True stories with a twist!

“But Mom, we can’t stop at the Ladies’ Room now; we’ll be late for the train.”
“No, Jasper. We have twenty minutes before we have to get to the platform. There’s enough time for grandma, your sister and I to make a short stop first.”

“But Mom, I can’t go into the Ladies Room!”

“Of course you can. You’re with us,” she said impatiently.

“Mom, this is so embarrassing. I’m not a little kid; I’m eight years old. I can’t go into a Ladies’ room.”

“Jasper, you’re trying my patience.  If your dad were here you’d go into the Men’s room with him. But he’s not here so you’ll have to come with us.”

Now the boy was crying. “You don’t understand. I would die if one of my friends saw me going into the Ladies’ room. It’s not fair.”

“Jasper, if I hear another word from you I’ll smack you. I didn’t have to drag myself into New York to take you kids to a Broadway show. You’d better stop complaining.”

“I don’t even want to go to the stupid show.”

The line to the Ladies’ room moved quickly and it was time for the party of mother, grandmother, son and daughter to claim a stall.

“I’m not going in there with you!”

“Then stand right there, where I could see your feet from under the door,” said mother. “Right there!”she screeched.

So I wondered. The mother had a point. She could not in good conscience, allow an eight year old boy go unaccompanied into the huge men’s room of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station’s restroom. But was there a better way of handling the situation to avoid the ugly scene her family was creating in the equally huge Ladies’ room of same train station?

On one hand she didn’t want to frighten the child by telling him about the perverts that can hang around large, anonymous venues, or how a young child could easily fall prey to sick minds. On the other hand the child had to obey his mother’s guidance in certain situations.

I welcome you, my smart blogging friends, to intervene in this situation. What would be a better way to handle this problem?

MY THREE HOUR BEST FRIEND

We were sitting in an opthalmologist’s office. We didn’t know each other; had never

seen each other before. She didn’t remind me of anyone I knew and didn’t even look

familiar. She probably didn’t shop at the same stores I shopped in, and didn’t send

her children to the same schools I did. This woman was a stranger.

She caught my eye and smiled. When I smiled back she said,

“An appointment at this office always means the sacrifice of half a day.”

“What’s the point of going through the pretense of making an appointment if they

never honor time?” I commiserated.

I wasn’t expecting to be chatting with a stranger in the waiting room. I preferred

discussing “real” issues that I cared about rather than having mindless, small talk. I

was happy to be left alone, look at my cell phone and catch up with the day’s

messages.

 

But my neighbor-in-waiting had other ideas about how to spend time while she

waited for her eyesight to be checked, examined and improved. Her idea was to tell

me her secrets. It must have been a cathartic experience for her, because she

launched right into some forbidden topics that can be told only to a total stranger.

One who doesn’t know you, who your friends are or who your family is. And

Someone you will never see again.

 

I fit that description perfectly.

Within a very short time she was describing her illicit affairs, the stresses therein

and the naughty, guilty escapes she seeks wherever she can. And what was my

reaction to these confessions?

 

Were they interesting? Did I care? Did I want her to continue? Was I drawn into her

story? Oh, yes I was!

 

She had the story teller’s natural gift of keeping her listeners spellbound and

fascinated. Nothing stopped her from talking, describing intimate details and

intriguing me in her compelling tone. I had no desire to tune out or interrupt her

secret tales.

 

Then, too soon, it was time to be seen. The nurse came into the waiting room, called

her name, and into the doctor’s office she followed. She abandoned me just at the

good part, leaving me to fill in the blanks. Soon thereafter my name was called and I

was led into a different examining room. And so, my exciting soap opera story teller

disappeared from my life as quickly as she had appeared.

I have heard that people sometimes feel safer and more comfortable telling their

most intimate secrets to total strangers than to a trusted friend. Perhaps you’ve

never had the experience of expressing your soul, your “authentic self” or revealed

your secrets to someone you didn’t know.

 

But I did.

 

It happened on a flight to Florida. I was traveling alone. At that time my life seemed

to be unfurling around me, and I felt unsettled and isolated. Assumptions I always

held to be true proved not to be true after all. People I once trusted turned out to be

untrustworthy. My foundations were crumbling, all was lost, and I was in a state of

despair.

 

The gentleman seated to my right must have picked up some of my agitated “vibes,”

because he gently started a conversation. Before I knew what I was saying I told him

my whole sad, troubled story. We spoke for the three hours it took to arrive at our

destination, from take-off to landing. He listened and responded by offering me

advice based on his own experience in a similar situation.

 

Although we exchanged secrets, there is one thing we never did exchange: our

names. I have no idea who he was and he doesn’t know me. But Mr. Anonymous

Traveler helped me that day more than anyone else in my real world could have.

