True stories with a twist!

New York. There’s no place like it in the world. The museums, the shows, the restaurants.

THE PRICES.

This year a revision of the play, “The King and I” opened to rave reviews. The music is beautiful, the children in the cast are adorable, and the acting is top notch. People are walking around singing, “Getting to Know You,” “Whistle a Happy Tune” and “Hello Young Lovers.” The romantic among us are are stretching their vocal cords to the sad song two doomed you lovers sing, ”We Kiss in a Shadow.”

A feel good story featuring an exceptional cast of characters and magnificent costumes; how can you miss?

You have to pay the price to get into the theater to watch the show, that’s how. If you would like to bring a young grandchild and be sure that he/she has the ability to see what’s happening on stage, orchestra seats are recommended. To be near enough to be enchanted try “center orchestra seats.” They will set you back $325.00 apiece, which includes a $2.00 “Facility Fee!”

Add in the transportation cost and lunch before the show, and the total resembles the amount Donald Trump pays for publicity.

Choices are difficult, or as the King sings in the show, life “Is a Puzzlement.” There shouldn’t be a price for enjoyment: there shouldn’t be a price for pleasure. But if your pleasure is a Broadway show, there is indeed a price for the pleasure of watching a first rate, professional performance.

Hey Buddy; can you spare a dime?

The time had finally come to play the game of “Stay Behind or Come With Us.” We were preparing to start a life somewhere else. Moving was the goal, and the only means to arrive at that goal were harsh.

Objects that were once valuable to us were now considered clutter by the rest of the world. Could we really dispose of treasured memories? How heartless! How could we toss away the precious segments of family history?

Where do we begin? We can’t make all the decisions by ourselves. Neither of us is that unfeeling, uncaring or cold hearted.

“Get help!” everyone said, and thinking that was good advice, we hired a specialist called a moving organizer. She took the place of aunts and uncles, who would have been the people of choice to ask for advice if we lived in a different generation, when everyone lived in the same neighborhood.

The organizer met us at the house we were about to hard-heartedly abandon. After looking at the house room by room, taking notes each step of the way, she took painstaking detailed measurements. I secretly thanked my lucky stars that she wasn’t the person who measured me for my bridal gown, a special dress for a blockbuster occasion or for any other reason anyone would have for taking my exact measurements.

Then, consulting her numbers she made schematic drawings of the rooms, windows and door spaces.

She then measured the dimensions of each piece of furniture. That saved us an
irritating experience. It would be typical of us, if we were left to our own devices, to plan to put a couch in one place, only to discover that in the new house the proposed couch-space actually was right in the middle of a doorway.

The organizer’s drawings also indicated where furniture, paintings and photographs were positioned. She was so thorough I half expected her to measure the cracker crumbs on the floor and include those in her plans too.

When we got to the new house, she measured all spaces, spots between the spaces, wall space, windows and door spaces until I felt spacey myself. She drew where each piece of furniture would fit. And the left-overs, like contestants on “America’s Got Talent,”were coldly and impersonally voted out; they did not advance to the next round, new house, or new life.

Moving day arrived. Several of our neighbors gathered around the moving van, offering their good wishes. Or were they perhaps hoping to get a furtive look at some personal objects not visible in the common areas they’ve seen? Furniture survivors and wall hangings of thirty-one years of living with us triumphed as they were hoisted onto the moving van.

And then we were off!

Finally, in the new house, as the movers unloaded the moving van, they knew exactly where to put everything, thanks to our organizer’s drawings. Beds went where beds go, sofas went where sofas go. And my imagination pictured a fantastical scene:

Our pretend Alexander Calder sculpture would be placed near the front door to greet,
surprise and delight all our visitors.

Our imaginary Rembrandt portrait would follow everyone around the room with its eyes from where it hung, over the sofa.

The Salvador Dali fascinated everyone from the wall behind the easy chair, where it would stimulate many interpretations.

Awaking from my dreams, and getting back to reality, I started to place kitchenware. That task was more challenging than the furniture placement was: all the small stuff; pots, cutlery, glassware and dishes were obvious to put in their respective places. But mechanical kitchen devices posed the quandary: “To see or to hide?”

