Serenity in Nature
Standing amid the neon lights of our town’s Memorial Day fair, I spotted a small tow headed figure in the distance, waving furiously to me with one hand while clutching something I could not quite make out in the other. As he approached, I spotted a small plastic bag held tightly in his fist and watched a swirl of gold darting to and fro, mimicking my son’s excitement. I struggled with mixed emotion. Annoyance at the thought of yet another pet to care for and nostalgia for this childhood rite of passage I too enjoyed so many years ago at my own hometown fair.
My husband, an animal lover, immediately began researching the care of goldfish. “You know the reason why so many die?” he advised. “Those small bowls do not allow enough oxygen. They need at least a 10 gallon tank.” And off they went to the pet store, father and son, in search of a home for “Patricia” our newly christened goldfish.
“I may have gotten a bit carried away” he admitted as he staggered into the bedroom toting an enormous box , “ but this pagoda temple was a steal and the color of the fauna is not to be believed!” The “extras” included not only the Zen temple but two-toned pink and blue gravel, a sunken treasure chest, water filter, lighting and various sized stones. “Watching a fish swim lowers your blood pressure” he added with an air of authority, now the official fish whisperer.
I am not sure whose blood pressure decreased by watching Patricia. I only recall how mine skyrocketed over the next few months, as the fish double and then tripled in size and in doing so, became more aggressive, thrashing day and night in its tank. Clearly, the Zen temple was not working its magic.
The cleaning of the aquarium was without doubt the worst chore of all. To get the cleansing tube working you had to suck in air as if you were using a straw and then bob it around the tank to vacuum up all the debris. On my first attempt, I took in part of the fish water and let’s just say the experience will stay with me – always. It was at that moment while gargling a third time with the strongest mouthwash I could find, that I came to the realization…Patricia must go.
I researched releasing it in our backyard pond. No. the fish could become prey for birds due to the bright gold color. Donate it to a local classroom? You would have to increase the teacher’s salary just for the tank cleaning alone. I resigned myself to the fact that Patricia would be with our family for the duration of her life or, my own.
As I walked dejectedly around the fish department at Petco searching for yet another larger and more expensive tank, a tall ginger-headed clerk emerged. As we got to talking, I explained my dilemma. He listened compassionately and then calmly remarked “My friend Sally adopts goldfish. She works here too.” I tried to keep the hysterical edge out of my voice as I queried: “Any chance she is in today?”
A month later I found myself once again in Petco this time to buy hamster food. As I stood watching an employee cleaning a fish tank, the memory of swallowing the dirty water emerged and I thanked a higher power those days were behind me. Lost in thought I almost didn’t hear the soft voice beside me. “Would you like to see a picture?” Turning, I saw Sally, Patricia’s foster mother, holding her smart phone up before me. On the screen, was a photograph of Patricia in her new 100 gallon home, swimming serenely. “I did have a little problem with her attacking my other fish in the beginning” Sally confided. I furiously scanned the store for the nearest exit wondering how long it would take me to reach it. “But, she eventually calmed down and gets along great with everyone!” Nodding and smiling in gratitude, I made a mental note to find another pet store just in case Patricia’s aggression returned.
So when things appear hopeless in life, I leave you with this bit of advice. Miracles do happen. And if you have children, have them avoid the ping pong toss at your local fair at all costs.
Looking out my back yard one afternoon, I stared in amazement, rubbed my eyes, then looked again. A peacock! slowly strutting by. Grabbing my camera in a flurry I took this shot. Although blurry, you can get an idea of the brilliance of the plume. I imagine the bird escaped from some neighboring estate as they are not native to our town. Remarkable.
I should have gone with the pot roast. A traditional, home spun, simple recipe. A crowd pleaser. But rather, I chose what I imagined a more elegant entrée for the upcoming dinner I would be preparing for my husband’s brother and new girlfriend. “Slow cooked Halibut,” was the name the recipe book had dubbed it. I had illusions far more grandeur with perhaps a tweak or two.
It is an age-old struggle. That nagging but harmless question swirling in and out of my daily consciousness, “What should I make for dinner tonight?” My sister once told me she had read a magazine article advising that the ten top stresses in life included not only the death of a loved one and public speaking, but what to make for dinner.
So, when I saw the gleaming crock pot that day in Costco, it was not the actual appliance that beckoned, but, rather the shiny, four-color recipe book attached, wrought with possibility. Arriving home with this fabulous trophy I sat in bliss, pouring over the pages in awe and wonder. But first things first — what to make for the special upcoming dinner? I again turned to the halibut recipe, ignoring the nagging voice whispering, warning “never try a new recipe for a special occasion, never, never, never….”
Later that evening, I lounged with our guests on the sofa, sipping wine and chatting contentedly. The table was set, the ambiance was jovial and my divine creation simmering in the kitchen, ready to be served at a moment’s notice. The beauty of a crock pot I thought happily, was that the dish could simmer indefinitely allowing more time for cocktails and chat. Now where exactly did I read that? “More wine anyone?”
