There Will Be No....

My mom and I both save our lemon rinds in the fridge for weeks.  We both multi-task when we are on the phone, organizing sock drawers, ironing, putting address labels on envelopes.  We are both 5’8” and, for most of our adult lives have sat at 128 pounds until she hit her 70’s and got out of the habit of eating lunch.  We each had our left ovary removed, although she was 61 years old at the time and  I was 40.  We both have thimble sized bladders and hop up and down, running in place to stop the flow when we have held it too long .  We shiver easily even in 68 degree weather.  I have her thin wrists, her long legs, her high cheekbones and her tendency to want to keep moving.   We both make lists, organize clothing by color in our closets, write extensive notes in our cook books, care about women in prison and are often touched to tears by kindness, beauty and injustice.  


A mama Polar bears puts on close to 400 pounds  during her pregnancy.  If she doesn’t put on at least 220 pounds during that time, the body will actually reabsorb the fetus.  She then goes into hibernation mode while sitting around in her snowy maternity den, waiting for baby bear to arrive and often sleeping through the birth.  Her cubs stay with her for 2 years while she tries to protect them and teach them how to survive and feast on seal pups.


Dear Mom,
Haaaaaaaaaaappy Mother’s Day!  You are the BEST mom in the whole wide world and I’m not just saying that.  Thank you for being patient with me even though I bang on the piano keys and don’t always empty the dishwasher when you tell me.  I’m sorry about that.  I love you so much and will try to be a better daughter.  I hope I can be as amazing a person as you are when I am a grown up. 

Love, Mary


I remember the first time I used a diaphragm, squeezed out spermicide from a tube and tried to line the edges like the instructions said, getting it all over my fingers, washing, trying again, embarrassed and impatient, while he waited, the heat cooling beneath the sheets.  Another attempt, the rubbery orb slipping from my hands, toppling into the sink and into a clump, picked it up, determined to succeed, placed it where  the sun don’t shine, forcing it to find its spot, feeling like something was stuck, shifting my hips from side to side, shaking my torso. Is it in? Is this going to work? I cannot get pregnant.  Does he still have a hard on?  


Hi, Mare.  Hi sweetie pie!  I’m calling  to tell you I love you.  We can’t wait to see you.   I wanted to see how you were feeling.  We’re so proud of you.  Have you gone to see the doctor yet?  I’m sending you an article that I thought you would like. We made that quinoa salad you told us about.  You can call us until 10 O’Clock our time tonight. We’re dying to hear about the new job. It’s ok to cry.  Bad things go away, only good things stay.


I have never wanted to be a mom.  Never cooed over babies or longed to hold infants shrouded in velvety blue blankets close to my bosom.  No desire to be pregnant, give birth, breast feed. Never heard the tick tock of my biological clock.  Yet everything has been in place for me to conceive – all the reproductive parts a go, (minus one ovary)  the cycle in order, the drive intact, the partner there.  I leave homes of friends with young kids, watch meltdowns in supermarkets,  thinking “Thank God that’s not me.”    There will be no maternity den, no Mother’s Day cards, no calls just before 10 O’clock.   My genetic line will end without fanfare and hopefully I’ll be smiling.


I cannot imagine a life without her.


Extreme Peanut Butter - Like Nothing You've Ever Had Before.

Introducing…Extreme Peanut Butter.  Yes, folks, this is not your average peanut butter, this is EXTREME peanut butter.  It not only sticks to the roof of your mouth but it actually attaches your tongue to your cleft and keeps it there for at least 17 minutes.  That’s right, this peanut butter is so peanut buttery that it will cause a piece of you to stick to another piece of you.    This will slow down your eating process and allow you to keep the taste of peanut butter on your palate for a longer than usual peanut butter experience! That is extreme.

Our peanut butter is so smooth and creamy that  it will actually MELT the knife with which you are spreading it.  Make no mistake, the more you spread, the quicker your knife will dissolve.  If you like the chunky version, we have that too.  But be prepared. The chunks are more than just simple chunks.  They are actually petrified pieces of peanuts that have been around for over 160 years and they will satisfy that need for crunch and chunk that you long for on certain days.  That is extreme.   

And the way our peanut butter meshes with jam? Well, you may not even want to stick around.  This peanut butter essentially is the one and true soul mate of all jams, jellies and marmalades.  It will start to make love to any jam that you may put on a slice of bread, be it baguette or 12 grain.  You did not just mis-read that last sentence. The jam and the peanut butter will begin copulating on your Orowheat right in front of you without any inhibitions.  It might make you uncomfortable at first but it is an amazing site to see.  That is extreme!

