Gerald and Elton and Kiki Dee

Around here everybody knows that on the night of April 18th, 1775 Paul Revere and William Dawes rode out to warn the colonials that the British were armed and marching. For decades now there have been signs all over the place saying the two passed this spot and this spot and this one. I hope they at least went through the red lights I’d always think when I saw those signs as a kid.

People who live IN Concord and Lexington do this anniversary up big. We call it Patriots Day and each year on he third Monday in April we celebrate by calling off school, shuttering scads of businesses and playing host to a little thing called the Boston Marathon.

I live only a few hills and meadows away from Concord and Lexington so I too went there one April 18th, and in the middle of the night, together with my sister Nan, my cousin Sheila and our three young husbands. It was 1975 and to kick off this big 200-year mark of America’s birth, President Ford was coming to the Old North Bridge to give a speech. The six of us wanted to see him do it and we so donned tri-cornered hats, packed a cooler of food and beer and drove to a spot by the Concord Boat House. There we spent the night, playing cards in the car and laughing and at 5am rented three canoes and paddled down the Concord River to that famous bridge – where we waited and waited and waited from a spot 100 yards distant until he finally showed up, his head a distant balding egg.

There too we saw Caroline Kennedy, sprung from Concord Academy for the day, and heard many speeches blowing across the water. (Here’s Caroline from back then, together with her mother Jackie, her grandmother Rose and her uncle Ted on the day she graduated from that fine private high school.)

It felt like the beginning of something big all right, this two-year celebration, with the reenactment of battles, the first visit of the Tall Ships  and, for many of us kids, an Elton John concert on the Fourth of July, at the stadium where the Pats still play, with Kiki Dee doing the opening act.

The longest game in professional baseball happened on this day too, played by two Triple A teams in Pawtucket RI. It lasted for 33 innings and took almost eight-and-a-half hours to finish, and that’s a nice American fact too.

But what I will always remember about this date is laughing my head off all night in a parking lot, then paddling through waters as silver as mercury in the pre-dawn light. About the year too I’ll always remember Kiki Dee doing “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” with Elton. I knew at that concert that under the hippie-style maxi-dress I wore was the little bump that would six months later become my first chid and likely end forever my days of drinking and laughing ’til sun-up. But that was fine; I was ready.

I guess I knew that life would go breakin’ my own heart, as life tends to do, but I hope I knew too that there would also be joys both loud and quiet, and bright mornings – and music to give it all a soundtrack.

 

Dress Up Or Dress Down?

easter finery“Innnn your Ea-ea-easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it…” Remember that song from a million years ago? Remember when we all dressed up smartly come spring, the little boys in  blazers and the little girls in sherbet-colored dresses with matching ankle socks and hats? Oh and we wore little Mary Janes too!  My sister and I would bring our new Mary Janes to our grandfather reading in the wingchair of his bedroom and he would take out his pocket knife and scratch up the soles a bit, making it harder for us to slip and go down in all our ruffled finery.

I’ll admit I miss those days, living as we do in an era air when people saunter onto airplanes wearing their pajama bottoms and clutching their bed pillows. I miss the days when we sat up straight while traveling on public conveyances. I miss the time when gloves covered the hands of many ladies, sometimes even the hands of the flight attendant. I know I wore white gloves to a job interview at age 19, just because it was spring and the dress I wore seemed to cry out for those them.

Now of course all has changed and women rarely even wear dresses – well, besides the poor young meteorologists who are made to stand in profile in skin-tight sheaths against the weather systems they’re gesturing at on the swirling screens behind them.

For the last 30 I’ve been walking around in workout wear much of the time. Get up, pull on the gym clothes and get at that workout: that was the idea. Nike built a whole logo around it.

But then, just today on Facebook, I saw a picture of a high school friend’s wife. She is slim. She is attractive. But when I clicked on the photo to make it bigger and saw the look of those under-carriage-clinging yoga pants I had my own Road to Damascus moment. I came to realize something and that something is this: The only person who go every got away with wearing such tight pants was Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie in the old Dick Van Dyke show.

Something for me to keep in mind as I sally forth in the months and years ahead.

So yesterday was Easter and for Easter I wore a crisp silk shirt, a long swingy skirt, a favorite pair of outback-looking boots and a kind of Indiana Jones fedora. I felt pretty good setting our for our relatives’ house. I felt I had risen to the occasion.

Of course it was hot yesterday.

