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  • Magoo Car

    June 30, 2008

    Is it not true that you can drive through nearly any neighborhood in the country and spot one of these in someone’s front yard?

     

    This is ours.  It’s a vintage model.  We call it a Magoo Car.

     

     

    Sean’s Godmother Gigi bought it at a garage sale for her kids.  Her kids are grown now and have children of their own.  Even Gigi’s grandchildren have outgrown it, so a few years ago, when we were at her house in East Texas, Sean fell in love with it and Gigi let us “borrow” it.

     

    Like all kids, Sean loves that little car.  And I love that Sean loves that little car. I have loved watching him play with that little car, putting gas in the little car, washing the little car with the garden hose, turning it upside down and working on the engine of that little car.

     

    But now I’m ready for the Magoo car to bring joy to another family. I’m tired of looking at the Magoo car and want to reclaim the space that it occupies on my patio — especially now that Sean has outgrown it.  These days, he can barely wedge his skinny daddy long legs into the drivers seat, yet he can’t bear the thought of parting with it.

     

    Anytime I mention that it might be time to return the Magoo car to Gigi, this suggestion is met with a powerful argument:  No.

     

    Several weeks ago, we returned from vacation around midnight and found the Magoo car sitting at the entrance to the neighborhood, about two blocks from our house.  Under the shallow gray circle of light from the streetlamp, it looked like a sad old dog, waiting for its owner to return.  No telling how long the little car had been parked on the side of the road, suffering the sun and rain and curious stares from all the neighbors.

     

    The last I had seen the car, it was parked behind the house near the garage.  Had someone taken it out for a joy ride and then abandoned it?  Or had the wind driven it down the driveway and pushed it along the street?  Or having noticed that we were leaving, maybe it tried to follow us, finally giving up exhausted after two blocks.  Or maybe — maybe it was searching for Gigi, trying to make its way back to East Texas.  I don’t know, but isn’t it fun to anthropomorphize? 

     

    When we saw it, we wondered how long it had been sitting at the entrance of the neighborhood or why no one had claimed it.  But then again, who would want a 30-year-old Magoo car with two broken wheels and no gas cap?  Then I remembered who:  The long-legged little boy sleeping in the backseat who is in love with that old sun-faded high-miler jalopy. That’s who.

     

    So after a long day of driving, we pulled in the driveway, gingerly pulled the little boy from his car seat and tucked him in his bed bothering only to take off his shoes.

     

    And then AD walked back down the street and brought the little car home and parked it on my patio.

     

    The next morning, when I looked out my back windows and saw that Magoo car occupying space on my patio, I realized that I didn’t really mind.  I didn’t really mind at all.

     

    * * * * *

     

    The people at Graco like me!

     

    Liquid Time

    June 28, 2008

    Have you ever looked at your child and seen your own face? And maybe your child doesn’t look so much like you, but there is something that he does, some little expression that he makes that is unmistakably yours. And just for a split second, the thread that has stitched all of humanity and history together is brilliant and visible and eternity suddenly makes sense.

    Last year, when I was in Illinois visiting my parents, a neighbor brought over some old Super 8 movie footage that had been hiding in a closet for 40 or more years. On it were scenes from a birthday party from when her girls and I were little, maybe four or five years old.

    There wasn’t but a few seconds of me on the video, but seeing myself at that age, especially now  that Sean is that same age, was something beyond eerie. It was like watching liquid time being poured out into my cupped hands, spilling over the sides and slipping through my fingers.

    In watching myself as a 4-year-old, I realized that like me, Sean wears every emotion on his face — twitches, twists and puckers that telegraph every thought and feeling.

    And so I asked God, why did you make him so much like me, unable to hold his cards to his chest?  He will never be able to negotiate a car deal or even a nickel off on a garage sale item.

    I thought of that old Super 8 film yesterday as I sat on a park bench, watching Sean as he came barreling down a slide. The wind blew the hair from his face in just the right way and he wore a familiar expression of unfiltered exhilaration. But instead of a boy on a slide, this is what I saw:

    brother and me

    A whole lot of time has been poured out since I sat on the hood of the family car with my brother on a windy day in the early 60s and I haven’t been able to hold on to a single drop.

