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Nora Blithe on Honest as a Four-Year-Old CAF on Honest as a Four-Year-Old Nora Blithe on Honest as a Four-Year-Old
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If people in business were as honest as children are every day, it would so radicalize the marketplace that only the greatest ideas would survive.
Children aren’t afraid to tell the truth – unless they think they’re in trouble. Then they’re capable liars. (I once knew a used car salesman who filmed his nine-year-old son’s explanation of why his report card was so poor so he could use it as study prep for selling clunkers to an unsuspecting populace.)
When you ask a child for their opinion, they’ll give you the hard, honest truth.
Take my four-year-old niece for example. While visiting over the holidays, she asked me for a cup of hot chocolate. I don’t keep hot chocolate mix in my house for fear I’ll eat it straight from the package.
I can make hot chocolate from powdered cocoa, coconut milk, vanilla extract and honey. It’s low in sugar so naturally, I knew she wouldn’t like it. I quadrupled the amount of honey and hoped for the best.
“How is it,” I asked her.
“It’s a little bit,” she thought carefully.
What, I thought, too hot? Too sweet? Too chocolaty?
“Yucky,” she finished. “It’s a little bit yucky.”
I considered how I might make it less “yucky” and stared into the pantry for inspiration while briefly lamenting what commercialized hot chocolate has done to our youth – and my waistline.
Then, I spied my inspiration: confectioners’ sugar.
I loaded her chocolate down with powered sweetness and handed it back.
“That’s better, Aunt Nora.” She gave it her stamp of approval and chugged.
I considered the quantity of sugar she was bolting and was relieved that she wasn’t spending the night with me. Yep, I’m that aunt.
When I consider my niece’s brutal honesty, I wonder how many products would have never make it to market if they had been tested by kids first.
Kids will tell you that birthday cards for dogs are dumb. Dogs can’t read.
They know that while grandpa probably needs a nose hair trimmer, he isn’t going to use a nose hair trimmer. Grandpa stopped wearing a shirt and brushing the hair on his head four years ago. Why would he care about a little thing like two-inch nose hairs?
And I’m certain that children could have stopped the great New Coke Debacle of the 1980’s.
In a taste test between Coca-Cola Classic and New Coke, my niece would have deemed New Coke, “A little bit yucky,” and saved the company a lot of hassle.
Winter is nearing its end (we fervently pray) here in South Carolina. This is a challenging time of year for me. Spring fever rages in my blood and I yearn for warm weather like a rabid groundhog.
I loathe winter.
The longer the frigid season persists, the more irrational I get. I stock up on groceries so I don’t have to leave my apartment if the temperature falls below 50 degrees. I take the car out on warm, sunny afternoons and fill it with gas. There’s nothing I fear more than filling an empty gas tank in the cold, dark grip of a February morning.
I become angry at my coat.
Somehow, in my sun-deprived brain, I come to believe that it’s my coat’s fault that it’s cold and dreary out. What was charming outerwear in November suddenly has all the appeal of a straight jacket. The bother of wrestling myself into the purple wool monstrosity begins to be too much in late February and I glare at it as it hangs innocently on its hook by the door.
The coat is bad enough. Then, there are the jerks who make overzealous use of thermostats.
You bundle up in layer upon layer. Shuffle out to the ice-laden car and chisel the windows. It takes the entire drive to your destination to thaw your frozen fingers. Back into the cold you go, as you walk from the car to the building where, suddenly, you’re assaulted by a tropical blast from central heating.
The shocking shift in temperature is akin to strolling from the Arctic straight into the Sahara. You fear heat stroke.
You dutifully peel off the outer layers and sneak to the bathroom to remove one of the under layers as well. It’s an attempt to adjust to the withering indoor heat. For the rest of your time in the building, you carry your coat, scarf, hat, glove and undershirt under your arm and must do everything one-handed. It’s winter’s temporary physical handicap and they don’t hand out parking decals for it.
However, the older I get the less I feel the cold. When I was in my twenties, I considered anything below 70 “below freezing.” In my mid-thirties, I find I can tolerate the upper 60’s.
I’m terrified that I’m acclimating to colder weather. I don’t know who I am anymore! I’m sure it’s the fault of that sneaky coat of mine.
All I really want is to move to south Florida where I can plan on warm weather year round and I can trade in that suffocating coat for a hoodie.
After all, you can’t catch spring fever if there isn’t a spring.
“I think it’s rude to have a dry wedding,” my husband Brian announced.
We were in the car, bound for our hometown to witness one of my numerous cousin’s happy day. Because I have such an extensive family, thirteen cousins on one side, Brian and I have been to a lot of weddings. We’ve formed some opinions on how they should be hosted and like Olympic judges, we rate each event.
The wedding where my cousin who looks like a stand-in for Mr. Clean threatened to beat up a party crasher scored an 8.9. The wedding where a small group of us sat quietly (and bored) around a table in a church fellowship hall set a new low: 1.2. Our own wedding? A 10, naturally.
