Pay attention. I am not kidding. Really.

Month: August, 2014

Odd #6: Glamorous Aunt Doris

photo of 1950s bride in traditional white dress with train

Glamorous Aunt Doris

When you’re a flat-chested, white-skinned, ten-year-old red-head with transparent eyelashes, you really want nothing more than to grow up into a voluptuous, raven-haired beauty with skin that tans. At least, that’s all I ever wanted at that age.

Alas, redheads stay redheads – redheads who would pay any amount of money for a decent supply of melanin. And voluptuousness? While showing up in some of the female members on my mother’s side of the family, it apparently wasn’t in genes I inherited from either side.

Aunt Doris, nine years younger than my mother, was the sophisticated, single beauty I longed to be. The golden child of the five children in my mother’s family, she was beautiful, smart, savvy, eager to leave and make her fortune in the city, AND had plenty of melanin. My kind of woman.

Of course, it helped that she brought back sophisticated gifts from the city for me: a cuddly black-and-white Panda bear that played Brahm’s Lullaby; a knock-em-dead, white-fox child’s muff and stole set; and various other urbane goodies.

photo of author at age three in a glamorous white fox hat, stole, and muffs

Me in Aunt Doris’ chic gift

Obviously, I was her favorite niece. I’m not entirely sure this would’ve been true if she’d been married then and had her own children to spoil. Nevertheless, she wasn’t, I was nearby, and she spoiled me. Thus, she became my favorite aunt.

It’s odd the things
an odd child will remember.

When I think of glamorous Aunt Doris, I remember the weekend of her wedding. I was left in her Indianapolis apartment with a babysitter while the rest of the family trooped off to the evening rehearsal. This gave me plenty of time to see how city-dwellers live, while the babysitter lost herself in her juicy True Confessions magazine.

My parents, as residents of rural Indiana, were still using an antiquated oak, wall-hung telephone which could only call across a small hill to my grandparents, who had a real telephone capable of connecting to the rest of the world. You can understand, then, my fixation with sophisticated Aunt Doris’ smart black desk phone on a diminutive lady’s desk in her living room. Its numbers were crisp black on very bright white circles of what my six-year-old mind surmised to be real pearl. Ours, on the other hand, were faded black on disgustingly dirty yellow circles of who-knew-what.

I didn’t mind one bit that I’d been deemed too young to go to the rehearsal; I was staying in a place that could’ve been the movie set for any number of 1940s and 1950s movies I’d seen with my parents. Katherine Hepburn had nothing on me. I amused myself by flouncing around Aunt Doris’ city apartment awaiting Spencer Tracy’s dramatic and inevitable arrival.

Though I attended Aunt Doris’s and Uncle Ray’s wedding, I have no personal memories of it. That’s not to say I don’t know what happened and how everyone looked. I do. I know because I paid attention to the eight-by-ten wedding glossies in my grandparents’ album. Crisp black and white, they were taken by a professional photographer (not inept Great Uncle Charlie).

Thanks to the pro, I didn’t have to use much imagination; every detail was sharp and memory-making. Again and again on a steamy Indiana summer’s day, I climbed the stairs to the upstairs south bedroom of my grandparents’ 1840s red-brick home. There in the privacy of a bedroom left with only faint whisperings of classy Aunt Doris’ cologne, I’d sit on the brown-painted, wide-planked wood floors and pore over her wedding photos. 

There was handsome Uncle Ray, with his new D.C. degree fresh under his belt, in his crisp black tuxedo with shiny satin lapels and Aunt Doris in a gloriously full-skirted, floor-length white gown (with the mandatory six-foot-long train). Of course, there was the rest of the wedding party, but they paled in comparison to my favorite aunt.

In the same trunk with the album, showcasing beautiful Aunt Doris and her beautiful bridesmaids, was a bridesmaid dress Aunt Doris had apparently worn in one of their weddings. It was sooo elegant – rich emerald-green satin with a V-cut neck and slender sleeves that came to a V just above the knuckles and buttoned up the wrist with painfully tiny pearl buttons.

