Saturday, June 26, 2010


I used to jump out of bed at the sound of the alarm, rush through a shower, and then get dressed and start the day. This has pretty much been the pattern of my life for as long as I can remember. Up and at it. Rise and shine.

But then I became a “writer.” I am sure I am not the only person with literary leanings that has trouble getting dressed in the morning. Perhaps it comes with the territory, but I am still a little ashamed of the fact that there are days when I look at the clock, and realize that it is long past noon, and I am still wearing bedclothes.

I like to think that I have joined a sorority of literary women who also write in their pajamas. I imagine Nora Ephron typing hilarious things while wearing a flannel nightshirt. I cherish the fantasy that Erma Bombeck sometimes dashed off one of her columns while wearing a nightie. There is no doubt in my mind that Julie Powell wrote her famous blog without getting completely dressed.

However, I am sure that not all writers would agree about the pajamas. Ayn Rand probably wrote her revolutionary prose wearing a business suit, or at least man- tailored slacks. I know that Emily Dickinson was always in a proper peplum. Jane Austen would have been scandalized to see me at my desk wearing coffee stained boxer shorts and an old Metallica T-shirt.

I know my Mom would be horrified at my creative writing uniform. This is a woman who never let the sun rise on her nightgowns. She wore tube tops and pedal pushers, but she was always DRESSED. She always, as I recall, wore shoes as well. Her opinion of people in pajamas after waking was that they must be either unwell or oversexed. I feel a little guilty when I think about this, but then I console myself that my mother came from a different age, and that the fact that I am writing this while wearing the Metallica T-shirt is really ok.

So I sit here, shoeless and attired in what would shock my Mom, “writing.” It is quarter to three. Soon, I will have to think about what to make for dinner. In just a little while, I will go upstairs, comb my hair and get some regular clothes on. Although I “write,” I still have some standards. I have never served dinner to my family while wearing pajamas.

But there is a first time for everything…

Sunday, June 20, 2010


My father was far from ordinary. Other children’s dads were doctors, lawyers and teachers. Their dads went to work in the morning and came home for dinner. Their dads played golf on the weekends. My father was a maestro.

I grew up hearing him play the violin, beautifully. He had a lovely one, with real gold on the pegs, and also on the bow. It had a beautiful velvet lined case, with little pockets for rosin and extra strings. There was a silk lined velvet blanket to cover the violin. When he played, I used the case as a doll bed.

I grew up in concert halls, sitting very quietly during rehearsals, where my father stood on a big podium in front of the orchestra, waving his arms. Everyone in the orchestra seemed in awe of my Dad. I thought it was because he was so handsome. But I knew he was the boss of all of those musicians, and I was very proud.

When my father went to work, it was at night. After an early dinner, he would get dressed. I loved this ritual. First the beautiful white shirt with all the little pleats. Pearl buttons. Black pants with a satin stripe down the sides. Cummerbund. Dad had a few different pairs of cufflinks, and I got to choose which ones he wore. I felt so important. Then the shiny patent leather shoes. And finally, the tails and bow tie, which he tied himself. He was a glorious man.

I hated actually going to see him conduct, because those evenings were long and boring. I got tired of watching him in front of the orchestra after about five minutes. My mother had made it clear that there was to be no twitching, no neck craning, and no noise. I perfected this, but for years afterwards, I hated going to concerts, remembering the constraints of childhood!

My father was magnificently handsome. He was tall, dark, and charming. He was the object of many women’s fantasies, and I think indulged many of them. It made me cherish him all the more, because I think in my childish subconscious, I was afraid one of his admirers might carry him away from us.

The maestro was my biggest fan. He thought I was beautiful when I had pimples. He was the first person to tell me that I should be a writer. He was never too busy to hug, or to listen. We watched “The Tonight Show” together every weeknight. He concocted very interesting late night snacks.

The Maestro died when I was a young mother. I wish I could go to just one more concert. I wouldn’t move a muscle.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


By now, we have all either seen or heard of that horrible reality show that exposes the folks who can’t seem to throw anything away. Most of us feel calmly superior while watching, patting ourselves on the back that here is at least ONE personality disorder that we don’t have to worry about.

But this morning, I went down into the basement to put in a load of laundry, and I took a look around. In the midst of a huge collection of stuff sat the accordion man, happily working on a project. I pointed out to him that we were both surrounded by THINGS. He nodded. “I have been trying to get rid of this stuff and the stuff in the attic for years now, but you don’t want me to.”

