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Last week, I traveled to a nearby town to meet my aunt, my parents and a cousin for lunch. Because we all live in different places, this was a fun chance for us to catch up.
My mother relayed the latest news regarding my two nieces ages seven and four.
“Nicole got a note from a boy at church,” she said of my oldest niece. “He’s a year younger than she is so she moves up a Sunday school group before him. He is always glad when they are in the same class again.”
My aunt and cousin laughed. Seven and she’s already getting love notes from boys – younger boys at that. Good for her.
I grinned. “She takes after her Aunt Nora,” I joked.
Telling stories in our family happens in spurts. You have to make room for the one-liners the group spouts. Once the laughter subsides, you have to jump in again or someone will take over.
Mom sailed along with her story. “He’d written, ‘Nicole, you are very beautiful,’ on one side of the card,’” my mother continued.
This met with more laughs, the kind of laugh people make when they remember being young and wonder what happened. I was guilty of laughing this laugh along with my older relatives. Wondering where the time had gone stifled the one-liners this time.
“Then,” Mom went on, “he wrote, ‘You have beautiful hair,” on the other side of the card.
“She really does take after me,” I interjected. I was only half joking this time.
I’m a bit preoccupied with my hair, too much according to my husband Brian. I ignore him. My hair is my hobby.
“She does have beautiful hair,” my aunt agreed.
She does. Nicole’s hair is long, blonde and tipped with soft ringlet curls. She could make Barbie green with envy. I doubted the six-year-old admirer from Sunday school would be her last.
My mother continued. “Then, on the back of the card he’d written, ‘you are very nice.’ Nicole looked at it and said, ‘He’s a little younger so he must not know about capitalization yet.’”
We erupted in laughter and everyone looked pointedly at me, the writer, “She really does take after me.” I wasn’t joking at all this time. “Love notes are nice but be sure your grammar is correct if you’re going to send one to me,” I laughed.
My hair might be my hobby but proper grammar is my career!
This story is the second of a series. Read the first one here.
“The dog,” I repeated dumbfounded.
“She’s just so adorable,” my friend Shelly exclaimed.
We were at brunch with a multitude of Shelly’s closest female friends and relatives. It’s the type of event that’s a bit girly for my tastes but my social life has been slow. I was there in the hopes of making new friends. Besides, Shelly told me she had something important to ask me. I thought she might ask me to be a bridesmaid.
“She is adorable,” I couldn’t disagree. My dog Starla is an English Pointer and Lab mix who tops the scale at a slight thirty five pounds. She knows how to be cute, points at birds in bushes and retrieves any toy you’re willing to throw, no matter how many times you throw it.
“But she’s a dog,” I exclaimed.
“I know she’s a dog, silly,” Shelly bubbled “and that’s why I want her to be in the wedding.”
“You want a dog in your wedding,” I still didn’t understand. Why would Shelly want someone else’s dog in her wedding?
“No, I want your dog in my wedding. She’s going to be my flower girl. Susan’s dog Max, you know Max, the cute little Schnauzer? He’s going to be the ring bearer,” she bubbled. I swear the woman was bubbling.
“I’ve made an appointment for her at Paws Boutique,” she continued. “They specialize in canine couture and she’s set to have a blueberry facial scrub and a mani/pedi at Doused Doggies Day Spa.”
“Doggie couture? That’s a thing?”
“No Nora, keep up, it’s canine couture and it’s the latest thing. Didn’t you read about it in this month’s Edge magazine?”
“My copy must be lost in the mail,” I replied dryly. She missed my tone and bubbled away.
“Here are a list of her appointments. She’ll need to be at the rehearsal dinner and don’t worry, we’ve ordered a special cake for the flower girl and ring bearer from the doggy bakery. Do you think you can train her to walk down the aisle carrying a basket of flowers in her mouth?”
“Probably,” I answered slowly. I wondered if Shelly was off her meds. “I can’t guarantee she won’t eat the flowers when she gets to the altar.”
Shelly laughed, “You’re so funny, Nora! Ok, I have to go ask my great aunt Millie if she’ll be our D.J.” She bounded away.
I took a deep pull of my mimosa and tried to figure out what had just happened. My dog was in the wedding party and I reduced to the roll of canine chauffer. I wasn’t sure how I felt about her associating with Max the Schnauzer who once bit me on the calf and I was less sure how I felt about her dressing up as a flower girl.
Oh well, I thought, these things are too girly for me anyway. Perhaps my dog can enjoy the finer points of being female. I just hope she doesn’t have to wear heels!
My friend Shelly blinded the room with the flashing gleam from her left hand and the beaming smile on her face.
“Let the wedding planning begin,” Shelly announced. The other assorted friends and relatives, all female, cheered.
I raised an eyebrow. I’m not a natural when it comes to large groups of women. In spite being the same gender, I find large female gatherings perplexing and with a decided lack of the sarcasm to which I’m accustomed.
“You’re going to a girls only brunch to help plan Shelly’s wedding,” Brian repeated in disbelief when I told him my plans.