    And I haven’t even wanted to.  Until now.

    Now, as I sit on a park bench watching a little boy who looks something like me zip down the slide with the wind in his face, I want to catch every drop and drink it up.

    Strutting Away. Not In The Bible.

    June 26, 2008

    There’s a particular little boy that Sean plays with sometimes who I would describe as “all boy”.  He is a bit more rough and tumble than Sean and uses language that we don’t use  try not to use don’t approve of at our house.

     

    Periodically, Sean will tell me he doesn’t like playing with Billy and then gives me an earful of what kinds of things this little guy says.  With great judgment and condemnation Sean reports that Billy calls him a poo poo head and says idiot and butt and that he doesn’t like that.

     

    He looks to me for agreement.

     

    I can see in his face he wants me to jump on his bandwagon and say, “Yeah! That Billy!”  But I don’t say it. Out loud.  He then folds his arms across his chest with a harrumph, furrows his brow and pokes out his bottom lip to demonstrate the disdain he has for Billy.

     

    I stop what I’m doing and look into his face.  “Well Sean, some people use those kinds of words, but we don’t.  We don’t think those are nice words,” I tell him.

     

    “Well I’m not going to play with him anymore!” he says and harrumphs his arms to his chest again, this time adding a little foot stomp for effect.

     

    “You know Sean, sometimes it’s better to continue to play with someone and just try to be a good example by being kind and not using ugly words,” I tell him.  As I say this, I realize it’s asking a lot of a four-year-old.  

     

    And then I add, “But sometimes, you just have to find someone else to play with.”

     

    He considers this for a moment.

     

    “Well the next time he calls me a poo poo head, I’m just going to strut away!”

     

    The mental image of Sean Travolta strutting across the playground made me laugh.

     

    And then the mental image of a strutting Christian made me queasy.

     

    A Warm Blanket

    June 25, 2008

    Today was one of those rare days in life where everything was just right.

     

    The sky was clear, the air was clear and most importantly, my calendar was clear.

     

    For the first time in several months, I didn’t have to be anywhere or prepare for anything or look into pleading eyes and say “Just a minute, just one more minute, let me finish this one thing…”

     

    Every day is its own unique and holy creation and this day seems to have been created just for me.  I could do whatever I wanted to do and what I wanted to do was hang out with the little boy with pleading eyes.

     

    We spent the afternoon puttering around in the backyard.  While I pulled weeds and cleaned out flower beds, he occupied himself with a big plastic tub filled with water from the hose.  Today the big plastic tub was a boiling cauldron and he was making soup.  Periodically, I stopped pulling weeds to have a taste.  But for the most part, we were involved in parallel play. He made soup, I pulled weeds.

     

    From across the lawn and under the shade of my visor, I stole glances at him.  He was engaged in an animated conversation with an imaginary soup patron.  Just then, a butterfly floated by and whispered in my ear to inhale deeply and remember this moment – grass and earth, water and boy, a river of sky that sails quietly by on the currents of time never to return again.

     

    All was well with the world today. This moment, this is how it should always be.

     

    I inhaled deep and long, painted a picture of this day in my mind, and then exhaled slowly.  I felt as though a warm blanket fresh from the dryer had settled upon my heart.

     

    Linus is wrong. Happiness is not a warm blanket. Contentment is.

     

    Snagged

    June 23, 2008

    When I started dating Antique Daddy, every time we had a date, I would run out and buy a new outfit.

     

    I wanted him to really really like me.  How could he possibly really really like me if I were wearing something he had seen me wearing before?  I wanted to look my best and wearing something new made me feel good and made me feel confident.

     

    As I got ready for the She Speaks conference in North Carolina, I of course wanted to buy a new outfit because I wanted everyone to really really like me. I wanted to look my best and feel confident.  Going to this conference was like going on a date with 550 women.  As I type these words, I am fully aware of how crazy that sounds but I also know, ladies, that you know of what I speak.

