notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Practical Forgiveness

About two years ago, a friend hurt my feelings.

This was not a close friend – since those friends and family whom we love are usually more sensitive to our sensitivities. Not that a loved one cannot hurt you, but I think it is rarer. Unless of course, they don’t really love you at all. Then you need to reflect on why your closest companions would not be kind to you.

But I digress, as I usually do. Of course, my dearest friends indulge me in this. That’s one reason why I love them so. They may roll their eyes of course, but that is permitted.

No, this was a person who I consider more than an acquaintance but less than a loved one. Many people fall into this category – they’re the folks who know a bit about you and you about them – where they live, what they do for a living, perhaps the name of their spouse or their children, and especially about what you have in common that has made you a friend in the first place. But probably you’ve never actually been in their house or socialized beyond your common interest.

This person who hurt me was one of those. I don’t believe she was being mean or that she deliberately intended to make me feel bad. I think it was one of those careless things. Thoughtless. Not cruel.

This woman made a critical remark about a physical flaw I have that I am sensitive and self-conscious about.

I can easily overlook inconsiderate comments from people who don’t know better. Like someone who recently asked about my children, when I am unfortunately childless. That is not unkind, even though it may be painful to me. It’s not unfeeling; just uninformed.

But this hurtful comment came from someone who knew about my flaw, and described it in a tactless way.

I felt bad. And I felt bad for quite a long time.

I could have ended our small friendship. It wouldn’t have been hard. We see each other occasionally, but there are always plenty of other people around when we meet, and it would be easy to avoid her without shunning her. I could “unfriend” her online. That is a simple keystroke. After all, why would I be friends with someone who hurt my feelings?

But I didn’t. I remained friends. Sometimes you just have to forgive people for their occasional lapses in good manners. Perhaps she was having a bad day. Perhaps she also felt bad after she said it. I know there has been a time or two (or a hundred) when I was sorry that unkind or insensitive words came out of my mouth. She hurt me but didn’t mean to hurt me. That is not so hard to forgive, after all.

And last week, the most amazing thing happened.

This woman, whose words stung enough that I had shed a few tears – this same woman – did me a favor that she didn’t need to do.

She helped me, just out of plain generosity.

If I had ended our friendship, I wouldn’t have received the help I needed. I would have been a little stuck for a little longer.

Keeping her as a friend despite an unkind remark turned out to be a very good thing.

I got the help I needed.

And I got to change my opinion of her from unkind to kind.

She’s nice and it’s nice to know that again.

Forgiveness can be a very practical practice.

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The First Time

No, not that first time.

There are lots of things that you do for the first time, that really take some practice to either do it right or even enjoy it – or find out whether you even do enjoy it.  (including that.)

So for those things, First Times don’t count.

Ah, bur other things… what a pleasure it is to try something for the first time and discover…Holy Shit, it’s GREAT!!!!

Here are a few of my first time experiences that made me just gasp with pleasure:

1. The first time I wore something that made me feel BEAUTIFUL. I was seven years old. For my birthday, my mother gave me a slip. That’s right. A slip. It was actually called a half-slip, if you are old enough to remember that. Just the skirt part.. no top. A slip for your birthday may not seem like much. But let me set you straight. This was no ordinary slip. It was a CRINOLINE slip.In case you are unfamiliar with crinoline – that’s a slip made out of netting that it very full, so keeps your skirt puffed up. My slip was three layers.. pink, blue, and yellow. I called it my “stiff slip.” I wore it to church on Sunday under every dress I had, and I would have worn it very day if I could have put it under my parochial school navy blue uniform. It was the first time I discovered that what you wear could make you feel good.

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2. The first CONCERT I ever attended, and heard a famous recording artist sing live. I was nine, I think, which would have made it about 1960. My family went to Atlantic City for a few days of vacation. This was not today’s Atlantic City with casinos and night life. This was a more-than-slightly seedy past-its-prime poor city – with a nice beach and boardwalk and amusement parks. One day we went to the Steel Pier. I saw the famous diving horse that decades later was memorialized in a sweet Disney movie. And then we went to the concert hall, and headlining that day was – BOBBY RYDELL!  We had his records. He was on TV! And he was – he was a real actual PERSON!  He sang Volare! He sand to me! I will love Bobby Rydell forever.

