I ate about half of a little packet of extra sharp cheddar cheese this morning at school and then stuck the rest of it in my cardigan pocket and forgot about it. I left Amazonia for John Glenn late this morning and when I got in my car I took off the cardigan because it was getting warm outside and I threw the sweater into the back seat. Somehow the hunk of now unwrapped really sharp and stinky cheddar must have flown out of the pocket during the flinging. Now I can’t find it and I know it has to be in here somewhere because, after sitting out in the sun all day, my car is infused with an aroma most aptly described as notes of body odor and dirty socks with hints of sour laundry and wafts of barnyard. This really stinks (literally and figuratively) because I just finally got the smell of rotting poultry to dissipate after I spilled some chicken and noodles down in between the seats about three weeks ago….sigh. So much for keeping my new car pristine. I think it has officially been christened.
An Open Letter to Architectural Digest…
Dear Architectural Digest:
It is with sorrow in my heart that I write to you today. I feel so spineless, but I just don’t think I have the fortitude to do this face to face and do not trust my resolve to see it through. I need to tell you that I think it’s time we ended our relationship.
It’s not that I am ungrateful for all the things I’ve learned from you such as, employing stylish hats as three-dimensional wall art, making a statement with fresh fruit or four ways to style the perfect fireplace mantel. I don’t have a fireplace and the decorations just didn’t look the same on my heater vent, but the point is, you tried. Even though I am somewhat of a Midwest bumpkin, you always believed in me, that I too, could live the life of the cultured and sophisticated. I owe every vintage trunk, every faux finish, every ladder used as storage to your gentle, polished guidance.
Reflecting on how it all began, so many subscription cycles ago I feel melancholy now. I was lost living in my vapid state, searching for something to cure my uninspired soul. I was drifting, longing, wandering the thrift stores, searching for something to cure my decorating languor, to inspire me not only to enjoy life, but cleave to it and hang on tight, like the ivy clinging to the facade of a sophisticated Manhattan Brownstone, where gray linen walls glinting with barely- there metallic highlights tower over slipper chairs dripping with tassels.
I still remember that day in T J Maxx as I aimlessly roamed the aisles attempting to redress my, seemingly chronic, dark mood with yet another shopping spree. There you sat, on the clearance rack, like a shining beacon of hope, and at an affordable price too. I felt as though the clouds had parted just for me and I was once again in the warm light of the sun after being held captive in a dungeon of blue funk. I was so wide-eyed then, like a babe in the woods. I began to make plans for our future together straight away, our Mid Century-inspired airy and sunlit interiors, our late night dinner parties with the creative set, our color coordinated bed linens. Yes, I reveled in the warmth of this summer that I thought would never end. You would have thought, living here in the Midwest, that I would have known about the winter that always follows.
I can’t recall a specific moment when the tide turned, but one day I could no longer bear looking at the stately homes of celebrities from the ramshackle confines of my tiny deteriorating hovel. I no longer derived joy from scavenging flea markets for gutsy antiques, searching for that opulent Victorian table or religious folk objects from Asia. I only know that at some point this winter while lying on my bed looking up at the hole in the ceiling where the plaster had fallen off and contemplating various ways to keep the dishwasher door shut now that the hinge has rusted off, the thought suddenly struck me and I said, “Enough.”
I could no longer pretend that I would ever spend time at a Rocky Mountain retreat sparely, but poetically outfitted with bold works by Anselm Kiefer, that I could ever be a guest at one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants or that you I would ever have anything in common.
So no more pouring over photos of Anderson Cooper’s Brazilian Paradise. No more thoughts of covering my walls in Holland Flamestitch velvet, or dreams of traveling the world picking up various textiles to have sewn into throw pillows for my sofa.
I hate to say that final goodbye, which is undoubtedly how I ended up with a subscription, and every time the renewal notice came I just automatically sent in the payment even after I knew it was hopeless. You might surmise that I’ve found another magazine to serve my decorating needs, or that I’ve been having an affair with the likes of Elle Decor, or that I’m getting to big for my britches. Nothing could be further from the truth which is, somewhere deep inside my heart I have always known I’m not good enough for you. I’m the Before photo in your Malibu beachfront remodel. I’m the claw foot tub — but without the claws. And while I will grow old and weather-beaten in my Early American shanty, you will remain sophisticated and cultured, making bold statements and pulling off elegant makeovers.
