Friday, December 31, 2010

Limo for BooBoo

Limo For BooBoo

My niece was coming to town.

She had been living in Los Angeles for a couple of years and was coming back to South Florida for Thanksgiving.  She was bringing her just acquired fiancé, who none of us had met yet. 

Her mother brother and father were going to be picking them up at the airport and we would all be together for Thanksgiving dinner, traditionally cooked by her father, he makes the best turkey in the family.

We rotate family dinners for important holidays such as Thanksgiving, Passover, Break the Fast, etc.

I was just sitting there when an interesting idea came to me.

I remembered a picture of my niece when she was probably 18 months or so, in blue pajamas, with curly back ringlets around her hair, looking up at the camera.  Why not make this a poster-sized picture for her family to hold up at the airport so she could find them easily in the waiting crowd.

Oddly, her mother thought it was a great idea and agreed to do it.

She gave me the picture; I scanned it into the computer and sent the image off to a company that would make me a poster-sized print.

A week later the picture arrived.  My nephew and I attached it to some poster board.  It stood about 3 feet tall.

I then wrote on it: “Limo for BooBoo”.

BooBoo is an affectionate term her mother and father use for her.  Her cousins (my grandchildren) and children of friends have adopted it as her name as well.  “Aunt BooBoo” is what she is called by all of them.

The day of arrival came.

BooBoo’s mother, poster in hand stood in the crowd of people waiting for people to come out of the gates, making their way to baggage claim.

People noticed the poster.  They looked around expecting a young child to be the intended person, accompanied by a parent.

BooBoo , fiancé in tow, emerged from the gate passageway., she looked around for her parents.  My nephew was ready with his camera.
She spotted the poster.

Now for those of you familiar with the Yearbook Debacle story, this is the same niece who embarrassed easily.

Not this time, she starting laughing so hard she doubled over. We have the picture to prove it.

Her fiancé was unsure what was going on since he didn’t recognize the picture or the term BooBoo. He didn’t know why she was laughing so hard.  When she explained, he joined in the laughter.

The poster was a success, BooBoo was found and everyone had a good laugh about it.  I think my niece kept the poster.

On Thanksgiving, there was BooBoo, her parents, her brother, her fiancé, me, my wife, my son, my daughter, her husband and toddler son, my sister, her husband and my mother and my wife’s father, BooBoo’s grandfather..

The stage was set.

Mark, BooBoo’s fiancé and now husband, had never met any of us before.  We are a loud Jewish Family.  Mark comes from an Italian family from Pittsburgh.  We didn’t know what would happen.  Would this end the engagement?  Would he find us too crazy?

By the end of the meal, Mark declared he felt he had entered “Boca/Delray” from a Seinfeld episode.  He loved it.  It reminded him of his family dinners in Pittsburgh. 

He laughed at the various antics and stories he heard, and was even able to get some of the Yiddish words my mother used to describe various people in her condo. 

Mark worked in the movie industry so he had some knowledge of various demeaning Yiddish terms like Schmuck.  We told him to get Spielberg to give him a lesson when he returned to Los Angeles.

We seemed to make a favorable impression on Mark and he on us.  In short, the dinner was a success and Mark is part of the family.

He and BooBoo are integral parts of the Dreyfuss Fantasy Football league started about 4 years ago.  His trash talking is legendary and we all look forward to his visits with BooBoo.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Daughter Gets Married

My Daughter Gets Married

My daughter was getting married to a very nice young man.  The General was in full planning mode.

I dutifully went along visiting various sites for the wedding and as all Fathers of The Bride, was expected to keep my mouth shut and pay.

I didn’t mind paying, we had prepared for this and had a Wedding Fund put aside for this event.  It was the keeping my mouth shut that bothered me.

Why couldn’t I have an opinion?  It seemed I couldn’t, at least when it came to the catering hall.

The wedding dress was a different story.

My daughter liked going shopping with me because I would let her pick out clothes her mother wouldn’t because of cost, styling, etc.  I felt if it looked great, buy it.  All of her prom dresses were bought as a result of a shopping trip with me.

In addition, I believed in “sticking to the task”.  If we were going for a prom dress, we were not looking at jeans, blouses, etc.  These distractions were why shopping went on forever and nothing got done.

The General, my daughter, and I went to Las Olas Blvd.  Las Olas was the fanciest shopping street in Fort Lauderdale at the time and had 4 Bridal Salons.

