Sadist Summer Camp

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It’s that time of year again, when all the papers are full of ads for summer camps you can send your kids to. There’s Spanish Immersion Camp, Rock and Robot Camp, Filmmaker’s Camp, even something called Brain Monkeys Camp. We didn’t have camps like that when I was a kid. Ours weren’t nearly as specific or smart. We just had plain old Summer Camp.

Oh sure, our camps had names and, because we live Michigan, they were apparently all legally required to have Native American names. Like Camp Pa-Wa-Pi or Camp Algonquin, which was, technically, the name of the summer camp I went to. The name is somewhat inaccurate though so from here on out it will be referred to as Sadist Summer Camp.

The camp was run by a well known organization but in the interest of protecting their reputation I will only reveal their initials, Y.M.C.A. It was in the little town of Hastings, far from our home but close to our cottage on Leach Lake. Yes, you read that correctly, no one ever wanted to come visit, thinking I was inviting them to a “Leech” lake. At the time I didn’t get why we went to camp by the cottage but now I understand it meant my mom could spend a week at the lake without us kids. That was surely heaven, even if it meant sending us to hell.

I am sure she didn’t mean to send us to Sadist Summer Camp. It looked good on paper. Nothing but swimming, archery, canoeing, lanyard making, healthy meals, fun campfires, and a safe environment where weirdos wouldn’t mess with us while we were sleeping. The brochure said nothing about “Charlie” or the buried bodies, not to mention the Mad Plunger and the dead fish ceremony. In the end, however, these things tended to overshadow the pictures in the glossy brochure.

Take the healthy meals, for instance. They were completely destroyed by “Charlie,” a small super frightening piece of wood that the camp counselors would secretly place behind a campers chair during dinner. Whatever unlucky kid found Charlie behind his back had to get up and do an impromptu performance in front of the whole camp. You could showcase any talent you had. It could be anything, but it had to be something. This was a huge problem for me as I had already discovered that I didn’t have any talent. I wouldn’t learn to burp loudly until middle school and, to this day, that is really all I’ve got to give in terms of public performances.

And so I spent every dinner in utter fear, barely gulping down chunks of food while twisted around like a corkscrew in my chair. All to make sure Charlie would not suddenly appear behind me. I think I actually gave myself a mild case of scoliosis that summer as it was the following year when they started pulling me out of the “check for scoliosis” line for further examination.  It’s hard to eat a healthy meal when you’re terrified and twisted.

Even canoeing at Sadist Summer Camp was an exercise in horror as we always paddled to a small island where we would spend the afternoon traipsing through the woods searching for the dead bodies that the counselors told us were buried there. If anyone stepped on anything squishy you were all expected to run over and jump up and down on the “body.” I’ve never seen such gleeful jumping in all my life. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t do my fair share of corpse stomping. It was my first exposure to what happens when you let a bunch of kids loose on an island. When I read Lord of the Flies years later, it took me awhile to figure out it was an allegory. I thought it was just something that happened.

Going to bed at Sadist Camp produced another set of terrors, actually one huge terror, in the form of the Mad Plunger, who purportedly patrolled the bathroom at night ready to plunge any child who dared have to pee after dark. We all knew he was real because every night, after we had crawled into our bunks, he would come around and repeatedly plunge his plunger on the outside walls of the cabin. Needless to say this produced screaming all around and forged our resolve that we would never, ever leave the safe confines of our cabin at night.

And then we discovered it wasn’t safe in there either. The Mad Plunger, it turns out, knew perfectly well how to open our cabin door after we had all fallen asleep. And so we would awaken, our bladders ready to pop, and find ourselves covered in seaweed, in our hair, on our faces. And as we panicked and pulled it off, the realization settled in. The Mad Plunger had been watching us and touching us while we slept. And he did it, over and over again, night after night. As you can imagine, we tried our best to stay awake but we were so exhausted from the nightly campfires that we never made it for long.

