My first impression of Rosemary Russell was that of a sweet grand-motherly type. She was a bespectacled, rotund lady with an engaging smile and tight curly gray hair. I later found out that it was a wig – the result of numerous chemo treatments, but at the time, she was just my new friend, Kelly’s, mom.
Kelly had offered me a ride home from school one day in ninth grade. When her parent’s car pulled up and I saw Rosemary, my initial thought was that she was Kelly’s grandmother – she was that much older than most of the mom’s I knew – certainly mine. But Kelly had been born when her mother was almost forty-three, ancient at that time, and had an older sister, Char, who was fifteen years her senior.
I was even more astonished when Kelly opened the driver’s door and told her mother to “move your sweet ass over so I can drive.” I waited in shock for Rosemary to morph into a gargoyle and swallow Kelly’s head, but she just smiled good-naturedly and slid over. As we cruised to my house, I listened in amazement as mother and daughter carried on a less than g-rated conversation, fraught with just about every four-letter word I had ever heard. Apparently, swearing was not an issue in the Russell household.
I am not a prude. I enjoy profanity as much as the next gal, but I was much more selective in choosing my audience. Hell, when I was eight, we even had a “swear swing,” that required the user, as they pumped to the highest heights, to change the words of popular tunes to reflect every four-letter word they knew (A few that spring to mind – “Raindrops Keep #&^*ing up My Head” and “Bridge Over *$#& ed up Water”).
But my parents were never big on “potty mouths” and swearing was frowned upon in our household, more as a rule of etiquette rather than a decree of morality. And it wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that I had the courage, as I was driving away in my VW Beetle, to yell out the window, “F$%# off!” to my angry parents.
What did bother Rosemary were drugs and alcohol. She was fervently opposed to any contraband and her rule was that none was to be allowed in her house. Now, I will vehemently deny that Kelly and I were involved in any alcohol or illegal substance activity, but I will give up the fact that my boyfriend, Dan was. He was a pot-smoker, and one night he left his pot pipe in the cushions of the couch after an all night party at Kelly’s that many of our friends had attended.
Kelly and I were working furiously to get the spilled candle wax out of the rug (place newspaper over the mess and use a hot iron on the paper – soaks the wax right up), when Dan knocked on the door. Rosemary, an RN, had just returned home from the night-shift at the hospital, and was relaxing on the couch with a cup of Earl Grey as she watched me and Kelly iron the carpet.
I knew what Dan had come for. The pipe was his favorite piece of paraphernalia and he wanted it back. The trick would be working around Rosemary’s imposing figure.
“Good Sunday morning, Dan. How’s your mother?” Rosemary smiled sweetly as she took a sip from her cup.
“Uh, she’s fine.” I could feel Dan’s eyes on me as he looked for support, but I kept my head down and focused on a particularly stubborn hunk of wax.
“You’re up early. Here to help with the carpet cleaning?”
“Um, no, but um, I think I left my . . . wallet, yeah, my wallet, here last night. Did anyone find it?” Again I felt Dan’s eye’s on my back. Again, I ignored him.
“Feel free to look around,” Rosemary offered. “What does it look like?”
“You know – just normal. Black I think.” Dan began to crawl around the room on his hands and knees peering under the sofa and behind the plant.
“Where do you think you left it?”
“I guess it could be anywhere,” Dan continued, as he lifted a pillow from a chair.
“Could it be in the sofa?” Rosemary said. “Could this be it!”
She dramatically reached in the folds of her nightgown and pulled out the pipe then triumphantly thrust it into the air. “Is this what you’re looking for? Is this your wallet, Dan?” She glared at him over her silver cat-eyes.
By this time, Kelly and I had sat back on our heels, absorbed in the cat and mouse game playing out in front of us.
He looked at me but I just shrugged my shoulders. I wasn’t about to get involved in this situation that would most certainly entail a protracted discussion on the evils of marijuana. He was on his own.
At that point, Dan must have decided that the best defense was a good offense. “That’s mine, Rosemary,” he said in the bravest voice he could muster.
“Not anymore, mister. You know how I feel about doing the pot. You broke my rules. It’s now my marijuana … smoking … thing …” She tucked the pipe in her ample bosom.
