spring has sprung

I love this time of year. It seems like anything is possible! Trees are coming back to life; tiny buds one day and full bloom the next (or so it seems). Hardy evergreens – the storm and snowplow survivors – are still standing. The green leaf beginnings of iris and other “mystery” plants poke out of the soggy ground. Every day they reveal themselves a little more.

So much snow this past winter. At times it would have been hard to imagine it gone.

Early yesterday evening as the light was getting low, I caught some of my favorite trees against a blue sky.

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birthday parties

Birthdays.

Everyone has one. Whether they choose to admit it, announce it or celebrate it.

When you’re a little kid – and your parents are into the celebrating part – you might get a party. And then…decades later…if you are really lucky,  you will unearth old faded polaroid black and white party photos – of yourself plus those who attended your 5th birthday party. In my case it included my brother and sister and random neighborhood kids. Former neighborhood kids as well. Family friend kids from out of town. Five year olds don’t often take kindly to standing still for very long (Polaroids took several minutes each).  Never mind smiling on cue.

Being corralled on a tiny front porch with a latched gate at least kept everyone in one location. I do wonder if this was before or after the cake….

Try as I might, I can’t recall the names of most of these party guests. Besides my brother and sister (who, despite the ever present fact that I was the oldest, got invited to my parties for years…thanks to my mother-the-only-child), I do remember Joanne, the girl with the coat on. She lived down the street and whatever the weather (this was in May), she always wore a coat. Fun fact.

One other thing.

Seeing traces of my kids in my 5 year old face?

Bonus.

why I don’t want to go to my 8th grade reunion

First of all, why would anyone have an 8th grade reunion? asked my 30-something daughter with more than a little incredulity.

Who does that? she muttered to me on the phone a few months ago.

I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective. Even though I initially had mixed feelings about going, I hadn’t questioned the idea. Someone is planning a 50th reunion this year and my best friend Wendy (also a member of the 8th grade class in question) wants me to go with her. She is going, as she lives close to the location. So I should go with her. Like we did back in the day…

Hey I’ll meet you in the girl’s room.

Come to my/your house after school.

Let’s go to Valley Fair and buy…

  • a new pocketbook,
  • trashy nightgowns,
  • the new Beatles 45

However, not this time. Except for Wendy, I have no connections with anyone from those days. I went to that school from 6th through 8th grade and afterwards we all dispersed to a consolidated high school with 2 other towns.  It wasn’t so incestuous in a class of 360.

Junior high: well, it was awkward.  For everyone. As it will be until the end of time. The mean girls and the bullies. And the rest of us walking the halls trying to fit in…or disappear. Eating hot lunch and pacing the blacktopped playground sizing up the daily dramas. The ever present worries: did I study enough? will I ever be popular? who is my friend today?  I did have some adventures in acting out; which was kind of exciting in a going-outside-my-comfort-zone kind of way.

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Mean girls – who certainly were in the minority, but unfortunately often set the tone – can direct a life of misery for those not in the “in group.” No matter how many different ways I set my hair with Dippity Do and pink plastic curlers, it didn’t matter. I never made it into the in-group. I was tall (uh oh), wore glasses (double uh-oh) and liked sports (fuggedaboutit). I often raised my hand in class and asked questions – that may have worked against me too. I do know that notes were passed and, when they got passed to me, the list of “who we don’t like” often had my name on it. The 1960’s version of text messaging.

So, again….why would I travel long distance, deal with a bad back for hours, pay money to sit (bad back again) and reminisce…

About the “good old days?”

 

 

not-real TV

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1967

 

When I turned on the TV one recent morning to catch the local news and weather, I heard a vaguely familiar young voice say something like “blah blah blah Uncle Charlie blah blah blah…”  That woke me all the way up. I found my glasses – it was Chip (or maybe Ernie)! Then in stumbled Uncle Charlie (on the screen, not in my bedroom) complete with the apron. It was “My Three Sons.” Oh my.

Apparently someone came up with the idea to rerun those TV “classics” from my childhood. It is a cable station called “MeTV” (an acronym for “Memorable Entertainment Television”) and advertises incessantly on its sister station – a legit ABC local network affiliate. MeTV also broadcasts local news at 10pm – for those of us who can’t stay awake until the typical 11pm news on the “real station.” Now that I think of it, us 10pm news watchers are probably the same ones who watched “My Three Sons” as kids.

Flipping though my diary archives yields a treasure trove of MeTV possibilities; although I’m not sure I’d want to watch them now.

