Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dating shoes

At a family dinner hosted by me last week in my new apartment, my grand niece thought it was great fun to play in my closet. At 3 1/2, a closet full of shoes she had never seen before was irresistible.  I pulled them all off the shelves and left her happily trying on everything from flip flops to my new Supergas. A while later we all laughed when she came dancing into the living room wearing a pair of red heels, then laughed again as she insisted her mom also try them on. "Those are date shoes," someone  remarked.  Hmmm, I thought, yes they are, or I should say, they were supposed to be. I bought them years ago while I was living in Texas. At the time they seemed to me to be the perfect date shoe.  Since I had recently filled out a profile on, I had bought them with high hopes that I would meet someone for whom I would suffer thru the pain of wearing high heels for the first time in forever. As it turned out most of my dates were not the red shoe type, but much, much more casual. And while none of them were particularly memorable, some of them were pretty funny.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the lowlights of my Adventures in Dating After Fifty.

First there was the guy whose online photos showed an attractive man with dark brown hair and smiling eyes.  As it turned out, he was not only (as his profile stated) over 50, it was entirely possible he was over 80. I met him for lunch at a restaurant about 30 miles from me he said was one of his favorite place.  My thought when I walked into the restaurant was how can this be anyone's favorite? It was a seen-better-days place, remodeled in the 40s. He probably went to prom at the restaurant during its heyday. He spent the entire meal talking about himself and the good old days.  I spent much of it wondering if the coal black hair he sported was just a bad dye job or an equally bad hairpiece.

Then there was a very nice man who turned out to be very unemployed and living in a mobile home he had bought on Ebay for $50. He was hoping to get the toilet working soon. I paid for breakfast. He was followed by a man who said he wasn't depressed about losing his job since it now meant he could volunteer full time at his church, and a man who spent most of the evening talking about the ex wife who bled him dry, while checking his cell phone.  As it turned out he, too, was 'between jobs' but refused my offer to pay half because he didn't think women should have to pay for anything. Since he had ordered a glass of wine for me that he was just sure I would love, my inner snarky self wondered if he also thought women shouldn't vote.

The best of the worst, though, was the guy, who on paper was a great match for me.  He loved football, I love football.  He liked to explore out of the way places, me, too.  He once drove 3 hours to see the sunset, I once drove 3 hours for lunch in Solvang. He was 6' tall, I am 5'8", plenty of room for the red heels. He picked me up in a truck that was the same make and model as mine, albeit a different color. Mine was red, his a sedate gray. My first clue that this was not going to go well, was when he had to move a week's worth of stuff off the passenger seat so that I could occupy it. Bear in mind, this guy just drove 50 miles...wasn't there time during that drive to do a little housekeeping? Then I spotted a change of clothes hanging in the back seat. Probably not going to need those, I thought. He asked me if I had a favorite brunch spot. No, but there was one in town I had always wanted to try.  "We'll try that one some other time", he said and he got on the highway and headed West. 65 miles later we pulled into a little Texas town he claimed was a site to see at Christmas time. We were only 5 months too early. We walked around in the hot dust for about 30 minutes, during which time I found out that he thought art was a waste of money, then ate at the lunch counter in the town's Christmas store. He looked around at the decor and said he just didn't get it. Apparently his ex wife, who no doubt bled him dry, loved Christmas and collected those little Dickens themed buildings. He said when they broke up he thought about lining them all up for target practice.  Check, please! "Hey," he said happily as he paid for our sandwiches, "you're a cheap date." Definitely not going to need that change of clothes. The best part?  I don't know what yardstick by which he measured himself, but common sense told me as a 6 footer, I shouldn't have had to look down to meet his eyes.  After an awkward 65 mile drive back to my house, he pulled into the drive, left the truck running and said "Well, you have my number."  Yes, I thought, I really do.

There were other dates during that summer of the promising red shoes, and other guys I met and talked with on the phone or by email.  But I never once had the inclination to trot out the heels. I could have worn them for a dance I was invited to. But the man my age in the online photo I thought was going to be my date turned out to be his son, and when I mentioned that I didn't know how to ball room dance and really didn't think I wanted to learn, he got downright snippy and said I was narrow minded.

After my grand niece had made her mom try on the red heels, she then thrust them at me.  "Ok," she directed, "now run around."  Only for you, little one, only for you.

Friday, August 7, 2015

What's in box number 50?

