I sat in the living room, the babble of the television filling the space. I wasn’t really listening. I watched her chest, making sure it was rising and falling as it should. Her hands were folded softly on her lap as she slept.

“You’ve got a huge decision to make,” some overly coiffed handy-man said from the screen. Immediately I was filled with anger. That happens a lot. The anger, it’s my least favorite emotion. I suppose it’s necessary.   The people on the T.V., their huge decision: picking out drapes.  My huge decision: I may have to pick out a dress for my mother to be buried in.

I haven’t allowed myself to fully accept that there is a very real possibility that I may lose my mother until this week. It’s debilitating. I really haven’t been myself. The waves of nausea that come and go as they please make it difficult to concentrate.

This isn’t fair.

Tears welled in my eyes, making everything look like a watery kaleidoscope. I cursed myself.  All I wanted to do was look at my beautiful, sleeping mother through clear eyes.  I was trying to mentally photograph her and my body was sabotaging me.

I wanted to look at her hands.

Her favorite story to tell me is how she knew she was having a girl.  I was born before a time when expectant mothers had sonograms.  And way before a time when expectant mothers had 3-D sonograms at baby showers.  Stop it, you weirdos. It’s creepy.  It’s like looking at a vacuum bagged frog. Really.

She’d look at me lovingly and say, “Your brothers bounced around in there like they were playing basketball; you played the harp.” She’d flutter her fingers to demonstrate my in utero musical skills.  “Your Grandma Carpenter was really worried about me” she’d always pause to laugh.  “I was so sick of blue, I told her I wasn’t bringing home another boy!”

“Then we brought you home, in a lace dress so stiff you couldn’t move.  And we looked at your hands,”  If my father is in the room when the story is being told, she will always turn to him and say, “Joe, remember how beautiful her hands were? How long her fingers were?”

My mother has beautiful hands too.  They are soft and full of love, I am not ready to let them go.

One hundred and twenty-ten

He climbed into the backseat, chocolate stains in the corners of his mouth. He was talking a mile a minute. As I helped him get situated I caught a whiff of his scent. He smelled like fresh air, dirt, and playground. It’s his signature fragrance, the odor that follows him all day except for the few minutes he’s clean after he gets out of the tub.

Conversations with the boy carry on at light speed, with or without the presence of someone to respond. “Mom, we need to go to the store. There’s these things you can buy, they’re little. You go like this, and you make nickelesses.” His hand gestures, as you can imagine, did not clarify what skill you must possess to complete the task. “Necklace, buddy. It’s pronounced NEEECK-LACE.” He completely ignored my correction. “Can you get me the things at the store? Someone was making them at lunch.  They come in different colors.  I want blue, blue is my favorite color now. ” He’s at an age where he’s making all kinds of strange requests, I wish he came with a decoder ring. I changed the subject.

“How was school, buddy?” I asked, as we drove out of the parking lot. “Good,” and then there was silence. Next came the part of the day I like to call “academic interrogation”. He treats everything pertaining to learning guarded, like a State Secret. “What did you learn about today?” I prodded. “Nothing,” he chirped. “Did you know I speak chicken?” I had no idea he was multi-lingual. As he began to cluck loudly to the music on the radio I tried to come up with a creative way to find out what in the hell he’d done for the last six hours.

“Did you go to the library?” I managed to eek out in between clucks. “Bock…bock bock bock,” he responded through giggles. “That means, yes…I read a book,” I was really grateful for the translation, as my chicken is rusty. “Was the book about chickens?” It seemed like a logical question to ask. “No, why would you think that?” his response let me know that I was irritating him. “The book was about a boat, a big boat…it had pictures of sea quibbles in it.”

I work in the marine industry. I have lived around the ocean my whole life. Sea quibbles are new to me. “Remember when you were a little girl…and that big boat sunked?” I did not remember this event. “Remember all the people jumped out into the water? And, it was cold?” Nope, still not ringing a bell. “What’s a sea quibble?” I asked. “Those things that stick to the boat, they look like boogers. They were all over the wreckage.” he answered. (Yes, he said wreckage.)

Suddenly it clicked and I didn’t like where this conversation was heading. “Do you mean barnacles?” I asked, as I glanced up in the rearview mirror. “Yeah, those things!” he said, as he tried to touch his tongue to his nose. Cautiously I continued with my questions, afraid of what I was about to hear. “Did the big boat hit an iceberg?” I almost whispered, hoping he wouldn’t hear me. “Yep!”

“Honey, that happened…like… a hundred years ago.” I informed him. “Duh! I know that!” he was too far away for me to reach behind my seat and swat at him. “How old do you think Mommy is?” He thought for a minute, “you’re like a hundred and twenty-ten…but, you look good for your age.”

If this isn’t of payback of Titanic proportions, I don’t know what is.  I took comfort in the fact that he didn’t come up with an actual number, and the one he did use contained the word “twenty”.  I can remember thinking my parents were really old when I was a kid, but by my son’s account I’m old enough to be dead. I guess we all do this to our parents at some point. Make them feel decrepit.  I once asked my mother what she remembered about WW2, she bopped me on the head with a wooden spoon and set me straight. From now on, I’m never going anywhere without a wooden spoon.


*This isn’t funny

“I’ll take you,” he said, as I stood in their living room. I didn’t want to impose, but it was clear that my father wasn’t going to accept no for an answer. He and my mother can be very persuasive when they want to be. I was relieved, my foot was double it’s normal size and throbbing. I couldn’t really walk, but I didn’t want them to know that. The pain was making it difficult to concentrate on anything other than the fact that my foot really fucking hurt.

He was worried. I could tell by his expression. I hate it when he worries about me, but I was glad to give him something else to worry about. As we drove to Urgent Care, I remembered all the time I spent with my father as a child. I found myself wishing I could go back to those days, when my universe consisted of a half-acre lot on a hill in North Miami. Set far back off the busy street, the house was protected by the giant U-shaped, asphalt driveway. It was a great place to roller skate, or fall…and scrape your knees to shit.

I was six-years-old when that busy street and a grey Datsun almost took the life of my favorite dog. I vividly remember my older brother Todd, cradling him and running towards the house, shirtless, and wearing shorts that today…only Richard Simmons would approve of. It was 1980 something.