“But, Rosemary,” Dan protested. “That cost ten dollars. It’s my best pipe – I got it in Mexico.”
“I know dear. I’m sorry.” But she didn’t look sorry.
She waited patiently for a moment before Dan lost the stare down, then she closed the deal. “Dan, will you please give your mother my regards when you go home?”
Dan got the hint and left, mumbling under his breath, knowing that not only had he lost his best pipe, but that Rosemary had gotten the best of him.
“You girls need to finish up,” she said cheerily as she drained the last of her tea. “We need to have another little chat about the rules.”
We groaned, but knew we were getting off easily. There was so much more that she didn’t know. If she did, a lecture wouldn’t be the punishment.
After a drawn out fight, Rosemary Russell lost her battle with breast cancer and passed away when I was twenty-three. She always wanted us to remember the happy circumstances of her life, rather than the sad ones of her death. This is a Rosemary story that always cracks me up.
My mother exaggerates more than anyone else in the whole world. This is not just my opinion – ask anyone who knows her and they will attest to this. It is impossible for her to state just the plain facts and it is one trait, I’m happy to say, that I was fortunate enough not to inherit.
I don’t hold this against her. Years of shock therapy and a minor lobal proctonomy have taught me that this is her way of communicating. I just needed to learn how to divide down to the lowest common denominator. It sounds technical but it simply means that one needs to take what she says and divide by the first number out of her mouth then add one.
Let’s do the Math
Example: If she mentioned that she got over a million calls regarding the neutering of Bob, her cat, then you would take one million and divide it by the first number she mentioned (one million) and add one. Since I am an accountant, I will quickly do the math for you and come up with the correct number of. . . 2. My mother received approximately two calls concerning the removal of Bob’s testicles.
Now, being overly critical of her, I would venture to guess that this was a gross exaggeration and she really received only one. Probably the vet calling to make sure Bob had moved his bowels.
Pete, my step-father, already had a vast understanding of my mother’s affliction long before we did and is proficient in this language. He is also kind enough to translate her verbiage when numbers aren’t involved, but an accurate assessment of a situation is needed. Case in point: when she called me to tell me that their car blew up and Pete and the four dogs barely escaped with their lives, the call went something like this.
Claudia: This was the most horrific thing that has ever happened to us. He’s lucky to be alive – I could be planning five funerals right now. I don’t how Pete sensed that something bad was going to happen, but he did. It was like he had a sixth sense about it. The phone has been ringing off the hook, everyone has called… it almost made the local news. It’s been crazy around.
Me: Can you put Pete on the phone?
Claudia: Let me see if he’s up for taking calls. Pete! (screaming on the other end)
Me: What happened? How are you?
Pete: I’m fine. My toe hurts a bit.
Me: From the truck fire?
Pete: I accidently kicked the leg of the sofa.
Me: No, I mean how are you holding up after the fire, you know, barely escaping with your life and all.
Pete: Oh, that. I saw a bit of smoke coming from under the hood, so I stopped and pulled over. The engine had over-heated and the paper boy gave me and Buddy a lift home.
Me: You’re alright?
Pete: Except for the toe.
Mental illness does run in my family so you can certainly understand how we have learned not to call her out on these stories. I did this once when I was young and foolish, and the treatment and medication required to repair the damage was so extensive that it cost close to a million dollars. I kid you not.
(say that three times fast)
My dad is a frugal man. Notice how I thoughtfully use “frugal” instead of the ‘C’ word? Well, for one thing, I respect my father and, for another, I would never want to hurt his feelings. At least not to his face. My siblings and I save the ‘cheap’ shots for when he’s not around.
My grandparents had ridden out the depression and my parents had been drilled, bombarded and otherwise brainwashed into the mantras that used plastic Cool Whip containers didn’t just grow on trees and throwing away old issues of National Geographic qualified you for that special place in Hell, reserved for the frivolous and wasteful.
(In a related and totally true story, ask me, when our house got TP’d in high school, where the used toilet paper from our trees ended up. If you guessed in a paper bag, next to our toilet, you win big!)
