Archive for April, 2012

Explaining Easter

April 30, 2012

It wasn’t until we moved to California that my mom introduced religion into Easter.

For me it’s all about the Reese’s peanut butter eggs.

Everything I know about the Bible I got from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Monty Python.

So our first Easter here, my daughter, by then 3, was confused. She entreated her brother for clarification on the way home from their first Easter church service.

“It’s all about ta-da,” he said authoritatively. “See, Jesus died and they put the body in a cave blocked closed with a boulder.

“When they moved the boulder, they saw an empty cave.

“But they turned around and Jesus was behind them going, ‘Ta-da!’ ”

I had no idea Jesus had so much pizzazz.

My son’s second surgery

April 28, 2012

Today my husband had surgery to repair a muscle he ripped from a bone. Snowboarding is fun.

This surgery kicked his ass. The surgeon told me he would be in the recovery room an hour. It was three. It would have been longer, but they were closing.

Now my living room is a recovery zone. My aunt is going to lend me her nurse’s cape. It’s hard to give stool softeners without a cape. No one takes you seriously.

Anyway this calls to mind my son’s second surgery, which I had meant to tell you about way back when I told you about his tumors.

He had a terrible experience with the biopsy surgery. There was pain, vomiting and swelling. He hated the ICU. He didn’t think it was funny that I said the ICU was so named because of the gowns they make you wear.

So a year later he gave me a big No Way to a surgery to take the tumors out. He was 7.

I used all the tricks in my mama bag. We planned to go the Santa Monica Pier the day before. We made a list of the things he feared and worked to eliminate them.

The anesthesiologist said he could prevent nausea. The surgeon arranged a private room.

The nurses promised Tigger could go in with him. Being sealed in sterile plastic bags is what Tiggers love best.

No deal.

Then a month before the surgery, while he was at school, a producer from The Discovery Channel called me. She had wanted to film the surgery for a special on the surgeon, but when the surgeon described my son and his case to her, she got the green light to do a whole special on my son.

I interrupted his first-grade class to tell him about it. Sold. A producer bag has better tricks in it.

My son was brave and calm. Everyone made good on promises, and we didn’t have any of the problems he feared. Though he did add catheters and incision drains to his list.

Three months later my family went to the producer’s house for a preview screening. It was mostly interviews, but the middle segment was surgery footage.

It didn’t occur to me to be nervous about watching it.

But then, one side at a time, the surgeon peeled my son’s face back. One glance of this, and I turned toward the back of the room.

Then my husband said, ‘Honey, look!’ The surgeon slid the tumor off his pie server onto a ruler for the camera. It looked like a boneless, skinless chicken breast from the grocery store. The two he removed weighed a pound.

After the screening the producer told us it made her crazy to witness the operation.

The surgeon was  explaining what he was doing during the procedure. He kept looking at her while he was talking, but his hands kept operating. She wanted to shout, ‘Watch what you’re doing!’ She said it was like when her husband is driving and he looks at her instead of the road.

Finally he looked down, just as a bunch of gooey bloody stuff splattered up on his glasses. His assistant eased them off to clean them, and the surgeon kept working.

Now I have a list of my own.

Cooking for others

April 26, 2012

When I was subbing, many of the children admitted they came to school without breakfast, and some had no lunches. So I baked for them. I would make muffins for the periods before lunch, and cookies for the children after lunch.

The kitchen would be full of food, the day before a sub job, but then my kids would come home.

They attacked the food, and I let them.

Here’s why.

Once I was making cookies for an event in Boulder. I was on the phone with my mother at the time.

I complained to her that the uncles were eating all the cookies. She said, “Let your loved ones have their fill, and give the rest of the world what’s left.”

That made so much sense. Now I live by that.

Some 10 years later, after we had moved back to California, I was helping her in her kitchen. She was catering an art show opening.

My dad walked in and grabbed a red bell pepper stick, and my mom scolded him.

I said, “Mah-uh-um! You gotta let the loved ones get their fill! Don’t you remember? I got it from you.”

She said, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. Never do that.”

This time I ignored her.

I worked in a bar

April 24, 2012

I was recently found online by Kevin, one of my greatest friends from Boulder.

