Bucket List

My cousin Shannon called me, “My friend Beth is organizing a safari in South Africa this September. Wanna go?”

My jaw dropped and my eyes whizzed around like a cartoon character, “Would I ever!”

Everyone has a bucket list destination like Asia, Egypt or Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard in Waterbury, VA. For me, it’s Africa. But, before I could commit, logistics needed to be worked out. I had kids going to colleges, and who could house-sit for me? 

Sam announced, “My college move-in date is August 10th.”

Lindsay added, “Mine is August 20th.”

Jack finished with, “I’m moving back home in August.”

Like falling dominoes, all the roadblocks were knocked down. I pulled out the globe. Holy crap! South Africa is at the bottom of the planet.

Shannon and I don’t talk to each other daily, but every time we do, it’s as if no time has passed. 

On takeoff morning, I raced into the airport frantically texting Shannon, “Where are you?”

“We’re at gate 5B.”

I checked in clutching my boarding pass and passport, passing through TSA less than an hour before the flight, and dashed to 5B.

“It’s so nice to meet you. So excited you can join us,” Beth greeted me warmly. The Michael Kors sneakers she wore gave her the extra lift she needed to hug me properly. I was mindful not to put a mark on her darling lululemon leisure suit. I couldn’t help but notice how put together she was. Even her Covid prevention mask matched.

With just the hint of an English accent, she pointed out, “We’ve been here three hours. We didn’t want to miss the flight.”

“Oh. Anyone want a pre-flight cocktail?”

They both shook their head side to side.

“Alrighty then.”

The flight from Los Angeles to Doha took 16 hours. I slept most of the way with multiple glasses of wine and felt quite refreshed for our airport layover before flying to Johannesburg. 

“The shopping is great here,” Beth announced. 

We loaded our carry-on bags onto the trolley and strolled around. With Beth’s accent and words like trolley, I felt like I was in a Harry Potter movie. Shannon bought a beautiful scarf, and I picked up souvenirs for my kids. The Victoria’s Secret store caught Beth’s eye, “I’ll be right back.” She returned, clutching their store’s signature hot pink bag.

We flew to “JoBerg,” as the locals call it, and onto the bush, where we were whisked to our lodge. That’s where I met the other four members that would complete our safari party for the next eight days. 

“Drop your bags in your rooms. Hurry, for an evening safari,” Joe, our leader, called out.

Brilliant.

Within the hour, we saw a pride of lions with the majestic male basking in the sunset. The jeep rumbled and stopped so we could gaze upon them until dark. 

Back at the lodge, we were greeted by Raymond, the manager. He stood about 6’4″ and weighed 100 pounds wet. With animated gestures, he began, “Who. Here. Is. In. Cabin. Number. 3?” 

“I am,” Beth said, moving up front.

“Oh well. The baboons broke into your room while you were on safari.”

Beth protested, “One moment, I locked my door.”

“They know how to break in.”

I imagined an unruly gang of baboons jimmying the lock open with a credit card.

“No matter. They had a grand ol’ time, ripped apart your bed sheets, tore down the curtains, and pooped on your clothing. Don’t worry. Everything is being laundered. You are now in room 10.”

As Raymond spoke, I looked around his right elbow and spotted a baboon running across the grounds. He was hard to miss, carrying a cookie jar from the room, a hot pink bag and wearing a pair of panties on his head.

What have I gotten myself into?

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Naked

My last two kids have gone off to college, so I am officially an empty nester. Everyone keeps asking me, “What are you going to do now that you are all alone?”

Without thinking twice, I replied, “Run around the house naked!”

What an odd proclamation. I’m already home alone a lot, and never once has the urge come over me to rip off my clothes and do some Bohemian dance au naturel.

Although I’m not sure why this kind of exposure feels so exciting, there was a time when it seemed I was constantly getting caught naked. Never once my fault. I’m not an exhibitionist by any means. 

Years ago, we remodeled our bathroom. I liked showing it off to whoever would ask for a peep show.

My young son, Jack picked up on that and one morning, while I was taking a hot shower, the bathroom door popped open without warning. One by one, Jack escorted his sleepover buddies inside. 

“This is my Mom’s new bathroom. She’s very proud of it.”