We went into the first one, and my daughter tried on this beautiful wedding dress.  She looked like a fairy princess.

“Do you like it?” I said.

“I love it”, my daughter replied.  My wife agreed.  I prepared to pay for it.

“What are you doing?” the General asked. 

“What do you mean, I thought we were done”, I naively said.

“We can’t buy the first one”, my wife stated. 

We then proceeded to try on many more dresses in that and all the stores on Las Olas.

We eventually went back and bought the first dress.

Everything else was going according to plan when we visited the invitation store.

As was my role, I was just sitting there when I spied an interesting top for a wedding cake.

It was a pregnant bride yanking on the long coattails of a groom trying to escape.  I was intrigued by it. 

“What do you think of that for the wedding cake?  Wouldn’t you like to do something different”, I asked.

“Are you crazy?” retorted the General.  End of discussion.

Over the next couple of weeks, I kept thinking about it.  They had already purchased a more traditional top of the cake, but I still had some hope in persuading my daughter to use the “non-traditional” one. 

I bought it, and hid it away.

The day was coming fast.  The invitations were sent, acceptances given, and out of town people were making arrangements to come.

One of my daughter’s bridesmaids was her “little sister” from her sorority.   Her name was Caroline and she lived several hours away and planned on staying over in a local hotel.

My daughter was very happy Caroline was coming and could be a bridesmaid in the wedding.  My daughter felt bad about the amount of money Caroline would be paying to come, as she didn’t have a lot of money to spare.

An amusing idea (at least to me) began forming in my mind.

I went to the hotel where Caroline and her date were booked.  I approached the desk and asked for the manager.  I explained that I wanted to pay for Caroline’s room, but did not want them to know I was paying.  I got the manager to agree to tell Caroline when she arrived that she was the  “Millionth Guest” and as such, her stay was free.

The manager put in that information into the computer so when Caroline checked in, she would get that story.

The Big Day Came.

I had to bring over some things to the Catering Hall and included my Cake Top with it.  The catering manager was skeptical, but agreed to speak with my daughter about it.  I felt it best not to include the General in this decision.

My daughter and her wedding bridesmaids started early with a trip to the beauty parlor for hair and makeup. During this process, Caroline told everyone about her good fortune at the hotel.

“I won a contest”, she said.  “I don’t have to pay for my hotel room”.

My daughter immediately sensed some skullduggery and questioned Caroline about her good fortune.

“It’s my father” she exclaimed, “I’m sure of it”.

When Caroline later came over to thank me, I of course denied any knowledge of what she was talking about.  I hope she remained innocent of the true facts.

The wedding went off as planned, except for one minor item.  Sitting on the cake table, although not on top of the cake, was my small contribution to the wedding plan. 

The General even thought it was funny.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Mother versus the Car

My Mother Versus the Car

My mother, like most women of her generation, did not learn to drive until her early forties.

My father first attempted to teach her, but after about 45 minutes of her trying to learn to drive, they would return and he would immediately have to go to the bathroom as his stomach was very upset by the experience.

After 3 or 4 attempts at teaching her, he gave up and arranged for a driving school.

She took lessons for a while and eventually felt it was time to take the driving test.

My father was working so she talked the son of one of our neighbors into taking her to the test site, since an applicant was not allowed to drive herself.  I went along for the ride.

As I might have mentioned, my mother reminded me of Gracie Allen.  Gracie Allen was a vaudeville, radio and television star.  She would be the clueless comedian to her long-suffering husband, George Burns.

Like Gracie, she sometimes exhibited a comic and clueless innocence.  This was one of those times.

First she tied a red ribbon around her pinkie on her right hand and a blue ribbon on her left hand.  This was designed to remind her which direction would be “Left” and which “Right”.  She was now ready.

We got to the test site and a tester was assigned to take her out on her test.  The test consisted of her driving under the tester’s directions around a neighborhood where she would be expected to make left turns, right turns, drive straight, parallel park, and obey the traffic rules and his directions.

She returned shortly, the tester looking ashen and shaken.  He ran into the office, possibly to the bathroom as my father had after driving with her.

We asked her what had happened.

“He doesn’t know how to give a test,” she said.

“I tried to follow his directions, but he spoke very softly and I couldn’t hear him.  He started to yell at me when he told me to turn left and I couldn’t hear him so I kept going.  I had to yell at him to speak up constantly,” she said. “I didn’t know what he wanted so I just kept driving.”

