Sunday, August 28, 2011

FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES


One of my friends called to tell me she was in a store the other day where there was a sign on the wall that said: “Unattended children will be given a cup of black coffee and a free kitten!”

Someone obviously has a sense of humor.

Her call made me think about a little boy about three years old I’d seen in a store a few days before. His mother was pushing a full shopping cart and he was walking behind her, dawdling. Every few seconds, the mother would turn around and tell him to walk faster, but he seemed to fall even farther behind.

Finally the mother shook her head, sighed, grabbed him by the hand and said, “You are the slowest person on earth today!”

To which the little boy replied, “Yeah, I’m getting to be just like Grandma.”

I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing. The mother rolled her eyes and laughed, too.

Kids really do come out with some pretty cute stuff. When I was about three, I said something cute that my mother always referred to as her most embarrassing moment. Believe me, even 50 years later, she still never let me live it down.

She, my aunt and I had gone shopping in downtown Manchester and stopped in Woolworth’s for a snack at the lunch counter. The minute we set foot in the store, my mother said she had to go to the ladies’ room...urgently. My aunt and I stayed on the main floor while my mother ran to the back of the store and up the long staircase to the second-floor restrooms.

I, with my eyes riveted on the stairs, patiently waited for my mother to return. When I finally spotted her descending the stairs, I was so excited, I shouted as loud as I possibly could, “Mommy! Do you feel better now? Did you make a nice big pee-pee?”

My mother froze as all heads turned to look up at her. It was as if she were the guest of honor at a party and was making her grand entrance. My mother’s face turned a neon crimson color as she lowered her head and made her way to the bottom of the stairs. When she finally reached the main floor, everyone cheered and applauded.

I don’t think my mother ever went into Woolworth’s again.

But some of the things kids say are considered cute by some and not so cute by others.

Take, for example, the day my friend Linda and her little boy, Petey, came over to visit. Just before then, my husband had spent countless days building a model ship. Each mast, each line holding the sails, each tiny cannon, had relentlessly tested his patience until he’d been tempted to take the ship to Hampton Beach and fling it into the ocean to give it a burial at sea.

But after all of the torture, all of the colorful language, all of the backaches from leaning over the table, working on the model every night, he finally finished the ship. It truly was a masterpiece, worthy of a spot in a sailing museum. Carefully, my husband set it on the bookshelf in the guest bedroom. His chest swelled with pride as he admired it.

While Linda and I caught up on the local gossip, Petey ran rampant throughout the house. Suddenly a crash, followed by something that sounded like bubble wrap being stepped on, came from the guest room.

Linda, my husband and I dashed into the room. There stood Petey, looking down at the floor at a pile of rubble that once had been my husband’s precious ship.

Petey, his eyes wide, looked up at us and said, “Uh oh, I made a big boo-boo!”

Linda burst out laughing. “Isn’t that adorable?” she said, once she’d caught her breath.

I could tell by my husband’s expression that “adorable” wasn’t exactly the word he was thinking of at that particular moment.

“Pick up that mess and put it back on the shelf,” Linda told Petey. She then turned to me and said, “Now let’s go finish our tea before it gets cold!”

My husband’s mouth fell open and I braced myself for what I knew was about to happen. Sure enough, he was right on cue.

“Is that it?” he said to Linda. “No apology, no offer to replace my ship with another kit? You just let your son run around breaking things in people’s houses, and that’s fine with you?”

Linda shrugged. “He’s only a little kid. Accidents happen. That’s just the way life goes.”

Within seconds, Linda and Petey were holding their coats and my husband was pointing them in the direction of the front door. “This way out!” he said.

Some people just have no sense of humor when it comes to kids.










Friday, August 19, 2011

I HAVE A BAD CASE OF GOLD FEVER


I was watching a news program the other morning and the reporter was saying that the price of gold is so high right now, you could get rich selling anything that has even a tiny bit of gold in it.

