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This past week my middle school girl was in quite a pickle. An incident occured at the end of the day on Monday which left her convinced that she was going to be the laughing stock of the 7th grade. She was in tears on the way home in the car, and was miserable all night long. I was miserable right along side her.

I can remember times growing up when I did not want to go to school because I knew I’d be ridiculed. Like when I had horribly chapped lips in the 4th grade, or when I accidentaly cut my bangs ridiculously short in 10th grade. Those were days where you just kept your head down and prayed for the minutes to tick by swiftly.

My girl has some problem with bullies, and it wasn’t making facing the next school day any easier. She was sure they were going to pick on her and felt helpless and defenseless. I have to admit, I cried for her a few times that night. I woke up at 1 am and could not get back to sleep imagining the day she had ahead of her.

And that’s when I decided to arm her in order to disarm the bullies.

Who remembers the episode of the Brady Bunch with Buddy Hinton? He was picking on Cindy’s lisp and Peter stood up for her. In the end they wound up fighting it out under the advice and training of Mr. Brady. These days Mr. Brady’s advice would put my little girl in suspension, or worse, expulsion.

I had always told my girl that when a bully says something to put her down, you have to zing them right back with some clever little quip. Problem is, like George Constanza and the jerk store, she can never come up with a good comeback when the time strikes. And I knew I had a mission.

I got up early the next morning and did some research online. Seems there are entire websites devoted to snappy comebacks to bully taunts. And the consensus on many of the advice columns on how to deal with bullies suggests that zinging them back works. I had a renewed hope and enthusiastically began jotting down some of the better ones.

My favorite was “how many times do I have to flush before you go away.”

Why didn’t I know that one in high school? There were quite a few girls I would have loved to use that one on. Another good one was “If I throw a stick will you leave?” or “how many times did your parents drop you?”

But these were all a bit too much for my girl to memorize in the hour we had to get ready for school. She begged to stay home, but I knew she had to go to school – to face the music – get right back on the horse. I also pointed out to her that she might hear absolutely nothing. Sometimes when folks know you’re really bummed about something they lay off. The rest of the morning was one big pep talk for her.

I told her not to cry – not to give anyone that said something nasty to her that satisfaction. I told her not to back down, to look the antagonist in the eye and calmy say something back. If she couldn’t remember any of the zingers, just saying something like “aren’t you just so clever” or “did it take you all night to come up with that one?” would put them off their game.

On the drive to school I could see she was close to tears the whole time, and I knew I had to get her out of that mind set. So I looked at her and said, “You know what you need to do today? You need to have an ‘F-You’ day. You need to walk into that school with your head up and think ‘F-You’ to every person who passes you by. Don’t let anyone mess with you. You’re too good to be messed with, but if they do? You strap on that ‘F-You’ attitude and tell them where to go and how to get there.

I was so proud of her when she got out of the car and headed into the school building – she was being brave, facing the unknown. But I felt like we prepared her the best we could. She also knew that if things got bad, really bad, she could call us mom or dad would pick her up…and schedule a meeting with the principal.

I spent a very tense day at my desk with my cell phone by my side. At noon I took it as a good sign that I hadn’t heard from her. By 1:30 I knew we were over the hump. And when she called me after she got off the bus she said that nobody had said much of anything to her. Some girls sniggered in homeroom, but didn’t say anything to her directly.

What a relief.

But just because she didn’t need to use any of our advice that day, I don’t want her to forget them. There are a few kids in her grade that take pleasure in saying nasty things to her, and I want her to know she doesn’t have to take it lying down. I may have felt the need to arm her in the face of an onslaught, but those tools will work just as well in a smaller skirmish somewhere down the road.

She needs to remember to zing back, and maybe every now and then, to have an “F-You” kind of day.

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I keep running into trouble at King’s Dominion.

We went back this past week because my daughter’s boyfriend was visiting. After our picnic lunch at one of the parking lot pavilions, we were walking back to the park entrance when I spotted a rather choice parking space. Always looking for a parking spot upgrade, I had the kids wait in the spot until I could get my car – a mere 3 aisles over – to the open space.

As I turned into the aisle, there was a red Kia angled into the spot. I rolled down my window and shouted to the kids, “tell him I’m here!”  They just shook their heads and shrugged. So I put the car in park, walked over to his window and said, “So sorry, I’m here – the kids were holding the spot for me.”

The man behind the wheel lowered his window and said, “You can’t hold a spot.”

wpid-wap-real-housewives-of-atlanta-season-6-phaedra-i-might-have-to-kill-himHis wife, who looked just like Phaedra from Real Housewives of Atlanta, leaned over and chimed in, “Yeah, you can’t save a parking spot!”

I started to debate with them, saying something along the lines of, “come on, they’re holding it, what’s the big deal?” when I noticed another spot open up one row over. I said, “look, there’s another spot right there!”

He looks at me through half-lowered eye lids and says, “I don’t want that spot. I want this spot.”

I was looking into the face of a gutless bully – a man who was willing to angle his running car into that parking spot with the sole purpose of intimidating my kids.

For a parking spot.

And you know what? I lost it.

I began yelling LOULDY. I can’t remember it word for word – I called him a bully, and an asshole and I dropped an f-bomb.

Or two.

His wife? She went nuts. She went Hardcore Pawn apeshit on me. She was saying “Oh, no, you did not just cuss me out. Oh no you didn’t.” and she began unbuckling her seatbelt.

Ruh roh. As previous blog posts have shown, Slovie is not a fighter. Then I heard a kid say “Mom, DON’T!” Double Ruh roh – I had no idea there was a kid in the back seat – a teen, but still he shouldn’t have to listen to me swear like a sailor in the middle of a parking lot.

Not one of my best moments.

I quickly apologized, saying I didn’t realize they had a child in the car, but I was still really mad and not willing to totally back down. I knew there was no hope of getting the spot – we were at a stalemate. The driver said he had a full tank of gas and would sit there all day if he had to. His wife and son got out and walked towards the park.

I got in my car and thought I may as well find another spot – I wasn’t going to make my kids stand in a hot parking lot just to prove a point, but to the kids’ credit, they wanted to continue to block his entry until I found a new spot. They were as pissed at these people as I was.

I quickly found a spot that was also very close and returned to pick up my kids. The red Kia was in the parking spot, and the kids were sitting on the wall by the park entrance. Two security guards were waiting for me, and told me the rule was “no holding spots.”

Thank you Barney Fife. Then the guard shadowed us the entire way into the park. I have a feeling the Kia asshole was scared I was going to key his car or slash his tires and asked the guard to keep an eye on us. And as I thought about the event over the course of the day, it dawned on me why I got so angry.

Had I been driving in a parking lot looking for a spot, thought I found one, and saw people standing in it – holding the spot – I would have driven on by. I might have said “rats” or “crap” but I never, ever would entertain the idea of pulling my car in and making them move.

Why? Because that’s mean. It’s a douchebag maneuver. It’s a move that says “I deserve to get what I want regardless of the feelings of others.”