Of course, I had to try it on.

What a disappointment: it swallowed my ten-year-old frame. It didn’t help that I was small for my age. Even enormous wads of toilet paper surreptitiously stolen from the bathroom downstairs and stuffed into the very pointy bust area (remember, this was the fifties) didn’t help.

I preened in front of the long vanity mirror, standing as tall as possible. I tried desperately to look a voluptuous, beautiful, and sophisticated 24 – the oldest I could possibly imagine myself. I so hoped that one day I really would be all those things – a younger version of glamorous Aunt Doris.

I even tried my hand at a grand bridal entrance. I’d slowly descend the 1840s, brown-and-cream-painted staircase, pausing for subtle effect on the landing, for the benefit of a bevy of imaginary family members in the hall below. Then, paying very close attention to the stairs (as I frequently tripped during this scene of the play), I slowly and carefully minced down the stairs in a dress fifteen inches too long.

It could’ve all been so grand.

Yikes. Time for a reality check. Here am I a great deal past 24, and not once has anyone ever described me as voluptuous or beautiful or sophisticated. And where did I get married? In a small, southern town’s church with nary a staircase in sight and all my relatives 500 miles away. If I’d been correctly dropped in the city by Mr. Stork, I’m certain things would have been different.

Or would they?

The Pay-Attention Bit

Speculating about how things might’ve been better if such-and-such had happened to us – pay attention – is not time well spent.

  • I got on with it and gave up blaming Mr. Stork a long time ago.
  • I finally came to terms with being a redhead and having the melanin-challenged skin that inevitably comes with the territory.
  • I even got over my decided lack of glamour and voluptuousness.

No, it isn’t your imagination. Yes, we are back to the pay-attention tips in Odd #2: Getting On With It and Odd #3: Getting Over It, because I intend to harp on them a lot (just so you know).

  • Getting over it and getting on with it are the only ways to make peace with “what might have been.”
  • Getting over it and getting on with it are two skills that can help us laugh at ourselves and our silly notions.
  • Getting over it is just about the only way we can motivate ourselves to change our thinking so that we can get on with our lives.
  • Getting over it and getting on with it work waaay better than self-medication.

Good news is coming. Even if we weren’t dealt the hand we think we should’ve been dealt, most of us can look back and find examples of how things did go right. In Odd #7, you’ll read about a perfect example of that: a nostalgic story that shows even though Mr. Stork stupendously screwed up, the adults in the story performed admirably.

red box with white text: "In life, you can blame a lot of people and you can wallow in self-pity, or you can pick yourself up and say, 'Listen, I have to be responsible for myself.'” – Howard Schultz

Straight shooting from Starbucks’ can-do CEO

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

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Odd #5: Knowing When a “Deal” is a DEAL

photo of green and gold paisley-print, 100% silk scarf

Do you have a single thing in your closet that you actually wear that’s over 50 years old? See? More oddity, as I most definitely do.

It’s paisley print with pale green, soft gold, and touches of a darker green. It’s a small, square, 100% silk scarf, and every time I’ve tied it around my collar, twisted it into a “belt,” tied it around a ponytail, or stuffed it in a blazer pocket, I’m transported back to the Woolworth’s of my youth. Though it wasn’t one of those impressive lunch-counter-type Woolworth’s found in the city (see Odd #3), it was the one we frequented most often because it was positioned handily in our little county seat.

As I explained in Odd #3, Woolworth’s Five and Dime Store was a veritable treasure trove of affordable goodies – where there really were things you’d want to buy for a nickel or a dime. Rather than a nickel or dime, though, my silk scarf probably cost an obscenely expensive 59 cents in 1962 money.

All the Woolworth’s I was ever lucky enough to visit had a certain sameness about them. Same basic layout. Same diagonally laid oak flooring. Same low display counters. Same seriously proper clerks. Most even had the same smell – the stores, that is.

