Monthly Archives: September 2013

Cartoons make me lonely

My daughter was over yesterday with her one and three -year-old sons and after a couple hours of “let’s play frisbee with Yaya’s coasters” and riding the scooter on the driveway and dinner and bath time, she let them settle on the couch in front of one episode of Mickey Mouse.  My daugher is very good about television with her kids. She never uses it as a babysitter but as a treat and only then on days that start with an “S” (Saturday, Sunday, Sick, mom feels Shitty). She also often watches it with them.  In fact, the one-year-old doesn’t really get to sit in front of it but when he does, he sits very still and laughs loudly at regular intervals to show he is really into the plot and “please don’t move me.” Needless to say, it’s adorable.

So I was in the kitchen doing whatever Yayas do in the kitchen when babies are in front of television.  Probably getting squished banana out of my rush-covered counter stools. And it hit me.  The sound of cartoons make me lonely.

I thought about it for awhile and I think I have an idea why.  First, I was the kind of kid who worried when I watched cartoons.  For instance, when the dog ran through the grocery store, cans and loaves of bread flying, I always stressed about who would clean up all that mess. Don’t even get me started on the mayhem Mr. McGoo created.  Or the Roadrunner. He could ruin a city block in the blink of an eye.

But beyond my not registering these were pictures that could be easily cleaned up with an eraser not a mop, I think cartoons represent a time in my life and a time of day I felt lonely.  When I was in grade school, my mom had gone back to work to help pay for my brother’s college education.  So there was an hour or so after school in middle school through high school that I would, in today’s world, be considered a “latch key kid.”

Now the reason that could be misleading is that we lived in a neighborhood where doors were always open. Playdates were arranged by a tap on the screen door announcing our arrival, certainly not any talk among our parents as to who should show up when. So coming home to an empty house always felt safe as I had Jean and Peg and Ruth and Loreen a hop, skip and a jump away. If I needed anyone or anything, even a hug, they were there.

But lots of days, I would throw my books on the dining room table, grab a bowl of dry Cheerios or a plate of Ritz crackers spread with strawberry jelly and retreat to the basement to watch TV.  And if  Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver wasn’t on yet, I was stuck with my chaotic cartoons. Our basement was dark with painted grey cinder block walls.  Dad’s favorite green chair with the stick shift footrest sat empty and the upright piano stood looming, shaming me for not tinkling the ivories for Aunt Alberta, my piano teacher, instead of vegging in front of Porky Pig or Daffy Duck. Which reminds me, cartoons always worried me also because all the characters seemed to have these horrible speech impediments that no one seemd to  notice or write in a speech therapist for.

I mentioned these deep-seated feelings of longing and sadness regarding cartoon time to my daughter and, completely typical of her personality, she hit the nail on the head and said, “It probably was the lonliest time of day raising us, too, mom.  You had done and run and coped all day and by the time you threw us in front of TV, you knew you had a good hour before dad got home and you had some adult relief.”

Bingo, I thought.  That, too.

So the next time you flip past the Disney channel, stop and pull out your hanky and take a moment to think about little Nancy Noble, the latch key kid, who thought cartoons were lonely and messier than her jam and Ritz covered fingers.

But take heart because I can whistle the tune to Leave it Beaver like a master or trip over the ottoman as well or better than Dick Van Dyke. So my salvation always came soon after Tom and Jerry or before my second bowl of Cheerios.

And no, thanks to my mad crush on Mark in The Rifleman, I still can’t play the piano.

Life on rewind

We have all heard quotes  or old adages such as “Youth is wasted on the young,”(George Bernard Shaw) or “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards,” (Soren Kierkegaard) or one of my favorites,“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” (Allen Saunders).

In the past, I jotted these in a “things to remember” notebook or shared them in a card to a friend.  I thought if I read them often enough, I might understand them well enough to avoid the pain of their inherent truths.

But alas, I have lived long enough to realize that good advice only sheds light on a mistake after you make it, and emotions trump sound sense or wisdom in most human contact.  So in a fit of self-disclosure and seeking some sort of catharsis, I thought I would share a few of my pivital life moments I wish I could push rewind and relive. You know, the “if only we could do it over again, I would do it so differently” moments when you open your mouth and the wrong words fly out.  And the moment is gone and the regrettable thoughts hang in the air like the smoke of a bad cigar.

So in no particular order some of my moments would be :

My first born telling me she was thinking of naming her first child Declan.

Wish I had said:  Oh that’s lovely.  Isn’t it Irish? So creative of you to be thinking outside the box.

My real answer:  Declan.  Did you say Declan?  Like we’re Irish or something?  Isn’t it in the top ten most trendy, overused names this year?  What’s wrong with Jack?

My youngest showing me a small heart tattoo she had just had permanently inked on her left wrist.

Wish I had said:  A tattoo? How perfect for you.  Sweet, subtle, delicate.   Just like you to wear your heart on your sleeve. I so admire your self-expression. Love it!

My real response:  Is that thing real?!  You did it?  Without telling me?  Why don’t you just move out to LA with Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan and all the other trailer trash with ink all over their skin. (No surprise she soon moved to LA with Britney and Lindsay…)

Arriving home from church on a snowy Christmas Eve, three children in tow, to smell my brother’s arrival by the trail of smoke from his Winstons over-powering the heavenly scent my evergreen boughs draped throughout the house.

Wish I had said:  You’re here safely!  Merry Christmas!  How was your drive? Thanks for having a cigarette in the basement where we agreed you could  smoke…How about some eggnog?

