She’s a Jersey Girl After All!

shesajerseygirl


‘Twas the night before …

…Parents Weekend at my daughter’s college. I’m getting everything ready to throw in the car so that we can get an early start tomorrow. Since she left in August we have sent her two packages. Since package #2 left New Jersey a few weeks ago I’ve been compiling a list of the things that we need to bring with us this weekend. It’s not a short list.

Mostly, what we’re talking about here is foul weather gear and heavy clothing. It has gotten significantly chillier up in the northern portion of Vermont since August. Significantly. Chillier.

Outside of these types of things, necessary things, what my daughter wants more than anything is a taste of home. Tastes, plural, really. Literally.

She wants bagels. She wants pizza. She wants fresh mozzarella — the kind that you can get in the supermarket here, the kind they don’t sell anywhere in Vermont, a State that is, basically, KNOWN for its cheese. Not fresh mozzarella, though. Nope. Not THAT cheese. Not mozzarella of the caliber that she is used to eating. Not the GOOD kind. Not the stuff that we (almost) ALWAYS have a braid of in our fridge. Because, you know, this is Jersey. It goes good with the tomatoes. On a nice semolina bread.

Don’t even get me started on bread. There’s no good bread outside of this area. None. End of story. And bagels? Fuggedaboudit.

I don’t know what it is about bagels. I cannot understand why no one outside of the New York-Metropolitan area can figure out how to make a decent bagel. It’s dough boiled in water for crying out loud! How hard can that be? Apparently it isn’t just difficult, it’s impossible. Because nobody makes them like we do. Nobody.

I’ve heard it’s something about our water supply. Okay. So, if you want to make an authentic bagel, ship our water to wherever it is you are. Expensive? Sure. Impossible? Surely not. Still, I’ve never heard of anyone doing it. You’d have to figure if they’d do it anywhere, they’d do it in Vegas. Maybe they do and I just don’t know about it. I don’t think so, though. If it concerned bagels, I’m sure I’d know about it.

I know next to nothing about what’s going on in the world. That guy with Ebola who died? I didn’t even know there WAS a guy with Ebola in this country. I thought people were making it up. If he’d perished as a result of getting ahold of a bad bagel, though, that I would’ve known about. Oh, yes. I would have. Because that would interest me. And it would concern me. Eating a bagel can kill me? Oh. My. God.

I’d have to think long and hard about whether or not life in a world without bagels — a bagelless future — would be worth living. I would. I really would. I’m not entirely sure I would choose to go on. Honestly. I’m not even slightly kidding. I do not joke about bagels. Bagels are sacred.

As is pizza. Well, REAL pizza anyway. I’m not talking about that pastry dough or buttery crust concoction they try to peddle as pizza up in Chicagoland. I’m talking about the stuff we make here in Jersey. Real pizza. The kind made of dough that’s stretched and shaped by a human fist, as God intended pizza to be made. Not by a rolling pin, which may, in point of fact, be the work of the devil — or his handmaids. Real pizza. With the tomato sauce kissing the dough, not hanging out on top of the cheese like an afterthought. Real pizza. Jersey pizza.

Vermont has changed her some. I won’t lie. She has made some recent requests for flannel shirts. The kid with the subscription to “Teen Vogue” asking for PLAID FLANNEL shirts had me a little worried.  I was concerned that she was eschewing her roots, perhaps throwing in with the cheddar cheese and maple syrup crowd until, that is, she asked for the foods that she was raised on, the foods of her people,

It turns out that I needn’t have worried. It looks like I raised a Jersey girl after all. How about that.

The 12 Things Fangette Needs For College

12thingsfangetteneedsforcollege

If I were the type of mother who tucked handwritten notes into her kid’s lunch box or if my daughter, the delightful Fangette, was the type of kid who would read such a thing, I’d pack the following list into the suitcase that’s sitting on her bed — the one that’s bound, in just a few short days, for her new digs on a college campus six hours away. I’m not that mother, she’s not that kid. As there is a much better chance that she’ll read the list if I post it here than if I stuff it in with her winter socks, I’ve compiled what I’m calling “The 12 Things Fangette Needs For College”. Feel free to substitute any name for “Fangette” if you find that this list appeals to your “Ashley”, your “Sara” or, horror of horrors and shame on you!, your “Gertrude”. Perhaps, if you have the kind of kid that will appreciate such a thing, stick it in with her mittens, let her run across it as she’s heading to class one cold, snowy morning.