Miraculously, he gave her a passing grade, possibly because he never wanted to see her again.

Whenever she could after that she would want to drive the car.  Since we only had one car, and my father refused to be in the car when she was driving, her experiences with the car were limited.

She liked driving and drove until she was 89 when my sister and I made her sell her car because she couldn’t turn her head to see if other cars were coming along side or from another direction.

The standing joke for 6 years was she wanted another car because her friends in the condo told her, the car was too old and she deserved a new car.  My answer to her was to tell her how much a new car would cost and she would stop talking about it for a couple of weeks.  Then she would bring it up again.

The classic car story involving my mother was when she drowned our family car.

We had just gotten a brand new Plymouth Belvedere.  The one with the big tail fins.  It was sleek looking, big, chrome covered, in short a Detroit special.  We all felt proud of it.

One morning there was a bad storm in NY.  There was a lot of rain that turned to sleet and then ice.  The roads that morning were icy and there was flooding in low areas.

My father, who usually drove to work, took the bus that morning and called to tell my mother not to use the car, as conditions were too dangerous.

My mother, seeing how cold and icy it was, decided my sister needed to be driven despite my father’s instructions and warnings.

My sister and mother started off and got to the end of the block, about 50 feet, whereupon she got stuck on an icy patch and could not proceed.

I had not left for school yet and so she got me and my friend to push her off the ice.  We did and started walking in the opposite direction to the high school. (My sister was in 6th grade at the time).

I thought my mother would realize it was too risky to proceed and turn back to our house.

She continued on to my sister’s school instead.

My sister’s school was on a hill.  My mother managed to make it to my sister’s school, dropped her off and started back to the house.

She decided to take a short cut, which brought her to a street at the bottom of 3 hills (more inclines than hills).

This particular street was in the bottom of a slight valley formed by the 3 hills.  Water and floating ice had accumulated in the street to a depth of about 3 feet in the middle.

For whatever reason, she forged ahead into the middle of the “ice lake’ formed by the water and the “valley”.  She got half way across and stalled.

She now faced a dilemma.  How was she to get out?

She could roll down the window and crawl out, or open the door. 

She opened the door.

The water, up to the middle of the door rushed in, she fell out and was dunked under water.  She sputtered to the surface and waded out to the main street.  She was soaked and wet and in panic for fear my father would find out about this.

I was at the top of the opposite hill, just getting ready to enter the high school.  My friend pointed to the car and woman below and said, “Isn’t that your car and mom?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said.  “She wouldn’t be that stupid.  It must be someone else”.

All day people in the school were talking about the lunatic lady who had driven her car into the middle of the “lake”.  I began to have doubts about who that woman was.

Somehow, my mother flagged down a passing tow truck and convinced him to wade out there and attach a tow rope and get the car out of there.

She had it towed home and tried to dry it out. 

Miraculously, the car dried out enough so it would start, drive and appear clean and undamaged.  My father was never told about what happened.

He did keep mentioning how damp the car seemed, and how cool the interior felt in the summer (this was before air conditioning for cars was widespread). 

We traded in the car 2 years later for a new Oldsmobile, much to my mother’s relief.

While she was never a great driver, and would get lost easily, she did like driving and let me behind the wheel when I was 13, just to see if I could do it. 

My father didn’t think it was funny, and asked his most common question of her: “Jean are you an imbecile?” when told how well I had done.

I didn’t get to drive again until I was 17.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Corporeal Punishment

Corporeal Punishment

Growing up in the 1950’s and early 60’s, corporeal punishment was the rule and not the exception it is now.  If a parent did these things now, a visit from Social Services would be forthcoming.

Parents would routinely smack a kid for some sort of transgression, and in fact, I knew kids whose parents would use a belt or stick to whack them with.  One family I knew, invoked the “you should have prevented this” rule, whereby all the children would be lined up and hit with a belt for the transgression of one of them with the idea that it would be a lesson for the guilty culprit and a future warning for the others. 

These disciplinary measures didn’t seem to have a permanent deleterious effect on us when done in moderation.

I was a model child.  I say this in all honesty.  I never felt I gave my parents reason to punish me.  I was always amazed when my mother would smack me or seek to do me bodily harm.

My mother was a firm believer in hitting, slapping, banging my head into the wall and other things I will speak about.

My sister was also the recipient of our mother’s disciplinary philosophy.  For years, my mother kept my sister’s hair in pigtails, so she could easily grab her as my sister sought to get away from some “well deserved” (unlike me) punishment.