He was a stay-up-all-night-working-a-crossword kind of friend. We went out for ice cream and to the movies. His computer was cooler than mine, so I did all my essays at his house.

I could tell a million stories of his being there when I needed him.

In college I worked at The Sink, a low-ceilinged, windowless, university hangout that was mainly a bar. Either Kevin worked as a bouncer there, or he was so close with all the employees that he was just always there, and always large and useful.

On weekend nights and whenever the Buffs trounced the Sooners, everyone who could fit in that building squeezed in, fire safety be damned.

One Friday on cheap-pitcher night, a fraternity kid was getting creepy with me.

These nights were difficult for us waitresses. We had to press through the crowd all the way from against the bar to wherever the orderer was standing. I did this with a small round tray on one flattened palm, balanced with my other hand, both arms high above my head.

Each tray held a full pitcher and empty pint glasses.

On this Friday night, as I went through the gaping jamb separating the bar area from the one of the squat rooms, the creepy customer put his hands under my armpits, lifted me against the soda station and put his mouth on mine.

Kevin heard the crash of my cargo and got there quickly, I can’t imagine how.

It all happened very fast. In the end, Brother Creepy had a broken nose. He was taken by ambulance, but I don’t think he needed to be.

Kevin let me lean on him, sticky and dripping with beer.

I don’t know who threw the punch. I hope it was me.

The eulogy story

April 23, 2012

Today would have been my Auntie Martha’s birthday. She was one of my grama’s many sisters.

When I was little she took care of me after school. She and her husband had raised five children and were the heart of the home for their grand- and great-grandchildren too.

When Martha was at the end, everyone went to the hospital. I was wearing mules — a hybrid between those things the dutch wear and boots. My daughter calls them ‘shoots.’ There is no back strap over the heel. As I stepped onto a grassy island in the parking lot, my heel came off the shoot sideways. Down I went, and I couldn’t get up.

My whole family was a few yards away, and all of them with their phones off — hospital rules. I sat there for 45 minutes. I was afraid I would miss my chance to say goodbye.

As it turns out, I had three more days.

Even though she died in her 90s, her babies and their babies were devastated by it. Consequently, her daughter asked me to write a speech for the service.

I had a lot to write, about the nurturing I felt in that home. Among the things they taught me was how to play poker. We gathered around the kitchen table one night with plastic chips after dinner when I was 12 and I got hooked.

On the day of the service I limped to the altar of the church.

In the middle of my eulogy I mentioned the poker and had to lower my eyes a moment. The podium was empty, I noticed, but for four plastic poker chips tucked under the shelf.

Auntie Martha calls.

My most embarrassing moment

April 22, 2012

Today I was asking my students my questions, and one of them got, ‘What’s the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?’

He was rock climbing and his pants came down.

This reminded me of something that happened in college. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this story before.

Throughout my phonetics course I was working on a research project. We each had a date at the end of the semester for a presentation.

I had a rough go of it from start to finish, but finally finished.

The morning my presentation was scheduled, it snowed heavily. My bike ride to school was only about three long blocks downhill and across campus, but snow meant I had to leave early.

I put on a button-down sundress with a wool sweater, knit tights and UGG boots. Boulder has a different standard of style and formality.

When it was time to go, my 5-month-old son was still nursing. He was on the cusp of sleep and still gulping milk.

I waited as long as I could, but finally had to pluck him off, hand him wailing to the babysitter, tug down my sweater and go.

I pedaled hard and arrived in a sweat — half from the workout and half from nerves.

I ran in a little bit late. I assumed my name had been called, because people were looking around the auditorium in question.

Once I got to the front, I took a deep breath and peeled off my sweater. My dress was still unbuttoned and my nursing bra flap was hanging open.

I looked down at my exposed breast to see a swell of milk drip to my shoe.

My professor, a sweet little woman with graying curls, quickly stepped in front of me. With her back to the crowd she smiled and tried to offer comfort. She said, ‘It’s OK, we’ve all been there.’

That being the case, I guess this wasn’t a very interesting story.

My geometry teacher

April 21, 2012

My geometry teacher was good.

I learned and enjoyed the subject.

There was just one thing — he had body odor.

He was so odoriferous everyone speculated he had it on purpose or didn’t care.

