September 27, 2013

Fathers, daughters and goldfish

I've been awake since four o'clock puzzling over what scintillating anecdote to relate today. My sister tells me it had better be funny because she needs a laugh. But at four in the morning I don't know how amusing I can manage to be.

However, in an effort to make Chris laugh, I will relate the story of my Dad and the goldfish.

My Dad was a wonderful man. He was very British; stiff upper lip, duty and honor in all things. He was raised by a widow who was just a bit nuts. When she was seventeen she ran off to Canada with the black sheep of the Clover family. (Here my sister, Heather, who has finished our family history will tell me I've got the timing all wrong, and I probably do, but you get the gist - young woman elopes with older man who can't get his act together.)

After my grandfather died when Daddy was very little, they moved around a lot. I believe Dad told me he had been to something like twenty schools in twelve years. He had one older brother, Bob, who was by all accounts an absolute terror. Dad himself was always the reliable one, the boy who got good grades, worked hard, and took things seriously.

He could be quite strict and unbending. I remember some royal battles he had with my brother over hair length and with me over skirt length. We had to eat everything on our plates or we sat at the table until we did. If we misbehaved at dinner, we were sent to the kitchen to finish. He had some pretty strict standards we were supposed to live up to.

But at heart my dad was a gentle pushover. He loved his wife, he loved his kids. He loved his pets.

We had many pets over the years. A lot of cats, a number of dogs, a rabbit named Eugene, a wild mockingbird who seemed to adopt us for a summer. And we had a goldfish. It was an ordinary fish, gold in color, kept in a bowl just like a million other goldfish. I don't remember it having a name.

For some reason Dad took care of the dumb thing. He would put the fish bowl in the kitchen sink and dribble cool water into it instead of just dumping the water and adding new. Sadly, the sink had an old single handle faucet with a mind of its own.

One Saturday, he did this maneuver in the usual way and left the bowl filling while he busied himself elsewhere. Unfortunately, this was the day the faucet took it into its head to slowly shift to HOT. I noticed too late. The little fish was a goner, boiled in his own bowl.

I told my mother who immediately said, "We can't tell your father." This was a constant refrain during my teenage years. He had an ulcer that might act up. But, really, I think my mother just didn't want to hear it. So she and I decided that I should run out to the store and get a new fish. We'd replace it and he'd never know he had whacked the little fishy.

I brought home the only goldfish I could find - a white one! We put it in the bowl and hoped he just wouldn't notice. But he did. And he was amazed. He excitedly called my mother and me into the kitchen to see this fish who had changed color! "Have you ever seen such a thing!" and "I can't believe it. This is amazing!"

My mother and I had to lock ourselves in the bathroom because we were laughing so hard. We never told him about the switch. And to this day I have no idea if my father really believed that fish had changed color. I like to think he did. I like to think he witnessed a miracle.

September 19, 2013

Volleyball and bootleg jeans

My mind is a bit blank today. This is, unfortunately, not a novel occurrence, but it is decidedly unhelpful when I'm trying to write my blog. Inspiration, where art thou?

Ah, just a minute, the Coldwater Creek catalog seems to be calling my name. This may be just what I need.

Nope. Other than causing me to ponder whether I would like to get the mini-bootcut or the classic straight leg jeans with my $25 off any purchase coupon, I'm no closer to finding a topic for today.

Perhaps just a few random thoughts. There is always the chance an idea will sprout.

Saturday went well. The Writers' Conference was a success. I learned a lot about the business. I'm still rubbish at mingling, but I did manage to meet some lovely people and make a new friend or two.

I also stayed in a hotel room alone for the first time in my life. Years ago, when my husband traveled for work he would tell me he just hated going back to his lonely hotel room. At that time with two kids, cats, dinner to fix and laundry to do I thought he was crazy. An evening alone after someone else served me dinner sounded a lot like heaven.

And years ago, it probably would have been heavenly. But now it was just a little lonely. Not only that, as soon as I got into the big, comfy bed and switched on the remote, my legs started cramping. And they continued cramping throughout the night. I may have to give up heels for good. Anyway, I finally gave up about 6 a.m. and just went home.

Monday, I went to see my great-nieces play an away volleyball game at the school where my son teaches. Hearing the little freshman girls say, "Hi Mr. Petersen," is a hoot. And I was totally impressed that he knew all of their names.

I now know more about volleyball than I did previously. Which is to say that I now know something about volleyball. First, high school gyms are incredibly loud! Second, double-tapping the ball is a big no-no. But how the official (I now know that's what the term for the official is) determines that the ball has been double-tapped, I could not figure out. Supposedly, he can hear it. But in that gym I don't know how.

