Monday, January 05, 2015

Baby Boo

When you are the eldest, at least at our house, there is almost always a crib in your room.  I argued often with Mother over what could be wrong with this babe or that.  Once, I insisted my baby sister was throwing up.  Mother said, “No she just has a cough.”  Once the lights were turned on, she found the crib sheets covered in vomit, just as I had said.  In later years, my sister and I shared a room with day beds on opposite sides of the room, tucked neatly under the corners of a table.  We would toss a nerf ball across the room to each other from our beds and tell each other secret things upon catching.

But long before I ever had a sister, I shared the room with my younger brother.  There were bunk beds in the room.  Since there was little danger that I would fall, I occupied the top bunk.  The ceiling was flocked with “popcorn”, a white lumpy spackled surface covering common to ceilings, which contained a glitter like substance.  I liked it very much.  I studied it often and wondered at how it came to be up there and nowhere else in the house, such as walls, carpeting, window moldings, and the like.

One particularly warm summer night, mother cranked the window open a bit to let the breeze through the room.  I had scarce slipped off to sleep when my brother below me started to cry for Mother.  “A monster!  Help!  Moooommmmyyyyy!”

I leaned down to quiet him.  He said, “There is a black monster in the window, and it said ‘baby boo!’”

I sat up, squinting my eyes and stared hard at the window.  All I saw were the curtains billowing slightly.  So I jumped down and turned on the light.

The curtains were moving!  I screamed “Daddy!  Help!”  The bedroom door flew open, and my Father said, “What’s going on in here”.

“He saw a monster, and it said ‘baby boo’ to him!”, I said.

Dad grabbed the curtains and threw them back.  There on the windowsill in our room was a small black cat.  “Meow”, it said.  “I’ll baby boo you all right”, said Dad.  “Go back to bed.”  He tossed the lost cat out the window and cranked it in a few notches.

I lay there on the top bunk contemplating the glitter in the popcorn like tiny stars, giggling “baby boo” to myself until I reached oblivion once again.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Santa Claus

So here is Christmas, and I am recalling a time long ago when we used the broomstick to open the basement storage room door hook and eye closure to explore.  We discovered more than we bargained for in that room.  Under the bed where Dad slept at odd times, probably because he was in the doghouse.  I imagine this, because it could be quite damp down there, and one would otherwise not voluntarily sleep in the room.  We found a treasure trove of gifts, which led me to a single, bittersweet conclusion.  Santa Claus is not real!  He was, in fact, my parents.

At the same time, I was so very pleased to find a cookie book of recipes and a cookie press, a deluxe version of scrabble, a ski hat and gloves, and a rock hammer and bag.  My brothers found treasures on their Christmas lists.  We hurriedly scuffled the booty back under the bed before Mother pulled into the driveway, swung from a rope tied to a rafter on the other side of the room a few times and exited, Lin standing on Dan’s shoulders to replace the hook in the eye, and erasing all evidence that we had ever been there.

My brother Dan has no guile.  He has always been a follower.  A sheep.  So we told him what to say and do.  Until the guilt overcame him.  He cried.  And he told Mother how sorry he was about there being no Santa Claus.

And her fury came down upon me and Lin like a tornado.  She dragged us into that room and watched us wrap those gifts for local homeless children.  She packed us into the car crying and drove us to the shelter where we gave away our precious gifts!  I have never felt so humiliated or confused in my life since.  I am convinced this experience made me disaster proof for later crises.  When bad things happen, my blood pressure drops, my heart rate slows, time moves differently,  and I feel little of anything, thanks to mother and the Santa Claus crisis of years ago.  While others panic, I calmly watch in superior fascination.  I bet I would fail a psychopath test.

We drove home in silence.  Faces crusty and a bit dirty with dried tears.  All the time wondering what would happen on Christmas morning.

