Sometimes Ya Hafta Look Hard at a Person

Two weeks ago, I decided that watching “On Golden Pond” was a better choice than doing my taxes or for that matter, cleaning my toilet.

I’ve only watched that film a bazillion or so times, but that day was “tax day” for me and I needed to watch it one more time before I could do my yearly tax tantrum and organize myself.

You know the tantrum.

The one that each of us does every spring in preparation for that time of year when we sit in front of a stack of papers and break out in a cold sweat wondering if our new born child’s (or grandchild’s) future has to be ransomed to pay the government even more money, or if (per chance) we’ve actually fed the beast enough to break even for the year.

So I asked myself, “Prepare my taxes or watch ‘On Golden Pond’?”

Such a dilemma.

At the time, cleaning my toilet sounded more enticing than sitting down and organizing my shoe box full of tax documents, but watching “On Golden Pond” seemed the more pleasant of the two, so “On Golden Pond” it was!

And watch I did with a mixture of pleasure and disquieting nostalgia.

From the opening scene of the summer sun sparkling on the lake with wailing echoes of a loon and its mate in the background, to the closing credits with the autumnal sun setting on a lake much colder and foreboding of winter months to come, I found myself transported – transported home to the Adirondack Mts of upstate New York and a time period I willingly (and at other times, not so willingly) traveled.

I wish I could say it reminded me of a simpler life; a life filled with special fishing adventures and diving lessons carefully taught by a loving, involved care-taker, like Billy, Jr. from the movie. But, life wasn’t that idyllic for me at age 13.

I had responsibilities and younger siblings to take care of – there was no time for fishing or boating or leisure reading and discussion of “Treasure Island” or “Swiss Family Robinson”.

Mom had to work and I had to help her help us. There were dinners to prepare and hung laundry to take down and fold. There were floors that needed mopping and diapers that needed changing; and on those rare occasions that we’d head-on up to “the lake” for a quick evening dip or Sunday afternoon swim, I remember the feel of the sand slowly oozing through my toes; and the cool, fresh mountain air that came from unpolluted Adirondack lakes and how the setting sun sparkled on the waves lapping at my feet, as I solemnly gazed across the lake.

They were special times. Carefree times. Times that came infrequently, but times that I cherished and fondly remember.

When I was younger, I was drawn time and time again to the movie’s physical location and the film’s portrayal of the relationships with the Thayer’s and Billy, Jr., their 13 year-old summer charge.

Over the years, though, I eventually found myself drawn to Norman’s and Ethel’s relationship.

Norman, the retired, witty college professor – staunch disciplinarian – highly regarded teacher and husband. Ethel, Norman’s happy, out-going wife who is several years his junior – grounded in her identity, but deferential to Norman’s “larger than life” personality and opinions.

Each different in personality and psychological make-up, but each suited to each other to make each other whole; to make each other “safe”….

Norman’s “flirtation with senility” in the opening scenes of the movie when he goes berry picking and finds himself lost on his property really hit an emotional chord with me; really made me wonder if I, like Norman, was “flirting with senility” at a much earlier age than he.

Like Norman, I find the comfort of my partner safe and validating when I find myself outside of “my bubble” and overwhelmed with life’s demands. It is she that brings me “home, again”, and she that calms my fears when the world is spinning and everything seems undoable.

And like Norman, I sometimes find myself “yelling at life” and wondering how the hell I got so old, and then I remembered what Ethel lovingly told Billy after Norman yelled at him for putting out the fire that Norman accidentally started one evening in the living room when he attempted to start a fire in the cabin’s fire place…..

“Billy,” she gently begins.

Sometimes ya hafta look hard at a person and remember that he’s doing the best he can. He’s just trying to find his way – that’s all. Just like you.”

Yep.

That’s me these days – gracefully (and some days not so gracefully) “trying to find my way” as I sail through some rough seas and other days, calm seas – as the Captain of this ship we call aging.

I’m older, fatter, grayer and not so nimble in my dancing shoes these days, but it’s ok. I’m also wiser, more content, definitely “gayer”, and more importantly – I’m alive and evolving – and becoming more and more my authentic self every day.

I may not be “fully evolved”, yet, but I believe in Aibeleen Clark’s statement from the book, “The Help”, that “I is smart. I is kind. And I is important.”

And on those days I’m not feeling so kind and so smart and so important, I have my Princess to remind me that I am.

(And on those days that I’m feeling too smart and too important and too full of myself, I also have my Princess to remind me that I am….)