Lastly, our peanut butter can read.  It’s true, folks!  Our peanut butter is able to read books and magazines.  This was not planned, but just simply came about during our manufacturing process.  One day in the processing plant, we found our peanut butter reading its label aloud and we knew we had something special.   Bring your peanut butter on short or long road trips with your children and have it read them stories in the back of the car so you and your partner can have a conversation.   When they tire of hearing it read to them, you can invite them to eat it, which will also keep them silent for at least another 17 minutes (see above).  That is not only extreme, it is miraculous.   


Avocado and Walnut Duke it Out.

I was at the sink doing dishes when I overheard Avocado and Walnut at it again.

“Everyone’s talking about me,” said Avocado.  “Haven’t you seen the ads?  The signs? I’m heart healthy. “

“Well, so am I”, preached Walnut. “I have a “board” that is working for me.  That’s right, The Walnut Board of California. They’ve got materials that they even mail out to people.”

“That’s not that big of a deal,” snapped Avocado. “We all have one of those. Ever hear of the California Avocado Commission? They are all about ME.  I’m also being represented by the Haas Avocado Board.”

“Well, have you seen the articles featuring me?”  asked Walnut.  “I’ve been mentioned in numerous science journals  claiming that not only am I the richest nut source of Omega 3’s which help high blood pressure, but that eating me regularly helps with weight loss because of my healthy fats.”

“That’s great, fatty!  Avocado said. “You can pretty much say the same thing about me, you know.  I believe I have a few more monounsaturated fats that you do.  Plus you can easily add me to a sandwich or use me in place of mayonnaise.”

“So what,” said Walnut. “Can you get sprinkled on top of oatmeal in the morning or baked into a cookie?”

“As a matter of fact,” said Avocado, “Some folks just started replacing the butter in cookies with me. Um, have you ever heard of vegans?  So, yes, I make it into cookies periodically too.  I don’t believe I’ve ever seen YOU in a taco.

“Depends on who is making the taco, buddy,”  snipped Walnut.  “Have you heard of raw foodists?  Sometimes, they replace the meaty meat in the tacos with yours truly and I get to enjoy the ride in a soft tortilla surrounded by that fabulous Pico de Gallo.”

“Oh, Pico and I hang out like every day,” bragged Avocado. “We’re practically living together!  And, you know who talks about eating me a lot? Julia Roberts.  Someone pinned one of her breakfasts and it included moi.”

“Big deal!” shouted Walnut. ”I have a theatre company named after me.  The Walnut Street Theatre.”

“That’s because there is a street name Walnut Street where the theatre is located!” screeched Avocado.

“Well, I don’t see any Avocado Streets or Avenues,”  harrumphed Walnut.

“For your information, there’s one in California. Get around much?” said Avocado.

“Ha ha,” smirked Walnut.  “I get around a LOT. I’ve got a Street in Philly, and an Avenue in Seattle!”

“It’s just a matter of time before I’m seen on more street names,” Avocado scoffed. “Pretty soon they’ll start realizing that food and specifically fruit has more power than dead white presidents and mayors.”

“I don’t want to lord this over you too much,” yipped Walnut, “But there are more than just streets and avenues named in my honor. There are places; Walnut Creek, Walnut Grove, Walnut City.”

“Um, I have a “heights” named after me, ok?” said Avocado. “Avocado Heights.”

“Well,” said Walnut. “According to Google maps it’s only 2.84 miles. Walnut Creek is 19.77.”
Avocado paused, fuming. “Ok, let’s switch from outside to inside.  I hear you’re associated with a lot of allergies.”

“So what!” said Walnut.  “I’m a tree nut, it’s going to happen.”

“Well,” said Avocado. “I’d say a pretty small percentage of the population is allergic or ‘sensitive” to me.”  

“I bet they will be once they start genetically modifying you!” Walnut jeered.

“They wouldn’t dare!” cried Avocado.

I had had just about enough of this bickering. 

“Stop it, you two!” I yelled.  “You’re both fantastic!” 

“But…” They each protested.

“Enough!” I roared. “It’s time you two started getting along.”

They each fell silent. I pulled out a cookbook and turned to page 242 and recited the recipe title aloud: “Avocado Cheesecake with  Walnut Crust.”

Avocado and Walnut both gasped.

“You two are going to work as a team,” I said.  “None of this ‘I’m better than you are’ and ‘There’s a town named after me’ stuff.”

Lime and Coconut Oil, who had been listening in said, “Uh, we’d like to help.  Is there a place for us in this recipe?”

I smiled. “Of course, there is. You two are going to help bring it all together.” 