“Sweetums got hit by a car,” he yelled to my mother as he ran through the door. They were both terrified, I could hear it in Todd’s voice and see it in the dog’s chattering underbite. Time stood still that day. Sweetums and I never ventured very close to the street after that.

My dad quietly sat with me in the examination room. As the doctor examined my foot, he watched intently. “You didn’t see what bit you?” The doctor looked at me quizzically. “It looks like you were bitten by some fire ants, I would think you would have noticed that.” Yes, I had to agree with her. One would think I would have noticed a swarm of angry insects turning my foot into a blistering, oozing, lump of flesh…but I didn’t. I hadn’t noticed very much in the last few days. I wasn’t going to explain. It wouldn’t help identify my symptoms. “I’m going to give you an antibiotic and I want you to keep your foot elevated and on ice”.

My dad and I drove home in relative silence. I was still ruminating on my old house and the memories that were made in between the dark brown carpet and white tile roof. I thought of the time I spent with my brothers. Like flipping through an album of old polaroid pictures, the memories ran through my brain…stopping at the ones that made me smile. The three of us were all very mischievous in our own right. Todd, being the oldest…was our ringleader.

“Say… I want a banana,” he giggled,  I was screaming and in the throes of a late-night tantrum. I was still in my crib, sharing a room with my brothers. Wailing, with tears, sweat, and snot rolling down my face, he’d come to my bedside to comfort me. It was an exercise in futility. He couldn’t figure out what I wanted…I’m not sure I knew either. I was demanding to see my parents. By the time my mom and dad arrived to the bedroom, I was screaming “I WANT A BANANA,” at the top of my little lungs. I don’t know what happened after that, my memory fails me. I can only imagine that my fruit induced meltdown must have puzzled them, as my brothers laughed under their sheets.

I thought of the day my parents went out to run errands and Todd convinced me it was a good idea to help him ambush our brother Mike with bottle rockets as he lay napping in their bedroom. I wasn’t allowed to light the bottle rockets…because that would have been dangerous. I was allowed to laugh and provide moral support.

Then I remembered the day we all sat on my parent’s bed, my brothers on either side of me, recording our own book on tape. I wasn’t old enough to read, so they took turns reading “Leo the Lop” aloud while I made the “beep” sound to signal that the page should be turned. I was an excellent beeper. These memories brought me the levity I so desperately needed. Uncovering them surprised me, my adult brain rarely reflects on my childhood in such great detail.

Later that night as I followed the doctors orders, I laid in my bed and tried to sleep. I was joined by my boy, who has just turned six. With a lisp that can only be created by a loose front tooth he whispered, “Momma? I had a bad dream.” This is our new bedtime ritual. “That’s impossible buddy, I just put you to bed for the 18th time tonight. You have to be asleep to dream.” I recited, as I do almost every night.

He ignored me, and went on to tell me that a sasquatch had crashed his birthday party, demolished his cake, and ran into the woods with his presents. I looked at him, impressed with his creativity. “But that didn’t happen, right? You had a wonderful party, right?” “Yep,” he chirped.

A few minutes went by and he spoke again. This time he whispered, “Momma? I’m worried about your foot…and I’m worried that my Uncle Todd is going to die of cancer.” My heart sank as my eyes welled-up with tears, I fumbled for the right words to say. “Baby, it’s not your job to worry,” I said, my voice cracking with every word. “My foot will be fine. Uncle Todd isn’t going to die, his doctors are going to fix him.”

He snuggled closer to me, putting his little head on my chest, and thought for a few seconds. “Momma?  What’s cancer?” Again, I fumbled. I could feel my tears leaking out of the corners of my eyes and hear them land on the pillowcase, close to my ears. “Cancer is something that can make people very sick. It’s also a very good reason to let people know you love them, even when you think they know”.

“Do you think he wants to borrow Elmo? Elmo always makes me feel better when I’m really sick.” I bit my lip, inhaling deeply. “No, baby. Uncle Todd would want you to keep him, just in case you need him,” I managed to squeak out.

In the days since I learned my older brother has Stage 4 Colon Cancer, time has again stood still. My text messages to him now contain the words “treatment” and “Oncologist” instead of “beer” and “barbeque”. I never in a million years thought this would be my…his…our…reality. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.

He’s very optimistic. His doctors assure him that this is treatable, but he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t scared, too. As he has done with everything in his life, he’s determined to beat this. Judging by his track record, my money is on Todd. He starts his treatment tomorrow. I wish I could be there to stand by his side in the darkness, comfort him, or at very least…suggest he demand a banana, if all other words fail him.

Although I won’t be with him physically, I will be with him in spirit…as will the rest of my family. I believe once this very scary chapter is over, when Todd is on the road to recovery, we will all “beep” joyfully as we turn the page.

Beware of the Rodman.

I met a few of my girlfriends Saturday night for a birthday celebration; no…thankfully it wasn’t my birthday.  It was one of my more physically fit, slightly older than me, lady friend’s designated birth-iversary.  We were celebrating her 25th birthday, which we’ve been celebrating for the last 10 years.  She has the energy of a Crystal Meth addict, but much nicer teeth and is the driving force of socialization amongst my group of friends. Every group of friends has one of these, a planner.  She orchestrated the gathering at a local nightclub.  A few years ago, I made it a point to avoid clubs, just as a general practice.  I claimed that I did this because I had evolved and was over staying out until six in the morning.  But, Saturday it was apparent to me that I was not the victim of evolution…I’m just getting old…really old.  I have accepted this fact and now must actively try and deal with it.  It’s tougher than I imagined. 

There was a time in my life, not all that long ago, when I actually looked forward to getting all dressed up and shoving my feet into fashionable footwear that squished my toes in a Geisha-like manner. I loved walking in front of the crowd lined up outside as they waited to get in and looking back over my shoulder at them as they cursed me for my immediate entry and lack of cover charge. There always seemed to be room for me behind the velvet ropes and I took full advantage.  I grew up a stone’s throw away from a vial cesspool that you may know as South Beach, Florida.  It really is everything you see on TV, there is sun, sand and at certain times of the year, celebrities pretty much everywhere you look. What there isn’t an abundance of, is parking.  I know it may sound great on paper, but like everything, it has a dark side. 

