My mother’s main rule, as we left the nest, was that we were required to call her on Sundays. I believe she phrased it “because all good children call their mothers on Sundays.” Now that I’ve moved back to the Dirty South and am, therefore, the best child she’s got, I decided to turn it on its head — and make her guest post each Sunday. A brilliant plan, I know. Thank you.
You’ve read about her. You know her. And now? Read the words directly from Jane herself!
Time: 5/7/13 9:38 PM EST
Subject: bugs: a comedy (or “I am also a bedroom liability”)
1. in a dream last night, i had to grab something before it fell and then awoke abruptly when a nalgene full of water became poured on myself by my left hand. it’s fine — i threw the sheets in the dryer and a towel on the damp carpet.
2. however! upon removing the damp sheets, i discovered we have not one, not two, but THREE separate mattress pads on the bed. after they were dry this AM and i went to put everything back on the bed, i figured, eh, whatevs, i’ll just put all three back on.
3. however again! the third and oldest/worn-est of the three pads had some dead bug carcasses in it. probably too big for bed bugs, and no eggs, but i went ahead and threw it out. this might explain the weird maybe bug thing from a few months ago.
4. related only by virtue of classification in the same phyla, we have ants in the kitchen. i don’t know where they’re coming from, but fear not, i am on the hunt.
Time: 5/7/13 10:57 PM EST
Subject: RE: bugs: a comedy (or “I am also a bedroom liability”)
how many mattress pads are too many? No such thing, if they are protecting you from bugs! Sorry to hear about your adventures, but sounds like you have it under control.
Time: 5/7/13 10:59 PM EST
Subject: RE: RE: bugs: a comedy (or “I am also a bedroom liability.”)
i need for you to appreciate the fact that i used the word “phyla” correctly.
AND THEN THERE WAS RADIO SILENCE BECAUSE SHE WAS SO IMPRESSED. or is the worst mom ever. since the dawn of time. throughout human history. but i really think it’s the former.
Most of the problems I see in the world are caused by one thing – believing your own shit.
Think of the people you know of whose worlds have collapsed – Lindsay Lohan, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Saddam Hussein, Richard Nixon are a few famous ones. I know of many others among my friends and acquaintances — they shall remain nameless, of course. They have, each and every one of them, believed their own shit.
Ordinary people who become elevated above the general throng — through celebrity, political success, acquisition of wealth, for example — find themselves surrounded by people whose primary objective is to reinforce their elevation.
“Ms. Lopez must have only white things in her dressing room.”
“The doctor cannot be disturbed.”
If they’re lucky, life gives them a mate or best friend early on who is not impressed by success. That mate or friend does not hesitate to call them out. If the successful one is smart enough to keep that friend close at hand and listen to them, they may avoid calamity.
“You still put your pants on one leg at a time.”
No matter how inflated the public praise becomes, you still see your plain old self in the mirror. Your public persona and your private one can stay synchronized, but they are NOT the same thing.
If they do merge, you’re going to start believing that you are larger than life, and that will be your downfall. Poor Lindsay Lohan doesn’t have a chance as long as Mama Dina is there, propping her up and telling her she’s not subject to the same rules as everyone else. Who else would go to court with “fuck you” painted on her fingernails?
Richard Nixon believed that he could do anything he wanted and penalties would not apply. Michael Jackson could indulge his fantasies with little boys and not worry about the impacts on the boys or his public image. Seldom have I seen such pain as I saw on Pat Nixon’s face when “Tricky Dick” gave his resignation speech. What impact will Michael’s children suffer when they find out about their dad?
An acquaintance of mine, head of his religious congregation, was disparaging of other faiths – his was inarguably superior. Publicly, he was a professional success, with a devoted wife and children and quite convinced of his superiority. Publicity surrounding his accidental death revealed his sexual deviance and destroyed the lives of his family. He believed himself insulated by his success and wealth against societal judgment. Problem was that his family had to pay the price.
Bottom line – don’t start believing your own hype. You may be the best criminal defense lawyer in your district or the valedictorian of your graduating class, or more. Enjoy your success; pat yourself on the back for your hard work. Just don’t start believing your own publicity. You’ll regret it. Or your family will.
 I generally disapprove of profanity (see my comments on my daughter’s blog) – it is a sign of laziness and limited vocabulary. However, this is an exception – I know no better or more succinct way of expressing this sentiment.
I think I may have spent too much time around Meredith and her hair.
This is my eighth grade school picture. Very very very sad, and I knew it at the time. The only thing missing is the cats eye glasses. Thank your lucky stars you were spared those.
If you crop my son Zack’s bar mitzvah photo and then crop this one to remove the hair, we look IDENTICAL. Even the unibrow.
This is one year later — high school freshman. Contact lenses, a good dermatologist and coming to terms with my hair. Lips swollen by allergic reaction to white lipstick. Suffering for fashion.
Sophomore year school photo. Best haircut EVER. Learned how to use tweezers and eye makeup. Gave up on the white lipstick look.
Senior prom. Serious HAIR. Peak of coiffure and couture.
Forty years later on the outside (about ten years on the inside). This too will happen to you.
Hi, Intern just coming to preface this… thing.
So Mer’s head sucked today, and she was all “I’m avoiding the world blog blog blog.” Very mopey. Her friend Kazz came over, though, and they did stuff. And she was chosen to write a guest post? I don’t know.
But then! The Book Of Jane is scheduled for Saturdays, so one of those also happened. Um. Yeah.
I’m not good at explaining things. Anyways.
The Battle of the Guest Posters!!! Yay.
In which Kazz loves the Blumoffs
Hello all you beautiful readers of the giant blogosphere! My name’s Kazz. (www.thewildkazzbeast.com) You may remember me from the insane post with photos of Meredith on lortab and my harrowing adventures with slappy the squirrel.
