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Archive for the ‘Childhood Pseudo-Trauma’ Category

dairyqueen

Parents – – – listen up. If you ever want to scare the living crap out of your teenager who might want to, you know, travel the world a bit before heading to college, then have I got an idea for YOU. Drive over to your nearest Dairy Queen, go inside, ask to speak to the manager, get an application, fill it out, then slip the manager a twenty dollar bill to hire your kid for the job. Later, in a few weeks time, when your kid has crawled across broken glass to get home to you and away from the nearest place to Hell they’ve ever inhabited, then fill out their college applications at the speed of sound – -you’ll realize it was time and money well spent.

While it was not my parent’s plan to have me experience such a mind-altering, life-altering event at our local Dairy Queen, something very similar happened to me during my formative years when I took a job there, looking for a little extra cash from a summer job. Dad had thought it was a good idea for me to find something more full-time than what I’d been doing at the florist that I’d been working at on the weekends for quite some time – – a good learning experience for me, he thought. And boy was he right, but not for the reasons he’d intended.

I’d spent many mind-numbing days traveling from small business to small business, looking for a place that I thought I could stomach for 2.5 months during the summer, and also looking for a place that could possibly stomach a slightly moody 16 year old who chewed a lot of gum and whose only real responsibility thus far was to get to cheerleader practice on time and not fail any of my classes. Slim pickings, indeed.

So it was with many failed attempts at finding a job that fit this bill under my belt when I noticed a “Now Hiring” sign outside on the Dairy Queen billboard en route towards home one fateful day. Dad’s disappointed face loomed above my mind’s eye in a pristine thought-bubble, and I realized that if I came home yet again with no new job, then I would be facing yet another lecture about how I wasn’t “trying hard enough” to find a job.

I pulled into the parking lot and sat in the car for a moment, picturing myself greeting happy customers seeking ice cream sundaes and dipped cones with a smile – – wearing a cute sun visor that said “DQ” jauntily on the front. I pictured myself eating the leftover ice cream with the other employees my age, giggling over boys and fashion – – and I thought “yes…..yes….I think I can do this.” I felt so strongly in that moment that my job ship had come in and I need only go in and grab the wheel.

I confidently walked into the Dairy Queen and asked for an application, was handed just that and, once I’d filled it out, pointed in the direction of the manager’s office. I walked into a dank, dingy office the size of a shoe box with all sorts of papers strewn about the desk and more nondescript papers on the walls. It smelled of cleaning solution and hopelessness. This should have been a sign but I was too far gone down my mental path of pie-in-the-sky dreams of how fantastic my life was going to be in my cute little DQ apron to notice anything amiss in that little room.

A middle aged man in too-tight trousers, an untrimmed mustache with tired eyes perused my application. He clicked his ball-point pen repeatedly, creating a manic-like rhythm which punctuated the expectant silence in the room, somehow highlighting my nervousness in the process. He swooped his eyes from me to the application in front of him, then back at me again.

“When can you start?”

“Um, well….soon. Monday?”, I said.

He looked at me again and said “I’ll start you out front with the ice cream”.

I could barely contain my excitement at this news. Oh I would make the BEST banana splits in the history of all of Dairy Queen. I would win a PRIZE for my cone dipping abilities. Scenes from West Side Story exploded in my mind – – only we were all in red DQ aprons doing leaps and turns with large jazz hands in front of the ice cream machine, holding our aprons like flirtatious skirts and singing songs about fun, ice cream, and chocolate sprinkles to the tune of “America”.

Then he said the most hideous words I have ever heard uttered in my presence:

“Oh….yeah. You’ll need to wear a hairnet.”

Somewhere in the universe, a very large record player with a very large needle which had been playing my DQ version of the “West Side Story” soundtrack very noisily scratched off the record.

“Um……what?”, I said. Because surely I’d misunderstood him. Did he mean a VISOR or….maybe a ….hat?

“Yes, it’s against code for our workers to not wear a hairnet”, he continued.

Oh Dear Leroy, Jethro and Jimmy. He was serious. And then, worse – – he reached into one of the drawers of his creaky little wooden desk and pulled out a hairnet. And it was not a subtle hairnet. It was a jet black hairnet. It was like a shower cap for a prisoner with holes in it. It was like something a very old, very cantankerous woman would put on around her curlers right before she went out to yell at “Daddy” to turn down the TV so she could “hear herself think!”. I could not have been LESS subtle had the hairnet been neon purple – – – with psychedelic colors shooting out of the top like some sort of acid trip for lunchroom ladies who are looking for a good time with their hairnet.

I held out a limp, dejected hand and took the hairnet from him like it was a dead skunk. He shook my hand and told me he would see me first thing Monday morning.

I drove home with the hairnet lying on the passenger seat of my car – – taunting me with it’s hideousness. But even the hairnet couldn’t dampen my spirits completely. I’d gotten a job today that I thought I might LIKE – – and I would also be making my parents happy in the process.

But when I got home to tell them the good news, Dad raised one eyebrow and said “The Dairy Queen, eh? You do know that will be hard work, don’t you?” I nodded my head slowly, suddenly unsure of myself – – then added “the manager said that I would be working out front with the ice cream.” Dad said, “Well….even still. That’s a tough job but….maybe it will be good for you.”