We had Christmas Eve with Grandma.  The dinner was marvelous.  And we opened clean new pajamas.  I imagine for the photographs of our sad faces.  In the morning under the tree were three gigantic lumps of coal.  But under the couch cushions were wrapped gifts!  New gifts.  Things not on our lists.  My Dad had convinced Mother that ruining Christmas because we were curious, unsupervised twits was out of the question.  We learned a hard lesson, but a good one.  And somewhere, maybe a girl with no home, was reading cookie recipes and dreaming of making them sometime.  Erstwhile, I was wearing ski mittens, not gloves,  on the slopes with my Dad, who insisted I have fun anyway.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Last year for Thanksgiving our house was full of guests.  I enjoyed every minute of it!  This year we have a smaller guest list, but it will be no less a pleasure for me.

This is my menu plan.  I have a new turkey deep frying device which is more an appliance.  It is used indoors.  I can't wait to try it out.  We'll be smoking the trout outdoors in the smoker of course.  And grilling sweet potatoes with a lime syrup.

Hairston Family Thanksgiving 2014
Cheese straws
Smoked trout with dill crackers and crème fraiche
Cranberry orange mold
Corn pudding
Sausage stuffed mushroom caps
Roasted mélange of root vegetables
Truffle shallot mashed potatoes with gravy
Grilled sweet potato wedges with lime and cayenne
Green bean casserole – with home-made fried onions
Deep fried turkey
Coconut cream pie – Williamsburg style
Homemade vanilla bean ice cream
Chocolate pots de crème
Pumpkin crème brulee
Assorted drinks

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Super Glue and Self Sufficiency

Isn’t it amazing how when you love someone, you depend on that person, even though you are perfectly self sufficient until you start including them in small things?  I have marveled at how doing so has led to some of the most ridiculous errors I’ve committed in my life.  I always look back on them and smile a secret smile in my heart, knowing they make me a little more human.

Once, after repairing some things we broke after tossing them about; I broke the cardinal rule of Super Glue and spilled a drop on my thumb.  Before I could locate the acetone nail polish remover in our bathroom, I had glued the thumb of my left hand to my index finger on the same hand.  I thought it was hilarious of course!  So I decided to include my hubby in the incident.  I picked up the telephone to tell him all about it, knowing it would be a great inside joke between us for quite a while.

Here is important advice:  Never use the telephone during an active Super Glue incident.  We chatted a few minutes, giggled as lovers do, and hung up.  To my utter chagrin, I found my right hand glued to the phone receiver on the wall!  I felt like a bear in a trap.  I had three good fingers on my left hand to get the phone receiver removed from the wall phone (no small feat) and wear it around the house, while I telephoned my sweetheart again from another room,  and requested he bring home a vat of acetone.

I can attest that was the longest wait in my history of impatience.  I tried watching the television.  I read the Smithsonian magazine.  I awkwardly went through recipe cards dreaming of a nice dinner.  I went and found a bucket in which to sacrifice the telephone receiver.  I paced.  I stomped.  I laughed maniacally.  I tried to peel apart my thumb and finger.  Ouch!  No, I could no longer save myself.

If you want to save yourself from this brand of stupidity, call your sweetheart after you have taken care of a problem; unless you absolutely need help.  It will be a great joke between you and the universe.  I promise your love will admire you for your cool brilliance in a crisis.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It is Genetic for Sure

I was talking to my brother the other day.  He lives in Pennsylvania, parts of which are quite rich in certain types of fossils.  He happened to be looking down in the parking lot at the doctor's office and he noticed rocks containing fossils!  He gathered them up and showed his children.  His son became very excited as he scanned the parking lot for more, when he noticed a "blue" rock!  He started hopping up and down and ran to show his Dad the magnificent find.  A blue rock! 

Context is everything...The curbs had just been painted, and apparently the crew got sloppy.  Pre-painted rocks are great, but not geological marvels! 

I happen to know my brother sorted blue pebbles with white lines in them on the car port roof, just so he could make extra wishes, (everyone knows these have magical properties).  He also once dragged a very heavy coral colored salt formation, which turned out to be a salt lick, half a mile cause he didn't know what it was, so he should let a curb rock slide.  All kinds of weird things are still treasure if you are rock crazy.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Riding Games

We had a mini bike.  I’m not certain of its origins.  We had to tinker with it from time to time to keep it running.  The spark plug would foul and have to be cleaned with a sacrificial toothbrush.  We pooled our allowances to buy gas.  And if Mother had known the thrilling, and probably very dangerous games we played on it, she would never have let us ride it in the first place.  Or maybe she would.  She and Dad had matching Husqvarna dirt bikes.  I only ever saw her ride hers once.  After that, my Uncle Bob, her younger brother, rode hers mostly.   But she did it.