As the perfect docent, Jack told his friends about the design choices, the subway tile with ocean blue glass trim, and the matching towels. Damn, I wish I hadn’t spent that extra money on shower doors that don’t steam up! His friends stood around, horrified.

Naturally, I was proud of his presentation, but the tiny washcloth wasn’t doing much to hide me. I tried only to expose my backside while screaming, “Get out!”

Then, there was that time on a warm Sunday evening in March. Out of the blue, my then young children decided it would be hilarious to go skinning-dipping in our pool. Without any hesitation, they whipped off their clothes and jumped.

I put one toe in the water and immediately decided there was no way I would do the polar plunge. But their coaxing was relentless.

“C’mon, Mom. Don’t be a chicken,” they bated me.

I don’t know what came over me, but I tore off my shirt, intending to make the plunge. Still, the water was so cold, I only inched my way in as far as my waist, when suddenly, the back gate flew open. A couple with their kids, who were friends from school, were coming in the backyard.

“We were just walking by and heard the splashing and laughter, so we thought we’d stop in and say, AAAHHHH!” he shouted, while attempting to shield his children’s eyes.

While scurrying back out, the dad shouted over his shoulder, “We’d like to see more of you in the future.”

“I don’t think that’s possible. You’ve seen more than most,” I retorted.

To this day, whenever I run into them, they politely admit they never saw anything at the skinny-dipping incident. Liars. 

Hmmm. The naked truth came down to this: without the risk of getting caught, the thrill was dwindling. I needed to think of something more daring to do with my new found freedom.

Like a premonition, my phone vibrated with a text from my cousin. “Do you want to go on safari in South Africa with me?”

And there it was.

“Yes,” I texted back.

“GREAT!”

Looks like I’m going to South Africa…  

Fully Clothed!

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Sod Off

I know we are in a drought, and a lawn is frowned upon, but I already own one that has a bare patch.

At the Home Depot, they sell rolls of sod grass. Each roll is about three feet by five feet and weigh about seventy pounds. I bought five rolls, the perfect amount to fix the problem.

I pulled the family SUV alongside the booth filled with sod rolls. When I opened the back hatch, I discovered that my kids had taken every inch of space with various things: a golf bag, biking helmets, wheels, a bike pump, and camping equipment. The list was endless. No worries, I’ll just put the grass in the passenger seat.

Hmmm, a glitch, the back door doesn’t stay open on its own anymore. Not to be deterred, I took a deep breath, reached over, and hoisted up the first roll while keeping the door open with my left foot. Suddenly I realized how unruly it was and much heavier than I anticipated. 

Seconds into this limbo dance, I surmised this was not a great idea. I was moving in slow motion. The sod roll began to unravel. I let go of the foothold on the car door to regain control of the roll. It was too late. The sod was unrolling down my body, and I couldn’t catch it. I lowered myself to the asphalt until I landed flat out in the parking lot with this roll of grass covering my body from my chin down to my feet. The weight of it pressed against me.

A man walked by and muttered loudly, “nice parking job.”

“Hey! There’s a person down here!” I shouted to no avail.

On this busy Saturday morning, men, women, children, and dogs walked around me, beside me, and barely missing my head. Ironically most were already looking down, focused on their cell phones. Have we become so oblivious to the world around us that we don’t notice a woman lying, covered in grass? Did they think I was a putting green in the parking lot?

And just like that. As. If. On. Cue. I looked up, and there was an old boyfriend.

“Leslie, is that you?” He asked, glancing down at me.

“Yes. It’s been a while.” I batted my eyelashes coquettishly.

“Here, let me help you.”

“No thanks, I’m good.” I was too embarrassed, “I’m doing a silent protest against global warming. Good to see you.” I lied on all counts.

“Take care.” He walked away.

Before I had any more unpleasant encounters, I slowly tried lifting the sod. I need to do more work on my core. It took some doing, but I finally got it off of me. But not without it leaving remnants of dirt all over my face and clothes.

From nowhere, a young man appeared wearing an orange vest, “Ma’am, do you need some help?” he asked me.

God, I hate being called ma’am!

Live with waffletude.

Driving Miss Crazy

This year the registration on my 2002 Acura required a smog test. I wasn’t concerned. I meticulously maintain my car.

“What do you mean it didn’t pass?” I questioned the attendant as if he had just told me my child had failed a physical education test.

