What I Like About Me

I’ve had a song stuck in my head. “What I like about you, you really know how to dance…” Those are the only lyrics I remember.

I began thinking about how infrequently most humanoids consider what they like about themselves. I guess it seems narcissistic to gaze deeply at the wonders of you.

I spent years not liking myself. High School was the worst. I suspect most High Schoolers are insecure.

But now I’m sixty-five, and dammit, I like me. Sure, it took a lot of therapy, but I got there.

I’m diving in and writing my little personal song. The title, “What I like about me.”
Below is a list. These aren’t in any particular order. In fact, upon re-reading, I realize the biggest most important things are kind of far down on the account.

1) I’m courageous. Nope, not in the jumping out of airplanes kind of way. More in the embracing new challenges and growing with change way.  I lived with fear and trepidation for many years.  No more.

2) I have red hair. I didn’t like that as a kid. Being different isn’t fun when you’re a child. I wanted blond. And tan. I had red and white. But now, I love it. My red hair has faded, so I help it along every three months or so. I was reluctant to do that thinking then I’ll be a “fake” redhead. Which friend Richie has called me for years. I’ve threatened to prove it to him. He shudders at the thought.

3) I bake great cookies.

4) I make excellent apologies. I screw up. I’m human. I’ve learned to prostrate myself, beg forgiveness and never add the word “but” when making amends. Everything after the “but” is the truth.

5) I’m a compliant patient. Follow doctor’s orders.

6) I’m an artist. What’s great about being artsy is you get a hall pass on being wacky.

7) I’m a bit nuts. We are all wacky, but I’ve learned to embrace my crazy.

8) I’ve learned how to cook.

9) And this should have been at the top of the list, but I’m unwilling to go back and change all the numbers. I have two children I love with all my heart. They are self-sufficient. They know how to give and receive love. One is a spectacular creative mother. They share things with me. They trust me with their truth.

10) Speaking of kids, I have two smart kind step-children.
One of those step-children brought two sweet step-grandchildren into my life.

11) My husband! What a gift he is. I like and love this man. Again, this should have been top of the list.

12) I am delighted to reinvent myself every few years. Occasionally every few days.

13) I have a stellar son-in-law. He’s a reader. I like readers. He is smart, funny, and kind to his mother-in-law. And along with him comes a terrific extended family.

14) I have rock star buddies. Not one toxic person in the group.

15) We are parents to the best dog in the world. Bronson the wonder-pet.

16) AND–drum roll please–I have Tate. My beloved grandson. He lights up my world. One of these days I will write a picture book for him.

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17) I can do Photoshop.

18) I have a superb extended family.

19) I live in Florida. Fabulous in the winter. Not so much in the summer, but then we take long fascinating road trips and escape the heat.  I like that we travel.

20) There’s lots more. But I’ll end with one biggie–what I like about me is that I’ve learned to like me. I highly recommend it.

Somewhat related blog posts:

These relate to #16–Tate the Great:

Hanging with the Kids

Smelly Molly

A Poem for my Grandson. “Eating Boogers” by Nana

These relate due to #6–being an artist:

Bovine Belly-Aching

Bats in my belfry and Cows in our kitchen

A Hobby!

Coloring for Kelel

A Scary Halloween Image

Ed O’Bradovich, Dan Hampton and a roll of Duct Tape

Textural Triptych

This relates to #7–being wacky:

Possibly my most embarrassing moment ever.

High School Reunions

These relate to #12–reinventing myself:

Romance, mayhap?

Took the plunge and joined a writer’s group.

These relate due to #1–courage:

Our Impulsive Move to Florida

Clinical Depression

Divorce

Dating at Fifty

Moving. You can’t always get what you want. But we got what we needed.

This relates to #13–extended family:

Adoption. A Beautiful Exchange.

These are related to #15–Bronson the wonder dog:

Our Phony Service Dog

The many naughty dogs I’ve trained, and the good one who came from Prison.

