relationships

Closure

heartache_largeA friend of mine contacted me to tell me that a former boyfriend from 37 years ago contacted her recently.    A long four-hour telephone conversation revealed that he isn’t happy with his life and admitted that really, he hasn’t been since they broke up in the mid seventies.    They only dated for a few months–he was her ‘transition boyfriend”, but he never knew that and I don’t think it would have mattered if had an inkling.   He loved this woman, warts and all and knew what she didn’t:  that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

And he would–from a distance and it was with a view that was no better than a few stolen glances over the shoulder of  his rebound wife.    Yes, irony of ironies, the “transition boyfriend” married his “transition girlfriend”.    Of course his marriage to her would be unhappy, for the most part.  Oh, there would be glimmers of happiness; a joyous birth or two, but in the back of his mind,  piercing through every smile would be those damned feelings for ‘her”...THEE girlfriend.  The one that got away.

My friend is currently in a relationship herself.   She says she’s in love.   He’s a man she maneuvered into her life so the move from wife to divorcee would be seamless.

“I could NEVER ever t involved with (insert name here) again.   Ewwwwwww!”

I’ll lay odds that as her marathon conversation with this specter from her past winded down, visions of a life him in some form or fashion crossed her mind.    How could it not?    Name me one normal red-blooded sentient woman who couldn’t let her mind roam down the back alleys of her imagination as she’s being told she was/is the love of someone’s life.   That her absence has been felt every day for almost four decades.   That losing her was and always will be his life’s singularly biggest regret.

I had one of those heartaches.  I had one of those relationships that I let haunt me.   I allowed a simple, acne-faced 15-year-old boy who broke up with me four days into my Freshman year of high school dictate me emotionally for 39 years.       He was there, always present, seething in soul , gripping like a vice.      In some form or fashion, he was there on every date, every uttered “I love you”, every break up, every holiday.

After high school, he went straight to work.   No college for him.    He was a simple guy.   He found a job in the oil patch and never looked back.    He married a women he met in a small town where he’d landed a job;  they married and had kids and last I heard, he had a couple of grandchildren added to his family tree.

Bully for him.

This was the guy who broke up with me before every major gift giving holiday.    I could always count on heartache two to three days before Christmas, my birthday and Valentine’s Day.    Easter,too.   Once, I accused him of being a Jehovah’s Witness, a reference that moved his bangs as it flew over his head.   Yet, I loved the little SOB.   He was my first boyfriend; my first love and at age 12, no less.     In the two years that we were together, he gave me a  yellow smiley face lollipop (which I kept as long as I can remember), a small black pocket  comb with greasy kid stuff still in it  , a very well-worn green and white cap with just as much greasy kid stuff in the inner lining, but the pièce de résistance????     He gave me a corroded silver-colored ring (I’ve yet to find the particular metal ANYWHERE on the table of elements) with green colored stones and three were missing.    He explained that the ring was in his jeans pocket when an impromptu game of backyard football broke out in the neighborhood.

As for the corrosion?   I shudder to think what might have started THAT scientific  process.     He found it, I’m sure but what did that matter?   I didn’t care.    HE gave it to ME.

I was lucky in that I was able to talk to him a few years ago.     A few weeks of phone calls, that’s all.    In that time, I was able to ask him why he left me so suddenly, without a real explanation and without ever really talking to me and he told me that he did so because I was in high school and would probably want to start dating and based on my upbringing he assumed that meant dinners and movies which took time and money–both of which he little of—and he was too embarrassed to tell me.   So, he did the sensible thing and broke up with me.

I can remember going silent at the end of the explanation, the reality that I was devastated by reverse snobbery was sobering.    I don’t remember what was said or even how much longer we talked, but I do remember this overwhelming feeling of release immerse me.    When we last spoke I had no money, only a half ass job, no boyfriend, certainly no modeling contracts or Academy Awards, the Pulitzer had eluded me, as did motherhood and marriage,  but even in the face of all those perceived negatives, I had one bright, shiny positive:  I had an answer to the single most pressing question of my life.

It made up for all the deficits during those holidays 43 years ago.  It was the best thing; the ONLY real thing of value he ever gave me:   the gift of closure.

This, I explained to my friend, is pivotal.     She should meet with this guy from her past that still holds the torch for her or at the very least, send him an email or something that could free him of the hold she has had on him.

“He told me he’s miserable and his marriage is nothing more than a joyless business arrangement.  He’s not happy because it was never what he wanted.” 

Of course it failed.   He settled.

Then, I explained it to her as I saw it, from someone who was haunted by a lost love for so long.  Emotional closure is vital for anyone who’s loved too long and all alone.    My God, is THAT a horrendous way to exist.

Sometimes it takes a gentle shove….a nudge….sometimes a major kick in the ass, but easing the pain is so important.   Not that it’s my friend’s responsibility,  not that it was my ex boyfriend’s either, but being told the real reason–even though it hurt a bit—was incredibly worth all risks, all feelings….everything.      I could stop the doubting;  the incessant wondering how and why.

But the truth is,  I was a lot like Dorothy Gale of the Oz and Kansas Gales.    I had the power to free myself of my emotional  enslavement all along, but I never really knew it.   Perhaps, I did but it served a good purpose.  I used it like a protective layer;  an impenetrable fortress.    Nothing gets near me;  I am safe.     But confines like that also allow nothing in either.   But I used it for as long as I used it–it kept me from getting too close to a lot of people.   So when I finally got the answer to a question that became rhetorical, 39 years ago, I let go.   I suppose it was time.

