School’s Out!

Schools out for summer! Hip hip hooray! I get as giddy anticipating summer vacation as I do anticipating Christmas…or even National Go Bare-Foot Day. Here’s a little excerpt from one of my Kitchen Sink Chronicles columns from a few years ago that will help explain my affection for summer vacation…

Rockets, Realizations and Resurrecting the Watusi

I slipped into the room where Stephen sat on the edge of our bed, his head in hands. After closing the door quietly behind me, I said in a hushed tone, “He’s done.”Rocket

Stephen looked up at me, expectation filling his eyes.

“He’s done,” I repeated, knowing that saying those two beautiful words once just wasn’t enough. “D-O-N-E.”

Suddenly, Stephen and I were high-fiving, hip-bumping, and in our jubilation became responsible for resurrecting the watusi craze. Our impromptu celebration on an otherwise uneventful Sunday afternoon occurred when our youngest son, Benn, finally completed that thing teachers across the nation refer to as the “science fair project,” but parents more accurately describe as, “Chinese water torture.”

After three tries, Stephen and I had lucked into a self-motivated progeny who worked through the steps of the project process pretty much on his own, and did so without causing our blood pressure to rise to the point where we wished we’d ordered the home defibrillator we saw demonstrated on QVC. Nevertheless, vivid memories of late night trips to the 24-hour Walmart during the science fair eras of our first two sons had heightened the sensations in our nerve endings to the point that the mere mention of the arduous science fair project makes us feel much the same way the lowly fox feels as he contemplates the arrival of a pack of howling hounds at his den door.

Copyright © 2015 Patra Taylor

Excerpt from: The World According to Ovid, da Vinci and Mae West

“This is interesting,” I said to my husband. “It says here that Mae West faithfully observed a day of rest every week throughout her Hollywood career.”

“Really?” Stephen queried sardonically. My husband can pack a pound of sarcasm into one word when he tries…although that’s definitely not one of the reasons I married him. “We’re now crediting a five-star trollop–who famously said, ‘Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before’–with coming up with the whole ‘day of rest’ concept?”

“I think ‘trollop’ is a bit harsh,” I interject, trying to keep the conversation light, and going in the direction I intended for a change. Before I could add, “Mae West sounds like your kind of gal,”

Stephen nattered onward.

“…for in six days the Lord created heaven and earth, and on the seventh He…” Stephen prompted me like a frustrated priest with a delinquent Catechism student.

“…caught up on his paperwork?” I suggested, smiling. That’s when it occurred to me that Stephen can also pack a pound of sarcasm into a well-executed scowl. “Deuteronomy?” I offered pathetically, trying to save face after my little joke bombed. Stephen just shook his head sadly, my cue to leave the room and take my developing admiration for Mae West with me.

 Copyright © 2015 Patra Taylor

Excerpt from: “A Game of Beat the Clock and a Kiss Goodnight”

Cartoon red alarm clockBy Patra Taylor

As the dog days of summer overtake me, I like to reflect on the pleasant, yet unusual way my summer began–at a kindergarten graduation. Participating in the pomp and circumstance of five- and six-year-olds engaged in their last hurray of innocence is an activity enjoyed mainly by young, enthusiastic parents, and wise, seasoned grandparents.

Unfortunately for my husband and me, who had our final (and this time I mean it) son when we were 40-something, we’ve found we no longer identify with most of the parents of our son’s peers. Yet we are still a bit skittish about the unfolding revelation that we have a lot in common with their grandparents. Stuck here in no-man’s land, we’re sort of hanging out in the great abyss between not fitting in with one group, and not wanting to fit in with the other.

As is the way with such social outcasts, we slipped silently into the excited crowd, taking our seats in the rows lining the playground-turned-auditorium. We sat down amidst parents tugging and prodding their other children and wondering aloud if they’d remembered to do this or that for the big party they had planned afterwards. I wondered silently if I’d remembered to take my Metamucil that morning, and if McDonald’s would do for our graduation dinner.

