Sunday, October 30, 2011

Miss Most Halloween-y

Saturday.  9:30AM.


Alan:  Hello?

Voice on phone:  Hello?

Alan:  Well, good morning, Helen!  You're up early!  (The Meems usually sleeps until 11AM.)

Meems:  I won a prize!

Alan:  You won a prize!?  Well, let me put you on speakerphone so that Carolyn can hear this!

Alan padded into our room where I was still cozy under the covers trying to enter the World of Awake.  Not too successfully, I might add.

Alan:  It's your mom.  I'm going to put her on speaker.

Me (yawning):  Good morning, Mom.

Meems:  They gave the Best Costume prize to a couple who were dressed up like a doctor and a nurse.  (She always jumps right into the business at hand.)  Then, they gave a prize for Funniest Costume to a guy in a blown up suit.  I think he was some sort of wrestler.

Me (trying not to remind her that Alan and I had seen the doctor, the nurse, and the sumo wrestler the night before when we went to Raider Ranch for the "photo suit"):  He was a sumo wrestler.

Meems:  That's right.  And, I won a prize for being the Most Halloween-y!!!  (She giggled gleefully as only the Meems can.)

Me:  Most Halloween-y?!  Congratulations, Mom!!

Meems (more giggling):  A couple of people told me in the hall that I looked really cute!

Me:  Well, you DID look cute!

Meems:  I have to go!  I'm going to Tai Chi!


And now....

I present to you...

Raider Ranch's Miss Most Halloween-y!

My costume?  I was sporting an orange and black pashmina.

Let me tell you...that Raider Ranch knows how to put on a Halloween par-tay!

The Witch's Brew punch was located conveniently next to the fire alarm.

The Worms and Dirt pudding was especially wormy and dirty.
The obligatory bloody cake was insightfully topped with a plastic arachnid.

But, the best part of all?

Wait for it...

Wait for it...

The bewitching photo wall!

Mom and Leonard, her best friend
Sorry they're not smiling.
It took us forever to get their faces lined up with the holes.
"I need to bend down?"
"Where do I put my face?"
"Now what do I do?"
On the way to church this morning, Mom asked Leonard if they gave away a Best Witch prize at the party.  

Leonard:  Yes, they did, indeed.

Meems:  Oh.  I guess that means I came in 4th Place.

Poor Meems.  At least she'll always have "looked cute in the hall."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wrapped 'n' Ready

My Christmas cards have been ordered.  I bought my Christmas stamps yesterday.  Just now, I ordered my first Christmas gift on 

This is the year.  With God as my witness, I'm going to be "wrapped and ready by Thanksgiving."

This obsession began years ago when I visited a dear friend in early December (let's just call her Lindy...).  Her house was all decorated.  There were tons of wrapped presents under the tree.  I was agog to say the least.

"Lindy, how did you DO IT!?" I asked.

"I work on it all year.  I like to be wrapped and ready by Thanksgiving so that I can actually enjoy the holiday season," she explained.

I had been raised in a you-kids-go-to-bed-because-Santa-Claus-can't-come-until-she-finishes-wrapping-presents home.  Mom still tells about the time that she stayed up all night on Christmas Eve to finish some cute clothes that she was sewing up for Kathy and me.  The only wrapped presents under our tree before December 25th were the new panties for Grandma and the toy for our little cousin, Sherry.  I grew up with no packages to shake.

So, when Lindy uttered those words, a big halo of light surrounded her chestnut curly locks, and cherubs began to sing..."ahhh, ahhh, AHHHHHH!"  The Gates of Epiphany were flung wide open before me!  I had found a new way to live!  Wrapped and Ready by Thanksgiving!  How simple!  How brilliant!

On that very day, I decided to make WARBT my mission.  I tried to trick myself into thinking that November 30th was secretly December 24th.  I began to decorate for Christmas just before Thanksgiving.  Alan's birthday is December 1, so it felt good to have all of the Christmas regalia in place to mark the occasion.  

I had WARBT hopes and dreams.  There I would be on December 1 sitting in front of a roaring fire handing Alan his birthday gifts which had been tucked underneath der glowing tannenbaum amongst the beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts for everyone from our parents to the postman.  Soft music would be playing...kinda like this...

Ultimately, it was the shopping and the Christmas cards that brought me down. Oh, and the Christmas letter.  Sooo...


I began to suffer from WARBT Stress Syndrome.  I SOOO wanted to be like Lindy and have Christmas Cookie Swaps with my closest 20 friends and their children.  I, too, wanted my Christmas cards to appear in mailboxes on December 1.  Alas, with three active sons (as opposed to Lindy's FOUR active children), I just couldn't keep all of the Christmas balls in the air.

