This Christmas is going to pot (roast)

Standard

‘It’s high time to bring back that classic.’

As I wrote in my sort-of-whiny and somewhat-navel-gazing post last week, I’ve practiced a rather opt-out attitude toward the Holidays in the past few years.

Some years my “decorating” consisted of switching the turkey napkins for the reindeer ones

I remember only too fondly and well the famous Marilyn Christmasses celebrated at my late great Gramma Peterson’s when I was a kid. Nat King Cole on the stereo. Gumdrop tree on the table. A luxurious evergreen so bushy and tall Aunt M would often have to crop it so it’d fit in the living room. (We believed her when she told us the top, complete with angel, was in the bedroom overhead.) 

A Marilyn Christmas Classic: The Cousin Lineup

After that, during Dude Man and my Early Married Years, there were the amazing Aunt Eleanor Christmasses: lobster, shrimp and, if you saved room, an incredible roast beef dinner complete with popovers. Gramma Whitmore, who made it till a week before her hundredth birthday, would hold court while Eleanor cooked, champagne glass in hand.

Festive Whitmores live it up at an Eleanor Christmas

Then, when The Child entered our lives, we marked the Season with our Tree Trim Party. (See “(N)o Tannenbaum”) Where, like Tom Sawyer, I tricked my friends into doing something I didn’t enjoy (substitute tree decorating for fence painting), then rewarded them with a pot roast dinner with all the trimmings. This Seasonal Highlight was repeated for nigh on 15 years.

Christmas Crackers were deployed — and crowns worn — at Tree Trim

Time, as is its wont (a favorite word, “wont”) marches on. And those Christmasses are gone. With all those wonderful traditions haunting my memories, it’s hard to muster the proper spirit to establish a new one. So, instead, we’ve focussed on Thanksgiving, and sort of glossed over Christmas. Some years Dude Man and I even fled the country.

In a rare year that we did not flee the country, we got Chinese Takeout for Christmas Dinner

Last year, though, I managed to rustle up some pot roast for The Child and the BF (now The Beau, praise the Lord) before we left for Christmas on the Amazon. I hadn’t made pot roast in years — had to call my Mom to remind me how to do it. But it turned out so well that The Beau begged me to make it again when they (safely; pandemic precautions having been made) visited this summer. Me: “Sorry; I adore you, but pot roast is just not happening in August.

Last Christmas, when we had a tiny tree and a large pot roast

In fact, The Beau loved the pot roast so much that I “gifted” him my cast iron pot roast pot. (I just had to say “gifted,” a term I find vaguely hilarious. Why not just say “gave,” a perfectly good word that already exists?) He likes to cook, and, besides, we were downsizing. Now, ironically, that same cast-iron pot, after having been lugged to Boston in a backpack on a train, got lugged right back here this summer and stored in our attic for the time when The Affianced Couple is no longer living in an RV. (See “Her Personal Truck” for cozy details.)

Before the pot roast pot got stored in our attic, it did pandemic duty as a no-knead-bread pot

Incidentally, The Child just texted me wanting my pot roast recipe. She’s up in Canada chez Beau’s Clan after having successfully quarantined and I guess she wants to impress them. Fingers crossed she can locate a suitable pot. The one in the attic is way too heavy to ship.

Meanwhile, guess what I picked up at the IGA just this morning? Yup, a nice chuck roast that I plan to “pot.” I decided it was high time to resurrect that Holiday Classic. Who cares if it’s just the two of us? The leftovers taste mighty fine. If we have any, that is.

We will certainly have no leftovers of this

Amagansett, New York. December 2020

 

 

Lockdown with a capital “L”

Standard

‘When my Mom did some prison time’

My Mom was a nurse when she married my Dad, and she worked for a few years at Regular Nurse Jobs.

My Mom when she got “capped,” which is like graduation for nurses

I remember when I was in kindergarten and we lived in Memphis, she worked at Methodist Hospital, which my three-year-old brother Scott mispronounced as “Memphodist.” Mom didn’t correct him; she thought it was cute. (She also didn’t correct us when we referred to the “Entire State Building.”)

Mom, with one and a half kids

Well, after a while, nursing while “momming” got to be a bit too much, so she hung up her white cap and devoted herself to bringing up us kids. 

