Posts Tagged ‘august’

The spider story

November 15, 2013

My son has always been a sensitive little thing.

When he was 5, he helped me paint his room before we moved into our first house in California.

We stood side by side on his desk while we readied the window up high. I reached into the corner with my brush and cleared out a spiderweb.

“Oh, Mama!” He pointed to a spider on the wall. “He just watched you destroy his home!”

So I picked up the newspaper, rolled it and smashed the homeless spider.

“There. Now he’s not sad anymore.”

Are you all glad I’m not your mother?



June 6, 2013

I had an emotional conversation with some of our friends this morning. They’re putting their dog down today.

Since we got our first dog I’ve imagined his death. I calculated how old my children would be if he lived an average lifespan. I pictured calling them home from college to say their goodbyes, all of us lying spoon-style on the dog bed, which would be wet with tears.

We had to put our family cat down when the kids were 3 and 5.

We stroked the cat and spoke soothingly, gathered around the cold, steel table in the veteranian’s office. We pretended not to see him tap tap the side of the syringe.

My son maybe shouldn’t have been in there. He was darting his eyes around and feeling helpless. His first word had been ‘cat.’

My daughter was unfazed. I suspected she didn’t understand.

The next day I discovered one of our rabbits, Hare-ica Jong, was dead on the bathroom floor. I think she had had a fight with Cyndi Lop Ear, because there was blood on her neck.

The day after that, I was calling around the house for my husband. I said to my daughter, “Have you seen Daddy? I can’t find him.”

She shrugged without looking up from her toys. “Maybe he’s dead.”

Suspicion confirmed.


February 27, 2013

One summer a few years back my husband followed in my footsteps. He spent a summer semester in Mexico.

He did it to learn Spanish, though, not to chase some hot guy.

In Cuernavaca he lived with a wonderful family, whom I have since met. The son is now living in Costa Mesa. The mom of this family has come out to visit several times, and is out visiting now.

We last saw her in August, when we went to Long Beach to see them both. The son was competing in an archery tournament.

During a break in the shooting the son took my son to a target and let him try out the bow and arrow. The mom waved my daughter and me away from the field to keep her company while she smoked a cigarette.

Her cigarettes had come from Mexico. They were Marlboros, but they didn’t look like the Marlboros sold here. The bottom half of every side of the box had bold black letters saying ‘This will kill you.’

It said this in English.

We chatted, the three of us, about how much she likes Disneyland and how hot it was on the archery field. Mostly we were talking in Spanish, and my daughter couldn’t follow.

Then she addressed my daughter directly.

“You shouldn’t smoke,” she looked somberly at my daughter’s face and pointed with her smoking cigarette to the area where our chairs were, “over there.”

I burst out laughing.

“Really,” she defended. “They will make you leave.”

Aye caramba.

To Hell with keeping it clean

November 14, 2012

My friend, the Dirty Old Man, is also an amateur stand-up comedian. He performed at my recent birthday party.

He really is too admirable for the moniker I’ve given him. Please read the name dripping with respect.

As he took the microphone, Scotchie yelled, “Keep it clean, Fred!”

Frown from Fred at Scotchie, then “Do you know why Jewish men are circumsized?”


He went to that mike to perform three times between tribute stories — most of which involved my mooning or flashing someone.

He kept my guests in stitches, even as they told how I don’t stay in mine.

The engagement ring story

October 26, 2012

You don’t want my daughter in on your secret.

We were in the car this week, looking for the new high school, and my daughter said to my son, “Remember you drove there before? Myles was with us.”

My son made a low growl at her.

“You drove Myles when you had the car?” I was shocked.

A louder growl, with a dirty look at sis.

In California, a newly-licensed 16-year-old cannot drive a non-sibling teen to band practice.

I’m not as strict about this rule as I am about talking to non-siblings’ moms before I allow my son to drive them anywhere. I had not yet talked to Myles’ mom.

I was more surprised than anything. I thought my son was perfect.

But this story is about my daughter and her loose tongue.

I had been a pregnant college student when I got married.

We had no kind of money, and I had no kind of engagement ring.

