My Little Steel Magnolia

“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”

—Clairee from Steel Magnolias


Today I went to Susanna’s Christmas party at school. On my way inside the class, I stopped to browse the artwork hanging outside her classroom.

I quickly found her work. It was a writing assignment that had a glittered package on the top. The writing prompt beneath was something like, “If I Had Three Gifts, I Would …”

She wrote:

I would buy a home for someone who didn’t have a home.

(Awwww. How sweet!)

I would give them a couch and a bed.

(Such a heart of charity; such a good Samaritan, this child of mine.)

I would give them clothes …

(She really gets what Christmas is all about. She sees the needs around her, and she is moved to compassion. About to shed a tear, I read her last words.)

and jewelry to make them feel better.

If I’d Only Found Him in 1995

As Chris and I chose music for our wedding, I was adamant that My Favorite Song be included.

My favorite Christmas carol is also My Favorite Song: “O Holy Night.” I love the minor tones and the extreme range of highs and lows. The lyrics beautifully capture the most important event in human history. Really, I could think of no other song more appropriate to mark the most important day in my life.

Chris would have nothing of it. That would be because we got married in the summer. On July 22.

I still maintain it would have been perfectly fine and who the heck cares anyway? It was my wedding. I have witnessed far more shocking things at weddings (sweatpants and baseball caps, for one; yes, I did) than the singing of a so-called unseasonal hymn.

But, anyhoo, I still harp on my dashed musical dreams every Christmas as I enjoy My Favorite Song each year.

I also enjoy this rendition. I only wish I had found this guy to sing at my wedding fourteen years ago. Certainly Chris would have relented, if I had suggested this version.

He Speaks a Different Language

I’ve been married to my husband for fourteen years.

About 50% of the time, I’ve had no clue what he’s been saying to me.

You see, he’s a musician—a guitarist, to be exact—and I’m convinced that Guitar-Speak is really another language.

The indigenous peoples of Guitar Center spoke the native tongue when they settled in strip malls and shopping centers years ago. The language has evolved as the musical genres have dictated unique terms for the sound a guitar makes.

Um, I just call it, music.

Chris can spew all sorts of words as he describes his ideal tone: dirt, grit, hair, boost, compress—to name a few.

Last week, my husband traded all his gear (not sure exactly what, although I think it was an amp, two pedals, a telecaster and some other guitar that he called using initials—I think) and came home with a Fender stratocaster* and a new amp.

And that’s about as far as my comprehension goes.

He proceeded to tell me all about the impressive features of his new set-up.

I tried. I tried. I tried to listen intently and display the enthusiasm that I realize I should have had at this one-of-a-kind, never-before-possessed, and will-never-find-again veritable expression of musical perfection and excellence.

Unfortunately, his soliloquy sounded more like Charlie Brown’s teacher (“wah-wah-wah wah-wah-wah”) to my gear-illiterate ears.

And then he played it for me.

Strum. Click, switch, strum, strum. Turn knob once. Strum. Click. Strum. Turn other knob.

“You hear that?” [Mumble, “grit,” mumble, mumble, “hair,” mumble, mumble, “dirt.”] “It’s so different from anything I’ve had before! And this is it! Mary, this is the tone that I’ve been searching all my life for. I’ve reached the pinnacle, the zenith of all that is musical goodness with this new set-up.”

As he finished speaking, angels began singing and beams of light burst through our windows. A soft white glow outlined his body, as he struck a pose similar to Scarlett’s in the “I’ll never be hungry again” scene from Gone With the Wind.

“Uh-hum.” I nodded. “Honey, it’s just wonderful.”

And I really did mean it in my ignorant I-have-no-idea-what-you-are-talking-about kind of way.

Things would be a lot easier if my husband had come with subtitles.

*Photo disclaimer: I have no idea if this is a picture of the actual guitar he got or not. I just found a picture of a white Fender strat, and it looks close enough to me, so I posted it.

