THE SHORT LIST

To-Do? Done!

Quickly list five things you’d like to change in your life. Now, write a post about a day in your life once all five have been crossed off your to-do list.


VeganWitches“What a world, what a world” cried the witch. “I’m melting, melting.” And she melted. Referring back to her previous statement, it is quite a world and certainly could use some adjusting. So, off the top of my early morning head, I’d like to say this about that.

1. Whichever dog is piddling on the rug in the morning, it isn’t going to get you more biscuits, better food, an upgraded position on the sofa, or your own laptop. If we ever find out which one(s) of you are doing it, a good thumping is more likely. Stop it before I catch you because … to quote another movie big shot: “You won’t like me when I’m angry.”

2. Our television is 13 years old. It works. But it’s falling behind technologically. If any of you WordPress pixies feel inclined to drop by during the night, take away the huge old one and replace it with a nice, sleek, shiny new one, I would certainly not object.

3. Surely at least one wish grantor at your headquarters is in charge of paving? Because our driveway is a disaster and winter is coming. New asphalt please?

4. Speaking of winter coming and driveways … emphasis on the “drive”  … we could really use some kind of SUV to deal with the bad weather. We can’t afford one, but now that you are so spectacularly successful, maybe you’ve got a spare vehicle lying around you might send our way? Swap you for our 2003 Sunfire. It’s a cute little thing, but useless in the winter. Only has 115,000 miles on it and it’s bright yellow.

5. A general bump in income would be appreciated. We worked hard. Combined, the two of us worked for more than 80 years. It’s sad finding ourselves in such straits. We don’t need to be rich, though we wouldn’t object … but not poor either would be nice. I’d like to have more money than month. A little spare. Some discretionary funds.

Thank you all very much. I’ll be getting back to my coffee now. You want a cup? Have a seat. I’ll go get it.

Oh, and please make sure all those “gifts” are tax-free.

EPILOGUE: The Day After Tomorrow

Monday morning, I will get up and pad out to my living room in my bare feet, I will not step in a cold pool of dog pee. I will turn on my brand-new television which will have much better sharpness and clarity than the current one. I will not have to clean my glasses because things are a bit fuzzy.

I will gaze contentedly out my picture window where my new SUV will be waiting for me on my smoothly paved driveway. All our stuff will be packed because as soon as we finish a quick breakfast, we’re going away for a couple of days … now that we can afford a night or two in a nice bed and breakfast on the Cape.

Thanks for everything. See you in a few days.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW THAT WILL GET YOU

Hand-Me-Downs – Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.


The family

The most important stuff I got handed down to me — other than my DNA, which has turned out to be a mixed bag of goodies — were attitudes. Culture. Habits. Taste. Sayings and a few useful tips.

My mother gave me a love for books, as well as an expensive — nearly lethal — appreciation for the finer things in life. Without, sadly, leaving me the money to afford them. She also left me her far left knee-jerk liberal world view and a saying I have never quite escaped: “For everyone, there’s someone. Even you.”

Thanks mom. You have no idea how much confidence that’s given me.

Dad? Not my favorite person, but he did pass along some good jokes and knowledge of how to tell one without blowing the punchline. He also taught me how to throw a meal together using whatever I have in the fridge. Because knowing “what goes with what” is the most important thing to know when you do a lot of cooking.

He also bequeathed me a firm — grim — determination to be as unlike him as I could be. Plus one great saying: “It’s not what you don’t know that will get you in the end. It’s what you do know that’s wrong.”

NCIS – UXBRIDGE EDITION

NEW THIS SEASON! — NCIS – UXBRIDGE

75-Got Jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars.

Welcome to our first network season. We’ve been long awaiting this opportunity. Let me introduce you to our cast.

96-GarryTheLook-NK

marilyn in the mirror - 2

Uxbridge, a small town in south central Massachusetts, has no Navy or Marine presence. No Naval station or training camp. No docks, though we sure do have a lot of river. No seaport. So this is going to be a somewhat less energetic version of the show, but I’m sure we can make it entertaining for you.

Oh, and we don’t have a lab for forensics, but we can build one. It may take a while. I’m pretty sure we can rent some space at a local hospital for a morgue. And, as you can see, we do have a jail.

With Mark Harmon’s sudden retirement, Garry’s lifelong ambition to be a star has finally arrived. In his new role of NCIS team leader, the pace will be a little slower. Also, Garry will have serious trouble keeping a straight face as he runs his lines. His deadpan humor will nonetheless win the hearts and minds of fans throughout the world.

I shall play the role of the crusty old medical examiner. My bad back, heart, and hips make me an unlikely choice for a field agent, I’m afraid. But the dead don’t run fast and with all the medical knowledge I’ve gleaned from being sick for years will come in really handy when I have to use those twenty syllable medical terms.

My friend Cherrie will be the very special agent, Tony’s role, but much less annoying. I’m pretty sure if she were to get the Gibb’s back-of-the-head slap, she’d hit him back and he’d KNOW he’d been hit. Hands off, big fella.Cherrie shooting

Kaity HOFI’ll throw my granddaughter into Abby’s lab. Though she knows nothing about forensics, she’ll really like the costumes and she has more than enough attitude for two or maybe three laboratories.

