I spent an hour sunbathing today.
Of course, I wasn’t really sunbathing. I’ve always been rather careful about my skin, since, although I am a natural brunette (not any more, but, you know…), I am also naturally pretty pale. But I was treated a while back for a keratosis (precancerous skin lesion) on the bridge of my nose, and I have a sweet, smart young friend undergoing treatment right now for a more serious skin condition. So please – be careful, wear sunscreen, and see a doctor right away for anything that doesn’t seem right. (That’s the end of seriousness for today… but don’t forget, okay?)
So I was enjoying a warm sunny day slathered in SPF. Still, though, I call it sunbathing, since I was enjoying the sun and I was also doing what could be termed ‘practicing’ in case I should ever have another opportunity to visit a clothing-optional beach.
I was reading on my Kindle. Originally, I had big doubts about whether I would like Kindle-reading. I love physical books. Paper and Print. But to my surprise, I also love my Kindle. All those books in one little package. And I can read it clearly even in the bright sun. I do WISH someone (Are you listening, Amazon?) would pay me for endorsements. Then I would REALLY love my Kindle.
It was perfectly quiet, and I guess because I was so still and ‘au naturel’, Nature decided to pay me a visit.
First was a bird. A medium size bird, medium brown. I’ve just checked Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds, but as usual, Sibley is no help unless you already know what you’re looking for. I can eliminate ducks and hawks and turkeys – and non-brown birds like cardinals and bluejays, but everybody else looks pretty much the same. I guess he could have been some kind of thrush, but I found a bird that’s brightly colored in maturity but brown in youth. A dickcissel. It’s mostly found on prairies, and I live in New England, but with a fabulous name like that, how can I NOT think it was a dickcissel?
So, Dick flutters right over and lands on the back of a chair near me. As a matter of fact, I sat in that very chair while having coffee in the morning. But I moved pretty quickly when I noticed that hornets were flying in and out of the joint between the seat and the driver’s side leg.
Dick regarded me with a casual disinterest.
I wanted to address him in his own language so I gave him a little whistle. I’m not much of a whistler.
Dick answered back in his own language. He was not much of a whistler either. What he said was “tschik…tschik’ – which is totally consistent with a dickcissel, by the way.
I decided to try English. I told him that he wasn’t all that bad looking, and by the way, there were hornets in that chair. “Hornets are delicious,” I said.
Dick said, “tschik, tschik,” which in this case I believe meant, “Nice try.” He lifted his tail, plopped out a little poop, and flew off.
Proving that he was an immature dickcissel.
I returned to my book.
Not five minutes later a chubby chipmunk came by.
I think his name was Phillip. He certainly looked like chubby Phillip who sat next to me in third grade.
Chipmunks have only two speeds. Zippy fast or dead stop. So Phillip zipped by my feet and halted.
I tried his language. “Tschik, tschik,” I said. But apparently that was Dick’s vocabulary, not Phillip’s.
English is so much better for communing with nature. Human beings don’t speak any other Species, but all animals understand English. Just watch any cartoon on Saturday morning. Chipmunks, birds, dinosaurs – they are all bilingual. It’s like English is their first language or something.
“Hi there,” I said. “I see you partook of the feast of sunflower seeds and other yummy things we put out this winter.”
Phillip stood on his hind legs and sneered at me. He sneered. A chipmunk sneer.
I didn’t need a chipmunk translator to get his drift.
But I’ll translate for you.
Who are you kidding? The feast WE put out this winter? Your husband put out all the goodies. The only thing YOU put out was that white-and-black cat, which is like putting Godzilla into Chipmunk Tokyo. Just because your name is on the mailbox doesn’t mean you can take credit for the snacks. I may be a chipmunk but I’m not claiming I sang “Christmas Don’t Be Late.”
He gave me the finger with his tail, so to speak, and zipped off.
I’m sure he was just cranky because I mentioned his weight.
I was late for work today.
