Time is indeed fluid

Standard

‘Coffee Time flows smoothly into Wine Time’

When I was a kid you’d see signs advertising Dr. Pepper in places like gas stations or in the drugstore (where there was a soda fountain and racks of ten-cent comic books). These signs would say “10-2-4,” and it meant that you should give yourself an energy boost at those times by quaffing a bottle of Dr. P.

Kenya dig it? Dude Man loves Dr. Pepper, but he loved Stoney even more. Too bad you can only get it in Africa

Well, around my house these days we don’t limit ourselves to sipping occasions at ten, two and four.

I’m basically drinking something all the time.

Many mornings I reach for my trusty Incest Mug. You can get the story about why it’s called that right here

I roll out of bed, go for a “health-giving walk,” then grab one of my collection of mugs. Which I fill, and fill again. And sometimes fill again again. In between refills I Accomplish Chores. (When I retired, I decided that a Healthy Structure For My Day would be to do things I have to do in the morning and things I want to do in the afternoons.)

They used to call coffee the “Think Drink,” which might explain my winning NY Times entries, for which I received several of these mugs

I must say, though, that hopping up to presoak the whites or write an email to my senator or call FedEx to find out what the heck happened to my wallpaper can make me pretty absent-minded. Yesterday I left my beloved Incest Mug outside on the deck all day. When I found it I thought, “OMG, I’m turning into Dad.” Who famously left coffee mugs everywhere: not only on decks, but behind grills, under rose bushes, and once, famously, wedged into the notch of a tree. (Oh! Excuse me. That last example was what he did with the cordless phone.)

My Dad liked coffee at ANY time, day or night, even when everyone else had moved on to wine

When in The City I cheat and grab a Starbucks. Sometimes, as you can see below, my vente quad skim latte comes spiked with hilarity. Incidentally, I haven’t been in The City since March. I sure hope the barista who calls me “Elas” is doing okay.

Yup. That drink is for me, “Elas.” Reminds me of the story about the guy who said his name was “Marc with a ‘C’.” His cup came Sharpied with “Cark”

Like I mentioned, my Dad would pretty much stick to coffee, and pretty much all day long. Once, when I was fresh to New York and trying to impress my visiting parents, I took them to dinner at Windows on the World. Dad gave the waitress his order, ending with “and coffee.” When she brought his salad he asked, “Where’s my coffee?” She didn’t understand that he wanted that coffee not as a meal-capper, but right now.

This time Dad has his coffee simultaneously with his Rob Roy. And a cigarette

And the Petersons were even more all-coffee-all-the-time than my Dad’s family. They were Swedes, after all. And Swedes, they say, have the highest per capita intake of coffee in the world. (Also alcohol. Though somehow my teetotaling Grandparents P missed that memo.)

My Grampa P and my Mom with their bottomless coffee cups. Note how they are drinking coffee with food — and it is not breakfast food

Nope. What’s new in These Times is how seamlessly Coffee Time turns into Wine Time. Whereas there used to be a break between beverages — a break where one might, say, go to the Frick or the Film Forum or Bloomie’s or either one of the Mets (hmm, make that three Mets if you count baseball) — now there is no place to go, really, except for the kitchen. Where you switch your coffee mug for your wine glass.

Could this be wine my Mom is sipping on that couch while I, clad in sandals with socks, peruse a Doonsebury book? How scandalous

I don’t have photos of myself just hanging around puttering and reading and sipping wine, more’s the pity. But I do have some others I can share. Because why not? Wine is fun, and documenting people having a fine old wine time is almost as fun.

Now in this shot, I know that’s wine. I was Mom’s Scrabble victim. Yes, I had wine too. I needed it

Younger Middle Brother Roger and I sipping wine during the day, pre-pandemic. Well, it was a birthday. At least that was our excuse that particular afternoon

A wine-infused Thanksgiving back in The Days Before Social Distancing. Seeing this (sob) is sending me straight to the kitchen for some wine

OK. All good. Looking at this picture makes me feel (almost) as happy as drinking wine 

Some people might feel a little, well, guilty about segueing seamlessly between Coffee Time and Wine Time. Well, if you’re one of them, may I offer this clever way to divvy up your beverage day parts?