Finally, there’s the mandatory geek agent. I’ll give that to my son because he knows his way around a computer and he likes to fix stuff anyhow. He will fit right in as he explains exactly how things should work and whatever you did wrong to screw up the machine.

See you next week, same time, same station!!

 


THE DAILY PROMPT: CAST CHANGE!

GOING COMPOST

Uncanned Laughter – A misused word, a misremembered song lyric, a cream pie that just happened to be there: tell us about a time you (or someone else) said or did something unintentionally funny.


Once upon a time, my father had a business partner who liked making cabbage soup. Bob (not his real name) and my father would go into the kitchen and produce gallons of soup and laugh a lot. We all had to eat it for weeks until we were sure we were turning into little cabbages.

Bob was an enthusiastic story-teller, mostly about his own misadventures. This was my favorite.

“So I was at the beach, at Coney Island” he says, almost shouting. He always talked very loud and with a slight Russian accent. “Very sunny day. Blue sky. A good day to take my mother to the beach, let her relax in the sun by the water. She is just settling down with her chair. She asks me if I’ll set up the umbrella for her. She didn’t have to ask. I always do it, but she always asks anyway, like if she doesn’t ask I won’t do it. I took her to Coney Island, what did she think, I’m going to leave her to cook in the sun?”

75-BeachAtConeyIsland-707

We all nodded dutifully.

“It’s a big umbrella. With stripes. Red and yellow. I got it myself, on sale. Umbrellas are expensive and this was a good sturdy one and I paid bupkas for it. If you ever need an umbrella …” and he paused to remember what he was going to say. “Anyway, this was one of the good ones, with a heavy pole so it would stay put.

“I opened the umbrella. Had to find the right place to put it because, you know, because if it’s in the wrong place, the shade isn’t going to be where you want it. So I walked around a bit, then took the pole and a jammed it into the sand as hard as I could. Seemed good and solid.

“With everything looking okay and mom settling down with a book, I thought it was a good time to get something to eat. I told her I would go get us some hot dogs and something to drink.

She said “Good, tell them to leave the mustard off.” She’s always reminding me but I know she doesn’t like mustard.

“I walked all the to Nathan’s. Long walk, to the end of the boardwalk. Worth it. They have the best hot dogs.” Definitely worth it. Nathan’s does have the best hot dogs, “And fries. I got five, two for her — no mustard. Three for me. I was hungry,” and he paused to pat his big belly, “I started walking back. I could see where to go ’cause I could see our umbrella.”

Nathans at Coney Island

“The weather began to change. Big clouds coming from the ocean. Getting windy too. Funny how fast weather changes at the beach, you know? I’m almost there when up comes a big gust of wind. The umbrella pulls right out of the sand and flies at me. Whacks me over the head. Boom. I thought my head was gonna come off.

“I dropped the food and fell over. Like a rock. I just lay there. My whole brain was like scrambled eggs. They had to come and take me to the hospital. I was compost for TWO DAYS! Two days! Compost!”

I’ve been laughing ever since, but luckily have never gone compost.

(NOTE: He meant “comatose.”)

WHICH NUMBER IS AGE?

Age Old Question — “Age is just a number,” says the well-worn adage. But is it a number you care about, or one you tend (or try) to ignore?


Are you serious or just young? Because no one over 65 would posit a question like this without also laughing hysterically, possibly falling down and breaking a hip.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Photo: Debbie Stone

Age it isn’t a number, per se. But it’s a number which will tell you when you can stop pulling the plow and collect your pension. Otherwise, it’s more like an ache in your back, a bag full of medications, and more doctor appointments on the calendar than parties.

It’s being tired, but never sleeping soundly but getting to stay up as late as you want and sleeping in. Every day, if you choose.

It’s discovering you can’t do “that” — whatever that is — anymore. Your brain is fine, but your body persists in arguing about everything and worst of all, winning most of the battles. It’s finally having plenty of time, but being always short of money. Lots of time to travel, but not much motivation to tackle airports and long car trips. It’s also discovering the joys of being home. Of having a home.

It’s realizing you’re smarter, wiser, more experienced than the kids and grandkids, but they don’t want to know about it. So you get to watch them make exactly the same mistakes you made. If they are of a creative bent, you can watch them make a whole bunch of unique (and sometimes weird) mistakes you never imagined and which, if they weren’t so destructive (or it were some other kids about whom you didn’t care) you’d find hilarious.

And with an inevitability like day following night, after using their creativity to shoot themselves in both feet … they will ask to borrow money. (Note: Loans to children and grand-children are not loans. They are permanent grants-in-aid.) Or perhaps move into your guest room. Or leave their dog/cat/guinea pigs with you “just until they get their lives sorted out.”

Life does not prepare you for getting older. Nothing prepares you for getting older. No matter how smart you are, it always takes you by surprise.