Between Dad’s little speech and my hairnet, I was starting to get a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. But as I got closer and closer to Monday morning, I pushed these bad feelings out of my mind and just concentrated on the free ice cream I was sure I would be getting all summer – – and the nice people I would maybe meet.

I walked into the Dairy Queen Monday morning and nervously went to the manager’s office for what I thought would be a brief DQ Orientation, but was greeted by an empty office. Unsure of what to do now, I peeked into the kitchen to see if anyone was in there – – it was empty so I went back toward the office again and saw one of the staff there looking at a clipboard. I said, “Um, excuse me – – my name is Amy and it’s my first day here. I was looking for the manager to find out where I need to start today…” The staffer was a very rotund, African American woman who slowly – – – very slowly – – – looked away from the clip board and eyed me like I was a fly in her morning Cheerios. Her lip curled into a slow smirk, then said “Manager’s not here.” She offered no other explanation or instruction so I stammered out, “U-u-mmm…well th-then – – should I start out up front today?”

This time her smile expanded into a wide-toothed grin and she said “I’m not so sure about that, honey – – nobody starts out up front on the first day”. She then nodded her head toward the clipboard and said, “You should find your name on this schedule”, and she shuffled away, humming a tune I’d never heard.

I looked on the schedule and found my name – – then followed the line out to the right of my name for my assignment. In big, bold, black letters, I read the most terrifying word I’d ever seen up until that point in my life: KITCHEN

I blinked. I blinked again. No. No no no no no. I was supposed to be up front. With the ice cream!!!! And the chocolate sprinkles!!!! I didn’t know how to cook anything other than a grilled cheese sandwich! I was completely dumbfounded and didn’t know what to do or think – – or where to start pleading my case.

I walked into the kitchen in search of an ally and ran into a woman by the name of Mary who apparently had been assigned as my mentor of sorts. Mary was a sturdy African-American woman with short, neat hair and a no-nonsense attitude. She was eating a chicken sandwich when I met her and told me that she would be working with me that day, but she didn’t appear to be in any hurry to show me the ropes. I stood there like a petrified tree watching her finish her sandwich in slow, methodical bites as she intermittently yelled comments and obscenities at the workers up front who were preparing for the day. The workers up front with the ice cream. The workers up front with the chocolate sprinkles. The workers up front who kept peering into the kitchen at me with my black hairnet and terrified look on my face. They appeared amused at the sight.

Mary finally finished her sandwich then started a long-winded, fast speech about what my duties would entail in the kitchen. And it became quickly apparent that my duties would entail things way beyond my spoiled, 16 year old capabilities. Things involving many, many frozen hamburger patties being placed onto a massive fryer — and making onion rings from scratch – – and hot buckets of foot long hot dogs that had to be taken out with scalding metal tongs in record time and placed into a steamed bun with condiments placed on top by more scalding hot utensils from other hot buckets. I swear I needed fire retardant gloves for that job but was given nothing but some flimsy, see-through plastic ones.

Mary rapidly explained to me the science of which things go on a burger first – – the lettuce, tomato, onion – – then the ketchup and mustard on the other side – – and the pickles on top. She explained that the mouth needs to taste certain items first for freshness. She seemed very passionate about the science of the burger. I tried writing it all down to keep myself straight but she was talking so fast that I barely had time to take it in mentally, much less in the written form.

She went on to explain how orders came in on the little metal wheel and how I needed to say “Order up!” when I was done with an order and it was ready to be given to the customer. At that moment, I couldn’t imagine being able to actually COMPLETE an order and I stared at the metal wheel like it was a Machine of Doom.

Sometime in the middle of her make-shift DQ Kitchen Orientation, another worker showed up named “Jimmy” and meandered his way back to the drive-thru window. I never did know during my short time of employment there whether or not Jimmy was a teenager – – or a Little Person. I would spend quite a few hours pondering this question and would reach a different conclusion every time. He was very short, had long sideburns, cursed like an angry pirate – – and chain-smoked out the drive-thru window on a regular basis. Jimmy also showed me very little mercy when it came to a learning curve on completing orders.

The rest of the day was one that is only remembered in fits and starts because it was The Most Awfulest Day of All The Awful Days…I think the brain really does protect us from remembering too much trauma because there was only so much shock my body could take that day. I have a vague recollection of trying to simultaneously cook about 15 hamburger patties and prepare 10 hot dogs for a male high school sports team that came in that day – – I also remember praying with all my might that the hamburger patties were actually DONE when I finished the order. I remember frantically cutting onions the size of Good Year Tires and dipping them hap-hazzardly into batter and flour – – then burning them in the deep fryer. 3 times. Tears streamed down my face as I had to re-cut the onions repeatedly – – both from the onions themselves, and also from the fact that I was in the lowest pit of despair on the face of the planet at that point. I looked at my flour-covered watch to see how much time had passed – – it hadn’t even hit the 2 hour mark in my 8 hour day. I cried a little harder in the darkened corner of the kitchen, completely convinced that I was never going to see my family again – – that I was going to die here in this Dairy Queen kitchen while having orders barked at me by a very mean, chain-smoking Dwarf because I was losing all understanding of time and life going by outside of this sweltering Hell Hole.

I dropped hot dogs. I burned things. I got orders wrong. I had grease burns. My hairnet lay askew on my sweat-laden head. My shoes slid around on the greasy floor of their own volition. My back ached. My eyes watered. I was hot. I was exhausted.

