SAVING SANDY

A bunch of us had gathered at Sandy’s house. She was a cook, aspiring to be a professional. When she invited us for a meal, it was good. Always a good feeding and delicious. We were her test subjects, never knowing what great idea she’d come up with. Whatever, we were happy to eat it.

On this day, Sandy was dressed — as always — in a loose Indian blouse and long skirt. The blouse had angel-wing sleeves. Very pretty, if slightly inappropriate for working in the kitchen. All of us had been smoking a little hashish. Hashish was ubiquitous, available everywhere. The appetizer for dinner to come.

75-FireSquare-ART-1

“Hey,” I said. “Sandy! You are on fire.” Sure enough, the wings of her blouse had passed smoldering — I’d missed that — and were in flames.

“Oh,” said Sandy, flustered.

All the friends stood there, staring at the pretty fire. Dummies, I thought. “Hey,” I yelled, “Don’t just stand there. DO something.”

Then, I put out the fire. Cotton doesn’t flame up quickly and if one is attentive, it’s easy to douse. Sandy thanked me profusely for a perfectly normal thing I’d have done for anyone. What was puzzling was how come the rest of the gang had stood there with their mouths open, apparently at a loss to know what to do. “Not good in a crisis,” I surmised.

“No one else tried to put out the fire,” Sandy pointed out.

“Not a big deal,” I said. And it wasn’t. I don’t know why I was the only one who realized that “Sandy is on fire” should be followed by putting out the fire.

Sandy stopped wearing loose clothing in the kitchen and stopped inviting those particular friends for dinner. Shortly thereafter, following a misunderstanding with the local constabulary about growing certain plants on her balcony, she moved to San Francisco and opened a chain of take-out restaurants.

I visited her there. She’s doing fine and no longer feels obliged to grow her own on the balcony. In any case, it’s legal.


Author’s Note: Today’s Daily Prompt: Daring Do, is another rerun. My original is still posted. This version has been lightly edited. I also changed the picture. I do have to thank WordPress for this unexpected opportunity to get another run out of an archived post.

KINDERGARTEN – THAT FIRST DAY

September 1951.

1952 with my brother

1951 with my brother

I am probably the youngest kid in the class. I’m only four, but somehow, here I am. I’m certainly the smallest. Everyone seems so big. I don’t know it yet, but I will always be either the shortest or next to the shortest kid in every class for the next six years. The school looks huge. Monstrous. Many years later, when I come back to visit, it will be tiny, a miniature school. Even the steps are half the height of normal.

But I don’t know about stairs yet because kindergarten is on the ground floor. They don’t want the little kids getting run down by bigger ones.

The windows go all the way to the ceiling, which is very high. To open or close them, Mrs. O’Rourke has to use an enormous hook-on-a-pole. I wonder why they don’t have normal windows like we have at home. Our windows open by turning a crank; anyone, even I, can open them.

The teacher is kind of old. She’s got frizzy grey hair. She talks loud and slow. Does she think I’m stupid? Everyone in my family talks loud, but no one talks slow.

Now it’s nap time. We are supposed to put our blankets on the floor and go to sleep, but I don’t nap. I haven’t taken a nap ever, or at least not that I can remember. And anyway, I don’t have a blanket because my mother didn’t know I was supposed to bring one. I also don’t have a shoe box for my crayons. All the other kids have them. I wish I had one because I feel weird being the only one without a blanket and a shoe box.

Worse yet, I don’t have crayons. I wish I had some. The ones everyone can use are broken and colors no one likes. My mother didn’t know what I was supposed to bring. She’s busy. I just got a new sister who cries all the time and mommy didn’t have time to come to school and find out about all this stuff.

So I sit in a chair and wait, being very quiet, while every one is napping. I don’t think they are really asleep, but everyone goes and lays down on the floor on a blanket and pretends. It give Mrs. O’Rourke time to write things in her book.

It’s a long day. I have almost a mile to walk home. Mommy doesn’t drive and anyway, she doesn’t worry about me. She knows I’ll find my way. It’s only that it’s all uphill. I’m tired. Why do I have to do this stuff?

By the time I know the answer, it won’t matter any more. School has become the ordinary stuff of life and why no longer applies.


First! – Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.

