MOTHER AND CHILD AND HER CHILDREN REUNION

We all went through this historical and traumatic year together, but not together at all. Many of us are still processing, alone and with friends, just how much impact the pandemic had on us.

One thing is certain: the people who had family locally, and who established safety “pods,” so that they could see one another, were so damn lucky. Also lucky were the parents whose adult children came home to live with them for months during the pandemic. The closeness. The game nights. The sourdough bread. Speaking of bread, I was eaten up with envy. This was because not only did I not see my local daughter and her husband, because they both continued to work and thus refused to expose themselves to us, but also because my California daughter and her children and husband were so far away.

Zoom and FaceTime were lame. The kids had the attention span of gnats, and by the way, how do you have a conversation with a child you hardly know any more, because you haven’t seen them in months and months?

The hardest thing about COVID for me was this separation. I had days when the sadness felt like an anvil on my chest. I read memoirs about families and the closeness of children to their beloved grandparents, and I felt angry at those families. Envy and anger are so closely related, and I felt a lot of both.

This week, the children pictured above are coming to visit, along with their parents. We are so excited to see them again we can hardly remain inside our skins. I am having trouble sleeping: “The Christmas Eve” phenomenon. I go over and over the grocery list in my head: Popsicles, Lucky Charms, watermelon, blueberries, gummy bears. I have sorted the children’s books I still have at least ten times. Bubble bath. My husband created a spreadsheet of potential activities. We both had a learning afternoon–downtown Dayton features rental electric scooters, and so we took those for a spin. They go very fast, and although I am sure the seven-year-old will be fine, I picture the four-year-old having some sort of tragic crash. Then my husband puts a hand on my shoulder and says, “She will be on the same scooter with one of her parents. She will be fine. Take a deep breath.”

We have the menus planned. I have my cleaning schedule down. I have had a few conversations with the cat, to tell her that there will be a ruckus, and she needs to be prepared to spend a lot of time under our bed.

So. Now all I have to do is wait. This next few days will seem like eternity. I know many of you will read this and nod your head “Yes! Yes! Yes!” For the rest of you who have been with your family all along, YOU ARE LUCKY DUCKS.

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THE GAZILLIONTH POST

I have been doing this blog thing for more than ten years. 

I think I have covered everything worth writing about. When the weekend approaches, and it is coming time to write another column, I cast around in my head for topics. I read the news feeds, looking for something to grab on to. I shut my eyes and try to think of something that is either bothering me or making me happy or wistful. I look at my photo feed, to see if there is something there that hooks me.

But some weeks, I get nada. I am not enraged about anything; my heart isn’t singing, either. So I start to panic. I sometimes consider taking a week off. I hate to do that, despite the fact that I do it once in a while. But I do have a few “fall back” strategies, and one of my “reader favorites” (thank the six of you who have said this) are book lists.

So. Here is another one of MOLLY’S BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO NEED THEM

  • The Sweeney Sisters, by Lian Dolan. This book could have been written by me, or at least the plot–it is about three sisters who discover after their father’s death that they have a fourth sister, one their father produced via a mistress. It hit very close to the bone, but it is a really good read. Since I could never write about my own story, I am glad Ms. Dolan wrote this.
  • Early Morning Riser, by Katherine Heiny. A wonderful book about family. This one is a heartwarmer.
  • Leave the World Behind, by Rumann Alam. Wow. I don’t want to spoil it–just read it. You will be left staring into space.
  • The World That We Knew, by Alice Hoffman. This is a nominee for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. World War II fiction. There is a golem. Wonderful.
  • Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, by Jess Kidd. Full of saints, magic, and humor. Eccentric. I loved it.
  • The Last Flight, by Julie Clark. Two women. Two flights. One last chance to disappear. A page-turner.
  • Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters. I loved the series, then read the book, which is backwards, but it’s a good one!
  • Group, by Christie Tate. I don’t usually read nonfiction, but this was very interesting. Again, sometimes funny, sometimes surprising, but always intriguing.
  • Goodnight Beautiful, by Aimee Molloy. A plot that I cannot imagine anyone coming up with. This is all I will say.
  • A Crooked Tree, by Una Mannion. Another book that I don’t want to describe, but it is a portrayal of family that is unsettling but so well done.
  • Rules for Moving, by Nancy Star. I wrote a fan letter to Ms. Star after reading this. Enough said.