      

    The month before the conference, I went to my sister-in-law Annette who has a fabulous boutique filled with gorgeous things and she fixed me up with a nice business casual outfit — a Nic and Zoe crocheted sweater and matching pants.  The sweater was a splurge, but it was perfect for the conference because first and foremost, it was cute. Second, it’s always cold in the hotels but hot outside, so layering was a good choice. 

     

    For the month before the conference my expensive Nic and Zoe sweater hung in my closet and I gazed lovingly upon it. Sometimes I would even walk clear across the house to my closet just to look at it, like I was checking on sleeping baby.  I would imagine myself striding confidently around the Charlotte Embassy Suites where publishers and agents would throw themselves at my feet with book contracts  — because certainly anyone wearing a sweater as cute as that should be given a book contract.  That’s how it works in the world of publishing. I think that’s how it happened for J.K. Rowling.

     

    On the big day of the conference, I did wear the sweater and it was cute and it kept me warm in cold hotel.  But it snagged on everything but air.  It snagged on my purse, it snagged on my bag, it snagged on the clasps on my pants, it snagged on my folder and my ink pen.  I don’t know how many times I had to beg the poor soul sitting next to me to separate me and my sweater from whatever it had glommed onto.  By the end of the day, this sweater looked like something the lawn mower had spit out. 

     

    But I really didn’t care.  Although my sweater was frayed, my confidence was intact.  You see, I learned long ago that while I enjoy new and pretty things, sweaters and the other things of this world will sooner or later, ravel and fray, disappoint and fail.  Even people who not only really really like me but love me, will ultimately fail me – if for no other reason than that someday they will die.

     

    My confidence comes not from what I wear but from the knowledge of Whose I am.

     

     

    She Speaks, But She Misses The Wedding

    This weekend, my niece got married and Sean was in the wedding. He was the cutest little ole ring-bearing, tuxedo-wearing little boy you ever did see.  Maybe you saw it, but I did not.  I was at the She Speaks conference in North Carolina.

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    YOU MISSED SEEING YOUR LITTLE BOY IN A WEDDING?  HOW COULD YOU?  WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU?

    Trust me. I’ve said this in my head about 80,264 times this past weekend.

    Even though the plans for this wedding were set since the first of the year, in all my blonde glory, I managed to remain unaware of the fact that the wedding and the conference were on the same weekend until it was too late to do anything about it.  I double booked and I had a very very hard choice to make.  You would think someone with so little excitement in her life could manage to keep two dates on a calendar of twelve months straight. But no, apparently not.

    It was with much rending of garments and mental anquish that I chose to attend the conference over this family event.  I know in making that choice, that I disappointed people who are important to me.  I also know they are people with hearts that overflow with grace for me.  And that makes it a bit better. A little bit.

    On the other hand – WOW! She Speaks! In North Carolina with some of my bloggy friends.  I have so much to tell you about my time there that will no doubt include a number of exclamation points and superlatives.  I was blessed beyond measure at that event and the amazing ladies who attended and the other amazing ladies worked so hard to put it on.

    But just now, I am tired and I want to spend my day in the sandbox with my cute little boy, even though he won’t be wearing a tuxedo.

    More Millie

    June 20, 2008

    Your last helping of Tuna for the week.  Have a great weekend y’all!

    * * * * *

    Millie Conway

    In our family, we celebrate Easter and our risen Lord as we do any other holy day – by racing home from church and eating entirely too much. And then complaining about how full we are as we waddle off to check out the dessert table.

    And after all that eating, nothing much else can be done except to sit around the table and talk trash before going back for another piece of pie. When my mother-in-law Cleo and her siblings get together, talk inevitably turns to Millie Conway. After 70 or more years, it’s still Millie Conway. If you have ever wondered how long one can harbor sour feelings, it’s at least 70 years.