Cocktail Time. Nothing like a Manhattan to break the day into two clean time periods. Oh, if you feel guilty, knit a baby sweater while you sip

Amagansett, New York. June 2020

Small place, big personalities

Standard

‘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

“Can’t we just pretend we’re dating?”

Standard

‘There is such a thing as being too comfortable’

I was glancing through my notes looking for something fun to write about this week—yes, I keep a list of things that might go into a blog post, a practice The Child finds, for some inexplicable reason, hilarious—when I came upon this fragment: “The lady who’d take her teeth out to scare us.”

Now who would want to scare a cute little girl like this one?

See, when we were very little–little enough that a woman pushing her false teeth halfway out of her mouth would scare the bejesus out of us—we were allowed, nay encouraged, to run around our neighborhood. We respected no boundaries, rampaging across front and back yards with impunity. Apparently, this one Neighbor Lady didn’t cotton to us free-ranging around her magnolia trees (we would use the buds as ammo in our “wars”) so she used her partial plate as ammo against us.

But, as I’d already written a pretty nifty piece called “I’m Watchin’ Him,” which is all about Mid-Century Children roaming free, I decided to use my next set of notes, which included this sentence: “Can’t we just pretend we’re dating?

Another photo from our Dating Days (in addition to the one at the top of this post)

See, even before the Pandemic put us into super-close super-long proximity, The Dude would, how shall I put it, get on my nerves when we were thrown together for extended periods. Yes, even way back in the Before Times, I found that, Dude-wise, there could be such a thing as too much togetherness.

I’ve already told you about the Pants Thing. The Pants (or should I say No-Pants) Thing got its own piece, for heaven’s sakes. (“I’m the Sheik of Araby”) I wish I could blame the coronavirus for this no-Pantdemic, since that would mean pants might reappear when things get back to “normal.” But, alas, The Dude has been marching around in his undies since our honeymoon—when, hey, it was kind of exciting—and I can’t see him stopping, not for health or high water.

The Dude, sporting a motorcycle helmet — but no pants

And then there’s the Loud Bodily Noise Thing. You Married Ladies don’t need me to spell this one out. Let’s just say that the high-decibel belching is the lesser of two evils. Oh, yes, there are other Loud Things that are not Bodily. These are endemic among all Whitmores, not just Dude Man, and include, but are not limited to, cabinet-and-drawer banging, door-and-slider slamming, and deck-clomping. I swear, the heavy-footedness of Whitmores—and not just the male ones—is so pronounced that the barbecue grill jangles when one of them “strolls” by.

And then there’s the Yelling. Again, this is a Whitmore Thing. “Why talk when you can shout?” I imagine them agreeing. I remember sitting next to The Guy Who Married Wayne’s Sister (we called ourselves The Outlaws) mainly so he and I could marvel together at the incredible volume at the dinner table. There were only six or seven of them there at any one time, but the noise would “go to eleven.”

Hah! Don’t let those composed, genteel faces fool you — these folks were LOUD

Okay okay, I’m almost done. No spousal rant would be complete without mentioning the Clipping. Again, Married Ladies, what’s with clipping one’s nails in public? And I don’t mean just fingernails. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever clipped in company, and I’m certainly not what one would call a Fancy Person. But Dude Man will, at the drop of a hat, whip one of those long legs up eye level and have at those toes. At least he does clip them. I had a college BF whose toenails looked like he was training to climb trees.

And, I ask you, who put me in charge of Locating Glasses? I swear, it’s “Where did I put my glasses?” at least four times a day, in close competition with “Where did I put my phone?” At least with the lost phone I can call his number so he can zero in on its ring. Hey, that would be a great new feature for Apple: “Siri, find my glasses.”

The Lost Glasses. They were exactly where the nail clippers should have been

Now, long before the Time of Corona, when these behaviors got out of hand, I would catch The Dude’s eye and say, “Hey, can’t we just pretend we’re dating?” Meaning, of course, that if we had just met and were trying to impress one another he wouldn’t belch out loud or clip his appendages in front of me. Though, come to think of it, he might have done the No Pants Thing. But back then it wouldn’t have been for comfort.

