Aug 012010

I don’t know what started it. Maybe it was my fault, mentioning that some dude at The Law Firm just returned to work after serving his third tour of Duty in Iraq. But it made Alisha start talking about war. All the wars. Even wars that may or may not be happening  on Uranus right now.

She was asking questions out loud, to no one really in particular, while “Bewitched” droned on in the background. Then she started answering her own questions.

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And then she second-guessed her answers. At one point, this brought her to the question of “How old is America? Didn’t we just have a bicentennial?

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Wait…how many years is in a bicentennial?”

I was sitting on the chaise.

“Are you looking this up?” she asked me.

“Huh, me? No. I’m texting.”

She sank back down on the couch, defeated.

And then, “I love Shirley MacLane. She’s such a great actress.”

I agreed and followed with, “Every time I think of her, I think of her biography that my grandma kept on the coffee table for like, ten years.”

Alisha glared at me. My participation in the conversation wasn’t as film-snobby as she’d have liked. But then she distracted herself by talking about “Steel Magnolias” and the scene in the graveyard, and then I started remembering that scene too and the next thing I knew, I was crying.

“Laughter through tears is like, the greatest thing,” Alisha said with a far-off, half-deranged glint to her eyes.

I sighed. “It really is.”


It was the only thing that got me through the exhausting, painful visitations at the funeral home after my pappap died. All the hand-shaking with strangers, all the pouting lips of distant relatives as they clasped my hands and tilted their head in that knowing fashion that read, “I know exactly how you feel.” My best friend Christy was there through it all with me, and we sat in two chairs tucked away in a corner, making fun of relatives I didn’t like, and asshole employees of my pappap’s drywall company who were chomping at the bit to take advantage of life at Expert Drywall without John Stonick.

We cringed as my cousin Zita flounced over to point out that she and I had chosen similar shoes to wear that night.

We cracked up as my step-dad’s friend Daryl arrived with his son Clayboy the Playboy, nee Clayton. “It’s the Claymation family,” I whispered, and we lost it some more.

I think that was the only time Christy and I ever really hugged, right there next to  my pappap’s open coffin. I wasn’t a very affectionate person back then. I guess I’m still not. Hugging is one of the many things I turn into an awkward display of misplaced hands and directionless chin-resting. She and I cried so hard standing there, reality sinking in that he was really gone. He was her family, too.

That night, we sat at the kitchen counter at my grandparent’s house, rummaging through the many fruit baskets sent out of sympathy from people we didn’t know.

“This is your boyfriend,” Christy said, turning over a small red disk of  cheese with a Dutch boy emblazoned onto the wax.

I grabbed a can of sardines. “This is your boyfriend,” I laughed, waving the cartoon depiction of a sardine in her face.

We sat there at the counter, laughing in that high-pitched way that sixteen-year-old girls are prone to, falling into each other as giggle fits overcame us.

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My grandma finally kicked us out.

Jul 312010

The first gift I received when I was born, aside from that gosh darn gift of life!, was a brand new, pink stuffed dog. As soon as I was able to speak real words, I named him Purple. I don’t remember any of this, but it’s what I was told when I visited the Sphynx Gate that one time I starred in Neverending Story.

Ever since July 30, 1979, this cotton-stuffed object has been the only loyal friend in my life. We’ve been through the war and back, so he doesn’t exactly look the same anymore. In fact, he’s not even pink. What was once a plump and healthy stuffed animal is now a limp, decrepit rag. He’s also in three pieces: a stuffing-less head with one ear, no eyes, and a gaping hole where the nose once was; one washcloth patched paw; and a multi-colored patched torso, the whereabouts of which I am unsure.

Purple went everywhere with me. I had a habit of rubbing his paw between my fingers; it was my comfort, my pacifier. I freaked out anytime someone dropped him. Because he’s real. He has feelings. Nerve-endings. All that.

When I was four, my step-dad threw Purple into the fireplace. He hated my attachment to Purple, said I was too old. It was “time to let him go.” Thankfully, only his ear was singed, and those small black dots burned into Purple was a constant reminder of why I hated my step-dad.

That same year, we went to Florida with my grandparents. My step-dad was all, “Hell no, the dog stays home.” He thought Purple was “filthy” from me carrying him everywhere. My poor pappap, in an effort to make it up to me, bought me pretty much every stuffed Disney character he could find during our stay in Orlando. What kid wouldn’t love that? I know I did, but it wasn’t the same. Rubbing Mickey’s right mouse ear just wasn’t the same.

