You can click on this to read it, unless you eat nothing but carrots and don't need the extra magnification.
I had a driveway moment last night as I pulled up to the house. A driveway moment is what National Public Radio devotees have named those moments when a listener is compelled to keep the engine running after stopping one's car, just to continue listening to a fascinating NPR story. I do this all the time, actually.
But last night's driveway moment was particularly poignant, addressing as it did the nature of old friendships (as opposed to new friendships). My old friend Cheryl and her family are on the verge of moving away next week. While it's a wonderful opportunity for them which I support enthusiastically, it's still sad to think that now my three best friends (including Gubby in Idaho and Kathy in Redding) will be accessible only through electronics, and rarely face-to-face.
Cheryl has been my best friend since first grade, way back in the Nixon administration. We have helped each other pack and unpack from moving -- one of the true measures of a friendship. In fact, Cheryl once helped me move my clothes and shoes, with her huge old 'merican car, during the time she was undergoing chemotherapy treatments. THAT'S a friend. Cheryl argues with me without rancor, compliments me with sincerity, and says "I love you" often, and means it.
Gubby and I have been great friends since we were underclassmen in high school. I tease him about his cranky outlook on life, his love of Tom Petty, and his constant need of a haircut. He teases me about, well, everything. He has eaten my cooking without complaint or facial registry of pain, and he has provided more computer and technological expertise and assistance than I have a right to. He was also quick to clear up a rumor he started about me in college, but that's another story, wink wink.
Kathy and her husband were Chas's friends before Chas and I met. Kathy is one of those rare people who give support and encouragement no matter how rotten I might feel, and who always makes me feel better. She writes every thankyou note and Christmas card by hand, and actually mails them. Spending an afternoon with Kathy is a rare treat now, with 60 miles and four children between us. If Chas and I were ever to split up I'd ask for Kathy in the settlement.
Here is the piece I heard on NPR's All Things Considered last night (August 22, 2006 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5691893). If you have RealPlayer installed on your computer I encourage you to download this story and listen to it, as the author, Carol Wasserman, read it with far more verve than I could conjure up in my transcription. With apologies to Carol Wasserman for not calling to ask first, and with a dedication to my three tremendous friends Cheryl, Gubby and Kathy, here is
The Two-Year Rule for Golden Friends
by Carol Wasserman
ANNCR. V.O. intro: In the town where commentator Carol Wasserman lives, there’s someone who is trying to redefine his status. He’s new to the area, but he’d still like to have the title of "old friend."
John and I like to sit on the floor together in the meeting room of the library opening boxes. Once a month there’s a used book sale. A bunch of us with nothing better to do comes in early and sorts through the donations. Before John started volunteering we all behaved, like purposeful adults. Because of him we turned into a bunch of out-of-control eighth graders, who make too much noise, and keep yelling "UNDERPANTS!" for no good reason.
John says that what we are doing is "building community." He has many lofty, unprovable opinions – about Jesus, and liberation, and justice for the poor. He’s also crazy, even for a college professor, which is why I like him. He’s just moved into the first house he’s ever owned, alone for the first time since leaving the priesthood. But, it takes a while to feel secure around all of us who’ve known each other since day care. He worries about this a lot.
One day, while we were sorting through a carton of trade paperbacks, he said, "What I want is to be able to show up at someone’s house unannounced, at eleven o’clock at night, for cocoa, in my bunny slippers. I told him, "It takes two years to make old friends. Two years, that’s it – WAY less than tenure!"
He started keeping track of the time he’d logged in around town: how long he’d known the guys at the post office, how long he’d been working the spaghetti suppers at the beach association, how many successive weeks he’d lost his lunch money playing high stakes pinochle with the people next door. Waiting, impatient, to run out the clock. Two years.
In the interim, I found myself in need of a favor. A squirmy, embarrassing, big ol’ favor. I needed someone to drive me 40 hard miles into Boston for an unpleasant screening test that becomes routine at 50. I needed someone to get me there, then wait around for a couple of hours, and schlep me home, in the middle of the day when decent, normal people are busy at work. So just before the last book sale, while John and I were on the floor separating fact from fiction, I screwed my courage to the sticking point, and said, "John, I’m having . . . a colonoscopy. Would you drive me? Or is that just too creepy and weird?"
"It will my pleasure to escort you," he said, which must have been the truth, judging from the number of people in town who knew almost immediately that we’d be busy on Thursday, and why.
When it was over, I wobbled out to the waiting room. There was John, grinning like a fool. I started to cry at the sight of him. Such a lovely man! Through a blur of gratitude and Demerol I said, "The two-year rule does NOT apply to ANYONE who drives the person to their colonoscopy."
"I know, I know!" he said, hugging me. "Look what I got you!" He handed me an out-of-season Easter bunny wrapped in pink foil. There was John, one of my oldest friends, who had bought us a chocolate bunny for the long ride home.
Carol Wasserman lives in Wareham, Massachusetts.
