It was a beautiful Saturday morning when my son Tom called.
“Dad, Allie’s gone into early labor! We need you to stay with Molly.” He sounded excited and nervous.
“I’m on my way!” I immediately answered.
As soon as I arrived Tom and Allie left for the hospital.
“Grampy, can we go to the school fair?” Molly asked. “Daddy was gonna take me today.”
“Sure, pumpkin. Let’s go!” I replied – anything to help pass the time.
The playground of Molly’s school, St. Cecilia’s Elementary for Girls, had been magically transformed into a carnival with food stands, games of chance and a giant inflated pirate ship.
“Look, Grampy! A bouncy ship!” Molly tugged at my sleeve. “Can I go on, please?”
“You bet, honey! Looks like fun!” I gave my granddaughter a boost. I was half in and half out when the ship started bouncing, taking me for a ride I’ll not soon forget!
Well, a bouncy anything is no place for a 60-year-old man and 20 little girls. They were rolling all over me and every time the damn thing came to a stop, I tried getting out but kept losing my balance.
Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the pirate ship was surrounded by police. One cop with a megaphone shouted “Sir, this ride is for children only. You’re in serious trouble. Come out now or we’ll come in and drag you out!”
I finally managed to crawl my way out. My clothes were in total disarray, little girls were crying and I heard someone yell “You sick bastard!”
Arr! I made the news that night. My fifteen minutes of fame!
A couple of years ago New York was hit by a major snowstorm. Wearing thick-padded booties, the snow silently tiptoed in while we slept and when we awoke there was a three-foot-deep crystalline blanket everywhere we looked. It was coming down pretty heavy and we could barely see anything in the backyard as we looked out our bedroom window … almost as if someone was standing on our roof shaking out a king size comforter full of feathers. Bill and I stood there for a while taking in the silent beauty of it all, then shuffled into the kitchen to prepare a pot of coffee and a few slices of my homemade banana bread.
The instant we were done making breakfast, the lights went out. There was no point in trekking down to the basement to check the circuit breakers; we knew the area had experienced a power outage. We sat in the kitchen by the still-hot radiator enjoying our coffee and warm toasty bread, a pale white glow from the snow enveloping every room in the house. Before retreating to the living room, I poured our pot of coffee into a thermos to stay hot for a few hours.
I went to the closet and brought down Bill’s emergency hand crank radio with LED flashlight, AM/FM stations including the NOAH weather channel, a power bank of phone chargers and USB ports. This baby would serve us just fine until the power was restored. In the meantime Bill ventured out to the frozen tundra of the screened-in porch to retrieve some logs for the fireplace.
Bill got a nice fire going while I set up the radio on the table between our recliners. The phone chargers and USB ports were lifesavers; we were able to keep our cell batteries from dying and my laptop going so I could work on my stories. I was even able to plug in my new electric blanket which used a handy dandy USB port. Bill marveled at the technology of the little red radio and only bemoaned one design flaw – there was no TV.
We were happily ensconced in our recliners enjoying our little haven. All was silent outside except for an occasional gust of wind and every so often we’d spot a blue jay out our front window picking berries off the holly bush. I think we must have dozed off for a bit when we were roused by the harsh sound of steady scraping. We listened for a few seconds, then realized someone was outside shoveling the snow. We peered out the window to see our two little neighbors, six-year-old twins Jackson and Connor, shoveling our front path. At least that’s who we figured they were; it was impossible to tell by the way they were bundled up.
We sat back in our chairs, sipping our coffee and listening to the steady scrape-scraping of the boys’ shovels. Closer and closer the sound came; now they were clearing the steps leading to our front door. The adagio of their shovels was replaced by a sharp staccato knocking on our front door. I sank deeper into my blanket while Bill went to get some money to pay the enterprising kids, delighted that he didn’t have to shovel our front path himself. He opened the heavy wooden door and stood just inside the glass storm door to settle up accounts. Jackson and Connor stood on the front porch leaning on their shovels; toothless grins, cherry-red faces and sparkling blue eyes glistened in the still-rapidly falling snow which clung to their long blonde eyelashes.
