Keep Your Hands To Yourself

I grew up in a family of big time huggers. That’s right. My family liked to hug.

A lot.

We liked to hug each other. We liked to hug our friends. And quite frankly, if the situation called for it, we had absolutely no problem hugging complete strangers. It’s just what we did. No matter the occasion, chances were, at my house it was going to end with your face smushed awkwardly (albeit lovingly) into someone’s shoulder, neck, cheek, or (God help you) bosom, while they squeezed the holy living heck out of you. It didn’t really seem to matter if it were the celebration of a birthday, getting a good grade on a test, or even something as ridiculous as the successful spearing of the last pea on a dinner plate without sending it flying across the table….either way, a hug was in order. It just was.

Now, knowing full well that not every occasion called for a full on embrace, we also found other ways to display our feelings. In fact, one of the best parts of being a middle school teacher is how close to home I feel when I walk through the hallways between classes. Why? Because middle school boys have a strange way of showing their affection for one another. They replace hugging with jabbing, poking, pinching, squeezing, wrestling, fist bumping, headlocking, and body slamming. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had to give the gentle reminder to Keep your hands to yourself! to a group of unsuspecting boys while walking down the corridor. And while I’ve never actually been engaged in a full on body slam, many behaviors exhibited by middle school boys were always regular occurrences at my house over the years. The bottom line was, come heck or high water, we were going to show our admiration and appreciation for each other even if it meant acting like a group of adolescents.

Having been made aware of my history, is it any wonder, then, that I’ve continued with the family tradition of being openly affectionate in just about any given situation? Well, it’s true. And for the most part, it’s never really been a problem.

But let’s talk about that “most part” shall we?

It was one of the hottest days of the summer and my son and I were craving watermelon. Knowing it would take twice as long if we went to the local grocery store because I would talk to a lot of people, my son begged me to go to a market in a neighboring town. Not expecting to see anyone I recognized, I was absolutely thrilled when I ran into my old friend, Peter Jenkins, who I knew had recently been battling cancer. Peter’s a member of a big family in the town where I live, and over the years, I’ve had the privilege of teaching with his awesome wife, Nona, as well as the chance to teach his two wonderful children and many of his nieces and nephews. He’s a man I’d known for at least fifteen years, although I didn’t see him very often, and at that point in time it had been several years since we’d last run into each other. Even though I’d heard he’d gone into remission and was hopefully over the worst, I was stunned to see him looking so healthy and strong. Not being one to hold back, I latched onto his arm with the same force a parent might use while trying to pull a child out of the path of an eighteen wheeler, and keeping my hand firmly in place, immediately squealed, “Oh my goodness, you look sooooooo great! It’s so nice to see you!”

After talking for a few minutes about our busy summer schedules, without even realizing it, I found myself squeezing Peter’s arm again and saying,”Honestly, you look incredible. I just can’t tell you how thrilled that makes me!” After thanking me politely, the conversation moved on to a discussion of the fact that the summer was going by far too quickly. However, because I still found myself unable to believe my eyes, it wasn’t long before I was gripping his shoulders and blurting, “I’m not kidding, I don’t think you’ve ever looked better!” Once again shrugging off the compliment with a slight laugh, Peter turned the conversation to trips he still hoped to take with his family before school and sports practices started up again.

It was at that point that the conversation came to a natural lull, but rather than saying my goodbyes like most people would have done, I decided, just in case I hadn’t made it clear, to let Peter know one more time just how fantastic I thought he looked. Grabbing his hand and holding on for dear life, I looked right at him, and because I was actually getting emotional, had to compose myself just a bit before sputtering something along the lines of, “Seeing you has made my whole week. It makes my heart happy to see you looking SO amazing!”

Unfortunately, it was that last gesture, the grasp of the hand, that made me realize I’d very unintentionally made Peter uncomfortable. Although he didn’t come right out and say it, nor did he openly react to that final touch, the subtle change in his expression let me know that enough was enough. Thinking it best not to apologize for fear it would make the situation more uncomfortable, I decided to say my goodbyes and I headed off in search of a watermelon.

Minutes later, while standing in line at the register, I looked over and noticed Peter at the service counter. Only I suddenly realized that the man I was looking at wasn’t Peter Jenkins. While it was true that the man standing there was the same one with whom I’d just had a very up close and personal conversation, something in his expression forced me to face the fact that the person I’d been talking to was not at all who I thought it was. Working hard to figure out who I’d actually been speaking with, I immediately began to feel woozy.

And it wasn’t because of the heat.

It was because the realization of just who I’d been talking to had suddenly become crystal clear. For the man I’d been talking to wasn’t my old friend Peter Jenkins at all, but another man named Niles Parker from the town in which I live; a person I’d only really spoken with once, and even then only for a few seconds in a crowded auditorium. A man I’d not actually called by name and who had absolutely no idea that I’d mistaken him for someone else. The very same man who…brace yourself…happened to be the Chairman of the school board in the town in which I teach.

Lord, have mercy on my soul.

Yes. It’s true. The man who held the head position on the school board in the town in which I was, in fact, an educator, was the very same one that only moments before I’d manhandled to my heart’s content…all while staring directly into his eyes and telling him over and over (and over and over and over) that he looked absolutely sensational.

Now, I ask you…..how does one apologize for something like that?

My first thought, naturally, was to run. To run to my car and try to forget that the whole incident ever occurred, but I knew myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t sleep until I was able to somehow explain myself. Within a few seconds I made the decision to be brave and go apologize for having repeatedly groped him. However, when I turned to get out of the line so I could head over to the service counter, I noticed that he was no longer anywhere in sight.

Fighting off the image of a distraught Niles curled up and rocking back and forth in a corner of the supermarket somewhere after succumbing to the horrors of what I’d just put him through, I spent my time waiting in line considering what my next move should be. I decided the best way to handle the situation was to call my friend Bonnie who I knew was close with both Niles and his wonderful wife. I would explain what had happened, and ask her to let them know I was completely mortified.

Several minutes later I walked out of the store feeling somewhat appeased, but as I made my way into the scorching heat, I saw Niles standing near his car in the parking lot. Throwing my current plan aside, I decided to once again take matters into my own hands (not literally this time if I could absolutely help it) and set things straight. As I scurried across the parking lot calling to him, he noticed me in hot pursuit, and with all the calm and serenity a person being approached by a frenzied Freddy Krueger might display, he was doing his very best to get his car unlocked so he could make his escape.