Farewell, my temporary fling. Know that even though you are headed for my recycling bin, you
will remain forever in my heart.
I talked to my mom today. During our conversation she felt compelled to remind me, as she does often, that if she should suddenly die, there is a folder in the file cabinet in her bedroom that contains her will and all other legal documents I will need as the executor of her will. I assured her I knew right were to look and who to call in the event of her untimely demise. I am 57 and she still worries that some day I may end up living down by the river in a van and licking discarded candy wrappers for nourishment. I do my best to assuage her concern. I’ll be fine Mom. Say what you will, but a van down by the river is still waterfront property.
All of us are aware of the inevitability that we will die someday, yet most of us have difficulty being light-hearted about it. Perhaps due to fear or out of respect for the grieving family we treat death as somber and serious business. Few of us see any place for humor in it. Humor, however can relieve our anxieties about death, help us cope and ease the stress that often surrounds it.
I for one, can attest to this and sometimes it comes out very unexpectedly like when my father died. When the doctors told us there was no hope for recovery with any quality of life for Dad, my
brother and I made the decision to let him go knowing he would not want to live that way. We brought him home to my house and set up a hospital bed in my room. We took turns staying with him around the clock waiting for the moment when he would go. My mother, trying to do her part to provide comfort to her children, ordered her now husband Bill, to bring over a comfortable blue velvet swivel chair from their den. Bill graciously complied, loaded said chair
in the trunk of his car and dutifully hauled it to my house setting it beside the bed.
And so we sat, in the blue velvet swivel chair, keeping vigil beside Dad’s bed. It was on my brother’s watch that my dad took his last breath. I was in the next room watching Law & Order with my boyfriend Jeff when I heard Greg yell, “You guys come in here I think this is it.” We rushed to the doorway and stood very still, surveying Dad, trying to surmise whether or not he was still breathing. After a long silence Jeff said, “Is he dead?” “I don’t know,
he looks dead,” I replied. Which prompted by brother to pull out his best Billy Crystal impression from the Princess Bride, “Well, he’s mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, there’s usually only one thing you can do…go through his clothes for loose change.” We all looked at each other and suddenly the damn burst. All the stress we’d been under for the past three weeks flowed out in
laughter. We laughed until our sides hurt.
The best story I have ever heard was from another teacher at a “Humor in the Classroom” seminar. Her mom had died at home surrounded by all her loved ones. They called the funeral home to come and get her. The somber mortuary men arrived, dressed in suits and ties expressing condolences. They went upstairs, reverently strapped the deceased onto a gurney and started toward the front staircase. Here’s where it gets fuzzy. Apparently someone wasn’t paying attention and Mom began to roll down the stairs unattended. By the time anyone noticed she was too far gone to stop. They watched in horror as the gurney began to pick up speed. “By the time
she reached the bottom of the stairs Mom was really sailing,” she told me. Their beloved mother flew across the foyer on two wheels, came back down just in time to make it out the open front door and down the sidewalk stopping only when she collided with the side of the hearse. They all just stood there looking at each other in disbelief. And then…a burst a laughter so forceful that my friend thought she was going to pee her pants. They laughed until they cried.
That kind of laughter is a venerable thing. When I die I don’t want a lot of fuss, but most of all I don’t want my loved ones to have to spend what little money I might have managed to squirrel away on a funeral. When my time comes, in keeping with Irish tradition, I want an uproarious wake. Prop me up in the corner at the Ground Round or somewhere and celebrate my life. Reminisce about all the stupid things I did while I was alive and LAUGH. Lord knows, there should be enough material there to keep people entertained well into the wee hours. Also, if some feel the need, let them line up at the bar and list all the ways I wronged them, then buy them a drink on me. If the entire thing ends in a riot that would be even better.
And for the funeral plans? As of right now my funeral arrangements basically consist of a Folgers can lined with floral shelf paper, lighter fluid and a match.
