Tag Archives: husbands

And Many More

19 Jan

It sounded terrible. Everyone was singing in a different key and the tempo was only marginally quicker than a dirge. But, Marilyn Monroe’s edition aside, “Happy Birthday” almost always sounds terrible. Even my family, which includes a fair number of pretty good singers, couldn’t manage to sound like much more than something Animal Planet might air when we recently feted the two members born in January.

Birthdays are a big deal in America. People take the day off and they get pissy if they can’t. We go out to eat. We get drunk. We are so invested in having a terrific time on our birthdays that all day we are admonished to do so. “Happy Birthday,” we hear from our family. “Happy Birthday” we hear from our friends and co-workers. Hell, we even hear “Happy Birthday” from our favorite stores. I got a $10 gift card from Ace Hardware last year. Ace Hardware!

What’s really amazing to me is that we feel like we deserve special treatment as if we did something amazing on the day we were born. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I was a passive participant in the events of April 22, 1958. Frankly, my mother was, too. The accepted practice then was to knock mom out. She’d come to with a baby in her arms. Maybe that’s where the stork legend came about. When I come out of anesthesia you could tell me I’d had a beer with George Bush and I’d believe it.

These days, Mom is generally well aware of how the wee ones enter the world: through our bodies. And yet, on the anniversaries of their births, we give them presents. And they expect them!

My son has yet to thank me for allowing him to suck the life out of me for nine months. The little beast didn’t even want to come out and, in fact, did everything he could to stay in. He was one week late and then took one and a half hours of pushing to get his fat head out of my body.

Some people think childbirth is beautiful. I think sunsets are beautiful. I even think my children are beautiful, but giving birth? Not so much. When my son finally crowned (for those who don’t know, that means you could take a peek at my lady parts and see the crown of his head just beginning to appear), one of the nurses asked if she should get the big mirror so I could see the baby. She giggled like a little girl, practically jumping for joy, as if looking at my hoohah stretched beyond belief were more fun than getting a puppy for Christmas. “No!” I said. “The only way I want to see this baby is out!” I wanted him out so I could give him the first time out of his life.

He finally did come out and every year afterwards, we spent a boat load of money on parties and gifts. Lately, it’s been mostly gifts, as he no longer really wants a party, wisely understanding that less party equals more gift.

It may come as something of a surprise, but I get a kick out of planning kiddie birthday parties. I will even admit, with a modicum of parental pride, to losing my mind over some of my kids’ birthday parties. There was the fishing party which required: construction of bamboo fishing poles with u-shaped magnets instead of hooks, gluing of additional magnets to the backs of assorted pond-related plastic animals, and cutting out of craft foam lily pads. The animals floated on their little lily pads in a kiddie pool in the yard. The children fished them out and exchanged them for treats. It was a-freaking-dorable.

The fishing party wasn’t my only folly. One year, I constructed a miniature golf course in our back yard out of stuff (read: junk) I found laying around the house. Not as cute as the fishing party, but just as fun. We’ve also had princess parties, flower power parties and night-at-the movies sleepovers. The most recent parties have featured some amazing cupcakes crafted by a family friend.

None of these parties was for me. In fact, I very seldom get a birthday party. I am wise enough to know that my husband’s birthday planning skills consist of making reservations and placing a credit card in a leatherette folder. Still, for my 50th birthday, I wanted a party and I was damned if I was going to plan it for myself.

My husband planned the party, bless his heart. If you are Southern, you know what that “bless his heart” means. He tried. He really did. He invited the guests, he readied the house, he ordered the food. About half an hour before the guests arrived, I realized I hadn’t seen a birthday cake. “Is someone bringing the cake,” I asked. “Cake?” he said. “Yes, cake. It’s a birthday. There’s supposed to be a cake.” He got that “I am in it really deep” look in his eyes. He went to the store; he got a cake. He will never live it down.

I won’t ask my husband to throw me a birthday party again. He’s not good at it and he really doesn’t want to do it. I’m touched that he did it at all. But, we’ve developed a new tradition for my birthday. We go to a really good Vietnamese restaurant located right next door to an Oberweis store. I eat my rice paper-wrapped spring roll, top it off with the best turtle sundae in the world and they roll me home. And they all have the good sense to skip the birthday song.


Happy Anniversary To Me

26 Sep

“Dear husband,” I said, “it’s been a year.”