Moving to a new city always fills me with excitement.  Even if I am just returning to a place where I have already lived, I always think there are endless possibilities.  I freely admit it, I like to move.  I think I would have been a good military person.  Packing up and leaving with little notice holds no fear for me. Finding new places to shop, eat, visit has always been fun. Driving down a road I have never been on just to see what is down there is even more fun and now with Uncle GoogleMaps to guide me, easier than ever before. But nothing is more fun, more exciting than moving into a brand new space.

I go thru stages in my moves. The first stage is when I take possession of my new place, in this case a spacious 1 bedroom in a newer apartment complex with lush landscaping and a great patio. I arrived before my things, in fact it would be almost 2 weeks before they wound their way thru the Pacific Northwest then across the desert to find me waiting for them. I had only what I had been able to pack into my SUV around me and my dog, along with a couple of chairs I had stored with my mom. With very little in it, the apartment seemed huge!  Nothing but empty, albeit nicely painted, walls and roomy closets. I will never fill up this space, I thought, and maybe I don't want to. Maybe I will embrace the minimalist style and live a stripped down life. No big TV, no bookcases that I would have to dust, no dishes beyond 2 plates, 2 coffee cups, 2 spoons, forks and knives, and a stack of brightly colored Solo cups. Just me and my dog living the simple life. I ate sitting on the floor, using an ottoman for a table. Worked sitting on the same ottoman with my computer on a little built-in desk. Drank wine out of an orange plastic cup sitting on a chair on my patio, my feet up on the box my new coffee pot came in. I slept on an inflatable bed in an otherwise empty bedroom with the same coffee pot box dragged in and used as an end table. After about 5 days, any minimalist urges I had died a complete and resounding death and I couldn't wait...COULDN'T WAIT...until my things arrived.  Which, on a happy Thursday last week, they did.

Stage 2. Furniture!  Lovely, loved furniture! My leather chair, my bookcases, my desk and trunk and dresser and buffet and boxes...boxes and boxes and boxes. So many boxes the very nice movers ran out of walls to line them along and started stacking them in the garage. I couldn't wait until the  movers had finished their task and left me alone with all the lovely boxes. Which box should I open first?  Dishes? Clothes? Books? Office? Bathroom? Dining Room? Now I am a careful and meticulous packer.  First I assemble the, paper, little squares of foam material, bubble wrap, paper plates, packing tape, Sharpie, plus a little movable table to set the box on. Then, and only then, do I begin. I am proud to say that with this careful (some might say anal) system in place, in 20 years of moving I have lost exactly one item to breakage...a pink Depression Glass plate that I knew I should have put into another box instead of trying to fit it into the one that was already too full.  Unpacking, however, is a whole other thing. I find it impossible to confine myself to opening just one box at a time. Instead, giddy with delight over see things I hadn't seen in days and DAYS, I attack the boxes with my trusty utility knife, ripping open one after another, taking out one or two items, before moving on to other boxes until I have opened all of the ones on the top layer of boxes. Then it's decision time.  Do I finish unpacking these boxes, putting their contents neatly away, disposing of the packing materials, breaking down the box itself, or...shift those boxes to the side and open up more! My mom came over to help on Saturday, took one look at the chaos, sat down in my rocking chair and declared "I think I'll just sit and watch for awhile."

Stage 3. I finally settle down with the willy-nilly slitting of boxtops and begin to slowly but thoughtfully put away each and every piece I unwrap. Plates here, glasses there, my purses on this shelf, my jewelry making supplies on another, candles and books and chachkies and silverware all find happy new homes. I place furniture around the rooms and the previously enormous spaces fill up quickly.  I hang art work and photographs and it begins to take shape as not just another nice apartment but as my home. During this phase there is a sharp decline in my desire to open any more boxes which leads directly to:

Stage 4. I am done. There can't possibly be anything left in those still taped up boxes in my garage that I could possibly need and really, can't I just buy anything I am missing?  I refuse to believe that I could have 3 more boxes that say 'Bathroom', it's not like my previous bathroom was the size of Minnesota. Ditto the box that says 'Office'. I have been working in my office since two days after I moved here and I am quite confidant that I have all the things I need to continue to do so.

