Little Laurie Learns The “F” Word

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One day, when I was about ten, I was playing with two of my older girl friends. And while we were playing, one of my friends dropped the “F” bomb.

This was the first time I heard the word. And not wanting to appear like a total dweeb, I just pretended to know what it meant and continued to play. All I wanted was for wanted these older girls to like me and keep inviting “the kid,” as they nicknamed me, to keep hanging out with them. In kid years a two-year gap is HUGE. It was a big deal to get invited to play by older kids. So I was not going to risk blowing it by acting like a baby or a dork and ask my friend for the official Merriam-Webster definition of the “F” word – because I didn’t have an ‘F’ing clue.

My big mistake was going home and yelling: “Hey mom, what does “F” mean. Yup…that was big mistake. Because even though my mother was a large gal, when I said those words, she shot out of her chair like a rocket ship and pinned me against the wall like I was a gnat. I knew then that I was in big trouble and got my first inkling that I was going to end up as toast.

And with the cold finesse of a master Gestapo interrogator pointing a gun at a prisoner’s forehead – in a split second my mother, Himmler Jr., got me to rat out my good friend for dropping the “F” bomb, confess to the Lindbergh kidnapping, admit to being the second shooter on the grassy knoll and to burying Jimmy Hoffa in our backyard. I was just about to confess to something else when I realized my mother was no longer listening to me because she had what she wanted. She had gotten me to sing like a stool pigeon and to name names. And that’s when I knew I had just “F” upped and could kiss my friendship goodbye. I was totally and completely screwed…and my friend would soon be too. I had fallen right into my mother’s trap. And the toast was about to get burned.

In less than a fraction of the time it takes Santa to zip down the chimney and back, my mother, who had all the diplomacy of a Sherman tank on steroids, was on the phone to my friend’s mother, THE most devout Catholic woman in town. (This lady was so pious she made the Pope look like a slump.) And it should not be a huge surprise to anyone reading this that Ms. Pious did not believe anything so vile could come from her daughter’s mouth. So one of the nicer things she cursed at my mother in Italian was she “hoped all of my children would be born with hoofs.” Which, as a horse lover, I didn’t think sounded all that bad. But my mother did not take this particular piece of information all that well. And that was the exact moment in time when two families, that had been good friends for many years, swore never to speak to one another again. And they where true to their word. They never did. A friendship forged over years was thrown in the trash like yesterday’s news.

What is tragic about this story is up until I opened my big, fat mouth and my mother placed that – my kid is an angel and your kid is guilty as sin phone call – our families had been very close friends – like family really. In fact, our whole street was. One of my favorite childhood pictures was taken in the Pious families den. It captures the first man walking on the moon. All us Drummond Road kids are sitting on the floor in front their little black and white TV watching history together. All of our parent’s were crammed in that tiny little den too. And that is the way we did stuff back then, together, like a big extended family.

But because of that one phone call, the closeness of Drummond Road would never be the same. Over the years, other family splits would occur too over equally dumb stuff – always caused by us kids who lied like sin, but, looked like little angels…yeah right.

And what is so ironic about this true tale is that when my friend committed her sin, it’s not like I was sitting at the craft table that afternoon coloring in pictures of baby Jesus and a little lamb when she dropped the “F” bomb corrupting sweet, little me. Truthfully, I don’t remember what I was doing. But knowing me as well as I do, I would bet whatever I was doing it was JUST as bad if not worse as trying out new cuss words. There is a very strong possibility that I was playing with matches, making crank phone calls or ringing someone’s door bell and running like hell. Little Laurie-Ann was no saint. I was just a normal kid. And normal kids are in all likelihood guilty of something. Looking back now at all the wise ways my mother handled kid’s stuff, I’m surprised she did factor this in BEFORE picking up the phone and irreparably damaging a friendship.

For added giggles, my grandmother told me that when my mother, “Little Millie,” was the same age of as my now ex-friend (the “F” bomb dropper), Little Millie was no saint herself.

In fact, my dear mother swore like a sailor in her youth. Little Millie had such a potty mouth, my grandmother nicknamed her “The Sailor” and ran through cases of Dial of soap hoping to encourage her to clean up her mouth. But my mother was stubborn as hec. And in the summer of 1937, my poor grandmother had to wash out my mother’s mouth so many times, the state of Connecticut almost ran out of dial soap! Thank God they were too poor for a telephone or my grandmother would have been run ragged by other mother’s calls. Little Millie was no angel. Not many kids are.

Second Moms

Mrs Demers
Hillary Clinton wrote a book a few years ago that garnered a great deal of press. The title was It Takes A Village.

I never read the book. I didn’t grow up in a Village. I grew up in a small New England town were every mom had eyes in back of their heads. Also, every mom had equal power over us kids to correct us when we were impolite or made some other mistake. And  moms back then had zero fear of exercising that power. Correcting us kids and giving us clear directions, is just what moms did. We needed them to. How else were we supposed to learn right from wrong? From osmosis? Or from watching our black and white TVs? No. We needed parental direction. All kids do.

I was blessed. I had some great friends with some awesome moms who really made a difference in my life when I was growing up. One of the best, was my friend Terri’s mom. I loved both Terri’s parent’s. They were SO both MUCH cooler then mine. I spent so much time at her house, I’m surprised they didn’t start a college fund for me. They treated me like one of their own.

Terri’s mother was our school nurse. And she was a nice school nurse. The kind a girl could go to when she got her friend unexpectedly and say: “Mrs Demers, my stomach is hurting today. Could you please call my mother to come pick me up?” And unlike some of the Nazi nurses we had that wore orthopedic hose, World War II issued shoes and an upside down Dixie Cup hat trimmed with a little velvet ribbon to make them look nice (but really they were mean as snakes) Mrs. Demers WAS nice. And she would call my mom and let me go home with my dignity in place vs. demanding proof that I was in imminent danger of having my rupturing appendix (or something worse) right there in the clinic. She possessed compassion for her students at that delicate stage of our lives. This was something all kids need. She understood that. Sometimes that is the best kind of medicine. And that is the kind Mrs. Demers dispensed.

Thanks to her, I have pierced ears today that line up symmetrical, done by a proper doctor – a pediatrician no less – instead of having them done my one of my peers with a sewing needle, an ice-cube and raw potato, as some of my other friends had opted to do.

At age fifteen, she took both Terri and me to a doctor to have what all girls our age were having done. And contrary to my own mother’s dire prediction, I did not immediately  self-combust into flames and go to hell for my prostitute-like ways. I’m still here and I LOVE my pierced ears. And I am so thankful to Mrs. Demers for taking me to a doctor and for seeing to it that they got done right, instead of me ending up with oddly placed holes in my head or a wicked staff infection for not using a sterilized needle as happened more than one girl who I knew.

And the kind lady actually let me cook in her kitchen. That properly sounds trivial to most reading this. But my own mother, who was a gourmet cook, would never let me near her kitchen. She would have me sit at the table to watch her. But Mrs. Demers had the faith in Terri and me to actually let us experiment with our own hands in her kitchen. And when we screwed up, which we variably we did. She told us “it was no big deal” and encouraged us “to get back in there and try again”. And usually our results the second time around were edible. And if not, we feed them to Terris dad’s Brittany Spaniel, Muggins, who LOVED everything we made and gobbled them up while wagging his little nubby tail like he was going to give himself a case of whiplash with that stubby little thing. Muggins thought we were AWESOME chefs. And we truly appreciated his feedback. He was a really smart dog. But not nearly as encouraging as Mrs. Demers was.

One of the best, and only vacations I ever took as a kid, was when Mrs. Demers left her family at the shore, and came and got me to join her family for their last week of vacation at the shore. We stayed in a cottage and went to the water everyday and swam. We stayed up late and played cards in the screen porch by a citronella candle. I always lost whatever card game we played. Terri or her mother always won. But it was so much fun for me apart of their family. While there, we went to a movie theatre and I was introduced to James Bond for the first time and truly fell in love. Terri’s mother also drove us by Katharine’s Hepburn’s family home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, a magnificent huge house, just so we girls could say we could say we saw “a movie star’s home.” It was the best vacation of my life. I hated when it was time to go home. I always hated when it was time to leave the Demers house. Mrs. Demers always made me feel so special, so welcome. That was just the kind of lady she was.

Mrs. Demers had a sister who lived in town in one of those beautiful old houses off of Main or Elm Street in Enfield. There was a swimming pool built into the backyard with a posh pool house attached. As a special treat,  sometimes she would take Terri and me over there to go swimming and then lie in the lounge chairs around the pool to work on our tans. I remember one day, as I was getting out of the pool, I overheard Mrs. Demers say to her sister, (who looked just like a Jackie Kennedy clone): “Look at that gorgeous figure on Laurie! And the girl is only sixteen-years-old. Can you imagine what a knockout she is going to be when she is twenty-one?”

Now this was something I never heard at home. My father had VERY strict rules about girls being humble. He did not believe in giving out compliments – especially to his only daughter that he did not want to get a swelled head. So for me to hear Mrs. Demers say that she thought I was attractive was mind-blowing to my ears. To a girl who never got asked out and was born almost 6 feet tall, that was the nicest thing anyone other than my grandmother had ever said about me. And it gave me hope!!!!. Because up until that moment, I was convinced I was the most unattractive girl that ever lived in the state of Connecticut. No boy I ever went to school with even knew that I had a first name. The boy I was in love with just barked “Simpson” when he wanted to get my attention, which was not all that often. The first time he refereed to me as Laurie I was well in my 40’s and almost fell off my chair. But Mrs. Demers was always telling me what a blessing it was to be tall. And she would always try to build up my self-confidence (which was really low) my telling me how model-like I looked, and how the boys would be lined up outside my door once I got to older and went off to college. And those words, coming from someone I admired so much, meant so much. She always knew just what to say.

And unlike a lot of moms, she took the time to sit at the kitchen table and just listen to Terri and me. I’m sure we weren’t the most fascinating conversationist in our teens – but she always acted interested anyway. Like she really cared. And she came to every one of my school plays (of which there were many) and every on of my awards ceremonies too. Once when I was awarded the Citizenship Award, when I got home, my mother came give hell. She asked me why I didn’t ask her to go to the awards ceremony. And I told her: “Truthfully, I didn’t know I was getting an award, and I had no idea that you would want to go.” But Mrs. Demers was there, and she told my mother  that I got that award. She was always at school. And she was there when I was inducted into  the National Honor society too. My parents were sick and couldn’t go. So she stood in for them.

So I was one blessed kid. I got a great mom and the world’s best second mom too…. Mrs. Joanne Demers. No kid on the planet could have asked for more. Gosh, I’m going to miss that woman. About eight years ago I went back to Enfield for the first time since 1979. There were only two doors I stopped at to say hello, Billy & Lisa Kelly’s door, because I truly loved both their mom and dad. And I went to see Terri’s parents and had a lovely visit. How I wish I had gone back again…

Climbing Trees

Me up tree at Camp Timber Trails in the summer of 1971.

Me up in a tree at Camp Timber Trails in the summer of 1971.

When you are a kid, there is nothing better than a good climbing a tree. I was a fearless tree climber when I was young. (I still am truthfully.) When I see a tree that is just built for climbing, I can’t help myself. It just calls my name and begs me to come on up and explore its branches and see how high I can climb.

Now the best climbing tree in the whole world is located on Blue Hills Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut behind my grandmother’s old home. It is a giant old oak tree. And it was huge when I was a kid. And when I snuck by at night a few years ago to check on that sucker, it was even more massive. So I climbed it right then and there. Thankfully, I was hidden by the blackness of night and no barking dogs gave me away. Or I might have had some awkward explaining to do to the new home owners (and possibly the police). But it sure felt good to be back in Nana’s tree again after all these years. But it sure was hell on my panty house. It’s best not to climb a tree in a dress.

The kids who lived next door to me in Enfield had a great climbing tree in their yard. The problem was that their mother didn’t like them playing with us regular neighborhood kids much. So we would REALLY have to suck up to get them to into that tree. And we did, because it was worth it. It’s funny, I lived next to that family for over thirteen years and I can hardly remember any of their kid’s names. But I can remember every branch of that tree. Boy it was an awesome climbing tree. You could really go up high that baby. And our houses all looked so different from up there.

Now the tree that almost got the best of me was a Willow tree in Cheshire, Massachusetts. Willow trees grow very tall and fast. But, just so you know, they are not the strongest trees in the world. But there was a gigantic Willow on the foot path to my friend Robin Newton’s house. And what was neat about this tree was that it did not grow up straight, but leaned over a cliff so that the top of it could catch the sun light and grow. To climb this tree you would have to shimmy up its leaning trunk like a snake for quite a while, before you got to any branches that you could start to pull your self up on and go high. It was a very unusually tree and fun to climb, because once you got up over to cliffs and looked out – you felt like you could see forever. Each tree holds a unique treasure. And that was the treasure found in climbing that tree.

Well one day, the kids that I ran in a pack with, dared me to climb to the top of that tree. And because I was the kind of kid that could never turn down a dare, I took them up on the challenge. And all was going real well for a while, it was really a piece of cake for a good tree climber like me. When all of a sudden, one of the branches I grabbed hold of decided to crack. And quicker than you can say Rumblestillskin, I was dangling like a little helpless sap over the cliff from a branch that was about hanging on by at thread. Down below me were pricker bushes and below them granite rocks. Not to mention it was one hec of a drop down. So quickly sizing up my options I started to scream my head off for my dad’s help. And a couple of the kid’s high tailed it to my house to go get him while I just dangled in the air.

Well my dad did get there. He got there just in time to see the branch break and his only daughter drop like a stone onto a bed of pricker bushes which I would not normally recommend – because they are painful as HELL – but in this case, they broke my fall and probably saved by life.

Amazed that I was still alive. I will never forget how fast my father came flying down that cliff. He scooped off of the bushes and said: “Sam are you all right?” Now of course I wasn’t alright, but I also knew I had an audience of wide-eyed kids all staring at me, so I said in my bravest voice: “Of course, I’m alright, what took you so long?” Then I buried my head in my dad’s shirt because I didn’t want the other kids see my start to cry.

Then he took me home and my mom patched me up. Them they both tucked me in bed. But before they kissed me goodnight, they made me swear never to try to climb that tree again. Which of course I agreed to.

And the next morning after breakfast, the oddest thing happened. I was on the footpath, to Robin Newton’s house when I heard that old Willow calling my name. So I climbed the sucker. And this time I made it to the top without breaking my neck. The view was never clearer or more beautiful from the top of that tree then it was that day.

My Grandmother’s House

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I was lucky. I had the world’s best grandmother. I called her Nana. Our pictures are above. But the rest of the world knew her as Anna Rose Sternstein Epstein. She came to the US with her mother, Mollie, and two younger brothers in 1907 from Wolyn, Russia on a big  Red Star steam ship called the S.S. Vaderland. I have seen photos of it and it was one scary looking ship. She walked onto that boat in Antwerpen, Belgium and got off on Ellis Island in New York. Her real name was Michanna. But, because the nice folks at Ellis Island could not seem to grasp that, they shortened it on the spot to Anna. And Anna she stayed all her ninety years in the USA.