    In case you are wondering, Millie Conway was a girl that Cleo and her older sisters grew up with. As legend has it, Millie had the good fortune of being an only child and consequently was afforded a few luxuries – new clothes, an occasional Coke or a bologna sandwich all to herself. In Cleo’s family there were seven children and no such luxuries. If Cleo were to have to choose a last meal, I can tell you right now it would be a sandwich of thick cut bologna with real mayo and a Coke. The contentious feelings towards Millie wasn’t borne out of the fact that she had so much and that Cleo and her sisters had so little, but that Millie was the original Nellie Oleson.

    After a round table rehashing of Millie’s many acts of evil against the sisters, each one reported as though it had never been told before, one of the siblings will say of their oldest sister, “You know, Fanny always wanted to hit Millie but mama wouldn’t let her,” and then almost piously, “Mama never let us hit anybody or anything like that.”

    And then someone will say, “Poor Fanny went to her grave wanting to hit Millie and never got the chance.” And then we all hang our heads in a moment of silence for Aunt Fanny and her unrequited and unopened can of whoop ass.

    “Whatever happened to Millie Conway anyway?” someone asked.

    “Oh she died some years back,” Cleo says.

    Everyone paused to consider this.

    Then Antique Daddy adds triumphantly, “Well, I bet the first thing Aunt Fanny did when she got to heaven was kick Millie Conway’s butt.”

    And if there is any image that will convey the true meaning of Easter, it’s two old ladies in a throw down at the Pearly Gates.

    Originally published April 2007.

    Thursday Blue Plate Special: Leftover Tuna

    June 19, 2008

    Keeping Time in Tuna 


    100_4842a_2 I never hate Wal-Mart more than when I am in downtown Tuna.

    Across the country, small town Main Street has been decimated by the big hairy ape that is Wal-Mart and Tuna is no different. The old historic buildings that line Main Street, that once teemed with the life blood of the town — the Mom and Pop businesses — now stand as a silent, empty and decaying tribute to capitalism at it’s best, or worst, depending upon your point of view.

    One thing I really like about doing business on Main Street in downtown Tuna is that there is no one standing at the entrance of the store handing me a little yellow smiley face sticker if I come in with a bag. We all know what those smiley face stickers mean: We don’t trust you. In Tuna, trust is the currency and a handshake is your receipt.

    Awhile back, I had several watches (and by several I mean seven) that needed batteries replaced. What is more absurd than the fact that we have seven dead watches, is that neither Antique Daddy nor I even wear a watch most of the time, yet we feel that we need to have seven in working order in case there were to be some sort of wrist watch emergency.

    When I took my comatose watch collection to a local jeweler in the metroplex to have the batteries replaced, I was astonished by the degree to which they could over-promise and under-deliver a simple service. After several attempts and as many phone calls to get the jewelers to perform the requested service, I tired of their excuses. I finally retrieved the dead and dying watches and brought them home where they would be more comfortable and I could mourn them privately. I happened to mention this to George, my father-in-law, and he suggested that I bring them up to Tuna to the Main Street jeweler, whom he described as a “good ole’ Baptist boy.” So that’s what I did.

    When I walked into the Tuna Credit Jewelers, it was like stepping back into time 50 years. The hardwood floors creaked and dipped where countless feet had worn a path to the front counter over the course of more than 100 years. Behind the counter sat the owner, whose father and his father and his father before him had probably sat in the same cracked green leather chair. Most of the merchandise looked as though it had been there for at least that long.

    I told the man that George had sent me. “Oh, George, of course,” he said with almost no inflection. I explained to him that I had some watches that needed to have batteries replaced and I handed them over the counter to him. He peered at me over his bifocals, blinked a couple of times and then said, “Okay.” They say that a lot in Tuna and I like that.

    Then he asked me if I would like to wait. It was my turn to blink. I was thinking about the jewelers in the metroplex and how they kept my watches for a week and then another week and I was pretty sure I didn’t want to wait that long. Then I realized he meant wait, like for twenty minutes. I said, no I had to go see Floydine down at the bank and I would100_4851a_2 come back later. He nodded knowingly and again he said “Okay.” And then I waited for him to write me a receipt for my precious seven watches that I was entrusting to a complete stranger.