So I will leave the boxes for awhile.  I'll put away the box of tools and the utility knife, stack the now flat empty boxes neatly in the garage beside their still-filled sisters (including one that says "everything else"...I'm saving that one because I am pretty sure it was from a previous move and remained unopened in my closet for at least 4 years) and see how it goes.  I know just what will happen. I have been here before. I will wake up in the middle of the night wondering where that thing is that I always had there, go out to the garage and starting ripping thru the boxes, desperate to find that thing.  Maybe I'll invite my mom over so she can sit and watch.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My life sounds a little boring in comparison

Like many people of their generation, my mom and dad didn't talk much about their early lives.  Both of them were children during the Great Depression and understandably those were not years to look back on with much affection.  The few stories my mom has told over the years have served to highlight how drastically different the lives my brother and I led in the 50s and 60s.  We were firmly rooted in the growing middle class, with all the hard earned luxuries afforded that group. A new car every couple of years, a home with bedrooms of our own and a fenced yard, a huge monstrosity of a TV in the living room and a cute little portable phonograph that my mom would sometimes let us play records on. Compared to the stories my mom has of her parents and grandparents, my life seems downright boring.  No romantic elopements, no illegal moonshine stills, no armed-to-the-teeth family feuds,..and certainly nothing like the story of how my 5'2", 100lb grandmother foiled a kidnapping plot.

In the late 30s my grandfather had taken a job at Joliet State Penitentiary and quickly rose in the ranks to become Captain of the Guards, then Assistant Warden. In that capacity he was in charge of the 2500acre Honor Farm where prison inmates raised cattle and hogs along with vegetables for the entire State of Illinois. There were 125 inmates who had earned the right to live and work on the Farm. In the 40s my grandparents and the remaining children at home moved onto a 20acre property owned by the prison, located about 3 miles outside the prison gates, but within the boundaries of the Honor Farm. In my mom's words: "We were assigned one houseman and as many workers as needed weekly. They painted the inside of our house every 3 months and the outside every 6 months. They did the yard work and took care of the garden, processing all of the food grown in the garden, canning or freezing it for later use. They cleaned the house, did repairs, built shelves and helped with the cooking. We could leave our shoes in the halls just outside our bedrooms and after school would find them polished and returned to our closets." For kids who could vividly remember how little food there had been just a few years before, this seemed like heaven to them. There were uniformed guards on horseback who patrolled the Farm and who would supervise the team of workers each morning as they made their way to my grandparents' house and then back to the Honor Farm barracks in the evening. Mom said she and her brothers and sisters were all on first name basis with the men who worked in and around their house and even though they knew they were in prison for a reason, she said they rarely thought of that and considered some of them friends.  All of that changed in the late 40s.

By 1948, there were only 2 children remaining at home, one of them just a baby. Here, in my mom's words, is the story of the fateful day of the aborted kidnapping.

"One day, our houseman named Wash went on a rampage and almost succeeded in taking my mother hostage.  My baby sister was asleep in her crib and my mom knew she had to keep him occupied until help came. She fought with him, ending up with bruises all over her body.  He was about 6'2" and weighed over 200 lbs, but my mom managed to slip out of his grasp time and time again, climbing over beds and running from room to room avoiding at all costs my sister's bedroom.  Her screams caught the attention of one of the horse mounted patrol officers, who radioed the State Police, then charged into the house.  Wash was captured and taken back to the main prison. They found several large slivers of glass pane with handles made of wrapped cotton and tape in our linen closets and the basement, along with several homemade knives. Three other inmates were in on the hostage taking with the idea of exchanging the wife of the Assistant Warden for their freedom. Mother had to testify before the parole board and Wash was given 4 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole."

Now you would think that with that experience fresh in her memory, my grandmother would have insisted that they move to a house far, far away from all things prison.  Nope, not my grandmother!  She was certain it was a one time thing and the likelihood of something awful happening again was very small. She was right.  She and my grandfather and my two aunts lived on the Farm until my grandfather's untimely death at the age of 47 at which time my grandmother, who had never worked outside the home a day of her life, suddenly found herself a young widow with two small children for whom she would have to provide. How she managed to not only provide for them, but become comfortably well off is an amazing story in and of itself and involved Tupperware.

Amazing woman, my grandmother.  Although I didn't know her well, she passed in the early 70s, I am proud that the blood of such a courageous woman runs thru my veins.  Sometimes at night, when I am alone in the house and I hear a scary sound and am just sure I am about to be murdered in my bed (I might read too many murder mysteries), I think of my grandmother and the courage it took to keep her wits about her as she faced down a convicted felon. And that thought drives me out of my bed to grab my faithful Louisville Slugger and confront whatever is lurking in the halls...which usually turns out to be my deaf dog getting a late night drink of water. So I pet my dog, put away the Slugger, and imagine I hear my grandmother saying "Not bad, granddaughter, not bad at all."