Depending on how you look at it, I have either had the good fortune or misfortune of being in the thick of it.  I never had to wait at the bar for a drink, and would always have my choice of drunk men to purchase said drink for me, more than a few of these drunk men are admired by our culture for being famous. I’m not tooting my own horn here; everyone is attractive through the haze of expensive alcohol and dim lighting.  Living in an area where you can schmooze with the famous may sound good on paper too, but it isn’t nearly as awesome as it sounds.  I have some great stories about meeting celebrities, but they all end the same way…”and he was a jerk”.  Incidentally, Dennis Rodman is just as scary and weird in person as he is on Celebrity Rehab.  He is probably the reason I stopped hanging out in nightclubs, I’ve met him three times.  On two different occasions he has come over to me in a chemically induced stupor and without any exchange of words, picked me up, threw me over his shoulder and tried to walk away with me as if I was a sack of potatoes.  He’s really tall, and there isn’t anything exciting about precariously balancing on the shoulders of a very drunk man above a very hard concrete floor.  His handlers ended his shenanigans the same way both times, which leads me to believe that this happens a lot. “Dennis, put the white girl down,” they directed, as they helped me safely transition back to the floor.  The last time I saw him, he said “Come ‘ere bitch” and forcefully hugged me. I think that’s those are the only words he’s ever spoken to me.  The moral of this story is stay away from Dennis Rodman. 

Thankfully, I didn’t come face to face with Mr. Rodman or anyone else you might recognize from television last night.  I used to find comfort in the dark, smoky atmosphere.  The booming music that is played at a decibel loud enough to reverberate through the body used to be soothing.  I never used to mind having pointless conversations with a guy that I could barely hear and even if I could, wouldn’t have cared what he was saying.  After my self-imposed extradition, I returned to find that the clubs haven’t changed much.  It’s me that’s different.  There are still men willing to buy drinks, woman that have no business in spandex, strutting around and scantily clad female bartenders, over-charging for thimbles full of booze.  Bartenders always see me coming. I have mentioned that I am sort of tall for a woman, when perched atop 6 inch, sparkling, stiletto pumps; I am extraordinarily tall for a woman.  It’s hilarious how people get out of your way when you’re tall. It must be a primal fear, like short folks subconsciously think your going to eat them if they cross your path.  Saturday night, I went out with the intention of being responsible and not having conversations with strange men so that they would buy me drinks.  It was expensive, I’d hate to be a dude and have to shell out cash to buy a beverage for a girl in the hopes that she may go home with me.  In retrospect, this was a financial error.  I should have just sucked it up and smiled while some guy tried to yell in my ear over a remix of Mary J. Blige and then slipped away from him into the crowd when he wasn’t paying attention; I guess I wasn’t thinking. 

At some point in the night, an older gentleman approached me and gave me a rose fashioned out of beverage napkins. I briefly considered accepting his offer of a drink, but decided against it after my conscience kicked in. I didn’t want to give the napkin florist the wrong idea. Nor did I want to get stuck talking to someone who practices origami in public.  Why some men do this is beyond me, it’s always a guy much older than myself and makes for a really awkward conversation.  I mean, really? I always think “Hey, great! a napkin…now I have to carry this around with me all night. Maybe it’ll come in handy if I spill something,” but I say “Thank you, that was really nice of you”.  I find it hard to believe that the napkin flower trick works on women, I have never received one of these creations from anyone and said “Gee, if that’s what he can do with a napkin, I’m gonna have to sleep with him”.  It doesn’t say “I’m creative and clever”.  It says “I’m a loser and I’m going to force you to speak with me by giving you a paper product”. 

While the older, really out of place guy talked to me, I observed a very intoxicated young woman dance erratically and then fall over into a collection of burning candles.  I alerted the gentleman to what I had just seen and suggested that he may have better luck with her.  I was kidding, but not at all surprised when he excused himself and went over to put out the small fire that had started near the bottom portion of her shirt and help her off the floor.  I’m not sure why club owners think mixing fire and drunk people is a good idea.  It’s a recipe for disaster; you’d never believe how flammable the drunk actually are until you spent as much time around them as I have.  If the drunk girl is going to fall anywhere it’s going to be on the open flame.  You can almost give a Madden-esque play-by-play to the action “And here comes the drunk girl. She’s looking at the fire…oooh she’s gyrating wildly…is that supposed to be sexy? And here’s the big finish folks, she could-go-all-the-way! We have teetering! Oh, she’s fighting a losing battle with gravity! She’s down and on fire, someone call a paramedic!!!!” Surprisingly, I have never committed this infraction myself.

I was home and in bed by 4 a.m., Sunday morning, which used to be considered an early night.  At about 9 a.m., my son started coming in to my room at 5 minute intervals, opening the door while giggling, inquiring “You awake yet?” and declaring “Rise and shine!”.  I wasn’t ready to be upright and I certainly wasn’t ready to be shiny.  There was an absence of a hangover, but I still felt like I’d been hit by a truck.  I can’t believe that I used to willingly do this to myself on a nightly basis and still get up and function the day after.  Right now, I’m enjoying my morning coffee and seated next to my son on the couch watching a cartoon pig yodel on TV, I can honestly admit that this is more entertaining.  I never expected that this would be the case, but it was only a matter of time. Next thing you know I’ll be singing the praises of sensible shoes and going to bed by 10.

Screw you, gravity…and your friend L’Oreal

My phone made the charming ding sound that notified me that I had a new text message. I went to pick it up, and as usual, sent it bouncing off the floor in the process, “effing gravity” I muttered, to no one in particular.  I find myself cursing gravity a lot these days, although it’s mostly when I’m naked and in front of a mirror.

My phone was now resting somewhere under the couch, which in my book, sucks.  As the parent of a small child and a large dog, I am very well aware that anytime I have to get on all fours and search for something, I am leaving myself open for guerilla attacks in the form of a demand for a piggy back ride or cold nose being forcibly pressed to my rectum.  This time wasn’t any different, in the blink of an eye; I had a giggling boy mounted on my back and a wet, Saint Bernard nose trying to sniff out what I’d had for lunch, at my rear.  I was blindly reaching under the couch, pulling out objects that felt like my phone. Most of these things were not my phone “Hey, that’s mines” my son would declare with every recovered toy. 

