Monday, January 9, 2012

Diversionary Tactics for My Visitor, My 5 yr old Ukrainian niece

I am having a diminutive guest coming this Friday.  Only four days before the 'hellion' crosses my threshold.  The problem that must be overcome is the exhaustion I have by that time of day.  This is common to the demilinating classes, especially the uninsured like myself.  I have Multiple Schlerosis.

She is my 'Little Ukrainian.'  She is strawberry blond.  She is the daughter of my nephew that I wrote my last blog about.  She is plucky and doesn't back down.  She will insist on being called a 'great niece' if I am going to be her 'great aunt.'   She  probably does carry the blood of Kossacks.  She tilt's her head and and can give you an 'eye-lashing' like an Abbess of the snobbiest convent in any part of the Holy Roman Empire.  I hope to have much fun.  This is why I fear my exhaustion, even crankiness, at four in the afternoon.

 I saw Dame Maggie Smith in the new season of Downton Abbey only last night.  She seems to be mellowing this season.  What I fear is last season's Dowager coming out in me, withering glances and exasperated breathing..  And my lack of intercourse with society has left me free to voice my crankiness for so long, I only hope I can re-educate myself to enter polite society by Friday.  I was a child who never had a voice raised against me.  Only once did my mother break down and touch me to correct me, but I think I was an object of opportunity, and she already had a brush in her hands. I must have been that 'know-it-all' twelve or thirteen year old that just makes a mother want to smack you for your impertinence of being a thirteen year old.  It never occurred to me to consult my mother on anything.    Yes, I was swatted across the back of the legs.  I should say thighs, as I was in my first pair of madras burmuda shorts. And even then she didn't raise her voice, but rather whispered, "You  won't get away with it, whatever it is!"

I was stunned and I grabbed her hand, saying simultaneously, "Why did you do that?"  I know the nuns must have done it to her, as I  reflect on my own Catholic school education.  And she, poor thing, was actually in a convent school during the war, since the fleet had swollen to immense proportions during WWII, here in the largest naval base in the world.
So, looking back over 50 years later, I understand,  to some extent, that she was swatting at the 'temptress' 'future impudent daughter'  when she said:  "Nothing that I know about, but you have or will be doing something I don't approve of."

I am not kidding for one moment.  When I was getting ready to go off to University, she forced me to sit in her 'sherry drinking' chair, and brought me a can of beer, put it on a coaster on the marble topped table, that had never before had anything but sherry on it (or port).  My jaw dropped. She said:  "Drink that!"  Me:  "Beer?  You want me to paint the rod iron or something?"  (I associated beer with the awful job of painting the exterior of the house.  In the heat of the south, it was the only appropriate beverage to quench the thirst of a man up on a ladder, ensuring he would go back up and finish the job if he wanted another.  Even an Anglican bishop would drink beer under these circumstances. )  She replied that I was to drink that beer to the bottom.  Well, I couldn't.  Not fast anyway.  I hadn't acquired the taste at 17.  She went into the kitchen and came back a few minutes later and lifted the can.  "Drink it all up.  I am going to stand here while you do.  None of your tricks of giving it to the dog."  I finished it off to give my mother relief.  She took the can away, went back to the kitchen, and came back with another one.  "Drink this one as well.  I give you five minutes max."  "But mom, I just can't do it, it is so filling."  "Well, it won't be so filling if you are on a dance floor twisting and  fruuging.  It will be a thirst quencher.  Drink it up."

There was no way out but to do as she said.  It wasn't easy.  Now a gin and tonic, or a Manhattan was another matter.  I passed as a sophisticated college girl in Washington, D.C.  But she knew nothing of that.  Or did she?

Well.  I got it down and then she sent me down the hill to fetch a pail of water.  Actually, to pick daffodils for the dinner table.  She watched me the whole way from the dining room window.  It wasn't over.  When I brought her the flowers, she said:  "You must have eaten your whole lunch at school and snacked at the drug store."
" Mom," I whined, "what is this all about? " Her reply: " I want to have a picture in my mind about how you will be behaving at college."  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Didn't she know about spin the bottle?  I didn't ask.

