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Don’t Let the Parade Pass You By

The annual 4th of July parade is always fun and a terrific opportunity for us all to remember what’s important. Even with our war memories receding, that hard won freedom is still celebrated. The local officials don their white clothes and sashes, boys and girls line up with their scout troops and local veterans march in line as we clap and cheer their service.

The fun part starts with the decorated bikes and floats. This year, Zettie Louise asked me if Junior and Daisy could ride on a float she wanted to construct and pull with her motorbike and I gladly accepted. She wanted me to help with costumes for the kids, so two days later she invited me down to her house to see what she had already built. When I arrived, I realized she had moved her heavy dining room table off to one side of the room and covered it so that she could place her construction tools on it.

A wide chassis on 3 wheels was in its place and the start of a 5 sided star was waiting for placement on top. Vache sacree! Zettie Louise explained her plans to build a floor on the star for the kids to stand on, decorate it with red, white and blue paint trim and build a sparkly skirt around the bottom. She was sure the kids could balance on it if she added a post with handles on it.

I quietly circled the float to try and imagine it in my head and wondered how she intended to get it out of the dining room. She must have sensed my disbelief and started asking me if I had some thoughts on how to improve it. She humbly backpedalled on her abilities to make it parade-worthy and her speech was speeding up nervously as she continued. I realized that I had to say something and quickly stopped her by telling her how much greater the float was than I imagined. I did ask her about her intentions of removing the chassis when she finished and she was silent. She realized her error but quickly came up with a solution.

She told me that Steve would help her remove the large window in the room to take it out. I gently suggested that maybe the float chassis could be moved prior to putting on the base, perhaps to the garage for the rest of the work. Zettie Louise chuckled to herself a little and seemed embarrassed. I asked Zettie Louise if we could stop for a cup of tea and she gladly led me back to the kitchen. We then had a chance to discuss the costumes.

Zettie Louise was sure that Daisy would be a great Lady Liberty and I figured I could probably get that outfit together. Then Zettie Louise told me that Junior would make a great Italian immigrant and I paused. I couldn’t quite see making Junior’s hair black and she wanted him to have a mustache. Luckily, I had a small brainstorm, and suggested that Junior dress as Uncle Sam. Zettie Louise clapped her hands and agreed wholeheartedly. It would be a little more work for me to figure out but a little easier on my son.

Long story short, I am glad to report that Zettie Louise, dressed as a flag in a white cap, red shirt and blue pants, pulled the float with her decorated motorbike. What a festive sight! Luckily, I put a little sun suit on Daisy under her robes since one shoulder dropped with all her waving. Daisy’s paper mache torch held up well even when she poked Junior with it when he annoyed her. Junior looked dapper in a tall hat I glittered in red, white and blue. His cotton beard and striped pants, hand-painted in my utility room, were topped by a little blue jacket with a white shirt underneath.

The cherry on top was that the float won first prize! What a happy sight to see Zettie Louise jumping around the stage in the park with the children joining her to accept the prize. The five dollar prize wouldn’t cover the cost for Zettie Louise with all the hours she put in and she gave the money to the children to split. Zettie Louise was so happy with her float that she pulled it behind her motorbike to the grocery and the neighborhood for the next few days. Celebration is good for everyone.

Knows Alot

Sometimes it’s entertaining to hear the children argue since their logic is so clear. They aren’t afraid to tell each other exactly what they think and when there is injustice, they find it easier to point out. Fairness is so difficult to maintain. With adults, there is often double-speak, polite answers that are little white lies and even out-right falsehoods. We are afraid of the truth. I understand that myself, because I can delude myself easily when I want to.

I know that Mags isn’t afraid to sugarcoat the truth and tell me what I need to hear. She can gauge my level of sensitivity and knows when to back off but I also know that when she is not telling me everything I need to know, I can figure out what I need to do. We have our own coded language. In the past few months, I have been able to clearly help some friends with issues on decisions on having children, kept secrets when necessary, corrected gossip that was way off base and enabled a few friends to find different strategies in dealing with their spouses. I am officially a knows-a-lot. I sure don’t know it all, but I recently figured out that I do know stuff. The question is, what to do with all this talent?