And I smelled. Oh Dear God, I smelled.

When the 8th hour finally arrived, I resisted the urge to drop down on all fours and kiss the greasy floor on which I stood. But, instead, I dragged my sweaty, wreaking carcass to the car and sat there with my head resting on the steering wheel for a good 5 minutes. With one hand, I pulled off the hairnet and then raised back up into the sitting position to start the long ride home to face my parents.

Mom and Dad to this day talk about that night when I came home after my first night at Dairy Queen. Mom said that the door opened downstairs, then shut – – and she smelled me before she saw me. The putrid smell of grease and despair wafted up ahead of me as I Thump……..thump…..thumped up the stairs in a slow death march. They took one look at me and stifled unbridled laughter – – while I started crying and said immediately with the definitive shriek that can only be produced by a spoiled, desperate teenager: “I am NEVER going back there!!!!!!!”

I could tell my parents were wrestling with how to handle the situation. I mean – – on the one hand, they wanted me to live up to my obligation and commitments and stick with the job. But on the other hand, here was their greasy, sweaty, exhausted, tear-stained daughter obviously in A State and there seemed to be some genuine pity on their part when looking at me. When they weren’t laughing at me, that is.

I remember shrill negotiations with a very calm-voiced Dad well into the night – – initially he wanted me to commit to working there for a month, but that suggestion was greeted with such desperate, earth-shaking wails that he finally relented and we both agreed that I would work there for a week.

And so that was how I returned the next day – – and the next and the next – – until finally completing the Longest Week of My Life working in the Dairy Queen kitchen. My name never did waiver from it’s place beside the “KITCHEN” assignment – – and I have to say that by the end of the week, I was doing ok. Even won some praise from the workers up front who were still relishing their jobs up front with the ice cream – – as I continued to sweat and limp along in the back.

But it was with something close to ecstasy when I went in on that seventh day and informed the manager that I would not be returning to work the next week. He seemed non-plussed by the news – – and I can see how he was likely familiar with that sort of thing happening on a regular basis. So with little bravado, I picked up my check and walked into the hot, July night, free from the confines of my prison sentence.

While the experience gave me a lot of respect for the DQ Lifetime Employees out there – – it also gave me a new understanding of WHY HIGHER EDUCATION WAS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Not too long after that, I started researching colleges with new gusto – – with the new goal being that I never wanted to step foot into a restaurant kitchen again as long as I lived.

And just in case I forgot – – I kept that hairnet for many years to come as a reminder. The smell of grease never would leave it completely.

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I think that as we all get older, the fabric of our relationships with loved ones changes in texture over time – – taking on the patterns that develop as we find our footing in different stages of life. It is still the same fabric; still the same threads that hold it together – – but its hues and stripes of understanding become slightly altered as we see it in a new light. It is no different with the relationships with our parents – because our parents become not just our parents anymore but people in their own right. With their own likes, dislikes, trials, wants, fears, and joy. We each struggle in our roles, wondering how we are supposed to fit together now that we are no longer a child and a young adult caring for that child – – but not in the place yet where a son or daughter starts to care for the parent as they begin to ail and falter. It is in that limbo phase where I believe real growth can take place, if you can, indeed, stand in the midst of the emotion created by these rumbling fault lines of change between two people existing within the important, complex roles which are that of an adult child and their parent.

My father and I have been two pieces of earth creating the friction that is often indicative of a struggling parent/child relationship. I know some of the reasons for this – – know it from my vantage point and I try very hard to see it from his viewpoint too but admittedly, often fail. But no matter the struggles – – no matter the small earthquakes that have erupted in the last decade or so of a changing relationship terrain, one thing I have never stopped understanding is that he loves me – – completely, unconditionally, and without judgment. And that I love him too – – though I do not always understand him.

My Dad has been a globe trotter for many years now – – starting when he was 50 and decided to join the Peace Corps. In doing so, he traveled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan and spearheaded an English learning center at a university there. He did this for the entire 2 years with the Peace Corps before eventually continuing this same work for an NGO once his Peace Corps duties were over. From there he also traveled to Afghanistan and Azerbaijan to do similar educational work for various NGOs before returning to Uzbekistan again and then returning home to the US to settle in Indiana as his home base and teach at a local university there. Unable to stay still for TOO long, though, he has once again started extending his educational services overseas, having now traveled to Ukraine and is currently in Bangkok. I am constantly confused about where he’s been, what he’s done there, and where he’s going next – – but the important thing is, I suppose, that it is a passion for him. Finding ways to use his talents at higher education has become his life’s work and it is tremendously inspiring to me, while being simultaneously mysterious to me because the driving force to change direction so frequently is so strong.

And so, thus, I have been learning what makes my father tick – – finding it sometimes difficult for both of us to cultivate a father/daughter relationship when he has been away so frequently. But as stated, knowing that the mutual love is there has been both evident and paramount in my adulthood.

A large part of this love is due in very significant part to the big role that he played in my years growing up – – he was a very present father. He took that role seriously and due to my mother’s job as a public school kindergarten teacher, he was often the one to take on the duties that a mother would traditionally have done at that day in age. As a toddler, mom had to get up in the wee hours of the morning to get to class on time, and so Dad would be the one to wake me up, change my diaper, feed me and drive me to daycare so that he could then go to work himself. As I got older, he was also the one to take me to school on the first day to attend orientation since mom was busy with her own classroom first-day orientation. A lone father in a sea of mothers, he would meet the teacher, make sure I was settled, and then once again leave me to find my own way amongst my peers – – watching me over the years become less and less clingy, and more and more wanting of independence and relegating him to only a quick chat with the teacher before leaving and, thus, saving me the embarrassment of a hovering father.

