Tag Archives: RemembeRED

Feb
27
2012
Want Some Cold Duck?

Grampa started in early with offers of Cold Duck. The same Cold Duck he had obviously already been enjoying. Even my Dad didn’t want any of that swill. Instinctively, I shrunk back, standing behind my Mom.

Although Mom and Dad assured Grampa no one wanted any Cold Duck, he would check in with us on this point every few minutes anyway with a barrage of “Want some Cold Duck? You sure? Cold Duck?”

While nudging each other and repeatedly asking, “want some Cold Duck” would eventually become a running joke in our family, at that moment we were trapped in a loop of Cold Duck offers. Would we ever be able to leave without drinking Cold Duck? 

Perhaps he was so drunk, he thought he was funny. Or perhaps he was so drunk he kept forgetting he had already checked on our desire for some Cold Duck. Or perhaps he was so drunk, he didn’t realize how inappropriate it was to offer his grandchildren Cold Duck.

The only thing I knew for sure…he was so drunk.

Luckily, he snapped out of his Cold Duck obsession long enough to remember he had ice cream.

“Do you want some Metropolitan ice cream?”

I shot a look at my Mom. Did I? We were all wary. What the heck was Metropolitan ice cream?

“What’s Metropolitan, Grampa?”

“You know, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry…Metropolitan.”

“Oh, you mean Neapolitan?”

“No, it’s called Metropolitan.”

We went back and forth on this until Grampa was good and pissed. He insisted he was right and said, “I’ll show you.”

We dutifully followed him to the kitchen, dreading the moment when he realized his error.

But instead, we watched in disbelief as he held up the carton of ice cream and said, “see, it’s Metropolitan” while simultaneously pointing to the word “Neapolitan.”

Grampa did not need any more Cold Duck.

This post was inspired by the Write on Edge RemembeRED writing prompt to write a memoir piece in which wine, coffee, or chocolate features prominently.

My Dad’s parents were a real treat…but making fun of Grampa was usually good for a laugh. Neapolitan isn’t very common anymore, but whenever I see it, I still call it “metropolitan.” And I still don’t want any Cold Duck, thanks for asking.


Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
17
2012
Title and Tagline

Under Construction: Brussels, the European Union, and Me

This post was inspired by the Write on Edge RemembeRED writing prompt:

“Imagine your life, or a part of your life, as a title and tagline. That’s it. Give us the title, and give us the tagline.”

You know I can’t leave it at that. This prompt and my oldest nephew’s recent arrival in France has me thinking of my own study abroad experience in 1994. I have a whole separate post brewing about this. Here I’ll just say the whole city felt as if it were under construction. The fountain in the picture above did not exist when I arrived. I walked by a mess of cranes building something day after day. During the last two weeks of my stay, the cranes were replaced by a small park complete with trees, benches, and that fountain, ironically (defiantly?) crane-like.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Jan
10
2012
Breaking My Stride

I knew what I wanted. I had pictured tears of relief and pride at the finish line of my first half marathon, but my eyes stayed dry. My words were salty instead. “If I ever talk about doing that again, punch me in the face.”

I also muttered obscenities regarding the measurement accuracy of the infinite last tenth of a mile. Several of my toes burned, a painful reminder of my idiotic decision to walk on the beach in my running shoes the day before.

But mostly, I felt an exhaustion that said, two hours, 34 minutes, and 27 seconds is too long to do anything not involving popcorn or a horizontal position. I didn’t want to quit running, but I wanted to be faster, to release my inner cheetah. While I’d never run a pace even close, I set a goal of a 30-minute 5K.

On my speed-work days, I worried my inner cheetah was a tortoise. But the race I’d chosen was perfect:  on the trail where I usually run, night-owl friendly start time (11:30am!), and fall weather (I’m a delicate flower).

Keeping my pace felt effortless the entire first half. At the turnaround point, I thought, I have this. Then I learned something new about my trail. It’s not completely flat. The second mile and a half was all uphill. I’d never noticed the incline before, but pushing this foreign pace made it obvious.

Running began to feel like wading through mud. I wondered if I’d be able to finish, let alone beat my goal time. As I wrestled with myself, I noticed my husband on the side of the trail, my dog sitting at his side. I hadn’t expected to see them until the finish line. Chuck’s tail started wagging when he saw me approach. I felt a burst of adrenaline and my pace quickened. I prepared to give them a wave as I passed. I had no time to spare.

Then Chuck darted right into my path, plopped himself down, and looked up expectantly at me for the obligatory doting.

Although I did have to slow down to avoid crushing my dog, I didn’t have to stop, shouldn’t have stopped. But I couldn’t resist my fluffy muffin.