“What’s so strange about that,” I asked.
“You hate those sorts of things. You called your sister’s baby shower a ‘grotesque misuse of the color pink’ said ‘there were too many children present’ and ‘not enough adult beverages by which I mean there were none.’”
“What’s your point,” I asked dryly.
“Why are you going to Shelly’s brunch,” he asked.
“Recently, I’ve found myself with a lack of girlfriends,” I said clearing my throat.
“Gee, really,” he said sarcastically “maybe that’s because you make fun of the things girls like to do.”
“Precisely and I think it’s time for me to branch out, to be more open to things. I probably won’t love brunch but maybe I’ll meet someone cool who’ll want to go kayaking or to hear a band,” I mentioned some of my favorite hobbies. “If putting up with something that’s a bit uncomfortable is the price I have to pay to make new friends I’m willing to give it a shot.”
“Speaking of uncomfortable you know you won’t be able to wear jeans to brunch,” he grinned.
“I had not considered that,” I was momentarily set back but rallied. “I do own dresses. Occasionally, I even like to wear them. I’ll just decide to like wearing one that day.”
He eyed me. He knew me well. There was something I wasn’t saying and he had a look on his face that said he was going to pry it out of me.
“What do people drink at brunch,” he asked casually.
“I don’t know. Coffee. Tea. Mimosas,” I muttered.
“There it is,” he laughed. “Admit it. You’re going to brunch for the champagne. You’re going to dress in uncomfortable clothes, help a girl you only sort of like plan her wedding and spend half your Sunday at brunch for a drink?”
I laughed. “No but I confess it doesn’t hurt to know there will be something I’ll enjoy. Besides Shelly hinted that there was something special she was going to ask me. I think she might want me to be a bridesmaid.”
He mimed taking my temperature.
“Very funny,” I rolled my eyes. “I’ve been a bridesmaid before and remarkably enough I enjoyed it.”
Little did I know that Shelly was not going to ask me to be a bridesmaid. If I had known what she had in store, I would have stayed home.
No. It wasn’t fair. She promised they weren’t contagious!
They were contagious.
Since we relocated to a new town a year and a half ago, my husband Brian and I have seen little of the friends we left behind. Now that we’re settled, we’ve begun inviting friends to visit us.
Last weekend, our friends Dave and Stefanie came to stay for a few days. It was great to see them! Unfortunately, a half a bottle of tequila wasn’t the only thing they left behind.
“I’m sick,” I told my husband Brian. “I caught Dave and Stef’s cold.”
“Poor baby,” he replied.
“Stef did warn me,” I said. “She texted me before they left saying that they had colds but they weren’t contagious anymore. I thought I wanted to see them more than I minded possibly catching a cold. Now, I’m not so sure.”
“Ha,” he said. He actually said “ha.” He didn’t laugh.
“Easy for you to say,” I retorted. “You almost never get sick and when you do you think the mildest sniffle is going to kill you.”
He gave me a look.
“Remember last winter? I had that cold for seven days and I not only went to work, I cleaned the house, cooked dinner every night and composed a manifesto on the advantages of chicken soup,” I said.
“I don’t remember a manifesto…”
I cut him off. “Then you got a mild case of the same cold and you spent two days in bed.”
“I was sick,” he said indignantly.
“You said, ‘I think there’s something really wrong. I mean, it’s really bad,’ so many times the cat started quoting you. Your only symptom was a runny nose! You didn’t even have a fever! My fever reached 103 but I didn’t let that stop me!”
“Is there something that could stop you now,” he asked dryly.
“I’m getting worse,” I told him. “I can feel it in my chest and my throat is scratchy. I think I’m going to lose my voice.”
“Really,” he asked with far too much enthusiasm.
“You’re happy that I’m going to lose my voice,” I accused him.
“Of course not,” he said unconvincingly.
“Uh huh,” I didn’t believe him. “This time I’m going to be the one who spends days in bed bemoaning my condition.”
“Well, it’s a good thing Dave and Stef left more than a cold behind,” he said.
“What do you mean,” I asked.
“They left half a bottle of tequila,” he told me. “I think I’m gonna need it, especially if you don’t lose your voice.”
My husband Brian found me hard at work at my desk.
“Sorry to interrupt,” he said. He was holding a shoe in his left hand and had a perplexed look on his face. “Do you know where we keep the shoe polish?”
We had moved to a new city a year ago. We sold our little house and moved into a littler apartment. Since the move, Brian had plagued me with “where do we keep” questions. I felt my eye twitch.
“It’s in the laundry closet,” I replied.
We don’t have a full laundry room in our apartment. Instead, we have a washer, dryer and two shelves hidden in the hallway behind bifold doors.
Its efficient layout surprisingly gives us more storage space than the laundry room in our old house. I took brutal advantage of it.
I bought enough plastic storage bins to fill both shelves and organized our cleaning supplies, spare light bulbs and other household needs into the clear-sided bins. Finding things was as easy as looking through the side of the container.
