Category Archives: childhood

Joie de Vivre

I wanted to be a gymnast, and I was pretty sure I could do it. I had the right build, a little bit of talent, and a lot of enthusiasm.  As a kid, I lived in a leotard and traveled via cartwheel. I could drop into a banana split anywhere, anytime, and if I wasn’t executing a round-off/back-handspring combo across your front lawn, I was trying to recruit you for the neighborhood Olympics. After a year of lessons at a local gym, I was invited to join a team and compete seriously.

But I didn’t. Even if my parents hadn’t put the kabash on the idea of a gymnastics career (they felt it was more important for me to get an education and for them to put food on the table), the fact was that I had started training too late in life to think of competing seriously. I was devastated with thoughts of what could have been, but eventually hung up my leotard and set my sights on becoming either the first female network news anchor or Michael J. Fox’s wife.  And it was all for the best, because as my friend V later pointed out to me, “If you had kept training, you would have never developed boobs.”

I can’t say I’m very athletic anymore – the mere thought of attempting the splits requires an epidural and the last time I tried to do a handstand, I had to put my head between my legs.  But I still try to bust a move every now and then, to show off for my kids or get the old familiar rush.

And it is a rush.  There’s something about gymnastics that is so powerful and thrilling – it’s like ballet with balls.  I turned 37 while on vacation last week and to mark the occasion, I did a string of cartwheels on the beach. They were not perfect, but at least I pointed that one toe and didn’t pull anything.

In fact, I’m going to make it a birthday tradition for as long as I can.

Special Note to Béla Károlyi: CALL ME.

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Comfort and Joy

My favorite childhood Christmas decoration was a pair of mice – a mother and her baby – which my mom always displayed on the top of the toilet commode for the few weeks leading up to Christmas.

I’m not sure why I loved those little rodents so, or why they were perpetually relegated to the bathroom. I seem to recall that they reminded me of characters in my favorite Lithuanian childrens’ book series, and I must have admired the minuscule candy canes and holly berries that adorned their necks. Every year the setting of the mice atop the commode was, for me, the highlight of the family’s Christmas decorating tradition.

I revisited the mice statuettes recently when sorting through ornaments at my parents’ house. They were much less interesting than I’d remembered them – The velvet tufts of fur were threadbare in places, one mouse’s ear was missing, and the paint on the holly berries around the other one’s neck was chipped to reveal a plain old Styrofoam craft ball underneath. It was hard to believe those two tattered little mice had once represented for me the very pinnacle of comfort and joy.

Last night I hauled out all our Christmas decorations (except the tree and banister garland – those go up next weekend), put on some holiday music, and while the P-Dawg made us a dinner of steak with roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes and the children played quietly afoot, I busted my decorating moves.

I put the time honored garland up on the fireplace, spending a healthy chunk of time positioning fake holly berries equidistantly from one another:

I fashioned a string of wire lights and two bendable berry garlands into a nest, and placed it at the foot of my fireplace:

I hung the festive, but migraine inducing jingle bells on the front doorknob:

Then I painstakingly set up the nativity scene, triangulating the three kings and the shepherd with his flock around the holy family in a tasteful and aesthetically pleasing manner:

Fifteen minutes and one visit from the little J-dog later, the statues looked like this:

Which is only right.

Finally, I reluctantly draped my old frenemy, the button-eyed reindeer quilt, over the back of the family room couch.

The quilt, which begs that a crystal candy dish full of Werther’s Originals be placed next to it, was a wedding gift from a distant relative, who had lovingly sewn it herself. It’s cute, but not my style, and this year as I sorted through the boxes in our basement, I had decided to leave the quilt behind.

Except that after I had turned my back on the quilt in favor of a box of funky Crate and Barrel ornaments, I could feel those insipid little button eyes boring into me.

“Don’t do it, bish.”

And so I didn’t. I brought the quilt upstairs and while the kids played with Legos in the corner, I draped it over the back of the couch.

After dinner, we retired to the family room to relax and admire my handiwork. Jonas and V-meister were miraculously well-behaved and no quarreling or couch diving occurred. If there had been a fire in the grate and snow falling softly outside the windows, we would have been a scene straight out of a Thomas Kincaid painting.

It took only a few moments for the kids to notice that the reindeer quilt was up.

“REINDEER BUTTON QUILT, YAY!!!!!”, they squealed while holding hands and jumping up and down.

The joy was palpable.

There was couch diving.

An angel choir began singing Handel’s Messiah, and the spirit of Christmas alighted on my shoulder in the shape of a small red bird.

I’ll never be able to diss the beady-eyed reindeer quilt – it might as well be a threadbare pair of Christmas mice.

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I’ll Take That as a Complement

I always wore glasses as a kid. And I’m fairly certain that my gargantuan, chablis-tinted plastic frames, coupled with a short, cross-gender haircut – which I liked to wear feathered and parted straight down the middle (not pictured) – were my main obstacles to social superstardom.

Ninth grade saw salvation and gradual peer acceptance in the form of contact lenses, the kind that would routinely pop out as I went about my daily business. Still, rooting around the bathroom floor searching for your contacts beat the hell out of getting stuffed into your locker by Frank Snodgrass.

Alas, my glasses reprieve was short lived. The contacts served me well through high school and college, then all of a sudden*, I just couldn’t wear them comfortably anymore. I haven’t worn them regularly for over ten years now, and it really chaps my hide. Because even though I have a decent pair of virtually weightless Swiss specs that are the least obvious pair of glasses I’ve ever owned, they still give me a bit of a complex. Whatever! Things could be worse.

Every once in awhile, I’ll put in my daily wear disposable contacts on the off chance that my dessicated, renegade eyeballs decide to cooperate, but it’s usually only a matter of hours before I peel them off and flush them down the toilet in disgust. I had them in today, and as I was going through the supermarket checkout line, the cashier says to me:

“You have such a pretty face!”

Me (blushing): “Oh! Thanks!”

Cashier (recognizing me as a regular customer): “You usually wear glasses, don’t you?”

Me: “Um, yeah. I have my contacts in today.”

Cashier: “It makes a huge difference in your appearance.”

Me: “Uh, thanks.”

Cashier: “Just lovely.”

Me: “Yeah, I’d wear them more often if they weren’t so uncomfortable, you know what I mean?”

Cashier: “Such a pretty face . . . Hey, Carl! (to bagger) Take a look at this young lady, don’t you think the contacts really make a difference?”

Carl: “Oh, yes! Very nice!”

Cashier: “She usually wears glasses.”

Carl (contorting face in disapproval): “I see.”

Cashier (shaking head): “You should wear your contacts more often. It’s a shame.”

Me: “Thank you.”

Cashier: “No, really, I mean it.”

Me: “Okay, thanks.”

Cashier: “Have a nice day.”

Then me and my beautiful visage hightailed it outta there before the stroke of noon, when I was scheduled to morph back into a bespectacled hag.

* Following a recurring, untreated case of conjunctivitis that may or may not have been triggered by poor contact lens hygiene habits.



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