He was largely responsible for my love of the Beatles and Classical music – – weekend mornings were filled with the sounds of the former and the latter coming from one of our extra bedrooms that contained the family stereo or as he dubbed it “The Listening Room”. I cannot hear “Scheherazade” played to this day without picturing him in his rocking chair, reading the paper – – coffee mug in hand as he takes a sip occasionally, perusing each section of the news systematically and leisurely. The Beatles, especially, began to sing their way into my heart as they continued their pervasiveness throughout my childhood by way of Dad. When I became a teenager, the worst sound for me to hear, as I awoke bleary-eyed from my late morning, 15 year old slumber, was the rooster crowing from the song “Good Morning, Good Morning” on the Sgt Pepper album. He would play it at top volume and – – worse – – would dance like a maniac in my bedroom as I groaned and pulled the covers over my head saying “DAAAAaaaaaaDDDD!!!!! You are SO embarrassing!!!!!!!!!!!” And embarrassing it was, because Dad’s “dancing” has always consisted predominately of a slight hip swaying movement – – like he was downhill skiing to the rhythms of some sort of cheesy 80’s song like Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen”. The only thing worse than Dad dancing like this in front of me in the privacy of our own home (and trust me, this was bad enough to leave irreparable scars) was when he would dance like this in front of my friends. It was moments like those where a quick and painless death could not have come soon enough for me. I would have paid a Mafia hit man top dollar to have him show up at our house, ring the doorbell, and take me out quickly with a silenced revolver before he sped away into the dark night, just to put me out of the misery of my friends witnessing the Dancing of Dad.

When I was younger, he read books to me – – “Tom Sawyer” is one that comes to mind immediately though I know he read others. And it was truly something I would look forward to – – hearing all those adventures told chapter by chapter sitting beside dad in his massive big, black, ugly recliner. A big, ugly recliner it was, make no mistake, but as a child, that recliner just meant “Dad” and so I loved it in that sort of way that only a child can love an inanimate object of either parent: it was a comfort to have around. Much like the stories he read me from its shiny, leather expanses were a comfort as well.

I am just one of those lucky girls who grew up knowing that she had a Dad who was involved and cared – – that both of her parents loved her. And though I have grown into a rather complicated creature inhabiting planet Earth, I have also grown to like myself as I fumble my way through life. And I have come to recognize that this independence, willfulness, passion and tenacity that allows me to keep figuring it all out my own way in my own time, largely comes from a foundation that I was given as a young child. The sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken message from my Dad especially, that I could do or be anything or anyone that I wanted to be has played a large role from within the depths of my being, unfolding a limitless life that has not been cookie-cutter by any stretch of the imagination thus far. So as I have struggled to understand my Dad and his complexities, I have also come to understand that they are the same complexities in personality that I also possess – – but maybe they have just manifested themselves in a different way, as the next generation’s inheritances from their parents are often want to do. And it is the things that we recognize as our own traits that are so difficult to accept in others.

So Dad – – whatever you’re doing over there in Bangkok – – I hope you’re enjoying your day and your life to the utmost fullest. Happy Father’s Day and thank you for being my Dad.

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For My Mom

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Someone told me recently that her mother doesn’t like Mother’s Day – – because in her mother’s opinion, EVERY day is Mother’s Day. I can see how one could arrive at this opinion – – I mean, the worrying alone of mothers young and not-so-young should be enough to designate each day as an homage to what moms go through on a regular basis to nurture their kids. And through my relationship with my own mother, I have seen that this desire to nurture never really ends.

My mother and I are opposite in – – well – – most every way there is to BE opposite. I have often said that it has to be some sort of cosmic mix-up in DNA that I sprang from her loins, looking very little like her and as I have grown older, becoming interested in a life that is so different from her own, that I might as well be from the planet Zorton, and she, planet Earth. A kind, Earthly mother who adopted a poor little Zortonian baby who, God bless me, is not genetically pre-disposed toward an understanding of kitchen skills or knowing how to properly mop a bathroom floor.

Since retiring from her job as a public school kindergarten teacher, it is like someone has released mom from a tightly locked cage that was preventing her all these years from expressing her domesticity to it’s fullest potential. So she is making up for lost time and then some. It is not uncommon for me to talk with her, ask what she’s been up to, and then get to listen to a laundry list of activities as long as my arm of things she’s been doing:

“Well….(sigh)…I just went and picked some herbs from out back in the garden to make that really good salad dressing for the salad that I’m taking to the church dinner tonight. And I went and gathered some blackberries earlier this morning and am now in the middle of making some jam. And I might be making a blackberry cobbler later tonight for the Garden Club picnic tomorrow – – either that or the chocolate pie. Maybe both. I alphabetized all of the DVD’s in the corner room and then realized that they were FILTHY so I dusted and cleaned the corners with a toothbrush. I swept the porch and washed all the pillows from the chairs out there. I finished knitting two new hats – – have started smocking a dress for Catherine – – and am going to a Master Gardener’s event on Thursday so I painted some cute little flowers on my gardening clogs. And I think this weekend, I’m going to learn to churn butter…”

I look at my watch – – it’s not even noon.