Thankfully, he became engrossed with the mountain of plastic play things I had exhumed from under the sofa and gave up trying to hitch a ride by the time I retrieved my phone.  It was covered in dog hair, but still very functional.  The text I had gotten was from Lucy, it said “New unnecessary, bullshit product out called Latisse…inadequate eyelashes. Seriously???? If inadequate eyelashes are your biggest problem and you can afford to blow your money on this shit, then you’re one lucky narcissist”. I knew exactly what she was talking about, I felt the very same way about this product that is basically Rogaine for your eyelids.  I had seen the commercial for darker, thicker lashes and laughed at the warnings at the end.  Yes, you may grow eyelashes long enough to braid into cornrows, but you might have to trade in your eyesight to do so. “At least it doesn’t cause explosive diarrhea or Priapism, an erection lasting for more than an hour, like most of the products beamed into my TV.” I thought.  “Ha!” I responded.

The television, for a change was not broadcasting “Yo Gabba Gabba” and I didn’t look up to see D.J. Lance Rock, Muno or any of those other weird fuckers suggesting that I brush my teeth or refrain from biting my friends.  I had tuned into the E! Channel again, and was watching some nut filled, fruitcake have a meltdown over a wedding dress. I couldn’t hear it, because my son was serenading me with his re-mix of “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” but I got the jist of what was going on by reading lips.  “Very good, pumpkin” I encouraged as he wrapped up his sing-a-long and the show broke for commercials.

I then began to be visually assaulted by the fear-mongering tactics of cosmetic companies.  I must have seen a dozen advertisements for products that prevent aging by the time the show came back on. I couldn’t focus on what the bride-to-be was saying, because I was now worried if I was using the correct products to prevent crow’s feet or age spots.  For the record; I don’t know what an age spot is, but I know I don’t want them because they don’t sound like fun.

I went into the bathroom to inventory my age defying products and make sure I was taking all of the necessary precautions to prevent myself from looking like a wrinkled old hag.  There’s a lot of shit on my counter, I use most of this goop without really knowing what it’s for and what it does; but television tells me I should invest in it, so I do. It would probably be just as effective to smear a handful of peanut butter on my face every morning; at least that way I wouldn’t have to go very far for a mid-day snack and the dog would always be happy to see me.

I’ve spent a small fortune on things that promise to prevent fine lines, dark circles and even out my skin tone, only to discover that the only thing they really do is make my skin itch and create pimples the size of Milwaukee. You may think that Milwaukee isn’t very large, square footage wise; but I don’t think you’d want to wake up in the morning and find it had relocated to the side of your face.

The labels on these expensive youth serums boast ridiculous contents like fruit extracts, collagen and the dearly departed members of the cast of Diff’rent Strokes, with 50% more Whatyoutalkinbout Willis? People have existed youthfully for many, many years without the benefit of applying homogenized, obscure, and hard to pronounce berries on their faces. I’m not sure why I keep falling into the trap of buying the new, best thing that doesn’t work. I know that the last 17 product I have purchased didn’t do what they claimed they were going to.  But, I keep buying in the hopes that someday, the chemists that work for these companies might get the formula right. Logically, I understand that there is a better chance of me spontaneously developing the ability to whistle the theme song from the A-Team out of my hiney than there is of some underpaid lab rat creating a cream that is going to keep me young…but at this point all I’ve got is hope.   

I’m not afraid of getting old; I just don’t want to look that way when I get there. I am very well aware that someday I will be a 34 long, instead of a 34 C and my face will have more bumps and ridges than a topographic map of the Grand Canyon; I just don’t want that day to be tomorrow.

Welcome to The World of Whorecraft, all sales are final…

At 33 years old I have finally mastered the art of parallel parking.  I can tie the hell out of my own shoes and play a mean air-synthesizer to Ah Ha’s “Take On Me”.  I have never been able to discern my right from my left without holding my hands out in front of me with index finger and thumb extended, to see which hand forms the “L” or tell time on a watch that has actual hands on it, and isn’t made my Casio.  Another thing I have never mastered is picking out the quintessential Halloween Costume.  I know you may be saying “You’re too old to dress up for Halloween” and I’d like to encourage you to shut-up.  Yes, I am on the cusp of being too aged to dress up like a slutty princess and act like a moron for a night.  But, time is flowing like the sand’s through the hourglass; I’ve got to take advantage of the stretch I have left, before my body totally loses its battle against gravity and I am relegated to wearing an orange Jack O’ Lantern t-shirt, blinky ghost necklace and black mom jeans.

I was reminded of my shortcomings in the costume department today, as I stood in line at the Post Office, waiting to return the suggestive bunny costume I had recently purchased from an online vendor.  On the website, this costume had everything I was looking for.  It was sparkly, black, low-cut and appeared to be missing pants. On any other day, if I wore this in public, I might be arrested for indecent exposure.  I would probably also receive some marriage proposals from strange men and dirty looks, from women actually wearing clothing.  But all forms of modesty go out the window on October 31, here in sunny South Florida and you are free to let your skank-flag fly as high as you want.  You can be anything and although I have never really had a desire to pose naked in the pages of Playboy, I figure one night of pretending I do wasn’t going to kill me.  My parents would have more than likely disowned me if I ever received a paycheck signed by Hugh Heffner, and I’m not sure I would have been able to handle walking around thinking people were picturing me naked….because…they had actually seen me naked.

Anywho,  back to the costume…I stumbled upon it because Facebook suggested I may like a website.  Someone must have seen the photos of last Halloween and decided that this site and I were a match made in heaven.  I could have picked anything; there were pages and pages of trampy, poorly manufactured get-ups from Taiwan. I had stumbled upon The World of Whorecraft.  Incidentally, I don’t think they celebrate Halloween in Taiwan, and our traditions here in the West probably confuse them as much as chop-sticks confuse us.  I’d like to get the perspective of a factory worker in Kaohsiung City, and see what they assume about the people who buy this crap. I hope they understand that we don’t walk around in Warrior Princess garb every day. Actually, no I don’t.  I’d like to be at the airport, should they ever visit the States, to catch the look of disappointment on their faces as they confront the ugly truth.

Should I be a floozy robot? A trollop kitten? A nearly naked Tinkerbelle? A strumpet Miss Muffet?  The possibilities were endless!  My boyfriend suggested I go for something more modest “Why don’t you check out that green M&M costume?” he said, hoping I would select something that would keep him from possibly having to hit someone in the face, should they get the wrong idea about the content of my character. I ignored his proposal; he just doesn’t understand the science of Halloween from an aging woman’s perspective. 

