This Christmas is going to pot (roast)

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‘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

 

 

Nope. It doesn’t rhyme with “squish”

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‘Tasty slips of the tongue, menu edition’

Back in the Seventies, all the cool lunch spots were festooned with macrame and spider plants. Yes, back then we young working people actually left work to go to out to lunch — and not just to grab a pannini or an acai bowl to bring back to eat at our desks.

Me, in my Houlihan’s for lunch days

Nope, about mid-morning we’d run into each other at the water cooler (seriously) or, more likely, the coffee machine (which was a Mr. Coffee we all took turns filling up and turning on) and discuss where to have lunch that day. The Middle-Eastern Place with the really yummy backlava? The Vegetarian Place run by the ashram? Or maybe Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue? Most of the time we’d head to Houlihan’s Old Place.

Note: All of these places were gussied up with macrame and spider plants. (Well, except for Arthur Bryant’s. You shuffled along in line at Arthur Bryant’s and, if you were smart, ordered the barbecued sandwich, which a guy with a missing finger cut in half for you.)

Something you won’t find on many lunch menus, then or now — fantastic deviled eggs, here made by equally fantastic Nobody-Doesn’t-Like-Jenn

But back to Houlihan’s. It ended up being a chain, but at the time it was a very trendy place in Kansas City that had once been an old-fashioned brass-railed bar called Houlihan’s. It was rumored that the name originated when the new owners — the ones who hung the macrame and spider plants — kept asking each other, “What are we going to call Houlihan’s old place? We’ve simply got to come up with a name for Houlihan’s old place!” Then one of them said, “Hey, that’s it. We’ll call it …” well, you guessed it.

Before I forget: one of our young Ad Crowd used to like to tease assistant account executives — read more about them in “I’ve Got Belts Older than You” — by asking them to go have  the Houlihan’s hostess have “Jack Mehoff” paged.

What passes for lunch these days, at least when in Cambridge: a smoothie

Which brings me to my title episode. Once, while whiling away a nice long lunch “hour’ at Houlihan’s, one of our Young Ad Gaggle, after perusing the menu, asked the waiter for the “crew-dites” followed by the “quish.” She wasn’t being funny. She just didn’t know how to pronounce such newfangled fancy food. You’ll be happy to hear that we didn’t embarrass her by “helpfully” correcting her. We weren’t all that considerate (see “Jack Mehoff” prank, above); we didn’t know how to pronounce that stuff either.

Now, before you condemn me for seeming snobbish by picking this story to tell, you must know that I had (and still have) my share of menu mispronunciations. I was once corrected by an ex BF for saying “crem bru-yay.” He corrected me in public — part of the reason he’s an ex BF. One other time I asked a waiter what the “giorno” was in the soup.

No recipes for quiche or crudites in this cookbook. But there is one for “boar stew for a crowd”

No, I picked this story because I’m thinking about food and also because as sort of a Family Lore Thing I call all raw vegetables “crew-dites,” and The Dude said this weekend after I cut up some carrots “Say, did you ever tell that story about the girl who ordered the “crew-dites” and the “quish?” So here you have it.

Recently I saw a spider plant hanging in the Instagrammed apartment of one of the most glamorous young women I know. Maybe “crew-dites” and “quiche” can’t be far behind. Though maybe not macrame.

Is it “geela” or “heela?” At least you don’t eat it. Or I think you don’t

Till then, we have “acai.” Which I have never ever said aloud, because, to me it looks like “uh-kai.” (Millennial chuckling goes here.) If you’re a reader of a vintage more likely to mangle “quiche,” here’s how the internet says to pronounce acai: “ah-sah-EE.” Which I’m not even going to think of trying to utter in public.

I console myself by knowing I can pronounce “turkey” without sounding like one.

Here’s to you turkeys who know how to pronounce “acai”

Amagansett, New York. November 2020

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

One of the comments was from a Great Friend and “roommate” from those freelancing days. Dear Renee posted “Alice. How did this happen? I clearly remember you letting me feel her kick around in your tummy just yesterday.”

I hear you, Renee, I hear you.

First day of preschool. Just yesterday, in Mom Time. Oh — I could never get her to wear those amazing blue loafers after that. Sigh

A quick footnote on “letting me feel her kicking around in your tummy.” Renee was a Good Friend Indeed if I let her do that. One of my Pet Peeves When Pregnant was when people would pat my tummy to “feel the baby kicking” — without being expressly invited to do so. When this happened, I would reach over and pat their tummies. Touche.

Another shot of The Child from ten minutes ago

But yes. Renee is right. It’s pretty darned amazing that a person to whom I dispensed nourishment and bathed and dressed and diapered and burped and carried around hither and yon both inside and outside my “tummy” should now be (gasp) getting married. Now I know why people cry at weddings.