Take off your mask, but don’t go to the movies just yet. Read.

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MEA CULPA

During the pandemic, I grew my hair out. The above is sort of what I look like now.

However, also during the pandemic, I have had, just like all of you, an enormous amount of time to think about myself. I spend sleepless nights blaming myself for all of the stupid things I have ever done, because why not? Insomnia brings on all sorts of negativity.

For instance, I got the date wrong for a dinner, and my husband and I showed up only to find our hosts in what I will euphemistically call “leisure wear.” They were entirely gracious and ordered a pizza, and the evening was fine, but I wouldn’t call it smooth. Luckily, we were all wearing masks, so I couldn’t really see the expressions on our hosts’ faces, which was a very good thing.

I have lost my temper at many occasions during the past year, and once I hung up on the woman at the other end of the line at the doctor’s office. She called me right back, saying “I think we got disconnected,” to which I replied, “No, I hung up on you because you wouldn’t let me talk to the doctor.” He was probably with a patient at that time, but my eczema was really itchy at that moment, and I became temporarily furious. I am still a patient there, but I try to schedule appointments on days when that woman isn’t working.

I played hooky from some Zoom meetings I should have attended. I faked excuses. But maybe I am not the only one. This gives me a bit of solace. But still…

One time, and this was long before I had grandchildren, I kicked up a fuss on a plane because a woman with a baby had the seat next to me. I mean, I kicked up a fuss. A very nice person changed seats with me, and then I was chagrined because the baby didn’t peep the entire flight. If that woman reads this, I apologize profusely, and now I actually seek out babies on flights (because I want to go to heaven when I die.)

I have been rude to those employees in clothing stores who persist in following customers around asking if they need help. Repeatedly. Now I realize that this is because the average customer shopping for clothes truly has no idea how to put together an outfit. I still have the red pants with black stripes to prove it. I have never worn them. When I put them in the Goodwill bag, I swore to myself that next time I go to Chicos, I will ask for help the second I walk in the door.

I think the thing I most regret is all the times I nagged my husband for things like telling the same joke too many times, or drinking that third glass of wine. Because the other night, we had friends over, and due to the fact that we were so happy to be able to socialize again, I had three glasses of wine myself, and MY GOD THAT JOKE WAS HILARIOUS.

A man walked into a bar…

 

 

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DON’T TRY TO HELP

We have all lived through hell this last what seems like years. They say the pandemic may just be in the rear view mirror. We are encouraged. How did you get through the tough times? I am willing to bet that all the inspirational memes on social media were not at the top of your coping list.

There are a whole lot of people who spend their time creating memes that they think will help the rest of us through. Filled with backgrounds of sunny skies, waterfalls, dewdrops on various flowers, and of course, puppies, these social media posts are not only tedious, but they don’t help at all. The aphorisms are cliche, and just because Benjamin Franklin said it doesn’t mean it will brighten my day. Let’s get real with the sayings, shall we?

  • What doesn’t kill you makes you still alive.
  • Every cloud has the potential for a huge downpour, so don’t forget your raincoat.
  • A stitch in time is great, but there are safety pins.
  • A word to the wise isn’t sufficient; spell it out, for God’s sake.
  • Hunger may not be the best sauce; I prefer ketchup.
  • If you lie down with dogs, you will be very happy.
  • During the pandemic, very few people used their time wisely. Most of us napped.
  • When the student is ready, the Zoom class is probably over.
  • It doesn’t all come out in the wash, especially if there is a tube of lipstick in the pocket of your jeans.
  • For heaven’s sake, actions don’t speak louder than words. You can hug somebody right before you call them by the wrong name.
  • You can fool some of the people all of the time, and nobody remembers the rest of this aphorism.
  • Eat to live, not the opposite. Except during lockdown, when we all had at least five meals a day.
  • A penny saved doesn’t amount to much, and we all know it.
  • When a door closes, it means somebody has just left. Or your husband is tired of hearing the tv.

