Archives For November 2013

A cat-dog-bird tale

November 22, 2013 — Leave a comment

When my daughter was very young, she asked if she could have a kitty. We told her that our landlord wouldn’t let us have pets, and that included kitties. Periodically, overcome by kitty love, she’d pop the question again. Despite our reply always being the same, her hope never waned.

The truth of matter? Our lease’s restriction provided a smoke screen that concealed my actual distaste for all things feline. I was loathe to divulge my genuine feelings — she would surely recoil in horror at such an aberrant attitude. I hoped this whole kitty thing would simply be a phase she’d outgrow.

During the Winter of Her Discontent, my parents came for an overnight visit. My mom couldn’t help but notice the theme in my little one’s bedroom: a profusion of kitty memorabilia.

“She sure does love kitties, doesn’t she?”

“No kidding.”

“Reminds me of somebody I used to know,” she added with a little grin.

For a split second I wondered who in the world she was talking about. But then her facial expression, in addition to the tone of her voice, registered.

“You mean me?”

“Well, yes! When you were about her age you carried your kitty around with you everywhere, draped across your little arm.”

Wait a minute, here. What’s she talking about? I don’t even like cats. Not one bit.

My stunned look prompted her next remark.

“Surely you remember…”

But I didn’t remember. Yet I believed her.

Following this brief interaction, I wrestled with the notion that during my early childhood I had been a Cat Lover. This identity was dissonant with the persona I’d adopted for myself. My denial rose up to defy the new information. Me? A cat person? Hardly! But I knew my mom wouldn’t have described my behavior that way unless that’s how it had been.

In the ensuing weeks and months, the barricade I’d constructed around the kitty memories began to crumble. I began to recall a little grey cat with very soft fur. I also recalled holding it on my lap as I sat on the sofa, and listening to it purr. I remembered telling my mom it sounded like her motor was running. And I remembered carrying it draped across my arm. I began to embrace the notion that I had once loved a cat.

A couple of years later, interest rates lowered and we began house hunting. By this time our girl was six.

“If we get a new house, can I have a kitty then?”

Uhhhhh… what to say now?

“I guess so.”

As that brief reply spilled from my mouth, I experienced a moment of dread. A reasonable dread — at least to the heart of the four-year-old that still beat in my chest. There was a genesis to the wall I’d built around my cat loving heart. It happened one afternoon…

My mom was preparing to clean the parakeet’s cage, so she put the daschund out in the back yard, leaving the bird  free to flit about the house. If the identity of the person who then opened the back door is known, it has always been withheld from the tale’s recounting. The dog ran back inside, did what dogs instinctively do, and attacked the parakeet. The bird’s demise in the dog’s jaws was no doubt quick and relatively free from suffering.

With the dog barking, the bird squawking, mom shouting, and kids crying, Dad came rushing in. Through all the clamor, he ascertained that the dog had just taken out the newest addition to our little menagerie. He heatedly scolded the dog, and chased it through the house. She escaped out the front door.

What I never knew until my parents’ visit, was that the dog ran straight into the street and was struck by a car and killed as quickly as the parakeet. Count ’em: that’s two pets down in probably a less than two minutes’ time. But it gets worse. The adorable little grey kitty became so traumatized by the mayhem and madness that she ran away, never to return.

My mom tells the story of how I, sitting on a family friend’s lap shortly thereafter, told him my pitiful tale of woe.

“Unca Bob…?”

“What, honey?”

“We got bird food and no bird. We got dog food and no dog. And we got cat food and no cat.” Sigh.

The big people thought the way I shared my sorrow was rather cute. But I’m thinking it must have been right about then that I began fortressing myself against the risk of feeling any future loss and pain on account of some cat. I believe I vowed not to love kitties, ever again. And in the process actually forgot that I ever had.

We ended up buying about the thirteenth house we looked at. Within a month or two of moving in, we were invited to dinner by some folks who lived in the country. And wouldn’t you know it, they had two baby kittens that had just been weaned by their mother. My daughter carried one of them around the entire time we were there. And yes, she asked our hostess if she could take it home.

“Sweetie, I’d love to say yes, but your mama would probably kill me if I said you could have it.” Prior to my regaining the kitty memories, that probably would have been the case. However, shortly before we said our goodbyes, I discreetly let the woman know that if she was serious, I had previously decided to let my little girl have a kitten.

