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We may or may not remember

Judy ClarkeOnce upon a time — a velvety soft May night in 1974 — I met an Englishman named Peter at a party atop a mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway of Virginia. “How do you do?” he said politely while shaking hands with we three ladies who arrived together. He spent the rest of the evening with me. We danced, me barefoot, on the stone terrace that overlooked the twinkling valley below.

It was a fairy tale beginning.

At evening’s end he asked when he could see me again. We planned a hike for Memorial Day, two days hence. He arrived carrying an armload of yellow roses for me, a bagful of candy for my daughters who were in school that day. (Later I learned the roses grew carelessly over his carport and the candy came from a stash in his refrigerator, but never mind.)

“Oh! You’re not who I thought you were!” he said when I opened my door.

What a fine way to start a romance! Though we’d danced cheek-to-cheek all Saturday evening, he remembered the woman who’d come to the party with me! (That’s OK, I remembered him as a redhead and much taller.)

Seven years later — 1981 — I worked a magic spell and we married, not in May, but December.

The fairy tale continued. Three years ago this week, our family — Carolynn and husband  Bill, Leslie and husband Martin, and their offspring, Samantha and Miah, Peter and me — began a week’s vacation together on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It was the only week that year when all of us could be in the same place, same time.

Seven glorious, bright sunny family days at the beach, though that early in May the Atlantic was bloody freezing. But we made sand castles, fished, basked, shopped, played games, braved the wild north beach to look for ponies, took to the air and ate…a lot and often!

At the end of our stay I asked everyone to write down three favorite things, plus one least favorite, about the week.  “Family time” was tops, with “fish and fishing” and “pool playing, frisbee and flying kites” tied for second.  Parasailing was third, but hang gliding didn’t get a single vote, pro or con. Least liked was the three miles from our house to the shore.

The fisherman among us, Bill, liked catching his big striper. Carolynn liked watching him smile as he reeled it in. Samantha liked seeing it, but she didn’t like that she hadn’t caught a big one. Bill, though he did all the gory, gloppy gutting, didn’t like eating that or any fish.

Most of us were poetic about our likes and dislikes. Two of Leslie’s faves were napping on the beach and cuddling Sam, while Miah, then 16, liked “having tea with the ‘fam.’” But Peter, typically, answered tersely: “House. Meals. Weather.” He didn’t like that there wasn’t anyplace to walk.

My parasailing adventure wasn’t planned. What I really wanted to do was hang glide at Jockey Ridge, as did Martin, Sam and Miah. Leslie called to make arrangements, and I reminded her to make sure someone my age would even be allowed to do it, much less with a bad knee. She was assured that women 20 years older than my 72-year-old self went hang gliding, but my bad knee would make it a no-go.

Parasailing was an option. The pilot did the work, and the landing would be on wheels instead of on my legs“Sign me up!” I said.

Carolynn immediately objected. “At your age, Mom? No-o-o!

“If not now, when?” I asked.

Early the next morning all of us headed to the local airport. Carolynn was beside herself with anxiety, and Peter, who never loses sleep, tossed and turned all night. I was giddy.

Knee bend.

The flight was all I’d imagined, except long enough. Martin enjoyed watching me buckle in, probably because I’m a klutz and needed extra help to stuff my knee into the harness, and Carolynn liked seeing my smile when we landed. Hang gliding got no votes, pro or con, because the afternoon was extremely windy. Flyers had to be tethered to their instructors who ran down the dunes as if they had winged puppies on long leashes.

We left on Mother’s Day.  It was the first time in years both of my daughters and I were together, if only for a short time, on the second Sunday in May.

The next year, the Roanoke Times had a contest asking readers to submit a photo with a few words representing “freedom or escape.” I sent this photo from my flight, and won two tickets to Cirque du Soleil.

Judy Clarke

When Peter saw the newspaper feature he said, “Isn’t that the same guy?”

“What same guy?”