“We cleared your path for you, Mr. Richy!” they proudly declared in unison, looking over their shoulders to admire their handiwork which was now covered by a fresh ½” of new snow. They looked back at Bill, staring up at him for his approval, their faces sporting the goofiest, most irresistible smiles imaginable.
“I see that, boys, and a fine job it is, too” replied Bill. “So tell me, what’s your going rate?“
With furrowed brows and crinkled noses the twins eloquently asked “Huh??”
“How much do I owe you for shoveling our path?” Bill asked in a way they could understand.
Very matter-of-factly with absolutely no sign of embarrassment or regret, the boys announced “Oh, we’re not allowed to accept money. Our mom and dad said we have to do good deeds.”
“Hold that thought, boys, and don’t go anywhere.”
Bill scurried back into the living room. “Are you hearing any of this conversation?” he asked me, clearly incredulous. “A concept like that in this day and age is mind-blowing!”
“Well, what’s your game plan?” I asked, knowing Bill always had a plan brewing.
“My game plan? Why, I’m going to pay those boys for a job well done and toss in a few packs of Pokémon cards just for good measure!” He was downright gleeful.
Bill scurried back to the boys and, opening the door just a crack to keep the cold out, shoved $20 and two packs of cards into their pockets.
The boys immediately started to put up a fuss about taking the money but Bill told them to stash it in their piggy banks for a rainy day and if their dad had a problem with, he was more than welcome to come over and talk about it. With new-found treasures in their pockets, the toothless twosome raced home to show their friends their unexpected booty. Their little friends cheered loudly at the sight of the boy’s riches. Even their dad came out to see what the hubbub was all about.
The big financial deal now settled, Bill sat back in his recliner and sighed contentedly.
“You’re such a soft touch” I teased. “You’re rather pleased with yourself, aren’t you?”
“As a matter of fact, I am!” he replied. “Listen, I’m all for good deeds but when I was their age, I was out shoveling snow and I know it’s hard work. Those kids did a damn good job. If their dad objects to them getting paid, I’ll just tell him to think of it as a tip for his two fine sons. I can’t believe he’d have a problem with that.”
Well, it came as no big surprise when the twins soon returned and began shoveling the snow off our driveway – and this time they had reinforcements. Their momma didn’t raise no dummies! You haven’t lived until you’ve seen five six-year-olds shoveling one driveway like their little lives depended on it.
“Better get your wallet out, Rockefeller. They’re back and they brought company” I laughed.
Bill may have unwittingly created a couple of monsters; during the spring the twins started going door-to-door pulling a wagon behind them. They were selling rocks! I’m reasonably certain their parents did not give permission for their budding business venture because it ended as abruptly as it started. Too bad; I’m sure they had the rock-selling market cornered. Very entrepreneurial kids; even Warren Buffett had to start somewhere!
Well, kind of a pity when you think about it. The boys scrubbed those rocks until they glistened in the sparkling sunlight. They really were impressive-looking rocks – there’s no denying that – but they were still just rocks, not exactly a priceless commodity.
Sadje at Sunday Poser # 97 asks the question of the week: “What’s your driving style?’
