Friday, January 16, 2015


I rang in the New Year very quietly this year.

At midnight, I was wrapped in a blanket and curled up on the sofa, a cup of hot tea by my side. I watched the ball drop in Times Square (was it my imagination or did the ball seem a lot smaller this year?). I then shouted, “Happy New Year!” to no one in particular, which drew the attention of my two dogs.

Believe me, the traditional “midnight kiss” really loses something when the giver has a furry face and Alpo breath.

I couldn’t help but think just how different my New Year’s Eves of yesteryear were. For one thing, when I was single, I absolutely had to have a date for December 31. I didn’t care if the guy was 93 years old and didn’t speak a word of English, I refused to sit home alone on such an important night.

This, of course, resulted in some really interesting New Year’s Eves.

One of my first big New Year’s Eve dates was an evening of dining and dancing at a popular Manchester restaurant. Before the big night, I spent days shopping for just the right dress for the occasion. I must have tried on 200 dresses before I finally found the perfect one at Pariseau’s. It was silver and white with black lace trim. By the time I also bought the accessories – a purse, earrings, shoes – I’d spent about a week’s salary. But I figured it was worth every penny.

It turned out to be the most boring night of my life. First of all, my date invited his parents and his married sister and her husband to join us. They didn’t drink. They didn’t dance. They didn’t talk (unless you count grunts and monosyllabic responses). They also all were chain-smokers – and back then, smoking was allowed in most public places. In every photo taken of me that night, I look like a genie, arising from a cloud of smoke.

Right after dinner, both my date and his father dozed off at the table. Even worse, unbeknownst to us, while we were partying (and I use the term very loosely), there was a blizzard raging outside.

At 12:01, after a quick “Happy New Year!” and an even quicker kiss from my date, his father yawned and said, “Can we please go home now?” 

So I, in my dainty, open-toed silver high-heels, headed outside with my date and his family, who suddenly sprang to life, kind of like horses when they pick up speed as they head back to the barn…and I promptly sank up to my shins in five inches of fresh snow.  I still haven’t regained the full feeling in some of my toes.

The next year, a college jock invited me to a big semi-formal New Year’s Eve dance. Once again, I went shopping for the perfect dress and accessories. I suppose I could have worn the same ensemble I’d worn the year before, but I didn’t want to be reminded of that night. Besides that, it probably still reeked of smoke.

This time, I bought a low-cut black chiffon dress with a rhinestone belt; black high heels with rhinestone bows, and dangly rhinestone earrings. And once again, I blew my budget. But I was determined to look stunning for my big date.

The day before the dance, the college jock called to tell me he’d changed his mind about going, and instead had decided to meet a bunch of his buddies at some bar in Boston and get really drunk.

“I know you don’t like to drink,” he said, “so you’d probably limit me to only a couple drinks. Sorry, but I really want to get loaded tomorrow night.”

So there I was, dateless, all because I wasn’t a lush.

“Don’t worry,” my friend Moe said when I whined about it to her, “You can come with my husband and me to this big dance party in the Lakes Region. I promise we’ll find a date for you, too.”

I had nothing to lose at that point, so I agreed.

She and her husband picked me up the next night. They were alone.

“I’m not going stag!” I protested as I searched their back seat for my invisible date.

“No, he’s going to meet us there,” Moe assured me.

As it turned out, my date was a member of the band playing at the party that night. He spent all night onstage, and I spent all night sitting with Moe and her husband. I referred to the guy as my phantom date because I didn’t get to talk to him until the party was over. Even during his breaks, he rushed off to the dressing room to freshen up. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure which guy he was. There were five of them onstage, and Moe had waved her hand in his general direction and said, “That’s him, on guitar.”  She never explained which guitar – rhythm, bass or lead.

For years, I suspected she’d just picked him out at random to make me feel better, and the guy never even had a clue about our so-called date.

Even worse, the party was country-western themed, so my chiffon and rhinestones made me look conspicuously out of place in a sea of denim and plaid.

You know, now that I think about it, spending New Year’s Eve curled up on the sofa and getting an Alpo-breath midnight kiss probably was better than a lot of my other New Year’s Eves.

