Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest, Put Our Service To The Test

This week is/would be/should be my 35th wedding anniversary.  It's an anniversary that, with the boys all grown, I should be with the man I was destined to grow old with, exploring someplace romantic or at the very least having a romantic dinner.  We should be reminiscing about the good times and the bad and what made our marriage strong enough to get to where we are now. I'm angry and sad and extremely jealous because so many of my other friends are doing exactly that.

 I needed to channel my anger in a positive way. And I'm doing it with diamonds. Baseball diamonds that is.

Baseball has certainly been a big part of not just Wingman's and my sons' lives, but also of mine. My family went with Dad's fire company on summer bus trips to Shea Stadium to see "The Mutts" when they were the perennial losers and tickets were cheap.  All seven of us went for less than what one semi-decent ticket costs today.

All three of my brothers played ball. I know I had a mad crush on at least one of the guys they played with, and was more than happy to watch without being a mopey, bitchy pre-teen. When my parents added a pool in the backyard, those boys could be found splashing away after a game with me at my bedroom window drooling, umm, I mean...watching. Even babysitting for their coach's kids evokes memories. He wore Brut cologne, and that scent still sends me back into teenage baseball delirium. 

First Love played baseball, and I spent years in the bleachers cheering him on.  The first time my high school played his, an actual fight broke out, which resulted in a decades-long rivalry. It wasn't easy going back to classes and sitting next to guys that were in that fight, and I think my teacher/team baseball coach actually failed me on my next test out of spite. It was decades later when son #2 won in relief in a conference championship game against that school that I could finally say that revenge was sweet.

Having three sons, our time at baseball fields stretched almost two decades. Early on, Wingman coached their teams and he was fantastic nurturing little kids. It was sweet watching boys with huge mitts and hats that slid down over their ears hit "home runs".  It got tougher though as they got older; watching them strike out with bases loaded or walk in the winning run. But he was always a kind and patient coach. He use to say that coaching little kids was what he wanted to do when he retired.

By high school, Coach Wingman became obsolete.  He was relegated to being just a spectator with the other parents.  It was about that time that his demeanor changed, and he became anxious and depressed. By the time the two older ones went on to play in college, he could barely watch without liquid fortification. When we went to games, he would say he was going to get coffee, but would come back empty handed.  He would go back and forth to the car, and I would eventually end up driving home, furious, while he slept it off.

One summer, son #2 complained about a flutter in his chest. Wingman scoffed it off, saying he had the same thing, an extra heartbeat, when he played football in college and it turned out to be nothing. We took him to a cardiologist, who agreed but put a monitor on him for a week as a precaution. Out of the blue, his college coach called to say that he found a summer team in Waterloo Iowa for him to play on.  They needed a good relief pitcher, and Coach felt this would be a great opportunity. Son #2 was ecstatic. The monitor had to go.

Wingman changed overnight. "He's not going, not with his heart like that. He could die." All of a sudden, it was like he needed a heart transplant.  He and I fought over it and he refused to even discuss it.  The plane ticket had to be purchased, and we were short on money, so a friend loaned me the cash to buy his ticket. Wingman went into another slump. The morning son #2 left, he put a letter under Wingman's pillow as he slept about how disappointed he was with his behavior, and as I drove him to the airport, I mused over Wingman's words: "If he dies out there, it's your fault."

He didn't die, and had a fabulous summer pitching in a bunch of big stadiums in front of much bigger crowds than he ever did before. As much as I/we would have liked to have flown out there to watch him, Wingman wasn't going to work regularly, and I feared that either he would lose his job, or even worse, be an embarrassment. So we stayed. The only bad thing about Iowa was the housing arrangements.  Since he was so late to the table, they found an older man to take him in, who lived in the woods, and barely talked to him.  He spent most of his time with a guy he met whose host parents agreed to let him sleep on the couch for the rest of the summer. I was eternally grateful for their generosity.

Last year, I started thinking about all things baseball.  I was using Wingman's laptop, and found a very old email from a woman who ran the summer league the boys played on. I looked it up to see if it was still around, and found out that they are, and were looking for host families for players.  I sent her an e-mail that I had two spare rooms if she needed one. Like summers before, I was late to the table and they had all that they needed.

