Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Punch Buggie No Punch Backs


How many times have you heard that in your lifetime? How many times have you said it?

I think I spent at least a decade pummeling my poor brother's arms during long rides in our family car. I still do it it to my kids - if I can get to them before they get to each other. Or to me. Only now, my daughter says, "punch buggie no punch backs". What is that? I think it originated with her best friend, who has two sisters. There is always threat of retaliation when you are smacking people on either side of you in a minivan.

I grew up in a house, which sat across the street from a field. This was the most awesome of things for a kid to have in front of their home: We made bike ramps, staged photo shoots and created an extremely unsafe tree house: It included a chaise lounge strapped to a branch with fishing line.

The problem was the traffic between home and the field. We lived on an impossibly busy street, where VW beetles sped by in abundance - my neighbors and I spent a great deal of time punching each other.

Some time between childhood and my teen years, I decided that being so thorough in my search for Slugbug victims was passe, which is a good thing, since my high school sweetheart drove a root beer brown, 1969 Volkswagon Beetle. I continue to be fascinated by this car, even though it is long gone. The sweetheart is still around. I once saw him fix a broken part on that car, with a rubber band. I'm not talking about using a scrunchie to keep the glove box closed. I mean a part under the hood. Like, a piece of the engine. With a rubber band. He was just like MacGyver - minus the mullet.

In addition to driving around town to catch concerts, eat at Carl's Jr. and hang out at Tower Records, the brown bug took a few trips through our field: Bouncing along molehills and skidding around corners, sending up a wall of dust. Whenever the car hit a bump, it would "catch air" and fly for a moment. It made my heart skip, watching my man hotdogging it around: Did you like that? I just had a birthday and I feel really, really old - so I thought I'd use the word "hotdogging".

There was one thing better than our deserted field and all the fun we had in it. Two words:


I guess those are numbers.

On the other side of the field was a 7-11 and it was a place that we loved to frequent with regularity. I probably bought enough Tootsie Pops there to fill an Easter basket for every child in Rhode Island. We also used to buy Pop Rocks and Jolt Cola. I always though Pop Rocks were a little creepy - they made it feel like something was crawling around in your mouth. But that Jolt... Sometimes I wish I had a twelve pack in my fridge. When the kids have been up in the middle of the night and it feels like I got around six minutes of sleep, Jolt sometimes comes to mind. I know, I know: Red Bull is what us grown-ups are supposed to drink. But Jolt actually tasted good and how can you resist a beverage with "all the sugar, twice the caffeine" for a slogan? I wonder how those poor teachers got through their mornings, with students imbibing crack-like, carbonated liquid sugar for breakfast? They were probably drinking it, too...

I used to be able to talk superfastlikethis, after downing a couple of cans.

If my mother realized that she was missing an ingredient while cooking dinner, she would just send me to my favorite purveyor of sugary goodness. I'd pick up a jar of mustard. And some Laffy Taffy. And some Hot Tamales. And Fun Dip.

The 7-11 is still there, but you can't get to it easily from my parent's house, anymore. In the 1990's the field was scooped up and turned into part of the highway. Up went the sound proof walls and now it would take more time to hike to your Slurpee than it would be worth.

It was fun, while it lasted...

October, 1985

Yesterday I went to seven eleven to get hot-dog-buns for my mom (really exciting, haw!) Well on tuesday, it seemed like my house was haunted. we go to the front door and you can hear the television, when I opened the door I saw a flash and it was off. we herd footsteps and someone sliding on the loose carpet in the hall so we ran out to Erica's house. We got to her house and we played soccer...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Times They are A-changin'...

Everything changes. Nothing stays the same.

With my birthday looming, I find my brain spinning like a calendar Rolodex. All day long. I have flashbacks of my childhood and sometimes I find recollections that I didn’t realize were there. For example, just this morning I rediscovered a memory of trying to convince the girl down the street to give me one of the french fries that she was hiding in a miniature tin lunchbox. It was almost dark outside and I was wearing a yellow bathing suit.

I was fifteen.

Oh, come on – did you really believe that? In reality, I was probably around four. I can’t remember why I was allowed to wander around the neighborhood in a bathing suit at dusk, begging for fries – but then again, this was still the 70’s; a decade where the local high school most likely had a smoking section, your mom probably drank/ate Tab all day and Jovan Musk was considered a fancy perfume. Those pesky seatbelt laws hadn't been invented, yet: One of my favorite childhood memories is playing with my Barbies in the front seat of my mother’s green Pinto. That is, I was sitting down on the floorboards with Barbie on the seat – while Mom was driving.