And then, go ahead and have a nice cup of coffee and a good cry. I know that’s what I’m going to do.

THE 12 THINGS FANGETTE NEEDS FOR COLLEGE

1. Big Girl Panties
You may need two pairs of these, they tend to get hole-y when they get in a bunch. And they will get in a bunch, possibly as a result of the roommate who doesn’t understand that you need an open window in order to sleep or who does not share your love of the HBO dramedy “Girls”, or the professors who think theirs is the only damn class you’re taking, or even the realization that dining halls do not stock an endless supply of romaine lettuce. Put them on every day and go out into the world and behave like the adult that we have raised you to be. You’ll be fine. Call me if you’re not. I’m always awake.

2. Common Sense
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are no shortcuts in life. You can shave a few minutes off a task here and there, but life, unlike traffic, is about going through, not skirting around. Don’t get frustrated. Enjoy the ride.

3. Wariness
You are very good at sizing people up. You have surrounded yourself with good friends here at home — friends that love you, friends that look out for you (and vice versa) — continue this practice while you are away. It will serve you well.

4. Time Management Skills
There will always be a party. Conversely, there will also always be a test that you should be studying for or a paper you should have gotten cracking on yesterday. Strike a balance here.

5. Sense of Humor
You’ve got a wicked one. Use it. Don’t take everything so seriously. Again, it’s about balance here, kiddo.

6. Selfishness
This one will be difficult, as it is antithetical to who you are. You are always the first person your friends call when they’re in a bind. I’m not saying NOT to help people, but keep in mind that your time and your energies will be important to your success. Keep your guard up for people who will look to squander those things. They won’t have your best interests at heart.

7. Moral Compass
You have on more than one occasion demonstrated that you know right from wrong. Always choose to do right. If doing so has consequences, so be it. Hopefully you’ll be wearing your big girl panties when and if you find yourself in a moral quandary.

8. Emergency $20
In cash. Always, and I mean, ALWAYS have this with you. You never know when or in what circumstances you may need it. If you use it, replace it. Always have it, though. Always. Tow truck drivers and cabbies always appreciate a nice cash tip.

9. Self-Respect
Do not leave home without this. Do not surrender who you are or forget why you are where you are or, more importantly, what got you there because some cute “love ’em and leave ’em” type gives you the old heave-ho or you bomb a big test. Heartbreak happens. Failure is a given. They’re both part of life. Don’t go running after some loser. Study harder next time. Don’t despair. Move along. Someone better will come along. If you work hard, you’ll pass the next exam. Keep your eyes on the prize. Use the Emergency $20 and buy yourself some good quality ice cream.

10. Mental Trampoline
Keep in mind that a chick flick, a good cry, and pint of chocolate chip mint will, in moderation, solve a whole host of problems. Setbacks are bound to occur. You’ll rebound. Your mental trampoline is in good condition. Know that it’s perfectly acceptable, once in a while, to take a couple of hours, retreat from the world, and indulge in this passive, but worthwhile, activity. It may be just what you need to face the world tomorrow. Wild parties, binge drinking, and sexual escapades might sound like a cure for what ails you, but they won’t be. (I’m fairly certain that you know this already.) Stick to the ice cream and the movie. Watch “The Notebook”, I know you love that one. Or, if you’re feeling nostalgic, pop in “The Sound of Music”. We always enjoyed watching that one together. Comfort food and a good movie never left anybody hung over — or worse. You can always run off the ice cream pounds. Pregnancy weight and beer guts are much harder to shed. So, too, is that image you’ll have of yourself standing half-clothed on a frat house table with a lampshade on your head.