My life has changed since the  big release, in that he’s really no longer in it.    I rarely think about him anymore.  Oh, he’ll creep in when a song comes on that sweeps me back to 1972, but only in a certain fondness.    I don’t revisit unless a memory is triggered, and lately that trigger has a very secure safety on it.    As for the smiley face sucker?   I kept that for a long time, but eventually mice or other critters who forage storage spaces for food, destroyed it  and I would imagine the comb and cap met the same fate.   The ring, you ask?   I still have it.     It’s in a jewelry box somewhere and there it sits, just as it has for the past 42 years but I would imagine these days, it contains a few less green stones and the curious setting is now probably a lovely rust color.

The idealization of who he was and what he had all those years ago has long dispersed. And that is a very, very good thing;  a process that has taken a very long time.   I am free.  I now have a few well sorted  memories  that I keep in a memory bouquet.  I comprised it like one would order off a menu at a Chinese restaurant:   I’ve taken a few  memories from 1971, a couple from 1972 and one or two from 1973 just to complete the triad of years.

“Please set him free”, I begged my friend.    “You have to do for him what he can’t for himself.  Write him, phone him, telegraph, send a carrier pigeon.   How you do it is your choice, but please, just do it.”

She replied, “Why should I?   I  owe him nothing.  It was a lifetime ago!”

My answer came  surprisingly quick.

I told  her when spend most of your life, loving someone  in your past and it’s that all-encompassing love that burns as it cools, races as it rests; leans as it stands tall and straight, you have no traditional concept of time.   Any prisoner will tell you a 42 year sentence  takes forever to endure, but amazingly, when you look back on it, it  takes all of 42 seconds relive.   And in that time, which transpires quickly then slowly, then back again,  all you can think about  is being free from its clutches.

Freedom.   And  sometimes, for the damnedest of reasons,  freedom isn’t a choice….. but in some cases,  it can certainly be a gift.

She assures me, he’ll be receiving her email soon.

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“Ride At Your Own Risk”

It was damn near impossible for any kid who grew up Texas during the 60’s, NOT to have visited either Six Flags or Astroworld at least once.

These two amusement parks in Arlington and Houston, respectively, were two seminal summer destinations for kids back then.   Which park was always a toss-up, but that was often decided based on proximity and the amount in the family vacation fund. 

I remember being at Six Flags once.  There was a roller coaster there,  safe and completely innocuous by today’s coaster standards, but the prospect of riding the “Runaway Mine Train” absolutely thrilled me.    As I approached the ride, I remember that tingly feeling of anticipation….butterflies, as the old wives’ would call this state of  physical nervosa.

I felt it before every cheerleading tryout…every ballet and piano recital…every collegiate broadcast competition.

I remember seeing the sign at the entrance to this theme coaster: “Ride At Your Own Risk”

The reason for that sign was two-fold:  it was meant to absolve the park from blame in case of accident, which technically it couldn’t and wouldn’t.  And it was also placed there to further the thrill factor for riders.

As I got older, I would think about that sign and it became even more relevant when I got old enough to view life as the thrill ride it was.  

I remember how a conversation between Grandma and her grandson in law from the movie,  Parenthood resonated with me:  

Grandma: You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.
Gil: Oh?
Grandma: Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!
Gil: What a great story.
Grandma: I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around.  I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.

I have been on many rides in my life.  They thrilled me, angered me, enticed me, boiled my blood and left me cold.   And I rode each one and all at my own peril.   Were they worth the risk?

Yes, even the kiddie cars.

But the thrill of certain life aspects, namely certain relationships have a way off sullying everything that comes after them.   It’s hard not to get lost in their memory.  That’s why perspective is everything.   Well, that and wanting what’s best.

Maybe even who’s best.

I knew one such “ride”….a million years ago in a place a million miles away.   And it was good.

If this ever happens to you and you think and feel as I do, you’ll notice the ride metaphor never leaves you.  

Trust me, it  doesn’t.    You always miss the thrill and that yearning in your heart and soul allows you to become a veritable carnival worker…a Carnie–just with better teeth and hygiene— with the hopes of being close enough to POSSIBLY experience that lusty, parabolic joy; those amazing ups and downs;  love and lust’s wonderfully never static nature, just one more time.

Nothing else can explain why I have had this ridiculous, inexplicable urge to eat Funnel Cake all the time or why I have this need to hire ex-cons or how I now measure the height of all prospective lovers with one of these infamous carnival ride signs:

 

I Had A Few Gong Moments

St. Oprah of Winfrey calls them, “A-Ha Moments”.    My gongers are the exact same thing.

Both are these very specific moments in which something snaps and clarity fills the void that once contained all that purposed ignorance.    It’s as though your eyes (the orbs in the sockets in your face AND the philosophical one in your mind) suddenly open and reality is the only thing you see on the immediate horizon.

Here’s how my Gong Moments went down:

I was taking my evening constitutional around a man-made lake on Houston’s southwest side.   It’s now June here in Houston;  you can practically trip over the brimstone, so needless to say in the midst of this three-mile sojourn around this body of water, I became very hot, very thirsty and I started sweating profusely.  The late evening offered no reprieve from the heat, so in retrospect, I either had a Gong Moment or was enduring a near-death experience.   Either way, it was an enlightening event that once rehydrated, gave me pause.

I’ve always been under the mistaken impression that I had only been in love twice.  The first time at the preposterous age of 12 and then the second time in High School when I fell head over heals for a boy who eventually became a man who like herpes and certain polyps, just won’t go away.  He keeps finding his way back into my life and has on three separate occasions since 1975, mind you.   And I must be honest–contrary to the way I just  described him, I care about him very much.    He happens to be the sweetest and cutest polyp I’ve ever known.  And more importantly, we have this thing; this indescribable bond.    The word “destiny’ is starting to enter into my vocabulary.