One of the few pleasant memories I have of my grandma is her sewing kit, full of colored threads, buttons, Jan Brady-esque ribbons, and hope for Purple. Because that kit is what re-attached Purple’s leg time and time again. My step-dad’s mom once offered to operate. I didn’t have the heart to say no; she was such a sweet lady. She returned Purple with his leg sewn on backward. After that, she stuck to the things she was good at, like buying me cheap snow globes.

I’m 31. Purple went from being patched up by my grandma to being surgically altered by Henry. And I still can’t sleep without (some part of) Purple.  Fucking love that thing.

Jun 162008




The weather forecast for Saturday was rain, rain and more rain. I asked Henry, “Do you still want to go on that fantastically awesome scenic train ride, even in the rain?” and he said yes. At this point, my memory forbade me to remember all the other scenic train rides I had been on in my life time, and how extremely boring they truly are. (Unless, you know, you’re into that scenery shit.)

Schenely, PA is about an hour away and I was sulking for the majority of the ride. Just part of my nature. But then Henry stopped at a Sunoco and returned with a bag of mint M&Ms. I acted all ambivalent about it, but still drank down half the bag. Mood instantly lifted.

As soon as we boarded the train, it began pouring. Like any other sensible person, I chose the open-sided car so we could be treated to a natural shower and then simultaneously bitch about it for the hour long ride. There were about twenty other people who had the same idea.

While we were waiting for the 2:00 departure time to roll around, someone pointed out that one of the cars in the lot had an open window. It was the car right next to us, so Henry shouted out to the woman who owned it and then was thanked profusely by her and her husband. He sat there with a smug grin on his face, like he was some kind of fucking hero. I bet he did heroic shit like that all the time when he was in The Service, helping hookers climb out of vats of penii.

Imagine how tickled I was when the train kicked into motion and a woman’s voice filled the car from a speaker. Wow, a scenic railroad excursion paired with a guide enlightening us with local flavored fun facts? What a treat. Unfortunately, there was so much commotion on the train that her commentary came off sounding like the teacher from Peanuts. Every time I asked Henry what she said, it was always the same: “Something about the river. I don’t know.”

Chooch was really great for most of the first leg of the trip. He sat on my lap to avoid the torrential downfall that was attacking us from the sides. But then he had the itch to roam, and it all unraveled from there. Once he had his feet on the floor, it was like an open invitation for the other children on the train to come out and play. Chooch procured the four cars he brought in his backpack, and suddenly I had a horde of small children surrounding me: a one-year-old, another two-year-old (Sioux, like the tribe!!!!) and her six-year-old sister (Cheyenne, like the tribe!!!!), whose grandma was wearing a Kermit t-shirt and would not stop chatting with me the entire time and I was so nervous that I was physically clenching. And you know, with kids come parents. I really hate socializing with parents. Chooch was doling out his cars, only to confiscate them at his will. He seemed to take an immediate liking to the six-year-old, and was adament on giving her all the cars.

The one-year-old’s dad was wearing a Penguins hat, and I couldn’t help but notice Henry didn’t scoff, “Hockey season’s over” to him, like he does to me anytime I mention them.

At this point, I was unable to take in any of the trees and shit that we were passing, because I had to fulfill Mom duty and make sure that my son didn’t come to blows with anyone over a couple of fucking plastic cars. I hate this part of parenting. And you know what else I hate? Having to acknowledge other people’s kids. That Cheyenne chick kept standing in front of me and flapping her arms like a bird. “Oh. Uh, pretty,” I would try to placate her, instead of shoving her off on another parent like I really wanted. Another mother, though, she heartily exclaimed, “WOW! What are you, a bird?? OH COOL! You are so COOL! I LOVE KIDS! HAHAHAHA ZOLOFT!” Who the fuck gives a shit? Not me. Flap all you want, little girl. I’ll continue looking through you like you’re invisible to me. Because you are.



Chooch made me especially nervous around the one-year-old boy. I kept praying he wouldn’t push him off the train or choke him. (I had just taught Chooch that morning how to pretend-choke himself and quickly started to realize that I might wind up seeing repercussions to that act real quick.)