A random sampling:

  • My Favorite Martian
  • Addams Family
  • Gomer Pyle (or as my brother affectionately referred to it – Gomer’s Pyle)
  • Flipper (faster than lightning)
  • Kentucky Jones
  • Gilligan’s Island (it was years before I realized the s in island was silent)
  • Walt Disney (on right before Ed Sullivan)
  • Ed Sullivan (on right before Bonanza)
  • Bonanza (if I was lucky & mom didn’t realize I was still up this late on a school night)
  • Johnny Quest
  • Donna Reed
  • My Three Sons (!)
  • Bewitched
  • The Farmer’s Daughter
  • Andy Griffith
  • The Lucy Show

This was just 2 weeks worth of shows in one year…..a tiny sampling.

My TV listings were often more detailed than homework descriptions. There are comments such as “I watched Bewitched. I like that program very much.” Well, I imagine I did. Here was a woman who could do whatever she wanted just by twitching her nose. The first woman on TV with superpowers. How fantastic was that?

Or “We watched Addams Family & Gomer Pyle on TV while we ate dinner. Gomer Pyle is FUNNY.” Hmmm….why was he funny?  And “I watched a new show called Lost in Space which is about a family with kids & is floating around in a spaceship & is Lost in Space.” That about covers it.

Binge watching one night in the 1960’s: “Camp Runamuck, Hank, Hogan’s Heroes, Gomer Pyle, Smothers Brothers, UNCLE – Waverly Ring Affair.”  (Camp Runamuck?? Hank??) I also would rather not think about the subject matter of “Hogan’s Heroes” being an actual comedy. It is, however, on MeTV.

I watched quite a bit of television as a child.  I also read Nancy Drew books and played outside when I had free time, but I think I loved television the best. I could escape and imagine something different; it became a lifeline of sorts. Those perfect family sitcoms with an Uncle Charlie or an Aunt Bee. Or the nose that twitched and made things happen. The brothers that got along in “My Three Sons” & “Leave it to Beaver.”  The cousins in the “Patty Duke Show” – they got along too.

Pure entertainment drew me in – especially “Variety shows.” One unforgettable one: “The Ed Sullivan Show”…The Beatles! The Rolling Stones! The guy who balanced the spinning plates and of course Topo Gigio!! The June Taylor dancers on “The Jackie Gleason Show” – filmed from above to see the kaleidoscopic patterns they would make. I first fell in love with Lily Tomlin’s humor on “Laugh-In.” All this from just 3 networks!

I took great comfort in knowing that:

  • Lassie would always locate Timmy and find the well – every single time
  • Gidget would always be cute and get a date
  • Mighty Mouse would always save the day
  • Superman would always fly fast and get the bad guy
  • If Opie, Chip, Ernie, Beaver, Wally, Cathy, Patty, et al. misbehaved, their punishments would – at the most – be a “stern talking to.” Their worries, if they had any, were whisked away by episode’s end.

I spent those hours entertained…but also worry free, knowing that it would all work out – whatever “it” was. Was any of it realistic? Of course not. Did it matter to me then? If someone had pointed out that there was no such thing as a flying mouse (obviously not) or a flying man (again, nope) or that girls don’t need to be cute and have boyfriends (would find that out eventually), it would have made no difference. Reality wasn’t the point. And I am grateful.

I do wonder who watches MeTV and why. I admit that I didn’t watch any of “My Three Sons” the other day when I discovered it coming to life on my TV by accident. There was a “Leave it to Beaver” moment one morning as well, when I was expecting GMA.

Are today’s sitcoms “better” than they were in the 1960’s? I don’t know; but I wonder if they give kids the easy escape they may be needing. I hope so. Those slices of not-real life helped me get through childhood. Today’s kids may need something different or maybe there is still a need for not-real TV. Reality for today’s children seems as if it could be a difficult burden.

I know, I know, the sitcoms of the ’60’s were unrealistic and perpetuated many stereotypes and inappropriate role models.  I agree. But still. Sometimes it can be more important to give a worried child’s mind a rest, at least for a short while. That has value.

After all, I knew very well that mothers did not always (or ever) wear an apron, heels and pearls to cook dinner. And of course there could very well be a Superwoman. And that families (of many colors) really did have problems – sometimes serious ones. And that war is hell; not funny.

I should change the channel back to the “regular” channel after the 10pm news from now on. No need to accidentally see Jeannie in the turban rising out of the bottle first thing in the morning. Although….”Bewitched” could work…and might be an easier way to greet the day than what happened overnight in real-life land.

 

 

 

 

smoking

I hadn’t thought about it in a long time. I smoked cigarettes for about 10 years, starting when I was 17. I stopped at 27 when I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. I wasn’t a heavy smoker by any standards – a half pack per day more or less. But it was part of my life and my routine. I started smoking on purpose. My friend Wendy and I bought a pack together convincing the salesperson we were old enough to buy it.