Gold Teeth

Thursday when I picked up the boys from summer school, their teacher told me of this conversation she had with Spencer:

Spencer: When I grow up I want to be a daddy.
Ms. Teresa: Oh?
Spencer: And have gold teeth.
Ms. Teresa: Gold teeth?
Spencer: Gold teeth.
Ms. Teresa: Gold teeth? (Really confused.)
Spencer (slower): a GO-TEE!
Ms. Teresa: Ohhhhh, a gotee.

A gotee, just like Daddy’s.

Magic Trick

Spencer approaches Mom with a deck of cards.

“Pick a card.”

Mom takes card and looks at it: the ten of hearts.

“Now turn the card around.”

Mom turns the face of the card towards Spencer.

“That’s hearts!”

“Yes, it is,” Mom says.

“Now, kiss the card.”

Spencer demonstrates by smooching on his hand.

Mom kisses the card.

“Yep.”

Spencer continues with his day.

How’s that for a little 3-year-old abracadabra?

What Was She Thinking?

Yesterday, I did a little bit of Christmas shopping in actual stores while the kids were at school. Nashville’s weather yesterday was sunny and bright, upper 50’s, but windy and a bit chilly. Definitely long sleeve shirt and pants weather. And I’m hot all the time.

Coming out of one store, I noticed a woman walking back to her car. She was wearing a long sleeve shirt, a sweater, and shorts.

OK–now, that’s not terribly unusual. I’ve paired shorts with long sleeve shirts before.

But the most astonishing part was her choice of legwear to go with her mixed ensemble.

Black nylon knee-high socks with athletic shoes.

So, I’m wondering if her thought process as she was getting dressed went something like this:

Hmmmm. Let’s see. It’s sunny today. I think I’ll wear my shorts. But it’s windy and not 60 degrees so my arms may get chilly. Yes … a long sleeve shirt with a sweater will be nice. OK. What shoes? A cute flat? No. A sandal? No, my toes would get cold. I know! I’ll wear my running shoes. A nice, hefty athletic shoe will be perfect for my day of shopping. What socks? Cute little white ankle socks? Too predictable. I know! I’ll just pull out my black knee-high trouser socks that are only supposed to be worn under long winter pants. Yes! Now that’s the picture of fashion!

Button Guilt


You know all those extra buttons that come with new clothes?

If you’re like me, you’ve saved them relentlessly, obediently. JUST IN CASE … the button pops off and you can put your hands immediately, precisely on THE VERY BUTTON that matches the others on the blouse. And then you’re poised to quickly and decisively remedy the missing button situation right then and there.

Kinda funny then, wouldn’t you say, that many of pants are being held together with safety pins?

Anyhoo… I still keep my stash of buttons in the bathroom drawer … although, I can’t remember using even one of them in a crisis button-missing situation. Not one in the 38 years that I’ve been wearing clothes. Not one.

So you would think that I didn’t have much allegiance to said buttons nor that I would care much at all about their eventual fate, right?

Well, not really. See, the psychology behind these buttons and their intended purpose is really powerful for me. “You must NOT discard the button,” I hear in my head. This mantra is akin to the one that prevents you from clipping tags off mattresses and pillows and the hair dryer cord. “Must not be removed … under penalty of law.” That’s why they give you the button. Just in case.

Last week, I was having some “time” in the bathroom and trying to concentrate intently on reading something. Never mind there was a veritable circus going on beside me. The bathroom door doesn’t really lock, so privacy for me is non-existent. The boys were shuffling through shoes and dirty clothes in the closet. Finally their attention turned to the vanity drawer. I call this “rummaging.” They love to rummage through the toothpaste tubes, deodorant bottles, and dental floss. Oh, yea, and spare buttons. Those dang spare buttons.

(Let me just insert here that I don’t ever remember as a child parking it in the bathroom while Mom and Dad went potty or took a shower or got dressed. I’m sure I did, but I don’t remember doing it. My children, however, are fascinated with this ritual.)

So, anyway, I’m concentrating and going potty and all of a sudden, I hear PLOP!!!

Plop?

“Seth… what was that?”

He managed to hit the angle just right under my magazine and between my legs to drop a beautiful red button into the potty.

“Oh!!! A button! Oh, no! Seth!”