Way hot. So hot the cheeses all puddled – AND we were out in the bright hot sun for most of the day.

Almost immediately, I tossed the hat under a table lost the boots 30 minutes later and 30 minutes after that slithered out of the pantyhose by ducking behind a tree and working fast. THEN I could really enjoy the day!

Let’s watch these two stars showing off their finery while singing that old chestnut of a song. ‘He’, Fred,  has always been an icon of male elegance and I think we can all agree that ‘her’ hat is fabulous. It’s true that when I first saw her arms I thought I’d wandered into a commercial for eczema cream, or maybe a relief-from-psoriasis one, but no. That’s no skin affliction but a pair of long pink gloves.  My expectations are that altered in the distinctly less formal world we inhabit these days. Over to you now, Judy and Fred!

Bathing Suit Hell

fullsizeoutput_4001When the latest spring swimwear catalogue dropped through my letter slot last week I thought Wo, here’s one expressly made for me! It even said so, right there in black and white! It took me a whole minute to realize they  were talking about plain old terryCLOTH and not cloth made for me, the former Terry Sheehy now living under witness protection as Terry Marotta.

All my life it’s been painful to shop for swimwear even when I was a little kid going to summer camp and one of the suggested items for every camper’s trunk was a forest green get-up seemingly made of wool. Anyway it was this heavy furry stuff, done over in a kind of waffle weave that caused even the slenderest camper to look like she’d been rolled in a thick layer of batter.

God had the taken the trouble to roll me in my own personal coating of batter so you can imagine how I looked in it. However my sister and I were told we had to have it because our mother and aunt as the owners/directors of Old Camp Fernwood felt we should set an example. I hated that suit and was so glad when I could pull on the simple cotton one with the ruffles. I wanted badly to look like those glamorous older campers striding long-leggedly toward the lake for a swim.

Friendships 13

Instead I looked like this – and if I tell you that for all my life I’ve had wild curly hair, you’ll pick me out at once in this little lineup:

Olymp off to the lake

But all that was in the past. The task I now face is to find a couple of suits for the present.

Some suits today have weirdly longish skirts. These I am unable to wear as I can’t help but think of them as Eleanor Roosevelt Goes to the Beach.swimdress

Some are tankinis, which means they have two pieces, a very nice feature that eliminates the need to peel off the whole tight cocoon of a thing every time you have to go to the bathroom.

tankini

I tried one tankini with a spilt top two summers ago and looked like Who Pitched a Pup Tent on Top of THESE Two Solid Columns?

Then last year I went with the full sun-repelling line of swimwear, consisting of a skin-tight zip up ‘jacket’ tight and bermuda-length ‘shorts’ but that was wrong too: too darn hot for summer wear and talk about Sausage Party!

sausage partyAccordingly last Thursday I ordered this bathing suit and it just came and it is perfect in that it covers my sun-damaged chest, spares the world yet another cleavage shot and lets me to dart free as a minnow through whatever waters present themselves.

saved by the mesh

Now I just need a sarong to cover my thighs and a lightweight ‘shrug’ to cover the ruin of my upper arms and I will be SET!

What’s HAPPENED to Hotel Rooms?

room service

I’m thinking today about the hotel room I stayed in last week. Looks like the days of sending down for ice and whole bottles of Scotch are OVER, whatever those novels by Ernest Hemingway had you picturing.

On first arriving at that Florida hotel, I felt pretty pleased, if just by the promise of free breakfasts that would turn out to include scrambled eggs and hash browns, waffles and bagels, toast selections galore and many countless combination of sugar, cinnamon and chocolate. “This place really WILL be cushy!” I thought to myself  – right up until I opened the door to my room and was instantly ushered into a state of mystification.  Had an occupying army come through and decided to detain their captives here? The last time I stayed at this place, the floor of my room was covered in soft carpeting, and delicate, cone-shaped fixtures above bed, desk and closet sent warm soothing pools of light down over all. Plus there were enough bureau drawers to billet ten separate mama cats giving birth to ten kittens each.

But what did I see now? Under my feet a prison-worthy stretch of concrete that stretched from the door to the where the bed began, then gave way to the kind of thin, tough industrial carpeting you could take a blowtorch to without doing any damage.

There were no bureau drawers whatsoever, though I did finally find four small wire baskets behind a cabinet door. AND to top things off, fluorescent lights and only  fluorescent lights casting the same sickly greenish hue you see in cop shows featuring interrogation sessions.

interrogation room

Thus over the last few days I’ve been blaming this hotel chain for what I regarded as a real betrayal. But it came to me just this morning that hey, the room I took in New York back in December cost three times more than this one,  AND was three times more bleak.