I stopped off at the book store and found a beautiful new display up front. The books were stacked on new tables in different genres. It made me rethink my book selection process. I decided to walk right past the new display and start to look at new sections that I had not yet explored. I found myself pausing in a non-fiction area, noticing a new shelf of books on psychology. They looked a little like textbooks, full of smaller print with technical words. I wasn’t quite ready for those. But they were intriguing and I made a promise to myself to check back on them another day when I felt a little smarter. I gradually made my way back to the front and perused the new stacks. I found a novel that looked intriguing and instead of writing down the name and ordering it from the library, I bought it. I was beginning to think that the book store was dangerous. But I rationalized the purchase by telling myself that reading is good for the mind. And I want to know even more.

Well Excuse Me

The one thing I have learned from studying my friends is that we are all different. Although we all live similar types of lives, some of us are what I like to call “complex” friends. I consider myself to be a simple friend; easy to get along with, not overly demanding or loud. My complex friends often need more attention and will escalate their behavior if they don’t get it. I don’t talk much about her, but in our outer circle is Clarisse Boudin. Clarisse is a different kind of southern than Judy Anne. Judy Anne prides herself on her impeccable manners, which she wears like a shield. The smallest motion of her face can let you know that someone has overstepped their boundary. She is a bad behavior detector and it’s always fun to watch her at the annual block party as she semi-interrogates the newest families.

Clarisse joined our group at the club pool yesterday for some talk time. Clarisse throws in some salty language from time to time, so I usually encourage the children to swim or play cards more when she is around our group. It’s not that we are above using a curse word from time to time – I have a few that just fall off my lips when I accidently hurt myself. In fact, I think most people have their own go-to string of expletives. Clarisse is also what I call a good talker. She barely takes a breath between sentences. She had her head thrown back to sun her face. You couldn’t see her eyes because she had large cats-eye sunglasses on. I noticed that both Mags and I were watching Judy Anne as Clarisse spoke. Judy Anne’s facial twitches were hysterical but she held her thoughts to herself or at least I can say they weren’t shared verbally. I actually lost track of what Clarisse was saying at one point as I watched. It probably wasn’t anything too shocking but it was obviously not something Judy Anne thought should be discussed in public.

Luckily, the lifeguard whistled for the start of the adult swim time. Mags leaned over and grabbed Judy Anne’s hand and quickly pulled her up to join her in the pool. I followed, leaving Clarisse still talking to herself. Maybe that’s all she wanted to do. After Mags, Judy Anne and I were in the pool for a couple of minutes, Judy Anne had cooled down enough to laugh at what had just happened. Mags told her about her face twitching and she laughed even more. All Judy Anne could say was how amazed she was that a Southern girl like Clarisse could talk in such a manner in public. Oh well, I guess we all have different filters. My study continues.

Lake Love

In the grander side of life, Buck and June offered us the lake house for a week again this year. Steve and the kids always have a great time fishing and swimming. The kids were able to explore a little further this year and the long days playing outside made us all sleep better. I tried to make easier meals for lunch and dinner at the lake house, so planning and making a detailed grocery list was very important. Although when it came to breakfast, I went all out to fortify the family. Junior’s appetite has really increased and even Daisy doesn’t pick at her food anymore. Steve enjoyed a second cup of coffee out on the deck after breakfast while the kids rummaged close to the house, picking up sticks and small pieces of wood to use as kindling for our nightly fire. Of course, I bought a couple bags of marshmallows, boxes of graham crackers and chocolate bars for the s’mores. I like my marshmallows partially burned, so it takes some patience for the perfect one.

Steve always seems so patient with the kids when we are at the lake. He takes time to show them how to bait their hooks and talks to them while waiting for a fish to bite. Some days I went along with them on the boat and packed a picnic basket for our lunch. I partially froze some lemonade the night before and added it to the jug in the morning so it stayed cold until lunch. The sandwiches were delicious. Eating out in the open air is such a treat, I decided that when we returned home, we would eat more summer meals outside at the table on the little patio.