 Copyright © 2015 by Patra Taylor

Special note: Our little six-year-old kindergarten will graduate from high school on Friday, June 2, 2017, his father’s 65th birthday. Benn continues to bring great joy to his aging parents.

Excerpt from “Dead of Night Shines Light of Reason on Class Reunion Ritual”

 OMG ScaleI recently began my “I-have-to-lose-20-pounds-before-my-high-school-class- reunion” diet. Admittedly, I sneaked my latest diet regime into the daily lives of my unsuspecting family, purging our household of empty carbs and fat-filled goodies in the bright light of day when they were at work and school.

The family knew something was up the first night I served broiled fish and steamed broccoli, and cheerfully pronouncing it “dinner.” The boys immediately came down with virulent cases of the flu and fled the table, no doubt clinging to their recent memories of pepperoni pizza, cheeseburgers and ice cream.

My husband, on the other hand, silently contemplated his situation while unenthusiastically shuffling the healthful veggies about his plate with his fork. Then, wearing his most convincing trial lawyer cross-examination face, he began, “You are going to lose weight just so your classmates will think you maintained your girlish figure all these years, isn’t that true?”

The question felt a little like he was leading the witness, but with no one in sight to object to his harsh line of questioning, I decided to meet Stephen’s inquiry head-on. “Yes…exactly,” I replied matter-of-factly.

He paused, picking at his herbed and lemoned tilapia. “I can’t say that I blame you,” he finally admitted.

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor

Excerpt from: The Upside of Aging

Pink Hair CurlersFor years, I had issues with my mother about hair…mine in particular. If she told me she loved my hair that simply told me I needed a lengthy appointment with my hairdresser and a complete re-do. In my own defense, my mother’s idea of a lovely hairstyle involved a Lilt permanent, eight pink plastic hair curlers, and a jar of Dippity-do. I think you get my drift.

So, for four decades, when she said she loved my hair, I changed it. As God as my witness, once my mother loved my hair so much that I considered streaking it with bright pink and purple stripes, a practice that has since become fashionable. I would be consulting an IP attorney at this very moment if I thought the trend had any socioeconomic value. But in fact, it is more hideous than I imagined.

One day, I stopped by my mother’s house to take her a piece of her favorite pineapple upside down cake. “Is it windy outside, dear?” she asked sweetly, even before the thank-yous.

“No,” I replied tartly.

“Oh,” she said innocently, peering at me over her reading glasses. “Your hair looks like you just stepped out of a windstorm. There’s a brush on my dresser, if you want to use it.”

I left confused, wondering if she really hated my hair, which meant I shouldn’t change it. Or if she really loved my hair and had resorted to using reverse psychology on her adult daughter, meaning I needed another lengthy appointment with my hairdresser. Either way, I was certain of one thing…the old bat (previously known as my sainted mother) had a good laugh at my expense.

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor

Nice Girl

The complete story is in my book!

American Capitalism at its Finest Found at Neighborhood Yard Sale

Last week, I found a note stuck to my mailbox announcing the date for an upcoming “Community Yard Sale.” Ugh. Printed on a piece of appealing aqua Vintage Garage Sale Cornerblue paper, I contemplated just how unappealing participating in this whole genre of sales events had become to me. Garage sales, yard sales, moving sales, estate sales and their ilk all conjure images of giant junk swaps, often amidst vicious cat fights and oppressive dickering practices. For me, these dealings seem ideal precursors to attending a mud wrestling match or a monster truck meet.

As I was about to deposit the yard sale notice into the trash, my uncooperative brain flashed to the boxes still piled, floor to ceiling, in our garage. These were the final remnants of our summer downsizing move. The day and time my husband and sons off-loaded the final boxes hauled out of our last remaining storage unit just happen to correspond exactly to the moment with the depletion of my last gasp of enthusiasm for the whole moving project. Could it be that participating in the community yard sale might be what the doctor ordered to rejuvenate my sense of orderliness, and carry me on through to the finish line? I certainly hoped not.