I grabbed the cutting board and a bowl and the union began.


The Taming of the Hair

She has stopped caring.  The perfect “do” in the magazines never seems to fit her unmanageable mop of hair no matter what product she buys, brush she uses, styling crème she applies.  So her hair gets tied up neatly and pressed periodically with a strong application of coconut oil- anything to keep it from frizzing up and parading itself atop her head.  Mostly she looks in the mirror and harrumphs with the sense of defeat. Well, it looked good for about 47 minutes, but now it’s back to its old tricks.  

She smiles faintly at herself in the mirror knowing it doesn’t matter that much in the big scheme of things, but still, it’s annoying.  She has asked every hair stylist about what to do, how to manage it.  How to brush it, crimp it, style it, cut it, press it, flat iron it, wash it so that it stays the fuck down and doesn’t become the butt of jokes from passersby knowingly commiserating “Oh, my hair used to do that before I bought “insert the most perfect product here.”  

And she has tried everything. Morrocan oil and marshmallow gel, almond oil and special smoothing treatments,  or cutting it all off which works for a month until the front starts acting like a petulant teen who just wants to be heard and won’t back down.    Oh, the money spent at Bartell’s Drug Store, and Aveda and various salons mentioned on Groupon! Each time she brings a product home she has a sliver of hope. “This will be it!” She thinks, “This will be the goop that’s going to propel my hair to the perpetual “good hair day” hall of fame.”  And she applies it and it smells good, the grease still sticking to her palms, which she can smell for the next couple hours until several hand washings make it disappear.  And along with the disappearing smell is the loss of any function the product served.  Hair is back to its frizzy unmanageable state.  

Oh, to have that perfect straight hair, or those glorious tight curls that certain products work miracles on.  Yes it takes work, but it actually works!  She doesn’t care if it’s $45 as long as she doesn’t have to think about it.  Just let it work its $45 magic  so she can go about her day and not worry about stray straws making her appear less professional.    But it’s nighttime and no one is there to peek at her tresses now.  So they go up into a simple bun, gray hairs spiking out like latecomers to the party. They stand around and don’t know how to blend. 


Lentil Soup Makes You Think

1.     You don’t know what to eat.  You look in the fridge and your cabinets and nothing looks good, or everything seems too complex.  Lentil soup seems nice, but how do you actually make it if you don’t have all the ingredients?  Are bay leaves really necessary? ‘Cause goshdarnitt, the last can of lentil soup was eaten by your roommate.

2.     Your roommate snores.  Snores because she has sleep apnea – Snores because no one is there to tell her that she does.  But you know.  You know because you hear it late at night when you are up in the kitchen peeking into the cookie jar and wondering if crumbs count as calories, and wondering if this will be the last night before you start the diet that seems so promising.

3.     You promised yourself you’d stick with it, and try again,  take one more trip to see the nutritionist because it seems like a good idea and gives you a way of feeling like you did something with your day.  You show up and tell your story, admitting  to her what you keep secret from most and she says “It’s ok. Let’s start again.”  And you feel better. She gives you a recipe for lentil soup that’s easy and you promise to buy the ingredients on your way home.


The Smooch That Wasn't

Red wine had been my liquid courage that night.  I felt strong and sexy and very sure of my 22-year-old self.  I had been drawn to one of my fellow cast mates in my first week of summer stock. Despite the fact that that he had a girlfriend back home,  I was sure that he had been eyeing me too, as we rehearsed dance numbers, sang Sondheim around the piano, and helped each other learn lines.  Daniel was Jake Gyllenhaal-cute with mischievous eyes and a non-stop smile, and my stomach performed acrobatics as I watched him playing one of the “Back-Up Boys” in our cabaret show.
Our Mondays off meant Sunday night cast parties where we drank, played charades, found excuses to give massages, parade our humor, and talk incessantly about show business. Summer stock is camp for adults,  but without the wise counselors to check your ego, tell you to go to bed and call you out on inappropriate behaviors.  Newly aware of my sexuality and physical wares, I felt like a lightning rod ready to accept the bolts that came my way.  By the end of the night, Daniel and I found ourselves seated on the bunk bed in my room which I shared with another actress joking, laughing and, madly flirting.  After a rousing duo of “There’s No Business Like Show Business”,  my drifty eyes found focus on his and I felt bolstered enough to blurt out “You know you want to kiss me right now.”  The nerve!  The boldness!  The ego!  You might have been rooting for me, the girl who for so long felt like an unattractive bean pole, not desirable to any man;  I, being the late bloomer that I was, had not had the confidence until about year 21 when I finally realized that I wasn’t “Mary Purdy Ugly”, but had charm, nice cheekbones and a personality as well!  So you might have encouraged me, out loud, there, as if you   were watching the TV show, the scenelet, the one act, play out.  “Yes!  Mary!  Go!  You rock it, girl!  Say it.  Get that man.  You deserve it.”
“You know you want to kiss me right now.”  And then there was a pause.  The dead grape breath was heavy between our faces only inches apart.  He smiled, but it wasn’t reminiscent of an enthusiastic Jake Gyllenhaal grin like I had hoped. It was the smile of a kind uncle giving advice to his niece.  “No, I actually don’t, Mary. I have a girlfriend.”
My heart, which had been beating with the adrenaline of the daring statement I knew I’d say, the same one that had gotten me to bed with Tom Halpern, (a girlfriend-having sophomore) the last few months of college, was now a sunken ship as a surge of embarrassment washed away the fermenting juice in my stomach that I thought would be an aid to my cause.  
“Oh,” I half laughed.  “Ok, that’s ok.  Sorry.”