There are about a zillion related to #19–living in Florida and travel.  But my fingers are tired.  And we have a field trip planned.  Costco then out for lunch. What’s not to love about that?  I’ll put on my old lady cataract glasses and go forth and frolic.  Life is great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main Street Newark Delaware Circa 1960.

In the wee small hours I woke up mentally wandering down Main Street, Newark Delaware.

I walked down the left side. No, I don’t know North from South. I’m a left and right girl. First I passed University of Delaware’s Old College. Next to it is Recitation Hall. I had most of my college art studio classes there.

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The building smelled of oil paint, turpentine, and creativity. My freshman year, while taking Drawing 101 the professor got so exasperated with one student’s artwork he tossed it out a second-floor window.  Professors worked hard to weed out the art students who thought being an art major would be an easy ride.

My junior year we were tasked with doing experiential art. The U of D drum major, Robbie, was a brilliant art student. He made the whole class put on white marching band fingerless gloves and he blindfolded us. He led us to the long sidewalk in front of Old College and had us sit in a circle on the public walkway. We sat and sat and sat. Finally, after what felt an eternity, I lifted the mask. Robbie was gone. We were surrounded by laughing spectators.  I learned most of the other’s had lifted their blindfold’s long before I did.

After Old College and Recitation Hall I walked to Rhodes Drug Store. I recall years of sitting at the counter on a spinning stool and having a cream cheese sandwiches.

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To the right of the pharmacy, you can see the “W” of Wynn’s Gift Shop sign.

After Rhodes was Wynn’s Gift Shop. My best memory of Wynn’s is buying an itty bitty flower vase as a Mother’s Day gift. It was crackled Blenko brand glass, aqua blue, about four inches tall. On each side were pressed two blobs of glass with thumbprint indentations in their centers. I loved that bottle. After Mom died, I brought it home. Sadly the container broke a few years ago when I was vigorously mopping up the kitchen counters.

Moving on I passed Peggy Cronin’s Fashions. Walking into Peggy Cronin’s was dropping into a time warp. Did she ever dump old inventory? I doubt it. Her shop was narrow. The racks were so tightly packed I could barely push hangers from left to right. Dresses were dusty and faded. Hats were decades out of style. I think her store had a front and back room. What a jumbled mess.

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I didn’t know until finding this advertisement that she had a second location in Elkton.

 

Next door was the anti-Cronin, Vera’s Clothing Store. Tidy, spotless, expensive. When trying on clothes, you had to put a sheer white hood over your face to protect garments from makeup. In high school, I bought a shamrock motif bra and panties there. AA bra. I was flat as a board.

Vera was French, short, blond, and bossy.  I don’t think she much liked having High School girls in her shop.  She catered to those with far deeper pockets.
Several times a year she made buying trips to Paris. Her store stock was current and fashionable. Her husband often worked the store as well.  He was no taller than Vera and had a thick French accent.

The next place along the walk was National Five and Ten dime store.  They carried everything from housewares to clothing to school supplies. I worked there in college.  My first job was painting price signs for the display window. Red tempera paint on white shelf paper. Huge letters. Fifty cents a sign.

CARDIGAN SWEATERS $9.99″  

I thought they weren’t discreet or classy enough. I argued my point with the manager, but without luck.  After all, how classy is a dime store expected to be?

Upon entering, on the left in the front of the store was a lunch counter. For a while, I served there. During the week an older woman cooked all the food, and I slapped together sandwiches or scooped up chili.

On weekends I was required to prepare some dishes.
I once made egg salad and, as mother did, put pickle relish in it. Customers complained.

We had several regulars.  The ones I remember most clearly are a middle-aged brother and sister. They rode their thick wheeled bikes along Main Street and only ordered tea and buttered toast. Both were tiny, with thin hair and vacant looks.

Once the owner, Mr. H, asked me to make him a vanilla milkshake. I did, but he got angry because I put ice cream in it. He had endured a heart attack. Careful eating was necessary. It seems the milkshake was to be skim milk and ice. Who knew?

