Saturday, April 17, 2010

I can be flexible

I got a new yellow hoodie today to replace my old one. So what, you say? Well, I'll tell you, it's monumental. I guess I have to start out by explaining what my old sweatshirt means to me. I bought it shortly after we moved here ten years ago. I went to the university bookstore and picked out an XXL yellow hoodie that said KENT STATE UNIVERSITY across the front in really pretty small letters for a sweatshirt. The letters aren't puffy or rigid or plaid, they're just navy blue printed letters.

I don't think it started out this way, but I wear my hoodie every day. Well, maybe there are a couple of mornings in August when I don't put it on as soon as I wake up, but that's about it. I use my sweatshirt for a bathrobe, for one thing, and even I have to admit that the mornings can be a little chilly in the house, pretty much year round. I'm not complaining, you understand, that's how I like it.

I wear my hoodie for walking Rufus or when I go hiking with Ben. It's great for rainy weather because of, well, obviously, the hood. I wear it underneath my leather coat in the winter when I go out to shovel snow. I took it with me to Arizona and wore it in Mexico, which gave all the street vendors in Nogales the opportunity to yell "Hey, Kent State!" at me as we walked by. It was cool and rainy that day. Again, the hood was great. I wear my hoodie when we go down to the flea market in Hartville or up to the lake at Mentor Headlands.

Actually, it was after our last trip to the lake that I finally had to admit that Ben was right, and it might be time to start looking for a new sweatshirt. We had stopped in Chardon on our way home, and decided to have lunch in a cute little restaurant there. When we were seated at our table, I glanced down at my hands and saw my ragged, torn, dirty shirt cuffs. Granted, I had dressed for hiking along the lake shore, not lunching out, but still I was embarrassed. Maybe my sweatshirt, like my flannel pajama bottoms, needed to stay in the house from now on. Or at least on our property.

Clearly, I needed a new sweatshirt. The problem would be finding the right one. I had some very definite specifications as to color, size, and most importantly, the lettering on the front. In a perfect world, I would find a sweatshirt identical to the one I had, but I already know it's not a perfect world. Ben offered once again this morning to take me over to the bookstore to look for a new hoodie, and this time I took him up on it. "Sure, let's go," I surprised us both by saying.

As we entered the bookstore, Ben used his most relaxed, calming voice. "Now, you're going to be open-minded about this and consider what they have here, right?" "Sure, sure," I told him, but I was already searching for the twin to my beloved hoodie. And, I have to tell you, I damn near found it. It was on the discount rack, actually, and it was the only yellow hoodie - in fact the only yellow piece of clothing - on the entire rack. It was a size XXL and it didn't have any puff paint or stupid mascots on it. Only "KENT" was printed on the front of it, unfortunately in huge, three-inch tall letters, but I can live with that. I can be open-minded.

Ben bought me the sweatshirt, and I brought it home and threw it in the washer with the old sweatshirt, which needed to be washed anyway, as it had some toothpaste down the front of it. Long story short - well, too late for that, I guess - I am wearing the new hoodie right now. It feels pretty okay. I wore it through dinner and ate pasta with sauce, but didn't get any sauce on the sweatshirt. I think that's a good sign. I think it's going to work out all right.

You might think I am going to get rid of my old hoodie or perhaps cut it up for cleaning rags. That is not what I am planning to do. I am going to cut the long sleeves off and wear it like Bill Belichick wears his sweatshirts. That's right. Bill Belichick. I am just not ready to let go of it yet. Maybe I never will be.

Monday, April 12, 2010

isn't it ironic?

I grew up on the wrong side of town. I don't say this for dramatic effect - it is a simple statement of fact. In our small town, the four junior highs fed into the one huge high school across the street from our house. The neighborhoods that populated the junior high schools on the east and north sides of town were considered "good". The other two --- were not.

I didn't know all this, of course, when I was in elementary school, and I loved my elementary school like I have never loved any other school. We walked home for lunch every day and back again, so I actually walked past Wesleyan Village (called the Methodist Home in those less PC days) four times a day. I considered myself incredibly fortunate when my elementary school became a junior high school at just the right time for me to keep attending classes there. I went to school at Franklin School, later Franklin Junior High, for nine years. My friend Beverly and I walked the empty halls one last time on our last day of classes there. I never went back.

The following fall I started classes at the high school in whose shadow I had lived for as long as I could remember. The multiple buildings took up a whole city block, and like all new freshmen (although I believe we were actually sophomores when we started there) I was sure I would never find my way or make it to class on time. In fact, I still dream of forgetting the combination to my lock or not finding my locker or the classroom where I need to be. Common nightmares, I know.

By the time I entered high school, I already knew that I did not live on the right side of town and I had not attended what was considered a good school. And some of the girls who attended the schools on the north side or the east side never let me forget that. Others were kinder and more accepting, but by my senior year when they finally allowed me into their group, I no longer wanted to belong. The boys from the "good" schools were always nice to me, and I never knew for sure if it was because I was a pretty girl or because my dad served them 3.2 beer whenever they came over. It didn't really matter, I guess.

All this is prelude to saying that my dad told me yesterday that one of the reasons he is unhappy at Wesleyan Village is because it is in such a bad neighborhood (!) and he is uncomfortable walking around there. I will admit, the neighborhood has deteriorated in the 30+ years since we lived there, but that just irritated the crap out of me! It wasn't a nice neighbhorhood even then, but he considered it to be a good enough place to raise his family. Now it is not good enough for him.