You can't make this stuff up.  Maybe it was what all the mothers of Northern Virginia were doing with their graduating seniors.  I don't know what tag to put on this to get any views and statistics.  But looking back at the year, 1966, the world as she knew it was falling apart.  She knew an innocent girl like me was going to get plucked pretty quick.   And that I would be the seducer!   It tells me years later that she waited until my father came along.  When boys would come to pick her up for dates and dances, she refused to come down the stairs, and her sister would go out with these local guys.  She didn't know how to refuse and invitation, it seems, and my aunt did all the dancing with these guys.  My aunt would be dressed to kill, and ready to trot when these guys came to pick my mother up.  When my dad showed up, an officer in uniform, a Frenchman, Montreal to Chicago, she accepted right away.  And I was born ten months after the wedding.  All was well in their dancing paradise.

Now I have to figure out how to get back to what I was talking about originally, and how I got on the subject of the 'beer test."  Oh, I get it.  I have to preengineer the glide path of my five year old niece's eyes, and the available distractions, to keep her occupied until we can get acquainted and conversant.  Everything I have would qualify as an 'attractive nuisance' to her eyes, not to be found in any other space she had visited before.

If you must know, there is a pink chiffon scarf with a border of white polka dots hanging directly across from the front door.  I have decided to sacrifice this scarf for the cause.  I will not tie it for her.  I will insist she show me what options she had, and, believe me, she knows her scarf options.  These little girls today are raised on 'princess costumes' we would never have dreamed of. She likes the Genie costumes best.  Slaves in China and Indonesia make them for the market here.

I have a little foam cube, hollow inside, as it  was used to ship my neighbors diabetes medicine.  I have some fabric and some batting so she can make her own little princess stool.  She will be able to sit at my coffee table as if it were an arts and craft table.  (I have to open it up to map table size before she gets here.  She dare  not see my magical table's unfolding.  I would never have a moments peace then.)

She will have paper and pencil only.  No water colors or finger paints in my limited area.  I have some jello packages set aside, but only if she can sit and work on her drawings while I boil the water.  She must learn that I will not be rushed.  It gives me a 'stomach ache.'  That ought to be something she can identify with.  I will not use a whip and a chain.  I will bow and scrape and 'guide' her.  All this from someone who is known for not stopping kids, in giving them their natural movements, as I point out to parents,  "That child is not violating any law of nature."   (I can't stand hearing people yell at their children, saying No. Stop. or Be Quiet.  It is the parent's that make the most public disturbance.)

Now I have to be a real pro to keep my own tired, haggard self from doing it, too.  I have a real task ahead of me in the next few days.  And this child does not nap.  She is over it
We will not do the bath, either.  I just can't handle it.  Although I know that it is an age old  debriefing scheme of all parents.  It calms every one down; something necessary is being accomplished;  and it provides a real service to society.

I am breathless from anticipating this.  If it is a 'success', she will be here every Friday of the Spring Semester.  I can not put a child seat in my sport' car.  I mean, that back seat is not really functional, is it?  I know I can't put my Aunt's dog back there, because the dog, as all dogs must, hangs out the window. If he didn't have the air, he would be thru the seats and stepping on the gear shift.    He is so big, I don't know whether he would tilt the car.

Am I helping myself here?  Well, yes, I am being prepared, as best I can.  I am not so simple-minded, yet, to not know that there will be contingencies, and the unknown.  Dealing with the known is all I can expect of myself.  I know more than most.  But things will be forgotten.  And remembered in the reliving.   And  I was never a princess as a child. Maybe a Kossack, though.  No, I was Hemingway's nurse, helping the wounded, crawling to the injured as bombs flared overhead.  We were post WWII children.  Boomers.  We have made a mess of the world.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cranking away, having an Italian New Years

It was only a week ago I found this blog, and read the posts from last year.  So sad, so funny, so real.  Only a week ago, and yet my sister, Hurricane Nicole, was here this week and we had insane fun at the thrift store, and I got rid of one cubic yard of family photos, Japanese dolls, and shoes I can no longer wear, which she will take to my other sister.