Usually when you think of campfires you think of s’mores and camp songs and, while I don’t remember s’mores, I do remember the camp songs. How can you forget songs like “Plant a Watermelon?” Everyone sang this one right?

“Just plant a watermelon on the top my grave and let the juice (make slurping sound here) slurp through.
Just plant a watermelon on the top my grave, that’s all I ask of you.

Preacher likes the chicken and the chickens might fine
but nothing could be finer than a watermelon rind so

Just plant a watermelon on the top my grave and let the juice (make slurping sound here) slurp through.
Just plant a watermelon on the top my grave, that’s all I ask of you.”

Obviously, this is wrong on a host of levels. First, why were we singing about graves? Why was the camp so obsessed with graves? And, second, preachers, chicken and watermelon rinds? Seriously? You would think a camp named Algonquin would save its racism for Native Americans and there was plenty of that too, included the most feared “Indian Initiation Ceremony.”

During this “ceremony,” first time campers were blindfolded and “initiated” into the tribe by having a dead fish rubbed on their face. It took place at the last campfire and, as that night approached, I grew increasingly hysterical.

By the time the initiation rolled around I had worked myself into a sweaty lather and was shaking and sobbing uncontrollably. This might have been entertaining to the counselors and other campers but it was painfully embarrassing to my sister Carrie, who was older, popular and one of those campers who loved finding “Charlie” behind her chair (she could, and still can, belt out a song from Oklahoma at the drop of a hat.) It was also not her first time at camp so she knew I was making a complete ass out of myself for nothing, humiliating her in the process.

And so she sidled up to me and grabbed my arm so hard I think she might have fractured my humerus. Then she put her mouth right next to my ear and whispered in her hot, wet, angry big sister breath “Shut up. Just shut up right now. It’s NOT a fish, it’s a carton of milk. SHUT UP!”

It took awhile for that to sink in (and even longer for my arm to stop hurting) but I did slowly calm down and by the time they blindfolded me to rub a wet, slippery carton on milk on my face and welcome me to the tribe I was only shaking a little bit.

In the end, like many kids, I came home from summer camp a changed girl. I hadn’t become a fluent Spanish speaker, a filmmaker, or a kid who could build lego robots but I had transformed into a skinny, sleep-deprived girl, who was guilty about having jumped on corpses, and was nursing both a latent bladder infection and a mild case of scoliosis.

Thanks Sadist Camp.

 

 

Beware the Ides of Green Dairy

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The Ides of March is fast approaching, a time known in the ancient world for the assassination of Julius Caesar and in the modern world for the availability of shamrock shakes at McDonalds. In my world, both of these events are associated with childhood traumas and vomiting.

People will tell you that the best thing for kids is to have young, ambitious elementary school teachers but sometimes old and crabby actually works out better for the actual children. Take, for instance, my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Schulke who was certainly young and ambitious, not to mention overly optimistic about the skills of her students (at least this particular student). What else could have given her the belief that a bunch of 9 year olds could not only understand Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, but that they were fully capable of memorizing it and bringing it to life onstage for the cultural appreciation of their parents and fellow students.

I have no idea how Mrs. Schulke cast the other roles in the play but she saved the biggest talking role for the biggest, most disruptive talker in class. Thus I became Marc Anthony, with his exceedingly long “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar not to praise him” speech. For the record, I remembered those first two lines, even now, all by myself. There was no googling involved.

I must have been having trouble memorizing the other 35 lines in the speech as Mrs. Schulke gave me a cassette tape recorder to take home so I could record my speech and listen to it. I was at her desk the very next day to give it back, explaining that while I followed her instructions on taping, somehow there was someone else’s voice on the recording reciting my speech. (I know it seems unfathomable today that a child would make it to 4th grade without hearing their own voice but back then our parents didn’t spend their lives attached to a recording device.)

I was shocked and horrified when she explained that was my voice and that it just sounded different to me in my head than it did to everyone else. How could that be? My voice was my constant companion, my trustiest weapon, my reason for being! I thought it was melodious, beautiful, smooth and yet here was Mrs. Schulke telling me I sounded like a chain smoking old man with a nasal affliction! I was conceptually not ready for this information. Trauma #1.