Moments later, when I finally arrived at his vehicle sweating profusely and panting in a very unladylike fashion like the vixen I am, the poor guy turned to face me. Keeping one hand noticeably on the door handle while the other, no doubt, held his key firmly in place should he need to fend me off, he probably expected me to crack open a bottle of wine right then and there before asking him if he’d meet me for dinner that night. Instead, I just stood there catching my breath and trying to figure out what to say next. Having never been in the position of needing to apologize for fondling a virtual stranger to the point of obvious despair, I wasn’t exactly sure where to begin. I mean, what in the world was I supposed to say? “I’m sorry…I thought you were my friend who has cancer”? Even though it was the truth, it just seemed like the wrong thing to say for so many reasons. And even though I didn’t go through with sharing the exact specifics that led to the case of mistaken identity, I did manage to huff a ridiculous apology and a muttered explanation of the fact that I really did just think he was someone else I knew. After hearing my explanation, he politely accepted my apology, and after we shared a few more moments of painfully awkward laughter during which I continued to pant and slobber (how’s that for sultry?), we went our separate ways.

God love that man.

When all was said and done, and the situation was finally resolved, I was forced to ask myself a few questions. I guess you could say I tried to get a handle on the situation. I found myself wondering if it had been entirely necessary to paw at Niles with the same vigor one might use while trying to warm up Nanook of the North upon his return from the frozen arctic tundra. The very obvious answer was……probably not. And had it been absolutely critical to compliment the poor man on his robustness to the point of making me seem like a world class stalker? No. Not really.

But no worries, because the biggest punishment of all, I assure you, was the fact that even if it were only for a few minutes, Niles Parker, a highly respected family man and pillar of the community in which I live (oh, and let’s not forget Chairman of the school board), potentially thought I was hitting on him right there in the middle of the grocery store. And to add insult to injury, I was doing so while holding the hand of my eight year old son and standing against the backdrop of two enormous displays of Vienna Sausages and B&M Baked Beans rivaled in size only by the Great Pyramids themselves. Does that scream seductress or what?

Looking back on the experience, nearly three years after that ill fated supermarket encounter, I’m happy to report that despite our interesting beginning, I now have the privilege of calling Niles Parker my friend. He and his wife Sonja, and their three wonderful children, are some of the best people I know.

I’m also over the moon to report that my friend Peter Jenkins, who finds this whole debacle to be an absolute riot, has been in remission for the past few years. In fact, it was after having shared this story with him that I decided it might be okay to write about it in a blog one day. Since making the decision to do so, I’ve had the opportunity to ask many questions that I might not have normally asked, and as a result, have had the wonderful opportunity to get to know him better. He’s always so responsive to my inquiries and honest about the experiences that he’s had. The strength he exudes about the particular kind of cancer he had (rectal) is humbling in so many ways, and I’ve been amazed by his sense of humor about the whole situation. In fact, in my most recent communication with him, his question to me was,”Hey, you’re a runner, right? What do you say to starting a Rectal Run? Let’s kick cancer in the butt!” After I stopped laughing, I told him that he should be writing a blog, not me. His response was that it’s a combination of laughter, tears, and a little bit of anger that help him cope with the emotional side of having had cancer.

Peter, like so many of my friends who have proven to be warriors in their unexpected battles against cancer, is a reminder of all that is truly important.There are so many people whose lives have been interrupted by illness, but who have refused to let that illness win. It’s those people that remind me, especially when I’m “sweating the small stuff,” that everything is a matter pf perspective. They’re truly heroes in every sense of the word, and I continue to be inspired by their positivity and resilience..

Finally…I’d like to go ahead and show you just why it was so easy to confuse these two great men. On the left is Peter Jenkins, and on the right is Niles Parker. As you can see, they clearly share some similar features. While I can’t go as far as to say that mistaking them for one another could have happened to anyone, I hope you can see how it might have occurred.

Jenkins             Parker

In my defense, considering my upbringing, I think I should be given a small amount of credit for not pulling the poor, unsuspecting Niles into a bearhug that day and mauling him half to death. I’d also like to point out that I complimented Niles in the store that day using words like incredibleamazing, and fantastic. It’s not like I stood there shooting come-hither looks and showing a little leg while telling him he looked scrumptious, luscious, or delectable for crying out loud. No, I kept it classy…as is my nature. So, as much as it pains me to think about it….the experience I had in the store that day really could’ve been worse. Not much worse. But worse nonetheless.

In closing, I’d like to return to where I began…I’m a hugger, so excuse me for living. I hug. I hug a lot. I hug when I’m happy. I hug when I’m sad. I hug when I’m scared. I even hug when I’m hungry, for the love of God….it’s just something I do. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that if hugging is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

That being said, I’m pretty lucky this story had a happy ending.The bottom line is I made a mistake. A gigantic mistake. But even Ben Franklin himself once said, “Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” That’s pretty good advice if you ask me, and except for the reaching out part, I think they’re words I should live by. And while I don’t pretend to put myself in rank with great men like Ben Franklin, I do have some advice of my own to offer that goes a little something like this…..”Do not fear being affectionate. You will know failure. Continue to reach out. But not literally. When in doubt, (and even, perhaps, when you’re not), it’s sometimes best to keep your hands to yourself.”

I’d Like That In A Box, Please

Last October my eight year old son, who looks very much like the living, breathing embodiment of Harry Potter, announced that Halloween day at his school would be “Dress as your favorite book character day.” Great! I knew for a fact that we had the cape, the wand, the Hogwart’s tie….we were golden. It would be one less thing I’d have to worry about during a very busy time of year.

1391994_10200874665335629_526385577_nAs it turned out, my son’s interest in dressing as Harry Potter was nonexistent. Instead, he wanted to dress as Coach Hedge from the Percy Jackson book series. Yes. Coach Hedge. The sarcastic, obnoxious, club carrying satyr who calls everyone Cupcake.

Just perfect.

The whole experience caused me to look back on my own childhood memories of Halloween. Back to a time when things were a bit more simple and straightforward. To a time when you could buy your Halloween costume in a box.

That’s right. A box. 

Wonder Woman. Scooby Doo. Casper the Friendly Ghost. These icons play a staring role in my most vivid Halloween memories. As a child, nothing made me happier than when the shelves at department stores filled with boxes of brightly colored plastic costumes and paper masks. It’s weird to think that there are generations of people born after me that will never associate a Halloween costume with a box.

