(Photo stolen from these guys)
Laurie(Photo of one of the terribly expensive shattered Lladro sculptures, Man From La Mancha series, *GULP*, stolen from these guys)
Dear Mathews County,
I have a crush on you. It's big.
I visited you recently, under cover of anonymity. You didn't know you were being watched. I admit it: I am your stalker.
You are beautiful beyond compare, and this from a woman who lives in a state known for its beauty. Yeah, California has its vistas, its great expanses, but coastal Virginia, and Mathews in particular? It's a whole other beautiful. Intimate. Secluded. You have to stalk it to discover it. And I did.
Without you knowing it, I walked your beaches and skirted your marshlands. I breathed in the electric air of vibrant downtown Mathews during a thunder shower (in California our original downtowns are few and growing fewer, and our thunderstorms are even more rare). I heard the beep-beeps of passing cars and knew they were friendly honks of recognition of passing neighbors, not angry motorists. I smiled.
Thank you for the wonderful food I tried for the first time! At Chef Todd's I had a crab cake sandwich. Being a Come-Here I wanted to try local food, and I'm pretty sure this was it. YUM. Thanks to the kind staff at Chef Todd's for a wonderful lunch and for not falling over when the question "How many for lunch today?" was answered, "Oh, maybe 20? 16 for sure."
At the visitor's center in the historic Sibley's General Store building we knocked a few of your citizens out of their socks, I'm afraid. I hope we didn't frighten anyone too badly, when we just kept pouring through the door, announcing the many and far-flung places from which we had come: metro D.C., Texas, Maine, Connecticut, Manhattan, Seattle, and even Vancouver, Canada. And, of course, many from within a stone's throw of Mathews County as well. I was smitten by the local talent on display and for sale in that charming old store that has a good start on its second century of life.
(Original photo stolen from the lovely and talented Daryl)
In Hallieford I fell in love with the Sandpiper Reef restaurant because of the Heavenly Grouper which, I'm only slightly ashamed to say, I completely devoured, and thought about licking the plate but didn't at the last minute. FANTASTIC!
(Original photo stolen from their web site)
And how such a spacious room could feel cozy is beyond me, but it did. Maybe it was the great company, food and the locals, who not only didn't point and stare at we Come-Here's, but actually joined us at the table and gave us a pre-prepared quiz about the region. I failed miserably but thoroughly enjoyed the process. Thanks to Mark -- I think I have the name right? -- for going above and beyond to make sure we were somewhat edumahcated.
And of course there was Nature. Nature is especially fond of Mathews County, I can tell: Her light is just a little stronger, Her shadows more nuanced, Her greens a shade richer than in other parts of the world.
And Her denizens are as relaxed as we Come-Heres were.
I hope to do more Mathews stalking, spurred on by the talented local blogger Chesapeake Bay Woman whose blog "Life In Mathews" lured so many of us to your fine county. Because of CBW, Mathews has at least a dozen more stalkers, and counting.
You have been warned, Mathews, but we'll be gentle.
Thank you to the fine people of Mathews County Virginia for three days of heaven!
Marriage must be in the air, now that thoughts of young men are turning
to . . . baseball. Yeah, well, when Marcy at The Glamorous Life
told the Internuts all about her friend who had asked for her help to propose to his long-time girlfriend*,
I thought two things. One: HELL yeah, I'm in. Two: Me? Is she joking?
I'm the least romantic and most girly-inhibited person she knows. How
can I help? I mean, I was proposed to in a bar. I got married
about an hour after getting a latte at the beach in my holey jeans, and
my hair was even still damp (it always is). What can I possibly bring
to this party that won't turn it into a laughingstock?
And then I remembered the two greatest pieces of marital advice ever.
