Category Archives: Humor

Midnight Muse and the Aftermath

If you have been hanging with me for awhile, you have witnessed my complaints about my cat, who waits until we are cozy in our bed to jump up and start a discussion, which tends to involve some pacing (on Catabulous’ part) and a lot of position changes (on everyone’s part.) Until finally we (I) decide it is worth it to get out of the warm covers and secure the cat in the basement with as much self-control as I can muster. Perversely, I sometimes think this is what he wants, like a tired and cranky toddler throwing a fit because he is begging to be put to bed. Put yourself in the basement, I try to tell him. But the language barrier, you see my problem. I am going a little farther with this metaphor than I need to, but I am tired. Last night, my problem wasn’t the cat, who was confined to the basement BEFORE we got into bed (ha HA!) Last night, after about an hour and half of sleep to take the edge off the bone-grating weariness I had acquired throughout the day, my eyelids fluttered open and somebody else wanted to start a discussion. My muse.

Stop looking at me like that. The muse is REAL. If you don’t have a muse that literally speaks to you, you are probably imagining me posing theatrically, one hand to my heart and the other to the ether, as a toga draped nymph whispers in my ear. I would LOVE to set up a shot like that, but I have unbelievable bedhead today and all the little girls in my neighborhood that I might dress in a toga for the image are at school right now. The more I think about it, the more I want to do it. Good LORD, sleep deprivation is the death of impulse control. If I decide to do the picture, I’ll update the post later. Moving on. So yeah, as I was saying, the muse is REAL. I will not disparage her because to do so seems to me to be the height of stupidity, but she is kind of…persistent? And…loud? One random thought leads to a phrase, which gets reworked and reworked until another phrase or two is formed. Then maybe a sentence that is relevant but not precisely connected. Then, I start to worry that I am going to lose the thread of what I am putting together, because my memory and attention span are really not all that good, but this line of thinking is becoming very interesting, almost brilliant. I also realize that I am getting farther and farther from sleep, so I grab for the assortment of notebooks and post-it pads that I keep on my bedside table, to get the high points written down so I can let the rest go and slip back into blessed slumber. But I have no pens. Ever. Maybe a pencil too dull to use. I dither. Will I remember in the morning? Will I kick myself for not writing it all down? Experience says ‘No’ and ‘Yes.’

Last night, for some reason, I went into our bathroom, thinking maybe there might be a pen in there, even though I know better, and  considered digging out my eyeliner pencil for a quick note, but I was making a lot of noise walking around and crashing into things already, which was stressing me out. More and more awake. I gave up and groped my way into the guest room, running into the hollow core door with a resonant “donk!” as I did, then switched on the light and finally made three notes for a post on music. Good for me! Back to bed. But my muse was not done with me. Snatches of  songs chased around in my head, particularly one from my childhood, one I suspected was the key to shutting the party down. I slumped with resignation, then flipped back the covers and grabbed a pillow and Grandma’s quilt I keep nearby for this kind of night. I crept through my nighttime house and collected my iPod, which I set to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #14 in C Sharp Minor, also known as “Moonlight Sonata.” It is a song I heard my mother and both my older and younger sisters play on the piano innumerable times as I grew up. In fact, during a homesick time in college I asked my younger sister to tape record herself practicing the piano so I could listen when I felt blue, and this was one of the songs she played. During one section of repetitive, quiet lines her voice is recorded on the tape saying, “Wake up, Lynnette,” which always made me laugh. I still listen for that strain. It is the kind of song that requires my full attention, and evokes more emotion than imagery, which quiets my brain. I listened to it three times before my muse agreed we were through for the night and slipped off to wherever she goes. Which is what I think she was looking for all along. Perhaps she was tired and cranky and needed me to play a little bedtime music; all the rest was just a setup, her version of my cat’s pacing and mrrowing for my attention. I looked at my notes this morning (had 100% forgotten what I’d written down,) and they aren’t bad, but in daylight they lack the brilliance I had hoped for. I think the best I can hope for is that if this continues, my sleep-deprived altered consciousness might eventually come up with something really interesting. For now, I must go and do something about this hair.