1381946_10200870781558537_1230830965_nThe clear plastic sheet in the center of the costume boxes allowed the characters inside to peer out (somewhat eerily now that I really think about it) at the faces of the young children eager to transform themselves. I can still smell the waxy, rubberized scent of the masks and costumes when I’d finally convince my mom to let me take them out of the box just ONCE before Halloween night. And sometimes, even now, in the wee small hours of the morning, I remember the melancholy and despair that swept through me when I’d be forced to puncture my beloved mask with a stapler because, just as my mom had vowed would happen, the elastic string designed to keep the mask in place did, in fact, snap when I insisted on playing with it just one more time.

It’s hard to believe that those truly were the good old days.

Please know that I’m certainly aware that the paper masks created a safety hazard because we couldn’t see that well through the almond sized eyeholes (not a swear word).

And yes, I’m shocked that we didn’t all burst into flames as we merrily glided and squeaked along the streets, encased in plastic, with our parents walking cheerfully in front or behind us smoking like chimneys as they “kept us safe” from the dangers of trick or treating. Believe me, the irony of that situation is not lost on me.

And alright, for crying out loud, I wasn’t always able to fully enjoy my loot by the time I returned home with a plastic pumpkin bursting with candy. Why? Because I was too lightheaded and just plain woozy from all the chemicals I’d been inhaling all night from my costume. It wasn’t just the eyeholes (why does that word make me giggle?) that were too small. You didn’t get a lot of fresh air in those getups, that’s for sure.

Looking back, it’s really a wonder that we’re alive.

But still…there’s just something about those days that I miss. You recognized the characters who walked by you on your quest for candy every October 31. Darth Vader. Popeye. Batman. We knew who those pop culture characters were and we adored them. We saw them on the big screen and in Saturday morning cartoons. They were fun. They were futuristic. They were hip.

Fast forward 30ish some odd years and all heck has broken loose.

Last week my son and I visited a popular Halloween store, and as we made our way to the children’s section, we passed a variety of Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, and Dorothy costumes. Although they were all marketed toward young girls, each one would put the outfits displayed on the mannequins at the “Romantic Supermarts” to shame. I’m not proud of it, but as we continued walking, I found myself fighting the urge to imagine a scenario in which Mini Mouse might need to wear garters. It’s probably the second creepiest thought I’ve had in my whole life. The first being my puzzlement over one of those cakes that has a naked Barbie in the center. Once, at a birthday party, I watched a delighted little girl stare at her Barbie Princess cake as it was being carried to the table. Since it was the first time I’d ever really seen one (in the flesh, if you will), rather than joining in the singing, I found myself wondering how the cake would be cut. There clearly were not enough people in the room for the entire cake to be devoured, so the question became, would the cake be cut from the front resulting in the Barbie flashing the party goers OR, perhaps equally as disturbing, would that princess end up mooning us from behind?

I told you it was creepy.

snc18072_syon207In the end, all my worry was for naught. Within minutes of the candles being blown out, the grisly discovery was made that the Barbie was, in fact, legless. The revelation came as the blond beauty was recklessly yanked from the center of the cake by the four year old birthday girl who was intent on braiding Barbie’s hair. When all was said and done, poor Barbs ended up face first in a big blob of green frosting. The worst part about the whole scene was that, from beginning to end, it was alarmingly similar to the one and only segment I’ve ever seen of Girls Gone Wild.

Festive. I know.

Anyway…once we reached the section geared more toward eight year old boys, things didn’t improve. While there were a few familiar Mario costumes, a couple of Darth Vaders, and a few other recognizable characters, for the most part, that aisle left me feeling anxious. The long metal hooks displayed plastic bags filled with masks and costumes for characters that went by the titles Phat Pimp Child, Bleeding Chest Evil Pumpkin (what does that even mean?), Elf Warrior Child, Zombie Sock Monkey, Hipster Nerd, Hazmat Hazard, and Soul Taker.

It strikes me that very few of the costumes were pop culture icons and I’ve certainly never seen them on the big screen or on Saturday morning cartoons. It would seem we’ve traded paper masks and plastic costumes in the likeness of familiar, friendly characters, which admittedly posed both health and safety risks, for soul taking evil pumpkin heads (with bleeding chests no less) and every single kind of zombie known to man.

Please know that I’m not trying to be judgmental. I just find myself concerned that, at age 43, I’m turning into the proverbial “grumpy old man.” I mean, am I going to wake up tomorrow and scream at the neighborhood kids to, “Get off my lawn!”? I sure hope not.

Going to the Halloween store was certainly an eye opening experience for me this year. It made me realize that I should have been relieved that my son ch1wanted to dress up as a goat…man…thing. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about the fact that I’m relieved that he’d rather be Coach Hedge instead of wearing a getup marketed under the name Bigger in Texas Flasher Costume. Yes, that’s the name of a real costume.  And no, I have absolutely no intention of finding out what that means.

My little guy wanted to be a sarcastic, obnoxious, club wielding goat man who calls everyone Cupcake, and that’s what I let him be. I guess it could have been worse.

Because That Man Walked This Earth

Note:

September 28, 2014. My father would have celebrated his 69th birthday today. This is a piece I wrote earlier this year to help cope with the impending anniversary of his passing. Although no words could ever really bring a man like him to life, taking the time to remember him in writing, especially the humorous memories I have of him, has proven very therapeutic.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

February 2014

When I wake up tomorrow, Sunday, February 2, 2014, it will mark the third anniversary of the day my dad, quite simply, just didn’t wake up. While that realization is somewhat debilitating, I’ve come a long way since that morning three years ago when I got the news that my dad had died in his sleep.

When I think about my father, the flood of memories that rushes over me is overwhelming. Naturally, some of those memories are more “unique” than others. For example, my dad never met a smelt he didn’t like. On any given weekend, whether my family was eating at Governor’s Restaurant or Geaghan’s Pub, you could hear him ordering fried smelts and (and I quote) a baked “bodado”. He never pronounced the word potato correctly by actually using the letters P or T. Never. I mean it. Not even once did I ever hear that man say the actual word potato. Although he was born and raised in Orono, or as he would say, Ono (he also often left the letter R out of his words) he had a pretty thick Maine accent.

Dad was not a very complicated man and it didn’t take much to make him happy. He loved it when I’d get emotional talking about the fact that he and his three brothers, along with their parents, lived most of their lives in a tiny apartment above the bowling alley in Orono without two pennies to rub together. He was proud of the fact (as well he should have been) that his real name, Lawrence, was given to him because his father, who worked in mills all his life, had a soft spot for a certain mill that he’d worked at in Lawrence, MA. And finally, he loved how curious I always was about the fact that he devoted his life to selling cash registers and never once put his degree in Physical Education to use. In his words, he had to do what made him happy.

