Category Archives: The Past

I like to tell stories about growing up. The Dad tends to play a big part in those.

A Father’s Approval


WARNING: I’m going to break my own rule about never writing about topics that are at all risqué, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken!

After dating only a few months, The Man and I took a big step and decided to spend the holidays together with family. We drove the 12-harrowing hours out from New Jersey to Indiana to spend time with The Parents. Our thought was that, if by some miracle, we still liked each other after such a long drive, we’d be okay for the long haul. It was a major step in our young relationship. You don’t consider breaking up lightly once your grandmother has made your boyfriend beef n’ noodles. It’s just a fact.

beef n noodles 4ever

The Dad, known to passively aggressively threaten boyfriends past, had decided The Man was pretty awesome. He was pretty appalled actually. It was his job, after all, to threaten his life if he hurt me. And he LIKED him! Here he was – pretty much in love with The Man like me. (He’s pretty cool, ya know.) So The Dad decided to show his approval. He had the perfect idea for a Christmas gift to show guy-to-guy that he thought it’d be cool if The Man stuck around.

Both The Dad and The Man play guitar, and The Dad thought it was fitting to give a themed gift: Elixir Guitar Strings. He event wanted to clean up The Man’s 12-string for him. Being a man not-quite-comfortable with his apparent appreciation for his only daughter’s boyfriend, the giving of said gift was bound to be awkward. And boy – The Dad is one to impress.

The Dad walked in during a rousing game of Scrabble and began what I can only assume is his very manly version on Vanna White. Holding the purple Elixir box with joy, he began to describe their special coating, how long they last, and that he’d even help The Man put them on. He told The Man he had been thinking of giving them to him for a long time, and he knew it was the perfect gift.

long lasting and a special coat

The Mom and I were so happy to see the two bonding, but the reaction wasn’t quite what The Dad had in mind. In fact, The Man responded with awkward levels perhaps fitting to lima beans attempting to be lawyers… or at least a grad student at a real person party. He stuttered some form of “thank you” and began to look around the room frantically for what we could only guess would be a very deep hole to dive into or an exit to anywhere but where he was at that moment.

The Parents scooted out of the room as if there were a wounded animal in their presence saying something about catching a movie, and I turned to interrogate The Man about when he forgot about basic etiquette and/or forgot what a guitar was.

He looked at me as if I had somehow offended his great grandmother, face contorted in some speechless agony. That’s when he started to giggle hysterically. At this point I was positive this small act of fatherly kindness had sent him right over the edge. We had broken him. He was doomed to the loony bin – all because of guitar maintenance. That’s when his eyes bugged out and he held up the box.

condoms they were not

Sure enough – a purple box with some swirly lettering strangely resembled that of a box typically associated with family planning. After laughing for about an hour straight, I couldn’t wait to tell The Dad! What’s family for, but to provide hilarity for years to come? The Dad found out about the misunderstanding the next day and was immediately horrified that he had spoken so long about their special coating and even offered to put them ON for him! I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the kind of approval The Dad had in mind.

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Best Friend Auditions


I grew up in a very nomadic family, attending 7 elementary schools. I was the perpetual “new girl,” rarely staying at any school longer than a year and a half. Being new means a lot of stares, rumors of your actions at your old school, and potential embarrassment by eating alone at lunch. It did not take long for me to have the new school process down to science.

First, identify someone to cling to during the morning. This justifies lunch with that person. Empower that individual to show you the ropes. Repeat daily until relationship yields friendship or you find companionship and/or tolerable lunch buddies through another source.

This process aided in the sheer survival that is required when entering a new school system. One wrong move and you’re no longer the “new kid,” but “that kid.” And nobody wants to be “that kid.” The secondary challenge is to then find a new and local friend of the best friend quality. These don’t just pop up, mind you, so my fourth grade self hit a road block. At that time, we had just moved away from the very best friend I ever had, a co-conspirator in all things regarding our secret society and a big dreamer. She also raised stuffed leamurs with me. Who doesn’t want that in a friend? The answer to my current predicament seemed simple in my head.

Best Friend Auditions.