I’m here because Mer is lortabbed out agiain and Jane’s sewing machine is busy mocking her by altering how it’s threaded ALL BY ITSELF. No, I’m not kidding. or exaggerating. you thread it right and somehow, the thing makes it wrong. Don’t ask. I gave up trying to understand it and I can fix anything.
So I’m giving you today’s Book of Jane. And I really didn’t know what the hell to post about. usually i just post whatever comes to mind that amuses me that day… But today has NOT been very amusing. In fact… today has sucked horribly. Or… well.. it DID… until I went home.
Home is such a funny term, you know?
It’s one of those things that’s subjective… the kind that, you can live anywhere and say that home is there, but it may not actually FEEL like home. Then again, they say that home is where the heart is.. and many times.. I find that even if I’m were my heart is.. I’m still not at home. and those times, I’ll get quite homesick, and miserable.. and can tend to become weepy. (yeah.. I get weepy. and it is NOT pretty.. i leave massive snot trails on shoulders.) Home has to have just the right combination of comfortable people, smells, sounds, etc. and it has to have the right energy. you can have all of the sensory bits in place and STILL not have it just right.
So today, when everything went to hell in a handbasket, I left and went to Mer’s house, because I knew I’d feel better there (well.. and I know she has a super capacity washing machine, and my washer has been broken for the last two weeks. If i can do that much laundry in as little time as possible, i’m all for it.) So I showed up, and she was in her bed. apprently, her migraine had come back full force according to her text this morning. I brought her my Bobster motorcycle goggles. theyre soft and cushy and put pressure in JUST the right place on the temples. she was pleased to have them. I should have taken a photo because they make ANYONE look ridiculous. like the bug man from mars. Its fantastic.
I hadn’t cried about my crappy day all day because well.. one whiff of weakness and certain people will be all over you like a rapist on a nun.. just itching to bite your head off. So.. when Mer asked me what was wrong, I did what anyone would do. I burst into tears and put my head down on her arm. at which point the WHOLE SLEW OF DOGS rushed my face to lick me. At which point I moved to her boobs. My preferred spot anyhow, as anyone would know from my waxing story. So I got it out of my system. Went downstairs, got my first load of laundry in, and helped Jane in with ze groceries.
Mer came down, and we set to work making salmon croquettes. My daughter helped dry the dishes I was washing in the sink. Mer graced us with her fantastic snark, and amused us with her lortab-induced forgetfulness and occasional standing in the middle of the room, with bug eye motorcycle goggles going “now.. what was i doing?”
We chatted abotut he usual while cooking. Men, my kid, artsy shit, books, spices (I grabbed her butt when she was reaching for the garlic powder. I think everyone should have their butt grabbed once a day just to remind them they’re hot.) We shelled shrimp, switched my laundry over, and Mer had a nice laugh at me when I pulled the tangled mass of my bras and pantyhose out of the washer. She didn’t bother offering advice on it, she just took the mass of Victoria’s Secret push ups (there, I said it. I wear pushups. but they make my tits look F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C) from me to untangle. She tends to know when I’m on a day that I just wont have patience for those things. I pulled the hanging rack off the wall and fell over it three times before Mer asked what the hell I was doing and came in to see what the ruckus was. luckily, by the time she reached me I figured out how the damned thing worked, so I looked like everything was hunky dory. We ate in the family room around the coffee table. Autumn and I took the floor spots, which meant the dogs swung by to check out laps often for tidbits. Autumn was not a fan of the croquettes… but she did try them. After dinner, we hung out for a moment, and then I took Autumn to her best friends house to stay the night.
I came back to find Jane and Charlie hunched over the sewing machine trying to figure it out. Jane asked if I dealt with these things at all, and I informed her I haven’t really bothered touching one since I sewed three fingers together once when I was a kid with my toy sewing machine. Jane didn’t blame me. Mer was upstairs already, so I puttered about behind Jane trying to help her figure out what was wrong. In the process of trying to look at the other sewing machine to get an idea of what was supposed to happen, she managed to get it to thread itself incorrectly as well. They were conspiring against her this evening, I swear. Jane is amazing at giving advice about things. And she reminded me that I am a good mother. Period. And to stop trying to convince myself otherwise.
I took my things upstairs to set up in my little room for the night.. and started making my bed with the sheets that were there and it struck me.
This is what it’s like.
It’s calm. It’s hilarious. It can be a little bit boring…. and all of the machines in the house can conspire against you. It can be a little maddening because of the pantyhose that the washing machine thinks are delicious, or the Man of the house who cant seem to figure out how to zip the ziplocky part of the tortilla bag. It’s a chaos of dogs, and cats with ticks the size of corn pops that have to be removed, and sewing machines running amock and pittbulls and parolees on TV, and friends coming over crying about their day or talking about the crazy baptist wedding where no one could drink, dance, or have fun, but the brides father could rip the bride and groom a new one in his “toast”…
But its a place where the sounds and smells are familiar, where the people support you, even if they disagree with you, even if you tend to get a little too loud for their migraine. It’s a place where you can breathe, for once. It’s where you find unconditional love. And lump dog meat. at the foot of the bed.
The Book of Jane: Dubious Family History
I’m cheating a little bit this time. I will recount a piece of my family history, as told in two documents:
one a military report and the other an excerpt from an obscure book.
My father, Charles T. McNamee, Jr., was proud of his Southern heritage and of his family. As head of our
immediate clan, he did his best to pass on that pride. It took a slightly different form in my brother and
me – we certainly weren’t defenders of the Southern cause in the retelling of stories from the “War of
Northern Aggression”, as the American Civil War was sometimes known in our neighborhood. But I did
enjoy the stories. Here is the story of one of my forebears, one John T. McNamee, as reported by Col.
Frank A. Kendrick, Second West Tennessee Infantry, African Descent, on September 27, 1863.