Think of all the things we do in our lives that may not strictly “follow the rules” but are still tolerated. Things like having 15 items in the 12 items or less line. Or draping your coat over a few seats at the movie theater until your family, who is in the popcorn line, shows up.

Hell, that very afternoon at King’s Dominion while waiting in line for a ride, a woman and small child excused their way close to the front of the line to meet up with the rest of their family. The child probably had to use the bathroom, and dad “held their space” in line. Were they breaking the rules? YES! But who cares? It’s a mom and her child wanting to join their family. It’s not that big of a deal that I may have to wait 3 more minutes in line!

Yet I strongly suspect that the Kia driving assholes I encountered would have blown the whistle on them. And these folks? They would make you change lines in the supermarket if you exceeded the 12 item limit. I’ll go one further. They are the type that with a full cart of groceries, would see you in line behind them with nothing more than a can of tuna and make you wait with a “sucks to be you” smirk on their face.

Because they have an inflated sense of entitlement. The world is theirs and we are just cluttering it up.

They are the unkind humankind.

And I’m glad I’m not one of them. I may not have handled this situation in the best way, but at least I’m nice to people. I hold doors, and let cars cut in front if they’re trying to make a turn on a busy street. And I always let the can of tuna guy go in front of me at the supermarket. 

But not them. They are mean. And I hope someday someone calmly tells them that they suck.

I just wish it could’ve been me.

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Last week my girls and I went to lunch at this new place in town called Zinburger. It’s a wine & burger joint, and as we were tired of turning to fast food for lunch, we thought we’d give it a try. It was a little pricey—$10 for a burger that comes with nothing more than a few pickle chips. Any sides were extra, so I could see this bill quickly adding up to be a real wallet buster.

And it was. 1 burger, a bowl of chili, an order of fries and a milkshake came to $40.00 after the tip. I am not accustomed to paying $40.00 for lunch when all I got was a bowl of chili – but, it was good. The food was all super good. My daughter’s burger was one of the best I’ve tasted in recent years, and my chili, although initially rather cold (and had to be sent back), was also very good. The milkshake? Little tiny sips of sin.

So while I worried over why I paid $40 for lunch for the rest of the afternoon, the soothing balm was that at least the food was really good, and somewhat worth the expense.

But I’m finding this to be the exception and not the rule.

Saturday while out shopping hubby decided he wanted to lunch at a local deli called Little John’s. While you can order a turkey on rye they are better known for their sandwich collaborations, my husband’s favorite being the Five Easy Pieces sandwich (ham & turkey breast with 1000 island, herb mayo, home made cole slaw, bacon and melted Muenster cheese on grilled pumpernickel).

I wasn’t too jazzed to go there. The last time I’d been they had really messed up my sandwich, and it literally left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Not only was the bread badly burned, but the sandwich, in a to-go container, became very soggy. A sandwich that is simultaneously wet and burned is disgusting. After one bite I made my husband drive me back so I could return it. But I figured anyone could have one bad day, and they deserved a second chance.

We ordered….2 sandwiches and two soup & half sandwich combos, along with 2 drinks. I got a Reuben thinking that would be pretty hard to mess up. The gal rang us up and the total? $36.78…really? For sandwiches? 

As I glanced at the menu board I realized that each sandwich cost between $7 & $8. For close to the same price Little John’s charges for their very average sized sandwich, we could have gotten giant subs at Jersey Mike’s and had leftovers. When I realize stuff like that I go crazy. But, the money was spent, so we sat down to eat.

I picked up my Reuben and tried to take a bite. The sandwich was soggy. Again. After one bite it began to fall apart. The corned beef was covered in now melted 1000 island dressing, making the sandwich slimy and extremely unappetizing. At this point I would need to eat it with a knife and fork – there was no way to handle this mess of a sandwich.

SammichI glared at hubby, sheepishly enjoying his sandwich, and said, “strike two!” He asked if I wanted them to make me a new one, and I told him to just return it – I’d rather have my $7.95 back. I was mad. I hadn’t wanted to come here, and my sandwich…my expensive sandwich…was disgusting. I went to the ladies room while hubby dealt with the manager.

I heard him talking to the guy. He told him about my previous visit and how this was strike two, but also told the guy how much he loved their food. A little good cop/bad cop. I went back to my seat and stared at the empty table in front of me. At least the iced tea was good.

But that was about it. The girls’ chicken noodle soup was horrible. It had very little broth, which we consider to be the heart of any good soup, and the noodles were thick and mushy. Nobody finished their lunch except hubby.

SoupBut I will say one good thing about Little John’s. The manager cared. Right as we were clearing up and getting ready to leave, he handed me a freshly and very carefully made Reuben. On the house.

And it was good. $7.95 good? No, but I appreciated the effort.

Will I go back? No way. Little John’s has proven to me that they don’t take the time to make a quality sandwich. They throw it together and hope you won’t notice. I expect crap like that from McDonalds…when you get a 79¢ lop-sided burger with mustard oozing out the side you think…well, it’s only a 79¢ burger. But to pay close to $8 for a sandwich that can’t withstand the first bite?

Eff that shit.

 

 

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When I think back over some of the TV I watched since I first sat in front of our old black & white Zenith on the cold linoleum floor in our family room, I realized that there are a few that had staying power. Shows that I will sit and watch, no matter how many times I’ve seen them.

Because certain shows strike a chord in us. Others? Not so much.

I can think of dozens of shows I loved while growing up that hold little to no appeal to me now. It doesn’t mean they were bad shows (well some of them were), but they were only interesting at that particular time. If they came on as re-runs on TV Land or Hallmark channel, I just wasn’t that jazzed to sit and watch them.

Bet there are certain shows that I will watch forever. Maybe not every episode…let’s face it, every show has a few dud episodes…but if I stumble across them while channel surfing, my feet and the volume are going up.

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Little House on the Praire
I love this show – have since it first began airing on Wednesday nights back in 1974. My dad and I used to watch the Waltons, so when Little House pilot movie aired, we watched it. It was along the same vein as the Waltons…good old fashioned family drama. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. Right from the first episode the rivalry between Nelly & Laura made me say “goodnight John Boy.”

For years I watched every episode. I comisserated with Laura when Mr. Applewood picked on her and made her the class example, or when she put the apples down her dress to make it look like she had boobs. I sighed when Jason wrote he loved her on the chalkboard, and when she got her first kiss from Almanzo. I cheered when she pushed Nelly down the hill in her wheelchair, and won the big race on the back of Bunny.

And it’s not just the main characters that drew me in. Mr. Edwards, Doc Baker. Mr. & Mrs. Oleson, and even Miss Beadle were part of my Little House family. Later I welcomed  the widow Schneider and the Sanderson children…I even liked the Garveys and later, Albert.

I cried when the entire town got sick with Anthrax, or when the entire town got lost in a snow storm, or when the entire town again got sick with Typhus. I cheered when the town softball team (the millers/merchants/heavenly hosts) beat Sleepy Eye, but then cried again when the blind school burnt down. You never knew what emotion you would be feeling during that hour of power on NBC.

