Toilet Paper and the End of Civility

I was thinking of my grandmother recently while I was brushing my teeth. Grandma was crafty. Perhaps I got just a few of her craftiness genes. She loved to crochet, and I am fortunate that I have one of her creations—an afghan which she crocheted and is draped over one of my sofas.

grandmas-afghan

Sadly, what I do not have, is one of her more unique projects—a toilet paper cover. So I had to rely on the Internet for a photo which I was able to locate at Crafthubs.com.

toilet-paper-cover

These lovely creations cleverly hid a roll of toilet paper and were born in a bygone era when censors were a lot more concerned regarding what was said on television and the movies. My grandma was a mother of six when the movie “Gone With the Wind” was first released in 1939. During that movie, Clark Gable spoke the infamous line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Back in those days, it was quite a scandalous utterance.

The bathing suits during Grandma’s youth did not show nearly the amount of skin that you would witness poolside today in mixed company with children present, where bathing suits show much more cleavage and butts than during my mother or grandmothers’ time. Take a look at Grandma here, in a photo taken sometime in the forties.

jean-carey-bathing-beauty

As a child of the sixties, when the cameras rolled into the bedrooms of some of my favorite television shows, the couple (always, always married) were shown speaking to each other from their respective twin beds, separated at that time by a table. With the exception of one couple from a 1941 sitcom called “Mary Kay and Johnny,” which Grandma did not recall, married couples did not share a bed until Herman and Lily Munster  of “The Munsters” and Samantha and Darrin Stevens of “Bewitched” made cohabiting one bed acceptable.

It was not long ago when we showed respect to our elders, our teachers, and the President. I am embarrassed to be from the state where it was my congressman who yelled out to President Obama in the middle of his first State of the Union Address, “You lie.” While I understand that he disagreed with the President, I feel it was not acceptable to disrespect the office. What would Grandpa think?

Now cursing is commonplace, respect has flown out the window, and you never know what to expect when you turn on the television or the radio. It was hard enough when all of you were young, but I find it has gotten worse as exemplified by the 2016 election. What would Grandpa think, having lived for ten years in a country where democracy did not exist?

I spoke with Grandma about this tonight and told her that a part of me longs to return to a time where rolls of toilet paper must be covered, because a civil society would never admit what was hidden under that crocheted craft. In a civil world, bad manners and incivility are hidden under a toilet paper cover. But that is what freedom and the First Amendment are about, so what would Dad think?

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There Really is a Song for Every Topic

We have been hearing many news reports about the “Bridge-Gate Scandal” involving Governor Chris Christie. Did he or did he not know of the closure of the Fort Lee, New Jersey lanes leading to the upper deck of the George Washington Bridge which caused massive traffic jams? Only time will tell.

As I have been listening to these reports and reading the stories in the “Daily Record,” I can’t help but be reminded of an old song which Grandma used to sing to us. It was such a corny and, quite frankly, awful tune that I was convinced it was not professionally written. Did she write it or maybe one of her brothers, each of whom had a wacky sense of humor?

I told Dad about the song—“The George Washington Bridge Song—and was shocked that he also knew it from his childhood. In fact, after he told me that his mother used to sing it, I decided to do a little research and discovered that “The George Washington Bridge Song” is one of those “oldie but goodies” that many kids believed was written by their parents or grandparents. Sadly, I have been unable to determine its origin.

YouTube has several versions—one even sung by your favorite Sesame Street dynamic duo: Bert and Ernie.

This song just proves one of my theories which is that there truly is a song for every topic.

Listen to: George Washington Bridge Song

I Will Not Be Beaten

We have a problem here at our house—the home which I affectionately refer to as the Hole-Inn-One, and I have finally learned to accept it. I don’t like it, but I need to learn to live with it because we have been fighting this little predicament on and off for years. Today was the day when I finally threw down the gauntlet with the realization that there was little I could do to permanently resolve our problem—the gecko infestation.

Our dilemma first came to our attention about three years ago, when Gordon the Gecko moved into the room occupied by Bryce. Dad tried to handle it humanely, but he was unsuccessful in his attempt to catch it with the hot tub skimmer. Sadly, Gordon was quicker than Dad and scooted into the closet.

No matter how hard we looked, we were unable to locate him. I must say that no one living on that side of the house—our West Wing—was concerned. Everyone was satisfied with the knowledge that “he is more scared of you than you are of him.” Personally, I have never been a believer of that expression. I think it is, to quote Vice President Joe Biden, “a bunch of malarkey,” but I was outnumbered, and I was not Bryce’s parent. It was not my decision to make.

Each time I went back to the West Wing, I would gingerly peek in the closet, on the wall, and behind the bed, but I never found Gordon. Winter set it, and we kind of, sort of, forgot about him. Then suddenly, one day months later, Gordon appeared again in the bathroom—the one with a door leading outside. Dad was able to lure him toward the opened door, where he happily scampered away.

Recently, Gordon, or perhaps it is Gordon Junior, appeared again on our screened porch, which was an improvement over his previous visit since he was not in the living area of the house. Still, when I discovered him lurking out from under one of the sofa cushions, I was not anxious to sit anywhere on the porch.