I have the honor herewith to transmit the annexed report of a scouting party which was sent out by me
on the night of the 27th ultimo.
One sergeant and 10 men of the detachment of Sixth Tennessee Cavalry Volunteers, stationed here, left
the lines at about 7 p.m., with instructions to patrol the roads toward Somerville to the distance f 6 or
7 miles, and discovered nothing until they arrived at Locke’s Mill, about 4 miles out, where they met 2
boys, aged about twelve and fifteen, respectively, who were acting as guides or advance of a party of 7
guerrillas, who were about one-quarter mile behind. The sergeant immediately formed his men across
the road a little under the crest of the hill and awaited their approach. The position of our men was such
that they (guerrillas) advanced within about 60 yards, when the sergeant called halt and immediately
gave the command to fire, and 7 of the number discharged their pieces at the approaching party, who
immediately wheeled about and fled toward Somerville, our men not pursuing, but advanced to where
they were when our men fired, and found one man mortally wounded, the ball taking effect in the right
side under the lower ribs and passed through his body, coming out at the left of the spine.
At daylight on Monday morning Lieutenant Smith (acting adjutant), with 20 cavalry, went out there,
and found that a citizen living near had taken the wounded man to his house, where he died during the
night, and from papers and his memorandum, which Lieutenant Smith brought in, he was second Liet.
John T. McNamee, Thirteenth Tennessee Regiment (rebel), and had been to Somerville visiting some
friends, and was returning with 6 recruits on their way south. McNamee’s family resides at Lagrange,
and from his papers and memorandum he has traveled through the country quite recently. He was
paroled at Nashville, Tenn. In January last.
From what I can learn of the position of our men, and with the knowledge of the number who were
coming, they should have captured the entire party, but they did not bring the 2 boys in with them, but
left the wounded man lying in the road and returned directly to the camp.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Frank A. Kendrick
Colonel Second West Tenn. Infantry, A.D., Comdg. Lt. D. T. Bowler, A.A.A.G., First Brigade, Second
Now for another version of the story. This comes from A. J. Vaughn’s book Personal Record of the
Thirteenth Infantry. I don’t have a publication date, but it is obviously a period of time later. The book
lists John T. McNamee as a member of Company G (Gain’s Invincibles). This Company was raised at
“Lt. McNamee had been wounded and captured following the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stones River).
Following his release he had been detailed by Col. Vaughn to go behind enemy lines in Fayette County
to bring out recruits. He leading a group of such recruits south on the Somerville-Moscow Road; their
destination was North Mississippi which lay below the Memphis and Charleston Railroad. The “MC”
formed the lien between Confederate and Union held territory.
Compatriot Harry McNamee Ozier, kinsman of Lt. McNamee, has recently visited the sight (sic) of
Locke’s Mill. He relates that the Mill sight can still be seen; the hill referred to above is plainly evident;
and the old roadbed can still be observed meandering north toward Somerville and South into North
Fork River bottom.
Several observations may be readily ascertained. One, the fact that the Southerners were referred
to as guerrillas infers that they were not in uniform nor were they wearing any other identifying
paraphernalia. The point being that these men must have looked just like a group of local citizens on
there (sic) way to the mill. If so, then this is another instance of cold-blooded murder which may lay
at the door of the Yankee occupation. Two, the Yankee sergeant called halt and fire at the same time,
murder! Three, they checked his body close enough to determine the extent of his wounds, but left him
in the road to die, Murder. Even Col. Kendrick admonishes his troops for there (sic) conduct, leaving one
to believe that he considered it murder.
I’ve never had a lot of sympathy for the Southern “cause”, but I understood what it felt like to be on the
losing side. Some of my earliest fights arose from taunts of “Yankee” (I was born in New York City during
my father’s brief assignment at his company’s home office – we returned to Memphis before I was a
So, um… that happened. Until next time.
Lucy was a stray given to us by a friend’s parents. We think she was half miniature dachshund and half Chihuahua – she was so ugly she was cute. She had three functioning brain cells, but she was sweet as she could be. She’d go down to the end of the driveway and start looking across the street. She’d get this vague look as though she’d never seen the neighborhood. If you called her, she’d turn around and start running up the driveway as fast as her little legs would go, with a look of relief that said, “Thank God you’ve found me… I had no idea where I was!”
Lucy was very social. “Never met a stranger,” as my mother, would say. She would disappear whenever possible – following joggers, moms with strollers, anyone who came by. We’d get a phone call saying, “Do you have a little brown dog?” from a house three miles away. We’d go over, and there would be Lucy, sitting on the front porch being petted by thirteen little children. Grinning, she’d look at you like “Oh, hey, howya been? We’re having a porch party!” Occasionally, she would go out into the street. A passing car would see her and slow down to 2 to 3 miles per hour. Never thinking about getting OUT of the street, Lucy would start running madly down the middle of the street, looking over her shoulder every few feet, like she was saying “OMG, they’re still back there!”
Lucy liked to sleep in the short, dark hallway between the den and our bedroom. Inevitably, you’d come out of the bedroom into the hallway and catch Lucy on your foot, scooping her into an airborne punt into the den. She’d land with a soft thud, get up and look at you reproachfully, as if to say, “I don’t know why you have to do that to me.” If you sat in the den with your legs crossed, she would insert herself under your lifted foot, so you ended up petting her with your foot whether you wanted to or not.
When we’d had Lucy for about a year, we got an Australian Shepherd puppy named Daisy. Daisy was about Lucy’s size when we got her at 11 weeks, but she grew rapidly. Lucy and Daisy enjoyed “fighting” with each other. Ever respectful of Lucy as her elder, as she grew taller, Daisy took to lying down during their fights, so Lucy could stand over her and be “tall.”