The show lost me shortly after Almanzo and Laura got married, I have to admit. Those are my jump the shark years. Once Jason Bateman and Shannon Dougherty came on board I was pretty much boycotting the show. But I’ll watch almost every episode before that.

lucyethel_i_love_lucyI Love Lucy
This probably should have come first. I’ve been watching this show the longest, I think, and here are scenes that still make me laugh today, even though I’ve seen them hundreds of times. Lucille Ball has to be the greatest female television entertainer ever. No arguments.

Yes, there are the classics – stomping grapes, stuffing candy in her bra, getting tanked while rehearsing the Vitavetavegamin commercial. Those are all great, but there are a few that are my personal favorites.

  1. First Stop
    This is the episode where they stop at that crazy hotel on the way to California. I can watch the scene where the beds move back and forth across the room every time. And Ethel tucking Fred into bed? Freakin’ classic.
  2. The Operetta
    I can watch Lucy in a snaggle tooth ’till the end of time. Her performance as the Queen of the Gypsies is flawless. Also catch the episode where she plays the witch in Little Ricky’s play – another good snaggle toothed role.
  3. Lucy Gets a Paris Gown
    Both of the episodes where Lucy tries to get a designer gown are great – Don Loper in Hollywood and Jacques Marcel in Paris. She wore that feed bag with such grace and elegance…
  4. Ricky & Fred are TV Fans
    Lucy & Ethel are tired of being ignored while Ricky & Fred watch the fights. There is a great scene in the police station with veteran actor Frank Nelson that always kills me. That dude was in a bunch of different episodes and he’s good in every one.
  5. Anytime Lucy is In the Show
    Ricky was nuts! I’d pay to see Lucy in the show before I’d listen to one sour note from Ricky. Sally Sweet, Hiawatha, the pompous show horse? Lucy steals the show.

There are a ton more – that show was so good. But it did jump the shark. When they moved to the country I lost all interest.

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M*A*S*H
Every now and then some network will start re-running this show, and hubby and I will watch religiously.  We agree that the first few seasons were the best – the original cast our favorites by far. The episode with the incubator? That’s one of my favorites.  “Did you really yell give me an incubator or give me death?”

Or the one with Adam’s Ribs. “You sent all the way to Chicago and no coleslaw?”

Hubby thought it went down hill after Trapper and Henry left, and once Frank was gone? Fuggedaboudit.

I didn’t mind BJ or Colonel Potter at first. Giving Klinger more air-time was also a plus. I even liked Charles Emerson Winchester up to a point. But the last few seasons the jokes were forced – they came in rapid-fire succession and let’s face it…people just don’t talk like that. Plus everyone got so sanctimonious – BJ and Hawkeye were constantly on the soapbox, and if I had to hear the phrase “meatball surgery” one more time…

But gripes aside, this show gave us at least 7 good seasons and I can find quite a few must see episodes in every season, even the last few. My jump the shark moment was after Radar left, and Klinger stopped wearing dresses, and Margaret got nice.

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The Odd Couple
I miss this show. Somebody needs to put it back on. It was a family favorite, especially with my sisters. Tony Randall was the best. He delivered so many great lines – had such great expressions. And that’s not to take any credit away from Jack Klugman – as a pair they were flawless.

Favorite episodes are (of course) Password, Calypso Felix – when Felix crashes on Oscar & Nancy’s vacation, Security Arms – where the men move into a high security apartment building, Scrooge Gets an Oscar – where Felix asks Oscar to play Scrooge and the Flying Felix – where Oscar helps Felix get over his fear of flying.

“I much fear serious trouble in the fuseladge, Frederick.”

To me, this show never jumped the shark. It’s just the best. The freakin’ best.

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All in the Family
Groundbreaking. Controversial. And so incredibly funny.

There’s something about every charachter that you love – Edith’s long stories, Mike’s constant political rants, Gloria’s blind adoration of her overly political husband, and Archie. Ah, Archie. TV’s bigoted everyman in a white shirt and loafers.

But it’s not just these four – other characters they brought on – even for just one episode – were great.

  1. The Ripleys
    Edith answers the ad in the swap section – enter Rue McLanahan and Vincent Gardenia who play a couple of swingers who are interested in “switching partners, but not for dancing.”
  2. Frank & Irene Lorenzo
    Vincent Gardenia returned in later episodes as Frank Lorenzo – those are all watch worthy. Irene is great too – it’s nice to see Edith get a friend for a short while
  3. Mrs. Jefferson
    Mr. Jefferson was okay, but I like Mrs. Jefferson – she’s my favorite park of the Sammy Davis Jr. episode
  4. The Robbers
    Clevon Little and Demond Wilson play two robbers hiding out in the Bunkers house. There is so many funny things in this episode – it’s a must see.
  5. Beverly LaSalle
    Archie gives mouth to mouth to a transvestite. How great is that. Her character was wonderful – funny and warm. And I loved how they wrote in her death later on.
  6. And then there’s Maude
    While I didn’t like the spinoff Maude, I loved the episode where she was introduced. Cream of wheat with cheese…classic.

All in the Family jumped the shark when Mike & Gloria moved to California. The introduction of Daniell Brisebois (how do I remember these things?????) did little for me. I stopped watching. We won’t even mention Archie Bunker’s Place…

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The Honeymooners – Classic 39
Almost every episode in the classic 39 are priceless gems, jam packed with quotable lines. While I do love the majority of them, my favorite episodes by far are:

  1. A Woman’s Work Is Never Done
    Alice, tired of cleaning and getting zero appreciation for it, decides to go to work and get a maid. This episode is so freakin’ funny and filled with great quotable lines
    “I’m the only girl in town with an atomic kitchen – this place looks like Yucca Flats after the blast!”
    “Some guest, some employer…the simp and the blimp”
    “I dont clean up after any late night snacks, and from the looks of it this boy has plenty of late night snacks.”
    “If this is the servants quarters, I quit.”
  2. Young at Heart
    Ralph tries to prove to Alice that he can still act youthful. I love the scene when they dance “The Hucklebuck,” and the scene at the end where they are around the table reminiscing. Ralph begins to laugh for real during this scene and doubles over, gasping for breath. My favorite lines:
    “You’re a termite Ralph, stricly out of the wood”
    “I’ll kiss you later I’m eatin’ a patater”
    “How can someone so round be so square”
  3. Alice and the Blonde
    Alice & Trixie feel ignored by Ralph & Norton especially after they attentively fawn over Rita, Burt Wiedermeier’s blonde bombshell of a wife. The scene at Burt’s apartment and the following scene in the Kramden’s kitchen are fantastic tv fare. Great quotes include:
    “Leave it there the cat’ll get it”
    “A treasure? He keeps this up much longer he’s going to be a BURIED treasure.”
    “I call you “Killer” ’cause you slay me” – “And I’m calling Bellevue ’cause you’re nuts!”
    “Isn’t that a good idea, Tubby?”

