SHARING MY WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 5-13-19

Questions:

What social stigma does society need to get over already?

The list is too long. It’s sad, too. Because I thought, way back when, that we had actually gotten over some of it. I thought that if we hadn’t lost our racism, we had at least gotten past calling each other names. I thought we’d finally learned after Mussolini and Hitler and all the others throughout history, that we knew dictators are a bad deal. That all the organization they bring to the world, they are cruel, evil, and no good ever comes from them.

But somehow, between the episodes of horror, we forget. We lose our memories of evil. We idolize the power and forget the monstrous nature of the beast.

What was the last photo you took?

Yesterday, I took some pictures of a bunch of Brown-headed Cowbirds sitting on the railing of my deck.

Otherwise, I’m trying to figure out how the last squirrel managed to unhook the entire feeder and drop it to the ground below. I have to hand it to the maker of this feeder that it survived as if nothing happened, even though it fell two stories.

When was the last time you snooped and found something or found out something you wish you hadn’t?

The last time I read Tarot cards. I saw that the man I was reading for was going to die. And he did.

What’s the most comfortable bed or chair you’ve ever slept in?

The bed we own with its original mattress was the world’s MOST comfortable bed. Now, with a new, not as expensive mattress it’s very comfortable, but not like it was with its original mattress.

But that mattress lasted 15 years, so it didn’t owe me anything. I only wish I could have afforded another real natural latex mattress. Sadly, it was out of our price range.

I’LL FLY AWAY … By Marilyn Armstrong

When I was a lot younger — in my teens — America didn’t look all that wonderful to me. It was before abortion became legal. Vietnam was in high gear and my first husband and I were close to bankrupt from having my spine repaired.

When I went into the hospital, we had $20,000 in the bank which in the U.S. in 1965, was enough to buy a house and maybe a car, too. In fact, our first house cost $19,200 and our car cost under $1000.

The first house

When I staggered out of the hospital (I was there for five months), we had $10 in the bank and owed the hospital a couple of thousand dollars more. I asked my husband if we didn’t pay them back, would they find me and break my back again?

Our first house in Boston

We cashed in everything we had, sold anything that had any value. Mind you, we had insurance. Just not enough insurance. Two years later, Owen was born with two club feet. It cost us about $500 every week to treat his feet. By the time he was walking almost normally, we were thousands of dollars in debt and never recovered.

There we were, deep in the Vietnam war. We had a lot of friends over there, too. We were lucky. Most of our friends came home.

We were young. Passionate. Sure we could fix it, whatever “it” was. We also wondered if we could move to Australia, Canada or somewhere we could earn a living, but in the end, we stayed in the U.S. It was home. We never imagined it would be as bad as it is now, but it wasn’t all that great back then, either.

When Jeff and I split up late in 1979, I moved to Israel with Owen and it became my “other: home. I became a citizen but in the end, I came back to the U.S. Because I knew where “home” was and it wasn’t there.

House in summer

I have been back since the end of the 1980s. Things got better, worse, then better, worse, better — and now, simply awful. Until Netanyahu was re-elected in Israel yesterday, I had this underlying belief that at least I had another home to which I could flee — if fleeing was what we had to do.

It turns out that any place we might go to has its own issues, most of which are as bad (and surprisingly similar) as ours. They may lack our disgusting, lying president, but they are battling over immigration, health care, taxes, the climate. Their politicians are also liars. More polite than ours. Not less sleazy but they have better manners.

Meanwhile, climate change will affect the entire world. All the pointless arguments in the world are not going to change that reality.

Is there anywhere for us to go? Is there a safe place with sane leaders who would want us? I think not.

First of all, we are old and not rich. Most countries, if they are looking for immigrants, are looking for young, well-educated people who will contribute to their economy or older people who have money. Israel would take us because I’m a citizen, but their problems are serious; I don’t see them improving soon.

The home in Baka, Jerusalem

Effectively, there is nowhere for us to go.

I think in years to come there will be only two kinds of people in this world: those who hate immigrants and immigrants.

Everyone else will be hiding in a cave.

BATHROOM REDO AND THE BUSYNESS OF LIFE – Marilyn Armstrong

Have I mentioned we’ve been a little bit busy?

We have indeed been a little bit busy and more than a little pressed for time. Everything seems to happen at the same time. For me, all my medical stuff happens in March.

Installing plumbing
The bathtub is already gone.