One of the managers liked ice cubes in his hot coffee. One day he sat at the counter watching the cubes melt in his cup, and told me he’d recently encouraged his tiny daughter to climb a ladder, promising he’d catch her when she jumped. She clambered up, leaped, and–with his arms folded across his chest–he watched her land hard. As she was crying, he stated, “That was to teach you never to trust anyone.” I was horrified.

I also took a spin working the cash register. At first, I was hopeless at counting back change. The other manager patiently taught me how to do it, stating the amount owed, “Two dollars and eleven cents” and the amount paid, “out of ten dollars.” And then counting out pennies first followed by nickles, dimes, quarters and dollars. I wasn’t to put the ten into the register until completed counting back the change. Otherwise, the customer could claim to have handed me a twenty.

When someone offered a credit card, I looked the number up in a small booklet to be sure it wasn’t a bad card. Then put the embossed plastic unit into a swiping machine that made carbon copies. I put purchases into paper bags.  At the end of the day, I had to count out my drawer and reconcile what I’d started with a compared to what I ended with.  That task made me nervous, given my poor ability at making change.

The National Five and Ten is still in business. I think now they mostly carry University of Delaware T-Shirts, hats and jackets.

Next to National is the Newsstand. I’ll finish memories of walking along Main Street another day. It’s a long way all the way to Newark Shopping Center. Then I have to trek back on the other side of the street.  I hope you’ll walk along with me.

Taking these journey’s back to the town and experiences of my youth is fun.

Somewhat related blog posts:

Rittenhouse Park, Silverbook, Newark Delaware.

My Lifelong Love Affair with Philadelphia Cream Cheese

Remembering Richard’s Dairy, Newark, Delaware.

Exit on Main Street

Going to Church, Newark Delaware in the 50’s

Memories of John Wanamaker’s, Wilmington, Delaware

The weather here is fall-like. I find myself thinking about autumn in Delaware. We had a September ritual. Mother took us to John Wanamaker Department store in Wilmington shopping for dark cotton.

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Memories of Wanamaker’s include:

The first floor had the bakery, furniture, and housewares. Up the escalator to the second level and you’d find clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics.  I don’t recall if they sold toys.  Maybe Madame Alexander dolls?

The bakery made drop cakes, which were about as big around as a large cookie. They were domed and dipped in frosting. I always chose chocolate.

The children’s department had a huge swing hanging from the ceiling. Perched on it was a giant stuffed teddy bear. I would reach way up, grab a fat rope, pull hard and set the bear swinging. That was fun.

The Ivy dining room, aptly named because the walls were papered in a green and white English Ivy print. We’d go there for lunch. Marilyn usually got a club sandwich. No memory of what Mother ate. Naturally, I had a cream cheese on soft white bread, the kind that has no nutritional value.

The parking lot was tiered. You parked then descended many levels to the store entrance.

Mother purchased a very 60’s looking coffee table at John Wanamaker. It was long, sleek, low and had a starburst inlaid on the top. The legs joints were wrapped in rattan. Marilyn hated that table.

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The lines of the table were a lot like this.

 

Daddy took me to Wanamaker’s shopping while I was in college. He spent way more than Mother would have. I got long cream color nightgown trimmed in grosgrain ribbon with matching robe. I also bought a navy blue swing coat with brass buttons, new navy pumps, and a cute short dress.

I modeled the items for him as he sat in a chair, beaming. He did love his girls.

Wanamaker’s later became Macy’s. I wonder if that building is still standing?

Surgery #2 And a Poem

Today is my second cataract surgery.  Which means two more weeks without makeup.  I’ve worn eye makeup since tenth grade.  I had some idea I’d hide in the house during this faceless period.  Hasn’t happened.  I’m surprised to find being faceless is liberating.

I once wrote a poem.  I put it on Facebook.  It was cute then but now it’s apt.