Mom had plenty on her plate, with kids ranging from Big (me) to Little (Toddler Doug) and three more in between. That’s Middle Bro Roger sporting a muscle tee on the left

But then, after years of carpooling and band recitals and PTA, the big kids flew the coop and the little kids turned into high schoolers. And Mom found she wanted to exercise her nursing muscle once again. And earn a little coin besides.

I was gone by then, both physically — off to college — and emotionally — totally absorbed in turning into a Grownup — and I wasn’t very tuned in to what was happening with the folks back at home.

Was Mom working at the prison when this was taken? I was getting ready to bolt for New York, so of course I have absolutely no idea

For example, there was a period when a foreign exchange student was living in our house — a foreign exchange student  (from Chile? Peru?) who came and went — and I never even met him.

So, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I wasn’t all that up to speed about the various nursing-related jobs my Mom had. I do recall that, for a time, she drove around to people’s houses conducting physicals for an insurance company. I remember that job because my Mom said that, invariably, the people she was supposed to give physicals to lived on remote farms with furiously barking dogs. Huge dogs that would lunge at her car door, leaving scratches on the finish and drool on the glass. “Come on out, he’s friendly,” these people would insist as my Mom cowered inside.

Mom and getting-pretty-big Doug visiting Independent Scott (who took this photo) in Oregon

So no wonder the job in Vandalia sounded more, well, normal. She could drive to work, park in a parking lot, and do her nursing in a nice clean nurse’s office. The fact that the office was inside a prison didn’t faze her in the least. Mom became a prison nurse. Which is kind of like a school nurse. Only they don’t send you home when you have a fever.

(Speaking of prisons, if you haven’t read my piece “That’ll Teach You,” you might want to take a look. It’s about the time I spent in prison — locked in a cell.)

Like I say, I was gone from home by then and starting my climb up the Advertising Ladder, so I was a tad fuzzy on the details. I knew my Mom “worked in a prison,” but somehow I pictured this as one of those “campus”-type institutions. You know, those places where they put the Bernie Madoffs and the Enron Guys.

Well, the years went by. I was sitting around the kitchen chatting with my Mom — back when Times were “normal” and I could actually visit her — and she happened to mention that she gets a pension from “The State.” Having reached “pensioner” status myself by this time, I was rather interested. “Was that from the time you worked in the prison?” I asked.

Sometimes I feel like I’m catching up to Mom, age-wise. People have ahem) mistaken us for sisters. Mom, of course, loves this

“Yup,” she replied, taking a sip of warmed-up coffee.

“You know, I never asked, but what kind of prison was that, anyway? What kind of criminals were there?”

“What kind? Well, I remember there was this one guy who killed his wife, then cut her up and fed her to the pigs.”

It’s a good thing I hadn’t just taken a sip of coffee myself.

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

 

She had a hat

Standard

‘Wearing headgear well runs in the family. Too bad I didn’t get that gene.’

As you, dear Reader, know only too well, we’ve been slowly and-oh-so-surely settling in to the new Ken and Barbie House. All the Big Stuff has found a new home, and we’re on to clearing out the Little Stuff. (I am having nightly horrors about the Junk Drawer.)

We Henrys have been holding regular Family Facetime Calls with our dear Mother every Sunday, and on one of these, not too long ago, I happened to be in the middle of clearing out the coat closet. (How many mismatched gloves can one person have?!?)

My Oldest Younger Brother looks over my Facetimed shoulder and says, “Hey! There’s the Hat!” And goldarnit. There it was.

The Hat. Basically, the only one I wear. And not for “fashion”

It was easy to spot because not only is it large and furry and rather assertive and unmissable on a closet shelf, it’s pretty much the only hat I wear — being as how I only wear hats for function, not fashion.

Don’t worry, I do not own this Keebler Elf hat. I borrowed it when we were up in the Catskills last weekend.

Not that I am not interested in fashion. Oh no. I love dressing up, dressing down, even dressing medium. True, like most everyone I know, I am a pandemic-pants wearer. But I wear these really cute Tory Burch athletic pants I got on sale. I have my standards, even when in self-isolation.

All dressed up for a Birthday Toast. Wearing a Birthday “Hat”

But, darn it, I have never been able to wear hats well. Not fashion-y ones. And not even functional ones. Maybe it’s my Swedish Head. The Swedish Head Thing is real, and pretty interesting. I wrote a whole post about it (See “What’s that in the road — a head?“) back in the good old days when I wasn’t downsizing or having shots in my spine and things like head shape seemed very important. (Quick update: shot — actually two shots — not as bad as I thought. Though I certainly wouldn’t want to get one every day. And, yes, my back feels much much better.)