“I’m gonna go now”, he said and sort of patted my knee and gave me that warm uncle smile again.   I was left in the half dark of my room, huddled under my bunk bed paralyzed in a wave of excitement and deflation, lips still slightly puckered.  I sat for a while wondering if I could fake not remembering the entire episode the next day.  “I was so drunk last night!” I would say. “I don’t even remember what happened.”


The Summer of 'Tis

The summer of 1981 my father had a love affair with the word “‘tis”.  It became how he would respond to many of my brother’s and my questions.
“Is it time to go to bed?” We asked.  “‘Tis.”  “Is this the way to the lake?”  “‘Tis.”   Statements were met with the same response.  “It’s so hot in here!” “‘Tis.”   “Disney world is awesome!”   “‘Tis.” 
Initially we didn’t take much notice.  It was only after hearing it a number of times throughout the day that we began to think, “What ‘tis going on?”  We hadn’t had much exposure to this supercilious-sounding contraction; maybe in Christmas carols like Deck the Halls where “‘Tis the season to be jolly.”  Or in Shakespearean vernacular, “Tis almost fairy time” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  But in regular conversation?  And as a solo response with no attached words? “‘Tis” had no place in our typical household about toast and swimming pools, monopoly and math homework.. 
We wondered. Was my dad trying to save time by cutting out a syllable or two? Was he working out some sort of Dickensian, or Old English fantasy?  Was he hoping this term might elevate him to Bard status?
It wasn’t just the word itself, it was how it was delivered with an almost haughty air, a sense of peering down his nose as it slid off his tongue and into conversation with the laziness that accompanies common contractions.   His eyes would blink languidly and his lips would purse gently outward as if he were savoring the elegant taste of the phrase.     Even my mom raised an eyebrow.  “Tis?  Really, Peter,” she’d chuckle, but my dad held steady.
Of course, as soon as we figured out that this was not typical father patter, we began to make fun of him.  We were hell bent on eradicating this word from the vocabulary with relentless teasing so it could join the stash of other words we had banished from his lexicon (“bathing costume”,  “frock” , “hearth”, and “unguents and ointments”. ) We began to respond to all my dad’s queries and assertions, with the same one word, our necks jutting out, chins hailing the sky, lips curving downward as if something unsavory sat upon our tongues.
“Did you clean your room?”  My dad would ask.  “’Tis.” we’d reply.  “How was school today?”  “Tis!” we’d blurt.  
Finally, my dad, relinquished the antiquated term,  with grace and a smile, leaving it to be used by the poets and aspiring Shakespeare’s  without the mockery of children who don’t understand the value of a lyrical abbreviation. 
30 years later you might ask, “Tell me a story about your Dad.  Is it true that he was a remarkable man?”


Another Afternoon at 3:30pm

We are fighting as usual. About what is hard to say.  What do siblings actually fight about?  It could be something as silly as one of us taking the last Fig Newton or borrowing an item from the other’s room and not returning  it.  Or perhaps it is that it’s easy for my big brother to detest me just for being his little sister, pig tails, red leotard, running around the house, torturing him with my 7 year old-ness.

As usual, he throws me on the bed, my bed, where I tumble and roll, my red leotard a momentary flash in the air. Then, tickles me, punches me, lightly enough that it still hints of a game but hard enough so that I  yelp “Stop!”  “Stop!”  This is the daily 3-5pm after school routine:   Games of Battleship and Stratego dissolve into full out chases around the house, me the pursued screaming wildly while whizzing around living room corners into the dining room, dodging wooden African statues, silver candlesticks, and leaping over the piano bench to escape.