Trauma #2 came in the form of another discovery, the discovery that while I liked to talk, I preferred a free form method whereby I said whatever came into my head. I was far less capable of actually reciting someone else’s words, even someone as illustrious as Shakespeare. And so I found myself onstage standing over “Caesar” in a toga, which was painstaking decorated with a Greek Key pattern by my own little hand. But what could I remember after all my practicing with my nasally old man voice? “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Ceasar not to praise him.” That’s it. No more, no less. The same two lines I can remember to this day. I said them and then I went all Cindy Brady (and kudos to all of you who got that reference. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who wasted my childhood watching The Brady Bunch).

All I could do was stand there holding a bloody toga and wait for Mrs. Schulke to feed me my lines from behind the screen onstage. It wasn’t pretty, although my friend Ray had really done a pretty nice job splattering the fake blood on the toga. Still, even with the good props, it was humiliating.

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So much for my acting career. Trauma #2. This does, however, point to the upside of growing up in an era where parents only had black and white cameras. There is a rumor that a recording of this play exists but it has yet to surface and, even when it does, someone is going to have to dig up an 8 mm film projector to play it. This is a thought that comforts me.

So that explains the childhood traumas, but what, I’m sure you’re asking, about the vomit? No, I fortunately did not vomit all over “Caesar.” He went on to be the first boy I ever kissed and I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened if I had yacked all over him on stage. No, it’s time to turn to the modern harbinger of the Ides of March, the ubiquitous shamrock shakes.

We may not have had smart phones back when I was in fourth grade but we did have McDonalds. Not that our mother would let us go there. Like most mothers, she was opposed to the idea of McDonalds, even in this pre-Super Size me era. It wasn’t a nutrition issue. We regularly ate Spam, fried baloney sandwiches, La Choy Chop Suey made strictly from canned ingredients, and some kind of weird Chef Boyardee “lasagna” made with cottage cheese. But McDonalds, that was simply too expensive. All restaurants, fast or slow, were too expensive in her view. As were Pringles (“Chips in a can? I’m not buying expensive chips in a can!”). I did get to eat Pringles every year for Christmas breakfast (Thanks Santa!) but McDonalds was an even rarer treat.

So, of course, all we wanted was McDonalds. In particular, I craved a shamrock shake, the bright green seasonal harbinger of Spring that I was sure would create an unprecedented taste sensation in my mouth. But there was no way I was going to get a shamrock shake from my mother and, since they weren’t around in December, Santa was out too.

I’m happy to report that my sister has not maintained this tradition of denying her offspring an occasional McDonalds or a tasty shamrock shake. Here, for instance, is my nephew Tobey, demonstrating the proper way to drink a shamrock shake.

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Tobey is way smarter than me

What makes this the “proper” way to drink a shamrock shake? First, it was purchased for or by him. Second, it is in a cup. Third, the straw. Fourth, it is still frozen. All exceedingly important things I wish I had known when I “drank” my first shamrock shake. The first  shamrock shake I tasted looked like this when I discovered it.

meltedshake

Note the many ways in which this was not a proper shamrock shake that could be consumed in a proper manner. It was not purchased for me, not in a glass, no straw, and no longer frozen. Instead it was someone else’s shamrock shake that had been abandoned to melt on the sidewalk. And what did my little pea size brain think when it saw this sorry sight? “Finally! A shamrock shake! I gotta taste that thing!” And so I pressed my little face to the sidewalk and licked it up, an event which was followed by a truly unfortunate series of biological events.

Did you see the Exorcist?  If so, then you can envision what ensued (here is where the vomiting comes in). Turns out you really, really, REALLY, shouldn’t lick up dairy products that have melted on the sidewalk. Nope. Don’t do it. LOTS of vomiting and Trauma #3.