And I was able to post a comment on a blog!  Probably did it three times as I didn't know what I was doing.  It was a pen and mandala blog, the led me to another scent person.   I had to laugh when I came across it because just the night before,  when we were looking at old perfume bottles at another sisters, the three year old had an original Halston purse size spray flacon.  It was in her little play dressing table. My sister must have given it to her because she hadn't liked it from the git go either.  The first time I smelled the Halston perfume, over 30 years ago, I had said:  "Essence of Green Bean.  Not for me, but the vegetable has inspired a nice  bottle design, which is beautiful."  She so wanted to spray some on me, that three year old.  I had to be careful not to scream, "Get that horror away from me."  No, I just said thank you, no, it will mess up my own perfume, but we can pretend.  She was satisfied with that.

Since I can't smell, it didn't bother me that she sprayed some on herself.  I can just imagine my sister waiting for that bottle to be empty, and then she would steal it back.   There were some perfumes I was tempted to dump and save just for the bottle over the years.  But that is selfish.  Always I had a special tray of gifts that were free for the taking, some in gorgeous bottles.  No, they only caused clutter, and could cause ones I used to get crowded and spilled.  "Really, you will be doing me a favor if you would accept this.  Take one for a friend."

And I cooked beans today!  First time for everything.   Found a recipe from Texas and went with it as I had onion, garlic, and two jars of salsa I wouldn't eat.  It was fine.  And I mean that in the "Ooooo, that's Fiiine!" way.  And I got rid of three cans of stuff from the food bank I wouldn't have known what to do with otherwise.  Rearranged my little cabinet, too.  But what to do with that apple sauce?   I used to substitute it fresh apple when I was making my own curry, but those days are over.  I like to paint and draw apples, but the sugar doesn't agree with me.  I got drunk on a juice glass of hard cider when I was ten.  When grandfather got home and I was jumping from couch to chair, he ran to check on the cider, brought it out and asked me if I had indulged from that bottle.  I had.  Grandmother said it was his fault for bringing that stuff into the house.  Truth is I am just susceptible to fruit sugars.  Got drunk picking strawberries once and I was at least 25.

But, although I never drink, I did have a delicious pumpkin beer thanksgiving.  I kept talking about it so much that for Christmas my sister bought me two beers.  Get ready now for this.  The name of the  brewery is   Heavy Seas, Mutiny Fleet, out of Baltimore, Md.   It was almost as large as a wine bottle.  It was my beverage for New Years, along with sharp cheddar and Triskets.  I made a dip with smoked oysters and cream cheese and black olives.  I'd never had it before, but my sister recommended it.  I took it across the courtyard to share with my neighbor who is wheel chair bound and has no family.  Men are so polite.  A homeless man was there as well.  They were not overjoyed with smoked oysters.  They loved the Triskets and the port wine cheese.  Who doesn't?  Oh, well, they are mountain people.  And, quite frankly, the ingredients are great, but not mixed.  So I took it home with me and mixed it with some pasta and oyster sauce the next day just to get rid of it and get some protein.

My nephew was overjoyed to get the graph paper journal book with the skateboard stickers.  I did a little ink test and water marker test, and recalled how I first introduced him to graphs when he was six, to prove to him that the days would be getting longer by one to two minutes a day.  He was frustrated because he was off school for Christmas and it was dark outside by the time there were enough adults around for the kids to play outside.  Can't say I blame him one bit.
The earth tilting on its axis is one thing that always comes true. I shared this with him.  This is not a false hope, I told him.   And I plotted the day's length once a week, because his parents can't read an almanac.   And he could see that the next week he had 15 more minutes on a Friday, and it would keep on being more and more until after his birthday.    A year later they lived at a different address  and I  babysit him and his sisters as their parents went to a New Year's party that included  hotel reservations.  The kids and I had had a New Year's, too.  We made our own confetti and hats.  I made egg rolls for them in an electric frying pan.  Then I used the egg roll skins and made tarts with Apples, Chedder and Cinnamon.  Also had blueberries and cinnamon.  Real whip cream from the can.  I insisted we use it all up.