Based on my driving record – only one moving violation in 45 years – I’d say I’m a very good driver. I love to drive and do all the driving. I hate the way Bill drives and he knows it; too heavy on the brake and the choppy ride makes me car sick. I’m a much better driver than I am a passenger. 🥴
There isn’t much on the road that scares me but I don’t like those huge car carriers. I’m sure the cars are securely locked into place but I’m always thinking “What if one slides off right into traffic or the carrier topples over?” Some of those transport drivers are really hauling ass and you can see them swaying back and forth. One jerk of the steering wheel and WATCH OUT!! What a horror show that would be! 😳 The best thing for me to do is pass them as safely and quickly as I can and put them behind me. There are a lot of people who are hesitant to pass trucks and buses but I’m not. I’d rather be in front of them and as far away as possible. I like seeing where I’m going when I’m driving, not staring at the back of some big rig not knowing when it may suddenly STOP! 🛑
There’s another thing I’m not crazy about and that’s night driving. Bright headlights coming in the opposite direction cause me to squint and tense up, giving me a headache and making for an unpleasant ride. On the other hand driving on a dark country road with no streetlights – just my headlights – can be stress-inducing; encountering a deer in the road is no joke. It’s kind of freaky when it’s so hard to see, you’re not even sure if your own lights are on! 🦌
As long as I’m talking about pet peeves, let’s discuss another thing that gets on my nerves. Where we live we’re allowed to turn right at a red light unless there’s a sign forbidding it.🚦 It’s convenient and saves time; you just stop, make sure it’s safe to turn and go. There’s no law that says you have to turn right on red but it’s awfully rude for the people waiting to turn if the driver in front refuses to do so. What are these non-turners so afraid of? I don’t understand why they insist on waiting for the light to change to green before turning but I don’t honk them; I just sit and stew, quietly cursing them out. 🤬
When I’m driving around town running errands etc., I’m very cautious, especially if the grandkids are in the car with me. There are a lot of cars out and about these days and sometimes it feels like I’m driving in an obstacle course. Besides, you never know when a little kid will dart out into the street. There’s a great sign I’ve been seeing around lately; it says “Drive like your kids live here”. Now that drives the message home, doesn’t it? 👫 (no pun intended). It’s important to drive carefully in town but there’s such a thing as driving too slow and I’m not very patient with the slowpokes. 🙄 Sometimes being too slow is as dangerous as being too fast.
When I’m driving on the highway I admit I tend to drive fast but I’m not reckless and I’m in total control at all times. I don’t fiddle with the radio 🎶 or eat 🍟 or talk on the phone 📲 when I’m driving. I just mind my own business and keep up with the flow of traffic. Frequently you’ll see some big-shot highway stars changing lanes, speeding and weaving in and out of traffic. 🌟 Where are they going that’s so important anyway? However, if someone is going too slow, I’ve been known to tailgate and that makes Bill jittery. 😵💫 He always says, “If I see brake lights up ahead and I don’t feel like we’re slowing down, I get nervous.” I can see his foot automatically reaching for the invisible brake by his left foot while his right hand is clutching the door, white knuckles showing. I know what I’m doing but if anyone is nervous while I’m driving, it’s time to slow down and take their feelings into account. I want my passengers to be comfortable, not on edge.
Bill is absolutely right, of course, and I will never fault him for reminding me to back off or slow down. Ever since our major accident more than 20 years ago, I can’t blame him. That was a freak accident and a harrowing experience. If you’d care to read about it, here’s the link: https://theelephantstrunk.org/2021/12/21/a-roll-of-the-dice/.
Aside from that major accident, I’ve been involved in two minor incidents: on two separate occasions I was rear-ended by school buses on the first day of school in the rain at the exact same location! 🚌 What are the odds of that happening? It’s rather mind- boggling! 🤯 There are few things scarier than looking up at your rearview mirror and seeing a large vehicle barreling down on you. Oh, I forgot to mention the time I was rear ended by some asshole who hit me while I was stopped at a red light. It was a quiet street with no one around, no witnesses. After this idiot hit me, I pulled off to the right to check for damages and he pulled a U-turn and took off! Nice, right? 😡 What’s with all the rear-ending? That’s why Bill warns me about tailgating.
Cars these days come equipped with some amazing features and I make full use of them. I would be lost (literally) without my GPS 🤷🏼♀️; when I have no idea where I’m going, it’s very reassuring to have a kind voice giving me step by step directions. There’s also the backup camera which is invaluable; I don’t know how I drove for so long without one. The lights on the sideview mirrors which flash and beep when it’s unsafe to change lanes are very helpful, too, especially to warn you about those drivers who love to hide in your blindspot.