Son #1 moved back home last fall to start a job here in the states. When a couple of months ago the woman from the summer baseball league sent a blanket email looking for host families, I deleted it thinking that two sons at home was enough.  Then came a second email, and a third desperate one. Nine baseball players still needed homes. I couldn't do it-the last spare room was a wreck. Then came a personal phone call with one last plea. With one deep breath, I said yes. Out came the garbage bags to purge.

And so, on Monday, in walked my "summer son", a 19 year old boy from Fitzwilliam,  New Hampshire.  He eats things I would feed a two year old: Strawberry Pop Tarts, mac n cheese, nachos, cheeseburgers and carrots with ranch dressing. He's never seen pork roll, hates fish and doesn't eat vegetables. Worse that all that, he's a Boston Red Sox fan.  But, he's sweet, and Dexter already likes him. He loves Bruce Springsteen and can quote baseball statistics about almost every player in MLB. He tells me when he's leaving and when he's coming home. When I leave for work, he actually says good bye and be careful-something my own brood  never does. And I'm looking forward to watching him play-he throws in the low 90's. I want to be like that family from Waterloo Iowa that gave my son a great summer. Paying it forward if you will.

As it happens, his birthday and my anniversary are days apart.  I plan to watch his game and take him to a pizza place where they give you a tee shirt if you can eat a whole extra large pie, which I have no doubt that he can. In my mind, it will be nothing and everything like that 35th anniversary dinner should have been with Wingman.

Because some or most of our conversation will be about baseball.

Happy Birthday Tyler. And Happy Anniversary me.












Friday, May 12, 2017

I'm Too Sexy For My Shirt

Wingman use to call me many things. Obstinate. Overcritical. Certainly bitchy. I even recall on our wedding day that he called me "beautiful". But that was a one-time happening, and I don't recall him ever crooning Eric Clapton"s "You Look Wonderful Tonight" after that. So it comes as no surprise that he never called me "sexy".

And I get it.  When I went to school in NYC, a couple of my friends were stopped by Eileen Ford and asked to come to her agency to model.  They were cute, and one was even, in an exotic way, sexy even back then.  But not me. I was and always will be, fine with how I look.


There were some things over the years that got me noticed...like when I stopped dying my hair and grew it out to donate for a wig.  As part of a lecture that I did on The Avon Walk For Breast Cancer, I had my beautician come in and cut my waist-long hair short. The following Sunday at church, I was a Eucharistic Minister, which at a Catholic Mass is a regular person who gives out communion. Knowing that my new looks would draw attention from the regular attendees, I positioned myself at the furthest, quietest part of the church.  As I distributed communion and said "Body of Christ" many of the people responded with, instead of the perfunctory "Amen", comments like "Love your hair!" and "Wow, you look great"!

Ummm...I never confessed that. Bless me Father...

Which leads me to work now. Back when I was working full time at Wrinkle City and running to my part time fashion gig, I use to have to make quick changes in the stockroom.  My full time job required 3 piece corporate suits, panty hose and pumps.  The fashion job was much more casual, with one of the only no-nos besides tongue piercings being panty hose (because they are corny). Becoming a full time manager at the fashion company means that I only have a couple of 3 piece suits left (like black ones for funerals) and tossed the panty hose.

I think I dress fashionably and appropriately for my age. I don't own tight sweaters and low-rise jeans and my shoes and boots are all flats, thanks to bunions from wearing high heels for 40 plus years to all my other jobs. Obviously, not all of my co-workers feel the same way as I do.

A couple of Sundays ago, I went to church and went directly from there to work. When my associate manager came in, she looked me up and down, sniffed (she's a sniffer at things she doesn't like) and said "You didn't really wear THAT to church, did you?" It was the dress pictured with the same black tights (not corny panty hose), same black boots, and a black blazer (from my funeral suits) instead of the jean jacket.

I asked her what was wrong with the outfit.  She sniffed...AGAIN...and said "Don't you think you're a little too old to wear that?" "A little old?" I questioned.  She replied "Well that's too sexy for someone YOUR AGE to wear to church."