I used to LOVE going to my grandmother’s house on Blue Hills Avenue In Hartford, Connecticut. She lived in what is called a duplex. But actually it was a triplex because there was a REALLY scary lady named Mrs. H. who looked like a witch and smelled like mothballs, who lived in the attic above my grandmother’s home on the third floor. I stayed away from her as much as I could.

And as soon as Nana opened the door to her home you could just smell love everywhere in her sparkling white kitchen with its starched, red and white, sheer, plaid, frilly curtains and its well-worn maple dinette set. My grandmother was a wonderful cook and you could tell just be the way the kitchen smelled. She was not a fancy cook like my mother. But a simple cook. And everything she made tasted so good. She got such pleasure from cooking for her family and in particular, watching me eat. Whenever she knew I was coming, she made my favorite cookies called Rugelach that were stuffed with golden raisins,  fresh walnuts, strawberry jam and cinnamon-sugar that her mother taught her to make when she was a little girl just like me. Unlike my mom, if I wanted to eat the whole tin by myself, she would let me. I don’t think Nana knew the word “No”. But she did know: “Have another one sweetheart, I baked them special just for you.”

Unlike my house, everything I did delighted my grandmother. I could tap dance on the kitchen floor and not get in big trouble with my her. She would not scold me for scuffing the shine off of her precious floor or making too much noise. Instead she would say, beaming with pride: “Look at that talent! Laurie-Ann is going to be Miss America some day.”

Even when the mean lady from downstairs (who hated children) would serial call my grandmother on the phone. (Evidently my doing jumping jacks and tap dancing on this ladies head gave her a migraine and she liked to call Nana and complain.) But Nana would never yell at me to stop. She would just say sweetly: “Darling, Mrs. So & So called again, do you think you could try to jump or tap-dance just a little bit softer Dear?” Which of course I never did. But fortunately for Mrs. So & So, I had the attention span of a gnat. So in a flash, I was off doing something else and usually it was quieter, but not always. Sometimes I would climb the tree outside Mrs. So & So’s window, hang upside down, and stick my tongue out at her monkey that she kept in a little cage by the window. The monkey would go nuts. And then, like a sneaky little shadow, I would just disappear. So much for Mrs. So & So’s headache. That monkey could really scream. But what nice lady keeps a monkey in a cage anyways? That was how I justified it in my mind. I was just helping her understand monkey. And that the poor little guy wanted OUT! I got it. Why didn’t she?

Now one of the tantalizing things that would happen only at Nana’s house is that would she rat out my mother and tell me all the rotten stuff mom did when she was my age. And I don’t mind sharing – I ate those stories up with a spoon – every dirty detail. Nana would say out of the blue: “Now, your mother was such a SLOB when she was your age.” And I would bat my eyelashes like a little vixen encouraging her to tell me more! Taking the bait she would add how mom left her “room like a pigsty with her clothes tossed all over the floor.” (This was the same woman who had just given me hell for leaving one lousy sweater on a chair??) Then Nana would move onto how mom would shirk her chores every night as soon as dinner was over and instead of helping clear the table, as she was supposed to, she would go lock herself in the bathroom with phantom tummy cramps, so she could read one of her crummy books. Wow! This was great dirt. Who would have ever guessed my mother was a slob, slacker and a faker too when she was my age…GOD this was priceless stuff. What great news!

Another thing I LOVED about being at my Nana’s house WITH my mother was that I was off limit’s to her there.  Nana was in charge. So as soon as mom started to yell at me about something. Nana stepped in and took her down a notch or two. And it was really hard not to suppress a giggle or a smile.  Invariably, one or the other would just slip out. And mom would see it. Which would cause her to stick her tongue out at me IF Nana wasn’t watching. And then I would do the same to her. And we would have an epic tongue sticking-out-battle until Nana turned around. And then we would become fascinated with the wrinkles in our laps and begin to feverishly smooth them out. At home, I would have gotten killed for sticking my tongue out at my mother. But at Nana’s house, the power structure was different and mom and I were equals somehow. It was cool. In fact, If I was a betting girl, I would have bet I out-ranked mom which was even better. Sometimes, I hated when it was time to go back home. Because I liked being the one on top.

I do feel guilty about the time I almost gave Nana a heart attack though. Like my mother, Nana cleaned her whole house from top to bottom each morning, So this was a great time for me to go outside and play. And in her yard, Nana just happened to have the world’s best climbing tree. So one day, I decided to surprise her. And as she opened the second story bedroom window to shake out her dust rags, I yelled SUPRISE as I was hanging upside down by my knees on a branch right outside her second-story window. And Nana turned the oddest color I have ever seen an adult turn before. First gray then green. Then she told me to get out of the tree. Then she immediately changed her mind and told me not to move while she was called the fire department. Then she said something about someone breaking their neck. That’s when I saw Nana grab her heart. Opps. I knew from past experience, it was not good when an adult grabbed their heart. So, I decide to high-tail it out of the tree while Nana made up her mind about who she wanted to phone. Boy, was she surprised when I popped back up in her room about two seconds later. After that, Nana stopped cleaning for the day and announced we were both going to take a nap. Nana didn’t look so good, so I obliged.

One of the things I miss most about going to Nana’s house, was that every afternoon, she would put on her hat and gloves, hold my hand and we would go for a walk to Sless’s drug store a few blocks a way. And she would let me pick out any treat I wanted; ice-cream, a new box of crayons, pixie sticks, a paint by numbers kit, a coloring book. Then we would walk home with our treasure hand in hand. That was so much fun. And I loved holding Nana’s hand. it was almost as tiny as mine. And she always had these yummy fruit flavored candies in her purse that she kept in a little tin just for me. And often I would ask her for one on the way home. And she always said “Yes” never: “Oh you will ruin your dinner if you eat that now.” Nana went out of her way to always make me smile.

My kids have never known the magic of going to a grandmothers house. A place were they were the most wonderful kid in the world. Where every closet held the promise of a hidden trap door or long-lost treasure. Where they got to soak for hours in giant claw foot tub filled to the rim with bubbles. Where they got to go experiment in a pantry and pour all the spices on the floor without getting in trouble but actually getting praised for their brilliant experiment and encouraged that maybe they would be a famous doctor or scientist one day. A place where the lilacs, roses, and peonies never grew so big or smelled so sweet. A home happy home, where the cookies were not off-limits and the fresh air-dried sheets whispered “sweet dreams” as you drifted off to sleep at night. That’s what Nana’s home was – pure, unconditional love.

Me & Pussy Galore

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The photo above is of me with my FAVORITE stuffed animal who I now call Pussy Galore. But back in the 1960s, when she was a permanent appendage. Her name was Kitty. And I loved Kitty more than any of my other toys. Wherever I went, she went with me. I thought she was the most beautiful creature on earth. By just glancing at the photo, I’m sure you will agree. She truly gorgeous.

One day, Kitty and I were playing in our back yard, which my dad had built a fence around to keep us both safe (dad was always so thoughtful). From the corner of our eyes, Kitty and I noticed the neighbors dog standing on the other side of the fence OBVIOUSLY beckoning us to play. And being thoughtful, well-mannered neighbors who were taught to share, with her permission, I stuck Kitty through the fence in a gesture of friendship. And that gesture was returned by the neighbors dog, Killer, taking Kitty from my little hands and eating her whole – in one big gulp. The dog was a massive Newfoundland and evidently he thought I was offering him lunch – not friendship. I was devastated.  Worse, my timing was off. I chose a really cruddy time to interrupt my mother with MY broken heart – during HER sacred soap opera block. So she wasn’t sympathetic. In fact she was pissed. So, my poor timing earned me a spanking and a time-out in my room as punishment for my sins. And that’s how my beloved Kitty met her end – and my end got VERY sore in the process. That was my first cat experience.

Next up was Fluffy. Fluffy was my best-friend Debbie Baker’s Persian cat. And Fluffy was very fluffy and very beautiful. One warm spring day, Debbie and I were sitting on her front steps kicking stones, which was fun to do when you were a kid. Her mother was close by, pulling weeds from a window box standing on a ladder. All of a sudden Fluffy came around the corner with a half-eaten baby bunny in her mouth that was still mostly alive. So Debbie and I started to screamed bloodily little heads off causing her mother to tumble off her ladder which didn’t go over all that well.

After Mrs. Baker recovered from her fall and got us to “shut the hell up“. She said, in her delightful Irish brogue: “Girls, cats are hunters by nature. That is just what they are bred to do. We should just let Fluffy finish what she started.” And since I could not hate Mrs Baker, she was such a nice lady and made the world’s best rhubarb pies, I decided then and there to hate Fluffy. Because that was the most awful thing I had ever seen in my entire life. And I knew I was going to have nightmares about that poor little half-eaten bunny for the rest of by life. So strike two for cats.

Now the cat that really pushed me over the edge was Snowball. Snowball was a kitten that belonged to my friend Robin Newton who lived two doors down from Debbie Baker. Early one summer morning, when there was still a slight chill in the New England air and our mothers made us wear cardigan sweaters outside and forbid us to take off our shoes or socks (or get wet) for fear of catching our death of cold or worse – pneumonia, we were playing in Robin’s yard as pack. But Snowball, that little dirty, rotten, little, sneaking, faker, kept circling around the baby pool that we could not go into until afternoon lunch when it got warm. So, being a kid and thinking we could understand cat, we put Snowball in the baby pool. At first Snowball seemed to really like it. In fact, he seemed to be having a blast! So we were proud of ourselves for understanding cat. Then the little, rotten, sucker swam to the middle of the pool and dropped like a stone to the bottom.

Now, even at five we knew this was not good. But we had a dilemma. We were all scared to death of our moms who had made it perfectly clear that were dead-meat if we took off our shoes or socks OR got wet. But Snowball, the dirty rat, was in the middle of the pool, out of reach from our little short arms without breaking any of these rules. So after looking at all our options we chose the most logical to a young kids mind – and ran home and pretend you were never there. And that’s what we did. And it worked! Until Mrs. Newton found Snowball at the bottom of the pool and some weak kid cracked under her interrogation and ratted the rest of us out which started the telephone tree to our mothers. Then none of us sat down comfortably for the next two years.

And that is when I gave up on cats for good…..my bottom simply not take any more. Now I’m strictly a dog girl. Dogs are so much less sneaky and easy to read. And they have proven to be so much easier on my behind.

My Mother and Contradictions

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The photo above is of my mother (with one of her many, beloved poodles) and my father’s mother, Mary-Louise Simpson. From the photo, it is obvious my mother preferred her poodle to her mother-law. But in fairness to my grandmother, that was really less about my grandmother and more about my mother’s passion for her poodles – a trait I inherited, but tweaked to include rare British terriers.

I still adore poodles, a fun fact that surprises many people who don’t know me well. Like my mother, poodles are contradictions. Unlike what people think they know about poodles, they are brilliant dogs and supreme athletes, two qualities I admire very much in a dog. They are also excellent companions. But when most people see a poodle, they just see a prissy dog. This is grossly unfair to a breed that is so much more. But life isn’t fair is it? Often we are judged by what others think they see on the outside. When it is really what is on the inside of a person that counts.

People who are truly interesting are often made up of contradictory traits making them multi-faceted – like a diamond. That is what makes them interesting and deep. What we see on the outside is just a shell and can be very misleading. Often one has to dig deeper to find out what inside. A person’s heart and mind are rarely visible at first blush. A stellar character and reputation can not be purchased at a store can it? But an expensive suit can and often that is how we are often sized-up up so to speak.

For children, who are often literal, this is a hard concept to understand. But hopefully as one gets older, one can appreciate the many shades that make up the color gray – for there are many. Life would be boring if we it was just monochromatic, in the purest forms of absolute white and black. But perhaps it would be simpler? I’m not sure. But I was never just a plain vanilla or chocolate kind of girl. I have always enjoyed shaking it up a bit and coloring outside the lines. To me, perfection is boring. Flaws and imperfection add character and depth. They make people and live much more interesting.

But I also was blessed with a mother who was filled with contradictions so perhaps I am biased in this direction. On the one hand, my mother was a fat, jewish girl from a poor, immigrant family the she was not particularly proud of (and truthfully, they were not all that thrilled with her). And she longed to be something different. Something in her mind that was more refined. And so, she transformed herself into that image, complete with a Miss Porters dialect that would have made Jackie Kennedy sound like Snooki from the Jersey shore. My Mom was good. When she did something, she did it all the way. She drilled into my head: “Laurie-Ann, God is in the details. Pay attention to the little things that everyone else ignores.” And so I learned to pay attention to the details like her. And sometimes I am called a female dog because I do! In life, not everyone has the same appreciation for the little thing that mom did. And. at times I’ve a paid a hefty fee finding that out. But I still follow her lead on that one. As a whole, I have found it to be good advice.

My mother loved to read. For her reading and learning new things were passions. I believe she originally was attracted to books because they allowed her to escape her home-life and travel anywhere in the world. I inwardly smile when I meet someone who knew my mother when she was young because they invariably start off by telling me about her using the exact same words: “When your mother was a young girl she always had her nose in a book.” It never fails.

Now to her mother, reading was a total waste of time – a very lazy trait. My grandmother valued traditional female skills: cooking, cleaning, needlework. This is the way she was raised. So, she did everything within her parental rights to beat my mother into seeing things her way and saving her from every New Englanders worse fear – the sloth-bound train to hell and eternal damnation.

But having a wicked independent streak (oh, gee, I wonder were I get mine from?) the more my grandmother made reading forbidden, the more desirable it became to mom. She just got a lot more, creative in finding spots to be left alone with her books; like under the covers with a flashlight at night, in the attic, down in the furnace room, out in the garage, up in a tree, out in the tool shed, in the crawl space under the house, out on the roof – any place were my grandmother would not think to look for her. Mom was good. Very good. I would have thought of the roof and up in the tree. But under the crawl space? That was pure brilliance and on her part. My grandmother never found her there.

Perhaps if I forbid my children to do their home work, and started beating them when they did it, they would  defy me – and come hell or high water – go up to the attic or under the house to get their assignment done? Now that’s an idea worth trying! Because nagging sure isn’t working. Perhaps I should try it? What do you suggest? I would really like to know.

But back to my mother – her choices in reading materials are a study in contradictions by them selves. In our den in Enfield, Connecticut, my mother kept out in plain view, all her hard-bound books on world religions and philosophy. Gandhi was a favorite philosopher of hers.  She also loved to read poetry and she kept the complete works of the poet Khalil Gibran for all to see. I felt proud that my mother was so smart and we had more to read in our home than Reader’s Digest, Life Magazine, and the TV Guide, which were staples of the day, along with Red Book and McCall’s which were kept in the bathroom with Sports llustrated which we subscribed to just for dad.