And I’m building a special exit for it, too.

You see, really I don’t want to get caught up in such a romantic notion.  Because while I could, I’m choosing not to.   As I walked I realize that I was coming to terms with the fact that I don’t want this relationship to be anything like the ones I’ve had before.    In other words, I…Me…Laurie…n0ne of us want me to behave as I did with other relationships.   I don’t want to get panicked, to feel angst because he didn’t call, I don’t want to worry and let my neediness and co-dependence dictate how it ends.

Yes, how it ends, because when I…me…Laurie act like some inverted narcissist, things never end well.

I was passing a few ducks swimming near the reeds when I realized that my relationships, every one of them, ended for two reasons.

1) There was not enough me in the relationship.   Fear and self loathing kept me distant…

OR…

2) There was too much of me in the relationship.   Fear and self loathing kept me waaaaaaay too close.

It’s all about breathing room and space.  I never got that before.  I was like this ramrod of LOVE ME!!!!    I was selfish because I made it all about me…my wants and needs.    And to tell you the truth,  part of it should have been about me, but proportionately so.   Sadly, I never saw the my own relevance; my own worth in any of my relationships.  Desperation might have looked as though I loved others, but I didn’t.  It was just covering up the fact that I got lost in that concept of love and never held an iota of anything back for me.

It didn’t matter if it was love or not.  I had no self-respect.  That was the problem.

GONG MOMENT #1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was my own problem.

Wow.   And I didn’t fully grasp what love was.

When I was 12 and in seventh grade and met ‘that boy’, that started my career of falling in love with love.    That never lasts.

Years later when my Recidivist Lover first entered my life,  I loved a bit more maturely.   Even more so when he appeared on my doorstep in Austin a decade later and these days, 25 years after the last break up, I am the President of the Maturity Club.   What I feel is so different.    So much so, that I have to question what it is that I’m actually feeling?  I’m calmer.  And that’s an alien sentiment;  I’ve never felt like this before.  Perhaps it comes with the territory of being 52.

So, is this love?

Well, I suppose I could answer that by going all 1st Corinthians on you, but I won’t.    What I will do is admit that I like how this feels.    I like him and I like the way he feels in my life; when we’re together and when we’re apart.  I like the way we feel.  He doesn’t take and give nothing back.  He brings something to the table and willingly leaves it there, when he leaves.  There’s no compromise. We offer each other options and in the face of so many choices, we choose to be together when we can and when that can’t happen, we’re fine with being apart.  Even so, we never feel forced to choose style over substance.  I love that and I love that right now, he provides the salt that adds much-needed flavor to my life.  He has become this wonderful exclamation point that’s brought pathos and sensation to it, too.

And be helps me bring me civility to the forefront.   A few weeks ago, we argued over politics, while still holding hands.

GONG MOMENT #2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My God…am I…gulp…actually happy????    Me??????

Maybe I am, but am I in love?    I don’t think I am.  But I am committed to wanting this man in my life in any form that takes and for some reason, that feels very, very right for who and what I am at this stage of my life.

GONG MOMENT #3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow.  I’m happily NOT in love.

Guess that’s why I am so totally okay with the fact that the relationship we have is far from perfect.  At times, it’s downright insane.   In fact, Nietzsche, Mr. Crabby Appleton himself, once wrote, “there’s  always some madness in love.”

And then again, there’s always some reason in madness.

EPILOGUE

I walked my three miles while doing butt clinches every third step.   I then drove my Cheeks of Tungsten home where I happily sought solitude and sanctuary.  No phone; no computer to distract me.   Not that night.  I wanted to be alone.

I wanted to be all by myself  to  revel solo in the wonderfully fulfilling insanity that comes with being with this man, whether we’re together…

Or apart.

And then the gong broke.

UPDATE 12/5/12

My, my….how wrong was this gong.

I was never in love.  Never.  I was operating  from a position of fear based on some impending life changes that I didn’t want to deal with alone.  Silly when I think about it now, but it was a classic case of ‘needing’ more than ‘wanting’ ,  a situation that  never ends well.

I’ll accept most of the blame; but not all of it.  Not only was the timing wrong, the object of my affliction was/is/will always be way too self-absorbed.   And this isn’t coming from a place of resentment.  The truth is I could have said this about him 27 years ago; I’ll be able to say that about him 27 years from now.    He’ll never change.   But I was pathetically willing to accept crumbs.    Fools act foolishly when blinded by anxiety.

But in the years since writing this post, I’ve forgiven myself for my naiveté; for my desperation.   And even in the bleakness of this period in my life, I was able to come away with some invaluable knowledge:  sometimes the biggest assholes in our lives; the biggest pain inducers,  are the very best teachers.

Consider me schooled.

,

We Grew Older Together While Apart

I headed west this past weekend, to see a man I once loved, in a city where I once lived. 

And in the wee hours of Sunday morning,  when I was in the throes of insomnia, I watched him as he lie next to me sleeping.   A 53-year-old man’s face is interesting when illuminated by a  clock radio on the bedside table.  The light, while muted and a greenish hue, was enough to allow me to see the contours of his face.  He’s aged, but time has been kind.   Even so, I remembered how he looked decades ago;  he’s still handsome, but I remember his was a young, fresh face;  before life had etched its tale tell presence in the form of crow’s-feet and other lines.   I reached out my hand and cupped his cheek.  He smiled, either because he knew I was touching him or perhaps, like a baby, it was just gas. 

Anyway….