It’s true. There’s never been anyone quite like my father.

It was the small things in life that made him truly happy. The Red Sox (of course), fiddleheads in the spring, sitting on the front porch of our home decked out in his coffee stained 532212_10151135913600785_10021386_nundershirt, plaid shorts and Dr. Scholl’s velcro sneakers (he had a passion for velcro sneakers the likes of which this world has never seen) and doing his best to strike up conversation with the participants in the annual Bangor 5 Mile Labor Day Race. Those were some of the highlights of his year.

The day of Dad’s funeral, my brother and I spoke about our father. The only way either one of us could survive that day was to remember the funny experiences we’d shared with him over the years. We talked about his love of sports and especially the basketball tournaments, and the fact that he always added an S to the name of every major department store…Wal-Marts, K-Marts, and when he could remember the actual name, Targets. For the first three years the store was open, he called Target “Gadgets”. One day he was beyond thrilled at having said the name of the store correctly. I could tell he was proud when he really emphasized the store name as he declared that he and Mom had just returned from “Budgets”. I never did have the heart to tell him that he was close, but no cigar.

God love him.

When I returned to my hometown after college, and after teaching for three years in a town about an hour away, I got to spend a lot of time with my parents. It was during that time that I learned things about them that I never took the time to notice when I was growing up. For example, by interacting with my parents as an adult, I came to understand how in love they were with each other. When you’re a child you don’t notice things like that, but when you’re an adult, you do, and it means the whole world. My father loved my mother unabashedly.

Perhaps the most surprising fact that I came to understand about my dad was that he was truly fascinated with space and the whole concept of extra terrestrials. Like most other people, I remember him taking me to see “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and he always had a real passion for the X-Files (though I’m pretty sure that had a lot to do with the attractive red head who played Scully). Either way, the time that I spent with my parents when I returned to Bangor provided me with some of the best memories in the world.

When Dad first saw the trailer for “Signs”, a movie about an alien invasion starring Mel Gibson, he literally called me up and left a three minute message about how excited he was to see it. It was released right after I returned from my honeymoon and going to the movie was one of the first things that my husband and I did with my parents when we got back from our cruise. I remember the four of us piling into the seats of the cinema. Mom ended up on one end with my husband next to her and then I sat between him and Dad who, because he had such long legs, always needed an aisle seat.

It’s been over a decade since the film was released, so I’m not too worried about spoiling it for anyone as I describe how the events of that movie going experience unfolded. Throughout the film, the girl who played Mel Gibson’s daughter was constantly drinking water and leaving glasses around the house because she didn’t like the taste of it. It was a source of annoyance for poor Mel, signs11but since he was a single dad trying to keep his children calm and safe, while at the same time having to deal with the crop circles that kept appearing on his farmland, it seemed a pretty minor infraction. Having said that, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the water was somehow going to be important later on.

As the movie neared its end, and the aliens inevitably made their way into Gibson’s farm, there was one thrilling moment when audience members made the realization that the water was going to be the ticket to the aliens’ demise. Now…did it come right out and say that? No. Did the words THE WATER WILL KILL THE ALIENS scroll across the bottom of the screen to let viewers know what was coming? Certainly not. Did speech bubbles appear above the on-screen characters’ heads that read, “Hey, I think the water will kill the aliens!” Nope. But you know what? The audience was given several clues that allowed them to infer that the water was the key.

Every single person in that theater picked up on those clues except for my poor father.

After the rest of the theater figured out that all that little girl needed to do to save herself was to get her tiny hands wrapped around the glass of water that was just beyond her reach, it took a good two minutes before she was finally able to do so. When she finally got the glass in hand, she threw it into the alien’s face, causing the figure to disintegrate. It was then, and only then, after the creature began to sizzle and smoke after having been doused with water by the fleeing child, that my father finally made the connection. And when he did, I assure you, all Hell broke loose. In a voice loud enough to have been heard three states away, and after slapping my knee so hard it brought tears to my eyes, he excitedly boomed, “WATAH! Karyn, it’s the WATAH!”

Sweet Mother of Pearl.

People snickered. Heads turned. I even think there were a few audible gasps. I slithered down in my seat and tried to placate Dad by whispering something along the lines of…“I know, I did NOT see that coming.”

It was a lie, but sometimes you have to choose your battles.

That’s when my mom decided to take matters into her own hands by leaning forward, and not so discretely (think of Wilma Flintsone hollering Freeed!) bellowing, “Red! SHHHHHH!”

Not to be outdone, Dad responded, classily of course, with a bellow of his very own…”Oh, Jesus Christ, Patricia…nobody’s listening to me!”

Her response was a resounding,“Well, SHHHHHHHH!”

Feeling utterly helpless, I turned to my husband, who, and I hate to keep filling this memory with cliches, looked exactly like a deer in headlights, and said, “Welcome to the family.” Honestly, what else could I say?

There’s not a single day that passes that I’m not overcome, 312986_2087682118363_1167129_nat least once, by heartache from all that we lost the day my dad passed away. And when I say “we” I mean our family, his close friends, the people whose lives he touched through his love of sports and refereeing, and all the people who got to know him on his sales routes all over the state. He touched the lives of every single person that he met through his kindness, his positive outlook on just about everything, and his great sense of humor.

Smelts made him happy. He loved baked bodadoes. The words don’t exist that can accurately describe the love he had for Dr. Scholl’s velcro sneakers. He didn’t often pronounce words exactly the way they were supposed to be pronounced and he made up fictional store names and swore to God they were real.

No, Dad. It’s Big Lots OR Best Buy. There has never been a store in the area that goes by the name of “Big Deals”. There just hasn’t.

He was all of those things and so very much more, but most importantly, he was my father and I worshipped him. I’ll never be exactly the same person that I was before he died. How could I be? But I’m the person I am today because that man walked this earth.

Here’s to Jeanie…

“Got a problem with earwax? I was about your age, I figure, when I started having problems with earwax.”

Those were the first words out of the mouth of an elderly gentleman when he approached me in the Diabetic Needs, Ear Care & Bladder Control aisle on one of my recent trips to Target. Not wanting to be rude, but also not entirely sure I’d heard him correctly, I turned my head and simply said, “Excuse me?”

Seeming to have fully confirmed his suspicion that my ears were indeed chock full of wax, he took a few steps closer to me, got up on his tiptoes (still not sure why he did that since he was already about a foot taller than I am), cupped his hands around his mouth like he was getting ready to cheer on a batter at home plate, and loudly stated, “YOU MUST BE HAVING A PROBLEM WITH EARWAX! I WAS ABOUT YOUR AGE WHEN THAT SAME DARN THING WITH EARWAX STARTED HAPPENING TO ME. IT’S A ROUGH THING, THAT EARWAX!”