I could go on and on, but let’s face it–It is never too early to quit.

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MARS AND VENUS

Everyone acknowledges that men and women play by different rules. We certainly do.

For instance, clothing. I have a blouse I bought to wear on Christmas Eve five years ago. I am not sure why I decided not to wear it, but it is a lovely blouse. So it still hangs in my closet, waiting for an occasion.

My husband, on the other hand, gets rid of perfectly good golf shirts because “They are taking up too much room in my shirt drawer.” Sidebar: His dream shirt drawer would contain two shirts: one to wash, and one to wear. So he keeps a Goodwill box in the bottom of his closet, and as soon as I or one of our daughters buys him what we think would be a shirt to build up his paltry wardrobe, he gets rid of a shirt.

Did I mention that I also have a pair of pants I bought before the pandemic caused universal sweatpants wearing? That these are really cute khakis? With the price tag still attached? Now that we are getting out in the world, I fully intend to wear them someplace. As long as all the other people in that place are still six feet apart and wearing masks.

Moving on. Books. My husband has a bookcase in his office without a single book in it. This drives me absolutely insane, because everyone knows that you put books in there. My husband instead has one or two framed photos on each shelf. One photo is of his PT Cruiser (long gone; apparently sorely missed). One or two photos on otherwise empty shelves. The designers on HGTV would have heart attacks. It looks terrible. Luckily, I don’t go into his office unless I have to vacuum. I vacuum very quickly and leave.

We have two bathrooms. One is for guests. My husband uses both of them. One is apparently for his pills and for pandemic hand washing, and for you know, using the toilet. The other one, just off our bedroom, is for toothbrushing and shaving. This also frustrates me, as I have to clean one more bathroom than I would have to if he would just limit his use to the master bath, for God’s sake.

I have to loop back to clothing, because the more I think about it, the more I have to say! Shoes. I have the completely understandable collection of shoes. Sneakers for walking. Flip flops. Three pairs of dressy flats. One pair of dressy sandals. Two pairs of “walking” sandals. Crocs–everybody wore those during the pandemic. One pair of slippers. One pair of waterproof walking boots (for horse shows; granted not all women need those). One pair of “semi-dress up” flats.

My husband has three pairs of shoes. One for winter, one for summer, and one pair of golf shoes. He also has two pairs of cowboy boots. Nothing else. This is ridiculous.

Let’s talk pants. Again, he aspires to having only three pairs for each season. In summer, it’s two pairs of khakis and one pair of lightweight wool pants to wear to church. You read that right–the SAME pair to church every Sunday, with which he alternates one of his two “nice” golf shirts. Note: I no longer go to church, not only because all of that kneeling and standing up and down is hard on my joints, but because I don’t want to get those looks from other men’s wives who have certainly noticed my husbands tiny wardrobe. I wouldn’t know how to do the Peace portion of the service where all you do is shake a hand and say “Peace to you.” I would want to shake a hand and say “Really, I try to get him to increase his wardrobe, but he just refuses–it’s not what it looks like–he ONLY WANTS TWO SHIRTS AND ONE PAIR OF CHURCH PANTS…”

I have just come from my closet, where I counted ten pairs of “good” pants. You know, in case we ever go out to a restaurant or the movies, I want to have some stylish things on rotation. I have one pair of linen capris for summer, a gorgeous red paisley pair from Talbot’s,  of course four pairs of jeans, and on and on. I also have a leggings drawer in my bureau full of pandemic leggings. I wore leggings every day for over a year. That justifies the leggings drawer, correct?

But here’s the thing:  My husband seems to feel that he has to audit MY wardrobe and pepper me with questions:

“Have you ever worn these pants?”

“How many white blouses do you actually need?”