This is my 100th post. Not that anyone other than yours truly knows this -- or cares. But I kind of wanted this post to be special in some way.
Instead, it’ll be wretchedly, mind-numbingly typical. An overwrought mother cataloguing her daughters’ every bowel movement for posterity. And yet you’re still reading?
Sparky is asserting her independence more each day. Tonight, while enduring the nightly bedtime routine I call Cat Herding, or Pushing Water, I told Sparky -- FOR THE FIFTH TIME -- to go potty. She was insistent that she most certainly did NOT need to go.
“But you just drank your milk,” I countered. “You WILL have to go.”
“NO -- I -- DON’T!!” Sparky barked. “Amember? When I was in Daddy’s room? I peed in Daddy’s shoe! I -- DON’T -- NEED -- TO -- GO -- ANY -- MORE!!”
Oh yes. I “amembered.”
Gubby, if you’re reading this, now Miles is not the only shoe-piddler in town.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Bad Boyfriend has later been revealed to be Nick Asshat as I have written more about him.
I was asked recently to tell one of my more embarrassing moments. There are so many . . . this is the one I chose. Please, don’t hate me because I’m a potty mouth (only occasionally and usually when REALLY pressed).
I was dating my last Bad Boyfriend (before meeting Mr. Right). Bad Boyfriend called me at work one Sunday to ask if I would go golfing with him. I don’t golf. Seems all three of the guys he asked to golf had backed out. Would I go, and just walk the course with him? Of course! "Meet me at Quackers, and we'll go from there," he said.
When I got to the pub, there was Bad Boyfriend, along with all three of the golf partners, who had somehow managed to make it. Okay, now I didn't want to go along, since I didn't know these other guys, I don't golf, and I was no longer necessary. But Bad Boyfriend tried to talk me into it.
“Look,” I said, “Those guys aren’t gonna want a girl around. What if they want to swear? Or scratch? Or talk about women? Or scratch some more?”
“No no!” he countered. “Guys love to have women around while they golf. Makes them try harder and show off a bit.” I kept arguing, but he kept insisting. Almost begging. Really weird. Kinda flattering though . . . okay, I'll go.
While these guys usually chose to walk the course rather than to rent a golf cart, this time the cart was necessary because one of the foursome, Mike, had brought TWO -- I said TWO -- cases of beer for the outing. CASES, not 12-packs, which would still be quite excessive. For four guys, I kid you not. So I rode on the golf cart, enjoyed the sun, and was quiet as a mouse. Hey, I know to be quiet around golfers –- I’ve heard the whispering TV golf commentators. I was quiet.
UNTIL . . .
Mike, the guy with all the beer, got stinking drunk (big surprise) and he
1) jumped into the driver's seat and took off with me on the cart, up a hill, then down -- fast, faster, UH OH -- CRASH! onto a footbridge. I was almost thrown from the cart, and I banged my knee pretty hard. The golf cart was left apparently undamaged, but was suspended in mid-air on this little footbridge, wheels spinning.
2) found a snake and was intent on making me like the snake, and
3) sneaked up behind me on the golf cart (I was on foot now –- wasn't going anywhere near that cart and Mike) and stuck his arm out, snake loosely wrapped around it. When I looked up there was a snake in my face, and neither of us were happy.
I came unglued.
I screamed an obscenity at the top of my lungs, something to the tune of "GET THE *&^% AWAY FROM ME!!!" It takes SO much to make me lose my cool in public, or at least to bring out the longshoreman in me, but it had been achieved that afternoon.
I watched as golfers #2 and #3 turned and walked off to the next hole. I instantly felt like a jerk. I mean, here I was, trying to be so quiet and respectful of this ancient and serious game, and I end up screaming the F-bomb near the clubhouse. I was mortified.
Bad Boyfriend didn't really even notice. Drunken Mike was later SO upset by his appalling behavior that he apologized to me about 50 times the next time I saw him. I think he even bought me flowers. Golfer #2 shrugged off the whole affair.
Golfer #3 married me.
I don’t draw much anymore. Hardly ever, in fact. So tonight after work, when I was drawing on the computer, Smedley watched in amazement.
“How did you DO that, Mama?!”
“I used to draw a lot, honey.”
“You DID?!” I must not inspire much faith that I can do anything other than bark orders and read stories, I guess.
“Yes, I did. In fact, I studied art and design in college,” I told her. No response. Okay, so the drawing I was making at that moment wasn’t much proof of my design major, and Smedley can certainly outdraw me on the computer.
So after the girls were safely down for the night -- I’m an optimist, because Smedley just hollered out “I TOOTED!” from her dark room -- I settled down at the computer to see if I can still draw.
RULES: No erasing. One time through. Work quickly, lines only. Save in black and white, then color it in and save in color.
Didn’t know what it was going to be, but it ended up being a self-portrait from memory. It’s pretty funny. Either I think I look like Elizabeth McGovern with a big nose, or I’m really terrible on this computer. I know the answer.