11. Fearlessness
You have a tendency toward reticence. This is a time to try new things. Not all of these things need to involve tequila. Although I’m sure there will be a few margaritas in your future, go easy on the tequila. It’s a hallucinogen, not to mention that it is, by far, the nastiest hangover you will ever experience. That being said, I would encourage you to seek out opportunities for fulfillment. Don’t stand on the sidelines making snarky comments — make the snarky comments while participating in the activities — safe activities like Quidditch or syrup-making come to mind. Or quilting. Quilting can be loads of fun. Quilting circles are known far and wide for their riotous banter.

If these things don’t appeal to you, keep in mind that you’ll be in a place where the cows outnumber the people. (Remember that fun fact?) Do something with animals — and not just the animals that live in the frat houses — real animals, the four-legged kind that you enjoy so very much. Just a word of caution on the cows, though — I read yesterday that there are more people (over 100!) killed every year in unfortunate bovine accidents than there are folks who perish as a result of shark attacks. Lake Champlain is probably free of sharks, but do keep your wits about you where the cows are concerned. Stay in front of them if you can.

12. The Knowledge That Your Parents Love You — No Matter What
I would hope that you have always known this, but it bears repeating. Win or lose, succeed or fail, through thick and through thin — we have survived. We’ve done so partly because that’s just what we do. It is who we, as a family, are. Mainly, though, we’ve managed to tackle life’s challenges together because we love each other. We are, all of us, flawed, imperfect creatures. Still, we’ve never given up on each other. I cannot imagine that we ever will.

Nor can I think of a single thing, not one single thing, that you could ever do that would cause either your father or me to stop loving you. Not one single thing. Not ever. While living with you has not always been a picnic, particularly during these last few years of adolescence, you have never failed to make us proud — of your academic success, of your athletic prowess, and of your social graces. As you’ve gone out into the world we’ve always gotten, as Grammy Rose used to say, “good reports” — about the qualities that make you “you” — your kindness, your intelligence, your generosity, and, of course, your quick wit. I have witnessed the joy that your laughter and your radiant smile brings to others. That’s a rare gift that you have there. Keep using it. Keep smiling. Keep laughing. Keep on being you. You’ll be just fine.

If you’re not fine, tell us. We’ll help you through it. Really. We will. You know we will. Remember, I’m always awake.

Making Gandhi Proud

makinggandhiproudI was so happy when my daughter, the always delightful Fangette, graduated from high school last week. Finally. All the bullshit was over. Or, so I thought.

She’s home this summer. She’s working here and there at her movie theater job, but she’s home more than she’s not home. I know that come August 22nd when we deposit her and her belongings in Burlington, Vermont, I’ll miss her terribly. Right now, though? Not so much.

At the moment I’m putting up with lots of demands for egg salad sandwiches and runs to the mall. She cannot seem to ever find a beach towel (or a regular towel) when she needs one. And don’t even get me started on where her favorite sandals are. I hope that her roommates can keep better track of her stuff than I can. I hope that they have mastered boiling an egg. I wonder if there’s a place for these skills on the roommate matching forms?

Probably not. This is likely part of the reason that they go away to college at all. In addition to the academic component of a university education, I’m guessing that keeping track of her own shit and learning to make a sandwich will be among the things, along with organic chemistry, that she will learn to master while she’s away at college.

Knowing Fangette as I do, though, I’ll bet she surrounds herself with people who will do these things for her. She’s a person that just naturally gathers minions. For the last 18 years, I’ve been one of them. I cannot wait until August 22nd.

It feels like a release date — from prison or from the mental institution where I’ve been languishing for years. It really does.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to teach my daughter to do things for herself. I have. And I’ve been successful in some areas. She knows what she has in the bank to the penny. She can shower and dress herself. And she’s timely. She gets her schoolwork done. Tardiness of any kind irritates her. She gets that from me.