I figured myself brillaint, so I sat down one Saturday and made a list of qualities that I wanted in a best friend. They must be two things: fun and know how to properly pretend. I was done with those kids that couldn’t stay in character or take a plot out to the end. This was serious business on the playground, and I was done messing around. I needed someone to commit. So the casting call went out. I began to see different girls from school and the church on different weekends and the days of the week. I would put them through a series of tests: conversation, a game of pretend, and whether or not they still enjoyed things like barbies and playdough. The Mom would always check in to see how the “date” went, and I would report back with all but actual  number cards rating their successes when it came to the BFF department.

Two girls started to stand out. I began going to one girl’s house after school on Tuesdays, and I thought there was really something special. She was dramatic and had an affinity for The Wizard of Oz. She also considered herself an actress, which helped with the pretending. A second girl was also in the picture, and she was also a pretty decent pretender, though she had an affinity for pretending as if we were all puppies. I found that to be too childish and wished for more “adult” games such as house, teacher, or the latest peter pan remake in our minds. The two girls however, together, proved to be a ton of fun. Two best friends would be fine, right?

As the lovable center of attention that I am, I would dictate each bout of “pretend.” I really did have a love for Peter Pan. I felt as if that was the only socially acceptable way to be a boy, so I went with it and practiced my crowing as much as humanly possible. Plenty of singing and crowing would happen for hours if our parents would permit it. One day I really thought we had nailed the “moment” when pretending on a slide becomes a real experience in the land of make believe. That’s when disaster hit. The two girls started whispering between themselves while I was demonstrating the proper way to crow, and soon they were off on the swings playing a new game. Just the two of them. Without me.

That was the first moment I knew that girls were really, inherently and consciously mean. Two weeks later and a lot of little girl rumors about me not being cool enough and not being fun enough – and I was crushed. My fool-proof way of discovering a best friend turned tragic. I couldn’t replace The Cohort from the city before. And I wouldn’t really meet anyone comparable until I met The Best Friend of today. Sometimes life just isn’t as easy as holding auditions for perfection.

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Betsy


I was 15 years old, and all I talked about was getting my license. The days of bus rides to school would be my past, and I would have the opportunity to adorn my rear view mirror with whatever fuzzy items I pleased. I had all these fancy plans of road trips and independent living. I would go anywhere I wanted! I would be so cool! Too bad that my parents weren’t about to buy me a new car. BUT I struck gold with an old family friend and for just 200 dollars, I had my baby.

Betsy was an ’82 Dodge 400. White with a red stripe along the side, red leather interior, and above all – a convertible. She was just the right kind of awesome you could ever want in a first car. She was stylish, no one had a car like her, and she had these awesome “additional features.” For example, she would only start up if you slammed the gas pedal to the floor. You had to commit to driving before you drove Betsy. She also had a mysteriously low idle and would die at every other intersection’s red light, proving an over-achiever with her “easy”  automatic transmission. She also had a built-in weather gauge, as it would both rain and snow inside the car, with the multitude of holes in the canvass top. She was absolutely perfect, and I loved everything about her.

As with most females, if you take off her top – people think she’s more fascinating. Once I let Betsy’s top down for a cruise around town everyone would stare. The old men would wonder what I had done to get my own convertible, the boys would swoon for a drive, and I would ride cloud nine all the way to the 24-hour Walmart for fun times. I have really good memories in that car! A first kiss was made possible by that car. I sang to many early 2000’s pop music in that car. I stuffed inordinate amounts of teenagers in that car in the name of corn mazes and pumpkin ice cream. I also had stupidly spiky hair in that time… maybe that isn’t such a good memory. Anyway, Betsy and I lived the good life.

But that life was cut short. After only a year, I lost Betsy. She didn’t die in a normal way, though. No, Betsy was always the over-achiever. I was driving down the highway, trucking along at Betsy’ maximum of 55 mph, and suddenly I wasn’t going anymore. I steered the car over the side of the road and began to see smoke coming from the dashboard and the front of the car. I quickly took my belongings out of the back and walked to a safe distance, watching Betsy catch fire and eventually incite a small explosion.