Every day it seemed, I would receive a smack for one thing or another.  None of these hurt too badly and I mostly could ignore them.

If my mother got really angry (I swear, I was innocent), she would resort to other means of bodily harm.

She once chased me around the house with a bread knife.  Fortunately I never found out what would have occurred if she caught me.  While running through the house, I tried to hurdle over the landing leading from the hallway to the stairs and to the living room.  I tripped and had the breath knocked out of me.  She came rushing over thinking there was something really wrong with me caused by the fall.  She forgot for the moment what innocent action prompted her rage.

Another time, she burned me with a butter knife she had heated up on the burner on our gas top stove. It happened this way:

I was a senior in high school and came home around lunchtime with some important news.  I had won a NY State Regents Scholarship for college.  I tried to tell her about it.

She refused to be interrupted from watching her soap opera and wouldn’t pay any attention to me.

The story line in the soap opera had reached a critical point after several months leading up to this moment and she was not going to get distracted and miss any of it.

The commercial came on.  The next scene was the critical one. The male and female characters would face each other and resolve the issue separating them.  While she went to get something out of the refrigerator, I turned off the sound.

The scene started, the camera would show the face of one character while the other character was talking.  The back of the head was shown of the talking character.  The camera kept switching back and forth between the two characters; the only thing my mother saw was the back of the head of one character and the facial expressions of the other.  She thought it was very dramatic and artful to play the scene out without sound, just seeing the facial reaction of each character looking at the other as the camera kept switching from one face to the other.  My mother was enthralled.  Then the scene ended and the next commercial came on.

My little joke was not taken well, hence the burn from the hot butter knife I received.

I never did tell her about the scholarship, she and my father learned about it from an uncle whose daughter went to the same school as me.

Don’t get me wrong; my mother was no more violent than any other parent at the time.  In fact, she received expert advice on this, as you will see from the following incident:

As I got bigger, her attempts to smack me become harder to accomplish.  I would put up my arm in self-defense and she wound up hitting my forearm and eventually it would hurt her. 

Things came to a head, when I was in Junior High.  She had just attempted to smack me and consequently hurt her hand on my forearm.  She became very frustrated so she grabbed my arm and bit me.

Not a love bite, but a real bite, it broke the skin and caused a very small amount of blood.

I saw an opportunity and told her I could get infected with a bite.  I told her I had just had a class in hygiene at school addressing this issue and I probably needed to see the doctor.  I kept this up for a while and she grudgingly agreed to take me.

We arrived at the doctor, our family physician who was (or so it seemed to me) in his 70’s.  Dr Silverman was his name.

He heard me out, turned to my mother and said, “He’s right, he can get infected from a bite”. 

I thought I was home free.

“But what can I do?” my mother complained, “He’s too big for me to hit him effectively”

The doctor had an answer ready.

“The next time he does something, hit him across the back with a chair” he said.

The next day, she did.

For those of you who feel I have taken dramatic license with the facts, just ask my cousins Julie and Joe. My mother once confirmed the validity of these stories to them.  She seemed proud of it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Bloomingdales Makeover

The Bloomingdale Makeover

We have a friend who lives on Long Island with her daughter.  We have stayed very close to both of them and try to see them when we come to NY.

One year, about 1994 or so, my wife and I were in Manhattan staying at the Marriott Marquis.  Our friend and her daughter decided to join us at the Marriott, spend the day with us, have dinner and get a room at the Marriott for the night.

They arrived in the morning and we decided to walk around the city and in particular, 5th Avenue where all the nice stores and department stores are.

We went in and out of some stores and eventually found ourselves in Bloomingdales.

I like giving gifts, and proposed buying the daughter, who was 18 at the time, an outfit in Bloomies.

We went to the junior department and she proceeded to pick out various items to try on.

They were awful!  Everything she picked out was drab and baggy.  In fact the clothes she was wearing were drab and baggy.

Being the sensitive person I am, I suspected she may have been self conscious of her figure which featured an ample bosom.  However, it was evident to me, that she was not wearing the correct Bra.

I asked our friend why she allowed her daughter to dress this way?  “She’s a young girl, why is she dressing like an older lady who has allowed things to sag?”

“I can’t tell her anything.  Maybe she will listen to you” she said.

Being mindful of the delicate nature of the situation, I decided to forge ahead.

