Friday, October 28, 2005

Screaming Memies

Lifetime Top Five Items of Clothing

1. Vintage suede jacket
--from The Antique Boutique on Broadway in the Village, I believe still extant, unlike Unique, my other big hangout. Starting when I was 13 I was allowed to prowl the city with a friend, but my parents usually arranged to be on the same island. In the era before cell phones, I'm not sure what this really accomplished except to make them less reachable in the event of a crisis. Then when I was 14 or 15 I could take the train and be truly on my own, which I did as often as I could. I still own this jacket, wore it yesterday. It's a kind of mahogany color, lined with iridescent greenish rose acetate (looks better than it sounds) medium length, somewhat boxy cut. It had a self belt which I tossed long ago, and now I'm kind of sorry.

2. Lavender Indian cotton sundress--this dress was one of those mysterious successes Nancy Hale writes about in A New England Girlhood: "Certain dresses had a cosmic importance in my wardrobe. There were dresses in which I always had a good time and those dresses, as smart or smarter, which seemed to possess no magic." Although I was not a Boston Brahmin debutante in the 20s, I did have this magic dress, which I bought at "$5-a-bag-day" at the Friends of Animals thrift shop. It was lavender, a color I have always loved, sleeveless and trimmed with eyelet and coarse lace; the bodice buttoned down the front and it had a slightly flared skirt. It actually fit me rather poorly, the waistline hitting neither at my natural waist nor at any other convenient spot; but boys fell all over me when I wore this dress.

My first boyfriend and I had a little routine in which he would say "I like your dress," and I replied "That's because it's a dress." (var. also for "skirt") It was more than that, though. In high school my skirt day/pants day ratio was higher than it ever will be again but not every skirt was magic. I especially enjoyed revealing the thrift shop origins of the fawned-over dress--rather than explaining the $5 bag I would just say it cost $.50, based on how many items I thought I had bought--and the boys would exclaim, "And thrifty too!" It was like "Kind of Woman" from Pippin.

Eventually fell apart in the wash.

3. Tattered Jeans--Another bulk thrift find, these from a loft kind of place in Cambridge where you could buy clothes by the pound out of random piles all over the floor. I was visiting friends living there for the summer, in between sophomore and junior year of college. I spotted these very worn jeans, already with significant holes in the knees, picked them up and held them in front of me. They looked about the right length, so I stuffed them in my garbage bag. As it turned out they were boy's button-fly Levi's and they fit me perfectly. To paraphrase Barbara Mandrell, I was low-rise when low-rise wasn't cool. These jeans had a magical quality not unlike that of the lavender dress. I particularly remember one time when my roommate said, "You know, if you had described that outfit to me (vintage suede jacket above, ecru lace blouse, the jeans) I would have said no. But you look awesome."

One sad day they had to become shorts, and then...I don't know what happened to them. On the same trip I bought a wide-brimmed black straw hat in Quincy Market, which I left on the airplane coming home.

4. My wedding dress--it was exactly what I had in mind, the first dress I tried on. (I took three off the sample sale rack. The salesladies made me try on number two, but I refused to bother with number three.) My mother-in-law was recently reminiscing about all the family wedding dresses, and she said "You looked beautiful in your dress. Like Grace Kelly." Mission accomplished! It was a ballgown with a tulle skirt (sweep train) and silk satin bodice with a portrait neckline, appliqued all over with beaded Alencon lace. I'd love to wear it again. Sigh.

5. Three hats--a hat lover like me can't pick just one. Two hats I bought for my sister-in-law's wedding in 1998 (I always buy the hat and then get a dress to match. It's easier than the other way.) Both are fine straw with tulle studded with tiny roses around the crown. I wore the pink and white one to the wedding, and I have worn the taupe and white one to every Easter ever since. The third hat is a huge black straw with big black crepe roses and veiling around the crown. I get to wear it tonight as part of my Holly Golightly costume!

So, to sum up: three vintage items, all having waistline issues. The remaining two rely heavily on tulle.

