That’s MISTER Jackass to You

fullsizeoutput_446cHeard onboard ship as four individuals find themselves lingering for a moment in a stateroom corridor:

Passenger One, pleasantly, after introductions: So what is your husband’s name?

Passenger Two: Jackass.

Passenger One, not having heard quite right:  I’m sorry? You say your husband isn’t traveling with you?

Passenger Two:  Nah Jackass left me years ago for his secretary.

Merry laughter all around.

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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!

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

 

 

Got Stuck There for a While

fish-in-a-bowlPersonally, I’m thrilled to have a brand-new aquarium of a year to swim around in. I feel as though for the last two or three months I was moving my little fins through mud instead of water. Put another way, I couldn’t move forward. I mean, I had 95% of my Christmas cards done on December 8th but I simply could NOT finish the rest. I called my husband at work: “I’m going to just throw them all under a bridge somewhere, like that mailman in New York turned out to be doing for months and months.”

He laughed, but I wasn’t joking. I truly I was stuck, the same way I used to get stuck as a kid in various turnstiles and revolving doors, what with my violin case and that bulging book bag over one shoulder. Time simply stopped for me around the first week in November.

Example: I had put a pumpkin on my porch some weeks before Halloween, along with one of those purple kale plants and a pretty sheaf of wheat like they talk about in the Bible when the speaker in The Song of Solomon tells his lady friend that her belly is like a sheaf of wheat.

Well, the kale died the death of most extravagantly colored plants and the stalks became dental floss for the squirrels, but that pretty pale-peach pumpkin I simply could NOT throw on the compost pile, even when neighbors up and down the street were decorating for Christmas.

Instead I set it on the stone wall out back, where still it sits.

img_2871

Even now. Even with that stubborn snowbank sullenly hanging around the edge of my driveway like a schoolyard bully making a silent point about who’s really going to win this battle we’re now joining.

Winter will win it of course, just like the House always wins at the casino. A few more days and we’ll be shin-deep in snow again and quaking like the leaves on an aspen tree. And I know, I know: It’s not as if this is the Yukon, where hardy men send straight strong streams of pee into the frigid air which then freeze into stout shafts for use in their damaged dog sleds. It’s not as if this is even Minnesota, where people’s eyelashes get cemented together while they’re trying to crack open the diamond-hard shell of ice encasing their cars.

Still, it’s winter and winter is cold. And we mind the cold, hothouse tomatoes that we are.

Yet already the days are growing longer and in just eight weeks that old Uniform Time Act will have us all reading the paper in the park until almost 7:00 at night. Until almost 9:00 by the end of June.

Then what? Then the days will start getting short again alas, because Time is a big old ferris wheel that never does stop moving, except ever-so-briefly, to let new little folks on and the rest of us less-than-new folks off, each in our turn.

So what is the universe trying to tell us? Maybe to love the pumpkin for all its beauty and then to let the pumpkin go. Maybe to love what is given today.

It might also be hinting that no matter what bleak, stuck place I find myself in, I should really never throw 200 handwritten, sealed and stamped Christmas cards under a bridge, because does it really matter if they arrive a little late?

Let’s hope not! You guys should be getting mine any day now. 🙂

the cards go out at lastat the post office

Easy Street

a turkey knows when it's done

I was pretty spoiled as a kid. Raised by a mother-and-aunt combo, I never had to do a lick of kitchen duty. Instead of enlisting my help, this  were forever shooing me away so I could rest up for the night’s homework.

Man, was that a sweet deal.

The amazing thing is, they  didn’t even seem to mind all the holiday cooking they had to. Rather they seemed to actually enjoy the job, perhaps  because of the amazing tales it yielded up over the years – like the one about the Thanksgiving Eve deep in the Depression years, when their lawyer-father came home with a peculiar kind of payment for handling somebody’s case:

A turkey, slackly wet and freshly slaughtered. “Here you go, girls!” he cried happily, slinging it down on the kitchen table and walking away fast to take up his pipe-smoking ritual in the deep peace of the cozy front parlor.

As the story goes, the bird had been butchered, sure, but not completely plucked, alas and alack. Decades had passed by the time my sister and I first heard the tale of this night and our grownups’ frantic city-slicker efforts at getting those feathers off . There was the tweezing attempt, the singeing-over-an-open-flame attempt  and more. We never forgot the gory facts, and them every November from then on begged for more details about out how they finally got the job done. (“Six words,” my mother finally said in a show of merry candor: “A good big bottle of Scotch.”)

So for years Thanksgiving meant pure ease for me, right on through the first chapters of married life when my young groom and I would nervily show up at each of our childhood homes in turn, to gorge ourselves and stretch out like fat lounging hippos in the living rooms afterward. We didn’t cook a thing.