I spent 48 hours with him and spent a great deal of that time trying  to determine where I am in this relationship.   All I know, is that I still don’t know, but for some reason, it’s OK.     There’s something oddly stable about feeling unstable in this relationship in particular.  Odd, I know, but that feeling is very real.   Perhaps I’m waiting and biding my time in an effort to earn this relationships  so if and when love  corrals us both, it’ll feel more deserved.   

As it stands, this is a long distance relationship.  We live about 400 miles apart so we can only see each other about every four to five weeks.    It isn’t easy, but it’s not that hard, either.   I think part of the mass acceptance of our situation is that we’re now in our early 50’s .  Passion is still good and heightened,  but as we’ve grayed, it has slowed and patience plays a much bigger role.   The urgency of youth that once fueled the frenetic nature of the couple we once were, is no longer there.   The pace is manageable; calmer and I like the way that feels.

I continued to stare at the face that’s lived in my memory for more than three decades.   With my mind, I traced the years the we’ve known each other; with my eyes, I traced his laugh lines;  I gently touched the jowls that weren’t there before.   I noticed the gray in his goatee and around his temples–proof of his half a century sojourn on this planet.  None of that matters.  I have missed this man  more than even I was aware.  We reconnected last May and prior to that, I hadn’t laid eyes on him since the early spring of 1986.     That’s  25 very long, event filled years.

We had a horrible break up.  We were young and selfish and both very, very career oriented and really, unwilling to cut the other any slack to pursuit our careers.   He was in his sophomore year of  persuing a lifelong career with big dreams and I was going to be the next Jane Pauley and would inflict nightmares on anyone who got in my way.   We both attained some success in our chosen careers, but as he climbed the ladder of fortune and fame,  he did the responsible thing and got married and of course,  had children. 

I just spent years dating them.  

And that’s one of the principle reasons I like the man this man has become.  He’s not a child.  I love his steadfastness.  He’s very sure of himself and what he wants and doesn’t want.    He divorced a year ago–not his decision–but he’s wizened quite a bit since becoming forcibly single.   That’s only added to this air of certainty and polish.    I must have done some improving and polishing along the way because we now seem  far better suited to each other now.   We’ve both grown up, personally and professionally; emotionally and mentally.    The things that identified him in his career are on a back burner somewhere.    He’s now a successful entrepreneur.  I’m still in broadcasting, but I have no desire to be on the air anymore.   I can see the end of the line where as before, my life in this crazy industry was on this road that went on forever.   I like that my career is finally finite.    I think this has helped enable us to be able to appreciate and respect what each other has done and all the effort and sacrifice that went into achievement.  

What a difference a quarter century makes.  

I say that because in 1986,  I think we resented each other.   His career aspirations took up too much of his time away from me;  pursuing my broadcast dreams meant I had to move away from him.   We locked horns.

Why was this a factor?  Well, I guess the relationship was dying and mutual resentment and hostility became vestiges that the end was near.     And it was.   And frankly, it needed to die when it did, but time heals all wounds.    In spite of it all, I’ve never forgotten this man and really, never stopped loving him.  To have him back in my life is good for me.  I hope it’s good for him, too.  I’d like to think it’s good for both of us because it’s now happening on our terms, as adults.

All these things raced through my mind as I reached out again, this time to run my fingers through his hair.  He wears his shorter now.   I thought about how much of his life hasn’t included me.    But I lied there wanting to believe that was for a reason; as if a part of a divine plan.   There was a reason for the huge gulf of years between us.  My life for the past several years haven’t been happy ones.    From 1988 to early 2005,  my life and a garbage disposal were right on par and while I can’t compare his existence to as household appliance, I can assume by his acrimonious divorce that the last several years couldn’t have been a walk in the park.   Perhaps, we’re together now because this is the right time to be together.   Had it happened two years ago or two years from now, it could never or would never have worked. 

Is it perfect?   No and for that I’m also grateful.  I have come to revel in flaws.  His paunchy gut;  my ever-expanding ass and escalating chins.  We like each other and when  there’s mutual admiration; when you’re friends, you’re so much more forgiving.   Liking someone is special and engrossing, often so much more than love can be.   And perhaps that’s why we don’t give anything that we have any kind of  title or label.    True, he’s still nursing some wounds and I’m finally allowing the self-inflicted ones to start healing and this period of recuperation places us in a very unique situation.    There’s a great deal to our relationship that’s unspoken, but understood.  Glances and gentle caresses speak volumes.   We don’t say “I love you”, yet we speak of a future together.   We don’t call ourselves “a couple”, yet we love being together.   We can only spend very little time together, but that only makes it more wonderful when we do.

Twenty-five years ago, a relationship as seemingly sporadic as this would have been the last thing I would have wanted.   Today, it’s all I could ask for.

I took one last look at his man.    A glorious sensation came over me.  I was gazing at my past to be sure, but I also felt certain I was also looking at my future–whatever that might entail.  The outcome will be what the outcome will be…..so, for the time being, everything felt wonderfully fused.  There’s still such a wonderful connection between us; a most welcomed symbiosis.   I have rarely felt that in my life outside of my years with this man.   This made me feel satisfied.  I felt that life had finally attained the status of “good”. 

Life felt ‘right’.

I glanced over at the clock radio on the nightstand.   

It’s still mercifully dark at 5:45 these days.  That was my cue to get up and run to the bathroom and the safety of my carefully packed swaddling clothes before any light of any kind can shine on any of my more offensive body parts.   Oh yes, make no mistake, we care about each other very much and we are older, more mature and so much more forgiving, but I’d rather that the relationship evolve a bit more into a more solid mass–perhaps with an actual title or label–before I allow him to catch a  glimpse of the ravages of time on my naked body in an upright position…..namely my two independently undulating butt cheeks and boobs that I kick when I walk.

 f

The Clothes Hamper: A True Story

It was June, 1967 and I was eight years old.