This guy told me what his purpose was when we first sat down. Something about doing something with the brakes? Who the hell really cares what his purpose is when he’s wearing some hot-assed overalls, though? Basically, he mopped us all off with towels and repeatedly noted that, “There are a lot of kids playing on this car!” and thank God for that play-by-play, because I really hadn’t noticed that my crazy kid was dominating over a trio of weaker-willed children.

After about an hour, I was stoked to see the station looming ahead. My hope was dashed as we turned around though, and headed in another direction. Apparently, you just can’t visit Schenely and not teeter precariously on a railroad bridge for fifty thousand minutes while a guide gives you muffled commentary about trout. And who would want to miss out on that?



It all looks so pretty, but on closer inspection below and to the left, I noticed that the camp site was dotted with Deliverance cast offs, who brought their laundry lines, rusted out pick up trucks, and large jugs to use as yard ornamentation; I’m pretty sure I smelled some hot incest from behind the jagger bushes, too. I can only hope Henry takes me there one day on our honeymoon.

Finally we got to leave and now I’m determined to remind myself every day that train rides are boring as fuck. I’m just glad Chooch didn’t call anyone an asshole.

Apr 292008


 My crazy aunt Sharon offered up my grandma’s porch for Chooch’s birthday party. Of course, she was in charge of the guest list, which she was adamant about keeping short and sweet. I was afraid to invite Henry’s kids for fear of suffering her impatient huffs and sighs. In fact, I was afraid to even invite MYSELF. But I kept my cool because the whole point of having it there was so my grandma could attend.

However, Henry was so turned off by the whole thing that he just had his mom and sister come over our house Friday night for cupcakes. (And also because we segregate our families. Completely not normal.)

In the end, I demanded that Janna and Christina at least be able to come. They’re my best friends and it would have been weird without them.

 And of course, at the last minute, Sharon called me to see if Henry’s kids were coming.

"No, I didn’t think I was allowed to invite them," I said, slightly snottily. Christina was sitting next to me and her eyes kind of widened. She told me later that she was afraid I was about to ignite some sort of family warfare, moments before the start of Chooch’s party.

"Of course they’re invited!" Sharon said sweetly. "You guys will only be here for an hour, what do I care who comes?"

Oh did I mention that? The party was only allowed to be an hour long. I joked on the way there that probably we’d pull into the driveway and Sharon would hand us cake slices in to-go bags and send us on our way. But I wasn’t really joking.



In typical Sharon fashion, she gifted him with a bunch of stuff that no kid would ever want for his birthday: A cars wastebasket and shower curtain complete with cars shower rod hangers, and a bath mat with…blue daisies on it.


"Does he like flowers?" she asked.

Don’t all two-year-old boys like flowers? Like any other kid, he demands no less than five Lalique vases in his room, filled with the most pungent bouquet of daffodils. In fact, we just had him at the hospital last week, having a bunch of lilacs extracted from his nose.

We all kind of glanced around the table at each other, slinging "WTF?" expressions every time Sharon would turn her back. I mean, for a two-year-old? Home decor?

My grandma ended up having a bad headache (or so Sharon says; I think she’s holding her hostage), so she was unable to leave her bedroom. Chooch went in to visit her, and I gave him a dandelion from the yard to give to her, which Sharon took credit for. Then after meeting her socialization quota for the month, my mom wandered off into the den  to watch the Pens game. (Yay, Pens, btw.)


In the end, all that mattered was that Chooch had fun, Sharon was actually personable and didn’t kick us out after one hour exactly, and there was good cake, of which I ate plenty (with the Pennsylvania Vanilla ice cream I bought all by myself and with my own money!)



Dec 122007

P1010018 When my brother Corey was a baby, he’d sit at my grandparent’s kitchen table and smile and coo and wave in the direction of the top of this china cabinet. It was unsettling, initially, watching him babble on to something that appeared imaginary to us.

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Sometimes he would forget about his invisible friend long enough to turn his attention back to his Gerber spread, only to abruptly look up and wave excitedly minutes later, as though whomever his dining partner was had suddenly yelled, “Yo kid, remember me?”

Corey still always sits facing that cabinet, but when anyone asks him if he still sees his old childhood friend up there, he just laughs that infuriating apathetic teenager laugh and goes back to eating. Like we’re so stupid for asking.

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Every time I take Chooch to my grandma’s house, I half expect him to do the same–OK, I pray that he’ll do the same; maybe extend a handful of pretzels up to the kitchen ceiling as a friendly offering to the house ghost. So far, Chooch’s attention has not been grabbed.

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Clearly I birthed a dud.