Both my mother and father believe that, if faced with the choice between cheap and not-cheap, well, there is no choice. For many years I subscribed to this adage until I realized that cheap is sometimes – well – crappy. It doesn’t necessarily mean a well-made product that costs less. It could also possibly mean a poorly-made product that costs less. I know this first hand having bought my share of plastic shoes from Big Lots or socks from flea markets with pretend elastic.
Accounting for Nothing!
Now, as you may remember, not only was I an accountant in a former life, but I was also a single mother on a very tight budget, so I would not consider myself a spend-thrift. As a matter of fact, I would submit that I am fairly practical. Having said this, when faced with a choice between Heinz ketchup and the no-brand option from Dollar Tree, I reason that the price difference of 69 cents is not a deal-breaker, and I’ll splurge for the good stuff. On the other hand, I’m happy with a designer knockoff bag from Target or a fine pair of Zirconium earrings from Sears.
My father, not so much. I have received shoes two sizes too big, because they were on sale and men’s shirts because “you can hardly tell the difference.” My son, as a teenager, was once the recipient of a pair of beige wrinkle-free pants with what looked like a built-in diaper, because “they were practically giving them away.”
My dad is a habitual shopper who makes the rounds at Kohl’s, Target and Meijers just looking for a good deal, whether he needs it or not. If one comes available, he mentally combs his list of family members that he can rationalize giving that particular gift to. It’s actually very exciting. You never know what could be in the brown paper bag with your name scrawled in black magic marker that is your birthday gift. It could be a slightly damaged George Forman grill or perhaps the purple leggings with the matching belt you once had your eye on in 1988.
Wealthy is as wealthy does
My father and step-mother, Janet, are not what I would call rich in the traditional sense of the word. On the other hand, they live a very comfortable life between a small but meticulously maintained home in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a condo on a golf course in Naples, Florida. They have health care and pensions and, though they live on a budget, they do not worry where their next meal comes from or how they will make their mortgage.
So you may find it surprising that they did not have air-conditioning in their home in Michigan where the humidity in summer rivals that of the jungles of Southeast Asia. July is a particularly steamy month and it wasn’t unusual for my father to mention how they, once again, slept in their basement because it was so darn muggy. The basement he is referring to was updated in 1974 with orange furniture, shag carpet and dark wood paneling, and has been preserved in that state ever since. It also, does not have a bathroom.
“Why don’t you guys just go get an air conditioner? Look, Sears has them on sale this week,” I would beg as I showed them the Sunday circular.
“Oh, we don’t need one. We enjoy sleeping on the couches. It’s very dark down there.”
“But, Dad, you have to go upstairs in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.”
“Well, then you father can check on the house,” Janet would add. “And besides, they’re so darn expensive to run. Maybe next year.”
“What are you waiting for?” I countered, more than once. “It’s not like you’re getting younger every year. How old do you have to be before you don’t feel guilty for making yourself comfortable? There is no age limit in Kalamazoo for a good night’s sleep.”
I bugged them enough that last year they finally relented. I think it was the point I made that, when they were ready to sell their home, it would be difficult to find a buyer in this day and age who would be willing to make the same sacrifices that they did with the sleeping arrangements.
The thought that they might not get the full value their home deserved forced their hand and they broke down. They bought one of the cheapest models.
Passing stones, throwing stones, Rolling Stones
Last summer, I got a call from Janet telling me my father was in the hospital. He had a kidney stone and was in horrible pain. We rushed to Kalamazoo and by the time we got there, he had passed it and was sitting up in a chair, ready to tell his story.
“So,” he began, “I was so sick last night. I was throwing up and had a fever. I was miserable and I had stomach problems,” he looked at me and mouthed the words ‘the runs’ before he spoke again. “I was running upstairs all night to use the bathroom.”
“What do you mean, ‘running upstairs’?” I asked. “You have a ranch home.”
“Well, we were sleeping in the basement.”
At this point, I need to share with you that this exchange took place during an oppressive heat wave in July.
“Dad, you were sick, running to the bathroom every five minutes, and had a fever. You were passing a kidney stone for heaven’s sake. Why in the world didn’t you have your air conditioner on? The one time, when I can’t think of a better reason to be comfortable and near a bathroom, you were in the basement on a sofa,” I said exhaustedly.
“We only use it when it’s an emergency,” my parents stated in unison.
And there you have it. In a nutshell.