My favorite mini bike game required some preparation.  We had to crawl through the ivy that bordered several driveways and gather snails, saving them in a pitcher donated by mother.  Snail ammunition makes an audible and somewhat sickening pop when the shell cracks as it hits you while you speed by on the mini bike.  The rules were simple.  No face shots, and try not to wreck the bike.

Another marauder would stand in the yard with a bb gun as you as you raced down the long driveway when it was your turn.  This person would shoot at you, pelting you with bb’s.  They stung a bit, but bounced off denim.

As long as a snail shell didn’t break your skin, a bb didn’t take your eye out, and you didn’t have a colossal bike wreck, ride into traffic past the end of the driveway, or (Heaven forbid) ride across the street and land in the creek, you were golden!

Once, a snail shell broke the skin on my brother Lin’s elbow.  It was infected for weeks and had to be lanced.  Another time, a bb broke the skin on his scalp at the bottom of his helmet and had to be removed.  It was just rolling around under there at his hairline, but we couldn’t extract it.  We thought it was really cool.  Mother was very skeptical of how a bb aimed at a target hit him while he was riding the opposite direction on the opposite side of the yard.  We were all thick as little thieves.

We also chased the mini bike up and down the driveway on our bicycles if we were not shooters or snail throwers.  It just made it more exciting!

Riding a mini bike is nothing compared to being on the back of Dad’s motorcycle.  Dad would favor us with rides from time to time.  Most of the time they were short rides around the neighborhood after he had been out riding with Uncle Bob all day.  But every year on a birthday or special occasion, or maybe on a Saturday, he would take one of us up the canyon before it got too cold for a long one on one bike ride.  Or maybe out for a high speed,  flat out run by the Great Salt Lake near the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Sometimes it could be to some other special place he had scoped covering a recent news story.  Wherever it was, it was always fascinating, and a special time with him.  One such ride, we stopped to rest and he informed me we would move back to Washington, DC again.  I was ok with it.  I no longer belonged in Utah.

How I loved these rides!  There is a special trust I a girl has for her Dad anyway.  But when you are on a motorcycle behind your Dad, you develop a rhythm with your bodies.  You learn which way to lean, how to center your gravity, and you communicate without words.  I would put my hands inside Dad’s pockets or hook them around his belt and relish the freedom, the wind, the sights and sounds, the vibration.  I would eventually fall asleep, knowing all was right with my universe.  Later I would rock out with my Walkman inside my helmet until I had checked out for a snooze, too still and frozen to move.  Now that is trust.  And I learned something that stuck.  If you don’t feel that way about your lover, your spouse, your  intended; then he is not THE ONE.  No matter what your body says.  No matter what the hormones are screaming at you.  No matter what logic tells you or your heart says.  If you would not get on the back of his bike, and then fall asleep on the back of his bike, then it is all wrong.  A man may feel that way about you, but if your yardstick doesn’t measure him in that way, then he will eventually fail you in the ways that matter most to you.  Believe me, I know.

Now, I ride my own bike.  Spouse number two taught me how.  I relish the freedom.  The speed.  The wind, the sights and sounds, the vibration.  And I like being a cool biker chick.  I will teach my daughter to ride, but first, she will ride on the back of my bike.  There are important lessons there.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Haiku - Write the Book and Puke on It

The other night during dinner I tried to get my daughter to try her hand at poetry.  I think she's ready.  She detests writing.  I think it is good they make them practice writing in school each day.  I would have loved it.  She must have inherited this trait from her father.  He detests writing of all sorts.

I told her about writing limericks, and iambic pentameter.  I tried to get her to do a few "roses are red..." about the beach trip with me to no avail.  But her eyes danced and she asked me to tell her more about my childhood.