“No!” he answered. “Really?”

“Yes. A whole year at the end of this month,” I said.

“But what about that time our daughter had a sleep over and our son didn’t come out of his cave for hours?”

“Oh. My. God,” I said. “It hasn’t been a year for THAT! And don’t tell me it feels like it!”

“Well, then I’m at a loss,” he said.

Normally, I’m the one who forgets anniversaries, particularly my wedding anniversary. I got married on either the 16th or 17th of October. Never can remember which. So, whenever anyone asks me when I got married, I say, “Saturday. It was a Saturday.” My husband has the PhD in History. He remembers the date and rolls his eyes when I don’t.

It has been a year since I started writing and publishing Snide Reply. At the risk of sounding like a Holiday Letter, I thought I’d go through some of my old posts and update you on some of the more popular. For those who jumped on the Snide wagon later in its run, I’m including links to the original posts.

I started running just a couple of months before I started blogging. At that time, I could run about 3 miles. I am writing this having run 9 miles this afternoon. Of course, I can barely get out of my chair to hobble to the kitchen and refill my teacup.

I still don’t have an attractive website. I have a really cool domain name and I have a website. The two shall not meet in my lifetime. See, the website is totally lame. I built it myself when I had no idea where my life was going. That happens when you make plans and life does that mice and men thing with them.

I have a better idea where my life is going these days so maybe it’s time to re-tackle the website. To my endless stupefaction and glee, I am now a parent columnist. Me! The self-admitted queen of parental immaturity. Ok, so it’s only been a couple of weeks, but a girl has to start somewhere. Look at Jenny McCarthy! Her parenting qualifications are . . .what?  Oh, yeah, she posed naked and had a baby. Do you think T. Berry Brazelton ever posed naked?

The worst I’ve done is go commando thought the pharmacist who knows has moved on to Wal-Mart. Actually, I may be going commando again soon. And my husband had to skip the briefs at least once. Laundry used to be his responsibility and lawn mowing was mine. We tried to get our son to do the lawn-mowing thing because he hated doing the litter box thing. He wanted nothing to do with the lawn because it was, as he said, “outside.”

“Look,” I said. “you either mow the lawn or you do the laundry.” Ha! I thought, now I have him.

“Cool!” he said. “I love laundry! Laundry smells awesome!”

So, now my husband mows the lawn and my son does the laundry. We have realized, though, that having a teenage boy with ADHD responsible for keeping us in clean undies was probably not our best parenting move. Many is the time a load made it into the washer and stayed there . . .and stayed there . . .and stayed there. Our son has learned that laundry only smells awesome if it makes it from the washer to the dryer in fewer than 24 hours.

The portal to hell is still outside our front door. The dog is still insane. The cat is on a diet. So far, so good. He hasn’t broken anything out of spite. He may have taken a nibble or two out of the fish, though, which is looking rather ragged of late. The end is likely near, as evidenced by his tendency to swim sideways. I predict he’ll go to the great toilet bowl in the sky before the end of the year.

I’m still a pretty bad Buddhist, according to my kids. My son pointed out to me just a few days ago that a good Buddhist probably wouldn’t call the driver who cut her off a “freaking idiot.” I’m better about the cyclists who fly past me on the prairie trail. I no longer mumble obscenities at them. I am saving my obscenities for the people who are treating the prairie as their personal cutting garden these days. My daughter suggested I try out a nearby trail that runs through an equestrian center. I’m pretty sure even Buddha couldn’t keep his cool running behind horses, but then again, it would definitely keep me mindful and aware.

As my episodes on the prairie illustrate, I still have anger issues. I still hate liver, read crap and get jealous, too. But, I haven’t taken a serious trip to Funky Town in a while. My son is ok with “Spithead” and no one has puked around here lately. My kids are still pikers when it comes to sibling rivalry.

I am overjoyed to report that the shed never went up. The cosmos aligned in a gigantic “I told you so,” when my neighbor hired someone to survey the property line. I left the hot pink flagging tape which proved the line did, indeed, fall exactly where I said it did as long as possible. We found, in fact, that we have a lot more property than we thought we did. My neighbor and I have entered a sort of cold war, though. He no longer speaks to me and his children run like rabbits whenever I come out of the house. I’m thinking it just needs a little more time and a lot more of me being the nicest, most cheerful person I know how to be. Stop laughing; I can be very cheerful.

