Random Acts of Kidness

Standard

‘Making your bed might actually be overrated’

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who simply has to make her bed every morning. I make my bed if I’m running late for bridge class or if I’m leaving to catch a plane. (Of course, I’m never late catching a plane; I’m also one of those people who leaves for the airport hours before her flight is due to take off.)

If I don’t make my bed I feel itchy and uncomfortable all day, kind of like I forgot to brush my teeth. Even when I was single, and nobody else was going to see my bed (hahaha), I couldn’t leave home without making sure it was all neat and tidy. Yes, I’m one of those people who has been known to make the bed in my hotel room.

I’m not alone in my bed-making mania. Some ex-Navy Seal even wrote an inspirational book called, I kid you not, Make Your Bed.

Funny story. When The Dude and I started sharing a household and its chores, we decided that whoever got up last would be in charge of making the bed. (Come to think about it, it would be sort of hard to do it the other way around.)

It’s kind of hard to make the bed if you’re the first one up

Whenever the task fell to Mr. Dude, I would marvel that a person who was so neat and tidy in so many ways — and a doctor, at that — would make such a lumpy bumpy mess of making the bed.

So one morning I got him to show me his technique. I’m standing there, and there he is, lying in bed, on his back. I expect him to get out and make the bed, already. But no, he starts moving his arms and legs like he’s making a snow angel. He does this a few times, and then sort of slips out from under the covers sideways. Done!

“You’ve got to be kidding. That’s not how you make a bed!” I manage to snort through gales of laughter. “Well,” he snorts right back. “That’s how I’ve made my bed my entire life, and I’m not changing now.”

I’ve made the bed ever since.

Anyway. The Child must have taken after Dude Man, because she has never ever made her bed. This lack of basic good housekeeping skills doesn’t seem to have hindered her self confidence or her stellar trajectory to Millennial Overachievement. Looks like you don’t need to make your bed to make the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30, Mr. ex-Navy Seal.

Yup. Here she is, among the 2019 honorees

Well. In spite of the fact that she’s turned out A-Okay, I have to admit that, when she comes home — which is fairly often, since business and/or friends have her boomeranging back to New York every few weeks — well, that unmade bed can start to, well, rankle.

Even if she keeps her door shut, I know it’s in there. And after she’s left for the bus or the train or the plane and I peek inside? Sure enough: bed, unmade. Everything else in the room can be fairly tidy, and, since a rather unfortunate college-days incident involving, among other things, coffee grounds dripping down the side of a countertop, she’s always left the rest of the apartment just the way she found it. But that unmade bed? Sure to get my goat every time.

Does that unmade bed get The Child’s goat? Nope, and not her cat, either

Until last week. The Child had left for the train unusually early, after which I checked her room: unmade bed, per usual. Big sigh. I had just about decided that I’d have to have a Little Talk with her (maybe citing Mr. ex-Navy Seal), when this text exchange happened:

Now, just in case you don’t know, Alex Honnold is that guy who scaled El Capitan without using ropes or picks or anything. 3200 feet using just his fingers and toes and, gosh, guts. The Dude and Child and I saw the movie together — it’s called Free Solo, and deservedly won the Oscar for best doc. (Go stream it as soon as you can.)

Well. I have a serious Mom Crush on Alex, who was, in fact, appearing at The Child’s climbing gym that very day. But, instead of just cadging a selfish old selfie with Mr. Free Solo, just look at what that dearest of children went and did:

Forget the neat bed. This is what “thoughtfulness” looks like (!)

So. Making your bed? Highly overrated. It’s those Random Acts of Kidness that really make this Mom’s day.

New York City. April 2019

 

“What are you saving it for, the Maypole Dance?”

Standard

‘If you’re not going to lose it, then go ahead and use it’

I remember one time back when I was young and single here in New York City. I was just sitting down to dinner, blissfully alone in my apartment up on 93rd Street. (There’s a great story about how I got this apartment, called “Horowitz Plays the Bedroom”, that you might want to read, but not just yet.)

Anyway. My buzzer rang, and, since I had no doorman, I stuck my head out the window to check out who was down there. Seeing that it was a friend, I put my key in a sock and threw it out the window so he could let himself in and come on up. He comes in and I offer him a glass of wine. Whereupon he looks at my table, where there is a placemat, cloth napkin, pretty plate, nice wineglass, the whole nine yards — and asks (panting; it was five steep flights up), “Oh. Sorry. Are you expecting company?”