Now, I ask you…how is one supposed to respond to a declaration like that? My first instinct was to simply request that he please, for the love of God, stop saying the word earwax. My second, which is the route I ended up choosing, was to explain that no, it was not a relief to earwax I was seeking, but earplugs. Appearing openly disappointed that I wasn’t being plagued by serious earwax issues, he inquired further, “You tryin’ to avoid swimmer’s ear or is someone snorin’?”

This man, as it turned out, asked a lot of personal questions.

A few seconds into my explanation of why I was looking to buy earplugs (I still can’t tell you just exactly why I felt compelled to explain my purchase to him) I became aware of a woman’s voice, bordering on a shriek, calling, “Clark! Clark? Clark!? Where in the Hell are you this time? CLARK!” Having no idea that the man in front of me was, in fact, the Clark that the voice was so desperately seeking, I assumed it was a disgruntled parent looking for a child and continued with my explanation.

It was at that very moment that a red and sliver scooter came screeching to a halt at the end of the aisle. The woman driving the scooter had a bright red, shiny face that indicated her anger even before she spoke. Pointing directly at my new friend, she bellowed, “YOU!” and backed the scooter up until she disappeared almost completely out of sight…beep…beep…beep. Then, just like in a scene from a movie, she came cruising around the corner at full speed (at least a good 5 mph) and headed straight for Clark. When she’d driven the 6 or 7 feet and arrived at her destination, she came to a dead stop, shot an angry look my way, zeroed back in on Clark, and not so daintily exclaimed, “Well, Hell!” In response, Clark, who appeared completely unaffected by the scene, simply shrugged his shoulders and stated, “Sorry Jeanie, I just got sidetracked.”

Seeming determined to make an awkward scene just that much more uncomfortable, Jeanie switched gears (not literally, thank God, as the front wheel of the scooter was dangerously close to my newly painted toes) and turned her wrath on me. She looked me up and down, clenched the handles of the scooter just a bit more tightly (if it had been a motorcycle she was sitting on this would have been the equivalent of revving the engine I should think), spun her head back around to Clark and commanded, “When you’re done flirting with Little Miss Bedroom Eyes here, maybe you could come help me find my creams!” And with that, she was off.

The last image I had of Jeanie was of her zipping away on her scooter. I’m 100% sure that if that woman could have gotten up the speed to pull off a pop-a-wheelie on that thing as she shot away from us, she most certainly would have. As I watched her go, I found myself staring directly into the eyes of two kittens playing with an oversized ball of pink yarn, their images outlined in silver sequins on the back of Jeanie’s shirt. Anyone familiar with my history with cats knows that this was a very clear sign that things did not bode well for me. Not well at all.

As it turned out, I was right. The very first words out of Clark’s mouth after Jeanie rounded the corner and disappeared out of sight were, “Hey, don’t worry about her, she’s just grouchy these days because her hemorrhoids keep acting up in this heat.”

Too much information, Clark. Too. Much. Information.

For the second time that day I found myself stunned to silence, and though I searched desperately, I just wasn’t able to come up with a single response that seemed even remotely suitable for the occasion. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be able to pull off a really heartfelt, “Oh, that’s a real bummer.” And, while I thought trying to relate to her situation might be the polite thing to do, somehow saying, “Been there, done that,” just didn’t seem all that soothing either. Instead, I bit the inside of my cheeks (whether it was to keep from laughing or dry heaving I still can’t be sure) and turned my full attention to a pair of Dr. Scholl’s socks that claimed to be the best product in existence for the circulatory health of anyone suffering from diabetes. The silence that hung in the air was interrupted only by the sound of Jeanie’s motor as she zoomed down another aisle.

Since all good things must come to an end, it was at that point that Clark simply gave me one last sideways glance, shrugged his shoulders again, and wandered off in pursuit of Jeanie’s creams. At least that’s where he should have been headed if he knew what was good for him.

As I tried to turn my attention back to the very elegant selection of earplugs after watching Clark wander away, I noticed for the first time a mother and her young daughter standing in front of the display of sugar free candies. The little girl was watching me pretty intently, so I assumed they must have witnessed the classy little scenario that had just played itself out. Trying to make light of the situation, I was just about to cross my fingers, hold them up in the air and whisper, “Good luck, Clark!” but before I could, the little girl turned away from me, looked up at her mother, and asked, “What are bedroom eyes anyway?” As you might imagine, the mom was not happy. Fiercely grabbing her daughter’s hand, she shot a stern look of disapproval in my direction and stormed off.

So, there I was. Alone. Thoroughly confused. And as luck would have it, surrounded by a massive and downright disturbing display of incontinence products all vowing to look, fit and feel like real underwear. It may just have been one of the most pathetic moments of my life. So many things had gone wrong in the last two minutes that I didn’t know where to begin counting. I’d disappointed Clark by not having a real problem with earwax, I’d angered Jeanie just by looking at her, and I’d made a mother upset by putting her in the position of having to explain what bedroom eyes are to her child. The fact that I’d committed all of these wrongs unintentionally didn’t seem to help.

Later in the afternoon, while scarfing down the last of the sugar free chocolate candy I’d purchased in my moment of despair, I was still thinking about the strange turn of events that had taken place on my otherwise routine trip to Target. However, it wasn’t just my unsettling interaction with Clark and Jeanie that I was pondering. No.That would be somewhat understandable. Instead, what I found myself contemplating was the fact that in my 42 years on this planet, I’d been called Bedroom Eyes exactly twice in my life.

And both times by elderly women.

I know…there I go bragging again. But honestly, how many people can actually make that claim?

The first time was on Christmas Day when I was 16 and was reintroduced to my best friend’s grandmother. I remember her hearing my name, rolling herself across the kitchen floor in her wheelchair, and taking a good long look at me before saying, “Ooooh yes, I remember you. You’re the one with those bedroom eyes!” At the time I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but the look on my mother’s face was priceless when I went home and asked her what it meant if someone had bedroom eyes. Better yet, I especially remember her expression when, after asking me why I wanted to know, I told her it was because Heather’s grandmother told me I had a pair.

That was a long time ago, and in my quest to get this story written down, I took the liberty to Google the exact definition of the term Bedroom Eyes.

Ginormous mistake.

