Tuesday, June 27, 2006

June 27, 1966...

...was a long time ago.

Today, I am f....f...f....

I am fuh....fuh....

I am faaaaaaawwwww...

I am fuh...fuh...gak

I am fuh...arrrrrrgh

*clearing throat*

No, really.

I am fah...fuh...faw...foooooorrrrr....

I am thirty-ten.

Monday, June 26, 2006

In My Thirties...

I'm still in my thirties. I can say that. Today, anyway.

So. I'm still in my thirties.

I went to the DMV to renew my driver's license this afternoon. I waited 36 minutes for my number to be called ("Now serving A-Four-Six-Four at window three!"), and 13 minutes after that for my new license. I'm pleased to say that this picture turned out much better than the one taken four years ago. My teeth are whiter, my hair longer and lighter, my smile less weary-looking.

A man who appeared to be a little older than my father - pleasantly grandfatherly - was waiting for his new license just as I was, and he turned to me with a twinkle in his blue eyes. "Did you smile?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered, smiling again.

"Then I'm sure the picture will be beautiful." And he answered my smile with one of his own. His name was called, he accepted his license, and he walked past me out the door, giving me a little salute as he went.

I stopped at the liquor store on the way home, buying vodka and Kahlua. Drinks? No. I found a recipe in Southern Living for Black Russian cake, and so that's the cake I want to make for my birthday. It will have butter and chocolate too, decadent in the style of so many Southern Living recipes. I haven't allowed myself a decadent birthday cake in years, so this time it's a treat.


The liquor store lady was white-haired, her face gently lined, her eyes as blue as those of the man back at the DMV. She smiled at me too, those eyes taking the features of my own face without question; she had correctly assessed that I was older than thirty, the age under which the red-lettered sign announced they would ask for identification.

"Customer must have been born on or before June 26, 1985 to purchase alcohol" read the crawl across the top of her computer screen.

On June 26, 1985, I was one day away from being able to make my first legal purchase at a liquor store, though I didn't make such a purchase until quite a while later. Thinking of that briefly at the liquor store counter this afternoon, I realized that babies born the day I became "legal" would just now be becoming "legal" themselves.

My. Time flies.

For the present moment, however, I am still in my thirties. "In my thirties" has a certain cachet. It sounds wordly and sophisticated, without being time-worn. Turning thirty was exciting. I felt liberated (liberated largely from worrying over turning thirty), old enough to be taken seriously but still young enough to be considered young.

I assumed turning forty would feel the same way. I know I've discussed it right here, though I haven't gone back to read my previous posts on the subject, because all that matters is how I feel about it right now. It was easy to be philosophical six months or a year ago. I haven't decided how I feel now.

Heather Locklear is 44. That alone should make it okay, right? I have sisters in their forties, sisters who never seem any older to me than they did when they were in college and I was still just in high school. It's as if in my mind, the nuclear family in which I was raised stays the same age as when we were all living together in the house my parents bought in 1964. It's not denial. It's just sort of...well...sort of a soft-focus view of life. It's not a bad thing at all.

"Is this your oldest?" the barista asked this morning when we stopped for coffee after a trip to Target. I'm a frequent customer, and she has met my younger children many times.

"Yes, she is," I said cheerfully, ordering drinks for both of us.

"How old are you?" Melanie asked my daughter.

"I'm nineteen."

Melanie looked at me.

"No way!" she said. "No way!"

"Tomorrow is my fortieth birthday," I answered.

"Wow! I'd never have guessed."

Melanie is my favorite barista.


What was today's topic again? People who are in their thirties (barely) sometimes lack organizational thinking. Sometimes.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Hamburger & Onions

There is little more comforting than the smell of hamburger browning with onions. One of the first recipes I learned to make is, in my heart, the quintessential comfort food: a simply, homey meal known as hamburger hotdish. It's hamburger, onions, salt and pepper, canned tomatoes (ideally homegrown and home canned, but we do the best we can with what we have), and cooked macaroni. Someone a little more adventurous might add some paprika or chili powder or cheese or peppers, but the simple basic is still the best.

I can remember coming home from piano lessons late in the fall, when it would be growing dark and chilly by the time I got to our front door. The lights would be on, and I could follow the smell of the hamburger cooking right up the front stairs to our bright and cheerful kitchen, my mother there at the stove with her back to the counter. Suppertime in our house was often messy and noisy, but there'd never been anywhere else I felt safer or more secure. I can still see Mom in the kitchen as clearly as if I'd been there yesterday. I can hear the chattering parakeet mimicking children in and out of the room: "I'm hungry!" or "What's for supper?" I can remember sitting at the counter doing homework or writing stories, watching my mother cook. The smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or homemade buns spread with butter and brown sugar can evoke such images as well, but nothing brings the feeling of the joy of homecoming quite like hamburger and onions.