Lucy was fearless — she never met a dog she couldn’t beat. She once made a full grown Chowchow turn tail and run, just with her bark. The kids and I went to a life-sized dinosaur exhibit that had a Tyrannosaurus Rex next to a small dinosaur of some sort about 18 inches high. Meredith turned to me and said, “Mama, Lucy’s like that little bitty dinosaur, but she thinks she’s a Trannosaurus Rex!” After that, we always saw Lucy and Daisy’s fights as “Tyrannosaurus vs. dog.”
One time Lucy ran off, and we just could not find her. We put up signs all around the neighborhood; after she had bee missing about four hours, I got a phone call from a lady who worked in a gift shop. Lucy had crossed a four-lane highway, gone into the shopping center, and visited all up and down the row. The woman who called us worked in the tenth store down.
We couldn’t have a fenced yard, so we put in an invisible fence. Daisy figured out the little flags and the shock that you got if you went too close to them pretty quickly. Lucy, on the other hand, would go into the “shock zone,” then roll over on her back and squirm and moan. She’d lie there, being shocked, until you went out and got her. No amount of showing her how the shocks came and went did any good. Eventually, we took off their shock collars and gave up. Daisy didn’t want to go anywhere we weren’t, and Lucy was incorrigible.
I have had dogs in my life since before I can remember. One of my first memories is Jetty, our skipperke (probably not spelled right), who was gone by the time I was two. My only memory of him is the smell and feel of his fur – black and fragrant.
Next comes Babo, who was the closest I had to a sister. A smooth-haired fox terrier of approximately 20 pounds and a marvelous disposition. White body, dark brown head with a white stripe down the middle. She stayed by my side, come hell or high water. Or my mother having a temper tantrum. [Everyone else left. Quickly. Even my father.] Babo, still there, standing strong. I wish I could show you a photograph, but, alas, there are none available.
Her cousin Dotsy came to us when I was three. Dotsy, also a smooth-haired fox terrier, but only 12 pounds at her largest, was a moron. Sweet, pleasant, but a moron. Babo and I tolerated her, and let her play with us, but it was sort of like having a dumb cousin that your mother made you play with.
Dotsy did, however, do me one enormous favor. She had puppies. Three of them. While I was sick with rheumatic fever, confined to bed, very boring, Mother would make me a bed on the den sofa and bring me puppies to play with. Sooooo great. Mother woke me to watch Dotsy deliver – eeuuww, but I couldn’t take my eyes away. Those were MY puppies, by gawd. Lightning, Pinky, and Catchup. Lightning had a jagged white strip in the middle of his large black spot. Pinky had a tongue of guess-what-color, and Catchup was the runt, who had to catch up with the other. Hey, no rude comments – I was five years old already. They were the best puppies ever. Never peed on my bed.
Babo’s death was the single most traumatic event of my life. No one understood that it was like losing a sister, only one who never criticized me, never “borrowed” clothing, never outshone me, who loved me all the time, no matter what. They promised another dog. What?!! I’m sorry, you’re a new widow, lost the love of your life. Would you like a new husband—right now? Your two-year-old’s dead? No problem, we’ll just get you another kid. Really? First time I ever knew how cruel the world could be. Still miss the Babo, but I was glad to have her while I did.
Then comes Boo, my first Australian Shepherd. Came from a farm in 1974 BEFORE they were a “show” breed. They were working dogs, from farms and ranches. Boo came from a litter of 13. Her mother kept all her puppies together, all the while protecting them from the horses who shared their pasture. She could jump up, nip a horse in the flank while simultaneously pushing off from the horse when it came too close to her babies, then come back to re-round up the puppies. Talk about a tired mother. Very impressive.
Boo’s herding instinct was very strong. When our dinner guests accompanied us on a post-prandial stroll around the block, Boo would move from the front to the back, forming us into an orderly rank by the time we arrived back at home. We threatened to buy her a herd of gerbils—I could just see them, marching in ranks with little squadron flags. She was the best ever. [Not better than Babo, just very very good.] She was very frustrated with me when baby Kate had colic. She cried so hard, she shook the crib, and Boo thought I should definitely fix that.
When Boo was three, we got her a dog. Another Australian Shepherd, named Vehemence (or Veevee for short). Veevee was a reprise of Dotsy – very very dumb, but very very sweet. She was very good to the children; that’s the best I can say. Veevee was the queen of the underworld. She loved being in the basement. If you opened the door to the basement, she was there.
After Vee came Daisy, my Daisy. She was the sweetest animal I ever loved. The only dog I knew who would get into the bathtub voluntarily, not happily, but without complaint. She raised our cat Tabby from a baby; she thought if she licked Tabby long enough, she’d get the cat smell off that puppy. She never quite succeeded, but Tabby does have a lot of dog-like habits. She wags her tail when she’s happy, for one. Daisy was not aggressive, but she did stand up for herself on her home turf. She only had four fights in her life, but she won every one. Against much larger dogs. Humph.
When my father came to live with us at 85, Daisy at age 10 became his constant companion. Legally blind because of macular degeneration and a tad frail, he walked a half mile every day. Daisy kept him safe and acted as a canine assist unit on the uphill part. We always joked that they were the same age.
She outlived him by nearly two human years, almost twenty dog years. At eighteen, she was blind, deaf, and incontinent, but she still “sparkled” up the driveway most mornings to greet me. When that stopped, I decided it was time for her to go. The vet came to the house. We bought her an entire roast chicken and a pan of brownies with chocolate icing. She ate them both with great gusto, with us sitting on the floor around her. When she was done, the vet gave her a sedative. She breathed her last in my lap, with chicken grease and chocolate icing on her lips. Bestest, bestest girl. She was buried by my lovely husband and son under a camellia bush in the back yard.
