September 21, 2016

And Even the Trees Are Aging.

The age of the trees roughly mirrors my own.  I barely remember when my parents' house was new.  It was then the home of my Aunt Mary and her son, my cousin, Tom.  It became my home when I was in sixth grade, I suppose, partly because my parents probably got a "deal" and, I can only imagine that there was a reluctance to let it - holding all those memories - leave the family.  It was THE house.  All the aunts and cousins congregated there.

My mother immigrated from Northern Ireland to Southern California.  Could she have chosen a place that differed more from her first home?  Perhaps not, but it is where two of her siblings had gone, and she followed.  Gradually, all her siblings joined in the migration, concluding with their mother and two youngest girls.  They were six girls and a brother, Patrick (of course).  They all married in the New World and had children, "The Cousins".  Aunt Mary's marriage to a wild Irishman did not last, and her large house became the center of the world for the sisters and their kids.  One of the attractions was that Granny (their mother) lived there.  Others were the large backyard and the absence of the husband, probably.  The sisters sat comfortably around the kitchen table drinking tea and playing scrabble - cut-throat scrabble - unconcerned that "the man of the house" might come home and they would have to slink out.  It's an Irish thing.

My memories of this house involve Big Wheels, sneaking frosted animal crackers from the kitchen drawer, being chased with The Wooden Spoon, catching tiny butterflies, eating Cap'n Crunch and Quisp cereals, selling plums from the tree in the backyard.  This is not the tree that is aging, though.  The plum tree died young.

The house later became my family home and took on new memories, built around my sister and brother and growing up with our parents, high school and college, leaving and returning and leaving again.  Returning as a guest with our own children.  And always aging.  A little older each time.  My kids, me, my siblings and, especially my parents.  It's an aching pain to see your parents grow old.  The house also shows signs of aging.  Warehouse-like, it holds not just the memories of years past, but also the things of years past!  My mother is not one of those who throws out everything.  She is a sentimental saver.  It may be appropriate that my dad was a geologist, as the strata of incarnate memories have been preserved over the ages in sentimental sediment in that property!

It was this past summer - not officially over as I write - that I took notice of the aging of the house, the neighborhood, the whole area - and in particular, the trees.  The trees along the street were part of the original landscaping throughout the housing tract.  It is those trees that have been in the background of my life, but that I have never really noticed changing prior to this summer.  I made three trips "back home" to see my dad as he was hospitalized with what turned out to be his final illness.  He was looking old.  I must have been looking old, too.  He took my hand leaned in toward me and (I was expecting something poignant) asked me, "Would you dye your hair?"  !!!  He wanted me to look like me - as he remembered.  I was going for the naturally graying-and-growing-in-wisdom look.  Of course I colored my hair for him!

The trees in front of the house, in the neighborhood and all around town all showed the years with thicker trunks, rougher, more knobby bark, shaggier leaves.  They have stood  there, witnesses, aging with us, and everything else around them.
I know how you feel, trees.  Life does that to us.

September 16, 2016

It Goes Without Saying (and other superfluous and unnecessary expressions)

It goes without saying . . .
Only, it never does.  When you hear someone say this, it is always followed by the thing they claim goes without saying!  We use so many expressions that are humorously unnecessary or contradictory.  And I'm here to help you laugh about them!

One example is, "I hate to say this, but".  They don't.  They may even enjoy saying it.  What they really mean is, "You're going to hate hearing this."

Another that I find particlarly alarming is "The last thing I want to do is hurt you" (or some other undesireable result).  I wish they would also tell me the few things that come just before hurting me on their list of things they want to do, so I can know it's coming and get the heck out of there!

At least half the time people use the word "obvously," it isn't obvious.  Obviously.

"If I were you, I would . . ."  Only, really, if you were me, you'd end up just doing what I do - because you'd be me then.

"It's a small world!"  No, it's not.  Unless you're comparing it to Jupiter.

Introductions that begins with "Our speaker needs no introduction" and are then followed by one are a variation on "It goes without saying."

"As you know" is a tricky phrase ostensibly inserted into a lecture to make the speaker appear uncondescending, by assuming the audience is intelligent enough not to need the following details (that, obviously, go without saying).  In reality, it always precedes nit-picky, technical information that is foreign to everyone but specialists in an obscure field, as a condescending means of belittling the listeners because, of course, they won't know it.

I question the sincerity of friendship of people who say, "I hope this is your happiest birthday ever!".  If I were in my ninties, it might not bother me.  Aren't they giving up a bit too soon on my life's potential for happiness?  I kind of hope it'll be the best so far, with even better ones to look forward to!

