Tag Archives: Mom

Stars, Stripes and My Bedroom Massacre; Stories From Maybe Boomer

Botanical Garden . Revoltnry War 016The doldrums of summer seem longer and hotter when you’re twelve. June days are whiled away in nervousness about the future. July is hotter, but as the month progresses, you feel less vulnerable somehow. By August, anxiety turns to excitement – you’re no longer an elementary school pip squeak, but big middle schooler, about to start fresh in a better school this fall, that is, if you don’t blow it. Better get ready.

I surveyed the entire space. With just a little help from Mom, maybe I could renovate my bedroom. Time had come to scrap the deplorable furnishings I once thought were cute during elementary school days: grandmother’s old and dirty hand-braided rug; the pastel, curlicue flower wallpaper; the orange curtains that looked like a Halloween costume massacre. What I really wanted was mod wallpaper, something resembling the big, bold, blue vertical stripes I’d seen on shirts the Beach Boys wore. Imagine having my entire room surrounded in stripes! Other guys my age probably had their bedrooms done up just this way. Now it was my turn.

To keep the momentum going, I asked Mom to buy some new wallpaper in exchange for my agreeing to help put it up.

It must have been the rare offer of labor that explained Mom’s drive to the wallpaper store that afternoon, the closest I’d ever come to riding shotgun in an ambulance. Anticipation was building. Modern wallpaper was meant to be.

Energized, I flashed through hundreds of wallpaper sample book pages with Mom, trying to find a design I liked.

As the hours passed, excitement waned, patience thinned, and the quality of selections deteriorated.

“How about this one, Michael?” she asked, her right hand displaying a light orange-striped pattern.

“Mom, I want wallpaper for a boy. This is for a boy’s room.”

“Oh, and look at this one,” a stupid pea-green stripe design. “And this one here is really something,” an implied stripe motif using tiny rabbits. “When you look closely, it’s really tiny little …”

“Mom, Mom, I’m not a girl.”

“Okay, then what is it you want? This?” Her hand slapped the sample sheet of eggshell white.

“No, Mom, I don’t want …”

“Then don’t use that tone of voice with me, young man. Now, what do you want?”

“I dunno, it’s not here, but it’s gotta be around somewhere.”

Ten minutes more and the search was done.  I’d given in. One of her designs won. I hated myself.

A week later, I stared at thin, tiny, microscopic, vertical baby-blue stripes surrounded by large Revolutionary War battle scenes pasted all over my bedroom walls. I knew Mom suffered from Colonial Stylism – the pervasive affliction of many sixties housewives – but this had gone too far. As our home decorator, she’d colonialized everything: pillows, couches, mantle piece decorations, probably her own underwear, and now my room had been captured and sterilized.

Johnny Tremained-out, I didn’t want anyone to witness this massacre – ever, particularly guy friends. What could have been a place to share with them was now a museum of Boston Tea Party scenes. I felt half-dead realizing all my years ahead would be spent gaping at deadly rifles, horses, ships, whips, and men running around in three-cornered hats.

This excerpt is from Chapter Three, “Boys,” in my memoir, “Maybe Boomer.”

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Memorial Day, Mom and Maid Marion

Maid Marion; arroyo dew drops grass 002For me these days, Memorial Day is about recalling memories of my mother, gone ten years now this November. Even as a boy, one who often sized his mom up as the Wicked Witch of the West and Cruella de Vil all in one, I realized Mom was everything, my queen, buried beneath an unfortunate plight.

On one drizzly Saturday afternoon, I stayed inside to watch TV in the basement. Curled up on the couch, basking in the warmth and eternal sunshine of Sherwood Forest, I viewed the entire two hours of The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn as Robin and Olivia deHavilland as Marion. The swashbuckling action and colorful pageantry of the uplifting tale thrilled me. But there was more to the story than that.

I most loved watching the scenes of Robin’s comradeship with the poor townsfolk, and particularly his quest for Maid Marion’s elusive love and attention. Zoned in on this sub-story, only one thing interrupted my focus.

The gentle whir from the sewing machine seemed much louder today than usual. I glanced across the basement at Mom, hunched over in her hard chair, struggling to darn clothes on our antiquated Singer sewing machine.

When I reconnected with Marion on screen, I saw a woman who – under the lavish headbands and finely darned dresses she wore – reminded me of Mom, her pretty face and petite body trying to reveal their selves.

If only Mom smiled more, I thought. When I looked at her, sometimes I wondered if she’d have been happier born in Marion’s times. I wished she could hold herself higher knowing she, too, was pretty and often kind. Like Marion, she stitched her own clothes and made home a court for her king. Had Dad ever noticed her face, her work, her beauty? Why did she take the disrespect, just to be Official Andberg Family Martyr for all her pain and suffering? I hoped one day she’d let loose of the rules, the ties that bound her, to be more joyful like Marion. Mom and Marion were inseparable to me and would be forever, while Robin became my hero instantly, and role model for life.