I’ve made lots of people laugh in the past year. I think I’ve made some cry. I know I’ve hurt feelings, unintentionally of course. Still, I’m more careful about what I write and how I phrase things. There are certain things I’ll never write, at least not here and not as non-fiction. But I’ll keep writing and I hope you’ll keep reading.

Thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for a truly wonderful year.

My Kids Always Love Dad Best

19 Sep

I keep coming home from work to find my family in a great mood. The kids are getting along wonderfully. Maybe everyone is playing Monopoly. Maybe they are all in the kitchen doing homework together. Regardless, everyone is smiling and interacting beautifully.

It’s really starting to tick me off.

Not too long ago, we had dinner together every night. Studies showed that kids who ate nightly family dinners were less likely to drink, do drugs, smoke, get depressed, have eating disorders and begin reading sooner. If studies showed it, I was all for it.

So, I made sure we had dinner together every night. When we first started family dinners, I had visions of me in the kitchen, rattling the pots and pans, with the kids around the table, peacefully completing their homework. As dad entered our charming abode, the kids would put their homework away and promptly start setting the table.

I was delusional. What I get on the nights I’m home for dinner is my son popping down from his cave around 5 to ask what’s for dinner. News of the night’s meal is met with “Awesome!” or “You’re freaking kidding me!” Fried chicken? “Awesome!” Grilled salmon with a butter dill sauce? “You’re freaking kidding me!” He has learned to replace “You’re freaking kidding me!” with “I’ll make myself a pot pie.”

My daughter is usually either playing at her friend’s house, or, on a day when she needs a break, watching TV and scattering five million Littlest Pet Shop figurines around the family room.

Sometime between 6 and 6:30, I start dinner. I call my daughter to do her homework. I bang on the ceiling for my son to come unload the dishwasher.

Silence. I remain alone in the kitchen.

I call to my daughter again. I bang on the ceiling again.

Eventually, my son bounds down the stairs, growling, “What!?” if it’s a “you’re freaking kidding me” dinner or “Is dinner ready?” if it’s an awesome! dinner night.

“Have you done your homework?” I say.

“I’ll do it later,” he says.

“Then you can unload the dishwasher,” I say.

“Later. I have to do my homework.” And he’s off to the cave.

“It’s time to do your homework,” I say to my daughter.

“I don’t have any,” she says, plopping on the couch.

“I need you to clean up your Littlest Pet Shop things so we don’t have to look at the messy family room during dinner,” I say. Ok, I probably actually say something like, “I need you to pick up all of your things in the family room. I’m sick of living in a pig mess.” I give myself Good Mom points for saying “I need” instead of just going straight for “Pick those toys up before I throw them all away.”

At this point, we have a meltdown. My daughter begins crying that I am mean. I don’t particularly care if she calls me mean. With me, it’s all about tone of voice and my daughter has a tone somewhere between a car alarm and a banshee’s wail.

“Fine!” I yell. “Don’t clean up the toys, but I’m going to throw away these things you’ve left on the kitchen table if you don’t come get them right now.”

She doesn’t move; she doesn’t flinch. Eyes glued to the TV she says, “Ok.”

By the time my husband gets home, I have generally had two fights with my daughter over toys and homework. My son, being 16, is far less predictable. We may be laughing and joking when dad comes home, or I may have left the house, mumbling something like, “I bet Mexico’s nice this time of year.” I pretend I am so eager to see my husband that I had to come meet him at his bus stop. I’m sure he has an inkling that I’m eager to see him, but maybe not for the reason he’d prefer.

So, when I come home from work and find that dinner has been made and eaten with no fuss and the entire brood is happily doing homework, playing cards or just hanging together, I want to strangle someone.

I am convinced that my kids love Dad best and it’s not just the difference in dinnertime that provides my evidence.

Take, for example, how our son treats each of us. My husband is affectionately known as “Daddy Poo-pookins.” He gets head rubs. He gets hugs.

I am known as “Big Dumb Mom” and it is said in a voice something like the Hulk’s. I get woken at 6:15 a.m. every morning and told, “I’m leaving.” This is code for “Come downstairs and say ‘goodbye to me’ .” I do, giving my son a hug that he accepts standing completely still. When I kiss him, he turns his head so that the kiss lands not on his cheek, but somewhere between his neck and his chin. I tried not giving the hug, and just saying “goodbye” once. My son glowered at me, refusing to budge until I gave him the unreturned hug.