But I have a really good excuse.
First of all, I went to a concert last night. On a weeknight. I stayed out very late. The wee hours. The concert didn’t get over until 11:15! That’s a full one hour and fifteen minutes past my bedtime. And I didn’t even count that it’s an EIGHT minute drive home. Let me repeat: On a weeknight.
Then, my husband had to get up early. His friend is trying to convince him to go partners in an antique business. So they went to the huge antique show to get the lay of the old stuff land, so to speak. I haven’t been discouraging in this possible endeavor. Hubby needs a hobby. And he loves to make deals. He was a very successful salesman due to his love of the deal. The issue is that he falls in love with shit. And then he can’t bear to part with it. He had found the perfect product in advertising – because he didn’t have to buy it first. And it’s hard to fall in love with advertising space. But antiques? I mean I like antiques. But I don’t want my house to start looking like the The Addams Family. Then again, he might be good at it.
So anyway, he had to get up at 5:00. This would not necessarily translate into me getting up early too. He can make coffee and toast quite well without me. So I could have slept a little late. However, the alarm beeps right over my head in the bedroom every time a door opens. And it beeped over and over and over again. I’m not sure why he went in and out so many times. Four years ago I would have said he was filling up the car with snacks. After all, it’s more than an hour’s drive. Snacks would be called for. But now that we are both eating healthy nutritious stuff, snacks are water and bananas. That wouldn’t take a whole lot of trips to the car – even he takes forty bananas.
But regardless, beep, beep… going out… beep beep…coming in. Beep beep… going out… beep beep…coming in. Beep, beep… well, you get the picture. So I got up. “You’re up?” he said. “You shoulda slept in.”
So I’m up. Early. I didn’t take long in the shower, because I didn’t have to wash my hair. It’s Zumba day, and I’m not going to waste clean hair on a day that ends with a big sweat-event. Zumba day means updo. Updo is easy with dirty hair. It mostly just sticks to itself. And the ends that pop out are charmingly casual.
I ironed. I must wear freshly ironed clothes, even when it’s jeans. I just must. The ironing board is set up permanently in my home. College almost killed me, because I had no space in my dorm room for an ironing board. It’s a miracle I graduated. I dressed in my freshly ironed clothes. I didn’t change more than twice. That saved time.
I did all my makeup. ‘All’ means ‘a lot’. But I am very skilled. I could compete in Olympic makeup application. I would win. I was still really early.
My husband left for his big adventure. This saved me an enormous amount of time at breakfast, because I didn’t have to talk to him. I opened my book. In retrospect, this may have been a minor mistake. However, I had already saved so much time what with getting up so early and not shampooing and not changing my clothes three times and not speaking to my husband — well, four chapters fit into my schedule quite nicely. The fifth made it a little tight.
But I was okay. I did the dishes and made the bed and saved an enormous amount of time by wearing plain hoop earrings and my wedding rings. Not having to choose a necklace easily offset that fifth chapter.
Yogurt and a banana in my bag… Double-checked that the coffeemaker was off. And the iron. Perfectly on time.
Then the old cat threw up. Not a problem. Hubby can “find” it when he gets home. There is no way to date-stamp cat puke. It most certainly could have happened right after I left.
I was only 1 minute behind schedule. But I knew I could make it. I have no traffic lights and only two stop signs between my house and the office. Both stop signs are at right hand turns. There’s hardly ever any traffic. I don’t really have to come to a full stop.
And then. Those few seconds late caused me to be behind the school bus that I am usually in front of.
I ended up six minutes late for work.
“Sorry, I’m late,” I said to the boss as she spotted me running in. “Why does every damn kid have to kiss his mother?”
It was the summer I was twenty.
I almost wrote that I was home from college for the summer, but that year, I actually commuted to college so I was home all year anyway. So let’s just say that I was on summer break from school. And dreaming of the Fall when I would actually move out of my bright green and pink frilly bedroom and into a college dorm with an Indian batik bedspread and a Mao poster.
