Thanks, World Wide Web!

fat banishing tapewormsJust this week alone the Internet has delivered me pictures of women pretending to like being stepped on and having smoke blown in their faces.

Then there was that ad for losing weight by hiring a tapeworm. – and I don’t doubt that there are at least some people out there just dying to bring one aboard and watch the pounds melt away.

Every singe day I’m amazed by this Internet, this tangled web we have woven, and the way it has worked its stretchy little tendrils into all our lives.

English Ivy has nothing on the worldwide web. Call it electronic kudzu.

This morning Facebook is what has me shaking my head webwise. People keep telling me they can’t find me on Facebook and sure enough when I look for Terry Marotta all I find is a page belonging to someone who sees dead people.

So I began a search for myself under my maiden name, which yielded up the wildly entertaining My Space page of an Irish lad. Here is what he wrote of himself at the time:

“Hay my name is terry sheehy and im 17 going out with susan browne i love u susan !… i like to play basketball football i also like to watch UFC and figthing sports.. Thanks to my fab sis whoohooo and just want to say befor i go to bed just leve a coment and ill comment u back. i like action films and films that kinda do with shit that im interested in and also comedy and going to the cinema.”

Pretty adorable kid, if not the best grammarian! I mean, right?  It just shows you:  even if you CAN’T find your own little self reflected in the big electronic mirror, you can have some pretty good laughs just the same.

Old Ads: Gotta Hate ’em

blow in her face

Anyone remember this one? “Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere?”

I was around when women looked like this. I had that hairstyle. I’d put that at around 1968, ’69 and maybe it’s because I went to a women’s college but I’m pretty sure most women were on to this bill of goods the admen were trying to sell people.

That women liked you to be a little rough.

That showing a sort of casual disregard was catnip to the ladies.

That we all secretly LIKED being put in our place and degraded just a little.

Not so hard to believe advertisers would try that; in fact they’re trying it still.

But the blatancy of it: hard to believe this came out so soon before Oprah took to the air and shined her great spotlight on so many ugly things.

And check out this image below? One long damn way from Helen Reddy’s famous I Am Woman Hear Me Roar anthem eh?

man stepping on woman's head

 

It just kind of  leaves you speechless.

Quit Yer Gripin’

baby babboonI was in a bad mood that weekend.  It was the weather natch. People are so silly about the weather. What’s that old saying ? As a rule man’s a fool, when it’s hot he wants it cool. When it’s cool he wants it hot, always wanting what is not. True enough!

It had been 41° on the Friday of the weekend before. Then six days later, it was 91°.

“A 50° difference in less than a week!” we all exclaimed. People whined like you wouldn’t believe.  I whined.

I met a man at a book talk I gave once who told me he lived outside of the U.S.  for 15 years and was only just now returning. “What do you notice most about Americans, now that you can look at your countrymen with fresh eyes?” I asked him.

“People complain! They complain about everything!” he said. “I couldn’t believe it at first.  It’s as if nothing is ever good enough.”

That shivered my timbers, I can tell you. I didn’t want to be one of those people.

So I got to considering: Maybe instead of griping, we should actually delight in the variety the world presents. Even the weather, aside of course from the terrifying and violent climatic swings such as the ones that have brought drought to Colorado and tornadoes to Oklahoma.

“I’d really like to try doing that,” I was thinking later that day as I walked into my local cobbler shop or “Shoe Hospital” as its owner has dubbed it.

Here, a young girl around 11 was munching on a chocolate chip cookie and chatting in familiar fashion with the proprietor.

“She must be one of his grandchildren,” I thought, so wide was the smile she flashed him as she ducked back out of the store.

“Is that your granddaughter?” “I asked as I handed over the ticket to reclaim  my newly reheeled boots.

“No,” he said. “She just comes in here all the time. She says she loves the smell of the place.”

“Ah!” said I. “The smell of leather, and shoe polish? Maybe the smell of the oil in these various machines?”

“Exactly,” he said handing me my boots.

