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Been volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps in Virginia for a month or so and I have developed a specialty in parking lot management. Until I’m fully vaccinated I’m happier working outside anyway and it has been an upper seeing happy and relieved folks getting to this momentous moment. I chastised one of my least favorite state senators for his misbehavior on my asphalt (oh it was his ass’s fault!), so that was a worthy cause, too. Might as well fiddle with language in between cars and clipboards. Herewith, a few haiku that have zilch to do with nature, so don’t @ me bout that!

I’M IN CHARGE HERE

Symphony of cars

without the crashing cymbals

if I am lucky

TITLE TYPES

No need to be called

Clipboard Technician–I wipe

lots of stupid things

ADULTS ASK THE DARNEDEST THINGS WHEN YOU WEAR A YELLOW JACKET

So many questions–

I’m the parking lot guru

not Dr. Fauci

It’s common enough to say there are no words upon hearing of someone’s death. It’s understandable–touching even. But it can’t be said about Maurice Sendak’s passing. There are words, so many and so wonderful. And there are pictures and because of his collaboration with Carole King on Really Rosie! there is music. So thankful for all of it.  Good ole Max. I stole this poster from Where the Wild Things Are from my younger sister, Kate thirty-some years ago so I could take it to college and be cool. You see the problem and it wasn’t theft. See the drip of yellow paint and the evidence of its folds. It was something she’d ordered at school from a book club, and since she hadn’t put it up anywhere, I took it with me.   I knew my first college roommate and I weren’t suited for long when she told me she didn’t like the poster because it gave her nightmares.

Over the years in many apartments and houses it’s had a place of honor in living, dining, and family rooms, hallways, even a bathroom once in Worcester and most recently over a piano. With some recent remodeling it wound up leaning in my office. I found the right place for it today, just outside my bedroom. I could recite Where the Wild Things Are and The Nutshell Library from heart. I even used to read Where the Wild Things Are backwards for some reason. It still works. There are no words on this poster. But the words and memories it conjures up are indelible. And my smile is irrepressible.

I have thought more about high school basketball this past week than I did when I played it in high school. Not exactly true, because I’m not really thinking about it so much as thinking, “I used to play basketball. That was a long time ago.”  I don’t really remember much about it other than awful uniforms, long bus rides, and wanting to play but being scared to play at the same time. I don’t have clear memories of this game or that–just vague bits of raucous gyms and silly cheers. I’ve always loved the smell of the gym and the feel of a basketball and the sound of it hitting the floor. Jump shot motions and follow-through and ballhandling drills have stuck with me more than makes sense. It does make we want to get out on a court….

When I first coached basketball, I was 21, fresh out of college and teaching English at an all-boys, Catholic independent school outside of Boston, St. Sebastian’s, C.D.S. It was unusual for a female to coach boys back in the early 80’s, but it didn’t faze me. It didn’t take much to impress those boys–a female making a shot was more than they could comprehend. When I scrimmaged with them, they were terrified to come near me, so I was a star rebounder for the only time in my life. I was an assistant coach and the head coach was completely ignorant of basketball–he taught religion–he might have been completely ignorant of that, too. I remember being in an opposing team’s gym, down by many points. At a time-out, unnamed head coach gathered us round and told the hapless and frustrated boys, “Take the ball down the court and shoot!” Words to not win by.

When I coached girls bball 10 years ago or so, I finally found my stride. Every once in a while I needed to jump in and scrimmage or demonstrate something that when I played in high school or college I probably wasn’t that skilled at. But here, with 30 years on these timid, unathletic girls, I was finally a player. So that was all it took for me to be decent. Beat up on people 30 years my junior. Good times.

Actually, as a coach I’m equally interested in cracking jokes as teaching skills. Too bad I’m not coaching now to impart these morsels to hungry minds: There is no I in team. But there is a me, and those are my initials. And also worth noting–team spelled backwards is meat. Yes, it is true I was an English major. Comes in handy, on the court and off.

