The longest night and the shortest day.

For many years now our little family has marked this day on the calendar with an open house party full of friends, family, food, music and cheer.

It has morphed over the years as our lives shifted from lots of little kids running around, to our daughters teen friends mostly hanging in the attic, to very adult cocktails and chat.

We started this celebration as a way to make something special for our daughter as we navigated holidays tied to religions that neither my husband nor I practiced.

He was raised Jewish and I was raised Catholic, so we have small Christmas tree and we light the menorah, but the Solstice party (with latkes and Christmas cookies) was what we cooked up as our tradition.

I always like throwing parties.

Planning a menu, stocking the bar, decorating the house, and playing hostess to myriad friends, acquaintances and colleagues makes me happy.

I enjoy laying out a buffet of chafing dishes filled with latkes, arancini, and spinach dip followed by the totally fun moment of lighting the canned heat.

Plotting out the perfect cheese board and artfully arranging crudités, spiced nuts, olives and crackers is a delight. Arranging tiers of Christmas cookies, chocolates and torrone (which only I eat), makes me merry.

For me, it’s deeply satisfying to share love and friendship through food, wine and conversation.

And of course any excuse to wear a cocktail dress and red lipstick is always welcome.

This year, because of the pandemic, we won’t host our Solstice Party but our little family will raise a glass to toast the longest night and know that we are moving again toward the sun.

Wishing you joy in what ever holiday(s) you celebrate in the winter season, and hope for a sunny tomorrow.

sun on water

 

 

There are some milestones in life where there is an expectation that we engage in a little self-reflection. Big moments like the birth of a child, or the death of a parent, and small moments that mark the passing of time like school graduations, the new year and birthdays.

Time spent reflecting is never wasted in my book. Usually when I reflect, I write.  I write for my clients, for the “book-in-progress” that remains in-progress, and for this blog.

Since June 2017, for a variety of reasons, I have become increasing reluctant to push the publish button on my blog.

In honor of my birthday today I am giving myself permission to publicly reflect on my last trip (or two) around the sun.

13 Things I’ve Done (most with Mr. Man by my side):

  1. Sold a house
  2. Moved three times – in two years – to two different cities
  3. Downsized three times (So! Much! Stuff!)
  4. Sent a daughter off to college
  5. Changed jobs twice
  6. Lived apart from Mr. Man for extended stretches of time
  7. Put down one of our cats
  8. Gave away almost all of my house plants
  9. Buried my childhood friend
  10. Reconnected with some friends from the past
  11. Welcomed a new cat to our family
  12. Made some new pals
  13. Met a whole lot of people from other parts of the US

6 Things Learned while Reflecting on 13 Things I’ve Done:

  1. Needing people doesn’t make me needy, it makes me human. Wanting connection and community isn’t a flaw, or evidence of weakness, it’s part of who I am as an extrovert. Being upfront about asking for help & friendship falls into that “big learning” category, but without friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers I’m not sure I could have managed all the transitions.  So an extra thanks to all the folks who loved, helped and/or put up with me over the last few years.
  2. I discovered I have a unique set of skills that makes me good at what I do. I’ve always downplayed any “uniqueness” because I thought – wrongly it turns out – that a) if I could do it anyone can, and b) people doing my kind of work are a dime a dozen so nothing makes me particularly special. Let’s file that under “wrong-headed things I believed for the last 10 years” and leave it at that.
  3. Humidity makes me crabby. I think I knew this in theory but living in a sub-tropical climate really brought it home.
  4. I get depressed if I have to work in an office without a window. This is now officially a deal breaker for any future work offer. After 7 months of 8 – 10 hour days with no window, part of that during the short winter months,  I was flabbergasted at how quickly my mood improved with daily sunlight. Never again.
  5. While I still love phone calls, letters and cards, I discovered you can actually maintain long-distance friendships through text, messenger and SnapChat and still feel connected when you see each other in person.
  6. I can endure a lot of change and discomfort but it takes strenuous attention and determination to learn from it. A friend shared a meme recently that said “I just want some experiences that don’t make me stronger!” Yeah, I can get behind that.