Instinctively, I fished it out. I know. Gross, gross, GROSS!!! But, I couldn’t help it. It was one of those buttons. It was a really nice, red fabric covered button that I know I could never, ever find a matching one if one were to fall off my sweater to which it belonged.

I couldn’t flush it, could I? That would be paramount to … oh, I don’t know … treason or embezzlement or perjury or something equally heinous.

No, I would remain loyal to my button. So, quickly and oh, so gingerly, I fished it out with the tiniest square footage of the tips of my fingers AND it was only in there for less than ten seconds, so it wasn’t completely infected, right?

I then washed it and my hands super-duper well with hot, soapy water.

(Sigh.) No harm, no foul. I was kind of proud, actually. I had done my civic duty and rescued the button.

Except now there was one thing to contend with:

THAT BUTTON HAS BEEN IN THE TOILET. EWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!

Finally, logic triumphed over my crazy psychological tendencies: I’ll NEVER need it anyway. I’ve only worn that sweater once, and it doesn’t even fit well.

I threw that horribly gross thing in the trash.

Yes, finally, reason prompted me to do the reasonable thing.

Well, OK, that and my husband’s exclamation: “Yuck! It fell in??? Why didn’t you just throw it away???”

Hilarity … According to a 3-year-old

Seth: Knock, knock.
Mom: Who’s there?
Seth: Pineapple.
Mom: Pineapple who?
Seth: JUICE!

HI-LAAARRR-I-USSS!

Chatter

Seth: Mom, you’re missing the point! (Often said completely randomly and out of context.)

Mom: You are … (trails off because I get distracted or who knows why I forget what I’m saying mid-sentence)
Spencer: driving me nuts!

Last week, Susanna had a substitute teacher. Her description of the sub:
“She was from Mexico. Or Atlanta. Not sure which one.”

Commit to the Intersection!

My first car, the Buick Skylark (circa 1981). Ours looked like this one but was kind of yellowish/tan with a brown roof. One of my sister’s friends dubbed it, “the family size sports car.” I think I lost count how many times it was wrecked.

I really have a lot of fond memories around cars in high school.

Did you play “freeze out”? When it’s really cold outside, you roll down all the windows and turn on the A/C full blast. You see how long you can go before someone says, “enough.” We’d play “heat out,” too, in the summer.

One friend, David, got his grandmother’s (how’s that for humility–a high school boy gets his grandmother’s car?) little baby blue hatchback wagon. I’m not sure what make and model it was. But it was oblong. He nicknamed it, “the Little Blue Suppository,” and that it was. My friend Sherry reminded me the other day that once when David was riding us all around, someone (probably me) chastised him for driving too fast. So, he started driving slowly. Much more slowly. Like 20 miles an hour. And Sherry remembered that he drove the Little Blue Suppository (LBS) at 20 miles an hour all the way across town.

My friend, Hunter, could always make me laugh. He had a real impatience with other drivers. (If Hunter was in the car during the SLOW LBS ride, I’m sure he was fuming!) Unfortunately, most of these were older persons who were in no particular hurry and probably a little bit indecisive anyway. He was perpetually waiting on some car in front of him or facing him at an intersection to decide what to do. Was the car turning left or right? Would the car take his turn at the 4-way stop? When could Hunter go?

“Commit to the intersection!!!” Hunter would yell, hoping to spur on the indecisive driver in front of him.

I would just laugh and laugh.

Now, Hunter’s words play over and again every time I inch up to a 4-way stop or red light. I am committed to the intersection and all its rules! My biggest pet peeve lately is when it is not my turn to go at the 4-way stop, yet the driver of another car waves me through. I throw up the obligatory hand wave, as if to acquiesce that I am the dumbest driver on the planet who needs the driver opposite me to tell me when to go.

But that’s not the case, and going through the intersection out of turn just messes up the whole thing. I don’t know, like throwing off the balance of the universe or something. Like wearing mismatched socks and eating breakfast for dinner (yes, I’ve done it but it still doesn’t feel right to me).

Heed Hunter’s words, people, and “Commit to the intersection!”

Please.