By my second year as his student, in trigonometry, we had gotten used to it. Passing notes about it was still common, but not daily.

One rainy day during that second year everyone chose seats in the back of the room.

This was neither organized, nor for any evident reason.

When the teacher came in, he gave a dramatic visual sweep of us and acted offended.

“Why are you all sitting against the window? Do I have B.O. or something?”

We all had the same thought: Oh my God, he doesn’t know.

You never saw so many frozen smiles of fake nonchalance.

The horrible person

April 19, 2012

I’ve avoided talking about The Horrible Person. I will sound whiny and bitter. It’ll read ‘poor me.’

I don’t really know why I’m doing it, now. I just can’t stop myself, being the victim of such great trauma.

My Oldest Friend and I were actually part of a threesome. The house we stayed in from first through sixth grade came with a girl, two years older. (My Oldest Friend had a year on me. She was there also for kindergarten.)

The Horrible Person boosted herself by choosing one of us to be in the good with her, and teaming up against the other. This always involved cruelty.

For instance, once they locked me in the sunroom and made cookies. They waggled them in the window. They waited until they were sure I was watching to eat them.

When we were in our 30s My Oldest Friend called to tell me it was time to set aside my anger and call or write. The Horrible Person had fallen asleep driving. She was alive, but badly injured. She is permanently mangled. Fine.

There are three possibilities to my being the only one with hatred in my soul: My Oldest Friend is more mature and forgiving; I was on the wrong side of the trio more than she; or her memory sucks. It’s probably a dash of each.

I rue my extraordinary memory, as you know.

I’m thinking about this tonight, because we just got back from the theater. I was raised on Broadway musicals, and so were my children. Two weeks ago we went to see Avenue Q; last week we went to The Producers; tonight we went to Little Shop of Horrors; and next weekend we’re seeing both Once Upon a Mattress and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

When I was 9 the sensation was Annie. We all knew the soundtrack by the time it came to the Shubert in Los Angeles. The Horrible Person and My Oldest Friend went to see it together. They came back all smiles and tales of greatness.

Then my grandparents took me for my 10th birthday.

I was excited, and it was great. I couldn’t wait to go back and talk about it with the girls.

When I was on the porch the next Monday at 6 a.m., hand on the knob ready to enter, I heard The Horrible Person telling My Oldest Friend, “She’ll be all hyper about ‘Annie.’ Don’t talk about it with her. If she tries to talk about it, get up and leave the room.”

So I acted as if I hadn’t gone.

Just like tonight, I remember it fresh every time I see a show — just for a moment, when I want to share my excitement.

Now you can put away your violins. I’m done talking about her.

link to photos

More dinner talk

April 18, 2012

My son let his hair grow when he started high school.

One night my son was able to pull it back. He showed up to dinner in a ponytail.

I couldn’t get over how much he looked like my husband did when we married, and told him so.

“Daddy had long hair?”

“Longer than yours is now,” I told him.

“How long was it?”

I gave a glance to my man, who was nodding. I was going for it.

“All the way down to his bra strap.”

I’m with the band

April 16, 2012

I have an aunt and uncle who lived and raised three boys in Modesto. The youngest boy and some friends formed a band in my aunt’s garage.

The next thing we know we’re getting reports they’re touring, making albums, showing videos on MTV. David Bowie named them as his favorite artists. We heard them on the “I am Sam” soundtrack. Two of their songs were in car commercials.

I was a proud cousin. I got a button made that says, “I’m with the band.”

One year they played at the Troubador in Los Angeles right before Thanksgiving. Later that week my aunt and uncle, my parents, the band and their spouses joined us at my house for dinner.

My Oldest Friend and her husband were in town from the coast, having Thanksgiving with her parents. They were supposed to stop by to see us.

After dinner she called to apologize for running late, “My husband has just discovered this band called Grandaddy, and he’s downloading all their CDs off Napster. He’s almost done, and we’ll be over then.”

“Grandaddy’s here,” I said.

For the first and last time in our lives, I got to be the cool one.

I was hit by a train

April 15, 2012

We live a couple houses away from a family we’ve known since our boys were in kindergarten together.

That was the second year of my husband’s stint as stay-at-home dad. He and some moms formed a clique, which their husbands and I came into later. Fun fact: it turned out the mom of this story was my sister’s best friend from girlhood to maids of honor.

