I wrote a blog a week or so ago about La La Land, which was really about the movies and my moviegoing companions.
(Totally off subject – I’ve never been crazy about the word ‘blog’. I tend to think of my little essays as ‘episodes’ – doesn’t that sound nicer? Like my brain is a little TV series, and I am sharing those brain cells one bit at a time.)
Anyway, back to the subject – At the end of my blog/episode, I wrote that I wanted to see the new movie, “La La Land” – because that’s where my husband always says I live.
I think he is right. I do live in La La Land. I like living here.
Because when you live in La La Land, Life is pretty nice.
In La La Land:
– You can trust people. Strangers will say hello. They’ll give you a hand if you need one. You needn’t be afraid of anyone.
– You don’t have to worry about folks cheating you. People selling you goods and services are only trying to make a living – the same as you.
– You don’t have to complain about stuff not being as good as it used to be. You have such an amazing array of stuff to choose from, you can always find something you like. Take television for instance – you’ve got hundreds of choices – something might be to your taste. Or you can read, or surf the net, or listen to music, or talk to each other. And commercials don’t have to annoy you either. Because you know that ads are what’s paying for all that programming, and you can either watch them, or flip the channel, or just zone out. La La Land doesn’t mind if you zone out. La La Land gives you lots of time for zoning.
– In La La Land, compromise doesn’t mean you are giving up on your beliefs. You can hold your beliefs as close to your heart as ever, and still try to look for areas of agreement and concentrate on those.
– You can be happy for other people’s success. After all, they didn’t succeed at your expense. If a writer gets a publishing deal, does that mean you won’t? If a co-worker gets a raise, does that mean that you will never get one? In La La Land, it means that there are raises and publishing deals out there – and perhaps one is for you.
– On the other hand, if someone does get something you will never have, you can be happy for them anyway. If you never had children, and you meet someone with a new baby, well, that’s truly wonderful for them. If you are sad because you have no children, you don’t wish everyone else to be sad as well. In La La Land, it’s nice that someone is spared the pain that has hurt you.
– Even here in La La Land, Life isn’t always fair. Some people have too much. Some people have too little. But in La La Land, there is no need to hate the lucky ones. They probably have their own troubles. And there is no reason to hate the unlucky ones either – those that may need help putting food on the table or getting medical care. Paying taxes so that other people’s lives are a little easier and so that kids can go to school is not so bad.
– In La La Land, even driving isn’t such a hassle. (Do people still use that word- hassle? Well, it doesn’t really matter because in La La Land, people don’t laugh at you for using the wrong word. They are happy to have nice conversations with nice people.) But back to driving. Other drivers are polite. They have their loved ones in the car – same as you. They want to get to their destinations quickly and safely – same as you. If someone is in the wrong lane, it is not an affront to you. You can feel bad for them. You smile and let them cut into your lane. They smile back. And it doesn’t cost you a thing.
– When people make a mistake, you don’t have to take it personally. It’s only an honest mistake. Everyone is doing the best they can, and sometimes they fall short. We all do once in a while.
– And because folks are trying their best, and we all know that we’re not perfect, apologizing and forgiving are easy things to do. (In this way, I guess La La Land is a bit like Canada.)
– And on those occasions where you do feel jealous, or you get angry with strangers – or worse – your loved ones, you don’t have to stay mad. You can just wipe the slate clean. You can do that every day. You can do that every minute if you need to. In La La Land, there is no limit to the number of tries you get. Or the number of times you forgive. Or are forgiven.
– You don’t have to worry about what you look like. And it’s not because looks don’t matter. Looks matter. But luckily, it’s easy in La La Land to see that everyone is beautiful.
This is La La Land.
I live here.
I like living here.
You can live here too.
Today is my 25th wedding anniversary.
That is no small accomplishment for either of us. We are incredibly lucky that we found each other, because there is a very good likelihood that no one else would have been able to stand us.
But 25 yearrs ago, we said “I do.” And we do. Stand each other. As a matter of fact we love each other.
Not that there aren’t a gazillion things he does that annoy the crap out of me. And a gazillion and one things that I do that annoy the crap out of him.