And so, as the Ides of March approaches, the best advice I have to offer is skip the shamrock shake and avoid Shakespeare at all costs. Plays by 9 years old are probably also not a good idea, even if your own kids are involved. And, flash forward, you should also watch out for the Bushmills that appears a few days after the Ides. The Bushmills thing though isn’t a lesson I learned until high school.

Happy Australia Day!

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Heron Island, the Great Barrier Reef

It’s Australia Day, a day much like our Columbus Day, part celebration/part protest, depending on whether your family lived there before or after the British arrived on January 26, 1788. Personally, I arrived there on February 28, 2014, part of an epic month long South Pacific adventure with my husband Karl, the ear biting Heidi and her husband Rockey. We had just spent 2 weeks driving all over New Zealand and that road trip had pretty much molded us into one fluid entity, ready for anything. Well, maybe anything except Australia.

We should have known right away it was going to be intense as our hotel in Brisbane caught on fire the first night we were there and the climb down 66 flights of stairs left Karl both in need of medical attention and also unable to walk for three days (someone might need to spend more time stretching his hamstrings). From there we went to Fraser Island, where we spent three incredible, and incredibly strange, days on this largest sand island in the world, complete with inland lakes and a spectacular rain forest where you can literally see kookaburras sitting in the trees.

It isn’t for the faint of heart though. To get there you have to drive to the edge of a deserted beach and then just wait in hopes that a barge will appear to ferry you across (it did). Then you have to drive like hell for miles down a deserted beach so you can get to high ground before the tide cuts off the pass (we made it). And you better have a high clearance 4 wheel drive car or you won’t. Most visitors to the island just do day trips, unwilling to take all this on, but not us, we decided to stay for three days, on a completely deserted outpost of cottages. Just us, the caretakers, the wild dingos and the tarantulas. It was here that we learned how Australians survive.

They carry sticks. Are the wild dingos getting too friendly with you on the beach, use your stick. Did you just look up and realize that there is a softball size tarantula on the ceiling right above your head. Use your stick. Well, first you have to stop me from having a panic induced seizure but then, use your stick. In this case, get a bigger stick because the first one isn’t big enough. It was truly wild. But as wild as it was it didn’t compare to Heron Island, which will be referred to as “Bird Poop Island” for the remainder of this blog.

We had gone to Bird Poop Island, one of the few islands on the Great Barrier Reef where you can sleep overnight, in hopes of snorkeling. Unfortunately the wind was too strong and we couldn’t get out on the boat. The only one happy about that was Rockey, who almost drowned snorkeling with us in Grand Cayman a few years ago. While I was prepared to tether myself to Rockey and save him all over again if it meant we could snorkel, it was not to be. There was nothing to do but hang out on the island, which sounds like a lot of fun, at least in theory.

We really didn’t know much about this island, or the birds on it, as we were focused on the snorkeling when we planned the trip. All we knew about it was that it was a tiny island way out in the Pacific. It really was tiny. If you walk around the circumference it is about a mile trip and takes about 20 minutes. So we were right about what we knew but that wasn’t saying much and it left us ill prepared for Bird Poop Island.

When we got there we probably should have notice something was off as Heidi and I both noted that the people waiting for the boat back had a particular look of desperation about them. And when I say desperate, I mean desperate. No one was smiling or talking. It was an entire crowd of panicked people with clenched jaws. The second thing we noticed straightaway was the birds. And I mean ALL the birds. At first I was thrilled. I LOVE birds! Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a slightly (?) obsessed bird watcher and initially I was mesmerized, as the sky was absolutely awash in birds. Think of the scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds and then multiply by a factor of 10 and expand the scene to a giant panorama. Turns out, Bird Poop Island has a breeding colony of Black noddies, and there were roughly 25,000 of them on the tiny island with us, a situation which quickly turned mesmerization into bird induced mania.