Moonlight Sonata:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT7_IZPHHb0

Related Post: A Cat-Tabulous Christmas

Related Post: When Time Stops: Moonlit Moment

Getting Better? Or Just Older?

Yesterday, aging in my world was having to straighten up carefully after bending over, because of the ever-so-slightly degenerating disc in my lower spine. Today it was lifting my eyelid (which has somehow become a bit ruched) so I could get my eyeliner where it belonged. Just the left one. This is the new normal? I asked my reflection in the mirror.

I don’t suppose anyone jumps up and down when these things start and says “Yes! Visible aging! Just what I always wanted!” On the other hand, what I am talking about is small change compared to problems some of my contemporaries are dealing with, and what I glimpse on the road ahead. When the boys were growing up, I knew people who said, “Oh, I couldn’t wait for the (whatever) stage to be over,” because they were really looking forward to engaging their kids at a higher level, or to when their kids became more independent. I have made a point of celebrating every one of their phases, even when I felt it was literally draining the life from me (middle school, my eternal nemesis!) Living and loving every stage my kids went through is a lesson I learned from being in kind of a rush to grow up. I was uncomfortable with myself as a teen (who isn’t?) and wanted to skip ahead to the independence and presumed confidence that came with adulthood. Looking at kids now, I feel I missed some opportunities trying to race through the awkwardness.

Every decade has brought its gifts. Confidence and comfort in my own (somewhat sagging) skin continues to build. I appreciate people and opportunities more, and value time like I never did in my youth. Living in gratitude does change everything. Well, except the aches and the reduced elasticity. It could always be worse. One of my favorite radio commercials (don’t remember the product, of course–memory lapses) announced, “Sometimes wisdom comes with age. Sometimes, age comes alone.” I hope the wisdom I am gaining offsets the memory lapses, etc. and that, as bits and pieces of my physical self start to corrode and crumble a bit, that some of the sharp edges on my personality also soften. I project it won’t be that many years before I fully reach the “shabby chic” stage. I just hope it won’t have completely gone out of fashion when I do.

What are the ups and downs of the age you are at?

An ADD Moment…

And before anyone gets excited, I am not making light of ADD or ADHD. I was diagnosed and treated for ADD for years when I was a kid. Evidently, in first grade, I did a lot of getting up in class and wandering around and often had no idea what was going on. More so than the rest of the kids. Back then, (so, so long ago,) the diagnostic criteria for ADD was this: give the kid Ritalin and see if it helps. If it does, the kid has ADD. So I started taking Ritalin in second grade. The funny thing was that our school had a very aggressive anti-drug campaign and I remember being scared to DEATH that I was going to become a child drug addict because Ritalin is an amphetamine, also known as SPEED. I was afraid that someday, when they took the drugs away, I would start robbing gas stations or hold the pharmacist at gunpoint to feed my addiction. My mom assured me that wouldn’t happen and bought me a little pill-carrier in the form of a jeweled golden treasure chest pendant, in which I stored one and a half tabs to be taken (rather self-consciously) at lunch. I guess it helped, because I stopped wandering around, but I remember still sitting in the classroom wondering why everyone else seemed to know what we were supposed to be doing but I didn’t. In fifth grade we discovered I was so near-sighted I could barely read the E on the eyechart, and eyeglasses helped a lot. (Oh, so that’s the blackboard you people keep talking about.) Back then, once you hit puberty, you were pronounced cured and they took the drugs away. There were no withdrawal-fueled rampages; I barely noticed. Nowadays I have caffeine and a great big kit of marginal coping skills that help get me through the day. But sometimes I still get so DISTRACTED by THINGS. Which is why you are reading this instead of the next Working Girl post, which is in development.

