the rapture of cars

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O.K., so good news for everyone who has had to listen to me WHINE ABOUT MY CAR for the past few months: IT’S FIXED! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

For those of you new to the blog, it all started when some stupid UNINSURED drunk ran off the road in the middle of the day … (with a B.A.L. FOUR TIMES the legal limit. .. hell – LO? How was this fool even driving!?) … and crashed directly into my beautiful little just-detailed Mustang convertible that was parked in my front yard … minding its own DAMN bidness … and (oh wait…there’s more!) SHOVED MY CAR THROUGH THE FRONT WALL OF MY HOUSE totalling the car and separating the front and side wall of the house.. Yeah. Real nice.

Long story short: because I’d gotten an exceptional deal on the pony car, I could not afford another like it. The insurance company gave me a little settlement and for MONTHS I searched for another convertible, even though it couldn’t be a Mustang (my signature car). Dear daughter found me a great deal on Craig’s list for a low-mileage Sebring in my color (black like the ‘stang) and though it had some little things to fix up it was basically a good, low mileage convertible, which was what I wanted.

All was well until ANOTHER idiot (what am I; a magnet?!) tried to get into my car… again while it was parked RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE… by ripping the back window loose. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; as the cops told me there had been LOTS of auto break-ins on my street and the next one.  A friend nodded knowingly and said I should have just not locked the car because then they’d have opened the door, seen nothing inside worth stealing, and gone on to the next house.

Which brings me to an aside: why in God’s name are these thieves so stupid that they steal in the poorest neighborhoods? Does that make any sense? I mean, we’re just as poor as THEY are; what do they think they’re going to get? Why don’t they visit the neighborhoods of the  infamous 1% and steal from THEM! They’ve got great stuff, and it’s probably insured! (Another friend theorizes that the thieves don’t have cars and are stealing within walking distance of their homes. Now there’s a cheery thought.)

 But I digress…

 So I got the Sebring convertible and they got nothing when they ripped the rear window loose and my troubles were starting all over again because now I have not only a house that leaks but a wet car as well.

 Oh crap-o-la.

 My bro loaned me a car cover, which helped when the car was parked, but hey, this IS Florida and it WAS our monsoon season, so obviously I was having to drive through a lot of rain and couldn’t very well do that with the car cover in place. So the inside of the car got wet and apparently screwed up the radio thing under the seat which then began draining the battery yada yada yada… thaaaaat’s right, me with no radio. I was not a happy driver.

I talked to my old pal Gary Miller … Sarasota’s sexiest body man  (CAR bodies, you perverts) … because he had come through for me MANY smashed cars in the past AND on this car when I needed my power windows fixed (a mistake I doubt he’ll ever make again, what a job THAT was!) but this time Gary begged off. He explained that even though he is a GREAT body guy he does not do this kind of repair.

I always try to get three estimates but this time I had to settle for two:

The first was from a guy who I think is a good mechanic but I ended up not trusting the shop because his office manager must work on commission: She seemed totally focused on bidding everything up and selling “big jobs,” as I witnessed when I went to pick my car up and was ignored for 15 minutes while she did a telephone hard-sell on some poor customer and then…every time a worker came into the office afterward … would interrupt our conversation to trumpet to them “Hey, I sold that big job!” That … combined with the fact that the shop owner had quoted me $45. for the estimate and she tried to hit me up for $208.00 … did not inspire confidence. Buh-bye. (And yes, I spoke to the owner and he stuck to the $45. quoted.)

The second bid never materialized after I stopped at a shop where one of the nice, polite workers looked at the car, made a couple guesses of what the boss would suggest, took my name, phone number, info (including the fact that I needed an estimate to turn in within three days) and I never heard from them.

FINALLYI heard an ad on WSRQ radio 106.9 FM (which I listen to FAITHFULLY since my friend Susan Nilon bought it and has been making all kinds of cool additions and changes) and knew that the announcer… named “Doc” … HAD to be talking to me when he asked A) – if the rain was like a sprinkler in my convertible and B) if I wanted a Doc Discount on the repair.

Well hell to the YEAH on both counts!