May each of you be blessed with a special someone in your life that reminds you, that, “You is smart. You is kind. And you is important.”

Have a great day, People, and I’ll catch you the next time, looking at life from my shoes!

 

 

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Ya Gotta Eat a Little Dirt Once in Awhile

In some parts of the country, the weather Gods haven’t figured out that it’s spring, yet.

As of this writing, my Mom (who lives in upstate NY) is still in her long underwear on a daily basis and I’m 3,000 miles away trying to figure out how my Buddha belly is gonna look in last year’s bikini.

(Yeah, right. And for those of you that think I ever owned a bikini, what medication are you currently taking? I’d like some myself!)

My Mom starts climbing the walls when the weather gets bad and she can’t get out, so I thought I’d best give her a call to see how she was doing.

She usually plays cards with the ladies today and I decided to give her a call to see if she was gonna bundle up and venture out or hang out in her hamster cage for the day.

She answered right away and I asked her what she was doing.

Rarely at a loss for something to say, she started talking immediately.

“I’m eating strawberries, Lucie. Your brother, Anthony, told me that they’re healthy for me. Got something called oxidants or some such thing in them that are supposed to be good for you. Guess they clean your blood and keep your blood pressure down to prevent heart attacks. Sounds like some kind of laundry detergent to me, but what ta hell do I know?” she sarcastically asked.

“Well, Ma, I think you mean antioxidants. Berries are loaded with antioxidants and yes, they’re good for your heart and have been known to reduce blood pressure and inflammation,” I told her.

“And,” I continued.

“They’re rich in potassium, Mom. I’m glad you’re eating them, but I thought you didn’t like berries?” I asked.

“Cazzo,” she responded.

“I hate berries! Your Aunt Carmie eats them with her cereal every day and has been trying to get me to eat them now for years. I can’t stand them,” she empathically let me know.

“I sliced them up and put on a bunch of sugar and then remembered that I had some Cool Whip left over from Easter and slapped on some Cool Whip. They’re not too bad with the sugar and Cool Whip. I don’t know how your Aunt eats them plain, though. Makes me gag,” she informed me.

Yep.

W e l l,” I slowly said in a high pitched voice.

“Sounds to me like you’ve negated the health benefits of the berries with all that additional sugar that you added, but what ta hell do I know? I’m sick all the time and eat my berries nude.”

“Cazzo, Lucie. You gotta eat a little dirt once in a while. You kids eat too healthy and aren’t getting enough natural germs in your system and then get sick all the time. When I was a kid, I was really sickly as a baby and our neighbor told Nonnie to give me a raw egg to help me get stronger. Nonnie did and I got better. You damn kids don’t know how to eat right today. The old timers knew how to eat,” she rattled on without taking a breath.

“Hey,” she continued without letting me get a word in edgewise.

“Aren’t you supposed to be packing for your trip this weekend?” she queried.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“But I thought I’d call you before I started packing and see how you were doing with this crazy weather, lately,” I continued.

“And any way, I don’t know what the hell to pack. The weather’s crazy out here, too. Don’t know if I need my long underwear and boots or bikini and flip flops!” I chuckled, cracking myself up.

“Figurati (fee-GUH-rah-tee, loosely translated: don’t worry about it), Lucie!” she responded, totally ignoring my humor.

“Pack a duffle bag with a pair of undies, socks and a toothbrush, and you’re good to go,” she continued.

“Madonna!”

“You always pack too much shit,” she bluntly informed me.

Yep.

Mom knows best.

I thought I’d pack the flip flops and buy my underwear and a tooth brush on the road. My Doctor said I’ve been carrying around too much weight, lately, anyway.

Remember to be kind to each other today, People, and take the time every day to laugh.

Catch ya next go round, looking at life from my shoes!

 

Each Man for Himself!

Years ago, when the Princess and I first met each other, we prudently decided that 10 years of therapy between the two of us was more than sufficient for two people to plan a simple tenting expedition to the local Santa Cruz Mts.

After all, she’d been on a catered backpacking trip to Yosemite in her youth, and I was a former Brownie from the local Girl Scout troop of the Adirondack Mts. in upstate NY.

An inexperienced backpacker and a naïve Girl Scout – we were the perfect pair for camping in the Redwoods of Northern Ca. – or so we thought.

Preparation for food and camping equipment was carefully planned and packed into my Isuzu Rodeo, and a short time later we found ourselves quietly standing in a secluded canyon of dripping redwoods, babbling creeks and various chaparral ecosystems; listening to a pileated red-crested woodpecker chopping away at a dead tree nearby, presumably foraging for carpenter ants for its evening meal.