Now we live with Kiba, Biko and Sam. Kiba is the world largest female Australian Shepherd. She’s the only one I’ve had with a pedigree; she also looks the least like a standard Aussie of any. She is a very very good girl who REALLY likes to eat. She is also a good frisbier – very enthusiastic and actually gets all four paws off the ground sometimes. Very expressive and a very good nurse. During Meredith’s ongoing medical problems, she has been a very good worrier and very attentive.
Biko is my rescue fella. I went to the Humane Society to help my son get a dog. Didn’t need another dog, didn’t want another dog, wasn’t going to get another dog. But then Biko found me, and I had no choice. The vet says he’s part golden lab, part corgie, and part chow. If I could created a new breed, this would be it. He is one of the most skittish dogs I ever met. You can’t make eye contact with him until you’ve known him for at minimum 24 hours. If you don’t make eye contact, he might (might) let you pet him at 12 hours. But there is no more affectionate dog, once you’ve earned his trust.
Sam. Well, Sam. Sam was originally a rescue I took him. He’s half Aussie and half something else. I say Black Lab; Meredith says Catahoula. Who knows. In any case, he is the most stubborn dog I know. He had to have special extra one-on-one lessons with the trainer. ADD to the max, he could not be bothered to come back, to fetch, to do anything you wanted him to do. If ever a dog needed Adderall, it was Sam. When Meredith moved to DC, I encouraged her to take him, please. Or I would have had to find him another home. Now, he’s baaaccckk. To the extreme unhappiness of our cats, and to the pleasure of our dogs. He’s the bad dog – they’re the good ones. No matter what they do, they can’t be as bad as Sam. What a role model. And the dog catcher has only been here twice.
It’s a fine life, and I love them all. And the best part, they love me. No matter what.
A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax.
These examples came to me in an e-mail – I find them very clever. I don’t know the source, so I can’t give credit. Who knew there was a word for it? It was a favorite comedic form for Groucho Marx and Dorothy Parker, but I’ll bet neither of them knew the term. My favorite is Dorothy’s “If you took all the women in New York City and laid them end-to-end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”
My next favorite erudite term is sesquipedalian; it means a word that’s too long or the people who use them. And it applies to paraprosdokians itself. How amusing.
Can you come up with your own paraprosdokian sentence?
- I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
- Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
- Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
- War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
- Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
- A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
- How is it that one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
- Some people are like Slinkies … not really good for anything, but you can’t help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.
- Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
- You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
- The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
- Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
- If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?
- Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
I’ve given you a few of my children’s most embarrassing moments from their early years.
They will be the ones to choose my retirement home, so I won’t divulge many of their later gaffes – teenagers are amusing but not always G-rated.
Now I’ll give you a few of mine.
When I was around 4 years old, my mother was taking me to a party. She dressed me in my best; in 1956, that meant an enormous gathered skirt with a large, starched petticoat underneath. Being a bit of a tomboy, I was not known for tidiness. She placed me in the center of my bed and said sternly, “Just sit there and don’t move while I get dressed.” Well, that’s hard for a four-year-old of any stripe, and particularly for a kid like me. So I’m sitting there fidgeting in the middle of the bed, and what do I see but my father’s stapler — a big black stapler that I’ve never been allowed to touch. So I carefully spread out my enormous skirt on the bed and stapled it meticulously every inch or so to the bed. I was proudly observing my handiwork when my mother called me to leave. I jumped up. The bottom 4 inches of my skirt ripped off along with the center of the bedspread. Openmouthed, my mother said, “How in God’s name did you do THAT?”
I was raised as a Southern Methodist. My parents were pillars of our church, holding many offices in the church hierarchy – president of the Ladies Church Circle, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, etc. They both put a great deal of store in being proper — “behaving” as Mother put it. I could probably have robbed a bank as long as I wore my gloves and said, “Please give me all your money.”
I was not a very good Methodist.
The first time I was kicked out of Sunday school I was about four (again – it was a big year for me). This Sunday morning, my mother allowed me to dress myself. Again, the ginormously skirted dress, etc., little white socks with lace, black patent mary-janes. I did such a good job that Mother just took a look at me and put me in the car to go to church. She dropped me off at my Sunday school class and went off to hers. About ten minutes later, someone showed up at her classroom to say that I had to be taken home. “Why?” says Mother. “Jane was down on the floor playing with the blocks, and when she leaned over, we realized she doesn’t have any underwear on.” I flashed my Sunday school class. Repeatedly.
My next door neighbors had a big black tomcat named Moe. Moe was very sneaky; he pretended to be very sweet and full of purrs. He’d roll over on his back, look all relaxed and friendly and let you pet his tummy for a minute. Then, quick as a flash, he’d sink all his claws into your arm. I fell for that over and over.
One dark summer evening, I was walking back from the neighbors’ house to mine. This was before central air conditioning.
I know, it’s hard to imagine, but I’m old.
When all the windows were open, sound carried very far.
Moe was playing “Leopard in the Jungle” in the top of a plum tree. When I came sauntering along in the dark, looking remarkably water buffalo-like, Moe attacked from above, landing on my head with all four paws. I screamed, staggering about the backyard in the dark. Moe held on for dear life.
Fathers from houses everywhere poured into the backyard with flashlights, looking for the attacker. Moe does the disappearing ninja black cat thing.
I’m left standing in the glare of the lights looking disheveled but whole. Moe never misbehaved in front of grownups, so my story didn’t hold water. The dads gave my father a dirty look and left.
the coffee bean
Once upon a time, when Meredith was about nine years old, she was at the grocery store with her father. Wondering what it would smell like, she picked up a whole coffee bean and sniffed, very hard. The bean went up her nostril. When she tried to pull it out, it went up farther and got very, very stuck. Her dad tried to get it out, her sister tried to get it out. The harder they tried, the stucker it got. They ended up in the emergency room. The doctor had to use very, very long tweezers to get out the coffee bean. Meredith really, REALLY hates this story to this very day, and I am in a lot of trouble for telling it.