I’m not a risk-taker when I’m driving but at the same time if I’m stuck in a jam and I see a way I can safely get myself out of it, I’ll go for it. Getting behind the wheel of a car is a huge leap of faith; we never know what the other guy is gonna do – intentionally or not. There are so many things that can go wrong. I’ve heard it’s safer to fly in a plane than it is to drive a car; I guess I believe that but I feel a whole lot better on solid ground than up in the sky. ✈️
Drive safely, my friends, and watch out for those rear-enders! They’re a real pain in the ass! 😳
One day my mother and I were home alone; I think I was about 9 years old. I was doing my homework and mom was cooking dinner when we heard someone knocking on our door. It was our neighbor Dotty Pessin who lived a few houses away with her husband and two teen-age sons. Dotty hardly ever stopped by so we were curious about her visit.
She and my mom made small talk for a little while then Dotty said in that whiney voice of hers, “So Nancy, I brought this record album over; I don’t know much about little girls so I hope you like it. It’s a record of kid’s songs. Why don’t you play it on your record player?”
Now this came as quite a surprise to me; it wasn’t my birthday or anything so I couldn’t understand why Dotty was giving me a gift. Even my mother was perplexed and said something like “That’s very thoughtful of you, Dotty” but Dotty just stood there smiling and watching me which was very surreal. Between you and me, I think she was a little simple-minded.
I removed the album from its jacket and placed it on my record player. I carefully lifted the arm and gently lowered the needle onto the record, then the three of us stood around listening to kid’s songs. I liked the record; I was 9 and they were kid songs. What’s not to like? After about four songs Dotty asked me what I thought of the record. I told her I thought it was very nice; I liked it a lot and thanked her for the gift.
I expected Dotty to say “I’m so glad you like it”, “You’re welcome”, “Enjoy it” or “You’re just the sweetest thing ever” – something along those lines. That’s not exactly how it went down. What she said was “Oh, it’s not for you! I bought the record for my friend’s 10-year-old daughter and I just wanted to see if you liked it. I figured if you liked it then she’d probably like it.”
Well, I may have been only 9 years old but I knew jive talkin’ when I heard it and I felt this whole scenario was pretty fucked up. My mother thought what Dotty did was rude, mean-spirited and misleading; I was just a little kid and mom gave Dotty a piece of her mind. My mother could really get medieval on someone’s ass when necessary. Dotty was bewildered and couldn’t understand why we were so upset. In a huff, she took the album and left. I think I may have cried; how would you have felt?
From that moment on Dotty Pessin became known as “Dotty Pessin, that Indian Giver” (which I realize today is totally un-PC and not acceptable).
But, come on; I ask you: who does that? After all these many years I remember that day like it was yesterday. Dotty-freaking-Pessin!
When I was a kid growing up in The Bronx my favorite snack was Cracker Jack. It didn’t matter that the molasses-flavored, caramel-covered popcorn and peanuts got stuck in our teeth and remained there for hours; it was just too tasty to resist. My Dad used to say we were putting our dentist’s kids through college because we were there so often!
I’d run to the store with my allowance and grab the red, white and blue box with a picture of Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo just begging you to indulge in the sweet golden nuggets. That image of Jack popping a piece into his mouth made our tummies rumble and our mouths water. Back in 1960 a box of Cracker Jack cost 10 cents – one thin dime. In big letters was the message that made our little hearts flutter:
NEW PRIZE INSIDE!
We’d excitedly rip into the box wondering what we’d find. Would it be a decoder ring, plastic figurines, miniature notebooks, stickers, baseball cards or temporary tattoos? Once the surprise was revealed, we’d get to business gleefully stuffing our faces until our bellies hurt! My Cracker Jack treasures were stored in one of my mother’s large mason jars which I kept on my desk in my room; it was a clear vessel so I could easily see all my prizes – a plethora of multi-colored playthings and trinkets which to me looked like precious gems. Sometimes my friends and I would get together and trade prizes; the boys always wanted the baseball cards and miniature guns while the girls were more interested in the tiny baby dolls and jewelry. A big favorite was always the plastic whistle which we’d blow continuously while running around the house causing our parents to grimace and cover their ears.