Who knew that I would ever have to contemplate what to wear to a hall of fame induction? It’s not sensible (except from a fundraising point of view though they’ve misjudged me in that regard) for me to be inducted into my high school’s athletic hall of fame though that is what happened on Friday. I was one of dozens of women who decades ago were part of the Academy of the Holy Cross Varsity basketball teams from several seasons that were coached by beloved and no longer with us Bill Sheahan. Once we started winning, the team didn’t stop–for 6 years. I, of course, played the smallest role possible in this era. I didn’t lose a game for the team. Sitting on the bench most of my junior year and deciding not to play at all my senior year adds up to a hall of fame career. Well-played! Except I’ve known for oh, about 32 years that it was one of the dumbest things I ever did not to play on the team my senior year so I missed being a part of the season the team broke the Washington D. C. area high school record of 55 consecutive victories and kept on going over the years to 115 or some such. That adds up to a lot of people at a lot of schools hating good ole AHC. It is pretty cool to be reminded of just how many of the girls who went through the program wound up playing in college–when that wasn’t a halfway regular thing to do. My class had girls go to JMU and UVA on scholarship. Others played at William & Mary and St. Mary’s and University of Richmond. Even I played a year in college though I hated it for reasons that included having 3 different coaches in one season–each worse than the previous one.

Off the bench to hug the nun.

Glory Days ahc

I don’t remember much about the era, other than hanging out in the halls waiting for games or practice to begin and having so much fun cheering the varsity romp when I was on j.v.. Catholic girls can hate opposing teams like no other: sorry bout that Regina, Seton, Immaculate Conception. I’m thinking the Virgin Mary wasn’t our biggest fan. The bus rides to games, singing slightly risque versions of our alma mater. “Holy Cross, we sing to thee, pledging our virginity… Cross and Anchor emblems bright, guiding us to heaven’s light….”  Not sure it’s worked out quite as the sisters planned.

It was odd to be back in the gym the other night for the festivities. Lots of semi-familiar faces and familiar names attached to them. I would have preferred that we play an old-timers game or at least play a game of HORSE. I could take most of those gals now. When I coached middle school and JV girls basketball in my 40’s it was clear to me that I was a late bloomer. I was a player with those kids as long as I had 30 years on them. And it is a sad state of affairs that I was in better shape than too many of those young ones.  Now that I’m 50, I still think I could show those punk kids a thing or two, which is funny since when I was a punk kid I couldn’t do much. It’s unlikely I’ve become a better basketball player in the intervening years. But at least my delusions are in good shape.

no more fast breaks

I would like to discuss traffic. Mostly my happiness at not being stuck in it today. Also how thrilling it was not to be stuck in it on Wednesday even though we left Richmond the morning before Thanksgiving and headed into the belly of the beast that is I-95 North up to Philadelphia for Turkey Day. Not a slow-down worth mentioning. One of the most efficient car trips to Philly ever. Can I talk about it some more? Can I tell you about our last minute decision to take the Harbor Tunnel through Baltimore? It really was something to see. And we didn’t have to pay for one good trip with a bad return trip.

I don’t mean to gloat, but isn’t it better than somebody whining about traffic? I’m sure Twitter is full of that. No need.

This Thanksgiving I was reminded of another one or two or three Thanksgivings I had 30 years ago when I was JYA in Dublin at University College. Our program had a group Thanksgiving for us that we young morons cooked–first time I ever picked feathers out of a bird and did anything to a turnip. Then after a bad play and a better dinner a few of us rushed from St. Stephen’s Green to catch a ferry to Liverpool from whence we took a bus to Durham and met friends of mine from college for their dorm’s version of Thanksgiving. I see squash pie and a dark room that looks like it should be in England because it was and that’s all I got. A winding road to a grocer’s. Maybe a hobbit or ghost or something. Then the next night their program had a more formal Thanksgiving for all the Americans around and we were invited and had our 3rd in a row–the first one with sherry beforehand. I see long tables covered in white tablecloths and more squash pie. It looks more like Hogwarts than it possibly could have been. I’m fairly sure Maggie Smith was nowhere to be found. Something tells me there is no way in hell that I comported myself as someone at a formal dinner at an English university should. I was dressed more for a soccer match I daresay. But that was quite a Thanksgiving trip–hitchhiking from Durham to London where we crashed at some other college friend’s flat, but not before almost losing touch with half of our traveling party and loitering around a posh hotel lobby that was to be our meeting place until it became clear we couldn’t stay there a minute longer. Somehow it all worked out. No idea how. A  fake Brit who was really an ex-pat awful American in a Jaguar had something to do with our trip at some point. And broad smiles at a bus stop in Liverpool on our way to the ferry terminal. The smiles had nothing to do with the guy in the Jag, I swear, unless it was that we’d gotten rid of him. Or perhaps the smiles were merely giddiness at the almost completion of a most successful Thanksgiving trip extravaganza.