So from a distance, looking back at my trips around the sun, I wouldn’t actually change much about the past two years because they got me here.

And I like here.

Here has my favorite things because when you winnow and winnow and downsize and donate you end up with just your favorite things.

Here has Mr. Man and being in the same city and time zone as your partner is a big perk.

Here has a great deal of potential for me to do even more of the work that I love and that is double plus good.

And finally, here is the place where I will commit to writing and sharing my thoughts during this next trip around the sun because I remembered that it helps me think and it makes me happy.

Many happy returns of the day to me!

birthday wishes

A friend I met when I was 12 is now in critical condition in the ICU.

A friendship that started in middle school covers a lot of history. Successes and set-backs, bad boyfriends and good husbands, the exciting and the mundane. And all the messy, contradictory and unimportant bits in between that aren’t milestones or “life events.”

She is an attorney with a mind for details and a memory like a steel trap. I’m more of a sieve. I know this fact about myself  so if something feels important I always write it down so I don’t forget. Everything else I can ask her.

A question like “What was the name of the club where we saw …?” will get me the club, the date we were there, who opened and who we were with. It’s a great skill and probably made me more lazy about remembering the details over the years.

I stand by her bed in the ICU and talk to her about this and that because the nurses say she hears even when she doesn’t respond. I monologue about getting my daughter ready to leave for college, what I’m working on, how the garden is doing this year, and running into a mutual acquaintance at a coffee shop.

I tell her if her nurse that day is attractive (most have been male), how the parking is free when you are visiting the ICU, and how she is a VIP with 24 hour service like a fine hotel.

What I don’t tell her is how important she is to me. I don’t tell her how devastating her illness actually is or how ridiculously slim her chance for recovery.  I don’t say I love you. That would surely signal to her that the end is near and it’s not my job to do that.

When she passes, whenever that may be, I will no longer have that one friend “who knew me when.” No one else will ever again so precisely understand the ways in which who and what we both are now is grounded in what we were then.

The past shapes the present but what we decide to focus on in our memories is a choice. It’s hard for most folks to focus on the good memories because we’re  wired to learn from mistakes in order to survive. So we easily dredge up the slight, the hurtful comment, the embarrassment, or the questionable choice.

So while I ruminate on the choices and chance that got us to this place today, I am also remembering the raucous, reckless fun and the countless ways we supported each other through the years.

It strikes me that how we remember is part of what’s driving the turmoil around Charlottesville and the removal of confederate monuments across the country. A line from George Orwell’s 1984 keeps running through my head  – “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls that past.”

Of course I have a lot to say on that topic. But not now.

Now is for remembering how lucky I am to still have my childhood friend.

In my current love/hate relationship with social media its easy to forget why I liked it in the first place.

Facebook was a great solace during the three years when my office was isolated and I could go entire days not speaking to anyone except by email. Have I mentioned I’m an extrovert?

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Insta linked me to the outside world. And Pandora.

One big benefit of working alone in an almost empty building was that I could play music as loud as I liked – electronica & jazz for writing workshops, grants or  PowerPoints,  classic rock & funk for collating binders.

Social media connected me with folks I’d never meet in person (friends of friends, journalists, activists etc.) and more importantly created a much larger circle of information. I know we all live in our bubble of self-selected media, but having FB friends outside of my regular friend group continues to introduce information I might otherwise ignore or miss.

For instance, a Native artist I follow  introduced me to Indian Country Media so I learned of the DAPL protest actions long before it surfaced in the New York Times. Social media introduced me to, among other things, emergencies and issues affecting women of color, the LGBTQ community, Black Americans and native peoples.

I’ve read perspectives that I agreed and disagreed with from Libertarians, Bernie progressives, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and international citizens, activists and journalists.

So it’s not all bad.

However.

Since the election I have decided that social media and journalism has to be balanced with conversations In Real Life (IRL).