To say the noddies were everywhere would be an understatement. When you walked anywhere on the island except at the waters edge, they swooped, flew and dipped all around you. You could literally reach out at any point and touch at least one flying by. More often there were 2, 3 or half a dozen within arms reach. Plus the walkways ran through the trees that they were nesting in so it was like being under a canopy of birds and nests wherever you went. They are loud gulls so the noise was deafening and the smell?? Hmm….. What to say about the smell?

Perhaps I should share some information I learned on the guided bird walk (yes, of course, I took the bird walk! Karl came too although Heidi tried to poke me in the eye when I suggested she should come with me because, seriously, the birding situation had already grown a little too intense.) Anyway, when the noddies mate, the female picks a spot for the nest and the male brings her leaves from the trees which she then builds into a nest by gluing them together with her own excrement. Yes, that is what I said. So, in effect, being prodigious poopers is critical to the survival of the species. And they are thriving. The smell is beyond description. And, of course, all the nests that you walk under are dripping in bird poop and, of course, all the birds that flock you constantly are also pooping all over everything. Yes, we all got hit, repeatedly. I simply threw out an entire outfit.

Needless to say, after 4 hours on the island we had retreated to the bar and were watching the sunset (beautiful). We were also amazed that immediately after the sun dipped below the horizon the noddies stopped shrieking. It was like you threw an off switch. They all settled in and started cooing, a nice change. After we got to the island, people told us that the birds shrieked all night and sleep would be impossible so we were so relieved to find they had stopped! Little did we know that the people weren’t talking about the noddies, they were talking about the split tailed sheerwaters, another breeding colony on the island. They fish in the water all day and then arrived back on the island at 2:00am, at which point they get really loud. Anyone who has heard the sheerwaters describes their call as the plaintive wail of a baby crying. This is highly accurate but as there were hundreds of them, it was really the plaintive cries of 100s of babies wailing at the same time. Seriously. Not exaggerating. They continued for 4 hours, at which point we had 3 minutes of quiet before the noddies started again.

The situation was made more comical by our “resort” accommodations. Having spent weeks in New Zealand already we were used to cozy lodgings (by which I mean sleeping practically on top of each other and sharing a bathroom that always managed to be at the head of our bed. To this day, I can tell you who is peeing just by listening. Seriously, it is like a fingerprint). Our lodgings on Bird Poop Island were no exception.  We were in a “2 bedroom” cottage by which I mean a small room with a rice paper screen that you pulled across to separate one bed from the 2 small couches that someone was suppose to sleep on (thank you Heidi and Rockey.) Unfortunately, our screen didn’t work and just to add to the togetherness factor, they had hung a giant floor to ceiling mirror at the exact spot where the room intersected. So no matter where you were in the room you could see everything and everybody else and from your bed, you could watch everyone else sleep.

And, in spite of the sheerwaters, most of us did manage to sleep a little. Except Karl, who wants you to know that at one point he had to endure not only the wailing birds but also the simultaneous snores of all three of his roommates. He was furious and incredulous that the rest of us had managed to fall asleep, even briefly. And what he really wanted to do was to pummel all of us.

Fortunately for us, he’d forgotten how to survive in Australia. He’d forgotten to bring his stick.

 

 

Here’s looking at you kid

 

I love vintage photographs, particularly of children. Maybe it’s the historian in me, but I’m fascinated with how kids are portrayed, what they are wearing, how they are posed and what they are posed with.

I first noticed the strange tendency of parents to pose their children with odd items or in unusual positions when I was in the Prado in Spain. There are a LOT of portraits of children and babies in the Prado. True, most of them are of baby Jesus. Probably 99% of them are of baby Jesus and I can say with certainty that centuries of paintings of baby Jesus have not produced any kind of artistic consensus on what, exactly, baby Jesus looked like. There are, however, a few artists who thought he must have been born with a man face, thus creating some of the most disturbing baby images I have ever seen.