This year, I have reached the apex of my Empty Nest Freedom.  I WILL be WARBT!!!
  • I will do all of my shopping on within a matter of hours.
  • I will wrap each present as soon as the all too familiar box lands upon my porch.
  • I will forgo the Christmas letter and refer people to Finding the Funny:  pick-a-post-any-post.
  • I will try to convince my sons that they are way too old for stockings. 
God rest ye merry gentlemoms.

Postscript:  I actually told Lindy about my raging case of WARBT Stress Syndrome a few years ago.  She laughed and told me that she hadn't been wrapped and ready in years.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Halloween Teaser

Mom had been asking me since September when we could go Halloween costume shopping.  "I wish I knew where my scary mask and red wig went," she lamented.  "It's a mystery to me," I replied committing complete and total perjury.

She was thinking that she wanted to dress up like a witch.  I remembered the French maid costume that she wore to my Pee Wee Herman themed 30th birthday party.  For no apparent reason.  Then an image similar to this popped into my mind:
And, I screamed out loud.

So, I told her that I would work on something really cute for her to wear.  It would be a surprise!  

About a week ago, I took her "costume" over for a quick try-on.  She loves it!  And, she looks adorable in it!

Check back in on Halloween.  There will be pictures.  Bah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mrs. Hook

I was surprised to learn that she wasn't a stay-at-home-mom.  It seemed to me that she was always there peeping in on our living room Miss Panola County pageants.  "Don't ya'll look pretty?!"  "Who did I just hear singing so beautifully?!"  I was quite surprised to discover that she actually taught in the music department of the local college for 30 years.  When could she have possibly done that?  I knew that she taught piano lessons in her living room, but, my childhood memories still place her standing in the kitchen washing dishes and checking on cookies browning in the oven.

Her smile was broad and friendly and spread from her lips to her cheeks to her eyes.  Her words were lengthened  by soft, Mississipi-born drawls.  Her voice was so rich and smooth that it never sounded like she was yelling even when the older brothers tore through the house wrestling and laughing and interrupting the "talent" portion of the little girls' living room beauty pageant.

I remember riding my banana bike down East Neal Street where it dead-ended into her front yard.  Rolling across the grass, I dropped my bike close to the front door and bounded up to the front porch.  At my knock, she opened the door and flashed a big welcoming smile.  "Good morning, Carolyn!  Kristi's in her room!  Kriiiiiiiis-teeeeeeeee, Carolyn's heeeeere!"  Passing through the open door, I was enveloped with the smells of breakfast bacon and coffee mingled with Pine Sol.  In her home there was a quiet, orderly peace.  It was a soft place to fall.  It was a haven for little girls with Miss Panola County dreams.

She never freaked out when the Kristi-Penny-Carolyn Trio scavenged her closet and dresser drawers for high heels, fancy dresses, and jewelry in preparation for a fancy ball, a pageant, or impending nuptials - the triple wedding with the grooms, Paul, Ringo and George (the short straw).  She grinned as she walked past her bathroom where we were lined up at the mirror carefully painting our little girl lips with her best lipsticks.  She fully embraced our desire to be beautiful ladies in the middle of a long July afternoon.  I'm sure that she, too, thought that we would all become the reigning Miss Somethings someday.

Thank you, Myrna Hook.  I will never, ever forget your smile.  Your love.  Your peaceful home.  Your makeup drawer.  Your beautiful baby grand piano.  

You flavored my childhood with sweet, sweet memories.  And, yes, Mrs. Hook, this very day I am the reigning Wife and Mother of the Lackey Men of 84th Street.  I did it!  And, I know you're proud.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Through a Tunnel Darkly

I've been really busy this past week, and I'm heading into another busy week.  But, I just had to tell you something funny.  My mom would totally tell you about this if she saw you.  She's really "open" like that.

Conversation on Saturday night:

Mom:  I called Sue today.

Me:  Great!  How was Sue?

Mom:  I called her to see if something I did really happened or if I dreamed it.

Me:  Huh?!

Mom:  I remember crawling through a really long totally dark tunnel as a part of some training for school.

Me:  An inservice training with a tunnel?

Mom:  That's what I was trying to remember.  There were two men who were the leaders who went in front of me.  The tunnel was so small that you couldn't turn around and go back.  It was pitch black, and it was a looooong tunnel.  It was sooo scary!  But, I did it!  I made it all the way through, and I was the first one to do it!

Me:  What did Sue say?

Mom:  She said she thought I actually did that.

Me:  You're SURE you didn't dream that?  It sounds like some of the stuff you dream.