 

I think of that time once in a while, and that kind, sensitive man. I hope that his life

came together as successfully as mine did.

PIANO LESSONS

I played it again, then isolated the difficult parts and practiced each part alone. When the hard parts were mastered I started again and put the whole piece together until it flowed smoothly. This was the tedious part of playing the piano: practicing. By now I had played Beethoven’s Fur Elise, so many times that I heard it in my sleep.  images.jpg

This time at my lesson would my piano teacher, Steve, recognize how much effort I had put into playing this piece? The fingering, the left hand chords and the subtlety of transitions? The shading of tones and the rich feelings that Beethoven felt when he composed this beautiful music had to be interpreted and expressed by the performer. I was the 10 year old performer.

My harshest critic, Steve, would pronounce his verdict about my playing this piece. Today he will hear the version I will play, one week after my last lesson.

images-1.jpgWhen he spoke he said the exact same words he used every single time I played a piece for him. “Not Bad.” Every lesson, every week, no matter how hard I tried to improve, his critique of my playing was always “Not Bad.”

So that was it? Not Bad? Could I ever do better? Or was the piano teacher simply telling me that my talent for the piano was mediocre and would probably never improve?

My life as a pianist ended shortly thereafter.

But how strange that over 40 years later, as I worked with a physical therapist, it all came rushing back. I was practicing standing on one foot at a time to improve my balance. After holding the one foot pose for the count of 10 before starting to wobble, she said, “Not Bad!”

We both had a good laugh, as I explained my history with the expression “Not Bad,”and continued the balance exercises.

 

This is a drab time of year. The holidays are over, our family events have passed, and my horoscope isn’t looking too promising for the near future.

We should liven things up and plan a party. Not an ordinary party,  but a theme party.What would our friends think if they were invited to a murder party? I looked on line and found a murder story author advertising her services.

I contacted Ms.Murder Mystery writer and arranged a meeting. First she asked for a list of prospective guests and a description of their personality types; were they extroverts or introverts, were they funny or serious, and were they naturally creative or “By the Books” dogmatic? We had a good cross section of character types, the writer thought, and we should get a good story that would suit our friends/characters.images

Ms.Murder Mystery called and had private conversations with each person after the story was completed, explaining each character to be portrayed. I was not to know the story line or how it unfolded. Who gets murdered? Who is the killer? I became simply a guest at the party: one of the characters playing a role in the story. My only job was to provide ample food and enough drinks to create a happy party environment.

The evening of the party arrived after much planning and anticipation. As each guest rang the doorbell he or she introduced themselves as the character they were assigned to take on.

The show began.

There was a pleasant rapport but no indication that a crime was about to be committed. No brawls, no disagreements, no jealous fits of anger. Everyone was in perfectly good spirits, and from the looks of things, would remain so for the rest of the evening.

Not a buzz of murder was in the air.

I didn’t know where the plot was going, who was supposed to do what to whom, or what danger lurked for anyone. All I knew was that dinner would have to be served soon. But not until a murder was committed and a killer apprehended.

The kitchen phone rang. Ms. Murder Mystery, the writer, producer and casting director of my academy award contender, handed me a note with the following message:

“The murdered is stuck in traffic and won’t be about to be there for at least an hour.”

Too bad we never thought of casting an understudy to play the fiend who eliminates one of my guests from this earth. Or at least from the party.

I have thought back of that night many times. Sometimes I consider the possibility of that evening being a mercy gesture for the intended victim. Sometimes as a commuted death sentence for the perpetrator. Always I think of that party as being the last theme party I will ever again attempt.

 

Disney: a name that lights up the eyes of youngsters and lightens the wallets of adults.

We’ll make childhood fantasies come true and take the family on a Disney cruise.

imgres-1.jpgViolet, 3, asks, “Can I bring “Piggy?”

Big brother, Sebastian, 5, asks, “Will pirates come on our ship?”

Xander, bigger brother, 7, wonders, ”Can we eat hot dogs every day?”

Matthew, eleven, asks, “do they have an ice hockey rink?”.

Younger brother, David, 9, says, “Can you eat all the free ice cream cones you want?“

Twin sister, Julia, asks, “Will I meet Cinderella?”images-3.jpg

As we board the ship, we notice a few adults, and children, children, children every where. Surely there have never, in the history of the world, been so many children together in one place. They’re jumping, running and screaming. The adults look befuddled, confused and uncertain.

A honey toned voice coos us inside. As we walk from one area to another, a staff member offers each of us a pop-up, pre-moistened, antibiotic infused towel. We are now fit for imgres-2.jpgDisney, cleansed of any lurking harmful bugs: sanitized, deloused.