I’ve started reaching out to old friends and acquaintances to schedule chats over coffee, phone, or Skype. I’ve started reaching out to make new acquaintances and friends to meet and chat. Did I mention I’m a shy extrovert who doesn’t make friends easily?

It’s hard to be the initiator all the time (no one likes rejection), and time is as limited as ever, but committing to In Real Life is helping me feel hopeful in a way that liking folks social media posts isn’t.

Hearing opinions and updates accompanied by voice and body language puts me back in the “I – Thou” that I know I need.

So hit me up for a coffee date or drink.

Meanwhile, this brilliant animation my inspire you to join me IRL.

 

The people who produce the William-Sonoma catalog are diabolical. Dinner plates in soft pastels, serving dishes with whimsical bunnies, botanical linens all scattered with charming alabaster eggs. It arrives in the middle of the grey, mucky winter and makes me want to whip out my Am Ex card and I don’t even set an Easter table.

The Easter catalog always reminds me of my Aunt Bev, my mother’s best friend, Aunt of my heart. For several years before she died I sent her a shipment of mini butter croissants from William-Sonoma as an Easter present. She adored the indulgence of the fancy bread, but would never buy such a thing for herself.

My mother, were she alive, I would never insult by gifting her with food. Ceramic bunnies & chicks for the table, of which she already had a profusion, would have been more welcome.

I always think of my mom and her friend – Big Alice & Bev – during Women’s History month. They weren’t feminists or activists. No accomplishments or achievements of note. They were too busy raising kids and trying to make ends meet to be political. They didn’t agitate for higher wages, they took overtime, or a part-time job, to make more money.

There are millions of women like them the world over.

Thinking about International Women’s Day, and the truth of our society requiring official reminders like these to counter pervasive inequities, I noticed how easy it is get trapped in the accomplishment loop. Celebrating people for doing the extraordinary, the unusual, the brave. Firsts. Ground-breakers. Onlys.

I decided there are some women around me who could use an “official celebration” of their achievements. So, in no particular order, you know who you are, I send my love and admiration:

  • L., with her lions heart doing the right thing because she knows its right. When I need compassion, truth and strength I know you are there.
  • S., living through some terrible, awful. You are so strong, smart and cool I can’t wait to see what you do when you are on the other side of this mess.
  • B.R., who has more energy, heart and ambition than anyone I know.  I think of you when I need to remember the world of endless possibilities.
  • J., who always reminds me what happens when you let fear rule.
  • S.C., who is compassionate and kind and an example of being brave about your dreams. I want to be more like you when I grow up.
  • A.J.A., who takes a chance on people and is willing to change. I can only follow your example.
  • M.S., who has lived long enough to do nearly everything, know nearly everyone, and still be out there having fun. I can only hope.
  • I.J., whose feminist, socialist heart is as tender as it is fierce. Who says the pursuit of social justice can’t be paved with kindness and cookies.

So many women doing what needs done – friends, neighbors, cousins, coworkers – too many name and count. Every day. I acknowledge your achievements and look to the day when we do not need International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month, or Black History month to know the sum of who we are.

Until then, have a croissant and sing along.

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Buttery goodness from William-Sonoma

When my husband and I decided to have a baby reactions to my pregnancy usually included a story or some bit of advice. A horrific three-day labor without drugs, a sister-in-law/cousin/friend who barely made it to the hospital in time, or how once I met the baby I would want to be a stay at home mom. And so on.

One reaction I never understood was the malicious and gleeful recounting of the many ways that “your life will never be the same”: no more going out to shows, no more hanging out with friends, no more fun of any kind. No more tablecloths – this was from my mother-in-law and I still don’t know why she said it.

I distinctly remember one of my sister-in-laws cackling while she said, “Now you’re gonna see what its like!” Why yes, yes I will.

I think people forget that “life as you know it” is over all the time. Yeah adding a human to your life is a big change but so is graduating HS, changing jobs, moving out, breaking up. Burying folks close to you. It’s just life.