So I took an inventory of the things that I have been hesitating to eliminate:

LIBRARY CHAIRS. We don’t use them any more, but they are very comfortable, all wood, and I see ones just like them in catalogs. That makes them worth something, doesn’t it? Despite the chewing gum on the bottoms, the puffy paint on the seats, and the fact that they wobble when sat upon?

PINE CONES. It galls me to have to PAY for something that is plentiful in nature. Pine cones are used by some of the most famous decorators on HGTV, and they can enhance any table setting. They also look smart filling baskets by the hearth. A stash of pine cones is a necessity for modern trend setters.

FOLDING CHAIRS. I once had a party for over fifty people, and those chairs came in handy. Extra seating is another thing that folks like Carolyn Roehm and Vern Yip recommend. I believe that Sister Parrish had folding chairs aplenty in her home also. I rest my case.

LUGGAGE. Although we take few trips, it never hurts to be ready for an excursion. Writers need inspiration, and often find it in faraway places. The fact that the last trip we took was to West Virginia to see my mother is no way a factor. It is necessary to be ready to take off for parts unknown at a moment’s notice. Rick Steves says so.

WEDDING GIFTS. There are some really nice silver items in the basement that have never come out of their original boxes. Why, just the other day, I discovered a BEAUTIFUL pair of candlesticks that I don’t even remember receiving! It was like Christmas! They are now on the dining room table. I do admit that the three fondue sets are expendable, but there are three bun warmers and two hot trays that I will need to use along with the folding chairs, at my next party for fifty people. They stay.

If you live in an apartment or condo, you must be streamlined in your approach to life. But if you live in a house with a large basement and an attic, you can afford to hold on to valuable items that might some day have usefulness or great worth as antiquities. “Antiques Roadshow” was created for people with full basements and attics.

“Hoarders” is for sick people.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


It’s no secret that my husband and I are different. Opposites attract, as we all know. But nowhere is this more apparent than in our approaches to what we do in our spare time. My husband has prepared a Powerpoint presentation on “The Origins of Life,” which he totes around with him on his laptop and extols to unsuspecting people he invites out for coffee. Charlie ponders what motivates people to do the things they do. I like to read a lot of books, but I don’t particularly want to be in a book club. I don’t like to overthink things.

Charlie likes people who have vast compendiums of knowledge. When asked a “yes or no” question, he always answers by saying “Well, there are a number of issues involved.” Charlie likes to go to plays and then discuss their ramifications afterwards. I like to leave at intermission and get a good night’s sleep.

We once met a couple who both had their doctorates in some sort of ancient, historical or mythical subject matter. To add to their cachet, they hardly spoke English. We spent an evening with them eating wonderful food, but discussing something that sounded to me like sacrificing goats and then roasting the meat. Charlie just loved these people. He has wanted to have them over for dinner for the longest time. I just saw a “SOLD” sign in front of their house. I am ecstatic.

In restaurants, we can never place our order the first time the waitress asks, because Charlie STUDIES the menu. He orders exactly as listed. For instance, I order “The fried fish.” He orders “The fresh Tilapia, dusted with cornmeal and lightly fried, with sautéed apples and freshly baked biscuits.” For crying out loud, there is only one fish choice on the menu! Then he asks what kind of COFFEE BEANS they use. Sounds like a real epicure, right? But this is at THE CRACKER BARREL.

Charlie is intrigued by “BEAUTY.” It’s not what you think. He wonders what it is that triggers someone to call a thing beautiful, when that same thing might be uninspiring to somebody else. He tries to engage me in this subject:

HIM: Do you think that rosebush is beautiful?

ME: Sure.

HIM: No, really. Look at the composition of the rosebush juxtaposed with the fence.

ME: It’s fine.

HIM: But what IS beauty? Do you think there is a kind of beauty in ugly things, like that tractor over there?

ME: What tractor? And by the way, you can speed up; the speed limit along here is 65.

HIM: But what is beautiful to YOU?

ME: Getting home quickly. I have to pee.

Slow married fast. Deep married shallow. The long of it and the short of it got hitched. Chalk and cheese have managed somehow to stay together for forty years. Charlie is preparing a Powerpoint presentation on the subject--care to have coffee?

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