“It’s global warming. So why do you have these snow boots?”

“You never wear this robe.”

“Do all women have three raincoats?’

 

I just went online. LL Bean is having a sale on men’s golf shirts. Feeling spiteful, I ordered him FIVE of them.

 

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NATURAL WONDER MY EYE

The cicadas are coming. If you live on the east coast, that is. As soon as the temperature of the soil hits 64 degrees Fahrenheit, billions–and that is not an exaggeration, of these horrible, science fiction looking insects will emerge to scare the living daylights out of you while creating a racket that is louder than most rock bands.

While I trust and love the scientists who have held our hands throughout the pandemic, creating life-saving vaccines, this right here is where I part ways with these scientists. Because they are trying to sell us a bill of goods about how wonderful the cicadas are. See below:

  • They are harmless. Perhaps. If harmless in the sense of they won’t bite you or fly up your nose, yes. But the word harmless apparently means different things to scientists (or is it entomologists, who are a very dubious subgroup of scientists). Not flying up my nose is not going to make me admire cicadas.
  • They aerate the soil. There are sticks and poles available to do this for us. Lawn services do it for a minimal fee. We do not need cicadas for this.
  • It’s only every 17 years. This is somewhat comforting, but still…
  • They are food for birds and other animals. But hey, if your dog eats them, prepare for bug vomit all over your living room.
  • They are a true wonder of nature. Ha. The red crab migration in Australia is also a wonder of nature. Google that one.
  • They are harmless. So they don’t sting. This is not much of a rationalization, as far as I am concerned. Slugs don’t sting, either.
  • They are one of the only natural phenomena of their kind. But we can do without this one, thanks.
  • They don’t last that long. I call six weeks a very long time.
  • “It’s like having David Attenborough in your back yard.” Huh? I like Mr. Attenborough just fine, but I wouldn’t want him lurking in my back yard, or narrating the wonders of the bugs out there. I am not sure I would even want to watch him on PBS in a cicada special. So having him in my back yard? That’s a nope.
  • They are harmless. How many times do we have to hear this to buy in? And what is “harm,” anyway? Despite the fact that my nostrils are safe, I still will find going out, only to see the sidewalk seething with insects; or having one harmlessly land on my forehead, causing a severe panic attack, begs the question “what exactly does the word “harmless” mean?” One person’s harmless is another person’s heart attack with wings.

Fun fact: Beekeeper’s outfits are rapidly selling out.

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RAIN

It is raining. It has been raining for a week or so. It is also cold and blowy.

I didn’t bring any umbrellas with us when we moved here.

So, it seems best to stay inside and have soup.

The stock pot at the back of the stove. Always simmering. A grandmother tosses in various bones and peels. The aroma is both bracing and soothing. Hints of garlic, maybe a little whiff of rosemary. Meaty. Grandma ladles some out, adds rice or noodles, and all are better for eating it. Afterwards, if any is left in the bowls, Grandma dumps it back in the stockpot with some carrot peelings and a half of an onion. She pours in a glass of water, and the pot continues simmering on. The broth just improves as the days pass.

OR, over here on the fifth floor, a grandmother walks over to the pantry, pulls out a can of chicken noodle, and calls it a day.

 

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PLAY BALL!

We live directly above The Dayton Dragons baseball stadium. See the photo above? I just took that from our balcony. Those are not actual Dayton Dragons, because their season has not begun; these are high school players who must be thrilled to be playing games in this pro stadium.

Last summer we did not see any games from the balcony, because of the pandemic. So it was a big surprise when this all began this year. Let me describe what it is like:

We hear great music from the public address system. Before the game, they play songs like Born in the USA, Freewheelin’, and all the Fleetwood Mac greatest hits. It’s like a free concert. Then, right before the game, they blow a horn that is so loud it sounds like the blast from an ocean liner coming into port. The announcer says each player’s name with that great sports announcer emphasis: “And at first base, TY LER SPRONNNNGWELL!”