But it is my philosophy of marriage – and probably a good philosophy for all of life – to try to keep your focus on the good shit. Let the bad shit go – that’s my motto.
So for twenty-five years together, here’s a list of 25 things I love about marriage in general, and my husband in particular.
The last 6 are from my post on our 20th anniversary… they still hold. I’m just expanding the list:
- He loves animals. He loves our animals. All animals. He doesn’t mind that the squirrels eat from the birdfeeder. Lately he has discovered a new love for horses and he’s learning to ride. And has taken up the cause of horse rescue. It makes me wish that we could own a big farm and we could let all the horses and dogs and squirrels come live with us.
- He drives me. (And not just crazy.) I love to get in the passenger seat and let him handle the driving and the traffic.
- And the parking. That man can park! I need to drive a quarter-mile to find four adjacent empty spaces in order to stop the car. He can park his truck in the dark in a snowstorm in a space the size of a bathmat. While holding a cup of coffee.
- He keeps his friends. He’s still friends with the little girl who lived next door 65 years ago. He’s still friends with the guys from high school. He’s friends with a sweet woman he dated over 50 years ago. He’s still friends with the kid who did chores for us a dozen years ago. And the kid’s mother too. He just went to her birthday party.
- He makes me eat better. For one thing, being married means that someone else sees what you eat, and I would be humiliated if he knew all the terrible crap I put in my body at ridiculous hours in ridiculous quantities when I lived alone. And on top of that, about six years ago, he had a health crisis (thankfully under control) that made him want to get even healthier, so he consulted a nutritionist. We have both lost a ton of weight, and look and feel better than we did 20 years ago.
- He appreciates quality. He loves fine china, and crystal and sterling silver. And he doesn’t want cheap clothes for himself – or costume jewelry for me.
- Speaking of jewelry – he’s generous. And to combine generosity with good taste – Wowsa!
- He’s kind to strangers. He helps people. It’s in his nature. He was late for dinner recently and I started to get worried, but someone in the supermarket parking lot had a dead battery. “I couldn’t just leave the idiot,” he said.
- And on the subject of supermarket parking lots – he actually likes to run errands. He goes to the post office, the bank, the grocery store, the pet food place, the drug store. I hate those chores. Whatever he brings home from the supermarket is terrific with me. I’ll cook it. After all, I didn’t have to buy it.
- Back to another #8 reference: Idiots. My husband attracts crazy people like he’s xanax or something. Every weird dude or lady or child who’s completely whacky – that’s who starts up a conversation with my hubby. Maybe you think this is not a good thing, but believe me – it makes for great stories. And for a lover of stories like me, it’s heaven.
- I love his family. His mother (who has passed away) was the kind of feisty strong-willed woman that I admire. She always made it plain what she wanted. And expected. I wish I could be more like that. And his brother and cousins and aunts and uncles – I loved and still love them all.
- My family. He likes my family. He adored, and just as important, admired my father. And he dotes on my mother. And likes my sisters and my brother and their spouses and their kids and their kids’ kids. And aunts, uncles, cousins. I have a generous helping of relatives. He’s nice to them all.
- He was a little reckless in his youth. I am very glad he did lots of crazy stuff before he met me. For one thing, he got it all out of his system. And then of course: Stories.
- He likes man stuff. I am very staunchly feminist, but I am often really glad he is a manly man. He talks to me about head gaskets and amps (whatever those are) and I just nod my head. But it’s kind of cool. I wouldn’t want to be married to someone just like me. How boring.
- On the other hand, he’s sensitive and sentimental. He treasures the possessions we inherited from family. He still grieves over the cat babies we’ve lost over the years. When we moved, he dug up those little caskets (which he made himself) and re-buried them in our new yard. “I couldn’t just leave them,” he said.
- He respects me. Not just loves me. Respects. He’s proud that I am smart and successful. He values my opinion. I can’t imagine living in a house with someone who doesn’t.
- He likes chocolate and ice cream. Because too much healthy eating might make us sad.