The first was from two of my husband's college volleyball friends, Dave and Mary. They make marriage look easy and like a heckuva lot of fun. I'll never forget what they said to us -- they said, "Always --" no, wait, it was "Never . . ." um . . . Oh yeah. Their card to us read
The second fantastic piece of advice was something Chas and I concocted. Here it is:
Oh. My. Goodness. Al Green is better than Marvin Gay with his "Sexual Healing," although that ain't bad . . . Everyone should be given this album before they walk down the aisle. (Not before the wedding, because we'd just have a whole bunch of pregnant brides, and really? None of us need the extra stress of THAT.) If every married couple had to listen to "Love and Happiness" and "Tired of Being Alone" every time they argued, marital fights would drop dramatically. We might even pick fights with each other just for the, um, fun of it.
So if you must fight, and you will, first turn on Al Green, then get naked, oil up, and -- oh never mind, that was something else . . . anyway, good luck fighting.
Also? Best of luck to you, young bride and groom to be. I'm thrilled to have been a part of your big day.
Where are my pants . . .
UPDATE, 6:05 P.M. PDT: AND NOW YOU MUST GO CHECK OUT THIS LINK TO UNDERSTAND THE WHOLE STORY
GO ON, GIT!!!
*Seriously, do go check out Marcy's post for Tuesday 3/24/09. There are LOTS of people involved in this story, and I think -- no, I KNOW -- you'll kick yourself later if you don't follow along.
My friend Bert brought me Schuberts for Valentine's Day.
If you are from Chico, California, or the surrounding areas, you understand what that means.
That means that Bert and I are now married.
Bert! Don't run away, Bert! Come back; I was only joking! maybe
Consider the box. Such a sweet little gold box.
I won't open the box. Should I open the box?
I had to open the box. Wow, four chocolates! Just one to tide me over.
And now there are three. The balance is off.
So, I'm pretty sure I'll save the other two for Smedley and Sparky at home.
No I won't.
Only one left. The hairy one. Saving the hairy one for later.
Maybe there's one hiding there that I missed . . .
Is it later yet? I think it's later . . .
It was a goner. Alrighty then . . . I dun' feel so good.
Now what'll I eat?
* * * * *
Thanks so much, Bert! Happy Valentine's Day! (urp)
(Photo stolen from these guys)
[RING RING! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TELEPHONE! RING RING!]
LAURIE, THINKING: The phone is ringing.
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Hello?
LAURIE, THINKING: It's Gubby.
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Whassup?
GUBBY: Would you please post something to your blog?
LAURIE, THINKING: Gosh, I'm flattered, Gubby -- I didn't know you liked my blog that much.
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Yeah, I know, I will tonigh --
GUBBY: BECAUSE YOU'VE GOT A LOT OF PEOPLE OUT THERE WONDERING IF YOU'VE SLIT YOUR WRISTS YET!
LAURIE, THINKING: It was too good to be true.
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Nahhh, I'm over my funk.
GUBBY, OUT LOUD: Well, hurry up and post something.
GUBBY, THINKING: Hey, they said "thirty minutes or less" . . .
Thank you to all of you who left such kind comments here while I had the blues. It meant a lot to me, and I read each one (as always). But, while I was certainly not lying in bed all day or shuffling around Elsinore holding my father's skull, I was too down to write and answer e-mails. I felt better last night so I sat down to write -- I've got it! A photo essay. I have a lot of photos of my grandparents I need to look at . . .
So it turns out my funk found it's focus on my grandfather, and the Big Fat Ugly Cry that was inevitable, happened. It could just as easily have been about cheese, which is not to take anything away from my grandfather, but rather to tell you that GIRLS ARE WEIRD.
But there's something you don't know. While I was right in the middle of my Big Fat Ugly Cry, sitting here at my desk at the convergence of two large windows, the phone rang.
[RING RING! THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TELEPHONE! RING RING!]
LAURIE, THINKING: It's after 10:00 -- Gubby must have mixed my number up with the pizza place.
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Hello?
DAD: Laurie, this is your dad. What's going on out there with that car?