Sadly, many of the weddings we’ve attended have been dry, whether from a desire to be moral, a passionate hatred for the drink or as a way to save costs, I could not say.
Whatever the case, dry weddings rate very poorly on Brian’s scoring system. It’s earned him the title of “The Judge from the Tiki Bar.” Wedding hosts fear his score, or they would, if we told them that we rate weddings.
The best dry weddings can hope for from Brian is a two and that’s only if they “stick the landing,” which is Olympic/wedding speak for let Brian toss whole handfuls of birdseed at them.
Brian, like most of us, attends weddings mainly for the reception. He is a man after all. Women and immediate family may be the only wedding guests that enjoy the ceremony. I’m not usually a sentimental person, but I confess that weddings move me.
Brian on the other hand, isn’t teary eyed during the service. He’s ready to move forward to the reward: all you can eat buffets. Buffets that have been paid for by someone else. He not only considers his reward to be the buffet but a cold beer as well.
It’s perhaps not the best reason to attend a wedding but at least it’s an honest one.
“It won’t matter that it’s dry,” I tried to assured him.
Brian’s face said he disagreed. His mouth said, “You make these people come from all over the country to watch you and ‘Pookey’ get hitched. You should give them a drink if you’re going to make them sit through all that!”
The upcoming wedding looked to be a very low scorer.
It’s Valentine’s Day again.
It’s got me thinking about love. Not the sappy, over romanticized type of love that Hollywood and Hallmark sell, but the in the trenches sort of love that happens in a marriage.
It gets messy sometimes.
I’ve been married to my husband Brian for twelve years. We’re hardly eighty-year veterans of matrimony but neither are we unblooded in the art of marital warfare a.k.a. “discussions” either.
In our time together, we’ve faced numerous challenges to a happy relationship: negotiating monthly budgets, deciding who is going to drive the oldest, crappiest car and the great debate over how many cats is too many cats.
But one threat to marital bliss stands out as the greatest battle we’ve ever waged. Only true love could have seen us through The Great Cheez-It Wars of 2003.
It was in that year that we discovered Cheez-Its made with Tabasco’s green pepper sauce.
Ah, the joy of burn-your-tongue spicy cheese flavored crackers! In my early twenties, I could pack away a box of these suckers and lose weight. What I wouldn’t give to return to those halcyon days of gazelle-like metabolism!
The only impediment to my complete and utter enjoyment of these tasty treats was competition with my spouse. He too thrilled at cheese and spice rolled into one.
What began as a treat quickly developed into a box-a-day habit.
Like deranged squirrels, we began hiding the box, storing up the treat for our own selfish, rapid-weight-losing selves.
When I discovered the box on the topmost shelf of the pantry hidden behind a roll of paper towels and a box of stale pasta, I knew he’d drawn first blood.
No shrinking violet, I resolved to outflank him. I stashed the box in the couch.
Score one for me.
Next, I found a box hidden behind his computer monitor. “Nice try,” read the sticky note I left in its place. I munched down.
Several days passed. I knew he’d stashed a box but I could not find it even with the dog’s help. We sniffed for hours searching for the sweet smell of baked cheese but to no avail.
Finally, while cleaning house, I discovered a fresh batch hidden in the box springs.
I confronted him when he returned home from work.
“What is this,” I demanded, brandishing the box.
“Yummy,” he answered. He snatched the box gleefully from my grasp.
I smirked. “You didn’t think I’d left any did you?”
He shook the empty box and frowned.
Finally, we faced reality. It was the Cheez-Its or our marriage.
We swore an oath to go cold turkey on the tasty little treats. It preserved both our waistlines and our wedded state.
Sometimes, the key to a good romance is knowing when to pick your battles.
“You have to help me,” I begged Lexie, my best friend. “It has to be there somewhere.”
“I have boot camp this afternoon,” she said slowly, groping for a way to avoid being pulled into my latest crisis.
“Lexie,” I explained, “it’s a really good color on me and it’s expensive. When I lost it last night, I nearly cried. It was more than half-full.”
“I have to order it from Canada,” I pressed. “The shipping adds another eleven dollars. It has to be in those bushes somewhere.”
Yes, I was trying to coerce my closest friend in the world to crawl down Broad St. and help me look for the blush I’d dropped the night before. Naturally, I’d looked for it then but the poor lighting cut short my efforts. I’d returned the next morning with no success.
I couldn’t shake the idea that my precious blush was lying in a bush waiting for me to rescue it from impending rain or the city’s sprinkler system.
Lexie caved. We hurried around the corner to the row of bushes that were hoarding my blush.
This being my third attempt, I abandoned decorum, dropped to my knees and began crawling. Lexie, not as desperate, stayed on her feet and began scanning the other direction.
Soon, two women with a stroller and a toddler stopped.
“Did you lose a diamond ring or something,” one of them asked.
“Worse,” I replied, “my blush.”
“It’s a really good color on me,” I explained.