- We’re not inseparable. I like that he can go out with his buddies or go to the gym or the shooting range or take riding lessons. And I can go to zumba or yoga or write my book. I can have dinner with friends or take a basketweaving class. Even on vacation a few years back, he went on one leg of a tour, and I went on another. We had lots to talk about afterwards. Having your own lives gives you lots to talk about. That’s nice.
- He’s loyal. I cannot even count the number of times I’ve been angry about something – work or politics or some stupid thing that won’t work. And he always – ALWAYS – takes my side. I can only try to be that loyal back. And he listens. To me go on and on about something he has no interest in. Or he pretends to listen. For a successful marriage, that’s important. (So you young people…yes, .my advice really is to pretend to listen more.)
And here’s the six from five years ago:
20. He’s a genius. (and not just because he can see how awesome I am.) He can fix anything – furnaces, cars, computers. He can put a clasp on a bracelet and an axle on a trailer. He can look at the innards of stuff and figure out what each gizmo should or should not be doing, and then he can get them to behave.He built our house. It’s fabulous. And he installed a generator. It comes on automatically when we lose power. That was very handy a few weeks ago. And although it doesn’t provide power to every outlet in the house, my husband made sure that there is power to the outlet where I plug in my hairdryer.
21. He’s protective. I’d taken care of myself for a very long time before I met him. It’s nice to relinquish some of that. I have a champion. He offered to beat up a boss who was mean to me, and although I declined, I did enjoy envisioning it.
When we first got married, we lived in a quiet neighborhood. But my husband still worried about me crossing our mostly deserted road to go to our mailbox.
“How did I ever cross the street before I met you?” I asked jokingly.
“I don’t know. It’s a miracle you’re alive,” he answered solemnly.
22. He likes bad music. When we take a long car trip, he makes sure to pack all his Gene Autry CDs. If, after several hours, I politely request something more modern, he’s ready with The Beach Boys.“The Beatles ruined everything,” he often states, knowing full well that I adore The Beatles. He doesn’t want music that will change the world. He wants a dude singing about his car. But if he’s stuck in time musically, he’s also stuck in a very appealing way. To him, I’m still young, and pretty… and thin.
23. He’s a very serious guy. He worries. He’s not lighthearted. He’s never silly. He’s a built-in challenge that sharpens my wit. It thrills me to get him to laugh. Of course, if I can’t, I can always turn on “World’s Dumbest.” There’s nothing like a teenager smacking himself in the head with his own skateboard to make my husband roar.
24. He can find common ground with anyone. While I sometimes don’t know what to say to a stranger, my husband possesses an incredible talent for making everyone comfortable. Shy people confide in him. Sad people feel comforted. Shrewd salesmen give him a deal. He creates an immediate rapport. Getting ready for a big event one evening, I looked out the window and saw him having a friendly chat with the garbage man. One hour later he was having a friendly chat with the CEO of a television network.
25. He married me. This sounds like a pathetic, needy gratitude. But hell, it’s true. I met him when I was thirty-eight. We married when I was 40. My life up until then was full of men, each briefly, with long stretches of solitude in between. I wasn’t unhappy being single; as a matter of fact, the older I got, the more I liked it. But at forty, I did begin to wonder if, just maybe, I might be the teensiest bit unloveable. But I’m not. One crazy, but very smart, guy loves me.
Just skimming through the New York Times, and I saw a review for the new movie, “La La Land.”
From the review and the trailer – I really want to see it.
Not that I see a lot of movies anymore. But, when I was a kid, and up through my twenties, I saw just EVERYTHING.
So here, for Thanksgiving, I’d like to say thank you to all my movie-going friends:
My sister Christine, who often had to take me when I was really little, and I know she didn’t want to, but always did, and showed me how to pay attention in the theater.
My sister Claudia. If was with her, when we were in our twenties,that we saw EVERYTHING. Every movie released, I think, between 1969 and 1975. She would drive anywhere to see a movie. I remember going to see “The Sting” with Claudia and my little brother Tommy, and Claudia drove all the way to Canton, and when we got there it was sold out. We were walking back to the car, all disappointed, when the theater manager called out to us and said he would set up a couple of folding chairs in the back if we were willing. We loved our special seats and the manager even gave us free popcorn to make up for the uncomfortable chairs.