Unlike me, but much like her father, she cannot make an appointment — for car service, for the dermatologist — to save her life, although I’ve noticed that she has no trouble scheduling mani-pedis. Luckily she won’t have her car on campus next year. She has to find a dermatologist though — we’ve spent years and buckets of money keeping her acne at bay. I suppose that I could take some comfort in the fact that if she doesn’t attend to her skin, at least her nails will look nice. I’m sure she’s already Yelped the best nail salons in Burlington, VT.

She likes to carry on about becoming an independent woman. I’ve told her that doing her own laundry would be a step in the right direction. As would procuring her immunization records from the pediatrician.

I think she’s done one load of laundry from start to finish in her life. As for the immunization records, I know I’ll have to get them. They’re just as important to me as they are to her, given that they are a necessary component to my release date.

The other night on one of our many trips to the mall to secure this, that, and the other thing, we enjoyed dinner together. She told me that she was bothered by all of the injustice in the world, that she hoped to find a way — during or after college — to use her skills to make a difference in the world. That’s admirable.

I told her that she might want to start by making a difference in my world — picking up after herself, making her own pasta, buying her own strawberries. She rolled her eyes, which was her way of saying, “Mom, you don’t get it. I’m talking about saving the WORLD here!”

I got it. I really did. She’s always on me about being a better housekeeper, a more organized person. I took this opportunity to quote Gandhi. I told her that she should “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. She looked at me like I was crazy. She asked me if I thought that I wasn’t diminishing Gandhi by using his words to get her to do something as pedestrian as laundry.

I can’t be sure, not having known Gandhi myself, but I’ll bet he would be supportive of my efforts. I’m pretty sure he had teenagers. I’ll bet they rolled their eyes at him, too. I told her to go ahead and find me a picture of Gandhi in a dirty and/or wrinkled sari. I’m still awaiting that piece of evidence.

In an effort to be the change I wish to see in my world, I’m going to do a little cleaning and organizing today. After all, I want to make Gandhi proud. (Don’t we all?) I can’t start on it right away though. I have to get on the phone with the pediatrician’s office and the car dealership and straighten some things out for Fangette. Who knows how long that will take?

I can’t be sure, but I think I hear Gandhi “tsking” right now. I absolutely know he’s shaking his head. As for me, I just keep thinking “August 22nd, August 22nd, August 22nd!”



photo credit: Ghandi

This post also appeared on Scary Mommy where it was met with, let’s just call it, a cooler than expected reception. I still love Scary Mommy, though — if you like to read the kinds of things that I write (and, really, outside of a few Patty Perfect Soccer Moms that enjoy posting critical comments about how I’m a lazy mother who has, deservedly, raised a monster, who doesn’t?), I suggest you head on over there. It’s a hoot! (At least for those of who “get” humor.)

Scary Mommy

“Whatever!”

A&RphotopolaroidMy mother and I have, for many years, had a running joke — a joke that went something like this: “Careful, Mom, you might want to be nicer to me. Don’t forget that I’ll likely be the one picking out your nursing home!” She would roll her eyes and chuckle — sometimes nervously; I would narrow mine and launch into my best evil laugh.

Finally and, I suppose, inevitably, we actually found ourselves in the position this week to do just that — pick out my mother’s nursing home. There were no evil laughs. No malicious intent.

The reality is that she isn’t in an actual nursing home. Well, not per se. They don’t call them nursing homes anymore, anyway. They call them rehabilitation centers or transitional care facilities now. Fancy nomenclature aside, they are places that aren’t your home where nursing care is provided.

My mother, following a period of strengthening and physical therapy, will return to her own home. For now, though, she is in a safe environment where she can convalesce from two major surgeries, an infection, and a heart attack.

Of course my mother doesn’t see it this way. And, as a result, I seem to be persona non grata at the moment. How do I know this? Because she told me so.

Yes, she did. I called her tonight to see how she was making out. I wanted to know if she was happy that my sister visited today and brought some of the things that she requested — her glasses, her knitting. Those kinds of things. Comforting things. Things from home.

Her response to my line of questioning went something like this: “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks. Whatever.” Really. She said “Whatever”. There is no doubt in my mind that if she hadn’t been holding the phone with one hand and if she knew how to do it, she would have made a “W-shaped” symbol out of her hands and placed them on her forehead as she said “Whatever”.

