Tag Archives: holiday

So Bright as to be Blinding, Part II

MeXmsTree 48bit 800 color  dust111JUST ICICLES CLOSE-UPMeXmsTree 48bit 800 color  dust111JUST ICICLES CLOSE-UPTen fifteen, Christmas morning, and poof, Christmas was cooked.

Once the last gift had been unwrapped, the entire holiday season was a memory. No more anticipation, no more unbridled glee. With all the weeks of preparation and festivities concluded, Mom wouldn’t make me take down the tree I’d lovingly decorated now, would she? Would she?

She did.

I took a stand and left my masterwork up until April.

Sure, the tree was a little brittle-looking, but I was still in the holiday spirit. However, even I had to admit watching the Masters Golf Tournament on TV next to a still-lit Christmas tree didn’t look right. When was Mom going to explode about the matter, outraged how the pathetic three inches of tinder dry needles below the parched tree were going to make the perfect nest for this year’s Easter egg hunt? Or what if she blew up and asked Dad to remove it, getting him riled at me in the process?

Fearing that scenario, sometime between the golfers turning Amen Corner and the final putt, I began the process of stripping the tree of all its sparkling adornment. In doing so, I made three mental notes about my tree responsibilities for next year. #1. Taking thousands of icicle strands off the tree was a lot less fun than putting them on (Mom insisted we save them all). #2. Trying to recall which boxes the 179 ornaments went back into was torture. #3. Not watering the tree was just an overall bad idea.

As I pulled the dry, browning evergreen out from the corner, a showy display of brittle needles rained to the floor. Just a few feet behind them was a frazzled electric cord plugged into a sparking wall outlet. Imagining the scene of our house going up in flames and Dad yelling, “How could you be so irresponsible!?” I dragged the crackling pine outside as quickly as I could. Then Mom proceeded to complain about the Appalachian Trail of needles that wound through the house all the way to the stack of trees piled in the backyard from previous Christmases. I couldn’t win. As I stared down at what was left of the tree, all I could think was Christmas was over, really over now, and that Mom and Dad were disappointed in my tree removal ability.

Regardless, I reminded Mom about wanting a pet for my next responsibility, suggesting a bear cub, maybe a St. Bernard. She said no. A week later, however, she said yes to a Venus flytrap. What? A plant?

My Venus flytrap lived inside a shiny, clear plastic box of dirt. It looked odd, but fashioned long, pretty lashes, inspiring me to name her Maybelline. I loved to watch her sit perfectly still one second, then snatch a fly inside her lightning-quick jaws the next. Assuming care of a Venus flytrap was Mom’s test to determine whether I could handle responsibility with a living organism (our Christmas tree didn’t count – fortunately), I didn’t want to blow it, and made sure Maybelline stayed on a regular eating schedule.

Soon, however, Maybelline stopped eating. Dead flies I dropped in her mouth sat there. Even bits of protein-fortified hamburger fell in with no change. Not until she turned yellow and her overflowing mouth looked like a dried-up, all-beef taco did I conclude she was actually dead.

“I don’t know what happened. She just died,” I cried to Mom.

“May this be a lesson to you to eat nutritious meals or you might shrivel and die, too.”

An image of Mom’s scary goulash came to mind, but I mustered enough strength to answer with words I absolutely had to deliver if I ever wanted another pet.

“Yes, Mom, I do know. I do. Nutritious meals are important. And the ones you serve are really really good.”

Sure enough, a few weeks later, she brought home a beautiful, royal-looking, sleek, gray-colored seal point Siamese cat I immediately named Dexter.

This is an excerpt from my memoir, Maybe Boomer, and the chapter titled, “Responsibility.” You can read more from that chapter and others in the Excerpts section from this website.



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Six Tips to Save You Fourth of July Headaches

1 lawn chair 001







Before you head out to celebrate the Fourth on Friday, you might want to review these handy WhoWhatWhereHow questions.

1   The venue  –  in addition to the sure-to-be fantastic fireworks display, what else is attached to the celebratory proceedings? (A concert, a long parade, a long-winded great-grandmother’s presence?)