A table loaded with joy-producing items, including Child and Friend. I make use of all of these, and not just on special occasions

When I explained that, no, dinner was just me, and yes, I did in fact do this sort of thing every night — every night I wasn’t out, that is — he looked baffled. “All this — just for you?!?”

Sure, I said. Who better to do nice things for?

This story came to mind because there’s been a lot of buzz lately about living simpler lives and giving things away. I don’t know if Marie Kondo actually started it all — there have no doubt been what the Times calls “gurus of tidiness” since the days ladies cluttered their caves with way too many pretty rocks — but apparently this trend shows no signs of abating.

Now actually, I do enjoy a good possessions purge myself. In fact, you can find some pretty good tips about what clothing to keep — or not — in “Just Because It Fits, Doesn’t Mean You Should Wear It”.

Double Kondo. The Child divests herself of a kilt that I had passed on to her. Her reason? No joy. My reason? No knee coverage

So no, this is not an anti-Kondo diatribe. What I’d like to do today is urge you to use — and enjoy — what you don’t purge. If you get rid of something because it doesn’t “spark joy”, then, conversely, the stuff you keep should. And that crystal wine glass or cashmere sweater or engraved stationery can’t do much joy-sparking if you don’t use it.

Case in point: after The Dude’s Mom died, we found a stash of pristine stationery — boxes of it that she had never even opened, much less used. And not even her daughters could get joy out of it — it was monogrammed.

On the other hand, I have a good friend who wears her much-loved and recently-departed mother’s pearls every single day. They are valuable pearls, real heirlooms that another kind of woman would store in a vault. But no, she wears them. And no, she is not a fancy New York City socialite. She is a landscaper and garden designer out on Long Island. And she wears those pearls with her teeshirts, work pants and boots, goldarnit.

Now my Mom is not the pearl-wearing or pearl-leaving kind, unless you count pearls of wisdom. Which brings me to “What are you saving it for, the Maypole Dance?” , a saying she’d deploy when she’d notice someone (like her own mother) saving something for good. When was this time that was “good” enough supposed to arrive, she’d ask? Next week? A year from now? I remember in particular a mink hat my Gramma was “saving”. It was too “nice” even for church, but my mother finally convinced her to wear it to brunch at my Uncle Ronald’s. (Incidentally, I myself practice what Mom preaches. The photo at the top of this post shows me wearing my “good” Ogilvy ten-years-of-service Concord watch — and not much else.)

That’s my wise Maypole-Dance-saying Mom with my Gramma. Who is not wearing her mink hat. But, in fairness, it was a hot day

So, in closing, let me urge you, a la the “gurus of tidiness”, to go ahead and lose the things that don’t “spark joy”. But if you’re not going to lose it, then by all means use it. Eat your Chinese takeout on your best china. Wear the Burberry cashmere sweater while streaming Netflix on your couch.

Oh, and do break out that monogrammed stationery — even if you just use it to jot down your list of things you want to get rid of.

New York City. April 2019

 

“While we’re still young”

Standard

‘When it comes to age, everything is relative.’

My Favorite Younger Sister Laura (at left above, smiling and be-hatted) has a lot going on and is often in a hurry. When someone dawdles, say, at a traffic light that has just turned green — or spends too much time chatting up the checkout girl at Costco, she is wont to mutter “while we’re still young”.

She does this so often that when her adorable daughter Natalie was only about two, she would parrot her, much to our amusement.

But, amusement aside, “while we’re still young” has begun to resonate with me, and not just at traffic lights.

See, we helped The Child celebrate her birthday last week. And I realized that she is now the same age I was when I pulled up my socks and moved myself to New York City. This was a pretty brave thing for me to do at the time. (And yes, there’s a story, called “Take a Letter, Miss Henry”.) I didn’t know a soul here, but I decided I needed to get my Ad Career into gear before I got too old.

Me, getting longer in the tooth every second I stayed stuck in Kansas City

The Child, same age as me, above, yet looking long in leg — not in tooth

Yes. I thought I was old — at 27! But, like I say, when it comes to age, everything is relative. Speaking of which, my Favorite Older Relative, my own personal mother, had three kids by the time she was 27. And she didn’t start all that young, at least not for the 1950s.

My Mom was forty when her daughter (me) got married. I was forty when my daughter was born. And see my Grampa? I’m older than he was in this picture — right now

I used to warn The Child that if she waited to give birth till she was the same age I was when I had her, I’d be too old to hold the baby. Or I might drool on it. After all, I’d be (gasp) eighty. But now I have friends who are eighty, or at least pushing it — some damned good bridge players among them — so that joke falls rather flat.