You also can’t forget Ralph playing golf, wearing the man from space costume, Norton’s Captain video getup, and the Chefs of the Future. But I gotta tell you…I also enjoyed every single rant of Alice’s – they are great. Her colorful descriptions of their dreary apartment kill me everytime and I love seeing Ralph – who can be quite a bully/shithead sometimes – put soundly in his place.

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The Brady Bunch
Ok, ok, ok – stop groaning. I just can’t help it…I still love watching this show. My 12 year old breaks my chops everytime she catches me watching it, claiming it’s beyond lame. And this coming from a girl who watches Victorious…hmph. If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black.

Maybe I love it because it takes me back to cozy Friday nights in front of the television – eating rice pudding from the Pathmark and listening to my mom putting away groceries in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s because the plot lines are so positively goofy that I just never tire of them.

I mean really, what’s not to love?

  • Brushes with Greatness – Davy Jones, Desi Arnaz Junior, Joe Namath, Don Drysedale – you never knew who was going to waltz through the front (or back) door of the Brady Home.
  • A Well Travelled Family – The Brady’s got outta dodge pretty often…the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Kings Island Amusement Park…not to mention episodes involving camping, skiing, boating. The Brady’s were always on the go!
  • Tons of Guest Stars – Vincent Price, Melissa Sue Gilbert (although she wasn’t a star yet), Imogene Coca, Marion Ross, Marcia Wallace, Jim Backus, Jackie Koogan & Don Ho to name a few.
  • Alice – I loved Alice. Plain & simple.

My favorite episodes are by far the iconic ones. Marsha & Doug Simpson rank up there among the best episodes ever. Oh my nose! over and over and over again? Come, on…it’s unbeatable. The new Jan Brady is another stellar, can’t miss episode, along with the one where Peter has his personality crisis aka the famous “porkchops & applesauce” line. And my final favorite? When the Brady kids sing in the talent competition to win money to pay for the silver platter. Along with not one, but TWO classic, albeit utterly cheesy songs, I get to hear Alice say the line “Third place? What a gyp? It’s the last time I ever watch that crooked channel.”

That line had my and sisters rolling on the ground when we were kids. And it’s still chuckle-worthy to me now.

TV of Today…
I wonder what shows we watch today will have staying power for me? Some shows we watch for a year or so constantly – Like Everybody Loves Raymond, Frazier or Will & Grace. I loved those shows, but when try to sit and watch them now, I find myself switching channels during the commercial and not going back.

I know The Sopranos hit a chord with me. I will watch episodes of that on demand often enough to where I feel confident it will stay on my permanent watch list. But I wonder if shows like Modern Family, or any of the dozens of reality shows I watch will still interest me in the future. Can I see myself in 2025 settling down on my couch for a marathon viewing of Toddlers & Tiaras?

Somehow I doubt it. Housewives of New Jersey? Now maybe.

Couple-in-bedMy daughter finished her freshman year at college last week, and I for one am glad it’s over. Not only did I miss my little baby girl, but she was living in a sort of roommate hell, and I just wanted her outta there and in her own room again.

It dawned on me fairly early on that her roomies weren’t the most wholesome of girls. The Sunday after Thanksgiving we returned our girl to campus. We had to help her up to her room to drop off laundry and left overs. She opened the door and we walked in on her one roommate, clad in nothing but a bra and pants, in bed with some dude who was also topless.

Hello! Why in the world would you risk being caught like that? It’s a “no duh” that your roomie is coming home – it’s the Sunday night after Thanksgiving! We left the lights off and averted our eyes, while they jumped under the covers. We quickly dumped all of her stuff on her bed and made a bee-line for the elevator. My youngest looked at me and said, “Well, that was a little more than I wanted to see. Talk about getting an education!”

I wish that were the only instance.

My little freshman was also subject to late night invasions. She told me her roomies would often bring home groups of people, many times way after midnight, where they would play music and eat food with no regard for how it affected my daughter. Granted, half the time she was up skyping her boyfriend, but still, for her it was quiet time that was now shattered.

When we dropped her off after spring break, we walked in to find her other roommate in bed with a dude. They were asleep (or pretending to be), but again it was super uncomfortable. And that scenario was repeated when we came to start packing up her room a few weekends ago. When I asked my daughter how often this happened, she said “all the time.” She also told me they would lay in bed and make out – like hard core making out – right in front of her.

Don’t these girls have any self respect?

And then there was the Great Flatiron Episode of 2014. Not only were these girls skanks, but one of them was flat out dishonest as well.

One of her roommates used a flatiron every day. She left it plugged in and draped across the spot where the mirror was. My girl tripped on the cord and knocked it on the floor, breaking it. She calls me and tells me what happened, and asked what she should do. I said to tell her you broke it because she left it in a dangerous spot, and that you’d pay her half of what it cost. Fair n’ square, right?

She calls me a few days later in a panic. Her roommate told her the flatiron cost $200 – which meant we would have to fork over $100. My stomach hit the floor. I figured there had to be a mistake. Short of a professional hair stylist, I couldn’t see the need for any average girl to have a $200 flatiron. I told my daughter that I wanted the make and model – I had to do some research on this.

When she asked her roomie to see the model, her roomie asked for my phone number…and her mom got involved. Ruh roh.

A few days later I was on the phone with her fast talking mom who told me that she was a hair professional and her daughter needed an expensive flatiron because she was left handed and would burn herself with the average flatiron.

What? Left handed scissors? Sure. But I’m fairly certain there is no such thing as a lefty flatiron. I was getting taken.

She also told me that she had looked everywhere on line and could not find this flatiron any cheaper than the original $200 price. I’ll be the judge of that sister.

I politely told her that I needed the make and model of the flatiron. End of chat. To that she said that her daughter had the box in her closet, and that her girl would give my girl the info I needed. A few days later photos of the box were emailed to me.

In less than 10 minutes I had surmised that yes, it was indeed a $200 flatiron. But I also found it new in the box on Amazon for $42.00.

FORTY-TWO DOLLARS. $47 with tax and shipping.

Amazon was having a %75 of sale on selected items, and her flatiron was one of the items. I emailed the link to my daughter, who sent it to her roomie, who never answered the emial. So I bought it anyway. I was not going to risk this sale ending before I got an answer from her.

Once it came I gave it to my daughter to give to her roommate with a note inside saying, “sorry for the delay – just pay the $23 before the end of the year!”

Do you think we ever got paid?

Nope. And get this.

That bitch went out and bought a brand new flatiron – laid it on her bed for all to see. I got her the EXACT same iron as she had before, but I think what she really wanted was the $100.

Not from me sister. Not in this lifetime. You may have ripped me off of $23 bucks, but I stuck to my end of the bargain. I was honest and made you whole, whereas you were deceitful and mean; a scammer trying to make a buck at the expense of your roommate.

Left handed flatiron, indeed.

We are hoping for better next year. My daughter will be living with 3 new gals, but she’ll have her own room.  So if things get crazy in the kitchen or living room, she at least has a place that will be her own.

