Category Archives: Stories

The night my house broke up with me

It was a dark and stormy night.

Actually, it was a frigid January night, and all the homes in our old neighborhood were shut tight. As tight as the skin on Joan Rivers’ face.

I was in the bathroom bathing the kids, then ages 4 and 2. Roger was out of town and not due until the following night. His absences were particularly hard during those early years, and I would celebrate his return with a quick peck on the cheek (well, not consistently) as I headed out the door to go, well, anywhere alone for several hours.

Our home was, at the time, 115 years old, a majestic Victorian with “character” in Denver proper. The sole bathroom was on the second floor, a small postage stamp-size with limited cabinet and towel-hanging space. It had a row of windows that faced the south.

The kids played for a bit and once they were¬† squeaky clean I pulled them out and bundled them up in their ducky towels. Reed, the 2 year-old, was the first to be ready to leave the steamy room. He pulled on the doorknob — original with the house — and it came off in his hand, to his delight.

“Look, Mommy!” He presented me with what he thought was a glorious unexpected windfall.

My eyes grew wide in horror as the implications washed over me, drowning me in dread.

  • I was locked in a bathroom.
  • With two small children.
  • For 24 more hours.
  • No food, blankets, pillows, clothes (for them), diapers (for Reed), and with only a few bath toys for entertainment.

Can you feel my horror?

Looking for a way out, I opened the creaky windows and a blast of arctic air rushed in. I yelled, “HELLO? CAN ANYONE HEAR ME?” several times, hoping against hope that someone was out and about in our neighborhood as evening bordered on night. What I thought they could do to help, I did not know. My call was greeted by calm silence that belied what was going on inside me.

I managed the panic the best I could and resigned myself to our fate. It would be HORRIBLE but not life-threatening. Hopefully. I mean I HOPED I would not threaten anyone’s life in the coming 24 hours, especially my own. I began to contemplate how we would all sleep in the bathtub with only two ducky towels, a hand towel and a washcloth to serve as mattress, blankets and pillows.

It was going to be a loooooooooooooooooong night. I was filled with hatred for the house.

Suddenly, with one stroke of genius, Tessa saved the day. “Mom! Look!”

She pointed at the phone I’d had in my hand as their bath started, now sitting on the counter under an unused washcloth.

Hear the sounds of angels singing a four-part chord, bathed in a warm heavenly glow?

My adrenals unclenched as I dialed my parents. I found Mom and Dad at home, told them my plight and asked if they would let themselves in with our spare house key and release us from our prison.

Thirty minutes later we were sprung. We slept in our beds, our amazingly comfortable, warm and spacious beds. In the morning we ate a delicious breakfast — Cheerios never tasted so good.

I love my parents. Can’t say the same for that house. I’d been thinking of moving for awhile, trading in for a younger, roomier model in the ‘burbs. Did my house want to be the breakER rather than the breakEE? What-ev.

We sold it 4 months later. Doorknobs and all.

How my underwear saved a marriage

My phone rang in between the time I dropped my kids at school and the start of my yoga class. My friend got right to the point.

“Do you, by any chance, wear Calvin Klein size M underwear?”

I thought back to the last time I bought undies, trying to remember my size. It was Costco, probably sometime in 2008.

“Why, yes I do.” I began to get excited. My friend is well-connected, and I was wondering if she was passing on to me a bloggy review for Calvin Klein. Although, had I taken the notion a bit further, I would have thought it odd that there would be such specific size qualifications.

“OH THANK G*D!!” I heard her sign deeply, and I could tell, across the miles, that a big gob of stress just left her body.

Does this mean I don’t get free underwear? I thought. Silently.

“I found some women’s underwear in my husband’s bag this morning,” my friend spilled. “While I was getting the children ready for school, I advised them in my head to give Daddy a big hug now because they’d never see him again. I was halfway to changing the locks. And, simultaneously planning to gather the kids after school and go far far away.”

Slowly I started to understand. MY underwear — worn — were out there in public. Horrors! And they were linked with her husband. What!?

I tried to put the pieces together while she continued to tell me her thought processes since the discovery. In the back of my mind I tried to remember if I had an af.fair with her husband.

Kidding.

But I WAS using half my brain to figure out how my undies got in his bag.

Which I must have said aloud.

“When you visited me” she reasoned, “you took an overnight trip-within-a-trip to another friend’s. Remember we loaned you the bag so you didn’t have to take your suitcase?”

Aaaaah! The pieces began to fill in. Clearly, I hadn’t completely emptied the borrowed bag when I returned to her house. Again, horrors!*

I try to be a low-impact guest. I try to make sure that I don’t leave my stuff around the house when I am a visitor. I clean up after myself. I try not to leave a trace.

I left a big trace this time. Size 5, to be precise. And it gave Melissa and her emotions a terrible, horrible, no good rollercoaster ride.

Ultimately, Melissa was relieved that I’d left my panties there — as relieved as I was horrified.

We hung up so I could go to yoga. And so she could cancel the locksmith.