Once upon a time, when Zachary Jacob was about five years old, we were having a spaghetti dinner. Jacob Zachary was not known for chewing his food very well at that time. He was taking a drink of milk when Kate said something that tickled his funny bone. He laughed so hard, trying not to spit out his milk, that a piece of spaghetti about five inches long came out his nose. We all stared at it, lying there on the plate, and then broke up laughing. I’m surprised there weren’t more pieces of spaghetti produced! For some reason, this continues to be a very funny story for us – we laugh hysterically at just the memory. Oh well, we are easily amused.
kate the crooner
When she was two years old, Kate decided that she would not take naps anymore. This was not a good decision from her parents’ perspective — arsenic hour was born. So her mother instituted “rest hour” – she had to stay in her bed “resting” for one hour. In the beginning, her mother spent a lot of time putting her back into bed, and finally, holding the bedroom door shut. Once Kate realized this was not going to end, she began entertaining herself by singing. Very loudly and with great verve (think Ethel Merman crossed with Edith Piaf). She would croon her favorites: I’ve Been Working on the Railroad and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Only problem was, she had no Rs, so it was “I’ve Been Wookin’ on the WailWoad” and “Wudolf the Wed-Nosed Reindeewuh.” Very, very hard to ignore; she became indignant if anyone laughed.
Once upon a time, when Meredith was about three years old, her mother was in the bathtub, trying to take a long, relaxing bath. Her father was in his study, working on an article. Meredith decided she wanted to get dressed all by herself. She picked out a pink and green striped tee shirt with yellow and red polka-dot shorts. She struggled and struggled, but got them on right side out and with all body parts through the correct holes. She came into the bathroom to show off to her mother, who said, “Sweetie, you need either the top or the bottom to be solid; otherwise you won’t match.” Meredith sighed and marched back to her room. Next, she tried a navy blue and green plaid shirt and purple and green striped shorts. When she showed her father, he said, “Mimi, you need to have either the top or the bottom to be solid, or you won’t match.” Meredith sighed even harder and went back to her closet. This time, she got a red and white checked shirt and a pair of orange paisley shorts. Back in the bathroom, her mother repeated her earlier comment, “Sweetie, I’m very proud of you, but you still need either the top or the bottom to be solid to match.” At the end of her rope, Meredith bellowed pitifully, “What color is solid??????”
Kate went to a very progressive preschool, staffed mainly by PhD students in early childhood education and child psychology, where the clinical terms for behavior and learning assessment were the norm. Thus, the gymnasium was called the “Gross Motor Room,” etc. Kate’s arms and legs between ages two and three were disproportionately short for her torso (not to mention her enormously large head). This meant that her weakest area of performance was in Gross Motor Skills, otherwise known as climbing and riding a tricycle. When she climbed the stairs, she went up on her hands and knees, afraid that she would lose her balance if she walked. She insisted that her mother follow her up the stairs, saying “Mama, Mama, hind me be! Hind me be!”
Kate’s other weak area at preschool was table manners — she couldn’t grasp the reason for a fork, when her hand was right there, ready to dive in. She would complain to her mother that the preschool staff was starving her, not allowing her to have seconds. In fact, they drew the line at fourths.
Jacob Zachary’s Kindergarten teacher was a lovely veteran of 22 years of five-year-olds. She had a great sense of humor, and she appreciated the same in others. The “Draw a Man” test is (was) a common tool for measuring intellectual development in small children. The child is asked to draw a man with as much detail as possible. The more body parts (e.g., neck, fingers, round body rather than a stick figure) that are included, the higher the level of development is measured. When his teacher was reviewing Jacob Zachary’s test with him, she noted that it was a very nice drawing, but that the man had all his fingers and toes, but no ears. Jacob Zachary, without missing a beat, said, “I know, isn’t it sad? He was born that way.”
Meredith’s note: For the record, the coffee bean story is the ONLY childhood story that still mortifies me and the only story I forbade my mother from telling. In the spirit of not censoring her, I’ve left it in, but she’s in very big trouble. Also? My brother’s wit and table manners remain the same, and while my sister’s head is still ginormous, her table manners have gotten much, much better.
Today, I will give you the story of Bob, who wanted to be a good dog, really he did.
Bob was the dog my son picked out at the Humane Society.
He wanted a dog who was lively, a dog who liked to run, a dog with “spirit.” So he picked Bob. Bob had ancestors who were industrial-strength springs crossed with black labs crossed with Jack Russells. Bob has the energy of ten and the determination of twelve. Plus, he was adopted by college students who thought he would be lively when they wanted him to be and docile when they didn’t.
Not. How. Dogs. Work.
The son lived in a bedroom of very small size, with a promised fence that did not come to be. He ran with Bob twice, perhaps more, but not much. He went to class. Bob stayed in a crate, bursting with puppiness. The son’s roommate (the nominal co-owner) did not take Bob out when the son was gone. Bob made a mess of the new carpet.
Bob came to live at my house, with my dogs. Bob did come when you called him, which is more than we can say for some. Ahem.
However, Bob ate furniture.
Bob ate the cat (or as much of the cat as he could, which was only a whisker or two, because the cat had his number).
Bob ate first.
Bob ate second.
Bob would have eaten third, but Kiba had had enough by that point.
Biko lived underneath the furniture.
Kiba lived underneath the furniture.
Tom the cat lived underneath the furniture.
When reprimanded, Bob gave “submission pees” on the floor. Lovely.
Kiba gave up.
But Bob wanted to be a good dog, really he did. He was misunderstood. He’d had a tough childhood — a social worker’s dream dog — but living in my house, and believe me, I am not a social worker.
See Officer Krupke, from West Side Story. Bob was NOT Tony. Bob was not even a Shark. Bob was a Jet, second class.