While most of the descriptions I found were far too scandalous for my little PG rated blog, I did find one or two that I could use. According to my research, and I quote, “Bedroom eyes refer to a heavy-lidded or half-shut eye, reminiscent of a hazy, dreamy look shared during intimate moments. Bedroom eyes is a term often used to describe how a person looks at another when filled with longing and anticipation of…”

Okay, that’s just about enough.

You simply can’t imagine how wretched it makes me feel to think that Jeanie took one look at me and decided that I’d clearly set my sights on Clark. In my defense, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it was a little hard to resist all that talk about earwax and hemorrhoids, but I swear I was doing my best to keep things platonic. And maybe, just maybe, if the setting hadn’t been so darn romantic with all the adult diaper packages boldly displaying happy couples who were secretly wearing belted undergarments and plastic underpants, I would’ve been a little less likely to turn on the charm right then and there. I mean, come on, there’s only so much talk about leakage barriers a girl can take before she’s forced to act on her impulses and start throwing sultry looks around the geriatrics aisle of the local department store.

Considering the circumstances, I think I did one heck of a job keeping my behavior in check.

Truth be told, the “heavy-lidded or half-shut eye, reminiscent of a hazy, dreamy look shared during intimate moments” that Jeanie saw in my eyes was actually the result of not having had a good night’s sleep in months. I was heavy-lidded alright, but not because Clark got my hormones raging. The fact of the matter was, Clark was right, there was someone at my house who snored and the earplugs I was so desperate to buy were my attempt to solve the problem. And as far as displaying any “looks filled with longing and anticipation”? I can assure you that those looks were directed at the earplugs themselves. After all, they were, perhaps, my ticket to finally being able to get some much needed shuteye. But hey, if someone wants to confuse my overtired, worn out look of exhaustion and fatigue with a look of passion, desire and seduction, then so be it. Who am I to argue?

Anyway, here’s to Jeanie…..I sure hope she was able to “find some relief” in that heat.

Some Things Are Just Better Left Uncounted

About seven years ago, when my son was two, he was learning to count. Like most kids that age, he counted everything in sight. Oranges in the fruit basket on the kitchen table, blocks in the middle of the floor, dancing animals in the pages of books…you get the idea.

Since I’m a teacher and it was close to the end of summer, we set out on a trip to the store for school supplies one day in late August. Things went smoothly until we arrived in the checkout line and encountered the cashier. A very well endowed cashier. A very well endowed cashier who was, and I’m not even kidding, wearing a necklace that boldly displayed the words Everything’s Bigger in Texas!

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If I’m being honest, the only time I’d ever seen a woman more…blessed was when I was about nine and I accidentally glanced at a calendar (I can only assume it was supposed to be hidden) hanging not so discretely behind the counter at a gas station; it’s an image that haunts me to this very day. And speaking of being scarred for life, I’ll never forget how the bottom of the cashier’s necklace fell, not so daintily, between her two…well, you know. Underneath her blue uniform vest, she was wearing a tight white V-neck t-shirt that covered a hot pink bra outlined in black leather (yes leather, not lace) the likes of which I’d never seen. It was an outfit that would have fit right in on the album cover of an 80s rock band.

Except for the fact that this woman was easily in her late sixties.

I’ll give you a minute.

Despite the blood gushing down the back of my throat because I was biting the inside of my cheeks to keep from roaring at the ridiculousness of the situation, I politely and casually piled my items on the conveyer belt of the checkout. Halfway through my attempt to empty my cart, to my surprise, I noticed that my son was doing some checking out of his own. I desperately hoped it was the necklace hanging from the woman’s neck that had him so enthralled. Either way, I was too busy to worry about it as there was a long line forming behind me.

Before I knew it, I’d placed the last of my purchases on the counter and was ready to cash out. The process went smoothly, but my concern deepened as I noticed my son’s continued interest in this woman’s bosom. The next thing I knew, eyebrows raised in curiosity, he held up a pudgy finger, pointed right at her (eyes still glued to her chest) and asked, “Wus dat?” Frantic to get his hand out of the air so that nobody, especially our cover girl, would notice what he was pointing at, I grabbed his little arm, kissed him, and told him he was silly.

I blame myself for what happened next.

Apparently feeling helpless after two more attempts at asking, “Wus dat?” and not receiving an answer, my precious son leaned forward, poked that same pudgy finger into each of the woman’s ample breasts, and proudly exclaimed, “One! Two!”

I honestly don’t remember much about what happened after that,  but I do recall the gentleman standing behind us keeling over and wheezing for what seemed like a full sixty seconds before he was able to catch his breath. His bellowing laughter echoed from the walls of that super mart, only adding to my mortification. He laughed so uncontrollably that he ended up excusing himself and standing in another line where his laughter continued until we left the store. The young couple that was standing behind him took pity on me and smiled a bit before the young man whispered, “He only said what we were all thinking.”

The cashier herself never blinked an eye. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I  discovered that she’d ever even been aware of what happened. All these years I’ve secretly wondered if it was really possible that she never felt the pokes…and believe me, there’s a question I never thought I’d find myself pondering. I mean, was it really possible that having her breasts counted in public was a daily occurrence, and therefore, when my son used them as an abacus it went unnoticed?

Either way, I remember not being able to decide if I should apologize to her or ignore what had happened as she seemed to be doing. After all, the question What should you do when your child counts the breasts on a large chested woman in public? wasn’t one that was answered in any of the books I’d read while preparing for motherhood. In the end, not wanting to make the matter any worse, I scurried away like a frightened rabbit as my son smiled and waved happily at the nice young couple behind us.

Over the years, though sometimes it’s been a bit of a trial, I’ve avoided going back to that particular cashier’s line during my return trips to her store. Even if it would have taken me less time to go to the 20 Items or Less aisle, I’ve waited a good 15 minutes behind someone with 58,876 items and 8 screaming kids to buy my 2 or 3 items in order to avoid facing her.

To be clear, it’s not that I’m embarrassed about what my son did, though it’s certainly not one of my proudest moments as a parent. It’s the fact that I didn’t apologize to her. I should have. I realize now that the fact that she didn’t acknowledge the incident probably had something to do with self preservation and that makes me feel awful. Also, in her defense, her fashion choices have become much more subdued over the years and even though it doesn’t show up very often, I’ve even seen her wearing the necklace a few times and it always makes me smile.

To make a long story even longer…yesterday afternoon I had a few errands to run and I was in a huge rush. Going through her line was going to save me a lot of time. I mean, for crying out loud, it had been almost seven years. It couldn’t possibly be an experience that she remembered, right?