Our new house is down a short dirt path from them, and a few miles from the canyon. The canyon is where the train tracks are.

I bring this up, because I’ve been hearing the trains lately. I thought it was the overcast weather, carrying sound. We heard them during my Easter party, and the guests whipped their heads toward me to ask how that was.

Then yesterday I saw our friends’ boy driving his shiny new Jeep with lots of big horns on the top. He beeped them, and the mystery was solved. They’re train horns.

I used to have a terrible reaction to train horns, because when I was 8, I was hit by a train.

I remember only a little of it. It was a Friday night, and my dad and I went downtown to our favorite burrito window to get dinner.

I was allowed to get a bottle of orange soda. I couldn’t believe it.

We were in our brand-new wagon-style Datsun with a built-in eight-track player. It was the future, and we owned it. We had a Three Dog Night cartridge playing.

The errand took a long time, and on the way home I was having a fit. It was 8 p.m. We were going to miss The Donny and Marie Show.

Just as we got to the tracks the crossing guards went down. This was too much for me. We were blocks from home, and not only would I miss the opening song and dance, but I wouldn’t be there to hold my cassette recorder pressed to the TV speaker. (I still have those audio tapes. I still listen to them.)

We waited. Minutes went by, but no train did. While we sat there it turned from dusk to dark.

They were into the second sketch by then, I thought. The excitement of the orange soda was completely gone. Life was horrible.

Finally the crossing guards went up.

All of those memories are strong. After this it gets patchy.

I have a moment’s recollection of opening my eyes and seeing what looked like spiderwebs. The windshield had broken in just such a design. I asked what had happened, and my dad told me to sit back.

There was a blinding light coming through his window.

I regained consciousness for a glimpse of one of my nana’s sisters, Auntie Martha, coming into my hospital room.

My mom has filled in some of the blanks. The crossing guards had malfunctioned while train engines were being shuffled. It was not a full train going traveling speed, so much as the engine car being thrust across the street. It hit my dad’s side.

My dad showed up at the house more than an hour late, carrying an unconscious child across his arms. She saw him walking up the porch steps. He had bled on the white fur of my jacket hood, and she thought I was dead.

Except for completely missing that episode of Donny and Marie, I awoke no worse for the incident. My dad got away with facial stitches and a destroyed car. We had not been wearing seatbelts.

A week later my dad took me to the wrecking yard so I could retrieve the unharmed orange soda out of the Datsun. That was when I realized it was the windshield I had mistaken for spiderwebs. When we opened the car’s door, I caught that familiar odor of our favorite burritos — seven days in a hot car intensified it, but the scent was distinct.

Those became my triggers. Train horns and the smell of those particular burritos.

I’m over it by now. We eat at that burrito window every Wednesday night, and my friend’s silly horn makes me chuckle.

A week after the crash, during daylight, the crossing guards malfunctioned again in the same spot. Will you believe that train almost hit us again that afternoon?

After that, the tracks in this town went out of use. Now all trains must go through the canyon, where they are too far from my house to hear.

A misunderstanding

April 14, 2012

I always flew home for Christmas break during college.

One year an ex-boyfriend whom I had stayed friends with called my parents house to see if I was visiting. He was home from UC Berkeley for the holiday, only for him it was Hanukkah.

We went out to T.G.I.Fridays for dinner and drinks.

Our waiter was friendly. When he brought the food, he looked at me with fascination. “Are you Indian?”

I was enthusiastic and chatty, “Wow! I am. Though he was born here in town, my grampa’s ancestors were Tarahumara Indian. I like the idea of it, and identify myself that way some, but no one has ever just noticed it before,” and on and on.

I figured I was overly excited. He said “cool” and left like I scared him off.

That night when I brushed my teeth I saw why he had asked. I had a big pimple right in the middle of my forehead. I must have scratched it open in the evening. It was as red as paint.

He didn’t mean American Indian.

The dead squirrel story

April 13, 2012

It’s my mother-in-law’s birthday, so I share this.

We were out visiting her a couple of summers ago to help her move out of the home she raised her family in. My father-in-law had died, and it was too much house for one person.

