Archive for the ‘birthday posts’ Category

The yelling story

June 12, 2013

Happy happy birthday to my favorite girl in the world, my beautiful wonderful daughter.

This is my favorite story about her, because it shows how very cool she is and always has been.

We moved to California when she 2 and a half. My husband became a stay-at-home dad and I left to work two jobs.  

Something happened one night. I don’t know what. I wasn’t home.

My husband apparently lost his temper at The Baby. He said he just blew his top and yelled himself out at her. She had never been yelled at before.

She stood there unblinking, looking up at him throughout his tirade. 

When he stopped, she put her index finger against her lips and went, “Ssshhhh.”

She had him trained in no time.

The hot tub story

May 29, 2013

I asked the family, “What story do I tell for Uncle Mike’s birthday?”

I got the most insulting look from all three. Then they said at once: The hot tub story. Duh.

It’s a family favorite.

One night Mike was out partying and he met a girl he really wanted to take home. He invited her to come over and get in the hot tub.

Mike didn’t have a hot tub.

When they got to his house, (and by ‘his house,’ I mean his parents’ house), he gave her a drink, put in a movie and went out to heat up the tub.

After wandering around the yard for a minute, he came back in and waited with her. Every half hour or so he went outside to check the temperature. He turned the garden hose on his hand and came back in shaking it dry. “It’s not warm yet. Let me get you another drink.”

Michael is a bad boy, and he was rewarded for it.

The streaking story

March 26, 2013

This is the story about when my grama streaked her knitting club. I tell it in honor of her birthday today.

I don’t know when it happened. She said she thinks she was in her seventies. I think she means it was during the ’70s, but she says no.

She says it was when everyone was ‘doing all that streaking.’

Now, my grama is too proper and modest to run naked past anyone, but she hates to be left out of the fun. She reconciled this by getting a flesh-colored body suit and stitching dark yarn in the appropriate patches.

When time came in the evening to have tea and dessert, my grama excused herself to the bathroom, doffed her street clothes and ran through the shocked clutch.

Nana laughs everytime she imitates her oldest sister yelling her name out in shame. Auntie Eggs would have been in her seventies in the ’70s, and in her eighties in my grama’s seventies, so either way, she was old and appalled.

My grandmother’s biggest concern was driving to and from. Once she got on the road, she was seized with the panic that she might get in a car accident and die.

What would the emergency workers think when they saw those brown felt nipples?

My grandfather never knew any of this happened.

Frankenstein Road

March 2, 2013

Today is my Uncle Chauncey’s birthday. Uncle Chauncey is an imp.

He used to take his little cousins, my mama and Unca Rob, to a narrow road in town, where he said Frankenstein’s monster lived.

They were afraid. He was amused.

This road has an oft dry creek running alongside. It’s dark — lined with oaks and eucalyptus trees. It’s creepy.

He showed where the scientist’s plane crashed, stranding the monster. He showed them the propeller.

He said it was called Frankenstein Road.

Naturally, when I was a kid my mother did the same to me.

And you can bet I’ve taken my children monster scouting on that road during thunderstorms.

This family has many imps.

My sister’s story

February 13, 2013

Today is my ‘sister’s’ birthday. In her honor, I’m telling one of her stories.

She lives in Hawaii. She used to work at a resort helping the rich and famous get fit.

Among the people whose bodies she’s toned are Oprah Winfrey and Maria Shriver. She says they’re humble and kind.

But one night in the restaurant area she ran into Tiger Woods. He was having dinner with a woman. My sister asked if she could take a picture.

He was outraged. She was apologetic. She didn’t take the picture.

But now the whole family knows, and we make a face when we say his name.

Now you know too.

Take that, Woods.

Naming the baby

December 28, 2012

My grampa and I were close. He did little things all the time to show me he loved me.

For instance, whenever he knew I would be stopping by the house, he went up to A&W and got me a vanilla shake. I only like chocolate shakes, but I so loved that he did this for me that I never told him.

He used to say all the time, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”

My first baby was due on Dec. 20, and Grampa had brought my family to Colorado to be with me. They got there Dec. 13, just in case.

By the 23rd I was jumping in the snow, trying to hurry things along.

Grampa came out with a cup of coffee and sat down to watch me. “What will his middle name be?”

“It’ll be my husband’s name, unless he’s born on the 28th. If he’s born on your birthday, Grampa, I’ll believe fate wants him to have your name.”

Grampa made me stop jumping. “Hold that kid in five more days!”