Wrong.

With my head held high, I made my way to her line with my contact solution and York’s Peppermint Patty. I looked her in the eye, smiled, and thanked her after she asked me if I wanted the chocolate left out. After taking my bag, I turned and began walking away with victory bells ringing in my head.

And that’s when I heard her ask, “That boy of yours still countin’ to beat the band?”

Horror of all horrors.

I’m 100% sure that the blush that swept across my face left me looking like one gigantic, freckled, overripe raspberry. For a moment I was speechless, but then I managed to respond, “Yikes, you remember that do you?”

She smiled, chuckled, and said, “Oh yes, it’s one of my favorite stories. My grandchildren think it’s a riot!” And then, because she had more people to attend to, she grinned and said, “Don’t be a stranger.”

I’m not proud of it, but my first instinct was to say, “Oh, you can count on it,” but realizing it was probably too soon, and then remembering that I’m a 42 year old woman who should occasionally act my age not my shoe size when I’m in public, I simply returned her grin and waved my goodbye.

After all, some things are just better left unsaid uncounted. Well, both really.

 

If Crafting is Right, I’m Always Going to be Wrong

I once saw a bumper sticker that proudly proclaimed If Crafting is Wrong, I Don’t Want to be Right! Let’s just say…it made me chuckle.

Crafting is not one of my gifts, but as the director of the annual school play for the last 15 years at the middle school where I teach, I often find myself needing to go to craft stores. I assure you that these places are no less foreign to me now than they were when I first starting visiting them over a decade and a half ago. You see…I have very little patience or stamina when it comes to having to cut, fold, glue, paint, sprinkle, peel, bunch, trace, measure, wrap, or God forbid…sew. If I’m being honest, I’m also not a huge fan of cooking since it involves many of the same skills, but that’s not technically a craft. Or is it? Honestly, I have no idea.

Either way, that fact, combined with my general lack of awareness 99.9% of the time, has more than once proven to be a recipe for disaster. At one particular craft store, try as I might, I simply cannot win over one of the clerks who, God bless her soul, has had to put up with me and my ridiculous (albeit unintentional) antics for years. This woman senses my fear. She makes me sweat. My knees have actually buckled in her presence on occasion, and I’m not going to lie, there have even been times that I’ve felt light headed around her. There’s no doubt in my mind that if she knew my name, she would greet me as Seinfeld always greeted Newman. “Hello, Karyn.”

It might have been the time I claimed to have desperately searched every single inch of the store for cow print fabric before having to resort to bothering her, only to find that as I was asking her for help, I was, quite literally, standing in front of a giant display of cow print fabric large enough to be seen from space. Her response was a very dramatic roll of her eyes, a sharp point in the direction of the fabric which truly was only inches from my face, and a frustrated blurt… “If it was a dog, it woulda bit ya!” Though I thought about it, I decided it best not point out that if she were the kind of person who could see the glass as half full, then she just might have given me credit for at least being in the right aisle.

Of course, it might also have been the time that I accidentally bought 20 yards of fabric when I only needed 2 and then tried to return it the next day. (Incidentally, if anyone ever needs 18 yards of fabric with the world’s strangest neon pink and green turtles floating every which way, I can totally hook you up.)

Finally, it could have been the time she caught me looking perplexed at a rack of Lindt chocolate rabbits that looked exactly like dinosaurs from just the right angle, and asked me if I was okay, only to be baffled by hearing me say, “Yes, but I could have sworn those rabbits were dinosaurs just two seconds ago.” images

Yup. Any or all of those experiences could have turned her against me, but in the end, one thing is clear…the woman thinks I’m a lunatic, and frankly, I don’t blame her.

There’s only been one occasion when I’ve had a visit to the store go somewhat smoothly, and when all was said and done, even that didn’t end well. I’d found myself in the position of having to make a quick trip into the store, and for some reason that night I just felt confident. I could feel it in my bones that things were going to go my way. I walked in and went straight to the aisle where the mini wooden clothespins appeared to be waiting just for me to purchase them. Feeling slightly giddy from that accomplishment, I set my sights on the checkout line so I could make a quick escape. That’s when I heard the melodious voice of my nemesis, who perhaps not shockingly, appeared to be in the middle of a heated discussion as she explained to another customer the precise reasons why the navy blue fleece was 50% off but the light blue fleece was, in fact, full price. I waited patiently, feeling only slightly guilty that I was comforted by the fact that perhaps it’s not just me who is so often the victim of this woman’s scorn.

While the battle with the irrationally angry customer drew to a close, I prepared myself to approach the register. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that The Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld wasn’t far from my thoughts. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter, bade my most sincere hello, made a little joke about the fact that I found what I needed all by myself which actually made her chuckle, and then began the process of paying. As has so often happened in the past because of the terror she instills in me, not once did she need to wait for me to find my debit card. Not once did she need to bark a reminder to enter my pin number. And not once did I drop all the change out of the open zipper of my wallet causing her to huff and puff at me in disgust while I scurried around on the floor collecting my coins like a dog chasing its tail. I don’t want to brag, but I was on fire. My newfound confidence paid off and the transaction was flawless.

Before I put away the pack of gum that I’d also purchased, I asked her if she wanted a piece and was gifted with yet another smile. Oh yes, I could taste the triumph. As I walked to the door feeling like a goddess of victory, mentally congratulating myself for having finally won the woman over, I heard her commanding voice bellow, “Hey Darlin!” This, I was convinced, was the moment I’d been waiting for my whole life. I was absolutely sure she was going to say something like, “Welcome back,” or “It was great to see you!” as this was the way it had played out so many times in my dreams. Instead, when I turned around and said, “Yes?” I instantly panicked because I noticed she’d put her game face back on. She squinted her beady eyes at me and declared, “You were a whole lot better lookin’ when you had some meat on your bones.”

WHAT?

Having recently lost a significant amount of weight, I could only figure that it was her way of complimenting me, and deciding to choose my battles, I simply smiled, nodded my head, and said, “Noted,” before I disappeared through the door and out into the parking lot.

That was around Halloween, and though my next encounter with her wasn’t in her store, it was still memorable. The next time I saw her I was doing some grocery shopping for a Christmas party that I was hosting when I spotted her in the frozen foods aisle.

I’ll say it again. It was Christmas time. I came across her in the frozen food section of the grocery store.