That night, after a quick errand to buy litter, a litter box, and kitty chow, everyone else was in bed and I found myself holding a little ball of fluff. And wouldn’t you know it? His teensy motor was running. And right then and there I made the conscious decision to let this itty bitty creature “in”.

Thanks to my girl, I found my way back home to my real self.

LKII and Carmel

My girl and her first love

Number three son stopped by the house last night. He mentioned visiting my blog earlier in the day and liking 10 Awesome Things About Being a Kid, as well as its follow up, 10 Awesome Things: A Response.

“But you should have added snow days. You know — how when you’re a kid, snow days are just awesome?”

I agreed: snow days are pretty awesome when you’re a kid.

“I mean, think about it: you don’t have to go to school, you get to drink hot chocolate and play outside in the snow! It’s just cool!

“Yep,” I nodded.

“But…,” he went on, “when you’re an adult, snow days are totally different. You’ve got the driveway and sidewalks to shovel, vehicles to clear off, then driving through the stuff to go to work or school, or whatever. You don’t get to stay home. Definitely not the same experience.”

True, true.

After he left, I started to  reminisce about snow days when I was a kid.

Ah, yes. All one of them.

Seriously. I can only remember one. And I’m not even sure it was a snow day. I can’t actually recall anyone saying “snow day” or “school is closed”. But all the neighborhood kids were home too, and I don’t remember Dad being home, which is a good indicator it was a week day, not the weekend. But who knows.

What I do remember was the big ordeal that it was to gather all the sweaters, coats, gloves, mufflers, scarves, earmuffs, caps, extra pants, extra socks, boots, etc. One by one, Mom helped stuff us into all that gear — like little sausages — and then closed the back door behind us as we waddled down the steps and out into the winter wonderland.

Oh, the feel of snowflakes landing on the nose and cheeks! The “clouds” that appeared with each warm exhale! (“Look, look! I’m smoking!) The layers upon layers of frosty white wonderfulness that bid us frolic!

We made snow angels and a snowman. (Knock, knock, knock… Mom, can we have a carrot for a nose?) Then my brother suggested we build a fort behind which we could stockpile an obscene supply of snowballs and create for ourselves an impenetrable defense against a heavy enemy attack. We slaved away, building and stockpiling. I pitied the fool who might mindlessly wander within our range.

Once we finished, we huddled behind our barricade and waited. And waited. And waited some more. No one came. I guess the other kids were huddled in their own forts, waiting for us to stumble along.

We got cold. But we stuck it out and waited some more. After all, we had built a totally imposing fort which was worth holding out to defend. And we definitely had the ammo. But eventually, our fingers would threaten to become icicles and drive us indoors. Without having thrown hardly a snowball, as I recall. Sigh.

Mom spread out layers of newspaper in the mudroom to handle the mound of soggy outerwear. Then we changed into2292 warm, dry clothes and had something hot to eat — Campbell’s chicken noodle soup being pretty standard fare back in the day. I honestly don’t remember if we went back outside that day or not. But I do have a hazy recollection that it took way more than a few days for the fort to melt. Heh heh.

Fast forward to snow days as an adult. (I can even remember more than just one!)

There have been a few snow days due to blizzard conditions or icy conditions, during which no one — kid or adult — ventured outside. But there have also been plenty of snow days that pretty much followed the same pattern as that snow day of my childhood: Mom helping kids locate coats, gloves, mufflers, ski masks, long johns, snow pants, boots, etc.; stuffing the sausage casings; scuttling them out the back door; then sitting down with a mug of coffee and a magazine, only to have them knocking on the back door minutes later. These gloves have a hole in them… Can we make snow cones? We need a carrot for our snowman…

During the process, I generally made an attempt to press a measure of snow removal service from the kids while they played. As they got older it became a badge of honor to get the entire driveway cleared before Dad came home.

And invariably, in about an hour, the gang would be back inside, all changed into cozy sweats, wet duds tumbling in the dryer. I’d make hot cocoa (but never seemed to have those little marshmallows on hand — drat!) and they’d settle in for some reruns, a movie, or a board game.

Yup. Snow days are pretty awesome when you’re a kid.