Note this is a rerun — a double rerun having been first a weekly writing challenge, then a daily prompt. This is my original response to the Weekly Writing Challenge. I don’t see why I can’t rerun the answers if WordPress is going to keep rerunning the questions. Besides, I like this piece. And I love the picture. Little me with the fuzzy hair and my big brother.

WRITTEN IN ELVISH

Just when you think you know everything there is to know about yourself, you get something like this in email:


… I still have your letter of congratulations on my first marriage … written in Elvish.

     d

To be fair, I remember studying Elvish. J.R.R. Tolkien had the most amazing appendices, including alphabets and guides that would let weirdos like me learn Elvish. Or Dwarvish. I quit after Elvish because I had, you know, to work. Stuff like that.

I admit I don’t remember writing that specific note. I remember writing the “Fall of Sauron Day” (in English) service. The first one plus 5 or 6 revisions. We held the annual celebration as near as scheduling allowed to the Vernal Equinox — March 21st or thereabouts. It was like a miniature Seder, but with more wine being drunk a lot faster. Drunk being the operative word.

all that is gold

The entire service lasted just short of an hour. Including about six glasses of wine. I’m sure I have a copy of the service in a huge box of writing from my halcyon days, in the back of the basement, behind the oil tank. If it hasn’t rotted or turned to dust by now.

On a year when “the boys” (our lively groups of crazed engineers) had available time, we had visual and sound effects. We came in costume, or some semblance thereof. When life was too busy to make costumes, we did the best we could with whatever came to hand, dressing in some version of Middle Earth-wear.

Then we celebrated. Drank to excess. Which wasn’t hard since I basically didn’t drink. We laughed, ate mushrooms (the favorite food of Hobbits). Some of us me passed out and/or got sick me again.

Those were crazy busy years. Babies. Work.  Establishing a profession. Partying hearty almost every night, then getting up and doing it again. Those parties could last a week or more. We took breaks for work. I’d come back from the office and my house would be full of the friends with whom I had been partying the day and night and day before. Everyone had gone home briefly to shower and change, but they were back. I cooked a lot. I cleaned continuously. I worked full-time and then some. I raised a baby. Busy.

All of this took place in my twenties. As I rounded the corner to 30, I wanted out. There is such thing as too much fun. Those years formed a cautionary tale of excess.

I was exhausted. I no longer wanted to live in the party house or be the perpetual hostess. I wanted out of that marriage, out of a crazy life which had gone off the rails and out of control. I took my son and moved to Israel. By the time I came back, the party was over. Everyone had moved on.

I lived nine years in Israel, but never properly learned Hebrew. Maybe if I had given Hebrew the same energy I had put into Elvish …

There’s a lesson in there somewhere. I’m just not sure what it is.

ALL GROWN UP? A FIXED INCOME AND WHITE HAIR OFFERS A CLUE

I knew I wasn’t a kid anymore when my hair turned white. I am officially as grown up as grown up can be. When you are getting pensions and social security checks and living on them, that’s probably a pretty sure sign maturity has arrived. You think, probie?

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Personal mistakes, unfortunate turns in the road, bumps that are painful, even frightening? Normal stuff. Regrettable, but since no one can go back and fix what already happened, let it be. It is what it is, was, and will be.

Planning is a fool’s game. We planned to be young and healthy forever. Look how well that worked out. Well, maybe it did work out … finally. Not the way we planned it, but not so terrible, either.

Now we are in our retirement years and there are rewards. Freedom is the big one. No one can order you around. No one holds you to a deadline. You go to bed and get up on your own schedule. You do everything on your own schedule. If you don’t have a job, one day is like another. Weekends take me by surprise.

If you are in a good marriage, you finally have time to enjoy each other. You get to know your grandchildren. You read, watch movies, pursue hobbies, pet your dogs.

We worked hard, played hard, so our memories are a treasure trove. We did just about everything we seriously wanted to do. Hopefully, we have a few surprises yet to come. Good surprises, please.

I wish we’d been smarter about money. We thought we were being smart. We did what we thought we were supposed to do. It just didn’t work out as planned. What made perfect sense 20 years ago doesn’t make sense today. We didn’t fully grasp that pension amounts stay the same, though the cost of living continues to rise. The meaning of “fixed income” hadn’t really grabbed hold. It surely has now.

