The End Of Youth?

The End Of Youth surprised me one morning. It didn’t sneak up on me gradually, the way friends have related their own revelatory experiences with mirrors. For me, it came all of a sudden and I was hugely, comically surprised at the face in the mirror. It was as if the wrong person had jumped out of a cake in a sitcom. What? Who is that?

I’d ignored previous clues. Now they all piled on together. The checkout counter. Any given cash register where senior discounts were figured.

In the past, I’d ask for the discount and the person in charge made a fuss of saying, “No, you can’t be.” Some were sincere, others not, but I was fine with their reaction and fine with pulling out I.D. to prove I deserved the discount.

You can guess what’s coming. One day, everything changed. As I presented my merchandise, the cashier asked “And are you a member of our Senior Club?” That was the first time nobody said, “You can’t be,” and from that day forward, it happened more frequently.

It’s not a specific age. It happens to some of us  decades too soon, because an observer isn’t really observant or doesn’t know what aging looks like, or isn’t paying attention. It also happens the other way around for some of us, years later than we really deserve, and we are offered a grace period, while we pretend not to notice the changes in the mirror.

But it will arrive. It will come in some way at some time to you, personally, and that will be the beginning of many other things, some of them very good. It can be the beginning of figuring out the next stage, of deciding our own worth based not just on a set of physical markers.

This isn’t to say that I have the answers yet, but only to remind you, as a friend, that day is coming, the day you fully accept you are no longer young and that it’s okay.

Highway recipe

This morning, I drove I-5 through Central California. Ahead of me – tomatoes on a truck. Behind me, a truck full of garlic. In the middle? Me and spaghetti sauce. Really. My daughter made me some in L.A. and froze it and it was in my cooler in the car, thawing out for tonight’s supper in Northern California

Fruitcakes – the gifts that keep on giving.

I like the ones that look and feel like bricks.

I like the ones in a circle with giant chunks of candied fruit protruding.

I don’t trust the cake-y ones. A chunk of fruitcake should offer some resistance when you pick it up. A stomach should know it’s been fed fruitcake. What’s the point if it just looks and tastes like cake?

I tried to make fruitcake at home a couple of times. Mine didn’t have the heft and the mysterious bits of things that surface from the ones you can order.

A friend makes a credible plum pudding with hard sauce. It bakes in a small, circular pan and after everyone else is done with it, sometimes she freezes the leftovers for me. The good thing about this is that, old or new, a hefty holiday treat looks and tastes the same after weeks.

Somehow words make this sound unappetizing. But my mouth waters and I am signing off now, headed to the kitchen to brew some strong coffee that is almost worthy of my once-a-year fruitcake festival. Sadly, I had to buy one at the market, because I haven’t yet ordered the best one available.

I have a favorite source for fruitcake. It’s Collin Street Bakery in Texas. This is not a paid announcement. It’s a sincere wish that I’d already ordered one from them so that while I’m writing this on a December Sunday afternoon, I could have a slice.

My mother introduced me to them by passing along to me all the fruitcakes her Southern friends ever sent her. Several were from Collin Street Bakery and I was immediately addicted. I love these people for making their almost-too-heavy-to-lift, DeLuxe Fruitcake. Look them up online, and be sure you ask for the DeLuxe. Big D. Big L.

The annual October dilemma

The question is not who will win the World Series. It’s not who will win the election. It’s Halloween. All the Halloween candy is on sale, and if I buy it in advance, I will eat it in advance. Meanwhile the giant Tupperware bowl that holds the treats on the bench by the door, sits empty and forlorn. And coupons which will save me ALMOST HALF* the cost of my candy purchases, are set to expire before Halloween.

What to do, what to do, what to do….

* Note: The upper case letters may be a cry for help.

Sometimes there’s a need to be very, very specific.

She’s 7, and in the Me-centric world of a person who’s only inhabited space on this earth for a few years, she believes that everything she perceives is exactly what everyone else perceives. This is one of the purest definitions of the innocence of childhood; touching while it’s present and sad when it’s lost to reality.

She’s having a sick day at home on the living room couch. She maybe has a fever, and definitely the tummy is iffy. She wants the sheet on, then off, then on but with her feet out.