The Dude in a rare-but-adorable pants-wearing session where he has NOT mislocated his phone. Note the double hats, not to mention the boots. No wonder I forgive him his foibles

Well. Gosh. That felt good. Now, before I close up the blog shop and go rustle up some lunch, I feel in all fairness I should note that I am sure there are things about me that drive The Dude nuts, isolated together or not. But if you want to hear about them, Dude Man will just have to start writing his own blog.

What’s that I hear? An ice cube, being loudly crunched, Whitmore-style—in hell.

Amagansett, New York. June 2020

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

Standard

‘”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

“I’m the Sheik of Araby”

Standard

‘Everybody sing: “with no pants on”

So my Mom and I were on the phone the other day and I happened to mention that while The Child and her BF were playing some card game she (The Child) kept singing “Do your ears hang low” with (intentionally, I gather) the wrong lyrics. As in “Do your ears hang low…do they dangle on the floor” and so on and so forth.

But, instead of driving him quaran-crazy, she just got that song stuck in her head.

So then Mom and I started talking about those songs she’d sing when we were little and how they would get stuck in our heads: “Ay yai yai yai…O, My Sombrero” was one, and so was “On Top of Spaghetti.” (Ask your mom; she’ll probably know these too. Just don’t ask her to sing them — they’ll get stuck in your head.)

Then Mom happened to mention “The Sheik of Araby, ” which is the one where you insert “with no pants on” after every line, comme ca: “I’m the Sheik of Araby (with no pants on)…at night when you’re asleep (with no pants on)…into your tent I’ll creep (with no pants on)”

Well, after we sang a bit and cracked ourselves up (don’t judge; we don’t get out much anymore), I said, “Hey Mom, what is it about men and pants?”

It seems like all these men keep getting caught doing Zoom meetings with no pants, or hosting TV shows with no pants, or broadcasting the news with no pants — whatever, guys everywhere seem to be up to all kinds of sans-pantdemic shenanigans.

But it’s worse than that.

Even before Corona Craziness, men had a problem with pants. At least the men in my life did. I remember that my own dad would shed his pants whenever he had the opportunity. Don’t be shocked; he would be wearing his boxers. And they were kind of cute. I particularly remember a pair with ducks printed on them. Not Donald Duck type ducks; manly hunting type ducks.

That’s me with my Dad. You can’t see his tightie whities. Thank goodness

But, as the years went by, his taste switched from boxers to briefs. And not just briefs, but tightie whities. Now you can be shocked.

If any psychologists are reading this, they can probably make some clinical hay out of the fact that, yes, I have married a man who resembles my father — at least in the pants-averse area.

The Dude models one of many a pair of natty boxers

Yup. Dude Man sheds trou at any and every opportunity. When we were first married, this meant stripping down to his boxers. And, like my Dad, he had a pretty snappy boxer wardrobe. Then he went through a Hanes-ish phase, though his hue of choice was never white: he sported black, mostly, with a shot of red now and then to liven things up. He still looked snappy, if not a bit chilly when he was relaxing around the house.

I don’t have a shot of Dude Man wearing briefs. Even if I did, I’m above sharing it. But here he is in a Speedo. You get the idea

These days he’s into (literally as well as figuratively — and don’t get me started on “figuratively”) those under-trou that go from waist to kind of mid-thigh (which is the good part) but are, well, clingy. Under Armour makes a model called the BoxerJock. Uh-huh.

I don’t think The Dude owns any Under Armour (lately it’s been Saxx in the laundry), but I do know he has this style in all shades and patterns. (The camouflage pair is my favorite. When he’s sporting these I like to say, “Where are you? I can’t see you!” He is not amused by this.)

Very hunky Young Dude wearing (for some reason) a sport coat with no shirt. I have no idea if he is wearing pants

I think the camouflage was the pair he was wearing Sunday when I snapped the photo at the top of this post. Incidentally, when I asked him why on earth he was wearing a motorcycle helmet, he answered, “I’m checking the electronics.” Oh.

Now, what with the two of us thrown together in semi-forced social isolation, I’ve become very familiar with his non-pants wardrobe. In fact, I can tell the days of the week by which underwear he’s got on. (See previous paragraph’s Sunday reference for proof.)