    We stared at each other for a few awkward seconds like a couple about to kiss for the first time. I stammered nervously and waved my hands in a gesture that made it appear as though I were waxing an invisible car.

     “Um, do you think, that maybe, I could have a receipt? For my. Um, you know. Seven. Uh. Watches? If it’s not…. toomuchtrouble.” He looked puzzled. Perhaps because all of a sudden English didn’t seem to be my first language.

    He quickly scribbled something on one of those generic pale green reciept pads, tore it off with great precision and handed it to me. I folded it twice and stuffed it into my pocket without even looking at it as a display of trust. I did not want to risk insulting the stranger now in possession of my seven stupid watches.

    As I headed down Main Street, I pulled the receipt out of my pocket and looked at it. On it was written “watches” punctuated with a little smiley face. I guess that’s about as official as a handshake and that’s good enough when doing business in Tuna.

    Originally published June 2006.

    How To Be A Rock Star In Tuna

    June 18, 2008

    I am getting ready for a conference that I will be attending in beautiful North Carolina this weekend where I’m looking forward to seeing friends I’ve actually met and many more friends that I haven’t actually met. And I have no idea where my suitcase is or what to put in it.  So then, for the rest of this week, it’s left over Tuna. Yummy.

    * * * * *

    If you ever find yourself in Texas, and you’re really hungry and you want good food and plenty of it, what you do is drive to the nearest small town, check the obituaries and then head to the church for the post funeral feeding. Wear an outdated and ill-fitting suit of clothes and look appropriately pitiful and you’ll blend right in. If you arouse any suspicion, you can always deflect it by complimenting the potato salad:

    “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe I know you. How did you know Bubba Ray?”

    “This is the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten! Who made it?”

    “Whell! (sniff) Erleta Winslow made that, and it’s okay, if you like your potato salad dry and bland like that, bless her heart and all. You wait right here (calling over her shoulder). Let me get you some of my potato salad. I make mine with a pinch of dill. Can I bring you anything else? Refill your tea maybe? Some pie?”

    Before you know it, you’ll have four or five church ladies armed with bowls of potato salad fawning all over you. Small town people take their recipes very seriously and the church cookbook is the Who’s Who In Greater Tuna. The absolute worst social faux pas in Tuna is bringing store bought cookies to the church picnic. Your reputation would be forever sullied. Prayers like this would be offered up on your behalf in the ladies groups: Dear God, please bless poor Leona Fay. Either her oven or her mind is on the blink and we just ask that you restore her either way.

    George, my father-in-law, is a Tuna rock star. He’s got so many recipes in the First Avenue Church of Tuna cookbook that they finally set a limit. Sitting in his den the other day, he leaned forward in his recliner and beckoned me towards him. Then looking over each shoulder, he whispered to me in a low voice and confided that he had submitted some of his recipes in my mother-in-law’s name to get around the limit. I might have gasped and clapped my hand over my mouth if I had understood what a scandalous thing this was. It wasn’t scandalous that George was blatantly swan diving through a church cookbook committee loophole, but that my mother-in-law goes to The Second Avenue Church of Tuna. So in my ignorance I said, “Oh really?”

    Small town churches have a rivalry that goes far beyond that of Texas high school football, which is saying a lot, since both are considered religious activities. Being a Midwestern Catholic, I don’t really understand either. This became obvious when I attended the funeral of an elderly relative awhile back.

    After the funeral, the family gathered in the basement of the Second Avenue Church of Tuna for the post funeral feeding. One of the church ladies sashayed by my table to refill my tea and asked me how my meal was. I told her it was wonderful, especially the potato salad, and thank you so much for doing this. Instead of just shutting up like a normal person, I asked her if the recipe was from the First Avenue Church of Tuna cookbook (Antique Daddy, quit kicking me!) which is so good and has so many good recipes (would you please quit kicking me?) I’ll bet this good potato salad came from the good First Avenue Church cookbook (stop with the nudging and the kicking dude) and maybe I could buy one while I’m here. In fact, maybe I’ll buy several for gifts, they’re just that good!