She also seemed preoccupied. (Perhaps she was trying to figure out how to make that “W-shaped” symbol?) I got the sense that there was something other than jawing it up on the phone with me that she’d rather be doing — like, for example, enjoying a root canal. I told myself that she must be exhausted, but I sensed there was more to her abruptness than just that. Then, apropos of nothing, she said to me, “Well, Jacqueline, you’ll be happy to know that your Uncle, my own brother, who I am assuming is taking his marching orders from YOU [emphasis hers], will not come down here and break me out of this joint.” Ah! There it was.

I couldn’t help myself. I burst out laughing. Burst. Out. Laughing. The image of my Uncle “breaking” my mother “out of [that] joint” tickled me.

When I recovered my equilibrium, I greeted her stony silence by saying, “Oh, my God, Mom! You act as if you’ve been relegated to the dungeon of a medieval castle with no means of escape!” I went on to remind her that her stay would, dependent upon her progress, be short.

Not to be outdone, my mother countered with, “Um, speaking of dungeons. I was tortured by some very nice physical therapists today. Just so you know, they worked me over for forty-five minutes. It was ridiculous.”

While I’m sure it was tiring, I’m fairly certain that it was in no way “ridiculous”; no one, I’m sure, gave her anything even resembling a “working over”. She had not, as she so eloquently put it, been “tortured”. Talk about dramatic!

The physical therapy, I reminded my mother, was the very reason that we felt it necessary to place her in a rehabilitation facility in the first place. I made certain that I used the pronoun “we” a lot. Because, whether she wanted to believe me or not, the decision to put her into an environment where, we hope, she will make progress — measurable progress — and come home in a better position to, oh, I don’t know, walk twenty-five feet without going into cardiac arrest, was not mine alone.

Still, I was getting the feeling that I had been cast as the blue meanie. Fine. I’m willing to take one for the team.

This decision, which is absolutely in my mother’s best interest, was discussed, debated, and, ultimately, decided upon by all of her children and other members of her family. Even our spouses got involved. It was, in fact, my brother-in-law who finally convinced her to go to the rehab center. While I don’t want to sell my brother-in-law short — he’s a smart, calm, and persuasive guy — but his input may have simply been the final straw. By the time we decided to send in the big guns, she may have heard just about enough from her children, her husband, her doctors, and the support staff at the hospital. Knowing my mother as well as I do, I’m pretty sure that she agreed to “transition”, as they call it, just so that we would all shut up about it already.

It appears, however, that my mother is not going to shut up about it any time soon. It also appears that she, at least for the moment, harbors no small amount of ill will toward me. While I wish she were happier with the decision that was, collectively, made to insure her safety and that will ultimately make her stronger and able to care for herself, I can’t allow myself to be overly concerned about it at the moment.

If it helps her to blame someone for her current predicament, if that someone has to be me, that’s just fine and dandy. Whatever.

The Sounds of the Season

Field_hockey_girlI’m not looking forward to Halloween this year. To be honest, this holiday has always had a bittersweet quality to it. Among other things, for those of us who reside here in the Northeast, there is the knowledge that once October 31st rolls around, there’s little hope that we’ll enjoy another day of Indian summer — we know that winter is, indeed, coming. In exchange for this bad news, we are given some of those gorgeous, clear, crisp days that make even the most cynical among us pause to take note — and there’s almost nothing like the sheer breathtaking beauty in the bursts of color that autumn brings.

This year it has been somewhat difficult to enjoy Mother Nature’s seasonal artwork. I’m reluctant to see October draw to a close for another reason, one that has nothing to do with the weather, one that is more bitter than it is sweet. This year, those last days of October mark the end of my daughter’s high school field hockey career.

As a result, I have found myself paying less attention to autumn’s visual display and more attention to what has long been, for us, the sounds of the season — the echo of the clacking sticks, the shrill of the whistle, the clunking noise the ball makes when a goal is scored, even the buzzer that has, more often than not, heralded yet another defeat. I feel like I’m filing away the sensory observations associated not just with field hockey, but with my only child — its rhythms, its cadences are, in my mind, intertwined with her rhythms, her cadences — so that I can revisit them somewhere down the road.