I tag ergo.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What I'm Listening To

"American Jukebox Fables," Ellis Paul. Our wonderful local NPR station brought him to play free in the riverside park this summer, and we bought the CD.

I keep hitting 3 on the little stereo remote over and over so I can obsessively listen to this catchy chorus:

"If you want to run/I'll pack my suitcase/
And if you want to stay,/I'll make a front door key/
and if you need space/To fly free,/
take all the sky you need"

I liked it better before I checked the liner notes and understood that a woman was speaking, because although it is very nice to give your partner of any sex some space, I'm more impressed when a man does it for a woman. Others have written this song before, notably Todd Rundgren, perhaps the underrated musical genius of the 20th century; but good themes bear repetition.

On the same album I'm liking the very catchy and upbeat (unusual for me to obsessively repeat an upbeat song)* "Alice's Champagne Palace," despite this incredibly cheesy rhyme:

"Alice will pour you a cold one,/You go ahead and ask her,/if you're running away to Alaska."

It actually makes you start to feel that it would be fun to run away to Alaska and work in a cannery...unless, of course, you had three children a marriage and a whole life on the East Coast. Yeah. Also, and this seems so unfair, even when I was footloose and fancy free, for a woman (and especially a woman from a family like mine) something like running away to Alaska never seems to be on the list of options. Anyway, to redeem itself the song also has this great line:

"I guess sometimes you gotta go/to the end of the earth/just to turn yourself around."

And sometimes you just have to get the youngest kid off to school. :)

*Edited to say: actually not so unusual, thinking about it. About two years ago I was obsessively repeating "I Don't Know What It Is" and "14th Street" from Rufus Wainwright's "Want One." They are still awesome. Too bad "Want Two" pretty much stank. I really prefer my music's sexual content to be sufficiently veiled that I can play it in front of my children. Is that wrong?

A big Thank You

To the users and manufacturers of crystal meth, who have created an atmosphere in which I have to bring a slip of paper up to the pharmacy counter in order to obtain Children's Tylenol Plus Flu, bubblegum flavor.

The bright side is I always maintained that pseudoephedrine made me feel way too high even for cold medicine, and now I feel vindicated. Apparently my body is so sensitive it can perceive even the ingredients of a recreational drug.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Attitude Adjustment

Here's something that takes getting used to as a parent: report cards, progress reports, and for the most part teachers at conferences, never say "Wow! Your child is really smart,"* even if it's true. Because, of course, although it helps to be smart in school (most of the time--Some of the time--) teachers are not reporting on your ability, but on your effort and achievement. S.'s progress report was great, and the comments section read "S. has excellent work habits. She is capable and attentive, as well as friendly and kind to all of her classmates." The principal wrote, "We can't ask for more!" which is great, and I agree (especially the friendly and kind to all part), but the tigress deep inside me can't help screaming, "Capable and attentive? How about creative, insightful, and generally brilliant?"

There's the rub. I'm 35 years old and I can't get used to this idea, that we get credit for what we actually do, not what we could do. I really need to work on that.

*And when the teachers do briefly comment, in person, about how intelligent a child is, there's always a qualifier: "He's very bright, of course, but he's going to have to learn that..."

Proposed Ban

I have already described (to some extent) my issues with presents, so you may want to take this with a grain of salt; but I think I'm on pretty firm ground here.

I propose a ban on all Christmas decorations that represent wrapped gifts. It's this specific product that set me off, but I have been noticing more and more gift-shaped decor in recent years, not to mention the rolls of wrapping paper I saw in the posh stationery store last year that depict skinny women shopping in high heels. Maybe I didn't get the memo, but I thought we were all, at the very least, trying to keep up the fiction that this is not all about the presents? It's not like the holidays are devoid of symbolism or iconography, or our decorating motifs are so impoverished that we are forced to display what seem to be presents but do not, in fact, even have a carefully chosen token of someone's affection inside.