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Click on the pic… there’s a smile frozen on my face…

Our house was only a few blocks from the school when we lived in the city, so I walked. But sometimes… seriously… sometimes I wonder if I hadn’t been a walker, whether they’d have made me ride the short bus.

I mean, from time to time I was a little sharper than a marble. Like, I knew some stuff.

For instance: you imagesCACENI07wouldn’t get warts from holding a frog. Can you even believe some of the things kids say? I think I always knew that just because kids said so, didn’t automatically mean a thing was true. So I fearlessly handled lots of frogs. I was just brave like that. But I did get a wart in fourth grade though. And I hadn’t messed with any amphibians for months. Well, maybe weeks. Or was it a few days…?

Here’s some other stuff I just knew:

  • a watermelon wouldn’t grow in my stomach if I swallowed a seed
  • it wouldn’t break my mother’s back if I stepped on a crack
  • my eyes wouldn’t freeze that way if I crossed my eyes (sheesh!)
  • finding a four-leaf clover was definitely good luck
  • if you tossed a cat off the banister of the front porch, it would always, always land on its feet. Please don’t make me tell you how I knew that…

Then there were other things I just wasn’t all that sure about, so I hedged my bets: I avoided walking under ladders, I collected rabbit’s feet for good luck, and I tried like the Dickens to blow out all the candles with one breath so my wish would come true.

Finally, there was this third category. You know, those things about which I was utterly clueless. As in: half-baked, dim-witted, bubble-headed.

Take, for instance, all those times I punched holes in the lid of a glass jar with an ice pick so I could have a “night light” by catching lots of fireflies. Didn’t my tiny prisoners always quit lighting up after a few minutes, then fade to black shortly thereafter, never mind the few blades of grass and leaves thrown in to “keep them alive”? And despite this consistent grim outcome, didn’t I commit this harebrained stunt repeatedly? Sigh.

And then there was this really huge catalpa tree on our block. You know, one of those trees with the gigantic heartcatbig1b-shaped leaves and those pods that hang down from it like enormous green beans. The neighborhood kids called it an Indian Cigar Tree. Ooooo, a tree that grows cigars? Dad smokes cigars, and he is cool. Maybe I’ll be cool too if I smoke an Indian Cigar. (Okay, you can see where this is going, right?) Let’s just say, it wasn’t cool. Not one bit. Didn’t have the sense to realize the pods would have to dry before they would light. (And don’t ask who brought the lighter to this little soiree. Not me. No pockets, remember?)

And lastly, there was the time my dad brought home a really cool inflatable globe. This wonderful educational resource was probably 20 inches in diameter and spun on its axis. It totally commanded a spot in our dining room. Unfortunately, my dad’s desk was in proximity, in another corner of the dining room. On his bulletin board was a map with little brightly colored map pins indicating the location of every Goodyear dealer in his sales territory. I mean, these little map pins were so colorful… so I took a notion to put a cute little map pin in every star on that globe. You know, like Washington DC, London, Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City, Moscow… it was great.

Now, let me hasten to add: I was fully aware that a pin stuck in a balloon would make it pop. And I’d watched my dad and brother patch many inner tubes, so I knew that a nail in a tire caused it to deflate. I also knew that the globe was, well let’s see… inflated. So don’t ask me why I imagined that the globe would magically be okay after my little decorating party. I guess my elevator just didn’t get to the top floor on that one. Even though I never intended to kill our wonderful globe, my parents were, nonetheless, displeased. Putting it mildly.

I wish I could say I’ve outgrown all my miscalculations and blunders. But, regrettably, I still have my short bus moments. I figure if I ever stop having them, somebody had better call the undertaker. I’ll be dearly departed.

AND THE WINNER IS…

November 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

Zero to Sixty in Five is pleased to announce the winner of Friday’s drawing for a VISA gift card:Giveaway-Visa-Gift-Card

SARAH, whose favorite story was Dr. King, Square Dancing and Judgment.

Congratulations, Sarah!!

The three runner’s up who will receive an autographed copy of poetry by my buddy Mark Stratton, Tender Mercies:

  1. Mary Anne, who liked Lovin’ That Man in Uniform.519lMVmH8uL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_
  2. Brianna, who liked Dr. King, Square Dancing and Judgment.
  3. Heather, who liked 10 Awesome Things About Being a Kid.

