Posts Tagged ‘2007’

The dog-in-the-street story

June 9, 2013

You cannot unread this story. Probably you should surf to another blog today, or read one of my better stories, like The Special Day Class or The Pregnant Teenager Story.

This will conclude my three-day series of stories non gratae.

We were about two blocks from home when my son looked out the window and saw a little dog running alongside our car. “He’s racing us.”

The dog’s legs were short, but he was fast. We thought it was funny.

We lived on a wide, busy street. As we pulled in front of our house, my husband said, “We oughta get that dog before he runs into traffic.”

My son ran to the sidewalk, crouched and patted his thighs. “C’mere b–”

We heard thu-thunk.

My son says the dog turned and looked at him just as a truck caught him. The truck drove off.

I held my son while he repeated, ‘Oh no.’ I hated that he saw that.

The kids and I went in the house while my husband went to see if the dog was alive.

When he hadn’t come back after an hour I called his cell phone. He was sedate, “Yeah?”

“Where are you?”

“In the garage.”

The dog had looked dead, but when my husband moved it to the sidewalk it started jerking.

Silence. Then, “I’m looking for something to kill it with, but I can’t do it. I don’t think I can do it. I’m just standing here. The dog’s on the sidewalk. It’s thrashing. It’s in too much pain.”

I was so worried about my son, it hadn’t occured to me to worry about my husband.

I called the animal hospital for advice. They told me to bring the dog in.

By then the dog was dead. Can I bring my husband in? He needs a shot of whatever you were gonna give that dog.

The complaining bracelet

June 1, 2013

On Wednesdays I get together with a group of girls for a couple of hours. We talk about our children, our husbands, our mothers and, probably more than we should, other women.

We’ve been doing this for years. We call it our therapy group. We bag on one another with wild abandon, and laugh ourselves healthy.

One day Tessa was telling us about something she had seen on TV. She called it a complaining bracelet.

It’s one of those rubber wrist bands people wear to support cancer research or the military. The idea is to put it on your wrist and then go 21 days without complaining.

If you complain, you have to switch it to the other wrist and start again. According to the program, 21 days is how long it takes to create or break a habit.

Someone on the show said to the project’s founder, “I have a friend who should do this.” He told her that was a complaint, and she had to move her bracelet to the other wrist. This bracelet is strict.

Tessa said the people who made it to 21 reported being happier and healthier. She said we don’t realize how much we complain, or how unnecessary it is, until we do this. She, herself, had no interest in doing this.

I loved the idea. I stole my kid’s school football wristband and announced, ‘One.’

The first Wednesday I showed up wearing it I was mostly quiet. I felt like a guard at Buckingham Palace.

The girls asked me questions: Didn’t you go dress shopping with your daughter? How’s the remodel going? What did your husband do for your birthday? I just smiled and shrugged.

Then they broke me, “How was your trip to visit your mother-in-law?”

I sighed and took the bracelet off. No point in wearing it on Wednesdays.

The experiment was wonderful. I was aware. I was positive. I was getting extra affection from my husband.

I still moved it from wrist to wrist occasionally, but I was different. I felt happier and healthier.

Then I started substitute teaching.

I never made it past ‘Three.’

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.

The Harvard home

October 30, 2012

A couple of summers ago the kids and I went to Cambridge, because my son had decided he wanted to go to Harvard.

My biological father went there. He, my mom and I road tripped to Massachusetts in someone’s Mustang when I was 3 weeks old, and moved into what my mom calls a four-story walkup in the school’s married-student housing. A little more than a year later, my mom packed me up and flew back to California. The marriage was done.

Via the Internet, I made reservations at a bed and breakfast walking distance from the campus. It was called Irving House.

We took the train east and settled into our top-floor room.

The place was heaven. It was a huge old house. The owner bought used books at yard sales to fill the rooms’ bookshelves. Guests were welcome to take a book home, and asked to leave a book if they finished one while there. I spent a whole afternoon scoping the bookshelves of every vacant room (and one I was in only because housekeeping was cleaning the bathroom, and I’m stealth) for books on my wish list.