My husband asked about saying goodbye to the next-door neighbors. He had known them for years, but hadn’t noticed them around during our visit.

“They’re upset with me,” my mother-in-law said.

She explained that shortly back she had found a dead squirrel near their porch. She happened to have a plastic bag in her pocket, and she scooped it up to throw it out, but didn’t get that far.

Something happened that demanded her immediate attention. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember that she hooked the bag on their doorknob meaning to get back to it.

As far as we can surmise, the neighbors came home to discover the dead squirrel and some evidence of who’d left it. They took it badly. You’d have thought she’d left a horse head in their bed.

They gave her some words there was no coming back from.

My husband asked why she didn’t explain.

“I thought about it,” she nodded seriously, “and then I thought, ‘to hell with it.’ “

The lemon-drop story

April 12, 2012

When I realized I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband was preparing for an exam, the final step in getting his master’s degree.

He had had a vasectomy six weeks before, but hadn’t gotten the go ahead from the doctor. That’ll teach him.

At best, I predicted, he would be too distracted to study. At best was bad. He had even sent me and our son to California during spring break so he could concentrate.

I didn’t want to think about at worst.

Uncle Jer, one of our friends who lived with us, knew. He caught me throwing up.

Uncle Tug lived with us too. One night he said, “I think I’m coming down with you’ve got. My stomach is a little upset.” I kept a straight face.

I was waiting until after my husband’s test to break the news. That meant keeping the secret for a month.

On Easter night we sat around the dining table playing M&M poker. Uncle Jer was making lemon drops.

He passed shots of vodka to whoever won a hand.

I was concerned. I had a full house.

Jer waited until my husband looked away. He gave me a trust-me smile as he pulled a different Absolut Citron bottle from under his seat.

I did shots of water and chased them with sugared lemon wedges.

And in my sobriety, I won all the M&Ms.

The story story

April 11, 2012

In my subbing, I’m using a lot of what I learned from my children’s best teachers. I volunteered in their classes every week, and knew which teachers were worth their stuff.

My kids’ first-grade teacher was that teacher they make movies about. Her demeanor was patient and maternal; her consequences were consistent; her lessons were creative. She was always on top of the latest findings in education. More than any teacher I’ve watched, she had a reason for the way she said or did everything.

And she sang and played guitar.

By the greatest stroke of luck, she was my son’s teacher when he went through his second surgery, the one to remove the tumors. It eased my mind that she was who I was turning him over to during this emotional year.

When I saw her again this fall, I learned that he had an emotional impact on her, too.

She had done a segment on author style. The children had to write a story in a famous writer’s voice. My son wrote “How the Cobra got its Hood,” a la Rudyard Kipling.

It was about a baby cobra whose parents were divorcing. As they fought for custody, tugging the child this way and that, they permanently changed their little one.

We were stunned. We didn’t know anybody with kids who had divorced. How did he get custody battles in his frame of reference?

The next year this teacher divorced, and her husband threatened to fight her for the kids.

She remembered my son’s story, and in an act of selflessness and love, let him have them.

It scares me some that he motivated her to do such a painful thing.

She shared with me that she believes she was being a sent a message.

All these years she was thinking of him, letting him influence her actions, and here I am everyday among children in my new job, trying to be her.

We didn’t even know.

Boom Boom cracks me up

April 10, 2012

Happy Birthday to Boom Boom.

One year, when my goddaughter was 6, I flew out from Colorado with the kids for Boom Boom’s birthday.

We showed up at my goddaughter’s school, pulled her out of class and went to Disneyland. My son was 4.

It was the perfect day — a drizzly weekday, just like today.

There were no lines. The children behaved.

I spent most of the day laughing, because Boom Boom cracks me up.

On the way home Boom Boom was looking out the window. Comet Hale-Bopp was supposed to be in the sky that night, and was hot news at the time. We wanted to catch a glimpse.

Suddenly Boom Boom yelled, “I see it. I see it.”

“What does it look like?”

“It’s really fast,” she described. “And it has red flashing lights.”

My history teacher

April 9, 2012

I just got back from taking my grama to the doctor’s office. While we were in the waiting room, I noticed my eighth-grade history teacher signing in.

He looks the same: tan, fit, hunchy right shoulder, cotton-white handlebar moustache, bangs brushed neatly to the side.