I told her she could write a Haiku about the Currituck Lighthouse.  No dice. 

So, I told her about sailing on Dad's hobie cat at Sweetwater in Bear Lake and told her I had written a Haiku about it.

Dad was a news reporter.  His plane crashed in the lake once.  Mother was up all night.  Praying and worrying all night.  The phone rang earlier.  It was the news station telling her the plane was lost and they would call when they found him.  Mother told us nothing.  But I knew she was devastated, and worried.  The energy in the house was all wrong.  I couldn't sleep.  Dad had been gone before, but we could sleep.  Dad would travel on stories.  He would go away for the Navy.  But this was different.

Dad's piper cub went down somewhere over Bear Lake.  The pilot couldn't swim.  He toted that guy all night.  I imagine like all guys who realize they are drowning he fought at first, and then surrendered to his swimming, floating, fighting savior, and just let Dad drag him through the water.  And poor Dad dragged him in the black, swimming all night long toward what he must have thought was the shore.  I know he reached it sometime just before dawn.  Exhausted, cold, and defeated.  He would struggle with the aftermath of the crash for some time afterwards.  I remember hearing him complain as he replaced the contents of his wallet, now at the bottom of the deep blue lake.  No drivers license.  Lost photos and mementos.  All gone.

So it was surprising to me in 1980 to find myself and my brothers and sisters on the mat of a hobie cat, Dad so willing to drop us in that same lake.  Confident we would swim back to the boat and he would fish us out, over and again.

I loved connecting with the wind and the sky, the mountains and the deep blue of the lake.  So I dug up the haiku about it:

Silver sky warm winds
I smile at mother pink and white
Dad spills us in blue

Mountains hulk in black
Sun setting red and orange
Mother finds her top

We race the darkness
Sad to leave the deep Bear Lake
Home again to sleep

And since we were talking about mother stripping off her bikini top in front of all of us, my daughter made a lot of gagging noises over her taco, and said, "You saw Nanny's boobs!  That's just sick."  And the whole time I was thinking, "Like my kid isn't still bathing with me..."

The spousal unit, said, "Just write the book."

And my daughter piped up and said, "Yeah, I'll read it, and then puke on it."

Well, at least she waxes poetic. 

What Tricks Can You Do?

I grew up with a lot of boys.  I learned early how to make nasty sounds with my arm pit, how to belch the alphabet and generally how to horrify Mother.  Two things I never did though.  I never farted outside the bathroom for fear that Mother would beat me.  And I never put my feet on anyone else.  Nasty foot humor was the domain of my brother Dan.

I can turn my eyelids inside out and blink.  Quite terrifying when you are wearing eyeliner and mascara.

Through some genetic accident, I can reach my nose with the tip of my tongue and lick off the ice cream.  I can probably reach inside a nostril if I try really hard, but I have never bothered.  My daughter has been practicing, but is not quite there yet.  Who knows if she has my tongue or not.  She seems to have inherited a blend of parental traits.

My daughter occasionally requests that I perform eye and tongue tricks.  I usually decline, as they are not meant for polite company.  Occasionally, I will favor her with one, or some combination of them.  I have found they are quite effective as motivational tools.

Tonight, my daughter struggled through the last few minutes of a piano lesson.  The teacher was at the end of her rope.  I stepped into the room to lighten the mood and encourage my daughter with my eyelids turned inside out.  The teacher gasped, but my daughter started laughing.  She straightened her back, and said, "Mommy, watch this."  And while she counted the last two measures of her new song and played the notes, she farted.  On purpose!

After she did that, I expressed my grave concern.  I told her girls don't do that.  And she said, "I can probably fart the alphabet."

I was immediately transported back to my own childhood.  I said, "Yeah, well I can burp the alphabet."  Now both she and her teacher were demanding a demonstration of this long-dormant skill.  I politely declined and immediately issued a moratorium on alphabet farting and burping.

There is a word I have always liked, abecedarian.  I have never considered it to be a compliment word particularly.  It connotes one learning the rudiments of something - a beginner.  The implication is that the way of thinking or doing is rudimentary and linear.  I cannot decide if burping and farting the abc's is abecedarian.