“Hi!” a cheery voice says to our group, “So happy to meet you. I’m Mary Lou. Let me show you to your rooms. What adorable children!”

“Here is your room, sweetie,” she gushes to the youngest family members. “Isn’t is perfect? Mommy and Daddy will be right next door.”

To the next oldest children she ecstatically announces, “Your room has three beds and a bathroom all to yourselves. Your parents will be right through this door.”

Finally, she croons to us as she leads us to our quarters next to the others, “You can have privacy but still be near those darling children.”

She sounds as if she is announcing our winning the lottery. I never saw such ecstasy in the plebeian act of showing guests to their rooms.  images-2.jpg

We unpack and report to the dining room for lunch. “Welcome, welcome. We are so happy to see you,” another happy staffer gushes as if we were old roommates.

We are seated and Violet spills her glass of milk. Before anyone can react a cheerful staffer swoops up to us with, “Oh, honey, don’t worry. It’s alright; we’ll clean this up and get you another glass of milk.” And the new offering appears before a single tear can even think of emerging.

“I don’t like this menu,” complains David, our sophisticated and opinionated nine year old gourmet. At home he’d hear: That’s what’s for lunch. Eat it or wait for dinner.”

“That’s OK.” says our waiter. “Come with me and I’ll show you the whole kitchen. The cook will make you anything you like.”

Is this place for real? Who could live up to this kind of flexibility at home?

At the pool comes a confrontation. Xander has a special fondness for his shark patterned bathing suit and wants to wear it everywhere, poolside or landside. “Xander, put on something reasonable,” his parents demand. Suddenly a dulcet  eavesdropping  voice from nowhere croons, “That’s a great and very scary bathing suit. Let’s put this jacket on top, so the shark doesn’t get cold.” Xander is compliant score another point for Disney.

“Come on, buddies, let’s all go and watch the parade”  suggests a Pied Piper wannabe suddenly appearing before us. The children jump up and follow, sublimely anticipating the appearance of their favorite cartoon heroes.

“Where’s Cinderella?” asks Julia. “Come here and you can shake hands with her,” warmly offers yet another Disney disciple. Julia is overcome with excitement.

“Where are the pirates?” Sebastian challenges. “Oh” says a staffer who must be an agent for the Pirates’ Union, “that’s a special surprise. Shhhh; don’t tell anyone,” he says, as he takes hold of Sebastian’s hand. In the next instant we are under attack from a pirate ship. Sebastian shrieks with delight and fear, as the patch eyed pirate approaches. “Take this,” says the staffer, and hands him a toy sword.

But his little sister, Violet, is unhappy. She announces her distress with ear splitting screams. “I don’t want to take a nap.”

How do children keep from rupturing their own eardrums with their loud screaming? Mine are just about gone!

But sugar coated Disney gal approaches with a Disney promise.

”Children who take naps right now will dream of Mickey Mouse. Of course you want to see him, don’t you?”

These Disney folks are all so happy, cheerful and sweet that it just isn’t normal. It isn’t real. In fact it is becoming irritating. I don’t believe this over-happy, overly sweet world.

Oh, for just a smidgeon of sarcasm. A smattering of selfishness, A degree of dissatisfaction. How I long for just one honestly grumbling, miserably grouchy, unreasonably irascible someone just like the dear folks back home.

HI HO SILVER

 

It began with the three of us traveling to Gettysburg. Who made up the three: The Lone Ranger, Tonto and Silver? Not quite. Instead, in this story the leading characters were my husband, our son and I. Our son would be studying the Civil War at school soon, and the trip would be educational as well as scenic and relaxing.

We hit the road for the two hour car trip to Gettysburg, took a short break for a quick lunch and geared up to recreate Pickett’s Charge.

The audio guides were quite graphic and did everything they could to make the scene come alive with war-like noises and sounds. Shouts of men, neighing of horses, and cacophonies of guns blasting came through our earphones louder and as tonelessly as Hip Hop. With a little imagination you could see the battle scene playing out.

After the emotional experience of war we wanted to see a different part of life in Gettysburg. The part dealing with peace. A sign pointing to a miniature horse farm was exactly what we needed.

“Let’s go there and see some tiny horses,” we said. So we turned off the road, bumping and jostling along the dirt path to the farm.

A small corral enclosing a group of small unsaddled creatures stood before our eyes. The animals resembled ponies, but they were full grown real horses.

Miniature horses are perfectly proportioned to a standard sized horse and retain all the characteristics of horses. That’s what we were told. What does it mean? I have no idea, but they were very appealing. If I were viewing an equine police line up, trying to pick out the miniature horse from the pony, probably the wrong creature would be charged, tried and convicted.