To prove her point, she took a post-type pierced earring and removed the little slide-on backing that holds the earring in place. She said she was going to see how much she could get for just that one backing, not even the entire earring. She ended up with nearly $60…in instant cash.

That did it. I suddenly had a bad case of gold fever. I remembered having an entire box of those little earring backs that I’d saved from broken earrings over the years. I knew I also had a couple gold chains with no clasps. Just as I was about to begin my search, the reporter said something else that made my ears perk up.

“Even your old dental crowns have gold on them,” she said. “Don’t throw them out! Cash them in for the gold!”

I had at least two dental bridges and three crowns that had snapped off or fallen out over the years and had to be replaced. I’d paid so much for them, I hadn’t had the heart to toss them out, even though I knew I’d never use them again. Now, I thought, those crowns and bridges possibly could be my ticket to a small fortune. I had visions of myself lying on a tropical beach with two scantily clad bodybuilders fanning me with palm fronds.

“Honey! Where’s my medicated powder? I think I’m getting chafed from the heat!” My husband’s voice cut into my beach fantasy.

Grumbling, I dug out the powder. As I handed it to him, I said, “Remember that Irish Claddagh ring you had years ago that you wore so much, the pattern rubbed off? Do you know where it is?”

“It’s in a little black ring box,” he said.

“And that little black ring box would be where?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Beats me. I don’t know where anything is since we moved here. Why are you asking about that ring anyway?”

“Because if I cash it in for the gold, we can get a lot of money for it. I don’t think you’ll miss it, will you? I mean, the last time you wore it, Hawaii wasn’t even a state yet.”

Again, he shrugged. "If you can find it, sell it. But I want half of whatever you get for it.”

I smiled. I was going to give him all of the money I got for the ring because after all, it was his, but if he wanted only half, then I wasn’t about to argue. Those bodybuilders with palm fronds were getting closer to becoming a reality.

I spent the next four hours crawling around the house in search of anything gold. I found my dental crowns and bridges, a broken ankle-bracelet, a flat gold chain that had an assortment of kinks in it, and an old birthstone charm I’d paid only $3.98 for at Stuart’s. I also found two spiders, a half-eaten rawhide dog treat, my missing pink slipper and my diary from 1981.

“Did you find my ring?” my husband asked when I emerged from the closet looking as if I’d just lost a wrestling match with a killer gang of giant dust bunnies.

“No, but I will, if it’s the last thing I do,” I said.

I did find some items that were questionable. I mean, I couldn’t tell if they were real gold, gold-filled or gold-plated, even after I studied them with a magnifying glass under a bright light. I did find a couple that said 14K on them, but there were letters like HGE after the 14K, which could have stood for anything, like “Highest Gold Excellence” or...“Hybrid Golden Equivalent.” Still, I shoved them into a baggie.

The sun was rising when I finally found my husband’s Claddagh ring...in his toolbox in the back of the breezeway closet.

The next day, I took my baggie of gold scraps to a coin shop to cash them in. My husband’s Claddagh ring turned out to be only 9K gold, which is popular in the United Kingdom. And the HGE, I was told, stood for Heavy Gold Electroplate.

As for my dental crowns and bridges, the guy suggested I go home, take a hammer to them and bring back only the gold. I guess he wasn’t too keen on touching the actual tooth parts himself, maybe because he was afraid he’d find some petrified lasagna or something still stuck on them.

I walked out of there with cash...most of it in crisp $100 bills, which made my gold fever even worse.

I still haven’t found my little box of earring backs, which is somewhere in the house. And I think I also have a badly bent gold ring I used to wear when I was in grade school. So I’m not going to rest until I find them. Nothing gold will be safe from my greedy little paws...not even the neighbors’ golden retriever.

And if my husband sleeps as soundly as he usually does, I just might be able to add another dental crown to my baggie.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

IT WAS JUST ANOTHER CRAZY DAY

When I stopped for gas the other day, Elias, my mechanic, said to me, “Can I ask you a question and get an honest answer?”