She will then return the favor and ask me the dreaded question: “So what have you been doing??”

The truth is, that nine times out of ten, when she asks me that question, I will have run a conference call from my couch with my feet propped up on the coffee table, eaten two tortilla chips – – and perhaps painted a toenail. One toenail. Because I got sidetracked with Thinking About Something Really Important before I could get to the other nine. Realizing this is a highly unsatisfactory answer that will result in questions about the state of my condo (Ummm…staring at laundry needing folding), what flowers I have planted on my porch (none), and if I have changed the oil in my car (Errrrrrrrr…what month is it again?), I usually just talk about my rewards and accolades I’ve been receiving at my job. My job is a safe subject. Because it doesn’t involve admitting that my domesticity grade would most often be a big, red, glaring, F-.

My mom has always been one to show love through doing things – – making things. From such a young age, she was always creatively putting things together for my birthday parties or other various celebrations. Every year on my birthday, she would ask me what kind of cake I wanted – – and I would think and think about it, wanting to come up with the perfect idea. Over the years I had an alligator cake, a butterfly cake, a hot air balloon cake, a Minnie Mouse cake – – even a group of small round cakes that she had grouped together to make a bunch of balloons, tied together with yarn. It was always so exciting to see her creating them from scratch – – wondering how they would look when they were done.

She made me dresses – – beautiful hand-smocked dresses – – hours spent in front of the sewing machine with pins stuck in her mouth humming absent-mindedly and sometimes erupting with a curse word as she realized she’d sewn some part of the dress on backwards. I would spend long periods of time, standing in front of her with arms outstretched like a scarecrow as she pinned all the pieces together like a cloth jigsaw puzzle. I would hold my breath as she did so – – preparing myself for more uncommon cursing from her mouth if something was ill-fitting.

The only time I heard my mom curse was when she was making things. Some of the biggest, loudest, most explosive cursing episodes occurred when she was making a caramel cake. Caramel cakes are REALLY HARD TO MAKE. I know this because she told me MANY TIMES how hard they were to make. I also know this to be true because she cursed like the daughter of an angry pirate when she would attempt to make that cake and it would usually, inevitably, fail. Those were bad days in mom’s kitchen.

Sometimes when I look back at photos of mom from that time in my life, I have the realization that she was really young when she was doing all this. And really HOT. My mom was seriously pretty – – she still is – – but in her 30’s, my mom totally could have been one of the Charlie’s Angels with her long, tan legs, tank tops and short-shorts. The angel who baked really difficult cakes in skimpy sundresses. Some of my best memories of my mom were when she would lose the worried furrow to her brow, and dance to ABBA while she was ironing. Or play John Denver on her guitar, forever searching for the right note on “Country Road” as she sang.

She was constantly worrying that I had enough of anything and everything and reminding me to do a whole myriad of things that I was often forgetting given my Zortonian disposition. Checking to make sure I had enough socks or underwear – – that I had the right kind of crayons for school – – that my shoes had enough room at the toes for growth. As I got older, she would ask me about my homework, how much my dance costumes were going to cost, if I’d thanked Mrs Harris for letting me sleepover at their house. Whether I’d set the table, or cleaned my room – – or fed the dog.

In fact, one of my more comical memories of mom to illustrate what I’m talking about is from when I visited her at the hospital when I was 12 after she’d had major surgery. I remember walking up to the side of her bed and she was still groggy from the anesthesia – – I looked at her and said “Hi Mom…” and she looked at me, bleary-eyed, trying to focus on her daughter. She was attempting to say something and recognizing that maybe she had something really important to tell me, I leaned in closer to make sure I caught all of what she needed to say. Haltingly and carefully, she managed to utter….“Amy…..did you remember to feed the dog?”

Even under the haze of ANESTHESIA, my mom was still wanting to make sure that all was in it’s place. It was just such a perfect mom moment.

And as I get older, even as I realize that there are so many differences between Mom and me that likely will not change in our lifetime, I see these differences as gifts. As we work to understand one another’s positions a little more, I would like to think that we add something new and different to one another’s lives. She has learned, I think, to trust me as I go forth down the road less traveled – – she sees with a mom’s instinct that I’m ok. That I have enough underwear. That while I’ll likely never be a domestic goddess, I have yet to die from a mysterious germ infestation in my home so obviously I’m hanging in there on that front. She watches me as I have broken away from so many of life’s conventions and forged a life that she can’t completely understand, but she’s learned to respect. And I, in turn, see so more clearly how talented she is at doing the things she does. And feeling so much more love from her in these reminders, concerns and cakes that will forever just be her way of communicating it to me and others.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I’m so lucky to have had you as my mother. Next time you iron….turn on some ABBA again.

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cabkids

I will fully admit that, at the age of 34, I still like to remind my parents of their less than stellar moments they displayed during my formative years. Ok…I actually probably remind them about one or more of these things every time I see or talk to either of them for longer than an hour. Which, if you talk to them, they will GLEEFULLY TELL YOU THAT SEEING OR TALKING TO ME FOR LONGER THAN AN HOUR HAPPENS ABOUT AS OFTEN AS A SOLAR ECLIPSE. But that’s beside the point.

