Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Real June Cleaver

My friend Susan's mother passed away a couple weeks ago. I find it ironic that Mrs. L died just one week after the passing of Barbara Billingsly the iconic June Cleaver. Mrs. L was the real-life June Cleaver.

I have very fond memories of time spent in Mrs. L's house as a teenager. Susan and I were best friends from our early teens through our 20's. I loved being at Susan's house as much to be around her mother as to hang out with Susan.

I don't mean this as a slight to my own mother, but ours was a different family. I had responsibility and chores to do from an early age. They were good to me, gave me all the love and attention I needed but I did not get the type of attention that Susan and her brother got. The same attention I received when I stayed there. Mrs. L was always a stay at home mom. My mother worked part time in my earliest years and then full time from my fifth grade on.

Lots of the things Mrs. L did for her kids, and me when I was there, weren't the types of things that necessarily help children learn responsibilities, but her philosophy was that there was time for that. She was the kind of mother who cut the crusts off your peanut butter sandwich, picked up your wet towels from the bathroom floor without complaint, and brushed Susan's hair long after it was necessary. She just made life in general easy. Staying with Susan was a little escape for me.

I don't look back on the responsibilities put on me at an early age negatively. It was good because it made me self sufficient early and able to take care of myself, to know the real world long before many of my friends. I was married and on my own at 19, and I was more than capable.

I have so many memories of Mrs. L. I remember the glass jar of milk that was part of the lunch brought to Susan and me when we were painting the classroom for the Kindergarten class we taught in Sunday School. She put a piece of plastic wrap (we called it all Saran Wrap then) between the glass and the metal cover to avoid leaking. I still do that to this day, and it still works.

I remember in Mrs. L's closet that her shoes were still in their original boxes with a description written on the end. That was the first time I ever saw that, and I do it in my own closet today.

She was older than most mothers of the 50's when her kids were born. Mr. L was in the service during the early years of their marriage and they put off having children his discharge. She was a very pretty lady who always wore her hair in an upsweep. She went to the hairdressers weekly and slept on a silk pillow case to keep it in place between appointments. Her hair must have been long although I never saw it down.

She always wore dresses and had a beautiful smile which she wore most of the time. Although I do remember occsional exasperated moments of "Oh, Susan!" I never remember my parents taking me to Susan's. Her mother would usually drive over to my house to pick me up. She would take us to basketball games and wait for us in the car.

We were always called to meals already on the table. We never helped in prep or clean up. All this probably sounds like her children were spoiled, which I suppose they were, but it was her way of life, that's what many mothers of the 50's did. It was like a vacation for me because my mean parents made me pick up the table and wash the dishes. Certainly not slave labor but at 12 it felt like it.

The L's had a beach house which was an even better place to visit. All that pampering AND a nearby beach. It doesn't get much better than that.

It was at that beach house that Mrs. L passed away after 70 years of pampering her family. At the end Susan and her brother got to repay some of that care. But given a choice, I'm sure Mrs. L would have been happy bustling around her kitchen in her apron putting her meatloaf, green beans and baked potatoes on the table for her family.

Rest in peace Mrs. L, you were a special lady.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wah, Wah, Wah

Seems like all I do here lately is rant. Here's another. You've been warned. You still have time to leave.

I am very slow to make changes around the house. First of all I don't really like to spend large sums of money unless it's on travel or jewelry. When it comes to that, I can rationalize anything. Paul, not so much. He doesn't like to spend money on anything.

As for the house, I am never quite sure what I want and I also hate living under construction, no matter how minor. Not that we haven't done some major renovations over the nearly 25 years here. We finished the lower level years ago and it still looks great. We replaced the kitchen and one bath. The roof is new, as is the deck and we painted the outside a few years ago. Sounds like I'm writing an ad for one of my listings.

As a real estate agent I see lots of nice houses. You would think that would encourage me to keep my own house updated. Not really. First there's the money, secondly I don't trust my own decisions. When it comes to choosing paint, furniture, etc., I'm always second guessing myself. I like it now but will I still like it next week, next month, next year? Trust me, if it goes up, it'll be there for a while.

Recently we had all of our windows replaced which meant most of the woodwork throughout the house needed to be painted. We have/had a great guy who has done all the painting and papering in our house; all of it. Unfortunately for us, Gerry has left the business and gone into another. I figured this might be the time for me to learn to paint.

Gerry does a fabulous job, no one is better. So I decided to ask him for information about how to prep and paint the dark wood that is everywhere in this house built in the 1980's. Gerry gave me step-by-step detailed instructions right down to the number of sheets of the different grit sandpaper to buy. I told him he should be teaching this.