So I went to Callender Auto Tops & Upholstery on 2nd Street in Sarasota (off Lime) and met the owner, George Callender. He’s a heck of a nice guy, a lifelong Sarasota resident, and I believe said his shop has been here 30 years? Wow. O.k., so this is still a small town; you can’t have a good family name AND three-decade business here if you don’t do good work. I liked him and his crew immediately. George explained exactly what he would do, why he would use the parts he would use, and how much it would cost. Everything was written down and he even jumped through some hoops with me so I could get the money to do the repair. Like I said; a heck of a nice guy.

Of course the down side of this is that the shop is so good they are constantly slammed and it was going to be a while before he could get my car in for the work to be done. The office manager promised to call me if there were any cancellations (well of COURSE there weren’t!) and finally the big day came. Today.

My sister Laurie followed me much earlier in the a.m. than I’m accustomed to being up. We took the car in and, with the same trepidation one feels leaving a child at school the first day, left it there. Except in this case I did resist the urge to call ever hour or so to see how it was going.

The day dragged by soooooooooo slowwwwwwwly… Finally it was time. My neighbor Anne drove me to the shop through the rush hour traffic (the tourists are back, aren’t they…) and there in front of the shop was my sweet little car with NO MORE BOO-BOOS! I was so excited I started walking around it looking at it, wringing my hands in excitement and smiling, and caught the eye of another woman doing exactly the same thing with HER car…we both broke into big grins and let out a whoop of joy that our BABIES were all better, smiling at each other and yelling stuff like “I KNOW!”  

So 24 hours from now if you see a crazy lady with reddish brown hair driving around Sarasota in a black convertible with the top down, that would probably be me. If she’s accompanied by an elderly Bearded Collie, a toothless Maltese/ Chihuahua mix, and a Pit/Boxer that thinks it’ a Yorkie … and all four are howling at the full moon… that’s definitely us.

 Ahhhhhh, life is good again.

 Thank you, George!

Wow. Has it really been just two days short of a whole year since I last wrote anything here?

And should I write now?

We’ve all heard the cautions: “Be careful what you put on the internet because ANYONE can read it… potential employers…current employers… family members… people you’re writing about…”

But for a blabbermouth like me not to have checked in for a year, people are going to know that SOMETHING was going on, and maybe they’ll think it’s something even worse than reality. I mean granted, the past year has not been my best, but none of us are perfect. We all have “less than shining moments,” right?

Sometimes dropping from sight is a good thing because it means you’ve been too busy to doodle around. But this time, what I’ve been too busy with isn’t all that great. Apparently time flies whether you’re having fun or not…and I haven’t been.

Oh I’ve been blessed all around in that my family is fine and I’ve not had any scary medical diagnoses (knocking on wood) and believe me, I am cognizant of the tremendous value of those things. But you know how sometimes you can cope with one big “arch-enemy” type problem better than all the niggling little things that just wear you down to your last nerve? In the past year I’ve been fighting one battle after another.. Well no, actually, several at a time, they came and clung in clumps … that have left me exhausted, discouraged, and disillusioned. Of course many people have faced much worse… I don’t mean to whine … but damn, it has been trying.

First the bank made their last stab at taking my home of 15 years, but we managed to come to a meeting of the minds and spent six months going through a “Forbearance Agreement;” holding my breath, I continued job hunting while under agreement to surrender my home without a contest if I was even one day late with even one payment.

Why would I agree to such a crazy thing? Gee I don’t know; why does one play a crooked wheel? “If it’s the only one in town.” It was either suffer through this agreement or go to foreclosure immediately. I chose the former. It … along with everything else… almost made me crazy.

Job hunting became a full time job. I signed up for dozens of job boards, got into social media to network, applied for everything from maid’s work to executive director positions… if it was anything I thought I could manage or even fake my way through, I went for it. I cannot count the times I carefully ironed one of my last decent work outfits, put one gallon of gas in the tank, printed out yet another copy of my carefully tailored resume (usually on a friend’s printer because mine ran out of ink long ago) and went off just knowing this was the job for me and I was the perfect applicant for it. Hundreds …literally hundreds… of applications later, still nothing.

Am I too old? Too plain? Too dug in as a writer/photographer to be considered for anything else? Is my wardrobe too outdated? What am I doing wrong?

