24 September 2007

26 Candles

Happy birthday, Frenchy! We're only two years apart again now! I hope the 26th will be a good one for you.

21 September 2007

Smudged Porcelain

I have often talked, self-deprecatingly, about my habit of cleaning the bathroom before anyone comes over. It is a remnant of my mother (although she is most certainly not dead, at least not last week when I talked to her), a vestige of her influence, a tidbit of training. I simply cannot have guests over, even for ten minutes, knowing that my bathroom is not sparkly and lemon-scented.

My mom would make me clean each bathroom in the house (yes, even the basement one) whenever we were having guests. Guests, in her mind, included anyone who did not have a bedroom in said house. This meant that each time my grandmother or great-aunt came over, I would be dispatched to the loo bearing a bucket of Soft Scrub.*

(* It has just occurred to me that in addition to being a good hostess and showing guests that she keeps a clean house, this might have also been a symptom of proving herself to her mother. I emphatically sympathize.)

And so I find myself doing the same. There is a small voice over my shoulder, that says "But they will notice, and they will judge!" When I have people over, even if I know there's no possible chance they will have to use the bathroom, out comes the sponge. I can clean a toilet, sink and mirror in six minutes, and a tub in another eight. Practice, baby, practice.

I have guests over this weekend, friends of mine from a former life. I know perfectly well that they will not think less of me for having smudged porcelain, but nevertheless I was up at midnight last night, scouring and wiping and polishing. As I did so, I thought about my mom, about the profound influence she has had on my actions. I decided to start an early Mothers Day gift, a list of ways that she has changed me and things she has taught me.

1. Cleaning the bathroom when guests come. Must be done. No exceptions.
2. Tea is infinitely superior to coffee. (nb: Well, sometimes. Dad's influence is in there, too.)
3. A balanced meal consists of a protein, a vegetable and a starch. No more is necessary, and no less is acceptable. You may not have two starches; that is carbohydrate overload.
4. It is possible, and desirable, to use wrapping paper more than nine times. Gift boxes may be used infinitely.
5. Clothes should fit, and can be altered to fit. Although I draw the line at having skirts sit at my natural waist.
6. There is a right way to load the drying rack/dishwasher, and a wrong way. Mine is the the correct one.
7. You can always add more water to the orange juice concentrate to get a couple extra glasses out of the can.
8. I can fit three weeks' worth of clothing into a weekend bag, and I can do it in four and a half minutes. (I'm rather proud of this fact.)

Okay, the mother in question just IM'ed me. Tootles!

12 September 2007

Pike County

When we were little, we had an agreement in our house: on the hour-long trip to the lake house on Friday nights, we'd listen to "kid" songs, and on the Sunday return trip we'd listen to "parent" songs. I usually hollered loudest for the Wee Sing America tapes, and I'd close my eyes and belt out the words that transported me to Cape Cod ("Cape Cod girls they have no pins, heave-a-way, heave-a-way, they pin their gowns with codfish fins"), to the railways ("all the live-long day") or to the very foundations of my country (those ubiquitous spacious skies and amber waves of grain). Even back then the lure of time and space travel had gotten to me.

I prided myself on always being able to memorize the lyrics, even for songs with dozens of verses. I oculd always spit out the correct words to the tongue-twister songs, when my sisters got tripped up on the one about mules having two legs behind.

So it has been that much more distressing to me that for the past two weeks I've had the refrain and part of the verses from Sweet Betsy from Pike traveling through my head. Except that I only remember the first half of one verse and the second half of another verse (and the rhyming parody that we made up to the same tune, Sweet Nancy from Zike). And even after having caught myself humming "too ray lie ooh ray lie ohh ray lie ay" more times than I care to admit, I still couldn't put together the missing chunks. So today I gave up and googled Betsy.

The Wee Sing people must have figured that their target audience was short of RAM, because out of about a zillion verses to the original folk tune, only three made it into the Wee Sing America book (pictured here is a more recent edition than the old-school blue-bordered one we had). In addition, they were hedging their bets on the fact that the eighties were clearly a more innocent time, since the words that I remember have her crossing the wide prairies with her husband Ike.

Well, go have a look at those words and come back here. That whore Betsy left for California before she got married, traveled across the country with her lover, played with guns, drank whiskey and made a habit of mooning people. What a slut!