My husband is a very smart man. He is also a very organized man. The closet system should be a snap for him.
Three days later, I was curled inside a blanket reading a book.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Brian said. He was holding a dead light bulb in his left hand and had a perplexed look on his face. “Do you know where we keep the three-way bulbs?”
“In the laundry closet,” I snapped.
“Jeez,” he snapped back, “you don’t have to get huffy!”
“We have lived here for a year. Literally lived here for one year! Surely, this isn’t the first time you’ve needed a light bulb,” I shot back.
“I couldn’t remember where we keep them,” he shouted.
I tossed my book on the couch, dramatically swept the blanket off and marched to the laundry closet.
I threw the doors open with a swoosh.
“There,” I proclaimed. “There are the light bulbs, the shoe polish, the spare pet supplies, the bathroom cleaning supplies, the clean rags, the glue, the you name it it’s in one of those bins!”
I flounced back to the couch.
The next morning I was in the shower.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Brian’s head suddenly appeared from behind the shower curtain. “Do you know where we keep the…”
I threw a sponge at him and he fled.
Later that day, I armed myself with the labeler and a fresh batch of blank labels.
I labeled every single item in the laundry closet including the bleach.
When Brian returned home from work, I dragged him to see the results of my labor.
“If you ever ask me where something is again,” I threatened, “no jury will convict me.”
“Hey,” he said, clearly impressed, “Do you know where we keep the labeler.”
“I’m making a grocery list,” my husband Brian announced.
I raised my eyebrows. Brian rarely does the shopping. I paused to consider how I might best encourage him to continue this behavior.
“Hello,” he waved a hand in front of my face. “Did you need something from the store?”
“Sorry, I spaced out for a minute,” I replied. “There’s a list on the kitchen counter and we need more catnip. Seti ate all of what we had.”
“You just bought that container,” he exclaimed shaking his head.
“What can I say,” I asked. “The cat needs his treat.”
“The cat needs an intervention,” he retorted.
Later he returned with the groceries and I helped put them away.
I spied something in the bag and froze. “What’s that,” I demanded. I backed away slowly.
“What,” he asked confused. “The Halloween candy?”
“You bought Halloween candy on October tenth,” I shrieked.
“Yeah,” he replied still unsure of what he’d done wrong.
“You can’t buy Halloween candy before Halloween,” I yelled.
“Halloween is in two and a half weeks,” he said perplexed.
“Two and a half weeks,” I repeated. “Do you know how much of that candy will be left in two and half weeks?”
“None,” I shouted. “There will be exactly none left. Do you know why there will be none left? Because I will eat it all! You know I’m trying to lose weight. How could you do this to me?”
I burst into tears.
Brian stood rooted to the floor in disbelief, a carton of fresh catnip in his hand.
“You could just not eat it,” he started.
“If I could just not eat it I wouldn’t need to lose weight,” I shot back.
He wisely avoided expounding on that idea.
“I’ll hide it,” he offered.
“Thank you but it won’t help. I’ll sniff it out like the dog looking for crumbs after dinner,” I’m not too proud to admit that I can smell out the candy in a room.
“Maybe you need a new hobby,” he said laughing.
“What can I say,” I grinned. “I need my treat.”
“You need an intervention,” he retorted. “You and the cat both.”
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It isn’t because I love horror movies; I don’t. It’s not because I love candy; I do. It’s because I love to dress up and perform. It is the ultimate holiday for anyone who loves to act.
My first brush with the theatre occurred in my grandmother’s living room when I was five.
The “Children’s’ Christmas Play” was an annual occurrence in our family. I was one of fifteen grandchildren. There were enough kids to put on a full-scale Broadway production but we settled for something a bit folksier. By folksier I mean we wrote it ourselves.
It was 1983 and I was making my acting debut as a sheep. I pointed to the top of the Christmas tree and announced, “A star in the east.” To date, it was one of my better performances.
I found the caste system that pervades high school confusing until I discovered the “drama freaks.” In this group of weirdos, I found my home. I threw myself into this role with as much gusto as I threw myself into Fairy Number 2 in our production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” or Vampire Number 3 when we did “Dracula.”
I wasn’t ready to relinquish my love affair with the theatre when graduation day (finally) came. I left home, moved to Los Angeles and joined a theatre company. This is my mother’s version of Halloween: her eighteen-year-old daughter on the opposite coast with a whole company of weirdos and no health insurance. Those were the days!
The only real downside to pursuing acting as a career is the pay. The breaking point came for me when I stood in a grocery store with a bottle of shampoo in one hand, a bottle of deodorant in the other hand and just enough money to buy one. Which do you choose?
I choose to return home and earn a college education followed by the very lucrative career choice of becoming a writer.
These days the only make up I wear is street make up and some days I don’t even bother with that. But once a year, I get to tap into my inner drama freak, don a costume and remember how much fun it is to dress up and pretend to be someone else, even if that someone else is a sheep.