I started having flashbacks to some of the old ladies at Wrinkle City with their overdone makeup and crazy clothes.  Was I becoming one of them?  I asked a relative in HR what she thought, and she told me that my response should have been to tell her to mind her own business. I asked the pastor in church if he thought I dressed inappropriately, and he laughed and said my associate shouldn't come to a later Mass where her head would explode if she saw what one of the women wears each week.  And I asked my boss, who laughed and said the same woman told her that her shirts are too tight.

So I let it slide, and last week went shoe shopping with the BFF.  It's been a while since I bought anything new, and I'm like a 10 year old boy with shoes-they get scuffed and worn like I used them for a bike brake. We found a great sale and I bought, ahem, more than I needed including a trendy, strappy little pair of suede wedges that look really cute with jeans.  In fact, the first day I wore mine, both my boss and another associate wore similar ones with higher heels.

One of my tasks that day was to send some heavy boxes of clothes back to our central warehouse. As I was pushing one of the boxes, it hit the transition between the wood and tile floor and stopped me dead in my tracks. My foot rolled in my new strappy sandal, and it started to hurt, so I changed into sneakers.

When I left the store two hours later, I could hardly walk. By the time I got home, I couldn't put weight on it. Now, I'm not a baby, and can tolerate pain very well. My second son was an all natural delivery and weighed 10 lb. 12 oz. I debated taking two Advil and waiting until morning until the dog decided for me when he stepped on my foot. Since son #3 was working, #1 was no where to be found and #2 lives too far away, I drove myself to the hospital.

And this is what I have to show for wearing strappy sandals for the first time in years. A badly sprained foot with an equally badly bruised ego.  At least it's not broken, and for the next couple of days, while I can't wear cute shoes (at least on my left foot), I have this neat pair of steel gray crutches to accompany my wardrobe.

Maybe the sniffer is right...I'm too old to wear strappy little sandals, that, in the back of my mind, I saw as being sexy.

Or maybe, Wingman was right when he use to just call me a klutz.










Sunday, February 5, 2017

Won't Get Fooled Again


 I would consider myself a skeptic. When the boys were younger and said they were too sick to go to school, for the most part I didn't believe them and packed them off. And most of the time I was right...except for one missed case of Pneumonia that I recall with son #2. At work, the people that SWEAR that they only EVER hand wash their jeans and don't know HOW they could POSSIBLY have ripped both knees simultaneously, get met with the glare-over-the-glasses look of  the mother who has heard that BS before as I pack them off with the name of the tailor upstairs that can patch them.

But it's surprised me that I've had the proverbial wool-pulled-over-my-eyes this year more than once and in more ways than one. From being told "You'll be comfortable for life when this deal goes through" to being asked "want to go to a game? to the disappointment of  hearing "I'll call you later" and not, has had me doubting my own judgement.

In my defense, I am proud to say that I didn't fall for the Indian-speaking IRS agent who, when I asked if he was calling from the home office in Roswell New Mexico and he said yes, was able to put the receiver in the kitchen junk drawer until he got mad enough and hung up.

But then again, I was a victim of "THE SWAG BAG CAPER"

Now, I have a great BFF who is the best Type A friend you could want. She is the Ying to my Type B Yang, and that's why our friendship has lasted almost half a century. Last spring we went to Amsterdam, and she perfectly coordinated everything for five of us from our car service to our accommodations to our day trips. All I had to do was Venmo her what I owed her and pack my bag, and even that I screwed up by forgetting a hat and gloves for our frosty day-stay in Iceland. The week of my summer vacation, I assumed we'd spend some time at her beach club...but instead, she planned a second vacation-a romantic anniversary trip to Italy with her husband. Which left me with time on my hands.

As luck would have it, another friend invited me that week to her birthday party. It was at the lovely beachfront apartment of a woman, who, from the get-go, I could see was someone I wanted to hang around with. Her great ocean views aside, she exuded confidence, loved to entertain and have fun, and best of all, was single. As we talked, we acknowledged our mutual need for female friends and exchanged phone numbers. We have gone to dinner, heard bands, seen concerts and even, on our mutual birthdays, threw axes.