My mother, who loved the movies just as much as we did. She saw all the dreamy musicals back in the 30s and 40s, and thought that all of Life should be that romantic. She scoured the sofa cushion for dimes so that we could go to the Saturday afternoon matinee.
My father too – who liked to go to the drive-in and see John Wayne movies.
My brother Tom. Not only did we sit on the folding chairs for “The Sting,” he gave me the best laugh I had ever had at the movies. He was about nine when we went to see “The Sound of Music.” Back in 1965, movies like “Sound of Music” were Events, with a capital E. You dressed up and took the whole family, and afterwards you would eat at Howard Johnson’s. So we got all gussied up and went to the “Sound of Music.” During the garden scene where the Captain and Maria realize they love each other… oh, it was so romantic… and Tommy said (not in his inside voice) “Boy, those hedges are really big!”
And one more memory with my brother Tom – Claudia and I took our young teenage brother to see his first R-rated film. My mother was hesitant at first, but decided it was okay. She jokingly told me not to let him watch the “risque” parts. So during a very steamy scene, I leaned over to Tom and said (not in my inside voice) “Mom says ‘Don’t look!”
My friend Doris. Doris and I were inseparable as kids. We would go to the movies together and often stay in the theater and watch through a second time. Then we would act out the movies in Doris’ backyard: “Tammy and The Bachelor,” “Pollyanna,” “Gidget.” And she often let me play the starring role.
My friend Barbe. Sometimes with Claudia too, we saw more movies in the 70s than probably anyone in the universe. We liked Jane Fonda especially – “Coming Home” and OMG, Donald Sutherland (swoon) and Fonda in “Klute.” And Barbe liked coffee afterwards – you can’t get much better than that.
My friend Chris. Good for foreign films and obscure weird stuff – which you always need once in a while.
My college roommate Lisa. She took a film course our senior year. And if they were going to see something really great, she would run back to the dorm and get me. This was pre-cell-phone, pre-text days… she’d literally run back and all out of breath, she’d gasp, “Come NOW! ‘Jules and Jim’!” And she’d sneak me in.
My friend Tim. He liked horror movies. I have forgiven him.
So it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m saying thanks to Hollywood and thanks to my movie-going companions. We saw a lot of good (and some awful) movies together.
And by the way, I don’t just want to see “La La Land” because of the good review, or because it looks like my mother’s beloved romantic musicals.
I want to see it because my husband has always said that’s where I live.
Here’s a post from three years ago… on the 50th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy.
(I promise I will be silly again in a few days, but I’m somber today.)
One night over dinner, about thirty years ago, my father was feeling philosophical. He started talking about events that happen in your life that change you. Not just for a while, or in some superficial way – but change who you are.
He told me about how his sister’s husband had died suddenly of a heart attack – which I remembered had happened when I was about nine. That would have made my father still in his thirties. He said he was the one who had to tell my uncle’s mother that her son was dead. He said it was the most difficult thing he had ever done, and that it changed him forever.
I asked him what he thought were the three most life-changing events in his life.
Dad thought about it for a minute and said, “World War II, marrying your mother, and having you kids.”
Not a bad answer.
Interesting though that here was a man who fought in a war when he was just a kid, and earned two purple hearts, and I’m sure saw some horrific things – but telling an old woman her son was dead was harder.
And Dad asked me what my three most significant events were.
Now I was only in my early thirties – still not married, still struggling to find a career. I hadn’t really experienced that much of life.
But I didn’t have to consider it for long. I knew what events had changed me.
“The Vietnam War, The Beatles, and Kennedy’s Assassination.”
My father scoffed a bit at my mention of The Beatles.
But I defended my choices.
Those events – including the phenomenon that was The Beatles – transformed the way I looked at the world. The Beatles changed our culture – they made it possible young people to question the status quo. And I did. Vietnam made me question what adults were telling me. I understood for the first time that important people can be wrong. People with power lie.