THAT sweet deal came to an end about five years in to our marriage, when seeing us off, my tiny mother-in-law sidled in close and gave it to me straight: “Next year? Your turn.”

From then on, I TRIED with the turkey every year, I really did, but so much went wrong: There was the one I roasted with the giblet-mess still inside, smelly and dark in its butcher-paper wrapping; the one I cooked upside down for added moistness which, when I went to remove it five hours later, disintegrated like papier-mâché and came to the table looking like a fourth-grader’s failed art project; and let’s not forget the one rendered SO moist at cooking’s end that it shot straight out of the oven and slid into home plate on the kitchen  floor.

Those were some hair-raising meals all right. Luckily there were only about 30 years of them.

Now, with this reputation going before me – AND a daughter who wedged culinary school training in between college and grad school – I am back on Easy Street, with Thanksgiving at her house and the lightest of assignments for me: The salad, and come on, who eats salad on this High Feast Fats and Flour?

Finally, a picture of me back on Thanksgiving back in the early golden years at my mom-in-law’s house, she bustling busily around the kitchen amid her pretty-spoiled sons and me, her brand-new not-quite-getting-it daughter-in law, perched on a stool and sampling some grapefruit.

Thanksgiving Day with the fam

 

 

Let’s Get Scary

scary-guy-with-abe

Sometimes, come Halloween, I ask myself: Who would I dress up as if right now today they announced an actual Halloween for grownups?

Back in the old days, little girls went out dressed as princesses or kitty-cats on Halloween; as witches or ghosts, if they could stretch far enough toward the dark side.

Little boys seemed to resist the whole dress-up thing somehow, maybe because they got stuffed into jackets and ties a lot more back then. Maybe it felt to them like yet another conspiracy on the part of the females in their lives to deck them out like fools – then go taking their pictures even. So I guess they went out dressed as hobos, most of them, borrowing outsized cast-offs from a handy male grownup, smearing their faces with charcoal.

My sister Nan and I went out as hobos ourselves, come to think of it. Nan set the whole tone for my whole childhood, with her nose for the slightly ‘transgressive’ as the saying goes. For one particularly instructive period during a certain autumn, a dead cat came to our attention in an alley we then began visiting the way pilgrims visit a shrine. “A corpse!” we exulted on first discovering it, giddy with that blended jolt of joy and revulsion. We’d have gone out that Halloween CARRYING the dead cat if we’d dared to. If we hadn’t by then taken the common childhood pledge to shelter our grownups, innocents that they were, from life’s spicier side.

Today of course males of every age are far more “plumed” than they once were, and less fixed on the need to seem macho too. It’s my sense that these days little boys’ costumes are as elaborate as little girls.  This year they will once again going out dressed to the nines, in masks portraying horror-movie villains: Jason. Chucky and the rest. Every now and then you sometimes even see old Tricky-Dick Nixon, who still enjoys a strange afterlife in the Rogue’s Gallery of your standard costume shop.

And the point will be what it’s always been: To startle. To counter expectation.

We had a good friend back in the 80’s. Didn’t smoke. Didn’t drink. Took old bikes from the dump, fixed them up good as new and gave them to kids who didn’t have bikes. On the Halloween immediately following one lunatic’s murder of several people by slipping poison into random Tylenol bottles, our friend took his kids around for Trick or Treat, himself dressed as a giant Tylenol capsule – and was actually surprised when another dad offered to punch his lights out. THAT escapade countered all our expectations.

By partying indoors on Halloween, you can cut down on offers of violence (depending on who you friends are of course) and have fun too – by seeing the dedicated beer guzzler come dressed as a Mormon elder, say, or the biggest Don Juan in the group come decked out as the Pope.

I don’t go in for much in the way of girlie stuff as a kid; never even wore makeup til I got to be 50. But one year at an adult Halloween party I dressed as Early Cher, in heavy mascara and spangly bathing suit top and hip huggers, and of course a giant wig exploding in cascades of inky curls.

I looked ridiculous. It was awesome. And my mate, Sonny to my Cher, looked even better, in the 70’s-era peasant shirt our kids found for him, and some baggy bohemian pants and a Prince Valiant wig.

Of course with his wire-rimmed glasses, he looked more like early John Denver, or actually with the wig more like Moe of the Three Stooges than either of those two, but still – he SEEMED like Sonny Bono.

That’s the fun of Halloween: getting to seem like someone else for the night.

So whatever you might be up to tonight, just be careful, like my old cat Abe here. ‘Cause you just never do know who you’re going to meet.