The really secret part of parenting that no one tells you about because it would result in a rapid population decline, is that you actually have no control. Zero.

Once they leave your body you suspect – but it takes a while to believe – that you can’t actually protect your child or keep them safe.  Safety is an illusion perpetuated by parenting books and the advertising industry. Parents cling to this illusion as long as they can, sometimes through the pre-teen years.

Car seats and helmets, rules and regulations, pesticide-free organic foods are all ways to try to impact that which (you think) is under your control. Actions to help soothe the “am I a good enough parent” panic that gets you by the throat every now and again. Foundational actions that, like calcium for building strong bones, you hope will pay off in the long run.

The truth is, baring outright neglect and abuse, you can’t stop life from happening to your kid no matter how much you might try. You can’t cushion the blows, or keep your kid from being buffeted, or hurt. There is nothing you can do to prevent the fights with friends, the breakups, or the disappointments. The best you can do is patch them up when it’s over and toss them back in the game.

Maybe not literally. My daughter is still furious that I made her get back in the game after she got popped in the mouth with a softball. It was a chipped tooth and a little blood on the shirt I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but she clearly did.

My husband and I knew we didn’t have real control when the kid was 12 and wanted a FaceBook page. You’re supposed to be thirteen to have a FaceBook but “all her friends” lied about their age to get one. We told her we would prefer she not sign up until she was 13, but that we knew we couldn’t stop her from signing up without our permission. She didn’t.

The Honor System takes the place of outlet covers and baby gates.

On the opposite end it soon becomes clear that you can’t make them do anything once they are cognizant and mobile. We want the kid to get good grades, we expect the kid get good grades, but all the consequences in the world are not going to make the kid study or write a decent essay. And you just have to hope that when they leave the house in the morning they are not ducking into a friends house and changing into a burqa.

The honor system, trust and believing they are smart enough to make their own decisions are the meager tools left in our parenting box.

Intrinsic motivation is in the teenager driver seat. Parents are just along for the ride. Harder than 2 am feedings, toilet training or letting them walk without holding your hand, it is damn hard to not be a back seat driver.

No one tells you that part.

Parenting-styles-diagram

Been thinking a lot about obligations lately. What you owe to colleagues, family, friends, society – why and how the calculations are made. Fortunately, when I get caught in a very sticky problem I have a hierarchy of defense mechanisms that kick in:

  • Invariably I start by talking it out. Haven’t met a problem yet I couldn’t talk to death.
  • If/when rigor mortis fails to set in (some problems are zombies),  I start researching. Surely someone somewhere has done a meta analysis of all the research and possible solutions. Which I can then adopt.
  • If the problem refuses to yield to the sheer weight of expert opinion, I then try to translate it into a formula in the hopes of discovering rules. The formula stage is usually evidence that the problem is either long-term or I truly have no clue.

Currently, I’m working on a formula for “Obligations”.

Everyone has some version of the “me & mine” mindset that would kick in during times of natural disaster, revolution, or Armageddon, but other assorted obligations shift and change over time.

Some of these obligations are steel cables from the past, subterranean and invisible until some event pulls them taut. And that is the formula I can’t quite work out. How much does the past obligate me in the present?

I have managed to climb very far from where I started in life. Some family & friends who were there with me have not. Calls from that past come more infrequently now but the steel cable of obligation reels me in so quickly its staggering.

Some twisted sense of survivors guilt, plus my mother’s catholic (guilt) training, makes saying no almost an impossibility.  Someone else always has it worse. Your success means you share and help.

Thankfully my long-suffering and understanding husband has a more realistic perspective that keeps me from going into debt to float people as I have in the past.

It’s hard to be on either end of that cable.

I usually have an image  or song at the end of my posts, and I was tempted to put a photo of Richard Harris from his famous scene in “A Man Called Horse”, but that’s a bit dark even for me. So instead I leave you with 3 minutes and 30 seconds bittersweet by an under appreciated and brilliant artist you should check out if this is the only song of his you are familiar with.

