We Didn’t Look Suspicious

There is a daily conversation regarding the border and the president’s insistence on a wall at our southernmost border. All the chit chat got me thinking about my two visits to the border. The first was many, many moons ago. I accompanied Dad on a business trip to San Diego, and one day, we decided to cross the border into Tijuana, Mexico. Nothing unusual happened at the border, and my most vivid memory of the trip was the purchase of our onyx chess set.

It was my first visit beyond the United States border and the first time I had any participation in the fine art of haggling. I admit there was little, perhaps none at all, haggling done regarding the purchase of the chess set. What I recall is that I had seen many similar sets in the San Diego shops, which were priced four times higher than the ones in the little Mexican town. What happened is that I hesitated when told the price, so the merchant immediately, to my great astonishment, dropped the price. My pause was honestly because I was uncertain regarding the color. I immediately got out my wallet, much to Dad’s annoyance, because he told me later that he was positive he could have negotiated a better price. I was satisfied.

Our second southern visit was on a trip to Tucson five years ago. We decided to explore the area, so we set out in our rental car headed to the hokey little town of Tombstone. Hokey, I say, because it was as if we were on the set of a movie. Tombstone was a recreation of an old western town, complete with people walking the streets in period costumes, complete with a recreation of an old Wild West fight.

As we got closer to Tombstone I observed a border patrol checkpoint, which we would have to pass though on our return trip. I do not know what got into me, but I suddenly felt the need to check our rental documents inside the glove compartment. I was upset to discover it was empty, meaning we had no way to prove that we were the renters of the car. I imagined that we were going to be hauled off to prison. We hadn’t even seen “Breaking Bad” at that time.

It turned out to be an unnecessary worry, because the border agents said hello, glanced briefly inside the car, and waved us on. How did they know we were not smugglers?

My biggest observation from the trip was my view of the great expanse of nothing to the south with lots of mountains. I would not want to go on a stroll in that area. There are probably lots of scary bugs and snakes there.

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He’s Not Very Nice!

We have all experienced times when money was tight, but we are all very lucky that none of us ever knew true hunger or homelessness.

The first time I was ever made aware that some people don’t have a home was when I was in sixth grade. We went on a field trip to New York City, and I recall walking through an area known as The Bowery. During that time, there were a number of homeless people living there, and our parents had to sign a permission trip acknowledging that we would be walking through the area—as if it were an attraction. I don’t recall where we went on the trip but I still recall the homeless men to this day. I remember that they were called “bums” or “hobos.” How awful to call another human being by that name!

I never again experienced people living on the streets until we moved to Chapel Hill, and now when I visit Casey in Silver Spring, I am again saddened to pass homeless individuals living under the Metro bridge close to her home. I feel both guilt and helplessness.

Yesterday, I saw a man interviewed on television, and he wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke about his fears regarding how he would take care of his family during our latest shutdown. My heart broke for him and others like him.

Our president clearly has no understanding what it is like to be faced with choosing between food and medicine, stating that “they will figure it out.” Really? How does that work?

Then I thought of a story I heard about a recent trip to an indoor waterpark, when a bigger girl, who did not wait long enough before heading down the waterslide, crashed into Lily before she climbed off the slide. Lily turned to her and said, “That wasn’t nice!” When Lily told me the story, she added, “Grandma, she didn’t say she was sorry.”

So I listened to the president answer questions about how people were going to cope without receiving their salary, and it was obvious that he was clueless to their plight. He’s not very nice and he didn’t say he was sorry!

I Can’t Hear You

As a twenty-first century grandma, I am finding it interesting to see the toys which my grandchildren are enjoying that I played with during my youth over fifty years ago. I have mentioned the Legos, Colorforms, and board games such as Candy Land and Monopoly. The latest gift which brought me traveling down good old Memory Lane again was a set of walkie-talkies. In the age of a cell phone in the pockets of approximately 95% of all adult Americans and a surprising number of children as young as eight, I was surprised to see the excitement with which this gift was received.