Dad grabbed a mop and began coaxing him toward the door, and with a smile on his little brown face, Gordon scurried outdoors. Sadly, that was when I realized he had a friend named Gale. I like alliteration, so I chose Gale because it’s a gender-neutral name beginning with a “g.” (I have no idea how to determine the sex of a gecko but it probably involves getting much closer than I would ever consider.)

I will be very careful while on the porch, but Gale is not winning this fight. I won’t remain inside. I am stronger than an eight-inch lizard.

Always Trust Your Gut

Dad and I have been traveling down memory lane recalling our earlier experiences purchasing houses as Jamie has begun to investigate the process. It was always both an exciting and an extremely frustrating endeavor.

We first dipped our toes into the real estate market within the first year or so of our marriage, and because we had little money for a down payment, the pickings were slim. We first looked at a small home in the Boonton Township area, and while the house itself had potential, I recall noticing the house next to it, which had clearly been in some sort of fire.

It turned out that it was heated by propane gas, and the tank, which sat outside the home,  had exploded and caused the fire. That not only made me aware to avoid homes using that as a source of heat or to cook, but for many, many years, I would not even consider natural gas in my home. That belief was confirmed after a man ended up on his front lawn, naked, after his house exploded as a result of a gas leak.

We looked at a lovely piece of property in Brewster, New York, and Dad had even drawn up plans for a ranch-style home similar to what we currently own. As much as we loved the area, something in Dad’s gut did not feel right about the builder, so we walked away. Trusting his instincts proved quite fortuitous, because we later learned that those big ugly power-line structures which look like soldiers in a science-fiction movie of the future were eventually erected very close to the property. The value of the homes and property plummeted, and we avoided a lot of heartache.

Dad and I learned the importance of considering both the price and property taxes when looking at houses. Many houses appeared affordable until we learned of the taxes levied, which often pushed the monthly payments outside our budget. The taxes and mortgage rates combined were what caused us to purchase our first house in New York rather than New Jersey. Some of this I already discussed in The American Dream- Part II.

When we returned to New Jersey in 1988 and jumped into the house-hunting pond again, we remembered to do our research and to not trust anyone. If something looks too good to be true, be careful. Rarely, but not always, is that the case.

As a second-time home buyer with a higher income and larger down payment, we were able to be a little more choosey. We found a home that appeared to fit our needs—four bedrooms, 2 ½ baths, quiet street, with a nice wooded lot behind us. That was when we remembered to always research the surrounding property. Thank goodness we did, because it turned out that he land behind this dream home was slated not for homes or a nice park, but the extension of the nearby interstate scheduled for completion in a few short years. That home was close enough that I could have had a job doing the morning traffic report without leaving our home.

The homeowners of the next house we looked at had chosen a medieval theme for their finished basement. Part of the décor involved heavy rope which they wrapped around some of the columns in that room. Upon further investigation, we were able to discover that the rope was hiding water damage.

We were not as observant with the home we eventually did purchase in Montville, because we never noticed the paint on the cinder-block walls of the basement of that house, which Dad later renamed “Water World,” because that blue paint was hiding water damage. It took the installation of a drain around the perimeter of our beautifully finished basement, and several electric sump pumps with battery back-ups, to fix the water problem. Before that fix, we nearly lost the pool table to water infiltration, so Dad refused to ever purchase a home with an underground basement and flat yard again.

So the lessons to be learned are to check the property taxes, look for cover-ups such as water or mold damage, never assume the beautiful serene environment could never become a gas station or major highway, avoid propane tanks, and always, always trust your gut.

for-sale-sign

Oopsy Daisy at the Kroger Marketplace

I was talking to Grandma recently, and she was expressing her concerns about the lapses in her memory. We discussed the plethora of problems associated with aging—memory loss, aches and pains (I told her I was headed off to physical therapy this week), wrinkles, and weight gain. I could continue, but this list is depressing enough.

This brings me to another story about Dad and me. Earlier this week, we headed to Kroger for a few items. We wanted to get two more of those super cool smiley face sponges which we first saw on Shark Tank, some batteries, and soap.

For those of you no longer living in the area, I must explain that our new Kroger, known as a Kroger Marketplace, is HUGE. Besides food, you can purchase anything from a new toilet seat if you are not looking for a huge variety of choices, expensive wine, toys, underwear, and a limited supply of furniture. And, it has a decent-sized food court. I told my book club we should consider having our meeting there one month. It’s just great.

So after we got some coffee at Starbucks, a juice box for Bryce, and 2 slices of cake, we sat down to enjoy a pre-shopping snack. Bryce picked up his cake, turned it over, and announced, “I don’t like skin.” I explained to him that I was positive he would just love the skin on the perimeter of his marble cake and then went on to tell him that the real name of the “skin” was “icing.” Needless to say, he enjoyed his chocolate skin and even asked to eat ours.

We then set out to locate the soap and sponges, and given the size of the store, I decided to swing by customer service first. The cheery woman behind the counter sent us to aisle #40 for the sponges and then handed us a directory for the remaining purchases, which were allegedly all in the same vicinity.