Unlike other memories that we, as mothers, can pull out of a box — macaroni art work, baby blankets, poorly, yet lovingly, crafted Christmas ornaments — these sounds won’t fit into a plastic bin or a cardboard carton. They’re not the sort of thing that can be pulled from a shelf, touched, or even smelled when we want to be reminded of who our children once were. Auditory memories — less tangible, perhaps, than those of a visual or a tactile variety, but no less important — have a far more ephemeral quality to them.

Will she continue to play this game that she has grown to love so very much? That remains to be seen. Even if she does, it won’t be the same — for either of us. She’s not the same kid who stood in the backfield that September day — a day that feels simultaneously like yesterday and like a million years ago. I remember that day. I recall how she was nervously twirling her stick, how she was “setting” her body, how she was attempting to put on her best “game face”. I not only sensed, I knew, that she was both proud of her place on the team and terrified to fail — her teammates, her coaches, her parents, herself. It’s hard to believe on that long ago afternoon — the one when she surreptitiously scanned the crowd, looking for me — that she was only thirteen years old.

My daughter has come a long way since then in many areas. Her evolution both as a player and as a person is obvious to anyone who has tracked her progress. Yes, she’s become a better player — she’s more adept at the 16-yard hit, more able to help the goalkeeper guard against the shot to the post. She has become, both on and off the playing field, a more confident person. She’s no longer that thirteen-year-old girl who was shaking in her cleats, looking for Mommy, awaiting her chance to get in on the action. She no longer shakes in her cleats (or her flats or her heels). She hardly ever looks for me anymore. She’s a poised young woman who has a bright future. She has decisions to make about college, about hockey, about other important things.

What she’s managed to achieve on the turf has come through hard work, determination, and perseverance. If she can apply those lessons to the rest of her life, she’s going to be just fine. As for me, maybe I’ll steal a ball so that I can take it out and roll it between my fingers when I want to conjure the auditory memories or retrieve a mental picture of that little girl. Surely it will remind me that I had the privilege to play a large part in most of what has, so far, been her life. That I’ll have to sit on the sidelines for the rest of it? I’m fine with that. I’ve grown accustomed to those cold, hard bleacher seats.

photo credit: me

Supermarket Panties

braI probably shouldn’t admit this without donning my funny nose and glasses disguise, but I have never purchased a bra from Victoria’s Secret before — before yesterday, that is. Panties? Yes. Pajamas? Of course. A thong? Just the once, but that’s a story I shall save for another day. NEVER, prior to yesterday, had I EVER left that store with a brassiere for myself wrapped in that delightful, yet a little too pink, striped bag. My teenage daughter shops there all the time. Fangette, of the lovely “C”-cup, has always been able to shop there for her undergarments. But, me? Never.

Victoria’s Secret has never been my “go-to” store when shopping for bras. Seeing as I am a “DD”, I have always been far more comfortable at Macy’s or Kohl’s. And, okay, I’ll admit it — once or twice I may have plucked a couple of those “Playtex 18-hour” jobs off of the display at Target. While they are certainly not my favorite brassiere — not by a long shot — there have been times when, owing to a lack of money, a lack of time, or some combination of the two, that I have been forced to resort to that old stand-by. Those things always make me feel like I’m wearing my mother’s bra, but what can you do? Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

Speaking of measuring, one of the things that I hate about places like Victoria’s Secret is that they almost always insist on measuring you — to make sure that you are wearing the correct size. I find it intrusive, rather than instructive. These experiences have often left me feeling a bit squeamish and, well, fat. Not that I’ve ever been particularly fat, but I’ve almost always been a little overweight. And the girls? The girls, especially on my small frame, could probably have their own zip code. And the sales clerks almost always find a way to make me feel stupid — they always manage to work in how I’ve been wearing the wrong size bra or exclaiming over how long I’ve owned the model I walked in wearing. Whatever. I have no doubt that left to my own devices I’ve frequently chosen the wrong size bra. I don’t care — at least I did it in private — absent the snickering of thin, judgmental, and condescending sales clerks.