LAURIE, THINKING: Huh? What car?
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Huh? What car?
DAD: Whaddaya mean, 'What car?' The police car! Where are you?
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: I'm in the office.
LAURIE, LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW, THINKING: Holy crap, there's a police car almost on my lawn!
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Holy crap, there's a police car almost on my lawn!
DAD: You were in the office and you didn't NOTICE?
DAD, TO MOM: She's right there in the office and she didn't notice the police car! Well, I don't know what's the matter with her --
DAD, OUT LOUD: How could you not SEE that? It's RIGHT THERE!
LAURIE, THINKING: He called me to harangue me for my inattention to detail.
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Well, I was stoking the fire in the dining room, and then the corner between the windows hid the police car -- WHY IS THERE A POLICE CAR ALMOST ON MY LAWN?!
DAD: That's what I called to ask you. There was another car -- did he give him a ticket? Oh, why am I asking you --
DAD, TO MOM: No, she hadn't noticed.
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Well, he just drove away.
LAURIE, THINKING: This is the reason sanitariums were invented.
DAD, OUT LOUD: Okay, good night.
LAURIE, OUT LOUD: Good night, Dad.
LAURIE, THINKING: Oh GAHHH, I sat right there in the window honking into a Kleenex and blubbering through my Big Fat Ugly Cry while a deputy sheriff was giving someone a stern talking to, almost on my lawn. Maybe he didn't notice. Maybe he'll think I was chopping onions . . . in the office. Maybe I can say it was Chas who was crying.
I should blog about this.
Thanks again, everyone. You are very kind and mean so much to me.
(Photo stolen from Jordan_K on Flickr)
I have at least three posts in the works at various stages of done . . . done . . . done-itude, yet for each there is a reason I can't post it yet. Drat. Curses, foiled again. See? See how upset I am? See how emotional?
I can't say I'm in a depression, really, but I definitely have the blues. I'm fine, the kids and Chas are fine . . . and yet . . .
This week, this glorious history-making week, carrying us all along on a cloud of good will and (probably) Pollyanna-ish optimism -- this week I heard five pieces of bad news within 24 hours, from very bad to tragic. None of them directly affects me, yet taken collectively they have sapped my creative energy and cast a pall over my exuberance. Suddenly I'm sad.
Please don't feel sorry for me because nothing happened to me. I'm just having a hard time adjusting. If I am going to be really honest about it, it's been since October, when the first waves of Bad News Having Little To Do Specifically With Laurie hit my shore. My housework -- never my strong suit -- has suffered. I stopped reading the blogs of writers and friends I adore, and I'm having a hard time concentrating for long. That opera review took me THREE DAYS to write, and it was pretty terrible.
Also, don't worry about me; I'll snap out of it -- maybe even tomorrow. Sometimes just saying the words aloud or writing them for all the world to see can turn the tide. I hope so, because there's nothing quite as dull as Foolery in a funk.
So bear with me, and ignore me when I make no sense . . . no, wait, that would be most of the time . . . how about, ignore me if I begin to drool? No, that too, would be quite a lot of the time . . . just come over, help yourself to whatever's in the fridge, throw another log on the fire, move a cat off a chair, and make yourselves at home. I'll be out in a minute and full of piss and vinegar again real soon.
Thanks you guys -- I feel better already,
(Photo stolen from this site)
Boy I'm glad you're almost done
Oncology's the pits
But soon you'll say, "I'm feeling great!"
As opposed to, "It's the . . . ssssssssshave an' a haircut . . . "
Laughter must have been the key
I know it pulled you through
'Cause every time you've made us laugh
It's sent good vibes to you.
One more thing, and then I'll quit
(Usually that's a lie)
Say adios to those medical folks . . .
. . . and kiss your doctor goodbye!