 

 

I think I’ll cheat a little and do the expected Father’s Day thing here though since the day is almost over, that’s a nice twist. Just snuck it in. Reminds me of my father saying when I’d call in the evening on his birthday or Father’s Day, “Ok, now I can check you off the list.”

Perhaps a Supercalifragilisticexpealadocious Ride....

It’s also the 57th anniversary of the day my parents were married which is hard to contemplate though let’s be clear I wasn’t born the same decade they were married.

So a tip of the hat to my father, who didn’t have a father even in name only, in a piece I wrote a month after he died suddenly.  I remember distinctly that my pal and editor Susan emailed me wondering where my column for the next issue of RHOME was, 10 days after it should have been turned in. I had completely forgotten. Only time in my life that I blew past a deadline. The shot of adrenaline from being so shocked that I was that out of sorts that I’d missed it and didn’t even know I had missed it made me crank  That One Thing out just in time.

I painted the trim of a couple of windows in my house today. Seems about right.

Until my husband invents windows that close automatically 3 minutes before the birds start chirping, 1 minute before the owl starts shrieking, and 45 seconds before the newspaper guy turns onto our street with his radio blaring at 4:16 a.m., I guess I’ll have to rely on the standard drink a lot of water before bedtime so we wake up to use the bathroom at 4:12 a.m. system to close the windows.

At some point I would think I’d get used to the sounds–and some nights I must sleep through plenty–trains rumbling by and such, especially since I’ve spent many a summer night in a house in Cape May with no air conditioning and much louder distractions–and I’m mostly referring to those outside the walls and porches of the house.  There are the motorcycles who like to rev their engines on our block at 2 in the morning, the beach cleaning machine whose rattle and rumble and bright lights make it look effective even as it pushes the cans and wrappers left behind a layer or two into the sand. Then there are the good time loudmouths who decide the boardwalk or the sidewalk in front of our house is the perfect place to break up, sing songs, scream and shout, and just when that’s over, it’s time for the street-cleaning machine–another public works throwaway–and then on cue the dedicated public servant who empties the parking meters at 5:30 a.m. rolls by. Oops, almost forgot the trash and recycling trucks. People leave very noisy trash in Cape May.

I don’t mean to complain, but hearing the soothing sounds of the waves breaking is harder and harder. There is another, less soothing sound that I miss in Cape May now. For years when I was a lazy punk kid and teenager,  a lifeguard supervisor would tool up and down the beachfront in his official Jeep Cherokee with a megaphone and blare: “It is now 10 a.m. Please remove all bicycles from the promenade.” Over and over again. Back and forth. Eventually when other punk kids didn’t listen, he’d take it up a notch and ad lib. “Hey, you!  Get that bike off the promenade! NOW!” It is hard to be intimidating while saying the word promenade, but somehow this guy managed it.  Only in my cloudy memory did he say “Get your GD bike off the boardwalk you piece of sh-t!” but the intonation was there every time. Public relations, indeed.

 

Before the beach cleaner....

 

Of course, the other funny part is that I often cursed the guy in my head in my bed. Post-10 a.m.

Little known fact that I began working on my ph.D in Dental Anxiety when I was 5 and spent all summer vacation with ju-ju beads (sp?) in my teeth and ju-ju bead liquid sloshing around and out of my mouth during games of hide-and-seek. In the 60’s the tap water from Cape May’s wooden water pipes tasted like moldy seawater with more than a hint of dead fishiness, so imbibing water wasn’t in the cards. The fridge wouldn’t stay cold enough to keep milk from going sour, so  we drank Pepsi and 7up ALL THE TIME. Occasionally I branched out and drank birch beer and chewed on licorice or red candy dollars. The horror.

Not sure what was in all that dye, but the dye in the tablets our dentist’s office gave out, purportedly to show us what part of our teeth we hadn’t brushed sufficiently likely had sugar in it. A vast conspirarcy, no doubt. None of it made me hyperactive (though I was a phenom at running bases back in the day). It just cost me thousands of dollars in dental bills over the years. Crowns are to me what jewelry is to most women. Bling bling.