And the first change of all was Kennedy’s assassination. I adored Kennedy. His death was the most shocking event I had ever experienced. And I experienced it in my home. His death was personal. Evil was in my living room. I saw Oswald murdered. Witnessed murder from my living room. I was twelve.
It has been fifty years. Those days in November are as clear to me as when I was that little girl – stunned and bewildered in front of the TV. The person that I am – the one who always needs to know WHY – was formed on November 22, 1963.
I wrote a poem recently for my other blog, With Resistance. And today, it seems appropriate to share it with you.
KENNEDY WHEN I WAS TWELVE
The old Sylvania
Had three channels
Though one was ghosted
It didn’t matter those few cold days
They were the same
Speaking softly over repeated images
I stood more than sat
Before the grainy pictures
My hands to my mouth
When the accused was murdered
In my own living room
I decided it didn’t happen
Threw out the papers
Burned the scrapbook
On Main Street that summer
I stopped before the record store
Where in the window
The President’s photo
Framed in black
This is too long I thought
For my dream
And so he died for me
And not November
A few days ago, I was pumping gas, and got to do one of those victory fist pumps in my pumping of the pump.
Because I love it when I get the meter to stop on exactly 00.
But I don’t really need that skill anymore. I haven’t used cash to buy gas in years. With a credit card I could buy $30.02 and it doesn’t make a bit of difference. But how sweet to know you have the expertise to hit exactly $30.00.
And now that I’ve been thinking about it, I have quite a few expired skills.
I can darn a sock. My grandma taught me with the little darning egg and cotton thread. And how not to make an uncomfortable knot. I am going to have to be more frugal in my retirement – no doubt about it – but I think repairing socks is a dead art.
I can open – and even more dangerous to human beings – close – an umbrella using that tiny sharp little lever, and not pinch my finger in the slidy thing.
I can unflood a carburetor by sticking a pencil in the choke to hold it open. I had a 64 Chevy Impala that needed that pencil at least twice a week.
I can skim the cream off the top of the milk bottle.
I can attach a garter to a stocking, and then sit on that damn garter all day and not quite die.
I can draw little Twiggy lashes under my eyes.
I can make coffee on the stove in a percolator.
I can install the player roll on a player piano, and pump the hell out of it, and sound sort of like a rhythm-challenged Scott Joplin.
I can adjust rabbit ears so the picture will stop rolling.
I can refill a fountain pen.
I can cover a textbook with a brown paper bag. (I can’t not deface it later, but still.)
I can make a kite from twigs and newspaper, and paper dolls from the Montgomery Ward catalog. And I can make a potholder on a little loom, which is always the perfect Mother’s Day gift.
I can play a 33 record album, and skip the song I hate by picking up the needle and placing it at the exact beginning of the song I want – without a scratch or a squeal.
I can thread a roll of film onto the little sprockets on a camera.
I can track which light on the Christmas tree is causing all the other ones to fail.
I can attach roller skates at just the right tightness using a skate key – and even attach the skates to SNEAKERS, which is a truly awesome accomplishment.
And most impressive of all my obsolete skills:
I can use whiteout to fix a typo. And not get a glob or a smear. Absolute complete coverage and yet a smooth surface to retype on. And not only that! Once the whiteout is perfectly dry… (don’t rush this step)… I can put the paper back in the typewriter and turn the roller to the EXACT place and strike the key without being a little too high or a little too low. Many people may not know what the hell I am talking about – but you other people…well, you understand my genius.
Yesterday, the morning after the election, I was already being told not to be so upset -“Don’t take it so hard” – that the outcome of this election will not affect me personally.
And I guess it won’t. except:
– That I care about people having access to healthcare
– That I care about protecting the environment
– That I care about women being able to make decisions about their bodies for themselves
– That I care about gay people have the right to love and marry who they want
– That I care about the prospect of families being torn apart by deportation
– That I care about rich people paying their fair share of taxes
– That I care about the safety of our soldiers
– That I care about the danger to police officers, while at the same time caring about the treatment that African-American men receive at the hands of law enforcement and the justice system
– That I care about judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin or their method of worship or the attractiveness of their body.