I snuck down alone into the basement of my home and hid behind the mountains of boxes and debris….trying to quickly smoke one cigarette before anyone else came down and discovered me. Inhaling deeply over and over until I felt the nicotine calm me. It was the moment I discovered the cause and affect of cigarette smoking – there crouched under the bare light bulb. My parents think I picked up smoking to be “cool” but that was never it. My friends didn’t smoke and I was never cool. It was purely for the way it made me feel. I had no idea how addicting it would become. All I knew is it helped me cope. Lung cancer didn’t enter my mind. I was 17. I would live forever, right?

It came to mind recently when I met someone about my age who recently went to “smoker’s prison” as he called it. I didn’t ask specifics, but I assume it was a rehab place for smokers to help manage withdrawal symptoms. I also assume he had smoked for decades longer than I had. I asked him if he felt better. “NO” he answered, he did not feel better. Now he was hooked on nicotine gum. “It is so hard to quit” I said. “I remember.” It is not just the nicotine withdrawal. It is the reaching for a cigarette with your morning coffee, with a drink, starting the car. I had a cigarette going whenever I began writing papers in college. To relax at the end of the day…after a meal. “Do you still want a cigarette?” he asked me. No, not now – it’s been over 30 years.

I hope he feels better soon; that his body adjusts. I wonder if the younger people who work for him understand the scope of what he is trying to do. If they have never smoked, it is doubtful. Such a hard road to take by yourself.

I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t quit. Would my daughter have been born underweight? Would she have died of SIDS? I had read that’s what could happen to babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy. That is why I sat in my orange Plymouth in a deserted section of the grocery store parking lot one afternoon and smoked my last cigarettes. I decided then and there to stop. I had just found out I was pregnant. I don’t know if that fear was fully justified, but just knowing it was a theory was enough.

For years after she was born I used to dream about smoking – sometimes waking up trying to inhale a cigarette.

Having children can be a powerful motivator.

 

and the winner is…

What can I say? I love the Academy Awards! It’s my most fun day all year – no presents to buy and wrap, no cards to mail, no work at all…except to print my ballot as soon as the nominations are announced. And then the rush to see as many nominated movies as possible before the show.  Or at least the movies with Best Actress and Actor nominations. As a child and young teenager, I rarely saw the movies that were showcased, but my fascination with the glamour and….mysteriousness of it all drew me in. They were all so larger than life – those movie people – and they always looked so happy. I loved them as much as the characters they played. Julie Andrews was every bit as lovable as Mary Poppins and then again as Maria, everyone’s favorite governess in The Sound of Music. Oh how I wished she loved me too. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it.

The Oscars are a chance to play pretend at any age. All those people  dressed up for a crazy big party and you can go too. No matter how exclusive it obviously is, anyone with a television (or, nowadays, a computer) can watch what happens in real time. Live TV at its best. Who knew there would be a streaker? Or a mixup with the ballot? Everyone in their fanciest – and often most outlandish – clothes and it’s okay. I can just relax on the couch dressed however I want; bowl of popcorn in my lap with clipboard, ballot and pen nearby.

Should the acting profession – represented at the Academy Awards – be more race and gender diverse? Inclusive? Well, of course. I am hopeful and confident they are heading in that direction. In the meantime I am going to enjoy playing pretend at their party in quiet gratitude — for all the hours I’ve spent mesmerized, entertained, comforted and often inspired by their work on the big screen.

My favorite Oscar memory? 1972:  Isaac Hayes, dressed in chainmail sitting at the piano rising up from beneath the stage floor (as I remember it) to play the Theme from SHAFT. Amidst a cloud of smoke. Wow! And he won! Can you dig it?

So many movies. So many stories.

 

 

dancing class

Today is March 2nd.

March 2nd when I was 11?

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I wonder if public schools still have dancing classes. Nervous 6th graders picking partners from either side of the school cafeteria, the room still smelling like yesterday’s salmon wiggle. Sweaty palms everywhere. This was straight ballroom dancing. Learn the cha-cha. Waltz. One Two Three. One Two Three.

We assembled every Wednesday night.  I loved the dancing despite wondering who I would dance with. My crush on Richard lasted a few more years despite being fed up with him that last night of class – which I imagine was because he didn’t “notice” me. I thought it was because of how I looked (my hair! my dress! my glasses! my braces!). He was taller than I was, so that couldn’t be it. I sort of could dance.  I just knew romance must be right around some nearby corner – I watched Gidget and look how much fun she had!  It wasn’t until years later raising my own son that I realized how unaware (in a sweet sort of way) 12 year old boys can be. They just have their minds on other things. And asking a 12 year old girl to dance was most likely not one of those things….

It would prevent a lot of anxiety if 12 year old girls could somehow know this.