Lyrical Laughs

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 23 - A Love Story

My First Born and I are dancing around the house, swirling through the kitchen and living room while we belt out the opening song from Beauty and the Beast. She is like a fluttering little bird as she sings and prances around, completely immersed in her role as Belle bringing life to a poor provincial town.

This is one of her favorite Disney movies and she has several parts memorized verbatim so that she can act them out at a moment’s notice. It takes everything in me not to reveal a smile over her rendition of Belle’s search for her father in a magical mirror. It is academy award worthy.

I am in awe of how quickly she has grown into this little dynamo from the helpless, tiny infant I first held just a few years earlier. Long nights trying to soothe a colicky baby by singing Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight” are distant memories, replaced by her endless “why” questions. As a four-year-old she informs me she wants to be a ballerina doctor when she grows up. I pray she’s not in a hurry to grow up. It’s hard for me to picture her as anything but innocent, dependent, Mommy’s little girl.

Then I blink.

She is in the driver’s seat of our car, where I apply the imaginary brakes each time we round a corner or approach traffic. Like so many teenage girls, she does not display the confidence she exuded in her childhood days, but she is willing herself to fly to the next branch. I don’t know how encouraging I am during these drives. I only know in time it will take her away from me… but we didn’t bring her into this world to teach her to stay in park.

I watch her drive away.

Time slips past like sea mist, brushing against our cheeks and disappearing into the warmth of summer. It propels us forward to a few weeks into her freshman year at college where, over dinner for her 18th birthday, we are introduced to The Boy.

Maybe neither of them knows it at this moment, but their lives will intertwine in the sweetest of ways. They will fall in real love and flourish. They will also have some tough times of their own, especially after graduation when they try to maintain a relationship with too many miles between them.

And then a decision is made. A suitcase is tightly packed. A bus is boarded, and she is on her way to a new life in a new city, following her heart’s desire - The Boy.

We all know life is not a fairy tale. The voice of experience will tell them that communication will elude them, and that love and understanding may be the furthest thing from their minds at times. And I hope they don’t believe couples that say they have never gone to bed angry, because everybody goes to bed angry a time or two. It is what happens the next day that matters. It’s the other coffee mug you pour, or the last slice of banana bread you leave. Sometimes it is tears, sometimes a silly joke that helps to break the ice that formed the night before. Whatever it is, it will bring you to that place where you can communicate again.

It isn’t easy, I tell her as I hold her in my arms, as I watch her dance, as I wave when she drives away. It isn’t easy, my heart tremulously whispers as I witness love enveloping them both.
But it is worth it.

Today my First Born dances in a beautiful wedding dress, swirling around the dance floor in the arms of her husband. It isn’t a fairy tale.

It is simply their love story.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

You've got (way too much) mail

If you have an e-mail account, you get junk mail. Don’t deny it. You can call it a subscription. You can tell me you enjoy those daily pickle recipes. You can lie about wanting to receive hourly reminders that this is positively the very, very, absolute, honest-to-goodness LAST notice that you may be a grand prizewinner. It’s all junk and it’s clogging up your inbox. There are days when you wish you could toss your emails into a virtual bonfire just to avoid deleting each one.

I thought I received a lot of junk e-mail - until I started collecting my neighbors’ postal mail during their six-month stay in Florida.

Since late December we’ve been taking care of their cat (technically, half-cat, since she resides with us half the year), watering their plants (Spouse’s job – plants and I don’t mix), and taking in their mail. This last chore has proven over the years to be a lesson in refraining from ever checking the “yes” box on any type of solicitation.

Somehow Mrs. Neighbor has managed to get onto every mailing list imaginable. Whether it’s a plea to save the yellow-winged gnat of North Dakota or a request to join the International Society of Left-Handed Ping Pong Players, my neighbor receives it. Clearly, some pieces are easier than others to discard. You could easily fuel a two-week bonfire with all the unsolicited mail that passes through that mailbox.

There are some instances when it’s hard to make the decision about whether to keep or toss something. Take, for instance, the request for funding of certain reputable organizations that include a nickel with their appeal. Talk about a tough call. You wouldn’t feel right about getting rid of it because, after all, they sent you a nickel. Maybe you would have guilt over opening the envelope and keeping the nickel without sending a donation. For these reasons, this type sits in the limbo stack to be dealt with later.

Our neighbors do get some important mail, like renewals that they actually want and bills that I sure as heck don’t want. I dare not remove the most recent LL Bean catalog from their collection, and I have dutifully forwarded the Navy Times to their Florida residence. My incentive to properly tend to the regular onslaught of someone else’s mail is that it takes up too much space on my kitchen table and counter, and those areas are under constant threat of being buried even without anyone else’s mail.

Each winter I vow to rip off the address labels, send them to each of these solicitors and ask to have the neighbors’ address removed from these lists. There are a few issues with this.

First, I would have to use my envelopes and buy stamps to mail something to a company to tell them not to mail anything. That’s just too much irony for me.

Second, as the envelopes and parcels begin to gather in my little kitchen, the prospect of contacting every unsolicited piece suddenly sounds like a big old chore, similar to washing the dishes or folding the laundry.

And finally, it can be somewhat amusing to see the lengths solicitors will go to for a cause, no matter how strange. We should all consider how important the survival of the purple-bellied legless lizard of southern California could be to the environment.

From now until the end of the year the only mail I will have to face is what gets delivered directly to our home. But I know that by the time our seasonal assignment comes along there will be new invitations to sign up for and some very original petitions for patronage.