I can’t remember enough about the smell to describe it. I remember only that every Woolworth’s I ever frequented as a child had that distinct smell. Maybe a combination of scents from the ubiquitous oiled floors and the coal-fired furnaces deep in the bowels of the old brick buildings in which they were inevitably housed?

Almost forty years after my scarf purchase and a few years after the demise of Woolworth’s in this country, I found myself in a Woolworth’s (when I’d assumed they were all dead). Same low counters. Same candy-by-the-pound section. Same diagonally laid wood flooring. Same affordable treasures, though the smell wasn’t quite the same. The catch? It was in Livingston, Scotland – a post-World-War-II, planned city, in a modern mall. Need I say more?

It was a time warp I was not expecting, but was delighted to find. Just as in my youth, I found all sorts of wonderful objects I simply had to purchase, even though I knew perfectly well the same objects probably cost less in a U.S. Walmart. Still, they were all deliciously inexpensive: charming children’s books, a delicate little glass cruet, classy photo frames, and so on. And so I toted them back across the Atlantic for old times’ sake.

The Pay-Attention Bit

Here’s where it gets sticky and, dang it, I have to contradict myself. I know I’ve said we need to get really, really, really good at saying no to buying stuff. Still, every once in a while, we’re presented with a very affordable “deal” that we can use for a lifetime. That’s when we pay attention and say yes.

Back to that silk scarf from Woolworth’s. I’ve worn it for 52 years. If I divide its 59-cent purchase price by 52 years’ worth of wear, was it really obscenely expensive? I don’t think so. Such a modest price, spread over 40-50 years, is an absolute steal – one no wise woman bypasses. The trick, of course, is knowing when “the deal” will be one that will give you the same bang for your buck as my scarf has given me, isn’t it? (Check out this story about our $12 chair “deal.”)

red box with white text: “Knowing when an item will provide you with years of use or enjoyment and is, therefore, worth its purchase price – THAT is a skill worth cultivating.” – Teresa Bennett

Apparently, no sage has said this, so I said it!

What do glamour and getting-over-it have in common? Read Odd #6, and laugh with/at me when you see where I’m headed with this glamour/getting-over-it spin.

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

Odd #4: Minding Your Ps and Qs

photo of mole-infested yard

Don’t know what this is, do you? Read on.

When you grow up surrounded by adults, as I did, you have little chance of becoming anything but odd, not that I minded much. In that arena, at least, Mr. Stork had done well: he’d dropped me smack in the middle of a world almost completely populated by adults: mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, and great-grandmother. (Finally! Something for which I can be grateful to bungling Mr. Stork, proving that even bunglers get it right sometimes.)

Our local school had no kindergarten, so I spent my first six years surrounded by adults 98 percent of my waking hours. Three times a week for only a couple of hours, I played with a handful of children my age after church services. Sporadically, there was the occasional family reunion, where I got my fill of cousins for a few hours.

Living in the country, as we did, meant there were no kids right next door for me to play with, either. The only options for play-dates were two boys who each lived a half-mile’s walk away.

I wouldn’t have walked across the room to see either of them, let alone trudge half a mile through the clouds of limestone dust that hovered over our rock-surfaced country road after every passing vehicle. They were, after all, boys. Ick. I’m betting they felt the same way about the very odd little redheaded girl (ick) living on the old Sinclair farm.

Since my early days were pretty much kid-free, the die was cast by the time I entered first grade. Even spending eight hours a day nine months out of the year with other children didn’t change me or my perspective. The oddness had made itself comfortable and was not budging.

Each summer, I went back to a world filled exclusively with adults, and their world always looked far more interesting than the world of children. Childhood was limited to play things, while adults were allowed to “play” with the real thing.

While I was messing about with a pretend tin kitchen sink, oven, and refrigerator, my mother was using the real things – with running hot and cold water, gas heat, and ice-cold ice cubes. I was paying attention and it was not lost on me that kids fiddled around and never accomplished much of anything, while adults got things done.