I scrolled through the inventory until my eyes crossed.  Weighing the options of every costume that caught my eye “This is cute, but it looks like it may be hard to get in and out of and I’ll be drinking…there is nothing worse than having to pee and not being able to negotiate your way out of Lederhosen”.  “Oooh, I really like this one. But it shows the stomach and I don’t want to have to worry about sucking in my gut all night,” this went on for hours.  I finally settled on the bunny, and anxiously waited for the package to arrive in the mail. 

When it finally made its way into my mailbox, it was not at all what the website described.  It was more medieval torture device than it was harlot woodland creature.  The costume could not have been any less flattering.  The corset; which was described as having a sweet-heart neck line, pushed everything from my waist up, uncomfortably towards my chest area. It made me look as if I was born with just one giant uni-boob, definitely not the lift and separation I was going for.  The sequins sewn to the corset sliced the tender undersides of my arms, and I appeared as if I had developed a strange rash.  The tiny shorts that came with the ensemble flattened my behind in such a manner that I seriously considered breaking out the VCR and resurrecting the Buns of Steel video. 

No, this was not cute, not one bit; I searched the packaging for the return policy. Upon reading the policy of the communist regime that operated this bastion of all things morally questionable, I was informed that I was not eligible for a refund…but I met the requirements for an exchange or store credit.  The pamphlet directed me to their website, where I would have to follow specific instructions to send the costume back.  It was clear to me, when trying to locate the customer service link, that this store did not want its merchandise to be returned and was going to make it very difficult for me to complete this task.  After some searching, I found a link that instructed me to perform a series of steps. I had to get something called an R/A number, which I did, and write it all over the return envelope, check.  I was then told to send the package back with a tracking number, as shipping was the customer’s responsibility, give a blood sample, last 4 digits of my social security number, turn around 3 times and jump over a broom. Ok, that last part I made up, but you get the idea.

Having just been at the Post Office, it’s a wonder that anything gets anywhere it’s supposed to go through our mail system. The postal employee that assisted me today had three hairs atop his head, which were poorly dyed a strange shade of red.  When his gaze met mine and he said “How may I help you?” I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me of the person behind me, as his eyes did not focus in the usual manner. “I’d like to send this back,” I said, hoping that I was the target of his request.  “Are you shipping any liquids, explosives or fire arms?” he inquired.  I always want to answer “yes” to this question; but I have a feeling that this may land me in Federal Prison, so I said “No, just one very ugly, sequined, bunny costume”.  “You got a whole costume in here?” he laughed, holding up the petite envelope that contained my holiday disappointment. “Yes, Roger” I sighed, reading his name tag to keep from making eye contact.  “Ok, that’ll be $13.00” he mumbled as he whisked my package away.  I hoped he and the other physically irregular employees of the United States Postal Service could perform the task at hand and get the bunny abomination back to its original location.

While I left the Federal Building feeling really good about myself and my mouth full of teeth, I am more than a little concerned that this Halloween I will be void of a fine for exposure. If things work out in my favor, I may just pick up the M&M costume and forgo the stress of having to decide between the slightly slutty sailor or really slutty witch, again.

Why I hate my grandparents, in 2,500 words or less.

I must’ve been 5 or 6 years old, my parents shipped my brother’s and I back to Ohio that summer to spend a few weeks with my grandmother. My awesome grandmother, the one who baked cookies, made pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse and drank bourbon like the water supply had been tainted with lead; not my other grandma who lived near us half of the year and complained when we got dirty or wore our shoes on the white carpet. I’m pretty sure everyone gets a set of each…awesome and anal retentive, child haters. If you’re lucky, the grandparents you prefer live closest and the one’s you don’t live far enough away to only send cards on holidays or show up for a long weekend to tell you everything that’s wrong with you. I wasn’t lucky, but I relished in the summer I spent chasing fireflies, stomping around the woods up to my knees in poison ivy and getting way too close to open flames with only a marshmallow as a shield.

My uncles yelled things like “Watch your god-damned mouths” at my brothers, who at the time were 10 and 15-ish and flexing their adult vocabularies, as we camped in an area void of urban sprawl. I was perplexed by the open stretches of highway that did not have any billboards directing you to cheap attraction tickets or fresh oranges. I had never seen a creek and was suspicious when I was told that not only could you splash around in it without fear of attracting an alligator, but you could also drink the water if you got thirsty. 

For the first and only time in my life, I was around children other than my brothers, who shared my DNA.  My cousin Brooke was fascinated by the fact that I lived in Florida and was a dwarf’s toss away from Walt Disney World and the beach.  I was envious of the fact that she was allowed to go into the gas station without her shoes on and had actually seen snow.  Plus, she got my grandma, Margaret, anytime she wanted. In Margaret’s eyes, you could do no wrong and I was too young to put my finger on the warm, musky scent of absorbed alcohol.  Yes, I may have been living in paradise, but I had to share it with my mother’s stepfather and mother, Eddie and Frances. 

As a small child, Frances and Eddie confused the hell out of me.  Even though I was told I had known them my whole life, it seemed as though I was meeting them for the first time, every time we showed up for Sunday Dinner.  They didn’t seem to know anything about me, “You’re the one that likes to color, right? Draw me a picture of Dean Martin” Frances would say as she laid out a protective barrier of newspaper over anything that might come in contact with a crayon. I didn’t know who Dean Martin was, and tried to please her with poorly rendered sketches of Care Bears or whatever fictional creature I was worshiping at the moment. “That’s nice. Show your Mutha” she would say, trying to shake off the pestilence she assumed I was bringing her with every Crayola masterpiece I produced.

Sunday Dinner is a weekly tradition for those of you who were not raised in an Italian environment, where you eat copious amounts of food until you are rendered motionless, cemented to a couch and watching 60 Minutes against your will.  Macaroni and meat sauce, or “gravy” as it is referred to anywhere that isn’t the operated by the Olive Garden, is served first. Then a meat dish is introduced, after that dessert and an assortment of fresh cut fruit and nuts.  Sounds yummy, right? Yes, through Sunday Dinner I developed a deep appreciation for delicious, hard to pronounce food and the need to keep cooking pots clean, but I also felt like I was being judged… mostly because I was.