My husband wakes at 5 every morning and doesn’t get home until 7:15 at night. On the weekends, we let him sleep. This means that he stays in bed until 10 a.m. The children tiptoe past the bedroom door. When I tell them to “get your father out of bed,” they balk.

Recently, while I was taking a nap after getting about four hours of sleep the night prior, my daughter came skipping in the room, jumped on me and said, “Mom, you only have ten more minutes to nap.” Then she left.

Another recent incident gave me a window of opportunity into why Daddy Poo-pookins gets away with parenting murder while Big Dumb Mom gets the shaft. At the grocery store, my son snarls when I suggest a store-brand alternative to his favorite cereal. “It will taste like (insert disgusting noun modified by equally disgusting adjective).” Son and husband came home from the grocery store last night with store-brand frosted wheats. I snarled at my son.

When my son explained that Daddy Poo-pookins would get mad, I said, Big Dumb Mom gets mad. “But he really means it,” my son said, “you’ll change your mind.” And he’s right. I will change my mind, given a good enough argument. Throwing away generic frosted cereal has taught me that some things are worth a little flexibility. By the way, I’m looking forward to saying, “I told you so” about the cereal.

Lifus Interruptus

22 Aug

Theon trudged through the snow . . .

The door to my bedroom flew open. Theon stopped trudging through the snow. I closed the book on my finger, holding my place.

“Mom, what do we have to eat?” my son asked.

“The same things we had the last time you asked. Go look,” I answered.

“Meh,” he said, shutting the door.

Theon trudged through the snow . . .

“Mommy, can I watch TV in your room?” my daughter asked, opening the door then climbing into my bed.

Theon again stopped trudging. I closed the book on my finger.

“Where is your daddy,” I asked, it being 9:00 p.m., a half hour past her bedtime, and it being her daddy’s job to put her to bed.

“He’s downstairs, playing cards on his computer.”

“Husband,” I shouted. My daughter ran from the room, forgetting to close the door.

Theon trudged through the snow . . .

“I checked,” my son said, having returned from his foray in the kitchen, “we don’t have anything to eat.”

Theon stopped trudging through the snow again as I closed my eyes and willed my son away. I decided to ignore him. My son, not Theon. Theon started trudging again. My son didn’t leave.

“I’m bored,” he said.

“Theon trudged through the snow,” I said.

“Can we watch TV together?”

“Theon trudged through the snow,” I said, louder.

“We haven’t had mother-son bonding time in so long,” he pleaded.

“THEON TRUDGED THROUGH THE SNOW!” I shouted. He persisted. My son, not Theon. Theon was losing the battle for my attention.

“Pweeze, Mommy?” begged my bearded, 15-year-old son, puppy-dog eyes looking up at me, as he had flopped down on the bed beside me.

Theon stopped trudging as I set the book down to watch TV with my son.

While my son may have insisted that we hadn’t had mother-son bonding time “in so long,” the same scene plays out every night.

I no longer live a life. I live lifus interruptus.

When I lived alone, I never really thought about interruptions. Oh, the cat would have a hairball here and there and I’d occasionally get an unwelcome phone call. But the advent of the answering machine and, subsequently caller ID, freed me from unwanted distractions—except the hairballs, of course.

My husband was the first to bring interruptions to my attention, as in I would make them and he would resent them. I didn’t think of my comments on his monologues, I mean, contributions to discussion as interruptions, but lively responses to his thought-provoking speech. He thought of them as interruptions. I tried to stop inserting lively responses. Eventually, I was able to allow him to completely finish expressing a thought, holding my lively responses in abeyance. Unfortunately, by the time he had completed his thought, I had forgotten my lively response, leaving me responseless. This led him to believe that I was uninterested in his thought. In fact, at some point in his thought, I had a thought of my own that connected to his. So that I could remember my own thought, I stopped listening to his and began repeating my own in my head, over and over again. At that point, I figured out that I had figured out how to interrupt him without interrupting him.

My children will interrupt anything, at any time.

Making a dinner that my son has been grumbling for for hours? He’ll interrupt three or four times to ask when the dinner will be ready. I remind him that it will be ready much more quickly if he’ll stop interrupting me to ask when it will be ready.