Cracker Jack became so popular with people of all ages, it was even sold at the world-famous Yankee Stadium. A hot dog, a soda and a box of Cracker Jack – you couldn’t ask for more to make a perfect day with the Yanks – except a win, of course! You remember the old song, don’t you? I bet you’re singing it right now:
“Take me out to the ball game, Take me out with the crowd; Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack, I don’t care if I never get back! Let me root, root, root for the home team, If they don’t win it’s a shame. For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out At the old ball game!”
Nowadays kids won’t find surprise toys and trinkets in snack or cereal boxes and that’s a damn shame. Those days are gone; I guess somebody decided those little treasures were a “choking hazard”. Funny how back then we never heard about anyone choking on a Cracker Jack toy, getting sick from drinking water out of the garden hose or crossing their eyes so much they’d get stuck that way. We’d do our homework right away so we could go outside to play with our friends instead of plopping down on the couch watching shows like “Felix the Cat”, “Sky King” or “The Lone Ranger“. When the street lights came on, we knew it was time to run home for dinner – and our moms never had to yell out the window for us to get home. Man, those were simpler times!
Today there are only a couple of surprises about Cracker Jack and they’re not very good ones: there are no more peanuts because too many kids have nut allergies; a box costs way more than 10 cents and you don’t even get a full box for your money. And the only message on the package is “CONTENTS MAY SETTLE IN TRANSIT”. What big change occurred in transportation to result in the “settling phenomenon”? Just one more crazy thing to ponder in the year 2021.
It was one of those rare March snowstorms, the kind that sneaks up on you after a couple of really nice spring-like days.
Our boys were super excited to see the unexpected snow and ran out to build a snowman. Just as soon as they got outside, the girls who live in the house across the street came out and started building a snow-woman.
The boys decided their snowman would be a basketball player. They packed snow into a pair of shorts, slipped a LeBron James jersey over the figure, stretched a headband across the forehead and placed a basketball on the ground as the finishing touch.
The girls dressed their snow-woman in a cute little cheerleader’s outfit, boots and pompoms for arms. They used blue buttons for her eyes and Twizzlers strawberry licorice for her smile.
The ’snow couple’ looked fantastic all decked out in their costumes and the neighbors came outside to take photos. It was a really fun day for everyone.
Well, it must have warmed up considerably during the night because the next morning both the snowman and snow-woman had melted.
The strange thing, though, was the inexplicable trail in the snow that led from our house to the house across the street. And strewn about the last remnants of snow were a discarded jersey, shorts, pompoms and cheerleader’s uniform.
There was just a little bit left of the snow-woman’s head but that gal was still sporting a huge strawberry smile!
Particularly sensitive about her bright red hair, twelve-year-old Moira was constantly teased and ridiculed by the other kids in school. A day didn’t go by when she wasn’t under attack, either verbally or physically. The bratty kids would run after Moira, pulling her hair and calling her Devil Girl or Carrot-top. They’d force her off the bus and chase her home where she’d run inside crying, hiding in her room.
Moira’s mother begged the principal to do something but he claimed his hands were tied. “Kids will be kids. What do you expect me to do – expel all the students?” was his cavalier comment.
Aside from her cousin Andrew, Moira had only one true friend – a confident and strong-willed girl named Tanya, one of the few black students in their school. Tanya’s brother Justin taught her how to handle herself. She was no coward and would blast the other kids, making them back off. “Stick with me, girl! We’ll show those fools some day!” Tanya would laughingly say to Moira, putting her arm around her shoulder. Nothing seemed to bother Tanya but that was far from true. She felt the prejudice every day; she just never revealed her emotions and would wait until she was safe in her mother’s comforting embrace to vent her frustrations.