Meanwhile, to keep the bank-wolf from the door, I temped and smiled solicitously at bosses half my age and/or I.Q. and did things whatever half-ass way they wanted them done. I sorted through peoples’ donated crap, cleaned toilets, emptied recycling bins, cleaned windows in the Florida summer heat, stuffed envelopes, did data entry, sorted out and organized dead files and catalogued them, anything to hang on to my house while the bank played their little game:

Every week after the six-month-agreement ended I’d email or call my “contact person” at the bank and point out that the forbearance period (with its unmanageably high monthly payment) had ended, I had met their terms, and they were supposed to send me a modification application. Where was it?

They always responded that they would send it that day. And when it hadn’t come in a week later, I’d call again.

This went on for four months after the six month forbearance period. FINALLY I got the papers … misdated (as if it had been sent a week earlier) and informing me I had 20 days from the false date to return it.

I did.

I’m waiting.

And praying.

And still job hunting.

Meanwhile, my animal rescue work continued and our county passed an anti-tethering ordinance. A good thing in light of all the ignorant dog owners who tie their dogs out in the yard and then do every conceivable stupid thing from going to Disney World for a week to going to work every day and leaving the animals tied out without regard to how the blistering Florida sun moves while they’re away and bakes the poor creature who knocked over the water bowl (if there was one) within five minutes of the person leaving and is now chained in it’s own muddy little circle with it’s urine and feces. And that’s just the dumb people; there are also the evil dog fighters who chain their animals on four-foot lengths of heavy chain to purposely frustrate them into constantly straining and pulling (thus building up their chest muscles). Yes, we needed this ordinance.

But there are also good dog lovers who simply can’t afford to fence their yards, especially right now. So many families have lost homes and jobs that our animal shelters, rescues, and foster homes are all bursting at the seams with homeless animals. We don’t need families who love and want to keep their dogs giving them up because they can’t afford a fence.

So I took a clue from a great group up in the Carolinas, The Coalition to Unchain Dogs. They build (for FREE) adequate-size fenced exercise areas for neutered dogs if the family requests it. If the dog isn’t neutered they either raise the funding for that or get one of the local free or low-cost spay/neuter programs to assist. When I raised the subject here in Florida people responded with enthusiastic support and I was incredibly excited… until I ran into the IRS.

Who knew it was so hard to try to do something nice? The paperwork was ridiculous. I got a few believers together and we got a well-meaning attorney who would help us for free… except he didn’t seem able to do it. As nice a person as he was, the paperwork kept going back to him with spelling errors in peoples’ names and addresses, and blocks of copy that had obviously been left in from whatever group’s paperwork he’d been using as a guide for ours…

This went on for almost a year before I just gave up and started over on my own. The latest on this is that a nice couple from another charity believes in this cause and has volunteered to meet me at a coffee shop and go over the paperwork with me to see if I’m doing it right. That happens next week… God willing and the creek don’t rise.

Meanwhile the day to day trials of life have continued: Someone broke into my car and did $1400.00 worth of damage that I can’t afford to fix. They ripped the back window loose from the convertible top and now the car floods every time it rains. (Oh I cover it up when it’s parked, but on occasion the rain has not been forecast and has snuck up on me, plus when I’m driving through a heavy rain it only takes a minute before the tide begins seeping into the front floor and every time I turn a corner it sounds like surf’s up!) Question: Who breaks into the old used car of an unemployed person in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the area? That must be one dumb burglar…

A woman I thought was a wonderful friend and a great supporter of the Unchain effort turned nasty and petty over a promise she broke… and I wasn’t even unkind about it, even though her reneging totally threw me under the bus. Worst of all, she responded NOT by coming after me personally, but by bullying the charity I was trying to build, sending out emails that it was a scam, posting nasty cracks on a social media site … What kind of person does that? I was not only angry, I was heartbroken. And embarrassed. I felt foolish for having been taken in by this person who I thought was such an angel and true friend. “Choose your friends carefully,” my mama always said. Guess I needed a reminder of that.

Do you see why I haven’t been writing? I’m sure you’re not enjoying reading this drivel any more than I’m enjoying writing it. I won’t even go into the drunk that drove through my house and disabled my air conditioning and what a long, hot, miserable summer it has been not only for me but more for my poor dogs. Forget about the leaky roof too. And the extended-family problems.