Of course, the nights are always the best time for Steve and I to cuddle up outside under the stars. The skies were beautiful and it was peaceful and romantic. It’s important to keep romance in every marriage and the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives sometimes makes it difficult. With two children, I have so much to do everyday that I forget about Steve until just before he comes home. I am determined to be a better partner and plan some surprises for him this summer to remind him of why he picked me. He is such a good provider and cares about his children even when he’s tired after a long day of work. I found a winner.

I have to find a good way to thank Buck and June for letting us use the lake house again this year. Their generosity lets us live it up on our budget, the house is beautiful and something we might want to have one day and it brings us together as a family. It’s a fabulous way to start our summer!

To Snack or Not to Snack

Finally, pool time! My favorite time of year. Junior and Daisy were both taking swimming lessons this year, so I was speeding through my housework early in the day to take them to the club later in the morning. I generally sit with the other mothers as we quietly watch our young fish splash about in the shallow end of the pool. The sun isn’t too hot yet so I’m able to get a little base color on my pale arms and legs as a benefit. Sometimes after the lessons we stay for a while and set up in the area that is reserved for my squad. It’s not really reserved formally, but it’s where we all sit everyday and no one else tends to grab the chairs there.

I always pull up a chair for Mags next to mine so we can talk while I keep an eye on the kids. The lessons are really paying off and Junior’s legs are looking leaner and he is getting taller. His little man muscles are super cute. Daisy uses the lessons to be more social and asks a lot of questions from the instructor. The weekdays at the pool require me to really plan better. Besides getting the housework done early, I try to pack lunches for the kids. They are really hungry after swim lessons and the snack bar food is fairly expensive. I don’t mind an afternoon ice cream run as a treat, but I try not to load the kids up on food they wouldn’t eat at home. The mama bears take good care of their cubs.

The weekends at the pool are very different. With the men in tow, the dynamics change. We still sit in the same area but next to our spouses. The men rarely use the chairs much because they tend to be in the pool either standing around chest deep and talking, tossing around a ball or throwing the children around. The papa bears enjoy their cubs too.

On the other hand, the snack bar is the go-to food venue. The kids get whatever they want as long as they order and get their daddies’ food too. The sunshine and pool play makes everyone extra hungry and the guys often make a trip over to the snack bar for a cold beer when it’s available. After eating, the kids sit on their outstretched towels and play cards behind us. Adult swims are fun for all of the big people as we gently glide around the pool together while the kids reluctantly wait on the sidelines. The club manages to satisfies all of the many needs of our family. Everyone seems happy there according to their own interests. Although I have always pined for a backyard pool, I’m not sure I could replicate the fun that everyone has as a group at the club pool. Maybe it’s better to have to wait for some things; it gives you time to think about your wishes.

Spell It For Me

School would be over soon and our card parties would be taking a summer break too. Edie had volunteered to hostess the final one and we were all looking forward to getting a chance to explore her home a little more. Although I probably had more secret information on Edie than anyone else, I looked forward to watching my squad quietly check out Edie’s. Edie’s house was thoughtfully decorated and like Mags’ home, she didn’t have to worry about displaying precious treasures or constantly wiping down everything that little hands can reach.

Edie did not disappoint. Fresh flowers spilled from two vases. One giant bouquet was placed on the dining room table which was beautifully set and the other shorter arrangement was placed on the glass-topped coffee table. A glass top; I shuddered at the responsibility that involved.

There were bowls of candies too. Little multi-colored jellies that were sugary and shiny. Milk chocolates whose swirling tops held a code for the candy center. Edie’s tablescape had food displayed at different levels on cake stands and her cut crystal was lovely. Edie’s jello creation had fruit suspended perfectly. I wanted to take a picture but I didn’t bring my camera. After our first cocktail, we all sat down to play but there were no cards on the table. Edie disappeared for a minute and returned with a box of Scrabble. We looked quizzically at each other, laughed and opened the box to play. It was great unexpected fun. It had been a while since I had played but made a good showing. It was fun to mix up our game. Edie provided a giant dictionary for reference for questions over “pretend” words that shouldn’t be counted in the scores. I wondered if her giant dictionary was the same one she used in her romance writing. After all, how many ways can you say something without looking up a synonym or two?