“The one you ‘flew’ with?”

“Yes, that’s Jim.”

“Is that you?

“Of course it’s me, you goof,” I laughed. “I won the tickets with that.”

“How did the picture get in the paper?”

“I emailed it to them as my contest entry.”

“Oh.”

Nearly 38 years after our first date — remember, he thought he was going hiking with a different woman — Peter recognized Jim in a picture, but he still wasn’t sure about me!

My husband’s dementia isn’t funny, but it’s better to laugh than to cry.

— Judy Clarke

Judy Clarke is a wife, mother of two daughters, grandmother to two grown grandchildren, reader, writer and blogger in southwest Virginia. Her two non-fiction books, Mother Tough Wrote the Book and That’s all she wrote, can be found on her friends’ and family’s shelves, and she’s working on a novel, But why? (That’s the title of the novel, not a question to self).

Lost: A Hawaiian family vacation

Hillary IbarraIt’s bad when the first day you arrive in balmy Hawaii you wish you were home — back in sizzling 107 degrees Phoenix, Ariz.

You might think it’s because we’re land-lubbin’ desert dwellers that we soured on beautiful Oahu so quickly, but it had more to do with real estate. Apparently, when civilization is built near water on an island, real estate is so valuable that there’s no room to waste on such petty things as parking spaces, restrooms and straight roads.

After driving the winding, perilous streets of Waikiki to our high-rise, overpriced accommodations, we parked in the cramped seven-space parking lot beneath our hotel before checking in. The parking arrangement being rather odd, we asked about it.

“I’m sorry,” said the desk clerk in an unapologetic tone of voice. “But I can’t allow you to park there. Those spaces are reserved. Can I put you on our waiting list?”

Then he told us about a nice sister property where we could park our car for 25 bucks a day. Our other option was to cruise the main drags of Waikiki for 20 minutes every hour hoping to parallel park for free. Since parallel-parking basics have evaporated from Phoenicians’ brains in the scorching heat, it was the parking garage for us.

After this comeuppance we walked into our hotel room at which point I started clicking my heels together and chanting desperately, “There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home!”

We reserved a place with a kitchenette. To hoteliers this means broken-down rooms for families with at least three little monsters in tow. The kitchenettes are symbolic of our station in vacation life. We parents honestly intend to do some cost-effective home cookin,’ but the rusty 50-year-old range is for show.  The hotel staff knows all we really need is the mini fridge to cool our fast-food leftovers.

My husband’s friend asked how the food was in Hawaii. Ah, the food! One morning, frustrated in our effort to find a local place to eat and park the minivan, we pulled into a gas station to get our bearings. “Okay, everybody out!” I commanded. “This is where we’re eating breakfast.” It had parking spaces, after all.

And nothing says vacation like eating at that ubiquitous, All-American burger joint that lures children with cheap toys and parents with cheap tabs. If only we had something by which to remember all the exotic places in which we ate fast food for the sake of convenience and frugality! If we could but hold up a wilted bit of lettuce and say to our envious friends, “See how it’s shaped like a sea turtle? Got that near North Shore — beautiful view there!  This lovely French-fry sculpture of a lighthouse? Came from the one by Makapu’u Point. And just look at this hamburger bun artfully shaped like a pineapple! That was on the way to the Dole Plantation — we ate there twice!”

Due to the sodium content of those countless French fries, our 4-year-old became insatiably thirsty, crying for water as if the strange drizzle from the sky was not enough, and then needed to use the bathroom constantly. This posed a challenge in Waikiki. They have plenty of water, but bathrooms are elusive luxuries. You can’t even walk into a Starbucks — one of the most civilized establishments in the world — and expect to find a potty. No, you must carefully chart the few bathrooms in the city and then visit them obsessively for the hour or two in which you are in their radius. Fancy hotels and restaurants — meant for people who don’t need kitchenettes — are your best bet.

