Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Socks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I trust there are socks down there. Somewhere

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

Now, a mixing bowl on her head? Different story

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amagansett, New York. December 2022

 

Chilling Effect

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‘The Icebox Cometh. The Refrigerator Taketh.’

Harrison Ford is 80.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to “iceboxes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amagansett, New York. December 2022

Taking motherhood to a whole new level

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‘In The Heights On Christmas Day’

“It’s not rational,” I said as I lamely tried to explain my fear of heights to my pretty-much-100%-fearless son-in-law. “It’s emotional. Visceral, even. I react to a cliff the same way I’d react to, well, a snake.”

“You’re scared of snakes?” was his befuddled reply.

Well, yes. As you know if you’ve read my piece “The Year of the Snake,” I have a very well-developed (and healthy, in my opinion) fear of snakes. A fear that I have yet to conquer.

But I’ll have you know that this Christmas I faced my fear of heights in fine fettle. By hiking the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon. Without fainting or shaking or cringing. Much.

Me, not shaking all that much, pausing to gloat on the Kaibab Trail

Sure, I didn’t hike the whole trail — it’s seven miles all the way down. But, for a person who can’t even stand on the top rung of a ladder to change a screeching smoke alarm at three in the morning (see “Things That Go Shriek in the Night”) climbing down — and back up — a mile of steep, icy, rocky switchbacks is a pretty darned proud-making accomplishment.

It all started Christmas morning. “Hey, it looks like a great day to visit the Grand Canyon!” was The Child’s delighted cry after opening presents. “We’ll do a Christmas hike!”

I didn’t object, but, needless to say, I didn’t join in the general glee. And I was quiet on the almost-one-hour drive from Flagstaff to the South Rim. Too quiet.

Even the roadside stop at Jerky Guy’s stand failed to get a rise out of me

The rest of our carload sang along to country music and nibbled on snacks while I quietly composed my eulogy. All too soon, The Child shouted, “Look out to the left! There it is: the Grand Canyon!” And yes. There it was: magnificent, massive — and oh so very very deep. I’m glad no one took my picture. Continue reading

My polio-shot marriage

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‘Mommy has something she sort of forgot to tell you’

(This story was originally published in honor of my would-have-been 43rd anniversary in August of 2015. Since many of you haven’t had a chance to read it — but mainly because I’m out in the Pacific Northwest enjoying the company of my mother, daughter and my sister’s family — I’m posting it again. Think of it as a summer rerun, Lutheran Liar style. Enjoy!)

Last week I told you about how once I dated Steve Martin. Now I’m going to tell you about how once I married a guy — a guy who was not The Dude.

The Guy in question is the one pictured in the rather awkward wedding photo at the top of this post. I doubt very much that he reads my blog, but, for all intents and purposes and in this story, he’ll just be ‘The Guy’. (That rather downcast-looking young girl — the one who’s not me — is my sister Laura, she of ‘Larry and the Nose Holes’ fame.)

Why am I telling this story now? Well, tomorrow would have been my, like, zillionth wedding anniversary if indeed I had stayed married to The Guy. The other is that it’s August. Which is like Blog Siberia, except that it’s so hot. So if I embarrass anyone, including myself, the collateral damage will be relatively minor.

I was married so briefly to The Guy, and had been married for such a long time to The Dude, that I sort of forgot all about my ‘previous marriage’. Until one August about 15 years ago when The Child was getting ready for her annual visit to her grandparents in Carlyle, my home town. Continue reading

“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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How on earth did THIS happen?

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“The Child is about to become The Bride”

I was all set to write a crabby-yet-funny post about Whippersnappers having the nerve to change my copy when I was a freelance writer and how annoying that was. But then this happened:

Ruby with pavee diamonds. And yes, he picked it out himself

So, heck with that! Maybe next week, if my feet are touching the ground by then and my fingers have recovered from hitting “love” on Facebook, like, nine zillion times in reply to the scads of congratulatory comments this news has inspired. (What the World needs now is you-know-what sweet you-know-what. Most definitely.)

The News. As announced on Instagram. Of course

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

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‘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

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Groundhog Gal

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‘Caught in the continuous Corona Lockdown Loop’

Ten minutes ago when The Child was ten years old she was allowed — nay, encouraged — to invite friends out to Amagansett for weekends.

How many friends? As many as the car had seat belts for. If somebody didn’t mind a middle seat, that meant three. The car ride from the City could take ages, but those kids were pretty good at entertaining each other. They’d play car games, like Count The Cows (you lose all your cows if you pass a graveyard) or that one where you say a word starting with the last letter of the previous word. Some smart aleck would invariably contrive to use the word “xerox.”

See all that traffic on the left? Guess which direction they’re going

Once we got to the house, things were fairly easy too. At that ten-to-twelveish age — kind of the sweet spot of kiddom, in my opinion — the Host Mom (at least a Host Mom like me with an easy breezy parenting style and a safely-isolated home location) could pretty much just throw those tweens outside and let them fend for themselves. 

The Child (right) with one of her easy-to-entertain pals

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Her Personal Truck

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‘From zero driving to truck driving in no time flat’

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

The few New Yorkers who own cars are all out here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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