– That I care about providing children with the example of love and kindness and the consequences of meanness and bullying
– That I care about the Supreme Court protecting the little guy, the one with the least amount of power
– That I care about honoring our contracts, treaties and commitments around the world.
But yeah, I guess it may not affect me personally. I’m not poor, or black, or an immigrant, or Muslim, or pregnant, or abused. And I will die before the planet does.
So I guess it does not affect me personally.
And I also care about respecting the democratic system, and so I will try to respect the decision of the people and hope that this new president will bring peace, kindness and prosperity to the United States.
This weekend I attended the birthday party of my youngest grandnephew. He is two.
I won’t post a photo, because he’s not my kid, but let me assure you that he is right up there with the most adorable kids in the universe.
And he is SO smart. He knows all his colors (The balloon was very definitely “Lellow”) and all his shapes and can count to TWO. He can find the ON switch on any gadget and he can use the carpet sweeper to help his great-grandma clean up after the party.
I was amazed at the breadth of his vocabulary. He has more words than any two-year old I ever met, and he uses (if not pronounces) them properly.
I mentioned this to his mother Amy, my nephew’s wife. I said, “He looks exactly like his father, but Gabe was nowhere near as mature at that age.” (I may have said “smart” instead of “mature” – and for that I am sorry, because my nephew Gabe was and is plenty smart.)
Amy asked, “What was Gabe like at two?”
And I said, “Really sweet, just like his son. But also, well… goofy.”
But you know, I have thought about that the last few days. I remember Gabe as goofy, but when I try to think of specific examples, I can’t recall any. Just my general impression.
But the Sweet part?
So Amy, here are three examples of what Gabe was like as a little kid:
I think Gabe must have been about four, and he was going to either day care, or nursery school or kindergarten… I can’t quite remember. But my mother and his Aunt Ellen often helped out my sister (his mother) with getting him to and from school. One particular day, his Aunt Ellen brought him to school, and my mother picked him up.
As they were driving home, Gabe started to cry. He said to his Grandma, “I said something really bad today.”
And Mom asked him what was bad.
“When Aunt Ellen brought me to school she told me that my Grandma would pick me up. And I said, ‘Grandma is my favorite.'”
My mother was pleased that he would say such a sweet thing and she asked, “What was bad about saying that?”
Gabe answered,”Because maybe it made Aunt Ellen sad.”
My parents had a dog for a very long time. Sarge was technically my dog, but emotionally it belonged to them. And I very “generously” let the dog live with them after I went to college and then moved out on my own. Gabe was a very little boy when Sarge was already really old. Sarge was a big pest around the kids, but Gabe never seemed to mind.
When the dog died, my mother, in her protective Grandma mode, told the kids that Sarge went to live on a farm where old dogs retire, so he could run around and be happy.
One day, Gabe was at Mom’s and was cheerfully playing with his cars, and suddenly looked up at my mother and said,
“You know that farm where Sarge went? I hope it’s a really nice farm because Sarge is a really nice dog.”
I was babysitting for Gabe. He must have been about three; he was still small enough to sit up in the cart, but old enough that his older brother Zachary and older sister Elisia, were in school. We went to the supermarket. I often got groceries as part of babysitting. It keeps the kid occupied, passes the time, and I get something done at the same time. (When the kid gets a little older, I “let” him help me clean the house.)
But anyway, back at the supermarket, we eventually turned down the aisle that has the toys, and I said to little Gabe, “You can pick out one toy.”
And Gabe replied, “I can’t get one toy.”
I thought perhaps he was being greedy and hoping that his indulgent auntie would spoil him a little, because he added, “I need three toys.”
I asked him why.
Gabe said, “So Zachary and Elisia can have a toy too.”
I let him pick out three toys.
So there you have it, Amy. That is the little boy who grew up to be the man you married.
Happy Anniversary, Gabe & Amy.
It was unintentional.
But I should have known better.
It was the Fall of 1974. I was a senior in college and doing my student teaching in Puerto Rico.