My sister Claudia had her first apartment, which she shared with two other young teachers. It was a very cool apartment – mostly because they were “older women” and also because they were known to have men drop by. I loved men dropping by. I visited all the time and planned my exit in the evening to coincide with the departure of one (any) of the men – hoping they will take me to an all-night diner for coffee. And sometimes they did.
One day mid-week my sister called. She had the flu. Her roommates were gone for the day, and she was all alone. She was quite sick. She hated being alone and sick. Would I come by and stay with her for a few hours?
So I went all the way over there – the apartment was five whole blocks from my parent’s home.
Claudia let me in and immediately went back to bed. I played around a little bit with the TV, but a summer afternoon in 1971 was not exactly peak viewing time. I had a soap opera on for some background noise, and leafed through some magazines.
I checked on my sister. She was sound asleep. Bored, I switched off the TV and browsed through the books in the living room bookshelf. And I pulled one out.
“The Boston Strangler.”
I was fascinated. Mesmerized.
Of course, I already knew quite a lot about The Boston Strangler. Living in Connecticut, you couldn’t help but follow the case. Especially after we learned that the Strangler was most likely also the “Green Man” – notorious in Connecticut for rape and assault of housewives by pretending he was a repairman.
As the Boston Strangler and the Green Man, the perpetrator (who was most probably Albert DeSalvo, although there are some who do not believe his confession) wore the dark green work clothes that usually signified an appliance or utility repairman back in the early 60s.
As a little kid, the Green Man had put a scare into the people of Connecticut. I had been warned not to open the door for a repairman without my mother’s permission – and yes, people actually came to your house to fix things in those days. You did not throw out the miscreant TV or toaster and get a new one – you had the broken one fixed. Really.
(BTW, did you know that we used to have our shoes re-soled, and we’d wear them for years? Really. I’m that old.)
Anyway, I was engrossed in this book. I read for hours. I remember it as well-written as well as creepy. The way this guy would so convincingly gain the trust of so many women that they just opened the door and let him in. And wham.
The doorbell rang.
I jumped about four feet.
And I looked through the peephole.
And it was a guy in a green uniform.
I opened the door a crack with the chain still on and my heart pounding with a beat that reminded me of “My Sweet Lord.”
“Hi,” the green man said. “I’m here to fix your door.”
“Ummm, I’m the babysitter,” I said, not coming up with a better word for keeping watch over my sick, sleeping, older sister. “What’s wrong with the door?”
“It’s not flush to the floor. See how much space there is at the bottom? Someone here complained that it wasn’t safe.”
Well, that couldn’t have been my sister. My sister would never ever notice that a door was not flush to the floor. But both of her roommates could easily want that fixed.
But – “not safe?”
How dangerous is a slight crack at the bottom of your door? Who did they think would break in? Mr. Fantastic? Flat Stanley?
And with my finger still holding my place in “The Boston Strangler” – I unhooked the chain and let him in.
I backed up even with the bathroom door. I planned on jumping in there and locking myself in if I had to.
The guy had a long thin piece of board. He glued it to the bottom of the door and left.
And I never read another true crime book.
Oh yeah. I know what you are thinking.
With regards to my poor sister asleep in the bedroom:
You have never seen Claudia sick. I figured he’d take one look at her and run away.
It was my husband’s turn to choose which Sirius channel we listened to on our last ride. So naturally, he picked Willie’s Roadhouse – very old-fashioned country music. By very old-fashioned, I mean Grand Ole Opry old-fashioned. I mean twangy guitars and twangier voices. I mean boots and barefoot and nothing in between. I mean men wearing sequins and fringe. I mean high hair on both sexes.
But to my enormous surprise – and delight – they had a special program. Theme songs from TV Westerns!
Oh the Memories!