The other portraits of children in the Prado seemed equally odd (if not as creepy) as they were posed with strange objects, books, musical instruments, pets, and a lot of old lady jewelry. An art historian friend told me this was done to show the child’s literacy, or musical prowess or to further demonstrate the family’s wealth (as if an oil painting wasn’t enough). Like Louis XV posing with a dog AND a monkey in 1714. Lucky kid. I always wanted a monkey! My mom promised me she would buy me one if I never married and stayed with her forever. I was also to get a Camaro in the deal but I waited until I was 25 and then gave up. In any event….

This tendency of parents to use a portrait of a child to say something larger about the family itself obviously continued in 19th century photographs, as demonstrated by the child’s photos that opened this blog. Having a dog chair obviously meant you were wealthy, as did posing your baby with a pocketbook full of money (super subtle!). And the first one? I have absolutely no idea. What does it mean if you pose your son with a pipe in his mouth and his hand down his pants? Again, I have absolutely no idea. Please feel free to comment if YOU have an idea about this. I’d love to hear it.

Does all this make you wonder about what your own childhood photos say about you and your family? Me too. You can see why.

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This is obviously another photo which raises a lot of questions. Like, where did I get that wig? Who wore a wig? Did my mom wear a wig and I never knew? I am tremendously bad at spotting wigs and hair pieces of all kinds but, seriously, wouldn’t I know if my mom wore a wig? And how did I get Candy, the meanest cocker spaniel ever to roam the planet, to sit on my lap? Why isn’t she biting me like she usually did? And, more importantly, whatever happened to my J.J. Walker “Dynomite” denim hat from Good Times. I loved that hat! Can’t believe I lost that!

Overall, I must admit that this photo does say a great deal about the bizarre and often zany family I grew up in. My childhood photos of my mom pretty much confirm this.

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P.S. Does that look like a wig?

 

You’ve got too much stuff

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You’ve got too much stuff. Yes, you. Yes, I do know. And if you are bristling with a low level anger at the mere suggestion that you have too much stuff it means you have WAY too much stuff.

Does it help if I say “we” have too much stuff? Or are you like my husband who is not fooled by this, understanding that “he” is half of “we” and still implicated in whatever it is that I am saying. That is why he still gets upset with me when we screw things up because we did a half-assed job on something (often) and I yell “we are SO half -assed! We are half-assed people!.” I actually DO mean “we” but he can’t stop thinking only of himself and, fair warning if you ever meet him, he does not like being called half-assed.

Anyway, back to your stuff. I mean OUR stuff. We have too much stuff. Even my dog Sugar has too much stuff and, as you can tell from her photo, she is not amused by people piling up or photographing her stuff.

But back to the question at hand, how do I know you have too much stuff? Well maybe it’s because I have helped you move 6 times but for everyone else, it is because what I do is stuff. My business is stuff. And, should you happen to come into my antique/vintage shop downtown, I promise I will NEVER, EVER tell you that you have too much stuff. Instead I will happily pretend that you don’t have nearly enough stuff and that you actually desperately need that zippo lighter, pocket knife, pair of earrings, old typewriter, cup and saucer, Richie Rich comic book, old clay pipe or Hummel figurine. OK, the Hummel is pushing it. I don’t think anyone needs a Hummel figurine and even I can only pretend so much. Should you know someone who actually does need a Hummel figurine, please send them to me as I have a couple hundred that I would like to unload, I mean sell, I mean get into the hands of a dedicated and lucky collector.

At this point you may be asking yourself, why do I care that you have too much stuff if my business is selling you stuff? Because eventually someone is going to have to get rid of your stuff. Maybe it will be you and you will come down to the shop lugging boxes of your stuff (the buyer is in Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) or maybe not. Maybe it will be your heirs, who will walk into your house and proclaim, “Crap! Look at all this stuff! Where did they get all this stuff? We need help!” and then they will call us to run an estate sale to liquidate all your stuff. And I don’t like doing giant estate sales for people who never got their stuff under control so, in the spirit of the month of January and new beginnings, let’s pretend you are going to do a little cleaning out. I know just where to start.