Looking backward … we had a great deal of fun. Individually and together. We still have fun. We just need to fit the fun into a tight budget, taking into account arthritic bodies and limited energy.

Few regrets and great memories. We didn’t do everything, but we did a lot. More than most. We made our share of unfortunate — even stupid — choices, but we didn’t chicken out. If life were a movie, we would be on schedule for a previously unknown but fabulously rich relative to pass away leaving us gazillions of dollars and a mansion on a cliff in Ireland. Pity a Hollywood scriptwriter isn’t writing our lives. A Hollywood ending would be a nice touch.

So, about that growing up thing? We grew up. And survived the experience.

In the deathless words and music of Edith Piaf, I would like to say this about that: Non, je ne regrette rien ... or at least, not much.

DAILY PROMPT: ALL GROWN UP

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR’S EVE?

The Jackpot Question, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

By now you are expected to have a good response. So what is it? What are you doing? Certainly your friends have been asking and you must have something interesting to say. Unless you are under 18 or over 80, you do not get a pass on this one. So, what’s it going to be? Party? Dinner and dancing? Will you be outside watching fireworks or in where it is warm? If you are in Florida or Arizona, I guess you could be outside watching fireworks where it is warm.

Since there seems to be so many different things to do, the question might actually be somewhat logical. Restaurants, bars, hotel ballrooms all seem to have some sort of package deal. There are shows and concerts of every type. Whether you are in a big city or a small town, plans for the celebration abound. For some strange reason, everyone is expected to have a plan.

One year, when downtown Chicago still had a glut of movie theaters, I was on a double date at a late showing of a movie that finished up just before midnight. I do remember which movie, but not the date. We had just enough time to empty out into the intersection of State Street (that great street) and Randolph where Chicago used to conduct a poor man’s version of the final countdown. Since it was quite cold and we were not loaded with anti-freeze, we stayed for the countdown and ran off for warmer places. It was an experience I do not need again. If I watch the ball drop in Times Square, it will be on television from another locale.

Since then I have ventured to house parties, bar parties, restaurants and shows, but I am not sure any of these supposed grand events were particularly memorable. They certainly did not ring out like many of the grand events we see in the movies. If you missed all of them, then I will suggest that you put “movies with new year’s eve scenes” in your internet search so you can find a lot of them. Maybe you will get some cool ideas.

Since the death of one year and the dawn of another seem to evoke feelings of nostalgia, then you may know that “When Harry Met Sally” contains one of the most memorable and nostalgic New Year’s scenes of all. Indeed it is the climax of the “will he or won’t he?” scenario. It has all led up to one fateful New Year’s Eve moment.  The typical New Year’s Eve hoopla only adds to the drama of the moment.  (SPOILER ALERT). I love making dramatic “spoiler” pronouncements, and here is that great scene from one of our favorite movies.

The director of the movie needed no special music as “Auld Lang Syne” made the perfect background song. And what does this sentimental tune actually mean? We don’t know, something about  good-bye and hello. It doesn’t matter, our sentimental feeling just associates with it and that is all that counts. So will you have a sentimental moment?

For some gentlemen, the coming of New Year’s is met with all the anxiety of asking someone to the high school prom. You know you are supposed to do something. You know it is supposed to be really good. You know it is going to cost you money, which you are not supposed to care about. You also know, just like the high school prom, you might get shot down when you ask the “jackpot question.” Unless you want to get teased by family and friends, you may just have to ask the question anyway.

Ooh, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance:
What are you doing New Year’s
New Year’s Eve?

Did you ask yet? What was the answer? If you haven’t asked, what are you waiting for?

Seth MacFarlane is the creator of Family Guy, American Dad!, and The Cleveland Show.

 

HEROES ON HORSES, MASKED (AND NOT)

I grew up with the Lone Ranger and Tonto racing around my bedroom. Until I got the wallpaper, I was sure he was the Long Ranger … as in “he rode a lot and covered great distances.”

The original Lone Ranger and Tonto — Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

Other girls had Disney Princesses, but I had “Hi Yo Silver, the Lone Ranger Rides Again!” Although my walls did not play music, I could hum well enough and I had many a long chat with Lone and Tonto, Silver and Scout as I lay abed in the evening pondering the meaning of life and how I could convince my mother to let me have a horse.