Despite all this mainlander angst, in the end this is what we’ll remember: the fabulous family reunion, beautiful beaches and a majestic ocean. Though we understood we were on an island, any glimpse of water as we drove around Oahu both charmed and astounded us.

“Look, I see the ocean!” I cried one afternoon for the fifth time, pointing giddily out my window.

At which exclamation my intelligent 11-year-old craned his neck and cried, completely without sarcasm, “Whoa! No way!”

The hotel was just a place to sleep. We adapted and walked to most of our destinations where, thank God, relatives were waiting to greet us. And we finally ate quality Hawaiian food at the rehearsal dinner and the wedding of my husband’s brother and sister-in-law. Free parking and restrooms were available.

— Hillary Ibarra

Hillary Ibarra has had several humor pieces published on Aiming Low and humorwriters.org. She has dreams of playing the banjo, living in Jane Austen’s childhood home and writing for more than spam artists and 50 loyal readers, but can’t seem to find them in the laundry. She is the mysterious blogger at No Pens, Pencils, Knives or Scissors. In her spare time she likes to threaten to sell her children to the zoo, and their little dog, too.

Re-entry

Jennifer ScharfI’m a terrible flier. A vodka-drinking, sobbing, trembling, pill-popping wreck. So when I decided to sign up for a writing conference in Ohio, I didn’t think about how I would get there from Boston. In my mind, Ohio was the next state over and I was going to ride my bicycle. Or wave my daughter’s fairy wand and magically appear. After researching trains, planes and automobiles, I decided to drive.

Things didn’t get off to a good start. I reserved a rental car, but they wouldn’t let me take it because of a silly thing like an expired license. Apparently I have been tooling around suburbia for a year and a half without a valid license. How did I let that happen? I don’t know; I just did. I have been home for six years with a kid, which translates to not knowing how to function in the real world anymore. I panic using a pedestrian crosswalk sign; how can I be trusted to renew a driver’s license?

After racing down to the DMV (driving illegally) and nearly failing the eye exam, I’m back in business. I drop the dog off at the pooch hotel, drop the kid off at Grandma’s and start the first leg of my journey. The plan was to stop in New York City, where my husband was staying for a work meeting, and crash in his free room.

I arrive at 1 a.m. to find him eating million-dollar snacks from the minibar while watching late-night TV on one of two giant decadent beds layered with 1,200-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. So this is what he does on business trips while I’m home picking up dog shit and cooking macaroni and cheese. Annoyed and exhausted, I eye the empty bed … and he gives me the sex look. Oh for the love of God, I think. But then, if we don’t have sex in a fancy childless hotel room in the Big Apple, our marriage is dead. And no one wants a dead marriage.

Three hours later, I take some cash out of his wallet while he’s sleeping and sneak out the door. Feeling a bit hooker-ish, I set off into the morning light. As I nervously navigate city streets, my mind conjures up tragedy. What if my daughter falls out a window? What if she gets disoriented in her sleep and suffocates under the 5,000 pillows that I barricaded around the bed? What about the dog? Is she eating? Is she catching some sort of kennel disease? This is horrible. Why I am doing to my family? Sh**. Sh**. Sh**. This was so selfish of me. Trucks whip by on the freeway, and I consider that I could die on the road, leaving my daughter motherless. I should have taken a plane like a normal f***ing person.

But then I hit the open Pennsylvania highways (ah, suburbia!), and the layers fall off one by one. The husband, the kid, the house, the dog. Poof! They are gone and I am free. I am lighter, like a snake that just molted. It scares the hell out of me how easy it is to leave it all behind.

I feel horribly guilty for a split second, and then stop to get a Diet Coke. Screw it, I get two. I wouldn’t be allowed to do this with my family in the car. They would get on me about how poisonous it is. I drive and I drink can after can of Diet Coke, stopping only to discover that rest stops are now called “text stops.” This makes me feel human again.

