Friday, June 26, 2009

Tea and No Sympathy

My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman, but I know when I am being used. Under the guise of simplifying her life, she is trying to give me her silver.

But I am on to her, because I am impatiently waiting for my sons to get married so I can give their unsuspecting wives MY silver.

I can't just take it to Goodwill-- which probably doesn't want it anyway-- because my own mother gave her silver to me. At the time it seemed such a generous, loving maternal gesture, but I now know the truth. She was just sick of polishing it. Still, it retains some sentimental connection for me, or maybe I just fear that if I let it leave the family, she will appear to me in dreams and make me feel guilty. She does that sometimes.

An ornate tea service sits in our unused dining room, turning black. There are a dozen black trays in the china cabinet. I have black salt and pepper shakers, black serving utensils, black pitchers. I could set a depressingly suitable wedding table for Miss Havisham, which is a thought. Maybe I could rent it out to filmmakers of horror films.

Do young brides even choose silver these days? We are going to a wedding next week and the couple has registered at REI for sporting equipment. Not a piece of silver anywhere.

Of course, they don't need to worry about it, because their mothers are going to be giving them all theirs anyway.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Bleak Sterility of llusions

I was thinking about illusions, but as usual, as soon as I started to consider Camus's bleak sterility of life without them, I grew depressed and craved chocolate.
And since one of my most cherished illusions at the moment is that the loss of twelve pounds has me looking rather sensuously anorexic, I have decided instead to write about role models.

When I was ten, I discovered those little orange biographies in our smalltown library. The series was called The Childhoods of Famous Americans, and I devoured them: Jane Addams, Jenny Lind, Sacagawea, Amelia Earhart, Betsy Ross, Louisa May Alcott, Florence Nightingale-- women who pushed boundaries, who struggled and achieved against tough odds. In the circumscribed world of the 50s, these books allowed young girls to dream that they too might be able to do more than get married or teach.

Today, I was asked to shelve a set of new juvenile biographies at the library. Expecting to see the next wave of inspirational stories to ignite the imaginations and ambitions of the next generation-- maybe the childhoods of Sandra Day O'Conner, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, or maybe some less known women in other fields, like doctors, teachers, writers, business women--I eagerly examined the new arrivals.

And this is what I found:

Lindsay Lowan
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen
Jessica Simpson
Britney Speares

Isn't Britney the one who can't remember to put on her underwear before she goes out?
Isn't Mary Kate anorexic?
And we want our daughters to emulate these women why exactly?

Looking further, we find under the category of Wannabe Pocahontases Who Believe That One Name Suffices:

Eve (who?)
Ciara (who?)
Nelly (who?)
Selena (who?)
Beyonce (yes! Have heard of her!)

Ands even more mystifying are the nonnames:

Soulja Boy Tell 'Em
Queen Latifa
Ice Cube
Ja Rule
And my favorite- Bow Wow

OKok, to be fair, there was a Condoleeza Rice, and a Nancy Pelosi, and a JK Rowling, who at least have lived long enough to outgrow acne and get driver's licenses. But what admirable behaviors have been pushed by these young people, if you aren't charmed by eating disorders, alcoholism and serial marriages?
So I read a blurb on one:

"Here is the life story of a young man who proves that by pushing your boundaries, you really can go far."

Ah, you are thinking, finally -- someone like Stephen Hawking, Clarence Thomas, maybe Saul Ramirez, the young soldier who lost both legs in Iraq and is struggling to walk again on titanium posts so he can rejoin his unit...

But no it's 22 year old Zac Efron, who "encouraged by his parents.. began doing community theater and eventually got an agent in Los Angeles. Twice a week, Zac and his mother made the hours-long drive from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles for auditions. TV guest spots and a role on the series Summerland followed, but his life would forever change when he was cast in Disney’s High School Musical."

Now I have driven in LA and it's no picnic, but I really didn't think I was pushing boundaries in any admirable way. And heck, Zac's mother drove him. But somehow, I guess this is supposed to inspire in the same way DAvy Crockett inspired my little brother to don a coonskin cap and pretend he was exploring the backyard wilderness with his BB gun.

Illusion is the erroneous perception of reality. Whether the little orange books presented an illusion or a reality, I am not sure, but whichever it was, most of the stories were about young people who had dreams and goals much bigger than themselves.
As I look at the above list I am struck by the limited nature of it, and how sad is that.

SO sad indeed that I am stopping and going in search of chocolate..

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


OOops- in my excitement, I hit 'post' after coming up with the title word.

Maybe I should write no more, leaving just that mysterious and haunting cry to echo through the blog ether, like the letters CRO carved into a tree on Roanoke Island, where an entire English colony was discovered to have disappeared in 1590 (note blatant display of historical erudition). 1

Sadly, the explanation is a bit more prosaic. This morning, someone brought up an observation that some sports announcers were now saying RBI instead RBIs and he wondered why because he had always heard RBIs, even though he understood that the plural was found within the phrase (runs batted in, not runs batted ins).

Another person chimed in that his team had had very few this year, and so he hadn't noticed.

An English teacher said she never listened to sports, but she brought up from her field of expertise the term PDA (public displays of affection) that offered the same dilemma.

I mentioned that these letters fell in the category of acronyms that become words in and of themselves like SCUBA or LASER, and thus, the S would be appropriate.

SOmeone then said, no, those words were actually designed to be words and if RBI were a real word, people would say Ruhbi or PDA would be Puhdah, but that are still spoken as initials as so were not words, to which I aggressively responded that I doubted the laser/scuba people were that grammatically farsighted, and were just lucky that THEIR acronyms had vowels in the middle where poor RBI had none and had a much tougher battle to fight for noundom.

(I can't resist defending the underdog)

Had baseball statisticians been thinking grammtically ahead, they would have used the U in Runs-- and had RUBIs. Or Runs Efficiently Batted In-- REBIs.

Or better still, Runs Effectively Batted In WIth Applause

Which has a great sort of native American warcry sound to it, suitable to the warriorlike and violent sport of baseball.

In fact, now I wonder if CRO might have actually been an acronym? It would make sense given the deteriorating situation between the native population and the colony.

Can't Relate to Others

Chief Refuses to Obey

Colony Relocating Overland

Well, it's all very intriguing but the day calls, and I greet it eagerly with the bellicose victory cry of


1. I don't really have a footnote; I just wanted to lend academic credibility to my post, but I did read a great book, Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists in America by Giles Milton. While his research is excellent, I am sad to report that he missed the obvious possibility of CRO as an acronym.