I missed my goal by 28 seconds. I like to blame it on Chuck. He broke-a my stride.

————————-

Seriously, could you resist that face?

This post was inspired by the RemembeRED writing prompt: to write, in 400 words or less, about an unfulfilled goal beginning with the words, “I knew what I wanted.”

I’ve run four more 5K races since Chuck’s anti-Matthew Wilder interference and the trend is going in the wrong direction. I bought Run Less, Run Faster since I want to run faster and I can also totally get behind running less. I’m hoping it helps.

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Nov
10
2011
M.Y.O.B on O.P.P.

With apologies to Jane Austen, the writers of He’s Just Not That Into You, and Naughty By Nature.

What makes people think they have special psychic powers on the topic of other people’s feelings? If you are really psychic, I think I’d rather know what stock is really going to take off next week, not who you think likes me.

It starts early when your Mom tells you boys pick on you because they “like” you. Why do we try to convince girls that appalling/indifferent/conflicting behavior is a sign of love? Not helpful.

I think people are just bored. Who doesn’t crave a little drama now and then? Even better if the drama doesn’t directly affect us. In other words, we are all down with O.P.P. (Other People’s Pursuits), particularly those of a romantic nature.

So friends, family, and random passers-by love to talk smack and try to plant seeds of romance, most of which have about as much chance of blooming as…something that usually doesn’t bloom (Dave’s annual failed tomato container gardens, perhaps?). While possibly well-meaning, these thoughts are based on no special insight whatsoever and, in the case of your loved ones, a completely biased sense of how appealing you are to whichever sex you are trying to attract.

Of course, your worst enemy in the game of O.P.P. is you. We can be vulnerable to this unsolicited matchmaking because everyone believes, or at least hopes, they are worth liking.

Exhibit A: “Project Fox” or “From Disinterest to Devastation”

My high school allowed Exhibit A and I to attend classes at the college downtown. He offered me a ride. My friends nudged each other and exchanged knowing glances. I bristled with embarrassment and actually considered saying no.

“We’re going to the same place and he has a car. He’s just being nice,” I insisted.

An over excited friend, let’s call her Miss Woodhouse, decided this offer meant something deeper. Watching for signs in every little move he made became her pet project. Like all pets, she insisted on naming it: “Project Fox.” Project Fox would, of course, culminate in Exhibit A asking me out. My feelings on the subject (disinterest) were immaterial.

One afternoon, he locked his keys in the car. By the time we broke in, we were too late for class, which led to a string of afternoons spent ditching class and hanging out. Even my most cynical friend became down with O.P.P., “I totally think he locked his keys in the car on purpose.” (Editor’s Note: Show of hands, who thought the same thing when you got to that part? Who’s down with O.P.P.? Suckers!)

I felt the excitement of getting away with something. I also felt the excitement of making a new friend. My friends felt the excitement of O.P.P.

Miss Woodhouse believed Exhibit A’s not asking me to the upcoming dance was a sign, not of his disinterest, but only that I would have to ask him. Although I wasn’t really up for it, the Project Fox matchmaking manipulation was a success. Inexplicably he said yes and we spent an awkward evening together during which I carried myself as if I were made of glass. When we said good night without a kiss, I was both disappointed and relieved.

Project Fox ended in a standoff in an empty classroom where I demanded an explanation of why we weren’t friends anymore. He squirmed like an animal in a trap and insisted we were still friends. But we weren’t and that stung. People, sometimes a ride is just a ride.

You don’t need a Cruise Director for your love life. Relationships engineered by the Miss Woodhouses of your life are doomed.

———————————–

This was inspired by this week’s RemembeRED memoir prompt (“Write about a relationship you knew was doomed from the start.”), but since I’m over the word limit, I didn’t officially link up.

Have you ever let a Miss Woodhouse convince you to pursue someone you otherwise wouldn’t have? How’d that turn out?

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Nov
1
2011
Winter Cauliflower

It was a delicacy we had only once, but my family still speaks of it decades later. Mom’s cauliflower goo was before its time. Today she could call it “cauliflower mash,” an ingenious carb substitute!

In my pre-FoodTV youth, overcooked (and/or canned) vegetables were the norm. My family hadn’t even tried Chinese take-out yet. But my Dad, brother, and I knew something was wrong with this cauliflower. While the florets on our plates looked in tact, they dissolved on contact with the butter knife.

“What’s up with this cauliflower,” we asked.

“I don’t know. It must be winter cauliflower,” Mom replied.

She’s still trying to live down that creative excuse.

Over the years, we’ve added other stories to the lore of Mom’s innovative cooking. She hates cooking. Cooking wasn’t going to get much attention.