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As bittersweet vines grow, they will tend to strangle whatever they are climbing on. It is extremely aggressive, often growing sixty feet or more in a single season, and spreads rapidly from any bit of root or stem severed from the plant so removal by pulling is nearly impossible. All parts of the plant are considered poisonous.

 

Congratulations if you are able to read that word and not hear singing. Unfortunately I both see and hear Topol as Tevye. Always.

One of the things that didn’t occur to me until I was a parent was how much our actions around holidays shapes a feeling of tradition for our kids. Growing up I had a feeling of “the way things are, is the way things are” that didn’t shift until I started experiencing holidays outside of my clan.

My father was a big believer in “there is only one right way” which, in retrospect, probably afforded him a feeling of control in a sometimes chaotic world. But it didn’t leave any space for the opinions or disagreement any of his six children. Come to think of it that may have been part of the motivation behind his attitude. Holidays were often…tense.

For many years after my husband and I got together we continued to observe holidays with both families in the manner dictated by their tradition. We were spared the two stop issue many couples face by virtue of his family being Jewish and mine being Catholic. When our daughter came along the holidays became about her. The traditions slowly crept in the way that they do, adopted, adapted and invented.

One way we acknowledge our differing traditions, and our whole-hearted lack of religious observance connected to any holiday, is by celebrating the Winter Solstice each year. The shortest day, the longest night, the Solstice has been used to mark the season since ancient times.

And now its our tradition – the light returns and so we dance!

Since I will be too busy dancing naked in the moonlight to post to my blog tomorrow – Happy Solstice to All!

(Some people still think “pagan holiday” when they hear Solstice so I included the de rigueur Stonehenge at sunset. And no, there won’t really be any naked dancing.)

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Over the last six months my daughter has had her friends over more often. Especially her friends who are boys. This is not a problem as they are all perfectly nice, well-mannered kids who are even sometimes amusing to listen to and/or hassle.

Two things that took getting used to with teen boys: First, they seem to take up so much more space than girls. They are all a lot bigger than my petite sized daughter but even the ones who only as tall as me seem to take up more space. In my opinion, three boys are a crowd. Continue reading

Trusty is one of those words that seems lonely without the “my” as in “I have my trusty…” whatever. Wrench. Horse. Sidekick. Duct tape if you’re Red Green. That thing that never lets us down.

I have never heard anyone say the phrase “My trusty truth-teller” but that is the seed a wise friend planted in my head recently. There are levels of trust, and levels of truth (if we get down to the nitty gritty), but one constant seems to be my impulse to dismiss the truthy-ness of those I trust when they care about me. A school of thought known as “But you have to say I’m beautiful because you’re my mother!!!!”

Their love (or like) makes their opinion suspect.

I think love goggles, unlike beer goggles, only distort the truth slightly. When you love someone their good traits can be magnified – by the same token on a bad day that same magnification can cause you to use words like “throttle” and “thrash” – but neither thing is untrue. And I think that is where the caution lives, for me at least. How much is love, how much is truth and how high are the stakes.

That’s where trusty comes in.

I have a friend I clothes shop with and we have a stringent no-lies-in-the-dressing-room policy combined with a rule about only buying it if its perfect on you and goes with one thing you already own, which means we have had many a “trusty truth-teller” moment at the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale. But when she tells me how she admires my skills in another area I dismiss a good 70% of it cuz that’s just the luv talking.

The bigger the luv, the less trusty the truth-telling. Its twisted. Should be the other way around. Maybe for other people it is.  My poor long-suffering, trusty husband. He should have read the marriage contract more closely. Speaking Truth to Power is a breeze compared with Speaking Truth to Love.