“It’s from Canada,” Lexie chimed in.
They joined our efforts. The toddler even helped.
After thoroughly ransacking the bushes, I admitted defeat and thanked them for their help. They left Lexie and I to ponder the situation.
“I don’t understand,” I said to Lexie, “it has to be somewhere. Aliens didn’t take it. Although, it is such a good color I bet it would even look good on someone with green skin.”
I looked around.
“Wait,” I exclaimed. “I didn’t drop it in these bushes! I dropped it in those bushes!”
Lexie gave me a withering look.
“It was dark last night,” I said in my defense. I pulled her down the block. “There aren’t that many bushes it will only take a second.”
I resumed crawling and Lexie joined me.
I noticed something on my jeans. “What is that,” I asked swiping at my knee and shin. There were pink stains on my pants.
“My blush,” I cried in grief. The pink stains were caused by bits of my broken, dead blush. It was ruined!
“I see why you wanted to look for it,” Lexie said.
I stared at her in confusion.
“It is a good color,” she agreed, “even on your knees.”
“The dog cannot come to the new house,” my dad repeated to my aunt.
The dog in question was my own, a two-year-old English pointer mix named Starla.
Starla was welcome in my parents’ previous house on numerous occasions but Mom and Dad are building a new house and Dad has this weird thing about animals indoors. It’s like he’s scared of pet hair or something.
It probably doesn’t help that my previous pet, a cat named Friday, was single-handedly (or is it pawedly?) responsible for destroying my parents’ carpet, an expensive upholstered armchair and eating the center out of a loaf of bread the day they were hosting relatives for lunch.
These are just a few of his numerous crimes.
My aunt, my father’s sister, is an animal lover and has two large ex-racing greyhounds. She knows my dad’s preference for an animal-free house.
She was shocked when he allowed Starla into his previous home. She was probing and teasing at the same time when she asked about her admission to the new house.
I should interject that Dad is a huge animal lover and for their part, animals like him. He just prefers them in other people’s homes. I feel much the same way about small children. I love kids but I love them more when they’re at my sister’s house.
I’m not worried about my father’s edict to omit Starla from the new house. I have a trick up my sleeve: Mom.
Mom adores Starla. Plus, when we travel to visit my parents we have to stay somewhere. It just so happens that my in-laws live in the same town and Starla is always welcome at their home.
Because we usually travel with Starla, Mom knows the dog is part of the package. If she wants us to stay with her, she’ll have to convince my father that Starla is, in fact, coming to the new house. Mom loves it when we stay with her.
It shouldn’t be hard for Mom to sway him. I’ve seen her in action.
In the meantime, I thought it was only fair that Starla interject her own opinion. When we were last in town, Starla, Brian and I paid a trip to my parent’s lot, the soon-to-be home of the new house.
Starla, who had been in the car for a long time and needed a potty break “expressed” herself admirably on Dad’s soon to be lawn.
I snapped a photo.
Dad had the good grace (and sense of humor) to laugh when I showed him the picture.
“As you sit in your pet-free home you will always have to remember,” I told him, “the dog who isn’t allowed in your home left a little something under the foundation.”
“The craziest thing happened to my dad on his way to work the other morning,” my cousin April confided in me.
I wasn’t surprised. My uncle David has a way of finding crazy. It’s probably why I like him so much. We can relate.
“He was standing in line at the gas station to buy his cup of coffee,” she went on. “For twenty years, Dad has gone to the same gas station to buy a cup of coffee every single morning.
“Never mind that there are closer gas stations or better gas stations. Never mind that that part of town has gone downhill in the last few years. He always goes there, without fail. If he ever goes missing the cashier at that gas station will probably be the first to notice.
“He is standing in line and he looks up and he notices a guy grab a bunch of things and run out of the store! This guy is stealing from the store! So he says to the cashier, ‘That guy just stole from you.’
“The cashier was young and looked like a deer in the headlights so Dad decided he’d have to take matters into his own hands.
“He jumps in his truck and follows the guy. The guy was on foot and Dad in was the truck so he had no trouble following him. Down the road they go. Fortunately, the cashier called the cops. Dad sees the cops pull up and he thinks, ‘Ok, they’ve got him. I can go to work now.’
“The cop hops out of his car and starts chasing the guy. Well wouldn’t you know they sent the fattest cop on the force? Dad thinks, ‘There is no way this cop is going to catch that guy. No way!’ Dad realizes he can’t leave yet.
“He stomps on the gas pedal, catches up to the guy, opens his door and grabs him by the shirt! He holds on until the police officer catches up. The guy flops on the ground and the cop sits on him so Dad thinks, ‘No way that guy is getting away now with that fat cop sitting on top of him. Now, I can leave.’
“His good citizen deed is done for the day and he has just enough time to get to work before he’s late when he realizes something.”
“What,” I interjected. “Did he tear his shirt? He has to go home and change?”
“No, even better,” she grinned. “He forgot to pay for his coffee.”