I would like to state, for the record, before I go on since I know that they both read this blog, that they were, on the whole, outstanding parents and I honestly couldn’t have asked for anyone better to raise me into the only slightly nutty human being you see before you today. So for that, I thank them.

Now I shall commence with my nit-picking.

I remember one time somewhat recently (in solar eclipse time), my Dad asked me if there was anything I could recall that I really disagreed with that he did in the way of parenting me when I was growing up.

I looked at him like he had a dancing aardvark on his head. Was he KIDDING ME? Was he ACTUALLY inviting me, with a great big neon lettered invitation, to remind him ONCE AGAIN, about the time that he wouldn’t let me be in the District Level Social Studies Project Fair?

“The Social Studies Fair thing, Dad.”, I said…without hesitating for one second.

He got the look of a cornered animal and nodded his head slowly in resignation and sudden remembrance of the fact that “Of COURSE she would bring this up. She ALWAYS brings this up.” I think he’d been wanting to have a philosophical, more generalized discussion about his parenting method – – one that could be put into a chapter of his own parental self-help book entitled “Things To Talk to Your 34 Year Old Daughter About that She Probably Already Talks About in Therapy” . But noooooo….I pulled out my bow and arrow and shot straight into the heart of my little 5th grade soul that was shattered most epically and dramatically when I was DISALLOWED my RIGHTFUL PLACE in the District Social Studies Fair by my Dad who was….apparently….trying to prove some sort of point about living up to my “commitments”.

WHATEVER, dude. Here’s how it went down, folks.

I made a project about the history of the American flag. So during one of my trips with the family to visit my grandmother, she and I worked together to sew this flag from scratch. I cut out all the fabric stars and stripes…and we hand-stitched some of it together, working side-by-side to finish the flag in time for my project. In addition to that, I made a little replica of a town with tiny little American flags glued to toothpick “poles” outside each of the buildings to represent the patriotism that each and every citizen of this great nation displays on a regular basis – – and I did this while singing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” softly under my breath. As any patriotic 5th grader who’s proud of her country, proud of her project, and proud of her heritage would. (Ok…that last bit might be a liiiitttle bit over the top…but you get the picture. Excited American 5th Grader with Exciting American Project)

I also had to write a report to go along with the project. And apparently the report was lacking in some content according to my Dad’s opinion. He kept telling me to add some more to it and I said that I thought that it was enough. And obviously SOMEONE thought that what I wrote was enough because I won 1st Place in the school for my project in my category and 2nd place in the county. So that qualified me for the District Competition.

Well….Dad must have had big pie-in-the-sky Hollywood dreams for how far my little flag project could take me. ….and my report just wasn’t gonna cut it. He reminded me once again that I needed to add more substance to my report. So I did what any lazy, award-winning 5th grader would do…

I added a paragraph to the report.

I remember distinctly that when Dad saw the report, he went ballistic. I went ballistic. There was much crying and stomping and “BUT I *DID* DO WHAT YOU TOLD ME TO DO!!!” that ensued. It all ended in a bloody mess when Dad told me that I couldn’t be int he District Level Competition. He lay down the law, and it was final.

I threw my 10 year old body over my project in a heap of inconsolable tears. My life was….obviously, irrevocably ruined. How would I get discovered as the greatest social studies project…..person….of all time….NOW????

I recall having to get up from my desk the next day, and shuffle up to the front of the class and mumble to my teacher that I “couldn’t be in the fair”. She looked dumbfounded and just blinked at me. “Why???”, she said.

“B..b.b…because of my D..d…dad. H…he….won.nn’t…l..let me.”

She blinked again. And sadly told me she was sorry to hear that. I looked at her, bleary eyed with tears of unfairness, slowly nodded in agreement, and shuffled back to my desk.

And so ended my career as a Social Studies Fair Genius.

(Dad is currently rolling his eyes as I just dug that knife a little deeper into his proverbial heart for the two hundredth and seventy-fifth time. )

As bad as the Social Studies Fair Incident is, it’s nothing compared to The Cabbage Patch Kid Incident – – – but Dad is absolved of all wrong-doing on that one. Because that little award in wayward parenting goes to my mom.

When I was in the 3rd Grade, everyone who was ANYONE in my little world, had a Cabbage Patch Kid. And on that Christmas, there were record sales occurring in the form of actual, physical altercations at various toy stores across the land. Crazy-eyed mothers, who were carrying intricately laid out maps of the store that was their ultimate destination that day, complete with intricately drawn arrows outlaying their plan of attack to get to the Cabbage Patch Kids Shelf first, found themselves in lines the size of those one might find outside of a Rolling Stones concert. Except I suspect that the tattoo-clad, drunk-out-of -their- mind, Stones fans, would have been a lot more friendly than the mothers in these lines. These mothers would knock down anyone and anything…..man or beast….who got between them and one of these dolls.

My mother made it very, very…..VERY clear to me….that she would NOT be one of these mothers.

Ok…fine. Even at the age of 8, I understood that there were some limits to what a mother could or would do, in reasonable terms, to get a kid a doll.

But I had a secret plan…..and that plan was Santa Claus.