Eventually, as I rounded the corner into adolescence, the Lone Ranger and his trusty Indian Companion (who had led the fight for law and order in the early west) returned to those thrilling days of yesteryear whence they had come. They were replaced by plain, off-white paint. I would have preferred to keep Lone and Tonto, but the paper was old and tattered. It was time for me to move on.

This did not end my allegiance to this great first love of my young life. I don’t know what it is about masked men on horses, but Zorro and Lone made me woozy with unrequited love. As the years rolled on, I became very attached to Tonto — not as Tonto the character, but as Jay Silverheels, the actor– whose career I followed long after the Lone Ranger had ridden into the sunset.

NOTE: Tonto isn’t a Mexican and didn’t speak Spanish. Tonto, according to Native American sources, was a Potawatomi word meaning “wild one.” Although it is also Spanish for “fool”, that was not the intention.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto fought the good fight. They never asked for thanks and would ride away rather than deal with gratitude. They were the best of the good guys. Whenever I’m not sure what choice to make in a morally ambiguous situation, I can always ask myself “What would the Lone Ranger do?” I know the answer could only be right.

THE DAILY PROMPT – MY HERO

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS …

By Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads.

1864

1864

And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

1883

1883

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

1886

1886

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:
“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen;
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

1896

1896

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too:
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:
He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack.

1898

1898

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

1901

1901

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

TIS THE SEASON

Getting Seasonal The holiday season: can’t get enough of it, or can’t wait for it all to be over already? Has your attitude toward the end-of-year holidays changed over the years?

Christmas bouquet

My feelings about the season have evolved and devolved a lot over the decades. I came late to Christmas. Had to marry into it. Being Jewish left me with a permanent sense of Christmas-deprivation. I felt left out of the annual orgy of good cheer, caroling, gift-exchanges, and general consumerism that is An American Christmas. I couldn’t entirely miss it. I sang in the chorus and the glee club from elementary school onward and am one of the last people who can sing “Adeste Fidelis” all the way through in Latin. Not to mention the contralto part of Hallelujah chorus.

But it wasn’t really my holiday. I could enjoy it tangentially, the way a guest can enjoy someone else’s family reunion. Even if everyone is very nice about it, you still know it’s not your party.

When I married my first husband, I discovered his family had no religion. They were sure they’d once been some form of Christian, but no one knew what. No church (ever) except for the occasional wedding or funeral. Neither my husband or his sister had attended Sunday School. I doubt either of them were baptized.

72-Xmas-Decor_02

But, they celebrated Christmas with verve and passion. No creches with wise men or baby Jesus. No religious symbolism at all — but there were stars and reindeer and glittering glass decorations from Austria. The tree stood a solid 10 feet tall, so big and heavily laden, Jeff’s dad had to wire it to a wall to keep it from toppling over.

Then there was the eggnog. So alcoholic, I’m surprised its crystal bowl didn’t dissolve under the chemical assault. Accompanied by a huge array of Christmas cookies, it was sufficient to leave you hung over right through the glad New Year.

Oh, I almost forgot the wrapping. Jeff’s sister could wrap a chair (she did, really) so it looked like a Rudolph. Everything was perfect. Beyond perfect. Amazing!

Jeff’s dad died in 1968, when I was still pregnant with Owen. Jeff died in 1993. Grandma Kraus passed last year, just before her 104th birth day. Garry’s parents passed as did associated aunts, uncles and cousins. My family is almost entirely gone. With their loss, Christmas faded.

It hasn’t gone away completely, though. We decorate … but less. We hang lights, have a tree. This year, we have mini-trees which will be planted, if I can keep them alive till spring. A challenge.

72-Xmas-Decor_04

Christmas was always kid-centric and our last “kid” is 18 this year. This year, Owen asked if we really need a tree? I gave it serious thought, evoking the “little tree” compromise. I’m pleased. It’s enough Christmas, but not so much the work overwhelms the fun.

In a way, the holidays have looped back on themselves. I feel like I did all those years ago … that really, it’s not my holiday. Yet I love the season. Lights, gifts, and (mostly) happy people wishing each other good tidings. It’s not a Cecil B. DeMille production, but it isn’t nothing, either. It’s pretty, and bright. And friendly, and still leads to deficit spending.

And most important, we still say “I love you” at least twice as often to twice as many people as we do at any other time of the year. I think that’s the point of it.