The Child. Taking The Plunge with her Dad years ago. They were jumping off the houseboat into Lake Carlyle. (Or is it Carlyle Lake?)

Quick note on weddings. I adore them. I honestly have never ever not had a fabulous time at a wedding. I even like those really long, really religious ones. (Yes, I’ve written of my Wedding Love, here in “I Do, I Do Really Like Weddings.” Read it and weep.)

The Child and her Beau have assured me that, yes, they are going to have one. A wedding, I mean. I can hardly wait. I wonder if they’ll let me wear my tiara.

Child and Beau looking gorgeous as all get out a couple of summers ago

Incidentally, everyone loves The Beau. He is Canadian and handsome and smart and sporty and loves adventure. He is the one The Child has been traveling around the country with in their Ford F350 with the camper shell on top.

Child and Beau the day they left on their RV Adventure

In fact, when The Happy Couple FaceTimed me to inform me of their Happy News, I remarked that everyone who is thinking of getting hitched should hitch up an RV and go live in it together for several months. Then — and only then — should they be allowed to get married. Ultimate Road Test for a relationship.

The Beau on a typical workday, tormented by The Child

In addition to the Patience of a Saint Test, The Beau has passed the Mom Test and the Dad Test and the Aunts and Uncles and Gramma Tests as well. In fact, he took time off work last fall so he could attend my mother’s 90th birthday celebration.

I need to wrap this up — I don’t want to miss my Jitney back to Amagansett; I was here briefly to supervise our couch delivery here at the Ken and Barbie House. Incidentally, guess how many times I’ve bought a couch? This would be Time #1. (You can read about that in “I Have Never Bought A Couch.“)

Gosh. The Child is going to be a Married Lady. No matter how happy I am, it’s a little hard to wrap my head around. So it’s nice seeing evidence like this that she is, in fact — and no doubt always will be — The Child.

Yup. She’s still a Cheddar-Goldfish-Lovin’ Child at heart

New York City. November 2020

 

 

 

 

 

She had a hat

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‘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

And now for something completely different

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‘Trying desperately to distract myself from thinking of tomorrow’s (gulp) shot’

Last week I promised to come up with something fun today, in spite of the fact that it is Injection Eve. (For those of you who didn’t read last week’s post, here it is, but basically it’s me whining about having to get a steroid shot to help me deal with herniated discs. To say that I am “nervous” would be like saying Trump is “unpleasant.”)

“Please fill out one form per body part” Um, okay

Other than filling out forms and sweating bullets, there’s nothing more to be done to prepare myself for this procedure. So I’m just going to try to distract myself by thinking of nice and/or silly things. Like being at my Mom’s 90th birthday celebration last year, which was both silly and nice.

Two of my very favorite women: my Mom and my Personal Child

Speaking of nice things to think about, just try not to smile and/or “awwww” over these little guys. (Yes, I made those sweaters. And already posted pictures of them. But now you can see how much better they look with cute babies filling them out.)

Cute Baby Francesco

Cute Baby Paul

And if cute babies are not your thing, here’s another smile-inducing shot. (Oh no! I said “shot.”) I can’t imagine any of my readers being this way, but maybe there is someone out there reading and smiling along who actually is kid-averse. Just don’t tell me, okay?

Wombat tests the next baby sweater-in-progress for comfiness

Want more cute kitties? Here’s something I saw on Instagram that made me not just smile, but laugh out loud.

Okay, enough with kitties. Here’s another baby. Mine. She may be all grown up, but I think she’s still cute as a button. I’m limiting myself to just two adorable photos, though it pains me to ration them.

As you may recall from my story “Her Personal Truck,” she and her BF are out exploring the country in a camper shell perched on a Ford350. Way to go, kids, way to go. Literally.

The Kids perched on the edge of the Badlands. Look closely and you can glimpse BF brushing his teeth in the doorway of their RV

Before I forget, the photo at the top of this post was taken earlier this year (note snow). I can only assume that the person who dumped this dinosaur was also downsizing. (See “The Tunnel at the End of the Light” for purging details.) At least I hope that’s the case and he/she wasn’t just a mean baby-hating toy-tossing ogre.

Another happy photo. Because why not? This was taken Sunday in the Catskills. If you look closely, you can peer into my sleep-deprived bloodshot eyes

Update on downsizing and purging: we’re definitely seeing the tunnel at the end of the light. We have a few more closets to empty, some artwork to move, and then there is this plant. Those of you who know me know that not only do I not have a green thumb, I am averse to houseplants. Don’t get me wrong–I really like plants. I just think they belong outside, and not in the house where I have to fuss around with them.