I really don’t hate my husband. As a matter of fact, he’s my favorite spouse so far. But, and this is a big but, he’s a sports freak, and a football maniac. He’s what we in the business call a whack-job.
If I would have known this on our first date I may not have gotten so drunk with him. I might possibly, still, be happily employed in some hell-hole job, miserably trying to balance a corporate checkbook, driving a Saturn and sharing some dumpy apartment with a great guy who I would later find out was gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
But, he worked his black magic and instead, I was hoodwinked, tricked, and bamboozled. When he noticed that I sported a nineteen incher that didn’t even have basic cable, he offered up that he too, didn’t watch much TV. Sure, he held a mild interest in his hometown Cleveland Browns, but the real joys in his life were long walks on the beach - pina colada in hand, and marathon late-night chats of damaged old-flames.
Admitting it is the first step
I admit I’m not the sharpest knife in the deck and in time I figured out this was his ploy to get into me into something more comfortable. But what’s a girl to do when a fella offers to lunch for hours and shop for days at a time? You can understand my dilemma when I found out that, not only was he a football fan, but he was a fan of any ball or racquet or club or stick. He was drawn to ESPN like Michael Phelps was to a bong and I soon discovered just how serious his obsession was.
Sunday morning, during football season, the TV would go on at 9:00 am and four meal deliveries and fifteen hours later, he would finally get up to relieve himself. I once caught him watching “classic” ESPN (which I totally don’t get – you already know who won) and not only had he seen the game a number of times, he was there…at the game…when it was played in 1976! He has a pornographic memory for useless trivia and he can recite any sport statistic you’d care to challenge him on from golf to poker to women’s badminton.
Agreeing to disagree
Over the years we have come to an understanding concerning his proclivities. I enjoy solitary beach walks with my pina coladas and he has agreed to only watch the championship of any sport. But as many of you are aware, there are championships just about every hour on the hour for any sport you can imagine. It has since come to my attention that I negotiated a bad deal but I am not the lawyer in the family. The good news is that, since I have found my higher calling, it doesn’t bother me so much and only when it puts my children’s lives in danger do I even say anything.
Case in point. Because of some minor issues I have, we enjoy driving the twenty hours from Chicago to Florida for family vacations. We have never encountered any substantial obstructions before, but this year was different. Hurricane force winds escorted us out of Florida, torrential rains in Georgia kept us company for most of the eight hour drive through the state, and numerous hail, thunder and snow storms followed us for the rest of the way. We were fortunate enough to be traveling during the college playoffs for basketball so I thought we could take a break from the excitement of listening to comments about sweaty teenage boys (see previous “Tale of Two Loser’s” blog!) but that was not the case.
Now, before I rip my husband a new alligator hole, I will confess I sometimes drive with one hand and occasionally take my eyes off the road. Not at the same time, of course, (the only exception was when I did and hit a bale of straw that rolled off the road and started a small brush fire – that’s a blog for another time). But during that perilous drive through the horrible weather, Craig was continually and frantically searching for any AM radio station that carried the games. He had leaned over to the center of the mini-van, practically in my lap, and must have been steering by some form of sixth sense because I swear, his eyes were glued to the radio pursuing the holy grail of sports stations.
Who’s the idiot now?
There are a few metropolitan areas between Chicago and Naples that broadcast the games but most of the time all the blurted out from the radio was obnoxious white noise with an occasional whisper of an announcer. I couldn’t make out one word but Craig swore he heard scores through the blaring garbage spewing from the dashboard and I was too paralyzed with fear at that point to even argue. As we careened through the mountains during a storm that only Noah could appreciate, my husband was more focused on “his” team making the final four than on making sure I would live to see my tropical drink.
Only once, did I see him revert to the ten-two position on the steering wheel and that was when we were hydro-planing across a small lake that had collected on the highway in Tennessee. As we fish-tailed about the road, barely missing the cement barriers of the construction zone, he reluctantly pulled his hand off the radio and guided us back to safety. If I hadn’t been frozen in terror, the scream still caught in my throat, I surely would have burst into tears or at least stuck him with the plastic knife I had hidden in the folds of my jacket.