Personal grooming is time-consuming.  Being slobby is a better hobby.

C’est vrai.  (wow! Suddenly I’m bilingual)   I’ve saved a considerable amount of time this past week by not smearing on foundation, brushing on eyeshadow, stroking on mascara.  So will I make this my new normal?  NOT A CHANCE.

In other news, I’m cheating on the book club.  Our required book is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  I began reading but found there were way too many characters for my addled old brain to remember.  Fellow book clubber told me I could find the movie on youtube.  Therefore my missions for today are three-fold:

  1. Watch a movie
  2. Have cataract surgery
  3. Force my husband to take me to dinner because cooking after surgery is wrong.

Somewhat related blog posts:

Another reason being sixty-five is great

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coloring for Kelel

A couple of summer’s ago we meandered from Florida to Chicago, to Colorado.  There were several other stops as we circled back to Florida.  Jim and I finally got to meet our niece, Senait, and nephew, Kelel.

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I adore this sweet face.

 

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Look at those dimples!  So cute.

 

Kelel had heard I am an artist.  He asked me to create with him. I don’t remember what we drew, but I do recall enjoying spending time in his company.

Recently I got a text from Megan.  Kelel was hoping I’d draw a koala bear for him because “Aunt Alice is the best artist I know.”  That made me laugh.  How many artists am I being measured against?  How many could he possibly know?

He had a school project and he was determined to impress his teacher.  I contributed a couple of small pencil sketches.  He got an “A”, surely based on his hard work, not my drawings.

Megan texted me the good news, adding, “Kelel wants to call and thank you.”   I can’t hear. The phone is hard for me on a good day.  He speaks English beautifully, but talking to anyone with an accent is generally an exercise in frustration for both me and the caller.  I asked if he would please email, but he really wanted a phone interaction.  I relented.  I’m glad I did.  I understood every word he said.  He was so appreciative that I had done the koala bears.

He then asked me to do a couple more drawings.  He offered to pay me.  Sweet, huh?  I had an enjoyable afternoon coloring while watching to youtube.com videos about the power of positive thinking.

The drawings were for his teacher.  A sea turtle and a moose.  I sent them off and learned the teacher was delighted.  Aren’t I lucky to be able to make someone happy just by coloring?

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I’ve just been given another joyful opportunity to color.  A friend asked me to do a drawing of her new kitten.  I’ll settle in to do that on Tuesday while Jimmy is on the golf course.

 

Remembering Richard’s Dairy, Newark, Delaware.

One of my favorite childhood activities was going to Richard’s Dairy.

Some memories of Richards:

I was anemic as a child and needed routine iron shots. Mom would pick me up at West Park Elementary and take me to see Doctor Armstrong. After the visit, as an “oh poor little you” treat mom would take me for ice cream. Richard’s Dairy was on Elkton Road, quite near the doctor’s office. I hated the shots, but I loved chocolate ice cream. It would not have occurred to me to eat any other flavor. Nor would I have gotten anything but a flat bottom waffle cone. I ate it in the car while mom carted me back to school.

In junior high, our grandparents came to visit while mom and dad went to Quebec on vacation. Marilyn drove Grandpa and me to Richard’s in Fifi, our red three-speed Renault. He chose mint chocolate chip. He’d suffered a stroke. Holding and licking the melting cone made a sticky green mess all over his hands.

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I wonder how Marilyn drove a three-speed while holding an ice cream cone?  She was forever dieting.  Probably she didn’t get one.

 

My high school boyfriend took me for an ice cream cone on a date. I was wearing my brand new white Villager pleated front dress. I ended up dripping chocolate all over the pleats and had to go home to change.

I was forever changing clothes. Mother spent one full day a week ironing our cotton shirts and blouses. She would set the ironing board up in the wide doorway between the family room and kitchen. Then she’d prop the front hall mirror on the sofa opposite, positioning it to reflect the television. It was the only time she ever watched daytime TV.