I was 8, so I was beginning to become suspicious of the whole Santa deal. It all seemed implausible to my inquiring little mind. I mean…we had a wood-burning stove that covered the entire opening of the chimney into our living room and, as a result, my parents had told me that Santa actually came in through the front door. But this, of course, caused me to worry about how Santa would know to do this – – what if he got stuck in the chimney, not knowing about the wood stove? Stuck in there with my toys? What if he started to smell like one of the squirrels that often died in the chimney and mom would say of the deceased squirrel, with a disgusted look on her face “serves it RIGHT.” To this day, my mother hates squirrels more than the Grim Reaper. My mom could be talking about puppies and bunnies and kitties with a look of angelic delight on her face, but the moment that a squirrel enters that furry mix, her eyes narrow, and a dark cloud crosses over her face as her upper lip curls into a sneer.

But I digress.

So as Christmas approached, I wrote my letter to Santa with a very large item at the top of it that read “CABBAGE PATCH DOLL”. (Though it was probably spelled more like “CABEGE PACH DOL”. My spelling was as bad as it was comedic at that time.) And I waited with anticipation, hoping that Santa could somehow swing a miracle for me. Because with the amount of eye-rolling that my mother was throwing around at the mere MENTION of the lines at the toy stores and the latest motherly altercation that had ended with a blackened eye, I knew that my chances of her getting me one for Christmas were next to nil. And my Dad didn’t even know what a Cabbage Patch Kid WAS….so I wasn’t getting help from that direction either.

The fateful day of Christmas morning arrived, and I anxiously galloped into the living room to see what Santa had brought me. Let’s see….some roller skates….and a cowboy hat and “Oh Look!” a game………and what’s this package over here? The package didn’t look like it was the shape of anything I’d had on my list that I wanted….so I gingerly began pulling off the wrapping paper with a puzzled expression.

The first thing I saw was a Cabbage Patch Kid Head. My heart skipped a beat – – what…..what was this? Could it be true??? Could Santa have come through for me????

But something was all wrong – – this was a much smaller box than what I knew Cabbage Patch kids came in. And as I ripped into it further….I saw all too clearly what the problem was.

I had received a pair of Cabbage Patch Kid earmuffs.

No….no. You don’t underSTAND. So let me say that one more time…

I RECEIVED A PAIR OF CABBAGE PATCH KID EARMUFFS.

As in, two …..decapitated….Cabbage Patch Kid heads that were attached to a plastic headband.

This had to be a cruel joke of some sort. But no….there they were….right in my hands. The soft little heads sneered up at me mockingly.

Mom had a camera up to her face, as per usual, and began coaxing me to “Put them on!!!”

I complied, but only because I was 8, and 8 year olds complied when their mothers told them to do something so they could take a photo, because they knew at that point that if they didn’t, then a Big Family Scene would ensue and it would all end in tears. And they would STILL have to have the photo taken but just with a tear-streaked, angry face.

As I sat there, completely dejected, with the sappy-faced balls of fabric gracing each of my ears, I tried to figure out where it all went wrong. I had SPECIFICALLY asked for a Cabbage Patch KID….not earmuffs. How could Santa DO this to me? This is like something my MOM would do to….

Hey….hang on a second. Mom. This is like something mom would do…..not Santa.

And at that very moment, I became more suspicious of this whole “Santa” business than I ever had been. I had evidence. I had the evidence sitting right on my head as Exhibit A and Exhibit B.

And so that was how it came to be that, when my friends brought all their Cabbage Patch Kids over to play with….I contributed my ear muffs to the group and, I think it goes without saying, that my earmuffs were not the most popular members of that little team of dolls. I think one time we pretended that one of my friend’s Cabbage Patch Kid gave birth to twins – – which were my ear muffs. But otherwise, the earmuffs pretty much just sat in a corner, as I glared at them accusingly, willing them to spontaneously burst into flames so I could beg my mother to get me a REAL Cabbage Patch Kid in one of the After-Christmas-Sales.

Make no mistake – – I laugh about these things with my parents now. Because it IS funny – – but I think they see there is a tiny pinprick of a grudge still held. And neither of them would, likely be surprised, if one day they find out I actually have a Cabbage Patch Kid stored in my closet and am currently working on a new, improved version of my Social Studies Project.

And the report that goes with it would…perhaps….if all of you are LUCKY….show up in this blog. With THREE additional paragraphs.

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Here’s the problem with reminiscing: sometimes you have the realization that something you loved as a child was actually really, really, REALLY lame. You fight to close Pandora’s box before all good memories of this thing or event are spoiled beyond repair, but alas…you are often too late. And so there you are…..sitting in the middle of all these escaped realizations, wanting to put everything back how it used to be but you can’t. YOU CAN’T! ……… *sob*

Such was the fate of one of my most beloved, cherished superheros that I, and every other girl I knew, worshiped with the starry-eyed idealism of babes: Wonder Woman.

It all started when I had the thought about her invisible jet being exceptionally flawed by design. I had this thought when everyone has such a thought: while eating a chocolate chip cookie, pondering the superhero universe. I don’t believe I am the only one who has made the realization that, while the jet is invisible….Wonder Woman is not. Thus, any bad, evil-doer’s radar would surely pick up a flying, squatting woman wearing bright, primary colors.

Also…what if she had to use the toilet on the jet? Firstly…I don’t SEE a lavatory of any sort…..do you?

