Tag Archives: bathrooms

November 2016 column Michiana House & Home Magazine: Leftover Memories

leftovers        My mother savored memories. Like leftovers from a Thanksgiving dinner, they were the kind of thing she chewed on for a week, rehashed, reimagined and reinvented as she found new things to reflect on.

A few years after my father died, I threw her a surprise birthday party at her house that was attended by several family members and friends. Mom was truly caught off guard and seemed pleased by the whole thing. Although I stayed behind to chat and to clean up after everyone went home, she still called me 15 minutes later (as I was walking through the front door of my own home) in order to thank me again, tell me how much she enjoyed herself and to relive the night all over again.

“So how did you know when the house would be empty?” She asked.

“Oh, right before you and your friend Jack went out for dinner, I had them ask to use the restroom so that they could call me from their cell phone,” I replied.

“He called you from the bathroom?”

“No mom, he dialed my number and let the phone ring once. That was the signal that you were leaving,” I replied.

She wanted to know how long it took me to plan it, where I bought the decorations, what bakery was responsible for the delicious cake, how many people I’d invited and who all was not able to attend.

“Why in the world would you want to know that?” I countered. “You had a houseful of people who love you and wanted to celebrate you. Why focus on the people who couldn’t make it?”

I later realized that wasn’t her point at all. For her, a surprise birthday party in September was the kind of thing that would tide her over until Halloween when she would count the number of Trick-or-Treaters she had, offer up a running commentary of how many looked “too old” to be out and lament the carloads of kids who were imported from nearby neighborhoods. Afterward she turned her attention toward Turkey Day, helping to organize my menu, tell me where the best deals were and double check the plans. After the meal was over, we’d go over everything again until I often felt as though we were having the same conversation on repeat.

As my world becomes more virtual, I’ve discovered that I also miss having long conversations with someone chewing over something that just happened. Today, I can’t even ask my friends went, about their vacation because I experienced it in real time via social media.

This month, let us be grateful for those memories that we make and experience in the here and now. Let us turn from the technology and be in the moment. Let us call the person after the fact and tell them how much we enjoyed the celebration they worked so hard to arrange rather than simply giving it a thumbs up on a web page.

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January 2017 column Michiana House & Home Magazine: The Dixie Cup Debacle

dixie-cup     When my mother and father were married in the early ‘70s, they moved into an apartment a few blocks away from the neighborhood where they would eventually buy a home. It was a tiny cracker box of a place with scant furnishings and few accouterments however it did have something that was a bit of a luxury at the time and the envy of every kid who came to visit: A Dixie cup dispenser in the bathroom.

Now, my folks did not entertain much, but their frequent guests included my male cousin who happened upon the cup dispenser, mastered its features and decided to share the discovery with his three sisters.

“Psst, guys…come here, you have to see this…it’s amazing,” he hissed while gesturing wildly. The trio scampered into the bathroom, gathered around the innovation and marveled at it as though it were the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World.

“What is it?” One of the girls asked.

“Then you take a cup from it, a new one appears in its place every time. It’s like magic!” the boy declared. He yanked a cup from the dispenser, got an ounce of water from the tap and gulped it like a shot before throwing it into the pastic trash bin with a flourish. His dramatic demonstration was rewarded with a round of enthusiastic applause.

“Ooh, I want to try it!” His oldest sister said.

“Me too!” Another replied.

“No, me next.”

One by one they all took a cup, got a drink and threw their waste away going around in turn until their were no cups left. The adults in the living room continued their conversation oblivious to the fact that my cousins were holed up in the bathroom hosting happy hour. It wasn’t until everyone went home that my mother found a trash can full of Dixie cups and an empty dispenser on the wall.

“I’m going to kill those kids,” she vowed as my father tried to stifle a laugh.

She didn’t of course, but she did remove the Dixie cup dispenser from the bathroom the next time they stopped by and kept close tabs on their whereabouts whenever they were on the premises. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust them, but she wasn’t about to deal with the aftermath should they find her pop up box of tissues, discover dad’s electric tooth brush or try to get a piece of candy out of my brother’s Mickey Mouse gumball machine without putting a penny in it first.

After all, they may have been curious, but my mother wasn’t crazy.

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MHH Column November: Good Call

bathroom_phone_2       I was not the first person on my block to get a VCR, cable television, an Atari video game system or a microwave oven. I did not have any designer clothes that didn’t come out of someone else’s closet first. I was only given one bike (which I was expected to take care of) and my parents did not buy a new car every other year. However there was one item in our home that equated us with those ultra elite, uber eccentric families that appeared on those horrible 1980s prime time soap operas:

We had a phone in the bathroom.

Over the years my parents talked a good game about the significant improvements that they were going to make to the lavatory facilities “someday.” I distinctly remember hearing whispers of a fairly solid plan to multiply the room (at least by half) in a corner of the basement. There was talk of building a shower at some point, replacing the vanity, etc. but the only things that ever really changed in there when I was growing up was the color of the towels, the cushiony seat cover and the washers when Dad switched them out every couple of months.

So WHY was the first big upgrade the addition of a telecommunications department? Beats me but if you’ve been reading my columns for a while, then you know that my parents were a little…unique.

Truth be told, neither one of them woke up one morning and said, “Hey, here’s what’s missing in our lives, a phone in the bathroom.” It was something that was tabled and voted on quickly over a bin of cheap, white plastic phones at the local Central Hardware store. It was a $7.99 impulse decision that led to a lot of unique reactions from anyone who ever visited and had to use the room for personal business.

“You have a phone in your bathroom,” guests would say as though we might not have heard the news yet.

My mother was always tactful with her response, but just once I wanted her to completely freak out, accuse them of putting it there and demand to see the evidence. It was a phone for heaven’s sake. What was the big deal?

Personally, I loved having a phone in any room that could lock and I spent so much time gabbing in there that I thought my mother was going to haul me off to the doctor in search of  a GI infection. However, in due time cordless phones became all the rage eliminating the need for a bathroom phone and when the original model died, my parents didn’t bother replacing it.

But even devoid of the phone, the jack alone could be a great conversation starter. After my mom’s death, I had to give the full scoop to the Realtor showing the place and more often than not, it was the one thing that everyone commented on at showings.

“Excuse me ma’am?” a woman asked me during the open house. “There’s a phone jack in your bathroom.”

“Really?” I said with a wicked grin. “That’s strange…it wasn’t there last night.”

 

 

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