So why am I writing now? I’m not sure. I think maybe I’m tempting fate, daring to hope that there are going to be better things to write about soon, that life is going to become better, that I am going to get a handle on all this.

And maybe I just will because … you know … anything can happen.

My new theme song. ENJOY!                                 :^ )

     There’s an old joke in the South that “We don’t hide our crazies in the attic, we bring ‘em right out in the parlor for everyone to meet!” And it’s true. Everyone has that slightly-off Aunt or that crazy cousin or that not-quite-there nephew or that sister who Tennessee Williams should have written a play about… and yet, what no one ever mentions is the unsaid ending of that joke: “Of course we ARE careful who ELSE we allow into the parlor …”

     Enter The All-Access Electronic Parlor, aka Facebook, and therein lies the problem.  Suddenly the whole world is in the parlor with all your secrets. Just as videotape exposed the Kodachrome lies of Paul Simon’s teens, Facebook is opening the door to everyone’s Fibber McGee closet, shining a light on the dark family corners we distract our friends from seeing; FB is  making sure that everyone knows everything about us whether we want them to or not. 

     It doesn’t make life easy. Like most people, I try to shine a positive light on my public life. I do my best to at least maintain a façade of what I’d LIKE my life to be, and as long as those I’m not close with don’t GET too close, this works fine. But what can you do when your guilty secrets start popping up in the middle of the virtual parlor? Well there’s a new sticky wicket for our times.

     Facebook’s “unfriending” works well enough for those people to whom you owe no allegiance or maybe don’t even know in rl (real life): if they commit some kind of embarrassing faux pas (like constantly shoving their business solicitations in front of all your “guests”),  you can unfriend those guys without a twinge. It’s your secret crazies that are the problem … they burst into the “room” without any warning and … much as an unfiltered toddler would … proceed to say, do, and show the Things That Make You Cringe to all the world.

    They just don’t seem to have a clue … or worse, they have but they don’t care.  Or maybe they even enjoy making you squirm on the virtual page in front of God, friends, dead relatives reeling in their graves, and everyone.


     Do you know how vigilantly you have to monitor your Facebook page to be able to immediately HIDE or DELETE those posts before half the world sees them?  Well, believe me; no one is that fast or that consistent. I know because I’ve tried and I’m here to tell you that it can’t be done.

     For a while I tried a different approach that I actually thought was pretty imaginative:  I set up TWO Facebook pages and thought I had carefully policed who I admitted to which page.  Think of one as the family room and the other as a formal or grown-up parlor, no children allowed … and it was working pretty well until the other night…

    I was having a nice conversation with a friend when, without a word of warning, one of the crazies burst into the room, lobbed a totally O.T. conversational bombshell into the midst of everything, and had engaged my friend before I could hide or delete them.

     My worst Facebook fears realized: The unmasking. Followed by the pm’s. (No not “PMS,” but “p.m.s: ” The inevitable private messages that result, expressing the friend’s sympathy and dismay: “I didn’t realize you had a ________ who ______!”

   Well of course you didn’t you idiot;  I’ve taken EXTREME CARE to keep people FROM knowing that.  And now that YOU do, everyone else will, within minutes.


     Might as well just knock down the wall and make it into one big WRECK ROOM (spelling intentional). Yes, just as videotape exposed to the world that the perfectly dressed children were being horrid between still shots on photo days, crazies infiltrating Facebook let everyone know what you’ve NOT been telling while incessantly posting everything you’re proud of and WANT to share. 

     Betty White was right: Facebook IS a huge waste of time.

     And energy.

     I think from now on I’ll leave it to those too young to have any truly guilty secrets.

Every once in a while a friend with a degree in another field will decide that my job looks pretty easy, and they’ll ask how to break into journalism without a degree … which is pretty funny considering the best line to come out of “Overheard in the Newsroom” recently is, “Let’s all get together and file a class action lawsuit against the guidance counselors who suggested a degree in journalism.”