“I’m sorry but the regulations have become more difficult for these older cars. Go have it checked out and then come back.” He said.

I immediately went to my trusted mechanic and told him of my plight. He hooked it up to a life support machine. “You need a new air compressor. I’ll fix it.”

When I returned, he hooked it up to the machine, “Just checking that it will pass. Hmmm no, see where the air is good, but the catalytic converter will not pass.”

“What does that mean?”

“You have to drive it for 50 miles then come back to me. But you have to drive it fast. And don’t stop.”

What kind of witchcraft auto repair was this? Drive a broken car to fix it? I hopped onto the only freeway that was pretty clear that time of day and drove 65 MPH. As soon as I reached 50 miles I headed back to the mechanic. By now it was 5:30 and he was closing.

“Come back tomorrow morning and I check it for you.”

“But I’ve been driving it like mad.”

“It’s okay.”

But it wasn’t okay. The following morning it failed again.

“Go drive another 50 miles, fast and steady.” 

Crazy talk. Maybe we should swing a dead chicken over it.

Even though I was becoming weary of this process, I drove my 50 miles and returned to the mechanic that afternoon. 

He plugged in his little red machine, “You must keep driving it’s not cleared yet. Go now. 50 miles. Then come back.”

With this amount of driving coupled with the cost of gas being what it is, I could buy a new car. I let out an audible sigh. Where was I going to be able to drive fast and steady for 50 miles in heavy afternoon traffic? Then I remembered New York Drive with its multiple lanes and wide-open space. And so, I traveled up and down the 3-mile loop at top speed, dodging cars and pushing through yellow lights. Waving my arms and honking, “I’ve got to keep driving! Can’t stop!” Other drivers glared at me as if I was filming Speed 3. Up and back, over and over and over for an hour and a half until I reached that magical 50-mile mark. Alas, it was all in vain. 

Time was of the essence; soon late fines would start piling up. I needed a guy. Everyone has a special mechanic guy. I put the word out.

“I gotta car guru for you,” Greg answered.

Perfect. I drove down to his mechanic’s shop where he was expecting me. I, on the other hand, was not expecting what I saw. This old man dawdling over to my car was the doppelganger to Billy Chrystal’s, Miracle Max in Princess Bride. 

“Pop za hood.”

“Ok.” I did as I was told.

There was a lot of banging noises for about 10 minutes and the car shook a couple of times before the hood slammed shut.

“It will pass. No charge. You must go right now.”

I bolted out of there and headed to the smog test sight, but not before checking my rearview mirror for a lifeless chicken that had possibly been swung over my car’s engine.

It passed. I will never question voodoo mechanics again.

Live with waffletude.

Be Boulder

My son Sam and I were off to Colorado to tour three colleges campuses in three days.

We flew from Burbank Airport to Denver arriving at 11:00 a.m. 

“Let’s rent a Mustang convertible,” Sam coaxed.

“No, this is our covered wagon. Grand Junction, here we come,” I announced getting into the rented Ford Expedition. “We’re part of the Wild West son.”

We took turns driving and napping until we arrived at Colorado Mesa University. This sporty university suited him like a saddle on a horse.

After that tour, Sam started driving as we pushed on to Durango. The long highway stretched as far as the eye could see. At 85 MPH we had the dust at our heels. 

Sam saw the police car hidden on the roadside before I did. A well-trained eye I’m guessing. He slammed on the breaks, testing their limits, as we entered this small town’s limits. The speed limit signs rapidly decreased from 65 MPH to 55 MPH, down to 45 MPH.

Immediately, the flashing lights pulled us over.

“Hello officer,” I stuck my head over leaning in front of Sam. “We’re from California, here touring colleges, on our way to Durango, and were lost,” I said batting my eyelashes.

“Mom, the map’s right there.”

“Do you know you were speeding?” He asked Sam. “I clocked you doing 67 in a 55.”

“Thank God!” I spurted, “not 85.”

“I see this is a rental car.”

“Oh, do you now?” said the fly to the spider.

The officer gave Sam the ticket. “It’s a hundred dollars. If you pay it within ten days you’ll only get 2 points on your record, not 4.”

“So this is a speed trap!” I protested.

“Mom, he’s holding my driver’s license!”