I found my first grade teacher on Facebook, last year. It was one of the most fantastic things imaginable, to be able to write to her and tell her what an impact she has had on my life. To tell her that I appreciate the educator that she had been - so patient and encouraging. She allowed me to write dozens of “books”. I even wrote one that starred her husband. He sent a small white seal sculpture to class with her, as a “thank you”. I keep it where I can see it every day. It has kept me writing something – anything, for almost 30 years.

I can't believe that I am able to say that I have been doing something for almost 30 years.

I remember a clown cup that I used to have at my grandmother’s house, when I was a toddler. It had a red Kool-Aid stain around the lip of it. I wonder if she still has that cup?

I remember seeing my husband for the first time. It was months before we met and more than a year before we began dating. But I remember. I was almost 16.

I used to hero worship a Shakespearean actor who lead some study sessions, in which I was a student. He had this unearthly power to morph into other characters. He didn't seem like a performer to me, more like a shapeshifter. He could turn himself into any gender, object, animal - you name it. You would really, truly believe that he was the being which he was portraying. I mustered enough courage to walk up to him and say, "someday, I hope I can be just like you."

He looked at me for an hour-long moment and then replied, "someday, I hope you can be just like you." He died, not long after he said that to me: It is some of the wisest advice that I've ever been given.

I'm still trying, my friend.

Even Ten Year Old Me knew that things, they are always a-changin'.

May, 1986

Everybody has changed, I don't know how though, because they are so weird everyone says all you should ever do is run around and chase boys, Me, R, B, D, and C don't think so. they asked me if I liked the Library. I said yes because I can write stories, draw, do home work, write poems and read, and "they" started gasping and saying, "oh, my gosh, she likes the library!" like they were going to die or something! and R started to cry in the library because V said she doesn't like her, and they had been best friends the whole school year so far! MAN! What is wrong with these people? I am going to try and find out! Man!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Despicable Me

For some unfathomable reason, I continuously try to kill my best friend's family.

When our first children were months old, I convinced her to give her child a teething biscuit. She and her husband explained that this particular baby hadn't really tried eating, well, food yet and they were afraid that she might choke on it. Since I had been shoving teething biscuits down my baby's throat for a while, I convinced them that it was safe and they should give it a try. Just a little peer pressure between pals.

We were at Chevy's having probably the first night out at a restaurant since we gave birth and the little girls were firmly buckled into highchairs. My own darling angel had a slimy biscuit in her fist and alternated between gumming it and painting the table with it. Don't worry, I was a typical paranoid first time mommer: I had one of those strange-but-oh-so-practical peel 'n' stick place mats glued to the horrible, parasite ridden, unsanitary, Malaria/SARS infested public table. *Wink*

My friend unwrapped the biscuit and slowly, tentatively handed it to her child. The baby grabbed it and started sucking away. We all waited with baited breath and after a few seconds, all present sighed with relief and began to peruse the menu.

Somewhere between filling up on tortilla chips and dinner delivery, we heard a gagging cough.

I have never -before or since- seen a woman move as fast as my BFF jumped out of her seat. She wasted no time unbuckling her child - she was suddenly superhuman: She lifted the entire high chair up over her head and turned it upside down. Every adult at the table stood in panic, but by the time we reached our feet, a little chunk of slimy teething biscuit bounced across the floor.

That was the first of many attempts that I have made to eradicate her family.

This past weekend, my dark side resurfaced and I tried again.

We decided to join our two families for a camping trip. Now they have three children, instead of only one (so many more opportunities for my endeavor!). This was their first time camping since becoming a family unit, so I was trying to give helpful information along the way, like: Don't bring any blankets. I told her, "It is supposed to be really, really hot all weekend and blankets take up so much room!"

That first night was so cold that I only just started regaining the feeling in my pinkies and thumbs.

The adults hobbled around for the duration of the trip: Joints destroyed by the freezing temperatures, because we had been sleeping without any blankets. My latest attempt was an abysmal failure. They are all still with us for the time being: Adorable children and very forgiving adults. The Husbands left the campsite early on Sunday to find the closest Walmart, so that they could buy thermals and beanies for the whole group. My own husband returned with a bedspread.

They are safe... for now. I wonder what my next attempt shall be?

I've camped with this friend since we were children. I don't remember trying to end her life back then.