My friends were nice enough to attend a humble funeral in her honor, to remember and mourn her grizzly death. A few psalms were read, rewritten with the appropriate terminology of course. I even made the mandated creepy slide show of pictures of Betsy in our life and left it on a mysterious loop in the room for the entire ceremony. After my friend concluded the service with an original tune, we ate cookies and went to marching band practice. Betsy would have it no other way. We had to keep marching through life, with or without her.

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Display Candy


Today I moved into my first real, adult apartment. I’ve lived in apartments before, but it’s always been a sublet situation or a fully furnished summer situation. This time it’s just me and my moving tubs piling into an unfurnished two bedroom waiting for The Man to show up with the bed. (I am calling the week before his arrival my “adventure camping” stage.)

Without the comfort of modern life, The Internet, I shall become a hermit destined for movie watching and even more knitting attempts (See “The Real Vows”). On top of that I will engage in what is my new favorite pastime. I absolutely adore decorating this new home in my mind. The Man and I are poor as dirt, so thoughtful moments or even astral decorating are all I can muster.

I walk through the mind’s Pottery Barn or Pier 1 with thoughts of maritime themed decks and rich mahogany desks. Every once in a while I even stroll by The Man’s dream of a rotating book shelf door. Yes… it’s a wonderful experience, though there is something more than simply dreaming. I want to continue a legacy… The Mom’s legacy to be exact.

See, The Mom has a love – no a passion – for decorating. The House went through the seasons like a well-groomed celebrity couple. We switched out entire decorative schemes, erected nutcracker armies, and lit every scent of Yankee Candle known to man. The Mom held open houses periodically and hosted parties just to show off the decorations, reveling in the beauty on her own in the evenings with a nice cup of tea.

There was, however, a dark side to this beauty. Every holiday seemed to provide The Mom with a brilliant idea: using the holiday candy as a display.  The Dad and I would bound down the stairs gleefully just to grab the first handful of candy pumpkins, jelly beans, or hershey kisses just to be scolded with the wrath of every Martha Stewart devotee.

“Display Candy” was never to be eaten, simply observed.

So now as I sit on my own in The Apartment, I can’t help but feel the prick of duty. I must carry on the family name. It is a powerful thought, an ennobling thought.

The Family Women will be proud.

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One Smart Dog


I am the only child of an only child. I have a rich history of moments of demand to change that, and the first was at 7 years old. I decided then that I needed to take matters into my own hands. I called The Parents into the living room with all the authority I could muster, sat them down, and delivered my opening statement. It was about time we addressed the singularity issue at hand. I explained my need for companionship. It was their duty as loving parents to see to my needs. And for their sake, I gave them a choice as to how to go about doing so. I would settle for a sibling… or a puppy. It was clearly a reasonable proposition.

It wasn’t too long until the three of us were on our way to the animal shelter preparing to meet all the puppies possible. The Mom gave her instructions, knowing she could not begin to predict the future if The Dad and I were sent in alone.

We were to obtain a small dog. Preferably a female.

And then we went in.

In the first crate a fluffball of a dog looked up at us. The fluffball was pregnant with fluffballettes, and each of them would need a home. As a firm believer in instant gratification, I refused the minimum of a two week wait before I could bond with one of the fluffball’s offspring. The Mom grew suspicious of what was next.

The second crate carried an older dog, one I quickly named Oreo and explained that she would follow us home. Turned out that Oreo needed a few weeks of canine therapy from a bad home situation before she could be put with another family. The Mom decided that a psychotic dog was perhaps not the best choice for her family, and I was still on the instant gratification kick.

That’s when The Mom’s worst fear hit. All she could hear were squeals and exclamations of cuteness and perfection from The Dad and I around the corner. She quickly came around to discover that we had fallen in love with a puppy, a boy puppy, and one with paws seemingly bigger than his head. He was a border collie mix according to the shelter, and the mix was suspected to be rottweiler. The Mom pointed out that this puppy failed to meet any of the guidelines she had put forth, but the look in our eyes were the deciding factor.