My father is of Scottish, Irish and a bunch of other undetermined lineage from a farm in Ohio. He doesn’t subscribe to the old world ideals that women should be in the kitchen.  I spent a great deal of time as a child watching him as he cursed and worked on cars or cursed and fixed things around the house.  He always encouraged me to do things for myself, do what my brothers were doing or do better than my brothers were doing.  My mother is an unlikely combination of women’s liberation, Catholic guilt and Sicilian superstition from Brooklyn, New York.  She didn’t know that potatoes actually grew in the ground until she met my father. With my mother’s guidance, I spent my entire childhood with unexplained fears of opening umbrellas in the house and walking under ladders, while praying to Saint Anthony to help me find things I misplaced and trying to open jars on my own.  She encouraged all of us to do our best, and not to get hurt while doing it. I have no idea what cosmic power drove them together and kept them together for forty some odd years. I’m still kind of awestruck by it ‘til this day. Their union provided me an upbringing where I was fortunate enough to be uptown and down-home, simultaneously.

Everyone was uncomfortable by the time Sunday rolled around.  My mother who had always been a fashionable lady, but never psychotic about it, went to great lengths to ensure that we all looked perfect. My father didn’t say much at all, which is usually a pretty good indication that he is unhappy.  We all piled in to the car and drove 45 minutes to my grandparents’ home in the retirement community it was situated in. We were supposed to be there by 4:00 p.m., but we were normally late. My grandparents would meet us at the door and feign excitement that we had arrived, but I don’t think they were ever really happy to see us.

Immediately upon entering, we all had to take our shoes off and were instructed not to touch anything.  Everything in their house was white and costly.  It was like walking into an expensive version of the Milk Bar in A Clockwork Orange. They had white silk couches in the living room and a coffee table full of Asian themed knick  knacks that screamed “touch me, I break”.  My brothers and I were not allowed in the living room; instead we had to sit on the off-white couches in the family room…and not touch anything.  About the time we started to look like we may put our hands on something worth more than parents’ house, we were sent outside to play.  Playing got old after the 18th condo commando approached us and demanded to know which home was harboring people who still had color in their hair and control of their own bladders. When we came inside, we’d all sit back on the off-white couch and wait for dinner while my grandmother would scream “Look at you, you’re all perspired! And you got dirt on your dungarees. Don’t sit under the fan!”  Until, I was about 13, I thought dungarees was an Italian word for knees, I’m not sure what triggered the realization that it was an antiquated word for pants.

When dinner was served, it was on the white table-cloth, while seated at chairs covered with white silk, over the white carpet.  I tried in vain to keep the red, gelatinous, stain-inducing gravy firmly on my fork.  This, as you know is an exercise in futility for even the most gifted macaroni connoisseur.  I would watch in horror as gravity took hold of my ziti and sent it bouncing off the table-cloth, chair and came to a final messy resting place on the carpet.  I was usually suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder by the time the second course rolled out of the kitchen.  During this break in the food action, my grandfather would try to make conversation with me.  He’d usually start off by telling me that I was ungrateful, and remind me of all the things he had purchased for me since birth; or bore me to tears with a story about his long deceased dog, Duke.  I’m pretty sure Duke committed suicide.  Even the most loyal of canines could not endure the emotional torture doled out by this man.  My grandfather was not a man who was astute in caring for the well-being of any life forms.  He often told a story about how he purchased a friend for Duke, a rabbit, and the hilarity that ensued when he left Duke and the rabbit alone, all day. “Imagine my surprise when I came home to find that the rabbit had been eaten in its entirety, except for his left foot. It was like Duke made his own lucky rabbits foot” he would chortle. I always tried to convince myself that Duke was a humanitarian or at least a rabbitarian, and was saving the bunny from a life of unrequited love.

Eddie was always quietly threatening to take something away; his threats were almost always a punishment involving me not doing the dishes the last time I was subjected to Sunday Dinner. Never mind the fact that for the majority of this institution I wasn’t tall enough to reach the sink and had two older brothers that could probably have done a fantastic job in the dish department. Because I was female, in his mind, I was put on this Earth to scrub pots. This logic totally went against everything my parents were trying to teach me at home, where shitty chores were shared. 

My grandmother would alternately order us to eat and tell us we were getting fat. “Eat. You look thin” she would direct from the head of the table. “Oooh, not so much! You don’t want to get heavy” she’d say out of the other side of her mouth, while actively trying to remember our names. I’m not sure why Frances even had children in the first place; don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she did. But, I am under the impression that she, if children didn’t subsist on sugary treats and cookies and were therefore fattening, would have eaten her own young. 

Everything in their lives was about keeping up appearances. Eddie once built me a dollhouse. It was a tri-level Victorian mansion, every little girls dream.  He painstakingly laid out a shingled roof, painted the exterior a charming taupe and brown motif and decorated all the rooms in miniature extravagance.  I watched for months as it was constructed and even jumped for joy when he installed a mailbox with a little flag that could be raised and lowered as if a tiny mailman had stopped by to deliver little postmarked envelopes.  Upon its completion, he told me that it was all mine, but I wasn’t allowed to play with it.  He then spent the next few years schlepping it from craft show to craft show, bragging about how he’d built it for me.  Strangers congratulated him for making his grand-daughter so happy; I don’t think I ever thanked him for his efforts, because, after all…it wasn’t my dollhouse. Frances often purchased me clothes I wasn’t allowed to wear and had to save for special events, while stating that she should have bought a size smaller, so “I’d lose some of that baby weight”.         

My grandfather expired right at about my eighth month of pregnancy.  When my family cleaned out the house that my grandparents had shared and moved my grandmother into an assisted living facility, my middle brother claimed the white, silk couches.  He and his wife defiantly sit on them all the time, in the comfort of their own home.  I gave the dollhouse to a friend of the family and instructed their pre-school aged daughter to play with it like a rock star, I’m sure it looks like a tiny flop house by now, but at least it got some use. 

My grandmother’s body has far exceeded her brain’s ability power it; she has a lovely nurse that takes care of her on a 24 hour basis, whom she probably would scold for being “too heavy”…if she could get her mouth to work.  I don’t relish in the fact that she is getting old, half of me wishes, for my mother’s sake, that she was still spry enough to chastise me for eating.  My father has never allowed my grandfather’s ashes to be stored under the comfort of air-conditioning. He is kept on a shelf in the garage, next to the dog bones, to remind his spirit of Duke, the wonder-dog.  