“You know it wouldn’t kill you to polish these now and then,” he added with a wink.

I purchased a tin of saddle soap displayed there on the counter then and there,  took a whiff, sighed happily, and exited the shop one happy camper,  through with complaining for a good long while because ...Life is good! (Have an apple.)

We Did It. We passed Another Marker

Forty-three years married. Forty-five years since we forsook all others. This is what our life is like now, only the person pictured needs a skirt and shoulder-length hair. honey where's the butter021 Thanks for finding everything Dave! Thanks for looking after me!

Thanks for the good wished yesterday everyone and.. Happy Weekend!

Still Married After All These Years

25 years in

Today is June 20th; it’s my anniversary. Where has the time gone? It seems just a second ago that we were partying our brains out with our two families and shopping for a dress that cost less than $150.

I remember the day itself. I remember spilling a Sloe Gin Fizz on that gown ten seconds into the reception.

Before the receiving line even. Before the guests had even all arrived. Someone handed it to me and I tried to take a sip. I didn’t even know what Sloe Gin was.

I had never worked a 40 hour week. I would begin all that in September when I would start teaching school.

I had just has my wisdom teeth out. I was barely old enough to vote.

Scarier yet, the picture of us both to the left here? It was taken 25 years into the marriage. AND it was 18 years ago now! Where IS It all going? Carpe Diem for sure.

Maybe later today I’ll pull out the old dress and look for that faint pink stain… But where is the girl? Where is that young bridegroom? Henry Thoreau said it: ” Time is but a stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”

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What Can I Say

What can I say, it was raining again, and my hair was too weird, darker than it should be which looks funny with my gradually  disappearing eyebrows.

That’s a family thing with the eyebrows. Some of my family members have no eyebrows at all to speak of.

At least I started out with some ..

Do you doubt me? There they are on that chick in the middle:

planning the prom at Somerville High School

I guess I was in my early twenties when that picture was taken.

When I was 19 they  were  DARKER STILL:

Me at Smith

(I know, I know. All I need is a mustache and I’m Tom Selleck in a wig circa 1980.)

But even my sturdy Irish brows are thinning now and the it seems the roses have  gone my cheeks as well. At the frame shop last month my friend behind the counter said, “Well hello! Your HAIR is so dark I didn’t know you!”

I mumbled something about how I told my  stylist  how I kind of hated the blonde direction he was heading in so he made my hair dark. But In the days just after he colored it even I could tell it was a mite TOO dark; just a mite too Morticia Addams. Plus I could sense small children edging away.

“I thin it looks better to have light hair around the older face,” she said. Whose older face she meant was pretty clear to me.

And so it was that I ducked into the salon last week and showed him my roots.

“So these are basically the color of old snow,” I said pointing to the half-inch of grey sprouting up from my scalp, “and this is, like shoe polish black, practically,” I added, pointing to the other 15 inches of hair. “So what do you think, can we look for something less dark that will diminish the contrast between the real and the dyed as the hair starts to grow in?”

“Sure!” he crowed. He’s waited for years to throw the whole Magician’s Book of Color at me.

And so yesterday with rain one again pelting down on the Ark we’re all bobbing about on in this soggy month of June,  he lightened it a tad, got out the bleach and the  tinfoil and gave me a kind of maple syrup with tones of umber base with streaks of Christina Hendricks Red.

Christina Hendricks: That’s  Joan Harris on Mad Men,  as I’m sure you know. You see the resemblance I’m sure? Uncanny isn’ t it? 😉

christina hendricks as herself

IMG_1876

These June Days

dick & jane at the farmOn June days like the ones we’re in, now the birds begin talking before 5:00 even. Today I heard them tuning up a good twenty minutes before the old clock had even struck 4:00 down in the living room. And even at 9:30 last night bands of daylight still clung to the horizon.

Every year at this time I feel like I’m walking around inside one of those 1940s children’s book you can still find in second-hand stores, with the perfectly puffed clouds set against skies of heavenly blue.