Salads consisted of lettuce leaves barely cut or ripped, often too large to shove in your mouth. I haven’t eaten a salad made by my mother in almost twenty years, but I still call non-bite size pieces of lettuce “Mumsie lettuce,” an obnoxious yet amusing phrase coined by my Dad. Even my husband says it now, which really fries Mom’s ass. Once again, she was before her time. Today, countless restaurants cut iceberg into huge wedges, throw some blue cheese on top, and call it cuisine. Annoying, because if I wanted to have to cut my salad, I’d eat at Mom’s.

Mom can cook. I still remember her mac and cheese fondly. She makes good stuffing too. I look forward to her (green-frosted) orange cookies every Christmas (probably the only reason I avoided contracting scurvy as a picky child). No matter what the proliferation of cooking shows implies, we can’t all be accomplished chefs. I don’t like to cook either. The kitchen in our temporary rental house during high school probably still smells like the burned Rice-A-Roni I forgot I was making one afternoon. I took the saying about pots literally. Who can be bothered to watch a pot boil anyway?

Photo credit

RECIPE

Winter Cauliflower

Remove outer leaves and core from a head of cauliflower. Cut into florets.

Add 3 quarts of salted water to a saucepan and bring water to a boil. Add cauliflower florets to the boiling water.

Boil florets for 10-20 minutes or until cauliflower no longer has mass.

—————————————————-

This week’s RemembeRED memoir prompt:

“Take me back…whether to a month ago or decades ago.

Share with me a special recipe, but don’t just list out ingredients.

Take me there…in 500 words or less.”

Write on Edge: RemembeRED

Oct
17
2011
A Fresh Start

By the end of each school year, I was spent. My notes, so carefully written in the beginning, were barely legible by the last pages of my notebooks. The freedom of summer was not only about time, but also baggage. Before I left school, I had to give back all of my textbooks. I gladly tossed my notebooks too.  Next year I would study something else.

Each fall brought the excitement of change with almost no risk. I would be safe in the cocoon of my school, but I could start fresh. My new teachers would ask me to open my textbook to the first page. I would write on the blank pages of my notebooks using pens in need of a shake to make their unused ink flow. My new shoes would squeak on shined floors. Each year had the potential to be my best year ever.

Sixteen years since my last first day of school, fall is different. I still delight in the explosion of color on the trees and the relief of crisp air. But fall no longer brings a new beginning.

Outside my office window, students re-populate the law school across the street. New books weigh down their messenger bags as they walk to class. This could be their best year ever.

I wonder if they will someday sit in an office like mine. Will they wish their new projects weren’t piled on top of ongoing ones? Will they have trouble marking the passage of time like I do? Will they miss starting over each fall?

***************************

This week’s RemembeRED memoir prompt:

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive
autumns. ~George Eliot

For you, what does autumn evoke?

Show us in 300 words or less.

Sep
19
2011
Sweetness and Light

A narrow staircase led to the loft floating hidden above the rest of the room. Sparsely furnished with only a mattress and air, it still held the two of us comfortably.

Laced together, we drifted in and out of sleep with the clicking of the tape player reversing sides. Swirling guitars and ethereal vocals drifted up from below.

“You are the sweetness in my eyes…”

Right outside the open windows was a slice of brilliant blue sky, dotted with cottony clouds. Partially covered by a light sheet, a breeze scented with promise glided over our bare skin, adding its cool caress to our embrace.

I stirred and tightened my arms around his strong, yet yielding body. I could not quite fully envelop him as he could me. Burrowing deeper into him, his warmth radiated over me as I lightly slid my hands over his smooth skin. Resting my head on his chest, his rhythmic heartbeat calmed my own.

I breathed in his dewy scent. I felt the rise and fall of his breathing under me. As the gentle movement lulled me back to sleep, I saw spring green warmed by slanted beams of late afternoon sunlight.

“You are the juice I need for life
You are the sweetness in my eyes…”

*****************************************************

This week’s RemembeRED memoir prompt: “We’re going to let narrative take a backseat. Choose a moment from your personal history and mine it for sensory detail. Describe it to us in rich, evocative details. Let us breath the air, hear the heartbeat, the songs, feel the fabric and the touch of that moment.”

Rich description is not one of my strengths, in writing or other communication so I decided to challenge myself by participating in this prompt. The title and the quoted song lyrics are from the following Lush song.

Sep
5
2011
Along For The Ride

Do I miss my childhood? I miss four things about being a kid: my Gram, the close relationship I had with my older brother, summers being something special, and the excitement of Christmas. And maybe MTV playing music videos.