At last the hour was upon us. My guests sat in anticipation at the elegantly set dining room table, amid flickering candle light and the strains of Nat King Cole. Approaching the crock pot I lifted the lid then stared down in confusion. The four pieces of halibut, which hours earlier had appeared firm and beautiful, had vanished. I frantically ladled the mixture hoping to uncover the wayward fish. Gone. My dinner had turned to liquid. Could I possibly pass it off as bouillabaisse?
I realized it was the tweak. Earlier in the day in a flurry of over confidence and mania, I had tossed a cup and a half of heavy cream into the pot in the hopes of achieving a rich and velvety texture to the halibut. This tweak that was not found in any recipe book but rather, was spurred on by the excitement of owning the shiny new crock pot and the endless possibilities it lent in creative cooking. Yes, creative cooking at its finest.
I poured the entrée into four serving bowls and confidentially approached the table. As I placed the first dish before my brother in-law, I carefully refused to meet my husband’s eye. “Rolls for dipping” I sang, as I disappeared back into the kitchen. Thank god the guests were family, I thought.
“What exactly is this called?” ” My husband finally dared. “Halibut a la cream” I replied. And as our spoons clinked in silence, somewhere in the distance, I heard Julia Childs sobbing.
In his prime, over fifteen years ago, “Red Head” as we affectionately named him, was a full-bodied hand puppet I purchased in New York City’s Grand Central Station. His oddness beckoned me from the window of a toy store and I stopped in to take a closer look. He was clad in overalls and a gingham checkered shirt making his appearance all the more eccentric. It was the vibrancy of his red hair and sprinkle of freckles that won my heart.
Through the years, Red Head was played with tirelessly but due to his appearance often the object of extreme roughness. Children would often be frightened by his face which did bear a strange expression and would fling him in mock fright.
He lost most of his nose through numerous battles with our Toy Fox Terrier who too appeared to react to his appearance. The dog would grab the puppet in his teeth and shake violently which eventually led to the head being torn from the torso. I placed it on a shelf for safe keeping vowing I would sew it back.
Red Head was the source of many a prank. I often tucked him into my husband’s lunch bag and would hide him in different places about the house. Another time when my close friend had just broken up with a red-haired man, I placed the puppet in her mailbox with a little note saying “Please give me another chance?” She was horrified until I admitted I was the culprit.
Yes, I think the Red Headed puppet has brought more joy to me than to my children and I humbly submit his photo to the oddball photo challenge for today.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Warmth.”
“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”
I am addicted to baths. It began in my childhood, at what age I cannot say for certain. I can envision myself and my two sisters bobbing around in our bathtub, a simple no frills fixture unlike the whirlpool spas of today. My mother, who instilled this love of baths in us, laid peacefully center. It was those calming waters which somehow righted every wrong and made life at the end of the day oh so much more delightful. “Can you start the tub?” we would call to my mother nightly and upon hearing the rumble of the water racing through the faucet, would immediately feel comforted.
As I grew into older childhood my nightly baths and love of, continued. I remember bringing into the tub different props for amusement. My fondest memory involve the Barbie dolls which I would plunge into the water, their perfect bodies and pointed toes gracefully leaping from the soap holder which I would use as a makeshift diving board.
When I left for college I realized with some dismay, that my nightly baths ritual would become a thing no more. Bathing in a dorm bathroom shared by who knows how many others was something I did not find appealing – not to mention the cleanliness factor. Yes sadly, my nightly baths ceased upon entering freshman year in college and were promptly replaced by a shower.
Yet one night, the old urge struck. Returning from a night out and perhaps one Tequila Sunrise too many, I made my way to the dorm bathroom. Perfect! At 3AM on a weekday there was not a soul in sight. I undressed and proceeded to the sink, my towel tightly wrapped around me. As I began to brush my teeth I felt the towel slipping. As it fell to the floor I was faced with two choices: pick it up immediately or finish brushing and then retrieve the towel. Given the late hour and the desolateness of the dorm, I opted for the latter – my fatal mistake. As if in a dream I watched the bathroom door swing open to reveal a tall sleepy male, no doubt someone’s boyfriend as my dorm was all women. His eyes, which only moments before were half slits were now golf balls as he gaped at me standing before him, stark nude, tooth-brush still in hand. I shrieked, tore past him and jumped on my roommate’s bed. Babbling and breathless I attempted to explain to her what still rates as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Oh bath, how could you have forsaken me?
When I became engaged and began staying overnight at my fiance’s apartment I learned the meaning of true love. Craving my bath one night, I mentioned that his tub did not seem well, completely clean. I asked where I could find his cleaning supplies. “Do you have to have a bath every night?” he asked with some annoyance as he disappeared into the kitchen. Returning with a can of Comet and scrub brush he for the next 15 minutes, painstakingly cleaned the tub for me. And with that gesture, I knew I was marrying the right man.
I have two sons who have inherited their mother and grandmother’s love of baths. I can hear the water running nightly and I have caught them filling up the tub to play their own Barbie doll type of diving game but instead they use pencils. They catapult the pencils off the side of the tub in their own game of acrobatics. At any hour, morning or night, at the slightest hint of a stomach ache or joint discomfort from sports, a tub is running. Aqua therapy of sort. I realize this is a luxury in our society and lecture them on the number and length of time spent in the bath. But it often falls on deaf ears as my son races in from school, drops his back pack in the corner and heads up to the bathroom to turn on the bath. He too understands the healing of the waters.