Talking on the phone? My daughter will interrupt to provide further proof that she will grow up to become a molecular biologist as she points out a wound smaller than the point of a pin. My son has learned that phone calls are only to be interrupted if he is bleeding or on fire.

Locked doors don’t deter my children; they have discovered that knitting needles are effective in unlocking our locks. I discovered their discovery while taking a bath.

There are levels of interruption, as well. Recently, I realized everyone in the house was occupied. I snuck up to my office to write. I wrote 23 words. Only 23 words before my daughter interrupted me. I don’t even recall why, because immediately, my son interrupted her interruption to tell me he was bored or hungry. I don’t remember which.

I have grown so accustomed to being interrupted that I have developed the habit of leaving off the last word of sentences. I refuse to believe that this is a memory issue caused by my age. No, I have gotten used to not being able to finish a sentence, so I never finish sentences any more. It may be that I won’t even be able to speak at all soon. Last night, I opened my mouth to speak just as my son said, “What are we having for dinner?”

I have even begun interrupting myself. In writing this post, I have found it absolutely essential to take a bath, Google how to clean sticky dirt from a stair rail, attempt to clean a stair rail, start dinner, make a cup of tea, read some of a novel, and put away my daughter’s clean laundry. It normally takes me two hours to write a 1,000-word post. So far, I’m at 3 ½ hours. Not a good trend.

The worst of the interrupting avalanche is in my bedroom. It’s not what you think. I haven’t been able to sleep through the night since my kids started sleeping through the night. In addition to getting up to use the bathroom, I am now awakened by the need to either remove the covers or replace the covers. Every night, usually three or four times, I am treated to the sensation of my internal temperature regulation mechanism (ITRM) being nudged up a few notches. Covers off. Soon after, the ITRM gets nudged back . . .too far down. Covers on. Repeat. Of course, I still need to replace covers due to spousal cover removal. It’s covers off, covers on all night, every night.

On top of it all, I’ve developed insomnia. I look at this as a blessing though. At 2 a.m., I’m unlikely to be interrupted, no matter what I’m doing. Finally, Theon can trudge through the snow to wherever he was going.

© Copyright 2011 by Janice Lindegard, except Theon trudged through the snow Copyright George R. R. Martin

Bad–I mean–Dad Jokes

20 Jun

Yesterday, my husband and daughter were playing Monopoly while I was preparing the Father’s Day dinner. I make dinner every night, so it’s not a particularly stimulating event for me. I listened in on their conversation while I cooked the hamburgers, my husband’s idea of gourmet food.

When my husband landed on Reading Railroad, my daughter, the banker, asked if he wanted to buy it. It was early in the game and he was collecting all the properties he could so he said, “Sure!” My daughter took his money. As she handed over the little railroad card, my husband sang, “I’ll be reading on the railroad,” obviously to the tune of “I’ve been working on the railroad.” I groaned.

A few minutes later, my husband landed on the B&O Railroad, which he bought. As my daughter handed it over, he sang, “I’ll be smelly on the railroad.” This time I looked at him over my glasses with my “Really? You just said that?” face. He just grinned the goofy grin he always grins when he commits a crime of comedy.

I don’t think my husband was always humor-challenged. I can’t recall any particular funny thing he said or did, but I have a vague sense that he was once witty. No longer. Now, he is the Baron of the Bad Joke. In fact, at least at home, groan-inducing commentary has become his signature comedic style.

I do know exactly when my husband went from humorous to humor-less. The moment our son was laid in his arms, my husband’s funny bone broke. He started his slide into a life of comic crime by supplying lyrics to well-known arias related to whatever dad duty he was performing. Most notable of his alternative opera was the diaper-changing aria, sung to the tune of that “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro” song. The words described the contents of said diaper, like this: “Poop-a-la, peep-a-la, poop-a-la, peep-a-la,” repeated until the task was complete.

My husband is not the only man to be so affected by fatherhood. In fact, I have a theory that has been born out again and again. I am convinced that no man becomes a parent without also becoming a purveyor of the dreaded Dad Joke.

Recently, my son’s guitar teacher became a dad. Before his transformation, he was a pretty cool guy. Heck, he’s a guitar teacher. Of course he was cool. Evidence of his turn to the Dad side was revealed at the first lesson following birth of his daughter. I think my son had been working on a difficult passage the week prior. On seeing his teacher, he jokingly said, “I hate you!” His teacher’s response? “Why do you dislike female sheep?” Groan if you will. It’s completely warranted.