April, 1986

We went on the camping trip, it was fun, I got to be E's partner, we hooked our tent to K and S's tent, I got home yesterday, my brother is a meany, he always messes up our room and I have to clean it up! Oh, well! I learned how to draw different animals I love. I get to be on cafeteria now, I quit babysitting! Craig took my place. They don't like him at all! J got hit by a car, or so they are saying, and the same with C, that is weird two people in the same month! I don't believe it I just don't think C got ran over, because he came to school three days after they were saying he had a broken arm, he had no cast on though! Z got the chicken pox, T got something like pnemonia, gosh pretty soon we won't have anyone in our class, D, J, T, and Z are all gone! I guess it's a bad month! Oh well, time to stop! Bye!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Tale of the Sinister Spine

There are many things for which I am homesick:

The sound of my boyfriend's red bass guitar mingled with the scent of black leather motorcycle jacket.

The feel of my grandfather's small, strong arm over my shoulder - it's silver, wiry hairs tickling against my neck.

The way the Night Jasmine filled up the air on warm nights at our old house.

The sensation of the giant, yellow plastic slide at the County Fair beneath my seven- year- old tush.

My old back.

Although I know that my two surgeries were imperative, I miss how my old back felt. I'm not talking about the back that was broken and masquerading as the spine of an 80+ year-old retired dock worker/weight trainer who never learned how to lift with his legs. I'm talking about the back that allowed me to hula hoop and do a triple time step - without wondering if I am going to be eating Motrin for breakfast, in the morning.

Enter the Sinister Spine.

My doctor thought that I had a blood clot, when I was really having a sciatic attack. I had to arrange for someone to pick my kids up from school and my husband rushed from work to meet me at the hospital. Suffice to say, they did not find anything wonky in my leg. Two months later, I had my first back surgery. Two months after that, the second. I now tell my children that I am Human Cyborg Relations. The Bionic Woman. My back is made up of more metal than the average person. Less than some. Actually, it's titanium. That just means that the airport alarms won't sound when I go through metal detectors and I can get into theme parks without too much trouble.

Sometimes, I think that it makes me sort of special. After all, there is a huge percentage of Americans who don't have a big titanium cage around their spine. Other times, I am a tad bitter that I will forever hate stormy days. Rainy days wreak havoc in people who have implants. There is a constant ache, which sets it's bags at the foot of the bed in your spare room. It doesn't leave until well after Spring comes to visit. I used to love stormy days. El Nino '97 was my finest Winter. I would sit at the window and marvel at nature's fury. These days, I limp around until the cold weather bothers the other side of the world for awhile. Winter is the pest of pests: It teases and annoys - like a particularly impish sibling.

How I wish I could touch my palms to the firm ground again, without bending my knees. Or run for an hour. Or play soccer like I did, in the fifth grade... Which was not very well.

May 14th, 1986

My favorite is soccer, we haven't won a game yet, but today I hope we do, mabe it will be good luck because it is E's birthday! Well, we are playing the Blasters at Los-Poseos school and I sure hope we win! If we don't I will be mad! E says it will be bad luck that today is her Birthday because her grandma died on her birthday, but I don't think so! Oh, well! May 14, 1986 is a good day for me, so far!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Here Comes the Judge

Sometimes I just feel like suing people.

I used to watch those court TV shows (OK, I still do) where Judge Wapner or Judge Judy listen to people who have filed lawsuits because their hair broke off after a dye job or because the cobbler nailed the wrong heel to their boot. I have always been fascinated by human behavior and it's amazing how many reasons there are to sue another person.

I wanted to sue FedEx, just last week: I had put in an order on the previous Thursday, assured that I could pick it up the following morning. Friday morning - order not ready. Ugh! I told them I'd return on Monday. Monday morning - still not ready! I had told the Kindergarten teacher that her little green notepads, with self portraits of her students around the border would be in her hands before the last week of school! I called to complain and was told that someone would return my call. No one ever returned my call. However, the box of notepads magically arrived in the school office, by Wednesday afternoon - which is good, because I was ready to sue everyone in the Mountain View FedEx office.

Last Fall, I wanted to sue our gardeners because they put in these horrible, huge bushes. When they flower, they look like Cheeto plants. I'm not kidding, these plants look like they are growing Cheetos. You could probably arrange the flowers in a bowl and someone would try to eat them.
Who wants Cheetos lining their sidewalks? Not me! I am increasingly annoyed, every time I drive by the darned things. If I wasn't so busy packing snacks and lunches, pulling rocks and other various gross things out of tiny jean pockets and explaining why it isn't a good idea to add Benadryl to a "magic potion", I may have taken them to court.