As for myself, I can’t recall feeling all that comfortable clad only in my unders. (I’m more of a sweatpants girl.) But (pun intended), while searching for photos for this post, I did happen to come across this gem.

The end

Amagansett, New York. May 2020

Splendor in the Grass

Standard

‘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

Standard

‘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

 

I never did find that darned bedpan

Standard

‘More Memories of my dear funny Aunt Marilyn’

I’ve been feeling a tad emptied out these last few weeks. And not only because our home is, bit by bit, quite literally being emptied of virtually all our favorite possessions. (The Gods of Staging decree it thus.)

Living room with piano and cat bed, on its way to being “staged” for sale

No, I’m feeling empty because my life is being emptied, bit by bit (or soul by soul), of many of my favorite people. (In this case, it’s the Guy — or Gal — Upstairs who decrees it.) A few weeks ago, it was my Mom’s sister, my dear funny idiosyncratic Aunt Marilyn.

Aunt Marilyn in a rare formal portrait. I used to stare at this photo (framed, on a shelf in my Gramma’s house), wishing I owned that fabulous fur neck thing

True, I already wrote a piece about Marilyn. A couple of pieces, in fact. (See “Hey, Aunt Marilyn! Everybody’s up!”  and “A Very Marilyn Christmas” for some nice reminiscences.) But, trust me, she was such fun and so, well, unique in her enthusiasms, that she deserves another few words.

I already mentioned that, when I was very small, my Dad went off to serve in Korea and Mom and I went back to her parents’ farm to live for the duration. (See “Kissing Daddy Good-night” for poignant details.) Marilyn was a teenager at the time, so she, of course, was in residence.

That’s Teen Aunt Marilyn next to the woman with me on her lap (my Mom). That’s Gramma P in back

Aunt M had a cat at the time named Herkimer. (Aunt M was one of the all-time great Namers.) Later on, she had a cat named Dino whose back feet my Grampa P would tickle, making them both (Dino and Marilyn) howl in protest. (Her naming extended to me, whom she dubbed “Lishkabib”, which was a distortion of “Ish Kabibble”, some obscure cornet-playing comedian.)

But back to cats. According to Marilyn, I used to “thread” (her word) poor Herkimer through the slats of my little wicker rocker. After that, the poor cat would climb the curtains in the living room to get out of my way.

That’s me with Herkimer. I’m thinking this was before the Threading Incident

Some of her naming talents must have rubbed off on me, because I famously had a doll (probably the one I’m holding in the photo at the top of this post) named Mrs. Parasott. No one could figure out the whys and wherefors of this name. Not until many years later at my Gramma’s funeral. I was in the receiving line accepting condolences, when a woman introduced herself as my Gramma’s ex-neighbor — Mrs. Parasott.

Anyway. A few more choice bits before I get to the Bedpan Story of the title.

Thats Aunt Marilyn, in front of my Mom, with the rest of the Peterson Kids

Cool stuff, in no particular order: Aunt Marilyn drove a ’65 Mustang and later a car she called the “Al Camino”, kept a stuffed Fighting Illini Rooster on her bed and a framed photo of Dwight Eisenhower on her wall, and greeted every one of her adoring nieces and nephews with an enormous hug she called the “Squeeze”.

Aunt Marilyn the only time she was ever to the far left: in this photo with her many adoring nieces and nephews

She was also an excellent kidder. Marilyn, like my Mom, was a nurse. She worked at the Chrysler plant in Belvidere, Illinois; the same plant where she met her husband Arlyn. He worked there too, custom-mixing paint for, like, the pink cars Mary Kay ladies drove around in. (If you think that’s odd, my Mom once worked as a prison nurse. But that’s a story for another time.)

Once when Marilyn was drawing blood from this big Chrysler-plant guy, she started singing, apropos of nothing, “Blood on the saddle, blood on the ground, there ain’t nothin’ but blood all around…” The guy fainted.

That’s me (with Oldest Younger Brother Scott) at about Find the Bedpan Age

So okay, I could go on and on. But here’s the Bedpan Story. I was sevenish and sharing a bed with the unmarried-because-she-hadn’t-met-Arlyn-yet Marilyn. One morning she woke up, stretched, and said, “Oh my. I really have to go to the bathroom,” (she would never ever say “pee”) but I’m too lazy to get up. Could you please get me the bedpan?”