My son was born the next day.

While I was in the bed, my husband filled out paperwork.

“I named him after Grampa anyway,” he announced. That baby-naming maverick.

But the truth was, I was happy he wanted to make Grampa happy.

I would do anything for him, too.

My son’s birth

December 24, 2012

When I was seven months pregnant with my son, people not only thought I was ready to deliver, but that I likely carried twins.

By the time I was in my ninth month my size was downright unreasonable.

My bottom left rib hurt. My back ached all the time. The baby kept getting hiccups. I was a  miserable pregnant lady.

More than once I thought raising the child had to be the easy part.

A week before I was due I heard “Silent Night” sung in harmony from  my porch. My parents and grandparents were standing in the snow, announcing their arrival from California.

The due date felt like it would never come. Then it passed right by.

On the morning of the 23rd I had my regular appointment with my CNM  (a midwife with medical training who works out of a hospital.) The hospital was in Denver, an hour away. After a nap at home, I woke up to an invitation to lunch at The Harvest.

Oh boy! A carob shake was in my future.

Ooh. Cramp.

Throughout my shake having, I had periodic pains. This is the last thing I wanted to say out loud in front of my mother, so I sneaked looks at my watch and kept track of how far apart they were. I watched the little airplane second hand fly around the map of Southern California on my Swatch.

After a time my dad said, in a ridiculously loud voice, “How far apart are they?”

Imp. Observant imp.

For dinner my mom and grama made albondigas. There’s good eatin’ when Mom and Grama come by.

Come dinner the pains hadn’t grown much larger or closer. But toward the bottom of my bowl I had one great big pain that didn’t stop.

I ran to the downstairs bathroom. There was something yucky and shake-like in my future.

Dad was there. I ran upstairs to the bathroom. Mom was there. Halfway down the stairs I couldn’t go up or down. I sat and screamed. Mom came out.

My husband got me into the bathroom and called the midwife. She said to draw a bath, light some candles and have some wine. It was time to relax. It would be a while.

I tried. Couldn’t. I was still with the big pain that didn’t stop.

Mom was all a-dither. We went to the hospital.

As we entered I started in with ‘I want an epidural,’ (I say ‘started in’ as if I hadn’t been saying it for nine months already.) I said it to the people in the lobby, the guy in the elevator and some nun handing out booties she’d knitted.

I was told it was too early. Hours of badness passed. I kept saying it.

I threw up my albondigas.

Finally I hit the magic number of dilatedness and my midwife came. I told her I wanted an epidural. She said it was too late.

Hours of hell passed. At some point I escaped everybody and locked myself in the bathroom. There was a lot of door pounding. I sat in the Jacuzzi and ignored them. I hated my nurses. I hoped their dogs died.

When I came out I was in trouble and didn’t care.

My midwife told me to push. There was no urge, but I pushed. I kept pushing. I got in trouble for pushing when I wasn’t having a contraction.

There was a break between my contractions? I had only felt one long pain since dinner.

At 6 in the morning, because it was either pass that baby or die, my body let that baby out. He was purple and limp. Me too.

I sound heartless, but I didn’t listen for the cries, or notice the glances of the staff looking at a seemingly dead baby. I couldn’t tell it was over. I was still with the pain.

As they worked to get him breathing, I began to feel some relief. I later learned my son broke both the hospital’s record for head crown size and my pelvis.

Now we’re both fine, but can you imagine my panic when I learned I was pregnant with my daughter?

My cousin knows me too well

December 9, 2012

Today is my baby cousin’s birthday.

I call her my baby cousin, as if I have some kind of seniority. She’s prettier, thinnier, richer, smarter and a better athlete. She puts the word ‘doctor’ before her name because she earned it, and she commutes to work in Washington, D.C. from her home on the beach in California.

My only seniority is being six years older, which isn’t as exciting as it was when I was in my 20s.

Today is her birthday, but because I’m egocentric, I thought I’d talk about my birthday, and how she brightened it.

As you know, I turned 40 only just. I said in my head, I spent my young, firm-body years wishing I had the courage to get my belly button pierced. I’m fast becoming an old hag. I’m on the cusp of its being ridiculous. It’s now or never.

So I made an appointment with a plastic surgeon, who put me under to do it. This is how big a sissy I am.

The man couldn’t help but notice the toll five years of lactating took on the breasts he had to tie out of the way to do the piercing.

He urged me to get a boob job. I stood firm — you know, figuratively — and just got the piercing.