For our fifth anniversary we planned a weekend alone in the mountains.

A few days before the occasion, I had worked late. This was during my husband’s two-year turn as the stay-at-home parent.

After dinner I dragged myself into the bathroom to brush teeth. My daughter followed me in. She was 3 1/2.

My son, then 5 1/2, was trying to drag her off to get jammies on.

They were both acting strange.

I pulled out the lotion box I kept my jewelry in to drop in my earrings. She snatched it away and rummaged through it.

“Come on,” said my son


“Let’s go.” Pulling on her arm.

“Wait! I wanna see the diamond ring Daddy bought today.”

I froze. My son pulled his own hair. My daughter said, “What?”

I begged her not to tell Daddy she blew the secret, but she is who she is.

She ran into the kitchen and tattled on her own self.

How I met Jer

September 30, 2012

My husband’s dinner news last night was that They Might Be Giants has made a science teaching DVD. Just now he put it in my hand.

I have a connection to this band. They’re how I met one of the best friends of my life so far, Jer.

Immediately after I moved to Boulder My Boyfriend and I were getting hippie groceries at the hippie grocery store, and a hippie friend of My Boyfriend was out front wanting a ride. He had two non-hippie friends with him.

In the back seat, the blond friend picked up my collection of cassettes. “Hey! They Might Be Giants! I met them today.”

Jer is a cyclist. At the time, he worked at The Spoke, repairing and selling bicycles.

He was in Boulder Central Park doing a thing to his bike, when the band went by on rented cycles. The members were in town for a concert at The Boulder Theater.

Right in front of Jer, the frontman’s chain fell off. That’s serendipity if I ever knew of it. My advice to anyone in general: if you’re gonna drop a bike chain, do it in front of Jer.

He rescued them and was given two free tickets to that night’s show.

That’s even serendipitouser. Readers, if you’re ever going to pick up a stranger at a hippie grocery, pick up someone who just got two free tickets to a They Might Be Giants concert.

My Boyfriend sent me off with his blessing. He sent Jer off warning him not to touch my butt.

I put on a tie-dye sundress and lace-up-to-the-knee boots, and Jer picked me up at 7 p.m.

I was suspicious early on that the band was lip syncing. Toward the end of the concert they gave up the ruse and stopped strumming for a moment. The music went uninterrupted. Who could complain? My tickets were free and I had met a lifelong friend.

To this day he has never touched my butt.

My mother’s nerves

September 21, 2012

I’ve just come home from an International Day of Peace banquet, at which my mother received the annual Citizen’s Action for Peace award.

She was so nervous she made herself sick, starting Friday.

Her award was presented after a three-and-a-half-hour program of speakers, music and dining.

She sat trembling in her seat, trying not to look at her plate of food, until her introduction, presentation and acceptance speech were behind her.

Then she grabbed a fork, relaxed and dug in.

She has always been like this. I’ve tried various methods of calming her over the years.

Once she was to sing a duet in church. It was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu.

She like to died waiting for the scripture reading to end.

Just as she was about to approach the microphone I said, “Hey Mom, do you know how to tell if a man is ticklish?”

“What? No.” She stood up. It was time.

“You give him a test tickle.”

I’m helpful.

click here for photo

The lottery

August 29, 2012

I listen to news radio on my way home from work. Today, there were four topics: the wildfires, the kidnappee who’s been found 18 years post, the lottery and the weather.

It was more than 110 degrees this afternoon. It was more than 100 degrees after dinner. It seems not everyone holds my appreciation for free heat.

The lottery, though, was stealing air time from the stuff I was interested in. People in line at the 7-Eleven were being interviewed. Each knew she was about to buy the winning ticket.

Just now my husband and I went to see The Time Traveler’s Wife, which is based on one of the best books I’ve ever read. (The movie is great, but loses the voice of the author’s narrative, which is where the book’s brilliance lay, in this bibliophile’s opinion.)

There was a scene that was not in the book, where they watch the lottery balls drop.

I came home and went to, because I can’t help it. The poll question of the day is ‘Do you buy lottery tickets?’