I LOVED TV Westerns. And I watched them ALL. And by all, I mean spurs and saddles up the wazoo! If you are younger than I (and almost everyone is) – you have no idea how many westerns there were. You could watch cowboys every single night of the week – sometimes several in one night.
I only have a vague recollection of “Hopalong Cassidy,” “Wild Bill Hickok,” “The Lone Ranger,” and “The Cisco Kid” – they were pretty much before my time. But my husband loved them, so I would wager a guess that they had lots of shootouts and no ambiguity on who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. That’s the way he still likes his shows.
The first TV Western I remember well was “Roy Rogers”. I was not impressed. It was set in modern times, and Roy and Dale had telephones and vehicles. For chrissakes, if you are going to do a Western, I want to see you ride Trigger and Buttermilk – stay out of the friggin jeep.
Here’s a summary of JUST SOME of the Westerns I remember. I didn’t use Google or Wikipedia because I want my memories and my impressions to be the ones of my childhood – unsullied by today’s adult opinions. (So I could be wrong on some – or many – or all – of the facts.)
“Wyatt Earp” – “Bat Masterson” – “Yancy Derringer” – these were all fancy-dress dandies. My Grandma liked these shows. I preferred my cowboys a little grittier even then. I didn’t want lace shirts. I wanted dusty from the saddle. A small aside: about twenty years ago I happened to meet an actual descendent of Bat Masterson. I had the song (“He wore a cane and derby hat. They called him Bat. Bat Masterson”) stuck in my head for weeks. And now I do again.
“Death Valley Days” – an anthology series narrated by Ronald Reagan. Brought to you by twenty-mule team Borax. Borax was a soap. A twenty-mule team made it a very strong soap, I guess. Or very smelly. Maybe both.
“Tales of Wells Fargo” and “Iron Horse” – same actor; almost same show. One was a stagecoach and one was a train. Other than that…
“Sugarfoot” – another of Grandma’s favorite. She thought he was very cute and sweet. He was blond. Grandma liked blonds.
“Cheyenne” and “Bronco” – two very big men. I think these shows alternated time slots. Cheyenne was a man of few words; it would have been a difficult show to watch if you were blind. The strong silent type. But the producers probably saved a lot of money on dialog.
“Maverick” – this is where the dialog budget got spent. Very snappy and clever. Maverick liked to talk his way out of trouble. There were three (or maybe four) Mavericks, but I only liked James Garner. I liked him a lot. Like, a LOT.
“Wagon Train” – heading west. Never getting there.
“The Rebel” – a confederate soldier out west. I think he had a big secret. I never understood any of the plots. He had a sporty little cap though.
“The Rifleman” – Strong-jawed Chuck Connors who was a fast-draw with a rifle. Noisy. The Rifleman had a cute son, but the son called his dad, “Paw.” Unacceptable.
“The Deputy” – “Lawman” – “Laramie” – I enjoyed these shows. I cannot tell them apart now though. I probably couldn’t then either.
“Wanted Dead or Alive’ – Young Steve McQueen. Everyone thought he was handsome but I always thought he was homely. But even at eight years old, I appreciated the way he filled out a pair of jeans.
“Gunsmoke” – This was Great Aunt Lora’s favorite. She told me she wished she were Miss Kitty – she would have liked to run the whorehouse and drink with the boys. I thought Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty were a little long in the tooth.
“Have Gun Will Travel” – with Richard Boone as Palladin, a hired gun. My father, who never ever disparaged anyone’s looks, once said, “That is about the ugliest man I have every seen.”
“Rawhide” – by far the best theme song EVER. A never-ending cattle drive with two extremely tall cowboys, Eric Fleming and Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood had a lot of sex appeal, I guess. I liked the other guy. I remember lots of stampedes and hot tempers. And nights by the campfire sort of like the farting scene in “Blazing Saddles” – without the farting. (I think.)