Oldest Younger Brother Scott rocking a fashion hat at the wedding of his nephew — son of Middle Younger Brother Roger, who looks pretty darned snappy even hatless

But other members of my family — and not just the Whitmores — are champs at hat-wearing. Check out the picture at the top of this post, par example. The Child doesn’t even look silly in that sombrero.

She doesn’t look silly in the fake fur number I wore intermittently for years, much to Dude Man’s amusement. It was not flattering. Not on me, anyway

The Child, it should be noted, takes after her father, Dude Man, in many extraordinary ways: math prowess, piano playing, fearlessness at sports. I take that last one back: fearlessness at anything. She’s hiked the John Muir Trail — alone and jumped out of planes — on purpose.

Dude Man checks to see that his daughter has indeed inherited his lovely round head

Yes, she, like The Dude, looks terrific in hats. Functional, fashionable. No matter. He/she look amazing with any kind of topper.

This doesn’t bother me too much. I still wear a hat — when I need to. And I get to watch them wearing hats because they want to.

Tillamook Head. Times two. Note how my hair — and ears — stick out. Sigh

Oh — before I forget. The title of this piece comes from one of my Mom’s favorite jokes. It seems this crusty little ole gramma (probably about my age, hah) is in charge of watching her little grandson at the beach one Sunday. The little guy’s, oh, about two, and he’s happily shoveling sand into a pail when a big rogue wave rolls in and sweeps him out to sea — pail, shovel and all.

The gramma leaps to her feet, clasps her hands, and entreats the heavens, “Oh please, O Lord! Please take mercy upon your humble servant and return my precious grandson to me! Please, O Lord, I beg you!”

Well. Another wave rolls in and deposits the boy right back where he was, completely unharmed, pail and shovel in hand.

The gramma looks up once again at the heavens and says, “Hey! He had a hat!”

Yup. She even looks good wearing the equivalent of a bucket on her head

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

“Lean to the left, lean to the right. Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight!”

Standard

‘Feeling the pain; paying the price’

I’m a day late with this post — and, it would seem, way more than a dollar short. I was in the City yesterday seeing a Pain Guy about my herniated disc. Turns out I need to have a rather pricey procedure involving an injection in my spine.

(Of course it’s not just the $$$ that was distracting me from coming up with a Fun Tuesday Topic; I am beyond nervous about getting a shot in my back — I’m sweating so much my fingers are sticking to the keys on my poor ole Mac.)

In the midst of my last marathon. I’m enjoying myself immensely, believe it or not

My more than twenty years of running around sixty miles a week is probably the culprit — though the packing, lifting, shifting and so forth that goes into moving apartments certainly hasn’t helped matters much.

The only way I am supposed to be moving furniture around the new apartment

And there’s the fact that, unlike Young People Today who “cross-train,” back in my Running Days, I would basically just get up in the morning, throw on my running duds, and take off. No stretching, no limbering up, not even any cooling down — and definitely no “working on my core.”

Me, modeling my racy Quick-Draw back brace. Didn’t help. Not nearly as much as bourbon

Oh, before I forget. The photo at the top of this page shows me not only slouching like the Teen that I was, it shows me back when I dearly wanted to be a cheerleader, cheerleading being the surefire fast-track to popularity back then. (Maybe it still is.) But, alas, I was — and am — singularly uncoordinated. I could barely follow the directions for the cheer in the title, much less execute a “cartwheel.” Goodness knows I never even tried a “split.”

Payoff to all that training: The Time I finished the New York Marathon in 3 hours, 23 minutes (in the top 100 women that year). Maybe my back hurts as punishment for all this bragging (!)

Until last month, when I started doing physical therapy (via Zoom, which is a virtual miracle for PT, and, honestly, the only way I ever want to “Zoom” — cocktails are meant to be sipped in person, if you ask me. Or all by myself, thank you very much.) Until last month, if you told me you were “working on your core,” I would think you meant you’d just about finished your apple.

PT…or not to PT…that is the question

Funny story about PT. (Yes, even Physical Therapy has its silly side; mostly when I’m trying — and failing — to do something like The Bridge.) Jennifer, PT Instructor Extraordinaire, in my very first session, had me lie on my back and asked me to “tighten my abs.” So I say, “Where on earth are my ‘abs’ — and how the hell do I tighten them?” Honest. I had no idea.