We got to pick up Judah later that week, and I was ridiculously excited. I had named him Judah because I was a totally normal child with a fierce fascination with the Old Testament. (A cat was later named after a character in the Dynotopia series. Deal with it.) He was to be the smartest dog ever, the best dog ever, and my friend forever. We put him in the back of the van, and I sat with him cooing over him every nanosecond. It didn’t take us too long to realize my plan for perfection probably wasn’t going to happen.

About a half mile from the shelter, The Dad pulled over to my screaming bloody murder. Turns out Judah had become curious and got his head stuck under the driver’s seat of the car. I decided that translated to untimely death, and I demanded aid in the dog’s rescue. The Dad stopped, grumbled about perhaps getting the dumbest dog in the lot, and helped Judah out.

This process occurred at least three times on the short drive home.

Judah, in fact, turned out to be a particularly special canine – refusing to sleep any other way than flat on his back with his feet straight up in the air. Known to engage in several hours of hopping because of his fascination with underground moles. He also insisted that he was a lap dog, though it only took a few months for him to exceed 80 pounds. He had no control of his tail, repeatedly taking down entire pieces of furniture like our couch. On top of that – he was POSITIVE our cat would fall in love with him. Boy was he wrong…

In the end, I think a sibling might have been a “smarter” decision.

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Demonic Possession


Betsy was a babydoll The Mom had when she was young and passed on to me. She was the size of a toddler and had a big head of bright red hair. Honestly, she looked exactly like Chucky. Her gifting to me was poorly timed with the release of the first film. As I was not permitted to view the film, I lived on in ignorance. She was one of my favorite toys, and I took her everywhere throughout the house.

One night we were in the bathtub playing through another emergency scuba dive scenario. For me a bath was not a necessity but a joy. I took nearly every submersible toy in with me and orchestrated entire universes during the hour I was permitted to soak. (I still do this… it just involves romance novels) This night, though, Betsy began to look a little off. I got really close to her face to ask her what was wrong, and these furry worms began spewing from her mouth. One after another after another.

I called for The Dad because he would obviously know what was wrong with Betsy. Maybe she needed one of those pills that they kept around for when I got sick. I have never seen The Dad move so fast, even now after all these years. I was ripped out of that tub, and The Mom was called in. The Dad yelled something about demon possession, and The Mom remained unmoved.Finally after a pause she said one word in response.

Note that I’m still convinced my childhood toys took on living, breathing existences once my bedroom door closed. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are full of lies. Anyway I didn’t want my toys to feel left out – especially Betsy- while they needed to put on the show of lifelessness during the day. I decided to treat them just like anyone else.

Betsy took baths with me, watched TV with me, held incredibly long conversations with me, and yes – she even ate with me. She had a particular fondness for those crunchy chinese noodles people put in casseroles and salads. I knew this because they fit perfectly into the hole strategically placed in her mouth for what I assume used to have a paired baby bottle with it. She never got full, and we would continue to snack on the noodles through the latest episode of Lambchop.

Turns out when you add water and wait… those chinese noodles turn into furry worms!

 

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Just Dennis


The Best Friend and I had been living together for a while when we decided to take our relationship to the next level. Our love arrived at a cross-roads looking to a future plateau or inevitable demise. We needed to get serious and fast. So we did what every loving couple does when crisis arises, we looked to procreation for our salvation. A quick trip to PetCo, and we had our answer: two multi-colored guppy gentlemen named Seymour Ashley and Gifford Melrose. They were handsome and exactly what we needed in our undergraduate lives of pre-law text books and Calculus II meltdowns.

Turns out fish are the most high-maintenance pets on the face of the planet. As these were our first pets sans parental units, it was quite a treat. Gifford was particularly prone to scary bouts of depression, losing his coloring, and pacing his tank in worrisome flips and flops. Something as tiny as moving the neighboring ketchup bottle would send Gifford into a panic. And seeing as  an undergraduate career is filled with packs and moves every three months or so, Gifford had a tough life. His brother Seymour committed to a life of bullying and would capitalize on Gifford’s weak moments by chewing on his tail. We were a big, happy family.