No doubt my parents were a little concerned when they realized they’d given birth to a child who had become so serious. It was never their intent, I don’t think, to raise a little adult. But if you think about it, how could a child surrounded by adults 98 percent of her time be anything but a miniature adult?

Consequently, I was a very serious little girl, with little understanding of or tolerance for the childishness of my peers. Now that I think about it, this could account for why my parents waited nine years to bring my only sibling into the world. They had to think long and hard about the possibility that another one might be just like the one they already had. An unnerving thought, to be sure.

My Childhood “Peers”

All these adults who stood in as my “peers” had much to teach me and most of the time, I was a ready listener. Of course, I had two live-in adult peers. And just a short walk over a hilly field were my grandparents’ and great-grandmother’s homes: three more adult “peers.”

When you live that close to grandparents, you can gather an incredible wealth of goodies and stories all in a single day’s work. One of my favorite summer activities was to whine until my mother allowed me to walk over the hill, show up at Grandma’s back door, hint around for a Popsicle, and get her to tell me about “the good old days.”

One hot Indiana day, I’d been successful at all four. I’d traipsed through waist-high wheat in ninety-degree, muggy weather, feeling I was earning what was about to come. Grandma and I had settled ourselves comfortably on the back step, with the hulking form of their 1840s red-brick house shading us from the late afternoon sun.

Popsicle juice dripped deliciously off our chins and ran in rivulets down our elbows. It was exquisite. Not the Popsicle, silly. Simply having a grandparent pay attention to me and me alone was heady stuff. But having a grandparent who was willing to take the time to tell stories: that was the exquisite part.

Grandma was feminine, mild-mannered, and kind. She was also happy-go-lucky – even jolly – and a very hard worker. That day, she was explaining how she’d made peach leather during her family-rearing days. Even my inexperienced, eight-year-old mind could see this was an incredible amount of work. I was totally absorbed in the intricacies of her making-peach-leather story.

She, it turned out, was not.

Somewhere in the spreading-out-the-peach-goop-to-dry step, she jumped up from the porch step and ran to the garage. In two seconds, she came storming out with hoe in hand and charged over to the fence separating her back yard from the field behind the house.

Before I could even think to jump up and follow her, she had whacked, whacked, whacked at the ground, swooped up the bloody carcass of a copperhead with her bare hands, and flung it over the fence to suffer a pungent, undignified decomposition.

Coming back up to the garage, she carefully rested the hoe against its wall, went inside the house to wash her hands, came back out with a fresh Popsicle, and continued her story about peach leather as if nothing had happened. Though it was certainly a mangling of a Little Red Riding Hood quote, this little red-headed granddaughter sat there that day thinking Grandma, what a good snake-killer you are!

I hadn’t seen anything yet.

Not long after, on another toasty summer day, I’d conned another Popsicle. It was grape this time, always our second choice, but we’d eaten her stash of orange ones. We were seated in a wooden swing which looked out over Grandma’s favorite part of the yard, with its edging of annual and perennial flowers: it was her nine-to-five job in the summer.

Again, I was hanging on every word of her story, this time about how my ancestors made the bricks for the red brick Sinclair House on a clay-filled embankment not 200 yards behind us. How was I to know she was thinking just as much about her precious yard as she was her story?

She suddenly jumped up from the swing, sending the swing and me into wild orbit and eschewing the hoe this time, ran to the middle of her immaculately manicured lawn. Without a word, she stomped the fire out of a slightly moving hump of grass with the heavy heel of her black, lace-up, no-nonsense, old-lady shoes.

One dead mole, comin’ up. Moles made a mess of her lovely yard (see photo above), and she was having none of their nonsense. After the swing had settled and my vision had cleared, I could tell from the determined set of her jaw and the uncharacteristically clenched teeth, this was Very Serious Business to Grandma. It was scary. Grandma, what a good mole-killer you are!