Here’s where my baby cousin comes in.

She sent me one of the two funniest birthday cards I’ve ever gotten, (Fred Bauman sent me the other.) It showed two blue-haired wrinkly old biddies playing poker.

One of them has a speech bubble that says, “I’m thinking of piercing my belly button.” The other says, “Really?”

On the inside she replies, “That way I can put a hook in it to hold up my bra.”

Nailed it.

click here for photo

Exterminator tents

November 27, 2012

When we were little girls, My Oldest Friend was always interested when we saw houses being fumigated.

I used to tell her that those homes, encased in big striped tents, had kids there whose parents had rented them a private circus.

It’s My Oldest Friend’s birthday today.

Happy 40th, Tia. I love you so much, I would rent you a private circus today if they existed and I had any money.

June Lockhart

October 12, 2012

Today is my mama’s birthday. One year for her birthday we went to Los Angeles to see the Phantom of the Opera.

I had made my daughter a fancy ball dress of  ivory taffeta and lace.

We got to the theater a little bit early, and had to wait in a line for admittance to the lobby.

I had to pee.

We were toward the front of the line, but a classy-looking lady walked right up to the front of the line, bold as brass, and got let in. She turned to my grama as she ducked in the door and explained, “I have to pee.”

I was aghast. “Who does she think she is?”

June Lockhart,” my dad said. I made a face of not understanding. “Lassie‘s mom.”

Ah, she was on TV in black and white.

I was thinking of all the things I had done in my life more honorable than acting on a sitcom, but there I stood needing to pee.

Finally we were heading into the ladies’ room. Queen Lockhart was coming out, and she spotted my daughter. I made a face of not liking.

“Wow!” she froze. She knelt down to my little girl’s level. “That’s a beautiful dress.”

OK. I forgive her.

My dad cracks me up

September 12, 2012

Today is my dad’s birthday, so I’ll share my favorite example of his sass.

Whenever I drove home from Boulder for a visit, my dad would sprinkle kitty litter in the driveway and give my car an oil change.

I went out to keep him company one of these times. He had just finished my car, and was doing Mom’s.

I tilted my head at the gooey clay litter remnants whose wetness prevented them from coming up in the first go-over with the broom.

“This litter spot is shaped like Africa,” I said.

My dad froze.

He stared at me agape.

“What?” I sounded so Valley Girl.

“You’ve been looking at maps!”

I am so sure.

I was touched

August 24, 2012

The last of the Beatles’ birthdays is today. It’s George, wiping up the rear. Like the rest of us, he’s turning 42.

I guess we all go around talking at people and don’t realize which moments they’ll remember forever.

George said something to my husband and me a few years ago that touched me deeply.

He said he looks to our relationship with our kids as his goal with his own son.

I was overwhelmed by how much that meant to me. I make a point of remembering it often, as a means of appreciating what I have.

As if being George’s friend didn’t make me feel lucky enough.

I was dismissed from the PTA

August 23, 2012

Today is Gloria Steinem’s 77th birthday.

My mother grabbed the women’s lib movement of the early seventies with both hands and held on tighter than John Travolta to a mechanical bull.

She didn’t wear dresses. I was taught “housewife” was a dirty word. My bedtime stories came from Ms. magazine. At 3 I knew what ERA stood for. I knew Gloria Steinem’s birthday.

Naturally, I spent my childhood dreaming of taking my husband’s last name, wearing an apron and being an H-word.

When I refused to live with my boyfriend before we got married, my mom said, “Where did I go wrong?”

It was sheer rebellion that had me specify ‘I now pronounce you man and wife’ was the phrase to be used at my wedding. (Although it was sheer sassiness that had me specify ‘You may now kiss the groom’ follow it.)

When I quit my job and joined the PTA my mom gave me a bitter speech. “That’s just a clique for moms who don’t work. I tried to be in it, but they treat you differently if you have a job. And they schedule meetings so working moms can’t attend. They disapprove of moms who aren’t H-words.”

I heard this lots. I figured it for outdated if not emotionally skewed information.

When the kids moved from elementary to middle school, I ignored the PTA and joined band boosters. Go ahead and brag about knowing me — I was the vice president.

For my youngest child’s last year there, I joined the PTA on the hospitality committee. The PTA president — a close friend and fellow band booster — asked me to do this, based on my cooking or baking all the food for several band events.

I would be doing things like the welcome-back faculty breakfast and baked goods for teachers at Christmas, right up my alley.