I wonder how our neighbors would feel about a bonfire in their mailbox.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

All Mom All Week (oh - and Dad, too)

This week has been an offspring’s worst nightmare. Our wedding anniversary was this past Tuesday, my birthday was Friday, and tomorrow is Mother’s Day. It’s a triple whammy for my daughters, who really do try to rise to the occasion (in this case, occasions) and come up with cards and gifts for at least two of those events.

One of the most wonderful things my family has done over the years is to donate to a charity that is near and dear to my heart in honor of this frenzy of Mom activity. I love it and I’m always touched to the point of tears when I receive a certificate celebrating their gift. That should be generous enough, right? Well, yes. Seriously, I mean it.

Except I really need a heating pad.

The thing is, I am years past the hinting stage. These days subtlety gets shoved aside for specific requests. Often a website link is even mysteriously emailed to both children and their father for guidance. Would I trust them to order the correct size and color of my next heating pad? I think not.

I’m perfectly content with receiving just one well thought out gift (that they followed my directions to order). It doesn’t have to be something for our anniversary, my birthday, and Mother’s Day… unless they really want to shower me with several items to demonstrate their adoration. I’m certainly not ungrateful enough to turn away such generosity.

I’m also not insane. If I can get away with having someone else make one breakfast and maybe one dinner during this six-day period of my self-appointed Queendom, I’ll feel like I’ve been given a golden ticket.

More often than not, having so many momentous celebrations in a short period of time can backfire. It’s like having your birthday on December 20 - chances are slim those presents are going to be doubled up. You can’t really request two big-ticket items too close together, so that means having to suggest that the family celebrates another holiday of sorts around June or July – like National Doughnut Day or Compliment Your Mirror Day.

Let’s talk about the anniversary for a moment. After 31 years we tend to wait until the last minute to choose the right card to express our feelings. In fact, as I write this column the night before our anniversary, Spouse has dragged Second Born (freshly home from college for the summer) with him in pursuit of the perfect sentiment. I didn’t even try to look clueless as they walked out the door after dinner. By the way, I was way ahead of the game… I picked up a card hours earlier.

We’re fine with not having an extravagant celebration on our anniversary. It’s fun to go out to dinner or plan some interesting outing, and we have done so on occasion over the years. There are some years, like this one for instance, where our day falls smack in the middle of a work week. Considering our weekday starts at 5 a.m., I think we’ll probably both be happy to get take-out and relax while watching NCIS.

We also don’t expect our children to necessarily kick in for this occasion – it’s ours alone, though we always do enjoy the creative messages they write on our cards.

If anyone happens to ask what I would like to do this week, I may suggest a drive for some local ice cream as part of our wild and crazy festivities. I also have my eye on some plants for the front yard, and maybe we can take a ride to the mall for some of my favorite candles. I know it sounds like I’m trying to get the most out of having thrice the reason to be spoiled, but I’m more realistic than that. It’s obviously not going to all happen at once.

I’ll save some for National Left Hander’s Day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Our reality home show

Lately Spouse and I have taken to watching so-called reality television shows that involve buying and selling (aka flipping) houses, or of homeowners who must choose between loving the improvements done on their current home or listing it and purchasing a new place that would better suit their needs.

What I want to know is how the couples that flip houses can possibly get along together during an entire renovation. Spouse and I barely get through a conversation about replacing the bathroom tiles without one of us stomping off and mumbling something about what the other can do with that tub faucet.

Another thing - how do people walk into a building and immediately envision walls moved, rooms added and a family playing Scrabble in the currently nonexistent family room? I can’t even picture what the kitchen table looks like under the junk mail. 

The series about loving the house renovations or listing it always starts the same. The homeowners offer a designer half a zillion dollars to make renovations in their home, and they hand her a to-do list. Often it will include adding at least one bathroom, expanding the kitchen and making the first floor an open concept design. 

The couple will then meet with a realtor, tell him they can spend a zillion and twenty dollars on a new home, and discuss what features they are looking for. This might include as many bathrooms as there are bedrooms, room for a man cave and a huge backyard. Most important, it would have to be a turnkey home - absolutely no improvement needed.

This is when the good spouse-bad spouse games begin. Inevitably one of the pair will announce that they have no intention of departing from their lovely, quaint home and perfect neighborhood, and are convinced it will be next to impossible for the realtor to find exactly what they need. The other half will try to logically explain why their current home will never fit their needs, even with the renovation. The challenge is on.

Of course, there has to be that moment when the contractor informs the designer about some major construction issue that will eat up close to half of their budget, thereby changing at least some of their plans from add-and-renovate to overhaul-and-repair. Mild arguments ensue between homeowners and designer, often resulting with one of the homeowners unhappy about an upgrade they had to give up just to keep something trivial like, oh, I don’t know – plumbing perhaps.

I know you’ll find this shocking, but Spouse and I don’t have a zillion dollars or even half that. We won’t be planning major home renovations any time soon, and we most likely won’t be moving to a bigger home in this lifetime. I will admit our little house does lack a few conveniences - closet space, counter space, and just plain old space. Let’s imagine how the designer and realtor would react to our reality.

The designer would ask how much money we will be investing for renovations on our home. We would give her a sincere answer. She would stare at us in shock, swipe the kitchen counter with a wet washcloth, and announce that the renovations are done.

The realtor would want to know what kind of a budget he is working with while looking for our new perfect residence. We give him a figure. An ambulance has to be called after he repeatedly smacks his head on a beam in our unfinished basement.

We realize when watching these episodes that their reality may not be ours. An episode about upgrading or selling our house would be more along the lines of “Shoveling Out the Hovel” or “The Price is Right if You Don’t Mind that Hole in the Ceiling.” Really, who needs a zillion bucks when you have your sense of humor?

Unless, of course, that’s your offer.