Surprising as it may seem, a journalism degree helps but isn’t absolutely necessary to getting published. So if you’re not a Rory Gilmore type with your father and grandparents squabbling over who’s going to put you through Yale, and you haven’t been offered an internship or a seat on a presidential candidate’s campaign bus, don’t give up! Here’s what you need to know:

Most editors want to see “clips,” which are just what they sound like: Copies of your work that you have clipped from newspapers and magazines, either in hard copy or sent via email. Now that so many publications are also on-line, things are getting even easier: you can often submit your clips electronically or … when you have a pretty good library on-line … the editor can just Google your name and see your work pop up.

So how do you get these initial assignments so you have some clips to show?

First you gotta pay some dues and work for free. (Oh stop whining!) The reward for these early efforts is seeing your name in print and adding another clip to your portfolio.

Generally speaking, it’s good to start small.

Write a blog that you can offer up as evidence of your talent. Take it just as seriously as if you were up against other writers to create this piece, were being paid by the word, and it’s going to have to pass muster to be published, because if this is a sample of your work that’s supposed to sell you, it better be good. If an editor checks your blog for your skill level and see’s undocumented facts, sloppy spelling, typos and factual errors, you’re dead; if you did this in their publication, it’s would be their head. Plus editors really hate printing retractions.

Contribute to a newsletter for an organization you belong to or know a lot about, but make sure it’s a publication you’ll be proud to be a part of … Remember the old Groucho Marx joke, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” You don’t want your name anywhere in a messy, sloppy publication; that just reflects badly on you.

Look at the little weekly or “community” papers in your town. Because they concentrate on local news and don’t pick up all the wire service articles, they may have more room for your work. Also explore alternative publications and giveaway publications that are free in distribution boxes around town. Study a few back issues of each (either at the library or on-line) to see what types of stories they like to run. Nothing turns an editor off more than knowing the writer coming to the publication for work has never bothered to read it!

Don’t overlook internet publications …which can be a bit of a mixed blessing because while they’re open to anyone, many are totally unfiltered and unedited, meaning if you’re making mistakes they’re going to be out there for all to see.

Do a good deed or three. Work with local charities and write up their pre-event publicity and/or cover the event and offer it to the local publications free of charge. Steer away from the $1000.00 a plate and black-tie events; those will probably be covered by established reporters. Look to the humane societies, church fundraisers, women’s shelters… the “grassroots” efforts.

Be your own photographer – With today’s digital cameras, you don’t have to be a super-photog to get decent pictures, and if you’re a good photographer, so much the better. Editors love nothing more than when you make their jobs easy. Hand them a package of a well written piece and some interesting photos to accompany it. Also, if your photos are exceptional, it will serve you well when bidding against other freelancers later; you can point out that you’ll save the publication the cost of sending a photographer because you’ll furnish the photos for an additional nominal fee.

Now that you’ve decided what to cover and for whom, be sure to be professional about it: Spell-check is a must, then let it sit and steep overnight before you read and re-read the piece, and it never hurts to have another pair of eyes on it as well, so ask your most grammatically correct friend to proof for errors. (Do NOT trust spellcheck!)

Once you break in and have some track record pieces to show, you can go to the editors and ask if they use freelancers and if so what areas they most need covered. From there it’s just a little rapport building and ability proofing to a staff position or regular job as a “contributing editor.”

Good luck!

I made a revolting discovery the other day while trying to win a thousand dollars through a call in radio contest: My Smartphone can’t spell … at least not with its numbers like the old phones could. When a contest used to say, “Call 1-800-WIN-BIGG now!” you could look at your phone and hit the numbers that spelled out WIN BIGG. Wellllll not anymore. Blackberries etc. have separate letters and numbers keys. So just a note to all those copywriters who use the old-fashion dial pad to spell stuff out and the companies that pay sign painters to emblazon the exterior of their trucks with stuff like “CALL GET-FURN” and, sadly, to the businesses that paid extra for phone numbers they could post as more-easily– remembered words like “Call B=U=Y=C=A=R=S!” Smartphones can’t spell and the only way their owners will get your number is if you give it to them as just that: A number.
Just thought I’d spell that out for ya.

Yes, I know, the first thing that came to mind when you read that title was probably the old commercial about “How do you spell relief?”

No matter how you spell it, it means the same thing: A bad feeling was just replaced by a good feeling, and that’s why RELIEF is my all-time very favorite word.