After several hands, we ate and walked around admiring Edie’s home. I noticed that the door to the sunny office was closed. Edie maintained her secret identity.

At the end of the afternoon, we sat around comfortably and thanked Edie for the fun. She is really remarkable. I’m going to have to be more creative to keep up, but it’s a good challenge!

In Ralphie We Trust

The late afternoon sunshine streaked through the front picture window creating puddles of light on the gold carpet. I still believed that God hung out in the sunshine, just as I did as a child. Seeing sunshine streaks always reminds me to say my little girl prayers. I have no idea how all of that even got into my head. Either my mother or dad must have told me that a long time ago. It reminded me to be careful what I was installing in the minds of my little ones. It’s so easy to believe in those we trust.

Yesterday afternoon, I heard some gentle banging on the back door. The kids were at school and I was busy putting together a casserole for dinner. No one ever knocked at the back door, so the noise surprised me. The inside door was opened a little due to the nice weather and at the other side of the storm door was a small boy. I recognized him as Ralphie Brown, Sandra and Joe’s son. I hadn’t gotten to know them very well yet and he was definitely too young to be visiting on his own. Granted, they only lived a few houses away and I had seen them playing in their backyard. Each yard had its own fencing – some wood, some wire, some just shrubs, so it was easy to see what was going on when families were in their own backyards. I opened the door and the little boy entered. He didn’t seem too frightened of me and climbed up onto a chair at the kitchenette. I automatically brought him a cookie and a small glass of milk. He ate happily, crumbs falling from his mouth. I realized that I had been speaking to him the entire time, asking him his name, where his mom was, what he was doing here, but he never answered any of my questions. Actually, he didn’t pay any attention to me. I sat down next to him and looked directly at him and he smiled back at me. I asked his name and realized that he probably didn’t hear me.

I grabbed a bottle of Daisy’s bubbles off the kitchen counter and blew some his way. He giggled out loud. I pulled some of Junior’s soldiers from the box on the toy shelf and lined up a few on the table in front of him. He did what little boys do. Picked them up one by one and walked them around each other and eventually rammed them into each other and they fell down. That gene must be strong in males. But he seemed to enjoy himself and smiled and laughed as they fell. He looked up at me and smiled. I could see his baby teeth. I decided to return my little friend.

We walked hand in hand down the front sidewalk to the Brown house. As we approached the front door, it swung open and a very worried Sandra Brown came out to greet us. She grabbed her toddler and hugged him tightly. Mrs. Brown turned back to me and thanked me profusely for returning little Ralphie. She explained how he must have roamed away from the backyard where he was playing with his sister. Obviously, she said, he didn’t hear me when his name was called. A bell went off in my head. He never heard me talking to him either. Sandra and I talked for a few more minutes and I made a promise to myself to try and include them more in the activities on our block. The annual party would be soon. Maybe it was time to reach out and get to know this family better. Maybe little Ralphie could even come over for a real visit. I’m sure his mom wouldn’t mind after she knew me better and built up some trust in me. I missed having a little boy around. I was already used to children who didn’t always listen to me; Ralphie might help me learn how to communicate better.

When In Doubt, Do Something

Almost every afternoon this week, I have managed to sneak in an hour of reading time. Romance novel reading time. I have found it very enjoyable and in fact, learned a little history about the roaring 20s and sober 30s. This particular work of history involved a speakeasy where a lovely young thing named Rebecca worked for a mean aunt who ran the club. Auntie was a bit of a despot who expected Rebecca to keep track of all the money they took in, pay the bills and work in a terribly cold basement office while listening to all the music and fun being had by the upstairs patrons. Edie had written the back story to include descriptions of the entertainment, clothes and illicit drinking and gambling. I could picture it in my head because Edie made it so visible. One night, a stranger finds his way to the office and encounters poor Rebecca and is smitten with her. It was a little like the Cinderella story in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, but for grownup women.