Fortunately the friends had something in their favor: they were both incredibly beautiful. Unlike most redheads Moira’s creamy face had no freckles, her eyes were a bewitching hazel and her hair was straight and lustrous, not a shock of fire-red curls like Little Orphan Annie. Tanya’s complexion was like velvet, the color of hot cocoa. Her eyes were a glistening golden-brown and her jet-black cornrows were luxurious and silky smooth. Their exquisite good looks confused the fickle boys and threatened the jealous girls.
Tanya and Moira remained close all through their teen years. High school wasn’t a cakewalk for the girls; every day a new challenge would present itself and the friends would put on a brave face. Tanya became Moira’s coach, teaching her everything she learned from her brother. Slowly Moira’s confidence became stronger and school wasn’t such a living hell.
Not one boy had the guts to ask Moira or Tanya to the prom which was no surprise. “Screw it!” was Tanya’s reaction. “Who needs them?!” Moira came up with a wild idea and when she shared it with her friend, Tanya grinned and said “You’re on, girl. Let’s do this thing!”
On the day of the big dance the friends went to the salon for “the works” – nails, hair and makeup. When they were done they looked amazing and totally different, playing a crazy game of trading places.
The outcasts walked into the prom not knowing what to expect but once everyone saw them, all trepidation disappeared. The boys were dumbstruck, mouth gaping open while the girls stared, seething with envy. Moira was on Justin’s arm while Tanya walked hand-in-hand with Andrew.
We woke to a muggy summer day. My husband Bill was away on business so it was just me and our two rambunctious boys – Billy, who was four years old and David, two.
At 6:00 AM on the dot the boys came racing into my room, screaming their usual “Mommy! Wake up! We want breakfast!”
“No way!” and I greeted them with big hugs. “You should make breakfast for me!” They jumped on the bed laughing. “That’s silly! We don’t know how to cook!”
The boys ran to flip on Sesame Street while I made pancakes. Billy asked if we could go to the beach.
“You know, I think the beach is gonna be really crowded today. How about we plan our own beach in the backyard with the the sandbox, pool, and lots of toys to play with … and we can even have a picnic! Sound good?” And they nodded approvingly.
Around noon we headed out to our make-believe beach, carrying a basket of PB&J sandwiches. The boys played all day getting sufficient filthy. Before dinner we hosed off and ran inside to the bathroom for a proper washing. Billy showered while I bathed David in the attached tub. Grabbing a towel, Billy ran to his bedroom.
“Mommy, there’s a spider in here” Billy called out.
“Buddy, I’m busy with David. Get a tissue and squash it’ I answered.
“But it’s really big!!”
Thinking I better go in and check things out, I wrapped David in a towel and went into the bedroom where Billy was in his tent.
“Where’s Spidey?” I asked. Billy pointed to his bed.
Placing David with Billy I examined the bedspread until I spotted it – a brown recluse! Using my ‘Mommy Voice’, I told the kids to “stay put”. I raced to the kitchen, grabbed an empty mason jar, removing the cover and lid on the way back. I braced myself, then in one fell swoop I covered the spider with the jar. Reaching for the thin lid, I gently slid it between the bedspread and the jar, praying the spider would oblige and crawl down the jar. IT DID!! Placing my palm on the bottom of the jar, I carefully eased my other hand between the bedspread and the lid, turning the jar upright. I grabbed the screw-on cover, trapping the spider.
Grasping the jar I slumped to the floor just as Bill returned home. “Where is everyone?” he called from downstairs.
“Up here, Daddy! Mommy’s Wonder Woman!”
“Is that so?” Bill asked.
“Say ’hello’ to my little friend” I said as I raised the jar for Bill to see.
Later we talked about how that brown recluse could have found its way to our Manhattan house. Then I said “Didn’t Jim borrow our suitcase when he went to Arizona? The little bugger must have crawled in while he packed for home.”
“That suitcase is safely locked in the storage closet” replied Bill. “It better not have brought its family along for the ride! Tomorrow Jim’s gonna have some serious cleaning out to do.”