There was another change at the beginning of that school year. I started working as a substitute teacher.

I know you think I’m about to concede my mother was right. I’m not quite that big a woman.

But I’m going to suggest it.

Several weeks before the Christmas break I did what the committee chairwoman asked: I pulled out my recipes and made a 15-item list of items I thought would be great for faculty gifts.  I was excited to do this. The previous year they had made Rice Krispy treats, half-dipped in chocolate.

I told the committee chair to pick two items. I would make them both.

I didn’t hear back for a long time. Then on Dec. 5 I got this e-mail, which I cut and pasted without altering:

I was talking with Sally today and she told me all that you have going on right now, with Substituting and all. You sound overly busy at an already too busy time of year. So I can’t in good conscienciousness ask you to make anything, let alone 400 of a bake item. And since we need to have them packaged and ready by the end of next week…  I think we will just go with the simpler idea of the dipped pretzels this time around.  Thank you so much for thinking about all this and in a less hectic time of life it would have been perfect to have your yummy treats.  I hope you agree.

I was gobstopped. That H-word had dismissed me because she found out I had a job.

Now, I’m not saying my mother was right, but I may give my daughter the same warning when her time comes.

The concert story

August 19, 2012

In high school, I discovered the ’60s band Tommy James and the Shondells.

I loved all oldies — Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Supremes, The Beach Boys— but Hanky Panky was one tier higher in my book of brilliance.

Because I was the one with the car, my girlfriends knew all the words to Tommy James’ complete discography, liked it or didn’t.

We would pile in my little ‘Smo-mobile,’ roll down the windows and sing along — unreasonably loudly. We bounced with such vigor, people would see us at stop signs and start bouncing in their cars, even if we were holding still at the time.

The summer after high school, I saw an ad I couldn’t believe. Tommy James and the Shondells was to headline at the Greek Amphitheater, with The Turtles, Herman’s Hermits, The Mamas and The Papas, Tommy Roe and my other favorite, The Grass Roots.

I borrowed money to buy the most expensive seats, which were $50 each — a fortune — and worked extra shifts to raise the money. I was taking my best girlfriend as a birthday gift to both of us.

That would be My High School Best Friend, who turns 42 today.

On the morning of the concert, I went to an employee swim party at a coworker’s house, about 20 minutes out of town.

It was August, and it was hot. I drank a lot of watermelon punch.

Unbeknownst to me, there was everclear in it, which at the time I had never heard of.

By late afternoon, I was in a sorry state.

One of the waiters took me to his apartment, where I spent a lot of time throwing up. Somehow I managed to remember that My Best Friend needed calling, and even relayed the phone number.

I remember being surprised when she showed up to get me.

She drove me to my house to get clothes and the tickets. I waited in the car.

We got on the freeway, and my head was coming pretty clear. As we neared L.A., we started realizing we were ill prepared for the concert.

By that I mean we didn’t know where the Greek was, and I didn’t have any shoes.

My Best Friend turned the car around, and took me home.

No Hanky Panky, no Sweet Cherry Wine, no Draggin’ the Line.

But there was a lot of moany moany.

The Santa Claus story

August 17, 2012

All of the Beatles’ birthdays are within a week, with mine in the middle. Today is Paul’s.

Before Paul moved into my other house, he lived in a rental home with his girlfriend of many years. He and she were both reporters at the paper where I was a copy editor. They were both in Scotchie’s poker group.

In mid-December the girlfriend called me for a favor.

She would be spending Christmas in the midwest with her family. Paul would be out Christmas Eve past midnight, playing poker with some group that wasn’t ours. Paul is a poker whore.

There were empty stockings hung above the fireplace and all over the rest of the living room, presumably for decoration. But hidden behind the tree were bags full of small gifts.

My job was to slip into their house and fill the stockings. My husband and I went over armed with a key at midnight. We stuffed for 10 minutes and slipped out without leaving footprints.

There was no cookies and milk left out. I guess Paul was a non-believer.

Paul came home and climbed in bed unawares, but woke up Christmas morning to find every stocking in the house bulging with evidence St. Nick had come.

We’ve never told him it was us.

I wonder if he’s started leaving out cookies and milk.

The birthday gift

August 16, 2012

Today I am a 42-year-old.

Twelve years ago, at my 30th-birthday party, I opened my gifts in front of family and friends.

I got a Winnie-the-Pooh piggy bank, recipe books, marmalade, and towels. Uncle Mike gave me fuzzy handcuffs.

