Wednesday, May 25, 2016

P Is For Painting

"We can't put it off any longer," Rick said about a month or so ago. "This is the year we have to paint the front porch. It should have been done years ago, and it looks terrible. No furniture out until it's painted."

What happened next was Profound and Fateful, and quite possibly some of the Stupidest Things I Have Ever Said In My Life. "Okay," I agreed. "Not a big deal. I can help. I'm home all day. I can paint the railings, no problem. That way, all you'll have to do is paint the floor, and we'll be done!"

What a Gargantuan Idiot I am.

Painting is an awful, tedious, horrible job. Painting spindles is the Epitome Of Awful, Horrible Tedium. Painting eleventy thousand spindles white is actually prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Painting eleventy thousand spindles white, upon railings which are at the level of a five-foot, four and a half inch woman's mid-thigh is one of Dante's Circles Of Hell.

Do you know that it is entirely possible to lose one's place whilst painting with White Semi-Gloss paint when it is very breezy and everything looks the same and it is BORING AND TERRIBLE AND THE PAINT DRIES IMMEDIATELY AND YOU START HATING EVERYTHING AND YOUR BACK AND NECK AND SHOULDERS AND KNEES HURT? And that you realize that you have been holding the paint brush as if it were going to start slithering around and trying to bite you?

Holy crap.

At one point, my cousin Ann sent me a text message. I told her I was Painting and Miserable, and I immediately offered her a Billion Dollars if she would do it for me. Before she answered, I had time to feel Ashamed, Humiliated, and Embarrassed because Ann does practically Everything, not only Painting, but sewing, quilting, rebuilding and refinishing furniture, wallpapering, canning, ceramic tiling, and cloning pets and prehistoric animals. Okay, not that last one, but she probably could do it if there were instructions on the internet and she felt like it.

Anyway, my point--and I do have one--is This: Ann said, "I would come paint your porch for a billion dollars."

And I paused for More Than A Moment to actually think about whether or not I could come up with the cash.

Honestly, how do any of you do it, this Painting? It's horrid and awful. I've done it Twice now, and I've already told Rick that my Painting days are Over. "You did a great job!" he said, encouragingly. "You are slow, but neat." Which is a nice way of saying that it took me ten hours to do what he did in two hours when he got home from work, and that includes swiping away a few smears with some Goof-Off.

Heavy Sigh.

Painting. What was I thinking?


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

O Is For Oreos

Oh, Oreos. Whereas once you stood for Childhood Simplicity itself, now you are nothing more than a blowzy, tawdry tart looking to go home with anyone who will give you a ride. Why, Oreos, why? Instead of being True To Yourself, you try to be Everything To Everyone.

What a Shame.

When I was a kid, we rarely got Oreos. My father disliked them, probably due to their intense sweetness, deep dark color, and more practically, their price. He was the sole breadwinner of a family of six, and our cookies were usually generic and whatever he liked since he did the grocery shopping on Saturdays. I recall mostly Maurice Lenell pinwheel cookies (which I loved), and huge boxes of almond crescents covered in powdered sugar, which I disliked. Occasionally, Fig Bars appeared, I think, and I liked those, too. But St. Patsy baked something every weekend, so we did just fine with her pies and cakes and strudels. My father was not a chocolate baked good fan, so Oreos were not ever On His List. Once in a while, some vanilla and chocolate sandwich cookies appeared, called Duplex Cremes or something like that.

But back to Oreos.

My friends across the street, who were often my source for All Saturday Morning TV Ad Foods, always had Oreos. And Spaghettios and PopTarts and Lucky Charms and all that stuff. Lisa would often bounce out of the house with a whole package of Oreos, sit on the curb, and twist them open, licking the creme out, only to discard at least half the chocolate cookie. It was easy for her mom to catch her since the evidence was all over her mouth. Oreos leave your teeth black if you don't have that milk to wash them down. And if Lisa's teeth didn't give her away, her sister Laura was only too happy to since it would get her out of trouble.

These days, however, Oreos can be eaten in relative Safety, thanks to all of the New! Exciting!(and Not Blackening) Flavours. Now that I'm old enough to buy and enjoy my own Oreos any old time I want to, they've decided to chase the marketing demographic segment who are so fickle and distracted that they have to have something New! and Exciting! every time they go into the grocery store (or go online to order groceries or ask Siri what groceries are or something).

Excuse me while I go yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

Anyway, I digress.

