Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Mystery of the Old Suitcase

During this painstaking 11-month process of cleaning out Mom's home, I've unearthed hidden treasures boxed away in every single closet.

From childhood Halloween costumes, my beloved Raggedy Andy doll and Barbie's Dreamhouse to family photo albums and a bottle of Mercury stored alongside my stack of old Mad magazines from 1970, each excavation has been a revelation. I even found a list dated 1978 spelling out what I hoped I might get for Christmas that year.

Did I really want the 45 rpm of "Macho Man" by the Village People?

But the one discovery that tugged at my heart was the suitcase stuffed with my Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery books. Such a labor of love, those dusty, faded books.

That's because as an eight-year old, my allowance each week was just 25 cents. Not bad when you remember that in those days, a candy bar was a dime and comic books were 15 cents. In pre-Wii days, isn't that really all a kid needed to survive week to week?

Ah, but Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books were $1.25. That meant five arduous weeks of saving my meager 25 cents to purchase a coveted book; not to mention forsaking any other weekly treats, like a new Richie Rich comic book or a refill for my Batman Pez dispenser.

But the sacrifice was well worth it because on that fifth week, I would be giddy with excitement as I accompanied Mom on her weekly trip to Gemco. And while she shopped for groceries, I would plant myself in front of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy section and belabor which book to buy.

Such a decision. Did I want "The Secret of the Old Clock" or "The House on the Cliff?" Was I due for a Nancy Drew or was it time for a Hardy Boy? Back and forth, back and forth. An hour later, Mom would swing by to collect me, her shopping cart overflowing with grocery bags.

"Hurry," she'd urge, "before the ice-cream melts!"

MOM! Jeeeez.

And only under the duress of such pressure would I finally make my agonizing, I needed her to pay the tax. I'd return home with my treasure, finish the book in one day, and then begin the process all over again.

A labor of love, indeed. And 40 years later, a suitcase of memories.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'll Pencil It In

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover."

~Mark Twain

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Karma, Baby, Karma

So there we were on our lunch break at the Starbucks inside Target. My co-worker Wendy was approaching the empty counter when all of a sudden this tall, skinny Amazonian woman barges to the counter, practically elbowing Wendy in the process to get to the counter first. It was THAT important, you know.

Wendy and I just looked at each other, jaws agape at the blatant rudeness. The woman didn't even bother looking at Wendy to say "excuse me" or acknowledge the fact that she had practically steamrolled over her to place this Life-Or-Death order. She barked her order, grabbed the drink, and in the blink of an eye, spun around to leave as quickly as she'd flown in.


Now Wendy was at the counter. And as she ordered her usual 2-pump chocolate mocha, she called me over and pointed to something sitting on the counter. There it was.

The Amazonian's car keys.

We looked at each other, then both simultaneously looked over our shoulders. We could still see the Amazonian near the Target entryway. Should we?

Would we?

And without saying a word we came to the same conclusion. Wendy picked up the keys and handed them to the Starbucks clerk. "Someone left these behind," she said.

As we started to leave the parking lot, we saw the Amazonian racing frantically from Bed, Bath & Beyond to Sports Basement to Pet Food Express, desperately scanning the ground as she walked, looking all around her.

"I"m gonna tell her," Wendy said. I started to object as she rolled down the window to call the Amazonian, but the woman gave Wendy but a cursory glance and kept on walking. "Well, then, fine, be that way." Wendy said. "I was gonna try."

"Serves her right," I said.

But that night I thought about it and it bugged me. Wendy had tried to do the right thing and take the high road. Not me. I'd wanted revenge. And then I remembered a scenario that took place not that long ago.

It was just a few weeks after my mother's unexpected passing when I was at the Danville Farmer's Market buying tomatoes. Another shopper didn't realize there was a line and unintentionally cut in front of me.

Like a match to gasoline.

I burst into this heat-fueled liturgy about people without manners and people who aren't civilized and people who don't care about other people, etc. etc. Really, that is so unlike me. And over tomatoes, no less.

The poor woman apologized as she stepped aside, saying she hadn't seen me. And in my heart I knew this was true, but I wasn't really mad about the tomatoes. I was mad about something much deeper and she just happened to get in my way. On the verge of tears, I tossed the tomatoes aside and walked away.

And I realized that the Amazonian could have been on the way to the hospital to visit her terminally ill sister. Perhaps she was reeling from a breast cancer diagnosis, stressing about that recent lay-off notice or distressed over learning that her husband was having an affair.

Or maybe she was just a really rude woman.

Doesn't matter, not my call. Because it's like the John Lennon tune: ""Instant Karma's gonna get you, What on earth are you trying to do? It's up to you, yeah you."

Yeah, me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Think About It

"You come into the world empty,
And you leave the world empty.

Those who follow Buddhism and Taoism are also empty: there is no greed in their hearts.

Although the river has been flowing for 10,000 years,
Once you enter it, the water you touch is not the same as the water that was there a few moments ago.

Frost melts with the sun.

Life is brief."

~Flying Crane, (Zu-Wu Tang), age 82
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