So ladies, when your special friend leans over and whispers in your ear, not sweet nothings, but the desire to see “his ” team go to the Super Bowl, or he spends hours hitting redial on his cell, hoping for the opportunity to talk to “Mike and Mike” on sports radio, or even just gazes longingly at girl’s beach volleyball, beware! Red flag alert! Think twice before you take your hand off your pina colada.
The dress code on the invitation said “Hollywood Glamour.” I glanced at my husband and sighed. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to realize this meant gowns and tuxes. I’m just more of a meat and potatoes kind of girl, that’s all.
My husband works for a very wealthy man. Wealthy, like he owns four homes and has his own plane, wealthy. I must clarify that we do not run in the same circles or socialize much with “the Boss” and his wife, “Twyla”, but as a long-time and loyal employee, Craig (and I) occasionally get invited to one of their soirees.
Last month we received an invitation to “the Bosses” birthday party from “Twyla” (Thin, Wealthy, Yout-going, Lovely and Attractive). They have a home in Beverly Hills and, literally, share a driveway with a very famous movie star, who I am classy enough not to name but let’s just say she and Brad Pitt used to be married.
So we loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly.
Hills, that is.
Swimming pools and movie stars.
As we wove our way through Hollywood, four crossing searchlights beamed out towards the heavens from a location high in the hills. Craig looked over at me and raised his eyes. Wordlessly, I shrugged and wondered if that’s where we were headed. We had entered a different zone, a time zone if you will, and I searched the night sky for the unicorns and superheroes I’m sure had been hired to spirit us away to the party. This was, after all, the night before the Oscars and it was Hollywood / Beverly Hills / LA / Tinseltown / California – anything could happen.
The searchlights drew us in like zombies and, sure enough, when we reached the estate, it was apparent that we had found the mother ship. Security personnel swarmed the base of the drive directing party-goers and paparazzi alike and we followed limousines and Bentley’s up the winding road, past the heavily gated mansion of that famous movie star who was recently in that “Marley” movie, and got in line to valet our borrowed Subaru station wagon.
The wine and the valium kicked had in and I felt oddly relaxed, like I did this every day, like I belonged, like I’d come home. I readjusted my bosom, shook out my hair, and smiled to the tuxedoed men scurrying to open my door and help me out. A large red carpet led from the car to the mansion and I had to turn my head as I walked it, the bright flashes from the photogs camera’s blinding me, and the deafening screams of the paparazzi calling out my name forced me to cover my ears. (Umm… well, I may have exaggerated a bit. Not the part about the drugs and alcohol, but the part where they were screaming my name. All I actually heard was someone say was that “she’s a ‘nobody’”, but at that point, I was living the dream my friends, living the dream)
“Oh-my-God! You look fabulous! Who did your gown?” A woman, who looked just like Joan Rivers but a hundred years younger, rushed over to us and shoved a microphone in our face.
I couldn’t remember the generic name on my label, so I just smiled sweetly and replied “Dior, dahling”. The Joan impostor nodded, duly impressed, and then asked us to say a few words to the birthday boy. We offered our congratulations into the videographer’s camera and then walked into the gala. My fake jewels glistened in the fake moonlight and I walked into the party, chin held high, chest even higher.
Burka, baby, burka
Quick note. The last event I attended in Beverly Hills was for Twyla and “the Bosses” wedding. I had on, what would be considered in the Midwest, classic wedding attire – a long black skirt and a fitted jacket. My hair was pulled back in a chignon and my make-up was . . . normal. In Beverly Hills, my outfit was akin to wearing a burka – I kid you not. The female guests at the wedding wore long sweeping strapless gowns held up by their ample and overflowing cleavage. Make-up and hair were professionally done (duh!) and the jewels, oh the jewels. I swore the next fancy party I attended I would not make the same mistake.
And I didn’t. That night I was not the same frumpy bumpkin that I once was. The moment I stepped out of the family car, strewn with my nieces and nephews toys, I became as charming as Cinderella - or at least, Snow White. After giving Twyla the small gift I had made (fancy potholders), I offered up my fake fur wrap to the butler as though he were my long-lost brother. I batted my false eyelashes, air-kissed (European-style, no less) anyone who came even remotely close and even tucked a business card in my amply displayed cleavage. I refrained from whistling at the speeches and clapped politely when necessary. I thanked the “help” when leaving and didn’t even ask what they were going to do with all the extra food.