(Photo stolen from this site)
With love and encouragement to one of my favorite participants here at Foolery, Mr. Bob Cleveland. May you brighten my doorstep another 70 years, Bob, and starting today, BE WELL.
Laurie and your friends at Foolery and Laurie again
I'm so sorry I ignored you. I really wanted to do that thing people
do, not the clapping-in-the-airport thing because we were at a gas
station, not an airport, and there weren't other people around to clap
with me and it would have looked sarcastic on my part (which it most
definitely would NOT have been), so No, not the clapping-in-the-airport
That other thing. The thing where I walk up to you, stick out my hand, and say with reverence (and shyness, of course), "Thank you. I just want to shake your hand and say 'thank you.'" And it would be barely above a whisper, especially in the late afternoon wind coming off of Clear Lake, and you'd say, "What's that again?" as you shook my offered hand, and I'd get all embarrassed and probably over-compensate by shouting it at you, word for lame word.
That thing. That Thank You Soldier thing.
But if you only knew me you'd be thanking me for not doing the shaking hands thing because I was at that moment sort of covered in barf and bits of sodden Kleenex, which would have put a definite damper on the encounter, a low point even for a Middletown gas station. I guess I could have saluted you, but I really didn't want to get my hand that close to my face. I spared you.
I also spared you the shrieks of a mortified carsick child, already cowering in the back seat of our car and trying not to be seen in her undies, since her pants were stowed in the trunk in their new mantle of partially digested cheeseburger and ice cream cone. Shaking your hand would likely have brought attention to our car, doors open in the chill January wind. It would have become a "what's that smell?" moment. I spared you, and me, and the aforementioned (yet unidentified) barf-covered half-dressed child.
So thank you for your service, young man, to me and my reeking family, and to your country. You are a credit to us all.
(the one who kept walking by you to the trash bin)
Just saw a sign as I was out running an errand through Chapmantown:
I can only hope they HUAL better than they SPLEL.
In other news, YES I am home and NO I have not posted because YES I have been working on not one but two posts and NO I haven't finished them yet, although I have sent my photos to my brother as requested SO THERE, but YES I will put up something new soon and NO I wasn't frightened by the size of Rick's baster. I think the turkey was, however.
Blather more later,
Some of my readers and my favorite haunts will no doubt have noticed my recent relative absence. While I am still (mostly) faithfully blogging about six times a week, I have visited almost none of my favorite people and places since before Labor Day. The broken connections feel like a gut punch to someone as wrapped up in Bloggywood as I am, and yet Capital L Life will not be ignored and must be appeased.
A lot has happened in the last several weeks. Sparky started kindergarten in early August. Both girls began ballet and tap classes a month later (for which their hair must be restrained in tight chignon in the morning, I'm learning). We moved into my childhood home Labor Day weekend, although we haven't finished moving out of the old house because THERE ARE PEOPLE CAMPING IN IT. ACK! I need a sedagive. The tap water in the kitchen smelled strongly of sulphur for a couple of days; there was a significant leak in the cold water hookup to the washer. The garbage disposal staged a three-day pout and then magically fixed itself. We had no phone service for two weeks, no satellite for three weeks, and no mail for no reason I could name . . . but it's all fixing itself, as these things tend to do.
One trip to the vet, one trip to the pediatrician, three excursions to furniture stores later, and all is (mostly) well here at Casa Foolery, formerly Squalor Holler on the Pushing Water Ranch.
But there was a significant detail I couldn't share until today.
(Photo stolen from these guys)
One of my two bosses is retiring. Though my coworker and I were officially informed the other day -- Thursday, was it? -- it hasn't been a well-kept secret. Uncertainties abounded. Will the agency continue? If it continues, will I still have a job? Should I have left a long time ago? Can I do better? Will the new version of my work world present even better opportunities for me than before?
So many questions. And in the midst of it all, a job application -- not because I went looking, but an opportunity presented itself and I had to give it a shot. I have heard nothing as yet, but am hoping to get an interview. It's not that I want to leave this job, and it's not that I don't. It's a chance to better serve my family and our bottom line, so of course I will try.