To hold her huge collection of classics, downstairs in the basement, my father built library shelves for my mother. If the Library on Pearl Street in Enfield, ever needed to borrow a classic book, they could have just called my mother. Because I am sure she had it, either in the den or in the basement. Her collection of good reading material was huge. Her appetite for reading was voracious.

But, on the other side of the coin, while snooping in my mother’s bedroom one day, I also discovered my mother had a voracious appetite for soft porn! When I found the these books tucked inside her bedside side table, I almost went into heart failure. I felt like I was in a bad episode of the Twilight Zone. My mother not only read soft porn – she read smut. Unlike the books downstairs – these were all paperbacks with the spines turned around so no one could read them. The covers themselves steamed with lust, heaving bosoms and sex. I causally flipped open one of these sizzlers and it was about a slave “taking his mistress on the stairs” – which SHE seemed to be encouraging by the way.

I was totally confused. FIRST, why would MY mother have this stuff in her room. SECOND, what the hell does taking someone on the stairs mean? THIRD, why would this lady be enjoy it….and begging for it multiple times?

The whole thing sounded uncomfortable as hell to an eleven year old mind. At fifty-one I can’t say the stairs would be my first choice now either if I had my way with Denzell Washington – theoretically speaking of course. Not that I have spent a lot of time thinking about being with him or Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Bille D. Williams, Tyler Perry, Cory Booker, Morgan Freeman, Samuel Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Blair Underwood, Barack Obama, Wesley Snipes. Nope. Not a good girl like me.

Mom also had a books called Coffee Tea or Me and Valley of the Dolls, so her taste in reading had me completely baffled. I stuck to my Nancy Drews myself back them. But mom was all over the place. She made Sybil look mentally stable. Downstairs was highbrow and upstairs was like an adult book store on steroids. My mother had reading material in her nightstand that would have made a hard-core prostitute blush. Talk about being a contradiction. My mother was bi-polar reading choices alone. (This was meant to be funny, mom was not bi-polar in the classic use of the term.)

Who would have ever guessed that a women that who sounded so well-bred and dressed so posh in her Hermès scarfs and alligator pumps could have such stash of common trash just inches away from her bed. The same bed where she said her prayers to God each night. Which made me wonder…I wonder if God knew about my mothers apparent addiction to porn?

Finding out about that facet of her life came as quite a shockaroo. My therapist tells me that in a few more years of intensive work, I should be just fine. So please don’t worry about me. The damage done that day won’t be permanent. By the time I’m 60, I should be just about normal.

So, yes, my mother was full of contradictions. From my perspective now, it certainly afforded me a fascinating upbringing, one very different from many of my friends. But on the flip side, I hope and pray for my kids sake, that I am a little less interesting than mother was. Because when you’re a kid, sometimes, having a simpler parent (with less – Go straight to hell, do not pass go – reading material, for example) is less confusing to a child. It might not be as exciting. But I’m hoping that in the long run, boring old me, will be best.

Oh, have to run…I’ve Denzell is back on channel 69.

What do you think? I would really like know your thoughts on this?

My Mother And The Art Of Shaming

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Yesterday, I walked into one of my twin’s bedrooms, got scared and backed out.

I truly believe that any Porta-Potty at a Kiss concert that Gene Simon’s fans may have frequented when the band was riding high and their followers were too, was more hygienic then own daughters room.

I bet if you were to take a poll, most surgeons in the USA would prefer the safety odds of operating right on the floor of a Wawa Gas station’s mens room vs. Caroline’s bedroom floor. That would be if the surgeon could even find a bare spot big enough to operate on. Which in Caroline’s trash filled room is doubtful.

Given a choice between the playing near Chernobyl NAKED and walking into Caroline’s room – one would be better off heading to Russia. Trust me on this one. Even without a biohazard suit – it’s a much safer move. My kid has stuff in there that even I can’t identify. Although, that fuzzy thing I caught a glimpse of as I was backing out of her room, looked a little like Fred, our families long-lost hamster, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances when her older brother, Andy, who is now twenty-five, lived in that room. Poor Fred. He was such a nice little guy. He deserved a better end.

But back to our story – when I an elven-year-old girl, if I so much as left a sweater or blouse on my bedroom chair, without IMMEDIATELY putting it away in its proper place – my mother would have thrown a holly fit that all of central Connecticut could hear.

I’m not joking. Being a slob and having the world come to an end, were equally disastrous in her mind. Also, both led straight to hell – at least for me – her backsliding daughter. So it was her duty as a good mother to shame me so completely, so that not only would I never repeat the hell-worthy offense again, but I would pass on this vital knowledge to my offspring, just as her mother did to her.

Shaming a child for being a slob was a tradition in our family. It was handed down through the generations from mother to daughter like fine linens. The goal was to make sure one got the desired response without turning the remorseful kid into such a pathetic puddle (with the self-esteem of a tic-tack sliced in two)  but into a fine, upstanding, NEAT member of society. In other words – a Jackie Kennedy clone.  It was a fine line to draw, but my mother, as her mother before her, had the shaming line down pat.

Mom started off all her routines by picking up the offensive item with just two fingers (as if she was handling something radioactive) then she would turn theatrically with a flourish to me and say in her best Miss Porter’s I-have-a rod-shoved-up-my-behind voice and say: “Darling, (pause for effect)….were you raised in a barn?”

Truthfully, of ALL her many shaming lines, this was her weakest one. Because I loved horses more than anything in the world (which she knew) and I would have been happy as a clam to have been raised in a barn – THRILLED in fact!

But my mother was crafty as a fox. So she used this knowledge to her advantage. And like an expert ninja warrior, when she saw me expose underbelly and let my guard down – she would go in for her REAL attack with a deadly, one-two punch by saying: “Do you have any idea how hard your father works just so you can have lovely things like this that you clearly don’t appreciate and just toss around your room like common rags?”

Och, that barb cut deep! Score one big one for mom.

She knew how much I adored my dad. So by taking this approach, not only was she implying that I was a slob – but an ungrateful slob at that. Was there anything on earth worse than an ungrateful slob? Prostitutes were held in higher regard then ungrateful slobs. At least they worked hard at their craft and were not lazy. They weren’t slovenly, ungrateful, wretches like me.

When you grow up in New England, working hard is next to godliness – even for the ladies of the night. Slobs and sloths went straight to hell. But hard-working ladies of the night – well, that was a different story. Especially if they worked hard and turned A LOT of tricks. That was a pass to heaven of sure.

Then my mom would move in for the final kill – public humiliation. She would say: “Laurie-Ann, what would a stranger think, if he walked into this house right now and saw that you just left your things that your father worked so hard to buy you, just tossed on a chair – laying carelessly around?”

Normally, the stranger thing did not get to me. But when mom tied it to my dad who I adored – she had me in her clutches and she knew there was no escape. I was off my skinny little behind in a New York second putting away the “offensive item” – and not only that item – but I began to search my room for anything else that could possibly be out-of-place. Mom was good. I was completely ashamed of my self – but not so despondent that I was just a pittance of a human being and incapable of any action. In fact, she had me inspired to clean. So she had won. I was putty in her hands. And in all probability, she knew she would win before we started. She was a master of her craft and I was just a plebe.

Now, I’m older now and I know a good threat or two. But why don’t they seem to work on my daughters? In fact, when I talk to other moms, it appears it is not just my rotten kids they don’t work on any more – but all kids in general today.

Today, kids just don’t seem to cave like we did after a really good shaming or threat. Why is that? Are we not as talented as are mothers or dads? Do we need to take it up a notch? Do you think adding an electrical taser to my bag of tricks would help? Or would it be too harsh?  (If you don’t think it would be too harsh – does Target carry them do you think?  I go there a lot it seems.)

I would love to hear what you think?

Home Sick In Bed

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When I was a kid and told my mother that I was sick and didn’t want to go to school, I’m not saying she was unsympathetic. But, I will say, I had better well damn well be sick, because old eagle eyes made a pass a “sick test” that made a Meineke’s 64-point inspection test look like a stroll in the park.

Faking it all day and lazily watching Leave It To Beaver and/or I Dream of Jeannie on the den sofa while Mommy Dearest fetched me soft drinks and popsicles and made me comfy as a little clam was not in her DNA. Oh no. I had better had Diphtheria and a really BAD case – or I was taking my skinny little behind to school. My mother had zero tolerance for slackers or malingering . Besides, the house was HERS and HERS alone during the day. It was her domain. Being the smart woman that she was, she didn’t want some faking, whining, interloper interrupting her buttoned-down day. So if I planned on breaking my arm, it had better be a compound fracture and the bone better be obviously sticking out. Or, she would have told me to just “suck it up kid” and “don’t you dare miss the bus or you’re walking.” My Mom was tough. I am a wuss compared to her.

Unlike me, my mother also had a schedule! And she kept to it – like the finest made Swiss watch – or a like a well-oiled machine. Everyday, after I left for school, she put on something called a house coat over her regular clothes and cleaned our house from top to bottom. Nuked it is another term that comes to mind.

Now, in her defense, cleaning was VERY important to ALL women up until the 1970’s. Having a clean oven was better than sex – or so one would have thought from TV. Daytime commercials made cleaning your toilet bowel look like an orgasmic experience. Especially if you did it right with the magical “blue stuff”. Boy,  did that stuff look good!

TV commercials brainwashed females with cleaning products all day long. I learned from them that a woman’s greatest fear was something called ‘ring-around-the-collar’. My heavens, husbands left wifes for this offense and took up with the  floozie who was loose as a goose BUT she was bright enough to buy Whisk. And more importantly she really cared about her man and banished these humilating stains from his inside his collar, that no one would ever see, but if you truly cared you would scrub your knuckles to the bone removing. Its just the American way.

Doing your laundry in Tide was equally important (or was that Gain?) And always using Downy to make your laundry soft was vitally important. As was always rembering to add Bounce Dryer Sheets too. Because no loved oned should suffer the embarrassment and humiliation of static cling. And it goes without saying that a loving mother ALWAYS uses a non-clogging spray starch to make her husband stiff. I MEAN, his shirts stiff and to get every last rotten wrinkle ironed out too even if she got third degree burns in the process. Because a man’s work shirt had to be so stiff and wrinkle free that it could be able to stand at attention in a corner all by itself! And oh yes, I forgot Clorox Bleach- da! Because nothing says love better that having whites that are brighter then white. Dingy underwear – well – that was basically just a slacker moms way of saying: “I don’t love my family and I want to go straight to hell.” You had to use bleach on white loads and hot water too. My mother’s motto was the more Clorox the better! And I’ve tried to follow in her footsteps – but sometimes the fumes have just been too caustic to live up to. She was strong. I am weak -with crappy lung evidently.

For I while I was suspicions that my mother was having any affair with a Genie guy in a bottle called Mr.Clean. He wore an erring in one ear and had a bare chest. He kept popping up when no one else was around. Sure he was a stud compared to my dad who worked hard for a living. Mr.Clean made me want to get down on my hands and knees and scrub the floor and tub too. But I suppressed the impulse and prayed to God every night that my mom would me strong too. For my dad’s sake if nothing else. I didn’t want to burst mom’s bubble, but that Genie guy got around. I was over at my friend Denise Boulanger’s house and he had Mrs. Boulanger down on her hands and knees too. The same thing with Mrs.Kelly. That guy was a cad.

Then I got worried that my mom was interested in another woman named Madge. Madge evidently had REALLY soft hands – not that there is a thing in the world wrong with that. But mom spent a lot of time doing the dishes if you know what I mean. A LOT of time doing those dishes. And she seemed to like it sometimes. That’s the part that worried me. Damn Madge and her “Oh, your soaking in it” hands!

Of course I now know my mother (when not hitting the scotch) was high as a kite from all the Pledge, Endust, Lysol, Easy-Off Oven Cleaner, Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, Glass Plus and other spray inhalants she used. Maybe that was the real reason behind her euphoria when not seeing spots on her stemware – and not Madge.  Our family alone probably caused the hole in the ozone. Neither my mother or my grandmother were light-handed when it came to cleaning sprays. (Sorry Mr. Gore – sad face.)

But around one o’clock, once everything in our house was made, vacuumed, sanitized, sterilized, washed, ironed scrubbed, de-fingerprinted and in its place, mom would finally sit down in front of our TV for her guilty pleasure – her stories – as she called them.

Both my mother and grandmother were CBS soap opera addicts. From one o’clock until  four, they were in their zone. The line up included: The Days of Our Life, As The World Turns, General Hospital Search For Tomorrow, Guiding Light, and The Edge of Night. And when my mother was watching her stories, nobody better dare interrupt her. Because, the house could have burned down, and she would not have cared. I could have broken my leg in three places, and come to her and she would have said: “that’s lovely Darling – just hold that thought until four.” I am convinced if God himself could have come for her at that time – and she would have shot him that look of hers – and then he too would know what it what like to be frostbitten by my mother. And just like me, God would know would have had to just cool his jets and wait – because nothing came between my mother and her soaps.

But today’s kids are different. If one of my twins gets a hang-nail they want to be immediately air-lifted to a major trauma center. Then they want me to pretend I’m Lassie and spend the rest of my day playing fetch for them while they watch something really wretched on TV like Toddlers & Tiaras or Dance Moms. And I’m good at a lot of things….but I’m really lousy at fetch. And Toddlers & Tiaras or Dance Moms – HELLO? How were those shows or Honey Boo Boo EVER a good idea? Dear God…please save Sesame Street and PBS. Please? Have you seen Honey Boo Boo? We need your help down here.

Parenting: Getting It Right

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This is one of the few pictures I have of my mom, dad and me together. I’m sorry the quality is so faded and poor. It was taken right after they brought me home from the hospital in Boston. Dad’s head got cut off in the family portrait. But I swear on a stack of bibles, he did have a full head, regardless of what the picture shows. It is just hard to set the camera on a self-timer and jump in the picture too, evidently.

My parents were considered older by the standards of the day when they adopted me in 1961.

My mother was thirty-six and my father was forty-nine. In contrast, many of my friend’s parents were in their early twenties when they were born. From my perspective, to make things just that much more embarrassing for me, my father was from a family of prematurely gray-haired men. Dad started to go gray at age sixteen and was completely silver by age twenty-one. Whenever some new kid would come to the house and meet him for the first time, they would just assume he was my grandfather because of his silver hair. And that would make me want to crawl just up under a rock and die. Because the last thing you want to be when you are a kid is different in any way. And having ancient parents screams DIFFERENT.

But it’s best never to let another kid see anything bother you – or they will torture you about it – forever. This is how I learned to be funny and make jokes about myself. When your adopted, your parent’s are as old as dirt and born almost six feet tall, you had better damn well be funny or its going to be a LONG eighteen years until you can make your escape to college. So I learned to be funny. It’s a great defense.

In hindsight, having older, more mature parents was a blessing in disguise. For one thing, my parents REALLY wanted to be parents. It took a lot of hard work and money on their part to achieve that status. It was not something just thrust upon them. So, they truly relished the role and wanted to do it well. For the most part, they truly did. I would give them an A plus.