After midnight, we returned to the pumpkin for the trip back to my brother-in-law’s place. I kicked off my slippers and struggled out of my girdle (code name – “Spanx”) so I could take my first deep breath of the evening, and sat back for the long ride back to the other side of the tracks.
All in all, it was an interesting night but I couldn’t imagine living that way. I would miss doughnuts and deep breaths (two things that are near and dear to my heart), and just the anonymity that being a “nobody” brings. I would, however, take the rich part. That I could get used to.
I have just met my cyber roommates. And it’s not pretty. If you were to Google my name, Lise Marinelli, you would find me nestled between two “losers”. One, “lisetheloser”, who had gastric by-pass surgery and blogs about it, and two, Lisa Marinelli (and here’s where the name calling comes into play), the “loser” who is alleged to have had a sexual relationship with a teenage boy.
Frankly, I don’t get either one. I guess I kind of understand lisetheloser wanting to blog about her weight-loss journey, especially as she does it with great detail. You can feel her pain as she relives the drama of needing to have the excess fluid drained with tubes from her stomach, and then you can share the discomfort of her vomiting. And boy, did she vomit! She threw up so much that she reached the bottom of the vomit pit – stomach acid! Then there was the whole dehydration thing – and that’s just not fun.
I believe we’ve all been there (the throwing up part), for one reason or another, and I admit a certain sadistic pleasure in reading of it happening to someone else, but other than that I was just grossed out. I suppose that if you have had the surgery or are contemplating it, or even just enjoy reading about vomit, this is an excellent site to follow. lisetheloser also provides many interesting pictures of her dogs and the fancy shoes and jacket she recently purchased from Target. There are also sample menus, tips on gastric by-pass surgery, a picture of the bread she did not eat and a shot of the wood burning fireplace in the house she and her husband rented on Whidbey Island.
The Biggest Loser
It has been suggested by a nameless few, that I am just jealous of the other Lise’s internet success. That my insecurities are running rampant and my underlying hope is that she will fail miserably and disappear into the abyss of the internet. I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth! I’m couldn’t be happier that she has a large blog following and people have actually requested her dieting log. And I’m thrilled that she is repeating, over and over, the fact that she has lost weight (like I haven’t!). I also think her mutts are simply adorable and her cousin-husband appears rugged, yet loving. So to insinuate that it’s me with the problem is just plain ludicrous!
What’s wrong with this picture?
My other cyber neighbor is more of a conundrum. I also admit to liking teenage boys – when I was a teenage girl! Back then they were cute and fun and even held a certain sex appeal. Now, I just think they’re dumb. Wait. That came out wrong. Not dumb. I guess stupid is a better word.
Friends, you are listening to the voice of experience. I have already enjoyed the puberty stage with one son, have two more pre-teen boys on deck, tolerate my daughter’s teenage boyfriend and deal with my husband’s ongoing adolescent behavior. Someone throw me a bone here and tell me how an adult woman could possibly see a six-teen year old boy in a romantic way? I know it’s not because they rarely brush their teeth. Or after they use the bathroom we need to fumigate. It couldn’t be the fact they usually have no manners, eat like pigs, borrow money constantly, wipe their arm on their sleeve, and drive crappy cars. Umm . . . still thinking. Nope, I can’t come up with anything remotely attractive about a young man who wears his pants around his knees and continually hitches them up. All I want to do is spank him – and in the bad way, not the good way.
Two times a loser
Regardless of my opinion they are my neighbors, and until another Lise/Lisa squeezes in, we’ll all have to just get along. So in a neighborly fashion, I wish lisetheloser the best of luck with her diet and I hope Lisa Marinelli gets the counseling she apparently needs.
Also, coming in the near future, I will be posting my daily food intake. Just for the fun of it.
It all started with a stone. A Petoskey stone, to be precise.
For all you non-Michiganders, the Petoskey stone is the official state rock of Michigan. Michigan is one of the few states that actually has a state rock, and for those of us who have resided there at one time or another, the Petoskey stone is a continual reminder of just how special this mitten-shaped state really is.
