Monday, December 14, 2009

Grandma's Porch

Now, I love the holidays as much as the next person. As a child, I would come in the door after school in October and beg my mom to let me play a Christmas record. And yes Virginia, we called them records. I was a true Christmas junkie. I loved the lights, the tree, the entire magical scene. I fell for the Santa tale hook, line and sinker. When my mom pulled me into a closet to disclose the truth, I practically fell to my knees for a quick prayer of, "Oh, please don't let it be true." As much as I hated knowing the truth, I felt some pleasure in knowing that I could now hold a secret over my siblings' heads. Of course, my mother would hold something over my head if I ever breathed a word of "the secret" to my two brothers and my sister so I kept my mouth shut. But the real devastation came when I came home on Christmas break after my first semester of college and saw what stood in the place of our usual tree. I crept closer to check out what looked way too much like fake needles. I touched them and sniffed the tree, only to find no pine scent but an unmistakable scent of au-de-plastic. What in the world?! I couldn't believe my eyes. My mother did the unthinkable. She took away the thrill of the hunt, the cold, wintry nights and the first, burning sip of hot chocolate at the Christmas tree lot. Never mind that I couldn't really remember the last time I participated in the tree hunt since I'd come home for Christmas vacation during college to find that my mom decorated the house without me. I still got to help with the cookies and yes, that meant eating the dough and tasting the first cookies as they came out of the oven. Our Christmases came steeped in tradition; Christmas Eve dinners at our house, the late-night Christmas Eve service, opening one gift Christmas Eve, sitting at the top of the stairs Christmas morning waiting for my parents to turn on the tree lights, the Christmas music and the light in the nativity, shining on the baby Jesus. My mom did a great job surprising us with our gifts, down to the white go-go boots one year that I never dreamed I would receive, imagining myself dancing on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. Looking back, I couldn't help but wonder how she continued every year to bring newness to the season or did my youth just see it as new because I enjoyed the season so much? I knew one thing - finding the newness now escaped me and something must be done.

Nothing says Christmas like the smell of freshly baked Christmas cookies and the scent of the balsam or fir. Who doesn't get all aquiver with the prospect of trekking through the tree lot, toes frozen to your socks, nasal hairs dripping icicles and then the fun of tying the tree to the roof of the car, only to have it slide over the driver's side of the windshield on the way home? And the cookie press!! With all those little attachments that allow you to make cookies shaped like bells, bows and Christmas trees, a person can actually feel like Martha Stewart herself. Who can pass up the lure of powdered sugar, vanilla, pecans and pretty little sprinkles, much less the warm, happy feeling you get from spending this special family time in the kitchen?

Well, we can. Sharon and I sit on Grandma's Porch and don't see why we should put up with the work and mess of making Christmas cookies when a perfectly good Swiss bakery sits just down the road. The warm, happy feelings abound when we lift the lid of the bakery box to see beautiful, pink-iced Napoleons and chocolate-covered meringue balls. To keep up the spirit of Christmas, we can ask them to throw in some marzipan elves and bite those little elves' heads off as soon as we get into the car. We can't even say "Jolly Old St. Nick" before the nice lady boxes up our pastries and we scoot on out the door. Then we'll take our haul back to Grandma's Porch, put our feet up, play "Mele Kalimaka" on the CD player and sit back with full bellies and satisfied spirits. We might even come to life long enough to go into the kitchen and whip up a batch of Rice Krispie treats as a nod to home-baked Christmas goodies. We'll toss in a little #40 red food dye to make it more festive and eat 'em right out of the bowl. Why dirty an extra pan? We'll just butter up some spoons and have at it. It'll be a little slice of heaven. You're welcome to come by Grandma's Porch and we'll share . . .or maybe not. It all depends on whether or not we feel sated. At the very least, we'll let you scrape the bowl as long as you take it back in the kitchen and wash it when you finish with your tasting. After all, we all must do our part.

Merry Christmas from Grandma's Porch,
where the carols are playing, the wine is mulling and things are just fine.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who is this stranger in my house who insists on keeping every piece of cable wire, scrap wood and one-inch by one-inch pieces of sandpaper in a pile on his workbench in our basement? I find myself conducting these closet cleanings every so often and openly admitting to myself that I will never use that old pink and purple desk blotter or those fishnet hose that I wore on my sixth grade field trip. But this man I call my husband refuses to see the uselessness of radio parts from six different CB radios or his gym shorts from seventh grade. When I remind him that the shorts no longer fit, he sucks in his once-flat abdomen and struts through the house proving his point while embarassing his adult children.

