Let’s Never Get Dressed

Sometimes when a person fails to get dressed it’s because they’re having too much fun.

Sometimes it’s because they’re not having enough.

And SOMETIMES it’s because they got too big and the clothes don’t fit ha ha.

When I fail to get dressed it’s because who gets dressed before the bath or shower? Plus both bath AND shower take so long and wreck your hair to boot, if the bath is really hot the way it needs to be.  After either one this is how my hair looks: like the hair of this chick above. That’s Alice in Wonderland’s hair in the original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. All bumpy with raggedy frizz in other words.

My hair used to look like this: like the hair of a little clown-in-training. This is me at age five:

Showers will do this to your hair if it’s curly to begin with. Plus it’s so much work to police the whole body, scrub brush in hand. I mean I look down at my feet and they’re so  far away, you know? Alice noticed this too when she was down in the rabbit hole and had drunk the magic elixir that made her so Jefferson Airplane-style huge. Her feet seemed to her so far away she said she thought she’d have to mail them their Christmas presents each year.

Yep all this care of the body is time-taking all right. Yet what feels nicer than the hot shower? What feels nicer than the scalding bath when you turn lobster-red and you get so tenderized you don’t even HAVE to shave your legs? Those tiny hairs just kind of levitate right up off your skin.

I bathe or shower every day of course I do, but then there’s all that moisturizing. One cream for the face, another for the legs and arms, a third for the soles of the feet so they don’t start feeling like owls’ talons… It’s work, like I say.

That’s why I barely got dressed on the other day. It’s why I barely got dressed that day last week . The rain really pelted down that day and really my work was right here in the house. Who needed clothes? I wrote all day long; I just never got dressed. Which was embarrassing when the doorbell rang at 2:00. I peeked out the window of my study here to see who it was: the florist. I quick grabbed a couple of bucks and hurried down to tip the man who was delivered this amazing gorgeous orchid plant coming as it did from a loving neighbor.

“Sorry I’m not dressed,” I said to the guy. “We had this death …”

It didn’t count as news to him, meaning HE  didn’t care about me and my recent death. He just gave me the old FTD smile.

It counted as news to me however. I knew down deep that I was having trouble getting dressed because I am sad. Because my close friend and constant companion rose from his nap on April 4th and met death four hours later, he was felled as if by an axe in his bathroom and I just miss him so much.

Apologies for the shift in tone here. I’m Irish, and that’s how the Irish are. One minute we’re laughing our heads off at the kitchen table and the next we’re all sobbing into the dishtowels.

But that’s not the lesson for the day if there even is such a thing here at Exit Only whose title means that you can get off this old highway, sure you can, but once you do you can’t get back on again.  The lesson is, Dress or don’t dress but whatever happens let your life brush up against another human life. Doing it helps you blurt your truth, which might remain hidden even to you otherwise.

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A Less Than Joyful Noise? Complicated Feelings at Christmas

The boy is standing halfway up my front hall stairs. He is a little boy and his speech is still imperfect.  The “s’s” at the beginning of his words come out sounding like “t’s” but I can understand him – most of the time. Right now he has paused on the way up my hall stairs to ask me something.

“What are you going to get me for Christmas, TT?” (He calls me TT.)

“Oh!  Well I’ve already gotten it!”

“What is it?’ he asks, twisting his hands together in front of him.

“Ah now I can’t tell you that, can I?”

“You CAN tell me!” he cries with a sudden anguish. “TT, you can!”

Stalling for time, I then do what grownups so often do: I fib.

“Um, let’s see if I can remember. Oh I know! I got you every single thing on Santa’s sleigh!”

“No, you didn’t!” he nearly sobs, even as I am asking myself what on earth I think I’m doing, teasing a four-year-old.

“I’m only fooling,” I quickly say. “What kind of thing would THAT be, putting Santa out of a job?”

“So, what DID you get me?”

“A jar of pickles.” (Gad, I’ve done it again!)

“Not really!” he cries, his expression turning desperate.

“No, not really. I’m sorry honey. Do you really want to know what I got you?”

He sits down on the fourth step like a man exhausted by life.

“Shall I tell you in your ear so it’s a secret?”

He nods.

“It’s a bank that counts your money as you put it in,” I whisper.

At this he turns from me, closes his eyes and leans his little forehead against the wall, a bit of body language that comes through loud and clear.

“You don’t want a bank that counts your money as you put it in?”

He shakes his head no as the tears begin to brim.

“Then I’ll give it to your brother, why don’t I? He loves banks, come to think of it! And you love stuffed animals, isn’t that right? Should I be thinking about a stuffed animal for you?”

He nods his head. Of course! How many times have I seen him arranging the occupants of that toy doll carriage!

“And what would be the best stuffed animal, do you think?”

He tries for a brave smile but he can’t seem to speak.

“Do you have a favorite animal?”

He nods.

“What kind then?”

“A raccoon,” he says in a very small voice.

“A raccoon is it?” I repeat after him.

“Yes!” he now full-out sobs.

He falls into my outstretched arms and there we stand, two people balancing on sharp point between laughter and tears, two people caught on that sharp point (a) because these long weeks of ad-fed hankering stand in opposition to every stated spiritual impulse of the season, and (b) because, thank God, they are

Finally…

Almost …

BEHIND US!

Vacationing in My Ride

So I guess what I was saying is that first book o’ mine  was basically about those awkward moments like  like the parish priest shows up at your door and your dog comes downstairs with half a box of tampons in his mouth.

Or when your children’s poor daddy, as sleep-deprived as you are with your two little girls under four, opens his briefcase at the big presentation to find the frilly underpants of Baby Crawl Away tucked carefully into one corner.

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That’s I Thought He Was a Speed Bump, the book I was waxing nostalgic about yesterday. I wrote it when I was young and almost everything in life struck me funny, aside from the sudden death of my only parent, which threw me for a loop that looped for four long years.

With the passage of time however, I began to see how death fits into the larger scheme. That’s when I wrote this book whose cover you see here.

I had two themes in mind for it: that everything returns if you wait long enough – like spring for example – and that you can find a wonderful kind of calm in this crazy modern life if you can just manage sit there for a minute when you pull up outside your house – just sit there and let the inner waters clear for a bit instead of rushing inside and bossing everyone around, including yourself (‘Start the dinner!’ ‘Fold those clothes!’ Why do we shout these things to ourselves all the time?)

I love a double theme, in this case the theme of the seasons AND the theme of learning to chill out more, and come to think of it so does my littlest grandson who can’t resist being two things on Halloween. (This year he was a Power Ranger AND a Vampire.) But they say what you need to sell a book or movie is “high concept,” the ability to sum it up in a sentence and that’s where I might have gone a little wrong with my two themes. It did OK though; I got it into all these Barnes & Noble stores and then drove all over the map giving funny talks about it.

Then of course it all slowed down and the books gradually came back to me.

This happened right after I had gone to a second printing so I still have almost 3,000 mint copies which is why I’m offering them here.

As I say, this book is funny like Speed Bump AND has some death in it but what doesn’t, right?

YOU can have a copy for just $10 bucks too if you like.

One of my favorite chapters is this one about letters to Santa, taken right from the pages of an actual newspaper. (You’ll have to click on this first image to see it in a readable size..)



and the last page of the chapter:

This story makes me laugh even today . Kids huh?