He’s a visual character. I went as him for Halloween the year I was his student.

I sprayed my hair white and stretched cotton over my upper lip, fashioning curls at the ends. I wore a plaid dress shirt. I even mimicked his walk and his constant ‘Hmph.’

I was spot-on.

I had so captured his likeness that when I trick-or-treated, my 24-year-old cousin opened the door and said, “Hey! You’re Mr. Arnett.”

Mr. Arnett didn’t take it as a compliment. The next thing I knew I was transfered to Mr. Joyce’s history class.


Getting arrested — a love story

April 7, 2012

I’ve started putting photos on a site called Photos O’ Mine, if I’ve got them, relating to the stories on this site.

It’s not going well. I think the site is a little screwy. When I click save, fonts change, captions merge or move, pictures disappear. It looks wacky right now, but I’m diligent. Bear with me.

I was putting in pictures for How we met when it occurred to me I never wrote about the arrest.

So far I’ve taken you through the first two days. (See How we met, continued for day 2.)

On the third day there was a Save the Rainforest festival. My new boyfriend and I walked hand in hand and learned about each other. We seemed to be made to be together. At nightfall he said, “People say when you meet the right person you just know. I always thought that was stupid. But I met you, and I just know.”

The fourth day was the protest. More than 1,000 people met at the chain-link fence True Geothermal Energy Co. had erected in the Wao Kele O Puna rainforest. It was the biggest demonstration of its kind.

The first night of our stay we had ridden over to see where the demonstration would be. Mr. Blue Eyes had hopped out of the truck bed first and approached the fence. When he put his hands on it, he made like it was electrified. ‘Note to self: gorgeous eyes, environmentally proactive and funny.’

The protesters were not anti-geothermal power. It’s in fact a clean source of energy. The gripe was that True had bought different land for its drill site, but Mount Kilauea erupted and buried that site in hard, black lava. The allegation was that True then made an illegal land swap, taking without permission the last lowlevel rainforest in North America, which was also sacred religious ground to the natives.

So there we were, drowning in a tie-dyed throng in an emotional embrace, watching people squeeze one-at-a-time through a break in the fence. From there they were handcuffed, identified and put on a bus.

Hundreds were children. My boyfriend tried to point this out to me, but he choked on the words with tears. ‘Note to self: senstive. Take this one home.’

We took our turn as accused trespassers, then took our turn to reject the charge, based on our being on public land. Into the bus we went, joining the singing, “This is land is your land; this land is my land….”

One hundred thirty-three people were arrested. We didn’t fit in the Hilo jail, so they put us in a storage garage.

We sat on the cement floor and discussed our strategy of solidarity. By law, I learned, they had to arraign us within a certain amount of time. We had the right, the leader said, to remain incarcerated until that time.

With our numbers, this was impossible. They would have to release us until our court date. We were instructed to refuse to leave. “When they hand you your ticket, don’t reach for it,” King Hippie said. “Do not walk out of here.”

As luck would have it (or because I’m little, and they didn’t want to start with a child), I was the first one they went after.

I didn’t take the ticket, so they shoved it down my shirt. I wouldn’t stand up, so two large men scooped me by my elbows and knees and carried me out of the building, unceremoniously dumping me on the grass.

This was met by wild cheering. I couldn’t see anyone, though, because of the bright lights: the crowd outside included news cameras.

Eventually we were all out — after a few oustings people gave up the solidarity plan — and back at the Big Island Rainforest Action Group camp.

I had come under ridicule for showing up to an environmental action camping trip with a battery-operated television (I didn’t want to miss General Hospital,) but was suddenly popular. As many as could gathered around to watch my squinting form being dumped on the grass.

I had about seven rolls of photos from this adventure, but they belonged to the newspaper, and I didn’t get to keep them.

I kept something else, though: a blue-eyed, funny, sensitive man and a new understanding of solidarity.

link to photos

The story of our new house

April 6, 2012

Now you know why we moved. Here’s the story about the buying of the new house.

The woman who lived in this house raised four children to adulthood in it. Then her husband died and her brother and sister moved in. All three were elderly.