I get to the workshop and laugh and cry and cry and laugh for two days straight with fearless women there for the same reason: To be heard. And as I eat cake and buttered rolls and drink red wine and soda, I start to stand taller. I feel like I am home. Or in another home that I rarely visit.

As we prepared to go our separate ways, my new friends joked about re-entry. But I don’t work, so I just smile vaguely.

After 14 hours of driving like a trucker, I hit the Mass Pike. And I have an uncontrollable urge to turn around.

At home, everything looks different. The daffodils bloomed, my daughter’s foot grew, the yard is littered with toys, and the sink is piled with dishes. This makes me uncomfortable. I’m not desperately needed the way I thought that I was. Life goes on, with or without me. I feel a wave of loss hit me as I stand over the kitchen sink.

I turn on the faucet and get back to work.

— Jennifer Scharf

Jennifer Scharf is a Boston-based writer and producer. Her work has been featured in McSweeney’s, Mamalode, Scary Mommy and Writer’s Digest. You can follow her on Twitter @momcoms. Check out her blog at www.momcoms.com.

Isn’t it time for your nap?

Tracy BucknerI recently wrote about vacationing with your kids and how it’s not a vacation unless you leave them home, so my husband and I decided to try vacationing without them. We left everyone to fight over the last loaf of bread and gallon of milk in Shop-Rite before another impending storm.

There’s nothing like Jamaica in February. Sun and rum drinks. We booked an all-adult resort which meant no teenagers texting in the hot tub, and no 2-year-olds in the pool in their swimmy diapers which promise to “keep it all in.” Trust me, “keeping it all in” is a myth.

After boarding a 6 a.m. flight and not arriving at the resort until that evening thanks to a brewing storm, I was ready for a glass of wine, a fabulous dinner and a beautiful sunset. My husband lovingly looked at me, took my hand and said, “Do you want to play ping-pong?”

The next morning: “Do you want to paddle board, go snorkeling, we could scuba dive, hit the gym, ride a wave runner, why don’t we take a kayak out?” Me to him: “Why don’t you take a nap?”

We set ourselves up under an umbrella and as I longingly looked at my yet unopened book, we walked to the activity hut. Wait, aren’t activity huts for kids? All these years I was under the misconception that my kids needed us for a successful vacation when, in reality, it was my husband who needed them even more.

While other couples were being served drinks as they relaxed beach-side, I was being outfitted with flippers and a face mask. We spent the first morning snorkeling. That afternoon — kayaking. That night — ping pong, again.

Marriage is all about compromise, I told myself. My time would come. Perhaps there was a giant shovel I could find so he could dig a hole. Or I could use it to hit him over the head. Or perhaps I could fly my son down.

The next morning I left my book in our room. We went paddle boarding. Then, while my husband went wind surfing, it was my chance to sit on the beach and summon that waiter. I didn’t have my book, but I didn’t have my husband, either. My vacation had begun.

But just as I was relaxing on the beach I realized I couldn’t spot him on the water. It was like having a lost child. Where is he? I stood up, nervous, heart racing. I paced the beach scanning the horizon ready to call the National Guard or whatever they have in Jamaica for tourists gone wild. Then he appeared, happily riding a wave in. I felt like that mom who loses their child and, when reunited, wants to hug them and throttle them at the same time. WHERE IS THAT WAITER? WHERE IS THAT SHOVEL?

That afternoon was spent on a wave runner. I gave my book to the maid. “Isn’t this great?” he screamed to me over the roar off the engine. My hair whipping across my face. Surgery imminent for my neck. I gave him a thumbs up. Isn’t marriage grand?

I am never traveling without my kids again.

Then, a miracle. We met a couple from Manitoba, Canada. She also had that dazed look on her face like she was looking for a playmate for her husband. It was a match made in rum heaven. She liked to read and apply suntan lotion. He liked beach volleyball and anything except sitting on a beach. Soon it was like putting our kids on the bus. “Play nice with each other,” we said as we waved goodbye to them every morning.