I recall getting a set of walkie-talkies with my best friend, Karen. She lived two blocks away from me. Living in a household with six other people, no one had the luxury of being able to occupy the telephone for more than a few minutes, so we put our thinking caps on and came up with the idea of buying the walkie-talkies.

Unfortunately, they were only slightly better than two tin cans connected by a string, which actually work but not with the distance separating the two of us. We discovered that the only way to use these contraptions was for Karen, who was at the top of the hill, to position herself in her basement and me to be in my upstairs bedroom.

As I recall, there was a lot of static and yelling involved in order to communicate, so I do not believe we could not have many top-secret discussions. But as nine or ten-year-old kids, we thought it was cool and had a lot of fun talking to each other. I am curious how the new-and-improved communication devices of this century compares.

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Another New Year’s Eve

The older I get, the less interested I am in getting all gussied up to go out somewhere to ring in the New Year. Fortunately, Dad shares my lackluster enthusiasm with this particular day, so we devised a plan for a mini celebration at home—just the two of us.

Today we headed to Fresh Market to buy something for dinner. After sampling a yummy cup of chocolate coffee, we began to walk aimlessly around the store because we had no plan. We started in the produce aisle with the curly zucchini and butternut squash and then headed next to the butcher counter with steaks, sausage which looked like a sad puppy dog, and concluded our tour at the counter with quinoa salad, mini meatloaves, and stuffed cabbage. Sadly, nothing jumped out and said New Year’s Eve, so we moved on.

Next we headed to Kroger, where I was positive we would find some sort of food which would say “come here, Mama,” but again, neither of us was feeling a pull toward anything at the Kroger butcher. Would we have to make a journey to Trader Joe’s tomorrow?

“Let’s try one more place,” I told Dad with a sense of hope in my voice, so we headed to good old Publix. I am happy to report that we are not going to Trader Joe’s tomorrow. We are having stuffed flank steak (stuffed with spinach and cheese), whipped sweet potatoes, homemade applesauce, and a broccoli, cauliflower, and sunflower seed salad.

Perhaps I can even get Dad to have a glass of wine. May I add that once you have gone to New Year’s Eve in Times Square, you can check this day off your “to-do list.”

Happy 2019 Everyone!

I Don’t Really Hate Kids

“I hate kids” was a common phrase that my mother says along with “don’t spill the wine,” “in my next life I am coming back as a man,” and “shit and shinola.” (And those are just a sampling of her greatest hits.)

After the particularly short night we had on Christmas Eve this year, I’d like to give you my thoughts on her most famous saying.

I don’t hate kids. I love you all—my kids, my in-law kids, and my grandkids. I would always laugh when my mom would express her hatred of all kids because I always knew in my heart that she was joking—mostly! However, just for a few moments on Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day morning this year, I shared that sentiment.

During the past few Christmases, our house has been Santa’s annex, since it would be difficult to explain the arrival of so many packages at the doorstep of a home with curious children. Both last year and this year my home has also served as Santa’s workshop since it is the perfect place to assemble some too-big-to-hide toys such as one very huge kitchen set and a three-story dollhouse.

Dad and I had to be involved in assisting Santa in transporting these gifts from our house to the house with the wee little ones. Last year, the kitchen set fit into the back of my car with just an inch to spare on either side and had to be taken into and out of the car by two very strong he-men.

This year—the year I briefly hated kids—we were faced with the problem of a child who was too excited to fall asleep until nearly 11:30, so Dad and I stayed up way past our bedtime in our clothes instead of in our heated-by-the-drier- pajamas. And in order to be able to witness the excitement of the children’s first view of the toys underneath the Christmas tree, we had to set our alarms for 5 am. That is when those infamous words of my mother ever so briefly popped into my head.

Just like that excited little boy, I also could not fall asleep because of those visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Christmas Day 2018 confirmed that five hours of sleep is just not enough for me. However, when one not-quite-three-year-old little girl bypassed her presents under the tree to screech my name with excitement and run towards me after she came down the stairs, my hatred of kids melted away faster than a dish of Moose Tracks ice cream on a very hot Carolina summer day.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Happy!