 

IMG_6295As I stood in the shower on the morning of April 28th, I was the proud owner of two beautiful kitties – brother and sister that we adopted from our local animal shelter on July 5th, 2010. Less than an hour later I’d be crying over a cardboard box holding the lifeless body of my sweet little Olive.

Olive. Otherwise known as n’Olive. That was her nickname. I’m not sure why we started adding on the hint of an “n” before her name, but we almost always called her n’Olive. Except for my husband – he called her “the grey cat” even though she was clearly brown.

Both cats had been out all night, which happens from time to time, especially when the weather gets warm. Hubby slept on the couch until the wee hours waiting to hear either of them scratching at the door, but he finally gave up and went to bed when no amount of calling brought them in. When I got up at 5 am, I opened the back door to find Dodger waiting to be let in, but no Olive.

I was worried, but not panicked – she liked to make her own entrance. I kept waiting for her tell-tale scratch at the front door, but soon it was time to get into the shower. I thought about her while I was in there – thought about how the last time she didn’t come in after an all night outing, she had come home badly hurt. That wasn’t even a year ago – just the end of last summer.

When the sun came up I walked down the driveway to make sure she wasn’t laying in the road. I’d hate for my daughter to see that. I looked up and down saw nothing crumpled on the pavement, or in the grassy ditch along the side of the road. I even looked at the road behind our house, which is tough because I have to wade through a thicket of trees with about 8 inches of leaves on the ground.

Once my youngest woke up and heard Olive was MIA we decided to go out and take another look. As I was walking up the road, I heard my daughter cry out for me. She’d found Olive.

My sweet girl was laying in a deep ditch beside the storm pipe that runs under the street from our house. She wasn’t moving. I hurried down beside her, but there was nothing to be done. She was dead.

The next hour was a bad one. My youngest dropped to her knees in the road and began sobbing. I got her up and took her back to the house where I woke up Hubby, who came out and got her out of the ditch. We placed her in a box, and I carried her to the garage. There was no way I was sending my daughter to school that day, and then I thought of what to tell my oldest daughter.

She was still at college, getting ready for finals week. Hubby suggested we keep this bad news from her so she could concentrate on finishing out her year. At first I was horrified – she had to know. Olive was her cat. They were like peas and carrots – always sleeping together. Olive would only sleep on her lap, only let her scritch behind her ears for hours on end.

But he was right. So we kept it from her for almost two weeks.

I had to work that day – Mondays are busy for me. I took my youngest into town with me where we moped our way through the day. I lost it when I told my co-workers, but had to keep my cool the remainder of the day. Can’t be answering the phone with a weepy, hitching voice.

When we got home, we found a nice spot, dug a deep hole and said goodbye to our beautiful girl. We laid her on the piece of carpet she slept on, and wrapped her in one of my oldest daughter’s baby blankets. But first we petted her. I scratched her little head, and rubbed her pretty belly and cried, and cried, and cried. We each took turns shoveling dirt on her, and then cried some more.

The next day we had some heavy rains in the area, and on the way home, hubby and my youngest stopped to watch the Rivanna River flow rapidly by. And there, hubby spotted a flat rock in the shape of a heart. It’s the centerpiece of her grave now, surrounded by pavers, flowers, and a light. I plan on making that area a garden over the course of time. Tiger lilies and pussy willows. And black eyed susans.

By the time my oldest came home from college ten days later, we had formed a bit of a scab on our hearts. But leading her to the grave when she asked where her kitty was ripped that scab off like it was attached to the band-aid. And once again we cried, and cried, and cried.

Olive was a weird kitty. Aloof and standoffish, more times than not she would arch away from you when you went to pet her. She didn’t like to be held, and was totally disinterested in her brother, who lived to torment her in his playful kitty way. But to my oldest she was something completely different. Olive would surrender totally to her – they shared a bond that no one else in the family could even come close to having with her.

Yet after her accident last year, she had begun to mellow towards the rest of us. I think she realized that we took care of her…that we loved her, and she began to reciprocate. She’d give us more tail hugs and would endure more scratches. She’d lay on the carpet and roll her belly up to be rubbed. She slept with me from time to time.

And now she’s gone. Just when she was getting good. There are things I’ll miss about that stubby little kitty.

I’ll miss her dainty little scratch at the front door. Dodger? He moves the sliding screen with his paws making a loud clanking sound. But n’Olive? She’d just give a few little scratches and wait patiently to be let in.

I’ll miss how she used to sleep on top of the hot water heater – so much so that I got a carpet remnant and cut it to fit.

I’ll miss her little legs that looked like bowling pins, and her long rabbit feet. I’ll miss how those legs used to walk on the back of mine when she was climbing into bed with me – and how much it hurt.

I’ll miss the little spot of white on her lips – it was wider when she was a kitten, but as she grew older it shrunk into a little area where it looked like she had a dab of cream on her lips.

I’ll miss how when we would come up the driveway, she’d always run to the back door by trotting along the wooden beams that line the driveway, stopping to sharpen her claws at the end.

I’ll miss how she used to sleep in the little space right next to the TV set, and how she’d cuddle up in the in-box by the computer.

I’ll miss her high pitched little meow when I would open up a can of wet food.

Ah my sweet little n’Olive. We miss you.

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vintage-teacherMy oldest daughter is in the home stretch of her freshman year. She will be home in her own room for the entire summer in 7 days – 7 short days. But first she needs to survive finals.

I found spring finals to be harder than the ones right before Christmas. Perhaps it’s because it’s not only the end of the semester, but the end of the entire school year. In addition to taking your tests and handing in final papers, you leave your room and your friends and come back to an entirely new scenario the following fall.

When I was a freshman my spring semester was a toughie. I had two classes that took up most of my time – American Art History and a basic dunce math class. By the time finals came around I was ready to throw both books into on-coming traffic on I-95.

The art history class was tough because the teacher spoke so fast. You wrote in a frenzied panic as she flipped through slide after slide. By the time the 90 minutes was over you were exhausted – and your writing hand felt like a club. Then you had to go home and make sense of the 23 pages of cat scratch you took down. Add to that the memorizing of names, dates and periods of at least 100 paintings, sculptures and architectural masterpieces.

I got a 99 on that final. The teacher actually wrote me a postcard saying she took the point off just because she hates giving 100s.

But Math? That was a totally different story. It was an idiotic freshman math class that everyone who didn’t place out had to take. And it wasn’t so much that the math was hard, it was the way they had the class set up that really messed with your brain.

The course was set up like a game of Russian roulette. There were 3 tests and a final. If you failed any one test, you failed the course. Even if you got 100s on every single test but you failed the final, you failed the course. And failure wasn’t your typical below 60 score. Anything below a 75 was considered an F. Most of the tests were 20 questions, so if my remedial math skills are correct, if you missed more than 5, you failed.

I saw kids drop like flies over the course of the semester, having been handed their “F” on one exam or another – I somehow managed to pass them all. The math final was the very last test I had to take that semester. As I solved each problem, I wrote my answers down on a sheet of scratch paper. After all the exams were handed in the professor revealed the answers on the overhead projector. This way you could know your fate without having to spend a few agonizing weeks waiting to get your results via the US postal.