Do I want free, glossy magazine-attractive counters? Or lived in, homey, happily cluttered ones? Should convenience cooking devices such as blender, food processor, and toaster clutter the top and be easy to use? Or, should I hide them in lower cabinets for the sake of a neat, organized kitchen appearance? Should I strive for a new kitchen that forces me to bend down, lift the coffee maker from the cabinet underneath and put it up on the counter every time I needed a caffeine boost? Then put it back under the cabinet after drinking the mug of coffee, or would I rather have the ease of reaching the machine easily on my own level to make and enjoy a quick cup of the brew?

So now I presented myself with a new problem. I faced a moral dilemma; what is more important: the look of a room or the utility of it?

If the purpose of this move was to make life easier, magazine-perfection would be discarded in favor of convenience, and the machines sensibly went on top of the counter. It may not be the most attractive decoration or use of a counter space, but it will make life so much easier.

Throughout the ordeal of planning, measuring, placing objects in their proper places one problem still bothers me, and I can’t find a suitable answer for it. There is a place for everything except one small ever-present thing. With all the sketching and drawing each item’s new position one small one stands out no matter where I put it. It ruins the color scheme, protrudes and looks out of place everywhere.

Where do the bananas go?

PRIORITIES

People seem to be always in a hurry; so much to do; never enough time. An economics professor told us years ago that time is a commodity, just as any other valuable item is a commodity: silver, gold, or jewelry. It has value, it has worth. And it can be measured.

If you are asked to do an errand, or volunteer with a task someone is doing, what is it worth? How much is your time worth? Did you ever figure out how much money your time is worth?

Are you paid by the hour? Are you paid by the year? Your time is worth a given amount of money for the time and expertise you put into any project or task.

You are the judge of how you want to spend your valuable commodity of time. Do you want to spend it watching soap operas on TV? Watching sports events? Working out? Talking on the telephone?

Your choice; just remember that if you spend the commodity of time doing one thing, you cannot do something else also. If I choose to go to a movie I cannot read a book at the same time. I can’t work out and bake a cherry pie at the same time. To tell the truth I wouldn’t know how to bake a cherry pie even if there were nothing else I needed to do!

So as I wish you all a very Healthy New Year filled with only GOOD surprises and good experiences, I ask that you give a little time to how you want to use your valuable commodity of time in 2016!

It was several years ago at this time of year. We were addressing holiday cards to the service people who make our lives easier all year: the sanitation workers. Our township hires four: a driver and a collector of regular garbage, and a driver and a collector of recyclables. Four cash gifts were added to each card and each person’s name was added to each card. Their name was put on the envelope before I punched a hole in the top of each of the four cards, added brightly colored ribbons through the hole on top and tied each card to the handle of the garbage pail. It made a colorful and cheerful sight, ribbons waving in the wind greeting the workmen.

Screeching sounds of  gears shifting as the garbage truck lumbered up the hill and grinding noises of the brakes stopping at each house told us that the garbage truck was approaching.

 

From the living room window we watched the truck stop in front of our house and the men hoisting the heavy pails up and tossing its contents into the garbage truck. There was no sign of their reaching for anything tied to the handles. No envelopes were swinging from the handles. Some objects were flapping as the pails were lifted and replaced on the curb. What were they?

Where were the envelopes? What happened to our gifts?

We raced down the driveway to the curb to inspect the pails.

That’s when we saw the hideous sight of ribbons that had been cut right above where the envelopes were attached to the pails. What we had seen flapping were the stumps of the ribbons. A Grinch of our town had made it’s way along the street and cut off all the envelopes containing Christmas gifts for the workers.
Peace on earth? Good will to men? Bah Humbug!  

Many years ago, back in the 1960’s, I was a young mother of a three year old son. Three is such an adorable and delightful age; it’s a time of discovery. It’s a time of endless questions, many of which can stump any young mother who doesn’t happen to have earned degrees in math, science, and astrology.  It’s a time to learn about the world and everything surrounding and inside of it.

Adults are all-powerful and colossally large to a three year old child, and as an adult of twenty-five that was a strange concept for me to grasp. I never thought I could wield so much power over one human, never experienced such unlimited, overwhelming might over the life of another person, and never expected another human being to take my word as gospel. I found myself the supreme ruler of my small kingdom of three. I knew I would never feel that important again.

At least, not until the next two children arrived.