I am working on changing the formula for the acceptance of praise (P) so that truth-telling (TG) by someone normally trusty (Ty) does not get deflated (-) depending on the ratio of love (%L) the truth-teller has for me. My goal is inverse ratio. So my husband (H), with 95% (the highest possible love ratio available to humans), would normally have a formula like this: [(HTy) + (TG)] – (95%L) = P5% is objectively true, 90% love goggles

The new and improved husband formula would be simply: [(HTy) + (TG)] + 95%L = P95% objectively true, 5% love goggles.

It could work. I may have some some trouble applying the formula depending on the truth, but I am hopeful. I realized that I almost never fudge praise just to “be nice” so I’m not sure why I assume others do. I have several people, in addition to my husband and my girlfriend, that I trust and admire who deserve to be in the “trusty truth-teller” category, so I’ll give it a go. And now of course I have my objective, trusty formula.

It occurs to me that if love goggles were real they would have to be steampunk.

My friend is grieving.

A young person enrolled in her program has died. His fellow students, the staff and instructors are all struggling to understand. Death, as always, brings more questions than answers.

How can this be true? How can someone so young (23) and full of promise be dead? How can someone my age die so suddenly? How can someone younger than my child be gone? Why? What happened? What was the cause? What could have been done? What should I have done?

As a parent, my mind refuses to fully comprehend what his family is going through.

Last night my friend said she was going home to bake some “Cookie Love” to bring to the memorial the students were having for their classmate this afternoon. Baking some love when someone is grieving seems to be a necessary step. I don’t know any culture that doesn’t bring food or expect the grief stricken to be unable to cook or even want to feed themselves. So we comfort with a casserole dish, and give hugs with sugar and chocolate.

My personal stages of grief usually include Baking, followed by Cleaning, Drinking, Laughing, and more Baking. It may not be Kubler-Ross, but its a system. Probably a distinctly female system if I analyze it, but I don’t feel up to it at the moment.

Baking makes me happy because its optional. No one needs it. Its not like cooking which you have to do to survive, so its an act of free will. A slice of love, a box of like or a tray of feel better soon. No strings attached. I hope my friend can feel how the love she baked into those cookies feeds those grieving students (and herself).

As it gets harder and harder to cobble together the time I need to put coherent thoughts in a blog post I am reminded of what a friend says about her writing – “I write a blog post every day in my head.” From head to page (or post) can be a big leap some days. So my new tag line is “Sent from my head, please pardon any typos.”

I was recently in a group of women who were talking about how women constantly judge each other. I could have pointed out that we should substitute “humans” for women, because men judge themselves and each other as well, but that would have derailed the topic. Another time.

People brought up how we judge how other women raise their children, or where they send them to to school, or if they are a stay-at-home mom, or a working mom. This landscape is so familiar that someone piped up immediately “As if a stay-at-home-mom is not a working mom!” The problem, an older woman postulated, is that women are their own worst enemy, tearing each other down when they should be supporting each other.

Now I am all for sisterhood, but that just sounded like one more freakin thing to add to my to-do list. Maybe I was just tired. Luckily someone else raised the level of discourse away from its-our-own-damn-fault to how women being unsure of their choices allows them to be more manipulable by society, media etc. The conversation swirled for a while but what caught my attention was someone naively asking, “How do we make it safe for women to talk about topics without judgment?”

The context for this was how do we talk publicly about abortion so that it is de-stigmatized. A simplistic answer was offered: “Wear a button that says I live in a glass house and I don’t throw stones.” I’m thinking I would not be inclined to talk about the weather to someone wearing that button, let alone abortion.

The question of safety included an unacknowledged shift from the visible to the invisible. We can judge a woman’s choices in child rearing and work because they are visible, we can only judge her choice to have an abortion if it is revealed. Hence the de-stigmatization efforts. I wholeheartedly agree having an abortion is nothing to be ashamed of, and most women experience relief rather than shame. So what else is behind the silence? I think we are back at judgment.

Judgment influences behavior because of its complexity. Whether it is internally or externally imposed it can be a verdict (You are a bad person), or an opinion (You are that kind of person), or a statement (This is who I am). We make choices every day about what we make visible because we know we are judged. Revealing information is like pouring Kool-Aid into water –  it can’t be unmixed. So to talk about your abortion in our society calls for either a whole lotta trust or a whole lotta nerve.