Congratulations, winners!!

And a big THANK YOU to everyone who entered the drawing!!

ALSO, I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who have been dropping in to read my stuff these past ten weeks. Your interest has been very fortifying-supportive-encouraging-motivating.

…And to satisfy curiosity as to which posts were trending in the drawing, the following posts received multiple hits…

[I promise to try to figure out how to have comments show while hiding email addresses by the time I do this again so people can see the comments as they come in.]

We’re celebrating!!

Exactly why, you ask?

Zero to Sixty in Five went from 0 posts to 60, in just 12 weeks!

Fireworks Show

To commemorate reaching this milestone, management is pulling out all the stops and hosting a…

GIVEAWAY!!!!

Giveaway-Visa-Gift-Card

Who’s eligible to enter the drawing to win this $60 VISA gift card?

All you wonderful peeps!…

Family, friends, coworkers,

groupies, my birth mother,

Manfred Mann – (Do Wah Diddy!)

my skydiving coach (just kidding),

and any other followers of Zero to Sixty in Five.

Those not eligible to enter the giveaway:

The guy who made the U-turn in the middle of the block last week and nearly T-boned me,

people who leave the lid off the toothpaste,

shoppers who think they’re exempt from returning their carts to the corral,

minions I hire to visit Zero to Sixty in Five and inflate the stats,

and (this one is serious) persons under 18 years of age.

HOW TO ENTER THE DRAWING FOR THE GIVEAWAY:

Fill out the Contact Form at the bottom of this page,

including your name, email address, and website (optional).

(One entry per person, please.)

In the comment section, share the topic of your favorite Zero to Sixty in Five post.

ALL ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY 6:00 P.M., EST, NOVEMBER 10, 2013.

Zero to Sixty in Five will announce the winner on November 11th.

If you win, Ed McMahon will show up at your door with a check and a big grin on his face. Not really.

The winner will receive an email containing instructions on how to obtain the prize: a $60 VISA e-gift card!

In addition, three runners-up will each receive an autographed copy of…

Tender Mercies, by mark Stratton

(you know, the guy in my original post, “Hey, Mark…“)

519lMVmH8uL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_

Take a peek inside here (then scroll down to view).

 

The medicine cabinet

November 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

The medicine cabinet of my childhood contained a bunch of interesting stuff. Most of it just isn’t in my medicine cabinet today. First off, there were the true first aid items: Bayer Aspirin — the analgesic of choice — and an oral thermometer. (Today it’s more like Tylenol and Advil.) For tummy troubles, there was Pepto-Bismol (which is still around). And for boo-boo’s there was a bottle of mercurochrome antiseptic and a box of assorted Band-Aids (also a staple) and some Vaseline Petroleum Jelly. (I guess if we boomers didn’t get blottoed by ingesting lead-based paint, we could always rely on the residual build-up from mercury-based topical remedies!) Seems like almost everything that ailed us back in the day was treated with these few items.

The medicine cabinet also housed personal grooming items for both dental care and hair care. I believe our brand of choice was Colgate toothpaste, but other popular brands from that era were Crest, Pepsodent, Macleans, and Gleem. Flouride was just beginning to be added to toothpastes, as recent studies had shown it lowered the incidence of cavities. And then, after brushing, one could use either Lavoris or Listerine mouthwash. But not me, I didn’t like either one — yucky!

The tube of Brylcreem hair styling cream (“for men who care a lot about their hair”) that always sat on the medicine cabinet’s glass shelf looked way too much like the tube of Colgate, and one time — you see where this is headed? — I loaded my toothbrush with the wrong stuff. I’m not a super quick study, but you can bet I never made that mistake again. While all these products had their signature advertising slogans and jingles, I think the one I liked best was “Brylcreem — A Little Dab’ll Do Ya!“. Well, that or the Pepsodent tune that went: “You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!

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No. 1 son watches as Grandpa “shaves” his brother, No. 2 son

But the Medicine Cabinet Mystique Award would have to go to the shaving mug and brush. Every single morning dad would whip up some lather in that chunky mug, using his shaving brush of lustrous badger hair, then, safety razor in hand, proceeded to eliminate yesterday’s stubble with the grace and precision of a fencer. There wasn’t a single portion of his well-choreographed routine that wasn’t mesmerizing — all the way down to the tiny patch of t.p. he’d apply to a nick to stop the bleeding.