Neither of them had particularly great childhoods themselves. And they had ten years as a married couple to plan out in their minds what an ideal childhood would look like. So, to the best of their abilities, that is what they provided for me. A loving, stimulating home-life that was very different from their own. But, being a stupid kid, I did not always appreciate all that they provided for me. I remember being distinctly resentful that my mother was dragging me from one museum to the next, making me go to Broadway shows, making me study about religions from around the world and study philosophers and poets that I did not care a hoot about.

Because my parents were very involved with politics, I went to many political functions that I was the only kid at and met some famous people who most people have only read about in history books. Some of the politicians carried me on their shoulders at the front of parades when they saw my parents, plucking me from the sidelines of kids waving American flags – a very photogenic, curly-headed blond with a gigantic red white and blue bow tied in her hair. I just assumed that “I” was special back then and never gave it a thought that my parent’s just might have had a little something to do with all those coincidental piggyback rides that I got at the front of the parade and none of the thousands of other kids ever did. It’s funny how your mind works when you are a kid – or in my case – didn’t work would be more accurate.

Manners were also very important to both of my parents and they made me learn to curtsy to grown-ups (particularly at political affairs) and properly answer the phone. I had my own monogrammed stationary and was expected to write thank you notes for thoughtfulness and gifts. And I remember thinking, these people are crazy and are trying to turn me into some kind of freak. The other kids are going to kill me if they find out that my mom quizzes me on obscure french painters that nobody cares about and makes me curtsy to grown-ups and answer the phone like it is 1955. If my friends find out that I have my own stationary, I’m dead meat for sure. I might as well just run away now – I’m sure as hec not going back to school.

One really bizarre game my parent’s used to like to play at the dinner table was “debate”. One parent would pick a topic of the day and discuss the pro’s for the topic. Then another family member – you guessed it – ME – would have to take the same topic and discuss its cons. It was at family meals like these that I knew in my heart that I had truly the weirdest set of parents in all of America and basically, I was screwed.

What I did not recognize at that time was that my parents were really giving me a rare gift. Instead of brainwashing me with their own ideology. They were teaching my mind how to be elastic, to see both sides of an argument and to articulate and defend by own beliefs. What an incredible gift! Unlike an iPod or cell phone, it is a gift lasts a lifetime…a the model if exercised daily, never becomes obsolete. Boy was I a dumb, unappreciative kid. Not only did my parents give me unconditional love, but they gave me the tools and confidence to become all that I wanted to be.

Snow Angels

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The photograph above makes me laugh. Up until pulling it out this morning, I could have sworn, Lady, the O’Connor’s dog shown sitting in front of my sleigh, was not only a pure-bred Collie, but an exact clone of Lassie, ready to fill in for her/him (Lassie was a “he” in real life), at a moments notice. It is funny how time distorts things in our memory. It is also probably best I didn’t purse becoming a AKC judge as a profession. Clearly I would have sucked wind at it!

One thing I did get right though. It snowed a lot more when I was a kid then it does now. And boy did we delight playing in snow. Growing up in New England, what choice did one really have? With one-quarter of the year covered in the white fluffy-stuff. You had better enjoy playing in snow, or you where going to be one unhappy kid. Because not going outside and playing in the snow was not an option offered by our parents. Now that I really think about it, I don’t really remember my parents giving me a lot of options back then. They gave me clear directions – but not a lot of options when I was a kid. It’s different now I guess. Kids are just entitled to unlimited option these days. That is how our society has evolved. More is better. Right?

So back in the 60’s our mothers bundled us up a lot like Ralphie’s kid bother in the classic movie A Christmas Story and we went outside and played our little hearts out all day long. We were frequently flat on our backs making snow angels. Virgin snow was the best for this art. We went sledding and tobogganing. Flying saucer were all the rage too. You could really get some great speed up on those puppies and pretend you were really flying. I loved my silver flying saucer. Mine was made from aluminum. It was built to last and that baby could soar. Today a lot of fly saucers a made of cheap plastic that cracks easily. But maybe that is good because it encourages us to go shopping and buy more stuff. And everyone knows that buying more stuff is supposed to be good and heal the economy – right? I just wonder sometimes times, is it really good to buy all that stuff if we don’t need it, can’t afford it and it is shoddily made? Because that is sure not what my parents did. In fact, it’s just the opposite of what my parents and my grandparents did. But I’m not an expert on the economy. I’m just a mom with a vivid imagination and a semi-good memory. But I’m definitely not an expert on the economy.

We also built snowman when I was a kid. And had wicked, legendary, neighborhood snowball fights too! We went skating in packs in a place called Brainerd Park and learned to ski in after school in clubs on Wednesday afternoons. And in my childhood, I was probably an Eskimo about a million times. To prove it we built igloos out of the snow left by the snowplows at the end of our driveways. I am convinced the nice snowplow men left that snow there just for us kids. My father hated the mountains of snow with a passion because he would have to dig through it to get his car out to go to work – which when I was a kid – never closed for snow. But the snow piled high there, just made our igloos bigger. Dad would then take those mountains of fluff, and then pile them to the side of the driveway. It was from this magic stash that we hollowed out our igloos. To a kid – this was pure gold. Even though igloos were cold as hell and we got frostbite in our fingers and toes building them – oh what fun it was disfiguring our selves! I remember going up to the back door with sopping wet mittens and frostbitten toes, and having my mother re-mitten me with dry ones and begging her to hurry up, just like I was at pitt stop at the Indy 500 Race. Then I would dash back down and to the igloo and dig some more afraid of missing a second of the frigid, frosty, frostbitten fun.

Oddly, my kids don’t seem to be is such a hurry to get back out on the cold as I did when I was when I was a kid. They prefer the comfort of their rooms, which are technology equipped and temperature controlled. Maybe I should unplug them? And make them a little less comfortable too? Maybe that would encourage them to go outside and play more? It sure couldn’t hurt. But my gosh, what would the neighbors think? I bet I would not get mother of the year?

I know I need to do something different from what I’m currently doing. I won’t speak for the rest of you. But to my eyes, kids don’t seem to be kids anymore. They seem very entitled. They seem to have lost the wonder and pure joy that some thing as simple creating a snow angel from freshly fallen snow should bring. But what do I know. I am just a relic in their eyes. But I am a relic who still finds delight in making snow angels in the freshly fallen snow.

The Quest For Perfect Hair

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Most females that I know hate their hair.

If your hair is naturally straight, you wish you were born with waves or curl. If your hair is naturally wavy or curly, you wished God had given you straight hair.

In fact, there are only two girls on the planet earth that have ever been happy with their God-given hair. The first is a beautiful girl I went to school with named Penny Frew. The second is Marcia Brady.

Now Penny truly did have incredible hair. She wore it Captain & Tennille style, perfectly rolled under which was all the rage in the 70s.

But what was most amazing about Penny’s hair was that it defied the natural laws of physics. In the six years we went to school together (and she was a cheerleader the whole time) even though she did spreads eagels, round-offs, cartwells and arabesques, her hair never moved.

Penny and her hair became legendary at our school. Even while tangling twenty feet upside down in the air by her saddle shoes, the centerpiece of a pyramid move perfected by our Fermi Falcon cheerleading squad, unlike the other mere mortal girls whose pony tails flipped up-side down when they did it, Penny’s hair held its ground and stayed  perfectly upright with every glistening blond strand in its place.

I did not have Penny Frew hair.

When God was handing out curls, evidently I stood in line too long, because I got natural curls and waves in spades. My hair always looked like I was trying out for a Shirley Temple pageant. Only hers was neat. Mine was was wild and untamed. Even with the strongest baretts. It was like my hair was possessed and had an evil mind of its own.
But I did not want waves and curls, I wanted Marcia Brady hair. To most girls in the 1970s, no girl in the world had more perfect hair then Marcia Brady. It was blonde, stick straight and parted down the middle. Leonardo da Vinci or Vidal Sassoon could not have created a more perfect do.

So I went on a quest to turn my curly hair into Marcia Brady hair – and like the Crusaders on the 11th, 12th and 13th century religious military campaigns – I pursued it with a fervor.

My first attempt to tame my wild curls included a gooey, jelly like product called Dippity-do, industrial strength bobby pins and empty orange juice cans. This experiment failed miserably. The Dippity-do, once dried, began to flake and made me look like I had the word’s worst case of seborrhea (also known as dandruff). And the orange cans proved impossible to sleep in, so I sat upright all night in a chair. All I was rewarded with  for my effort was feeling ill from being sleep deprived and gigantic curls in the shape of orange juice cans.

Next, I moved on to ironing my hair. This seemed like a good idea at the time. But as I discovered, it is really hard to iron your hair by yourself. The result was singed hair and fifth degree burns on my scalp. Worse, my mother, who must have had part Blood Hound mixed with Beagle, knew as soon as she came downstairs in the morning and took one lousy sniff. She honed in on me with those mint green eyes of hers and said: “Have you been ironing your hair?” Boy, that did not go over well. I think she grounded me for about a month.

I was just about to resign myself to the fact that I was never going to have Marcia Brady hair and just live in shame with the curse of naturally curly hair, when the answer popped up on the TV screen. Soul Train.

Soul Train was a nationally syndicated dance show that came on Saturday afternoons and Afro Sheen Products were the sole sponsor of the show. I had never heard of a chemical hair relaxer before watching the show. They never mentioned it on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand which I was also watched religiously. So, with my problem solved I just drove myself to the local drug store, bought a box of Afro Sheen Ultra Hair Straightener and waited for my parents to go to bed.

In fairness to the product, the hair that burned off my head in clumps, as I feverishly washed the burning, chemical relaxer from my scalp, was PERFECTLY straight. Unfortunately for me, the tuffs I didn’t lose, were still as curly as ever.

To hide my shame from old Eagle Eyes, I wore a bandanna the next morning to breakfast. Without lifting her eyes from our paper, the Hartford Courant, she said: “Darling, why are you wearing a bandana like a maid? Are you planning on skipping school today and helping me with the dusting?”

I said: “No.” And then she said: “Oh, and by the way, I found the box of Afro Sheen in the trash. Did it burn your scalp Sweetheart?”

Corned like a trapped dog with no place to run, I fessed up and croaked out: “Yes.”

And then she said: “I bet it burned like hell – at least it did when I used straight lye on my hair when I was your age.”

Thinking I was in the clear, I slowly began my getaway. Then she said: “Oh, and by the way Darling, your grounded.”

My Dad

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My dad, far right standing at the counter of the ice-skating ring. I’m on the other side of the counter. I came in to get a bottle of Coke.
 

My REAL first name is Laurie-Ann – but only my parent’s called me that – usually when I was in BIG trouble. Or, when they wanted to embarrass the hell out of me in front of ALL the other kids in the world – which seemed like a few times each and every day.

My parents also had lots of other nick names for me. My mom called me “Missy-poo” and “Sam”. My dad called me “Sam” and “His Nibs.” I used to joke I was “the son my father never had.” Only, I really wasn’t joking. Up until I hit thirteen, I’m pretty sure my father thought I really was the son he never had. But that time with him was actually a gift, even though I did not know it then.

My mom wouldn’t let me do anything that was under her “domain” which was the entire inside of the house. I guess she was afraid I would screw it up – which – with my skill set – was a real possibility. But my dad would let me tag along with him whenever he was home and whatever he was doing.

When I was growing up, the inside of the house belonged to our mothers. The yard and the basement belonged to dads and the two never commingled. Those were the rules.

When my dad was home from work, he spent a lot of time out in the yard mowing the grass. He always started out fully dressed in a plaid, cotton, button down shirt, pressed kaki pants and canvas shoes. But by the time he was through, he was stripped naked to the waste, dripping in sweat.

When I was four, I’d start out dressed the same way as my dad pushing my little red and yellow plastic lawn mower, a kid’s replica of his. (I’ve got pictures – but I’m not showing them to anybody. Maybe at my funeral you can see them and have a good laugh. My chest hasn’t changed much since then.) 

When he took a break from mowing and took a swig from an icy cold beer that my mother thoughtfully would leave out for him on the back steps, I’d take a break too. Only for me she wouldn’t leave me a beer, I got a mini coke. But it was always icy cold, just like his and I got to swig it from a glass bottle, just like my dad.

Dad liked to fish. So I liked to go fishing too.

The first time I asked him to help me put a worm. He said: “Sam, you can’t ask other people to do things for you. You need to learn to do things for yourself – so I’ll teach you.” I was five at the time and I have been baiting a mean fish hook ever since.

Sometimes, I used to gross out some of the other kids in the neighborhood on purpose by taking a live, wiggling worm, and threading it onto one of my dad’s, sharp fish hooks. But I liked playing with worms. I knew this really great spot in our back yard to dig them up in the rich, black, dirt and then collect them in a jam jar with holes poked in the top so they would stay alive for days. That was fun. Really fun.

The other kids were impressed. And I didn’t mind showing off. That, and my tree climbing abilities were my signature neighborhood kid skills! I basically sucked big time at everything else! But boy could I climb a tree. Not to brag, but I still can and do when no one is looking.

When I was eight, my dad started to show me how to use every tool in his wood-working room, which was located in our basement. As a direct result, I can hang a mean sheet of drywall and I’ll match my mitered corners against any mans.

When I turned nine, my dad taught me how to change a flat tire – a skill he felt everyone had to master so there was no use putting it off. He made me do it several times all by my self just to make sure I could really do it  when I got a flat on some dark, country road.

My dad also taught me how to play baseball. I could always hit the ball pretty good. (God knows he patiently pitched enough balls for me to be good at it.) But at Big K, someone told me I ‘ran like a girl’ while playing a game. Humiliated by the insult, I haven’t picked up a ball or bat since. 

God, there is not a day of my life that I don’t think about my dad or miss my him. How I wish my children could have met their grandfather Don. Instead, their stuck with their mother’s stories about her father – and the only mother in the neighborhood who owns and operates her own chain saw.

Now vs. Then

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When I was growing up in Enfield, every mother in our neighborhood had eyes in the back of their hair sprayed heads. Every mother had equal power over us kids too.

Over the years I was spanked or swatted by every mother on Drummond Road. In truth, it was better to take a swat from someone elses mother than hear those dreaded words: “Laurie-Ann, I”M GOING TO CALL YOUR MOTHER ON YOU!” Then I knew was going to be in BIG trouble – not only for the offensive, but the embarrassment of having some other mother KNOW what a bad little girl I was and bringing shame to our family. Today nobody is ashamed of anything. Maybe we should bring back the threat of shame?

This is where the phrases: “I’m going to beat the tar out of you”…..and even worse: “just wait until your father gets home” come into my life. Between the two – “having the tar beaten out of you” was much more preferable!!!!!

In all honesty, our “offenses” as kids were pretty mild by today’s standards. We did the standard, ring somebody’s door bell. Then run like hell and hide in the shrubs. (Okay – we did that one for years.) There was a time when we found endless delight in calling some random phone number and asking if their refrigerator was running. But not being hardened criminals, we were usually laughing too hard to get out the punch line out right. But nobody I knew ever really did anything bad. Russell Young brought his tonsils to school once for show and tell. They were preserved in formaldehyde which I guess is a dangerous chemical. But he never brought a gun to school. The thought never would have crossed our minds.