The officer ignored me, “If you’re lost, the most direct way is through the Red Mountain Pass.”

I released my seatbelt, “I think I’ll drive from here.”

It was 6:30 in the evening and the sun sets at 7:45. The road narrowed to one lane in each direction, snaking along with sharp, hairpin turns. No guard rails. No street lights. No other cars. Sixty-foot drops. The sun was sinking below the mountains, casting an eerie glow. I powered my way up.

I glanced over at Sam who was curled up on the passenger seat, napping. Wow, time flies.

Suddenly, the road turned sharply. I jerked the car to the right to avoid taking a Wile E. Coyote plunge. The brakes screeched, waking him up.

“AAAHHH!” Sam screamed. “Slow down! You’re going to kill us!”

My heart raced while I floored it, as if we were chased by a bounty hunter.

Butch, who are those guys?  

On the other side of the Rocky Mountains, the road was pitch black, but straight.

We arrived in Durango at 11:00 p.m. and found a hotel and a market. We bought fried chicken, mac and cheese, cookies, and a much-needed, watered-down 6-pack of beer.

In the morning, I packed the remaining full bottles. Sam posted a photo, “Traveling with my mom.”

“Wow. You drove through Red Mountain?” The campus guides were impressed. “It’s known as the most treacherous pass in the United States.”

The college in Durango was lovely, small, not a good fit for Sam.

Onward. Eight hours of driving later, we arrived at the University of Colorado, Boulder for our final tour. My God, it’s a beautiful campus!

I’m proud of Sam’s acceptance to this wonderful institution. Unfortunately, the tuition is about the same as buying a house.

Here is my advice to parents, don’t take your kid to the Ferrari dealership when you’re buying a Honda.

As I have always known, the perfect school finds the perfect kid. Colorado Mesa University here we come! Ye-Ha!

Live with waffletude

Bee’s Knees

I had a brilliant idea! As an add-on to a previously scheduled trip to Milwaukee, I decided to take the twins to Chicago. This way my daughter Lindsay could tour DePaul University and Sam could enjoy the city. 

In the morning, Lindsay and I left for DePaul, leaving Sam on his own. He texted me a picture of a large stack of cinnamon roll pancakes.

“I feel like a kid in a big city.”

“Sam, you are a kid in a big city.”

We toured the campus while, Sam posted on TikTok riding the Ferris Wheel, visiting the Bean, living Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

By the afternoon, we were finished with our tours and they boarded the 5:08 train to Milwaukee. 

“What a waste,” I thought, “alone in a hotel room in Chicago, on a Friday night.”

There was a happening bar in the adjacent hotel. Why not? I crossed the street I saddled up to the only available stool and ordered a Bee’s Knees. This was a $35 cocktail that consisted of vodka and honey floating around a large honeycombed ice cube.

“What is that?” the woman next to me inquired.

Bee’s Knees,” I replied, grateful for the interaction.

We began buzzing and chatting like old friends. She told me her story of a failed marriage and suffering multiple online dating mishaps. One night, she had simply given up on love. That same night, she received a private message from a high school friend that she had reconnected with on FaceBook. He took a shot and asked his high school crush out on a date, 30 years after graduation. They have been together ever since. Her story made this Queen Bee smile.

After we enjoyed a couple of cocktails, she flew off for dinner. I stayed behind and finished my Bee’s Knees, pretending I was in fact the bee’s knees and rich. I would have left with her, but I didn’t want to get caught going back to my hotel.

Suddenly, Bob swarmed into the vacant stool. 

“I’ll have a scotch rocks and another of whatever the lovely lady next to me is having.”  

Hmmm.

We struck up a pleasant conversation. I noticed his wedding band, which put me at ease. He talked about his wife and bragged about paying for his daughter’s education at NYU. Then he gave me his business card. When I took the card, I noticed his room key was slipped underneath it.  

“Well Honey.”

“What is that?” My stinger came out. Although, I must admit, I was a bit flattered for a nanosecond. “Ugh! No, thank you.” 

I bee lined it back to my hotel.

The next morning, I took an UBER to the airport. The driver was a kid not much older than my son, Jack, maybe 26. We talked the entire way to the airport about colleges. It broke my heart when he told me his story that he finished college but couldn’t get his degree because he owed $5,000. He was driving an UBER in the hopes of returning to his dream. I wish I could have written a check right there. If I couldn’t, I knew someone who could. 