The similarities to “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Fogleberg, one of my all time favorite songs, were almost more than I could bear. As I continued my shopping I found myself rewriting the lyrics of the song in my head…

“Met my craft store nemesis in the grocery store

Though it wasn’t quite Christmas Eve

I first noticed her in the frozen foods

But I dared not touch her on the sleeve

She didn’t recognize the face at first

But then her eyes flew open wide

She didn’t hug me and I prayed she wouldn’t curse”

Before I could go any further with my remake, a curious thing happened. I saw her standing in the checkout line right next to me (as the song goes). You can’t imagine my horror when she spotted me, and after a great deal of effort, stood up on her tip toes to look over the barrier between the two aisles. Looking like a bobblehead hovering over a row of Mentos and TicTacs, she asked if I was the one who’d posted something about her on ‘that Facebook.’ Before I could answer, her head disappeared, I heard a minor crash, and then she came puffing around the corner rubbing her knee. Once she was standing directly in front of me she explained (between breaths) that in the past couple of months she’d had two different people try to take her picture with their telephones. Though I desperately wanted to ask her if they were rotary or hand cranked telephones, I kept my wits together, and because I had, in fact, posted about my encounters with her on Facebook, I began apologizing profusely. Just when I thought she might start talking lawsuits she said, “Why are you apologizing? I got a huge kick out of it, but I’ll tell you this…nobody’s gettin’ my pick-cha!” I’ve never been so relieved in all my life. The best part of the whole experience was that right before she left the store, she turned around, winked at me, and said, “Merry Christmas Darlin’!”

It was truly a Christmas miracle.

It’s been over a year since that night, and I’m proud to say that I’ve not only kept “the meat off my bones”, but up until recently, I’ve kept a low profile in her store. My visits have pretty much been incident free.

However, as we all know, all good things must come to an end, and my spree of good luck came to an abrupt halt a few weeks ago when I walked into her store to purchase some zebra print fabric. I went immediately to the fleece fabric by mistake, but then, ever so cautiously, made my way to the regular fabric section. By the time I found myself standing in front of the black and white prints, I was feeling a real sense of accomplishment for 1. having been greeted by my tormentor who, smiling brightly, said, “Must be play time!” as she passed me in one of the aisles, and 2. finding my way to the zebra print fabric without needing to be directed…I found it all on my own. All that was left to do was to take it to the cutting area, ask for the 2 yards that I needed, and then get the heck out of Dodge.

As luck would have it, she was there, working the cutting desk by the time I arrived. As I waited in line, I held the fabric in my hands and mentally rehearsed what I would say (no, I’m not kidding). I would ask for my 2 yards, but since she appeared to be especially chipper, I thought I might begin by joking about not being able to decide if I needed 2 yards or 20. All that changed, however, when I noticed that the line was getting longer behind me and she was all business again. Instead of joking around, I placed my fabric down in front of her and politely asked for 2 yards. That’s when she did something rather unexpected. She asked me how the play was coming along and then followed up by asking what the title of the show was. I told her the title was “Night of the Living Beauty Pageant” about a couple of hucksters trying to make money quickly. I added that the zebra print fabric I was buying was for one of the contestants named Miss Wildlife.

That, my friends, is when the fairy tale came to an end.

After a look of sheer confusion swept across her face, she looked down at the fabric, looked back to me, and then looked back at the fabric several times in succession. It was now my turn to ask her if she was okay. Her response? “Well Darlin’, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that you and I have different ideas about what a zebra is.”

Much to my despair, I looked down and realized that I was holding the wrong fabric.

Yes. I’d found the fabric I desired without needing 7 people to help lead me in the right direction. Yes. I’d remembered to take the fabric to have it 1972448_10201754112081248_137055863_ncut in the cutting area and had not just taken the whole darn roll up to the register as I’d done countless times in the past. But, no. I had not grabbed the right fabric. (In my defense, isn’t a giraffe yellow and brown? ISN’T IT?)

There aren’t enough words in the English Language to describe the horror of that moment, but, being a seasoned scene maker in that store, I forced myself to remain calm. I could feel my face burning up. I could feel my palms beginning to sweat. But somehow, by the grace of God, my mouth, which had gone completely dry, managed to form the words, “Dear God, it looks like I grabbed the wrong roll of fabric.”

That’s when things really fell apart.

She looked deep into my eyes, not a smile or even a semblance of a smirk to be found, and bellowed, “Bolt!”

I felt the first tingles of panic begin to run down my spine. Fearing I might pee my pants, I crossed my legs and then raised my hand, held three fingers in the air (Girl Scout style) and solemnly swore to her that I would leave as quickly as humanly possible the second I went back to the shelf and got the roll of fabric that I really needed.

Having only become more irritated by my plea, which very clearly had fallen on deaf ears, she leaned close enough to me so that I could feel her breath, and eyes bulging, responded as she had just moments before. “Bolt!”

I stood in disbelief while I pondered the fact that after all my years of crafting debacles, this…THIS is what had finally pushed her over the edge.

I was being kicked out of the store.

Unable to mask my humiliation, I scanned the line that was now at least 10 people deep, and asked, “You seriously want me to leave the store?”

That did it. She rolled her eyes, picked up her walkie-talkie, radioed the front counter for help, looked right at me, and veins popping, hollered, “It’s a BOLT of fabric, not a ROLL of fabric!” Turning her attention to the lady in line behind me, who herself was making no attempt to suppress her chuckles, she pointed at me and proclaimed, “This one’s gonna do me in one day, I’m tellin’ ya! She’s gonna be the death of me one a these days!”

I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English. I have a Master’s Degree in Middle Level Education. I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life teaching English to eighth graders. Much of that time is spent working on vocabulary. When we do our vocabulary work in class, we often discuss how words can, and often do, have more than one meaning. And yet…none of that seemed to come into play as I stood there motionless, having just convinced myself that she was having me removed from the store once and for all by telling me to bolt.

The relief that I felt when she rounded the corner of the counter on her way to personally escort me back to the zebra print fabric was rivaled only by the relief I felt by making the realization that she had not been calling security on her walkie-talkie to have me removed from the premises.

Did I get my zebra print fabric? You bet. Did I have to go to the end of the line and wait another 20 minutes to get it cut? Sure I did. Did I make another trip back into that store during the next two weeks before the show went up? Not on your life. Even if it meant I’d have to personally cut, fold, glue, paint, trace, measure, sprinkle, bunch, peel, wrap and/or weave zebra print fabric out of straw at a spinning wheel after meeting deep in the woods with Rumplestiltskin himself…I would not go back anytime soon.

If Crafting is Right, I’m Always Going to be Wrong. ALWAYS. How’s that for a bumper sticker?