I spent grades 2-6 at Prudance Crandall Elementary Schcool with the same gang of kids: Thom Semanie, Bill Kelly, Steven Blake, Robin Gimore, Kelly O’donnell, Denise Boulanger, Pete Derose, Terri Demers, Jeffrey Foxx, Pete May, Russell Young, Michael Thibodeau, Jeff Underhill, Roberta Whittman, Tammy Dunn, etc. All of their mother’s knew my mother and had ZERO qualms about picking up the phone and reporting something I did or didn’t do. Perhaps we need to bring back Mom squad’s today who are not afraid to pick up the phone and tell?

The threat of going to hell was very real back then. (It isn’t any more.) Somehow, my mother was convinced that there was a direct correlation between wearing jeans (or makeup), the music I liked to listen to and going straight to hell. They were all interconnected in her mind and I was pushing my luck big time by just by having the audacity to have my ears pieced like a common tramp at age fifteen. Maybe we should bring back the threat of hell? Kids don’t really fear much any more. Maybe they should?

My mother got sick when I was in 6th grade and I went to stay with a neighbor down the street. Come Friday, away from my mother’s rules (or so I mistakenly thought) I put on a pair of jeans and went to school….FREEDOM! Freedom at last! Boy was that a mistake. A member of the mom squad saw me and reported me to my mother. Then there was “hell to pay” at 12 Drummond Road. I paid it for about one solid week.

Hell to pay was the third, threat in the trilogy of threats that kept us kids on the straight and narrow path. Having the tar beaten out of you was number one. Telling your father when he came home was number two. And my mother’s personal favorite, hell to pay,  was number three. Over the years I have experienced them all – and I was good kid. Can you imagine what happened to those boys (who I won’t name) who were always getting sent to the principal’s office? Mr. Balsawitz always wore a belt! (And back then, teachers nor parents feared using it!) But we sure feared them using it. It IMPACTED many of our decisions. Maybe that is what is different today? Kids don’t really have any real consequences like we did. Have we have stripped our schools and our parents of their power to show our children right from wrong? Perhaps we are too politically correct and therefore impotent as a country? Just a thought.

I know praying together as a family is different today. Back on Drummond Road we always sat down to dinner TOGETHER AS A FAMILY and talked about each other’s day. We always bowed our heads in prayer before we ate all meals. I never took a bite of food (unless I was at school) without bowing my head and saying grace. Maybe taking time out of our day and just sitting down AS A FAMILY and earnestly talking to one another again would make a difference? We miss so much when we are always busy, efficient and multi-tasking. Maybe learning to be humble again and thanking some higher power for all of our many blessing could help society today?

We only had three TV stations that came in clearly at my house. Often you would have to contort the bunny ears on top of the set to get a clear picture on just one channel. The other two were fuzzy. Now, my kids have flat screen TV’s with 300 channels and iPods, and yet they never can find anything good to watch on TV and are frequently bored. I often wonder if all this high technology they have been exposed to since birth has robbed all our children of their imaginations and damaged their little brains? Maybe as a society it is time to unplug? It seems to be killing us and our families – literally. I sure as hec don’t think it would hurt. Maybe it is one of the keys to helping us heal ourselves? For as a society we seem to be broken and in need of a really good fix.

How I Learned About Sex

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Denise Boulanger and me (on the left) going to the seventh grade prom. Denise lived next door. She and I have been friends since we both were seven years old. She was also one of my main “sources” on the true scoop about sex as you will read below.


My parent’s never talked to me about sex. I thought sex was what I saw on the TV show the ‘Love Boat,’ which I would watch in our den which was the size of postage stamp. 

According to the ‘Love Boat’ – one kissed – then fireworks went off. It seemed pretty straightforward to me.

Then one day my mother had to ruin my little world. I was watching ‘Mr. Ed’ on TV when my she sweeps into the family room like Scarlett Ohara about to greet Rhett for the first time, stands RIGHT in front of the TV so she has my undivided attention, and says in a voice normally reserved for God telling Moses there is an 11th commandment and says: “Laurie-Ann, your father and I have always hoped you would treat your body like a temple.” Then with a flourish, she lays this brochure in my hands titled: “Everything a Young Lady Needs to Know.” With that, she vanishes back into the kitchen.

Now my first thoughts were: “Either she’s been hitting the Scotch again – or she has inhaled way too much Pledge and/or Endust and is higher than a kite on cleaning products.” 

So I chucked the brochure onto our very stylish 1960’s brown, orange, gold and green plaid sofa and watched the rest of ‘Mr. Ed.’

About 15 minutes later, I hear my mother say: “Laurie-Ann, have you finished the reading material I gave you?” 

And I answered truthfully: “No, but I’ll be done in a just a minute.” 

This really wasn’t a lie. Because that was how much time planned I was going to spend zipping through this gem that had been published by the Girl Scouts Council of America in 1954 and edited by a sadistic sect of nuns from the mid-west – Our Holy Sisters of Misery.

It didn’t start out too bad. There was a clearly MARRIED couple that looked just like Ward and June Cleaver starring lovingly into each others eyes and the copy read: “You may have noticed your parent’s holding hands and wanting to spend time alone.”

Well, they lost me there. I had seen my parent’s yell and scream at each other and my mother cry, but I NEVER saw them hold hands and look lovingly into each other’s eyes.

Then I flipped the page and had my mind blown! Talk about shock. I remember thinking: “Why on God’s green earth would ANYONE in their right mind do that!! I was sure as hell my parent’s never would. My dad’s idea of an exciting evening was watching ‘The Waltons.’ And all my mother seemed to get excited about was the laundry.

So I quietly slipped passed my mother who was in the kitchen, went up stairs to my parent’s room, where the only other ROTARY phone in the house was located, and started the Enfield girl phone chain.

Janet Masus, who was two years older than me, confirmed my worst fears. The story was true. Her older sister had told her four years earlier. So I asked her how come she never told me? And she said: “You never asked.”

Next up was Denise Boulanger. She was a confirmer also – only she added that: “According to her sources, you ALWAYS ended up with a baby each time you did it.” Thanks Denise! Now, I was not only horrified, but I was scared to death of accidentally getting knocked-up.

I placed about four more phone calls when it became clear that I was the only girl in the state of Connecticut that did not know about sex – and that I hated all men including my own father. Because, even though my parent’s slept in twin beds and I was adopted, according to SOME of the girls I talked to, some people did it just for the HEC of it. And that REALLY blew my mind! 


Choices & My First True Love

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I took this photo in 1966 with my own Brownie camera of my first true love – the second boy scout in from the right with the flaming red hair.

I know it is hard to tell he had flaming red hair because the photo is in black and white. But trust me. He did. I had a wicked attraction to red-heads back then.

And my attraction to him was not a conscious “choice”. I just came preprogramed by God that way. I have made many other choices in my life – some good – some bad. But being attracted to boys was not a conscious choice. I just liked them plain and simple. At 51, I still find them fascinating and I’m attracted to them too. I think in electric terms they call that “hard-wired”. So why would anyone want to mess with God’s work?

By age five, I was already an unabashed red-headed, boy chaser. As I grew older, I would widen my net to include brunets too. Especially brunets with blue eyes – a combination I still find irresistible. Although men with greying temples…well get back to our story.

Right after I took this BRILLIANT photo at Cheshire’s Annual Memorial Day parade that concluded in the town’s cemetery with solomon speeches, Taps and even a 21 gun salute – my buddies said: “Hey Laurie, let’s go run around and play.” So, I looked at my mother, who gave her nod of approval, and we were off.

Now at the entrance of the cemetery in Cheshire stood two GIGANTIC granite coloums, that were attached to a very pointy, sharp, scary looking, Gothic-style, black, rod-iron fence. The fence and the gate secured the property from vandals (of which there were none in the 1960’s in Cheshire, Massachusetts – hec we didn’t even have a Dairy Queen). So, we kids naturally concluded that the fence was REALLY there to lock the dead people at night and keep them from wandering all over town. What other logical reason could it be?

Now these granite columns were tall suckers, especially to a five year-old kid. And just to make them just them a tidge more “unapproachable” they were not topped by angels of the Lord, but gargoyles – which are not warm and fuzzy. They are scary mothers – plain and simple.

One of my friends said: “Hey Simpson, you are always bragging about how you can climb anything. Let’s see you climb one of those columns.”

Not being the kind of girl to turn down a dare, I unwisely choose to take the kid up on his dare without thinking twice. This was not one of the brighter choices I made in my childhood – I’ll just give you a heads up now.

So, instead of trying to climb up the smooth granite column which would have been pretty tough for a monkey to do, I grabbed onto one of the rod-iron of the fence next to the column and shimmied my way up like a garden snake.

Once at the top of the spike, I made a heroic leap for the one of gargoyles.  Through the grace of God, I caught it and am here today to tell you this tale. In less then a minute, I was at the top of the column standing up  there all alone, while all my friends were  SAFELY on the ground.

And boy did it seem high up there! So high in fact, my stomach started to flip-flop and I made an impromptu decision to sit my bottom right down and cling to the scary gargoyle like white one rice. He and I became sudden best pals. I immediately named him George.

That is when the light bulb went off in my little head. Although it was as easy as pie climbing up – getting down was not going to be so easy. In fact, the odds were very good I just might kill myself climbing down. And even at age five, the fact that I was already at a cemetery struck me as kind of ironic. If you have to die – how thoughtful and efficient to die in a cemetery?  Why the transportation costs had to be nill..not to mention the time savings for all parties involved. How thoughtful can you get?

It was about that time that some of the kids heard their mothers calling for them so one by one they left me alone. Pretty soon it was just me up the proverbial granite column, hugging my knees to keep warm and starring at my Keds.

I have no idea how long I was stranded, but I do remember when all of a sudden a lady showed up and asked me what my name was. So I told her. Then she asked me what I was doing sitting on the column by myself. So, I told her that my parents were lost and I was up here high, so they could see me and get unlost.

For some reason this caused the lady to giggle. She tried to hide it so I would not know. But, being a pretty observant kid, it was tough to get much by me. Then she said: “Well, I happen to know your mom and dad, their names our Millie and Don. If you let me help you down from there, perhaps we can help them get “unlost” together.

So I said: “Sure – that sounds like a good plan to me”! I took her hand and she helped me down without breaking my neck, for which I will be forever grateful. Then she took me right over to my parent’s who I immediately hugged and then asked: “How did you two get so lost? Please don’t ever run off again. You had me worried.”

My dad said: “Sam, let’s not worry or talk about this now. Your teeth are chattering – so how about a piggy back ride to the car?”

That seemed like a good deal to me and before you know it, I was home, in my own bed and they were both kissing me goodnight. But before my dad turned off the light, I said to him: “I mean it dad, promise me you and mom will never get lost again.”

He kind of laughed and said: “We will promise to do our best sweetheart. Now now you have had a really big day. So why don’t you just close your eyes and think about that  really cute cute red-headed boy scout you took so many pictures of today.” So I did. Dad could almost always make things all better – even my worst choices – when I was a kid.

Being An Adopted Kid

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I have never made it a secret that I was an adopted kid.

In my case, I use the term “adopted” loosely. My “adoption” was  was really more of a business “transaction” that never saw a courtroom or was made “legal” in any way. I always knew I was adopted – chosen – was the word my parents used. The part of it not being legal came as a shock – one I still have to do a bunch of mental gymnastics to try to understand. I was about twenty-two when I found out. And I won’t lie – although I still loved my parent’s very much, and would not want another set, it still hurt. Sometimes, it still does.

If TV show ’60 Minutes’ was doing a show on kids like me, “black-market baby” is the term most often used. Surprisingly, there where at lot of us back then. That was before computers were invented and kept track of ALL Americans and our every move. But back then, you could buy or sell a kid, and if you were careful, no one had to find out. And while my parent’s were alive, no one ever did. Including me.

Back in 1961, the year I was born, getting pregnant “out  of wedlock” – a term no one uses any more – was  considered shameful. Believe it or not – shame was a bad thing back then – to be avoided at all costs. What would the neighbors think?

Since abortions were not safe or legal in 1961 – and Row vs Wade was still twelve years away – if a nice girl found herself “in a family way” her options were very limited. If she went through with the pregnancy, not only was she a “ruined” woman for life with a “bastard” child. Worse – she brought DISGRACE to her entire family by association. Fair or not, they were tainted too by her “promiscuity”. (As a side note – the male involved was called a stud. Shame and disgrace for promiscuity only applied to women in the 1960’s.)

Abortions were a grizzly, risky  business back then, even if you find some back-alley doctor willing to perform one – which was hard to do. Often  the “outcomes” where poor – sometimes fatal even. But that was the risk some woman opted for rather than face the world with THEIR  mistake. Because as we all know – when it comes to pregnancy, it only takes ONE to tango….or so that is the way society made women feel back then.

So, to save the family name (and possible save her own life) some woman would just disappear for nine months. Even movie stars did this. Women would just go away, have their babies, put them up for adoption and then just return home as if nothing ever happened. End of story. And then they would wait for their REAL prince charming to come along and live happily ever after. Because that was the way it was supposed to work for nice women back then. Don’t put out and prince charming will show up to rescue you. Because ALL women need to be rescued. This is a fact. (See Disney for details.)

That is what was supposed to happen to me. I was told that my biological mother left her home in the Berkshires for Boston to save her family from shame. There, once I was born, I was slated for an orphanage run by a group of very loving, caring catholic nuns. But fate intervened and I never made it to those loving, caring, nuns. I got exchanged for cash in a parking lot and became a Simpson. I have a Certificate of Baptism that says so. And we all know the church does not fib.

But, I have yet another secret to share with you. You see all adopted kids have fantasies about their birth mothers – only I happen to have it on good authority that my story is true! And you better sit down for this one because I am about to blow your mind.

As some of you may have guessed already, I am actually the secret love child of Princess Margaret (Queen Elizabeth’s HOT, younger, sister) and her forbidden true love. Yes, it’s true. I won’t deny it any longer. I’m sure many of you had already put two and two together already. I mean that “most refined” award when I graduated from Enrico Fermi in 1979? That was a dead giveaway – right? Do you really think they award that to just any commoner? Get real…..and smell the War of the Roses!

My REAL mummy (a.k.a. Princess Margaret) was forced to give me up against her will by “The Firm” because it would have looked bad to have a knocked-up princess in 1961. It is bad enough being a fallen commoner – but can you imagine the pressure her over-achieving, older sister must have put on her always thinking about HER reign and HER legacy – and not giving a hoot about my poor, nauseous, and probably, ankle-swollen mum? Especially with all those ill-behaved Corgis nipping at her swollen ankles and being underfoot all day. My gosh, it had to be hell on earth wandering around that drafty castle all day. A fallen royal – with a righteous, OLDER sister that your are forced to BOW to – what could be worse? So what better place to ditch an illegitimate heir to the thrown (although a remote heir) then the colonies! The press would never think of looking there.

