I feel for pregnant moms whose steps slow as the months pass. Although decades have gone by, I remember well those exhausting days. I doubt these lovely young women believe their husbands’ reassurance any more than I believed mine, who told me I was beautiful.
What insanity had blinded his usual astute vision? Seven months pregnant with our first child, I felt like a walking ottoman.
“So if I just walk backwards, nobody will know?”
“It means you’ll lose weight fast after the baby’s born.” A family practice resident at the local hospital, he knew how to handle cranky women in their last trimester.
I kissed him goodbye. Would I splurge and take the bus to my part-time job or ride my bike through our quiet neighborhood? I grinned. Each time I rode up on my three-speed, Mr. Plunkett, an older man in my office, threw his window open in horror.
Mrs. Phillips!” he shouted. “Come in and put your feet up!”
He always brought me a glass of water. Where was my mother? Did my husband really find this acceptable?
But graying skies made a ride risky. Mr. P. might have a coronary if I rode up amid thunder and lightning. So I decided to take the bus.
I donned my pink maternity outfit and slipped into comfortable shoes I’d bought when I no longer could see my feet. I arrived at the bus stop five minutes early, drifting into daydreams of nursery rhymes and rock-a-bye songs.
I stared at my stomach, confused. Sure, I was going to have a baby, but—? I cast a cautious glance behind.
Two linemen, perched atop an electrical pole, hooted at me. And yes, unless I had lost feminine instincts along with my waistline, ear-to-ear lecherous smiles gleamed on their faces.
Blank disbelief washed over me—then a joyous rush of wickedness. But Niceness pointed a finger at me, and I wavered. Should I? Or shouldn’t I?
I turned around and waved sweetly at my admirers, who nearly fell to the ground.
I waddled up the steps onto the bus. As it rolled away, I watched them hugging the pole, trying in vain to hide scarlet, guilty faces.
“Whoa, baby,” I whispered to my stomach. “You’re already knocking ’em off their feet.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite prego story?
We should have detected this temperature difference from the start. However, the stars in our eyes prevented us from noticing icicles hanging from his chin and people around me turning tan.
I now believe our wedding vows should have limited the number of blankets on our bed to 37. Hubby wishes we had included something about nailing windows shut.
My skeletal new husband’s body temperature never rose above 50 degrees. I determinedly fed him Crisco®, so he finally gained a few pounds. Still, he occasionally builds bonfires in his office to stave off frostbite.
During cold weather, he pushes the thermostat up to the ionosphere. I want to rescue planet earth — and our heating bill — by keeping it at 60. He says I’m cruel. I say, I’m green. And as Kermit the Frog once sang, it’s not easy being green.
His answer: “It’s not easy living with you, either.”
To accomplish temperature compatibility at night, all he has to do is steal the covers, and all I have to do is let him. Problem solved? No way. Hubby slumbers quietly, and even when cold, doesn’t grab my blanket. Is he trying to take me out with heat stroke?
We’re not the only spouses who suffer from irreconcilable temperature differences. One wife told her man if he didn’t like their family room’s cool ambience, he could go someplace hotter. (I don’t think she meant the Bahamas.)
Another couple solved their incompatibility by buying a new car with fancy dual heat-and-air-conditioning controls. She set hers at ten degrees less than his. They spent thousands of dollars to end the temperature tug-of-war. And lived happily ever after, right?
Nope. The fancy new hot-butt button is not dual-control.
Then there’s the frozen wife who bowed to her hot-natured husband’s needs, but rented out her living room as an ice rink. …
And some say married life is boring.
Perhaps the excitement presents one more aspect of imaginative design. God, who invented male and female wiring, apparently wants to keep the sparks alive in today’s marriages. And maybe God wants us to work things out. …
Hubby and I have to admit that sitting on opposite seats of the same seesaw keeps us communicating. Neither has jumped off the temperature teeter-totter during our almost 43 years of togetherness. And we hope our world is a bit cozier for it.
That kind of global warming? Couldn’t we all stand a little more?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Who yanks on which side of the temperature tug-of-war at your house?
O my God, thank You for making Hubby and I unique individuals. But now that it’s October, he wants to turn on the heat. I still want to throw open windows. OMG, for us, marriage gives a whole new meaning to “hot woman” and “cool guy.”
Once upon a time, in our backyard, there lived Penelope the peach tree.
Actually, two lived there. But even as we moved in, Percy the peach tree took one look at us, his new owners, and said, “There goes the neighborhood!” He never recovered.
Penelope delayed her judgment. Still, she expressed her disapproval: not one peach appeared that first summer. Next spring, though, pale pink blossoms crowded Penelope’s branches, exquisite as an oriental painting. I told Hubby, “That tree loves us.”
Visions of bubbling, crusty pie à la mode and caramel peach praline shortcake filled my salivating days.
However, when Hubby thinned tiny, excess peaches from Penelope’s branches, she took revenge by producing three edible fruits — and a thousand that resembled green ball bearings rolled in pepper.
The mutant peaches did not go to waste, however. I made jam as Christmas gifts for my less-than-favorite relatives.
The following year, we respectfully requested Penelope produce real, peach-colored peaches, bigger than a marble. And no black rash, please.
Some trees, like some people, can’t take constructive criticism. The following spring, she wore only a few sulky blossoms and no fruit. Our fractured relationship distressed me. My relatives started speaking to me again, once they knew they wouldn’t receive pepper peach jam at Christmas.
