of the glowing TV flickering off our faces, I could feel the knotty texture of the wall-to-wall carpet, I could hear my brothers hissing “Get down! You make a better door than a window!” And yes, I could taste that popcorn. Which, enhanced no doubt by the lens of nostalgia, I consider the best popcorn ever popped, any time anywhere.

Mom and her personal Popcorn Popper, AKA Doug

Which is true, since it wasn’t pre-buttered or pre-salted or pre-packaged or pre-anything’d. It was popcorn grown by my Grampa Henry on his farm. It came “packaged” on cobs that we would shuck onto newspapers on that self-same living room rug. We’d put the just-shucked kernels into mason jars that we kept in the fridge. (Pro Tip: popcorn pops best when it’s cold; the kernels “escape” the husks with greater force, thus yielding a bigger “puff.”)

Grampa with his Shuckers. Er, kids and grandkids

It’s funny. When I was doing my own sorting and sifting and tossing, what were the things I just had to keep? Why, the things that triggered memories, of course. Well, as long as they could fit into 550 square feet and do their triggering.

I’m not sure what Mom kept –well, except for an inordinate number of shoes — but I sure hope someone hung on to that popcorn pan.

Doug (at left) in the kitchen on a long-ago Thanksgiving. I’m betting the Popcorn Pan got a workout even after the pie

Amagansett, New York. April 2021

 

 

 

 

Party of Two

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‘Another anniversary celebrated in singular style’

Dude Man and I didn’t have a reception when we were married. We didn’t even have a wedding. Not really. We pledged our troth in front of a Unitarian minister in the United Nations nondenominational chapel with our parents as witnesses.

With one of our wedding guests — my mom

But, barely-boned wedding be darned, we are indeed married, and have been for 36 years. Thirty-seven years tomorrow. You can read all about this long-ago non-event — and our Carvel wedding cake — in “Winning the Dude-A-Thon.

Carvel wedding cake — and hot dog stand wedding photo

Back then we decided it would be smart — and financially prudent — to blow our teensy wedding budget on the honeymoon and have a party for our friends when we returned.

Another reason for no wedding: I’d had one before. Satisfy your curiosity with “My Polio-Shot Marriage”

Well, that didn’t happen. (The party, not the honeymoon. The honeymoon was fab. We spent part of it in a palace in Morocco owned by Malcolm Forbes. Yes, you can read about that in “Malcolm and the Duchess.”) And then we thought we’d have a first-year anniversary party. Don’t worry; you didn’t get invited because that didn’t happen either. Neither did the fifth-anniversary party. Or the tenth. Twenty-fifth? Uh-uh.

Anniversary party to which you did not get invited? Nah. Here we’re partying like it was 1999. Because it was — a Millennium-Turning “Do”

Nope. No parties. If two’s company and three’s a crowd, I guess you’d say we’ve had company for our anniversary every single year.

Sometimes we muster the energy to go out for our anniversary. Here’s dinner (for two, natch) at Felidia. (Thank you, Theresa, for the gift cert!)

We don’t really mind. We like each other’s company. And, yes, we really do like weddings. Other people’s weddings. (Dig into “I Do, I Do, I Really Do Like Weddings” for some nice nuptial examples.)

Me, digging the heck out of Another Person’s Wedding

Speaking of Other People’s Weddings, we have a very special one coming up fairly soon. Her Childness, as you may have read here in “How On Earth Did THIS Happen?” is (gasp) getting married. And she’s not even a Child Bride. (See “Never Trust Anyone Over Thirty” for that stupefying story.)

Many friends have showered me with congratulations, and with well-meaning questions like: “Where/when will the wedding be?” “What is the color scheme?” “What are you wearing?” culminating sometimes with “Oh, what fun! You get to plan a wedding! 

To which I reply, “Wherever/whenever they decide” or “I have no idea, though I’m guessing not black,” “Anything that goes with my tiara,” culminating sometimes with “Hey, it’s not my wedding!”

Hmmm. I guess black is fine, wedding-wise. The Child is one of the beauties in red

So, are Dude Man and I celebrating all by our lonesomes again this year? Looks that way. Aside from the fact that 37 years is no Big Anniversary Deal celebration-marker-wise, we have the pandemic as a skip-the-party excuse. Stay tuned for 40. But don’t buy a gift yet. And don’t hold your breath.

What 40th Anniversary Celebrations look like. (Grandparents P at theirs.) Better start saving for my corsage

New York City. March 2021

“Never trust anyone over thirty.”

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‘Unless, perhaps, she is your own daughter’

I’ll always remember my very first Big-Time Ad Biz TV commercial. It was for Q-Tips, and was called “Still My Baby.” I didn’t even try to find it on YouTube, not just because this was ages ago, but because it was a pretty awful commercial.

It featured this mom who has a baby on a changing table and a jealous preschooler sulking alongside. To mollify the older child, she asks her to “help” by handing her a Q-tips Swab. Then Mom reassures the child (a girl, natch) by thanking her and saying, “Such a big girl. But you’re still my baby.