Distracting Thing 1

My Capresso hot water kettle, which I love because it looks and works so great, and which I hate because the lid broke off  ten days after the warranty expired, tells me there are eight liquid ounces in a cup. The measuring cups (silicone and pyrex) in my cupboard confirm that this is true. When I make tea I boil two cups, or sixteen ounces, of water in my kettle and this fills my favorite Pier One mug abundantly. When I make coffee in my new (Merry Christmas to me) Calphalon coffeepot, using their numbered lines, I have discovered that I have to pour in three and half cups of water to make three cups of coffee, which when poured into my favorite Pier One mug, leaves plenty of room for milk and Truvia and can still be stirred and walked with safely. As pictured. I already have to do tea to coffee conversions in my head to optimize my caffeine dosage, and now there are portion issues as well. If there are shiny or busy things happening around me this can all be difficult which I find unnecessary and irksome.  Also, you tell me, but I think maybe three cups of coffee at one go might be a little too much for me?

 

Distracting Thing 2

It got cold in Minnesota, which we all knew was going to happen, but never thought it would take this long. I woke up to find it was -10°, with a wind chill of -27°. As such, many of us now have ice indoors. As pictured. To clarify, dirty window on top, condensation, ridge of ice on the INSIDE of the window, and at bottom the wooden sill preparing to harbor mildew when said ice melts. On the upside, the temp has risen to -3°, and I usually take the interior frost to mean that the humidity levels inside are okay. Just thought I’d share that for those of you who don’t get to enjoy the full splendor of winter. If we ever get snow, maybe I’ll share that too, but since nearly every place in the nation EXCEPT us has gotten whacked with a snowstorm this year, maybe not.

 

 

 

Distracting Thing  3

Older son got his driver’s license yesterday. I waver between punctuating that with an exclamation point and a teardrop. Yes, very good that he is achieving milestones (landmines? I wonder why that word wants to slip in there?) Very good that he can help out with running errands and stretch his wings and prepare for life as an adult. Very sad that he and his younger brother continue to slip out of my arms and into the world. Very scary that they are increasingly exposed to important and dangerous situations with insufficiently developed brains and decision-making skills. Some people handle this time of parenting with grace. It is taking everything I’ve got to maintain my balance, and it isn’t pretty. Sometimes as a parent, I still feel like the kid in the classroom, wondering what I missed. Caffeine only helps so much, and it is cold out here. I guess the trick is to remember I am not in this alone, and to keep looking forward while I balance the best I can, because this ride isn’t over yet. Thank you for hanging in there with me.

Working Girl, Guest Post

I spoke to my younger sister, Michele, about the chore girl days, trying to refresh and confirm my memories of our splendid training for the world of work, and she shared this story that I had completely forgotten. Sometimes the two of us did the chores together, sometimes we took turns, heartlessly sacrificing our sibling to the dark so we could enjoy the comfort of a peaceful and well-lit evening indoors. I told her to write the story herself and she did:

Dog and cat chores – the last duty of the day before bed. Sounds simple enough looking back — mosey on out to the clinic and shed behind the house, make sure the two dogs and multitude of cats have food and water, pull all the doors closed and make sure all the animals are locked in. Did I HAVE to wait until after dark to do these duties? No, probably not. I’m not sure that doing them earlier occurred to me often, if ever. Summer was extra treacherous, between unwitting toads waiting on the well-worn path and junebugs springing from the lights we flipped on to say goodnight to the animals. Winter time was easier, and I remember pulling on my dad’s snowboots by the back door if the snow was deep, or sometimes borrowing his slippers (with the mashed-down heels — he never put them on all the way) for chores if there wasn’t snow at all… How far was it from the back door of our house to the lean-to? Waaay too far… Especially after a scary movie…

Apparently, on Jan. 27, 1978 (if the horror movie blog I just found can be trusted), when I would have been all of 8 years old, it was my turn to do chores that night. I couldn’t yank myself away from the tv because we were watching a scary, made-for-tv movie called “Bermuda Depths.” I don’t remember anything about it other than what must have been close to the last scene, the body of a man being dragged into the ocean by a giant sea turtle… But our animals must be fed, movie or no movie. Duty-bound, that image still haunting me, I went out into the cold dark to lock up the animals.