(Yeah, yeah. You’re doing the math and figuring out that I was 23. So I took a few extra years in college. So what? I liked school. I stretched it out a little. Just up to the point where my parents lost all patience. Then I reluctantly graduated.)
So anyway, I’m in Puerto Rico, teaching English in a private school, and living with a family from Indiana. To tell the truth, as a Connecticut native, I had less culture shock with the Puerto Rican environment that with Indiana wholesomeness.
But I digress again…
So anyway – again – there were three kids in my temporary family. Flossie was in college like me (okay, a few years younger). She went back to Ohio…
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Recently I overheard two women discussing how their lives turned out so differently from what they had imagined.
It got me to thinking about how that might be true for me too.
Only when I really thought about it, I could not claim my life was different from what I had pictured, because I realized that I had never really pictured it.
Oh, I had some vague daydreams about a job and a house and a family, but when I say “vague” – I mean this faint, shadowy idea that someday I might be an adult, and adult people did things like that.
Because, to tell you the truth, I couldn’t really see it.
I never really thought about my future. When I was a kid, I didn’t fantasize about being a grown up. I didn’t especially see an advantage to being an adult – except for the freedom to to wear makeup and not eat vegetables. It seemed to me that kids had a lot more fun. Grownup fun seemed to revolve watching kids have fun. I’d rather do the fun part myself.
And I didn’t think too much about having money of my own. Or transportation. I lived in the kind of town where I could walk just about anywhere. And I felt rich if I had a dime for a candy bar, or went to the movies once in a while.
I liked the thought of being in high school, and listened to the stories my sisters told when they got there, and of course envied that they got out of the horrendous parochial-school uniforms, but I didn’t visualize myself there, dreaming up stories about walking through the corridors or having lunch with my friends. I just eventually got there, and talked to some kids, and made it through.
I didn’t think much about college either. When it came time to apply, I looked through college catalogs in the guidance office, and then just applied to Nurses’ Training, mostly because my mother was a nurse and I thought (even in 1969, when I was rebelling against everything) that she was the coolest person I knew.
I didn’t like Nursing though. I quit – spontaneously – I just took a bus home one day, and told my parents I didn’t like it and could they give me a ride back to get my stuff.
I got a job at the Phone Company. It was really boring. So I figured I needed to go back to school. I went to my old high school and back to the same guidance office, and asked my old Guidance Counselor what to do. He said to apply to the state schools, and so I did. And so I went there.
I loved it. But I didn’t know what to major in. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. (This could be an inherited trait; my father used to say – even in his eighties – that he didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up.) I still could not picture myself in the future. I sampled all the possible courses – I had Bookkeeping and well as Beekeeping, Drawing as well as Psychology. I ended up finally with a degree in English – because through it all, I loved to read and to write.
And after I finished school, I took a job. Any job. The first job I was offered. This wasn’t easy because: 1) The economy was terrible; and 2) I was an English major.
It was an office job – typing, filing, shuffling paper. But I liked it. And the Director of Finance saw that I was pretty smart and told me the company would send me back to school for an M.B.A.
So I did.
And then spent the next thirty-five years developing budgets and playing with numbers.
And it was okay. Good, actually.
Oh, and there was marriage. I knew (again in a vague-ish way) that it would be nice to get married. But I couldn’t visualize it. I never had a goal or a dream wedding. I never practiced writing Mrs. Nancy Anybody. Not when I was 10, not when I was 16, not when I was 36.
But I kept stumbling through the dating rituals. And eventually, almost 40, I found a guy I liked who liked me too. We were temperamentally very different but we seemed to suit each other just fine.
I married at forty. I didn’t have my dream wedding, because I didn’t have a dream. But I had a wonderful, sweet wedding that mimicked all the nice weddings I had been to in the past. I tried on two gowns (from the sale-sample rack) and bought the nicer one.
And we’re still married 25 years later. And we bought a house, and then built a house, and have had a slew of cats (I think the correct term – like pride of lions or school of fish – is an enigma of cats). And now a dog.
Did I plan any of this? Well, I must confess, you don’t build a house on whim. A huge amount of planning went into our home. But the pertinent question here is: Did I ever visualize myself living in the home as we planned it? No.