The house was decorated in traditional old person, from the macrame blinds to the striped wallpaper. The brown shag complements the copper pipe decoration that hangs from the cottage-cheese ceiling in the entry.

We haven’t done a thing to it, incidently, in the year we’ve been here.

The woman lived in the master bedroom.

She was old, and she became sick. The sicker she got, the more she stayed in bed — in the master bedroom.

Ultimately, her siblings called her children, who now live in other parts of the United States, and said that the woman was no longer lucid. The children flew to California in early December and determined she needed to live in a convelescent home.

They wanted to sell the house while they were here. They told their Realtor to come up with the property’s market value and knock $300K off the price.

“Sell it today,” they said.

That’s when my Realtor interrupted my breakfast by cell phone.

They accepted our offer of full asking price that evening.

During the escrow period we had to get a professional home inspection.

The inspector found three kinds of mold in one room. The levels were “off the charts.” Guess where.

Meanwhile, the woman was healthy and had regained her lucidity, having spent a few weeks out of that master bedroom.

To add insult to toxicity, the seller had to pay $10,000 to get the mold eradicated and the house retested.


You hate to hear it

April 5, 2012

I’m fixing to stuff plastic eggs with candy and other goodies for a hunt at my pad. The kids and their friends’ families are coming for a pre-Easter potluck.

Filling those plastic eggs reminds me of a tragic story I heard on the radio last year. It’s a you-hate-to-hear-it tale.

A family matriarch died shortly before Easter. The offspring canceled the celebration on account of the grief.

They set to emptying the home for sale. Among the belongings they sent to the Salvation Army were the plastic Easter eggs, baskets and decorations meant for the skipped holiday.

Months later the oldest daughter had calmed enough to read her mom’s diary. The final entry was the morning of her death.

It detailed her plan for Easter. She knew this would be her final one, and wanted to make it special for the kids and grandkids. She had said to herself, ‘Why wait until I die to give them their inheritance? I want to see them enjoy it.’

She liquidated her assets, withdrew her savings from the bank and filled the eggs with $1,000 bills. I don’t remember how much they said it was, but I remember calculating how many houses it would buy. It was a lot.

The family rushed to the retrieve it, but the donation was long gone.

There are many morals to this story.

And a dye pun in there somewhere, but you’d hate to hear that, too.

The gay wedding

April 4, 2012

I’ve been following the news regarding whether a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

I have friends and family members who married that year — in the window of their union’s being sanctioned by the state — and am eager to hear what California will rule on Proposition 8.

That summer my daughter and I attended her choir director’s wedding. There were two grooms.

It was a beautiful ceremony. The church was decorated with white tulle and fresh flowers. One of the choir members — a member of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Opera — sang a song written by the director’s betrothed.

I was nonplussed. My daughter was looking at the emotion on my face and rolling her eyes. She was clearly plussed.

I tried to play it cool, but it struck me during the hymns and sermon that I was attending a gay wedding, recognized by church and state, while a black man ran for president. Wow.

My daughter elbowed me. “Why are you making such a big deal?” she whispered.

“I’ve never been in a world like this before,” I said dramatically. “This is earth moving.”

Just then the grooms, who had been seated in pews on either side of the aisle, rose simultaneosly to take their vows.

As they stood, we had a small earthquake.

Guests exchanged glances and grave nods.

That was what it took. My daughter crossed over into camp nonplussed.

A student’s rabbit

April 3, 2012

I taught science at my old high school that awful year I was subbing.

The teacher’s note to me was ominous. Period by period it listed the kids I should expect to send to the principal.

Some children’s names were annotated with “keep on an eye on him; he likes to write on things (not paper);” or “takes things that aren’t his.”

I can’t remember if I just inferred, or if he outright said, “These are a bunch of thugs.”

A large man popped his head in before first period to tell me he was nearby if I needed help.

Point taken. I hate subbing.

Early in the day, after everyone was done with the assignment, I asked the children questions. I’ve learned that children of all ages love to answer questions, and I have about 20 at the ready.

I always start with “What’d you have for dinner last night?” followed by “Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled?”

I was about on my fifth question — What pets do you have? — when a little ruffian told me had a rabbit. He said it’s always sneezing.

“He has snuffles,” I diagnosed. I once had a rabbit with snuffles, name of Cyndi Lop Ear. The sneezing is adorable, but serious. He promised to take his rabbit to the vet.