In early evening our first night I called my mom. It occurred to me that somewhere around the Square was the only place the three of us had ever lived as a family.

She gave me the address. It was on Irving Street! Hey, I was on Irving Street.

The road was named for author Washington Irving, of Sleepy Hollow fame. I figured we were staying in his house. Turns out, no.

The kids were busy with something, so I went alone on up the few short blocks of Irving. I walked the length of it twice. The numbers didn’t go as high as the address Mom gave me. I gave up.

The next day I found it. Because it’s technically part of the campus, it has its own, nonsequential address. It was next door.

I went running over and found the entry in the garden courtyard with the right number on it. The door was old, and mostly glass.

A guy was coming out and I slipped in. I stood at the bottom of the stairway, and stories came rushing back to my memory I’d forgotten my mom had told.

I remembered that she had had to carry the pram up to the apartment, a baby under her arm, and sometimes tottering groceries or laundry. She told me my dad had bought a grand piano and disassembled it to take it up piece by piece in paper bags.

I walked over and put my hand on the rail. It made me cry. This ancient iron stair rail is the one my parents used almost 40 years ago. They gripped it with infant me in the other arm.

I went up the stairs and found the right door.

Now what?

There was music or TV on behind it. Young people were there. I didn’t want anything to do with any young people. I went back to my room.

That night I was looking out the window, and I realized our entire view was the very apartment I had gone looking for — four stories in the air, but straight across.

On the last day of our stay I went over there with my camera. I had fixed my mind to knock on the young people’s door.

Wouldn’t you know? There was no guy leaving the building, and I couldn’t get in.

All I got was a sorry photo through the glass of the bottom of the stair.

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Jersey number humor

October 17, 2012

Last night we went to our kids’ homecoming game.

I was so excited all day, I had a bounce in my step and an irritating hum.

I threw on a team jersey and tossed  my husband in the car. I started yelling, ‘Go team’ while we were still in the parking lot.

The final score was 48 to 0, us.

I love school spirit. I didn’t have any when I was a student — nobody I knew did — but my kids’ school is thick with it. There’s so much pride, people cry and sway singing the Alma Mater.

So I drag my poor husband from bleacher to bleacher.

Once we were at a basketball game and one of the boys from another school had the jersey number 00.

I pointed him out, “Look honey, that kid is licensed to.”

He just frowned at me. Maybe he would enjoy these games more if I weren’t there.

The florist debate

July 21, 2012

There was a news story that sparked a discussion at my dinner table.

A man who had flowers sent to his girlfriend sued a florist for exposing his affair to his wife. He claimed the company’s privacy policy was violated when they sent a thank-you-for-your-business note to his home.

The spouses were divorcing, and the alimony was set, but when the missus learned of the other woman, she doubled her exit fee.

It seemed to me commentators on the news agreed that the cheater had no right to whine about getting caught.

I disagreed. People shouldn’t be excused from their promises whenever the promisee is revealed to have done something naughty. If the florists have a clause that they will not abet infidelity, they may have some ethical standing, but this florist specifically says “you may instruct that other personal information about you or your message or gift recipients’ that you have provided to us not be shared with third parties.” They know some of their clients are doing the nasty with forbidden fruit. I think they’re suggesting they’ll help keep their customers’ secrets.

I presented the story at the dinner table to get my family’s opinion. My husband had the same reaction I had. My daughter wanted to know if the guy had a legal contract with the flower company specifiying they wouldn’t send anything to his house.

My son had an interesting perspective: The cad’s suit would mean he believed victims of contract breakers were entitled to money. Marriage is a contract, my son said. Suing the florist is an admission he owes his wife the extra alimony.

“Pick one,” my son said.

I like 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… .”

The song story

May 6, 2012

I was driving home one morning from dropping kids at schools, and I heard a snippet of ‘I Wanna Kiss You All Over’ by Exile.

When I first met my husband, this song ran through my head every time he held my hand. After I flew home, I recorded it on a cassette and mailed it to him. I couldn’t help it.

He thinks it’s a dorky song.

He told me he had a Peter Gabriel song he was going to reply with, but he had to get his record player needle fixed first. I have no idea what song it was going to be.