2   The people going with you to watch the fireworks    would you go with them if they hadn’t already asked you (before you had the opportunity to ask someone else)?

3   Seating  –  are there sublime seating comforts available where you’re going? (Regardless how anxious people are to watch the fireworks, the truth is it takes forever for them to begin, which means you’ll be sitting and looking skyward well into the ten o’clock hour.)

4   Weather  –  remember the last time you were stuck at an outdoor party and the weather was less than spectacular? Even if it was for only fifteen minutes, are you prepared to multiply that disaster by double-digit amounts just to ogle over fireworks?

5   Crowds  –  have you determined your truthful and realistic threshold for mobs of people milling around you everywhere? (Remember: you’re not eleven anymore.)

6   Transportation  –  despite the fact the drive to the venue might be fun and loose, have you considered what the way home will look like? (Again, you’re not eleven anymore and looking skyward at ten means you’ll be on the road with everyone else at eleven.)

I wish I’d known about these success gauges twenty-five years ago. But, as a young and stupid person at the time, even if I’d been asked, I was too naive to answer the questions and have any idea what I was talking about.  As a result, here’s what July Fourth, 1989, looked like.

1 – Venue: We went to the Mall in Washington, DC, to hear – from a half mile away – the aging Beach Boys gag over their outdated hits, Americana tunes, and canned, patriotic dialogue.

2 – People going with me: I went with every family member and relative living within the tri-state area.

3 – Seating: I learned firsthand that blankets, however large, soft and plush, do not qualify as back support. “The fireworks are only four hours away now.” Ow.

4 – Weather: “In the open air of the Mall, there’ll be a breeze. It’s gonna be awesome.” In the open air of the Mall there is, and always will be, heat, humidity, still air and active, ravenous bugs.” It was no different when George Washington boated through the swampy Mall area in 1776.

5 –  Crowds: The Mall scene was worse than the Battle of Gettysburg, and the million tourists toted enough food and beverage to supply an entire army with three months of rations (although most troops wouldn’t have lived long on Skittles, popcorn and bite-size wiener dogs).

6 – Transportation: Sure, the fireworks on the Mall were the best in the nation, but nothing justified the irritation of standing flesh to flesh with hundreds of sweaty, inebriated, fellow patriots on Metro trains going home later. The stampede to the train station rivaled the Antietam battlefield surge.

One day in the far-off future, when all households come standard with 62-inch inlaid flat screen TVs, perhaps everyone will stay home and watch the televised Mall fireworks display from their couch in privacy.

Eh, come to think of it, that’s no good either.

I say go out there and celebrate! (So long as I can drive with my folding chair strapped to the hood, ready for service.)


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Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

Remember This? The American Dream


Memorial Day, 2014. It’s a day to remember the people and things we hold dear that are now gone.

At one time, I believed the American Dream would come through for me. As the middle class has disappeared year by year, I’ve watched the American Dream slip away from millions of Americans, even though they’ve worked hard all their lives.

I’m not bitter. Although I’ve lived most of my years at the poor to lower middle class income level, I’ve always had enough to meet my needs as a single person. But what about the millions of families for whom the American Dream seemed particularly built for?

Today, I take time to privately honor my stepfather who served valiantly in World War II. It seemed to me he lived the American Dream. He married, served in the Air Force, had children, divorced (perhaps no American Dream is complete without a divorce), married my mother, retired at a reasonable age, and had a pension. Risking his life in combat flying P-47s over Europe in WW II, he earned his military pension.

Although my stepfather is gone, I hope – for all Americans who in one way or another have sacrificed  and saved their hard-earned money – that our national dream will one day return.

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Remember This? Ivory Snow (mother’s favorite)


Ivory Snow laundry detergent – what my mother spent most of her Mother’s Days with.


(Read more on my mother’s family travails in the introduction of Chapter 3, “Revenge,” from my memoir, Maybe Boomer, and the passage from Chapter 3 in Excerpts.)

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Filed under Blog, Remember This?