Today the news of my boss's imminent departure reached our radio and TV reps, who are our first associates in the world of advertising. Clients are calling to wish my boss well, ad reps are wistful, things are weird. Weird but good. It feels so good to be able to SAY something.
So, while I'm still too busy for my own good, and my toilets STILL need cleaning, I'm expecting to be able to exhale soon. I almost never blog about work, because for the most part it isn't professional to do so. But this is an exception, this is okay.
I hope to be more available to visit some of my old favorite blogs, my growing interests, and my new finds. You are collectively my entertainment, my inspiration, and my friends, and I thank you for hanging in there with me as I adjust to multiple new realities.
Meanwhile? All I can come up with is the ridiculous stuff, sorry. Hang in there, baby -- it can only get better.
In my defense, I never said it wasn't ALL MY FAULT.
My friend Gubby and I have an ongoing argument. HA -- many ongoing arguments. But this one argument that keeps coming up is driving me a bit nuts, and maybe all y'all can weigh in for me.
About three years ago I got in a car accident, my first. No one was injured, and I didn't even get a ticket, but it was completely, 100%, inarguably MY FAULT. I shot across a busy intersection without having a clear view, in a split second, for no reason I can name, other than an instinctive reaction -- only I didn't make it. My right fender took out his left bumper in the middle of the worst intersection in Chico, two days before Thanksgiving. It happened just after lunch time, on my way back to the office, and his car had to be towed. My insurance covered it, of course, and the guy was either a mechanic or a body shop owner or both, so if anyone could fix the car, it would be him.
None of this is in contention.
What I didn't tell you was that the car was a Datsun 240-Z from the early '70s. The paint job was more primer than color, but otherwise the guy said it had never been in an accident, and he was crushed that his baby was damaged after three decades without Bondo.
(Photo stolen from this site)
The police showed up, of course, and questioned both of us. Things were very cordial, but the other driver was so upset about his car that he kept using words like "irreplaceable" and "pristine" and I finally couldn't take it any more. I was quietly shaking behind my dark glasses until the cop turned to me and asked a few questions. My voice broke and I burst into tears, right there on the side of the busy street with rubberneckers streaming by and everything. My throat hurt, I felt sick to my stomach, and the sun was hot so my feet got sweaty in my Fart Shoes, just to complete my misery.
The officer pulled me away from the others and looked me hard in the face. "Are you okay?" she asked me.
"Yeah," I blubbered. "I've just never done anything like this before, and it's so upsetting, and I feel so bad --"
"Yeah, well, he's laying it on a little thick," she said, to my surprise. "You don't need to hear any of that. Just stay over here until we're all through, okay? It's gonna be okay. That's why we have insurance. That's why they call it an A-C-C-I-D-E-N-T."
GUBBY: So, given the fact that we're coming up on the third anniversary of you wrecking this poor guy's car, I'm just curious: if you wreck MY car, will you make ME cookies, too?
ME: FOR THE LAST TIME, IT WASN'T COOKIES, YOU BUTTHEAD!
GUBBY: Whatever. Look, you wrecked a classic car. A '71 or '72 240-Z is one of the first front-engine 2-seater sports cars.
ME: Yeah, I felt terrible, so what's your point?
GUBBY: You wrecked his baby, then you showed up at his work with cookies to rub it in!
ME: GAHHH! It wasn't cookies, it was PUMPKIN BREAD! And it was delicious! And I worked hard on it, and I wasn't gonna do a striptease or something, so baked goods WOULD HAVE TO DO!
GUBBY: This was a great car! This wasn't Mantel Man's OldsmoPile, or something --
ME: Mantel Man drove a Chevy Cadavalier.
(Photo stolen from these guys)
GUBBY: Either way. That Z was a classic.