That wasn’t the last time I witnessed a mole murder. There were plenty more to come. The intensity with which that usually gentle and jolly soul hated moles always startled me, or maybe it was the lightning movement and vigorous, most unladylike heel stomping that got my attention. Though I eventually became accustomed to this startling behavior, I’ll tell you, the first time was a real shocker.

How could it be that my grandmother –

  • gentle nurturer of two generations,
  • patient story-teller,
  • maker of yummy, home-made goodies,
  • spotless housekeeper,
  • hospitable entertainer,
  • mild-tempered elder’s wife, and
  • daily Bible reader

was also a mass mole murderer – one who took such great satisfaction in it?

Even More Shocking Behavior

Shortly after that, I witnessed another episode, one that many of my generation probably saw and you may have heard about. Hearing about it is one thing. Seeing it up close and personal is something else.

One summer my parents had the bright idea of raising a lot of chickens and adding chicken meat to their freezer, typically filled only with beef and pork. Grandma was invited to help with the slaughter of hundreds of chickens. Well, maybe not hundreds, but it did seem that way. That was the day I watched her take an ax to their skinny little necks.

Now let me just say right here, I was no fan of chickens because they didn’t like me. Most animals didn’t. Still don’t. Chickens pecked when I was sent to gather their precious eggs. The milk cow charged me. Yes, I know, milk cows are docile, but I’m telling you, Betsy charged me when I was sent to bring her in for milking. Same story with the pigs. When I was recruited to help round up pigs for market, the vicious things turned on me and chased me to the far corners of the field. (See? All perfect examples of how I really didn’t belong on a farm.)

Anyway, in spite of holding no love for chickens, I certainly didn’t think they deserved the degrading execution I was forced to witness. Maybe you’ve heard chicken stories from your own ancestors? The matriarch of the family places one foot on the bird’s neck and gives a fierce, swift chop with an ax. Then comes the proverbial running around of a chicken with its head cut off. Grandma, what a good chicken-killer you are!

After watching a few more chicken murders, l slipped inside for the less violent but equally revolting experience of watching my mother fish around in a kitchen sink full of gray chicken intestines. (My parents never felt the same about chicken after this unfortunate summer. In fact, it was many years before chicken in any form was permitted inside our freezer. When it was finally pardoned, it came in neat little packages from the local grocer.)

Watching this much carnage at such a tender age was bound to have an effect. Indeed, it did. I resolved, given this savage side to my sweet grandmother, to stay clear of her precious flower beds and to dance lightly on her grass. I didn’t want to meet the same end as the copperhead or the moles or the chickens. Though I knew she loved me, I knew she loved her yard and flowers a lot, and I wasn’t planning on forcing her to choose between us.

I also knew her standards for little girls’ behavior were pretty high, and so merely avoiding messing up her yard or flowers could be only part of my plan. Minding my Ps and Qs whenever I was around her seemed most prudent.

After all, this was the Grandma who also watched TV wrestling, believed it was real, and really got into it. No, being very, very, very good around her seemed the wisest plan. While I would’ve easily parted with my flaming red hair, it was attached to my head and I didn’t want to part with it.

The Pay-Attention Tip

Odd children pay attention to and, therefore, usually learn far more from the adults in their lives than not-so-odd children. If you’re around an odd little child much, don’t screw up. She’s paying attention.

I’m warning you, we don’t miss much and will likely tell stories about you sometime in the future. So you, dear reader, had better mind your Ps and Qs, too. You never know if the child who’s watching you is odd or not and so you have no way of knowing just how much of your behavior is being documented – for future reference. A word to the wise….

Odd #5 is ready, so pay attention. In this one, I continue what is becoming a tiresome little habit of mine: contradicting something I’ve already said.

© 2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum

From the “All I Really Need to Know
I Learned in Kindergarten” author

Odd #3: Getting Over It

black and white photo of Soldier and Sailors Monument on The Circle in Indianapolis

Soldiers and Sailors Monument on The
Circle in my favorite city, Indianapolis*

Perhaps my epiphany about being a city girl cruelly dropped in the smelly country had something to do with a repeatedly experienced gut instinct. Every time fields gave way to city concrete, I intuitively knew something special was about to happen.

