Monday, July 12, 2010

Pet or Pest-That is the question

I believe pets are an intregal part of family life,and we had a diversity of creatures, big and small, over the years. Some will always be treasured memories. Other will live on in infamy.

When I was a girl back in Wisconsin, we had a parakeet whose cage was near the phone. Some of the remarks that emanated from that foul mouthed fowl were fit only for a sailor's ears. Whenever you used the phone, the receiving party presumed you were calling from some local bar. This bird hit the infamy list at an early date.

After I was married, Hub and I bought a variety of pets into our home to teach our children the valuable lesson of "kindness to animals". In a few cases the lesson included the commandment, "Thou shall not kill".

Take Oliver for example. This four pounds of impossible poodle flesh either suffered from profound incontinence or was merely claiming hs territory in every room of our house. He also bit every family member at one time or another.

Why did we we keep this monster? Just try telling the children you are planning to get rid of the dog! Oh no, we were stuck with this cantankerous canine until the lord stepped in and took him home. I can only guess that he lifts his leg daily somewhere in those hallowed halls daring some angel to risk expulsion by contributing to that dog's second demise.

We all agreed pets should have proper names. No Fido, Whiskers, or Fluffys in our family. After a conference, each animal or bird was named appropriately.

Our oldest son had a dog named Floyd. Someone's prized Pomeranian had escaped from her yard and caught the eye of an amouous Spitz. Floyd was part of the resulting litter. He had long skinny legs, a thick, fuzzy body, and a ten inch curly tail. This dog was a mess, but our son loved and cared for him for fifteen years.

Our youngest son's pet was named Melvin, a spastic Spaniel whose days were spent either leaping into the air or onto unsuspecting guests. He was yet another untrainable throwback to the dark ages when people didn't care if you left your personal mark on the floor of the cave.

One of our daughters rescued Chrissy Noel (a dog born during the Christmas holidays) from the animal shelter. Chrissy chose to sleep curled up in the washbowl of our guest bathroom. We presumed this made her feel she was back in the womb.

As it appeared we had less than good luck with the canine population, we resorted to hamsters. "We'll always know where these creatures are," I declared. "No frantic neighborhood searches before every family outing. These cuties will be caged."

And so Myrtle and Thelma (we didn't know about Louise in those days) joined the group in what was listed in my daily journal as "Pets--take five.

Thelma beat up on Myrtle and we had to resort to separate cages. Determined Thelma escaped from her cage and fell off the table on her head incurring "dain bramage". I rushed her to the vet where a big black cat eyed the cage tenaciously. Dr. Johnson examined the ridiculous rodent and announced she was suffering from a hematoma. You could have fooled me. He said she would probably recover in time and even get back on her wheel. Will wonders ever cease.

As years went by, we had a variety of other pets who shared our family life. There was a rabbit we got one one Easter and kept in the kitchen until the weather improved. I called that creature "The Ingrown Hare".

Ferd the bird, a calamitous canary, sang his swan song during the energy crunch. Then there was a rotten rooster the children brought home from school after learning first hand how chickens hatched. He was known as "the dumb cluck" after his repeated attempts to total our basement. I quietly removed him to the SPCA and can only speculate that from there he served as someone's Sunday dinner. The newts, Herman and Sherman hung around long enough to completely wear out their welcome.

After Hub and I reached our golden years, we spent most of our time taking care of each other. There was no time for pets. We felt we did our part to uphold the kindness to animals equity. Perhaps that animal activist group honors those who have done it all.

We would qualify.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Housework Hate

Housekeeping has never been high on my list. Before I was married, my mother laid out the sacred rules of homemaking. I decided early on that these rules were made to be broken, or at least tampered with. Knowing me as she did, I'm sure mother feared for the preservation of our Swedish family's reputation. This daughter was definitely not the one to preserve anything. I actually had a cleaning lady in a three room apartment.

That first apartment was a "make over" upstairs in an old Victorian house in Lima, Ohio. With each step the dust descended from the ceiling and rose from the rugs. I didn't own a vacuum cleaner in those days. I made due by running around and inhaling deeply. When I suggested this to the cleaning lady, however, she picked up her purse and headed for the door. I leapt in front of her, blocked the doorway and cried out, "Don't leave me. Where will I go, what will I do?" She was kind enough not to tell me she didn't give a damn and agreed to stay if I at least had a broom to use on those dust laden carpets.

As we were transferred from one place to another by my husband's company, the first thing on my list was to hire a cleaning lady. Hub couldn't understand why I needed all this help as his mother had washed walls, scrubbed carpets, and dutifully performed that gargantuan task---spring cleaning! Deliver me from all temptation to start that routine.

I always had an excuse to have hired help---pregnancy---new baby---pregnancy---new baby plus old baby, etc. This worked five times and then it was obvious the baby ploy had been run into the ground. So, I told my husband I had T.B.. No need to let him know that just meant tired butt. I got another cleaning lady.

Hub mentioned one day he had to go outside to see if it was night or day. Couldn't I ask the cleaning lady to wash the windows? I informed him I did that but the universal answer seemed to be, "I don't do windows". I presumed if she didn't do them, nobody did. He hired a window service.

My life has changed drastically in the last seven years. Hub1 went home to the Lord and now I have another Hub. This one is adamant about a clean house. We live in a retirement community where there's plenty of help, but Hub insists on shining up the kitchen, cleaning out the refrigerator and polishing the stove.