Truthfully, the bit about my birth taking place in Boston – the snakes den of the devil itself?  That was brilliant on “The Firm’s” part. I’m almost amazed they didn’t work in some story-line about my birth mother’s water breaking while at Boston Harbor about to join in with a group of reenactors portraying the ‘infamous’ tea-party held there.

But that might have been a bit much. I think finding a family with the last name of “Simpson” was a bit of an over-play on their part. Is there any American in Great Britain more hated than Mrs. Wallis Simpson?  If they had been a little more heavy-handed with foreshadowing, my first name would be “Camilla”. As it is, they gave me a first spelled like the with the MALE character in the book ‘Little Woman. I’m sure “The Firm” did that just out of spite. Auntie E was always jealous of how pretty mummy was. So that was her way of getting even. Just a little, subtle, dig.

As far as my hobbies are concerned – now that could have raised some eyebrows. I’m sure, that kept “The Firm” up late once or twice at night. Like no one in the entire USA was going to notice my passion for horses, dogs, gardening, and wickedly handsome….ah “friends”? Ever heard the phrase – the apple does not fall from the tree? Like mummy like daughter.

Even my obsession with rare British dogs? Mum had her Sealyhams brought to her for breakfast each morning. But being a modern girl, I just go ahead and sleep with mine – it just saves so much time.

So, now you know the truth about by birth. I hope we can still be friends? You thought I was just a run-of-the-mill, COMMON adopted kid – sold in a Boston parking-lot. But I’m not. I’m an illegitimate kid with a wicked imagination and a ROYAL past.

Oh, its almost 4 o’clock – tea anyone? Mummy didn’t start hitting the cocktails until at least 5 o’clock – and keeping family traditions are so important.  Don’t you agree? Now I just need to find a boy-toy, many years my junior, to join me!

 

My Pet Poodle Suzi

Now I probably should not admit this, but since we are being honest I will. I KNOW you are not supposed to feed dog chocolate, but as a kid I didn’t know that – and neither did Suzi. So whenever I bit into a candy with a yucky center, since we were a team, she would always help me out by cobbling it up. We worked always worked together. Now I’m not advocating that anyone else try it – but it worked for us. And I’d be fibber if I told you any different. Share this:Press This

via My Pet Poodle Suzi.

Not Going To The Doctor As A Kid

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(My mom and me messing around in the Berkshires near our home in Massachusetts.)

Not Going To The Doctor As A Kid

When I was a kid I had every childhood illness known to mankind. Kids were allowed to get sick back then. My mom rarely called the doctor. In fact, she only called the doctor when she was she was afraid I was at death’s door. Or, when I was going to be an inconvenience to her weekly game of bridge. One has to have so many ladies to play bridge and bridge was VERY important to all mothers in the 1960’s. It was right up there with God and apple pie.

If I had an ear infection, my mother doctored me herself. She warmed a hot water bottle and stuck it next to my ear, fed me my grandmother’s homemade chicken soup (which could cure anything) and rocked me in a rocking chair which now graces my family’s family-room.

If I had green snot pouring from my nose, she handed by a box of kleenex, instructed be to BLOW really hard, rubbed Vicks Vapor all over by chest and under my nose and fed me more of my grandmother’s homemade chicken soup that got sent to us across state lines regardless of how awful the weather was. My maternal grandmother, who who was only 4 feet 11 in her highest heels, always delivered like the postal service – in rain, snow, sleet, or shine.

When we left Cheshire, Massachusetts for seven months, so my dads printing company could work with Norman Rockwell in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, were I attended an ‘old-fashioned” three room schoolhouse for first grade. I got sick a lot. I missed Halloween because I had the chicken pox and my mother spotted me up good with pink stuff and told me not to scratch. Which I did anyway, because I was a kid, and that is what kids do. But I did not think the darn spots would ever go away. But I never saw a doctor. Just the pink, stuff, mom and Grandma’s chicken noodle soup.

For Christmas that year I could have been one of Alvin and the Chipmunks, because I got the mumps and my face swelled up like a ballon. But mom just stuck a St. Joseph’s brand aspirin under my tongue, told me to stay in bed, brought me some more of my grandmother’s homemade chicken soup and told me I would me better by next year.

But after the New Year came around, I was still feeling kind of yuk. It did not help that I always was an asthmatic. But I begged my poor, worn down mother to let me go out and skate with all the other kids at night, on a frozen pond. In hindsight not one of my brighter moves. When I woke up in the morning, I could not breathe and truthfully, I really wasn’t sure if that was really my mother talking to me or not. So that was one of the few times in my life that she did said call for the doctor who said I had developed pneumonia and gave me a shot. But to be real honest. I was so sick that time, I did not care. I also got lots of something called ‘sponge baths’ with some really awful smelling stuff to bring down my fever – but truthfully –  I was so sick that time, I can hardly remember.

Now a days, kids don’t get the chicken pox, measles, or mumps, and you are labeled a bad parent if they do. But I’m living proof you can survive all of the above – and just maybe our immune systems were just a little bit stronger because we did? I’m not a doctor so I’m not sure.

It seems kind of logical that there something to be said for giving a body the chance to heal itself naturally vs loading it up with a bunch of quicker but unnecessary drugs. But maybe that is just me.

As we are finding out now, we have created something called “super restraint bugs”. That seems scary to me. But what do I know, I’m just a mom who used to get better on her own with rest and grandmas homemade chicken soup and used to like to play games with simple stuff like water spinklers and dirt. Is simpler better? Or should we run or child to the doctor very time he has a runny nose and ear infection. Truthfully I just don’t know, But If I had to guess, I would guess that simpler and more natural is better.

Simple Times

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(This is me, standing in the frilly dress, next to the birthday girl, Debbie Baker, seated in her walker. The year was 1962. This snap shot was taken at Debbie’s first birthday party about a minute before I put both of my little hands into the middle of her cake much to the horror of every mother at the party – especially my own. This earned me a spanking that is legendary in Cheshire, Massachusetts. My only saving grace was I was wearing a very thick, cloth diaper, so my bottom was well padded, absorbing most of the humiliating, public blows. While I was being “corrected”, Debbie joined in the fun and pretty much finished off the cake – much to her mother’s shock and horror. But somehow, I got spanked for her too. Life isn’t always fair when you are a kid.)

Birthday parties were very simple when I was a kid. They were also a lot of fun. Mom’s served us homemade birthday cake with a single scoop of ice cream on the side. We drank fruit punch from paper cups. Then played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and/or musical chairs.

If the weather was warm, sometimes a mom or dad would bring out a sprinkling for us to run through. And when you are a kid, there is nothing in the world better then running through a water  sprinkler. We would slip and slide as the grass got soaked beneath our feet and the dirt turned into mud. But the wetter and dirtier we got, the more fun we had. Water sprinklers are magical when you are a kid.

When we were really little, we did not even need bathing suits to play. Our moms just stripped off our clothes and let us have fun in our undies or diapers. Truthfully, if our parent’s had let us, we would have stayed out there all night, hopping back and forth over the sprinkler. It did not matter to us if our teeth were chattering and our lips were turning blue. But parents were always afraid we would catch our death of cold or worse, pneumonia. So, they would stop our fun, bundle us up and make us go home and eat a warm dinner. Grown ups can be such party poppers at times. As if we would not know when we had had too much fun? Oh, grown ups who lack faith!

If we got a parting gift at all at a birthday party, it was something really simple like a box of Cracker Jacks or one of those things you blow into that expands and makes a noise. The party was so much fun, we were happy as clams. The party was for the birthday kid not us  – and that was okay back then. It was the way it was supposed to be. We did not expect anything else. Being invited to the party in the first place was good enough for us back then.

My friend Debbie Baker had a simple sand box in her back yard. It is just out of view of the picture above so you can’t see it – but it is there. It was made of four pieces of lumber nailed together to form a square with a bunch of sand dumped in the middle. Sometimes we would spend all morning trying to dig to China in that sandbox. We never got close. But we sure had a blast trying. We also borrowed some of her older brother Bobby’s Matchbox cars and held races on roads that we built. We also cooked up a storm in that sandbox. It is really amazing what two little girls and just a pile of sand can do when left alone for hours.

One summer, her parent’s saved up enough S & H Green Stamps and Debbie got a simple pup tent that her father set up in the back yard. We spent days on end in there looking at comic books – because we did not know how to read yet – and talking about what we would do when we finally dug our way to China.

When the sun began to turn purple in the sky, our mothers would give us mayonnaise jars and Debbie and I would run around the yarding in our bare feet, with the soft summer grass bending beneath our toes, trying like the dickens to catch fire flies that momentarily delighted us by illuminating the warm, silky summer night.

Our parents sat in lawn chairs close by and chatted. We would try to catch those darn fire flies until we got too tired. Then we would go curl up on our mother’s laps. And before you would know it, it would be morning time again. We would wake up in our own beds as if we got there by magic. Being a kid was great.

In that same backyard, Debbie’s mom had a simple, square, rhubarb patch which you can see in the far back right of the picture above. Her mother made the best rhubarb pie on earth. We would cobble it up, still warm from the oven, piled a mile high with big scoops of vanilla ice-cream and then wash it down with an ice cold glass of milk. I’ve never tasted better pie. I doubt I ever will.

Life was just simpler back then. Dads worked. Moms stayed home. Kids did not have i-phones or nintendo or 300 channels on cable TV. We had our imaginations, believed in magic and found delight in something as simple as warm, home-made pie with and catching fire flies in mayonnaise jars on a warm, silky summer night.

Sometimes simple isn’t sexy or cool. Sometimes simple can be difficult. But given a choice between now and the…perhaps simple is be best…

Boob Lust

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(Above: Me, right, with my best friend Jane Apurezzese in a lifeguard chair in Rhode Island. It was the summer of 1978 and we were both seventeen. A year later, when in my freshman at URI, I would get voted “best legs” at school – but all I really wanted was “rack of lamb”, which I never got.)

 

When I was about five years old, I noticed my first set of really nice boobs, complete with heaving cleavage, very unlike my own mother’s squishy, soft chest or my grandmother’s “wasters” – boobs that hang down to your belt-line that you have to heave up into your bra.

 

So, I pointed to them, while my mom and me were out shopping at our local  S & H Green Stamp store and said in a VERY loud voice: “I want a set of those.”

 

In hindsight, it is amazing my mother did not abandon where I stood. She must have been tempted. As a mother myself now, I would not have blamed her if she had. For I had a REALLY big mouth even as a little kid. Every shopper in that very small New England redemption center heard what I said. All knew darn well what I was pointing at. In all likelihood, they were gawking too. This was not something we saw everyday in Cheshire Massachusetts. These puppies were HUGE and POINTY and impossible to miss. They extended about a mile long or so long. Helen Keller would have noticed them. They had to be ‘out-of towers”for sure. No proper lady in Cheshire had jugs like these. I’m not sure, but I think I even heard my mother say: “Oh, dear.” And then she bent down and whispered really quietly in my ear, like she had a spceial secret just for me:  “Just wait Laurie-Ann, when you grow up, God will give you a beautiful bust-line just like that.” In those days – proper ladies called “chests” “bust-lines. It was part of a code moms used along with other weird words like “girdle”, “full-support” “brassieres” “slips” “stockings” – none of which made any sense to kids, but were vital to all mothers in the 1960’s.

 

But you wanna know what? My mother lied – because I never got them. Instead I got long legs, good grades and a great “personality” or so the boys in my high school year book said. But in high school, boys did not date girls with good grades and great personalities – they dated girls with US Coast Guard approved built-in ‘floatation devices’. Evidently, as grown men, they still do.

 

I have a girlfriend who is on her third set ta-tas – each one is more magnificent then the last. The change after the first set was so dramatic, when she “introduced the girls to me” – I actually drooled. It was almost like she went to Lowes one day and had a perfect shelving unit installed where her flat-as-a board chest used to be. If I had a shelving unit like that, with all its glorious surface space, I would put it to good use and never lose my cell phone or car keys. For not only were these hooters gorgeous – but so darn practical too. Just think of all that added shortage space all of us girls out there with “great personalities” would instantly have access too!

 

I was also really in awe of the engineering that went into holding these luscious melons into place – without any visible means of support. What a feat of human engineering and ingenuity. The San Francisco Bridge has nothing on the construction and quality of these milkshakes. These babies were built to last. I’m certain that long after she is dead, they will still be perky and fully inflated, a magnificent silicone-filled, tribute to her life.

 

I have never worked up the nerve to ask her why she discarded sets one and two. My best guess is, she found out that they were not truly US Coast Guard “APPROVED flotation devices. Some doctors, sadly, just do shoddy work.

 

For me, I’m still a little disappointed with a God. Would a little more in the chest area have really have been such so hard for a guy known for burning bushes, parting seas and bringing dead guys back to life? It is not like I asked for something truly impossible – like having George Clooney come knocking on my door or anything ridiculous like that but….

Learning To Swear at Girl Scout Camp

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In the summer of 1971 my mom and dad let me go to Camp Timber Trails which is a residential girl scout camp nestled in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains just over the Connecticut border in Tolland, Massachusetts. Because I have always loved horses, my parents paid extra for me to be a part of an elite group of girls know as the “horse back riding unit”. It is among this elite group of young ladies, all at least three years my senior, that I learned to swear.

Up until that summer, the only time I heard such “colorful language” was just once a year, at Christmas time, when my normally mute father was trying to get the Christmas tree lights to work, and instead he lit up the skies of New England with the expletives that flowed effortlessly from his mouth, while my suddenly deaf mother, steadied her nerves on her secret stash of scotch, that she kept hidden in the back of the hall closet, drinking it from a coffee mug with increasing gusto as the day wore on. I’m she guessing she drank the scotch from her coffee mug so dad and I would not know she started drinking scotch at 8:30 in the morning and because my dad did not approval of hard liquor. Either that, or our family didn’t own any scotch glasses. Because I was just a kid, I’m just not sure.

But my bunk mates were really quite remarkable in their ability to cuss. They made dad seem like a light-weight. As soon as our counselor ditched us – which seemed like as often as she could – my sister scouts started stringing swears together in the most creative ways. They could use them as  verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections – they were really a bunch of VERY imaginative young ladies and I learned a lot in JUST two weeks.

At first though, they called me a “baby” because I was so much younger then them and because I didn’t know how to cuss. They could not be bothered with me – so they just ignored me -which is just what older kids do. To them I was just a little “squirt” not worth their time.

But that only lasted until they saw me ride a horse. And since I was the only one in the unit that COULD ride a horse and ride really well – we made a kid’s pack. They would stop calling me “baby” and “squirt” and teach me to swear. In return, I’d show them how ride a horse without falling off and breaking their necks. In all honesty, it was a pretty good “kid-deal” all around.