This was the view out my window at the Wythe Hotel ….You’re supposed to think it’s cool.

IMG_2886

And this was the bed, which to me looks an awful lot like what the Pilgrims slept on in the 1620s.

IMG_2887

Note too the rickety piece of junkyard crap that served as a bedside table. And… see that window to the right? Maybe that doubles as a two-way mirror for the interrogators.  Because, come on, what hotel designers would come up with a room that allowed any and all other guests present to watch you when you shower? A big picture window, looking in on the bathroom? Really?

There was no carpeting anywhere in this place, but rather wall-to-wall concrete. And… there wasn’t a bureau drawer in sight.

The hotel said they would bring up a pastry and a tiny pot coffee for a mere eight dollars, but my family and I, with a four-and-a-half hour drive ahead of us, told our host in this fair city that yes, we’d love to take him up in his offer to meet us downstairs on our final morning for the hotel brunch.

Only he didn’t actually come to the brunch, which turned out to cost us three hundred and thirty dollars. THREE HUNDRED AND THIRTY DOLLARS and we’d even said no to the mimosas!

But maybe travel was has always been a challenge when it comes to accommodations. Remember the two crafty innkeepers in Les Miserables? Then OR now, I guess it’s always been about that old bottom line.

 

Unblocking the Block

writers-blockI haven’t posted a scrap of writing here in almost a month. Quite a falling-off since the time I used to post daily, even IF some of the posts were musings about deodorant ads, or the Expire-By sign on a Tylenol bottle found in the back of my medicine cabinet (1989!), or the sight of lashed-together porta-potties sailing gaily down the highway on a flatbed truck.

I can’t account for this silence without boring everyone to death so I’m just going to begin again here, and by way of breaking this quiet streak, resolve to start each post with a “Today I…” and see how that goes. But as one famous scribbler once famously said, nothing interesting happens to most writers after childhood – bad news for us all – and since I am today paddling quietly through the waters of a lazy weekend, I’ll go back a few days in search of something.

So: Last Monday I could have (and should have) written this:

Today at the airport, a pig appeared at Security, inching along in line just like the rest of us. Though the pig was following all the rules and was connected by a conventional leash to a conventional-looking young woman, its porcine qualities uh, shall we say…stood out. It had a long skinny tail that it was wagging, a sleek body ending in a head on the scale of  Winston Churchill’s head if you think in terms of us humans….

pig10-2a

…And it was walking on tiptoes, as pigs do, given the anatomy of their feet. Of course it also had that one-of-a-kind piggy nose, a delicate flower of an organ that seemed to tremble minutely in reaction to the foreign smells surrounding it.

People were staring at this pig in utter astonishment, remarking to one another and pulling out their phones to capture a picture. It was as if Noah’s arkful of specimens had never settled crookedly on the peak of Mt. Ararat at all.

It’s true that a TSA person immediately hustled into the line and ushered the pair away but then didn’t both pig and person appear again? Yes they did: on the safe side of Security where I found myself sitting beside them as I pulled on my boots and the young woman pulled on her shoes. Since her pig  was already wearing the ‘toe shoes’ Nature gave it – the young woman and I had the chance for a few words.

“Is the little guy anxious?” I asked, noting the foam gathered around its mouth.

“Oh God no,” the young woman replied, adding almost wearily, “We do this all the time.”

And with that the two trotted off, leaving me to marvel yet again on the sometimes-damnable quiet of my own usual days. But silent no more I here vow! Henceforth I’m going to by-God look for fit musings whether about adventures large or small, and come back to report about them here.

shopping

 

 

 

 

 

And I’ll Take it

nanny & terry in '51-tmarotta@comcast.net,LakeWhen I was this little kid and my mom was teaching me the Lord’s Prayer I found one part to be a little ‘off.’

“Give us this day our daily bread”  sounded to me far too bossy a thing to being saying to God. And so I would stop just after that part and add, “and we’ll take it.” I didn’t want God to feel that He was just blindly giving stuff into the void. I wanted him to know I would be there, all set to receive this food and chow down on it.