Our one blooming plant

But. When Wayne and I got together he already had a plant. One he inherited from his mother when she (sadly) died in 1985. So we have had this plant for quite some time. And guess what? A couple of weeks ago, it bloomed. Dude said it had never bloomed — not in all the years he’s had it. Now if that doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will. Unless it’s this cartoon. Which captures my pre-injection state of mind perfectly.

Until next week. Gulp.

Amagansett, New York. October 2020

The tunnel at the end of the light

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‘I’ve changed my mind about Swedish Death Cleaning’

The Peterson half of me is very put out with the Henry half — blaming those French forbears for allowing drawers to fill, shelves to overpopulate and closets to clutter up.

Why, it must have been the Henry side of my brain that foolishly ignored the call of Swedish Death Cleaning back in 2018 when this book came out:

Premise: Get rid of your stuff now so your kids don’t have to deal with it after you’re dead. Suffice it to say that it is not a comic memoir

I even wrote a piece pooh-poohing this phenomenon, called “Out with the Old Year, but not out with the Old Stuff. Yet.”

Oh, silly silly me.

Those of you who read my stuff regularly — bless you — know that we’re downsizing, and that I’ve had two sweeps of movers come to remove things from the Old Apartment. The first time was when all my most beloved belongings got purged by the Stagers. (See “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for heart-breaking details.)

This was pretty much the only piece of furniture that made it into the new apartment. It used to be a bridge table. Now it is the only table

The second time was a couple of weeks ago when my posse of wiry Big John’s guys carted all the Big Stuff — buffet, dining table, china cabinet, designer anvils, and so on and so forth — out to the Amagansett House (which could use a little Death Cleaning itself, I’m thinking).

A really big (and seriously heavy) piece was this 9-foot dining table, seen strewn with lamps and shades. You can almost hear the moving men panting

But the Big Stuff was just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the stuff — the contents of all those drawers and shelves and closets I mentioned, and the cubbies and pantries and medicine cabinets I didn’t — would sink the Titanic faster than you can say “Jack Dawson.”

The (partial!) contents of One. Single. Cabinet

I found this (my Ad Biz sample reel) in a drawer, took a picture of it, then (gulp) threw it out

Dude Man and I have been packing and unpacking and repacking boxes of 27-years-in-residence detritus and toting it thither and fro for weeks now. (Note: those “banker’s boxes” you can get online? Worth every darned penny. We’ve used and reused ours till we’re blue in the face — but they’re still holding up.)

Banker’s boxes. Use ’em once, use ’em again and again. And one more time after that   

I almost forgot — in case you are wondering why I switched things around instead of saying “the light at the end of the tunnel,” here’s the story. Besides the fact that it seems like no end is in sight re: our move — Dude, yesterday: “Let’s finish packing tonight; we’re about done, after all.” Me: “Are you kidding? We haven’t touched the cleaning supplies. Or the pantry. Or the closet in the hall with the sheets and towels and laundry stuff.” His Dudeness: “Oh.”

Some fancy clutter finds a new home. Yes, yes, I’m going to prune this collection. Somewhat

Besides that fact, it reminds me of the first time I switched the phrase around. Which was back in the Before Times when Dude Man and I were on a birding tour of the Brazilian Amazon Basin. It is wildly gorgeous there, but, in all seriousness, the hottest place I have ever been. Even hotter than Borneo, and that’s saying something. We were mostly in the shade, it being the rainforest and all, but at the end of a particularly sweltering morning, we had to cross a field that had been cleared for growing something-or-other. (Manioc?)

As we staggered, Bataan Death-March-style across the sun-blasted field, I said, pointing to the shady trail on the other side, “Oh look! There’s a tunnel at the end of the light!”

Yup. A tunnel at the end of the light

New York City. September 2020

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

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

“When I grow up, I want to be Brenda Starr”

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‘Me and the mimeograph machine, making news after school’

Somebody Up There must not want me to go to The City. Last week when I journeyed there for a necessary errand, an epic storm struck right when I had to catch the Jitney home. In spite of being (what I thought was) adequately prepared, I — and everything I had with me — got thoroughly soaked. (I tried to make a video of myself pouring literally cups of water out of my rain shoes — yes, “rain shoes”, I told you I was prepared — but it was too dark and wet down by my feet.)

The errand that took me into The City: watching the countertop guys make a template for this curved counter in our itty bitty kitchen

Here’s how the side with no curve turned out

As you know only too well by now, The Dude and I are downsizing and need to get everything out of the old apartment. So, every time I slip into The City I try to bring some stuff back with me. If I’m traveling by Jitney (which is a fancy New York name for what is essentially a bus) I can’t take, say, boxes of books, but every little bit counts.

Some of the “stuff” got a bit damp. (See rain-stained right side of envelope)

This trip I grabbed a half-full box of tagliatelle, some jars of slightly-old-but-perfectly-good oregano and basil, a few cat toys, some socks, a few bits of china (which I wrapped in the socks), and a couple of random envelopes from a desk drawer, including one tantalizingly labeled “Stuff from Mom.”