So now, since there is all of this totally free entertainment right outside my window, I will have to learn what in God’s name those guys are doing out there. Like, the definition of a pop fly. And all of a sudden, that “who’s on third” joke might make sense.

They also play at night. Under lights. Lights so strong that they illuminate the entire apartment, so that we don’t have to turn on any of our own lights. This was a little bit of a problem at first. I think the Dayton Dragons staff had gotten a little lax during their year off, and they forgot to turn the lights OUT after the first few night games. I am assuming the tenants in our building must have said something like “what the hell,” because now the lights do go off about ten minutes after the games are over.

So now, I am learning about baseball. I can use words like ump and knuckler. I can use them, but I have no idea how to put them in context, so I just pepper my conversations with my husband with baseball terminology, hoping he will be impressed.

So yes, did you notice the error during the double play that loaded the bases during a hit and run while somebody bunted? Was it a bang-bang play? No, wait. It was a can of corn. So bush league.

Yup. Now I want a cookie.

 

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DISAPPOINTMENTS

Today, I decided to “cheat” on the Weight Watchers. Of course, the Weight Watchers don’t actually care what I do, so cheating on them is actually cheating on myself, but there we are.

Anyway, I ate a cookie. It wasn’t worth it. Dry, not enough chocolate chips. I was sad that I had gone ahead and eaten it. That got me thinking about all of the things in life so far that have been so disappointing. Things that held so much promise until I tried them.

While on the subject of food, let’s talk about salmon. It is luscious looking. Pink, flaky. It is always served with wonderful additions like dill, bagels, or roasted asparagus. The presentation is stunning. And every single time, when I venture a bite, it is so damn strong and fishy, I can’t believe it. How do so many people love salmon? They eat it raw, for God’s sake, as well as cooked! These must be the people who also adore caviar, piled on a cracker with egg yolk. They wash it down with champagne. I get the champagne part. But fishy fish is so much of a non-starter for me. And sushi. What is wrong with me that I can’t get on the sushi bandwagon?

And some foods just look so beautiful, one figures they must also taste that beautiful. But no. Have you ever had a Petit Four? They are like little presents. So adorable, sitting on a plate covered with tiny violets and pastel frosting. Cut one in half, and there are ribbons of cake and jam. Heaven, right? Nope! Petit fours are terrible. And let’s switch over to appetizers: why on earth is CALAMARI so popular? Deep fat fried rings of rubber? Come, on, people!

Movies. Oh Lord. The ones so many people rave about; I just don’t get it. Going way back to Quentin Tarantino and all the way back to Ingmar Bergman. The Seventh Seal. Didn’t get it then, tried it again during the pandemic, and I still don’t get it. Also, I made it through the first five minutes of Mank before getting so bored, I had to switch over to HGTV.

This may say more about me than the things that have let me down so far in life, but I bet you can come up with a few things that you have felt did not deserve the build-up. Like maybe cashmere? HOT. It makes me sweaty. Doesn’t it make you sweaty? Do you put on that cashmere sweater and then wish you could take it off but you can’t, because you are sitting in the theatre and you don’t have a shirt on under it? So you get drenched and forget what the play is about?

Speaking of plays. Shakespeare. Now there’s a guy who doesn’t live up to his reputation. Can anybody just read Shakespeare and understand what on earth it is all about without the translation of an English professor? The only way anybody I know can understand Shakespeare in real time is if Benedict Cumberbatch or Dame Judi Dench is saying it. Of course, I also feel that way about the Bible. I can’t cut through the language barrier, despite the fact that all sorts of people of all walks of life have read it over and over, going so far as to memorize large portions of it.

Meditation is all the rage right now. What with the pandemic and all the horrible political goings-on, so many people have turned to it for its calming and soothing properties. Not me. You can rub your singing bowls and chant for hours, but all I will be able to do while sitting in the lotus position is think about why my knees ache.

So, that is all for now. I just got this great book from the library. I have heard it is one of the greatest works of literature ever. Yup. I can’t wait to dig in to Infinite Jest.

 

 

 

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