What I really said loosely translated to keep this PG:  Why does your smoke always have to precede you? What’s wrong with smoking outside?  (It was probably 30 below with the chill factor.) It’s Chrismas Eve, for God’s sake. Can’t you take a night off??? Oh, my babies’ little lungs…full of carcinogens…Blah, blah blah…

And on a lighter note, I’ll share a moment in which I have no regets about my mouth working faster than my brain. As I mentioned in my last entry, my left foot is once again either fractured or has a gaggle of torn tendons. I say “once again” because after dragging around a walking bootie  for several months after surgery two years ago, I spent last winter in a walking cast for a stress fracture and now have something again impairing my stride and making me miserable.  The doctor told me to R-I-C-E:  rest, ice, compress and “eat whatever I want with the added bonus of doing nothing and not gaining a pound” (really it’s ‘elevate’) and come back in two weeks. I dutifully “RICED” and waited and laid on the couch as much as possible and returned with the same swollen, red, aching foot. I stood in front of her, painfully balancing on both sets of toes and she said matter of factly, “Well, it’s still swollen.”  And I responded, “Well, duh!!”  Luckily she had a sense of humor.

Perhaps my sometimes too honest tongue is an over-reaction to my mother’s motto, “If you have nothing good to say about someone, say nothing at all.”

We are all some mixture of what we intrinsically are–were born to be–and what our parents tried to mold us into. And I feel certain, none of us say what we should at all moments and more of us think of the perfect response to many encounters as we drive away or rethink the day’s interactions in the shower.

I think Ralph Waldo Emerson may have said it best. Duh!!

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Perfecting the art of imperfection…

To say I am a perfectionist by nature would be an understatement. To say I have fought it all my life would be a lie.

No, for most of my existence on this earth, my quest has been for the best.  Of anything.  Grades, colleges, cribs, strollers, cars, shoes, cell phones, mattresses,porch furniture,grandchildren’s scooters.

Now, my “quest for the best” should not be confused with having to have the most expensive version of all things. To me, those are two very different animals.

In fact, having the most expensive version of all things is pretty easy to do if you have the money.  It takes no imagination, research or style to simply buy what is on the cover of the Neiman Marcus  catalogue or whatever is strutted by the latest celebrity in People. Buying or living this way may give some people a sense of importance or status. But to me, it lacks any originality or je ne se quoi. (That’s French for a person that inherently has their good-taste-in-all-things shit together. No one has to tell them. They just know. Think Katherine Hepburn. Her unrelated fellow actor, Audrey.)

So my most recent quest has been for the perfect washer and dryer.

With piles of Lulu Lemon and Feel Good white T’s (two of my “quest for the best” favorites by the way), piling up in front of my on-its-last-leg Kenmore, I was faced with a whole new world of research possibilities. Not having bought a washer and dryer in over a decade put me somewhere between owning a washboard and mangle.  And still drying things on “the line.”

Right out of the box, I realized to my horror machines no longer use agitators or a heaping cup of granular Tide. The control panels are no longer happy ratchet sound knobs but LED lit touch screens. So much new to over-analyze and so little time, as my clothes were growing small shrubs of mold in the tub of my dilapidated machine. Per usual, my over-research involved two calls to different  manufacturers’ customer service centers, lengthy discussions with three Lowes salesman, massive internet review reading and even a trip to Lowes by my sister after I broke my foot. (Not related to tripping over my ever-increasing mounds of laundry. Another story.)

To me, this is where a “best quest” steps out of normal consumer range and my OCD tendencies step in and I make myself and everyone around me crazy. I’m sure on some level here I am parading my OCD tendencies as a simpler diagnosis of meticulous researcher.  A simple girl who just likes to get the most bang for her buck.

On a good day,  I’m hoping I fall somewhere in between.

This story gets so much better but to keep this to a one page entry and hopefully not have you nodding off between paragraphs, I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version of what transpired before my new washer and dryer were safely placed and leveled in my laundry room.

–I finally chose a sort of new age/old lady hybrid by Whirlpool that had my familiar cycle knobs and no agitator. Instead it had an impeller that gently rocks the clothes like a new mother using less water, less soap, less suds and less energy. All those lesses sounded like less clean clothes to me.  But my Lowes salesman assured me the power jet rinse and high speed spinning would balance it all out to perfectly clean laundry.  He had me at “perfectly.”

–But as luck would have it, the dryer in this set (which I never gave a second thought as a dryer is a dryer is a dryer) had a heat sensor flaw that snagged, shredded and ruined my first load of towels.

–Lowes, who gets an A++ on customer service, asked few questions and offered to replace both appliances the next day.

–Given a chance to rethink my choice, once more, and having had a few loads of practice at getting used to the world of no agitators, I traded up for the full deal, LED screen, doorbell chime end of cycle signal Whirlpool set. Which, by the way, is made in the USA and even has a flag in the lid to prove it.

And here, washer drum roll please, are my compulsive researcher conclusions.  HE (High Efficiency), no agitator, energy saving machines are leaps and bounds better than the machines our grandmothers used. When I pulled my first load out, and it had been spun to half way to dry and smelled like spring flowers, I swear Snow White’s bluebirds circled my head singing “You’re out of the woods” while braiding blue satin ribbons in my hair. (I know I’m mixing fairy tale/movie allusions here but that was my image, so I’m sticking to it.)

To be honest, I am sure my research perfection/obsession involves some mortal fear of making a mistake, any mistake, that is tangled up with feeling like a failure if I ever get a grade less than an A.

Or perhaps it was  the humiliation of my eighth-grade gym teacher, Mrs. Burford, screaming she hated me when my Tahitian fake hair ponytail ( a 70’s fad I had purchased from an ad in the back of Teen magazine) fell out from under my 70’s bun, hitting  mid-court like road kill, during homeroom basketball.  Which stopped the game.  And sent me to the bench. In front of the whole school.

More likely the latter. I’d still like to give Mrs. Burford a spin in my new high speed Whirlpool.