Here is The Child at sulky older sister age. She is not sulky, though, since she didn’t have a baby sibling to be jealous of

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Masked and Anonymous

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‘First class service. With a really big smile’

Like most couples in these pandemic times, The Dude and I are spending a lot of time together. Way more time than we used to. Mostly, this is pretty swell.

One of the swellest: going on long hikes together

But (not much, but some) friction arises when we get to talking. I make my living (or used to) with words. So I know a thing or two about their use. Dude Man, while extremely well-educated, has a propensity for the odd word misuse. He’ll use “faux pas,” say, in a sentence like, “I made a real faux pas in my backgammon match.” And then I can’t help myself. I’ll say, “What did you do, burp really loud?”

Then I have to explain that “faux pas” means a social mistake, not a mistake mistake. And he gets all indignant. “That’s the way I’ve always used it!”

Sometimes we bike together too. (Needed something to break up the bickering)

The other day he used “euphemism” wrong. I can’t remember his exact mangled phrase, but our subsequent lively discussion required me to resort to Wikipedia for backup. If you have the time, it’s worth a click to see all the different kinds of “innocuous words or expressions used in place of those that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant” there are.

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“And what’s your dolly’s name, Little Girl?”

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‘”Parasot,” she squeaked.’

I know you’re not supposed to have favorites among your children. I remember asking my mother who was her favorite and she would respond diplomatically, “You are all my favorites.”

Who could possibly choose a favorite from among this hot and sweaty yet adorable bunch?

Well, that question is easy for me to answer; I only have the one Child. But then there is the question of favorite nieces and/or nephews. I won’t reveal my favorites, having inherited my mother’s diplomatic nature. But, when they were all little, The Dude expressed an especial fondness for his niece Natalie, my Favorite Sister Laura’s daughter. (I can say “Favorite Sister” because she is my only sister; but I confess she would probably be my favorite if I had seven sisters.)

Me, holding my still-Favorite Sister Laura

Natalie had a doll whose name was “Meat.” I kid you not — Meat. We aunts and uncles used to get a real charge out of asking, “What’s your dolly’s name, Natalie?” and hearing her pipe up in her adorable baby-duck voice, “Meat!”

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Here’s to Mt. Fuji

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‘My favorite “Nope-I-Don’t-Eat-Sushi” Sushi Place’

I was in the Liquor Store Next To The IGA the other day, looking for my bourbon—”Hey, where’s Jim? Are you out of Jim?”—when Maureen Who Works There, after directing me to the spot on the shelf where Jim Beam now resides—”You moved Jim?”—remarked that she had recently been to Zakura.

“Zakura?”  I asked, thinking this must be some sort of Buddhist retreat or something. “What’s Zakura?” “You know,” she said. “The sushi place.”

“Oh! You mean Mt. Fuji.” Another customer in the place nodded along, “Yup, she means Mt. Fuji.”

Hungry for sushi stories? Here’s a yummy Ad World story: “Radio Days

Maureen was actually right; the sign outside this place does indeed say “Zakura,” and has for fifteen years or so. But, before that—ages before that—it was called Mt. Fuji. And that’s what everybody who goes there still calls it, “Zakura” sign be darned.

Could this be a sign that sushi’s for dinner?

Now, Zakura/Mt. Fuji may not be the best sushi restaurant around—or maybe even the better of our family’s two fabled sushi haunts. The late, lamented Shabu Shabu, the very restaurant where The Dude and I had our first date (and where I polished off a plate of sashimi for the first—and only—time in order to impress him) was probably better. (He said he loved sashimi, so by gum I was gonna order sashimi, not actually realizing that I was about to be confronted with a whole platter of raw fish without even any rice or little wrappers to kind of mitigate it.)

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“Pop” goes the weasel

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‘My popovers? Not so much.’

First, full disclosure. The popovers portrayed in the photo at the top of this post are not of my making. They were produced by The Dude’s talented Cousin Christine, who is the daughter of the Best Cook — and Popover Maker — on the Planet Earth, Dude Man’s Aunt Eleanor.

Aunt Eleanor too busy enjoying a toast at her 90th Birthday Party to make any popovers

Why, back in the Olden Days, when I had first met The Dude, we would look forward all year to an Eleanor Christmas, when we would gobble up not only perfect popovers, but sublime roast beef accompanied by some crazy-good potato dish that was sort of like scalloped potatoes but on some whole other level of deliciousness.

(I could go on and on, but I promised I would write this post before lunch, and this is torture.)

I knew I couldn’t replicate the whole menu, but, silly me, I thought because Eleanor said that popovers were “easy” and that she “just threw them together” that I could make them too.

Dude, scanning the horizon for piping hot popovers. Er, make that piping plovers

Hah. I tried every recipe I could find, including — yes — Eleanor’s own. But my popovers flopped. They were wimpy and chewy and blech. Lucky for me, The Dude eats anything and everything so he didn’t really notice that my popovers were less than fantastic. Well, except for the time the oven caught on fire because the butter I’d greased the pan with overflowed onto the gas jets and burst into flames. That batch he noticed.

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