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, most of my major surgeries have occurred in March which is why I’ve spent so many birthdays in the hospital. It’s also why I have so many physical work-ups in March.

Putting in the glass doors

I suppose in a way it’s good. I get everything sorted out in a month or maybe six weeks and with a little luck, I don’t have to think about it again for another six months or a year. But the period of time makes life pretty hectic and the older we get, the harder these hectic periods are for us. I get tired quickly and these days, Garry wears out fast too.

Utility wall and shower
Bench end

Add to that all the changes I’ve been making in sorting out our utilities and this major change in the house … and there are more to come. I’ve still got to get the chimney repaired before it falls down.

Bench end with sink and window
As much of the room as I could fit into the picture!

Did I mention that someone apparently took a baseball bat to our mailbox? And our across-the-street neighbor’s mailbox too? And our around the block neighbor’s mailbox too? Apparently, that’s what bored teenage boys do in rural neighborhoods in winter when there’s absolutely nothing to do. So we can’t get mail delivered until we get a new mailbox and post — which we can’t do until the ground melts and the snow is gone. Which is going to be a few more days, assuming we don’t get any more freezes.

Winter makes everything somehow busier. The plowing and the shoveling and the expense of paying the plow which is huge for our small budget.

Another view of the bathroom. Looks pretty good!

And everything will settle down in another month or so I fondly believe. Meanwhile, here are some pictures. I’ll try to get some better ones with a wide-angle lens tomorrow assuming we have reasonable light.

It’s supposed to rain. Or maybe not.

ARE WE THERE YET? SHORT FICTION FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY – Marilyn Armstrong

“Oh shut up. Can’t you kids ever stop squabbling back there? I’m going to put both of you on a time out, I swear I am.”

“But MOM, he TOUCHED ME!”

“Loretta, I am going to touch you and then you will have reason to cry. Joey, leave your sister alone.”

Voice of boy child with a strong adenoidal whine: “But MOOOOOOM, she’s taking up the whole back seat and I can’t help touching her. And why can’t I touch her? She touches me all the time.”

“She does what??”

“I do not”

“Do too.”

“DO NOT!@!”

{Long pause.}

In a whisper: “Do too.”

“Do not.”

Traffic

A booming baritone from the front seat, the Voice of Dad, speaks: “One more word out of either of you and I will stop this car and you will both be crying and you’ll have a damned good reason.”

{Whispers}

“Do not.”

“Do too.”

{Pause, pause, pause}

The sound of vomiting fills the car along with a sickening and pungent odor.

“Ew. Yuk. MOM he barfed all over me! Make him clean it up.”

Chorus:

“ARE WE THERE YET?”


This show has been brought to you by Happy Family, the breakfast cereal that’s got it all … sugar, food dye, trans-fat, and gluten. And no, we are not there yet.

WELCOME TO MY HUMBLE HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP FRIDAY: HOSPITALITY

You are welcome. All of you. Everyone. People and dogs and birds and squirrels and cats and puppies. Hell, bring the coyotes and a few raccoons.

Home

No one ever comes to this house except my son and granddaughter. No one. In the almost 30 years we’ve been married, once my brother passed away, not a single family member has come to visit. It’s weird. Our friend Ben had the same problem. It took him 30 years to get his sisters to visit … and when they did, it was total chaos.

Be careful what you wish for.

So, no one comes here. Maybe it’s the dogs? They are hairy and they bark. Maybe it’s the barking. They are loud. And hairy.

So consider this an official invitation. We have plenty of room including a guest room with a brand new queen-size bed and a dining room and everything. And the dogs usually stop barking after a while. It’s just their way of saying “HI Y’ALL!” Loudly.

As for the hair, think of it as a condiment. It goes with everything.

PATHS CROSSING – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I became friends with Jane in the late 1970’s in a rather circuitous way.

I worked at a law firm and one of my jobs was to write short Trust and Estate recommendations for Merrill Lynch clients. The person I dealt with at Merrill Lynch was a woman named Jane London. That was Jane’s professional, maiden name. Jane knew me by my professional, maiden name, Ellin Kardiner. This fact becomes important later on in the story.

Me in 1980, when I was first friends with Jane

Jane and I both hated our jobs and spent a lot of time talking on the phone. We had a lot in common and developed a great rapport. We only met in person once, when both of our bosses took us all out for lunch. We hit it off fantastically.