After almost a year, The Best Friend was providing room and board for our boys over the summer whilst I galavanted in Peru, and Gifford just couldn’t handle it. We lost him almost 3 years ago today, and yes – I did just take a moment of silence.

When I returned, The Best Friend informed me that Seymour needed friends. Guppies are schooling fish, and he was not doing well without his favorite chew toy. We gathered two friends – The Token Estonian and The Lover of all things Food. The two of them aided in choosing not one more but four more guppies to join in Seymour’s bachelor lifestyle. We found them. I honestly couldn’t tell you all of their names due to their short stay in my home – an unfortunate set of circumstances brought on by a single fish. His name was “Just Dennis.”

In the grand visit to PetCo The Friends fell in love with this particular fish. He swam a little funny and had quite the nervous twitch. I told them he looked a little challenged and perhaps a little sick. I suggested we get another fish to avoid problems. Then The Friends turned around with these looks of pure disgust upon their faces and proclaimed me an intolerant fool. They exclaimed that “Mentally challenged fish are fish, too, and you should love them just like you love all the others.”

Now if there is one thing I am not – it’s intolerant. I pride myself on being open minded and a friend to many (except if you lack basic skills with intelligent, witty banter… but let’s not go there). I purchased all 1.99 of the fish and dubbed him “Just Dennis,” since his name tended to be followed by a cute shaking of the head or rolling of the eyes on my part. Just Dennis came home with us along with his buddies, and I tried to make them as comfortable as possible while getting acquainted with Seymour.

That’s when all hell broke loose and challenged the very little we considered our reality.

The Best Friend (and no longer roommate) helped me move in by christening the new room with a Scrabble Game and gossip. During what I would assume was a brilliant move on my behalf was when we began to notice something was not right. Just Dennis was no longer swimming his funky dance and instead had gotten himself suctioned to the side of our new water filter.

So I may be tolerant and love my fish, but I can’t stand to touch them. I also cannot handle fish death, so when it looked as though Just Dennis was struggling I valiantly pushed The Best Friend forward to investigate and aid the fish in distress. She helped the little guy get back into the open water, and we went about our slumber party. The next morning, though, tragedy befell the small dormitory when we found Just Dennis dead. I humbly explained that The Friends should have all listened to my knowledge when I explained the fish was sick. Here he was dead not 24 hours into his life in my home.

Not only that, but he turned out to be a bonafide typhoid mary to the rest of my aquatic family.Within the next 12 hours – fish by fish – they began to show similar symptoms and dying.

Each would start to swim funny, flip around a bit, get sucked up against the filter, and croak right there in front of me. (Note that The Best Friend was required to flush all of these fish, as I refused to… but I looked brave while I made her do it.) Alas, Seymour was again the only fish in the tank.

I began to worry about the water, so I moved Seymour to a small bowl hoping I could outrun whatever plague was smiting the fishy brethren. It was a horrible scene when Seymour began to lose his motor skills like the lot before. The Neighbor came in to check on Seymour and recognized some of his symptoms and googled away for a bit. She came up with a diagnosis that we all feared.

Just Dennis apparently suffered from a disease known as “Neon Tetra Disease,” a deadly sickness that first attacks the nervous system – then the fish cannot swim and eventually drown. As Seymour was healthy when the plague was introduced, he was hanging on longer. The Neighbor explained he must be in a lot of pain and the best way to deal with the situation was to continue with a mercy killing by toilet. —– I just couldn’t do it. Here was my love child, my long term roommate, and my friend in a tiny guppy body… and I had introduced his demise. The Neighbor took care of the situation, and I was left to a room without any pets… without any roommate… and without anyone to cry with. It was a silent memorial, but it was heartfelt.

The Best Friend, The Token Estonian, The Lover of all things Food, and I recently graduated from said undergraduate career. We moved onto worries about senior theses, graduate school, and real people jobs. We will never, however, forget the saga of Seymour and Gifford… or the untimely demise of our beloved Seymour. We became better people, more responsible people. But we lost a small guppy shaped piece of our heart that day.

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