Another friendship squasher is, "You look AmAzing!!!".  Why, dear friend, you sound surprised!  So, what you're really saying is that you didn't think it possible for me to look this good?  Thanks a lot.

And now that I've got you started, I'm sure you can add more in the comments for the edification and embarrassment of us all!

September 12, 2016

The Disppearing Pleasure of Anticipaiton

    I miss television.  We haven't had one in years.  But the television I miss won't be found if we get a satellite dish.  I miss old television.  I miss Thursday night Cheers, Friday night Dallas and Saturday night Love Boat and Fantasy Island.  I enjoyed looking forward to certain shows and arranging things so I would not miss them.  I didn't center my life on TV, but everyone knew that if you missed the show when it aired, you'd have to hope to see it in re-runs in the summer - and that was hit-or-miss.  Television wasn't "screen time" then; it could be a group event.  "Do you want to come over and watch Mork and Mindy?"  I have many fond memories of waking up early on a Saturday morning to watch cartoons with my sister.  We couldn't just google them on Youtube then.  We looked forward to it!  We had special junky cereal for the event!  It never occurred to me that my parents probably looked forward to it as well for their chance to sleep in.  When we couldn't watch whatever we wanted "on demand", perhaps we weren't as demanding.

    I miss film.  I don't mean watching films, I mean camera film.  Remember cameras?  Remember putting a roll of film into one?  Remember that delightful click-whir rewinding sound when you took the last shot on the roll?  Remember holding that cylinder of potential enjoyment in your fist?  A tiny time capsule!  Remember dropping off the film over a counter and the glorious anticipation of the week-long wait for the pictures to be developed and printed?  Printed!!  I often opted for week long processing even after one-hour became available.  Partly because I was a thrifty student, but mostly because I believed that one hour was too short a time to enjoy looking forward to seeing how they turned out, re-living the memories, sharing them with the people in them.  Oh, I know all the benefits of digital photography - and I find them to be largely outweighed by the drawbacks within them. Now, rather than 36 prints of an event (at most), I have 2000!  None of which will ever be printed, despite the promise of "someday I'll go through those".  So, I seldom see them.

    This love of anticipation is probably an undocumented family tradition.  My mom has been known to keep her quick-pick lottery ticket safely in her purse for days after the winning numbers have been announced just so she can enjoy the thought that she might be carrying around the winning ticket!

Image result for slow ketchup pouring image    This is not some secret knowledge.  I remember that TV commercial (remember TV commercials before you could just watch your show on Netflix or record it and skip over the commercials?  That's when we went to the kitchen for a snack!) for ketchup that used Carly Simon's song "Anticipation" just to make the point that their ketchup is so thick and slow moving that it was worth waiting for.

    Fortunately, there are still areas of life where instant gratification is does not prevail and anticipation can be fully savored.  Waiting for a baby to be born is among these great events!.  If you have ever planted a garden fresh you know the feeling of watching the fruit of your labors ripen over days, while you look forward to the moment you can sink your teeth into it!  Those who have baked bread know that yeast can not be rushed.  Nor can the baking.  You just have to wait.  Wait and inhale the growing aroma of your baking loaf of delight!  A journey's end is the culmination of the journey.  One can endure the journey as a dull and unavoidable period to be distracted away or a time to heighten the joy of arrival.  A time to anticipate the moment when you will see your loved one face-to-face.

We don't Do like they used to Do!

    The other day while I was drying my hair with a hand held hair dryer (of course), I was thinking about how many kinds of hair styling technologies are available to us today.  It's literally scads!  Beginning with the above mentioned hand held dryer and including the curling iron, the crimping iron, hot curlers, the straightening wand, and loads of other things that I never use.

I was further thinking about how, in the 1960s and early '70s, women of all ages always went out with their hair styled, up in pouffy do's that must have taken a lot of effort to achieve.  Every day!  Think of That Girl, Mrs. Cleaver, Aunt Bea, Ellie Mae, even Wilma Flintstone!  Think about your own mother (if you're my age).  They didn't even have hand held hair dryers!!!  They had to go to the Beauty Parlor and use big, hard curlers held in with Bobby pins.  They sat under a big hair dryer for forty minutes.  They had to make that last all week!  And they did.  They knew things.  They knew how to tease their hair and, well, other stuff.

Here's my lovely mother with her Easter Coiffe.  That would be me on the right.  My hair skills haven't progressed much.

And to think, with all this technology at our fingertips, most of us these days settle for something about like this.  We call that progress?