Mom:  I thought it might be a dream, but Sue said it happened.

Me:  Was Sue there?  Did she crawl through the tunnel?

Mom:  I don't think so.

My thoughts:
  1. The male leaders were God and Jesus.  They were helping Mom make a "practice run."
  2. Mom and Sue should be roommates.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You are getting sleepy! I AM very sleepy!

4:00AM  Eyelids begin to flutter.  Within minutes, I'm awake.  I lay "still and quiet" - a phrase Alan coined for our boys when they were little and "not sleepy yet" - trying to free fall back into delicious slumber.

4:30AM  Nothing.  Still staring at darkness.  Mind begins to wander.  All of my worries creep out of the darkness and into my restless mind.  My body is still very sleepy.  So, I try to relax my mind.  Conversation with self:  "Relax your jaw muscles...goooood...relax your shoulders...goooood...feel yourself floating in a warm cozy floatation tank with the blue lights on because total darkness would be creepy [Thanks, Groupon, for introducing me to "floating."  I haven't tried it.  Probably not going to.  But it has given me a lot to think about.] are light as a cloud floating in a crystal blue sky...  Nothing.

5:00AM  I'm more awake than I was before my "relaxation exercises."  A memory floats to the surface of my thoughts.  "You are getting sleepy."  "I AM getting sleepy."  "You are very sleepy."  "I AM very sleepy."  "You are light as a feather."  "I AM light as a feather."  Now, I'm fully awake because I'm going back in time to junior high and high school.  The slumber parties.  The seances.  The...what did we call them?..."Risings?!"...I can't imagine we would have used a big word like "levitation."  Let me tell you what it was like.  You tell me what it was called.

Mood Music.

A little song I chose because it's so bad.  But, back in the day, when it came on the radio while I was sprawled on the bed trying to figure out some "stupid Algebra," it could send me into a somber, pensive, stare-at-the-ceiling, teenaged reverie.

1972.  Friday night.  1:00AM.

A group of teenage girls pajama-ed and lounging in a living room.  Some are meticulously scraping bean dip out of individual bean dip cans with Fritos.  Others are braiding hair.  Talking.  Talking.  Sharing secrets.  Gossiping.  Roars of laughter.  There is one sleeping bag lump in the middle of the fracas.  The girl whose bedtime is 10:00PM come rain or shine.  Then, someone has an idea...

"Let's have a Seance!"

Mid-conversation, mid-bean-dip, mid-that's-what-I-heard-from-someone-who-told-me-not-to-tell, a chorus arises, "Yeah! Let's have a Seance!"

While someone runs for a candle, I'll take a minute to explain to my young readers that in the days of Viet Nam, The Godfather, and American Pie, our mothers were not the least bit concerned that slumber party seances were occult recruiting sessions.

A candle is lit.  The lights go out.  Giggles and whispers.  A circle of solemnity is formed. Then - "Who's gonna lead it?"  "Cindy!  You lead!  You're good at it!"

We all stare at the candle trying to concentrate on the myriad of ghosts that have been politely swirling around the living room all evening.  

"Are there any ghosts in this room?" Cindy asks slowly in a low, mellow voice, "If you are us a siiiiiiiiiiign."


We stare harder at the candle.  

"Ya'll!  Somebody's not concentrating!  If you can't concentrate, go in the kitchen so you don't mess up the seance!"

Full-on, intense candle staring.

A scream followed by unison screams.  "Someone touched the back of my neck!!  I felt it plain as day!"  

"Ya'll!  Ya'll!" someone hisses, "Don't scare him away!!  Be quiet!!!"

Silence broken by muffled giggles.

Then, after about 10 minutes of mysterious creaks in hollow walls and imagined icy breezes passing by - "Did you feel it?  It got really cold right here (an arm waves in the general direction of said breeze), and then, it just went away!" - someone says, "Ya'll!..."

"Let's Make Somebody Rise!"

Eyes turn bright with excitement as the circle of girls - all except for Sleeping Bag Lump - turns into a 5 foot long oval.

"Susan's really light!  Let's start with her!!"  

"Yeah!  Susan, you go first!"

Feeling especially favored by her sometimes catty friends, Susan crawls to the middle of the oval and lies flat on her back with her arms crossed over her chest.  The candle is blown out because total darkness is needed to levitate a human being at a slumber party.  Jeepers, everybody knows that.

The oval tightens as the girls scoot in to place two fingers of each hand under Susan's body.  Someone tickles Susan.  She wriggles with giggles.

"Ya'll!  We HAVE to take this SERIOUSLY or it won't work!  My cousin did this once at a slumber party, and they got a girl to rise up over their heads!  BE QUIET AND CONCENTRATE!"