Me? I just push back into my lovely leather recliner, fold my hands over my tummy and drift off to sleep. Life is good.

Hub 2 has already written my epitaph when my time comes to go home.

This woman now is on her way
up to the promised land.
Old Nick awaits her patiently,
A broom and dustpan in his hand.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

PLAYful Drama

We're well into rehearsal for our next dramatic production here at our life enriching senior community. The members of the drama club range in age from eighty to ninety five. We're an ambitious group to be sure. There are just a few trials, probably due to age. Okay. Mainly due to age.

Our new play is about a murder at a wedding. I play the mother of the bride. I'm really pleased about this because since my youngest son was recently married, I have the dress. Imagine being the mother of the groom at age 85. But now I get to wear the dress again.

There are no scripts for our play as no one can memorize. So, at each rehearsal we just wing it. This makes for a rather interesting presentation.

We welcome anyone who wishes to be in our drama club. Therefore we have members at all stages of aging. Take one of the wedding guests who is 94, on a walker and loves to ramble on about anything other than what's in his script. We are definitely planning on having the hook available for him.

Our Alzheimer member usually forgets who she is in the play and often actually forgets who she is in this incarnation.

The bartender at the reception is hard of hearing and never picks up his cues. He invariably trips over his oxygen cord as well as his lines.

The father of the bride is young. I mean it. He's one of our maintainance fellows and is in his forties. I'm his ex-wife. His present wife is my age. Goodness, this guy really wanted to be on stage.

The grandmother of the bride, who is known a a prankster, staggers down the aisle on her three-pronged cane and sits down on a whoopie cushion. What a toot! That should send the audience rushing for air.

The youngster who plays the father of the bride is supposed to give his mother a stern look for her social error. Instead he always collapses into such hysterical laughter we are forced to rescue him with the bartender's oxygen tank.

The wedding planner is 96. She rarely remembers to show up for rehearsals. When she does come, she rushes in shouting her lines no matter where we are in the script.

I don't know how this play will turn out. In the past, we've always come together at the last minute, and the residences in our senior community fight for a seat at our performances. They love to see us make complete fools of ourselves. Whew! Are they desperate for entertainment or what.

Not to worry. Though this may age our community staff, This keeps the rest of us young.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Girdle

It was the summer I was 18 and just graduated from High School. I had trained for years as a singer and this summer I was working as a wedding soloist. It was also the summer I purchased the girdle from Hell!

Now, you ladies in my age group know when I say girdle I am not referring to those little elastic panties they pass off as girdles these days. In my day these garments had whale boning, zippers. Some laced up the front.

I saw a glowing ad saying our local department store was selling the perfect girdle to contain my thunder thighs. It reached from the waist down to the top of the knees. No inch of felonious flesh could possibly escape from this pantied prison.

Of course one didn't just don one of these garments and waltz out the door. Like a new pair of shoes, it had to be broken in. An hour here and there until you could bear it up to eight hours.

One Friday afternoon, I was due for a wedding rehearsal. What a perfect time to break in the girdle. I won't be gone more than an hour. So I poured my profuse poundage into the girth gooshing garment and donned a slim skirt. I peeked in the full length mirror. What a slender vision! Never had I looked so sylph-like.

I waddled out to the family car and drove to the Catholic church on the other side of town. On the way I was delighted to think that Father Steven would be my accompanist. He was known as the best organist in town. As yet I hadn't had the privilege of working with him.

When I arrived at the church, I entered the vestibule and found Father Steven pacing the floor reading his office. He greeted me warmly and ushered me over to the door to the choir loft. He opened the door and motioned for me to go up ahead of him.

One look at the steps sent my mind soaring. They were the highest, steepest stairs I had ever seen. I attempted to raise my right foot up to the first step, but I could barely get one toe up there with that constricting girdle.

Now I must tell you when I explained this story to my children, they said 'Gee, Mom, why didn't you just tell the man you had on a tight girdle and go into the restroom to remove it?'

"You can't be serious," I wailed. "Tell a priest about my girdle! Much less that I was about to remove it! I would have seen the fires of hell licking at my feet." No. I was a good Christian girl. I could handle this situation.

So, once more I stretched for that first step. Then I grabbed the railing on the right side and laboriously flung myself up onto the high stair. I repeated the challenge with my left foot. I continued the process until I reached the top of the stairs exhausted and dripping with perspiration.

Then I turned to see where Father Steven was. The man was plastered against the door at the bottom of the stairs with an incredulous expression on his face. 'Are you alright, Miss Holm?" he asked.

"Just fine, Father," I panted, running my fingers through my dripping hair.

I was sure he was thinking, 'they didn't tell me she was handicapped.'

He rushed up the steps and went to warm up the organ. I staggered after him trying to catch my breath. I could hardly keep my mind on the Ave Maria as we rehearsed. All I could think was how I was going to get back down those stairs. I finally decided if there was a problem, I would just sit on the top step and slide. Thank, God,there was no problem going down.

Father ushered me out to my car. I glanced at him as I drove away. He was standing at the curb, arms akimbo shaking his head.

Of course, I didn't wear the girdle the next day at the wedding. I chose a gathered skirt and summer blouse. When Father saw me dash up those choir loft stairs he grinned from ear to ear. No doubt he made a nine hour novena for me the night before and thought he witnessed a miracle.

I never had another chance to sing with Father Steven's accompaniment as I was off to college in the fall. When I told my dorm mates my tale of woe, they agreed I had handled it with great aplomb.