My yard sales days were behind me, long since dead, buried and overgrown with weeds. Oh, sure, I had been sucked into the treasure hunt mentality for a while, but somehow my garage sale finds never rated a look-see by the Antiques Roadshow when it rolled through town. I just don’t have the eye, the knack, or the touch to make it in that particular dog-eat-dog world.

Besides, there are few things in life that can drag me from my warm bed on a Saturday mornings at 5 o’clock, and an opportunity to be at the head of the line when someone’s garage door rolls up to unveil their household outcasts at first dawn is not one of them. I prefer the air-conditioned comfort of a well-lit, overstocked department store at mid-day, especially when the wheels on my shopping buggy actually work.

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor

Dropping Hemlines, Sagging Fanny Packs Hail in New Fashion Season – Part 1

I'm off to the library.

I’m off to the library.

“Where do you think you’re going wearing that thing, little missy?”

The question seemed to ooze into my being from another dimension. I stepped back from the door and squeaked into the ether, “The library.”

During my teenage years, “library” loosely translated, “anywhere boys might be hanging out.” Startlingly, prior to one particular planned trip to the “library,” my apparel had caught the attention of my father. I’m unsure about who was more startled…my father, because I was wearing an ancient precursor to the present-day tube top; or me, because my father had actually voiced his disapproval of my clothing (what little of it there was) without using my mother as a filter. Rather than miss my ride, I changed my clothes.

After shaking off that chilly moment of nostalgia, I turned to my husband who was peering over his reading glasses, his book still open on his lap, his serious brown eyes set directly on me.

“I’m going to the library,” I repeated honestly. After living with nothing but men and boys for almost a quarter century, the bloom was off the rose regarding the male species. Those once sought-after exotic and thrilling creatures had proven themselves over time to be mostly just loud and messy, and that unfortunate revelation had restored the word “library” in my brain to its original etymology.

“I don’t think you should be wearing that in public,” he pressed.

“Oh, you don’t like my pink shirt?” I obfuscated. “Let me explain this ‘pink’ thing to you. When middle-aged women begin choosing pink as a primary color in their wardrobes, it’s just signaling the winding down of their maternal time clocks. When you see me wearing pink, I’m simply expressing a non-verbal, ‘no more babies for me’ attitude. It’s sort of an outward manifestation of some hormonal jig going on at the sub-atomic level. It’s all very scientific. Perfectly normal…nothing to worry about.” I turned to leave.

“It’s not the shirt.”

“The jeans?”

“It’s the f-f-f-fanny p-p-pack.”

There, he’d finally spit it out.

“Men do not want their wives to be seen in public wearing one of those things,” Stephen hissed, the ice clinging to his last word.

Stay turned for part 2…

 Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor

 

“Coots, Codgers and a Kick in the Shin”

By Patra Taylor

Because those of us who have waded into the murky waters we reluctantly call Aging stand, lean, sit and lie among the most maligned people of all time, I think it’s high time the list of words and phrases to be banned in this Enlightened ACoots, Codgers and a Kick in the Shinge should include those used to denigrate us, the year-of-birth challenged. Let’s start with “old fogey.” That’s the first one to scratch from the lexicon. Here’s a partial list of other references to Those of a Certain Age that need to be eradicated from the common vernacular: Hag, crone, frump, gramps, relic, fossil, antique, geezer, gaffer, duffer, codger, old fart, gray beard (which one is particularly insulting when applied to one’s grandmother), battle ax, dodderer, curmudgeon, stick-in-the-mud, fuddy-duddy and antediluvian. That’s right…a partial list.

Even though I personally think that “old coot” has a certain je ne sais quio, I’m willing to concede that it also needs to go. Personally, I’m not fond of “senior citizens,” which replaced “old folks” a couple generations ago. Unfortunately, the phrase “senior citizens” has been inextricably linked to a third word, “discount,” making it untouchable. Just try to get rid of the senior citizens discount and I think we’ll see the 42 million geezer, gaffers and duffers of this great nation revert to their shin-kicking, nose-punching, fire-setting roots.