Back when Grampas and Grammas looked, well, like Grampas and Grammas. And not like my fellow bridge players

And my Mom? Well, as you can see from the picture at the top of this post, she and I are starting to, well, look a whole lot alike. People might think we’re sisters, and not mother/daughter. Or buddies. Like two Ladies of a Certain Age who like to hang out together. Which, I guess, is what we are.

Same three Henry Gals, having a great time together, as usual. Tho now I’m older than Mom was here

Speaking of hanging out with similarly-aged people, I used to babysit for one of my mother’s friends. She was (and is) a woman younger than my mom (she had little kids when my Mom had high-schoolers). Anyway, after I grew up, she kept telling me I could stop calling her Mrs. Meisenheimer and call her “Ruth”. You know, since we were both grownups. But I couldn’t do it; she was Someone For Whom I Had Worked who was a Friend of My Mother’s. So Mrs. Meisenheimer it was. Until the day I turned 60, and Mrs. M sent me a birthday card that said she thought it was about time I cut it out. So, hi, Ruth!

I want to note here that The Dude has his own version of “while we’re still young” — it’s “while we still can“. Which is what he says when we go on our adventures. We go to these exotic places — like Uganda, and Guyana, and the Amazon — to hike and search for rare birds. Sometimes these trips are arduous and even treacherous. But The Dude, bless him, insists we go “while we still can”.

And so it goes. See you next week — when, dammit, I’ll be even older. But then again, so will The Child.

The Child and BF celebrating her birthday in Boston — because why not?

Dude Man and Me celebrating my birthday in the wilds of the Amazon — because we still can

New York City. April 2019

 

 

 

Song of My Selfie

Standard

‘A Whitman’s Sampler’

“I am large, I contain multitudes.” So sayeth the Internet, no doubt referring to those self-portraits otherwise known as “selfies”. Now I should point out, before I get too carried away with my mangling of Leaves of Grass, that the portrait at the top of this post is not actually a selfie. It may be difficult to imagine in this age of the ubiquitous hand-held device, but there were no cellphones in Seventeenth Century Holland. Though it sure looks as though those burghers are hamming it up for Instagram, doesn’t it?

Twenty-First Century Burgher Selfie. As you can see, I am not immune to the lure of the self-portrait. Even when being run down by a bike messenger

Speaking of hamming it up, I’ve been known to indulge in the odd selfie. In fact, I’ll be peppering this post with a few of my favorites — because why not? Continue reading

Chop Phooey

Standard

‘All I got for Christmas was egg foo young’

We were in a cab the afternoon of Christmas Eve when we saw Santa driving home from a hard day of ho-ho-ho-ing. We’d just seen Free Solo, which is an absolutely amazing movie about this guy Alex Honnold who climbed 3200 feet up the sheer face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park using just his hands and feet — no ropes! no nothing! — but even after that it was still pretty exciting to see the Jolly Old Elf himself in all his red-suited, white-bearded glory at the wheel of his Chrysler mini-van.

Another Santa we saw this season. This Santa was spotted in his driveway, having just ridden in on the back of a Corvette convertible

No doubt Santa was thinking about the nice home-cooked dinner he was going to have that night in his North-Pole-like outpost in Queens (he was in the traffic lane for the Bridge) before heading out in his sleigh.

We Whitmores were also looking forward to home and our traditional pot roast, a small version of which we three (yes, The Child was home this yearwere planning to polish off before opening presents and hanging out by the fire. (Being of the Swedish persuasion, I’ve Swedishly persuaded The Dude that Christmas Eve gift opening is more fun than the Christmas Morning version.) Continue reading

Driving the Unicorn

Standard

‘I’ve never bought a car. Not a new one, anyway.’

A couple of weeks ago I revealed to all and sundry that I have never, in all my grownup life, bought a couch. (See the aptly-named “I have never bought a couch” for deets.) Not buying a couch, I mused, meant that I’m probably not really a grownup.

Well, today I’m going to admit that I have never bought a car, either. Well, I have bought a car — an old Austin America, which I’ll tell you about in a sec — but I’ve never bought a new car. Where you go in a showroom and talk to a car dealer. You know, like that guy Jerry Lundegaard in “Fargo”.

I remember going to the showroom with my whole family to buy this Ford station wagon. It was brown and cream and smelled amazing

I got to thinking about this whole new-car thing because we just got back from our annual Best-Friends-in-the-Catskills Visit. (See “Take me home, Country Road” for a nice tale about them.) Said Best Friends always have a new car — they lease a brand-new Mercedes every year. (Something to do with business or some such.) Continue reading

How many people can you pack into a gazebo?