Earlier that year, my parents decided to break free of the shackles of abject middle classdom and create nothing short of a castle for themselves and their children.

So, on a hill in the little traveled part of the small South Central Texas berg we called home–on land owned by maternal grandfather (and given to us gratis) , Mother and Daddy built a five bedroom monstrosity–replete with gables, a multi-car garage, an intercom system…and all the other 60’s era trappings that would tell the slack-jawed yokels who’d come to gawk, that the Kendrick’s had in fact, “arrived”.

This home was my mother’s self described “dream home” and in the first half of ’67, she and my father made frequent trips to an architect in San Antonio to fine tune the blueprints. On this particular day, they’d be going back to the architect to resolve a kitchen issue and would be leaving the minute Daddy got back from a breakfast meeting.

School had only been out for summer break a few days and I had already gotten in trouble and being grounded was my punishment. I can’t even remember the infraction, but I was forbidden to leave the house, nor could anyone come over to play. This included a moratorium on playing with Fran who was a year younger and lived next door.

Anyway, I was being punished and my oldest sister, Kathy–in all her 14 year old authority– would serve as part warden/part baby-sitter that day.

My father finally drove up into the garage and started honking the car horn, which was code for “wife, get out here and let’s leave”.  Out the door went Mater with a final warning, reminding me that I was NOT to step foot out of the house, nor could anyone come over to play.

“Yes..yes. Have a safe trip. We’ll see you both when you get back from San Antonio this afternoon. Bring us back a surprise”.

And off they drove.

I went to the den and flipped on the TV. Three channels and nothing was on. I’d read every book. Every “Highlights Magazine” hidden picture had been found. There wasn’t anything to do.

The phone rang. It was Fran.

“Hey Laur, watcha doin’?”

“Nuthin’. I’m really bored. Watchu doin”?

“Nuthin’, I’m bored too. Wanna meet in the alley and play? Or climb trees in Dr. Buck’s yard?”

“Nah, I can’t. Mom and Dad left about an hour ago for San Antonio and I’m grounded and can’t play outside or anything”.

“Then can I come over? Then maybe we can make Brownies in your Kenner Easy-Bake oven!  Or maybe we could make some Incredible Edibles?”

“Sounds fun Fran, but Kathy is baby-sitting me and I’m not supposed to have anyone over”.

“Well, make a deal with her!”

“OK, hold on. Let me think of something”.

Just as I put my hand over the receiver and yelled “Kathy???” she walked in the room and firmly said “No!”

“But I haven’t asked you anything yet!”

“It doesn’t matter, the answer is still no”.

 She plopped down in a chair and started reading a magazine. She was thumbing through a story about the fab/gear countenance of the The Beatles.

“Fran, she said no. I guess we can’t play today”.

“Come on, Laurie, she’s teenager. Can’t you convince her? Do something. Try blackmail!”

I thought for a minute.

” Kathy, remember a few weeks ago when you had that mark on your neck?”

She put her magazine down and looked at me with an eyebrow slightly raised. “Yeah, it was from an accident in Science class…So?”

“Yeah uh-huh, that’s what you told Mom and Dad, but since when are Tommy Bronwin’s lips considered “science class”?

“What are you talking about?”

“It was a hickey and NOT a mark caused by getting too close to the Bunsen Burner at school, Kathy. I overheard you and Wanda on the phone. You were talking about making out with Tommy”.

Kathy looked angry. She slammed the magazine down right on Ringo.

“OK, what do you want in exchange for your silence?”

“I won’t tell Mom and Dad about the hickey, if you let Fran come over and play.”

“OK, but she has to leave before they get back which should be around four this afternoon. If she comes over now, that leaves you guys a few hours to play. So, we have a deal, right?”

“Right”. I picked up the receiver once again. “OK, come on over.”

We hung up and Fran rang the front doorbell in a matter of minutes.

We immediately went to my room to play with my Little Kiddles and their self contained dollhouse.  Fran and I marveled that my dolls had been out of their plastic perfumed bottles for weeks and still smelled like strawberry, lilacs and one scent we couldn’t identify.

When we tired of  Kiddling, we moved on to “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots”. Fran knocked my block off. Then, we switched to playing “Operation”.   Just as I was about to remove the appropriately shaped “wrenched ankle”, Fran said she was thirsty.

She followed me to the kitchen where in the fridge, there was an ice cold pitcher of “Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry”…

The newest flavor in the “Funny Face” cavalcade of powdered drinks. Just as I was pouring her a glass, I heard Kathy scream.

“They’re back! Oh no! Mom and Dad are back early. I just heard the car pull up in the drive way. Get rid of Fran! Get rid of Fran!!! If they find her here, we’ll both be grounded for life and I’ve got another Bunsen Burner session planned with Tommy Bronwin this weekend!”

Kathy was in a panic.

I wasn’t. I was calmly going to take Fran out the front….but wait!!!! Was this possible??? Mom was coming through that door. Damn! She’d gone around the front to get the mail. My father was entering through the back door. We were being tag teamed! All escape routes were blocked. There was only one thing to do:

I had to hide Fran and the only place I could think of was the the built-in clothes hamper in my parents’ bathroom.

Why there? I don’t know. It seemed like the perfect place; the ONLY place to hide her at the time.

I shoved Fran inside and closed the small, double doors just as my father was entering the bathroom. He told me in no uncertain terms to “get the hell out” and shut the door behind me. Something was obviously wrong. He didn’t look well.