As I was going along, whenever I ran into a point where I wasn't sure how to do something, I kept asking myself WWGD? As in What Would Gerry Do? Paul got pretty tired of me replying...."Gerry said...." whenver he offered an opinion. I have been going along very slowly and it looks great.

Our living room furniture should have been replaced five years ago. I won't go into the details of its condition because it's too embarassing but it was bad enough that one day recently Paul came home to find it on the front lawn on it's way to the street. That was the only way I could be sure I would get out and buy new.

That's generally how I get started on projects. One afternoon Paul took a nap in the den and woke up to find the shower doors on the deck. Another time he heard me yelling for help and came in to find me struggling to keep a row of kitchen cabinets up. I thought I had all the screws out of the wall and ceiling. Nope, there was one I missed and I couldn't get to it and hold the cabinets up. So anyway he knew what it had in mind when he saw the furniture on the lawn. Now I have mentioned that I really don't care to shop, furniture shopping being my least favorite. But since they won't bring the samples here I have to go there.

After a bit of looking around we found a sofa, love seat and chair that we really like. I know, very imaginative seating. Anyway, we liked the fabric on the samples in the showroom which they had in the warehouse and could deliver in two days but nooooo I had to have a coordinating fabric on the chair.

After a little time looking at fabric samples, we settled on one. The chair would take 4-6 weeks which was okay because we have other things to do. All set! Just some more paint, area rug, lamps and tables to find later. I had such a feeling of accomplishment when we left that store. In the meantime, we did find a rug and painted the walls. About three weeks ago I got a call from the store. So sorry but that fabric is no longer available. Please come in and choose another.

I wasn't happy but there was another I liked so I went back and got that arranged. Another 4-6 weeks to wait. Okay, we still have some things we can do. I'll be patient.

You guessed it. The sales person called last night to tell me that she had made an error and that fabric was for pillows only and couldn't be made into a chair. I really don't understand that but I don't care about the why, I'm just pissed that I have to make another trip there, for the third time, and choose a fabric I didn't really want in the first place and wait another 4-6 weeks.

I told her I would probably cancel the whole order, and she said she understood. I won't but at the moment I was considering it. I did tell her that if we find a third fabric which will now be okay rather than what I really wanted, I would be looking for some 'consideration' on the pricing. Oh yes, I understand. Maybe we can give you a gift certification towards a future purchase. Are you kidding?! Like I'm ever going to buy anything there again? No, I said, you can take some money off this purchase. That remains to be seen, of course.

So now this afternoon we are planning another trip back and I have a feeling I'm not going to be as pleasant as I was the other TWO times I had to do this.

If you are still with me, I'm sorry about the wah, wah, wah. But I bet you've been there, done that. Ain't service and quality control just a real treat now?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Um, Like, I mean, Like Um, Ya Know Like, I mean

Recently I've had several conversations with a woman who says I mean at least three times in any sentence. In between I mean she sprinkles Um, Like and then, of course, Um Like. I know that some teenagers tend to use like and you know a little too often but this woman is 50-some years old.

Conversing with her is downright painful. I want to scream Get to the point! She's a business associate so she's not someone I can take aside and gently suggest she not speak until she has her thoughts more composed.

I don't sound like William F. Buckley but I have worked on my speech for many years. I am a born and bred New Englander, specifically Rhode Island. There are several different accents to be found in this one little state of only one million people. Most are not very pleasant to listen to and often ridiculed, usually by the rest of us.

I have tried to 'neutralize' my accent. I focus on pronouncing the G's in words ending in i-n-g. I try to put my R's where they belong and keep them out where they don't belong. My favorite example of both is Columbee-er Rivuh. Seriously, that's how many RhoDyLanduhs say Columbia River. I could go on and on with examples of some of the funny ways we talk but you would think I'm being unkind; probably funny but unkind.

While traveling in the U.S., we used to say that we're from Rhode Island, now we just say New England. I got tired of being asked "Isn't that an island off New York?" No, you geographically-challenged dumbbell, that's Long Island.

In my real estate business I often meet relocation clients; people who come from all over the United States and abroad. Eventually the conversation comes around to where I'm from. Usually when I say I'm a native Rhode Islander I hear "You don't sound like you come from Rhode Island." I usually say, thank you, thank you, I have worked to NOT sound like a Rhode Islander.

I used to have a friend who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, whose accent I found kind of cool. He knew I had worked on my 'accent' but every once in a while, usually when I was in a rant and got 'tawking' fast he would start to laugh. "What are you laughing at?" "You sound like you're from Rhode Island!"

Well, um, ya' know, like sometimes I just can't like help it.

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