No problem locating this person’s “abs”

Well, after doing PT with the Amazing Jen twice a week since August and faithfully following my at-home program every single day I can now not only find my abs, they are my new Best Friends. I am constantly aware of them and can pretty much keep them nice and tight all the time. And after doing all those Bridges and Chair Squats? I now proudly claim Buns of Steel. Why, these cheeks could positively crack walnuts. (No worries, I don’t have a video — or even a photo — to prove this.)

Out on the trail, demonstrating both birding zeal and abysmal coreless pre-PT posture

But (pun actually intended) my pain, alas, has not subsided. Hence the specialist Pain Dude consultation yesterday. And (gulp) the appointment to get That Shot next week.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep on keepin’ on with the PT. And I’ll try my best to summon up something at least moderately amusing on Tuesday.

Goodness knows, since Tuesday is Injection Eve as well as my regular posting day, I’ll need some sort of distraction. Other than cocktail knitting, that is.

It doesn’t count as drinking alone if you have some knitting to keep you company

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

 

I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me for dinner.

Standard

‘Well, on second thought, maybe don’t call me “Karen”‘

Big surprise: my name isn’t actually “Lutheran Liar.” It’s Alice, a name I didn’t like much when I was a girl. Back then I wished my name was Linda or Debbie or Nancy or Sandy or Barb. Cool girl names. Cheerleader names. Girls-with-flips names. (That’s me, without a cool name, but with a reasonably-cool flip, in the picture at the top of this story.)

Instead, I got saddled with the name Alice. Which is a perfectly lovely name, really. But at the time I thought it was a “Grandma Name.” Maybe that’s because, in my case, it actually was a Grandma Name: the name of my Peterson Gramma. To add insult to name injury, my middle name was also a Grandma Name: Celia, the name of my Henry Gramma. (I couldn’t — and didn’t — do this to The Child. Her name would have been Bertha Myrna.)

My Gramma, the original-in-my-family-anyway-Alice

At my age it’s kind of hard to wrap my head around what’s happened with the name Karen, which was perhaps the coolest Cool Girl Name of all. As you probably can’t help but know, “Karen” has become a not-so-great all-purpose name for women caught exercising their white privilege muscles. Preferring an upbeat blog, I won’t go into this now, but you can read this New York Times piece for sad sociological details.

One of the nicest of the Nice Karens I know

Me, I only know Nice Karens. Like my cousin Karen. And my bridge buddy Karen. The very sweet Karen I babysat for in high school. There’s snappy-smart Lustre Karen. I even know a Field Guides Tours Karen. All nice as nice can be.

A gaggle of nice cousins with Cool Names: Debbie, Sandy, Kathy, Cindy, Nancy and — yes — Karen — all at my Mom’s 90th birthday party last fall. And no, dear Cousin Sandy, we did not name our dog Sandy after you (!)

Of course, no one really called me “Alice.” Except my Mom when I did something wrong. Then I got the whole darned name: “Alice Celia Henry, get in here this minute.” Ooops. I was “EO” to my Middle Younger Brother because he couldn’t say “Alice” and instead tried to spell it. I was “AE” to my Dad, because he remembered the spelling incident, only with with different letters.

Middle Younger Brother (the one who called me EO) competing for treats with Hermie, who was never ever called “Herman”

And, of course, The Child called (and still calls) me “Mom.” I know some families where the kids call their parents by their first names. Which is fine; just don’t try it at my house.

The Child modeling a sweater her Mom (me) knit for her. In the background is a painting that she used to point at, saying “Mommy! Mommy!” Hmmm

And The Dude? He calls me “Pie.” In fact, sometimes when he leaves me a note, he just draws a little pie wedge in lieu of a signature. Sometimes he draws steam coming out of it.

My Dad, who called me AE, called The Child “WalMart” because I made a crack one day about people naming their kids after stores (“Tiffany”)

As for the name “Alice,” not only did I learn to like it — especially after I moved to the East Coast, where I met several other Alices my own age — but I’ve grown into it.

In fact, the only other name I’d rather be called now would be “Gramma.”

Amagansett, New York. August 2020

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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

“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.

Continue reading

“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.

Continue reading

“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)”

Continue reading