After all these years I’m still wrestling with my thesis. I just can’t decide which is worse–an expected visit to the dentist or an unexpected one. Expected ones give one too much time to anticipate the anxiety, but the moment (which in my case happen so often they add up to days rather than moments) I’m obliviously chewing gum or an apricot or cashews or a brownie or fill in the blank and in a blink of an eye or the crack of a tooth something doesn’t quite feel right, I am immediately dreading the walk to the bathroom mirror much less the trip to the dentist and the bill in the mail. Though with an unexpected trip to the dentist the prospect of relief (and a funny, really good dentist who isn’t a sadist like my childhood one in Maryland who would fill huge cavities without numbing me up ever and say “Raise your hand when it hurts too much” and I would and he would ignore me and my tears and writhing and drill, baby, drill) balances the annoyance at having to waste so much of my life in a dentist’s chair. I actually like my dentist. And I don’t drink soda. Not sure which is more surprising to me.

In some ways I am much more of a Lenten sort than a Mardi Gras type. Don’t like beads or drunkenness though over-eating and good, foot-stomping music are very much in the realm of things I like. Quiet pleasures and soul-searching are more my style than rollicking zaniness unless we are talking about basketball games and my outlandish humor that will get me in trouble before too long.

Growing up Catholic, I did my share of giving things up for Lent: chocolate, ice cream, plain M & M’s when the larger M & M category seemed like too great of a sacrifice. I would have made a great Canon lawyer. Of course I always found it amusing folks who eat fish on Fridays in the guise of sacrificing–Filet o’ fish at McDonald’s–yes that is suffering–but flounder and shrimp and lobster? Not exactly.

One year in high school I ostensibly gave up sweets for Lent. Obviously, that did not include bite-sized  powdered donuts, so every day I’d come home from school and tuck into the bag of those I kept on top of the fridge. I’m sure Jesus wept. My teeth hurt just thinking about it.

At some point, the idea of doing something for Lent was the approach I took. Too bad I can’t recall what any of those likely not all that honorable things were. My favorite year I gave up baking for Lent–which let me tell you was an enormous sacrifice. I think I excepted myself on my children’s birthdays–no need for them to suffer. Or me either, as it turned out. Think that was the year they both learned their way around this Toll House Square recipe:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream 1/2 cup butter. Add 1/4 cup + 2 TBSP brown sugar and 1/4 cup + 2 TBSP granulated sugar. Beat in 1 egg and 1/2 tsp. Vanilla (but if you have a heavy hand, that works, too). Stir in 1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. baking soda.  Spread in 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips on top of batter. Put in oven for 2 minutes. Take out to swirl chips with a knife and return pan to oven. Bake for 6-8 more minutes. Don’t let cool entirely before you dig in–they are best warm and a little gooey. You are welcome. Remember every Friday in Lent that there is absolutely no meat in Toll House Squares.

I remember being at my older sister’s house years ago and being amazed that her older yet still quite young daughter could make chocolate chip cookies all by herself. Have your cookie and make your kid make it, too. That’s what sold me on having children and getting a microwave.  (The latter makes softening butter a breeze. There might be other uses for both children and microwaves.)  Before that we were long-suffering, having to anticipate our craving for Toll House Squares an hour ahead of time and take the butter out of the fridge to soften before we could make the cookies. Talk about a sacrifice.

It’s the phone number I’ll miss the most.  The house that my parents built for their eight kids and we moved into when I was ten years old won’t be an Egan house much longer and I really can’t muster an emotional response to letting the old gal go.  That house and I never really clicked though of course I had plenty of good times there. Mostly I associate it with having lots of homework to do and dreading oral reports at school and hiding out in the bathroom to avoid doing the dishes.

Anybody home?

But that phone number.  It’s been in our family for decades. We brought it with us from across the creek, from the old sod, from the house I didn’t want to leave for this one only one block away that we’re leaving behind now. 

That phone number has such strong associations. But they’ve changed from a homey and secure vibe to a harried and hurried one. Lately the news was either alarming or there was  trouble with the alarm system–usually a cobweb triggered the thing–and no one within 150 miles to deal with it.  Phones without anyone picking up on the other line are depressing. Houses with phones that don’t ring anymore are, too. So I’m ready to pull the plug–but don’t worry, Mom, not on you! Just on these phones at 622-2056.

I’m back!

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