Yesterday, I was talking to someone at school about people driving their kids to school in their pajamas. I had to admit that back when I worked from home I frequently drove my kid to school in the same attire.
One particular morning I was decked out in an old nightshirt. Fortunately, at the last minute I decided to add a pair of sweatpants to my ensemble because it was fall and kind of cold outside. They were horrible looking and had a big hole in the crotch, but would keep my legs warm and Hey, who was going to see me right? Those of you who know me might be able to see where this is going already.
After dropping Ben off I pulled out of the Bode parking lot and was making my way back up Noyes towards home. Right about the time I was driving past the Noyes Home for Children I pushed the clutch in to shift gears and the clutch pedal went all the way to the floor. I knew what had happened…the clutch cable had snapped. Of course, as luck would have it, in that exact instant when the cable broke in half, the gear shift had been in between gears and was now stuck everlastingly in neutral which meant that now my car could not drive anywhere. The clutch cable could have broken when it was in any gear and I probably could have at least gotten home, but oh no, the Gods of all things automotive could not let that be for I am Shawn, Queen of Misadventure and must be humiliated whenever the opportunity presents itself.
I sat in my car for a few minutes brooding over my rotten luck. I hadn’t bothered with bringing my purse or phone (I wasn’t going that far right? What could possibly happen?) I took a deep breath thinking I might as well get it over with and stepped out into the brisk fall air wearing my Garfield nightshirt and horrible sweat pants. I started walking, all the while praying to the God of everything holy that if I kept my head down none of the other mothers dropping off their kids would recognize me as they sped away in their giant four wheel drive assault vehicles. I envisioned in my mind, one mother in particular recognizing me, stopping her luxury-wagon in the middle of Noyes Boulevard and rolling down her window to inquire as to if I needed a ride somewhere.
I would prefer being mistaken for a homeless vagrant and carted off to the Salvation Army rather than being forced to accept a ride home in an Escalade with perfectly groomed Soccer Mom whom I’m sure, in addition to wearing glittery 5-inch designer heels with her Juicy Couture jogging suit, also packs her kids organic gluten-free lunches in sustainable hemp Ecobags. I could not bear the thought of her pitiful gaze looking down at me through her hipster glasses as she leaned out the window of her SUV to offer assistance. I swiped my hair over my face and walked as fast as I could toward home.
My Irish luck was with me that morning and I was not stopped by a passing officer of the law with the misguided impression that I escaped from the nearby state hospital. As I neared my house, a couple of neighbors driving by spotted me and honked, waving ‘Good Morning’ to me as they passed. They did not seem alarmed at all. No one stopped to offer me a ride. Having known me for many years now, I’m sure they thought I was just out for a morning stroll. Seeing me walk down the street wearing a cartoon nightshirt and sweatpants in the early morning mist would not seem unusual for me at all. I smiled and waved back. The original feeling of horror
and panic was wearing off as I got closer to my neighborhood and I actually began to enjoy my walk on this beautiful autumn morning.
By the time I got to my front door I was feeling much better about the whole incident and had forgotten about it completely until today. I really need to write these things down so future generations will know what kind of stock they come from. It may help them to know it’s encoded into their DNA and there’s really no amount of therapy that’s going to help. Acceptance of reality…it’ the key to serenity.
I just saw the new Victoria’s Secret ‘Bralette’ commercial….pretty, for the young and perky breasted. Their slogan, “Bralette, it’s all you need.” I beg to differ. I think I would need another yard of material, a roll of duct tape and maybe some sort of elaborate pulley system. Even then, I doubt I would feel like running through a meadow in just my bra and some cut-off jean shorts yelling, “Bring it on.”
I ran into an old friend today while at Lowe’s buying potting soil. I asked him how his kids were doing and he said that his youngest is being tested for the gifted program at his elementary school and his other son thinks his toothbrush is haunted. So there you go….Diversity, it’s a good thing.
Speaking as a Fruit Loop in a world of Cheerios myself, I say if you are going to be weird, do it with confidence and gusto. You never know when you will run into someone who is the same kind of weird you are, but when you do, you’ll have a bond for life. I didn’t tell my friend this, but I think his ‘other’ son and I may be kindred spirits.