And secondly, let’s say the jet did have a toilet – – so Wonder Woman puts the jet on auto-pilot to go do her business. Once again…an evil-doer or any Captain of a Delta 767 could then see a woman…in bright primary colors….squatting while reading a newspaper. I mean…come on. Wonder Woman would need some privacy. And no one wants a Wonder Woman episode where her jet is shot down while she’s on the crapper.

All of these perplexing thoughts about the invisible jet lead me, against my better judgment, to research other VERY IMPORTANT CONCERNS about Wonder Woman’s powers. And this lead me, of course, to YouTube – – to revisit one of my very favorite childhood TV shows: Wonder Woman.

This was a mistake of gargantuan proportions.

Let’s take a look at Realization Number One: THE THEME SONG TO WONDER WOMAN SUCKED:

The entire theme song is a musical nightmare of epic proportions but my favorite lines are:

“In your satin tights

Fighting for your rights

And the Old Red White and Blue!”

and

“Make a hawk a dove

Stop a war with love

Make a liar see the truth!”

Ok. OKAY. I just gotta say thanks to the good graces of the Holy Superhero Elves that the song wasn’t any longer than it was because I might have had to light myself on fire. Were the lyricists just having a really bad day? Were they drunk or experiencing some sort of emotional shoot-out? Was it the end of a long week of collective writers’ block, and, in a moment of desperation sitting together at 2:30am amongst a bucket of half-eaten Kentucky Fried Chicken and 17 pots of highly caffeinated coffee, one of them just started to maniacally call out the most INSANELY LAME lyrics on the face of the planet just so they could all go HOME? Because WHAT KIND OF RIGHTS WOULD SOMEONE BE FIGHTING FOR IN SATIN TIGHTS? The right to wear Prada???? The right to shop online during your lunch break???

And WHY would you want to make a hawk a dove? For what purpose??? To impress a bunch of magicians???? As entertainment for a wedding reception??? Then Wonder Woman can break out into “Close to You” by the Carpenters… (“Why do birds….suddenly appear….everytime….you are near??”)

And as for stopping a war with love – – what? Is Wonder Woman part of the Peace Train? In between fighting for justice, she also finds time to shake a tambourine at Love-ins?

The theme song disturbed me enough, but then I actually watched a clip of some of the episodes and this lead me to Realization Number 2:

THE ACTUAL EPISODES SUCKED EVEN MORE THAN THE THEME SONG:

Episode Example Number 1: Wonder Woman uses her tiara as a boomerang to pop an inflatable raft

Now….I would like to note a few highlights of this clip. Firstly, Wonder Woman’s tiara is, initially, as she’s taking it off her head, made of cloth…then, inexplicably, it is suddenly metal, and she’s in a GRAY ROOM – – not the beach background anymore. She tosses the now-metal tiara from the gray room, then suddenly it’s the beach again. Hats off to the editor…I hope he enjoyed the 8 Gin and Tonics he was drinking. And I gotta say….is this not the lamest super-power example ever? Using her TIARA to pop a raft? Couldn’t she have laser-eyes like Superman or something – – or really cool gadgets like Batman? Not a flippin’ TIARA to use as a BOOMERANG. Next thing you know, she’ll be pulling her hair dryer out to scare villains away with Vidal Sassoon-force winds.

The next thing I would like to note is the obvious. And that is that Wonder Woman is wearing Granny-Panties. Seriously, if they ever wanted to have a special, patriotic, limited collector’s edition of Depends Undergarments – – – then these would be an outstanding contender for the template. Linda Carter was a very slim, very beautiful woman….but these babies were doin’ NOTHIN’ for her figure.

Episode Example Number 2: Wonder Woman fights a man in a really bad gorilla suit:

Well folks….I’m at a loss for words with this one. Where do I start? The fact that when Diana changes into Wonder Woman, that the special effects amount to what looks like a bottle rocket backfiring into a pyrotechnic flame fart? Or maybe when Wonder Woman throws the “Gorilla” over her shoulder after she’d just said that “At home, on Paradise Island….we live in peace with all animals. Including those you call ‘ferocious'”. Apparently this peace is not extended to men in Gorilla suits. Or maybe you were touched just as much as I was when the ape, during a sensitive, less “Experimental Nazi Ape” moment, reaches out and touches Wonder Woman’s hand. Only James Taylor suddenly crooning “You’ve got a Friend” through a loud speaker in the ape cage would have made the moment more tenderly perfect.

I could go on and on. YouTube has bucket loads of these episodes. If you want a laugh – – just do a search on “Wonder Woman” then sit back with some popcorn and prop your feet up. I laughed until I cried on some of these. But I’m afraid that a few of these tears were the tears of disillusionment. The sad tears of an 8 year old girl who wanted to keep her hero intact and didn’t want to see all the cardboard walls giving way to Wonder Woman’s not-so-mighty girl-punches.

Wonder Woman underroos all across America just cowered in the corner of their respective closets, in an expression of epic shame for the exposure of The Truth. Who needs a Lasso of Truth when you’ve got Youtube?? 😉

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I was on the phone with my mom recently and she said:  “I’ve liked all your blog posts….except the one about that strange man because I didn’t know what you were talking about.”

I was quiet for a moment, running over my blog posts in my mind, trying to remember which one involved a “strange man”.

It then dawned on me that she was referring to Vanilla Ice.

(I laughed then, and I’ve laughed everytime I’ve thought of it since!!!)

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