Think about it: How many words can connote that much emotion all at once? Not only the END of … what? Emotional distress, physical discomfort, fear, worry, panic? … and the BEGINNING of a good feeling.

Close your eyes and concentrate. (No, not now, Silly; when you’re done reading this part!) Think of a time when you felt like your world was coming to an end and then, from the depths of your despair you discovered that … OMG, everything was O.K!

Can you feel how you felt then?

Maybe you found out that your tests came back O.K., or your child wasn’t missing, or your job wasn’t about to be jerked out from under you, or that the big lump ahead in the road you were driving down in search of your lost dog was just a dead garbage bag…

Pretty much every time I’ve shouted, “Thank you Jesus!” it’s been a shout of relief.

Relief is my favorite word/emotion because it’s a two-fer: The banishing of something bad being replaced with something welcome, happy, and good.

Ahhhhhhhh … or, if you must (singing) “Ohhhhhhh what a relief it is!”

Madonna and Child(ren)

In a certain unspecified year when my daughter Karen was five (almost six) years old (and a Pisces through and through), I sent out a gorgeous Christmas card featuring deep blue watercolor art of The Madonna and Child. It was really exceptionally beautiful and poignant, and at this wrap-up of what I will refer to as “a significant year,” the holidays were especially moving for me.
Karen has always been well-recognized in this family as what our Dutch Nana called “an old soul” (meaning she’d been through several incarnations and each time came back into the world wise beyond her years and ready to grow even more from there).
Example: Nana and Grandpa Johnny took care of Karen for me most weekdays when she was four years old and I was in college. Their house was right near the campus, there was no one I would trust more to care for her, and I would come there every day for a free lunch, a visit with the Grands, and some time with Karen. Karen was crazy about her great-grandparents and enjoyed working in Grandpa’s garden with him or helping Nana with her legendary baking, so everyone was happy.
One rainy day when I returned for lunch, Nana took me aside and told me this teary-eyed story: When I’d driven off that morning in my old clunky car, my little honey girl had stood at their living room picture window and watched with a very solemn expression on her face… something she didn’t normally do. Grandpa asked her if something was wrong and she said, “I wish the rain would stop.” Assuming that she was anticipating a boring day spent inside, Grandpa assured her, “Well we can have fun inside, honey, and the garden needs the rain.” She turned to him and said (at FOUR mind you) “But the roads are all wet and Mommy’s tires are bald.”
HOW she had picked up on that I do not know, but this was just the beginning of our awareness that this kid was an empathetic little SPONGE and we had to be very careful what was discussed around her; she not only picked up on everything but very much took it to heart, even when it was a worry far beyond her tender years.
So back to the Christmas card.
We were SO BROKE that year, but boy did we luck out: I opened a checking account at a new bank and lo and behold won a gift certificate to go holiday shopping at a local drug store that had a great assortment of present-y-type items! YAY! It wasn’t a big amount, but enough that with a little careful shopping I could manage token gifts for those near and dear, some prize goodies for Karen, and a box of Christmas cards. (I had been feeling so badly about not sending out cards that year, and now I could; it was like a present to myself!) After much debate I laid eyes on a box that just struck me immediately, so the beautiful blue Madonna cards rode in the cart next to the new drawing pad and Karen-coveted giant box of sharp, still-individually-paper-wrapped new crayons that every kid craved at Christmas back then.
That night, Karen and I sat at the kitchen table in our little apartment (in what is now a chic part of downtown but definitely wasn’t back then) and savored wrapping the presents in the colorful comic sections of the paper that I’d had my Mom and Nana saving for me since Halloween. (Yes, we WERE ahead of our time in the recycling movement …) (Oh all right: we were just too broke to buy wrapping paper!) We were listening to Christmas music and having a wonderful time when we turned to the Christmas cards. Karen picked one up, scooted up on what was for her a very tall kitchen chair, and studied it intently. After setting it down and picking it up a few times between stuffing the cards in envelopes for me (her job), she asked, “Mommy, may I have this one?”
My immediate thought was “No, honey, we don’t really have enough as it is!” But when I saw the look on her little face I just couldn’t refuse. She took the card into the bedroom and put it on her little desk, prominently displayed. I thought no more about it.