As I worked my way down the sheet, I was putting an “X” next to my answers at an alarming frequency. By the time I’d gotten through checking half my test answers I’d already reached the dreaded five wrong. My stomach churned as I imagined my father’s wrath at me failing a course – a course that he’d shelled out good money for – and that I’d have to repeat.

Could I possibly have gotten the last 10 answers on my test right? There was no way…no way…wait, wait…WAIT!  As I checked my answer to question 20 and realized it, and the 9 before it, were all correct, I knew I’d passed the exam – and by the skin of my teeth. I whooped a gleeful cheer of victory, ran out of the building and drop-kicked my math book across the lawn. I stomped it and ripped pages out and made confetti and threw little tiny bits of x + y = (who gives) (a fuck) in the air over my head.

I was so incredibly relieved I almost cried. I walked back to my soon-to-be empty dorm room with the sun on my back and a smile on my face. My dad came to pick me up later that day and the ride home to Jersey was one sweet trip.

For ahead of me was a three month chill-pill. Ah, childhood summers…

Letting Go

The neighborhood we live in is not really conducive to a free-wheelin’ get out and play lifestyle for my kids. Our road is a busy one, so playing in the street is out of the question, and even taking your bike out causes me to sprout a few hundred grey hairs.

Oh yeah, you need to know that I am one nervous Nellie of a mom. And dad? He’s neurotic Nathan. We make a great team.

But, I got tired of seeing my youngest daughter just sit around the house on sunny afternoons. We are not lucky enough to have friends who live around the corner – just a younger boy who lives next door. However we do have a community park about six blocks away. Six blocks away…it might as well be six miles away. I thought back to my own childhood where at my daughter’s age I spent endless hours on my bike traveling everywhere, my parents absolutely clueless as to  my whereabouts. Ugh. Something had to change.

So, I suggested she take  her scooter and ride over to the park one day – maybe kids from school were there and she could have a little fun. At first she was like, “I don’t know,” and dad was like, “are you crazy?” But after a little cajoling, she agreed to go with the boy next door. I made her take her watch and promise to be home by (x) o’clock. As she glided off down the road, I took a deep breath and said to myself, “it’ll be okay.”

And it was. She had fun – there were tons of kids there from school and now trips to the park are a commonplace thing. She abides to her “home by” time and she’s getting fresh air and exercise. Win-win. And I’ve loosened the strings just a tad…win-win-win.

I wanted to do one better for my girl – I still felt bad that she has no friends that live nearby, so I suggested she have a movie night with the girls. She had wanted a sleepover, but the thought of 5 giggling girls in my small house for hours on end left me with little to no enthusiasm, so I suggested a long afternoon/early evening party.

She invited 5 girls, and 4 were able to come. There was the usual shy awkwardness when they first arrived…”this is my room, these are my cats, what should we do…”

But before long, they were playing music, eating snacks and dishing dirt on the kids at school. And while I thought my daughter would be awkward, she was actually the life of the party. She had these girls laughing and they were all having a really good time. And I let them do their thing. I let them order their own pizza. I let them make their own cupcakes. I retreated to the back bedroom and caught up on episodes of “Game of Thrones,” checking up on them from time to time.

And for the most part they were good – I had to step in once, though. They were all in my daughter’s room with the door closed and I heard one girl say, “let’s all take off our shirts!” Nope, not in my house ladies. My daughter, of course, was mortified that I made them all come out into the living room.

But not her friends. They loved me. I think it was because I didn’t hang over them and try to micromanage the night, And for the most part I liked the girls too. But one girl…one girl could be trouble. She was loud and cursed and talked a little too much about boys. I wasn’t sure if I was happy about Sasha being friends with her, and then I thought back to Patty.

Patty was a friend of mine in middle school. She was a tomboy to say the least – she wore only t-shirts and jeans, used foul language and smoked. Needless to say, my mother did not like her. She lived with her mom, who was divorced, in a small apartment in town. She was the only kid I knew who lived in an apartment, and one of only a few who had divorced parents.

I don’t know why we were friends – we were polar opposites. Yeah, I did some bad things with Patty, but it was petty shit – walking up to Fort Lee when I was supposed to stay in town. But once we took a bus into the city…the Bronx…to meet some dudes she and her friend Cathy knew. I spent the afternoon fending off a guy named Chucho in Fort Tryon Park while Patty and Cathy made out with their dudes du jour. I think my mom would’ve flipped her wig if she knew that.

But I didn’t let Patty influence me. I remember us hanging out at the rec center and her taking a small brown bottle out of her pocket. She opened it up, put it to her nose and inhaled. I had no clue what it was – I think she said it was speed. She coaxed me to try it, but I said “no way,” and asked her why she was bothering with that shit. Between that and the Bronx incident, we didn’t remain close friends throughout high school.

In the end, my mom had little to worry about because she raised me right. And I remembered this as I spied the girl with the foul mouth who had suggested going shirtless. I hope I raised my girl to do the same. But I worry – I think she could be a follower…

After the party I sat her down, told her about Patty and how I thought her one friend could be what moms would call “a bad influence.” She readily agreed with me – at least she knows to watch out for her. And me? Now I’ve got a Patty to deal with.

Just like my mom.

Bad-Roads

Let me start this post by saying I like snow. I enjoy the prospect of a storm blowing in, and me all safe and snug at home, with enough bread, milk and wine. I even like to shovel, and am usually out clearing our driveway before the flakes have stopped wafting to the ground.

Wednesday I had to endure one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. Bad timing coupled with bad weather had me at the mercy of mother nature and perhaps even fate – it was 3+ hours of sheer torture.

I knew a bad storm was coming in, but it wasn’t supposed to start until the evening – 5 or 6 pm. I get out of work at 6, but there was no way I was staying that late with the forecast they were predicting. Usually you can waive a dismissive hand at our weather folk, but this was different. Even the weather channel was on board with the predictions, so I worked through lunch and left at 5.

By then the snow had just started in town. Hubby had called and said snow at home had started a half an hour earlier. I wasn’t worried…it’s only a 25 minute commute and I was confident that I could get home with no trouble. After all, the snow had just started!

There was some traffic getting out of town, which was to be expected, and before long I was on the long and winding way home. When I was around 3 miles from pulling into my driveway traffic came to a dead halt. I was right at the base of a long and fairly steep hill that I have to travel up in order to make it home. I turned on the radio and discovered that there was an accident about a mile up the road and both lanes were closed.

Now I had to make a decision…stay here and wait or turn around and find another way home. At this point reader, you need to understand something – there are only 2 or 3 ways to get to my development, buried deep in the sticks of central Virginia. Making the decision to turn around meant traveling 5-8 miles just to get to the closest cross road that I could turn onto.

But, I figured that if I waited where I was, the snow (which was getting heavier and sticking) might make getting my car up that steep hill impossible. Besides, I had no water and I knew I’d have to pee within the next hour or so. That being said, I turned my car around and made the slow drive back, all the while figuring which way I should take.