“Jessie, since I am paying, I should have some say in what you are going to pick out.  I think we should go upstairs first and get you a better bra, come with me”.

To her mother’s amazement, and the dirty looks from my wife for my interfering ways, Jessie and I proceeded by ourselves to the “Ladies Lingerie Department” on a different floor, without so much as a hint of opposition from Jessie.

Upon entering the department, I zero’d in on a middle aged sales lady and said ever so tactfully “Do you see this girl I have here?  I want you to find a bra that will fit her properly and put what is here (pointing to a spot on Jessie’s front that was lower than it should be for a girl her age), up here (a spot better positioned for showing off her attributes).  Maybe a push up bra would do it?” I suggested in my most charming manner.

“I understand completely” the sales lady said, “leave it to me, she will be a new woman.”

With that, they disappeared into “Lingerie Land” while I waited for them to pick out the appropriate garment.

A short time later the sales lady reappeared with Jessie.  Even though she was still dressed in her baggy top, there was a marked improvement.

“We’ll take it” I said and paid for the purchase.  I insisted Jessie keep on the new undergarment and we returned to the Junior department for the promised outfit.

When we got there, I informed Jessie, I would do the picking and she would do the trying on.  She didn’t object and her mother, slightly in shock at the lack of rebellion on her daughter’s part, sat and watched along with my wife.

I choose several outfits that showed off her new found figure and that were in fact figure hugging. 

Jessie looked great in most of them and we quickly narrowed our search down to one in particular which I thought looked the best and gave her the most flattering look.  I bought it.

That night, we were going to dinner.  Jessie’s current boyfriend was joining us.  She came out of her room wearing the new outfit.

The boy’s eyes bugged out of his head.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

The outfit was a success. 

I don’t recall Jessie ever wearing drab or baggy clothes again, at least while I was around.

I like to think the makeover I gave her eventually helped in her find a very nice guy to marry.  But that is for another story.

Jessie has asked me to mention her Melon problem, so I will.

A few years later, Jessie lived with us in Florida.  I introduced her to the benefits of eating fruit all the time, particularly melon which I tried to eat every day.

She claims this traumatized her in regard to melons.  Knowing this, I give her a gift wrapped melon whenever we see her. Something which has become a standing joke between us.

I don’t think the melons have anything to do with the trauma my wife says I inflicted with the makeover, but who knows?

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Day I was Almost Homeless

The Day I Was Almost Homeless
I grew up in a nice house in Queens, NY.  My parents, my sister, my grandparents and I lived in a single family house in Cambria Heights, near Andrew Jackson HS.  We lived there since I was 4 when we moved there from the Bronx.

My second year in college, I was working as a waiter in the Shelbourne Hotel in the Catskill Mountains outside of NYC. 

It was traditional for young college students to work the summers in various hotels in the “Jewish Alps” or “Borscht Belt” as it was commonly referred to.

We worked for barely minimum wages but received generous tips from the guests, most of which we spent on betting at Monticello Raceway which was nearby. 

We had a great time, seeing shows and famous and not so famous acts at the various hotels.  For instance, every Sunday Night, one of the hotels would get “Hullabaloo”, a TV show which aired on Saturday Night in NY, to come up and duplicate the show for their guests.  It was a rock and roll show so most of the guests wouldn’t go to see the show and we would sneak in and pretend we were guests.

I didn’t talk with my parents all summer right up until the week before Labor Day, when I called to let them know I would be home the day after Labor Day, the traditional end of the Catskill Season.

After serving lunch that day, I went to the phone booth in the lobby and called home.

My mother answered. “Oh, its you” she said.

“Yes it’s me” I answered.  I was having a little trouble hearing her.  There seemed to be a lot of noise.

I proceeded to tell her when I would be home.  She seemed a little distracted.

After a short conversation asking how everyone was, I was still having trouble hearing her.

“What’s all that noise?” I asked.

“Oh that” she replied, “We’re moving.  The noise is from the movers, they’re here to move us out”.

“What, what are you talking about?  Moving?  Where are we moving to? When did you sell the house?”  I was shocked, dismayed and as I quickly thought about it, kind of angry.

“When were you going to tell me?” I said in an accusatory tone.

“Oh, didn’t I mention it?” she said.  “I thought I told you”

“No” I responded, “What did you think would happen when I got home and the new owners were there?”

“I’m almost positive I would have mentioned it, besides you would have figured it out” she said.

“Ok, where are we moving to?” I asked.