Now I’m feeling stalked.

I have lottery issues. Why are the pots so big, but schools are still cutting out music and language programs? Didn’t the California ballot specify the exemption from the gambling prohibition was justified by schools’ getting a big cut?

And where are these ticket buyers coming from? Haven’t they seen the quip on the freeway, explaining that the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math?

Really, I’m not here to judge anybody. I just want to enjoy my kidnapper-catch news and my heat.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for giving me two months of comfort. I’ll take those over a lottery ticket any day.


August 22, 2012

Today is my 19th wedding anniversary, so I mean to wax sappy.

I babysat an infant when I was 14. One afternoon I was talking to my junior high best friend’s mom, and I said, “I was singing this baby to sleep in my arms, and I understood how a mother would love her baby.”

She said, “It’s amazing, and it keeps getting stronger.”

I couldn’t imagine it.

When I was pregnant with my son, my husband was freaking out. I told him about the increasing love. He said, “Honey, that’s nonsense. I teach teen-agers. Surely the love wanes.”

He was serious.

I have found that my friend’s mom was right.

It’s true for my husband, too. I love him more every year.

At first, my love was about how good it felt to be together, and the excitement of feeling that way forever. It was about promise. It was the potential of future happiness. Also, I agreed with the values he told me he had.

Twenty years later, it’s not about what the future holds so much as what the past has shown. I’ve seen him consistently be a good man, when it would have been easier not to be. I’ve felt him care for me when I sick, when I was frightened, and when I had just delivered a big honking baby. I’ve watched him sacrifice for and live by his values.

At 20, if a 40 had told me I ain’t seen nothin’ yet, I would have said she didn’t understand how strong my love was.

And if a 60 said to me today I ain’t seen nothin’ yet?

I would think it’s impossible.

click here for picture

Mom’s voice in my head

August 20, 2012

I cleaned my house the night before my birthday party.

Our other house took days to clean. It was like painting the Golden Gate bridge.  I really appreciate having half the space and a more modern home when I clean.

My son came home in the evening, and every time he went into a room, he said, “It looks great in here!”

I used to say this to my mom when the house looked good, but she would always say, “No thanks to you.” So I stopped.

I thought of this, and how nice it was to hear that my work was noticable, and I just said, “Thank you” to my boy.

Mom called.

“Shall I come over and clean your house?”  At 8 p.m.?

“I cleaned it already.”

“Since you got home from work? It can’t be very clean.”

“Well my son came home and said the house looks great.”

“No thanks to him, I’m sure.”

I actually did not see that coming.

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 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.”

Photographer sass

August 7, 2012

This week I started a new job — I’m done with subbing! — as a section editor for a newspaper group.

The publisher requested I write a column introducing myself, to run this weekend.

I knew what was coming next.

Sure enough, this afternoon I was instructed to go into the photography department and have a mug shot taken to run with my column. Grumble grumble grumble.

I called there, “Hey I’ve been ordered to get a mug.”

“Come on back. We’ll do it right now.”

“I was told you had people who would do my hair and face, lend me some clothes.” I am sassy.

“Sure,” he said, real cool. “Just come through editorial and go through the door marked ‘spa’.”

Sassy, quick and funny. I’m gonna like it here.

Knock knock

August 6, 2012

Tonight we took my grama out to dinner, and we were talking about funny things people said or did.

Nana shared that when she and Grampa took me to see Annie for my 10th birthday, I saw a photo of ice in a glass in the program and said loudly, “There’s subliminal seduction in this photo.” (I had read the book and learned how sexual words or images were hidden in ad photos. This is neither here nor there.)

Everyone near us in the audience turned to look at me. This is neither here nor there either.

I said, “But remember on the way home, when we were doing knock-knock jokes, and each answer had to be a song?”


“You said, ‘Knock knock’ and Grampa and I said, ‘Who’s there?’ and you said, ‘Wendy’ and we said, ‘Wendy who?’ and you sang ‘Wen-dy deep purple falls….

“Then Grampa said, ‘I have one!’ ”

“Knock knock”

“Who’s there?”


I miss him so.

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.

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

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.