The first route I took was a huge waste of time. I didn’t get more than 1/4 mile down the road before I was told the road up ahead was closed and we all had to turn around. When I got back to the crossroads I skidded on the snow and almost crashed into another car. My heart was pounding,  my knees were shaking, and I just wanted to go home.

The next road I took taxed me to my very core. On a sunny day this road is a pain in the ass…windy as hell…the girls always get carsick on it unless I travel at 20 mph or so. But, this road is the quickest way to get to where I needed to go, so I took it.

I was only driving at around 6 mph down steep hills and twisty turns. At one point I had to drive up a fairly steep S-curve. Letting the car just roll, and barely giving it any gas, I fish-tailed my way up that hill very slowly the whole while chanting “help me God, help me God, help me God.” When I made it to the top without landing in a ditch or hitting another car, I breathed an audible sigh of relief. It was mostly down hill from here.

As I was heading down the next hill at a record speed of 4 mph, a car in the opposite direction came zipping up the road, went to make the turn and ran straight into a rather deep ditch. Although I’m sure the driver turned their wheels, the car just didn’t respond on the slick roads and just rolled right off the road. The car was now at a 30 degree angle, half of it on the road, half of it in the ditch. I thought to myself,  that person is totally fucked – and that could be me very easily if I’m not super careful.

As if just driving wasn’t tense enough, my windshield wipers decided to start icing up at this point. I had the defroster blasted so hot and hard that I was sweating bullets all bundled up in my coat, but it was no match for the weather outside. Rather than wiping the snow off my windshield, my wipers were just smearing the snow and ice – I had about a 2 inch field of semi-clear vision.

Finally I made it to the next crossroad, which thankfully had a gas station. I got out to go inside and my legs were actually wobbly. The past hour and half of driving in the snow in beyond shitty conditions had exhausted me. I went to the bathroom, bought a couple of waters, called hubby and got back in the car to make my 3rd attempt at getting home.

I began to get hopeful…If I took it slow, driving wasn’t really that bad along roads that were fairly straight. I made the turn that takes me to my development and about a mile down the road, more tail lights. Hells bells, not again. One call to hubby confirmed it. There was an accident at least 7 miles up the road – all these people were just sitting there – along 7 miles of road just waiting for it to be cleared. So, once again, I turned around.

My only option at this point was to get on the highway and head East. This would take me past my house, but bring me to a pretty major intersection where there was a hotel, a Walmart and a few fast food joints. The highway was pretty good if you went slow. I don’t think I broke the 25 mph mark, but folks in 4 wheel drive vehicles were zipping past me. I also saw at least 4 cars off the shoulder with their 4 ways blinking. Again, I thought to myself, slow and steady and super careful. I was determined not to be a VDOT statistic.

25 minutes later I made it to Zion Crossroads and  headed straight for the Best Western. In the lobby I called hubby and asked if I should just get a room. It’s stupid because I was only 15 minutes from home now (in good traveling weather) but it would probably take me at least another hour of driving to get  home and I just didn’t think I had the strength. I had left my office two and a half hours before, and had been driving in blinding snow ever since. I was done.

As luck would have it, she had one room left and I took it. But before I went up, I got back in my car and drove across the road to the Walmart where I picked up some food, a toothbrush and a night gown. By the time I got back and in my room (thanks to a ridiculously slow cashier) it was 8:30. I called my family who were relieved that I was safe for the night, but bummed that I was not home.

They weren’t the only ones. But before I went to bed that night, I took a moment to thank God for getting me somewhere safe and warm for the night. I could have easily been in my car in a ditch, spending the night rationing my water and peeing in a snow drift. I decided I was one lucky gal.

The next morning I awoke with a sense of dread. One look out the window made me realize my morning drive home wasn’t going to be fun. About a foot of snow had fallen, but on the bright side the roads I was taking home were primary roads, and had most likely been plowed. After breakfast I dug out the foot high snow drift from around my car, cleared off the ice with the side of a ball point pen, and began my drive home.

The road from the hotel to the main road was horrible, and filled me with a sense of dread. But once I reached the main road I saw blacktop and my spirits lifted. This might not be so bad.

And it wasn’t. It was slow going, that’s for sure, but the roads were drivable if you were careful. The one part of my drive I was dreading the most was getting into the gate of my development. The one closest to my house is up a pretty steep hill. There were abandoned cars piled up at the base of the gate – they obviously couldn’t get up the hill and opted to leave their cars and walk home.

I made it up the hill fine, but got stuck at the top in a huge pile of slushy snow that the plow failed to remove. Ugh. Here I was a  mile from home and I finally got stuck. But not for long. Two very nice fellas came to my rescue and helped push my car out of the slush. Hooray! I was almost home!

When I reached my house hubby was there and had shoveled out a nice spot for me at the base of the driveway. I was never so happy to pull into that narrow driveway – I’d finally made it home.

After many hugs, and a hot cup of tea I took a much needed shower, put on some sweatpants and just flopped on the couch. It had been a long night and a long morning. Even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, I felt like it should be noon.

Do you know I fell asleep before 8:00 that night? I guess my body needed the rest.

I’ve come to a conclusion…I’m never taking a chance when it comes to the weather again. If my boss doesn’t like me leaving early…fire me. I don’t ever want to go through that again. Ever. Especially since I have the capacity to work fully from home. The only task I can’t do remotely is answer the phone…but really, who’s going to be calling during a blizzard?

Nope… from now on if they’re calling for bad weather I’ll just tap my snow boots together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.”

CarolI’m not sure how this post is going to turn out. Being an amateur writer makes it tough to tackle certain topics. It may be why I shy away from some of the larger, more personal topics of my life because I figure there’s no way I can tell the story and do it justice. But I’m going to take a stab at it for the sake of Aunt Carol, who was one of my favorite people on this earth for most of my young life.

It may be a bore for the average reader. So be it. But she was a huge part of my life, and it’s a story I’ve got to tell.

Aunt Carol was the youngest sister of my mother, and she lived with us when I was very young. She occupied the small bedroom next to ours; the one that would eventually become my sister Wendy’s room, until she moved into her own apartment when I was around 8 or so.

Those early memories are vague ones for me. I remember her expertly setting our hair in pin-curls, a jar of Dippity Doo on the table. I remember her friend Gail, who lived down the street, and would come and visit with her boyfriend Benny. But my real memories of Aunt Carol were after she moved into her own place. I would sleep over her apartment every chance I got, because hanging out with Aunt Carol was just fun.

Maybe it was because she had the heart and soul of a child. She had been in a special school before she came to live with us. That’s all I knew. I’m sure there was some clinical diagnosis to describe her mental or intellectual abilities, but as a youngster, I didn’t know what it was. Parents didn’t share information like that freely, and if they had sat me down to explain it, I forgot or didn’t care. She was just Aunt Carol – simple and sweet – and I loved her.

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The street where Aunt Carol lived

For the next few years, Aunt Carol lived in a series of apartments that were all on the same street about 5 minutes from our house. I know she spent some time in the large apartment building in the background – on the 2nd or 3rd floor. But the times I remember most was when she lived in one of the smaller two story apartments in the foreground.