I look around and think Where are Grandpa and Grandpa who the children visit on their farm? Where is the littlest child with her doll carriage eternally trying to dress the cat in baby clothes?

Every year at this time I feel like I’m back in Eden, that state that all of us seem to dimly remember, before we and the world tilted into brokenness and error.

It seems we inhabit a sort of continual Present tense on any June morning with its blossoms and its birds. There is no future to fear, no past to either regret or pine for.

Maybe it’s the color of the grass, or the proliferation of blossoms everywhere. You’re not expecting all these blooms somehow. I know I’m newly amazed every year all the plants that go to the trouble of flowering, even the small humble one that you picture at the bottom of the ladder, that plant whose mission you thought was to clutch soil merely; even this plant is staging a great show of beauty. It reminds me of the bike parades you went to as a kid, your dented little Schwinn festooned in flounce and sparkle.

The world is so festooned right now. Just walk outside and see.

bike parade

Fathers Day Revisited

Hap & me only picture ever

I hope everyone enjoyed the day yesterday. I know I did. I spent it as I spend all days, with the father of my children who I fell for at the tender age of 19 when I saw how his story matched my own, both of us fatherless, both accustomed to a life where we were special to no one in the great world, looked on with special favor by no one.

That part was OK. Most people are in this position.

David’s dad contracted stomach cancer when David was ten. Mine…well, mine had his own problems, which I have said a little about here. He came to see me only once on the occasion of my baptism and by a stroke of luck somebody took our picture. I’m the sleeping one in the arms of my Aunt Julia. He’s the sad-looking one in the hat, face turned away.

The picture was taken at my grandfather’s house where Mom went to live as after he left us. He stayed only an hour as she told me 20 years later. He didn’t speak to Mom and he didn’t so much as look at me. He had left us eight months before and felt ashamed I imagine.

He did his best in life, of that I am sure.

And this is David’s doomed young Dad beneath here, when he was in high school. His first-born son, David’s big brother Toby, looks quite a bit like him as you can see.

DSCN0690

toby in maine once

But lacking a dad doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy that third Sunday in June.

Nor does it mean you can’t be a great dad yourself, as my kids’ dad is and has been since our very first child first drew breath in this world.

This is the man, in summer once by a lake.

david marotta c 2000

Here’s to all fathering then, whatever form it may take!

Yes There Are Rules (But We’re Not Telling You What They Are

the_rulesThe other night our baby of the moment, still bald and in a high chair, put her head down on her tray and wept like a man broken by life.  We were all out to dinner, meaning her two parents and her aunt, her brothers busy making art on their plates with their ketchup, and we her grandparents.

It was something about the cup the restaurant gave her for her water: It was plastic, with a lid perforated by a straw that was twice as tall as the cup itself, thus presenting her with a physics problem beyond her ability to solve.

In her eager baby thirst, she hoisted the thing,  poked herself in the eye with the straw, and saw the lid pop off, causing a floodtide of water to wash down off her head and get into her eyes, her nose and even her mouth.

And oh how she cried, her head resting in the puddle!

I would’ve cried too. It’s awful when you find yourself in a world governed by rules you don’t grasp, in this case the ones involving gravity.

Think of the times you didn’t know the rules and floundered around, trying to figure them out. I can think of lots of times I’ve been in that position:

On first attending Catholic services as a very small child I remember coming to understand that you must not talk but rather sit or kneel while contemplating the top of the pew in front of you. (In those little-kid years, I think I mostly stood and licked it.) But then I was faced with an altogether different expectation when, with my college boyfriend, I began attending a Protestant church where everyone turned clear around in their seats and gabbed away until the service started.

I also remember my first year at summer camp when I was the first one ‘up’ in schlagball but did not know in the least how the game was played never mind what the rules were. As I recall I faked a faint and got mercifully toted by my armpits to the infirmary. (But why wouldn’t the counselors make sure at the outset that we were all familiar with this game? Did they enjoy watching some of us struggle, as when adults get their little kids to recite the words to patriotic songs so they can laugh when they get those words wrong? I mean MAYBE it’s funny when the kids sing about  “the bums bursting in air” but do they have to try getting them to sing it over and over, just for their own amusement?)