By the end of two weeks I was cursing up a blue streak. Boy could I let them fly. And my sister bunk mates could actually mount a horse, trot around the ring, post on the correct diagonal, and none of them were falling off anymore and in danger of mortal harm. So, we all went home happy as clams with great memories of Camp Timber Trails. The place had been a blast. I could not wait to meet up with my new best buds again next summer – as we had all taken a sisterhood blood-oath to do.

When my parent’s picked me up and we were in the car driving home, I decided to show off my new vocabulary skills so I let a few of my “new” words fly. Unfortunately for me, their reaction was not what I was hoping for. Both immediately turned white as sheets…actually, kind of ashen-gray would be a more descriptive word. Then my father actually grabbed his heart and my mother had to take the steering wheel and guide the car back onto the road. Then there was silence – absolute dead silence for the rest of the VERY LONG car ride home. That was when I realized my future was not looking very good.

When we FINALLY we got home, my father took my suitcase and dumped the entire thing in the trash can without looking at me or saying a word. If he had still smoked and had a match on him – I’m sure he would have lit the sucker on fire right then and there. It was his way of eradicating Camp Timber Trails from our lives. And I got the message loud and clear.

My beloved mother took me IMMEDIATELY into the bathroom and gave my tongue such a scrubbing, that few pot or pans, even those encrusts with baked on lasagna, have ever been subjected to such abuse. To this day I despise Dial soap and cringe whenever I walk by it in the grocery store. I still have flash backs. But I learned my lesson and I never swore IN FRONT of my parents ever again.

And for good old Camp Timber Trails and my fellow blood sisters – that was the only summer my parent’s allowed me to go to the  “wholesome” girl scout camp. My next summers would be spent at an Ultraconservative Bible Camp…Oh, what a joke.

Stupid Stuff I Have Done To My Hair

I’ll be honest. I have not seen my “natural” hair color since I was about 13.

I know I was born a golden blonde and it stayed that way without any “help” for sometime. But then some jerk was doing a science survey when I was at Big K and informed me I was a brunette.

Now, my first instinct was to call the kid a liar and then punch him really hard in the face. 

But being a proper “lady” and all, I just corrected his OBVIOUS mistake and went home and took a really long hard look in the mirror. 

Evidently, according to the photographic evidence that collaborated the kid’s observation, it was the first time I had looked in a mirror since I was about five maybe six years of age?

Once out of denial, I then did what any well adjusted, normal American girl would do back in the ’70s – I snuck past my mother – headed down to the laundry room located in the basement and soaked my hair in straight CLORAX BLEACH.

I know it sounds REALLY stupid NOW….but to a thirteen year-old girl – bleach is bleach right? (It really did seem to make sense at the time…and for you non-believers out there – your going to have to trust me on this one.)

So after I recovered from the third degree burns on by head….I got smarter (yeah right!) and moved onto the family medicine cabinet for straight PEROXIDE because I had seen this work on the ‘I Love Lucy’ show.

Well, for those of you camper’s out there in Facebook-Land bright enough NOT to have tried this on your own at home – let me just warn you – the results are NOT pretty or subtle. 

It is kind of hard to describe the shade of brassy red my hair turned. It was somewhere between ‘streetwalker red’ and ‘already-doing-hard-time-blaze’. 

But all I could think about was my poor mother and how she was either going to drop dead of a heart attack when she saw me OR how she was going to kill dead me on the spot. Either way…it wasn’t going to be good.

But the next morning old eagle eyes surprised me. Without looking up from the newspaper she said: “Laurie-Ann, did you do something different to your hair?” 

And not wanting to burn in hell for all of eternity I answered: “Well, to tell you the truth, I tried to lighten it a little.” 

And she said: “Well, I think it looks very nice, and when I was your age, I did the same thing.”

And that totally floored me, because up until that moment, I had always assumed my mother had been born old. It never crossed my mind that she could have been my age once.

 

Playing Beauty Parlor

Me at age three wearing my dad's red fishing cap, and old sweater, after playing Beauty Parlor and cutting my own hair.

Me, at age three, wearing my dad’s red fishing cap, and old sweater, after playing Beauty Parlor and cutting my own hair.

One of my favorite games to play when I was a little girl was “Beauty Parlor”.

I used to line all on my dolls up – and then cut off all their hair.

I found this to be great fun. I even enjoyed trimming our family Poodle! But the odd thing was, this was the ONE game, that really did not seem to please my mom – ESPECIALLY when I practiced my skills on the family Poodle.

And this really threw me for a loop. Because on the one hand she was always encouraging me to try new things. But she sure seemed to turn bright red and get mad, whenever I tried new things on that darn Poodle.

Now normally, no matter what the weather was like, my mother made me go out side and play. But all houses in New England come equipped with basements. So, on the off chance that your kid is too sick to go out and play, (or it’s to close to dinner time and you can’t risk sending them outside) moms can safely send kids down into the basement to play AND get them out of their way at the same time. It was the start of the ‘win-win’ concept used in business today – but it had its roots in getting rid of us kids in the 1960’s – safely of course.

So I was down in the basement playing beauty parlor with a new pair of scissors that I had gotten for my birthday, when I light bulb went off inside my head and I decided to cut my own hair instead of our dog’s, which clearly irritated my mother.

So at first I cut about a foot off the bottom of my hair all around. And then I though it might be fun to give myself bangs which I had seen on TV.

And I had just finsihed with the bangs, which I was really proud of, because cut them while looking at my refelction on the back of a spoon – when my mother called down the steps: “Darling, what are you doing?”

And I said: “Not much, just playing beauty parlor with my new scissors and a spoon.”

And I had no earthly idea my mother could move so fast. She practically flew down those basement steps. First she looked at the dog – who just looked back at her. And when she looked at me. And instead of being happy – she burst into tears. I had only seen my mother cry like that one other time before. My first thought was – ‘oh dear, I sure hope another president has not been shot.’ Because that was the only other time I had seen my mother sobbler like that. And I really did not know what do to.

So, I put my arm around her leg – they only body part I could reach and said: “It’s ok mom, everything is going to be okay.”

And that night when my father came home and my mother was all cried out – she slapped one of my dad’s old red fishing hats on my head and sort of shoved me at him as soon as he walked in the door and said: “Look what YOUR daughter has done today.”

And my father got down on one knee, removed the red fishing cap, kissed me on top of my head and said: “Well Sam, let me guess, were you playing “Beauty Parlor” again?

And unlike my mother – he didn’t start to ball – he actaully smiled and me and gave me a wink.

And I was so relieved. Because my mother, with all her sobbing,  had given me quite a work out. And I just did not think I had that much “niceness left in me” if Dad had started to ball too.

My Mother’s Globe-Like Hair

There was a time in my childhood when every mother in America wore her hair the exact same way… and it kind of looked like a frosted globe.

My own mother got her ‘globe’ done at a beauty parlor on Main Street where the cigarette smoke was so thick, if it were today, you would need a Hazmat suit just to step foot in the place.

But it didn’t seem to bother my mom or the other hundreds of ladies packed in there each Saturday morning. They just seemed happy as clams, chatting away, drinking coffee, reading magazines, that mom told me she would kill me if I even went NEAR.

These ladies just talked non-stop about stuff I didn’t have a clue about – which in itself was amazing. Because some of them could ‘yak’ with a cigarette dangling out of their mouths, while still managing to swallow their coffee from a white styrofoam cup, while some really mean lady that worked in the place, pulled their hair straight up into the air and the pushed in all back down again into one REALLY big, painfull looking knot – only then to take out what looked like a ‘mini gardening rake’ and yank it all out.

And that my friends was the “secret” to the mysterious “globe” shape. That and hec of a lot of lacquer also known as ‘hair spray” that held the iconic feat of American engineering in place for ONE FULL week!

Unlike hair of today, the hair of my youth stayed in place for a FULL week. And I am willing to bet you could have put my mother’s hair in a wind tunnel or a tornado and she would have come out without one hair on her laminationed head out of place. That puppy was well-constructed – unlike the crappy, poorly constructed hair we have today that frizzes when someone coughs or spits.

Now I am not particularly proud of this, but once while my mother was taking a nap, I was so fascinated with her hair- and how it appeared to be so sturdy on the outside – but yet so hollow on the inside – I decided to break through the “globe” with a sharpened pencil. So while she was napping, I a stuck a pencil through my mother’s hair…and left it there.

And since I was still alive and mom was still asleep, I thought it might be fun to stick some paper clips in there too..and so I did.

And since she was still sleeping and I was still breathing, I just about to try my luck at shooting in a spitball ball or two, when my my mother opened her amazing mint green eyes in a fluttery-flash and said: “Laurie-Ann, what are you doing?”

And I wasn’t really fibbing when I said: “Oh, not much.”

And to my absolute amazement, she bought my story hook-line-and-sinker and walked around the house for about the next three hours with all that stuff squirreled away up there before my father came home from work and asked her why she had a pencil and a bunch of paperclips stuck in her hair.

And for me…well, as you can probley guess, the rest of my night was all downhill from there.

My “Natural” Hair Color

I will be honest. I have not seen my “natural” hair color since I was about 13.

I know I was born a golden blonde and it stayed that way without any “help” for sometime. But then some jackass was doing a science survey when I was at Big K and informed me I was a brunette.

Now, my first instinct was to call the kid a liar and then punch him really hard in the mouth.

But being a proper “lady” and all, I just corrected his OBVIOUS mistake and went home and took a really long hard look in the mirror.

Evidently, according to the photographic evidence that collaborated the kid’s observation, it was the first time I had looked in a mirror since I was about five… maybe six years of age.

Once out of denial, I then did what any well adjusted, normal American girl would do back in the ’70s – I snuck past my mother – headed down to the laundry room, located in our basement and soaked my hair in straight CLORAX BLEACH.

I know it sounds REALLY stupid NOW – but to a thirteen year-old girl – bleach is bleach right? (It really did seem to make sense at the time – and for you non-believers out there – you are going to have to trust me on this one.)

So after I recovered from the third degree burns on by head – I got smarter (yeah right!) and moved onto the family medicine cabinet for straight PEROXIDE because I had seen this work on the ‘I Love Lucy’ show.

Well, for those of you camper’s out there bright enough NOT to have tried this on your own at home – let me just warn you – the results are NOT pretty or subtle.

It is kind of hard to describe the shade of brassy red my hair turned. It was somewhere between ‘streetwalker red’ and ‘already-doing-hard-time-blaze’.

But all I could think about was my poor mother and how she was either going to drop dead of a heart attack when she saw me OR how she was going to kill dead me on the spot. Either way…it wasn’t going to be good.

But the next morning old eagle eyes surprised me. Without looking up from the newspaper she said: “Laurie-Ann, did you do something different to your hair?”

And not wanting to burn in hell for all of eternity I answered: “Well, to tell you the truth, I tried to lighten it a little.”

And she said: “Well, I think it looks very nice, and when I was your age, I did the same thing.”

And that totally floored me. Because up until that moment, I had always assumed my mother had been born old. It never crossed my mind that she could have EVER been my age – even once.

Me and Mrs. Perfect

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About an hour ago I zipped up to Starbucks for some high-test Colombian. I am SO tired and the girls are due home soon. I’m wearing my worst jeans, no make-up and my hair is in a pony tail – unwashed. All of a sudden I hear a perky voice say: “Hi Laurie, come join me”….and that’s when I took the Lord’s name in vain.

I walk over to Ms. Perfect who is a neighborhood acquaintance dressed in her tennis attire, flawless make-up (I’m guessing airbrushed), and I can only assume she now has Ken Paves, hairstylist to the stars, living with her and doing her hair each day. (Jennifer Anniston is just up sh*ts creek. To bad Jen!)

So while I’m shoveling my fourth piece of chocolate cake in my mouth, I watching her take a single slice of cantaloupe and dissect the single slice so thin. She has the skill of a brain surgeon and to my total amazement during our little “get-together” she NEVER consumed a darn thing! Not even a sip of water to moisten her collagen enhanced lips.

She starts off by telling me about her two perfect kids ages three and four who have already been accepted into Harvard and Yale because they are SO exceptional.

Their teeth are also SO straight (in fact the dentist has never seen more magnificent gums). She has been assured her children will NEVER need braces – unlike my rotten kids.

I heard all about her fabulous, perfect hubby. It is not every man who will commute five hours each way to his job to provide a perfect life for his family. I tried to do the math and I guess he sleeps four minutes a night when you calculate time devoted to their Olympic, love-making – four times each and every night.

They are renewing their wedding vows in Tahiti this spring NAKED on the beach. That’s because she has a Sport’s Illustrated bathing suit photo shoot there in Tahiti that just happens to coincide with their anniversary – so he said: “Why not!” What a sport. This was AFTER he gave her 15 carat diamond stud earrings AND a new Porche! And nothing truly says: I love you Darling like a brand new Porche – that’s my new motto!

Unlike me who has a tummy so wrinkled after five kids that I could frighten children at Halloween (hec I scare me!) She evidently carried her two children in her cheek. She told me they weighed an ounce each at birth. And rather than risk her delicate lady parts with a regular delivery, she just sneezed once and they popped out of her nose! I did not know this was humanly possibly. But since George Clooney was actually in my Anatomy and Physiology class when I was a kid, I was a little distracted. I may have missed a lecture or two. Which truly rots for my delight lady parts AND the kids who come to my house at Halloween. (On the bright side – If you know anyone that needs a skin graft – send them my way. I have so much extra on my tummy I could graft a whole NFL team and still have enough left over to make cartoon charters when we lose electricity and the twins get REALLY bored. “Look mom its the Duggars from TLC – all 20 of them!….sad but true.)

So I now have a uterus that dangles on the floor when I sneeze – and she is doing cover shoots for sports Illustrated. Why would I be bitter? Or hate her at all?

I did ask her if her OBGYN was concerned that her babies birth weight were a “tidge” low. And she said: “Because I’m SO petite Laurie, it’s only natural that my babies would be SO petite too. Why? Did you gain ANY weight during your pregnancies Laurie?”

And it was at that moment that I had a dilemma on my hands….eat ANOTHER piece of chocolate cake OR stab her in the eye with my desert fork. Because both options both were looking pretty darn good.

But I went for the cake. It was SO GOOD!

Birthing Twins – The Perfect Storm

 

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My pregnancy with the twins was like the movie, The Perfect Storm.

First, I was an older mom – forty to be exact.

Second, I was carrying multiples.

Third, I had history of developing toxemia in previous pregnancies (which I developed again in this pregnancy).

Fourth, I had a history of premature deliveries. This is when doctors normally advise their patients to skip human children and stick to goldfish or cats.

I showed up at the hospital six weeks early to deliver the twins looking like a beached whale who had turned a REALLY odd color from being out in the sun for too many days or drinking too much Tang.

Shamu, the killer whale at Seaworld and Free Willy combined weighed less than me and were closer to their ideal bikini body then I was when I darkened St. Marys Hospital’s door.

When the nurse asked me to step on the scale, I asked her one question: “Does this baby go up to tons?”

The fourth year medical student assigned to me follow me said with zero conviction: “this should be routine.” And I thought: “Oh God, this poor clueless sap is in for one hell of a ride.”