My adult bath ritual has changed only slightly since childhood. I still take one every single night, but instead of the Barbies I bring one guilty pleasure which I lay on the side of the tub; four Hershey Chocolate kisses. My second favorite comfort in life.
ROCHESTER, September 26 — Eastman Kodak Company today announced its intent to stop making and selling slide projectors by June 2004.
“The Kodak slide projector has been a hallmark for quality and ubiquity, used for decades to produce the best in audio visual shows throughout the world,” the company said. “However, in recent years, slide projectors have declined in usage, replaced by alternative projection technologies.”
One of my happiest and most comforting memories of childhood was our family slide shows. These coveted movie nights which generally took place once a year, consisted of nothing more than three simple ingredients: a blank wall in our living room, a Kodak carousel slide projector with my father at the mast and myself and three sisters, huddled on the sofa, pressed together in anticipation like peas in a pod. My mother, who had seen the slide shows too many times to mention, usually busied herself with other things, occasionally stopping in to comment on a particularly beloved picture. Prior to turning off the lights, my father would announce in a deep theatrical voice “Who wants a magic drink?”
They were always different in taste and made from whatever struck his fancy that night; orange juice with a splash of pineapple juice and Grenadine or perhaps apple juice and ginger ale with a jigger of seltzer. The ingredients were unimportant. It was the anticipation of what was to be and the lovely ritual of our movie night routine that we cherished. Those magic drinks were just part of the show.
There was always one slide, without fail, that was turned upside down. This would halt the show momentarily, as my father with a slightly frustrated “tsk” would right the renegade slide. And we were ready to go once again.
I loved that Kodak carousel projector and the faded yellow boxes of slides stacked beside it. They were never labeled so each reel was a surprise in itself. Who might appear on the screen that night was anyone’s guess — my six or sixteen year old self? Our first family pet Bubbles the beagle, or our gentle giant of a Great Dane we called Jenny? My mother posing on the beach in her youth, or proudly cradling her first grandchild? The lack of chronology only added to the experience.
Some days, in the quiet of my mind, I can still hear the slow deliberate click of the projector, advancing slowly, telling without words the story of our life. Slide to slide, toddler to teenager, mother to grandmother, youth to twilight. An entire lifetime displayed on the wall of the darkened living room.
When my parents died, I cared about no other of their possessions albeit that time warped machine that could somehow transform me back to family vacations, birthday parties and people and places no more. With my sister’s blessings, I brought it to my own home with the promise to bring it to family gatherings, a carousal reunion of sort. Though it is yet to be. It sits up on a shelf in an unused room. I have taken it down one or two times in a half -hearted attempt to have my own family slide show but then, as it spits and jams due to age, return it in frustration to the lone closet. Surely there is somewhere that can restore the Kodak carousal to the beauty of its youth so we may once again enjoy those magical images.
And I will mix for my own sons, those magic drinks..
If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, I am doomed. I love my husband and generally wish him no harm. But lately, I am getting tired of his accusations involving his lunch which I painstakingly make for him each morning to bring to work. He says it tastes like Windex. No, in case you might ask, he is not suffering from any mental disorder involving paranoia. He has all his faculties and then some, perhaps that is why his taste buds are so finely tuned. And in fairness, the accusations do not come daily but generally once a month or so, and typically hone in on his turkey sandwich. Though yesterday he called in a panic to claim his grapes had a toxic-like taste as well. Not Windex this time, but something equally “bad”. “Don’t eat the grapes!” he shrieked. He asks if I am slowly trying to kill him.
And from where would this delusion arise? He claims to have seen me, on more than one occasion, spraying the kitchen counter in abandon and has attested to seeing droplets of Windex lingering in the air, slowly making their way down to his coffee cup. “You don’t pay attention,” he chides. He claims I inherited this trait from my mother. In fairness, he is not entirely wrong. She was a wonderful woman but indeed careless at times. I recall childhood memories of a defunct and blackened microwave oven, hidden in the corner of our garage, meekly awaiting my father’s return from work. A severe reminder that aluminum foil and microwaves do not mix. I can envision still, her pink plush bathrobe seared up the back, a result of standing too close to the stove’s gas burner on particularly frigid mornings before the heat kicked in. He reminds me of the time she added a packet of lemon dish cleanser, which had arrived as a free sample in that day’s mail, to our family’s chicken dinner. Luckily, before the dish was consumed, my sister remarked that the sauce had “bubbles” alerting my mother to a potential disaster.
I don’t know how to put him at ease. Take a bite out of his sandwich prior to packing? Do away with all my kitchen cleansers entirely and use only white wine vinegar (though that could mimic an industrial type cleanser taste as well). Consult with a professional? Yesterday, as I topped off his brown bag lunch with an apple and Hershey kiss, I tucked in a yellow stick-um note as well, as I sometimes do in my son’s lunch. It simply said “Made with love not Windex.”