One time, I wanted to sue myself. I was carrying a bridal shower cake up to it's destination and somehow managed to poke my pointer finger through the front of it. It was particularly awful, because the cake was shaped like a bride. There was a doll shoved into a round, skirt-like cake. And now the skirt had a ginormous hole through the front of it. Everyone was angry, but I could not stop laughing. This just stressed them all out - which made me laugh harder. I was disappointed in my own behavior, because I caused a dream to be dashed. The dream of a perfect bridal cake. I was lucky that I didn't have a lawyer.

November, 1985

People sue people for doing bad things, they take them to court, and the judge decides, who will win. I really don't know much about suing, but I know a little, I watch, peoples court, divorce court, I have seen people get sued, and have to pay an amount of money. I really don't know much, though. I wouldn't want to get sued though, I would have to drag myself to court and dig out of my pocket two thousand dollars, just to pay for repairs. I wonder what people do. what if I couldn't afford it? What a shame. I think suing is sort of silly! I would hate to see two adults fighting over such silliness, maybe it isn't so silly, sometimes it is serious.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jazz Hands PLEASE!

The year after I graduated from college, I was head of the Drama Department at a local middle school. I didn't have a teaching credential, but the district was desperate - so they issued me a an emergency credential. A few days later I was the head of a department, teaching at a school where there were two full time security guards walking the halls, waiting to be called by walkie talkie into a classroom for any sort of altercation. There were plenty of altercations: The day after the Columbine incident, a confused sixth grader brought a butcher knife into my classroom and I had to call those very security guards.

It was an interesting year. Since I was now a teacher, I thought it was my duty to buy jumpers and button up shirts at the Disney Store. I wore a plaid Tigger jumper on the first day, then I burned all of my new clothes when I got home. Just kidding, I didn't burn them: But I never wore them again. This was a school full of kids who were really just trying to survive. The kind of kids who do not wear Minnie Mouse on their collar. The kind of kids who really need a theater program.

It was a little tricky: When your seventh grade sound tech is supposed to run all the sound effects and music cues from the booth and he doesn't show up for the performance, because the county has decided that he needs to meet his two year old daughter - it causes problems. It's also a complicated thing, getting mini- gangsters- in- training to sing "Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious" and wave their fingers around doing jazz hands, at the same time. Apparently, that's not a terribly cool thing to do in front of the rest of the school...

However, there was one event which changed my life forever. It made me look at Performing Arts and teaching in a way that made me forget that I had ever longed to move to New York and live in a tiny apartment, eating noodles and auditioning for Broadway productions.

There was a girl in my class, who obviously did not want to be there: She sat in the back row, arms crossed, every day. She wouldn't cause any problems, really, she just never participated in any of the activities or assignments. This Girl just...sat. So, although I found myself constantly warning my students to stop using the "F word" and telling them not to show the class which kind of underwear they had chosen that day and for goodness sakes, please stop pelvic thrusting at the costume mannequin: This Girl was the only one who was going to fail Beginning Drama.

I requested that stay after class and asked her what her problem was (hopefully I asked in a kind, professional manner, but I was pretty exasperated at this point). She shrugged. I told her that she had better memorize a monologue for our final project and perform it for the class, or she was going to fail the course. She shrugged, again.

This Girl showed up for the final and was the last to take the stage. She did her monologue in a tiny whisper of a voice. She did not look up. Her hands were clenched into little balls the entire time. But, she did it. I congratulated her and excused the class for summer vacation.

When the final bell rang, two of the special education teachers came into my little blackbox theater classroom.

They explained that This Girl was a selective mute. She did not speak to anyone - not even her parents. Her first spoken words in years were on that stage in front of over 30 of her peers.

I've witnessed some genuine miracles, with the help of Theater. I've spent many years writing, directing and producing plays. I paid for my Theater Arts degree with the help of my husband, but a lot of my bills were paid with professional acting, directing and theater teaching jobs. Through all of my experiences, I have learned that Theater is magic: It really is.

That has been something that I've always known...

October, 1985

I will go to Drama class on thursday. We are learning how to do commercials. We are doing Hershey’s syrup commercial. I can do it now! I memorized it already, this is it:

For really delicious chocolate milk I follow an old family recipe, hershey’s choclate and milk, that’s recipe. Just squeeze that good old fashioned hershey’s syrup into a big glass of milk and drink up! Hershey’s has been this thick, rich, chocolate flavored syrup for over fifty years! Good old fashioned hershey’s syrup, in a no mess bottle. Mmmmmm good!

