Silliest Come on Yet

IMG_2687The surgical department here named is one of the best. They dug a basal cell carcinoma out of my own little shin two autumns ago and within the year, the wound was almost invisible.  What looked like an elliptical scoop- mark, made as if by an oversized grapefruit spoon, is now a faint and slender line, scarce visible even to me, never mind casual observers.

They’re the ones who sent me this promotion  last week.

The lady is pretty and I guess I get the sentiment but when you say that aging simply won’t do you might as well say you’re ready to reach for the hemlock.

We age. Period. You can suck out and pin up all you want but look around the whole perimeter: Are your two feet the smooth little darlings they once were? Are the backs of your hands freckle-free? Don’t look now, but something is sure happening to the skin at the base of your glutes and I’m not talking about cellulite.

It’s gravity, baby. Gravity and wear-and-tear. When Aging Simply Won’t Do: Hah! What really won’t do is acting like you can beat the House when everyone who’s honest knows it: the House always wins in the end.


You Know You’re Old Part Two

And here’s the second half of the story I started earlier, this one ‘given’ to me one day last week as I stood in a room chatting away with seven male teenagers and one grown woman.

“Ready to go?” I said to the seven teens who were departing on an expedition with me, and took a few strides toward the front hallway of the house we were in.

“Wait, what’s THAT?” one teen suddenly said, pointing down toward my boots,  where a cloud of purple silk was seen to be pooling around my ankles.

“It’s my slip!” I yelped, no less surprised to see it than I would be to see a small fire licking its way up my calves. But come to think of it, the elastic at the waistband did seem a little shot when I had put the thing on an hour before.

The one other woman present was, by this time, laughing so hard she couldn’t talk, and that was funny all by itself. But it paled in comparison to what one of the male teens then said: 

“What’s a slip?”

I might as well have been wearing a whalebone corset for the way they looked at me as I tried to explain.

Something has happened in the culture if full slips and half slips have disappeared so thoroughly from the radar of the under-30s ……

Which leads me to ask this question of anyone who might know the answer. Why on EARTH does every young woman under 40 now go bare-legged, even in the depths of winter?!


You Know You’re Old When …

bathrobes 70sYou know you’re getting up there in when, you have an experience like this: On tearing through the mall one day, you impulsively duck into a discount department store, head for the loungewear and pull from the rack a delicious-looking sample of the cozy-clothes on display there.

You don’t even try the thing on.

Then, on seeking to return it a week later because in fact it is sized more for Dumbo the Elephant than for any human female, you learn to your amazement that the young person at Customer Service does not recognize it as any species of garment at all.

“What IS this?” she asks, holding it up to start processing the refund.

“Uh…” you say.

She keeps on examining it, turning it over in her hands as you stand stunned into silence.

“Wait, what do you mean ‘what is it?’ you finally say. “It’s a bathrobe of course!”

“THIS is a bathrobe? “ she says with a look of complete befuddlement.

“Yes, it’s a bathrobe!“ you say back with a similar look.  It’s as if you are from two countries sharing a common language in which the word ‘bathrobe’ means entirely different things.

 “It’s not, like, a costume of some kind?” she says.

 “A costume?’ you say.

 “Like for a king? One of the Three Kings maybe, like, you know, for a Christmas pageant?”

 “What? No! This a BATHROBE. This is what bathrobes look like!”

Ah but that is where you are wrong. Because in fact bathrobes have not looked like this in some time.

No, these kinds of bathrobes, done in polyester plush, zipping up the front and topped off with a yoke of smocking or ornamental braid, have not truly been seen since the Golden Girls drifted around their airy ranch house on rising from their beauty sleep.

That is why the young woman thinks you a dinosaur, as you are. As you surely are….


At Least Someone is Enjoying the Winter

evn ctm dcm in winterAt least someone is enjoying the winter.

Kids seem to like it fine, though I see by this picture that ONE of our own young’uns seems to not THAT bundled up against the cold? (Where is your hat, little David? Are you like your uncle Michael who took the commuter rail to school every single day of his ninth grade year in only a T-shirt?)

But anyway…

The squirrels also seem to be having a fine time, with their tails as curved and compact as croquet wickets.

They say the cardinals are fine with winter too, though I have yet to see a cardinal this whole winter. Do they even stay here, or do they board that southbound bus like Ratso Rizzo with his  newfound pal, the country boy Joe Buck. Remember that movie Midnight Cowboy? Remember Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me, that wistful haunting song that seemed to function as almost another character in the film? Here‘s a lovely montage that shows why that film was s unforgettable…

I dream of that big bus south. Once, we took the train all the way from Boston to Tampa in deep winter and I still remember how it felt to fall asleep glimpsing at the icicle-resembling obelisk of the Washington monument and wake rockingly in Georgia where everything was softer and green even at that season and dogs loping across their yards to sniff what was new in the soil that day.  Ah! How long until I can I go south myself, even for a few days? How long oh Lord?