I went into the kitchen just as mother was putting the mail on the table.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Oh, he had Mexican food at his breakfast meeting this morning and you know what does to his stomach. We had to make three emergency bathroom stops on the way to San Antonio before we decided to just turn around and come back home”.

Just then, I heard the bathroom fan power up. Uh-oh. Either he was firing up the hibachi or whatever business he had in there, was serious.

I sat at the table with my mom as she sorted through the mail. I tried to figure out what to do. Fran was trapped in that cramped clothes hamper in a hot, tiny bathroom with my father, apparently in full intestinal distress.

What should I do? Was Fran OK?

Five minutes went by and suddenly, the whole ridiculous reality of what was happening struck me as funny and I started giggling. Mother asked me why I was laughing and I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. I knew I’d be grounded until I was ten, but I had to do something because I started worrying about Fran’s mental and physical health.

Just then, the door of the bathroom opened and my father walked out and announced that he was feeling better and that he was going back to the office to get some work done. As he left the house, I told Mom to follow me into the bathroom.

She was muttering something about having a “death wish” going in there and she was right.  When we got to the bathroom door, “it” hit us.   The atmosphere was–for lack of a better adjective–“thick”.

It was horribly, HORRIBLY obvious that the Mexican food breakfast my father had eaten earlier, had retaliated in a most egregious way. It’s exit from tubular prison in my father’s lower G.I. must’ve been loud, explosive and extremely painful experience for my father….. and for Fran.

I opened the hamper doors and peered inside.

There she was; silent, motionless. She was huddled in a semi-fetal position, in the far corner of the hamper. Her face was pressed against the wall. She turned to look at me, her eyes squinting in the bathroom light. She looked dazed, she was sweating profusely and her face was pale with a greenish hue. She’d stuck two of my father’s black Gold Toe dress socks in each nostril, apparently in an attempt to thwart the stench.

She was clenching one of my mother’s bras.

I helped her out, pulling off soiled underwear and dirty shirts which had stuck to her sweat-soaked clothing. I gently removed the socks from her nose. Automatic reflex and I guess, survival mode took over–she fought me on it.

Mother lit matches and waived them around the room. Futile effort—they weren’t helping.

The odor was horrible.

Garbage scowl bad.

Bayonne in August bad.

“Laurel Anne Kendrick”, my mother said in between gagging fits. “Would you care to explain why Fran is semi-conscious and lying in a pile of dirty clothes in the hamper in my bathroom while your father was making stinkies?”

I replied, “Not now Mom. Help me with Fran”.

The petite seven-year-old was shaking. Her strawberry blond hair was matted and damp. Mother and I grabbed each arm and we walked her into the kitchen, away from the “hot zone”. She was wobbly.

Fran sat down at the table and was trying to speak. The only thing intelligible was the word “water”. Mother poured her a glass and I asked her if she was OK.

She gulped down two full glasses before finally being able to say, “I’m fine”. She then took a deep breath, let it out through her mouth, then looked at mother and me. “But I think the bigger question is how’s your father?  From the sound and smell of it, I’d say he’s pretty sick.”

We let Fran sit for a minute to compose, we then walked her to the front door and I apologized. She said that I should forget about it, but the experience had allowed her to rule out nursing as a possible career.

She then rubbed the back of her head and retrieved a sock that had been hiding there. She handed it to Mom.

I closed the door behind her and felt my mother’s glare on my back. I turned around slowly and saw her standing there, hands on hips and then she uttered the infamous one-word sentence that mother’s utter, “Explain!”

I told her what happened and instead of getting yelled at, she started laughing. She immediately went to the phone and called my father at his office and told him that he wasn’t alone in the bathroom.

Well, as expected, I was grounded for an additional month and lectured about the importance of privacy. My sister, Kathy was placed on house arrest for two weeks for her complicity in “the bathroom affair”.

As time went by, we never talked about “Potty Gate”  very often,  but for a while there, Daddy instantly checked every cabinet large enough to contain a small child in every bathroom he entered.

My parents eventually got new house blue prints made to their exact specs and within a year, we moved into Casa Kendrick.

The new house had four bathrooms and not one of them had a clothes hamper…..built in or otherwise.

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Recipes For Disaster

But only if you don’t follow them AND if you don’t prepare them with love…for love.

Eeeeeeew!!!!  

Then is this a blog about cooking??? Rreally???   Has someone finally domesticated the unbridled Houston maverick???

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking–what the hell Kendrick doing posting a blog about recipes?  Perhaps, I am softening in my old age, but yes,  I am becoming something of a champion for the culinarian.

I do this by attempting to become one.   That said, I will announce

here and now before both of my readers that I do believe that I am quite possibly, simply, madly falling in love.  The object of my lunacy is  wonderful man who titillates eight of my five senses.  He is wonderful in ways that even I, wordsmith that I pretend to be, can’t even summate.  He is real and kind and generous with his time and his affection and spirit and the best part?  He’s not an evil or a narcissistic psychopathic blog troll.

He barely knows what a blog is.   Isn’t that great????

This ridiculously handsome and talented gentleman has Latin blood coursing through his venas and is quite the foodie.  Because of pre-existing conditions (progeny who have yet to learn of my involvement with their Pater), our Christmas will be spent together, but a few days early.   To celebrate, we are commemorating the birth of our lard–I am baking and going to great lengths to impress this man.  He already knows certain things about me that he loves (and accepts) and I feel it’s only fair to continue this on-going audition for the a supporting role in wifery, but this time, in the kitchen.

And yes, you read that right.   I plan on getting this coveted part based on my ‘performance’ on the casting counter.