My point--and I do have one--is this: Oreos just plain Overdid It. Rather than remain pure and trade on their Legacy as America's Favourite Cookie (retail), they went plain batshit crazy. They cheapened their History. They took their brand and turned it into one of those sad knock-off characters who roam around Times Square offering to take a picture with you for a few bucks. I mean, just look at this partial list of Oreo flavours:

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Oreo
Chocolate Oreo
Strawberry Milkshake Oreo
Golden Oreo
Double Stuf Golden Oreo
Oreo Heads or Tails
Creamsicle Oreo
Oreo DQ Blizzard Creme
Double Delight Oreo
Cool Mint Creme Oreo
Peanut Butter Oreo
Pure Milk Chocolate Covered Mint Oreo
Banana Split Creme Oreo
Brownie Batter Oreo
Sugar Free Oreo
Reduced Fat Oreo
Halloween Oreo
Red Creme Oreo
Birthday Cake Oreo
Candy Cane Oreo
Candy Corn Oreo
Gingerbread Oreo
Lemon Twist Oreo
Neapolitan Oreo
Berry Cream Oreo
Ice Cream Rainbow Sure, Bert! Oreo
Banana Split Oreo
Limeade Oreo
SpongeBob Oreo
Fruit Punch Oreo
Cookie Dough Oreo
Caramel Apple Oreo
Pumpkin Spice Oreo
Red Velvet Oreo
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreo
Cotton Candy Oreo
S'Mores Oreo
Root Beer Float Oreo
Key Lime Pie Oreo
Marshmallow Crispy Oreo
Cookies 'n Creme Oreo
Toasted Coconut Oreo
Cinnamon Bun Oreo

And these are just some of the ones sold in the United States. Internationally, Oreos are cheapening themselves, too, with such iterations as Green Tea Oreo (Japan), Blueberry Ice Cream Oreo (Singapore), Coconut Delight Oreo (Indonesia), and Chocolate and Dulche de Leche Double Delights Oreo (Chile), among others.

And! Let's not forget that Oreos, in their neverending quest to Be All Sweets To All People, also come in:

Double Stuf Oreo
Football Oreo
Big Stuf Oreo
Mini Oreo
Triple Double Oreo
100 Calorie Pack Oreo
Mega Stuf Oreo
Oreo Thins
Fudge Covered Oreo
Oreo Cakesters
Oreo HandiSnax
Oreo WaferStix

to name but a few.

Oh, Oreos. Your sad Fall From Grace reminds me of a little piece in Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence. In this scene, the hero Newland Archer is talking to the Countess, an outsider, after a huge high society party given in her honour. He explains to her what a Big Deal the event was, especially since it was given by the most prestigious and influential family in New York.

"The van der Luydens," said Archer, feeling himself pompous as he spoke, "are the most powerful influence in New York society. Unfortunately--owing to her health--they receive very seldom."
She unclasped her hands from behind her head, and looked at him meditatively.  "Isn't that perhaps the reason?" 
" The reason--?"
"For their great influence; that they make themselves so rare."

There is a great lesson in there for you, Oreos.


Monday, May 09, 2016

N Is For Normal

I can't remember exactly what precipitated it, but in a moment of frustration early in his childhood, Jared (my eldest) landed this salvo, "Can't you just be Normal like other mothers?!" He was of elementary school age--that much I do remember--so his need for acceptance was understandable. The fact that it was in the Early Nineties makes it even more poignant for the both of us, that decade being the beginning of Organized Play Groups, Smothering Parental Involvement, and Mumsy and Popsy sticking their tentacles into every nook and cranny of their kids' lives until they became one huge being of KidParent with no discernible end of one and beginning of the next if it were in any way possible.

Even if the parents worked, which, of course, Rick and I both did.

Anyway, back to Jared's Wish.

I remember feeling both surprised and terrible. I had no idea he was feeling ashamed or irritated regarding my parenting, which had always been a source of pride for me. Like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, my parenting role model, I never lied or talked down to my children. I held them to a standard of honesty and character that was high but reasonable. Whenever possible, I waited for their better natures to assert themselves and allow them to do The Right Thing.

But I'm sure Atticus Finch didn't, for example, make up The Underwear Song and sing it so loudly that a neighbor called to request an encore, along with a reprise of The Bug Killing Song. I'm sure he never drank beer out of a water bottle in right field during a Little League game. Or let his kids quit Little League because they were so damn miserable. Or say to them, "Go ahead and fight like hell, but just so you know, the winner gets grounded for two weeks." Or, when they were bored, let them draw all over each other (and me) with washable markers. (Full disclosure: Sometimes, during Sam's naps, I would draw elaborate pictures on the bottoms of his feet. I once wrote his letter to Santa on his back.) Or go shopping at Toys R Us, stopping first to put the five-foot stuffed Clifford in the cart with absolutely no intention of ever buying it. Or announce to the entire family gathered at Thanksgiving one year that Jared was getting pubic hair.

Yeah. That last one. I Know.

But anyway, back to Jared's Wish.

As soon as he said it, "Mom, why can't you be Normal like other mothers?", I felt sad. I felt terrible and sad. Because Jared was my First One, and I had been such a crappy mom, I thought, for so many of his earliest years. I was scared and overwhelmed and tired and really, he didn't do anything any of the books had said he would. But he and I had Hung In There, and we were good buddies overall. Beyond being my kid, I really liked him. He was funny and smart and thoughtful. But, apparently, I was failing all over again. "Oh, Jay," I said. "Do you really want me to be like that?"

I'd like to think that he's as grateful as I am that he said No.

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