Finally, we could vacation as we wanted, and our Ladies Group had grown. Apparently I wasn’t the only one looking to do damage with a shovel. I borrowed a book since the maid was enjoying mine.

Reunited with my husband in the late afternoons, I was happy and he was tired. At night there were sunset sailboat cruises, a disco and a piano bar where everyone was expected to sing, and, believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard “Born in the USA” sung with a Jamaican accent. With our new friends all around us, it was a fun and memorable adults-only vacation. Happiness can be found after your kids are grown up and gone!

On our last night we enjoyed a wonderful romantic dinner while sipping wine and watching the stunning sunset. My husband lovingly looked at me, took my hand and said, “Wanna go down the water slide?”

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner contributes periodically to the Observer Tribune Newspaper of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills Newspaper, serving Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming.

Humor and your mental health

Con ChapmanI got the bad news the other day.

After noticing numbness in my left hand and stiffness when I turned my head to the right, I went to my doctor who ordered an MRI from the neck up.

After the results came in, he sat me down with a serious look on his face.

“You,” he said with a maximum dose of medical gravitas, “have an abnormal brain.”

I was speechless for a moment. Then, after taking a deep breath, I spoke with difficulty, barely concealing my sense of rage at life’s unfairness.

“Doc,” I said, biting my lower lip, “my wife has been telling me that for 25 years, and she doesn’t charge me a $20 co-pay.”

One’s sense of humor is as vital to the healthy functioning of the human mind as, well, other stuff that is also pretty important. According to folk legend, once you cease to dream, you go mad. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, once you cease to laugh, you go to work at the IRS.

An inability to control one’s sense of humor has not yet been classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a psychiatric disorder, but it seems to me that it’s only a matter of time.  Think of how many intense business meetings are disrupted every day by recollections of stray phrases from “Rocky and Bullwinkle” episodes from the ’60s.

FIRST REALLY INTENSE GUY: Acme Widget has hired Greenblatt, Schuster & Fox.

SECOND REALLY INTENSE GUY: Those guys are sharks — total a**holes.

THIRD LESS INTENSE GUY: Seems to me that Acme has surrounded itself with a cordon of nefarious henchmen.

(. . .)

FRIG: What the hell does that mean?

TLIG:  ’m not really sure . . . Bullwinkle J. Moose said it one time.  Also “A six-foot metal-munching mouse!”

What causes a man, when he sees a mail-in offer on the back of a Rice Krispies box for a “Shrek” inflatable boogie board at breakfast, to become lost in a fog for days, muttering to himself, “Why does Shrek need an inflatable boogie board, and how can I work that into a piece of approximately 500 words that will be of no interest to any print or online publication that pays in actual legal tender, as opposed to crummy promotional points good at a major bookstore currently in Chapter  11?”

I don’t have the answers to those questions. But I do have something to say to people who have the courage to create content that they self-identify as humor, risking the sneers of drive-by flamers, editors and other assorted wet blankets, in the hope that someone will click on a banner advertisement, bringing them a check that will cost more to cash than the face amount:

You have abnormal brains.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman
 is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). He is the author of 30 plays, 10 of which are published. His articles and humor have appeared in national magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe, The Boston Globe Magazine and Salon.com, and he’s a frequent contributor to The Boston Herald.

Ice cream trucks and wino wheels

Abby HeugelAhh…summer.

The sound of birds chirping, lawnmowers buzzing and music like “The Entertainer” coming from a janky 1980s model white van driven by a creepy older male trying to lure children to his vehicle in order to sell them sugar-laden treats.

Oh yes, the ice cream truck.

As a kid I can remember the siren song of summer and how we would run outside and try to chase after a moving vehicle in order to procure many of the same frozen treats found in our freezers.

But when you think about it, ice cream trucks were  “trendy” ahead of their time. It’s like some marketing genius thought, “Hey! Just thinking out loud here, but how about a food truck marketed only towards kids! Instead of food, it sells nothing but ice cream!”