Dad found the batteries without a hitch while I went to the next aisle looking for the sponges. After Bryce chose a pink and a blue happy face (orange was definitely not permitted for this Clemson-hating family), I studied the directory, located “soap, bar” and informed Dad that we needed to go to aisle #3. He sighed and complained that we should have read the list before heading all the way to aisle #40, but we had no choice except to turn around and go back in the direction of the lower-numbered aisles.

We discovered that for some peculiar reason, the numbers began at “10.” Noticing our confusion, we were approached by a Kroger employee. When I asked her to help us find aisle #3, she walked us back in the direction of #40. Dad gave me a smug look because he was postive that bar soap was someone in the area of the sponges, and  then the Kroger woman and I discussed the fact that this would never, ever happen if a woman had designed the floor-plan.

As we continued on our adventure, I wondered what the heck this woman was thinking about, because I was observing the numbers continuing to increase. How would we ever find aisle #3 by heading in this direction?

You are all probably confused why I began this long-winded tale by discussing the woes of aging. It turns out, that at the end of the very high-numbered aisles, are some rows organized by letters. I turned to Kroger Lady with a puzzled glance, and then said, “But we are looking for #3.”

I handed her the directory, and pointed to “soap, bar.” She then laughed and said, “That is not a number 3, but a letter J!”

Oh, my poor old eyes! And that, girls, is another side effect of aging—the inability to read small print. Boy, did Dad have a good laugh at my expense. We left the store still not knowing where the aisles #1 through aisle #9 were located. That will be another Kroger adventure.

 

Home on Leave

I have been browsing through some photo albums belonging to Grandma dating back beginning in 1946 and ending in 1952, which was the year after her marriage to Grandpa. Many I have shared with you already. Today I have a few more focused primarily on Uncle Rich.

Uncle Rich was just fourteen when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. With his older brother Larry already in the Army and the war not ending in the foreseeable future, he decided to take control of his destiny. So three months before his eighteenth birthday, he enlisted in the Navy. Because he was underage, my grandmother had to sign papers to allow him to enter the service. He knew if he waited to be drafted, he would end up in the Army, which was not what he wanted. My grandmother was not a happy camper having to sign these papers permitting him to enlist at such a young age, but they knew it was inevitable, and he wanted to go on his terms.

He was stationed in the Caribbean. One day, my grandmother received a letter from him, explaining that he had been swimming off the side of his ship. He assured her that she should not worry about shark attacks, because one of his shipmates was standing guard with a machine gun ready to protect him. My grandmother was not amused, but this was typical of Uncle Rich’s sense of humor.

While the war ended in the fall of 1945, he was not discharged until a later date. Below are two photos taken during his leave home from Puerto dated January 22, 1946, which was Grandma’s seventeenth birthday. What a nice way to spend her birthday!

Uncle Rich and Papa

Uncle Rich and my grandpa- “Papa”

Uncle Rich- 1-22-1946

Uncle Rich- 1-22-1946

Our Darn Old Backs

You all know how I have been having some neck pains and random tingling in my arms and legs during the past few months. Although I am still awaiting an official diagnosis, I believe I did it to myself by spending too much time sitting at my computer. Apparently, there is a correct way to do this, which I did not realize.

This has caused me to have to curtail some of my work, but most upsetting is that I have had some discomfort when holding the kids. This saddens me greatly, and what is more, I realize I share this problem with Grandpa. Unlike him, the cause of my pain were not heroic as his was. Mine were just stupidity and ignorance. Grandpa’s injury happened during the train accident he was in while he was serving stateside during the war—the accident where he switched places with the soldier on the train, who ended up dying when the track crashed through the train trestle.

I found two pages of a letter he wrote to someone at the Veterans Administration in 1989.

In November 1942 I was in a troop train accident in Valdosta, Georgia. I was in the medical corps at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. I was assigned as a first aid NCO to a troop train which left Chattanooga, Tennessee going to Florida.

At Valdosta, George, our train crashed through a wooded bridge and fell over twenty feet into a stream. We had about twelve cars. I injured my back there, but the other men had more serious injuries—cuts and fractures. I applied first aid to every one of them.

At the destination, I was examined and told to see my doctor at Fort Oglethorpe. There, they strapped my back for about ten days.

In 1945, at Camp Beale when I was being discharged, I was asked if I wanted to apply for disability. I asked how long it would take, and they told me about six months. I turned it down, and now I know I made a mistake.

The reason I am writing this letter is that I am seventy years old, and when I hold my grandchildren for a long time, my back hurts. I called the VA because I wanted to know if my back ever gave me any real trouble, could I go to a VA hospital. The consultant on the phone said yes and advised me to apply for benefits.

And that, girls, is all that I have of that letter. I do not know if he ever sent it, nor do I know if he ever applied for benefits. I wish he had because it probably would have helped his financial situation as the breadwinner for a family of seven. But we can’t change the past. It’s just water under the Valdosta, Georgia bridge.

But he never complained.

train-accident-pg-1