“Well, your grandparents have a nice apartment in Rego Park, and we haven’t found a place yet” she said.

“And where are we supposed to live?”

“We’re going to stay with your aunt Tillie in Rego Park until we find something”  My aunt Tillie, my mother’s sister was very close to us (a few years later she informed us she hated the name Tillie and wanted to be called Natalie).  She had a one bedroom apartment; there would be 5 of us living there.  It would be tight quarters; perhaps that is why my mother had “forgotten” to tell me about the move?

I got off the phone in somewhat of a daze. 

When I told my friends at the hotel what had happened, they fell down laughing.  They agreed my theory was either correct, or my mother just “hadn’t gotten around to letting me know” she was kind of ditzy at times. I side with the former explanation.

We all lived with my aunt for a couple of months until my parents found an apartment on the next block. 
A one bedroom apartment.  

My sister stayed with my aunt, and I slept in an alcove until I moved out a couple of years later, at which time my sister moved into the alcove.

But, that’s another story.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Regina's School Daze

Regina’s School Daze
My sister didn’t particularly like school. 

Her first day of high school, she came home very unhappy.  Her friends were in all in different lunch period than she, and she thought her math class was too hard.

She complained to my mother and begged my mother to switch her out of her math class and into a different one at a different time.  This would allow her to eat lunch with her friends.

My mother’s solution was me.

She cajoled me into doing something about my sister’s problem.  I was in college and had not attended that high school so I didn’t know anyone there.  Never the less, it became my job to solve this issue.

I recruited my friend Mark to come along with me.

Mark was and is a funny guy.  He can be sarcastic, brash, and crazy.  He was often high. He also looked young.  People often mistook him for 3-4 years younger than he was.

The next morning we arrived at the high school.  I looked somewhat cleancut and Mark like a “greaser”, in a leather jacket, slicked back hair and a cigarette.

It was the 2nd day of the school year and there was a lot of shouting, running around and general chaos.
As we were looking around for the office, a woman came rushing toward us.  She was quite formidable looking and seemed to zero in on us.

“What are you doing here?”, “Is this your son?” she exclaimed much to my amusement and Mark’s discomfort.

“Why aren’t you in class?”, “Where is your schedule?” she said as she put her face directly up to Mark’s.
“Back off sweetheart” he said which both shocked and amazed her that a student would have the audacity to speak to her like that.

“I’m not a student here” he stated, which gave her pause.

“We’re looking for the office” I said, “where is that?”

“I’m the assistant principal” she said. “What do you want?”

I quickly explained that I was there to get my sister’s class changed.   She thought this over.  “Come with me “she said, and we followed her into her office.

“What seems to be the problem?” she asked.

I had my answer ready, which consisted of how my sister needed an easier math class and what class she could transfer into.  That would solve both problems since the new class would occur during the lunch hour she didn’t know anyone, leaving her to go to lunch in the period she did know people.

More to get us out of her sight than to solve a student’s problem (or so it seemed to me) and definitely wanting to get rid of Mark as quickly as possible, she agreed to the change.

We left quickly with the new schedule in hand.  My sister would be informed by her guidance counselor about the change the next morning.

All was right with the world.  My sister would be happy, my mother mollified and off my back, and I could get back to worrying about my own stuff.

No good deed goes unpunished.

When I came home that afternoon and informed my sister and mother about the wonderful job I had done, there was silence.

“What did you do?” my mother said.

“What you asked me to do” I replied.

“You’ll have to change it back” she stated.

“Are you crazy, why?” I stated perhaps a little too forcibly.

It seems my sister had made some friends at lunch, and found the male math teacher to be “dreamy”.  She wanted to stay in her old schedule (She actually did quite well in that class and with all other male teachers.  Not so well with female teachers).

“I’m not doing it, you do it” I told my mother.

“Don’t you want to help your sister?” she said trying to introduce guilt into the situation.

“No” I stated, “I’m not going back.  If you want it changed do it yourself”

My mother wound up going to the school the next morning.  I don’t know what she told them, but my sister remained where she was
I always suspected she told the school I had changed my sister’s schedule as a prank.

I can live with that.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Year Book Debacle.

The Yearbook Photo Debacle

When my daughter graduated High School, the year book sold ads to the parents.  In these ads, the parents usually put a “cutsie” picture of their child, and congratulated them on becoming a high school graduate.

I was just sitting there, thinking about whether we should get an ad for my daughter when a particular picture caught my eye.