“The Virginian” – a 90-minute Western. Plenty of time for plot-development and selling Alka-Seltzer. The show was loosely based on the novel.- very loosely, since Trampas was the bad guy in the book and a good guy in the show. He had curly blond hair though and very good teeth, so he couldn’t be a bad guy. The Virginian, like in the book, had no name, which made it very difficult to get his attention out on the range.
“Bonanza” – the biggie – the Ponderosa of Westerns. Rich cowboys. Pa and his sons were always falling in love, and their women always died. If I met a Cartwright, I would run for the hills.
“The Big Valley” – A version of Bonanza with a matriarch instead of patriarch. I liked the premise though. The dead rich father’s bastard son decides to join the family. My little brother had sort of a crush, not on the beautiful Linda Evans, but on 60-something Barbara Stanwyck. My brother knew a real beauty when he saw one.
“Laredo” – Texas Rangers. One of the Rangers had quite a spectacular body and took off his shirt in almost every episode. My sister Claudia enjoyed this.
“Kung Fu” – Weird. Just. Weird.
“How The West Was Won” – “The High Chaparral” – “Alias Smith and Jones” – late entries in the Western drama. I was becoming old enough to appreciate a hot cowboy on a big horse. These shows had plenty.
And I could use me some now. I think I’d like to go back and get another look at Steve McQueen’s jeans.
This weekend my husband and I traveled to Brimfield Massachusetts to the huge Brimfield Antique Flea Market.
Brimfield is held three times a year, and it’s always a crazy event. For more than 50 years, the nuttiest folks from all over the globe collect junk and come together to see if they can fleece the public. It’s like the whole town becomes a junkyard. In fact, Brimfield is actually a group of 20 individual shows (each one big in its own right) all vying for a piece of the junkyard pie.
Oh sure, there’s some real antiques. But mostly it is the stuff that your husband has in the cellar that you have been begging him to throw away.
We woke to rain, but the sky was bright and the forecast called for clearing. So we dressed in warm clothes that we could peel off in layers, and comfortable shoes, and filled our travel mugs with coffee for the 75 mile drive. Naturally, we already had coffee at home, and so we required a pit stop before too long. And I was gratified that it was Hubby and not me that needed the stop (for a change).
After the nature break, I enjoyed the nature ride. We came upon four horses in a pasture. These guys were all wearing blankets. Granted it was a cool day, but a cool day in May. Those horses were wimps. I don’t see cows wearing sweaters. One horse was sporting a zebra-striped blanket. He may have thought he had a great disguise. But he didn’t fool me.
Once we got to Brimfield, we were encouraged in the most friendly way to park in everyone’s yards for $7.00. One guy with a really big yard had a fistful of dollars in his hand. We gave him a few more. His yard was more of a field, but it was dry enough, and we had taken the truck, just in case we found something great – and big.
So another pit stop at the port-a-potties. Those things are the worst part of any outdoor event, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t really, really grateful.
Finally we were ready to shop. There were thousands of vendors. You could buy broken dolls and buckled paintings. You could buy ancient scythes and dusty beer bottles. Clocks that stopped running in 1945 and old 45 records that had a definite curve to their bodies. Costume jewelry that even my great-aunt Lil would have thought too gaudy.
Oh, there was some nice stuff. I saw a beautiful opal and amethyst ring, But since I already have an opal and ruby ring, I didn’t succumb. My husband found an ugly old coca-cola cooler – which reminded him of his childhood so naturally he wanted to buy it and turn it into a shrine with his toy trains and Hardy Boys books. I pointed out nicely that this cooler was extremely rusty, weighs 77 pounds empty, and costs more than an opal and amethyst ring. I was subtle and congenial though. I said, “That’s friggin’ hideous!”
We had to search to find something relatively healthy to eat. All the vendors from every carnival and country fair you ever went to were there. This would have delighted us five years ago, but we don’t eat that shit anymore – we finally found a deli sandwich stand. Not exactly health food, but a considerable step up from deep-fried oreos.