I figured he was going to ask me something about my car, such as when I was going to drive it to the nearest salvage yard and leave it there. Before I could answer, he said, “Do you go out and purposely look for crazy things to do, just so you’ll have something to write about in your column?”

I laughed. “No, I don’t have to look for anything. Crazy things have been happening to me ever since the day I was born!”

And I was telling him the absolute truth. I can’t remember a single day in my life that could be classified as “normal.” The moment I open my eyes in the morning, crazy things start happening, as if I were a magnet for trouble.

Last Monday was a prime example of how everything that possibly could go wrong in one day…did.

Willow, the elder of my two rottweilers, had a vet’s appointment for her booster shots. I’m notorious for being late, so I decided to start getting ready nice and early for a change.

A few days before, I’d begun a trial period for contact lenses. I’d managed to master inserting them pretty easily, but taking them out was a different story. My best removal time up until then had been about two hours…or when my eyeballs began to resemble two meatballs in tomato sauce.

I popped the right contact into my eye and blinked a couple times. It felt as if it were made of broken glass. After a few minutes of struggling, I managed to get it out again so I could examine it. I was pretty proud of myself because I’d taken out the lens in record time. I soon discovered why…it had a big tear in it. I rushed to the phone and called my optometrist, who said she’d order another one for me.

I then brushed Willow until her fur glistened. I wanted her to look really spiffy for the vet, not like the frumpy tomboy she usually was. The minute I finished brushing her, she scratched at the door to go out. I hesitated, not wanting her to mess up her shiny fur. I finally decided I’d better let her out or with my luck, she’d have an accident on the vet’s foot. The first thing Willow did when she stepped outside was make a beeline for the biggest area of dirt in the yard…and roll in it.

When she was through, nothing on her was shiny but her eyes.

Despite the setbacks, we still were making pretty good time. I put Willow’s leash on her – her “special occasion” leash that was clean and fresh, unlike her other ratty old ones – then led her out to the car and opened the back door. Usually she jumps right in. Willow loves going for rides, even to the vet’s.

She didn’t budge.

“Quick! Get in the car!” I ordered. Still, she didn’t move. I checked my watch and felt panic setting in. Had I not feared getting a double hernia, I would have hoisted Willow into the car myself.

Finally, I actually looked at the back seat. The two trash barrels I’d picked up at the end of our driveway on trash day so I could bring them back into the garage, were still lying there. Even if Willow had been a Chihuahua, she couldn’t have fit back there.

I dashed to the back of the car, opened the hatchback and flung the barrels into the garage. Willow then jumped into the car and we were on our way.

I pulled into the vet’s parking lot only two minutes before our appointment. I grabbed my handbag, climbed out of the car and opened the back door to let out Willow. When I went to grab her leash, it came right off in my hand. All that was attached to her collar was the clasp and about six inches of chewed fabric. She somehow had managed to gnaw right through her special-occasion leash during the ride to the vet’s.

I groaned. There was no way I could control a 105-lb. dog without a leash.

I remembered seeing an old leash somewhere in the car, so I got back in and searched for it. I found it underneath the front seat. It had enough fur on it to make another dog. And by then, so did my pants.

I leaned over the front seat and clasped the leash onto Willow’s collar, then got out of the car and opened the back door to let her out.

With one mighty leap, she was out of the car. Unfortunately, during her leap, her front paws landed right on top of my handbag, and when she hit the ground, she ripped both straps right off the bag. It landed on its side in the parking lot, with half of the contents spilling all over the ground.

Clasping the leash in one hand, I knelt down and frantically tried to pick up everything with the other hand. That’s when Willow spotted a woman with a dachshund coming out of the vet’s office, and bolted toward them. Believe me, trying to hang on to a horse on a leash while also trying to grab a handbag that now had no handles required more coordination than any mere mortal possessed…especially this mere mortal. I nearly left my nose-print in the dirt.

We arrived 10 minutes late for Willow’s appointment.

On the way out, I spent ages searching for my car keys in my handleless handbag. I found them lying on the ground near my car, where my handbag had fallen.