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She sprinkled water on our shirts using a glass coke bottle with a sprinkler top stuck in the opening.

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Marilyn and I loved ironing day. We’d come home from school to find our walk-in closets filled with clean, pressed blouses. I would immediately rip off whatever I’d worn that day, pull on a crisp shirt and head out with friends.

When Marilyn went to college Mother picked her laundry up weekly, washed it, and we went together to carry the ironed shirts up to her dorm room. Have I mentioned we were spoiled?

Richards delivered our milk to a galvanized metal box on the front porch. The milkman took out the empty bottles and replaced them with cold fresh ones sealed with cardboard discs. Sometimes mother got other stuff too. She’d leave a note in the box with her order. Whipping cream, cottage cheese, sour cream. But no cream cheese. I don’t know if they made it. Even so, I wouldn’t have eaten it. Only Philadelphia for me.

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One day, when in elementary school, my friend Leslie and I were playing outside her College Park townhouse (I think they called them “row houses” then), racing up and down the neighbor’s stairs. We accidentally knocked over their milk delivery. There was shattered glass and spilled milk everywhere. I wonder why those people didn’t have a milk box?

When milk deliveries ended, Mom used that silver box to store potatoes in the garage.

Richard’s closed in the late 60’s. The property became High’s Dairy Store, followed by The Crab Trap Restaurant, The Trap and in around 2008 it was razed to make way for Amstel Square.  I am floundering for a “…and that’s good because.”

Tearing down that old building seems sad to me.

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I chose these somewhat related posts because they contain memories of growing up in Newark, Delaware:

Learning to drive at thirteen was a good thing!

My Lifelong Love Affair with Philadelphia Cream Cheese

My no-good-very-bad High School boyfriend.

My Life of Crime

Rittenhouse Park, Silverbook, Newark Delaware.

Looking at​ the fabric of a lifetime. Coming up dry and perhaps with a lie.

Going to Church, Newark Delaware in the 50’s

 

Adoption. A Beautiful Exchange.

I have two beautiful nieces, Megan and Katie. Megan and her husband Scott live in Colorado. Katie and her husband, also Scott, live on Bainbridge Island, Washington.This story is about Megan’s family and confirms that God puts us here for a reason.

Megan and Scott met at Colorado College at a Young Life meeting. They married in 1995.
At the end of their wedding reception, as they were leaving to go to Belize, my sister asked Megan to leave her engagement ring at home, stating, “No one should wear expensive jewelry to a third world country.”

Megan handed over the ring, and off they went to their fancy all-inclusive. One night, shortly after arriving, as they were leaving the restaurant three men with sawed-off shotguns approached them. Putting a gun to Scott’s head, they insisted he hand over all his money. He had none.

The newlyweds were shoved back into the dining room where Megan, who majored in romance languages, was forced to tell all the diners to lie facedown on the floor. The three gunmen then stripped all the guests of both money and jewelry.

Suddenly Megan panicked and bolted for a door. Scott followed. Shots were fired. The two raced to the jungle where they hid out all night. They got eaten alive by mosquitos.

In the morning Megan and Scott warily crept from their jungle hideaway. Assured it was safe, they returned to the dining room. There they found the woodwork surrounding the door through which they had fled riddled with bullet holes.

They had survived violent death, but not for the last time. Years later, Megan and Scott were driving through the snowy mountains of Colorado. They had their two young children in the car when it slid out of control, flipping several times. Incredibly the whole family walked away uninjured.

Why twice so lucky? Here’s what I think. They were destined to adopt two Ethiopian children.

Which they did when their boy, Reese, and girl, Brynn were eleven and eight.

Megan and Scott are quite religious. They prayed long and hard about expanding their family. Ultimately they decided to adopt a brother and sister. Kelel and Senait. The kids have different father’s, both of whom had AIDS, as did their mother.  Kelel was seven and a half, Senait was five when they came to live in Colorado in December of 2011.