You know that as you pay attention to the roadsides and notice roadside litter is no longer silly, useless corn husks, but bits of flying paper covered with the printed word – literate litter, as it were. It was just further proof for this bookworm-ish little girl. Even city litter – package wraps, shredded newspapers, and such – had value. After all, it was readable. One never knew; one might learn something – even from litter.

Literate litter aside, I knew I would either learn something new or buy something new. Which one didn’t really didn’t matter. I was in for a special treat and could hardly stay seated on my backseat perch of my parents’ Ford.

City Relatives

Often, we were heading into the city to visit my father’s city relatives, some of whom lived in seemingly ancient, brown-brick row houses. Others could afford brand-new, post-World-War-II, suburban houses with every modern convenience, on the outskirts of the city.

Still others (the really smart ones, in my mind) had opted for high-rise city apartments with, gasp, elevators – all light years from our humble Victorian house set in the middle of cornfields. I figured people who lived so grandly must surely know something we didn’t.

I was right.

Sitting on the floor in an inconspicuous spot, so as not to be noticed and sent outside to play (an ignominious fate I tried to avoid at all costs), I eavesdropped on their adult conversations. As a result, I became odder and odder. When children try to understand things beyond their level of maturity, it forces them into a position of interpreting an adult world for which they’re not quite ready. It subjects still-forming brains to serious brain-drain and inevitably produces oddness. At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

My city relatives’ conversations had a different flavor than the adult conversations I heard among my country relatives. Not only was the flavor different but the information was different, and I reveled in it. Aha. New information. They did know something we didn’t know, though I wasn’t sure exactly what it was.

City Shopping!

Even more special were our three or four shopping forays into the city each year. There are some things you just can’t tell from The Sears and Roebuck Catalog, you know. There are some things which must be seen firsthand and, more importantly, touched, and even more importantly, tried on.

Early spring reconnaissance trips meant paying very close attention to the newest summer fashions and drooling over the delicious prospect that I might soon own those aqua pedal-pushers in Lerners’ window. There was the thrill of trying on bone-colored dress flats destined for spring and summer wear, when all around us was brown-crusted snow and the last dreary, dying gasps of winter.

Early fall trips meant modeling L.S. Ayres’ thick, wool coats, while sinking into thickly padded carpet in front of its extravagant, three-way mirrors. And then there was the delicious easing of my skinny little frame into stitched-pleat, wool plaid skirts in the more modest changing rooms of Three Sisters.

Early December trips were, of course, the best by far. This, I thought, is how Christmas is supposed to be done up:

  • plenty of glittery tinsel,
  • perennial Christmas-carol music blaring over loud speakers (the louder the better),
  • red and green lights covering everything that didn’t move, and
  • gaudily wrapped packages sticking out of department store bags, carried by bustling, ever-so-clever, city shoppers.

Was I overly influenced by Jay Livingston’s and Ray Evans’ “Silver Bells” (written in 1950), or did they really have their finger on the pulse of the nation’s cities at Christmas time during the fifties? I think they did.

By now you may be suspecting we were really rubes. After I share this next bit, you’ll be certain, and then I can stop this ridiculous coyness.

Eating at the Woolworth Five & Dime
Lunch Counter**

This extremely rare experience of “eating out” was all part of the exciting, big-city package. Those of you in the Millennial Set will find this almost unbelievable. But it’s all true, and it explains a lot about my odd attitude toward eating out even today. Ordering:

  • a sandwich cut into cute little triangles (which my mother never had time or patience for), held in place with toothpicks topped with shredded red plastic (the pinnacle of class on my 10-year-old AestheticsMeter),
  • cole slaw (which my mother hated and rarely prepared),
  • commercially prepared French fries (poison straight from the Devil according to my Prevention-reading father),
  • a seductively shaped glass of Coke (a witch’s brew seldom allowed inside our fridge)

seemed the epitome of worldliness. No, make that sheer luxury. After all, the little Woolworth in our county seat had no lunch counter. Only the really big Woolworths had lunch counters – the ones in CITIES.