The best part of oldness? Not caring what the younger ones think. And, if you are lucky, you get to say (or just think) “Ha! You’ll see! Your time will come.” If they are lucky.

THE COAT OFF HER BACK

The year I was 16, I entered college where I discovered the true meaning of angst. I’d had a difficult childhood, but no one except a teenager can fully engage in suffering. By the following summer, at 17, I was deep in the thrall of breaking up with my first love. I had become a moaning, weeping, sodden wreck for whom life was worthless. What stretched before me was a vast puddle of lachrymosity. Pathos. Loss. Oh woe was me.

Somewhere along the way, my mother thought a chat with Aunt Kate would help pull me out of the Slough of Despond. She gave me a few bucks for subway tokens and bus-fare and packed me off for lunch in Manhattan with my favorite Aunt.

Even a despairing teenager can’t avoid perking up a little at the prospect of an elegant lunch in New York. On someone else’s dime.

We met in front of the New York public library, our family’s traditional location for liaison. After ritual greetings and appropriately flattering commentary — “You look wonderful, Aunt Kate!” and “So do you, darling!” — we headed to a hotel for lunch.

In my sudden enthusiasm, I pointed out to my aunt that I was still wearing the fake fur coat she had give me many years ago because I loved it that much.

“OH!” she cried. “You’re still wearing that old rag?” And there, in the middle of downtown Manhattan, she pulled the coat off her back and said I had to have it.

“Aunt Kate,” I pleaded. “We are in the middle of 6th Avenue. And it’s the middle of winter. You’ll freeze. We’ll be mowed down by traffic! Can we at least discuss this indoors? Please?”

Acceding to my wishes, as soon as we got to the restaurant, she made me swap coats with her. Hers was nice, even luxurious. Also a fake fur, but plusher and 5 years newer. She wore mine (the one with the torn lining) home. You had to be careful in my family. If you admired something — or accidentally suggested you might like something similar — you would own it.

Spode Tower Pink

Spode Tower Pink

The ultimate example of family caring were the dishes. Blame me. I started it. I bought the dishes at a barn on a back road in Connecticut in the early 1970s. I was poking around a room full of old pottery and turned one over. It was Spode. The markings looked to be late 19th century. Eighty-six pieces, including a chipped sugar bowl and eight demitasse cups minus saucers … and a set of saucers without cups. In pretty good condition. For $30.

Of course I bought them, but they were delicate, so I never used them. They remained in the closet gathering dust. Years passed. One day, my mother admired them. Faster than you can say “Here, they’re yours,” I had those dishes packed and in her car. She loved them, but they were old and, it turned out, valuable. So she put them away and never used them.

One day, Aunt Kate admired them, so Mom gave them to her. Kate then gave my mother her set of bone china for 12 which she didn’t need, the days of dinner parties being long past.

My mother also had no need for a large set, so she gave Aunt Kate’s set of 12 to my brother, who gave my mother his china for six. My mother gave my brother’s dishes to me while Aunt Kate traded my Spode for Aunt Pearl’s old china. Aunt Pearl packed the Spode away in a safe place, because they were old and valuable and she didn’t want to break them.

Twenty years later, Garry and I went to visit Aunt Pearl. She had the Spode, carefully wrapped and boxed. She gave them back. Of course, we never used them. I eventually gave them to the kids, who sold them on eBay. They knew they’d never use them either.

In life you find kindness and love, sometimes in the form of dishes. And there is the coat off your aunt’s back, proffered in the dead of winter in Manhattan.


WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE – Honey versus Vinegar

JUST AN OLD MARRIED COUPLE

Long Exposure — Among the people you’ve known for a long time, who is the person who’s changed the most over the years? Was the change for the better?


Garry and I at President Clinton's party on Martha's Vineyard

Garry and I at President Clinton’s party on Martha’s Vineyard

All the people I’ve known a long time have changed, me and my husband in particular. Better? For whom?

I am far less sociable and hugely less outgoing. I was quite the party-maker with a wild and crazy social life and now I’m a virtual recluse.

1970

1970

Much of my life centered around work … and I don’t work any more. I’ve gone from being gregarious to being a loner, being work-centric to being survival-centric.

Good? Not good? If I hadn’t changed in response to the realities of life, I’d probably be dead or living on the street. I guess that makes them good, right? I read less, write more.

I keep taking pictures. It’s now more than forty years of photography. That’s consistent, anyhow.

Garry was shy, solitary. He was so driven by career and work he didn’t have time for anything, anyone else. Like making friends, building a personal life. Yet … when I came back into his life, he began to emerge. He started to pull back from work, become more sociable. Now, he couldn’t be paid enough to go back to work.

1990 in Ireland

1990 in Ireland with Author Gordon Winter

He used to be the kind of guy who always looked like he’d just stepped out of the pages of GQ. Now, he wears sloppy shorts and old tee shirts or pajama bottoms and sweatshirts.

He remains passionate about sports, but can miss the game and watch a movie without having a crisis.

Both of us eat less, don’t drink at all. Our world centers around each other and a few close friends and family.

You know what? I think it’s good. And appropriate.