Scott and Megan traveled to meet the children, leaving Reese and Brynn in the care of my sister. I made up a “care package” for the kids so they’d have a little present to open each day during the two weeks mom and dad were gone. It was just a bunch of small things, wrapped like presents. No big deal but Marilyn said they enjoyed it.

When Scott and Megan returned to Ethiopia, Reese and Brynn went along. They saw the conditions in which their new siblings lived. Then it was a long flight back to the United States. Culture shock set in early. The children didn’t speak any English. Neither had seen an escalator and didn’t know how to navigate it. During a layover in Germany Kelel wandered the gift shops with Megan, squirting cologne all over himself while little Senait sat and nibbled the wrappers off of a pile of crayons.

When back in Colorado all hell broke loose. Both kids had routine meltdowns. Megan and Scott were reluctant to discipline them. Social workers said it was needed. They suggested the kids had to sit on a little rug for a small amount of time until they stopped screaming. If the howling continued, it was back to the mat again. I’ve forgotten how many hours it took Kelel to maintain a minute of silence finally.

Kelel had an abscessed tooth. That required a trip to an Ethiopian restaurant so the owner could explain what was going to happen at the dentist’s office.

Having been hungry, he hoarded food. His little sister had a tapeworm. At five years old she weighed only twenty-seven pounds.  The photos below were taken shortly after the two were adopted.  My other niece, Katie, took them. She is a gifted professional photographer.  If you know anyone in the Seattle area who needs photos taken, have them call Katie.  I took pictures of the photographs from my computer screen, that’s why they are a bit fuzzy.

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Fast forward nearly six years and the two are happy and well adjusted. Kelel is sweet,  sensitive and an excellent athlete. Senait is a charming firecracker. Megan calls daughter Brynn “the Senait whisperer” because when the tiny sprite gets on a rampage, only Brynn can simmer her down.  She is hilarious and talks a blue streak.

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A recent photo of the kids.  Aren’t they all beautiful?

 

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Marilyn and my brother-in-law Rob with all the children.

 

Megan wrote a book about the experience.  How impressive is that?  Four kids and she found time to put together and publish a memoir.  It’s very well written and can be found on  Amazon.com

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Cataract Surgery

Yup! I gathered up my courage and had the surgery. I know cataract surgery is a routine thing these days, but since I’ve already lost my hearing monkeying with my sight is scary. I fear becoming Helen Keller.  In that event, I asked my daughter, Mo, to off me. She’s a critical care nurse. She should know how to do it painlessly.  She refused.  Something about losing her license. Geez, her priorities are mixed up.

My vision has gotten so bad. I see huge smudges around lights and driving at night is terrifying. Yesterday was my first operation. They began with my left eye. Jim and I bundled up for the surgery center. They keep the place as cold as a meat locker.

We showed up at 8:00 a.m. Then we were on a conveyor belt leading from room to room to answer the same questions, have technicians peer into my eyes, and get drops to dilate my eye. Finally, at about 10, I was taken into a large room, put into a hospital chair, and hooked up to an IV. The room was crowded with other patients in similar chairs. I was allowed to keep my street clothes on but draped with a bright yellow flimsy gown and had a blue shower cap put on my head. My left hearing aid was removed. Nurse Jill put a post-it note on my chest stating, “HOH. Speak into the right ear.” No idea what HOH stood for.

House of Hope?
Hearing off, Hollar?
Hogs or Hounds?

Then the surgery was explained. I would see six bright lights. Then a single light. Somewhere in there, the laser would zap my eye. But I was given anesthesia so I don’t remember much.

By 11 a.m. it was all over. I was told to keep my eyes closed as much as possible for twenty-four hours. That wasn’t happening. Jim took me to lunch. I had bacon wrapped dates with goat cheese. Stellar. Then we went to Costco and bought giant size containers of stuff, finally home again.