When my sister got home and saw how much fun her kids had had and how much they had accomplished, complete with a new graph to follow the increasing length of the day she turned to her husband and said she would never leave her children on New Year's again. It must not have been such a great company party, no matter how many freebies came with it.   No, she told her kids, New Years would be a family celebration from then on, and so it has remained 20 years later.

When the children awoke after staying up so late, a thick fog had fallen to the ground, zero visibility at six inches.  I will never  forget how startled my nephew looked, taken aback, really, when he opened the door and saw that  to fog.  "I'm not going out into THIS DAY."   I explained  to him how  it would burn if off by noon and set the alarm so he could start his New Year's day a little later.  I explained that we were in a cloud.  A Cloud of Unknowing.

And, I have used his expression on occasion.  "I'm sorry, but I just can't go out in this day."  But, except for dangerous fog, I love rainy days.  They make me just want to get it together and get out there and go to a book store.  Now that I can't afford the gas to get to a book store, let alone buy a book, I walk in it.  I revel in it.  No bright sun to blind me and make me lose my balance.  Give me an overcast day, and I can drive in any direction.  I look forward to them, and the cold.  As long as the sun comes in the front window, I can get enough sun and heat.  But I miss the beach.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

OMG, I have company coming, and I am going to figure out this blog stuff

Moi!  A sophisticated lady using  that expression: OMG.  I can't stand it.  But now that I have learned how to text message, I can become acerbic, and to the point, and not get tied up in knots with defensive relatives.

On my expedition today, I paid the auto insurance, cut loose the Honda from the policy,  signed the title over to a deserving niece-in-law, and now it is just me and the Eclipse.  I bought some brush markers at Barnes & Noble.  Was surprised to find them there.  What I really want is a Waterbrush - water stored in the handle..  I saw someone's blog about it on-line the other day.  I am lucky to have what I found.  But I'd rather start using my old water colors.  At least the brush markers will get me warmed up.  I hope I have some watercolor paper books in a drawer somewhere.  Speaking of the Honda, this is what happened Christmas:
 "Aunt Nadine, that car is pimped out" my nephew said when he saw the Eclipse at Christmas.  Then he saw the custom rims and dropped to his knees.

I said, "It is true, this car is nothing but a cop magnet,  just like the internet says, and I've had young men practically go over the curb when they see a silver-haired fox in it."
Nephew:  I think you mean 'couger', Auntie.
Me:  I know what a couger is, and I mean fox, as in 'crazy like a fox', or 'like a fox on the run.'