When the BFF got back from Italy we went to the movies. There, I saw a sign for an upcoming event-it was the anniversary of  "Clerks" and there was going to be an original cast and crew party, featuring the film "The Making of. Clerks" as well as showing the original. As an added bonus, they were giving out SWAG BAGS. And while I realized that, at $28 a ticket, they wouldn't include Oscar night trinkets like Botox treatments, I thought it would be fun.

When Clerks first came out, Wingman insisted we see it as my birthday present. I was not impressed at the time of having to pay a babysitter to watch a black and white film shot locally about two low-lives in a convenience store. Even seeing a guy I went to high school with in the funeral home scene didn't make me love, much less like it. But Wingman loved it and proclaimed him a film genius, and we saw every subsequent film this guy made including "Chasing Amy" which was partially shot in his office. By the time Jersey Girl came out, I too, was a fan.

Here, I will digress and say that Wingman enjoyed some of the most sophomoric, contrived movies ever made. He once rushed the entire family through dinner, making us leave our plates of food on the table, to be the first to see "Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery" and guffawed through the entire film. As appalled as I was with the boys watching a character called Alotta Fagina, you can only imagine how embarrassing it was when we got home. Wingman had forgotten to turn the oven off, with a tray of French fries in there. The new neighbors heard our smoke detector and called the fire department who smashed in the door and left the pan of charred fries on the lawn. What was worse was that my mother heard that the fire department responded to a call at our house, and reamed me out for leaving dirty dishes on the table because it was embarrassing to her and my fire department life-member dad. I lived with THAT for months.

Back to the Swag Bag.

I looked up the event, and asked the BFF if she was interested. She wasn't a fan, and her Friday nights were usually a pizza date with her hubby, so I asked my new fun friend. She was in, as was the woman who introduced us.

We got to the theater, and through the crowd, I saw the guy who made the film. Score! We were actually going to meet some celebs, albeit ones we might not ever recognize in everyday life. Then, this haughty little man with a British accent asked to see our tickets. He sniffed his approval, and motioned for us to enter. "But we have to get our Swag Bags first" I replied, gazing longingly at...plastic grocery bags???

"Um, no. You bought your tickets too late. You don't get a Swag Bag."

Too late? It couldn't be. The BFF wouldn't have bought tickets too late. I couldn't have bought them too late.  I protested, but that snotty midget with his annoying Cockney accent wouldn't budge. Just like The Soup Nazi, it was "No Swag Bags for you."

I pulled out the big guns. "Oh yeah? I'm going over to Mr. Smith and tell him you won't let us have our Swag Bags." To which he replied "That's NOT Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is filming in Toronto." I looked over at the celebrity that I saw as we walked in, and low and behold, it was a damn look-alike. "So who is here from the original cast?" I asked in a voice that was now at least two octaves higher than when we walked in. He ignored me to greet other people and give them their grocery store Swag Bags. By now, the two women with me were getting embarrassed, and suggested we sit down. I pulled out my phone, and saw that tickets for this event were still available...AND INCLUDED WERE...SWAG BAGS. "I'll be back" I said to my friends, as I went to find Shorty.

"EXCUSE ME" I yelled as he tried to look important to a bunch of younger fans. I shoved my phone in his face. "It says right here that if I bought tickets today, I'd get a Swag Bag. So what's the difference with my tickets from last week?" "The difference" he said "Is that you didn't buy them when we were offering Swag Bags." I wanted to do a smack down on him, but just then, my woman posse came and rescued him. Or me. Or both.

"Do we really want to see this movie?" my friends asked. I told them that if they didn't have a problem with some of the new president's vernacular for cats, they wouldn't have a problem with this movie either.

"Then let's go for Margaritas" they replied.

So we walked out, not meeting any cast, not seeing the movie and not getting a Swag Bag. And every time I have to go out in the yard or neighborhood and pick up the dog's poop with a grocery bag, it reminds me of getting scammed that night.

I vowed to myself: before I ever plan anything like that again, I'm asking the BFF to make sure I do it right.

And I'm going to practice my axe throwing...just in case I don't.