By far the largest item in that envelope was this studio portrait of Baby Me. I swear it’s, like, 10×12. (Notice the same expression in the photo at the top of this post)

But what really got my attention were three lovingly-preserved copies of The Carlyle Grade School News.

This October edition had its cover art embellished by a younger sibling

I saw these, and the past came rushing back like a journalistic freight train. Gosh, how could I have forgotten The Carlyle Grade School News? I can recall (now), like it was yesterday, the aroma of baking bread that was the mimeograph machine running off copies in the school office after hours. Of course this happened a jillion years ago when I was in the eighth grade. There’s sure been a lot of water under the bridge (or poured on my head) since then.

The Christmas Edition was a fat one, bursting its staples. There was a Roving Reporter asking what students wanted for Christmas. Overwhelming answer? Mohair sweater, usually in pink

But why and how did this newspaper come to be? Well. When I was a girl there was this comic strip called “Brenda Starr, Reporter.” It featured a glamorous redhead (Brenda) who, as an ace reporter lived an extremely exciting life. I always liked to write and I’ve always had a thing about redheads. I could imagine no future more perfect than to be Brenda Starr. Gosh, it’s only now when I look it up on Wikipedia that I realize that the “Dale Messick” who drew the strip was (gasp) a woman. How perfect! (She shortened her name from Dalia, says Wiki, to get her strip published, since being a woman wasn’t exactly an advantage for a cartoonist in those days.)

Future Brenda Starr. But without red hair

To be Brenda Starr, I would need some practice. They didn’t have a newspaper at my school, so I decided to start one. I recall approaching The Powers That Were for permission to use the school office as a newsroom. I said that I wouldn’t break anything or make a mess, and that they wouldn’t have to lift a finger. All I would need was use of a typewriter, the mimeograph machine and some paper. In those days, well, that was enough. At least in my small-town hometown.

Me with my effortlessly glam mom, at about the age of my Editor-in-Chiefdom

Of course I was the Editor. But there were others on “staff.” Like reporters who covered each grade. Second Grade heard a talk about “the danger of playing in old ice boxes,” while Grade Five said “their chief interest in math is to myltiply (sic) with zeros.” (Note: there is no way to make a correction when typing a form for a mimeograph machine.)

Editorial staff plus editorial excuse

There were sports reporters and a gossip column and puzzles and stories — there was even a story “hand-picked by Alfred Hitchcock.” Though I doubt he actually appeared at Carlyle Grade School to do the “hand-picking.”

No newspaper would be complete without editorials. This one foreshadows the tone of a certain blogger, n’est-ce pas?

There was a fashion column (the Christmas edition featured knee socks), an advice column called “Letters to Lola” which dealt mainly with issues concerning “getting pretty girls to like me.” (I honestly don’t remember who was “Lola.”) Oh, yes, and Want Ads. One offered “Baby snails. Limited supply.” And jokes? You betcha! “Hey Chef, this soup is spoiled!” “Who told you?” “A little swallow!” I didn’t say they were good jokes.

All that remains of the Carlyle Grade School News today are these three dog-eared, rain-rescued and sibling-scribbled issues my mom squirreled away in an envelope buried in a drawer. But it led to my high school gig on the Carlyle Union Banner, my enrollment in Journalism School (see me ecstatic in my dorm room at the top of this post) and, ultimately, to New York City and my ever-so-exciting career in the Ad Biz — not to mention meeting The Dude.

Big fat sigh goes here.

But enough Deep Thoughts. Now I’m back to obsessing about the Ken and Barbie House.

The Ken and Barbie House: getting there!

Amagansett, New York. August 2020

 

Before the parade passes by

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‘Believe it or not, summer’s almost over’

I’ve written about the astonishing swiftness of summer before. (See “The Days are Long, but The Season is Short.”) And more than just that one time. (See “Yup, Summer’s Officially Over,” etc. etc.) One would think that by now, with so many summers under my baby-boomer belt, I’d be used to the swiftness of it all.

One would be wrong.

What made me realize that this particular pandemic-plagued summer was already sailing inexorably into its sunset was a photo my beloved Favorite Only Sister posted on Instagram recently.

Here it is. Showing a mixed assortment of Clinton County Parade spectators. Looks like I missed a *sniff* swell time that year

She posted it because, yes, it’s Clinton County Fair Time again. The Parade pictured was enjoyed during a time when we kids were all grown up, some of us with kids of our own. I was, alas, missing from the scene that particular year. But I did get to witness the “Surfing the Internet with God” float (pictured at the top of this post) on another similarly-memorable Parade-watching occasion.

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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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