It was so intriguing to hold a book in my hand that was written by someone I knew. I had nothing of interest to tell anyone and had no idea where Edie found all her words. A lot of thoughts did swirl around in my head though. Sometime back, I had started to write my personal thoughts in a journal. I have always wondered what made us all tick. I often watched for differences in the ways my friends raised their children and dealt with their husbands. We talk about our families a lot and try to help each other with suggestions on child-rearing and husband-handling. Was I really different from my friends? The only way to know if I was capable of understanding would be to continue to document my thoughts. Maybe after more careful examination, I would have a better answer. My new slogan would be – When in doubt, do something. Like write it down.

An Original

The doorbell rang and when I answered it, a beatnik awaited me. Longish brown hair, a fringe of a beard, dark sunglasses and a striped shirt stood before me. I finally had the courage to say hello and he answered with “TT here.” I had no idea what that meant so he repeated it. I had no idea what that meant so he repeated it. Finally, he took off his sunglasses and told me he was Tommy Todd. My surprised face must have looked funny because he chuckled.

Lucy had nicely arranged for her brother, the artist/painter, to visit our house to check out the bedroom wall I wanted painted. I took a very deep breath and I invited him in, barely remembering to introduce myself. Tommy followed me to Junior’s bedroom and I gave him my thoughts. He stared at the wall for a good minute or so and told me it was a bold move. But that he liked bold ideas with paint. When he told me when he would be able to do it and what it would cost, I figured that I could always paint over it if it didn’t work out.

Later that week, after everyone left for the morning, Tommy arrived and started painting. I wanted to check from time to time on the progress but Tommy closed the door. He said that he wanted to keep the paint fumes out of the house and he did have the windows in the room open. It was excruciating. I knocked and offered to make him lunch which he turned down but as far as I could tell, he only left the room to use the bathroom.

About 2 o’clock, the bedroom door opened and Tommy found me in the kitchen. He had splatters of sunset colors over his face, hands, and used-to-be white overalls. He was grinning, which I took as a good sign, and he motioned for me to follow him. The wall was gorgeous, sublime, stunning and amazing. The colors gradually climbed down to the floor in a perfect sunset.

Even better, a very lifelike small cactus had been placed on one side of the painting. It really was a giant painting. In fact, it was signed, with a scripted TT in the bottom corner.

Riding Off Into The Sunset

Sarah and Roger were planning some renovations to their home and Sarah asked me about using the company Stubbs owned. Stubbs and Judy Anne had done some renovations to their home already and her backyard kidney shaped pool was on the top of my wish list if we ever changed things. I encouraged Sarah to check with Judy Anne to see her changes. I have seen the trucks from Stubbs’ company in different neighborhoods in Monterey Park. I guess as homes and families aged, renovations were always needed and wanted when affordable.

I was thinking about redecorating Junior’s bedroom. He is heavily invested in a future as a cowboy. Although concerning, especially since I was unsure of the profitability of roaming the Old West, I played along most days and didn’t try to dissuade him from his fantasy. I really wanted to paint the wall behind his bed in a sunset but had no idea how to accomplish it. I mentioned my dilemma to Steve and he rolled his eyes. I guess the thought sounded as impossible as the execution.

I decided to stop at the wallpaper shop to see if maybe a mural or some other solution was available. With the bookshop on the way to the decor shop, I stopped in for a quick look at the new titles. Lucy was behind the cash register helping a couple choose between two different books on antique collecting. Lucy found me looking through the fiction paperwork books, specifically the romance novels. She looked at me sideways and I understood her surprise. When she realized I felt a little uncomfortable getting caught looking for Edie’s books, Lucy stuttered a little and agreed that as genres go, romance novels included a little history lesson also. I laughed a little and told her that I wasn’t planning on reading any of them but wanted to find a particular author. Author. I was trying to make it feel a little more professional than it was considered. I gasped a little when I saw the name R.L. Newquest. There was a whole shelf of them! I grabbed three different titles and told Lucy that I changed my mind.

After paying for my books, Lucy asked me if I was doing anymore shopping. I told her where I was headed and even told her about my crazy idea about painting the sunset wall. Lucy thought it sounded beautiful and offered the name of her brother as a possible painter. Apparently, Tommy Todd was a local painter/artist and might be able to make my idea a reality. What a day, Edie’s fantasy books and my crazy idea coming together. Life is strange like that.