friday fictioneers: catching jimmy

Copyright - David Stewart

I love playing tag with the boys on the playground. I can outrun most of them.

I like catching Jimmy. He’s cute. I’ve got a crush on him. I think he likes me, but I’m not sure. He seems to like the girly girls. Yuck! They’re always batting their eyelids, and fixing their hair, and smoothing their dresses. Why can’t he see that I’m prettier, and faster than all of them put together? 

Oh, well. I like chasing the other guys around too. Jimmy can wait. I’m having too much fun.

Heck! That dumb bell’s ringing. Recess is over.

“Coming!!!”

redding ct, like the maui of old

When someone learns that I’m from Maui, she always exclaims “Oh, don’t you miss it? Why’d you ever leave?” I take a breath, preparing to answer what I truly feel in my heart.

Maui as it is today, even as it was 15 years ago, is no longer the island of my childhood. As with the neighboring  islands, in fact as with other popular destinations, tourism has transformed what was a less populous, less commercial, off-the-beaten-track locale into a mecca for the rich and famous, and even the not so rich and famous. Mind you, I came to terms with the drastic change some time ago. On one of my last trips to Maui, years ago, it was apparent that visitors to the island provided a livelihood for the majority of the locals. So I wasn’t about to admonish them as co-conspirators in the “ruination” of Maui, while I left to make my living and home elsewhere.

Before my daughter was born, actually before she was even a possibility, I was returning home to Long Island, New York from a business trip to Kansas City. Seated next to me on the flight was an attractive man dressed in cords and a sweater, appearing very much like a New Englander. Striking up a conversation, we spoke of many things.  One of the topics was where we resided. I explained that while my husband and I lived in Westbury, I wanted to move somewhere reminiscent of my birthplace, Maui. I desired the same small town atmosphere, where neighbors knew each other, where children played together, where there were town parades, fairs, picnics. Without hesitation, my traveling companion blurted “Redding, Connecticut! You should move to Redding, Connecticut!” 

I’d never heard of the town, so my new friend proceeded to describe it as a small, rural community isolated from the hubbub of surrounding towns by vast acres of pristine land, much of which belonged to the town ensuring that they would never be commercially developed. He went on to explain that to enter Redding, one either drove alongside reservoirs which supplied water to the town, or along country roads shaded by trees. The idyllic picture seemed lifted from a postcard. Giving me the name of the realtor who helped find this New York City writer a getaway home, I was convinced that my husband and I needed to make the 75 mile trip north of NYC, in search of Redding.

We got more than we bargained for, as a result of our hunt for a new home. Nearly bereft of hope that we’d be parents someday, Redding was the answer to our prayer. After 16 years of marriage, our daughter was born. The first 11 years of her life were spent in an oasis within the midst of suburban Connecticut. Watching her in those early years was like stepping back in time, into my own childhood Paradise. 

Topographically different, Redding had rolling hills, and a man-made lake in which to swim; Maui boasted a dormant volcano, and ocean waves upon which to surf. Redding’s landscape was dotted with sugar maple trees, whose leaves were seasonally transformed into the colors of the setting sun. So unlike Maui’s tropical palms swaying gently in the evening breezes, as the glassy Pacific waters below mirrored the shining  moon overhead.

In spite of their disparities, the people of both Redding and Maui were alike in their hospitality toward newcomers, and the friendliness within their communities. Schools were small, so while students didn’t know everyone personally, they were aware of everyone through friends or others. Children looked forward to trick-or-treating, door-to-door.  School plays were exciting affairs, as were school dances, and basketball games. Sleepovers were commonplace, as were play-dates and church picnics. Dads coached sports teams and led the Boy Scouts; moms were Girl Scout leaders and drove carpools. Children caught buses to school, or walked. Neighbors helped one another; they prepared meals for a family with a cancer-stricken mom; they cared for children when parents were tending to emergencies; they consoled those who laid loved ones to rest.

My daughter’s memories of an idyllic childhood in Redding  are just that, treasured remembrances. And so it is with the Maui of my youth. So when I’m asked “Wouldn’t you want to live there now?” I always reply,  “The Maui where I grew up is in my heart; it’s with me, wherever I am.” I know my daughter feels similarly about Redding, Connecticut, the town she still calls her home, though she’s not lived there for 13 years.