It’s a dark impulse, this desire to laugh at others. It’s a darker impulse yet to maintain whole sets of rules and expectations that are somehow a secret kept from all but the people already ‘in the know’.

I remember when my sister first moved to Florida, and settled into a development with many unstated ‘rules’.  How she pitied that other new family that hung their bed linens outside in the fresh air, only to have whole teams of neighborhood busybodies tut-tutting about them behind their backs.

All this did I reflect on as I watched our baby, who was instantly plucked up out of her soggy seat and comforted by all seven family members.

Some rules are the Universe’s rules, like gravity, and must be obeyed.

Other rules you just sometimes wonder: Who are they serving really?

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Here’s What Mine Did

mom 6 mos pregnantTalking of what mothers did back in the day – I was kidding when I portrayed them as ladies of leisure yesterday – let me ask myself what my own mom did every day. (This is she, pregnant with her first child at age 39.)

Let’s see… Well, when she was in her 20s her dad told her that she and her sister Grace had to run the family business, a summer camp for girls.

This wasn’t always the family business. In the beginning, it was just that their dad invited people to sleep over when they came to visit him in the country. He had grown up near there, the youngest in a farm family and it may be that he loved the nearness of other living beings, like the farm animals sending up that lovely exhalation of warmth always in pasture and barn. Anyway he got his wife to go along with the idea of making these sleepovers  a paying concern, and, as luck would have it, the concept of summer camps for children was just beginning to take off at the time.. And so ‘Camp Fernwood in the Berkshires’ opened when our mom was 16. A decade later, with his poor wife dead, of what was very likely exhaustion, he got his oldest daughter our future mother to say she’d try her hand at running the thing. “No harder job in the world” she told us kids later in life. “What’s harder than to convince parents to give you their kids for eight whole weeks?” Because that’s what people did then. They sent their kids off for that long.

She worked all summer ordering food and minding the counselors and offering comfort to little girls who got their period for the first time in those eight weeks,  then worked all winter trawling for new campers. She spent all day  up in our attic with Aunt Grace sending out brochures, talking to prospects, begging for the chance to come visit families and describe the fun of it all.

Thirty-five years down the line, however, things had changed: people were buying RV’s and the eight-week camp was becoming  a thing of the past, With great sorrow, because it was their one link to the now-dead father they loved so much, they sold the camp and at age 65 mom got her first salaried job, working for Family Service, this time giving counsel and comfort to the “homemakers” who went in to help out families in times of trouble.

She worked all her life, in other words, without ever making any money to speak of. (The camp was never a paying proposition; it was a whim dreamed up by a man who had his own job as a lawyer and a judge. You can bet HE never helped run the camp.) Then, like every other woman in America, she cooked for the family. And ironed our blue school uniforms, and polished our clunky blue shoes.

There were no labor-saving devices that I can remember. No dishwasher. No real vacuum that I can remember but only a carpet sweeper that looked like it was from  1920s – oh and a washing machine that had an actual wringer on top. Needless to say we had no drier.)

After her husband left her 18 months into the marriage she had no desire to socialize so she just worked at that attic desk and only in her 60s had the joy of job with office chums and office humor and the occasional office birthday party. I remember watching her dress mornings for this job. Sometimes she would say “Today, kids, I’m wearing’my fightin’ suit!’ That’s what she called the outfit she would don on the days she knew would be long ones.

Ah Mom, you wiseguy, you sport, you life of every party: how your children both miss you! How we wish you could be here now laughing about the latest overcooked pot roast.

And so do we all feel I am sure, when we look back and remember all that they did.

grace last day of camp

Aunt Grace (Mom in the background) at camp Fernwood in 1935, and under this the littlest campers in the summer of ’52 and their two sweet counselors Jane and Ina.

this is how little we were