My favorite people are my family. I do have a very short list of others that I love, but unfortunately for the top three, Annie, Marion and Charlie are the best in my book. As a result, they have been subjected to what Annie has dubbed “Mom’s romantic ideas.” These have resulted in adventures and incidents that the three of them LOVE to rub my nose in whenever the family reunites. Evidently, I excel in the following areas:
NON TRADITIONAL HOLIDAYS:
Evidently, I have long cherished the idea of the four of us in foreign lands, clutching our guidebooks, seeing amazing sites, and eating wonderful local cuisines. In Costa Rica, this consisted of getting lost in the middle of a rainforest mud road in a rental car, finding cockroaches in our beds the size of cell phones, arming ourselves with rolled up newspaper at night for bug killing, and feeling totally TENSE the entire trip. Whose idea was this eco-challenge? MINE.
I also decided one Thanksgiving that the usual at-home feast is boring. Instead, I rented a cute little cottage in the Hocking Hills, near Ohio University. We packed up our pots and pans (the first clue to impending disaster, according to Annie), food, and all the fixings for the big dinner, and embarked.
The cottage was darling. One room. Cute kitchen at one end. There was a hot tub outside. A nice TV, with a DVD player. One room. Two futons. Some nice lawn chairs. One room.
By the time the weekend was over, we had watched “The Phantom of the Opera” three times, the dog had escaped the cabin and gotten lost in the woods, no one wanted to play ANY games, the girls decided that sitting in a hot tub with parents was QUEER, and the liquor ran out. One room.
As the children were growing up, I wielded my power unflinchingly. They were never allowed to eat “sugar cereal.” Sandwiches were made on rice cakes. For a while, I insisted on giving everyone little shakers filled with bran, so we could increase our fiber intake. We drank soy milk before anyone else in the world had ever heard of it. I fed them organic fruit and vegetables. But the worst? THE DAY WE BECAME VEGETARIANS!
Let me explain that I have spent much of my life trying to exert some control over all the things that threaten to take us out: global warming, pesticides in food, antibiotics in meat, the pollen count, killer bees, peer pressure, pimples. This constant anxiety has now been alleviated with maturity along with medication, but unfortunately for the kids, during their primary years I was young and without Paxil.
One day, after reading a particularly heinous article about hormones in beef, I immediately set out to protect our family from the scourge. As Annie says, “My God, on Sunday we had hamburgers for dinner, and Monday morning we were vegetarians against our will!”
This sudden dietary shift brought about some unwelcome changes that I had not foreseen. The children became surly and started sneaking around, eating salami at friends’ houses, and hiding beef jerky in their backpacks. Charlie developed gas. Well, he didn’t DEVELOP it, it just got worse. I couldn’t figure out how to make a sandwich that wasn’t peanut butter. Our friends never knew what to serve when they had us over to dinner.
This was long before being a vegetarian was in vogue. Times have changed. There are entire vegetarian sections in grocery stores now. Restaurants feature vegetarian specials. But instead of giving me credit for being the visionary, my family BLAMES me. How can I be so weird? Why do I jump on all these bandwagons?
MAKING NEW FRIENDS
Evidently, I have a bad habit of seeing something that I want, and going all out to get it. This goal oriented behavior is fine when it comes to things like Christmas presents, but not good when it comes to people. According to one of my friends, I crash through social barriers like an elephant. My eagerness to make new friends has resulted in some memorable evenings.
One particularly legendary night, I invited two foreign exchange students over for dinner. I was very astute, I thought, in inviting a language professor friend and his wife as well, so that the English/Spanish problem was totally covered. I also knew enough not to serve anything so foolish as Paella—oh no, I went American all the way with a good Campbell’s soup casserole and Apple Pie.
What could go wrong, you ask? To start with, the two exchange students were shy and soft spoken. Charlie, whose international skills consist of “If they don’t understand you, just TALK LOUDER,” was expounding at one end of the table, and I, at the other, repeatedly looked at the exchange students and asked the professor, “What did they just say?” My girls tried to sink under the table.
Another evening consisted of trying to befriend a very nice couple who were world travelers, very smart, and attractive. A retired minister, the husband forgot his hearing aid that evening. His wife, evidently peeved at her husband’s oversight, talked very little. Charlie felt that to compensate, he would use the aforementioned international skills. The wife, evidently shocked by all of the shouting, stopped talking all together. By dessert, Charlie and I were desperate for banter and resorted to TELLING JOKES. We have not seen that couple since. Annie, when recalling that fateful evening, gave me a sound piece of advice:
“MOM, FROM NOW ON, DON’T TRY TO STRIKE UP ANY DINNER PARTIES!”
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