So, here’s what I’m planning to prepare in order to properly seduce this man through his gullet.   And this time, it will be just vis a vie baked goods.  I will plan an all out gastronomic assault through my Mediterranean cooking prowess at some other holiday.  

My fail safe Ass Kicking Brownies.

 Now, while not homemade, these have been known to make grown men cry and write love letters to portly  actress, Kathy Bates for no apparent reason.

  • Take a box of any brownie mix with walnuts.  
  • Prepare as directed, BUT add om 1/2 heaping cup of malt powder.  Even Ovaltine will work in a pinch.  
  • Mix in, pour into lightly greased pan BUT…for the extra added ooooomph,  once the batter has been poured, place whole Treasures milk chocolate caramel candies (by Nestle) in the batter about a half-inch to an inch apart.  Make sure the Treasures are submerged in the batter. 
  • Bake as directed and then let cool. 
  • You can cover it with chocolate morsels, marshmallows and/or  a light dusting of powdered sugar….if your pancreas in amenable.

The photo below has the caramel on the top.  I prefer to puut it in the body of the brownie.   Either way, these scumptious confections are one bodacious yum fest.   Pure ass food, cause it will make it grow.  

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There is a famous cafeteria in Texas called “Luby’s”.  It was at one time, one of the best places to eat.  Great food with a homestyle spin and one of the best things that cafeteria ever produced was/is a Butternut Brownie Pie (or as we called it “Luby’s Pie”).  Made with merengue, pecans and bits of graham cracker.  It’s sweet but not overly so, light and airy and simply delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 4 extra-large Eggs Whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated Sugar
  • 14 Graham Cracker Squares, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup Pecan Pieces
  • 1 cup Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
  • chopped Pecans

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly grease 9-inch pie plate. 
  2. In large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and baking powder until soft peaks form. Add cream of tartar, beating constantly. Add 1 cup of the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating constantly until stiff peaks form. Using rubber scraper,fold in graham crackers and pecan pieces. Spoon into pie plate 
  3. Bake 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire cooling rack.
  4. In chilled small bowl using chilled beaters, beat cream just until it begins to thicken. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Do not over beat.
  5. Top pie with whipped cream. 
  6. Sprinkle with pecans and refrigerate until served.

Here’s the incredible finished product.  The merengue stiffens and crisps up ever so slightly and the graham cracker and pecans add a wonderful texture.  Delicious. 

I made this for myself and a few friends last year.  It was so good I wanted to sex myself up.

And I did.

Lastly, the baking tour de force of the desert persuasion wouldn’t be complete without a representatives from the World of Cookies.   I have one nominee for this category.  It’s a cookie I saw St. Paula of Dean prepare on her Food Network Show.

She calls them “Hidden Mint Cookies”.    Simple recipe, but since I don’t like mint and if Mama don’t like mint in her cookies, Daddy don’t neither.  Therefore, I’m going to make a slight adjustment.

Ingredients:

  • 18-ounce roll refrigerated sugar cookie dough (make sure its cold and stiff) sliced 1/4-inch thin
  • 14-ounce package chocolate mint wafers (like the smaller York Peppermint Patties, I suppose.  But I’ll use the leftover Treasures Chocolate Caramels that I didn’t use in making my Ass Kicking Brownies.  Now, keep in mind that because the cookie is small, cut the Treasures pieces in half.  Trust me, this slight recipe adjustment is a winner!!!)  
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, or enough to cover top of cookies

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Slightly grease a cookie sheet. Place slices of sugar cookies on sheet, about 2 to 3 inches apart.
  3. Top each with a chocolate wafer or carmel.  Cover wafer with another slice of cookie dough and seal around the perimeter.
  4. Brush dough with a beaten egg.  Press nuts into top of dough.
  5. Bake for about 10 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely.  

Absolutely stellar with a glass of cold milk.

So, there you go.  This new man in my life makes me happy.   I feel like I’m on emotionally solid footing for the first time in….well, perhaps the very first time ever in my adult life. 

This will be our first Christmas together and hopefully, our last one apart.  Because of my relationship drought in recent years,  I’m not in the habit of publicly professing my undying emotions for a man, but this one is special.  He’s special enough for me to cook for, bake for, shave my legs for, think about constantly, blog about occasionally and forget about any other man who came before him.

 h

The Painful, Burning Itch of Rejection

They would only look at each other briefly across the table and in a perfunctory manner;  only when they had to.   When the situation warranted it…or when the silence became too uncomfortable.

“The bread is good here”.

“Yes, it is”.

He nodded; she managed a forced smiled as they exchanged a brief glance at each other.  She then looked away in silence to ponder that large, protruding mole on his cheek; the one that  she knew if she looked close enough, she could probably see Sir Edmund Hillary planting a flag upon the peak.

He took a sip of his drink hoping the alcohol will help errase his memory of witnessing that extra chin bubbling out from under her two pre-existing ones.

This is a hell date; one arranged by Satan and greenlit by God JUST  because you called Tommy Moranz a ‘Tick Face’ in fourth grade and well, karma is after all, a bitch.

Ever been on one of these?  I have.  They’re horrible.   But I’m convinced that bad dates are payment for being the cause of a bad date.  If you’ve ever been the reason behind why a date didn’t work, then you have this karmic debt that has to be paid.   

I’ve been the root cause and I’ve also  been the victim.   Both are painful.  But why does it have to be like that?   We hurt others so indiscriminately—especially when we’re younger–we think we’re bullet proof.   We’re not and that’s one of the ridiculous foibles of youth.  We make decisions based on such limited experience.  In my mid 20’s, I rebuffed many men because they weren’t up to par or what my idea of par was,  whatever that was.   One man I met while completely inebriated at a bar in Mexico one Friday night, apparently asked me out for a date. I suppose I said yes because I gave him my number.  He called the next day.   I didn’t remember him at all, but he sounded kind of cutem, so I pretended to remember him and we arranged our date for that night.  