Here are both versions, just for fun.
I didn't remove the other person from the photo for any reason other than that I don't post any pictures without permission. She was at the time my friend (and still is), my roommate, and my employee -- and we were still speaking to each other!
That was a fun time of my life. I owned a business, I had no husband or kids, no house payment or car payment, and no pets. No one to answer to, other than business stuff (as if that wasn't enough). I got to spend all of my discretionary income (about $23) on bad perms.
My brother Mantel Man (back when he was still called Freaky-Weaky) used to go pigeon hunting with his best friend. We are not really the hunting type, though his friend's family would shoot, skin, cook and eat anything that moved. So it wasn't long before my brother brought home a pigeon and asked Mom to cook it for him.
She didn't like the idea, but he plucked it for her, and she baked it into the most beautiful little pigeon pot pie you've ever seen.
When she served it to him, his eyes lit up. He cut into it and saw gravy, beans, peas, carrots, etc.
And little black chunks of something.
"What're the black chunks?" my brother wanted to know.
"That's the pigeon," Mom told him.
I think the cats enjoyed pigeon pie that night, although they did ask "What're the black chunks?" first.
Once again, Mantel Man has come up with a zinger. Here he goes:
Somebody help me out with this: I grew up on a dairy farm, and I'm sure I know a few things about bovine anatomy. Last weekend I took my "little brother" (from the Big Brothers/Little Brothers mentoring program) to see the animated movie "Barnyard." The two main characters were bulls, but they were portrayed with UDDERS instead of . . . anything else. Worse, the animals spent most of their time up on their hind legs, and the udders stuck out as if acquired from a cheap plastic surgeon! Why is it okay to show female private parts, but not male? This is a kids' movie, not one of those late-night cable TV films!This might not be such a big deal except that a few of the kids that watch this movie might grow up to be cow milkers, see, and if they can't tell the difference between . . . well, you see where I'm going with this.
Point is, I don't want to give up drinking milk -- or even thinking about milk -- for the rest of my life. Although having another problem for which to blame Hollywood might bring some satisfaction . . .
My sister already provided a nice sentimental ode to the old house after we helped the parentals move across the road into their new digs, but here's a vignette about one small aspect of the sorting and disposing of many items from the days of old. Dad acquired a .22 rifle from my brother Bocci, who had stored the gun for years in his closet at the ranch and had no use for it at his home in Las Vegas, where the burglars are all hopped up on meth and wouldn't even be fazed by such a small bullet. The timing was good, since Dad needed a new varmint gun anyway, having recently discovered that the riflings on his own ancient .22 were worn out and the gun was no
longer safe to use.
We aren't sure how old this rifle was, but Dad taught me how to shoot with it when I was only four years old. He had received it second-hand sometime before from his Uncle Bart. (Bart's real name was Lance Bartell, but no one ever called him Lance. When a man has a .22 rifle, you call him whatever he wants to be called -- unless you're on meth, which none of my family ever were, thank you.)
When I took the old weapon into the police station for disposal, I recalled that Bart's widow, my great aunt Pat, had died only a few days earlier at around age 93 -- the same age attained by her older sister, my grandmother Gert. These two, along with their younger sister Helen (who is alive and well), constituted The Pierce Women, three marvelous ladies who lived through the Depression, two world wars, and some very serious illnesses, and outlived their husbands by a minimum of 13 years. These were some tough gals. No one called Grandma Gert by her full name, Gertrude, and she
didn't even have a gun.
Anyway, it seemed somehow fitting that this old rifle -- perhaps as old as Aunt Pat, I noted wryly -- should depart at around the same time she did, both of them having outlived Bart by so many years. As for its more recent owner, well, Dad's gonna outlive us all.
Chas and I are extremely fortunate to have the two best mothers-in-law in the western hemishere, if not planet-wide. Here is just one small example of my own good fortune -- a mother-in-law with a playful sense of humor who gets a kick out of the same stuff I do, and shares. In my inbox this morning:
I thought you would enjoy this the next time you think you've done something really stupid (not to imply that you would!) There is always someone out there who can top whatever you do. From today's L.A. Times -- a man was killed when he tried to open a grenade with a sledgehammer (not to mention he destroyed his workshop, several parked cars and injured a few people). What was he thinking?? (Man Sledgehammers Grenade, Dies in Blast) AND my favorite headline: Truck Flips; Penguins, Fish Aboard It Killed 4 penguins killed in a truck accident. The octopus survived. Maybe they weren't wearing their seatbelts -- and who was driving?
Have a nice day.
I hear that other people's mothers-in-law send them e-mails warning of impending doom, or dropping subtle hints about how to be better at God-knows-what. Thank heavens my mother-in-law knows that I'm a lost cause that no instructional e-mails can fix! She just sends the fun stuff. Thanks Mom -- both of my moms -- I'm a lucky slouch and I know it.