Though my siblings and I long ago moved out of his house, my own dad is still pouring on the crummy quips. I’ve written before about his “I know God’s name” joke. For those of you who don’t recall, God’s name is Harold, as in “Harold be thy name.”

I let my dad’s Dad jokes slide, but my husband is ridiculed mercilessly, especially by me and my son. In fact, we are much more amused by our insistence that Dad has no sense of humor than we ever are by his attempts at humor. See for yourself if you don’t agree. Recently, I purchased TurboCAD to assist me in producing landscape designs. I left the box on the dining room table until I had time to install it on my computer. Now, of course, I know I should not have left the box on the dining room table where it didn’t belong but there you are. My husband, seeing the box, said, “TurboCAD? Is that a man who is really bad to women?”  Or, try this. I was slicing up some cantaloupe. My husband walked by singing, “Come to me, my melon-choly baby.” Or, this. I made some pastries. I asked my daughter, “Would you like a turnover?” She said she wouldn’t. My husband said, “Well, how about a new leaf?”

“Dad, you’re not funny,” has become the family joke. My son insists that my husband is funny outside of our home, though. The two of them visited my sister-in-law not too long ago. On their return, my son reported that his father had actually had his sister, her daughter and my son in stitches with some shtick involving our cat and his many misdeeds. My husband repeated the performance for me. I didn’t think it was funny. My son didn’t think it was funny. My daughter didn’t think it was funny. Even my husband admitted it wasn’t funny. I guess you had to be there.

I’m pretty sure what’s happening at our house is that the kids are outgrowing Dad jokes faster than my husband can give them up. Saying, “Didn’t you have enough s’mores?” after a child has repeatedly asked for some more of something is a gut-buster when you’re six years old. At fifteen, such a comment is most likely to send the kid scrambling for Mom’s blog fodder note pad.

Dad jokes are definitely intended for a general audience. My dad soothed more than one tiny soul with a well-timed ridiculous comment. I have very fond memories of being scolded. Actually, my fond memories are mostly of what happened after the scolding. I would run to my room screaming how much I hated my parents and how unfair they were for scolding me. I slammed and locked the door, intent on never again looking upon the face of anyone vaguely related to either of my parents, excepting me, of course. After a while, there would be a soft knock at my door. My dad would call my name. I would ignore him. He would call my name again. I would ignore him again. He’d ask me to open the door. I would ignore him yet again. Then, he’d start with the jokes. My resolve would slowly dissolve. Eventually, I would open the door, my dad would pick me up and I’d decide he wasn’t so bad after all.

My son is fifteen and he is probably the funniest person I know. He can have his father and I laughing so hard it hurts. I would repeat some of his more hilarious humor, but most of it is incredibly tasteless. In fact, some of it would make Bob Saget blush. There is some evidence, though, that he, too, will fall into the Dad joke pit when his time has come. Recently, I made a joke that missed the mark. My son started singing, “FAIL-ga-ro! Fail-ga-ro! Fail-ga-ro! Fail-ga-ro!”

© Copyright 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

Oy, Tannenbaum

6 Dec

I am old enough to be my daughter’s best friend’s grandmother. This does not humble me, but it proves that certain arguments are ageless. You see, the mother of said best friend, separated from me by a generation, has the same memory of why we had artificial Christmas trees growing up: our parents had one of the worst fights we can recall while shopping for the tree. The next year and every year after, our families each had a fake tree.

I remember something about a very cold night and a JayCees tree sale in a parking lot. I can picture my mother vividly: pursed lips, dagger-flinging eyes, her arms crossed tightly over her body, purse clutched to her stomach as she stomped to the car. I remember being very cold and the trees being very imperfect. My mother was from Georgia and liked everything just so. You do the math.

I had real Christmas trees once I was on my own. Granted, most of them were pretty “Charley-Browny,” scraggly things that I somehow managed to convince myself looked pretty good covered with pink and aqua glass balls and tiny white lights. Hey, it was the 80s.

Once I was married, the combined incomes meant bigger, nicer Christmas trees. Our first Christmas, we lived in the heart of the city and shopped like big city Christmas tree shoppers. We went to a local garden center and bought a beautiful balsam fir after just a few minutes of blissfully agreeable tree inspection. The garden center then delivered the tree and set it up exactly where we wanted it. Where was the fighting?