But you know what? It’s not enough to just give you the link to that montage. Let me insert it right here.

So Much for ONE Resolution

I promised here the other day that I wouldn’t be telling people my dreams but after the doozy of a dream I had the other night I had the urge to tell it to everybody I saw the next day, practically. It had plots and subplots, early death, shower scenes. It was like a screenplay by Hitchcock , directed by Martin Scorsese. 

I do talk to people more than most folks do – even to strangers – but not about my own stuff and in the end only my poor husband heard that account in full.

No, I don’t bore my family members with my inner thoughts. I save that for my descendants, meaning:

I write a diary.


Here are a couple of pages I’m not necessarily proud of. (The penmanship alone!)

I just riffled through the 2013 diary randomly to find them.

I know it seems like pretty dull stuff.

And yet what is life made up of but the blessed everyday? Who among us, in the moments after the car crash, the fire, the diagnosis, does not bargain hard with the Universe for the clock to be turned back just one hour, just a single hour, God, to return to us to the dear, dull quotidian?


All I Did Not Know

Until I was nine, I lived in my grandfather’s house in a Boston neighborhood that was about to become one of the most vital black communities in the country.

The year I started kindergarten though, the place was still very white. There was just one black child in our class whom, as I recall, the teacher was constantly punishing.

One day, saying he sang too loud, she barricaded him behind the piano, which she then pushed into the corner, so he couldn’t get out.

Another time, she took him into the cloak room and hung him by his belt loops from one of the hooks.

I brought these stories home to my mother, who found them as troubling as I did.

All through our childhood, my sister and I were given to know that ours was an “enlightened” family. Hadn’t this grandfather we lived with given learned talks even at the Young Men’s Jewish Association, Roman Catholic though he was? Hadn’t he labored to get the teachers their first-ever pay raise when he was Chairman of the Boston School Committee?

These were the stories we heard of him, a classic bootstrap tale, beginning when he left behind thin-soiled farm and Irish immigrant parents alike to try his luck in the wider world. He finished college, and law school, and by the time he was giving those learned talks around Boston, his speech was as refined as that of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who were running the place.

His success was a direct consequence of his hard work, I was taught, and only much later did it dawn on me that he might have been accepted as easily as he was by these WASPS because, with his Northern European ancestry, he looked just like them.

But that wasn’t mentioned in the family story.

Neither was the breakup of our mother’s wartime marriage, that abandonment of a wife and two babies by our father. He was never mentioned him, not even once.

“Where is OUR father?” it finally occurred to us to ask.

“You don’t have a father, we were told. End of discussion.

Still, we had an advantage, a kind of “protection,” as white children, and children whose people had gone to college. I mean, no teacher ever tried to hang either of US in any cloak room.

At age 17, I was admitted to one of the country’s top women’s colleges – because I was such a clever little star, as I told myself. I chose not to dwell on the C-minus I got In Algebra III that semester might or to consider the fact that I just might have been admitted because I was a legacy, my mother having gone to the same school four decades earlier.

 Whether I truly earned my place there or not, my real education began at that school where for the first time in my life I met and worked beside Asian students, black students, Jewish students and Latino students.

 And my education continued when I went on to teach in a diverse urban high school.

In time, married and with babies on the horizon, my young husband and I went on to become homeowners, something we might not have been able to do without help from our parents, who were homeowners themselves. Another advantage.

Maybe I go on too long here, because this is meant just as autobiography. Certainly it is not meant as any kind of sermon. I mean to say only that I ‘see’ more and more, the longer I live. And I am resolved never to be that person who find herself on third base and tells herself she has hit a triple.

Things That I Miss, Things I Am Glad For

Celtics of the 70sThings I miss: I miss the late 70s. The fashions were so great! Why are men’s shorts now below their ankles and isn’t that a kind of Victorianism all by itself?

Things I am grateful for: Funny pictures and witty cartoonists.

Here’s a picture I once used to characterize the suppertime habits in this house. I called it “I cook. He cleans.”

I cook he cleans

That’s a good funny one. And I like this one a lot too:

don't like the chocolate eh

And god bless the cartoonists, the theological ones being among my favorites. Here’s one:

God and presumption Adam

We still do that, we children of Adam.

And here’s maybe my favorite one of all.

God MakesThe Snake

On dreary winter days, if you want to cheer up, seek out the merry. It’s like Yeats says in “The Fiddler of Dooney,” a great old poem if ever there was one:

When we come at the end of time,
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate.

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance;

And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With “Here is the fiddler of Dooney!”
And dance like a wave of the sea.