I didn’t set out to go bra shopping last night. It just kind of happened. Over the past year, or so, I’ve lost a little weight. As a result, I’ve had to embark upon a few shopping expeditions. I’ve discovered that I love JC Penney and Ann Taylor Loft. Last night, in an effort to procure a couple of more Loft t-shirts (LOVE THEM!) before they reverted back to their regular price and to bolster my severe lack of lightweight bottoms, I headed off to the mall. I did this, may I add, all by myself.

More often than not, when I go shopping I have Fangette in tow. Her presence limits me for a number of reasons. The first and foremost being because my kid could bankrupt Bill Gates — and I am no Bill Gates. Every time we go shopping, even if the purpose of the trip is for me to procure something as simple as a bag of socks, she manages to wangle a good bit of money out of me for such necessities as infinity scarves, a new pair of Vans, yet another pair of Hollister jeans, or those American Eagle chinos that she loves, loves, loves! And don’t even get me started on Aerie. I should own that place. Usually, I’m lucky if, by the end of the trip, I can afford a pair of socks, let alone the multi-pack I set out to purchase.

Aside from the obvious financial difficulties that shopping with your average adolescent female present, there are other, more sinister, elements to having her along. Like, for example, being told that I look “ridiculous” in everything I try on. Now, I’m not saying that the blue paisley peasant blouse did not, indeed, put one in mind of an actual Russian peasant (for a small woman, I am broad-shouldered and, thus, must guard against anything that draws unnecessary attention to that area of my body), but I think that “ridiculous” should be reserved for things that make one appear clown-like — things like oversized red shoes or multi-colored striped jumpsuits. That sort of thing.

I’m not an idiot. I know that she deliberately undermines me — that she understands our limited resources and takes full advantage of my self-esteem issues (especially where my shoulders are concerned!) knowing full well that if I buy nothing, there will be more money to spend on the things that she wants or needs. It’s simple economics, really. It’s in these moments, when she demonstrates her true manipulative nature, that she both exasperates me and makes me proud. She’ll do well out in the big, bad world. If nursing school doesn’t work out, there’s always politics!

Most of the time, though, she is just downright annoying to shop with. So, it was with great pleasure that I browsed through JC Penney last night. I even found myself an awesome pair of something called “boyfriend fit crop chinos” — luckily, they only had one pair in my size, otherwise I might not have had enough money to even consider wandering into Victoria’s Secret. For a woman that has been known to buy her panties at the grocery store, I tend to suffer from “sticker shock” at Victoria’s Secret.

Their prices notwithstanding, I also find the atmosphere there slightly off-putting. There are just altogether too many choices. Too many colors. Too many descriptors. It’s also far too well-lit. I would prefer to purchase my underwear the way I imagine people purchase their cocaine or lay down their bets — in a more clandestine atmosphere — like on a street corner or in the back room of a smoke-filled bar.

But, there I was. And, as luck would have it, there was also a very bored and extremely lovely young woman whose job it was to guide the likes of me — a woman who was wearing a clearly ill-fitting undergarment — through the enormous rabbit hole that is Victoria’s Secret — without actually making her feel like she didn’t belong there. Her name, in a quirky twist of fate, was Vicki. (Seriously. It was. It was on her name tag and everything!)

She was probably only a couple of years older than Fangette but, unlike Fangette, her job was to get me to spend money on myself. And, boy, did she ever! That she did so in such a way that I barely noticed is as much a testament to her warmth and force of personality as it is to the training program provided by her employer. (I suspect that this young woman could sell a ski lift in Florida — she was THAT good!) It was, far and away, the absolute BEST bra shopping experience I have ever had. It was a pleasure. I only hope that when I am ready to replace the bras that I bought last night that Vicki hasn’t moved on to greener pastures — like the used car lot or some other such place where her commission rate will, undoubtedly, be much higher. I hope that she sells bras for the love of selling bras. Because she’s terrific at it!