The next year, we no longer lived near the magic garden center with the incredible Christmas-tree-setting-up elves, but we found a nice lot and bought a nice tree. We took it home. It was then that I realized something I should have known all along. My husband had no idea what to do with a Christmas tree. Of course not, he’s Jewish. Why would he know? The year before, his lack of Christmas knowledge wasn’t an issue. Without the magic tree elves, though, it was pushed to the fore. I was on my own in Christmas tree setting up.

While I felt sorry for myself, married to the Christmas clueless, my friends and relatives had the opposite problem. Their husbands thought they knew everything.

Consider the woman who reports that every year, for many years, her husband would insist that their giant tree would fit into the discount marketer Christmas tree stand. Most people who have Christmas trees have this stand. I believe it is made in China at a wok factory. Every October, the wok factories in China retrofit thousands of woks, painting them bright red, adding green legs and three eyebolts and selling them to unsuspecting Americans for $12.95. My friend’s husband would insist that the tree would fit in the stand, that the tree would not fall over. My friend would say “It will fall over.” My friend would take bets. Her husband would put up the tree, balance it, and then the two of them would watch it come down, at first slowly, then with increasing velocity. My friend would laugh uproariously. Her husband would curse.

My sister’s family regularly put a tree at least 12 feet wide into the wok every year. Why? Because a proper Christmas tree stand, one that will safely hold up a tree more than 6 feet tall, costs at least $100 and has things like Army-grade straps and ratcheting gears. My sister now owns one. So does my bet-taking friend. I have another friend whose husband nails their wok stand to a large piece of plywood, hoping to stave off the military Christmas tree stand. It’s only a matter of time, though. Their trees are often 15 feet tall.

Over the years, it became clear to me that, if we had a tree or we didn’t, my husband would be fine. There would be no gaping hole in his December if a large evergreen were not sacrificed in the interest of holiday décor. With my typical maturity, I decided to pout. Well, I thought, if it isn’t important to him, then I’ll just do it without him.

One year, my son and I accompanied my sister’s family on their annual “Cut your own” foray. It was fun. I have a terrific picture of my brother-in-law helping my son cut down a tree. Another year, Mr. Christmas Clueless came with us. Naturally, that was the coldest year since we’d begun cutting our own tree. On the way to the lot, our son came down with a fever. But, he didn’t want to leave without a tree. So, we got him to the car, laid him down on the back seat and brought pre-cut trees to the car for him to select.

Though I had gotten my husband back into the selection process, I still didn’t have a Christmas-savvy set up assistant. I was still on my own in struggling with the wok, testing the strands of lights, replacing burnt out bulbs, etc., etc., etc. The pity party continued.

Then the pre-lit tree was invented. I swallowed my real-tree insistence and bought one. I was in Christmas purgatory. Not quite heaven, because my husband still thought the tree was just “nice,” but no longer in the hell of setting it up all by myself.

Last year, the lights failed. No biggie, I thought, I’ll take the old ones off and put new ones on. That’ll be cheaper than buying a whole new tree. And, it was. Though I lost an entire day and a few ounces of skin as I clipped away the wires, scratching my arms on every branch. The tree looked pretty good with its colorful new lights.

This year, I realized, I had been released from the tyranny of the pre-lit tree. Though they are convenient, pre-lits are also expensive. If you’ve got one, you’re going to use it. And you’re going to have the same tree every year. The exact same branches in the exact same places at exactly the same height.  Every year. This year, I can buy a real tree if I want to. And maybe I will. I know my husband won’t argue. In fact, he’ll probably say it’s “nice.”

Copywrite © 2010 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

By The Book

29 Nov

Somewhere, perhaps in the Library of Congress, there is a pair of books. One is titled, The Dad Book. The other is titled, The Mom Book. I don’t think anyone will argue with me because who really knows what’s in the Library of Congress anyway? I figure maybe the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, but it’s a pretty big building, so there must be more than just that.

I know the Mom and Dad books exist because my friend, Kate, said so. If Kate says a thing is true, it either is, or you want it to be. Kate is just like that. The Dad Book, according to Kate, contains all of the things that are the Dad’s responsibility in the standard American suburban household. The Mom Book contains all of the things that are the Mom’s responsibility. The Mom Book is thicker.