I was thinking this as I stood over my own stove the other day, my back to the counter where my oldest daughter sat copying recipes to take with her when she moves out. I'd had a yearning for old-fashioned hamburger hotdish, the kind my mother made, the kind my dad's mother made. I fanned the skillet in front of me, savoring the aroma, wondering how many hundreds of times I'd eaten that hotdish in all these years. I told my daughter some of my stories, in particular those chilly fall nights coming home from piano lessons. I couldn't have been older than ten or eleven.

All five of us sat around our supper table not very much later that evening, digging into hotdish, bread and butter, and a salad of cucumbers and onions. We seemed closer somehow, and for once, neither of the little ones tried to get up to play in the middle of the meal. I felt bonded, warmed, and right - all through simple hamburger hotdish and a brightly lit, noisy kitchen full of people I love.

It's the smell of hamburger browning with onions. There's nothing like it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Birthday, First Born

She's making progress. My eldest, my heartbreaker, my baby born with the platinum blonde hair, the one who wore a barrette at just ten hours old.

She's got a plan of action for her life, one step at a time, and she's finally make some specific, measurable goals for herself. Baby steps, but my baby is taking them.

It's her nineteenth birthday today, this girl of mine, and I'm having trouble believing nineteen years have passed so quickly, in the measure of a baby's cry. I remember my own nineteenth birthday clearly, as if it were only a few years gone by instead of nearly twenty-one. It was a blue-sky day much like today, and I went to work wearing the new dress my mother had sewn as a birthday gift.

Me as a mother? I settled for buying her a new cellphone and a photo album, but her pleasure wasn't any less than my own had been for receiving the gift of the beautiful dress, so I'll guess I did all right.

Her face looks the same to me as it did those many years ago, cradled in my arms and just getting to know the world. Her eyes are still alert, still watching, still knowing that something wonderful must be waiting out there for her.

She's sprouted her own wings now, but I'd like to have that day nineteen years ago back again, if only for just a few minutes. Just a few.

Happy Birthday, First Baby Girl.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

That's Amore

It's been a wonderful afternoon.

Today was Little Miss Space Age's last day of kindergarten. She calls herself an official "going-into-first-grader." We took pictures, we gave her lovely teacher a .thank-you gift, we cried. A little. A lot.

After school, I took both small Space Agers to the library, where we selected two books apiece, and I gave them ice cream sundaes when we got home. I washed and folded laundry, vacuumed and dusted, washed and put away dishes. As a rainstorm gathered in the not-too-far-distant distance, the house looked cozy and tidy. Homey. Inviting.

Inspired, I put Dean Martin on the stereo and began a batch of my homemade lasagne, something the Space Age Husband has been asking me to make for weeks. I cooked and stirred, tasting the sauce, mixing the cheese, and occasionally sipped on a glass of red table wine, singing along to the comforting sounds of Dino. The children danced. They sat at the table, coloring pictures for me.

When the lasagne was ready for the oven, I stopped and danced with them before washing another round of dishes. We did a mambo around the living room - theirs a bit more freeform than mine - laughing until we were out of breath.

It's that peaceful, quiet time now, the time between the activity of the afternoon and the arrival home of my husband. The children have repaired upstairs to the playroom, undoubtedly sitting at their little drawing table making more pictures and stories for me. I'm still listening to Dean, recorded live at Lake Tahoe in 1962, and leisurely sipping on my wine in the bright warmth of the kitchen.

When Mr. Space Age returns home from his long day, we'll sit down to our favorite Italian meal and listen to our favorite Italian singer. We'll have a little Neopolitan ice cream for dessert, and by then the stresses of the day will have receded.

Indeed, "Memories Are Made of This."

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Space-Age Wear Redux

The younger Space Age daughter recently helped her Girl Scout Daisy troop hold a mother-daughter tea to round out the Girl Scout year. We all dressed in our summer finery, hats mandatory. So what does a Space Age Housewife wear to such an affair? A brand-new hat.

I didn't have a hat, so my little Daisy and I trotted ourselves to Macy's for an afternoon of hat-shopping. We tried on style after style, giggling, preening, and admiring row after row of pretty hats, some plain, some beribboned, some broad, some narrow.

Finally, we settled on one, a light straw hat with a sage green ribbon, tied in a bow in the back. Wanting to treat the Space Age Girl to a new hat of her own, we followed our jaunt to Macy's with a stop at Gymboree, where we found a floppy rainbow-hued straw hat for her.

We made quite a pair at the tea, where my dainty young lady served me cookies, fruit, fancy red punch, and homemade candies.