“home is where your heart is,” truly…hugmamma.

no more pain, only friends

Saw one of my favorite people, for what had been one of my least favorite appointments,… seeing the dentist. Dr. Quickstad and his staff have allayed whatever fears my teeth and I had about hands poking around inside my mouth. To say they are considerate is an understatement. Never have I been queried more about my well-being during a dental visit. But they are so efficient and capable, that they needn’t worry. 

My first experience having my teeth looked at was the summer before entering 6th grade. Our family was too poor to afford such luxuries as repairing what we already had. We could only take care of our daily needs; the future would have to wait until we hit the lottery (nonexistent in those days). I’m not certain whether it was a nagging toothache or the desire to look better when I smiled. I had skipped 5th grade, going from 4th into 6th. I wanted to “measure up” to older students who would be my peers. But knowing myself as I do, my mom probably dragged me, “kicking and screaming” to the dentist because of the hammering ache from a tooth.

As it turned out I didn’t know pain until I sat in the chair of a middle-aged, Chinese dentist wearing wire-rimmed eyeglasses. The framed certificate hanging on the wall across from where I sat, probably indicated where he’d trained. All I remember is hearing someone say that he’d been an army dentist. He went on to demonstrate on me, how he’d worked on strong, military guys. I should’ve enlisted after the treatment I received.

The dentist was kindly, but formal and stiff. From his demeanor I understood that he didn’t stand for nonsense. Not that I would cause any; I didn’t want him to get carried away with his drill or needles.  I don’t remember there being an assistant, but there might have been. I can only remember watching the dentist’s every move, with eyes like a hawk’s.

Over the course of many months, the dentist worked a miracle. Badly decayed teeth were removed or filled with silver. The improvement gave me the self-confidence to open my mouth without hesitation, smiling, laughing, grinning, speaking. But I must admit the path to my new look was sheer agony.

Novocaine was administered with a needle that looked like it was meant for a horse. And there was no numbing the area beforehand. As the dentist stuck the huge needle into my gums, administering the sedative, I pressed my head as far back into the headrest as it would go; it would’ve gone further if it could have. I was only anesthetized for extractions, fillings were done “cold turkey.” The drilling felt like a jack hammer inside my head. When it hit a nerve, it took all my self-control not to want to kick somebody, anybody. But as a Catholic school student, I was expected to suffer in silence, and I did. 

I came to like and admire the middle-aged, Chinese dentist, wearing wire-rimmed glasses. He discounted my fee because of our financial situation. My mom always paid what she could each time, $5 in cash. I felt proud when I handed over the money; for a moment I didn’t feel so poor.

My first dental experience ended happily, but it didn’t negate my fear of dentists. So throughout the years, I’ve not attended to my teeth as I should have. Somehow that chore always fell to the bottom of my list of things to do. But I did make certain that my daughter’s teeth were always looked after. I didn’t want her suffering, physically, mentally and emotionally, as I had. Her teeth are gorgeous, thanks to braces.

At 61 I’ve found Dr. Quickstad who, with his staff, has made dental appointments more like…visits with friends. They’re ensuring that through the remaining decades of my life, I continue to bite, chew, swallow, and smile, grin and laugh with all my pretty teeth showing.

no more pain, only friends…hugmamma.

may be my best year yet

I awoke to a “new” year, my 61st. My husband reminded me, indicating that he’d forgotten until he saw my sleepy head come into the living room. He’s an early riser, unlike me. On the weekend, he enjoys his favorite pastime, reading his e-book. I enjoy mine any day of the week, any time of the day, writing on my blog.

As “empty-nesters” our lives have settled into a comfortable routine. There’s work; there’s play; and there’s the in-between time. Forty years of wedded bliss and 3 years dating prior to that, can make the passing of years a challenge. How do we keep life together interesting? Fun? Getting into a rut happens to the best of us. We’re probably “middle-of-the-road. “We’re not jumping onto roller-coasters (I know I’d throw up my innards.) But we aren’t lying around in hammocks either (We’d never get up.) We enjoy similar interests, like visiting Barnes and Noble Bookstore or Half-Price Books, shopping at Lowes and Home Depot, going to an occasional movie, and spending time with our daughter. As we’ve become more comfortable with each other, however, our individual likes and dislikes have made their way from the “bottom of the heap” to the top. Funny how that happened, without our realizing it.