I have a slight sick feeling that this is a misguided response to complaints that trees, Santas and (although I haven't encountered this one) stars are somehow offensive. I have certainly noticed the proliferation of snowmen and while I don't go hog wild on the snowmen they don't offend me. At least they have to do with cooperative creative effort and making the best of a dark and cold time of year; at least they represent living beings and not dollar signs. I fear, though, that someone complained about the snowmen and thus we have the ultimate decorative "So there."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Bear With Me On This One

So I just watched "National Treasure" with the kids (not-so-little-R. got a pile of Borders gift cards for his birthday and this was one of his purchases). It was really quite delightful. I don't suppose, especially with a gun to my head, that I could claim it was a "good" movie, but we all enjoyed it very much.

What I wanted to mention specifically here was a little moment towards the end *SPOILER ALERT DO NOT READ FARTHER ETC. ETC.*

...when the history buff/treasure hunter hero and history buff/national archives bigwig heroine are in peril on a rotting spiral staircase way beneath Trinity Church. At a quiet moment the hero takes the heroine in his arms and says, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I dropped you, but I had to save the Declaration of Independence," and she says, "That's okay! I would have done the exact same thing!" He does this great double take, says, "You would?" and obviously goes through the thought process of hey, that's not okay, you're a woman and my romantic interest and you should...but if it's the right thing for me to do, then it's the...actually, it's kind of hot!

I think it's an awesome, subtle, feminist moment.

Who Put The Bump in the...oh, never mind

I have a question: when did pregnant women's bellies become so universally known as their "bumps"? "First shots of Katie Holmes' bump" the tabloids trumpet. “My stand-in has a bump, and my stunt double has a bump,” Jennifer Garner helpfully explains.

When I was carrying my babies, I had nothing so trendy and cool as a bump. It had no name except maybe a belly. But mostly I just felt that it was the same abdomen I always had, except with a (sometimes huge) baby underneath, and everyone else seemed to also.

Does the bump taking on an identity of its own have philsophical implications? And if so, what are they?

Nothing To Do

Well, yes, I do have to make dinner, do at least three loads of laundry, pay bills, pick up clutter, make beds, clean bathrooms, vacuum upstairs, mop the kitchen...

But today I don't have to make any phone calls, and it is my particular pathology that a phone call hangs threateningly over my head all day, torturing me with its possibilities of conflict, ridicule and rejection.

So when I don't have any phone calls to make, the whole day opens up invitingly in front of me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I Know This Is Wrong,

But I want The Complete New Yorker just so I can read the J.D. Salinger stories that were never published again, anywhere else. It's only $61.11 on Amazon, which seems like quite a deal for 80 years of the New Yorker. On the other hand, I hate reading things onscreen, and I know the vast majority of the NY will go untapped forever for that reason.

Want to know something even worse? It crossed my mind to give my father the thing for Christmas, then go over to his house and read the Salinger stories.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Warning: Child Anecdotes

M., like Frances the badger, sings a lot of improvisational songs. Here's today's first effort, inspired by her brother walking in on her in the bathroom:

I was going bathroom
I was going bathroom
I was going bathroom
We are young.

I won't deny the tune owed a lot to "The Bear Went Over the Mountain," but I really like that Pat Benetar touch at the end.

In other news, S. continues to riff on Dental Arts long after the concept has lost its freshness for everyone else in the car.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

There Is No Satire

It all comes true.

In Holidays In Hell, which I am too lazy to go upstairs at look at for a copyright date (and the Internet is failing me, but let's just say the 80s), P.J. O'Rourke recounted his visit to Heritage USA, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's theme park in South Carolina, noting "The Bibles themselves
had names like A Bible Even You Can Read..."

So today some helpful person hung a flyer on my doorknob advertising the availability of "The Recovery Version: A Bible You Can Understand."

This Makes Me Mad

This isn't a political blog, and I'm one of those people who tries to give Dubya the benefit of the doubt; but really--

"On Sunday, President Bush called on Congress to consider a larger role for U.S. armed forces in responding to natural disasters..."

I'm sorry, did he miss the, oh, twelve years of school when they tell you about the balance of power? And how the redcoats could do whatever they wanted and how much it pissed off the founding fathers? This guy is from the party, supposedly, of states' rights and smaller government.