I guess one day, standing there gazing up at this Ballet du Barber, I must have asked just the right combination of questions, because he decided to invite me into the experience. First he lathered my face and then, after removing the double-edge Wilkinson’s Sword blade from the safety razor, gave me my first (and only) “shave”. I loved it. I suspect that if he did this for me, he surely did it at least once, if not multiple times, for my brothers. In fact, when the next generation took to standing by the sink and watching, they too got “the shave”.

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Yesterday’s post featured a list compiled by Marius Auer, called “10 Awesome Things About Being a Kid“. I liked his list, and largely agreed with his assessment of the benefits of being a youngster.

However, in the interest of providing a platform for an opposing view, I will now present, having peered through the opposite end of the spectrograph, an alternate perspective. That’s just the kind of fair minded and egalitarian blog this is.

10 Awesome Things About Not Being a Kid Anymore

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1. While it is true that, as an adult, I am saddled with an onerous duty to pay taxes, it is ultimately because I get a paycheck. In fact, this paycheck means real cash dollars in my grubby little fist that I am free to — after taxes — spend any way I please. I don’t even need to run it past Mom or anything.

2. It is also true that as an adult, I bear the responsibility to plan, procure, and prepare meals. But, because I am in possession of real cash dollars (see point No. 1), I am completely free to plan these meals around whatever appetites or hankerings I may have. And, if I so choose, I can even skip the planning-procuring-preparing parts and head to one of a plethora of dining establishments, since — once again — I have real cash dollars at my disposal and wouldn’t need to run this decision past Mom either.

Picture993. I may not know the significant differences between an X-box and a Play Station, but I can tell you the difference between 14 and 24 carat, Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine, and Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Booyah!

4. I’m not going to propose something ignorant like, “Let’s celebrate our wrinkles!”, but neither should their appearing be devastating. A conference speaker once made the comment that she couldn’t imagine anything much worse than growing old and being afraid of losing one’s beauty. Those to whom wrinkles signify they’ve lost something unthinkable… youth, which must be preserved at all cost — will probably divert some of their real cash dollars toward nips and tucks. But such measures will never prevent aging. Embracing the notion that wrinkles are an inevitable part of the cycle of life and greeting their onset with a measure of acceptance, will bring a wonderful freedom. A freedom to anchor one’s self-worth in something much deeper and nearer our core than mere appearance. No longer able to derive personal significance from taut, ripped or otherwise gorgeous exteriors, we gain the liberty to say no to such things as impractical, bunion-causing stilletos. It’s great to be an adult.

5. Getting old isn’t as negative as our youth-worshiping culture would have us believe. With each stage of life we pass through, we have opportunity to enter new and fascinating territory. As one who has been through the college and early marriage phase with its acquisition of knowledge, slightly scary, bold firsts, and wonder; the little kids phase with its sleepless nights, runny noses, giggles, story books, and wonder; the adolescent phase with its high energy, boundless possibility, attitude and wonder; and the empty nest with its adult-to-adult conversations, budding careers, new little families, and wonder — I can attest to the reality of every phase being richer than the preceding one. Aging = adventuring.

6. I am no longer constrained to attend school: I am free to choose it. As a perpetual learner, I can now select subjects that pique my interest, study them at my pace, whenever I choose. I like that.

7. If I’m so inclined, I can learn to speak Technology As a Second Language. Or, if not, I can just invite one of the kids over to the house and ask him to reformat, install, download, upload, sync, or otherwise get our gadgets and toys set up for us. I have options. And either way works.

8. “Manual labor” *gulp* is no longer a bad word. (I know, that was two words…) Adults understand that work yields highly rewarding dividends, such as personal satisfaction and pride in accomplishment. We throw ourselves into things like planting gardens, interior remodeling projects, or restoring vintage autos. And for those manual tasks we’d rather avoid, we’re often able to hire someone to do them for us, because — once again —  we command those real cash dollars. 