Copyright © 2017 by Patra Taylor

Defensive Driving Skills Best Learned at Home – Part 2

The next day, Jackson and I had one of those parent-child firsts. Towering several inches over me with a freshly laminated learner’s permit in his pocket, he stood next to me as we examined our newly acquired “Green Hornet,” the one and only vehicle in our expanding fleet that he’d be permitted to operate, as his father and I both prefer our vehicles scratch- and dent-free.

Since I’d prepared his whole life for this moment, I thought a few words of wisdom might be appropriate. I considered imparting that all-important “driver’s language” used by citizens acrossCUYANA - CIRCA 2001 : stamp printed in Guyana shows Burl Icle Iv America, but it occurred to me that Jackson had already audited the course from the backseat through the graduate level. I was pretty confident that he already knew the difference between a “stupid idiot” and a “brain-dead SOB.”

But then I remembered the most important gift I could give him to launch his driving career. I went to my still-unscathed SUV, opened the glove box and pulled out the driver’s ultimate weapon and handed it to him.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Honey, I want you to be able to defend yourself when you’re out there on the streets alone,” I answered solemnly. “The first time some jerk pulls up next to you in slow-moving traffic with the volume on his stereo turned up so loud that it vibrates your car, I want you to roll down all your windows, pop this into your CD player, and crank it up.”

“What’s on it?” he asked, looking at the unmarked disc.

“It’s a recording of Burl Ives singing, Jimmy Crack Corn. When you’re on the streets, son, you have to fight fire with fire.”

As we stood there, I realized that in just a few short months, I would no longer be needed to take my little boy to school. He won’t need me to drive him to hockey practice, to his friends’ houses or to Chick-Fil-A. On the outside I was weeping, but on the inside my heart was bursting with the chorus of Happy Days are Here Again.

“Are those tears of joy, aren’t they?” he asked softly.

“Yes son, they are.”

 Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor

 

 

Defensive Driving Skills Best Learned at Home – Part 1

wrecked carsI must extend my sincere apologies to all my fellow citizens. Last week I personally took my 15- year-old son to the Department of Motor Vehicles and enabled him to get a learner’s permit. Hindsight tells me it was not only inconsiderate and irresponsible for me to unleash another testosterone-enriched human male onto the streets behind the wheel of a 3,000+ lb. gas-propelled machine. It was also pretty selfish.

A few days after Jackson’s 15th birthday, I was sitting in my gas-guzzling SUV waiting for him outside the movie theater. Jackson’s friend’s mom had covered the drop-off, but I had been appointed to pick-up duty.

After contemplating the number of hours I had wasted sitting in my car waiting for someone else, I drifted off, only to dream about how sweet it would be if I could get out of the taxi business while I could still pass the driver’s eye exam. After what seemed like too few moments of this delicious fantasy, I was rudely awakened by my seven-year-old yelling and pointing at a stray cat ambling across the parking lot. Suddenly reminded that the day I’m completely free of my taxi driver persona is still another eight years away, I determined in my groggy semi-consciousness that only having to haul one kid around would amount to something akin to semi-retirement. So I went for it.

“Jackson,” I said to my middle son as he climbed into his awaiting air-conditioned transport. “Maybe we’d better get you over to the DMV in the morning to get your driving permit before school starts.”

There, I’d said it…right in front of his friend, who happens to be a girl. (That was a delicate description of a relationship I’ve failed to get a clear handle on.)

“Great,” he replied basking in the manly moment. “I’ve studied, so I’m all ready for my test.”

“You’ve studied?” I queried. “Other than a computer game instruction booklet, I’d wager that’s the only thing you’ve ever studied for without me nagging you since you arrived on this earth, pink and hungry.”

“Maybe we need to get some ice cream to celebrate me getting my license,” he suggested. It was clear he was trying to dissuade me from any more of my stories about his infancy, which would undoubtedly ruin his crowing session in front of his friend.

“Maybe we ought to wait and celebrate after you get it,” I replied, even though my general rule is to eat ice cream any chance I get.

Stay tuned for part 2…

Copyright © 2017 Patra Taylor