So 17 years later this snippet reminds me that he has never sent me a song.

I was all kinds of mad walking into the house.

I recognized I was unreasonable, but I was mad, and that was that. It was one of those times I felt sorry for anyone married to me.

I headed for Internet poker, my drug of choice for an unbalanced chi.

When I turned on the monitor, I got the e-mail ding.

My husband had sent me a short note, “Let’s see if this works.”

There was an attachment. It was this song.

I cried all over myself.

It was way better than my dorky song.

I was touched and amazed. How many days are there in 17 years? Those are some long odds. Maybe we have one of those psychic connections I’ve heard tell about.

It was one of those times I felt anyone married to my husband was very lucky.

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 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 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.


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.”

A timely untimely death

March 25, 2012

For as long as I’ve known my husband, he’s ridden his bike to work. He currently works so far from home it takes a half hour by car.

There is a town between the one we live in and the one he works in. To get there, he takes a long, straight road through a bunch of nothing.

At the beginning of the school year he came home with a bag of safety goodies from the bike shop — mostly lights, flashing and otherwise, that would afix to him and face in all directions.

This threw me into a panic. He could get hurt. People speed on that long strip of nothing. I couldn’t sleep that night.

The next morning, as always, he put a hot cup of coffee by my bed, kissed me goodbye and pedaled off. I didn’t want him to ride. I spent the day thinking about what I would do if I got that phone call.

That evening while I fixed dinner, Dr. Phil told me all about bicyclists who were killed by texting teen drivers. Quelle coincidence. Their wives and children pleaded for teens to stop texting and driving. Why weren’t they pleading for fathers to stop cycling?

The next day I learned that my friend’s husband had died. He was my husband’s age.

I went to the funeral and heard my friend, who has kids my kids’ ages, say that the day started like any other. He put a cup of coffee by the bed and kissed his wife goodbye before heading out on a bike ride.

What was going on? I felt like I was being sent a message.

Mid-ride he didn’t feel well. He set the bike down to rest and just died.

I couldn’t stop watching her. She was living everything I was afraid of. I wanted to help her.

After about a month this feeling of doom somehow eased. I guess it was nature’s way of keeping me sane. I wasn’t going to stop him riding to work.

In fact I didn’t want to stop him.

I just want to keep him.

My cousin

March 24, 2012

While I was out on St. Patrick’s Day I apparently made to sell one of the Beatles on my cousin.

Both he and she are recently divorced and seeing other people, but I didn’t let that deter me. They’re both such great catches I had to meddle. They’re single, good-looking, educated, successful and fun.

Here’s my favorite story about my cousin.

A couple of summers ago my brood went to Maine with my mother- and sister-in-law to sprinkle my father-in-law’s ashes.

While we were there, my mother-in-law got and accepted an offer on her New York home. She and my husband hurried back to deal with things.

The kids and I took advantage of the available few days for an impromptu trip to Harvard, where my son intended to apply.

The first day we spent at Harvard.

We set out to spend the second day touring Boston, but nothing went right. Right off the bat we got lost on the subway between the Sam Adams brewery tour and the city.

Our spirits were still high, though. We saw several people on the subway we thought were people we knew from home. We started joking that everybody’s twin was in Boston. It became a game.

By the time we found an ATM in the city, it told me my card was no good. It was early evening before we had cash in hand and had found the tour business.

We managed to get on one of those narrated trams you can get on and off of all day. It was so late we were told we would have time only to get on and stay on.

The last stop before it looped back was Harvard, so that was handy.

The guide/driver was hilarious but clearly rushing. If no one was waiting at a stop, we went right on by, hearing landmarks’ stories but seeing them as a blur.

But in front of the site of the Boston Massacre, some tourists detained us. They had an issue with their tickets the driver tried to resolve. It was the first real stop we made.

My son said, “I see another twin! Doesn’t that look like aunt Vicki? And ohmygoodness! The guy with her looks just like her husband.”

The couple had stopped to do something to their stroller right under our open side of the tram.

The resemblance was amazing. I called out their names.

Here’s how amazing the resemblance was: They called our names back to us.

Click here for photo