    She stopped pouring the tea, slammed down the pitcher, looked me squarely in the eye and through gritted teeth hissed, “Whell! I wouldn’t know!” Then she spun around and marched off.

    I turned to Antique Daddy who was leaning on his elbows with his head in his hands. “What just happened here, dude?” I asked. “I just complimented the potato salad. Isn’t that what I was supposed to do?”

    He shook his head at my embarrassing blunder. “This is the Second Avenue Church of Tuna,” he said hanging his head. “We’re never going to get pie now.”

    * * *

    Stay tuned for more Tuna on Thursday and Friday! Yum!

    The Triangle

    June 16, 2008

    One of my many downfalls as a mother is that it is terribly hard for me to resist buying toys for Sean no good reason.

     

    If I were to be introspective about this weakness of mine, it’s probably because I didn’t have much growing up and I’m feeding my inner-poor child.  And although I believe there is tremendous character-building value in having less rather than more, being able to buy unexpected no-good-reason gifts for my child gives me great joy.  It delights me.  And I suppose that could be bad, but dang, it feels good.  If Sean were an ungrateful sort, it would stop.  But so far, that has not been the case.  He is extremely appreciative and that is the sweet cherry atop the cake of indulgence.

     

    Therefore, anytime I’m out shopping I cruise through the toy aisles looking to see what’s new and/or marked down.  It’s a sickness and I cannot stop myself.

     

    Last month when I was in the TJMaxx toy aisle, I noticed a Melissa & Doug’s boxed set of musical instruments.  It had 20 different pieces including a triangle!  As I stood in the toy aisle salivating over the 20 tiny instruments under the taut cellophane, I thought back to Mrs. Kelly’s kindergarten class of 1965.  On several occasions, she gave each of the children a musical instrument, which we played as we marched around the room.  I always wanted the triangle, but I never seemed to get it, no matter how high I raised my hand.  Consequently, I have spent the last 43 years dreaming of playing the triangle. Even given that compelling reason and TJ’s max to the minimum prices, Melissa and Doug wanted more for this box of musical goodness than I was willing to pay, so I put it back.

     

    But then last week I was in TJMaxx, trolling the toy aisle – again — and the little box of musical instruments was on sale for $20!  What could I do? It was like God was saying “I really want you to have this.”  And who am I not to do God’s will?  So I bought it.

     

    Later that evening, when I presented it to Sean, he squealed with delight while flapping his arms and hopping on one foot like some sort of psychotic tropical bird.  “I love it!” he said breathlessly, “I’ve wanted this since I was little!”

     

    He ripped away the cellophane and then I spent the next 35 minutes working feverishly to free each of the 20 pieces from twist tie shackles while he stood beside me hopping from foot to foot, panting “Hurry Mom! Hurry!” 

     

    He gleefully tried out each instrument as it was freed and when he got to the triangle, he marched around the room clanging it with great vigor and joy.  My heart overflowed to see him with that triangle.  At that moment, all my triangle dreams were fulfilled in him.  I told him the story of how when I was in kindergarten, I really wanted to play the triangle but never got the turn.

     

    He stopped and cocked his head, slightly furrowing his brow with concern. Then he handed me the triangle.

     

    “Here Mom,” he said. “Since you never got to have the triangle I want you to have it.”

     

    I just looked at him standing there offering me his triangle.

     

    I laughed and sighed all at once.  It was just so funny and sincere and compassionate and selfless and beyond what any four-year-old should think to do. All at the same time.  I thought about how in just four years he has managed to dissolve 48 years of hurts and disappointments. And then I sighed again.

     

    I closed my eyes and shook my head in an effort to send away the salty tears that were gathering behind my eyes.

     

    Then I took the triangle and clanged it with great vigor and joy and joined the parade around the den.