Now the anesthesiologist they sent in was a nice enough guy, I’m guessing he was about sixteen years old. And he looked rather startled by my unbridled enthusiasm when he asked me if I would like any drugs. Evidently, not all moms say: “Doc, I’ll take everything you got” and then refuse to let go of their stethoscope until they comply.

My daughter Caroline was born first, face up, the opposite of the way babies are supposed to be born. I think that and her big smile unnerved my obstetrician a bit. But that is typical of my kids. They all like to make grand entrances.

Like me, my daughter Catherine has a rotten sense of direction. So after Caroline was born, Catherine started to head up to my throat for her grand entrance into the world. This caused everyone in the labor and delivery room BUT me to convulse with laughter. And since she wasn’t going anywhere for a while, they all decided TO LEAVE ME ALONE FOR FORTY-FIVE MINUTES while they took a break for lunch – which I thought was pretty rotten – and still do.

In case you were wondering, babies born six weeks early look a lot like undercooked chickens. And after you have been left alone in an ice-cold operating room for forty-five minutes and pumped full of all sorts of drugs, unlike what one sees on the TV and movies, when the nurse says: “Do you want to see your baby?” If your honest your going to say: “No thanks, hand her to her father, I’m good.”

Ms A. Comes A Callin

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Only on really cruddy TV shows, like the Kardashians, do women give birth, hop out of bed and into their skinny jeans – and then head over to their mother-baby, Cover Girl, make-up shoot driven in a black, stretch limousine.

In real life, you have a cheap, plastic, kidney-shaped, throw up bucket welded under your chin that the hospital is going to charge you $200 for. And if anybody dares to try to take it from you, it just might be the last thing on earth that they do. Because there is no way in hell that you are parting with the thing even for a half of second to dump it out. You two are one.

And unlike TV or the movies were all new moms are immediately ready for a close-up immediately after giving birth, you feel like death warmed over and you look even worse, but you don’t care. You just want the damn nausea to stop from the drugs that they gave you (that you turned out to be allergic to) so you can close your eyes and get some much-needed rest. If someone offered you a million bucks or uninterrupted sleep right now – you would take the sleep hands down.

And just as you are about to close your eyes and get your wish the door to your room swings open and your hear a perky voice say: “Knock, knock, knock.” And that’s when you begin to really believe in the concepts of hell and Satan.

And the when the unmistakable smell of Asiatic lilies fills the room – the only flower on earth that you not fond of. For not only does sweet perfume make you gag under the best of circumstances – which today would not qualify as –  they also are a guaranteed trigger of your most violent migraine headaches – the kind that in the past have landed you in the E.R.

And the bearer of the GIANT lily bouquet is a dear old family friend, Ms Anorexic, who volunteers at the hospital on Wednesdays with the Ladies auxiliary  and then works out at the club every other day of the week – oh, lucky you!.

And since today is Wednesday and she saw your name on the new mother list she wanted to be the first to stop in and say hello. Because in the South, ladies keep track of such things.

And she places the bouquet that she brought – which is really more the size of a funeral spray or one of those displays you see for horses that just won the Kentucky Derby that just hangs around their necks – right by your head, so that you can enjoy the “flowers full perfume. Frankly, between the dry heaves, you maven that the table can can actually hold their weight, for those suckers must weigh a ton.

Then for the next hour, as you continue on with the dry heaves, Ms. Anorexic reminisce about all her pregnancies. She starts with how when she was pregnant with Beauregard Jr., the doctors at that time did not believe in ladies GAINING weight. So she lost weight while with Beau and had to have a whole new wardrobe made up just so she could come home from the hospital.

And that is just what every woman who has just carried twins wants to hear from a woman who is thinner than a twig. You have just come to the hospital looking like Free Willy on steroids. (Truthfully, even though you have just given birth, you still do.) And Ms. Invisaline here is making the virgin birth seem a whole easier to carry off then a weightless one.

And that is when you first start to really rethink your position on firearms. And you begin to fantasize about how comforting it would be to have a firearm in your hands right now, not loaded of course. But one that you could just pull out and maybe Ms.Anorexic would take the hint.

Then she moves on to the length of time women stay in the hospital. Back in her day, they kept ladies for a month to get their proper rest. And she can tell just by the looks of you – you too probably need every second of it. But mostly likely having the fast-food of insurance policies you will be lucky you get to stay for a cat nap. So you just smile weakly, and start thinking that perhaps a freak lightning strike will enter the room – and deliver her home to Jesus were she could be reunited with her long-lost kin.

But before any storm clouds have a chance to move into the sky, she moved on to the help she had at waiting for her at home: a wet nurse, four nannies a butler, a driver and two live-in maids. Then she tells you that of course arranged the same thing for her three girls when they gave birth: Sarah-Randolph, Sarah-Cater and the baby of the family; Sarah-Randolph-Carter-Lee-Stuart-Scott.

Southern woman love letting you know they have “help” and they also love naming their children multiple names. Out of spite you feel like telling her you just named your girls Frank and Joe, but she never paused long enough for you to get a word in anywhere. But on the bright side, while she was talking, some wicked storm clouds had gathered in the sky. So maybe God was listening after all.

And that is when she says the magic words: “Well Darlin, I do declare – bless your heart. You do look like you have been dragged through the mud, and had your way with both the Clemson and Texas Am Football Teams. Have you put on a little weight?”

And that is when you summon your biggest, brightest smile and say: “Well Darlin, bless your heart – I was just about to ask you the same thing.”

The Dreaded “Mom” Phone Call

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I remember once spending the afternoon with two older girls in my neighborhood when one of them casually dropped the “F” bomb.

It was the first time I had ever heard the word. I was clueless as to what it meant. And there was no way in hec I was going to show these superiors how much of a dork I truly was by asking for a definition. So I just rolled with it. And over the course of the afternoon my friend worked it into our conversation several more creative ways – in hindsight just for show. We were kids and that is just what kids do.

My big mistake was going home and then yelling to my mother, who was sitting at the opposite end of the house reading one of her special books from her upstairs night side library collection: “Hey mom, what does “F” mean?” BIG MISTAKE. But hindsight often is.

Let’s just say that got her attention!

Up until that moment I had no idea my mother could move that fast. Chuck Yeager, breaking the sound barrier, looked like a slug compared to my mom. For a big gal, moving with the sleekness of a panther getting ready for the kill totally unnerved me. And when you combine that element of surprise with the Gestapo like questions she machine gun-fired at me as to who taught me this gem – I cracked like a rotten egg. Within a second I was singing like a canary on speed.

And it was downhill and ugly from there.

Because in less than a second, my mother, who had all the subtly and finesse of a Sherman Tank on steroids, was on the phone to that poor girl’s mother, THE most devote catholic woman in town. This lady was so pious she made the Pope look like a slump.

Needless to say, Ms. Pious did not believe anything so vile could come from her little angel’s mouth. So one of the nicer things she called my mother was a liar. Then in Italian she cursed a bunch that included wishing all my children were born with hoofs – which as a horse lover – I didn’t think sounded all that bad.

But my mother did not take it all that well. And that is when two families that had been close friends for years pretty much swore never to one another again or walk by one another’s houses. When it came to handling delicate situations between kids – Henry Kissinger, my mother was not.  Stalin or Mao Zedong maybe? But Mr Rodgers…no way in hell.

What is really tragic about this story is that until I opened my big mouth, our two families had  been very close friends for years. Our whole street was.

One of my favorite pictures of me as a kid is watching the first man walk on the moon with the whole gang of Drummond Road kids, while sitting on the Pious family den floor. The entire street was packed into that tiny room like sardines staring at a little black and white TV with HUGE bunny ears. But we did it together. Because it was history in the making. And we wanted to be together. We did everything together back then – like one big huge extended family.

Before my mother’s phone call,  every Memorial day EVERY family on our street piled in their cars and we had a giant picnic at Look Park In Northhampton, Mass. It was the first time us kids got to take off our shoes and go barefoot for the season. So regardless of how freezing the water was, we wouldn’t miss that “privilege” for anything in the world. Even if the brook was frozen over and we kids would have to crack the ice with a tire-iron from somebody dad’s car – our toes were going in that water!

Now, because the Simpson family would be there – the Pious family would no longer go. And that really sucked. Because the truth is, I was not coloring pictures of baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary when my friend dropped the “F” word. In all likelihood I was doing something much worse; like playing with matches, making crank calls, ringing some’s door bell and running or looking through my other friends older brother’s stash of Playboys in mock horror and fascination. I was no saint.

But my mother never asked me what I was doing. And if she did, most likely, I would have lied and told her I was coloring in baby Jesus with my right hand and counting my rosary beads with my left. Because I was a KID. And when you’re a kid and you think you are about to get into BIG trouble by a BIG grown-up…you lie. And she should have remembered that from her youth before she trashed and burned a valuable friendship. Because I have it on good authority from my grandmother, when she was that age, she was no saint.

So if you are a parent and you are reading this, think long and hard before you pick and that phone. And if you do have to pick up a phone to nip something in the bud – remember this – in all likelihood your his is JUST as guilty as the other kid and parents need to work together as teams. Otherwise these rotten little liars are going to kill us. So I say we just go ahead a punish the suckers guilty or not – and us parents – lets just sit down to a nice big adult glass of wine and have US a good time.

About Me

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Laurie-Ann Simpson Crouch (born March 7, 1961) is an American mother, humorist, unrepentant dog-lover and former marketing and communications executive. She is also a law-school drop-out and an Anglophile.

Her quirky sense of humor was heavily influenced by author Erma Bombeck and comediennes; Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett, who she watched endlessly on TV as a kid growing up in the 1960′s and 1970′s.  Much of Crouch’s humor is autobiographical and self-depreciating.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, where she was given up for adoption, Crouch grew up in New England and moved to Richmond, Virginia in 1983 to attend graduate school. Virginia has been her home ever since.

Crouch is happily married and has five children and three dogs. Her family does not think she is funny, but her dogs do. So, she writes for them. THEY are easy to please.

Me & Ms. Perfect

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About an hour ago I zipped up to Starbucks for some high-test Colombian. I am SO tired and the girls are due home soon. I’m wearing my worst jeans, no make-up and my hair is in a ponytail – unwashed. All of a sudden I hear a perky voice say: “Hi Laurie, come join me”….and that’s when I took the Lord’s name in vain.

I walk over to Ms. Perfect who is a neighborhood acquaintance dressed in her tennis attire, flawless make-up (I’m guessing airbrushed), and I can only assume she now has Ken Paves, hairstylist to the stars, living with her and doing her hair each day. (Jennifer Anniston is just up sh*ts creek. To bad Jen!)

So while I’m shoveling my fourth piece of chocolate cake in my mouth, I watching her take a single slice of cantaloupe and dissect the single slice so thin. She has the skill of a brain surgeon and to my total amazement during our little “get-together” she NEVER consumed a darn thing! Not even a sip of water to moisten her collagen enhanced lips.

She starts off by telling me about her two perfect kids ages three and four who have already been accepted into Harvard and Yale because they are SO exceptional.

Their teeth are also SO straight (in fact the dentist has never seen more magnificent gums). She has been assured her children will NEVER need braces – unlike my rotten kids.

I heard all about her fabulous, perfect hubby. It is not every man who will commute five hours each way to his job to provide a perfect life for his family. I tried to do the math and I guess he sleeps four minutes a night when you calculate time devoted to their Olympic, love-making – four times each and every night.

They are renewing their wedding vows in Tahiti this spring NAKED on the beach. That’s because she has a Sport’s Illustrated bathing suit photo shoot there in Tahiti that just happens to coincide with their anniversary – so he said: “Why not!” What a sport. This was AFTER he gave her 15 carat diamond stud earrings AND a new Porche! And nothing truly says:  I love you Darling like a brand new Porche – that’s my new motto!

Unlike me who has a tummy so wrinkled after five kids that I could frighten children at Halloween (hec I scare me!) She evidently carried her two children in her cheek. She told me they weighed an ounce each at birth. And rather than risk her delicate lady parts with a regular delivery, she just sneezed once and they popped out of her nose! I did not know this was humanly possibly. But since George Clooney was actually in my Anatomy and Physiology class when I was a kid, I was a little distracted. I may have missed a lecture or two. Which truly rots for my delight lady parts AND the kids who come to my house at Halloween. (On the bright side – If you know anyone that needs a skin graft  – send them my way. I have so much extra on my tummy I could graft a whole NFL team and still have enough left over to make cartoon charters when we loose electricity and the twins get REALLY bored. “Look mom its the Duggars from TLC – all 20 of them!….sad but true.)

So I now have a uterus that dangles on the floor when I sneeze – and she is doing cover shoots for sports Illustrated. Why would I be bitter? Or hate her at all?

I did ask her if her OBGYN was concerned that her babies birth weight were a “tidge” low. And she said: “Because I’m SO petite Laurie, it’s only natural that my babies would be SO petite too. Why? Did you gain ANY weight during your pregnancies Laurie?”

And it was at that moment that I had a dilemma on my hands….eat ANOTHER piece of chocolate cake OR stab her in the eye with my desert fork. Because both options both were looking pretty darn good.

But I went for the cake. It was SO GOOD!

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  • Lorayne Tennet Laurie you should be on stage as a stand up comic.
    2 hours ago · Like · 2
  • Karin Warack Heusted Yeah. . .but does she have a Lucas?
    2 hours ago · Unlike · 3
  • Kathryn Cassidy Soooooo, can’t get past George! Seriously????? OMG, you need a school reunion. Was he cute looking and funny? Were you all aware of his Aunt Rosemary and her place in cinematic history? You were one lucky girl. ANd 5 kids, some would say you were extra blessed (not me of course, Scottie dogs all the way). And the determined, individualistic way you ordered that cake and ate it, even with the self sacrificing bulimic at your table!!! See, it is now all about YOU! If someone has to tell you how great their life is, then they are acutely aware that it is all a house of cards. Oh, and this gifted children thing! Catch cry of the modern suburban Mom. The reality that they may be mediocre would be unbearable. As for hubby , he has that higher sex drive? He commutes that long?? Well one day he may be so important at work, he needs a city apartment!!! Just sayin! We all know, how in one foul swoop, your life can be turned on its head and will never return to life as you once knew it! NOW celebrate yourself, your life, kids, character, humour, because remember……she invited you over. You did not invite her.
  • Joy Williams the cake was the correct option xxx
  • Debbie Turner but she doesn’t have a Sealy ..and I’m betting she can’t write fabulously … bet she is jealous as hell of you x
    2 hours ago · Like · 2
  • James Kennedy Do you have any photos? lol
  • Bonnie Marks Anglin Loved this one!!! Don’t worry Laurie. The ones who look the most perfect are the ones who age the worst. Remember, things aren’t always what they seem!!!!! I’m sure she’s a REAL BITCH!!!!!!!
  • Zippo Duncan If they brag that much, they are probably deluding themselves about the perfection of their lives.