Now, just so there is no confusion — there is no sea anywhere close to where we lived. The largest body of water nearby was the watering tank for the horses, and in a South Dakota January, there was definitely no danger of a giant sea turtle dragging me to my death… These arguments didn’t matter at all to my freaked-out eight-year-old brain. There was definitely something in the dark that was going to come out and get me — maybe the ghost of that drowned person in the movie. So, tip-toeing through the dark, bright light at my back, my own, elongated shadow leading the way across the gigantic back yard to the shed, I was telling myself “it was only a movie” while the rest of my brain was certain I was going to die.

I made it to the corrugated steel shed with a bit of relief — so close to a light switch. I flipped back the metal hook from the eye to unlock the big sliding door, grabbed the smooth, cold handle and heaved it back. As the wall of grey steel slid past and the shed yawned open, I leaned in to flip on the light and a large translucent blue hand floated out of the dark to meet me, reaching for my face.

“Gaah!!!!” a strangled gasp escaped my lips as the hand ballooned out of the darkness. I was a goner. The hand slowly wafted down again in the yellow light from the stark incandescent bulb I’d managed to turn on. Drenched in adrenaline-induced sweat, I realized that what I was looking at was an O.B. sleeve — basically an arm-length clear plastic glove that our veterinarian father would use when examining female cattle. This one, (apparently unused) had the open end tied around the top of a CO2 cylinder for welding, leaving the hand-shaped end floating in the dark, reaching out for a short, unsuspecting victim who would free it with the movement of the door.

Giddy with relief and the afterburn of terror, I finished up the chores and returned to the house in record time, just glad to be alive.

Yep. Terrifying in many ways. Image from http://www.vetprovisions.com.

Working Girl, Prologue

I have had the jobs. Some would curl your hair. Some might make you cry. You will be jealous, amazed and appalled.

This is a series which requires this prologue because my first  “job” was unpaid, working for my family. This is true of many kids, particularly kids in the farming community, though I was not, technically, a farmer’s daughter. My dad was one of three local veterinarians in our small town. He had what is referred to as a mixed practice, treating both large and small animals. Our house (the building on the left in the photo,) was about a mile outside of town. Dad converted one of our two garages into an office (on the left side of the house, above) where he did small animal examinations and surgeries, and kept the records and pharmacy. The office always smelled of disinfectant and yellow sulfa powder, and occasionally, catbox. Shrill barking or yeowling often accompanied the day if we had tenants in the two small animal cages.

Outside, we had a front pasture, a back pasture, an alfalfa field and several outbuildings.  We kept, at various times, peacocks, steers, lambs, a burro, and pigs. We always had horses, dogs and cats. We had so many cats we gave up naming them. We usually had other people’s animals around for treatment or kenneling. We also had people. We were a family of five including three daughters, of which I am “the middlest.” We usually had a secretary helping out at least part-time during office hours, and sometimes we had a trained vet assistant or new vet intern living with us in our guest room. When he didn’t have someone like that to help during busy times, Dad would hire a “hand,” usually a local high school boy, to work with him on the place and go out on calls. Dad had a fiberglass box that fit into the back of the pickup truck, with doors that opened to reveal drawers, bins for instruments and meds, and refrigerated storage for antibiotics. It smelled of gravel roads, disinfectant and dog hair. We had a two-way radio in those pre-cellphone days that helped us keep Dad rolling day and night. Dad’s appointed rounds kicked the postal service’s ass.

