Monthly Archives: May 2014

Remembering with Potatoes and Wool

My mom is staying with me this weekend and I didn’t have the foresight to write something in advance, so just a quick post to recognize Memorial Day and to thank all those who have served in the military, past and present. This includes my dad who was in the Korean War. He was an immigrant in the US at the time he was drafted. He reports he was a pretty hopeless soldier, and the army tried him in a number of different roles, before settling on KP duty, aka kitchen prep. As a Dutchman, he knows his way around a spud and can peel a potato in one long peel with just a knife and his wits. I also want to give a shout out to another prominent group associated with Memorial Day, middle school and high school marching bands. Having played my lips numb on a trumpet in at least six memorial days, I have memories of marching in the sweltering heat in a wool band uniform with a heavy vinyl overlay. I’ve heard some people found that sort of thing fun. If so, a tall poofy hat off to you; if not, thanks for suffering through.

So hope everyone is enjoying their weekend, and I sincerely hope we can one day stop making more veterans, so we can take care of the ones we have.

The Registry of Forgotten Statistics

The week I realized my ex and I were pretty much over each other was the week I had to get a copy of our marriage certificate. It’s required in order to get a divorce, which I find pretty funny. Is the state trying to prevent people from falsely filing for divorce? “You know, we never got legally married, but let’s put one over on the state and file for divorce. Those nice lawyers and mediators need our savings, the courts could use the fees, and I just love to have strangers comb through every single personal and financial document I have. What a great prank!”

I had just moved and culled my possessions, so I knew what I had and didn’t have, and I didn’t have the certificate. My ex didn’t either. But it was more than that. You know when you’re trying to find something important but rarely used, you can picture in your mind the three likely places you put such things. Or, you have a memory of putting it somewhere and thinking “It will be safe here,” and that starts your search. I stopped and thought. It should have been with the birth certificates and passports, but it wasn’t.  I thought and thought. Nothing. My mind was like a deserted Western town, with tumble weeds rolling by in the wind. It was weird. Now I know it’s been 20 years and maybe it’s my mid-life brain or maybe it was the universe playing a good joke, but either way, I couldn’t even conjure up a fake memory of what the hell happened to that thing. So I was off to the state website for the Registry of Vital Statistics to go about getting a replacement. I just hoped it’ wasn’t like when you get a replacement drivers license and all the bouncers look at it for a really long time before letting you in. (OK, it’s been 20 years since a bouncer did that, but still it’s embarrassing.) I imagine the judge will examine it closely, then pierce us with an over-the-half-glasses stare, “Are you sure this is real?” “Aw shucks, you got us! We’re just messin’ with ya!”

So the website tells me I can pay $75 to have it mailed, faxed, or emailed, or come in person and pay $20. This makes no sense in the business world, but apparently makes complete sense for civil service. Maybe our civilization would absolutely break down if we weren’t forced to wait in long lines to get government documents. I shudder at the thought. But for those of you who miss face-to-face customer service and don’t like it when a business encourages you to email or sort through a help forum before calling, I suggest you go right down to the Registry of Vital Statistics and order up all your certificates and have a great time. I prefer societal breakdown and email.

I resigned myself to going, but comforted myself with the fact that at least it must be in Boston proper, right? Maybe next to another registry, like the Registry of Motor Vehicles, or next to the courthouse. Ohhhhh nooooooo. That would never do. It’s actually in an out-of-the way place that is the farthest it can be from downtown and still be considered within Boston’s borders. A friend suggested the location protects the vital records in case Boston gets invaded. I think a black market identity selling scheme is more likely. After all, this is the place that has volumes of musty books recording the births, deaths, and marriages of Boston’s citizens since the 1600s—this is the identity mother load. Although I guess having a fake ID with the name Jedediah Cobbler would probably raise awkward questions sooner or later.

So, off I went to get a fake ID, I mean my vital statistic, and a mere two train rides and long walk later, I arrived. And my first task, of course, was to fill out a form. I wrote our names, place of marriage, and then got stuck on the date. Just like when I was trying to place the certificate at home, the tumble weeds were rolling again. The swinging door to the saloon banged in the wind. I had the date engraved in my wedding ring, but I stopped wearing it. I knew the month and year, but it took a full minute to conjure up the day, and I only managed that because I actually looked at that month on my phone and seeing the number triggered my memory.

I handed over the money, got my certificate, and secretly wondered if they could tell I needed it to get divorced. I headed back to work via a long walk and two train rides and was not at my desk for more than 10 minutes when my ex called. He was filling out some preliminary separation paperwork and couldn’t remember my birthday. Like me and the marriage certificate, he’d remembered the year and the month, but couldn’t place the day. I told him, and when I got off the phone, I just started to laugh. We were clearly both moving on, letting go of our now non-vital statistics. I should have charged him $75 for the phone call.