The boy behind him, with a shaved head and cut-off sleeves, interjected, “I once had a rabbit. I ate it.”

This child was on the teacher’s list with two asterisks. I ignored him.

I was about to ask a child what her dream car was when he interjected again.

“It was a chocolate rabbit.”

OK, sometimes I like subbing.

Why we bought another house

April 2, 2012

The Beatles are the guys who live in my other house. This afternoon I was talking to George. He was telling me how happy he is in that house.

I told him how happy I was in that house.

“If only that break-in hadn’t happened.”


Uh-oh. George didn’t know. No choice but to tell him.

Fridays from September to December John “Scotchie” covered the high school football games for the paper. I lived near the stadium, so he would come straight over and use my computer to write and send his article.

Then we would stay up all night playing poker.

One of these Fridays, about midnight, we were playing cards in the first-floor family room when a helicopter started circling. We could see the spotlight going by in the yard.

It was going on for a while. It was so close the windows were rattling.

We looked out a bit but couldn’t conclude anything.

A couple days later it was all over the news — the Los Angeles-based news, even.

It had been a home invasion. A man held a couple at gunpoint, tied up the husband, took $300 from his wallet, and raped the wife.

It was two blocks behind us, and two blocks to the north.

The guy was never caught.

I was not cool. In fact, the light from cool took three days to reach me.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s the JonBenet thing all over again. How many times is your poor husband supposed to buy a new house because you got scared?

I know this, because my husband told me, right before he told me no.

He reminded me we were just finishing up a major remodel, the house was paid for, and we had two kids headed for college.

He had some points.

I was still afraid, but I dropped it.

By coincidence, the Realtor who sold us that house called my cell one morning when we were at our favorite breakfast diner with my parents.

She just got a listing we had to see. Fun fact: I am a licensed Realtor, and this was a coworker of mine. She was so good at matching people to houses, and so knowledgable, I used her for my three home purchases and recommended her to family and friends.

I told her we’d go see the place before we went Christmas shopping.

I forgot.

She called again when I was in a shop. “All right, all right, we’ll go see, but we’re not planning to move.”

This house was hard to find. We went to a quiet street, a block from my parents’ house, and turned onto a long tree-shaded private drive. Then we turned onto another little private road to get to it.

I got out of the car and looked at the house.

We have always lived in multi-story historic-era homes. We like character, nooks and crannies, wrap-around porches. We like the smell and sound of oak floors, and detailed banisters and woodwork.

This was a patched-together one-story with no trim and aluminum window screens. It was past ugly. It was tacky.

It was half the size of our house.

I said, “Ew.”

My husband had gotten out of the other side of the car — the side by the jasmine-covered archway to the acre and a half of orchard and raised gardens.

Before he turned around to see the house I heard, “We’ll take it.”

My son had gone through the back gate and discovered the koi pond. He yelled, “Sold!”

My daughter had made herself at home by the pool.

I got the best deal of all. I got to say, “Oh, all right.”


April 1, 2012

My daughter and I just got in from an errand. We drove by a building my mom’s church rented during my teens, before it built its own sanctuary. I gave her a little walk down my memory lane.

When I was all punky with my Pat Benatar haircut and many ear piercings, I was a member of my mom’s church’s youth group.

I had known those kids and the adults involved since I was a toddler.

One of the girls — the one I was closest too — was smart, funny and had all the Queen albums. Fun fact: Our freshman year I introduced her to a girl from my school I thought she would hit it off with, and they fell in love.

She also smoked pot.

One evening everybody sat on the youth-room floor and watched “The Breakfast Club.” In one scene, the characters get stoned.

The director directed her curiosity at me, “Is that really what smoking pot is like?”

How would I know? I shrugged.

She thought I was feigning. “It’s OK, you can tell me.”

Now I was getting angry. My friend was sitting right next to me with her Farrah Fawcett feathers, quiet as you please. I was the only one in the group being asked.

Everyone in the room stared at me until the youth director gave up.

That woman is a friend of my mom’s and grama’s, so I still see her frequently, some 25 years later. I’ve never outed my friend, who is now a minister.

I’ve just sat here, bitter as you please.