Running with the idea, they decided to play kid-friendly music on repeat—including completely nonsensical songs like “La Cucaracha”—and drive by the houses right about the time-harried parents are trying to convince their kids that eating the spinach on their plate will make them strong like Popeye.

(Popeye. Another theme song they used. Well played, Ice Cream Man. Well played.)

Because kids love anything related to sugar and instant gratification, the ice cream men decided to see just how much they could charge before the BBB got wind of their sleek operation.

A menu of carefully arranged the choices was painted on the side of the truck so that there are the plain popsicles or ice cream sandwiches that cost $2 — known as “boring and stupid” by most children — and then, right next to them there are the ones shaped like Hello Kitty or Mickey Mouse with candy eyes and sprinkles for $5.

In other words, the price parents would pay for a whole box of the things. Frozen food truck or wizard on wheels? You be the judge.

But I think they’re really missing another gold opportunity with this one. Apparently when you reach a certain age, it’s “inappropriate” to go running out of the house with a five-spot, pushing small children out of your way in an attempt to flag down the ice cream man for a Bomb Pop.

Who makes up these rules?

Anyway, what they need to do is have a second truck creep about 100 yards behind the ice cream truck. Only this time instead of serving ice cream and blasting “The Entertainer,” this truck serves iced adult beverages and streams Bon Jovi through speakers.

Think about it. Parents will LOVE to hear the ice cream man come down the street and happily let their kids spend $4 for a sherbet push-up if they are secure in the knowledge that a drive-by wine tasting is only a few minutes away.

These Wino Wheels could easily expand their reach by parking down the street from ice cream trucks at youth sporting events, making those outdoor soccer tournaments and softball games a little more tolerable after a swig of chardonnay or a beer.

Everyone can enjoy a cold one of choice.

Happy kids. Happy parents.

Cheers to that!

— Abby Heugel

Abby Heugel is a professional writer and editor of trade publications for employment, but a neurotic humor writer the rest of the time for enjoyment. She runs mental marathons in yoga pants and blogs her brilliant insights. She makes you feel normal. She’s the author of Abby Has Issues and Abby Still Has Issues.

Life in the unemployment lane

Marcia Kester DoyleLast year our world was turned upside down when my husband lost his job unexpectedly. It felt as if someone had stomped on the brakes and we weren’t wearing any seat belts. Not only did we lose our income, but our health care as well. To say that life was a challenge is an understatement. A trap door opened under our feet, and the rope to climb out was within our grasp, but too hard to reach.

The situation rendered negative and positive thoughts on being unemployed:

 THE NEGATIVES:

*My husband, who was born during the Jurassic period, could not compete with the Generation X applicants clamoring for the same job.

*We could no longer enjoy a good, Porterhouse steak. We were reduced to eating Spam and baked beans, and even that box of doggie treats on the shelf started to look pretty appetizing.

*Instead of spending eight hours at a job, my husband spent eight hours digging under couch cushions or the car floorboards in search of loose change to play the lottery. He couldn’t walk past a vending machine without checking the coin return for stray nickels and dimes.

*My guy required a two-hour nap in the middle of the day after consuming mass quantities of cheap food to counteract his boredom. He stood at the kitchen counter and squirted cheese from a can directly into his mouth, then washed it down with a handful of crackers. Don’t judge.

*To keep himself busy, my husband trimmed all of our hedges into Disney topiaries, painted the shed in camouflage and dug up our yard for a new sprinkler system, which left it looking like a groundhog transit system.

THE POSITIVES:

*My husband tackled the pantry that I had neglected by alphabetizing and color coding soup cans, boxed meals and cake mixes.

*We had time to enjoy a morning walk together. The hubs was trying to work off his beer belly and the man boobs that bounced as he jogged (no money for a sports bra).

*The rain gutters and tile grout in the shower had never been cleaner. Even the dust bunnies under the bed packed up their suitcases and left.