The first thing you need to do is to stop pretending you are going to miraculously find time and motivation to become a superstar on Etsy. All those things that you have amassed because you are going to make something? The beads, the typewriter keys, the yarn, the wood, the vintage jewelry you are sure you could deconstruct and turn into something really cool, the fabric, the broken pictures frames, the entire box of Betty Crocker recipe cards from the 1950s, the baskets, the unfinished furniture, the doll heads, the scrabble tiles and dice. Throw them out. Give them to charity. Get rid of them. You might, someday, make something but you don’t need a room full of somethings to make one something.

Again, does it help if I say “we?” Because if you are wondering who actually has an entire box of Betty Crocker recipe cards from the 1950s and doll heads, that would be me. In fact, I have (or had) a lot of this stuff, stuffed on shelves in my office, awaiting my Etsy debut. When I finally started digging through it, I was shocked (and slightly dismayed) by what I had saved. Here are a few select items from that larger collection.

Gonnamakestuff

I arranged them to try to make them look pretty but there is really no getting around the fact that this is some bizarre and creepy stuff. What did I possibly think I was going to make with this stuff?  A scary Harlequin doll head (how did that even get in my house? ), a pair of Girl Scout socks and Bingo cards? Porcelain doll legs, recipe cards and a child’s bunny puzzle? I would like to say that this was the extent of my “gonna make stuff” hoard but it is barely the tip of the iceberg. There are 300 more recipe cards where those came from and I won’t begin to tell you how many buttons I have. I’ve actually had to start collecting boxes and jars so that I have somewhere to store all the buttons.

And so, who’s with me? Ready to swear off illusions (delusions?) of Etsy greatness and dump the strange collection of things you have stuffed everywhere that might someday, somewhere, somehow become something but probably not with your hands?

No? You still want to find, amass and store items of dubious usage? You want to remain an unrepentant collector? Well then, just keep one thing in mind. Our shop is open Tues-Sat from 11-6. Come on down! Perhaps we can interest you in a few hundred Hummels. Quantity discounts available.

hummels

 

You’ll love me later

LL1LL2

A few weeks ago I found a love letter a boy gave to me in 2nd grade. The front of the letter proclaims that he loves me “so moch you coodeit blevit,” while the back features a hand drawing of what appears to be us naked in bed. Looking at it now, I realize that I probably should have hung onto him, a scholar and an artist, but whatever else happened during our 2nd grade love affair, it didn’t last. I should note, he was also overly optimistic about how big my boobs were going to get. Those never came in either. He was onto something though when he wrote “I you sto hat you but I Love you now.” Over the years I have come to realize that I am definitely an acquired taste, like coffee. OK, maybe more like chicory.

It seems that almost all the people who love me now “you sto hat” me. This is particularly true with my closest girlfriends. Case in point, Eleanor, who I met in grad school where we were both studying history (which should explain her choice of a pseudonym). By the time Eleanor joined the program, I was already jaded, bored, bordering on hostile and she was happy, enthusiastic and really, very, very strange. She biked to class and came wearing an array of interesting outfits, like baggy shorts over leggings (note: this style was YEARS away from appearing in Athleta catalogs). She also liked to crouch on her chair, bouncing on her feet in a way that made her look like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. For my part, I had adopted a style that should probably be described as the love child of Marion the Librarian and a pompous ass. I liked to look over the top of my glasses at people and wave my pen around to indicate that I was annoyed. I was also addicted to the word “fundamentally,” which I usually paired up with “disagree.” I was not popular. Eleanor was not particularly popular either (too smart and prone to blurting out what she really thought). This didn’t, however, make us fast friends, for as much as I thought she was a freak, she thought I was a pretentious ass.