At one point, Jane had just gotten married and was house hunting. She wanted to move to a coop on the upper east side. I had just moved to a coop on East 92nd Street, so I was giving her advice.

Jane at her wedding in 1979 when I first knew her

For some reason, which I can’t remember, our professional relationship ended and we lost touch. By then I was pregnant. I gave birth over two months early and quit my job to stay home and take care of my preemie.

I made friends with a woman in my building who was also an older (I was 30) stay at home mom with young kids. Her name was Janet. One day, Janet told me that she had met a new tenant in our building, on our elevator line, who was also a stay at home mom in our age group. Her name was Jane Berenbeim. By now I was using my married name, Ellin Kaiser, so Jane was told she was meeting someone named Ellin Kaiser. You can see where this is going.

We all arranged to meet at Janet’s apartment. I got there first and was nursing my son. Jane walked in and we looked at each other in disbelief. “Jane London!” I cried! “Ellin Kardiner!” Jane exclaimed! We didn’t realize that we were seeing an old friend again because we didn’t know each others’ married names! We also hadn’t realized that Jane had, in fact, bought an apartment in the same building I was living in, just three floors down.

Jane at my son’s Bar Mitzvah in 1993

We became close friends and our kids grew up hanging out at each others’ homes. We would run up and down the back stairs to see each other. Jane and I both had second children and we both named them Sarah. We stayed in touch for a while after I moved to Connecticut in 1991 but eventually, we lost touch.

Jane and her 2 daughters at my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in 1998

We reconnected recently and are happily back in each other’s lives. We still have a lot in common and enjoy each other’s company. Our husbands get along famously as well. So this friendship is back on track and destined to last for the rest of our lives!

Jane and me today

HOMES – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Sunday–Home


Be it ever so humble, home is going to really cost you.

Growing up

I never really felt at home at my parent’s house. All I wanted was to be old enough to run. My first marriage was the classic “jailbreak.” He was still living in his parents’ attic. I had a rented room near the college. We both needed to get out of where we were and into something with “legs.”

The was our first house. It cost us $20,300 which is less than the car we drive. We took out an $18,000 mortgage. We lived there for 8 years, but it needed a lot of work. For one thing, its heating system was a converted coal furnace … and a second bathroom had become an issue. We could have remodeled rather than moving, but houses were still inexpensive, so we moved.

Exactly one mile away.

The next house

I loved that house. I used to walk around it during the night and just touch things. It talked to me. Unfortunately, that marriage was on its way out. Five-years later, I was on my way to Jerusalem, Israel.

The home in Baka, Jerusalem

That marriage was troubled before we got married. Had I had any sense at all, I never would have gotten into it … but I was lonely, far from home.  I didn’t speak or read the language.

The marriage had endless problems, but I adored Jerusalem and that old Arab-built house in which we finally settled had magic. It was home … until I left. The troubled marriage only got worse and after 9 years, I went home.

I had no place to stay, so I stayed in the guest room of the first husband.

Roxbury. Great townhouse. Three flights of stairs.

Garry thought we should get married and not long after that, we did. We found a great home in Roxbury. A triplex with enough closets to last a lifetime … and a wonderful kitchen. It was not finished when we bought it, so we had it designed for us. It was a great townhouse. We wanted a yard for the dogs … but if the Big Dig hadn’t driven us away, we might still be there. Really, probably not. We wanted some land. We wanted to live in the country.

Now, and for the past 18 years, this has been our home. It is also undoubtedly our last home.

What made each place a real home and not just a place to sleep?

Fundamentally, it’s where our dogs, cats, books, and art lives. I have lived in homes with many different people — including alone. The art and the dogs and cats always came too. They are a lot of what makes me feel I’m me.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Art, especially, is important. I don’t know how anyone can live in a house with blank walls and empty tables. The “glass and steel” trends of recent years look pretty in a photograph, but how awful to live in a place that’s all sharp edges.

Every place I’ve lived has had art and books everywhere. Dogs and cats and occasionally other critters, too.  Living with Garry has been a pleasure. After a lifetime of living with — or being married to — people I often didn’t really like, it’s great to live with someone I love.

Home is the stage from which we emerge into the larger world. We keep our costumes here. We keep our computers here. It’s the number we give to people who might want to call us — and one of the reasons I much prefer having a “home” telephone number.

This is where I live. Call me. If I don’t answer, leave a message and I’ll get back to you. This is where we live. This is home.