And it certainly was a lot cheaper.

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Friday, January 9, 2015


I keep hearing that the post offices are losing business due to the Internet. People are sending cards online, paying bills online and sending emails instead of handwritten letters. All of this means people are buying fewer stamps.

I don’t know about other people, but I would miss the post offices if they weren’t around. Over the years, I have had a lot of interesting experiences at post offices and even have made new friends there.

I remember when my husband and I first moved to town and I went to the local post office. It was a warm day in December and I was wearing what only can be described as an ugly Christmas sweater. It was bright red and green with pine trees on it. Standing in front of the trees was a big moose with a Christmas wreath around its neck and ornaments hanging from its huge antlers, which spread across my entire chest.

When I walked in, the two male clerks immediately stared wide-eyed at the sweater.  It was so hideous, it probably destroyed their corneas. I could tell that the clerk who waited on me was struggling to say something complimentary about my attire.

Suddenly, he smiled and blurted out, “Nice antlers!”

The moment he uttered the words, the other clerk burst out laughing and said, “That didn’t come out sounding right!”

Never have I seen a guy turn so red.

From that day on, whenever I went to the post office and that particular clerk was working, the other clerks would tease him by greeting me with, “Hi, Moose!  How are you today?”

Other people in line probably thought they were being rude to me, but they didn’t know about our private joke.

Then, because I’m a terrible procrastinator, I developed the bad habit of rushing into the post office two minutes before closing every day, often with five or six packages to mail (I sell things on eBay). If I were one of the clerks, I probably would have wanted to jump over the counter and wring my neck, but instead, every time I came running in, they’d laugh and say, “Sally’s here! Must be time for us to go home! Lock the doors!”

I wasn’t the only last-minute customer, however. Another woman usually came dashing in after I did. The clerks nicknamed us the “last-minuters” or the “late twins.”  Well, that woman and I ended up talking and joking, and discovered we had more in common than just being late getting to the post office. We now are good friends.

A couple weeks ago, I headed to the post office earlier in the day than usual because I knew it was going to be crowded. I wasn’t wrong. The line nearly was out the door.

As I stood there, struggling to hold an oversized package that weighed about as much as a small child, the woman behind me said in a sympathetic tone, “Here, let me hold that for you. You need a rest. I lift things all day at work, so it’s second nature to me.”

I have to admit I felt kind of strange just standing there while she held the package for me – especially since I towered over her.  Still, I had to admit my back was grateful to her.

That particular day, everyone in line was female, except for one male. He finally made it to the counter and was told he had to fill out a form for his package. The clerk said to leave the package there and then bring the form back after he filled in the information. Meanwhile, she helped another customer.

The man was fast, completing the form in record time. He then stepped back up to the counter and handed the form to the clerk.

We women exchanged smirks and winks behind his back, as if we all were thinking the same thing…we were going to embarrass the poor guy.

“Hey, you stepped out of line!” one female customer shouted at him, her tone stern. “That means you have to go back to the end of the line again.”

“She’s right!” the rest of us chimed in. “It’s only fair!”

He turned to look at us and his eyes were as wide as saucers as he stared at the seemingly endless line. “B-but…” he began, obviously flustered.

We all started laughing. He rolled his eyes and groaned.

“You’re the only guy in here, so you should’ve known we’d have to pick on you!” another woman said.

And then there was the time a woman came in to pick up a parcel that contained five pounds of imported fine chocolates she’d ordered. She opened the box right there and offered them to everyone in the post office. They were the best, most decadent chocolates I’ve ever tasted.

Nope, you just can’t have experiences like that online.

That’s why I make certain I always have a good supply of postage stamps on hand so I can mail bills, thank-you notes and cards...and keep the post office in business. 

That’s also why I donated my moose sweater to Goodwill.
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Friday, January 2, 2015


I have to confess I have an addiction that rears its ugly head every holiday season. I’m hooked on Christmas candy.