To this day whenever I go over a size 4, my face starts to twitch uncontrollably as I mentally prepare a list of all things I can’t eat. The sight of a doll house makes me angry. But, I have never once saved an outfit for my son for a special occasion or made him feel the slightest bit guilty for sloppily sucking down spaghetti. Frances and Eddie taught me a lot of things, all of them were quite by accident.

Caterpillar’s, wine cooler’s and blondes, Oh my!

We stood in the side yard, in front of the garden, peering down at the little black, white and yellow stripped caterpillars. “What’s he doin?,” my little nugget asked. “Eating breakfast…or brunch, it is 11 o’clock, you know?”. “Why’s he eatin’ leaves?” he inquired, “McDonald’s is out of salads” I answered, fully aware that I could pretty much say anything. If I used the right inflection, the answer would be accepted as fact and we’d move on to another question. “What do you think that caterpillars’ name is?” I asked my son, turning the tables on the toddler inquisition.  “Dooping,” he said very matter-of-factly.  Dooping, I thought, must be German. “I wanna pick him up,” he declared. “No, let’s not,” I said, in my best mother voice, I knew that any physical contact between he and the caterpillar was going end poorly for the caterpillar.

I tried to shift his focus to something less…well…less squishy. As luck would have it a squirrel scurried down the pillar of the swing-set. I sent him over to inspect. It seemed to work, so much so, that I removed myself from the squatting position I had assumed between the boy and the garden.  He bounced back over to me full of information about the squirrel encounter. He was halfway through his dissertation on squirrel exit strategies when, with one fluid motion he raised his arm, pointed his finger and then brought his arm down, smacking Dooping, right between the antennas.  I don’t know if you’ve ever witnessed a caterpillar being physically assaulted, but it’s not a something easily erased from the memory banks. Something resembling a tongue shot out of his mouth as he reared up on his back legs and put his two sets of front legs up in a defensive position, which is evidently the interspecies body language position for “Holy Shit! What the hell just happened? Here, take my wallet!!!!!”. I expected him to drop dead from the massive head injury inflicted at the hands of my very amused son.  He didn’t though, resilient little bastard, he shook off the attack and kept eating as if nothing happened.

And so began the first day of my perma-vacation, I could now add caterpillar security guard to my list of things I was not very good at.  It was Monday, I’d been unceremoniously fired from the paralegal position I had held for a little over a year, the Friday before.  I’d never actually been fired before, not that I hadn’t deserved it, but no-one had ever given me the axe. It was stingy and hilarious all at the same time.  I couldn’t wrap my brain around it.

I wasn’t upset. I loathed having to get up and go do that job every day. I was Satan in a suit. I produced the paperwork that made people homeless, but not for normal foreclosure proceedings like not paying mortgages. No, I made people homeless because they didn’t pay their monthly homeowners’ association dues, they didn’t read the fine print when they bought their homes and didn’t realize they could be tossed out on the streets for missing a few payments or planting an unapproved tree. It made me feel dirty. Monday through Friday I listened to people plead with me not to foreclose on their homes. I listened as they demanded to know how I slept at night. I listened as they told me they hadn’t worked in over a year, they’d been injured in an accident and their cousin just died. Yeah, most of these people were full of shit. Some of them had real problems and there was absolutely nothing I could do to help them, it was heartbreaking.

I was worried; a million thoughts were swinging wildly in between my ears. The most obvious was “What am I going to do now?”. I had been threatening to go back to school since my son was born, this might be my opportunity…but to do what? Was I really ever going to find something that I was good at?   “Do what you love and success will find you,” a friend told me when I called him to tell him the news. Although it’s good advice, it sounded like he was quoting fortune cookies…while my life was going down the toilet.

“Momma, watch out…there’s dog poop over there,” the seriousness in his voice brought me out of my worry induced trance.  I should have known something involving Clorox and half a roll of paper towels was about to occur, but I didn’t react quickly enough. He darted across the yard to the location of said pile of poop, lifted his leg and stomped like a pocket-sized sumo wrestler.  I assumed by the proud look on his face, he was demonstrating exactly how dangerous this pile of poop could be to an unsuspecting passerby.  I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t dare. On my way to get the hose and inspect the damage, I wondered why I’d felt guilty about not being home to see these things.  “See it?” he asked. “Yes, Pumpkin, I see it.  Don’t touch,”.  

It was much easier to go to an office every day and move papers from one side of my desk to the other, staying home and tracking and disinfecting the activities of a very energetic 3 year old boy is treacherous. It’s what I wanted to do all along, the staying home thing, in theory anyway. Only, I wanted to stay home with one of those von Trapp children, Friedrich, or whatever the fuck his name was. I’m totally onboard for the singing songs, making play clothes out of drapes and having children respond to the sound of a whistle.   Hosing dog feces off the shoes of a moving target and screaming “Don’t put that in your mouth,” at such regular intervals it seems as though I had tourette’s syndrome was an entirely different ball of wax.

After the clean-up, I booted up the laptop, reviewed my finances and decided going back to college was the best way to spend my time, while looking for a job that didn’t make my skin crawl.  With a few clicks and the entering of my credit card information I was a college student again.  “This is going to be interesting” I thought, as I reviewed my transcripts.  My GPA wasn’t exactly sparkling.  I hadn’t excelled at much of anything the first go round, except drinking strawberry wine coolers and bleaching my hair platinum blonde.  I was hoping to get more out of higher education on my second attempt. Classes started the next month and I was eager to undo the damage I had done before. 

If I hadn’t had the benefit of a calendar at my fingertips, I would have sworn that the bagel I’d had for breakfast granted me the power of time travel and my stomach and I had been transported back in time 12 years. I was seated in a classroom, waiting for my professor to arrive, trying to ignore the witless banter of the people surrounding me. Very little had changed about the place and its student body since the first time I sat at the faux wood grain desk with their uncomfortable, attached, brightly colored orange chairs. The only thing that appeared to be different was me. This time I was sober, planning on attending the classes I was enrolled in, doing the assignments and was checking a cell phone for text messages; instead of trying to decipher numeric codes on the small screen of a beeper. 