I wasn’t allowed to read so watched some weird British movie about kids who were cloned. Their purpose was to be organ donors, giving up body parts until they eventually succumbed to death. It was slow and stupid, but I hung in there for the entire thing.

My left eye is seeing hula hoops of sparkles around lights. My sister had this surgery some time ago. She said those hula hoops last a while. In fact, when they finally left she missed her “circles.”  The circles are created because the lens I chose has concentric rings to allow for vision at different distances.  It’s called Symfony and it cost $3000 extra an eye. I’ll be eating Meow Mix in my old age, but I’ll have 20/20 vision!

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Here is what I’ve learned. The sink and toilet in our bathroom are not almond color. They are white! My right eye still has its cataract and sees everything as kind of tea stained. But the left eye now sees color clearly. The orange pavers around our pool are, in fact, pink.

I was hoping to bring the cataract home in a jar like Mo kept her tonsils for show and tell. However, I was told the cataract liquefies when zapped with the laser. It’s sucked out and dumped into a container of water.

Last night we went to friends for birthday cake, then out to dinner. We sat outside. There were strings of party lights hanging over our heads. The hula hoops made the lights look like brilliant Slinkys.

The hospital just called to check on me. Yes, I’m fine. Yes, I miss my make-up. Yes, I’m putting my drops in every four hours. No, I didn’t keep my eyes closed for 24 hours. And guess what? My toilet is white.

Next surgery two weeks from yesterday. In the meantime, I tape a clear plastic eye patch over my left eye while sleeping. I just get more and more stunning at bedtime!

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Somewhat related Blog Posts:

Ravishing, that’s me.

Show and Tell

Surgery…And that’s Good Because.

I’m deaf, and this is good because…..

P.S.  My brilliant son-in-law just informed me “HOH” means “hard of hearing.”  Duh.  Why didn’t I know that?

 

Rittenhouse Park, Silverbook, Newark Delaware.

Yesterday I found myself on Google Earth revisiting Newark, Delaware. I typed in my childhood address, 18 Minquel Drive, Silverbrook and there I was, floating over our old house.

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We moved to Silverbrook when I was two, moved out, to Oaklands, at the beginning of seventh grade. That worked out great for me since most of my West Park Elementary School buddies were going to Central Junior High. But it stunk for my sister. She was beginning her Junior year of High School and was forced to leave her friends of a lifetime.

Mother professed the move was for school districts. However, I don’t buy it. Marilyn had done great at Christiana High. I wasn’t going to do great no matter where I went. I was a lazy student at best. The truth was Mom wanted a fancier home than the little Silverbrook split level.

18 Minquel Drive backed up to Rittenhouse Park. We could walk through our yard, slip into the neighbor’s yard and access the gate into the park. We spent entire days playing there. In this day and age, few mothers would feel safe allowing that.

Summer found us hopping from one moss slick stone to another, crisscrossing the Christina River. The dappled sunlight played on the water. Sometimes we were Indians. Others we were tiny people living on a giants head. The tall trees were his hair, fallen leaves his dandruff. No memory of what the creek was. Sweat, perhaps?

We found blacksnakes. We saw but didn’t pick, jack-in-the-pulpits. Lisa McClendon told me plucking those wasn’t legal. Who knows. Sometimes we waded in the shallows grabbing water beetles.

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In the winter we put on our skates, and atop weak ankles, we slid around on ice until our feet were numb. We’d hear the ice crack and realize perhaps we shouldn’t go any closer to the warning sound.

No parent ever came looking for us. We were usually gone all day. No one wondered if we were floating face down in the middle of the river. We weren’t. It was a delicious time and place to be a kid.

The next door neighbor girl, Kathy, was Marilyn’s age. They set up a pulley system with parallel strings wrapping two nails in each of their bedroom windows. They would attach little notes and tug them back and forth over Kathy’s large side yard.

When I was about seven, our family took a cross-country trip to Disneyland. There we were able to ride in small motorized cars. Daddy adored cars. One Sunday afternoon at dinner (dinner was a big meal after church about one in the afternoon, later, about six, supper was something light.) while they were eating real food and I was eating cream cheese with a spoon, Daddy suddenly spoke up.