Life is funny, I guess, and I know it's better to laugh than to get pissed off about it. But, honestly!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

random memories of a small-town childhood, part 237

Before there was Walmart, mothers actually bought quality clothing for their children. When my brothers and I were little, our mother generally took us clothes shopping at the Jack & Jill Shop on Broad Street. We went to Weiss Shoes next door where they carried Red Goose Shoes when we needed shoes, although I know they sold shoes at Jack & Jill's as well. I know this because I remember very clearly the little painted wooden chairs where children sat as they tried on shoes. The chairs were painted to look like brightly-colored seated clowns, so when you sat in a chair it was as though you were sitting in the clown's lap. Those chairs creeped us out. Because as children know, clowns are innately creepy. At the same time, we were fascinated by them, and we crawled along the row of four or five of them from lap to lap as our mother shopped and chatted interminably with the shop owner. She was a talker.

The winter I was five or six years old, I needed a new coat to wear to church. My mother had promised me that I could pick it out myself, and I was thrilled at the prospect. We walked downtown to Jack & Jill's, and I picked out a purple wool dress coat. I don't remember anything else about it, but it was very purple. I loved it. It turned out to be not at all what my mother had in mind. "How about this one?" she asked me, holding up a somber tweed coat with a black velvet collar. "It has some purple in it," she said, pointing to some little nubs of color in the fabric. So much more appropriate to wear to the hoity-toity Congregational church where we attended, but never belonged.

More than fifty years later, I still remember a small girl's disappointment in the choice she wasn't allowed to make. But you should see the beautiful purple suede jacket I wear now.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

a little help here

Over the years, Ben and I have brought various and amazing things home in (and on) our little cars. Ben bought a dining room table and four chairs at Hartville over thirty years ago, and strapped the table on the roof of his Toyota and drove it home. The chairs were in the back seat and the trunk, I assume. We have brought home overstuffed second-hand chairs and old floor model radios. We bought an odd sofa-like piece of furniture one time that was really two long, narrow pieces of upholstered foam rubber with two similarly covered wedges for back rests. We roped that baby to the top of the car and got it safely home without it going airborne even once.

When Julie and I bought a tv several years ago, the box was way too huge to fit anywhere in my car. With the help of some skeptical stockboys, who laughed at my Swiss Army knife but in the end had to admire its efficacy, we got the television out of the box and into the back seat of the car. We have brought many Christmas trees home, sometimes on the roof of the car and other times protruding from the trunk.

It doesn't work 100% of the time, however. We made so many purchases at a nearby antique mall when we first moved here that we had to have the big pieces delivered. As it was, we chipped the large mirror we had wedged in the back seat. Our purchase today stymied us, as well. Ben and I decided that it was time to replace the glass-topped table and four chairs we had out on the deck. We bought the set along with the house when we moved in almost ten years ago now, and it was definitely showing its age. We had already replaced the cushions, but the chairs have been losing their bolts over the years and sometimes slip in an alarming way when one is seated in them. (I won't even go into the time the big umbrella blew over the roof of the house during a storm.)

Ben and I headed out to Home Depot with the gift certificate my brother gave us for Christmas, and almost immediately found the set we wanted. We were thrilled. We put everything on a dolly and wheeled it out to our car. The table top is 44" x 44", and there was no way that was going anywhere on or in our car. We wheeled our purchases back into the store, and asked to have them delivered. A man waiting for help at the service desk turned to us. "Where do you live? I'll put them in the back of my truck and drive them to your house." We didn't know what to say. He insisted. He was driving to Kent, anyway, he said, to his son's house.

Soon we were loading our table and chairs into the back of his pickup truck along with a big roll of pink insulation and four big window shutters. We told him where we lived, and drove home. Ben voiced the concern we both felt as we drove along. "I hope he's honest. I hope he doesn't rip us off." "I have to believe everything will be fine," I told him. "That's how I have to live my life."

The set looks great on the deck. I can't wait to eat out there.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

how it is

My dad and I went to his favorite restaurant for lunch on Tuesday. I have mentioned the place before. It is a formerly skeezy bar that now houses a small family restaurant. It is a clean, bright space, and the mismatched Fiesta ware is homey and cheerful.

The food is simple, tasty and inexpensive. We usually order the same thing every time. We each have a bowl of stuffed pepper soup - which I am in awe of and wish I could make myself - and we split a grilled cheese sandwich. Sometimes we have a patty melt instead, especially when Dad tells me he hasn't been eating any meat at Wesleyan Village.

We usually see the same waitresses working the lunch hour. For a while, it was a little dumpling of a woman named Patsy, whom my dad recognized from several other restaurants in the area. Patsy always brought us our sandwich halves on separate plates, each with our own chips and pickles. We haven't seen her for a while, but the woman who waited on us this week was someone who has waited on us before. I have to say, her service was indifferent, at best. She brought us one plate with our sandwich and chips on it, and I did not receive any refills on my glass of water, although she did refill my dad's coffee cup.

I took a peek at the bill as my dad pulled a handful of cash from his pocket to pay our tab. It was fourteen dollars and some change - not bad for lunch for two. When Dad left two singles on the table as a tip, I began to understand the service we had received. We got up to leave, and my dad shuffled up the aisle to pay the bill. "Let me just get my coat on," I called to him, but I was rummaging in my purse for my wallet. I found only two singles there, but quickly laid one of them on top of his tip.

I felt bad for the waitress. I felt bad for my dad. I felt bad. That's just the way it is these days.