That didn’t change until the day we were discussing Eric Foner’s Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution. With one week to read this 750 page tome, most of the class had elected to also leave the book unfinished and this has a way of making a three hour seminar extra torturous. Halfway through the class, Eleanor leaned over, pointed to the picture of Foner on the book and whispered “I’d do him” in my ear, a tiny little statement that filled me with such laughter I thought my spleen might explode. No one wanted to “do” Eric Foner and the mere thought of it shattered my carefully crafted persona and made Eleanor my new, best (and, at the time, only) close girlfriend. I should note for the sake of historical accuracy that Eleanor was not kidding. She would do Eric Foner. She is what can only be described as an academic groupie. We once ran into Arthur Schlesinger in a restaurant in Washington D.C. and Eleanor flirted shamelessly with him in an effort to take him home. Given how much he flirted back, she probably would have had him too, if he hadn’t been 150 years old and barely able to stand up on his own.

Eleanor eventually figured out that another benefit of my friendship is that I cook. Within a few months she had moved 60 miles to live close enough to me so that she could come over and join us every night for dinner. And when she moved to town she moved next door to a woman we’ll call Lobo (a nickname bestowed upon her by my husband Karl). She was about to be the next contestant in the “you sto hat” me game show where you eventually come to love what you initially thought was the worst booby prize ever stashed behind door #3.

Like Eleanor, Lobo came by her utter disdain of me honestly as I had decided that one girlfriend was plenty for me (yes, I know, it was one of many dumb ideas I have had). As a result of my “one girlfriend” rule, every time Lobo tried to invite me anywhere I would, quite literally, give her the hand. She would barely get a word out of her mouth and my palm would go up into her face like a marionette whose fingers were attached to a string on her tongue. Knowing her as I do now, it is a wonder she never smacked me.

Eventually I realized the error of my ways and spent years working to convince Lobo that I would be a great friend. That I was more than just four fingers, a thumb and a palm in your face. What lengths did I go to? Has anyone else ever gone to a weekend “out of body” retreat with Bill Buhlman where you lie around on the floor with strangers for two days and try to commune with your past lives? I didn’t think so. It worked though and now Lobo and I are pretty convinced that we used to share a past life. What did we share in the past life?  A womb? A foxhole? A jail cell? A crappy husband in a 19th century Mormon homestead? It’s hard to say.

It also took a little divine intervention from the moon to bring around my friend Heidi. Heidi worked with Lobo and we typically only saw each other when there was a gathering of girlfriends so I was actually unaware that Heidi didn’t like me. That didn’t come out until later but now she happily reminisces about those feelings. So much so that if I say “remember when you didn’t like me?” she enthusiastically replies “didn’t like you? I HATED you! And I was scared of you! I HATED YOU and was SCARED of you!!” I really should stop asking her if she remembers that.

What I remember is that one night we were together at a party, drinking copious amounts of wine and someone suggested that we should go sing to the moon. I can’t recall now if there was another reason for that (a full moon? the winter solstice?) but all the wine was definitely a factor. And so Heidi and I found ourselves standing next to each other as we all tried to think of a song we all knew the words to. I also can’t recall what we sang but I do remember very clearly that after the song Heidi meowed like a semi-rabid amorous cat and bit my ear.

It was obviously a Chardonnay inspired moment but much like Eleanor’s “I’d do him” comment it positively filled me with mirth. Nothing makes me happier than when friends do ridiculous things that I can build on, cartoon, and tease them about. It makes no never mind to me if they are drunk or sober and, having no idea that Heidi both hated and was scared of me, I went full bore ahead, making elaborate plans to turn the bite into a source of ongoing hilarity. Lobo, who knew that Heidi was beside herself about having sank her teeth into her secret nemesis, tried everything to get me to drop it. She cajoled, threatened, and begged but as she couldn’t bring herself to tell me that Heidi didn’t like me I was hard to deter.

The next time Heidi saw me, I had a big band aid stuck on my ear. How can you be scared of someone who is so clever and funny? OK, so it was silly, stupid and ever so slightly juvenile but it was the milk in the chicory and it would be years before anyone (including Heidi) told me how much she “you sto hat” me.

And so, if you have gotten to the end of this and aren’t sure whether to like me or not? Don’t worry, you’ll love me later.