I’m not secretive about not being a kid person. Not a very popular opinion, I know, but at least I’m consistent. I didn’t like kids even when I was a kid. I didn’t like being a kid.

Kids have no control over most of what happens to them.

Other people made my choices. My room was painted pink. I hated pink. I wanted my hair long. My Mom insisted on keeping it short. I cried every time she had it cut.

My older brother would babysit me during the summers. Mike wanted to play tennis with his buddy one day. He wouldn’t let babysitting cramp his style. Guess who had to go with them?

I couldn’t think of anything less fun than walking two miles in the blazing sun to watch sub-amateur tennis. Mike suggested I ride my bike. Did I mention the route was uphill? Huffing and puffing within a few blocks, my little legs couldn’t keep the pedals turning. So I had to walk two miles uphill in the blazing sun while pushing my bike.

Once at the courts, guess whose job it was to retrieve every unforced error (and there were many)? We still talk about that little outing.

On the other hand, I couldn’t think of anything more fun than baking (and eating) cookies. I asked to bake all the time and Mom rarely agreed.

“Why not,” I would whine.

“Because I don’t want to make cookies,” she would say.

“But I’ll do it,” I would insist.

“No, you’re too little. I’d have to help you and I don’t feel like making cookies right now.” Mom clearly identified with Hillary Clinton on making cookies.

Even as a preteen, I still wasn’t allowed. Although, I did almost set our house on fire twice during high school, so maybe she was right to keep me away from the oven.

Kids are annoying.

Kids have no self-control. Maybe because they have no say in anything else, they figure they might as well make everyone else miserable too.

I remember refusing to go to bed one night for my Gram. I danced around, sang at the top of my lungs, jumped on the couch, and generally acted like an escaped mental patient. Gram’s look said, “I’m too old for this shit.” Although she probably thought it in Polish.

I felt exhilarated and terrified. You see, I knew I was tired. I could barely stand up. But I had wired crazy kid brain. My misbehavior felt like something I watched happen rather than something I chose to do. I felt sorry for my Gram and I actually annoyed myself. I was powerless.

I can look back on my childhood fondly now. But I don’t really miss it.

This little uplifting piece was inspired by the memoir writing prompt at Write on Edge. The prompt asked us to use the image of the crayon for inspiration and to begin the post with the words… “I miss my childhood…” I feel the need to point out I wouldn’t have colored in pink even if that crayon were the only one left in the box.

Aug
30
2011
Don’t Be The Tiger

This week’s memoir assignment at Write on Edge was to write about a memory of yourself with someone else, as other people help shape who we are through their words to us, their actions, or their lack of action.

I wrote this to stand on its own, but it’s also a continuation of a previous memoir piece (the first RemembeRED prompt I ever responded to), which can be found here. I decided to write more of this story even though U2’s “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” tells it better.

——————————————————————–

My boyfriend, if you could call him that, sat on my bed. When we weren’t “doing shit,” as my friend from across the hall so colorfully called making out, it was painfully obvious this relationship of convenience was neither a relationship nor convenient.

I willed him to kiss me so I wouldn’t have to think about it, but he started talking instead.

“I don’t understand why you hang out with me,” he began tentatively.

Huh, that’s not a question… I held my breath and waited.

He went on, “Say you’re hanging out with a tiger…,” he paused to see if I was following.

“Uh, yeah?,” I already knew where this was going, so I nodded, urging him to get to the point.

“You say you want the tiger to stay, but it’s sort of awkward with a lot of silences.”

I gave him more silence, so he continued, “Then a cheetah comes around. You come alive. You’re friendlier and happier. You talk and smile and laugh. So why do you bother with the tiger at all?”

There wasn’t going to be any doing shit tonight.

Apart from that, it was hard to decide what annoyed me most about this conversation: how dead on he was, how stupid I felt for not breaking up with him after his girlfriend had visited weeks earlier, his hypocrisy, or his unnecessary use of metaphor.

Ironically, if I hadn’t been the most inhibited version of myself with him, I would have called him out on the last two. Are you saying you think I like Mark and Ron better than you? Are you aware of the irony here?

Instead I continued his metaphor, “No cheetah has ever been interested in me.”

I’d overcome my overpowering inhibition when with him and gave voice to my most embarrassing truth. And it didn’t seem to hurt him, or make him angry, or even make him pity me, because he simply didn’t buy it.

“I find that hard to believe. Am I just someone to be with until a good cheetah comes along?”

You really don’t get it. I don’t believe anyone else will ever be interested in me. Your attention intoxicates me.

But I had to force myself to speak again, so all I could get out was, “I don’t know, but isn’t that pretty much what I am to you?”