I took a picture of his information card on the back of the seat.

Engulfed in a swarm of revenge, I texted it to the number on that jerk’s business card, “Hey Scum-Money bag. You should send this worthy kid $5,000 to redeem yourself.”

Live with waffletude.

Bearly Pawsible

It was a lovely spring Saturday and the afternoon sun was warm and inviting. The chaise lounge that rests at the base of an acacia tree was calling out to me. I lay down and began listening to my audible book. The reader’s words lulled me to the edge of Napville. Until…

…I was rudely interrupted by my golden retriever who began his regular practice of gently scratching at my arm with his paw to get my attention. Usually, there is a ball in his mouth.

“Ugh, Lucky. Not now, give me 20 minutes,” I whined at the dog, refusing to open my eyes, which is the signal that playtime could commence.

But he wouldn’t take no and his nagging pawing persisted. I couldn’t get angry with him, he did it in such a profoundly gentle way. Notably so. In fact, I began to think it was my teenage daughter, Lindsay, playing a trick on me. I could feel her weight against me. I did everything I could not to open my eyes.

“Lindsay, just give me 20 minutes pleeeeease.”

Tap, tap, tap.

“Fine, I give up.” Slowly I opened my eyes.

“AAAHHH!!”

Leaning against me with his hairy, hundred plus pound body, with one leg dangling off the lounge, his snout inches away from my nose, and his tongue poised and ready to go for the kiss was… the BEAR CUB. He smiled.

I’m sorry to say that my scream, and a sudden leap in the air, scared him. He jumped off the lounge, climbed up the acacia tree and rested on the first branch he reached. From this safe spot, he gazed down at me.

I immediately felt awful for scaring the little guy and wished that I hadn’t. The mother and his brother were watching a few feet away. She shook her head and they turned and walked away, balancing on the cinderblock wall, off to my neighbor’s house.

“Beth! Steve! The bear tried to kiss me,” I shouted.

“Bear?” They called from their backyard.

“They’re coming to you. Pucker up!”

With all the screaming, Lindsay came running out of the house to see what was causing all the commotion.

“Look up in the tree,” I instructed.

“You scared him,” she scolded me.

“I know. I feel awful.” I glanced down at the gentle paw marks on my arm.

The bear cub straddled the narrow branch that wobbled underneath his weight. 

“Do you think he recognized you?” Lindsay asked.

“Yes, of course. It’s the same bear with the yellow tag and the cubs I saw up the trail last year. We’ve seen her so many times. I’m sure they recognized me.”

Suddenly, the Mama Bear called him to her with a clicking sound. He raised his head to listen. Mom’s calling. So, he gingerly shinnied down the large tree trunk.

“Careful, don’t take out my lights, they were a bear to put up. Good-bye, little friend,” I said from the base of the tree. “Next time I promise to be nicer.”

He walked over to his mom, who was waiting for him on the wall, and together they walked back over to Beth and Steve’s house for a swim.

Despite what you are thinking, this story is true.

“Silly ol’ bear.”

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Stang

I drive a sensible car, a Honda, which is perfect for my sensible life. But while at a stoplight, a car slammed into my Honda and knocked the sensible right out of me.

The other driver’s insurance would pay for all the repairs, but I was angry over the huge inconvenience of finding a body shop and getting a rental car.

Wearily, I told the rental car agent, “I’m here to rent a car. Here is the insurance claim number.”

“Welcome, it looks like you have an allotment of fifty dollars a day for fifteen days.”

“Fine. Whatever car you have is fine. It’s all fine,” I replied.

“Let’s see, we have a Chevy SUV, a 4-door sedan, and a Mustang convertible.”

“Back up! What did you say?” I perked up.

“Yes, a 2021 Mustang convertible. No one under 25 is technically allowed to drive it.”

That was going to be a problem. I thought for a second about how upset my seventeen-year-old son, Sam, will be before asking, “Where do I sign?”

I barely made it into the driveway, “MOM! You rented a Stang? Give me the keys.” Sam declared.

“Sorry, you can’t drive it.”

I hadn’t seen him this bitter since he was little. He campaigned hard to convince me to hand over the keys. I stood strong.