Petoskey stones are a valuable commodity, partly because so many have been snatched up by tourists and eager entrepreneurs, and also because they are very difficult to spot. When dry, they look like any other gray rock, but throw some water on them and the mottled net of veins that wrap round the stone magically appear—truly an amazing geological experience.
It’s not as easy as you think.
My stepfather, Pete, has an eagle eye for spotting these stones. He walks his four dogs daily on the beaches near Point Betsie, where you can find the gems, and he rarely returns home without a pocketful. My mother carefully washes the rocks and then runs them through the tumbler in their garage. The end product is a consistently shiny, lovely stone.
My parents have Petoskey stones piled in large pots on their deck, gathered in water-filled glass vases on the windowsill, artfully displayed on platters on their coffee table, and heaped in a clear cookie jar in the guest bathroom. They enjoy handing out their rocks as gifts to visiting out-of-towners who are awed by the stones but don’t want to fork over the big bucks it takes to buy one (no kidding—large stones can sell for as much as $100!).
Pete and my mother, Claudia, are opposed to selling their stones, but have no problem giving them away to their friend, Bob, an entrepreneur, who is not. Bob makes Petoskey stone lamps, picture frames, and bird houses, and is working on a Petoskey stone mouse pad (don’t ask).
This, my friends, is where my story really begins.
Last summer, as I always do, I visited my mother and Pete in the quaint little town of Frankfort on Michigan’s northwest coast. I was excited not only because I got to visit my parents and their four very large special dogs, but also because Frankfort was having its yearly Art Fair/Garage Sale. This year was extraordinary because, in addition to the usual booths of Petoskey stone pictures, Petoskey stone puzzles, and Petoskey stone animals, there was going to be a real, live local author who had self-published three books.
Now, I had just finished writing my first novel (available this spring!) and I was beyond thrilled at the opportunity to rub shoulders with another writer—especially one who had been published. I left my mom and Pete in Bob’s booth and anxiously searched for the local celebrity.
I found him sitting high on a chair behind a table of neatly stacked books. I casually picked one up, pretended to leaf through it, looked up, and said, somewhat nervously, “I just finished my first one.”
“Congratulations. You read your first book.”
His sarcastic comment threw me off. Normally, I would have chuckled and made some smart-alecky reply, but his unkind tone and my nervousness did not encourage such playfulness.
“Uh, no, I meant writing it.”
“Oh.” He glanced away dispassionately.
I was flabbergasted. How could he not be overcome with curiosity? He was a writer, for Pete’s sake. Wasn’t he the least bit interested in this woman, who had, by the way, spent the last whole year writing? Writing before everyone got up. Writing on my laptop in the car while the boys took tennis or swimming lessons. Writing while the laundry sat in piles or my husband took the kids to Mickey D’s . . . again.
I wanted so badly just to converse with this man that I ignored his rudeness. Maybe we had simply gotten off to a bad start. I tightly clutched the piece of paper on which I had written out the questions I wanted to ask and started over. After the third monosyllabic reply, I finally gave up. My feelings were hurt, I was tremendously disappointed, and I had never felt so strongly that the club I wanted to join was not accepting my kind.
I set the man’s book down slowly and wished him luck. As I made my way back to Bob’s Petoskey stone booth, I contemplated arson, and bodily harm and childishly regretted that I hadn’t made some nasty comment to him, or come up with a devastating put-down, or even said something to the effect that his books looked incredibly boring and amateurish.
But the truth was, they had not. I would have bought all three if he had humored me, or even just said good luck. But he hadn’t. He had lost not only a sale, but also the respect of another human being, another writer, who just wanted to share war stories.
Drowning my sorrows . . .
It took me a couple of banana daiquiris and some old Barry Manilow songs to get over my funk, but the will to live did return. Soon I will continue this exciting saga, and next, tell of my tumultuous rise to mid-level accounting manager (it’ll have you on the edge of your seat!). Or I could just skip to the moral of this story . . . which is – don’t judge a rock by its cover.
I bet you thought I was going to say something like “have faith in yourself” or “never lose sight of your dreams” or “don’t give up”. But sometimes you just have to connect with a person, or catch a glimpse of a half-wet rock, or be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes you just have to be lucky.