It was a very sad year.
Next spring, however, blossoms crowded Penelope’s branches. Perhaps she’d repented of her pettiness. More likely, she simply forgot. Peach trees aren’t known for sharp memories.
When hubby thinned Penelope’s too-plentiful peaches again, I exercised caution when walking behind the garage, her domain. Would Penelope throw her remaining peaches at us?
Surprise! Penelope’s green peaches grew from marble to golf ball to baseball size. So many loaded one branch that it cracked. She obligingly provided just enough greenish, pepper-dotted fruit to make Christmas jam for my relatives.
But Penelope’s peaches ripened in her time frame — not when I was free to pick, peel and slice. Because of writing deadlines, I remained chained to my laptop.
Hubby made new weekend plans.
As my dearly beloved donned an apron, we heard devious chuckles from behind the garage. Penelope exacts revenge on peach-pruners, one way or another.
Hubby griped. But I had infected him with my pie and praline shortcake vision. He peeled and packaged.
Is he a peach of a guy, or what?
To Penelope, this ending to her saga may seem like the pits.
But smiling at each other over hot peach pie and ice cream, we’ll take Penelope’s “happily ever after” every time!
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite peach indulgence?
My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, read James Whitcomb Riley poems, along with other Hoosier literature, after noon recess every day.
She brought poems and stories to life in a way that made my ears and mind tingle.
However, she enforced “rest time.” We had to lay our heads on our desks while she read, an indignity that smacked of kindergarten naptime. After all, we were nine-year-olds, soon to reach double digits.
We didn’t need any dumb rest time.
Decades later, I realized that after policing a playground resembling a crash derby without cars, then facing a similar classroom scenario, she might need the break.
Not all of Riley’s poems topped my “favorites” list. Braver classmates asked Mrs. Baker to read “Little Orphant Annie.” Why did they like those repeated references to “gobble-uns” that would get us if we didn’t shape up?
I already slept with my knees near my shoulders to avoid giant spiders lurking at the foot of my bed. Adding gobble-uns to my nighttime freak-out list didn’t induce much sleep.
Even more frightening, Little Orphant Annie had to do lots of housework.
“But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.”
However, James Whitcomb Riley never would have received an A on a grammar test. He would have been the very first down in a spelling bee.
Mrs. Baker and other teachers deluged us with homework, tests and even demerits to ensure my classmates and I spoke and wrote correctly.
Yet my teacher read us his poems almost daily.
Grown-ups never made sense.
Despite my confusion, James Whitcomb Riley’s magic sang in my head and heart. A Hoosier like me, he wrote about the land and life I knew and loved. He instilled pride into us for who we were — kids in a country school in a county where farmers helped feed a nation and the world.
His poems still resonate with me, especially on a crisp, fall Indiana morning with a shimmer of silver on my lawn, and gold, russet, and scarlet leaves flying in the chilly, sunny breeze. James Whitcomb Riley still reminds me of all I cherish in my native state.
Even if he didn’t know how to spell.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did your childhood teachers read to you? What was your favorite read-aloud story/poem?
Is there anything more fun than sneaking a walk when you should be hard at work?
Perhaps balancing the national budget, achieving world peace and losing four dress sizes rank above it. None of these, however, appear imminent. So I pilfer little thrills, like kernels of candy corn, when I can.
Autumn’s tawny, sun-freckled face grins from every yard and field, a mischievous TP-er who messes with trees so we have to clean up many-hued clutter. Scraggly flowers, survivors with colorful personalities, mix well with show-off mums. Ragged, brown corn and soybeans look weathered and friendly as smiling scarecrows that guard small-town yards and grocery store produce sections.
Al mellow and unhurried. Autumn urges me to enjoy its relaxed aura while I can.
However, calling my husband to spring me from jail isn’t the best way to celebrate fall. Forcing my steps past, I promise myself a trip to an orchard.
Squirrels, sociopathic larcenists, don’t worry about raising bail. They freely steal fruit, walnuts and acorns, which they hide in my flower pots—their personal storage units. Fall squirrels are like spring dandelions, fluffy and cute. I love both … in other people’s yards.
All paths lead to the elementary school, easily evidenced by a trail of kid stuff: a flattened baseball hat; a pink bicycle abandoned near a stop sign; a plain strawberry Pop-Tart®, no doubt rejected because someone wanted frosted chocolate with sprinkles. Scholarly endeavors are verified by broken pencils and crinkled homework. How long has this rain-faded permission slip lain here?
Rows of cars at the school speak of the commitment of teachers, administrators and staff. I pray for them, as the place — even when recess is not in session — emits energy unmatched by Hoover Dam turbines.
Ditto for Taylor University. A substantial portion of its science building’s energy needs are supplied by geothermal, solar and wind power. However, the pulsating between-class rhythm of skateboarders, scooter-riders, cyclists and joggers who don’t even notice they’re jogging prompts another energy question: Couldn’t the remainder be supplied by students, who regard midnight as the start of prime time?
I seek quieter streets, where I can saunter, unmolested by the vigorous and motivated.
Instead, yards teem with home improvement projects, and on the town’s outskirts, farmers driving giant combines lumber into fields, braving clouds of chaff. All strive to complete their tasks before cold weather.
In the face of so much diligence, goofing off is downright tough. I head for home.
But that doesn’t mean autumn and I won’t try to play hooky tomorrow. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite goof-off season, and why?