One minute we were sweating like pigs in a bacon factory, hustling to pack my SUV and get ahead of Friday’s ghastly commute; and the next minute we were staring in total awe – jaws dropped, chilled to the bones – as a blanket of fog slowly immersed the forest of majestic, towering redwoods.

How could we live so close to such a paradise and be so blind to its beauty in our day to day lives?

I didn’t know.

Being the more pragmatic of the two, though, I knew that if we wanted to get our site set-up and dinner started while we still had some daylight, that we’d better stop gazing at nature and start hustling with some practicalities of the tasks at hand.

Yep.

Apparently, I took too long appreciating nature and somehow lost the Princess to the ever-enticing Woody, the Woodpecker, because she was nowhere in sight.

“No biggey,” I told myself. “The tent poles had bungee cords and I’d put it up without assistance before. I could easily do this myself.”

So, I did just that.

I set up the tent, lickety-split, and made everything cozy with sleeping bags, pillows, blankets and a lantern.

Shortly after I set up and prepped the tent, I spotted the Princess lollygagging in the woods nearby and decided that Girl Scout or no Girl Scout, I needed help preparing our dinner that night if we were going to eat before sunset.

So, I shouted to her and asked that she give me a hand.

Yeah.

Well, the Princess being the Princess, she decided that prepping for a simple meal of hamburgers and potato salad was not exactly a herculean feat requiring any expert preparation and brusquely shot back, “What’s the big deal? Slap together some hamburger meat, throw it on the fire and we’re good to go!”

She then stared at me in disbelief, shook her head and asked, “What are you getting your panties all up in a knot over?”

“Just look at how beautiful this is!” she continued, throwing her head back and stretching her arms toward the redwood-crowned-horizon, like Stuart, of the famous Minions cartoon characters.

Yep.

Deciding that a fire was best started sooner than later, to deal with the chill of the blanket of fog enveloping us, my knotted-up panties and I headed into the nearby forest searching for dry kindling in woods that were slowly becoming saturated from the fog and dripping trees.

And, of course, there wasn’t a dry twig to be found.

I wasn’t worried, though.

Girl Scouts are always prepared.

I went into my car, whipped out my little camping stove, set it up under the raised, hatchback door of my Rodeo’s cargo area; and began the arduous task of prepping our simple meal; while continuing to make my case to the Princess for her assistance.

Once again, the Princess informed me that I needed to lighten up and chill-ax.

Uh-Hun.

At that point, I’d had enough chill-axing to last the whole weekend, and decided that it was too soon in our relationship to tell her to “f – herself” and that an each man for himself survival strategy may be the more therapeutic way to go.

So, I carefully made a meal for one, took myself and my hamburger into the tent to get out of the dampness of the night and settled in for an evening of reading and chill-laxing; when I heard the unmistakable sound of the tent zipper opening and the elfin head of the Princess suddenly poked in.

“Hey,” she said, smiling at me.

“I smelled the hamburgers cooking a while ago. Where’s mine?” she innocently continued.

Acutely aware of the fact that it was ME who set up the tent, ME who prepped the inside of the tent, ME who attempted to light a fire for us, and ME who prepped our meal; I decided that a simple constrained statement of, “Tonight’s dinner is an each man for himself kind of meal. Help yourself, Sweetie. If you can see your way around out there, the meat’s in the cooler in the outside storage unit.”

I then proceeded to zip-up my sleeping bag and continued my reading.

After what seemed like forever and a day, the red-headed Minion fumbled around outside, threw some sort of sustenance together and crawled into the tent – wet, tired and looking not too friendly.

Observing that she was not too keen on bed-time conversation, I decided to call it a day, and settled in for the night.

I figured tomorrow would bring with it a new day and hopefully a new attitude by all.

Uh-Hun.

The next day the Princess woke up bright and early, crawled out of the warmth of her sleeping bag, unzipped the tent, rummaged outside for some breakfast goodies, and brought them back to the tent; where she carefully preceded to lay out a verifiable breakfast feast for one, on top of her bag.

Smelling the buns and the sweet, earthy smell of freshly brewed coffee, I woke up and sleepily said, “Smells great, Sweetie. Where’s mine?”

Looking at me like only the Princess can when she’s being the Princess; she smiled and tauntingly said, “Sorry, Hun. It’s an each man for himself kinda meal.”

And on that note, we looked at each other and slowly burst into unbridled laughter!

Be kind to one another today, People, and I’ll catch you the next time, looking at life from my shoes.