The best part was the dogs. Brimfield is a dog-friendly event. There were almost as many dogs there as people. And they were all adorable (The dogs, not the people. The people are mostly your regular homely folk.) One vendor had a pug puppy asleep in an old urn. The guy let me wake the puppy so I could see her smile. She didn’t smile. But she gave me an excellent dirty look.
Lately, I want a dog quite badly. But so far, I have recovered my sanity just in time, before I commit to a chewing, pooping, barking little friend. Maybe when I fully retire. I’d like a curly-haired dog to lie at my feet when I write my next novel. Doesn’t that sound nice?
We ended up at the Ben and Jerry’s booth for frozen yogurt, which was okay, even though neither of us got what we ordered. We would have been better off switching cups, as that would have put us a little closer to what we had actually asked for, but then we would have had to forego all the enjoyable bitching.
And that was our day – $7.00 for parking and $16.00 for lunch and I think about $27.00 for two child-size incorrect frozen yogurts.
Oh, and one more expense. Hubby was very sleepy as we started home, and our coffee was gone, so he stopped at a convenience store/gas station for more. I never go into those places. Because mostly what is convenient is potato chips. Which is about my favorite thing in the world, after puppies.
Only Hubby didn’t come out with coffee. He decided on the beef jerky.
“You’re going to open that in the car?” I asked.
“Yeah, he answered already ripping the bag open. “It’s healthier than some of the other stuff in there. What’s the problem?”
“Because it smells like dog food! Don’t you think it smells exactly like dog food?”
“Not until right this minute.”
And it was a quiet ride home.
But a nice day overall.
And I woke up the next day to poison ivy on my foot. From parking in the field, I suppose.
I am re-posting this blog from three years ago.
Because it happened again.
I now have a linen closet with 5 king flat sheets and ZERO king fitted sheets.
I love blogging. It’s therapeutic.There is no better way to complain. Complaints get noticed.
This is the foot of the bed. On my husband’s side.
Despite the evidence, I am not married to this guy:
This is one of the monsters from “Where The Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. I love this guy. He has no name in the book. In the children’s opera, Sendak called him Moishe, after a relative. In the movie, I understand they changed his name to Carol. Just goes to show that you don’t have to have a weird name to be scary. (I have proof in the shape of my former boss.)
But my husband is not Moishe/Carol.
Last time I looked he had only slightly abnormal feet.
What does he DO at night that results in shredded sheets?
I am sleeping right beside him. I’m an excellent sleeper. But you’d think I’d wake up when the flamenco music starts.
We have a king size bed. Sheets are expensive.
When I brought my husband up to look at the bed, he said, “Do you think you can fix it?”
I’m not sure…
He may have been thinking:
I’m interrupting my usual silly nonsense because I am over the moon with THRILLED-NESS!
This week, Amazon and Bookbub are running a 99 cent promotion for the Kindle version of my novel, JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED.
The results yesterday were extraordinary, amazing, fabulous!
I am now an Amazon best-seller! In several categories!
I am NUMBER TWO in the category, Humorous Literary Fiction (a category I didn’t know existed, but hey, I am right behind Liane Moriarty, who I adore!):
And I am NUMBER ONE – NUMBER ONE!! – in Women’s Humorous Fiction!
You can download Just What I Always Wanted HERE for just 99 cents through May 17!
As for me, since I already read it, I am buying Stepbrother HOT!
Your Choice, of course:
Two Sundays ago, as we lingered over a sixth cup of coffee, we happened to look out the window and realized that we had company.
We were very excited to see our visitor. Although we were glad that he didn’t knock on the door, and he may have lumbered around the patio just a bit too long.
It is terrific to live so close to nature. That being said, we vowed to take down all the bird feeders the next day.
We had a ton of yard work to do, so we spent the afternoon raking and cleaning up winter debris – and those of you who live in a more temperate climate may be in disbelief that winter clean-up is done in April in northwest Connecticut – but yeah, and in our winter coats too.