Everyone was a stereotype with feet.  There was a group of blue-eyed meatheads encircling one pretty girl, trading stories about getting “so wasted”, lifting weights, and imaginary sexual conquests with this “smoking hot, older girl”. A group of freakishly tall black kids sat in the back of the room, mumbling things about “practice”, “Coach B” and “catching the bus” to get to work on time. Although, I had arrived early and sat in an unoccupied quadrant of the room, I was quickly surrounded by burnouts; who smelled like patchouli oil and theater majors, who looked like they took their fashion cues from the David Bowie, in his Ziggy Stardust phase. I found myself wishing I had picked a seat closer to the quiet, Asian kid who minded his own business and drew cartoons.

The door opened and my professor walked in, she had a familiarity about her that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. She seemed fresh, youthful and enthusiastic. “This isn’t going to be so bad” I thought, encouraging myself. She proudly announced that we were enrolled in the first class she had ever taught. I hung on her every word, right up to the part where she told the class about her qualifications…and discovered she that the reason she appeared so youthful was because she was several years younger than me. I then began to connect the dots in my head and realized that along with being much younger, I had also dated her older brother for a few months in the mid-nineties. I had spent many an afternoon, sitting with her on the couch, watching “Pop-up Video,” trying to distract her from any veiled sexual reference that appeared on the screen. As she told us about her hobbies and interests, I had to bite my tongue so I wouldn’t interject “and you were afraid of the dark until you were 14. Do you still eat ranch dressing on everything?”.  My face started to twitch as I wished I’d packed a wine cooler and a box of Clairol’s Born Blonde. This was going to be a long semester.

I hope Jay-Z is right and 40 actually is the new 20.

We all get old; it’s a troublesome side effect of being born.  I was reminded of my own mortality today, when I opened my email and looked at my Livingsocial deal of the day. Instead of the usual “parasailing with laser beams attached to your forehead” or “sushi making classes” offered at a deep discount, Livingsocial was hawking 20 units of Botox.  I have to confess, I was more than slightly interested in this deal, until I remembered that I’m a big fan of facial expressions. 

Although I mostly use my facial expressions to communicate happiness and/or confusion, they can also be used to display feelings of distress and panic.  Facial expressions can save your life.   If we’re being honest here, and I think we’re comfortable enough with each other to tell the truth; one of the sole reasons I watch the “Today Show” is because I am convinced that one morning I am going to be able to observe as Kathie Lee Gifford chokes to death on a strawberry in her mimosa, because all of the muscles in her face, that don’t work her mouth, have been chemically disabled.  I want to see Hoda segue her way into Al Roker and the weather report, while trying to animated her newly deceased co-host a la “Weekend at Bernie’s”.

My boyfriend, who is 4 years my senior, takes great pride in the fact that he has made it nearly all the way to 40 without the need of a shampoo supplemented with Rogaine.  He and I really should come up for better terms to introduce one another as.  At over 6 foot tall and looking every bit like a linebacker on the Giants second string line-up, there is nothing boyish about him.  “Manfriend” just isn’t something I can get down with saying and we aren’t evolved enough to use the term “Partner”.  We’re just going have to wait until something better comes along.

He is very secure in his follicular abilities, and becomes incensed every time someone suggests that he may color his hair.  He doesn’t. I have threatened to leave him should I ever find an empty bottle of “Just for Men” in his garbage.  It’s not that I am a proponent of growing old gracefully; I’m just trying to prevent myself from, in 20 years or so, being seen with a man whose shiny black locks are the same color as his fashionable, Velcro assisted, orthopedic shoes. There is nothing graceful about that.

I am at a point in my life, where I can still function socially with people under the age of 25 without really having to worry about my age being detected.  I listen to these “hipsters” or whatever Yahoo News tells me these Fedora wearing twits should be called today, talk about people they perceive as being old.  Often times cringing at the phrase “She’s was like really old, you know…like 35?”when they describe some interaction with anyone who is not charmed by their sense of entitlement or super cool fashion sense.  I often times will work an obscure line from a Nirvana song into whatever point I’m trying to make, just to watch the vacancy sign pop up in their eyes and amuse myself. 

I hypothesize, that if the great Kurt Cobain, leader of all things awesome from my generation had survived his brush with heroin; he too, would have gone the way of Madonna and now be on late night talk shows pushing his second literary accomplishment- an illustrated book about birds (for those of you who may be reading this and not of my specific age group, that last line…was the obscure Nirvana song reference).

Through Facebook, I have watched as even the most insane of the friends from my youth, who paid strangers to use their faces as pincushions and probably experience a great deal of technical difficulties when sneezing, due to the excessive amount of holes in their nose, become homogenized versions of themselves.  Even the guy that has the bulls-eye tattoo on the back of his head and used to insist that everyone call him “Hoover”; now drives a minivan and named his daughters after deceased American Presidents of varying levels of popularity. I see pictures of him and little Kennedy and Madison having a princess tea party. Smiling, I think back to the days when he used his mouth and nose almost exclusively to ingest illegal, mind altering, substances of many different varieties.  

I am trying desperately to hold on to my youth.  I am not looking forward to the day when I turn on the television and see a female sex symbol of my generation trying to sell me yogurt that regulates my digestive system. But, I’m sure the day is coming where Pamela Anderson uses her great thespian abilities to appear concerned about whether or not I take a regularly scheduled dump.

Yesterday, I was asked to present my I.D. at a gas station to purchase lottery tickets.  I was momentarily excited, until I realized that while a pulse is a must have, eyesight is probably not a factor in getting hired as the attendant at my local Texaco. I thanked the young woman behind the glass who was wearing mint green metallic eye-shadow from lid to brow and acrylic nails so long she could moonlight as a Velociraptor for briefly making me feel young, anyway.   

I know the days of buying pants, not because of the way they fit, but because they have an elastic waist, is just around the corner.  I will someday soon be wearing lipstick on my teeth, as well as the lower portion of my face and will probably utter the words “Look, Honey. It says here, we get a free appetizer with the purchase of any one entrée. Let go to the Red Lobster tonight after bingo” as I look through the lenses of my zebra print reading glasses. But I warn you, I am going to fight it with every fiber I possess within my being.  If you see me out in 10 years, embarrassing myself in too- tight, age inappropriate sequined clothing, I’d like to ask you to be gentle. Your day will come soon enough, whippersnapper.