One summer afternoon I was home alone with Mark and decided it was a good time for our daily story time accompanied by our afternoon snack. I pulled a plate of washed grapes, the stems of which I had cut into single portion sizes, from the refrigerator. Handing each of us one small bunch apiece I began our afternoon story time.

We sat close together on the sofa, eating grapes as I started reading my favorite Dr.Seuss story, 

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 “Hop On Pop.”

“Stop: Do not Hop on Pop,” I read, until Mark interrupted me with the plea, handing me the empty grape stem,

“Mommy, will you put some more grapes on here?”

It always touched my heart to think that to a three year old child, mommy was all knowing, and could do anything.

Too bad that conviction didn’t last through adolescence.

SALES RESISTANCE

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We were having a beautiful experience traveling through Spain; learning its history, enjoying its exquisite scenery, and living the lives of jet-setters. Everyone we met was friendly, welcoming and pleasant…

Until we came upon her: an elderly local woman carrying a basket full of crocheted shawls. All I had to do was make initial eye contact with her and I knew I had lost the sales battle.

She earmarked me as a prospective customer, and nothing I could do could save me from those persistent eyes. She started following me across the church patio, holding up a shawl and arranging her face to show a pleading expression.

“Twenty five dollars,” she begged.

No, I said, walking away. But she persisted, following me across the plaza.

“Look. Beautiful,” she said, as she wrapped the shawl around my shoulders. “$25.00.”

I felt trapped. Why does’t she bother another of the hundreds of tourists: why me?

Bargain with her, my inner voice coaxed. Don’t agree to the first price she offers.

Is it hand made? I asked. She held up her hands and pointed to her arthritic old fingers, signaling that she crocheted every stitch by hand. Along with the hand-showing she put on a pathetically sad, overworked, exhausted expression.

Poor old thing, I commiserated. She looks at my life, a traveling tourist able to afford the luxury of leaving my country to explore hers, while she labors away stitching these shawls. She probably sews in a room with poor light and uncomfortable back-breaking chairs. I’ll bet she lives with her family, including a bunch of small children whom she helps support. How can I haggle with her for a miserable few dollars?

I could always use a hand crocheted black shawl, I told myself convincingly. So I gave in to my conscience and my guilt and paid her the full price she asked. I tucked my new purchase into the traveling bag and joined my husband and our friends for a tour of the church.

Later that afternoon on the way back to the hotel, we passed a shop in town filled with local souvenirs.

There on display was a counter filled with identical shawls to the one I had just bought. Each shawl was enclosed in an individual plastic bag, indicating that it was factory made, not home sewn. On closer inspection I saw a small tag saying, “Made in China.”

The store was selling them for $15.00 apiece.

INTERRUPTION

Ring… Ring… Ring… It’s still ringing as I jump up from the chair, where I was relaxing and enjoying the last rays of sunshine before the “Dreaded Season” arrives. Finally in the house, heart racing, pulse pounding and trying to catch my breath, I find that the caller hung up before I get to the phone, abandoning me to an afternoon of wondering: who was it and why were they calling? Was it an important call, a telemarketer or just a gabby friend?

I’m not in the mood for talking to a gabby friend (listening rather than talking is what it usually means!), definitely not in the mood for a telemarketer but wondering if the call could have been important.

Caller ID to the rescue! Although “Mysterious Privacy Invader” hung up before revealing who was calling, perhaps Caller ID registered the number and would “spill the beans” as to the person’s identity.

Happily it did register the number, which I immediately recognized as belonging to one of my children. Spirits quickly rising, I redialed the number.

“Oh, Mom, sorry about that. I hit your number by mistake. ‘Can’t talk now; I’m at a meeting. ‘Talk to you soon.” Click.

And so ended a roller coaster of feelings, ranging from irritation to anticipation, turning to doubt, then anxiety. Finally to discovery and finally, to disappointment. I was so happy when Caller ID told me who the call was from. But I was not the intended recipient of the call after all. I was nothing but a mistake.

But the lesson I took from this experience had nothing to do with the phone call. The lesson was, “I’d better get back to working out. I shouldn’t be struggling to take a breath just from getting up and rushing anywhere. The ringing phone should not cause me to practically wheeze to reach it.”

And with that admonition to myself, as the warmth and sunshine gave way to chilly breezes and foggy fall weather I dejectedly trudged downstairs in slow motion, one boring, tedious step at a time to the work out room to exercise.

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