ME: Yeah, you said that, but you still didn't tell me why I shouldn't have taken him baked goods.
GUBBY: Because, all it did was rub salt in the wound. Then all of his friends in the shop got to see the "crazy bitch" who wrecked his car. Didn't they all come out of the back room to have a look at you?
GUBBY: They were probably telling him, "Don't eat it! Don't eat it! It's poison! She's probably trying to finish you off!"
ME: You suck.
GUBBY: He wasn't there, was he?
GUBBY: Didn't they all come out and look at you when you announced that you were the one who had hit his car?
ME: You suck MORE.
GUBBY: Did they all run out into the parking lot to move their cars before you drove away?
ME: LA LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU LA LA LA LA LA
(Photo stolen from this site)
GUBBY: If you kicked a guy in the balls, would you bring him cookies afterwards?
ME: PUMPKIN BREAD! PUMPKIN BREAD! You have EATEN that pumpkin bread and LIKED IT, you big jerk!
GUBBY: And you didn't even get a ticket! You wrecked his car and you didn't get a ticket! I'm surprised the woman cop didn't tase the poor bastard. Maybe you should check on him and see if he's committed suicide.
ME: Look, I think anybody would agree that I did a nice thing --
GUBBY: Maybe Cagney and Lacey will give you a good driver award.
ME: -- and I was just trying to make amends in a small way --
GUBBY: Make amends? MAKE AMENDS? That was more like nah-nah nah-nahhhhh nahhh! No wonder you're in advertising. This thing got spun in your favor in a BIG way.
ME: Oh, you exaggerate. I should ask this as a question on my blog to see what people think.
GUBBY: My brother thinks you're nuts!
ME: Which one? Never mind. For bringing cookies? -- DAMN! I mean -- pumpkin bread to the guy? During the holidays?
GUBBY: No, for thirty years they've both thought you were nuts, just because. But yeah, also for bringing the guy pumpkin bread.
ME: Okay, you guys. Out there, reading this -- what do you think? Was I wrong to take the guy a peace offering? Did I just rub salt in the wound? Or are Gubby and his brothers just a bunch of floaters who should be flushed?
Let me have it, I can take it.
GUBBY: Well gee, after this, Laurie, maybe you could start teaching driving school.
(Photo stolen from this site)
ME: You are SO off my Christmas baking list, Gub.
(Photo stolen from vailst on Flickr)
Dear Teeny-Tiny Ant Bastards Who Have Invaded My Home,
It's war. I have had it.
Tried to be nice, but you walked all over me. Tried to blow you away with light little puffs of breath in a gesture of "can't we all just get along" compromise? Well NO, apparently, we can NOT all just get along, and so it has come to this.
We have tried spraying you, and while that works for a while, it doesn't work for long. You seem to sense my inner pesticide-fearing, tree-hugging California Hippy (even when no one else I know does), and you come back bolder than ever when the fog clears.
Really, guys? In the freezer? You don't seem to mind the cold of the refrigerator, and so one of the last safe places to hide food from you was the freezer. My latest trip to the sugar canister, safely stowed among the meat and ice cubes in the freezer, yielded what looked like the ill-fated polar expedition of Robert Falcon Scott, only in ant dimensions. How the HELL did you guys get into the freezer, and then into the sugar canister?
It's bad enough that you vacation in my potted plants, freely roam the countertops as brazen as a hard-luck hussy, and have claimed the cupboards as your own, but your latest invasion was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back:
You got into my Mini Wheats.
A zip-locked bag, also rolled and clamped with a bag clip, and you got in. How the Holy Heck am I supposed to enjoy my Thursday night bachelorette dinner of steamed zucchini and Mini Wheats?