The only downer to this fine dining experience was my mother’s paranoia. She, having been correctly dropped by Mr. Stork in the country, did not trust city dwellers. Furthermore, she was taking no chances they might be honest. She did not want our precious purchases stolen while we indulged in Woolworth’s culinary delights, so she insisted we pay close attention to them as we carefully seated ourselves at the counter.

Always, it was the same. We crammed smaller packages onto the shelf under the counter in front of us and squeezed larger packages between our knees. As we savored the subtle flavors of the day’s Blue Plate Special, we tried (valiantly though not always successfully) to avoid dribbling mayo or Coke down our fronts while practicing this distracting balancing act. (As I’ve said, my Mother’s paranoia was indeed a downer and to this day, I have a deep aversion to being frustrated while I eat.)

City Ambiance

Even the city’s mass transit smelly diesel odors appealed to me. (SO much oddness. Today, I can barely stand the smell of diesel. Go figure.)

The bus terminal, with its forever-running and totally incomprehensible announcements, was our standard meeting place – where Mother and I reconnected with my patient father. I thought it had a certain, citified sophistication to it, validated by all those city dwellers rushing around, people who obviously understood the mumbly announcer and knew where they were going.

Even using the station lockers to stash our carefully selected purchases, when our arms tired of carrying too many bags, seemed so in-the-know. While my father was quite happy to leave my mother and me to our clothes-and-shoes extravaganza, he reveled in spending his precious hours in the city browsing through bookstores and office supply stores. As his minuscule haul didn’t require a pit stop at the station lockers, the poor man missed out on all that station-locker sophistication.

At the agreed-upon time, we would meet at day’s end at a specified spot in the smoky terminal. Since no one in my family or extended family practiced such decadent behavior – at least not in our presence – even the smell of cigarette smoke was a sophisticated smell. For many years, it was exclusively associated in my sensory command center with glamorous city life. Now? Hmm, not so much.

Almost always, my father beat us there. Once in a great while, we’d arrive first. By that time, a day’s worth of city stimulation had just about done in my poor little country mind. Even in my shopping-induced stupor, though, I sat numbly and tried to pay attention to the city folk briskly striding from Point A to Point B.

I wanted to be like them: I longed to live in the city. But by then, though there was still a deep longing, I’d pretty much gotten over my disappointment and bitterness. In fact, I rarely thought about blundering, bungling Mr. Stork. I mean, really, with:

  • packages filled with delightful new things piled all around me,
  • Woolworth’s Blue Plate Special still sitting comfortably in my tummy, and
  • enough citified mental images to tide me over till our next city foray,

how could I be bitter?

The Pay-Attention Bit

Even though I should have been living in the city – not just visiting it every few weeks – I was getting over it. I was learning how to pay attention to – and savor – its rich pickings, when given the chance. Copious helpings of appreciation can dilute the mind poison that results from unmet expectations – especially ones we have over the hand we were dealt.

If you’re beginning to think of children you know who seem every bit as odd as I was, you’ll find the pay-attention tip in Odd #4 most helpful for decreasing future embarrassment – your embarrassment, not mine, as that train’s already left the station.


**You Millennials have no idea what this is, do you? A “five-and-dime” store, the forerunner of today’s discount department store, truly did sell items you’d want to buy for a nickel or dime (or more) back when a nickel and dime bought something of worth. They had a variety of departments, just as our Targets and Walmarts have today, but were usually far smaller, stocked with products made in the USA, and blessedly free of that made-in-China smell.

©2014, Teresa Bennett

red box with white text: “In life, you get what you get. The only thing you can control is your attitude. 'All right, this is happening to me – what am I going to do about it?'” – Mari Ruddy

An inspiring, 2-time breast cancer survivor

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