Well, there you have it. Eight awesome things about no longer being a kid!atm-machine11

[Now I think I’ll go find a puddle and jump in it. Right after I stop by an ATM…]

Zero to Sixty in Five has been a nice vehicle for sharing my childhood memories (tales from my adolescence should roll out pretty soon). In reliving these experiences, I can vividly recall just what it was like.

Here’s a list compiled by a young fella named Marius about how great it is to be a kid. He posted it a year and a half ago on his site, M’s World, but I only stumbled across it yesterday. I totally agree: being a kid is awesome. [My commentary will follow his points.]

10 awesome things about being a kid? Easy!!!

1. You do not have to pay taxestaxes368__1271190717_8390-1

[Such a savvy one, this Marius! I didn’t have the good sense to enjoy this childhood perk while it lasted…]

2. You do not have to cook meals (unless you have chores)

[This was not on my radar either; the reality of having to come up with three squares, 365 days a year, once I left college, hit hard.]

3. You know what an “x-box” is

images[Indeed. I’m not entirely sure I could pick one out of a line-up even now…]

4. No wrinkles!!

[Marius makes a good point; but all things considered, wrinkles aren’t nearly as bad as the random whiskers that sprout on my chin these days.] 

5. You are not old

[I think people say “you’re only as old as you feel” to make themselves feel better about getting old. The kid gets it: old is just old, regardless of how you “feel”.]

6. You do not have bingo flaps

[“Bingo flaps”… could so do without these, but alas…] 

7. You do not have a flab of skin on your neck

[“Flab of skin” — another graphic description, Marius. Unfortunately, gravity will stick it to us all, eventually.]

8. No manual *gulp* labor

[Here is where young Marius and I diverge, generationally speaking. I was pressed into a fair share of manual labor as a kid. Not nearly the same volume as I would manage in adulthood, but nonetheless, my parents believed in the distribution of labor: while I did not by any means carry the brunt of the household chores, I did cook, wash dishes, wash and hang clothes on the line, iron, dust, sweep and mop floors on a routine basis. Seasonally, I could also be found helping snap beans for the freezer, skin tomatoes for canning, or strain plum puree for jelly-making. *Gulp!*]

school 47

Thomas A. Edison Elementary School #47,
the setting for many of my stories

9.You can go to school

[I liked going to school then and still enjoy being in class. Now, where’d I put that adult education catalog?…]

10.You actually like technology

[Apparently, enough of us behave alike to have given him the impression we don’t actually like technology. But it’s really more of a love/hate thing…]

Well, there you have it. Ten awesome things about being a kid.

[Thank you, Marius, for a great list! It’s time for me to go soak in some Epsom salts now…]

Casting calls

November 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

According to the pink construction paper invitation taped inside my early childhood scrapbook, I debuted as a child actress in kindergarten. Mrs. Mendoza selected me to narrate a play about those Three Little Pigs (and one infamous Big Bad Wolf). Parents arrived at 2:00 p.m. one afternoon to enjoy the well-rehearsed little drama. Mom wrote a note in my scrapbook that the cast was invited to the Mendoza’s home for dinner the next evening. I remember liking the role of little socialite more than that of narrator.

The Storyteller

Well, my fame must have gotten around, because a year later, the first grade teacher cast me as the Storyteller in that 1959 blockbuster, “The Strange House”. The mimeographed program for this play — also taped in the scrapbook — lists parts for a mouse, a frog, a rabbit, a fox, a turtle and a bear. I do recall thinking at the time that my being cast as the Storyteller meant I was missing out on some of the juicier roles. Sigh.

Nevertheless, my career was heading uptown, because this play was being staged in the school auditorium, not just our classroom. Mom got involved by helping me put together an “old lady” storyteller costume and making sure I had my lines down pat. I mean, she really made sure, as in multiple rehearsals in our dining room. (Tucked inside the program was a piece of yellowed paper with all my lines written out in my mom’s printing.) As we got closer to the big day, she made me stand at the far end of the living room and say my lines while she stood as far away from me in the dining room as she could. She was wanting me to project.

“Some of the audience will be even further away from you than I am,” she stressed., “You’ll need to speak very loudly, so everyone can hear you.” The big day came and the show was, by all accounts, a big success… but then, parents and grandparents are known to give standing ovations for just about anything their little ones perform in.