For the next weeks, I drove everywhere with the top down. The wind blowing my hair around was intoxicating.

I told the body shop to take their time.

I played country music loudly. My daughter Lindsay looked over at me in dismay and shouted, “Who are you?”

Suddenly I was the cool mom. I was Walter Mitty. I can’t go back to my sensible life.

But like all good dreams, this one had to come to an end. With the Honda finished, I drove the Stang back to the rental dealership where I was immediately greeted by the agent, “I’m sorry, but our computers are down and we cannot accept any cars until 6:00.”

“What?” I backed out before they changed their mind.

I drove to Sam and Lindsay’s high school and walked up to the front office counter. “I’m afraid my kids might have been exposed to COVID and I need to take them out to be tested,” I lied.

“By all means,” the woman answered.

Two minutes later my worried kids appeared.

“Hush, just follow my lead,” I ushered them out and toward the awaiting Mustang. “Hop in,” I instructed.

Sam and Lindsay hopped in over the sides of the car like Starsky and Hutch. I got behind the steering wheel and revved up the engine.

“Did someone say Bueller? Ferris Bueller?” I winked.

“MOM! Where are we going?”

“Kids, where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

I drove up Laurel Canyon, and just before we got to Mulholland Drive, I pulled over. “Wanna drive?”

Sam’s eyes popped and he was behind the driver’s seat faster than you can say, “Holy Stang, Batman.” We blasted the Beatles’ Twist and Shout while he cruised across Mulholland Drive like Carroll Shelby. The ride of a lifetime. We drove through Beverly Hills, up Rodeo Drive listening to Pretty Woman. People waved and took our picture. Then down Sunset Boulevard to the Pacific Coast Highway. The sun was bright and bounced off the ocean. 

Ventura Highway in the sunshine,” we sang it loud and proud. 

We were past Malibu Beach when I noticed the time. “Guys, we’ve got one hour to get this back.”

 Abruptly, I made a U-turn, and floored it, but not without saying, “Danke schoen, darling, Danke schoen!” 

At 5:59 I rolled back to my sensible life… well almost. 

Live with waffletude.

Be More Like Betty

Not too long ago, I wrote about a trip my daughter Lindsay and I made to a unique bookstore. There, we had a ghostly encounter when a book flew off the shelf and landed at my feet. But that wasn’t the only encounter we had that memorable afternoon.

While browsing, one book in particular caught Lindsay’s eye. 

“Mom, I found a cool book out front,” she said, tugging on my arm like a toddler.

With my ghostly book safely tucked under my arm, I followed her outside to the bookshelves attached to the exterior of the building.

“It’s here somewhere,” she said, tilting her head slightly to get a better view of the book titles printed on the spines. “Now, where did it go? It’s purple. Someone had written on the front page. I can’t read it because it’s written in cursive.” Her fingertips tapped on spine after spine. Pulling out one book after another, “No, no, no.” Until finally, “Yeah! Here it is.” She pulled out the like new, lilac and peacock blue book. It had barely been touched. Proudly she handed it over to me and pointed, “Right there on the front page.”

Sure enough, written in perfect cursive, “To John and Mary – Love Betty. Wow,” I said when I finished reading. “Betty is such an old-fashioned name. Wait a minute,” with a quick flip, I turned the book on its side and read the title and, more notably, the author.

“Lindsay, Betty White wrote this book about her dog.”

“Who is Betty White?” she asked.

“What!? How have I failed you?”

I rifled through the pages when suddenly a piece of stationary floated out – good, expensive stationary with a watermark and Betty’s name embossed on top. It was a hand-written thank you note for a lovely dinner. I carefully slipped it back inside the book and slammed it shut.

“Don’t tell anyone,” I ordered. “I doubt the store knows about this treasure, and if they do, they won’t sell it, or they’ll sell it for a small fortune.” 

Lindsay nodded like Oliver Twist to Fagin, “Okay, Mom.”

We hustled up to the counter.

“Did you have a fun visit?” the nice girl asked.

“Yes, thank you,” I replied with a rapid, guilt-stricken voice. “Did you find anything interesting?” she continued.

Lindsay nodded stoically, revealing nothing.

“Good, it’s fun here. May I see your choices?” She asked holding out her hands.

“WHAT?” I gasped. 