So I wonder – Why don’t I daydream? Why don’t construct elaborate scenarios of the future?
It isn’t lack of imagination. I can certainly create all kinds of elaborate stories. I wrote a whole NOVEL, for God’s sake. Ninety-two thousand words imagining complete lives for people who don’t even exist.
I think the answer is this:
I am superstitious.
This surprises me. On the surface, I never thought I was.
But now after all these years, I see that it is true.
I am afraid to envision a future. To create a hope of how my life will turn out, because it may not turn out that way. I have always been afraid to be disappointed.
So I have stumbled through life without a plan – accepting what came. Delighting in it if it was good (which it mostly was) and shrugging off what was not so good as just another passing experience.
But now I am old. I am past my fear of disappointment. Past the worry of ruining my life.
I know now that I am strong enough to live poor, to manage adversity, to live alone if need be. To handle whatever may come. Because I have welcomed “whatever may come” for more than 65 years, with what I think is grace and balance.
So now I want to imagine.
I want to build a castle in the air.
To create for myself one remarkable crazy breath-taking daydream.
And have it come true.
(Here’s an oldie while I continue to work on a post that is refusing to come together….)
MY DAY OFF
You know what’s almost as much fun as doing what you love to do?
Doing what your spouse loves to do.
Doing what my husband likes to do is usually awful.
But once in a while I feel like I should.
It’s not like it was part of my marriage vows or anything. I didn’t stand at the altar and promise to crawl through used-car lots just ‘to see’, or spend five hours in Cabela’s, or watch ice trucking shows.
But on the other hand, there was a vow that someone snuck in there that said ‘For Better or Worse.’
My husband’s idea of fun things to do is definitely part of ‘Worse.’
A few weeks ago we made our annual pilgrimage to the New York International Auto Show.
The Javitz Center has 675,000 square feet. That’s a shitload of cars.
Some are concept cars; some are vintage. There are rare cars. There are minivans. There are gull wings and limos and pickup trucks. Every single one is unique to my husband. every single one is identical to me.
Of course there are some fascinating things to do.
Like sit in one.
People wait in line to sit in a car. My husband is one. And he encourages me to do so.
“Try it,” he says after he gets out of an SUV that looks exactly like ours (and like every other SUV I have ever seen).
So I get in.
And guess what?
It feels …
like I am sitting in A CAR!
One of the best parts of the NY Car show is the food!
Once you enter the show, there is Absolutely No Re-entry. (That’s in BIG LETTERS at every door, and they have about 25,000 doors.)
So you eat in the Food Court. The Food Court is not a court with a judge and jury, but it does have criminals. Like the people who write the signs that say “Fresh” and “Tasty” – or the people who price the water at $4.00.
But I find ways to amuse myself.
Mostly by listening (okay, half-listening) to my husband amuse himself.
Because what he likes best at the car shows is the opportunity to torment the sales reps.
(If I insult your favorite car here, please forgive me. I am just the (food) court reporter.)
To the Lincoln rep he said: “Over the last ten years you guys have eliminated every distinctive feature. Now it looks mostly like a Mopar shitbox.”
To the Toyota rep: “How are you doing with all those lawsuits?”
To the Ford truck rep, whose ‘concept’ truck has a ladder rack that pops up from the tailgate: “This was obviously designed by an idiot who never used a truck, since you can’t get anything out of the bed without taking the ladder off.” (He had a point on this one.)
To the Chevy rep (who was pretty): “You seem to know a little more about this vehicle than most of the morons who work for Chevy.”
To the Jeep rep, who offered my husband a chance to win $45,000 towards the purchase of a Jeep: “”Hmmm, $45,000 isn’t quite enough to make me want to drive a Jeep.”
Hubby was nice to the BMW guy. (Hubby loves Beemers.) They had a nice long conversation about the wonder of the Beemers, and I didn’t mind because Beemer-guy was very very extra cute.
But the best thing about the New York International Auto Show:
Oh yeah, I get MILEAGE!
He will owe me for MONTHS.