Later I opened a gift from a friend who had come out from Boulder. I shook the box, which held a camera. I said, “I’m trying to guess what it is, because Katherine said it’s an obvious gift for me.”

My paternal grandfather yelled out, “Oh boy, more fuzzy handcuffs.”

Scotchie’s proposal

August 15, 2012

The John of my personal Beatles, who I refer to in my posts as Scotchie, is celebrating his birthday today.

A few years ago he amped up his wife hunting, because his biological clock was about to chime 40.

I didn’t figure it would be as hard as it was. Scotchie is a perfect catch. He’s smart, thoughtful, funny and good-looking. He loves to play games, and brings so much enthusiasm he makes them fun for everyone. He’s affectionate. He left a career as a reporter to work at the county animal shelter finding homes for abandoned pets. His family is large and embracing. He listens to Weezer and Billie Holiday.

So it surprised me that it took so long to find a nice Catholic girl who hiked and wanted kids.

About a year ago he found one, and she’s perfect. Last month he flew to Pennsylvania, where she lives, and he proposed to her.

He took her to a romantic bridge with a ring in his pocket.

They were standing right in front of the theater where the famous The Blob movie-evacuation scene was filmed.

It was the anniversary of  The Blob’s release. Will you believe this is a holiday? It was Blobfest. Good timing, Scotchie.

Amid a throng of enthusiasts re-enacting a jelly escape, Scotchie took her hand and got on his knee. She thought he was kidding.

Here’s how I know the details. One of the Blobfesters was videotaping the Blobfestivities, and his buddy tapped his shoulder and said, “Hey this guy’s about to propose.”

Scotchie’s proposal is on YouTube.

Hey, Scotchie, if you’re looking for a site for the ceremony, I just discovered where they filmed Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Two weddings saved

August 14, 2012

Today is Tessa’s birthday. I saved this story for today, which was hard, because it’s an incredible coincidence story, and I love those.

When Tessa got married, she knew a guy who knew a guy who had a printing service out of his garage in Orange County. She hired him to print the wedding invitations.

One day soon after, he called her. He was packaging up some invitations he had already printed, and he noticed that they were for the same time, at the same church as hers.

She called the church. Sure enough, they double booked. Whoops.

Tessa found another place to get married.

If the two brides hadn’t both had their invitations printed in the same guy’s garage an hour and half west of home, and if he hadn’t actually read them, which I heard he usually didn’t, it would have been a disaster.

The bigger the possible disaster, the better the disaster-averted story, I say.

Happy birthday, Tess.

The Satan-worshipper street story

August 12, 2012

In my town there’s a steep and windy street with a reputation for satanic residents. It’s a creepy, dark street with mansion-sized homes, spread far apart.

Anyone who’s lived here for any time knows not to drive down it.

But one night my girlfriend Kristi, whose 40th birthday is today, and I decided to do exactly that.

I was behind the wheel. I went slowly, to make it scarier.

We started at the top of the road, and inched toward the bottom.

About four houses down we passed a house with a two-story window in the entryway. It was lit with a red light. We could see a winding staircase.

In front of that we saw a body hanging from a noose.

It was very still. We were not.

I hightailed us out of there, and never darkened that road again.

Adverb humor

August 9, 2012

Today is My Junior High Best Friend’s birthday.

It’s also my High School Boyfriend’s birthday, the boyfriend from The Trumpet Story‘s birthday and the copy editor from The Palm Tree Story’s birthday.

But I’m giving the post to my Junior High Best Friend.

We used to fancy ourselves grammar police, which everyone knows makes you popular at parties.

My focus was verb tense, and Kelly’s was adverbs.

When somone said, for instance, ‘I’ll just do it real quick,’ she would mutter ‘-ly.’ She was always muttering ‘-ly.’

My running joke was that when she was born her mother named her ‘Kel,’ and Kel popped her mouth off the breast to mutter, ‘-ly.’

Unca Rob scares himself

August 5, 2012

Today is Unca Rob’s birthday.

It’s impossible to me that Rob is not still in his 20s, smelling like patchouli and driving his dark green VW bus with the curtains on the windows.

When I was a little girl I idolized him and his hippie ways. Now I idolize him for his artistic talent and political savvy, but most of all, because he is so damned funny.

Someday I will share with you the funny he brings so quickly and easily. Today I share a time he was funny by accident.

It loses it a lot in the absence of my mother’s facial expression in the telling. She tells it well. It’s one of my favorites.