In the picture, she was about 18-24 months old,  with curly hair that made her look like Shirley Temple (for those of you unfamiliar with Shirley, she was the most popular child star in the 1930’s), with her arms wrapped around a baby goat as if she was trying to lift the goat.  She had a very intense look of concentration and effort.  We took this picture at the Long Island Game Farm which had a petting zoo and allowed the children to interact with the animals.

With the picture in hand, I went to the high school and located the Yearbook Office.

My daughter was very popular in high school, was editor of the school paper, treasurer of her class, a cheerleader and excellent student.  The point is, most of the staff of the yearbook knew her and were friends with her.

I proceeded to ask for an ad form, and wrote out my message: “From 2 year old National Goat Tossing Champion to High School Graduate, Congratulations to Ronni from her parents”.  I then offered the ad with the picture and check, to one of the staff members, who happened to be one of my daughter’s best friends.  She was also a little “ditsy”, which I found fortuitous.

“What is this?” she asked.  “Is this true?”.

“Of course” I answered as the rest of the staff gathered round.  “Let’s keep this a secret” I said, “we want it to be a surprise”. 

After oohing and aahing, they agreed to keep it a secret.  

After I left,  the first girl ran into my daughter and casually asked her if it was true, was she really the National Goat Tossing Champion?

No dummy, my daughter immediately realized who was responsible for this and asked “my father was here, wasn’t he?”.

With the affirmative answer, she knew what had occurred.  Fortunately for me she has a sense of humor and a tolerance for my flights of whimsy, the ad stayed as written.

The die was cast, the pattern set for my son, niece and possibly nephew.

My niece, who lived very near to us, graduated the following year.  She is somewhat less tolerant of my sense of humor if it affects her, and at that age embarrassed easily.  What to do, what to do?

I happened upon a picture of her and my daughter taken when they were one and one and a half years old.  They were dressed in somewhat shabby looking clothes, holding hands at the end of a dock,  near dusk, and looking very forlorn and somewhat pitiful.  In short a perfect picture.

With picture in hand, I went to my niece’s high school, went to the main office and asked to speak with someone from the yearbook about taking out an ad.  

They sent word to the yearbook office and shortly a young girl came out to meet me.  

I told her that I wanted to place an ad in the yearbook using the picture I had brought, with the caption: “From young immigrant to High School Graduate, What a country”.

The girl, who happened to be Vietnamese, told me she had pictures like that of herself and her family.  They had immigrated in the 70’s. 

I told her to keep it a secret because I was trying to surprise my niece.  She did keep it a secret, but because of the “kinship” she felt with my niece, went out of her way to try to be friendly towards her from then on.  My niece, who hadn’t known the young Vietnamese girl before was somewhat mystified as to why the girl was so friendly to her for the rest of the year.

The Day of Reckoning came.  The yearbook was distributed on the next to last day of the school year.
My niece was happily getting signatures in her book, blithely unaware of the ad lurking inside.  She was not expecting any ad, since her parents did not place one.

All that changed midway through the day.  Her girlfriends started coming up to her and questioning her status as an immigrant, as well as commenting on the picture in the ad. 

“What ad, what picture?”.  They showed her the offending ad.

I got an angry phone call that afternoon in the vein of “How could you do this to me?  I am so embarrassed, I am so mad, etc, etc”  I seem to remember she didn’t speak to me for a little while, but I would have loved to see her face when she first saw the ad.  It would have been worth it.

Next up was my son.  Like my niece he embarrassed easily, so much the better.

For many years we and friends and relatives, took part in the Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale.  This consisted of turning the boat into a themed float with all of us in costumes.  That year, we were “The Wizard of Oz”, complete with a spinning tornado in lights, lighted rainbow over the whole boat, and all of us in costume. I was a flying monkey, my daughter was Dorothy, my wife was a witch, my niece the lion, our friend was the Tin Man, there was the good witch, various characters from the story, and my son was the scarecrow.

Of course we took a picture of all of us on the back of the boat, at the dock, in costume.

The caption on his yearbook ad said “For Seth’s Graduation, His real family came from the Old Country”

He took it well when he saw it in the yearbook.

Unfortunately, circumstances didn’t allow me to do the same for my nephew.  I had a lot of pictures for him, and if anything, he would have been more embarrassed than his sister.  It would have been great.

Some of you may think this is terrible.  My answer is, if you can’t have fun embarrassing your kids, what good are they.