When we moved to our second house, I rejoiced at the two-car garage and looked forward to those cold mornings when I could just start the car without spending ten minutes searching the garage for a scraper and then spending ten minutes chiselling the ice off the windows. But when we received a call from the realtor at 4:00 p.m. one afternoon and she told us that we must vacate the premises of our old house by 10:00 that night, I smelled trouble. If I didn't know better, I would swear that I my husband planned this. His promise to clean out the garage before we moved now meant nothing. The pressure of a deadline now gave him the edge and I know he yelled gleefully as soon as I called him at work to give him the news. An hour later, he pulled in the driveway and with a snow shovel, began scooping up piles of junk, along with sawdust, and placed this mess in packing boxes to cart off to our new house. When I mentioned that we must leave room for the car, this person with the maniacal grin replied, "But babe, the car won't fit in the new garage anyway. It's a foot too long." Trying desperately to remain calm, I answered between gritted teeth, "I'll make it fit!"

Needless to say, my dream of parking my car in a space designated specifically for a car died that day. As Erma Bombeck said in one of her books, "What's such a big deal about pulling your car into a garage if you have to exit by threading your body through an open window, hang from a lawn spreader, climb over the roof and slide down a garden hose before reaching the door?" Unfortunately, I find little comfort in the fact that I share my plight with other people, none of whom I know personally. But I do wonder what possessed me to marry a person with such an obvious character flaw?

A marriage of the 1970's, I met my soon-to-be husband on a blind date, realizing now that blind meant more than not knowing each other's last names. It meant movies and dinners, along with shared hopes and dreams. Marriages of the '70s involved true commitment and the idea of "ours" instead of mine or your's. Dowries no longer existed but we each understood that we would now share our possessions. What this man didn't understand lay along the line of "Leave your junk at home and we'll start with new stuff." Whereas I left my stuffed animals and dolls packed in their boxes in my parent's attic, my husband brought into our nest three boxes of sports medals, trophies and every pair of track shoes ever worn on his feet. His mother sent his old board games, pieces missing, and several slalom water skis. His grandfather sent a pipe collection and several warped big band albums but I put my foot down when I saw the front seat of his dad's 1961 Cadillac loaded into our car. The red flag waved but I refused to see it in my romantic state.

To this day, my husband doesn't willingly throw anything out. Each week I try to sneak something into the trashpile. Sometimes I find success but other times I don't. The one time I felt victorious, he confronted me with the fact that along with an old stereo speaker I threw out, I also threw out forty dollars he kept stashed inside the speaker. To this day, I don't know if he spoke the truth or not.

I just wish that we could find a way to know these things before we commit to sharing them forever. What about lining prospective husbands up like they do in police line-ups with cardboard signs around their necks advertising their major flaws? I mean, I can lived with the problems of missing toothpaste caps and socks on the floor but I resent the fact that clutter has crept into my life and I know for sure that I appeared clutter-free to my husband-to-be. Something about his attitude smacks of control and I distinctly remember something in our vows about mutual decisions and consent. And I will admit that I agreed with my husband that he needed some work space of his own but I did not realize that same space would begin creeping into my living quarters.

Oh, the man does make earnest promises to clean up his space but the problem lies in the face that he cannot finish what he starts. I read an article once in which Anne Boe, a career-management consultant, said that "People who don't finish what they start usually have a network of supporters who clean up their messes." I wish!! I would give anything to know someone with nothing else to do but clean up after him. But no one ever volunteers and most people, when I dramatically raise the garage doors, turn and run as if afraid the mess will follow them home.

I do believe that if we got rid of some of our stuff, we could clean less. But that only makes sense to a normal person. To avid junk collectors, those words instill fear in their hearts. When I mentioned cleaning up and parting with some of my husband's junk, he reminded me that we might need something down in that garage someday. I reminded him that much of that stuff we brought with us from our first two houses and it remains unused to this day. I couldn't sway him so I've decided that only one solution remained. We moved to a house with a three-car garage.

Monday, June 1, 2009


This blog is just being created to share stories (mostly humorous; I am married to Mark Trokey, you know!) about life from the past, present and future! Check back for updates!