* at least it was a non-ratty pair.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net (not the actual pair in question)

Double feature

Thanks to the Girl Scouts, Rob and Lynne were having a grand Date Night. They’d dropped the kids off at the local school where the Scouts were hosting a Parents Night Out. They’d kissed the heads of their children and admonished them to behave for the babysitters. Before too long, Rob and Lynne were sipping their Pinots at a local bistro, enjoying the first, second and dessert courses, and discussing upcoming opportunities.

With plenty of time to spare, they arrived at the multiplex to see Lynne’s pick, The Blind Side. The theater was sparsely populated, so Rob led Lynne to the front-row center of the main level. They sat together and put their coats on adjacent seats. They talked more as the pre-show ads played on.

~~~~~
Cecil’s excitement eclipsed even the pain in his hip. He and Mildred were going on a date tonight. A real, live date — dinner and movie with his life-love. He picked her up at the door of their retirement community in their old Caddy, now rarely driven. He hoisted himself out of the driver’s seat, shuffled around the car and opened the door for her. She unsteadily lowered herself into the seat and as they drove away, he thought, “Sprung!” He was glad to leave all those old people behind.
Cecil drove 23 miles an hour across the town to their favorite place to eat, a chain cafeteria. It’s strange that they would choose a place just like the cafeteria at the retirement home, but the cottage cheese really was better here. Cecil had chicken-fried steak, and Mildred had meatloaf. Doused in sauce, with creamy mashed potatoes.

They paid the bill and eventually got back into the Caddy. At 23 miles an hour, they headed a few parking lots away to the theater. The Blind Side was their choice. He fumbled the bills out of his wallet to pay the lady. Criminy. Even the senior prices were outrageous!

~~~~~

The elderly couple entered the darkening theater just as the previews began. They stood at the entrance for a bit, unsure where to go and leery of the dark. There were plenty of seats up the stairs, but their preferred front row was filled.

Rob and Lynne both turned their attention to the newcomers. Simultaneously, Rob and Lynne moved their coats into their laps. Lynne stood and crept over to the older couple. “Sit here,” she whispered loudly, and motioned for them sit in the newly available seats.

~~~~~

Something was nagging at Lynne. She was trying to pay full attention to the engaging movie, but the old lady beside her had been gone awhile. She’d left the theater, oh, 15 minutes ago.

Just watch the movie, Lynne told herself. She took a few mental notes for the review she was going to write about it. She didn’t want her attention to wander any more.

But it did. Unable to quiet the uneasy feeling, Lynne leaned over and asked the old man if he wanted her to check on his wife. “Nah, she just went to the bathroom. We’re 90. We’re slow.”

Two more scenes passed. Lynne whispered to Rob that she was going in. “Tell me everything I miss from now until when I get back.”

Lynne got to the mostly empty bathroom, and the older woman was at the sink, washing her hands. Lynne took this opportunity to go to the bathroom herself.

She opened the first stall, clanked the latch and was committed to that stall, when she was assaulted by the smell of sick. The toilet had only one tell-tale sign of a mini-tragedy — a tidy bundle on the back of the toilet rolled up in toilet paper. Well, that and the smell of sick. Without touching anything, Lynne relieved herself, then washed her hands.

The older lady was still at the sink, dabbing her face with a paper towel. “Are you OK?” asked Lynne.

“Oh, Sweetie.” the woman said, without eye contact. “I’ve never been so sick in my 90 years. Cecil wanted to eat at his favorite place, but I just don’t feel well at all.”

“Would you like me to bring your husband back out?”

“No, Sweetie. Would you take me back to him? Here, please take my arm.”

The two women twined their arms and began the long trek back to the theater. “It’s a shame to ruin our date. But I am so sick, in the bowels. I am afraid I made quite a mess. I tried to clean it up.”

Lynne was torn. She wanted to let the lady talk if she needed to, but she also wanted to resume her own date. When they got to the correct theater, Lynne asked the lady, “Here’s a bench. Would you like to wait here while I let your husband know what’s going on?”

“Oh, yes, Sweetie. God bless you. I don’t know why I got so sick.”

~~~~~

Lynne’s eyes adjusted to the dark theater. She got to her own seat and whispered loudly to Cecil the news about his wife. He slapped his hand down in frustration. And did not get up. Lynne briefed Rob about the events of the last 10 minutes. They looked at each other in the dark, wondering what to do, trying not to create any more commotion for the other theater-goers.

Finally, the old man got up and walked toward the exit with a deep sigh. Rob could see a trail of coat, hat, and scarf, items that were about to be left behind. He leapt up, gathered the dropped items, and escorted the old man into the light.

“I’m so sorry,” said Mildred when Cecil emerged. “Gah!” said Cecil, with that same frustrated hand gesture. “We never get out! And when we do, bad luck!” Cecil said, more to Rob than to Mildred.

Their coats on, Cecil and Mildred shuffled away to the parking lot, bracing for the cold air and the trip back to their reality.

Rob returned to the theater. He and Lynne never did fill each other in on the parts they missed, but they did decide on the spot to buy the DVD when The Blind Side is available.

And young. Boy did they feel young.