And yes, I know the story is a week old. Thank this morning's NPR commentary for bringing it onto my screen.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled mommy/cultural blogging.

Monday, October 17, 2005

But am I mulled?

You Are Apple Cider

Smooth and comforting. But downright nasty when cold.
What Part of Fall Are You?

True confession: there were a lot of questions with two equally valid (for me) answers. My first result was "You are fall leaves, pretty and colorful but soon dead," and I didn't like it. So I changed to all my alternate answers and voila.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

For Aldi Fans

This site has a shopping list and a month's worth of menus designed around Aldi's offerings. I'm not sure whether I'm going to try it--at first glance it looks a little more, I don't know, "red-state" than we usually eat--but it's tempting. Sometimes it's nice to be told what to do down to the smallest detail.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


"They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years, and we're not using it anymore."
-- George Carlin

Courtesy of Doonesbury at Slate.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Birthday Party Notes

1. It's over.

2. I have a really really bad, drug-resistant headache.

3. Last weekend I felt bad because I threw away our safety dartboard, although we were down to a single dart. And a few months ago I felt bad because I threw away 2 or 3 remote-control vehicles that people gave not-so-little-R. as gifts when he was WAY too young for them, like 7 or 8 years too young, and they had bent antennas or missing remotes or just generally made me feel like killing myself and were never played with. And then yesterday NSLR received a magnetic dartboard and an RC stunt car for his birthday and I decided I am never feeling guilty for throwing something away again. I am going to throw away a ton of things.

Monday, October 10, 2005


I really hate making phone calls, and tonight I have to call the [many] people who have not RSVP'd for not-so-little R.'s birthday party on Wednesday. I especially hate making phone calls when I am already sort of peeved at the people I'm calling (and curiously, this is very often the case...hmmm). No matter how hard I try, I keep having little fantasies in which, instead of saying "Hildegarde? I'm calling because I'm concerned that Siegfried may not have gotten the invitation to R.'s party..." I say "Hildegarde? What the hell is wrong with you?"

The situation is not helped by people who respond with blatant lies ("Oh, it didn't say RSVP." That one left me actually speechless for a moment.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Not-so-little R. wants to be Indiana Jones for Halloween, a costume choice I heartily approve.

I thought it would be easy to find a fedora hat and find (or make) a bullwhip, but I'll admit I was a little concerned about the leather jacket.

So I went to the thrift store looking for the hat today and found (drumroll) an awesome leather jacket in NSLR's size! It's even somewhat worn around the corners, as Indy's would naturally be.

This doesn't mean I won't be able to find a hat, right? Right?

Fair Warning--Kid Anecdote

I do try to limit them...

Before we leave for preschool, M. and I both use the bathroom.

M: Now our bwadders are empty!
MV: ...yes.
M: What is a bwadder?
MV: Well, it's kind of like a balloon inside your tummy, full of wee-wee.
M: (gently) Except when it's not full.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

New Media, Mixed Feelings

Yesterday the special edition DVD of Disney's "Cinderella" was released. My mother wanted to know if she should get it for M. for Christmas. I said sure, but wistfully:

Sixteen years ago my boyfriend--well, he wasn't my boyfriend at the time, but he soon would be--gave me the VHS of "Cinderella" for Christmas. It was partly that gift that let me know he would soon be my boyfriend. At the time, that was more than one might be expected to spend on a platonic friend. (As I recall, I gave him the soundtrack of "The Little Mermaid" on cassette. Yes, we were hiding from adulthood, and yes, he is now out of the closet. Irrelevant to this story.) But more than the price aspect, the fact that he picked that movie suggested that he understood me, not only knowing it was my favorite Disney movie, but that "Cinderella" is my personal iconic fairy tale. (I have small feet and like surprising people with my heretofore unnoticed qualities.)

Two years later, I was full of angry and bridge-burning feelings, but somehow this tape survived the purges. I kept it, and all three of my children have watched it countless times. The box is yellowed and brittle.

I feel very funny about getting rid of it.