After the bear sighting, we had a plan to stick together that day. But of course, my husband had to go to the bathroom, and then I guess the phone rang, and then he was in the shed trying to get the old tractor started, so I ended up quite a distance from the house and all alone. I have heard that bears don’t like noise, so I sang. I sang “Me and Bobby McGee” which was pretty much stuck in my head anyhow, since I have been trying to play it on the ukulele for about seven weeks.
When my husband finally returned, I was gracious and brave, saying something congenial like
“Where the fuck have you been? I could have been eaten by a goddamn bear!”
And he was okay with that, reassuring me that he would have come quickly if I had screamed or anything.
“I think that might have been a teensy bit late. But now I am done and I am going in to have another coffee.”
So it was Hubby’s turn to be alone out there. I don’t know whether he sang, but if he did, it might have been “When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain,’ because Hubby has this thing for Kate Smith. His taste in music is what you might call “quaint.” Others (I’m not saying who) may think more along the lines of “insane.”
So I’m sipping my coffee and I look up from my book – and guess who is the back yard?
Well, I ran immediately to the front door to get my husband in the house. Well, immediately after I found my phone and took this photo. I mean, I’d need evidence if the bear had already eaten my husband.
“Get in the house,” I yelled from the doorway. “There’s a huge bear in the back yard.”
And he came running right in.
“Jesus Christ!” he said when he got a look out the kitchen door. “That’s the biggest fucking bear I’ve ever seen.”
“That’s why I got you in right away. Now that you’re safe, let me see if I can get a picture.”
That was two weeks ago.
One week later, we are making progress. I am now raking out the flower beds around the house.
My husband is with me for a while – but then – he’s off to…well… I’m not exactly sure. But I’m going strong. The weather is better. I’m singing “Handyman” – the James Taylor version, of course, because I love James and I’m pretty handy.
I’ve worked my way over to the south side of the house.
And I hear it.
In the backyard.
It doesn’t sound like my husband.
The only door that is open is the back garage door. I am as far as possible from that door. I am so far south of that door, I am practically in Florida.
And my adrenalin kicks in.
Really kicks. I start to sweat. My heart starts to pound. I can hear my heart. It’s throbbing in my head.
And it occurs to me that this is the most primitive reaction that humans have. Fear. It dates back to our cavemen ancestors running away from woolly mammoths. Physical fear is a throwback to our prehistoric selves. The realization was rather amazing.
And then it happens. The adrenalin-activated fear causes another body reaction.
Yes. I start to fart.
I never knew I could fart that much.
You’d think I was a man or something.
What the hell? Did the cavemen scare away woolly mammoths by farting at them?
Good thing it was my husband in the yard. And not a bear.
I didn’t really want to test the prehistoric fart theory.
Enough sadness for this week, and for the past, and for the world.
My goal in life is to laugh like my mother at 91:
Happy Mother’s Day!
Note: I wrote this essay fourteen years ago. This Mother’s Day, I find I am ready to share it.
NOT HAVING CHILDREN
I married when I was forty.
It was amazing at that age how many people asked me if we were going to have children. No, I’d say, We’re not having children. What is amazing to me now is that I thought I was lying. Keeping a secret.
Of course we would have children. Forty is still young.
I’m lucky. Lucky in my career, first of all. I am immodest enough to know that my business success is largely due to brains and hard work, but I am also honest enough to know that a part of my success is the result of just too much time on my hands. I work hard because I have no place better to be. I’m not so much ambitious as simply trying to pass the time as interestingly as possible. People at the office listen to me, value my opinion, and pay me pretty good money. How ungrateful I am to rather have a baby.
And on top of a great career, I found a husband at forty. A nice one. Those horrible statistics say I have a better chance of being hit by a meteor. And I want a baby too?