*We had time to explore every chapter of the Kama Sutra book. Clowns and unicorns notwithstanding.

*We got to sleep in as late as we wanted. Whether it was five hours or eight, we still woke looking like disoriented patients after shock therapy. We had yet to invent a drip line from the Keurig machine to our mouths upon waking.

Eventually my husband found a new job, and life returned to normal. Sack lunches, regular income and juicy Porterhouse steaks. It was slim pickings for us that year, but we were grateful for whatever we had. As a family we were broke, but wealthy in all the ways that counted most.

— Marcia Kester Doyle

Marcia Kester Doyle is the author of the humorous blog “Menopausal Mother,” where she muses on the good, the bad and the ugly side of menopausal mayhem. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, staff writer for In The Powder Room and HumorOutcasts.com and a contributing writer for What the Flicka. Her work recently captured first place in VoiceBoks Top Hilarious Parent Bloggers 2014, and her first book will be released in the spring through Blue Lobster Publishing. Marcia’s work has appeared on Scary Mommy, Mamapedia, Bloggy Moms, Messy Mom’s Radio, The Woven Press, the Life Well Blogged series and was voted Top 25 in the Circle Of Mom’s Contest 2013. In 2014, she was named a Blogher Voice Of The Year.

 

Monkeys in the pharmacy

Anne BardsleyI was standing in line at the pharmacy, minding my own business. I was rocking my brown paper bag of groceries as I hummed, “Five Little Monkeys Jumping In The Bed.” Truthfully, I might have been singing it quietly.

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell out and bumped his head

Mama called the doctor and the doctor said, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed.”

I bounced my brown bag as I continued the song. I could feel a pinch in my knees, but I was lost in time and continued. I was in the fourth stanza with only two little monkeys jumping on the bed when a woman with a little girl passed and joined me in the last line. We pointed at each other and crooned, “The doctor said, no more monkeys jumping on the bed.” We laughed as she walked away grinning. The pharmacist gave me a questioning look.

There were three people in front of me in line. Patiently, I continued to bounce my brown bag. Before I realized it, a new tune had surfaced. This time it was The Wiggles’ “Rock-a-bye Bear.” I only remember my favorite lines so I quietly sang “La la la la la…hands in the air, rock-a bye bear, bears now asleep. Shhh shhh shhh, bear’s now asleep. Shhh shhh shhh.” At the shhhh part I put my index to my fingers to my lips…Shhh!  The pharmacist looked concerned as he stared at me. I smiled at him and continued to rock my brown bag.

My grandkids’ visits are way too short. My daughters both live plane rides away from us.  When we have time together, it’s like I won the lottery. In fact, if I win the lottery, I will buy a jet filled with toys and hire a personal pilot to jet us around for more visits.

Now my house is tidy (unless you move my furniture). The pots and pans are back in the cupboard. No more shrill clanging that runs bumps up my spine. The little bowls and spoons are tucked away. There’s not a single toy to step on in my living room. Even the dogs have searched for a toy to munch on, to no avail.  The net filled with Mickey and Minnie bath toys is tucked away in the toy box. The baby bath and lavender lotion are safely perched on a shelf. The musical books all have dead batteries from playing for hours. I have my morning coffee in peace now. There aren’t little hands reaching to play or smear bananas on my legs.

It was finally my time to check out at the register. I paid $40.70 for batteries. The cashier asked what in the world was I going to do with all of these batteries…silly girl. “My grandkids will be back soon, and we have dancing to do,” I said as I sniffled.

I stuffed them in my grocery bag and left the store. Then I cried all the way home.

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley, of St. Petersburg, Fla., is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles, a collection of humorous and sentimental stories about marriage, motherhood and menopause. She lives in a menopausal world with a husband who gives her wrinkles. When people ask her age, she sometimes tells them her bra size. “36-C,” she says, “was a wonderful age.”

Reflections of Erma