My husband abhors dancing. When we first met, he had “2 left feet.” He made no secret of it. But I didn’t think it was a permanent flaw; I thought I could fix it, with a tweak here and there. Not until our 38th anniversary, give or take a year or two, did I realize he really DOES have “2 left feet.”

The story of our first date is one my husband loves retelling. I was 17 or 18, he a year older. Living in Honolulu at the time, we headed to Waikiki Beach for some fun in the sun. I was so awestruck by his movie star good looks that I was speechless most of the time. (Can you believe it?) Furthermore, I was sensitive to the fact that he was the oldest of 12 children. With so many mouthes to feed, I didn’t think he had money to feed mine. Visiting the nearby zoo, he asked if I wanted some lunch, perhaps a hot dog, popcorn, soda? Lying, for I was starved for food, I replied that I wasn’t hungry, that I’d had a big breakfast at the dorm’s cafeteria. In disbelief, he pointed out that it was hours since I’d eaten. His protestations fell on deaf ears. Adamant that I didn’t need a morsel, I did give in to his offer of a soft drink. Not until 8 hours had passed, when he drove me home, did I fly down the dining room steps just before it closed. I ate like a truck driver who’d fasted for a week. I scarfed down everything I could lay my hands on. My husband left me that day thinking I was the quietest girl he’d ever met (not that he knew many since he’d been a Catholic seminarian before we met), with the appetite of a bird. Well, it didn’t take too long for him to learn the truth. He’d married Lucille Ball who ate like Ethel Mertz.

I enjoy shopping; my husband waits patiently, e-book in hand. My husband “saws wood” when he sleeps; I use ear plugs and lay a pillow between us, partially covering my head to muffle the sound. I enjoy tuning in to “Bethenny Gettin’ Married?”, “Say Yes To The Dress'” and “The Bachelor;” my husband can’t stomach reality TV, so he leaves me in peace and heads to the lower level family room to watch the History channel. I find pleasure in talking with people, including total strangers; my husband doesn’t interrupt, but he doesn’t hang around either, preferring to wander off.

Laughing over inconsequential, silly, little things at one point today, my husband and I agreed that he rarely speaks a whole paragraph. His reason, “Why should I say a paragraph when a word will do?” I replied that it might make him more approachable socially. Not skipping a beat, he merely smiled back at me. He is a man comfortable in his own skin, never personally needing the approval of others. I have always admired that quality in him. I, on the other hand, am like most who need to know that we are loved. Into my 6th decade, I am finally seeing my husband’s point of view. I am who I am.

We make our marriage work through give and take, neither of us doing all the taking or all the giving. It’s a balance that requires daily effort. It helps to think “Would I really want to start all over again, bringing a total stranger ‘up to speed’ about me and my likes and dislikes?” And more importantly, “Would someone else love me as much for the person I am, and not the person he’d like me to be?” So growing older with my husband of many years is a gift for which I am very, very grateful.

As I advance through this decade of my life I find myself happily reinvigorated. Writing has enabled me to get my creative “juices” flowing once again. I’ve always favored the left side of my brain. For most of my business career I sat behind a desk, watching a clock. I relished my “free time” when I could do cross-stitch or other handiwork, prepare a gourmet meal, decorate and then re-decorate my house. But transitioning from career to motherhood didn’t allow much time for self-fulfillment. Not that I minded for being a mom has always been my favorite job, hands down. But now that I’ve regained use of my own life, figuring out what to do with it has given me pause. There were the “fall back” options, volunteering, part-time work, full-time work, ramping up my exercise regimen, spend more time cleaning house or tending the garden. None of these possibilities caught my fancy, my creative fancy that is. So I bided my time and continued doing whatever it was I was doing, until now.

Fleshing out ideas, thoughts, opinions and feelings in my blog posts has grown new brain cells for sure. Writing has given me a youthful outlook that is couched in the experiences of a 60 year old. I’m rediscovering my past, reflecting upon my present, and pondering my future. With my mind leading the way, I’m sure my body will strive to keep pace. Writing makes me process my thoughts, then attempt to formulate them into words. It’s like going back to school, without having to go there. I’m motivated to live life large, in the moment. It may be that I’ve found my own “fountain of youth.”

hope you find yours…hugmamma