I loved her. And the girls? They are very grateful to her. They got some very well-deserved pampering and attention! And, dare I say it? They look magnificent!

photo credit: bra (morguefile.com)

For the record, I have not received remuneration of any kind from ANY of the retailers mentioned in this post!

Pots of Pennies and Toothpicks: The Best Thing My Mother Ever Taught Me

file0001847603162By nature I am a highly competitive person. I like to win, to excel, to achieve. Who doesn’t? Well, my mother for one. She doesn’t seem to care about it. (The one exception to this rule is Bingo! — my mother really likes to win at Bingo!)

Not only does she, by and large, NOT care about winning, she has been known to deliberately LOSE — to allow someone else to win. And not just her children. Lots of people “let” their children win. No. My mother would let other adults win. Crazy, right?

My mother enjoyed cards — she and her friends played “Pinochle” and “Canasta” like it was their JOB! She taught us, my sisters and I, to play card games — she started us out with “Old Maid” , we progressed to more advanced games like, “Crazy Eights” and “Rummy 500”. As we got older, we were eventually allowed to join in the extended family games of “Spoons” and “Poker”. My mother was proud that she had raised a pack of card sharks.

I can remember one time when I was about eight or nine, during a family get-together that inevitably led to a card game — all the adults were sitting around the table playing gin rummy — when I witnessed what I considered unfathomable behavior. My mother, rummy in hand (she could have “blitzed” — taken the whole pot!), slowly got rid of her melds. This was shocking to me. Shocking! Not because the stakes were very high — I think they played for pennies — if pennies were too dear, the pot would be filled with toothpicks.

I could barely restrain myself from commenting, but I knew better than to do so. If I had learned one thing about card games, and I had learned a few things by that point, it was that if the adults allowed you to watch, you kept your mouth shut. You didn’t tip their hands. My cousin and I had made that mistake once and been banished to hanging out with the little kids in the playroom. Play-Doh and Colorforms were not nearly as interesting as observing the strategy of the adult card games. Not by a long shot.

The minute I got into the car, I blurted out, “Mom! Why’d ya let Pop-Pop win that hand? Ya had him on the ropes, Ma!. Why’d ya do it? WHY?” (Yes. As a young child I often spoke like one of “The Bowery Boys” — particularly after spending any amount of time with my cousin, Timmy — he was a master of impersonation and mimicry.) My mother just turned to me and said, “Winning is more important to him than it is to me. Winning makes him feel good about himself. He needs it. He doesn’t have much in his life. I have your father and you girls. I don’t need to win a silly card game.”

Seriously. THAT was her answer.

Not surprisingly, my mother has applied this same thinking to most other things in her life. She often stepped aside, made sacrifices, held back her winning hand, so that others (mostly her children) could surpass her.

I wish I could say that I embraced her philosophy. I didn’t. It took me years to fully comprehend that sometimes losing has its own strategy. I spent the greater part of my life striving to be better at one thing or another, trying to overtake one person or another. (Sadly, I must admit, that sometimes that person was even my mother!) It got me nowhere. I don’t even have a stockpile of pennies or toothpicks to show for it.

Me & My Mom

Me & My Mom

I never really understood my mother’s altruistic nature. Not until I had a child of my own. Then I got it. Then I understood. There are, as it turns out, far more important things than winning. Life, regardless of how much money you make or how successful you become — by your standards or by someone else’s — is not, in the end, measured by how much you’ve “won”. More often, it’s measured in the ability to recognize that someone else needs to shine.

The best thing that my mother ever taught me, the thing that took me far too long to learn, is that winning a game of cards (or having a nicer car, better clothes, or a cleaner house) is necessary to those who lack emotional strength — to others, who are fortunate enough to have an abundance of the latter, the former rarely matters at all.

This is a blog hop — brought to you, once again, by the fabulous ladies of Generationfabulous.com

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photo credit:

cards
Mom & Me (taken by a friend of the family — kenhipkins.com — for more of his great stuff go here)