On the way home I stopped at K-Mart in search of peanut brittle for my husband. I was walking through the parking lot when a woman who was backing out, saw me, stopped, and waved me on. For a fleeting moment as I trotted past her car I suddenly wondered if this was a set up. Was she going to hit the gas, mow me down and laugh hysterically? Of course she did no such thing. She just waited until I was safely out of the way, the proceeded to back out just like a normal person. Does anyone else in the world think of these weird scenarios or is this just the mystery writer in me?

Speaking of mystery writing, I'd really better knock off the random thoughts and get to work. Amazingly an idea has sprouted.  I think my next scene may well be a woman, driven to insanity by the sound of incessant double-tapping, laughing hysterically alone in her hotel room shortly after she's mowed down her daughter's teacher outside the gymnasium. Or maybe should that be K-Mart?

September 11, 2013

Ms. Magoo goes to a Writers Conference

I will be attending my very first Writers Conference this weekend. I am excited and really looking forward to it.

At the same time I am a bit nervous. I am hoping that I will not do or say something incredibly stupid. I would very much like to appear confident, poised, and professional. And though I'm hoping, I am not particularly hopeful.

You see, I have never been, or at least have never felt, confident or poised. I tend to trip over my own feet. When someone runs into me, I apologize. I am hopeless at small talk and have absolutely no idea how to go about promoting myself or my book.

And, much as I hate to admit it, getting older has just made things worse. My memory which was never great is now abysmal. My 'noun aphasia' is getting out of hand. For instance, I'm a docent at the beautiful Riversdale Mansion. Much too often lately I have found myself standing in a room, the salon perhaps, staring blankly at my little group of visitors, having totally forgotten the term for the cornice I am pointing at. You can only claim senior moments so many times before they want their money back.

My memory for simple nouns has gotten so bad that my husband feels like he is playing an interminable game of charades. This afternoon I was attempting to draw his attention to the cooler. The best I could do was keep repeating, "you know - the red thing" and making a rectangle in the air with my hands. I am sorry to say he is not amused by this.

Another thing that is getting worse by the minute is my sight. I had Lasik surgery about fifteen years ago and for quite a while my vision was wonderful. Not so much now. I smile and wave at old friends, only to find out that they are actually total strangers. I squint a lot. I see things that aren't there. I wear my cheaters on a chain around my neck, a thing I swore I'd NEVER do. I've become Mr. Magoo's twin sister!

It's very sad, really. The other day I sharpened an eyebrow pencil. The sharpener wasn't working and upon investigation I discovered that my 'pencil' was not actually a wooden pencil. It was plastic. When I bought it I could have sworn it was a wooden pencil. It certainly looked like one. Of course, this one may not be a vision problem, so much as simple idiocy.

Whichever, I really am looking forward to the Saturday. Lord willing, I will remember my name and, possibly, even the name of my book. I will smile at strangers because they may or may not be old friends. When I trip I will just laugh endearingly. When I meet Jeffrey Deaver, I intend to be sophisticated and interesting right up to the minute I spill my drink on him. All in all, it should be a grand experience. Perhaps I will see you there - whether you attend or not!

September 3, 2013

All the News That's Fit to Print

I continually make the mistake of reading the entire newspaper. And it's just depressing. Why I don't stick to the comics and the Style section I really don't understand.

But every morning I get up, turn on the electric kettle (best invention in the world), feed the cats, make my tea, then sit down and read the Washington Post. I guess I'm hoping for something good to happen. It seems it rarely does.

I don't count sports. Although I enjoy a baseball game, I don't follow baseball. And not being a football fan, the exploits of the Redskins on the front page simply irritates me. I do not rejoice with the team.

I read the obituaries. My mother always read them and I like to keep tradition going. Of course, it is heartening not to be among the chosen few, so I guess that's a good thing. On the other hand, many of those chosen few are my age or younger and that's fairly demoralizing.

World news veers from tragic to horrifying to terrifying. Pictures of dead bodies lined up in a row, articles about chemical weapons, riots, uprisings, drones, earthquakes and tsunamis, the economy, and, for comic relief, the ever-present political shenanigans that Washington thrives on. I mean you've got to ask yourself, when Anthony Weiner's wiener is front page news have we strayed just a bit too far from the path of sanity.

Local news is a series of fatal car crashes, plane crashes, the trial of the month, inappropriate teacher/student interaction (euphemisms are wonderful, aren't they?), inappropriate pastor/child interaction, inappropriate politician/big donor interaction. There is a lot of interaction going on and none of it's good!

The health and science section isn't too bad, a lot of interesting facts. I now know that there is a fish that walks on land. The main disease story is usually sort of an upper where some poor sap finally finds a cure. Of course, it comes after years of needless suffering, but it is a cure.

So why don't I stick to who George Clooney is dating, where Michelle Obama had dinner, and what advice Carolyn Hax has for Anonymous in Maryland? I wish I knew. It's a mystery. Perhaps I'll find the answer in tomorrow's Post.