Mommy’s Becoming an Attorney

Before our president dipped his toe into the political world, he had been involved in many other business endeavors: Trump Wine, Trump Steaks, Trump Water, Trump Airlines, Trump University—many of which he does not own. He just slapped his name on the labels. Then there are the casinos, buildings, and reality game shows. We all know about how some of them succeeded while many of them failed bigley.

I am currently enrolled at the Trump Law School, where I am being educated in more legal terminology than I could have ever dreamed possible in less than two years. Here is a small sampling of what I have learned:

Redacted

Documents whose words have been hidden from view by a Sharpie pen.

An example was when one of you sent a note to one of your teachers and then worried that she was mad at you. Perhaps your name should have been redacted.

Why did you punish me and the other 2 for being good? It’s not fair! All my teachers do it, and I am tired of it. Why should I be good if I’m going to be punished anyway?

(That’s like saying “Why should our country practice conservation if other countries will not, which is a line I heard in my congressman’s office.)

Aiding & Abetting     (I use this term because I have learned from the Rudy Giuliani School of Law that collusion is not a legal term, and if it is, it is not illegal.)

Assisting someone in the commission of a crime—involving a plan to commit a crime in which the consequences are illegal.

An example is when someone broke the Cocky ornament, and Bryce suggested to Lily that they hide it from Daddy rather than confess.

Felony

A serious crime, usually punishable by at least one year in prison.

In our family we were lucky. None of us ever committed a felony. Grandma’s biggest punishment was usually a promise to be sent to bed immediately after supper—the next day of course so that we could have time to think about our crime and resulting sentence.

Indictment

The formal charge issued by a grand jury demonstrating that there is sufficient evidence that a crime was committed to justify a trial.

(Burn this into your heads because you will be hearing this word a lot in the coming weeks and months.) In a family, which is not a democracy, when you are indicted, expect sanctions to be handed down because the trial consists only of Mom and Dad.

Plea Bargain

Negotiated agreement between a criminal and the prosecutor whereby the defendant agrees to plead guilty in return for reduction in the punishment and possible dismissal of some charges.

Example: I used to punish you by sending each of you to your rooms and making the criminal write a letter of apology rather than revoke a privlege if the crime was a misdemeanor.                               

I found a letter written after someone was caught purgering* themself.

I hereby resolve to be nice and live up to everyone’s expectations because I obviously don’t at  this very moment of which I do hereby speak of now. Be honest now and forever, forever, and ever, ever here an now.

 *Perjury

The act of lying or stating falsely under oath.

Sanction

A penalty or other type of enforcement used to bring about compliance with the law or with rules and regulations.

“No tv for a week.”

I had not planned to go to law school at this point in my life, but then again, I never expected a second-rate reality tv personality to become president.

Who Cares About the Lights and Santa

Going to the zoo during the Christmas season has become another holiday tradition for our family, particularly enhanced now that we have young children to accompany us. The lights are wonderful, particularly the tree at the entrance whose changing lights are synchronized with music and include swinging monkeys as part of the show.

Fake snow made of soap excited the children, and there was, of course, the meet-and-greet with Santa, which went much better this year—no more tears! In fact, after being assured that her brother would sit next to Santa, Lily agreed to sit for the photo and ended up chatting with the jolly old elf. She told him what was on her wish list: a crown, some pink coins, a water shooter, and a dust pan and broom. She mentioned the eye patch her daddy had worn when he hurt his eye.

While there were some animals to see (most were in bed for the night), the biggest draw for our little girl was the plants. This was not surprising to me, because she is constantly asking me the names of every flower, bush, and tree around my yard, and just recently, she was seen reading a copy of “Better Homes and Gardens” while waiting for her gymnastics class to begin. Not only did she point to the plants and ask for their names, she requested that I repeat the answer so she could burn the names into her brain.

I think I need to go out and buy a Christmas cactus.

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