Photo Credit: Raging Fluff blog

The Original Funny Writing Mom: Erma Bombeck

I almost didn’t want to write about Mother’s Day, because 1) it’s technically over, and 2) it seems best suited for those natural earth mother types — you know, they have always known they wanted kids and have a total lack of fear of being responsible for producing a functioning human being. They seem to thrive in the chaos and intensity of it all, and have absolutely no fear of various bodily fluids. I am not that mother. I am the mother who hides her fears of failure in irreverence, which must be why I have always loved Erma Bombeck, the original irreverent mother/writer. I followed her newspaper column as a kid and it made me and my mom laugh. And though she is no longer a household name to anyone under the age of 45 and some of her writing is dated, she can still make me laugh. So here’s a little post-Mother’s Day homage to Erma. Thank you for making motherhood real and really funny. These quotes and more are posted on Brainy Quote. Learn more about Erma here. 

Never have more children than you have car windows.

One thing they never tell you about child raising is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child’s name and how old he or she is.

When a child is locked in the bathroom with water running and he says he’s doing nothing but the dog is barking, call 911.

Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.

All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.

In general my children refuse to eat anything that hasn’t danced in television.

I take a very practical view of raising children. I put a sign in each of their rooms: ‘Checkout Time is 18 years.

Onion rings in the car cushions do not improve with time.

Youngsters of the age of two and three are endowed with extraordinary strength. They can lift a dog twice their own weight and dump him into the bathtub.

Being a child at home alone in the summer is a high-risk occupation. If you call your mother at work thirteen times an hour, she can hurt you.

Photo credit: Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop

16 Easy Steps to Fitting an Antique Buffet into a Prius

Step 1: In your twenties, gain possession of one large, antique buffet for free from a friend who is cleaning out a family home and already has one.

Step 2: Be thankful for such friends.

Step 3: Allow the buffet to make up for feeling insecure about your working class roots, where no matter how many family houses you clean out, you will never find a piece of furniture like this.

Step 4: Be absurdly proud how it fits perfectly in your large apartment that actually feels like a home, and not a starter apartment with milk crates and hand-me-down particle board furniture. Revel in the pantry, a built-in china cabinet, dental molding (which you will have to learn about because you have never seen such carved beauty), pocket doors and a fireplace (Ok, neither the fireplace, nor one of the doors worked, but still – it was a FIREPLACE and POCKET doors!)

Step 5: Be blissfully ignorant of how the pride in step 4 only highlights your insecurities.

Step 6: Get priced out of said apartment and cool neighborhood and buy a condo in a less expensive, working class town. Be whiny and curse the fates that have brought you back to the type of place you thought you’d escaped. Cling to the buffet even harder, even though the condo does not have a formal dining room. Tell yourself it will be great for extra storage.

Step 7: Do not hug the movers who manage to wedge into the condo what you now realize is a monolithic piece of furniture.

Step 8: Find yourself 12 years later post-divorced, post-condo, and moving into a four-room apartment, but still in possession of the buffet. Be clear with yourself why you still have it and understand your attachment  to it. Don’t let that stop you from putting it in storage and playing out a twisted Scarlett O’Hara kind of fantasy that one day, as the universe is your witness, you will never live in a formal dining room-less place again!

Step 9: Be sure to have other, more likable traits and make the kind of friends who don’t hold Step 8 against you.

Step 10: Get a grip and realize paying storage fees for over a year is stupid. Gather tolerant friends to see if anyone has space to hold the buffet for you or use it until your plan for formal dining room domination is complete.

Step 11: Get another grip and realize all your urban friends have small urban spaces. Widen the search to out-of-state friends with more space.

Step 12: Find a home in southern Maine. Have a Prius-owning good friend who will help you, even though you are way past the age when friends should ask friends for moving help.

Step 13: Have the Prius-owning friend also be the type who will measure to see if it will fit in the back. All of it: 5 feet, 6-inches long x 37 inches tall x 21.5 inches  deep.

Step 14: Pick up the moving van you will drive to Maine in case the buffet doesn’t fit in the Prius. As you climb into a van that smells heavily like sweaty workmen who smoke, be more fervent in your prayers that the buffet will fit into the Prius.

Step 15: Spend 15 minutes, pushing, cajoling, and sliding the buffet in the back. Spend another 5 to 10 minutes adjusting the front seats to somewhere between buffet-sticking-out-the-back-an-inch to can’t-feel-your-legs-because-knees-are-in-your-chin. Settle on abnormally bent legs and pit stops as needed to reintroduce circulation.

Step 16: Deliver the buffet to Maine friends, who quickly find it won’t fit in their basement either. Discover it fits perfectly between their open floor plan dining room and living room. Smile and enjoy when their 8-year-old daughter begins using the buffet immediately to have her toy frog practice his skate board moves.

And there you have it. How to fit a buffet in a Prius in 16 easy steps. Oh, and since I’ll be needing to do this in the reverse in about five years or so, Prius engineers, can you clear any changes in the back cargo space with me first? That would be awesome.

And a big thank you to my friends: Tim (furniture donor), Brad (for trying to help me find a home closer to home), Becky and Susan (Prius owners) and Gloria, Mary, and Marcella (current stewards of the honking, big buffet)

Photo:  A perfect fit in the Prius: the buffet arrives safely in Maine. The driver and passenger were off to the side coaxing the circulation back into their legs.