O Lord, You didn’t give plants the ability to speak words, bark, or meow. They can’t even drag their dishes across the floor. But OMG, when we forget to water them (for two whole days!), they make their feelings very clear.
The dresser’s original kid probably wadded clothes Mom had folded and stuffed them into its drawers. Perhaps he yanked out drawers, climbed the “stairs” and jumped off the top with an umbrella parachute.
Years later, I discovered that dresser in a secondhand store, marked half-price. It would do until my three-year-old son started school. However, it wore a woebegone, cast-off aura.
As a teen, I’d rolled my eyes when Mom painted end tables orange and a bedroom suite blue. Who did that?
Well … I did. After a critical paint chip comparison, I began painting the chest eye-popping blue. I planned to paint its handles equally vivid red.
Then my young husband needed an emergency appendectomy. While Hubby slowly recovered from complications, I slowly finished the dresser. Late at night, I added a second coat, a third, maybe more — I don’t remember. I experienced a glad moment when I hauled the completed dresser upstairs to my son’s bedroom. An even happier one when I brought his daddy home.
Both had jobs to do. Daddy returned to work. The dresser once more endured yanks, shoves and a “helpful” kid who stuffed clothes Mom had folded into its drawers. (He also attempted to climb to the dresser top, but I stopped him on the second step.)
A doggie bank constructed from a Pringles can resided on it, along with half-consumed PB&J sandwiches and piles of baseball cards. With ABC curtains, Mickey Mouse sheets, and a carpet perpetually layered with toys, the dresser helped make the room my kid’s haven.
But adolescence sneaked in. The first clouds of Eau de Gym Shoe settled over his room and, with them, a dark cloud of protest: Mickey Mouse sheets? Seriously? Did he really need ABCs displayed on his curtains?
I changed his décor to manly navy blue. Strangely, he didn’t ask me to lose the dresser.
Perhaps, even he realized he didn’t need a bigger one. Why, when his wardrobe resided in heaps on the floor?
Plus, the doggie bank’s big smile still matched the dresser perfectly.
One day, he departed for college, then marriage. The cheerful blue dresser, deprived of its kid, looked a little sad.
Now, though, it proudly houses coloring books, finger paints, and Play-Doh for grandchildren.
That dresser was made for kids.
And this old kid still loves it.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What furniture in your home tells your family’s story?
When we moved into our first house with a fireplace, a primeval pyro urge pumped through our veins. A friend gave us firewood, appropriately enough, as a housewarming gift. We could hardly wait to rest chilly bones by a roaring fire, snuggling close with our children and toasting marshmallows.
The kids would say, “Tell us stories from long ago, Mom and Dad. Teach us your words of wisdom.” When we needed wood, they would fight for the privilege to trudge into the cold and haul it in.
We built a real fire. Once.
My pyromaniac father considers this immoral. He turns on gas heaters only in an emergency (if the U.S. is attacked by ice aliens). We wear shorts during visits, even in January, because Dad builds fires that make us sweat like August athletes.
He designs woodpiles as objets d’art. The wood must be perfect in composition, age and texture. With the precise calculations of an engineer, he stacks it in symmetrical rows, and woe to the bumbling, fumbling fool who upsets his perfect balance.
Dad mostly grants sons and grandsons the privilege of helping. Occasionally he extends this glorious favor to granddaughters. But I, his 60-something daughter, endure the ignominy of being left out with a martyr’s smile. Somebody has to sleep in front of football games.
Occasionally, we adult children consider buying him firewood because we fear for his safety and well-being. But we don’t, because we fear for ours. The wood never meets his standards, and Dad, seasoned by years of chopping, can also throw it.
My siblings and I confess, to our shame, that we have not inherited his noble fire-building genes. We own wussy gas fireplaces with ceramic logs and fake coal beds that don’t emit the magic fragrance of wood smoke. We, the children of hardy pioneer stock, use decorative fire pokers and shovels to hit the ON button. From the sofa. Before we fall asleep in front of football.
Occasionally, Dad has visited, condescending to sit by our fireplace and marvel at its convenience. Just the same, we hide any old Boy Scout hatchets hanging in the garage and count our trees every morning.
We stand in awe of our father — but we keep his fire-building activities a deep, dark family secret. After all, we don’t want him to get in trouble with the government. Despite extensive research, they still don’t know Dad is the primary cause of global warming.
And if they try to take away his ax or woodpiles, we know Dad will get a little fired up.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you use your fireplace? Is it the real thing? Or fake?
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?
Getting dressed has become a religious experience. Every morning I fall on my knees before opening the closet door, because one tiny shift on my shelves sets off shock waves that could lead to global disaster.
Still, I do not pose the ultimate threat. Rather, people who alphabetize socks pose a menace to freedom and the American way. Their closets resemble well-organized mausoleums, with shoes and sweaters residing in little plastic caskets. They file shirts, dresses and pants according to color, fiber content and button count.
Worse yet, their clothes fit. No sign of the fat-jean wardrobe every normal woman cherishes. No rack of size three dresses to provide the self-delusion necessary for good mental health. These disturbed personalities are desperately in need of therapy, medication and grandchildren with Popsicles.
They also demonstrate a pathological lack of conscience as their clothes age. How can someone be so callous as to condemn a loyal pair of black pants that has stood with them through years of Christmas parties, church services and funeral wakes to an unknown fate?
Sometimes, though, I long for the freedom of college days, when my wardrobe consisted of two beloved pairs of jeans, two T-shirts and a granny dress I wore when my future in-laws came to town.
After marriage, however, my expandable waistline stretched my outfits into three categories: pre-prego, prego and post-prego.
By my children’s adolescence, not even an underweight moth could edge in. I never would have suffered from closet claustrophobia if my daughters had done the decent thing and raided my closet during their teen years.
Instead, they plundered their father’s. We didn’t realize he had become a retro fashion icon until one Sunday before church as I made a routine check of the “teen corner.” Our younger daughter was wearing a purple-striped surfer shirt.
“Steve, she’s wearing that shirt I gave you for your 18th birthday.”
He cocked an eye. “Um, her friend’s wearing one of my shirts, too.”
It wasn’t fair. If Steve had worn ruffles during the 1960s like every other self-respecting hippie, the girls never would have touched his stuff. His closet would have looked as bad as mine.
Eventually, our children all married young and left town. I have no idea why.
I visited their quiet rooms and shed tears at the sight of neatly made beds and unnaturally bare floors.
And three beautiful, empty closets.
Does opening your closets inspire fervent prayer as well?