In this discussion of differences did I happen to mention anything about poor impulse control or that we decided to buy a horse?

We did not live on a farm. We did not own a large piece of land. We did not own a barn. We knew nothing about raising horses, ponies or venture capital.

Trivialities!

We arranged to have our new miniature horse delivered to our house in a horse trailer. Our house was in a residential area with all of 1/4 acre of land. The tool shed would become the animal’s stable. Out with the rakes, shovels and plant fertilizers, in with the hay and saddle and tack equipment. And hoof pick, water bucket, and curry brush.

The children were as excited as they would be meeting Justin Bieber!

A young woman who worked at a nearby horse farm agreed to give the children riding lessons. Our property abutted a private elementary school with a creek separating our property from the school’s playing field.

With the addition of a narrow plank bridge the width of a miniature horse and three miniature people, access to the field was easy.

Did our town’s residential property laws permit ownership of a horse? I never noticed anybody else in our neighborhood housing a horse. Were we permitted to ride a horse on the private property of a school? I never thought to ask.

At the beginning it was fun having the little horse, Sandy, living with us. He was gentle, friendly, and patient. The children took turns feeding him, bringing fresh water for him and mucking out the stable. At the beginning.

As children are known to do, they grew at a startling rate and after a few months of riding blissfully around the field, feeling like cowboys, they suddenly became too tall to ride Sandy. In child’s logic, “Why take care of an animal if you can’t have fun with him any more?” 

So back to the horse farm went our miniature horse, and our great adventure with living the equine life in suburbia. I never found out if we should have been prosecuted for laws of inappropriate occupancy. I can tell this story now that the Statute of Limitations has expired.

I assume.

CROWDS

 

Enormous flocks of people gathered to be part of the historic Women’s March in Washington, D.C. Marches from cities all over the country and around the world were held. The prognosticators were knocked off their highfaluting expert status when they learned of the numbers of women and men who attended.

I was proud of all those who went out of their way to take part.

If I had such good feelings, why didn’t I show that I believe in the march and put my feet together, join the marchers and support their causes? Why did I choose not to attend?

The answer to that question originates from a traumatic experience I had many years ago.

I was a teenager in Queens, New York. Word got around about a big rock concert that was to be held at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. images-3The most popular  performers in the country would be participating for one day.

Groups with the current hit songs of the day, like the Cleftones (who recorded “Can’t We Be Sweethearts” and “Heart and Soul’),

“The Teenagers” (who were students at my school, Jamaica High) who recorded the hit, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” (“The Teenagers” used to sing at Jamaica High’s  basketball games.) 

The Shirelles, a woman’s rock group from nearby Passaic, New Jersey. Their big hit was “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.”

But most important to me, was that my idol, Eddie Fisher, images-11.jpg

who was to become the husband of Debbie Reynolds and father of Carrie Fisher, was to perform that day. I’ve heard of True Love, but I suffered with True Crush. And a powerful teen aged crush was nothing to scoff at. Remember that Romeo and Juliet were teen agers and you know what happened to them!.

At the time Eddie Fisher had his own television show on NBC. He would sometimes take a break at the NBC commissary. images-12.jpgOne day I was at the commissary and saw him at a table across the room. My shy, insecure teen aged self was outvoted by the teen in love persona, as I boldly propelled my body from my seat and strode over to his table. There was a line of admirers by the time I reached my goal, asking for autographs. When I approached Eddie, he looked me straight in the eye, reached for a photograph of himself and wrote, “How do You Speak to an Angel.” Doesn’t that give you butterflies? But he was merely writing the name of his latest record, not complimenting me!

So now I was going to a show in New York for another chance to see him. I was in heaven!

But when my friends and I got to the theater we were confronted with crowds larger than I had ever seen. Teens were swarming around the entrance door, pushing and screaming in their frenzy to be admitted into the theater.

A strange sound entered the fray; dozens of horse hoofs resounded on the pavement. Suddenly a group of policemen on horseback approached the theater threateningly, toward the large group of teens.images-10 They kept maneuvering the horses closer and closer to the long, cheering  line of us until there was no room to move, no chance to get out of the crowd, no way to escape the mobs of fans. We were  herded off the street and closer to the building. It was the most frightening feeling I had ever known; total helplessness in the wake of those powerful animals and pulsing bodies pushing against us. I couldn’t move or run. I was engulfed and paralyzed in the middle of the swarm: as helpless as a little bug trapped in dripping of sap from a tree.

When all the bedlam ended I eventually gained entry to the theater with my friends, still shaking from the experience of being almost crushed by the surging wall of teenagers desperate to see the show.

I have avoided crowds ever since that day. And I will continue to avoid them unless Eddie Fisher is resurrected and is ready to sing  for us once more.

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