Only a week before, he’d said he didn’t know the real me. He expressed surprise I hadn’t told him I loved him yet. Before the big cat discussion, I think he told himself I loved him but just couldn’t say it. Or that I was holding back emotionally and if I would just let go…but now he was visibly upset whenever I smiled at, laughed with, or talked to a cheetah.

While he was surprised I didn’t love him, I didn’t see how anyone could fall in love under these conditions.

I was looking for a sign this relationship was good for anything beyond taking my mind off the cheetah. But now he wasn’t even doing that anymore. He actively reminded me of the damn cheetah.

He always insisted I wasn’t a substitute for the long-distance girlfriend who had reportedly agreed to see other people. Something about his vehemence about this and the way he wouldn’t give up working on me suggested he was auditioning me to replace her. Or just trying to get in my pants. But his motivation wasn’t important. Either way, he was right, I wasn’t my best self with him.

I don’t know what he needed, but I needed a cheetah.

Aug
16
2011
Deprived

We sat in silence in the back of the cab. The driver wanted to share one of his poems. Oh God, I didn’t think this ride could get any worse. The driver probably thought we were flying to a funeral. No, we were going on vacation.

Six months earlier I had broached the subject of a “big trip” to celebrate our tenth anniversary. We earn a good living, we don’t have kids tying us down, why don’t we ever go anywhere, do anything exciting? We settled on Belgium. Exotic enough to mark the occasion, but comfortable since I had lived there for a semester in college.

At first, excitement fueled marathon internet research. There was so much to do. After much mental hand-ringing, I booked an apartment and a flight and was too overwhelmed to do more.

A few weeks before our departure, I started to panic. I would never be ready in time. I asked Dave for ideas. I rejected his suggestions as not sufficiently informed by our books or my inflexible idea of what it meant to be ready.

I read the travel guides cover to cover. I spent hours searching the internet, printing custom maps, creating spreadsheets with sight-seeing and restaurant ideas (sorted by location). All while worrying about being ready.

I became fixated on the perfunctory section in the travel guide about security. Somehow “be aware of your surroundings” turned into an internet search that uncovered a murder over a MP3 player on the Brussels metro.

Dave used his iPod all the time. He was trusting and not very observant. I became convinced something bad could happen to him on this trip. Rationally I knew this was extremely unlikely, but my mind kept conjuring up terrifying scenarios, including death, anyway. No trip was worth any of these scenarios. 

I started to dread my looming…vacation.

When we arrived in Brussels, I was horrified to find my French had deteriorated so badly I couldn’t communicate. I hadn’t prepared enough, I wasn’t ready. The first morning, I couldn’t finish my breakfast. Worse, I could feel my body about to reject what I’d already eaten. Even though I was exhausted, my insomnia the first night didn’t surprise me. Rick Steves had warned me about that.

Surely I would sleep the second night. I got comfortable and tried to clear my mind. After hours of lying still without sleep, I tucked deeper into the fetal position and stuck my hands under my chin. My fingers rested lightly on my neck and I felt my heart pound at double my resting heart rate. Images and thoughts raced through my mind, unintelligible but disturbing. I did not sleep for one minute.

The nausea didn’t let up. In a country we had selected in large part for the food, I ate only to avoid passing out. Walking around the city, I felt weighed down by my brand new pants dragging on the ground.

Midway through the week, we sat at the small kitchen table in the dreary apartment. I choked down tiny bites of takeout. I worried about getting sick on our trip to Bruges the next day. I felt guilty Dave wasn’t getting to eat any real food, that I was ruining this trip for him.

I wanted to tell him I’d been counting down the days until it was over and how worried I was that I couldn’t even enjoy a vacation. All I could say was “I just want to go home.” The words caught in my throat and I sobbed.

I made a deal with whoever might be listening. If I got through this vacation, I would figure out why I made everything so difficult and fix it.

—————————————————–

This post is in response to this week’s RemembeRED writing prompt.

“This week we’d like you to write about a moment in your life when you knew something had to change drastically. Really explore the moment.”

I decided the word limit should be 619 words. I managed to hit the mark exactly!

“How was your trip” was never such an unwelcome question. I do have some pleasant memories of the trip, like the way Dave held my hand. He was steady and comforting and wonderful.

Dave told me after the trip that all my rules (no iPod!) freaked him out so much he was afraid of the little old ladies who’d tried to strike up a conversation with us on the train to Bruges. I’m sure they planned to stab him for his iPod, then sell me into slavery.

This was really hard to share. I’m telling myself everyone has things they want (need) to change. And that being open about it can only help.