Well, you know what I'm gonna do, Ants? I'm going to EAT YOU. I don't care. You're pretty small, and those are MY Mini Wheats that I paid good money for and that keep things moving in the lower G.I. tract and also? I really love them. I am NOT throwing them out. Cereal is too fracking expensive. Get ready to be chewed to bits, Ants. I can take it -- can YOU? Every time I get that peppery, minty puff of flavor in my cereal, I'll know: another Ant has gone to The Big Sugar Canister in the Sky.
Bon apetit, little creepy guys!
(Photo stolen from these guys)
I'm going to break one of my own rules tonight and write about a close family member without that person's permission. Normally, the only time I do that is when I am teasing someone who is unidentifiable by name, but this time I am not teasing.
"First, do no harm," while one of the sacred tenets of the medical profession, should also be part of the foundation of blogging. So I work overtime trying not to offend (even though I'm sure I sometimes do, and sometimes I actually intend to, but I'm getting off track). But while trying to respect the privacy and feelings of the people I love, I have completely forgotten the sin of omission -- that, by not writing about someone who is important to me, I have wrongly and artificially diminished that person's place in my life.
I'm talking about my sister, Beth.
Technically, she is my half sister, but I cringe every time I have to say it that way. Let's just call her my sister, because that's what I prefer.
A few months ago I made a brief reference to my sister in a post, without going into detail. Jessie caught it and acknowledged it in her comment, asking, "You have a SISTER?!" That was like a gut punch, because I realized at that moment that my long-time reader (in fact my second reader EVER here at Foolery, other than those who know me in real life) didn't know I had a sister. And that was my fault.
My sister Beth is just a few years older than me, and was not raised with our family. Things worked a little differently in those days than they do now, and after the divorce that separated our father from her mother, she was adopted by a man who became her father in every sense of the word, providing her with a loving home. But she wouldn't become part of my immediate family.
We met for the first time when I was in full Scruffy Farm Kid bloom, and Beth was a teenager of the late '70s. She was everything I wanted to be but could never be: athletic, willowy, California "golden," urban, hip, and glamorous. Beth was this:
. . . and I was this:
(Original photo stolen from this guy)
So of course I idolized Beth and was terrified of her at the same time. These things are complicated. At least I could play the banjo.*
For no reason I can name, we drifted apart again for many years, in fact losing touch completely. Fast-forward to spring of about 1995, and I had the unique idea of finding my sister. I looked on-line; nothing. Okay, now what? I didn't know if she was married and had therefore changed her name, and I was stuck. I tabled the idea, and then, within six months of my idea of finding her . . .
Mom and Dad called to tell me that they had heard from Beth. Father's Day. Of course.
All of this sounds rather dramatic, but it wasn't, exactly; it was exciting, certainly, but we quickly adopted the go-with-the-flow behavior we instinctively employed in all matters relating to Beth. None of us had really known what to do or how to proceed. We just stumbled along.
Meeting Beth all over again, this time as adults, was strange, wonderful, awkward, nerve-wracking, and easy, all at once. How could this striking urban sophisticate be related to me? (More specifically, related to DAD?) And yet, there were signs. Beth had Dad's nose, and mouth, and brow line. And she loved animals -- horses and dogs, especially -- in the same fierce way that our mutual father loved cows. Yes, I could start to see the connection.
The most difficult part of welcoming a far-flung sibling into my life would prove to be figuring out how now to answer the mundane life questions: how many are in your family? Did you and your sister fight a lot growing up? What's it like being the smart one in the family?** You can see the challenges. Telling my boyfriend of a handful of months (Chas), "Oh, guess what happened this week? We heard from my sister. Oh, by the way -- I have a sister," was an unexpected conversation for which there is no guide; it's strange no matter how you look at it to suddenly change the size of your nuclear family. I was stunned as recently as last year when I rattled off the now-familiar phrase "my sister" to someone I've known since grade school but see rather infrequently; her jaw hit the floor and she fairly shouted, "Your WHAT?!" I had never had any reason or opportunity to broach this relatively new part of my life with her, and I suddenly felt at sea, like that Scruffy Farm Kid, above, all over again.