My husband never quite felt the same way. He’s a few years older than I, and was married before to a woman who could not have children. He got used to the idea years ago that children weren’t in his future. He has no experience with kids. He doesn’t think he’d be a good father.
He’d be a wonderful father. I’ve seen how he adores and protects our little cats – feeding them treats from the table, gently untangling knots from their coats, bragging about their exploits long after his audience has lost interest, and, in time, building small cedar coffins through his tears.
When we married, he knew I wanted a baby. He just couldn’t know the completeness of my desire
Early in our marriage, I was late with my period. My anxiety and happiness overwhelmed me. I found myself sitting still for long stretches, holding my breath, counting the seconds until my life changed forever. Two long weeks. I was terrified that it wouldn’t be true; I failed to see that my husband’s fear was different. A baby would be great…but…financially, things are tough right now, it would be career-limiting for you, we’ll be retirement age when college tuition is due, we could die leaving a child for someone else to raise… I never really listened past A baby would be great. When my period finally came, I was quietly devastated. My husband was kind and sweet, but woven through his condolences were the unmistakable threads of relief. I spent all day in bed with the shades drawn. I’d feel him every so often watching me helplessly from the doorway, as if he knew he could not enter my grief. I guess it would be nice to have a baby, he said. I know how happy it would make you.
I am the most selfish person on earth.
The following month my doctor recommended a fertility specialist. I put the referral in my purse, knowing I wouldn’t call.
But even without professional help, I was sure I would get pregnant. Every month I was sure. For ten years. I still cry when I get my period. I try to keep this private but sometimes my husband sees. He comforts me, and I hope he thinks that it’s just hormones. At my age, it probably is.
I am very jealous of mothers. I am jealous of teenage mothers. I am jealous of older mothers. I am jealous of women who get pregnant the first month they try. And I am jealous of women who finally, finally, after miscarriages and disappointments, have their babies.
And now I am fifty. We’re not having children.
Not having children doesn’t take any big adjustments. I am already living a childless life. Now it’s just permanent. It’s a very good life, and it will continue exactly as before. I just have to make some minor modifications of my imagination.
For thirty years I’ve watched mothers with their children and stored little scenes for my own future. I have stolen other women’s moments like a shoplifter who keeps all her pilfered items in the closet, afraid to wear them. My closet is full.
But these clothes don’t fit me any more. It’s time to pack up these images likes bundles for Goodwill.
The first day of school, Mother’s Day cards and macaroni necklaces. Ice skating, singing Old MacDonald in the car. Chicken pox and computer games; soccer practice. Tantrums. Cheerios in the sofa cushions, bicycles in the driveway.
They are such little pictures. Insignificant really. Someone else’s memories. Time to give them up. We’re not having children.
At the restaurant a young boy rests his head for a moment on his mother’s breast. She smooths his hair. He returns to his pizza. Last year I would have certainly snatched up that moment. But now I have no place to put it. I let it go.
There is an emptiness where my vision of the future used to be. But not forever. I am a women with aspirations after all. So I know that there will be new images. Maybe warm fireplaces and good books. Fresh flowers on the table. Beaches. Sunsets. Conversations. Porch swings. I tend to think these new dreams will be quieter dreams, but I know that they are already waiting for me.
All these years I have been saving money for a rainy day that was secretly a college education. But we’re not having children. The money has been redirected.
My husband and I are building a home in the country. It’s a wonderful home on a breathtakingly beautiful piece of land. My husband and I designed the house ourselves. So it has almost everything we ever wanted.
Remember the movie, Grand Canyon? I don’t think the critics liked it, but I did. In one storyline, Mary McDonnell is out jogging and finds an abandoned baby in the bushes. She keeps it. Her husband is not crazy about the idea, but he is Kevin Kline and fabulous and their relationship is perfect and they have such a healthy outlook on life that you know it will work out beautifully.
Sometimes when I am out walking, I keep my eyes on the shrubbery.
*Originally published on The Huffington Post