“Just to see the prices.”

“Oh… of course,” I threw my head back and chuckled, “ha, ha, ha.”

What if she finds the note? What if that other book jumps out at her as it did me? My heart raced until she reached down and put them in a plain brown paper bag.

“Your total is $4.35.”

“What? That’s it? That’s all?” 

“Yes, this is a used book store.”

“Oh.” I handed her a five-dollar bill. “Keep the change as a donation.” I grabbed the bag and Lindsay, and I made a run for it. When our feet touched the sidewalk, I turned to Lindsay, “Start the car! Start the car!”

Now it’s my turn to write Betty White a thank you note.

Dear Betty,

Thank you for the wonderful nights I spent watching “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls”. It seems you have always been a part of our lives. Thanks for showing us there’s humor in everything; for your “off-color” jokes, and for making dim-witted look so bright. Thank you for showing the world that old age is not just okay, but fun. And, of course, teaching us we need animals more than they need us. You’ve moved on, but trust we will pick up the flag and keep laughing while being pulled by a dog on a long leash.

Live with waffletude

Only 10 Good Ones

It was 6:30 Christmas morning. My house was quiet, but I knew from past experiences it was only the calm before the storm. First comes the rumble of footed pajamas hitting the hardwood floor, followed by running down the hallway and finally the bed shaking from bodies jumping on top of me shouting, “Santa came! Santa came!”

Then, as quickly as they have descended upon me, they’re gone, running down the stairs to see what awaited them under the Christmas tree.

“Don’t touch anything until I get down there,” I gleefully shout, pretending to know nothing of what they are about to discover. 

“Mommy, hurry up.”

I never once let on that it was I who took the bite from the cookie and drank the lukewarm milk, or that the ashy boot prints on the floor from the fireplace leading up to the tree were my hand; literally, my hands were buried in an old pair of hiking boots. Also, their presents from me were wrapped in a different paper than the ones from the North Pole. 

However, the pièce de résistance, was a handwritten note from Santa. It was done on a special vellum paper with a fountain pen filled with translucent blue ink, used only once a year, congratulating each child on jobs well done.

I’ll admit my efforts rivaled that of a serial killer who doesn’t want to get caught, but wants the credit, nonetheless. 

On this morning, 2021, at 6:30, the house was still silent. I wasn’t totally surprised; the twins are teenagers now and Jack is 25. I went downstairs and loaded up their stockings with trinkets and gift cards to Starbucks and Jamba Juice, pulled out the specially wrapped presents from the hall closet, and placed them under the tree. I made a pot of coffee, started a fire in the fireplace, and sat in the living room. It was 7:00.

“Santa came!” I shouted up the staircase.

Crickets. 

That’s okay, I thought they could sleep a little longer. I finished that cup of coffee, started on the second, and sat back down in front of the fire.

My cell phone dinged. 

It was my group chat with my closest friends, all parents of my kids’ friends.

Are anyone’s kids up yet?

Within seconds everyone chimed in with the same response. No.

Mine still asleep.

What’s up with that?

“Santa came! Santa came!” I hollered up again like a longshoreman.

“5 minutes, Mom.”

“5 minutes? It’s already 9:30!”

I wish someone had told me that you only have 10 magical Christmases. Only 10. Early on, I took it for granted. I thought it would last forever.

Kids don’t understand the concept at first. But by the time they reach 4, they’ve figured out the system – sit on the smelly old man’s lap, don’t cry, don’t wiggle, and tell him your heart’s desire. Days later, it magically appears under that bright tree. By age 6, they’re giving Santa detailed handwritten lists, forcing you to dash back and scramble, “Hey, elf dude, give me back my kid’s list. I need it.”

The golden years. Right around the 10th one, some kid’s rotten older brother spills the beans. But with a bit of finesse and hard work, you can keep the illusion going for a couple more years. They go along with you based on the adage – if you want to receive, you must believe. 

Then they no longer can hear the ringing of the bell, and you find yourself alone at 10:00 on Christmas morning bellowing, “For God’s sake, kids, frickin’ Santa came!”

The chat dings again. 

Anybody’s kids up yet?

No, parents moving on to Bloody Marys.

Now there’s a brilliant idea.

Apparently, the tree will not be the only thing lit on Christmas morning.

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