When I was a kid, I loved something called ribbon candy, which was hard candy flattened into thin ribbons with razor-sharp edges that could amputate your tongue if you weren't careful. But as I got older, I switched to regular hard Christmas candies that come in a can.
The problem with hard candy and me, however, is I’ve always been in the habit of crunching it instead of allowing it to slowly dissolve in my mouth.  My mother spent just about every Christmas season shouting at me to stop crunching or I’d end up with no teeth by the time I was 16.  And I after I got married, my husband took over the anti-crunching nagging.

This year, the week before Christmas, I spotted cans of my favorite Christmas candy, “Washburn’s Old-Fashioned Hard Candy – since 1856,” in the local Family Dollar Store. I bought three cans.

The rest of that week, I savored the flavors – cherry, orange, lime, peppermint, spearmint, clove, lemon, grape, cinnamon and a few flavors I couldn’t identify. I even behaved myself, allowing the candies to slowly dissolve in my mouth.

But alas, one night I lost control and crunched. The minute I did, I knew I was in trouble.

I ran to the bathroom to look into the mirror. One of my bottom teeth, right in front, looked as if it had been struck by lightning and splintered. 

“Oh nooooo!” I groaned. “I’m going to have to go through Christmas looking like an upside-down version of the guy on the cover of Mad Magazine!”

Even worse, when the air hit my tooth, the sharp, stabbing pain made my eyes water. The next morning, I called my dentist. The only available appointment was in three days.

Those three days turned out to be the longest of my life.  And to add to the torture, the whole time I was suffering I kept hearing my mother’s voice (and my husband’s) saying from somewhere up above, “That’s what you get for crunching the candy! We told you not to! Now aren’t you sorry you didn’t listen to us?”

I stayed in the house until the morning of my dental appointment, mainly because I was too embarrassed to go out in public while looking like an extra from the movie, “Deliverance.”

Finally, my appointment arrived.  I expected the worst – a root canal, a crown, a post, a 14K-gold inlay with diamond accents – a second mortgage on my house. But the dentist was able to make the tooth look as good as new without much effort. Even better, I didn’t have to sell any of my body parts to pay for it.

“You broke the tooth really close to the nerve,” she said, “so it might be sensitive for a day or two. But if it turns into a bad toothache or there is any swelling, call me right away.”

I prayed I wouldn’t need to call her because I was pretty sure no dentist on earth, other than Dr. Scrooge, would appreciate being disturbed on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. I was afraid she might retaliate by putting a hex on me that would cause all of my teeth to ache and throb…and then fall out.

The dentist hadn’t been kidding about the tooth being sensitive. After I brushed my teeth that night and rinsed my mouth with cold water, I made some moves that would have qualified me to be a finalist on the TV program, “So You Think You Can Dance?”

Still, I’d been invited to a party on Christmas Eve, and I was determined to go. But the night before, my tooth reminded me it still was there – and that it was a distant relative of the Marquis de Sade. I spent hours tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep. Desperate, I finally got up and searched through the bathroom cabinet for something to take the edge off the pain. I found a bottle of some painkillers called darvo-something-or-other I’d been given the year before when I’d had oral surgery – but I hadn’t taken any. The expiration date still was a few months away, so I popped two of the pills.

I woke up at 6:30 the next evening.  Needless to say, I didn’t make it to the party. Even worse, I was so drowsy, I went back to bed right after I had something to eat and drink…and slept through most of Christmas Day.

So when people ask me how my Christmas was and I say, “I don’t remember,” they give me a knowing smile, as if they’re thinking I dipped one too many cups into the bowl of eggnog.

But my tooth feels great now.

The day after Christmas, I headed over to Family Dollar for the half-price sale on holiday items. When I passed by the shelf of Washburn’s Old-Fashioned Hard Christmas Candy, I swear I heard a little voice calling out to me, “Pssst! Sally!  Buy me!  I’m your favorite candy, and I’m half-price!  Stock up on me now, for the rest of the year – it’s your only chance! I’m about to disappear again for 11 months!”

Before I knew it, I was flinging cans of candy into my basket.

And as I did, I was certain both my mother and husband were rolling over in their urns.

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