Standard

‘No one knows — because no one has ever tried.’

Some time ago (in a piece called ‘What’s Not To Lichen?’) I wrote about stuff that families find funny. (Usually, but not always, it’s only the people actually in that family who find these things funny.) Sometimes, like in the Henry Clan, it’s bad puns. My Grampa Henry had a whole collection of particularly-awful puns. Plus dirty limericks. He wrote one once about his gall-bladder operation. He survived; fortunately, the limerick did not.

Me. Doing stand-up in a bed of you-know-what. Check out ‘What’s Not To Lichen?’ for more punishment (er, examples)

Besides awful puns (and sometimes limericks) there’s usually a set of inside jokes — groaners that never fail to amuse, at least when told (and retold) within the confines of the family itself. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard “How many dead people are in that graveyard?” (Answer: “All of them.”) I know, I know. If you can stand it, a good selection of both Henry and Whitmore specialties can be found in ‘Kangaroo Walks Into A Bar’. Just don’t take a sip of coffee before you read it; there’s a Whitmore urology joke that’s killer.

Sometimes this funny family stuff can’t be categorized as a pun or a joke or even a limerick. Sometimes what’s funny just is.

Take gazebos. For some reason, if you’re a Henry, the mere sight of a gazebo is sure to crack you up. (If you’re not sure what a gazebo is, you can click here or just look at the photo at the top of this post.) If a Henry sees a gazebo, and points it out to a fellow Henry, both burst out laughing. If there’s a non-Henry along, he/she can look a bit baffled. Continue reading

Why not ‘Grape Nuts Arena’?

Standard

‘I contemplate the New Now of corporate naming’

I was on a Goodbye Call to The Child when we got to talking about the World Series. She was somewhat surprised that I have been watching, since I’ve never been a baseball fan, or much of a Team Sports Person at all. (‘Why not give both sides a ball, since they want it so bad?’ is my take on football. And basketball? That’s the game that uses the round orange ball, right? As opposed to the pointy orange one?)

But hey, it’s the World Series, I tell her. The game the other night was in Houston, where the Astros play in this stadium called, I kid you not, Minute Maid Park. She not only knew this, but, Millennial that she is, found the naming of an arena after a fruit juice not surprising in the least. What’s next, I ask her, Grape Nuts Arena?

I grew up when the Yankees played in Yankee Stadium, and the Dodgers played in Dodger Stadium. Naming was simple: you named the place after who played there. Of course, sometimes teams move (like the Dodgers used to be the Brooklyn Dodgers and played in a place called Ebbets Field), which can mess up that naming method. Just imagine if the Astros moved to LA and had to play in Dodger Stadium. Harsh. Especially if they lose this series.

Yankee Stadium, then

Still ‘Yankee Stadium’. But that’s a mighty big ‘Gatorade’ sign

Continue reading

Take me home, country road

Standard

‘You can pick your friends, and you can (urk) pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose’

Apologies for the less-than-elegant subhead, but it seemed perfect for this piece. So I just had to (urk again) pick it.

See, we just spent another glorious Columbus Day Weekend in glorious Upstate New York with friends we must certainly have ‘picked’ most carefully, since we have been together for decades now. For the purposes of this story, and to protect their identity and their feelings (though they both hate social media and are sure never ever to even glimpse this story; why, they wouldn’t even click on it if I sent them the link), they shall be known here as J & P.

Truckin’. Even the trip Upstate has its charms. Here we are in the ‘passing’ lane

Continue reading

The Movie Disease

Standard

‘More and more beautiful as you reach The End’

Some people say Fall is here when you spy your first red leaf. I say it’s when I need to whip out the grill light to cook my dinner. The Best Sister on The Planet gave me this gizmo a couple of years ago, and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without it as summer winds down.

My handy dandy grill light. I can’t show it to you on my actual grill, since Hurricane Irma or Jose or Maria or Whomever is out there whipping up a wet mess

A couple of nights ago, as I was out there sizzling up a weenie or two and engaging in a bit of grill-light-assisted reverie, I got to thinking yet again about Summer Turning Into Fall. Which I know I’ve written about more than once, but, darn it, I do find the topic fascinating. Bittersweet and sometimes even outright sad, but fascinating all the same.

Oh. Here’s that Sign O Fall of which I spoke. Thanks MJS!

I’ve compared the shortness of summer to the fleetingness of childhood. I’ve likened August to Sunday night, and September to Monday morning. And now I’m going to tell you how Fall is like the Movie Disease. Continue reading