“Girls, I’ve been thinking of building something for you.” In a monotone, he asked, “Would you like a small playhouse in the backyard?” Then he continued, but his voice was suddenly enthusiastic, “Or a little car? A real car with a motor? You could drive it through the neighborhood! Visit friends! Zoom here and there!”

Naturally, given the zealous introduction, we picked the car. Daddy built it out of wood. A two-seater. The upholstery was a vinyl tablecloth tacked over foam. It had a lawnmower engine. The steering wheel was a baby buggy tire. We pulled a cord to start the motor and pressed a lever to a spark plug to stop it.  I think he painted it the same color blue as my bedroom.  It topped out at about three miles an hour.

We named it The Little Car.

The Little Car was the envy of all the other kids. At first, we drove in the streets until neighbors complained. After that, it was sidewalks only.
Daddy put a hook on the back so we could attach a wagon and give friends rides.

The only spanking I ever got was when I stubbornly refused to let anyone ride in the wagon. My Little Car. My wagon. Get lost. Daddy was furious. My butt was still red at bathtime. When mom saw it, she got quite angry with him. (Curious, she oversaw my baths as if I might drown, but she let us run amok by a river all day, no worries.)

Yesterday I “drove” all around Silverbrook via Google Earth. Rode down Minquel, took a right on Lenape Lane. Paused to look at friends homes. The Hiltons, Catalina’s, Winky somebody’s, Patnovic’s. At the end of Lenape, I turned left and drove out of the ‘hood over to Art Lane and the Tew’s house. I spent a lot of time at the Tews. They had a laundry shoot we could crawl through going from first to the second floor.

Then I turned around and headed back to 18 Minquel Drive. It was a fantastic trip down memory lane.

Mother and Daddy kept The Little Car. When Matthew came along I took him riding all around Oaklands, the neighborhood we had moved to in seventh grade. By then The Little Car was red. Daddy installed a seat belt–one of his old leather belts. If we were gone too long, Daddy would climb into the car and search to make sure we hadn’t broken down.

Later, when we had Mo, the kids would take turns having car rides. By that point, Matt drove with me as the passenger. Mother still had the car after Daddy died. We were living in Chicago. One year she called to ask if she could give it to a friend for their grandkids. My first reaction was, “No way. My Little Car!” (yes, greedy Alice probably deserved another spanking.)

Then I relented. It was just sitting there, unused, front and center in their garage. The Little Car was meant to give magic to kids.

I wonder if she still exists?

I wonder if kids are ever allowed to play freely in Rittenhouse Park these days? I’m so glad I was.

Somewhat related Blog Posts:

Destination Disneyland!

Growing up in a college town was good because…

Going to Church

My Lifelong Love Affair with Philadelphia Cream Cheese

Grove Point Girl Scout Camp and an enema

 

 

A Scary Halloween Image

I was digging through my art closet and stumbled across these drawings I did years ago. Just in time for Halloween.

There was a long period when I would draw pieces and parts, scan the drawings, drop them into Photoshop and manipulate the artwork. You see that little spider flying off standing Pumpkin Witches hat? That’s the same spider flying with her on her broom.

Somewhere in my big old computer, there is a treasure trove of similar drawings. I did fairies for a while. Fat fairies. How did they hold their tubby bodies aloft?  I remember one was named Peony duPigginpont.  She wore a yellow tutu and had flowers on her head.

A girlfriend, Judy, and I wrote a counting book called Monkey Ballet. I spent months coloring monkeys. Maybe tomorrow I’ll light up the ancient not Mac computer (I forget what it’s called) and see what else is living in there.

Now for your Halloween viewing pleasure, I present Pumpkin Witch and her green-eyed cat, Blackie.  Spooky, huh?

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Aren’t these beauties graceful?

 

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