Her apartment was on the bottom floor, and there was a little back door that lead into the alley behind. She actually had a small patch of dirt surrounded by a wire fence back there – a sort of small garden. Weekends spent here were blissful for me because I got to do stuff that I could never do at home.

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Not the actual Lady – but she pretty much looked like this adorable pooch

For one, Aunt Carol had a dog named Lady. Lady was a of a terrier breed – bigger than a Jack Russel, but not so large that she was difficult for a child to manage. My job when I went visiting at Aunt Carol’s was to walk Lady, and boy did I love that job. I’d walk around and around the block, feeling so cool because I had a dog. We were cat people…

Oh, I loved Lady. She was so sweet and well tempered – always happy to see you, tail wagging, waiting patiently to be scratched and petted. She never bit or growled at me, and she was a wonderful companion for Aunt Carol.

Nights at Aunt Carol’s were spent visiting friends of hers in the neighborhood, or watching television – Saturday nights had a great lineup back then; All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett. By 11 pm I was droopy-eyed, and we’d climb into her very high double bed. The next morning we’d walk to the little diner on Broad Avenue and eat fried egg sandwiches.

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The lovely bride and Pop – nice ‘stache…

Then Aunt Carol got married to Uncle Joe, a Filipino dude who made excellent fried rice. I remember the wedding; it was held at our house, and my sisters and I were flower girls. After the wedding, sleeping over at Aunt Carol’s didn’t change much at first. Joe was a custodian in New York City, and worked nights a lot, so it was just Carol and I at her apartment. Then there was the incident.

One night after I was asleep on the little daybed they had in the room off the kitchen, Joe came home pretty drunk. It was a fight between him and Carl that woke me up. Joe had brought home a large metal desk – a cast off from one of the office buildings he cleaned. Carol exclaimed that it was too big to fit in their small apartment. There was some arguing, and then I heard a drawer open and the noisy rattle of cutlery. It got very quiet for a few seconds, and then Carol said, “Are you going to kill me with that knife, Joe?”

I froze. Right then I wished I was anywhere than where I was. I’m not sure Joe was aware that I was “sleeping” just feet away, and I was glad of that. My 10 year old brain ran a few quick escape plans…if I heard screaming, I’d bolt for the front door and run upstairs to Carol’s friend’s apartment.

But there was no scream. Instead, Joe muttered something, threw the knife in the sink, and went back out into the night. Aunt Carol came to check on me, and we sat and talked. She asked me not to tell my parents about this. They would only worry about her, and probably wouldn’t let me stay with her any longer. I figured she was right, and I never told anyone in my family until years and years later. However, I was never comfortable around Uncle Joe again. I didn’t even like him after that, and would only stay with Aunt Carol if I knew he wasn’t going to be around.

But Joe didn’t last long anyway. I don’t think they ever got divorced, but he stopped coming home after a while. I wasn’t sorry to see him go.

And then Aunt Carol moved. At first it was a huge disappointment for me, because she moved much further away. Rather than living a mere 5 minutes away, she was now a 20-30 minute drive from our house. She also began taking care of my grandfather who had suffered a stroke, which left one side of his body paralyzed. That might be why she moved; I think she needed a bigger apartment with a spare room for grandpa to stay in.

I never really knew my mother’s parents. They lived in Lockport, New York, which is way out there – near Niagra Falls. They only came down to visit it once or twice a year. My maternal grandparents held a sort of mystique for me. I’d heard tales of my grandfather’s musical abilities both on guitar and banjo, and my grandmother had played the drums. My grandfather had also worked for a candy company, and when he came to visit, he brought us mass quantities of candy coated peanuts, and Ford gum – that square, colorful gum found in the penny gumball machines.

I got to know him better during that time he lived with Aunt Carol, but I don’t think it was him at his best. He was cranky a lot of the time – frustrated that his body wouldn’t function properly after the stroke. I remember him pounding his bad arm with his good one, cursing bitterly. I always tried to cheer him up when he was in those moods, but sometimes he didn’t want to be cheered up.  That’s when I’d go out and play.

One of the good things about Aunt Carol’s move to the new apartment was the kids. There were a ton of kids to play with – her apartment was part of group of buildings that took up the whole block. I became friends with a particular group of kids who were always excited to see me when I came to visit. We’d run in and out of each others apartments, play tag, hide and seek, and kickball from sun up to sun down. Nights were spent hanging out with Aunt Carol, listening to ABBA albums, and watching bad Saturday night movies on TV. Those were some of the best Aunt Carol years for me.

But, I was growing up. By the time I was in middle school and then high school my weekends at Aunt Carol’s grew less frequent. We had her over our house every holiday, and once I began to drive, I’d head out to see her as often as I could, and spend the afternoon with her. My grandfather had died some years before, and with the exception of her friends in the apartment complex, Aunt Carol was pretty much alone.

By the time I was finishing college, Aunt Carol had moved back to her old neighborhood that was near our home. She had a job working in the store around the corner, had a new little group of friends, and seemed to be happy. I remember one time when my dad came to pick me up from at the University of Delaware, he brought Aunt Carol along for the ride. She seemed so happy to make the trip, even though it was just a boring 2 hour drive down the turnpike, and then back up again. We filled the trip back to Jersey talking and singing along with the radio. It’s one of my last good memories of her.

I don’t remember the exact year – you’d think I would – but I’m going to guess 1987. I had come home from work in a sour mood. It was my birthday, December 1st, and the day had not gone well. I stomped into my house yelling, “Don’t even bother to wish me a happy birthday, because I have had one crappy day.”

My family was sitting in the living room, somber looks on their faces. Something was very wrong. “We’re so sorry to tell you this today Tracy, but Aunt Carol is gone.”

My favorite aunt, dead. On my birthday. She’d died alone of a heart attack in her apartment. When she didn’t show up for work, her boss went to her home and found her. That bothered me the most. I wished there had been someone there with her.

Her funeral was a nightmare for me. I could not make myself go up to her casket. I figured if I never went up and actually looked at her face, I could make believe that it was all a mistake – some hideous misunderstanding. But, my friends dragged me up there – said I had to go for my own sanity, and out of respect for my Aunt. Oh, and I lost it. Big time.

I wasn’t the only one. Dad had managed to track down old Uncle Joe, and when he approached the casket, he began to weep and wail loudly. He stroked Aunt Carol’s face, and tried to lay down beside her – my dad had to pull him away. Guilt can do strange things to a person.

Holidays weren’t the same for quite a while after that. Each Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, I’d expect to see Aunt Carol at the end of the table, eating a turkey leg or slices of ham, happy to be a part of the family, and catching up on the lives of her nieces and nephew. I still miss her.

She was like no one I’d ever known…sweet, loving and generous, always looking at the bright side. Anything and everything made her happy, and in turn, it made you happy just to be around her. I’m so thankful for the time I spent with her. I hope she knows how much I love her.

Carol & Me

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