He arrived at the prescribed coordinates.  I opened the door and he saw an average looking face attached to a behemoth’s body.  We’re talking at least 120 pounds overweight.   I left with him, utilizing every acting skill my High School drama class taught me in order to appear interested, but I’m afraid I showed a skillset more like Pia Zadora than Meryl Streep.   The worst part about this date was that I couldn’t hear a thing he said.   All I could focus on what how large he was and how completely turned off I was.  We were supposed to have drinks then see a movie.  I made it through one Scotch and then developed fabled bad date cramps.

I saw his face as he looked at  mine as I lied to him to end this fiasco.   He knew I was lying and sadly,  I think it wasn’t the first time this had happened.  He took me home and I never saw him again.  

But rest assured–I got mine.  The Precarious Nature of Dating Life came full circle.

In 2004, I distinctly remember three dates like this.  The first two ended in “headaches”–his, not mine.   The first “headache, gotta go” I exeperienced, I knew was a cop-out, but I wanted to give him the benefit of  doubt.  I wanted to believe that maybe….just  maybe  that old Korean war wound (a stab to the head with a bayonet) was in fact, bothering him as he was insisting.  

OK…so he was born two years after Korea ended.  

The second date I knew from the beginning I would at some part of the evening be rejected and ejected from this particular man’s realm of dating possibilities.   He left about an hour later—a headache was the reason.   Sadly, it got to the point where I could recognize the signs–even in their very early stages.    It’s the small talk.  The disinterest that echoes in his voice; that radiates from his eyes.   You could chill a Key Lime Pie in his cold “I’d kill to be anywhere but here, with her” demeanor.

By the time I went on the third date, I knew when I took one look at him, it was going to end early–one way or the other.   I’d become quite versed in reading the semaforic nature of all those red flags and 37 minutes into the date, I was right.   His cell phone rang–obviously a a fail safe set up and he went through the motions of acting upset with the requisite “Oh no’s” and “Oh God, when did it happen?” and the classic, “How’s mom taking it?”  

He hung up and then announced in a hushed tone that his grandmother just died.   It took a sip of my drink and replied, “Well,  if yours hadn’t, mine would have had to!”

He said nothing and instead threw a couple of $20s in my direction and ran out of the restaurant before they even fluttered down to the table.   I sat there a moment, feeling the sting of  emotion-fueled blood, or what I call “Embarrassment Juice”, pulse all over my body.    I was ashamed.   That was it—I’d had enough. 

I vowed that I would never place myself in that situation ever again.  I stopped dating after that and I’m pleased to say this self imposed moratorium has been good for me.    I’ve learned something about myself; namely how shallow I’d been and how shallow most people are.   I still have bouts of short-sightedness, but I do know that the older I get, the more accepting I am of others and their looks or the lack thereof.   

And as I do the work needed for self improvement, I have to ask why?   Why do we make sweeping rejections based on one’s physique?   We don’t want to get to know each other at all based on the fact that one person has the audacity NOT to be physically appealing in the dater’s eyes?   That’s how I felt with my Mexico date 25 years earlier.  And this came from a woman who even back then, hated rejection.   But while thinner, cuter, certainly younger all those years ago, was I any kind of prize?     Well,  I can do nothing about how others perceive me,  but I can damn sure be more fair in the way I perceive others. 

I’ve been talking to a lot of other love and dating reformers and there are a lot of us out there.   We’ve lived long enough to know that we need to start nursing the bruises received during our matriculation through the School of Hard Knocks.   Doing that requires patience (I’m working on that, too) and the painful effort we have to make in order to look at people and situations differently.    Why?  Because there comes a time when we we’re forced to understand that our windows of opportunity to be hot little objects of wanton desire are narrow and extremely sporadic, especially as we age.   At 51,  all I can hope for is to be regarded as  ‘tepid’…and even that would be a stretch.  

But there’s one solid about Time:  it’s an outstanding equalizer.   It chills the hot, engorges the thin; slims the tubby; hippens the geek; makes nuns out of wild, aimless women and can make decent husbands and fathers out of the jerks and heartless, uncaring players.   Don’t believe me?   Well, class reunions are wondrous 3-D Viewmasters that contain vivid Technicolor examples of how the passage of time can weave its magic.  

And there will be those days where you take trips down memory lane…back to high school or college, perhaps.  And this gets you thinking, providing your still capable of at least, transient thought.  You reflect back on your life and those care free days of youthful  narcissism and misplaced ego.     You think about how many social zeroes you  met at a bar or while on a blind date.  Or  you thoughts wander back to those loser kids in high school you never considered talking to, much less be friends with, who are now even more forgettable…just nameless, grainy black and white photos on the yellowing pages of an old high school year book.

Or maybe you come across names in an old diary that you don’t remember  or ones hastily scribbled in a dusty old address book that spent your 30s and 40’s at the bottom of a box that’s at the bottom of an even dustier storage room.   

These nameless, faceless people become this faceless, nameless crowd that you may have at one time, celebrated or they you.   Whatever the relationship was, whenever it was, it must have mattered albeit briefly, right?  

Or did it?   The uncertainty spurs on a chill that runs up  your now osteosporotic spine. You realize that someday somedone will come across your name and your old phone number in a dusty and forgotten address book……or they’ll look at your grainy, black and white photo on a yellowed page of an old high school year book and to them, you’ll be just as unrecognizable.

Just as unmemorable.

Just as meaningless.

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