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3.  The first time I rode a FERRIS WHEEL was at the St. Anthony’s carnival when I was about ten. St. Anthony’s was the rival parish to my own St. Anne’s. In my opinion, St. Anne’s was better in every single way. I had great disdain for St.Anthony’s – their school, their basketball team, their ugly uniforms (which were almost identical to ours… but I saw the difference). But one thing St. Anthony’s had that St. Anne’s did not was a Spring carnival. I was big on cotton candy. Not big on carnival rides. I tended to be either terribly frightened or even more terribly nauseated. But that carnival… for some reason I decided to be brave. I bought a ticket (and I had only one dollar for the whole day) for the ferris wheel. And when the wheel got to the top, and we stopped and the basket swung back and forth, and I looked down upon the people and out to the surrounding rooftops – it was complete exhilaration! Brave is good!

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4. The first time I had a REUBEN SANDWICH. I was 12, and my mother took me shopping at Lord & Taylor – just the two of us. They had a restaurant right in the store called The Birdcage, I think, but I have no idea why. My mother bought me a jewelry box that day for no reason, which I wrote about a while back, since it was such an amazing, rare treat. But back to the Reuben. Oh my God, corned beef and sauerkraut and cheese and gooey dressing on toast grilled with so much butter it ran down to my wrists when I picked up the sandwich! And with french fries and a cup of coffee. When I was 12, and now when I am 65, I take a bite of a reuben sandwich and it’s heaven in my mouth.

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5. The first time I realized that the WRITTEN WORD could move you. I think I was about fifteen when I read a poem that made me cry. I always liked to read. I always liked stories. The public library was my sanctuary. But to cry? To feel real emotion? From a poem of all things? The poem was by Robert Frost, a poet I never especially liked (even now). It is called “Home Burial” and it’s no lyrical, pretty piece. It is mostly dialogue – in the most mundane language –  with little discernible meter to me. The dialogue is between husband and wife. They’re grieving for a lost child in very different ways, and they cannot forgive each other for not sharing the same expression of grief. At the point where the husband says to his wife “I do think, though, that you overdo it a little”-  that was when I cried.

And it was not long afterwards that the idea occurred to me that I would like to do that – bring real emotion to someone by something I would write. I lost track of that desire for many years – from age 25 to age 50 to be exact.

And then I remembered.

And started again to write.

And I remember it today, 50 years after that little bit of poetry made me cry,  because I have just finished the draft for my second novel, and crazy as it seems, and unseemly as it may be for saying it, at the end of the novel, I made myself cry. I am hoping somehow it’s real. That I’m not just sentimental and infatuated with my own words (although I’ll admit that I am both). I hope I have expressed in this new story an emotion that touches someone else.

I have a long way to go before finishing this novel, but for now, I am feeling that FIRST TIME feeling – the first time my own words moved me to weep.

And although it’s sad to cry – the feeling it has given me is extraordinary.

Almost like a reuben sandwich.

Settle Down!

I would give you advice for the New Year, except that I can’t give it as well as this little girl who effectively tells her divorced parents – and the world – to just settle down.

You don’t have to be too high or too low…

Just be at the level of your heart.

 

Empathy

This week my mother turned 93.

She is still as brilliant and beautiful as the woman I admired when I was just a little girl.

I thought as a tribute to this amazing woman, I would share just one short anecdote from this week.

We had our weekly lunch as usual, and we talked about the great-grandchildren and Christmas preparations.

And I mentioned how irritated I was with some trivial thing that I can’t even remember now – just four days later. That is how insignificant it was.

But Mom said she understands how easy it is to get annoyed with certain people or situations.

And she told me about a friend who had said something recently that offended her.

But then she said:

“But you know, I can right now think of three horrible, sad, and unfair things that happened to that woman. She’s had her own terrible pain that changed her whole life. And she couldn’t do anything about it.

So when I think about being angry with her about some stupid thing she said, it just doesn’t seem right. It seems petty. I can let it go.”

That’s about the best definition of empathy I have ever heard.

How lucky that friend is.

How lucky I am.

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Mom celebrating birthday 93 with her three daughters. (That’s me on the right.)

Teeny Tiny Joys

This is a tough time for old hippies like me.

We joined the establishment decades ago, but tried throughout to keep our values intact. We’ve championed the needs of the poor and the powerless, worked to protect human rights and preserve the environment, protested war and corruption – all while also trying to support our families and respect opinions that differed from ours.

This year is difficult. We of the peace-and-love generation are truly worried that the progress we had made in the last sixty years may be dismantled. We are afraid for civil rights, for clean air, for health care, for education.

But despite these significant concerns, we stay optimistic. Because we also believe in the basic goodness of human beings.