I’m a visiting, volunteer brow-soother. I change the cool cloth on her forehead, and since her mom is at work, she feels the need to explain to me exactly how this will go. Her comments are phrased in the form of questions, but she delivers them in a weary, oh-brother-here-we-go-again tone.

“You know how when you feel sick sometimes it starts in your head? But sometimes it starts in your tummy? Then you can feel it coming up from here?”

She pats her tummy.

“And then you start to cry? And then you throw up.”

The “you start to cry” part gets me.

She watches intently, to make sure I haven’t missed a step. She wants to know that her particular brand of sick is the one understood by anyone in charge, and since I’m not her mom, she’s careful to be specific, assuring herself I’ll do everything right.

“And then, will you please call mom at work and ask her if I can have some Canada Dry?’

This, she evidently believes, is a magic potion that makes the tummy stop what it’s doing. No sense reminding her that she’s keeping nothing down at the moment, so I assure her I’ll call her mom at work soon.

She flips over onto her side, curling up, turning her back to SpongeBob on T.V., clutching her tummy, struggling with the inevitability of the sequence she’s just described.

We dash to the bathroom and minutes later, with the washcloth refreshed on her forehead, I sit in a chair near her, paging through magazines, hoping she’ll get some rest. She asks,

“Did you know you can make a really cool tent with your feet? I’ll show you. You put your feet up like this.”

She’s got one foot in the air, propping up the sheet, but then the leg comes down again and she says,

“I’ll show you how later.”

Tummy calmed, within minutes she’s asleep. I’ll stay in this chair for a while, because when she wakes up, I’m sure there’ll be more specific instructions to come.

Here come the Naked Ladies.

People say Naked Ladies are practically indestructible, but I assumed I’d lost mine. Earlier this year, in my yard, a tree had to be removed right next to where the Naked Ladies bloomed last summer, and everything around the tree got uprooted.

I like it best when Naked Ladies show up in unlikely places. At the edge of town there’s a strip of land alongside the road and that patch of earth, unlike the rest of this mostly manicured area, remains inexplicably overrun with weeds. Last summer, a gorgeous line-up of feisty Naked Ladies popped up in the midst of the weeds. I wonder who put them there. Hope they’re back this year.

Driving in Sonoma County to visit friends in Sebastopol, I turned off the freeway to take a parallel road through the beautiful countryside and Naked Ladies nodded at me all along my route. I arrived at the driveway of my Sebastopol friends and admired the profusion of Naked Ladies along their fence. My friend, the only person I’ve ever heard say a discouraging word about a perfectly harmless pink flower, said, “I don’t like them. Never have.” I asked what does he have against Naked Ladies and he said, “They make me sad. They have no leaves and that’s no way for a flower to be.”

Within the last week, the Naked Ladies have been marching all over town, so just now I checked the bare spot in my front yard and sure enough, four of them are poking through. Soon, the naked little ladies in the first picture will resemble the grownup Naked Ladies in the second picture.

Kid walks into a greeting card store…

We are looking for a card for her mommy. She used to draw her own cards and they were filled to the edges with hearts and flowers and xxxxoooo, but since she learned to read, she prefers to pick one herself from the selection at Target.

When I’m in her town, we shop together. It turns out many of the cards on the bottom rows – the only part of the rack she can reach – are the ones featuring bad puns and broad humor. She’s loving this. I reach up to show her several cards with sweet sayings.

Me: “Look, they have other kinds of cards here too.”

She’s 7. She loves princesses and pink, but is equally fond of gross, and, I quickly learn, she’s a very independent shopper. Her sense of humor involves all things icky and yucky, and when rude sounds can be incorporated, all the better. If memory serves, her Mother’s Day card featured a monkey. For Easter, she chose a card with two cartoon rabbits teasing each other.

She: “This is hilarious!”

Me: “Or, here’s another pretty one.”

She: (offended) “Mom will like this one.”

And she was right, of course.

Until she gets taller, the sentiment is circumstantial, and based on what I’ve seen of the bottom row, her mom can expect lots of animal jokes and things that pop out when she opens her cards. Mom may someday receive more hearts and flowers, but she’ll have to wait ‘til her kid can reach the next rows up.

© Anita Garner 2012