Eager to be of help, I asked my Favorite Aunt what was a “bedpan” and where could I find it? Well. I looked and looked for that thing. Aunt Marilyn told me later that she laughed so hard she actually needed that bedpan.

New York City. November 2019

 

The Dude thought “Leave it to Beaver” was a porn movie

Standard

‘What happens if you grow up with no television’

Well, I suppose “no” television is somewhat of an exaggeration. I believe The Dude and his sibs (he is the fourth out of six) were allowed a soupcon of TV. Like, if there was some educational show on about, say, snakes. (Yes, that family had a reptilian bent. Read about it if you dare, in “The Year of the Snake.”)

The Dude (back left) and the rest of his clan in their living room. No TV, but they did have that De Kooning there behind Bill’s head

We Henrys considered Sea Hunt or The Wonderful World of Disney educational shows. After all, you got some geography, right? And then there was The Three Stooges. Highly educational. Curly, Moe and Larry taught my brothers all kinds of fun tricks. Nyuck nyuck nyuck. Interesting that The Dude’s parents thought TV was harmful, but thought nothing of throwing their multiple children into a car without seat belts. Ooops. That’s not fair; my parents did that too.

Me (and my Mom) in the Henry living room. Our TV (uncharacteristically dark) serves as a festive backdrop for a flurry of Christmas-gift unwrapping

We spent many a happy hour stretched out on the carpet in front of a room-dominating television set, bowls of ice cream balanced on our tummies or a washtub of Younger-Brother-Doug-popped corn placed strategically so all hands could reach it. Along with the corn and the ‘scream, we lapped up Bonanza and Hullaballoo and Batman. I Spy and Mission Impossible. Get Smart was a fave, with jokes that often zoomed right over our heads. (See: “Agent 86”)

And I remember Mom and Dad joining us for the sophisticated cartoon fare in Rocky and Bullwinkle. (A rare mineral called “Upsidasium”, an island called No Bikini Atoll. And the wonderful, pre-Spy Magazine Short-Fingered-Vulgarian-like zing of the Kirward Derby.) You can read more about Rocky and his Friends in “Eeny Meanie Chili Beanie, the Spirits are about to Speak.”

Budding TV Aficiandos

Which brings me to the title of this story. A few years ago I was waxing nostalgic about the Cleaver Family with one of my brothers, wondering whatever happened to Wally and the Beave and the marvelously smarmy Eddie Haskell. (“You are looking particularly lovely today, Mrs. Cleaver.”)

Anyway, true story: The Dude heard me talking about “Leave it to Beaver” and, shocked, exclaimed, “Your parents let you guys watch a porn movie?!?

Oh no. His parents wouldn’t let him watch porn. But they did pose him outdoors for all the world to see in this getup

As years passed, and TVs got cheaper, we had them all over the house. There was the Big TV in the living room, but also a TV in the kitchen, one on a timer in my parents’ bedroom, even one on the porch. And all these TVs were always turned on. I was a “grownup” by then, who lived elsewhere and had somewhat of a bossy-pants personality, so I would go from room to room turning them off — only to have my Dad follow me around turning them back on. Even if he fell asleep on the couch with the TV tuned to golf, if you turned said TV off, he would jolt awake with, “Hey! I was watching that!”

This is The Child phoning home from my parents’ porch. Yes, that’s a TV turned on in the background

I guess going around turning off all those TVs affected me in a funny way because, as a grownup in my own place, I didn’t own even one. I remember going over to a friend’s at the crack of dawn to watch the Royal Wedding in 1981. Even after Dude Man and I got one for a wedding present we didn’t watch TV much. The Dude’s disdain was such that he famously replied, “Where the TV is” when I asked where on earth we would fit a baby in our not-very-large marital home.

The Child and I pose next to her bed. Which is where a TV would normally be

And then, even when we got a bigger apartment and a newer, bigger TV to go with it, I didn’t know how to make it “go”. My baseball-loving Mom was in residence once while The Dude and I were away for some medical meeting, and she asked The Child (who was, oh, ten or so at the time) how to turn on the TV so she could watch the World Series. She didn’t know. And neither did I, when Mom called me to find out.