On Christmas morning, before we headed over to Mom and Pop’s house, I gave Karen her presents. We sat in front of the roaring space heater (it was really cold that year!) and she opened each one so carefully, as if she needed to save the silly comics paper. Given her responses, no one would have guessed how meager the gifts really were: Everything warranted a lot of mugging …wide eyes or a wide open “surprised” mouth or jumping up and down … she has always been a gracious recipient no matter what’s put in front of her (still is), but when she got to the new box of crayons (which I had anticipated to be the highlight of her Christmas as she was a coloring fiend) she frowned and cried in dismay, “Oh no!”
“What?” I laughed. “What do you mean, ‘Oh no?’ I thought that was what you wanted!”
“I did…” she fumbled, then heaved a heavy sigh and in a resigned voice said “Here” as she handed me a large manila envelope.
Confused, I took the crayon-decorated envelope and opened it. It didn’t take even a second for me to recognize her child’s drawing of the blue Madonna Christmas card… in green. “Oh honey!” I enthused, “is this for ME?”
Nodding she said in a somewhat annoyed voice, “Yes, but I didn’t have any more blue!”
Ah. That explained the odd reaction to the new box of crayons: just in time to be too late. I gave her a huge hug and assured her I loved my present very much, noted that now we had it in two colors, etc., and made it a point to carefully put it back in the envelope and bring it along to show to everyone at my parents’ home that day.
Of course everyone did the appropriate oooohing and aaaahing, but I got a bit of a surprise when I got Nana and Grandpa aside and they each swore that neither of them had helped her with this project. What? So she really HAD done this by herself? I mean, she always spent a lot of time coloring while I was studying, and we brought her drawing paper along to Nana and Grandpa’s every day as well as to my Mom’s when she visited there. But Mom, Pop, and my brother and sister all swore that none of them had helped her either.
I was more than a little shocked.
So that in itself is an astonishingly cool memory for my daughter and me to share, but it gets even better (if you can believe that):
21 years later (sorry hon but there’s no way to fudge these things!) I was taking care of my daughter’s daughter, Nicole. My first granddaughter was very much her own little person, but with the same sweet nature as her Mom. An early September baby (Virgo? REALLY?!?), she had just turned six that Christmas when I showed her the old “blue Madonna” Christmas card and the rendition drawn all those years ago by her mom. By now the original blue card had discolored, curled up edges, and the green on the copy had faded, but the ink drawing was still crisp.
“I want to do one too!” she shouted.
And I thought, “Oh wow; HOW COOL!”
So of course I turned her loose to do her version of the blue Madonna, and that year I gave homemade Christmas cards with the original art and the mother-and-daughter (or in my case daughter and granddaughter) copies as the cover, and people just loved it even without knowing the whole story.
Next year saw the birth of my second granddaughter, Kylie (a little Sagittarius through and through, like me!) born just a week before Christmas. Just after Ky’s sixth birthday I brought out what I now thought of as “The Madonna Project” and showed it to Ky, told her that mommy and Sissy had done the drawings, and asked if she’d like to do one too. She was all enthused (as six-year-olds tend to be without even realizing the significance of such moments) and did her own individualistic rendition.
The three copies had such differences and such similarities …”just like my girls!” I thought … and of course that was that year’s Christmas card.
Pretty cool, huh? But as the late Billy Mays used to shout on those infomercials, “But wait: there’s more!”
Five years ago my eldest granddaughter, Nicole, had a son, David James (oh yes: definitely a Scorpio!), making me a great-grandmother. He is SUCH a delight and treasure that I immediately forgave their turning me into an old lady. He’s the first boy in our string of babies and very, very different. Except…
Sometimes David gets the same look on his face that I used to see on his grandma’s face when she was his age and worried about her Mommy driving on bald tires. Ever since he was a baby, even people outside the family have referred to him as a “Little Man” because… frankly … he just never seemed as “baby” as most babies usually do. He’s always had this serious, thoughtful bent that belies his young age.
What will his Madonna look like? Will he even want to do one? I can’t wait for next year to find out, and I hope I’m here long enough to see this Blue Madonna card turned into an entire book-history of family Christmases. I think I will title it, “The Madonna and My Children.”
Merry Christmas, everyone.