Bad Bob wanted to be good Bob. Really he did. See the photos – they tell the story.
Poor misunderstood Bob. But Bob has a happy ending. Bob now lives on a ten-acre tract of land in Tennessee, with a fence.
Bob is far happier, I am sure.
Although my son is not.
He misses Bob.
His mother is guilty.
Guilty, guilty, guilty.
And then more guilty.
And then some more.
But Bob doesn’t live at her house anymore.
I’ve never been notorious. Whoa.
I’ve always been the little brown mouse in the corner. I had friends who were the “stars” – when they entered the room at a party, everyone noticed. Me, on the other hand, not so much. I was in the corner, watching.
I was a theater major, techie, not actor. I built the sets, designed the costumes, the makeup, the masks. I was the prop master, the stage manager. I gave people lines. Dressed all in black, silent and unnoticed when successful. Didn’t mind it; enjoyed it. Played poker with the other stagehands; won more than my share.
I was the second child of two in my family. My older brother was intelligent, over-achieving and, most importantly in pre-feminist America, male. I was good, dutiful and not allowed to color outside the lines or be too proud of myself. And then I married a man who saw me the same way.
I was the sidekick of the luscious, beautiful girl. Straight man. Rhoda to Mary Tyler Moore. Notorious? Not me.
And then, I birthed her, that Meredith. I’m still playing straight man, only also guardian, protector from herself, disciplinarian, chauffeur, maid-servant and keeper.
It remains entertaining. And educational.
I do have two other “blood” children and two more “steps.” All wonderful and alternately the best one. They are all getting t-shirts for Chanukkah that say “I’m Mama’s favorite.” And they all deserve that appellation, at one time or another.
And then I have canine children. I had one of those before I had human children. The person who felt most like a sister to me as a child was my dog Babo. Then my husband and I acquired Boo soon after we married, but we waited six years for our first child of the human sort. I’ve liked my four-legged children more consistently than I have the two-legged ones. You’ve seen photos of my Biko and my Kiba on Meredith’s blog. You must admit they are extremely fine-looking children. And then there’s Sam, who is fine looking but not very well-behaved.
I suppose I continued my second-banana status intentionally, or because it felt familiar. But now I have a husband to whom I am the center of the universe, however crazy, and my children see me as an essential element of their sense of themselves. So I find myself in late middle age finally developing a sense of myself unrelated to how the external world sees me.
And I’m having a damn fine time.
This one does not have one mention of you-know-who. Ha! Do I know how to get her goat or what?
So, let’s just see if I can come anywhere near as self-absorbed as that one.
Pondering my options, I look at the name of my part of this blog, my column, as it were.
Statistics say that the average American reads one book a year. According to my husband, I am the one who reads all the others. I do read on average two books a week. Most of them, however, cannot be considered “lit-tra-chur,” but rather entertainment. No heaving bosoms and throbbing members, but I do love chicklit, lots of Janet Evanovich and Marian Keyes.
So many books in my life.
I became a voracious reader early in life. Thanks to that and my father’s insistence on playing a daily dictionary game (in which he introduced a new word whose meaning and spelling we were expected to know by dinner that night), my vocabulary expanded quickly.
Which led to my first public nickname, The Walking Dictionary, and just so endeared me to my classmates. Right.
Which then led to the second nickname, The Professor. Also? Not terribly attractive.
Combine that with cat’s-eye glasses and an enormous forehead – what do you get? Few photographs exist to document the exquisite loveliness.
We’ll just skip the existential possibilities “of” might bring, and move right along to the second part of title: Jane.
Most of you are far too young to have Dick and Jane ring any bells, but for us Women Of A Certain Age (WOACAs), it was our introduction to the wonderful world of reading. My name was chosen for the series because it was considered one of the most common names possible. Debby, Cathy and Linda were in reality much more common: I have probably met twenty women named Jane in my entire life, while Debbys, Cathys, and Lindas number in the hundreds. Now, of course, they are Courtneys, Brittneys, and Kaitlins. Do not get me started. Soon they will be Madisons, Dakotas, and Topekas. Topeka? That’s a GREAT name. How about Sioux Falls? Albany? Oh, the sweet font of ridiculousness geography gives us.
There are almost no good rhymes for Jane: pain, bane, plain, inane. Being a left-handed Jane means being insulted frequently: left-handed compliments, two left feet, Plain Jane dresses. It never really ends.
And then there was Tarzan. Johnny Weissmuller (who was an Olympic swimmer of great note before going to Hollywood) is the quintessential Tarzan. Despite wearing his loincloth up in his armpits, he was a pretty man and a damn good alligator wrestler to boot. We spent every Saturday afternoon glued to the television watching him, (who else but) Jane and Boy doing many cool things in the jungle.
A more innocent time, I hasten to add. We didn’t know from special effects; you had to rely on willing suspension of belief. Who cared if the lion alternated between being stuffed and being a man in a lion suit? Also a beyond embarrassing absence of political correctness. If you want a good example of the way “persons of color” were treated before 1965, try the Tarzan movies from the 1930s. But we were little Southern white children in the time just preceding the Civil Rights Movement.
But anyhow, almost everyone’s idea of a joke was to greet me with “Me, Tarzan. You, Jane?”
It got old extremely fast.
I spent fifth grade being called Cheetah after Tarzan’s chimpanzee sidekick, and sixth grade brought me a new appellation, Ungawa (pronounced Oon-GOW-wah), Tarzan’s shouted command to make the elephants stampede through the bad guys’ camp to save Jane from being boiled alive.
My sixth grade teacher had a wonderful sense of humor. I was a very cooperative child and rarely did anything to warrant being yelled at. There was a boy named James in my class that year who was constantly getting into trouble. The teacher’s loud, sharp reprimand of “JAMES!” caused me no end of frights. She agreed to change my name to Edward for the rest of the year, so I could relax. I did go back to Jane after that; James went on to reform school and probably prison.