Of course, the The Mom Book and the The Dad Book were written many years ago, before Moms became self-actualized and liberated. My own mother became liberated when I was about ten. I know this because she took me to a women’s self-actualization group meeting. This was a meeting in which women discussed the many roles they had in their lives and how much they hated many of those roles.

Though my mother became self-actualized and started working, she still adhered to the The Mom Book, or tried to, for a while. Eventually, my sister was given her own version of the The Mom Book; call it the “My mom works so now I have to iron and make dinner” book. My mother said my sister liked helping. My sister says something like, “I was 11 and I was ironing, for crying out loud, and just because I was the oldest.” I was very glad to be the second child.

I know some Dads cook. In our house,  The Dad Book did not include cooking, unless the cooking was done outdoors with open fire. The Dad Book also included fixing things, mowing the lawn and drinking beer afterward. We had a neighbor who liked to mow his lawn early in the day. Eventually, he and my father developed a competition to see who could mow their lawn the earliest. This put the “drink a beer afterward” rule in serious jeopardy of breaking the “don’t drink beer before noon” rule, but my dad adapted.

In my own house, The Dad Book and The Mom Book seem to have fallen off the shelf and had their pages put back haphazardly. But I have not rebooted my default responsibility settings. I grew up with a traditional Dad doing the traditional Dad things and a slightly less traditional Mom doing traditional Mom things.

I expect my husband to do the things my dad did. Problem is, my husband was raised in a home where the children were not exposed to the dirty workings of home care and maintenance. He was raised to read important books, listen to important music and converse on a range of culturally significant topics. I was raised to wipe the counters down before considering the kitchen clean-up completed. Which skill do you think is more useful in a modern suburban home inhabited by two adults, two children, a dog, a cat and a fish?

Our Mom and Dad book confusion is complicated by the fact that I lived alone for many years before entering a relationship that involved actual sharing of living space. Hence, all household responsibilities were my own. I quickly tired of asking male friends for help with Dad responsibilities. If I needed a shelf installed, I had to call a friend. If I needed a bookcase built, I had to call a friend. Eventually, I realized that I was calling male friends more for their tools, than their muscles.

I decided that the reason I couldn’t do Dad things for myself was I didn’t have that most Dad of things: the power drill. One year, my mother asked what I wanted for Christmas. I said, “A power drill.” She laughed and got me a “cute little sweater.” The next year, she asked what I wanted for Christmas. I said, “A power drill.” She didn’t laugh, but I got a cute little sweater anyway. The following year, I told my dad, “I want a power drill for Christmas. Mom is going to want to get me a cute little sweater. I want a power drill.” I got a power drill, and a cute little sweater.

With lots of cute little sweaters and a power drill, I was the empowered woman. I built my own furniture, I installed my own shelves, I screwed . . well, you get the drift.

Then I got married. I assumed my husband would be able to use the power drill at least as well as I could. Instead, I got a husband who can’t use a screwdriver without hurting himself. I had no idea that there is an addendum to The Dad Book. It reads: Any one receiving The Dad Book who also has earned a Ph.D. may, at any time, disregard the entire contents of The Dad Book. My husband has a Ph.D.

One winter day, last year, I heard a strange noise in the kitchen. It sounded like a constant, intermittent “whoosh.” I followed the “whoosh.” It took me to the basement. It took me, in fact, to the sump pump. “Sump pump” is not mentioned in my copy of The Mom Book. Actually, anything with “sump,” “pump,” “hose,” “outlet” or “filter” in its name is, and should be, listed in The Dad Book. My husband believes that “sump” is a word created so that children learning to read will have something to rhyme with “pump” and “rump.”

I Google’d “sump pump.” I Google’d “repair sump pump.” All of the results were ugly. Sump pump repair is only marginally less gross than toilet plunging, also listed in The Dad Book. I did what any self-respecting woman married to a man with a Ph.D. would do. I called a plumber. The plumber fixed the sump pump. Because the plumber has the traditional version of The Dad Book with no Ph.D. addendum, he was able to tell me how to avoid seeing him next winter.

It is winter again. I have done what the plumber suggested. I am hoping not to see him. In the meantime, my husband will spend the winter doing one of the only things he willingly does from The Dad Book. He will build roaring fires in our fireplace then fall asleep in front of them while watching a football game. Maybe I need a copy of The Dad Book?

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