Leader (in a dreamy, supernatural voice):  Susan, you are getting sleeeeeeeeepy.

Susan (in sleepy, supernatural voice):  I AMMMMM sleeeeeeepy.

Leader:  You are getting verrrrrry sleeeeeeeepy.

Susan:  I AMMMMMM verrrrrry sleeeeeeeepy.

Sleeping Bag Lump snores softly.

Leader:  You are feeling as light as a feather.

Susan:  I AMMMMMM light as a feather.

This solemn exchange continues until the leader is satisfied that Susan had entered a dreamlike state.  Then, the chanting begins in soft, slow whispers.


After a few minutes of sincere chanting a whisper is heard by Susan's left kneecap: "I think that I feel her leg going up..."


A voice coming from Susan's right shoulder:  "Ya'll, I don't feel anything!  I want more bean dip."

More voices rounding Susan's veeeeeeery sleeeeeepy body:  "Me, too."  "I have to go to the bathroom.  Somebody go with me.  I'm scared."  "I'll go."  "Me, too."

7:05AM in the here and now.  Hmm.  I'm sitting here wondering why we never levitated Sleeping Bag Lump.  She was already sleeeeeepy.  Verrrrrrrry sleeeeepy.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Have You Ever Been to DEE-troit?

Last night, Alan and I had a night out on the town with the "elders."  Mom, Leonard, and my mother-in-law (Mary) went with us to dinner at Red Lobster (Leonard's fav) and then to a movie.  Actually it wasn't just a movie.  It was a showing of the 25th anniversary performance of Phantom of the Opera at Royal Albert Hall complete with curtain call appearances by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sarah Brightman, and numerous past phantoms.  Amazing.

We arrived at the theatre early so that it wouldn't be "too dark" for Mom to maneuver to her seat.  She likes to sit on one of the top rows because of her macular degeneration.  It takes a village to get her there.

Conversation before the performance started...

Mom:  Did you know that people can steal a baby's identity?!  I don't see how that could be possible!

Me:  Yup.  All a bad guy needs is a social security number and a name to become a complete and total baby.

Mom:  But, babies don't even have social security numbers because they can't work!

Me:  Nowadays, they are born with social security numbers.  If the wrong person gets ahold of it they can totally steal the baby's identity.

Mom:  But, how can they get the social security number if the baby doesn't even know it?!

I kid you not.  At least she busted out laughing after she realized what she said.


Mom:  I saw The Phantom of the Opera at Lincoln Center about six rows from the front!  I liked it almost as much as I liked Lay-Miz-er-AH-bulls!  (A "Frenchman" told her the correct pronunciation.  She refers to Les Mis as often as possible so that she can tell people about the Frenchman.)

Leonard:  I saw The Phantom of the Opera in Baltimore.  It was in New York.  Then, it came to Baltimore.

Mom:  Oh.

Leonard:  Have you ever been to DEE-troit?

Mom:  Yes.  (long pause)  No.  (another pause before she turned to me)  Have I ever been to Detroit?

Me:  Nope.  Unless you went there for some wild girls' weekend that you haven't told me about.

Mom:  (turning to Leonard)  I've never been to Detroit.

Just after the performance began...

[When the show started, the sound was off.  A fellow viewer went and told the management.  The sound came on...really loud.]

Mom:  (leaning towards me and shouting in my ear) Is there somebody named Kristen or Kristine in this?

Me:  Don't know, Mom.  Haven't ever seen it.

Mom:  Well, if you see somebody named Kristen or Kristine, it's the same show I saw at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Me:  Got it!

Then I noticed...

About 10 minutes into the musical, I looked over at Mom to see if she was still awake.  She was wide awake.  With bits of Kleenex wadded up and stuck in her ears.  Our eyes met, and she smiled brightly.

As we were leaving:

Me:  Wasn't that amazing!?

Mom (with Kleenex still in her ears):  It was!  (then, loudly enough for the whole crowd to hear)  I liked Lay-Miz-er-AH-bulls better!!  There was more music.  (don't ask me)  I saw it at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Back at "The Ranch":

The lobby was deserted when we dropped off Mom and Leonard at Raider Ranch.  

Mom:  Don't worry about me.  Leonard will see that I get to my apartment safely.

Leonard:  Do you have your jacket?

Mom:  Yes.

Leonard:  Do you have your scarf?

Mom:  Yes.

Leonard:  Do you have your pocketbook?

Mom:  Yes.