We’ll get through the current crisis, just as we survived fearful and distressing times in the past.

As for me personally, what’s helping me stay hopeful and happy is concentrating on the small pleasures that still occur every day. The teeny tiny joys that comfort me.

Here’s how I had a sweet day today.

It snowed last night, so I went out this morning and played with the dog. Theo loves the snow. He runs around like a nut. I hate cold weather, but he brings joy through his sheer pleasure of the moment.

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But I also realized out in the slushy snow that my boots had hit the end of the road. I could feel my socks slowly getting wet. So okay, time for new boots. Hell, I like shopping, even if it means I have to contend with holiday crowds.

First, though, I had a dentist appointment. Now that doesn’t exactly bring pleasure to a day. But it was just a cleaning and I have the sweetest hygienist in the world. An immigrant from Thailand, she told me once that she envied me for having a gift for writing. “I could never do that… my English is just not good enough. It is a struggle for me just to read.” Well, I informed her firmly that she not only learned English, she went to school and studied and passed the licensing for dental hygiene in a language not her own. “How many people could do that… do you think I could learn a specialized profession in Thailand?” “Oh, I never thought of it that way… I guess I did okay,” she said.

So that’s why I don’t mind going to the dentist. But still, it’s the dentist, so I am certainly due a little reward. My mother used to bribe me; I see no reason to discontinue that tradition.

So shopping for boots.

I drove half an hour to the dentist, so what’s another half hour to my favorite shoe store? It sounds about right to me.

I arrived at the store, and there was a parking space right in front. Nice.

I found some pretty nice boots. Waterproof, lined – and cool looking too. Even though I have a Medicare card in my wallet, I still want to look cool.

However, in the same shopping center, there are three other stores that carry shoes. And that Medicare card also indicates that I need to accept that I am an old retired person who needs to be frugal. So I put the boots back in the box (kind of in the bottom of the rack as protection) and went to check out the other stores.

Three stores later, I was sure that I wanted those first boots.

But I also needed lunch. So I ran into McDonald’s for a cheeseburger and a coffee. The cheeseburger was consumed back in my car in under sixty seconds, but the coffee – how can coffee be that hot and yet not demonstrating a rolling boil right in the cup? Ah, but no complaints. Not today. I left the coffee in the car and went back to the first store.

And guess what? I was gone an hour and the boots were gone too. And even though I hadn’t been sure I really wanted them – after all, I went to three other stores to see if I could find something better – now that they were gone I wanted them in the worst way.

I went up to the desk and asked if there were any more in the back. No, everything they had was out – (which I hardly ever believe; I worked in retail several years ago. Where does the shit come from when they re-stock? Why – from out back, of course) – but anyway, I am determined not to let stuff bug me unless actual lives are at stake.

So I thanked the clerk and turned to go. And she said, “You know, I could order those for you online and they will be delivered in under 7 days right to your door, and there’s no shipping charge.”  Ah. So now I could have them. Did I want them? Well… did I want to shop more? Did I want wet, cold feet?

Yes. Yes I did want cool boots and dry warm feet. The clerk entered the order and she said,“You know what, they’re offering $10 off today online, and it looks like even when I’m ordering from the store, you might get it.” And I did. I didn’t get to take the boots home today, but they were cheaper than if I had bought them on the first go-round.

That means that some other woman got those cool boots while I was eating a cheeseburger. So she was probably really happy. And I got the same boots and I saved ten dollars. So two people got happy today, and I ate a cheeseburger. For me, right now, that’s the definition of a good day.

And I got back to my car, and my coffee was exactly the right temperature.

And I turned the key and the radio came on, and my fantasy sweetheart James Taylor was singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”

In some ways, the world is terrible.

In some ways – teeny tiny ways – the world is sweet.

La La Land (Part 2)

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.

 

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The entrance to La La Land. My dog will show you the way.

 

Twenty-Five Reasons

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:

  1. 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.
  2. He drives me. (And not just crazy.)  I love to get in the passenger seat and let him handle the driving and the traffic.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Speaking of jewelry – he’s generous. And to combine generosity with good taste – Wowsa!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. He likes chocolate and ice cream. Because too much healthy eating might make us sad.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.

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La-La-Land

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.

movie-screen

Life-Changing

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
Stricken citizens
Anguished newsmen
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
Gathered dust
This is too long I thought
For my dream

And so he died for me
In June
And not November

kennedy

Expired Skill Set

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.

 

typo