The other day I drove 100 miles with  four feet of my scarf sticking out of the car and dragging along the ground. AND, it was 32 degrees and sleeting.

Sigh. Such a pretty scarf too: I got so I was very vain, wearing it.

I had closed it in the car door though I didn’t know it ‘til we got to our destination. It was frozen solid, like a brick, only sort of bent.

Old Dave thought it was the funniest thing in the world. I think he saw it as payback, because when I say I was driving I was really only helping him drive, which I admit I do, since he’s so aggressive a driver, passing this driver, nosing right up under their petticoats of that one. I used to read, or nap, or treat him to my own brand of fascinating chatter as we drove. Now I seem to  be so vigilant I can’t do anything but ‘help him’ steer. It’s like this anniversary card I just bought to give him where they even got the name right. As you can see, the front says “Dave didn’t have to watch where he was going…” Then when you open it up it reads “Because his wife was an excellent back seat driver.” 

back seat driving

Just look at that woman sitting behind him. Of course I don’t look like a bit like her – not me! But the weird thing is, she does look a lot like my mom when she got her bossy hat on. Hmmm, what was it that Oscar Wilde said? “Every woman becomes like her mother. That is her tragedy. No man does. That’s his”? (Good old Oscar Wilde: so epigrammatic always – and so RIGHT!)

Not Too late For a Few Resolutions?

overtalkingI hope it’s not too late anyway – because I drew up a new list again this year. I couldn’t help it. Making such a list was one of the first habits I formed growing up in a family bent on eternal  improvement. In fact, we’re all still laughing about the time the family patriarch announced one day in early January that he was bringing all the kids to the doctor to have their nostrils blown out – and that was 90 years ago. 

Even though my own plans are far tamer, I offer them here:

Resolution One, to stop saying how exhausted I am all the time. What is it with us moderns that we dwell so ceaselessly on our level of fatigue? A hundred years ago people didn’t carry on about how tired they were, maybe because they were too busy stoking the furnace and boiling the diapers.

Resolution Two, to refrain from getting into a lot of competitive technology talk, like about those apps that supposedly empty the dishwasher and open the canned peas while you’re still stuck in rush hour traffic ten miles from home. I mean, I appreciate a GPS as much as the next guy, but shoot me if you ever hear me going on and on about what route it had me take to get to your house just now.

Resolution Three, to stop telling people my dreams. What’s harder to sit through than a person saying  “So then a guy with a gorilla’s head began reciting the Preamble to the Constitution only – no,  wait – he only started out as a gorilla before turning into Don Johnson circa 1989”? Most people can’t tell their dreams right to save their lives.

Resolution Four: to tell fewer jokes, since I can never tell them the right way anymore. If I really want to tell jokes I’m going to have to start rehearsing them ahead of time so I don’t keep putting the punch line in the middle.  

Resolution Five: to keep getting my photographs printed. It’s just not enough to have them stored in the cloud. I say, put them in an album. Put them in a  battered old shoebox even. Sure, there might be a fire, but there might also NOT be a fire, and think about it: your kids aren’t going to gather around a computer screen when you’re gone to cry over pictures of the old days. The place for pictures is in people’s hands.

Resolution Six, speaking of hands: to take better care of my hands, which are showing signs of real wear these days. In my girlhood they looked so smooth and flawless I was forever waving them around my head, hoping others would think so too. Now, they’re wizened little monkey-paws. I guess 30 years of furniture refinishing finally took its toll on them. 

It’s ok though. It’s fine. Because here’s my Seventh Resolution, which follows naturally from the Sixth: to keep trying to wear out rather than rust out.  ’Use it or lose it,” the fitness folks say of the body’s strength. But heck, we’re going to lose it anyway eventually so let’s use it now, place our shoulders to the wheel, and help make this old world a better place in shiny new 2014. Excelsior! 🙂sisyphus



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photoWe all evolve; nobody starts out perfect.

Consider this little person, a casual caregiver at best, with her bottle of beer and her baby splayed, arms outstretched, in the grass.

She LIKED the baby well enough. She just didn’t really know how to care for her.

Her grandfather David and I didn’t know how to care for her mother at first either: we read her to sleep on a waterbed in the basement of our friend’s house by the sea.

In Coastal Maine.

In late August.

And the waterbed, it turned out, wasn’t even heated – so when we came back downstairs many rollicking hours later, having played rounds of Botticelli til we were blue in the face, we found our child seemingly blue in the face herself – or so we at first thought when we touched her and felt her cool, cool skin.

People almost shouldn’t be allowed to have babies until they’re like 40.

And yet

And yet.

Only six months later, this little person is still only one year old and already she has grown in the nurturing arts, as you can plainly see.

IMG_2645 IMG_2643


Moral of the story? Love a little person hard and s/he will learn to do the same.