In his book, “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood,” Howard Pyle wrote, “So passed the seasons then, so they pass now, and so they will pass in time to come, while we come and go like leaves of the tree that fall and are soon forgotten.”

Not forgotten, dear memories of Maid Marion – Mom.

The above excerpt is from my memoir, “Maybe Boomer.

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Remember This? February 9?

Last year, this date kept popping into my head and I didn’t know why. Why was February 9 such a big deal to me? It’s a day in the middle of cold, boring, depressing February, so what’s so special about February 9?

Ah-ha. Last year, February 9 marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first Ed Sullivan performance.

That live telecast was a benchmark event in my childhood. I’ve often wondered what the event meant to others. Did girls everywhere really scream when they saw the Beatles sing? Did adults hate them? What did boys think of the group?What do children of those who saw it that night think of the Beatles now?

Remember that night?

With just one enthusiastic yell and sweep of his arms, Ed Sullivan proclaimed, “The Beatles!”

girls scream Beatles 002A roll of screams overtook Ed’s voice, a cavalcade of shrieks that nearly obliterated Paul McCartney’s opening lines, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you ….”

As the four Liverpool lads sang  “All My Loving,” a camera cut to the audience: girls jumping, some pulling their hair, one crying in abject misery.

Cutting quickly back to the stage, the world got an up close and personal view of all four Beatles, each with their first name superimposed on the TV screen. The lads wore matching dark suits, white shirts, black ties, and tight pants. Their hair, completely straight and dry – nothing like Elvis Presley’s – was combed down to their eyes and over their ears, but their handsome faces bore striking differences – John’s long nose, Paul’s pouty lips, George’s angular jaw, and Ringo’s hawkish eyes.

A few minutes later, a close-up zoomed in on Paul as he crooned, “Till There Was You.” How could one guy sing so beautifully and have such great hair? It seemed unfair. Just as any girl wanted to be alone with the Beatles in any way possible someday, this boy – sitting around the old Silvertone TV set inside the basement of his unimportant little Silver Spring, Maryland house – wanted to be them. I, too, wanted to pull my hair out, but couldn’t. Not in front of my family.

I looked behind me at Cathy, my thirteen-year-old sister, sitting on the ottoman, keeping appropriate control of her emotions while watching the cuddly mop tops perform (or was she really leaning in closer and closer with each second, about to slip off the ottoman and crash on our hard, carpet-less floor).

Next to her sat Don and Doug, my seventeen-year-old twin brothers, flopped all over the couch, as if bored by the Beatles. But deep down, what were they really feeling?

And Mom rested in her chair, completely unmoved, except for a quivering upper lip, no doubt brought on by a view of John’s tight pants and crotch area as he led the way on the next song, a rollicking “And I Saw Her Standing There.”

Then I saw Dad standing there, just behind Mom, his arms folded, flattop haircut flat as ever, with not so much as one hair rising over the Beatles’ electrifying act.

What was wrong with my family?  I wanted to jump, kick, twist, shout – anything – but wound up having to wait an hour after the show to even tap my fingers. Finally, in private, while lying in bed, I patted the pillow, but that was all. How pathetic I’d look doing something outrageous like twisting my hips or dancing on the bed.

From that night on, I knew I wanted longer hair. Until I got it, I was a nobody to girls at school. Convinced I’d have hair like Paul McCartney one day, I rocked myself to sleep, savoring images of walking to school with my long hair flying about while I sang, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you ….”

That was my take on the Beatles performance from the Ed Sullivan Show February 9 so many years ago. What was yours?

 

 

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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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Remember This Guy? Chef Boy-Ar-Dee

047_ATT304848 (1)As a kid, I assumed this handsome Italian chef guy made all the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee brand spaghetti personally. I visualized him stirring a huge vat of it in a factory somewhere around Gary, Indiana, the factory capital of the US. But even as a four-year-old, I knew Chef Boy-Ar-Dee wasn’t great spaghetti.

Regardless, I learned one very important thing from Chef B-A-D: the taste difference between “canned” food and fresh. Unfortunately, Mom – head chef in our house – preferred canned spaghetti (and peas, corn, beans, Spam, potted meats, etc.) Tin-encased foods represented one less meal she had to prepare from scratch over a hot stove. (Mom took this to the hilt in retaliation for too many other housewife responsibilities. Read more about it in the introduction to Chapter Three, “Revenge,” from my memoir, Maybe Boomer.)

Actually, the Chef Bor-Ar-Dee people are still around, but have a new guy modeling as Chef. I’ve gone to a health food diet in my adult years and kind of miss the old Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, even his Beefaroni and Spaghetti & Meatballs. Do you? Or do you still (secretly) crank out the can opener for an occasional comfort food hit?

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