Nephew:    Got you.  "Well, anyway, it's the rims , especially. They are more than top of the line.  You will be profiled.
Me:   Well, these local yokel cops are pacing me everywhere.  Over near the university, especially.
Nephew:   They aren't allowed to do that for more than a mile and a half.
Me:   Well good.  I'll just measure the route.   I know where they lurk.   But  I couldn't get my 101st Airborne sticker's off the Honda.  I have got to get a replacement so  these cops will back off.    I am a poor woman. cripple even,  who has to pay higher insurance and put 93 octane gas in.  How could I ever afford to get a new tire?  And every time I stop at a light by the base, you got all those aviator's driving fast and revving it up near me.  I feel like I need to start smoking a cigar, or something.  At least pretend I'm smoking one.  A big Cohiba.
Nephew:  Where would you get one of those, if I may ask?
Me:  Well, I have been offered them many times, because it is impolite to not offer one.  The next snob who offers me one, I am just going to take it, take a puff or two, and save the rest for you.
Nephew:    Are you kidding me?  You'd really save it for me.
Me:  Of course I would.  And I know just who I am going to 'score' one off of.  Your Uncle Marc.  Next time he is in town, I am going to act offended that he presumed to ask if he could smoke and didn't offer me one.  That ought to set him in a spin.  Manners are manners.  How dare he presume I enjoy being his audience!  He will either put up or shut up and stay away from my door.
Nephew:  Auntie, please don't drive Uncle Marc away.
Me:   Well, he still has to come to town to pay court to great aunt High Church.  So don't worry.
Nephew:  Auntie, you are so mean.
Me:  Well, I have turned a corner in life, and I don't have time to waste on blowhards, and people afraid to speak straight and true.
Nephew:  I hope you don't ever write me off.
Me:  What!  I started crying when I saw you crying in the hospital nursury.  There was an Iranian father there, too, and he was bawling.  Same reason.  The nurse came to see what the racket was all about, and it was two adults crying because the babies were crying and we couldn't get thru the glass to pick them up.  She kicked us both off the maternity ward and told us she would call us when you had both been fed.   I have always cried whenever you cried.  And I have kicked (metaphorically) anyone who didn't understand my  mischievous nephew.  But,  I will not be manipulated.  I will only I see fit.
Nephew:  But, please don't scare Uncle Marc!
Me:  He has not followed up on some things he said he would do.  I am not amused, and he is not excused.   Not anything he said he would  do, for that matter,  if you must know.  Don't ever be that way.  It is a Native Norfolkian thing to do.
I never do that.  I guess its the difference between an engineer and your sales type, blow hard.
Nephew:  But you are so sarcastic with the relatives lately.
Me:  I can't help it.  I am over them and their small brains and insularity.  I use the military definition of "Friends and Family" now.  They may be blood and first degree, but they are off my list.  In the military, if their are not family you want, they are relatives.  They are 'tiv's.
Nephew:  Where did you hear that?
Me:  Fort Monroe, Thanksgiving, 2006.   And I knew what they meant and I appreciated their support and guidance.
Nephew:  I hope you never think of me as a 'tiv.
Me:  No.  You have my heart, as they say up in the Piedmont.  But don't expect me to have a lobotomy to get along.
         I feel bad I have nothing but my attitude to give you, now.
Nephew:  What!  You gave me that book on pulleys when I was ten.  And my first tool box.  And all that graph paper.
You gave me "Castles" and "Cathedral's" and so many  good books.
Me:  Well, my dad was from Chicago, and he was not going to let his wife and daughters be stuck in Norfolk,Virginia and depend on any of the local yokels.  And your great grandfather showed me how to make everything a weapon.  You would not believe.... When I first needed a cane, I had this carved one from the Orient that was his, and took it to the grocery store to get Marjoram, and a man sidled up beside me and whispered, "Maam, do you know that cane is illegal to carry."  I turned my head and I said, Should I leave it at home or some local cop is going to take it away and take it home?  He said:  "That is what I am saying."  I thanked him and hightailed it home and finished the boeuf bourguignon.  That is what I mean about your Uncle Marc, He would borrow the marjoram and never return or replace it.  As if I should just be honored that he dropped in.  Well, I am not in anybody's retinue, and I pay court to no one.
Nephew:  I don't know what that means, but...
Me:  ...but you get the gist, I hope....  Well, go on and do what you have to do and never get mixed up with someone from Norfolk.  They think they are world class.  Well, I just wish they would call in for their barges and go floating down the Lafayette and away from here.  They are full of themselves.  And they don't understand acoustics, either.  They haven't got a venue or a street corner that doesn't shut the voice and instruments down.  People been trying to tell them for years.  It is a waste of everyone's time and effort.  Well, maybe the Opera House is OK.  It is a dedicated facility.  But anything else, don't waste your time or money.  I want you to be over them too, at least acoustically.
Nephew:  Well, I am not too up on acoustics, myself.
Me:  Well, back in the day we had to match speakers up with amps, etc., etc., and other things.
Nephew:  Well, you still have to do that...for car systems.
Me:  Well, that is an option you might consider.  Learn about acoustics, and travel away from this city.  You don't have to have a university degree.  You can figure it all out.  That is what the graph paper is for.
Nephew:   For which I am truly grateful.
Me:   I have always been grateful for you.
Nephew:  Aw, shucks, Auntie.
Me:   And that's another thing, don't ever .....

Well, that is just a part of my day, starting with getting the auto insurance paid.  I confess I got a black felt hat, too.  It was not on sale either, but it was oh-so-necessary.  ,