Mom usually goes to bed around 8:30.  She wakes up to go to the bathroom at about 9AM which is when she pushes the Raider Ranch check-in button (ie, the "I'm Still Kickin'" Button).  After checking in, she pads back to her bed, snuggles in and sleeps until 11:00 or 11:30.  I'm sure that she slept until afternoon today after the wild night we had last night.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Good Morning! Guess What!

I miss my Aunt Wanda a lot.  We haven't lived in the same town in years.  Sigh.  There are sometimes that I miss her even more than others.  Yesterday was one of those times.

Ring-Ring!  I see my mom's number on Caller ID.  It's actually numbers spelled out ("twentyonetwentyone...") because she lives in a senior independent living complex.  Those numbers, interestingly enough, don't have anything to do with her actual phone number or her apartment number.  It's quite mysterious.

"Hey!" I chirp.

"It's your mother!" she informs and continues on without taking a breath, "I had a funny dream last night..."

Wanda where are you!?  You are the one Mom called every morning for 10 some-odd years after you both had retired. She would wake up.  Pad to the kitchen in her little worn pink floral slippers.  Turn on the coffee pot.  Head back to her room to jump back under the covers to pray for her children.  Return to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.  Then, dial your number for a quick one-hour chat.  You listened intently to all of her bizarre dreams.  You said things like "Well!" and "Is that right!?" when she paused long enough to sip her coffee.  You saved me HOURS of running around in my kitchen with a corded phone tucked under my chin listening impatiently as she spilled all of her dreams while I scrambled eggs with one hand and folded clothes with the other.

"Last night, I dreamed that I had a daughter - not you, I didn't know her at all, but it wasn't you - who was about to get married.  I remembered that we sold my sewing machine at my estate sale when I moved to Lubbock.  I was so sad because I wanted to make some dresses for all of my new grand-babies."

"That was sad!" I said thinking of Aunt Wanda wondering if she was on her 3rd cup of coffee by now.

My mother has a very active dream life.  She can't remember what she ate for breakfast, but she can remember all of her dreams.

"I dreamed that I was teaching school, and one of the boys brought his pet monkey to school.  I said, 'You can't keep a monkey at school!' and he said, 'Mr. Waldrop [mom's principal for years] said it was OK!'  So I marched down to Mr. Waldrop's office and told him that it was me or the monkey!  I told him that if he let one boy bring a monkey to school, all the boys would want to bring monkeys to school!"

"I dreamed that I was in a play, and I couldn't remember my lines.  So, the teacher had a girl walk right behind me the whole time speaking the lines while I mouthed them."

"I dreamed that I was singing in a mall and a man came up to me and said, 'You should be a recording star!  You have a beautiful voice!  It's every bit as good as Deanna Durbin's!'"

"I dreamed that we were all going to a big dance and we all had dates, but I didn't have a new dress to wear.  So, my friend let me borrow one.  It was pink and had lace on it."

I could go on and on and on.

She went through a time when she called me every few days to tell me what song she woke up singing.


"Good morning, Mom!"

"Guess what I woke up singing this morning?!" she would ask. 

"What did you wake up singing?" I would yawn.

"Shall we gather at the riiiiiiiiv-er, where bright angel feet ha-ave trod?" she'd sing as sincerely as if her former choir director at First Methodist Waco was standing before her in the kitchen.

A few days later...Ring-Ring!


A sweet, shaky, soprano voice softly would begin singing, "I come to the gar-den a-loooooooooone, where the dew is still on the ro-o-ses!  And the voice I hear...falling on my eaaaaars, the Son of God dis-clo-o-ses!"

[That one always gets me.]

"Do you wake up singing a song?" she would ask.

"Nope.  I just wake up with bad breath," I would yawn.

"Don't you think it's NEAT that I do?!" she would exclaim.

"Kinda neat.  Kinda creepy.  Are you feelin' OK, Mom?"

"I feel great!  I just think that it's NEAT that I wake up singing!  That's one of my favorite songs!  Have it sung at my 'celebration!'"  ["Celebration" = her code word for "funeral"]

"Hmm. so I can write that down.  Found one! it!" I would say with no pencil in sight.

Now that the Meems is 85, I love to hear her dreams.  The best part is that she laughs really hard when she tells them.  I love to hear about her morning songs.  The best part is that she sings them.  Some day I'm going to miss her dreams and songs.

Annnnnd, He WALKS with ME!
 and He TALKS with ME!
And tellllllls me I am His OOOOOWN!
And the joy we SHAAAAAARE as we TAAAAAAR-RY there

None other has ever knoooooooown!



Meems had a very special visitor this weekend.  Our friend, Laura Ard, flew down from DC to spend time with her.  Laura lived next door t...