One afternoon my mom was in the house doing whatever perfect little girls do when they’re in the house. She heard the back door slam.

Suddenly her little brother Robbie ran past her in a blur, grabbing a book en route to his room. He jumped onto his bed, landing in a lounging position, opened the book randomly, and appeared instantly to be immersed in the story.

My mom grew suspicious — in her smart and responsible way — and scooted the curtains aside to check out the yard where Robbie had just been playing.

The lawn was on fire.

I tried to get married in Mexico

July 26, 2012

Twenty years ago today The Smart Guy and I celebrated his 20th birthday by getting a little nutty.

We were living in Guanajuato, doing a semester at the university there, and getting excited about finding each other.

As we did every night, we hung out at a bar called ¿Donde?, drinking some things I can’t remember the name of. There was an upside-down shot glass full of tequila submerged in a rocks glass of beer. When the shot glass is lifted, the drinks blend and you drink it really fast. These were awful. I had lots.

The Smart Guy and I went wandering — read ‘staggering’ — among the old buildings and found ourselves in an ancient basilica.

“Let’s do it,” we said — read ‘slurred.’

There was a priest in there. At least, there was a man in there we assumed to be a priest. We asked him to marry us.

He refused on two grounds: We weren’t Catholic, and we didn’t have a marriage certificate. Our state of lucidity apparently had no bearing.

We were in love, though, we said. We tried to bribe him. We were a classy, pair, The Smart Guy and I.

The Father seemed to gather we weren’t going to leave, so he said some words in Latin and waved his arms ceremoniously to pacify us. He was translating an Eagles song for all we knew, but we were pleased and the Father was rid of us.

The next day we went out with all our exchange-student friends and fed each other cake.

At the time, none of this struck me as nutty. I’m glad for that.

My friend, the dirty old man

May 15, 2012

I have a friend who just turned 84. Shame on me for not running this on his birthday, which is one month gone.

He is probably the most interesting person I know. He is a published author of fiction, photography and a memoir; a celebrated photographer (Those famous photos in LIFE magazine? His.); and a survivor of Nazi Germany.

He once told me a profound story of his childhood at the beginning of the Holocaust, which would have made my greatest post to date, but he won’t let me blog it.

He told me, “It’s not your story.”

What can I do? He’s my most faithful reader; I’m at his mercy.

But this story is mine:

One night my poker league was over for our weekly game. The table was down to three players. Several of us were  in the kitchen area, dancing to “Shake, Shake, Shake Senora.”

Fred called me the next morning, as he usually did, to tell me a joke. I’m pretty sure it was about a matador and his balls.

Before he hung up he said, “I tell ya girl, the way you were shakin’ around that kitchen, why, if I were two years younger… .”

An out-of-print book series

May 1, 2012

This would have been my father-in-law’s birthday.

My father-in-law was a collector. He had old toys, Lionel trains and military artifacts. When he sent my daughter teddy bears, they were always limited editon. He sent the boxes separately. That’s how hardcore he was.

At the time of his death, I was reading a historical novel series that was eight thick volumes long. I was on book five. I owned the first six.

I knew that my father-in-law had read and loved this series. I knew he had tried without success to get his son to read it.

What I discovered when I was helping my husband empty the bedroom was that he displayed the entire set, still in its original shrinkwrap.

The painful part of this story is that the series by then was out of print. I had planned to hunt online for used versions of the final two books.

My husband said, “Look honey! What a big stroke of luck.”

“Oh no,” I protested. “Your father went out and got this set after he read a different copy. He knew they went out of print. He meant this set to stay pristine in its packaging. I’m not breaking that seal.”

My husband tattled on me to his mommy. She insisted I take the books.

I left New York without the books.

Back in California UPS brought a box with the clothes and sentimentals my husband had chosen to keep. At the bottom was the set of books.

My mother-in-law had put an end to the discussion. The cellophane was slashed in a big Z.

It bothered me to betray what was obviously my father-in-law’s wish.

I’m trying to even the score by fulfilling a different one. I’m reading the series aloud to his son. We’re on book three, and he’s loving it.

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.

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.’ “

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.”

A little more information than you want

March 27, 2012

My husband is celebrating his birthday today, so I’m blogging about one of the reasons I love him so.

He expresses appreciation for everything.

Affection is not excluded.

For our whole marriage everytime we’ve been intimate, he’s said, “Thanks for putting out.”

Not to be out-appreciatived, I always reply, “Thanks for putting in.”