I was three when I had those thoughts, and on this, the day I turn 68, I find that with each passing year I more vividly remember the child I was then: in this autumn picture above; and in my little sunsuit playing in the grass one early June morning;

Nan & Terry in Hinsdale

I was simple back then. I remember being  simple. I also remember loving absolutely everyone, from my stuffed dog Pinky, to my mom and grandfather, from hero of a big sister to the aunts and the uncles and the cousins. I prayed for them all when I knelt down by the bed each night to say my “God blesses,” as my big sister and I called them.

Today, I see how much I changed as the years passed. For almost a decade, from the age of about 12 to the age of 21, I thought that knowing things was the big goal, because if you knew things you could maybe succeed in life, and also nobody could make you feel dumb at a party. I could habe gone down that road forever had I not found myself, September of my 22nd year, standing before a class of high school kids as their teacher.

The kids were so lively and comical – but inquisitive and serious too. Plus they had such wonderful questions: about God and sex; about an adult world that seemed to them founded entirely on principles of hypocrisy; about the key question of how much a person should or could do for others without spending down his or her own stores. (There’s a question I still struggle with!)

So yes, I changed a lot in those teaching years and then changed even more when my husband and I had a couple of children. My happiness was simply tied to theirs…

the calm before the boy child

…and that was even before that third child arrived. Before the pets arrived. Before our old folks began needing us more and more. And well, after a while, I came to see that life wasn’t about knowing a lot of stuff at all.

So here I am all these years later, just happy to be going for another spin around that old sun. This wonderful Jesse Winchester tune sung by Jimmy Buffet pretty much sums it up for me here.

Posted in Uncategorized

Forget Perfection

ready for the living rm fun OCSAPeople judge you. There’s no avoiding it.

Example: Fella comes to my house one day, wants to clean a rug that lies on the floor of a room where a zillion dust motes dance in the golden bars of daylong sunlight. But the minute he walks in, his face goes pale. “What have you done here?” he shouts. “Your rugs are all faded!”

I look and he is right: The rug he has come to carry off for cleaning used to be red, tan and navy when we bought it. Now it’s rust, cream and baby blue. “This rug is losing RADIANCE!” he shouts again.

“Hey I’m losing radiance myself,” I say. “It’s OK, it doesn’t hurt.”

“Here’s what you have to do,” he goes on, ignoring me. “Pull down the shades. Draw the drapes.” He bustles around doing this until the room that has dazzled with sunlight a moment before looks ready now for a séance.

“But we love the sun,” I tell him,  feebly adding, “We sit in this window seat here, and…” “Then AT LEAST take a sheet and cover the area of greatest exposure!” he snaps. “You owe it to your carpets!” he adds, scooping up the carpet in question and hurrying out the door.

Since that day I have thought a lot about what this man said. I was sorry to have let him down, but I just can’t run a house his way, keeping the rugs bright by locking the sunlight out. Keeping things perfect under plastic. Pleasant under glass.

I used to visit houses like that when I was little, the kind that made you feel as though silken cords were stretched across the chair arms, and velvet ropes were hung across the doorways. I vowed even then that if I ever did have a house of my own, I would never run it that way.

And I don’t. We LIVE in our house. We live all over those 19th century sofas in the living room, which are only done in velvet because velvet is the toughest fabric there is – well, next to maybe Naugahyde. And I’m proud of that fact.

But now hasn’t the upholstery man just gotten after me too: He came here once for a Victorian sofa that I’d reupholstered myself a decade ago that ended up looking like a lumpy pink bed with a person sewn inside it. He took that old thing out and turned it into a pale blue dream of perfection.

Then this past month, a small visitor set her little bones upon a sofa even older than the Victorian one and blam! one leg — ball, claw and all — shot straight out from under it. The upholsterer was here to perform diagnostics on the break, but his gaze fell first upon the toddler who was clumping quietly around in his little white shoes.

“You let your CHILDREN in this room?” he squeaked, his voice ascending the scale of disbelief.

“Sure,” I answered, as the child in question smiled sweetly and drooled a little onto the velvet.

“On THIS couch!?” He squeaked. “MY couch?!”

“It’s going to lose radiance!” I could all but hear him say next.

He didn’t say that though. Instead he picked up this most recent casualty and started for the door. “Well it’s your house,” he sniffed, washing his hands of us all.

“You bet!” I told him, smiling big. Because really, it’s fine by me if our stuff is too worn out to pass down to our kids one day. What I’d much rather pass down to them is permission to enjoy the beauty of their surroundings; permission to fade, as we all must fade, gloriously, in the sun.

me working