So, now I’m wondering… exactly what was it that derailed my fledgling acting career? Were there simply no Hollywood talent scouts in Indianapolis? Or was it perhaps my parents? …shielding me from the woes that beset other contemporary child actors The mime(think Patty Duke)? ‘Tis a mystery. What I do know is that I didn’t act on stage again for a long time. (Although I did a couple of stints as a mime and a party clown in my twenties.)

A few years ago, my sister threw a party in celebration of a favorite movie: Enchanted April. Since I share her fondness for this movie, I was on the guest list. Everyone was welcome to come as one of the characters in the film. I decided to cobble together a costume and present myself as the dowager Mrs. Fisher, portrayed in the movie by Dame Joan Plowright.

2007 EAB Enchanted April Party

I raided the box of costume components in the basement and was able to pull it all together, down to the wide brimmed hat and cane. During the two hour drive from my house to the party, I thought of suitable Mrs. Fisher-like responses to the small talk other guests would no doubt make (she could be very abrupt and intimidating). I went over the lines again and again, imitating her starchy British accent. I soooo wanted to stay in character. Pulling it off was so much fun that I briefly contemplated getting involved with community theater. But practically speaking, I just couldn’t handle the time commitment.

Perhaps the highlight of my very cursory and welter weight acting career, was something I did some years back, just for the fun of it. At the time, my husband was a pastor in Philadelphia. The church had a tradition of hosting an annual talent show that would feature anything from poetry to dance, vocals and instrumentals, to “comedy”. About a month before the show, he and I were riding in the car when the net was cast.

“You know what would be a really funny act for the talent show?”

“No, what?”

“A skit with the Church Lady.”

“Are you serious?

“Yeah. I mean, J.C. (a member with a great South Philly accent) could play the part of Rocky Balboa and the Church Lady could interview him.”

“That would be funny…”

“And Butch and Joe could do their Hans and Franz thing. They could be returning from the winter Olympics, maybe, and be disappointed because there weren’t any weight lifters there.”

“Oh, yeah. That’d be funny too.” Then I asked, “So, who were you thinking would be the Church Lady?”

He kept his gaze straight ahead, hands on the steering wheel and didn’t say a word.

“Oh no! …NO! Huh-uh! Nooooo. I’m not going to do it!”

“Why not?” he asked plaintively.

“Because I sort of AM the Church Lady, ya know!”

“Yeah… but you have to admit, it would be funny…”

“It would,” I agreed. “But that doesn’t change the fact that I won’t do it!”

“Okay.” And he left it alone. In retrospect, I think he was employing his sneakiest reverse psychology. And it worked. About a week later, while mindlessly pressing clothes, I confronted myself about my resistance to his casting call to reprise Dana Carvey’s SNL character. What’s the deal, Linda? Why so adamant about this? As I thought it through, it boiled down to — I’ve already admitted to being a wuss — I didn’t want to risk offending anyone’s sensibilities. Even though I knew it would be funny.

So I picked up the phone. “Hey, Butch? This is Linda Dyer.”

“What’s up?”

“My husband had this little brain storm for the talent show. Can I run it by you and see what you think?” I proceeded to relate the gist of how the interview might go between the Church Lady and Hans and Franz. He liked it. His creativity kicked in and he fired off some of his ideas. Hey, this could work. Then I called J.C. to see if he was game to do Rocky; his answer: an enthusiastic thumbs up. We were on.

Again, I rounded up a costume. I got purple and bright blue fabric to make the Church Lady suit, found a wig, some horn rimmed glasses and a pair of granny shoes. My teenage son coached me on the gestures and facial expressions I would need. The guys and I very loosely rehearsed, because we wanted some spontaneity to the skit.

Then the big night came and we did our schtick, hoping all the good church folk would take it in the same light-hearted spirit in which it was intended. The skit got lots of laughter, and if any of the folks didn’t like it, nobody said anything. But I can report that from that time forward, the teens and young adults started calling me Church Lady. Heh heh.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, here’s a link to our little Church Chat on Youtube: The Church Lady – Philadelphia. Enjoy.

I took this photo several years ago on a walking trail at Rock Bridge State Park, south of Columbia, Missouri. I was bringing up the rear with a group of middle school day-campers. I glanced to my right and there on a single bright yellow daisy were four Monarch look-alikes. [Nikon CoolPix L110]

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