Do you like the commercial? I do! See, I told you I memorized it! Pretty good, haw! I have a good acting expierience, so, I can memorize quickly. At my old school, I used to make up plays and produce them for my class. I did: Hellen Keller, the live doll, and some more but I can’t remember them. I tried out for the play of Icabod Crane in the legend of “Sleepy Hollow” but I didn’t make it! I tried out for it at the same place as my Drama clas, Kirk Community Center. There is a haunted house there on the twenty fifth of this month!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


You've seen that show "Hoarders", right? How about "Hoarders, Buried Alive"? That show is horrifying. I saw an episode where they found two flat, dead cats in a living room under mounds of indescribable filth. The woman who owned the place sat in her chair on the porch while strangers were digging through her belongings. They found her false teeth, which had been missing for years. The cats had been missing too, by the way.

OK, I know that's an extreme case, but I think most of us are acquainted with at least one person who might someday star in one of those shows. I can think of a few. One of them is Me. Another is Ten Year Old Me. Letting things go has never been a strong suit, for either one of us.

It is a hereditary problem. Sure, laugh: I saw it on one of those shows - it sometimes runs in the family. Does that terrify you? If you saw my daughter's room, it probably would: She hoards, too. She still has all of her Valentine's cards (I removed the candy) from every grade of school, including PreK. That's four years of paper hearts. For a really long time (like, half of her life) she kept the tags from every item of clothing that was bought for her. She finally let me throw them away, so perhaps she can manage to break the cycle.

Last year, my grandmother gave me a Cabbage Patch Kid napkin from my 3rd grade birthday party and a cube of sugar from a trip that we took in 1995. A cube. Of. Sugar. I guess that isn't technically hoarding, because she gave them away. But now, thanks to her, those items are safely tucked away -or piled haphazardly- in my closet. My house looks orderly enough most of the time, but ask my husband and he'll tell you that opening a closet around here is a life or death decision. You might get brained by a box- of- something- that- doesn't- need- to- be- saved. He will periodically say, "do you really need to keep this?" He'll hold up a sentimental treasure and I will begin to panic. "Yes," I will yell: Diving in slow motion towards the item, twisting in mid-air and grabbing it, before it reaches the trash, "I do!" SAFE!

Apparently, this has been a problem for a long, long time...

October, 1985

My collections are miniatures, stickers, stamps, postcards from missions, and medals from missions, and indian arrows, books, and tapes and records. I have eight tapes, about one hundred records, a droor filled with almost every kind of books, joke books, majic books, cook books, books about the sea and missions, unicorn books, myseries, music, plays, good vetrinarians, horse books, spanish books, love stories, california relief map, alot of books. I have the three hundred stickers, I don't know how many stamps and lots of other things.

Don't tell my husband, but I'm pretty sure I still have all that stuff...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Day to Remember

My baby sister is thirteen years younger than I am. When she was born, people used to think that I was her mother. They would whisper behind their hands, but I could hear what they were saying: They thought I was a very young teen mom.

When my daughter was born, Sis was a teenager. When we'd go out in public together, I would make her push the stroller and walk around with Peanut. Payback is so sweet: Strangers whispered behind their hands and raised their eyebrows.

Then I realized that people probably thought that I was the grandmother.

That's what happened to our mother. The women who ran the YWCA down the street would see her out walking in the evenings and yell "Hulloh, Grandma!" across traffic. She hated it with a passion.

Being so much younger than I, Sis missed a lot of my childhood. I'll tell a story and then add "buuut you weren't here, yet". I think it bugs her, but I so enjoy saying it. Although, it is really weird knowing that a big part of my life had already happened, before she arrived.

Such as, the time that I tried to marry my kid brother off to the girl who lived one house down. She was the sister of my BFF.

They were both six.

I remember it so clearly. The bride was stunning, in her white baptismal gown. The groom demonstrated his mastery of making fart noises with his armpits. We were all latchkey kids, so we had free reign of most of the backyards in our neighborhood. The reception was held in our yard. It was lovely. I wish that Sis had been there to share the momentous occasion with all of us...

September, 1985

My six year old brother and E's six year old sister decided to get married, so today, we're going to have big, beautyful wedding, exept they're going to be announced boyfriend and girlfriend, it's going to be so cute, we're going to have wedding music, and cookies, and juice! I'm going to make cards for them, and give them stickers for presents. Then we'll have a short reception. And they'lle have a honeymoon, by going to seven aleven and maybe, just maybe Nob Hill, and all those little stores there. I have to admit, they do make a cute couple!

I think Nob Hill is a fine store and 7-11 comes in handy for slurpees, I am grateful that my husband and I went to Mexico for our honeymoon...
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