Getting to know my sister has been like peeling an onion. I know her on many levels, but every new phase of her life reveals some new part of her. I'm still learning about her, and I have no doubt that she could say the same of us, times five. So, I think I've covered what I wanted to cover with this post, but it's like an onion, too: once it's peeled open there are so many layers to dig into. Consider this an incomplete dedication and the start of a better approach.
Mostly, I wanted to say I'm sorry to my sister Beth -- sorry that I have mentioned her only in fleeting passages without explanation, and sorry that I kind of stink at being a younger sister (something at which I have very little experience). I'm learning. But I love you and I hereby promise you two things: 1) we WILL spend some quality time together this year, just we two, and 2) I will never play the banjo.
*No, I couldn't.
**Okay, that never happened. I have to be the dumb one in the family.
This is my mom. She is so many things to the world.
Mom is soft-hearted. She has inherited several dogs throughout her adulthood, and has patiently fed them and taken them all for walks and games of Throw The Ball, every day. She did just about the same with her kids, and loads of our scruffy farm-kid friends.
Mom is adventuresome. She eagerly tried cross-country skiing and snorkeling, and she took up boogie-boarding WELL past the age at which I plan to stop wearing swimming suits in public.
Mom is musically gifted. She has played the piano for more choir recitals, weddings, church services, and plays than she probably cares to name. She loves opera, the symphonic classics, and certain hand-picked-by-her-children Beatles songs. (For the sake of family harmony she pretended to like Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Doors, but drew the line at Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones.) With exasperation Mom coined the pop music category "I Fed The Cat Songs," for songs that go on and on and on and talk about nothing of consequence. Gee, that sounds familiar.
Mom is funny. I think you'd have to have a refined sense of humor to keep from yelling all the time, around our house anyway.
She puts up with her children, which is my working definition of a mother. There you go -- Mom is the template by which I judge all other mothers.
I love you, Mom.
Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful mother, and to all of the mothers and grandmothers out there.
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An edit to add this, which I found in my inbox, from my brother Mantel Man. He's so darned good:
Our Mom certainly deserves all the accolades you gave her, and more. So here are a few more.
Mom is soft-hearted: I'll never forget something she said at a party by the pool on the ranch, with Gubby and several of our other friends there. A foolish old woman who rented a mobile home on our ranch (one of three formerly used to house dairy employees) had a mangy little dog that had already turned the trailer into a superfund site because the woman was too lazy to take the mutt out for its fifty-times-a-day constitutional. That very day the little vermin had expired and gone to a special place in Doggy Hell. Any other landlady would have shouted, "At last, at last!" Our mother instead wept a bit and lamented that the woman would probably be lonely.
Mom is funny. Your readers might be amused to know that whenever we kids quote her, we instinctively use a sing-song falsetto voice for some reason - prob'ly because we tend to be teasing her a bit when we quote her. "Anyone want a sandwich? How about a margarita?"
Mom is musically gifted: besides having perfect pitch, which I'll never grasp, Mom also knew opera was a perfect way to get her noisy kids to go outside without her having to pitch us out. One day in early December, when we were little, she announced she had something special for us as we gathered in the living room. "What is it, what is it?" we asked her as she carefully began removing an LP record from a box. With a mischievous, "here comes the boogeyman" look on her face, she replied, "It's an OPERA RECORD!" Then, after driving several miles to pick us up, she complimented us on our foot speed and brought us home for the first playing of what soon became our favorite Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer album.
Laurie, you are absolutely right that our mom is the standard by which all other moms must be judged. She sets the bar.
But you are horribly, criminally mistaken about the origins of the "I Fed the Cat Song" category. It was MY invention -- and it came to me while we were listening to one of YOUR records, by the way. And Mom agreed with me. Sorry.
Laurie adds: That, right there, is why children should be seen and not heard. Thanks, Mantel Man.