As one woman said the fear of judgment is less about her feeling bad about the abortion than about what crap is going to blow back from the other person –  “I don’t feel like dealing with their 92 different feelings about my choice.” Interestingly, as the conversation continued, people revealed other seemingly taboo information kept invisible because of its potential to shape how we will be viewed:

  • I had an abortion and didn’t feel bad (the implication being you should feel bad)
  • I don’t have children because I can’t have children (the implication being you are a failed woman without children)
  • I don’t want children (see above)
  • I am an atheist (too many implications of bad badness to list here)
  • I was sexually molested (the implication being you are a victim)

The list could go on and on, especially around less political but still volatile issues like “I slept with a married man.” How many currently married suburban women do you know that will reveal that to their currently married friends?

I think we all live in glass houses and we all throw stones. So to the question, “How do we make it safe for women to talk about topics without judgment?”, my answer is we need to find ways to build trust into casual friendships so the invisible can be visible. Invisible parts revealed are not a burden, they are the bits that turn a casual friend into a true friend. So we need to trust first, reveal first. I need to trust first. Hmmm. Lot more to think about.

I recently returned from a (somewhat) electronics free vacation. I still had all my devices with me, I just resisted the urge to use them for work purposes. The iPad was for reading books, the phone was for the camera & maps. It helped that 1) the reception at the rental house was non-existent until you registered your device with the Wi-Fi, and 2) that I had turned off the settings for email and calendar the day before we arrived.  And they stayed off. This was a first for me.

It was also the first time we vacationed with another family. And this particular family is why I didn’t post to my blog during vacation – everyone got along great, we had fun together, kids only annoyed their own parents – in other words, no blog fodder. This is in stark contrast to my childhood vacations which have material I can mine for several years at least.

Both of my parents were scoutmasters which meant all vacations were camping. This is also the cheapest way to have a vacation with six children two adults and a dog. When I was about 10 or 11 my dad made friends with another scoutmaster who I will call “Mr. Perry” because that was his name. My mother became friends with the wife, who everyone called “Mother”, including her husband. That forced us kids to be friends with their kids who were roughly our ages.

My one brother stopped going on family vacations when he was 14 and learned how to run away effectively. My other brother was already married and expecting his first child, so that left me, my two sisters and my little brother to enjoy family vacation.

My first clue that we were camping with aliens was at dinner when one of the kids looked at the discarded corn cob on my plate and said “You gonna finish that?”,  snatched it up and started chewing it clean. The second was when Mother cut up all of Mr Perry’s food, including the corn off his cob, because he said “it was easier that way”.  No doubt.

We vacationed with this family several years in a row, and no one seemed happy about it but the dads who would canoe while smoking cigars. We camped one year at a park that had musical acts and got to see Eddie Rabbit (pre “I Love a Rainy Night”) among other country stars I couldn’t name then or now. We also went to Yankee Peddler, a festival of colonial living, food and fun. How subsistence living could be fun is still a mystery to me. I’d just like to say for the record that I hate both maple sugar candy and rock candy on a stick. Their olde tyme-ness does not improve the flavor or equal a colonial experience.

One night after we had returned from another stone drag potluck dinner at the Perry’s house, where their contribution was hot dogs and jello molds and my mother’s was lasagna and yellow cake with chocolate frosting, my mother started complaining about how for years they bring crap food and then eat all of ours and she was sick of it. My dad yelled back at her saying something like ‘well she’s your friend’, and my mom replied, ‘no he’s YOUR friend’, and within minutes they discovered that neither of them liked the couple but had never said anything. My sister said ‘none of us likes their kids’ and that was that, we never saw them again.

My family vacation 2012 did not include camping, extreme hardship to build character, or odious people. It was lovely.

And there was one photo we took that reminded me of the 1970’s. In a good way. You can almost see the Go-Karts at the end of the track…