All this TV aversion is probably a good thing, since His Dudeness and I will soon be downsizing into an apartment so small I call it The Ken and Barbie House.

A TV (of sorts) graces a tiny niche in a tiny room of the Ken and Barbie House

All I can say is thank goodness for streaming.

New York City. November 2019

“Hey, Aunt Marilyn! Everybody’s up!”

Standard

‘Missing the Most Marvelous Aunt the World Has Ever Known’

The quote serving as title of this story came from the wee toddler lips of my Oldest Younger Brother Scott. When he was very small he would march into our Aunt Marilyn’s room very early in the morning and announce that “everybody” was up — “everybody” meaning him.

That’s my Aunt Marilyn standing in front of my Mom. She wasn’t much more than a toddler herself in this photo. But I bet she was a lot of fun, even then

See, when Aunt Marilyn was in the house you wanted her up and around and with you at all times. She was that much fun. So much fun to be around that we kids would actually fight over who got to sit next to her at family dinners. (I only realized years later that we were unintentionally hurting our other perfectly-good aunts’ feelings — not to mention our very fun mother’s — by doing this.)

Two sisters and their mom, my Gramma P

But kids are kids — and naturally unfiltered — so fight over Aunt Marilyn we did. We adored Aunt Marilyn. Maybe because she was rather like a kid herself. For one thing, she was our mother’s younger sister by almost ten years. She was a high school kid when I was born. For another, she remained single — living in her parents’ (our grandparents’) house — for most of our childhood, so she was always there — and eager for fun — when we visited.

That’s All-American Teen Aunt Marilyn, complete with saddle shoes and bobby socks, between Perfectly-Fine Aunt Shirley and my Gramma P. My Mom is holding “Everybody’s Up!” Scott while I glower through the car window

Even after she found the Amazing Arlyn and got married, she didn’t “settle down”. She continued to play croquet and badminton (See “Howie and the Muscle Shirt” for a funny badminton story) with youthful gusto and was apt to say things like, “Who wants to go out in the snow with the rodel?” when it was, like, a zillion degrees below zero. (I just googled “rodel”, which is a kind of sled, and found one that looks just like Aunt Marilyn’s for sale for $1,175.)

That’s Marilyn, in bridal gown, natch, greeting well-wishers in the background. That’s my Starter Hub and me front and center

Aunt Marilyn hated the hot summer and absolutely adored winter. And not just for the skating and skiing and rodeling. She was a Major Fan of Christmas. I can remember like it was yesterday going to our Gramma P’s for Christmas. Marilyn was always in charge of the fun, both before and after she and Arlyn got hitched. (Arlyn, bless his little Dutch heart, really got into the swing of those Swedish Christmases. Though I bet he didn’t really have much choice.)

A scene from a Marilyn Christmas. That’s my Mom whispering her wish to a plastic-bag-bearded Santa

Since we were Swedes, the festivities were always on Christmas Eve. You can read all about these special festivities and even watch a video of the Very Last One in “A very Marilyn Christmas”. If you listen carefully, you just might be able to hear Nat King Cole on the stereo.

Aunt Marilyn in the kitchen stirring up some fun. I’m thinking this wasn’t Christmas, since the cooking is happening on top of the stove

Ironically, it was during her favorite season, while she was skiing with my mom out in Colorado (pronounced by Marilyn as “color” with “adoh” on the end) when she first felt the manifestations of the Parkinson’s Disease that would torment her for decades and ultimately take her life just last Saturday.

Winter won’t be winter without you, dear Aunt Marilyn. And as for Christmas? I feel like just skipping it this year. But that wouldn’t be at all what you would want. So I’ll break out the gumdrop tree and the teensy cordial glasses in your honor. But, if you don’t mind, I’ll skip the homemade brown paper “oven bag” to roast my turkey. I’ll no doubt burst into tears, but I’d rather my turkey not burst into flames.

Rest in peace, dear Aunt Marilyn. Christmas — even with teensy toasts and gumdrop trees — won’t be the same without you

New York City. October 2019