Fortunately, SNL moved on to other jokes, and I no longer had to be a straight man for name jokes. But it did make me very conscious of potential name abuse when choosing what to call my children. Jewish custom is to name each child after a deceased relative. They are also given both a Hebrew and an English name, which are sometimes the same. My oldest was given the Hebrew name of Leah (pronounced LAY-uh); I anticipated the joke: “Wanna lay a Blumoff?” and decided to call her Kate for her English name.
My husband wanted to name our second daughter Mariah (MAH-ry-uh); I could only think of her being called “pariah” and managed to convince him that Meredith was a better choice. Maybe I should have let him choose her name – a little humiliation might have put a dent in the ego. Just think if Lindsay Lohan were named Missoula.
I come from a newspaper background – I minored in journalism in high school and college, was managing editor of my school paper, etc. So…
I don’t believe in hyperbole. Who, what, when, where, why — in 33 words or less per paragraph. Just the facts, ma’am.
Given that statement, you might ask, “Where the hell did Meredith come from?” I ask myself the same question repeatedly, trust me. The only good thing about being divorced is that you can blame your ex for all your children’s flaws. But to be honest, there’s really no one in that branch of her family tree that explains it either.
Let me just say this: I take no credit for my children’s successes because I take no blame for their excesses. They on they own, as we say down here.
Let me also say this: she is entertaining, disconcertingly so. Has been since a small child. Like me, can’t tell a joke to save her life, but can certainly tell a good story.
At age three, she had a larger social circle than I did. If we went out to lunch, people would stop at our table and say, “Well, look who’s here — it’s Meredith! And you must be Meredith’s mother!” Age. Three. She would then introduce me to our fellow diners.
At three and a quarter, she bargained and bullied her way into a dance class whose minimum age was four. I had to give her teacher permission to spank her to convince her to regulate her ebullience. She was never spanked; she just had to be threatened. At the year end recital, she led the rest of the class into their final gallop – no one else remembered what to do. Tiny little lamb, galloping at the head of the line.
When she was in timeout about the same age, told to think about her misdeeds and left alone for two minutes, she arranged her dolls for a tea party. Put into a chair in the living room to contemplate her naughtiness, she parachute jumped across the room. On the third try, she looked into my stormy face, beamed, and said, “Mama, I just can’t be sorry today!”
I ended up feeling like the head nun in the “Sound of Music.”
How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria?
A flibbertigibbet? A will of a whisp? A clown?
Many a thing you know you’d like tell her.
Many a thing she ought to understand.
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say?
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moon beam in your hand?
When I’m with her I’m confused, out of focus, and bemused
And I never know exactly where I am.
Unpredictable as weather.
She’s as flighty as a feather.
She’s a darling — she’s a demon — she’s a lamb.
She’d out pester any pest,
Drive a hornet from its nest.
She can throw a twirling dervish out of whirl.
She is gentle — she is wild.
She’s a riddle — she’s a child.
She’s a headache — she’s an angel — she’s a girl!!
I never did figure it out. Mark her up as a force of nature.
Press Release Source: Meredith’s Hot Inc. On Sunday September 19, 2010, 10:45 pm EDT
ATLANTA, GA, Sept. 19 / MerNewsNetwork / — In a shocking announcement that’s sweeping the World Wide Web, OhThatMeredith.com, the nation’s newest hotspot for celebrity socialite Meredith Blumoff’s innermost thoughts and desires, revealed that the young luminary will be magnanimously opening her blog to her mother, the reclusive Jane, who hasn’t granted an interview in decades, until now.
Known only by her first name, Jane’s past is an enigmatic one, having been guarded by her powerful family. What little is known, however, has been shared by her famous daughter, through a few brief glimpses into her home life, generally as the VIP connects with her fans on the celebrated micro-blogging service, Twitter.
“We’ve been so pleased to provide Ms. Blumoff with this creative outlet, as she shares her personal life with her over 1.7 million followers,” said Twitter Co-Founder Evan Williams in an interview. “She’s just so sweet and humble, I follow her myself. I love how down-to-earth and accessible such a big star can be!”
While Ms. Blumoff’s mother does not currently have plans to join the social media service herself at this time, she did state today, in an unprecedented public announcement attended by all major news outlets, that she will be opening her heart and mind to her adoring public in a weekly syndicated column called “The Book of Jane.”
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share with other women my experiences raising a superstar. As I’m sure you’ll understand, it has not always been easy to look after such a powerful social force, to nurture her into the prominence she has now gained,” said Jane in a prepared statement. “I look forward to offering you all a look into the way I have guided her to this day.”
Jane’s column will appear in place of her daughter’s Sunday post, in a reversal of what Meredith herself called her mother’s only rule: “that all good daughters call their mothers on Sundays.” Citing this as her most powerful moral guidance, the socialite, whose history has, indeed, been plagued by unfortunate incidents and social missteps, was effusive in her praise of this development.
“Oh, my gah! I’m just, like, sooooo happy that Mama’s joining me on the blog! I mean, she’s been sooooo important to me for, like, ever, you know? And I’m just so happy you guys get to see her, too! Because, you know, blogging is becoming this, like, really great new media, and for Mama to be at the beginning of that with me? Seems like the best idea ever,” enthused the starlet. “I’m sooo glad I came up with it all by myself.”
Launching Sept. 26th, “The Book of Jane” will cover a wide variety of themes, in an effort to be accessible to all of Ms. Blumoff’s fans. According to a spokesperson close to the family, some of the topics will include, but are not limited to, parenting a young celebrity, successfully living as a recluse and managing a large house-staff. This will add a new direction to the socialite’s already weighty topics, such as laundry, her brief incarceration and her hair.