By the time Willow and I got home, I felt as if I’d just run the Boston marathon.

“I swear that dog’s out to get me,” I said to my husband. “It was as if she purposely did everything within her power today to stress me out!”

“Well, just think,” he said, “Next Monday Raven has to have her booster shots, so you’ll get to do this all over again!”

If looks could kill, he’d have been in an urn on the mantel.

But I’m determined to be early for that appointment…even if I have to camp out in the parking lot the night before.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I STRIKE FEAR WHEREVER I GO

I’ve discovered over the years that the only drawback of writing a weekly column is one I never could have anticipated…people are afraid of me.

I’d be stretched out on a sunny beach in front of my 12-room villa on the Riviera right now if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, “You’re not going to write about this, are you?”

Because of people’s fears that I may quote them in my column, it’s sometimes difficult to carry on a normal conversation. For example, the other day one of my friends was telling me about her visit to a new hairdresser.

“My old stylist moved to Florida,” she said. “So in walked this new one, whose hair looked like she’d just wrestled with a wild mongoose! It didn’t exactly give me a lot of confidence in her!”

When I laughed, her eyes widened and the color rushed to her cheeks. “You’re not going to write that in your column, are you?”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I haven’t been to a hair stylist since Nixon was president, so I don’t think I’ll be writing a column about them any time soon. So did you like the new stylist?”

She shook her head and frowned. “I came out of there looking like a cross between Albert Einstein and a Chia Pet!”

Again, when I laughed, she shot a panicky look in my direction. “You’re not going to quote me or name the salon, are you? I don’t want to end up getting a letter from their lawyer!”

Not long ago, when I was out for my daily walk around the neighborhood, I met a couple who said they were regular readers of my column. Every time the woman uttered something her husband apparently thought I might embarrass them by quoting, he discreetly (but obviously not discreetly enough) gave her an elbow in the ribs. The poor woman probably still has bruises.

The truth is, if someone does say something funny, I often can’t resist quoting him or her in my column…but I try not to reveal any true identities. The only exception is my husband, one of my favorite targets. I quote him all the time.

“So, what did you write about me this week?” he usually asks.

If I say I didn’t write anything about him, he looks hurt and says, “And why not? Don’t you think I’m funny any more?”

What’s funny about him is he comes out with great one-liners, just ripe for the picking, yet he doesn’t even realize it. That’s because most of the time he’s talking to himself when he says them.

Just the other night I was in my office and he was relaxing in his recliner. He suddenly burst out singing an old Elvis song…very loudly. When he came to a part of the song he didn’t know, he made up his own lyrics.

“Everybody in the old cell block, was dancing to the Jailhouse Rock!” he sang. “The warden threw a party at the county jail – and, um, he hung up his pants on a rusty nail – and his hairy legs were really pale!”

My first thought was that poor Elvis probably was rolling over in his grave. My second thought was I hoped the neighbors’ windows weren’t open.

Thankfully, my husband, unlike other people, isn’t afraid of what I might write about him – nor does he care. Otherwise, he’d probably have divorced me back in 1995…and I’m pretty certain any judge would have told him he had more than sufficient grounds.

Going to social gatherings also can be awkward for me. When I arrived at a party a few weeks ago, one of the guests greeted me with, “Look out everybody! She’s a newspaper columnist! Be careful what you say because she’ll write about you!”

The crowd grew silent and everyone turned to stare at me as if they’d just been told I had a bad case of the chicken pox. Even the people who’d been chugging beers abruptly set them down, as if they feared I might write a column entitled, “The 10 Biggest Boozers I’ve Ever Met.”

So I guess it’s true that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, as the old saying goes. But I’ve discovered there’s also a plus side to inciting fear in people. If I call customer service to complain about a product, for example, and the employee gives me a hard time, I’ll calmly say, “That’s OK, I’ll just write about this whole incident in my newspaper column and let my readers decide who’s right.”

Works like a charm.