Mom did the books and managed the office. We girls helped, marginally, with housecleaning, and with other chores. It was always us younger girls’ job to take the dogs out to the clinic in the evening, and feed and water them and the cats, and any visiting animals. Except during the longest days of summer, this meant traversing the big, dark empty space between house and outbuilding. The light from the front door didn’t reach all the way to the clinic so we got pretty speedy, once the dogs were penned up, racing back to the house. In case there were, you know, monsters or something stalking us out there in the dark. My little sister had a fear of stepping on a toad, so she not only had to be fast, she had to step lightly. She got pretty close to high speed levitation. We’d arrive back at the front step, huffing and wild-eyed, just before getting ready for bed. Other jobs included horse chores, pig chores, yard and garden (same as anywhere,) and office and clinic help, our topic for today.

As I said, we had a secretary part-time, and Mom covered the office most of the rest of the time. Dad was often around, working on animals or projects in the clinic. But there were gaps; Mom needed to get something in town, Dad was on a call, the secretary was at lunch or getting supplies from an outbuilding, or  it was her day off. From the time my older sister went off to college, when I was ten years old, we younger girls had to cover the office from time to time, dealing with the public, answering the phone calls, relaying client questions to Dad over the tw0-way radio.

This is how that worked. The office phone rang (spoken rule: answer the phone with the words “Val-Vet Clinic” no later than the third ring; implied addendum: kill yourself if you have to to get there in time.) We got the pertinent information, and then, keeping the client on the line, called Dad on the two-way.

Me: “KNGY-976, Base One to Unit One” (Note: For a long time, there was only Base One and Unit One. Then my dad opened a second office twenty miles away and hired a vet who also had a truck so then there was also Base Two and Unit Two. Not confusing at all.)

Dad: “Unit One.”

Me: “Yeah, I’ve got John Smith on the phone? He says he has a cow with a prolapsed uterus? Over.”

Dad: “Ask him how long it’s been that way. Over.” (I do.)

Me: “He says she calved last night, but was still straining when they turned in, so he guesses sometime this morning. Over.” (It’s now 5:00 pm.)

Dad: (Pause while he swears.) “Tell him I’ll be there when I finish up at the Halvorsen’s. Probably be an hour or so. (Another pause for swearing. He won’t be home until well after dinner.) Over.”

Me: “10-4. Over and out.”

YES, I got to speak radio code for REAL! It was cool, even if it made me very nervous. I remember being informed the FCC monitored our little conversations and could prosecute us if we did it wrong. I am sure now that my parents meant we shouldn’t be silly using the radio but I developed a Big Brother complex at an early age. Oh, and “prolapsed uterus?”  I was proficient at saying it long before I knew what it meant.  I always prayed someone would turn up to answer the phone before the dreaded third ring, but phone duty was not the biggie.

The WORST was when we heard a vehicle pull up, and some farmer, usually one we didn’t know, rang the buzzer. I remember looking at my little sister. “You go,” I told her. “No, it’s your turn,” she’d say. “Please?” I begged. She’d either roll her eyes and go or refuse and I’d descend to the office, thinking dark thoughts. I just wanted to watch Gilligan’s Island. Typically, the grizzled farmer would be standing in the reception area, in his shit-spattered working best, looking as askance at me as I was at him. “I need some penicillin,” he’d say. “How much?” I’d ask. “Better give me two bottles. Oh, and some boluses. Give me three of those.” If the client needed something more exotic than ear tags, cat or dog worm pills, syringes and needles (you heard me,) or the above mentioned goodies, I’d have to give Dad a call on the two-way to clarify. If Dad was away from the truck, say with his arm inside a cow trying to restore a prolapsed uterus, Farmer Smith and I would be on our own. “It isn’t the penicillin I want, but I don’t remember the right name.” “Tetracycline?” I’d guess. “No, that isn’t it. I think Doc keeps it in the second refrigerator.” I’d rummage and pull out a couple of bottles for him to check out. “That’s the one!”  Then I’d look up the prices and write up a ticket, praying I remembered how to do it correctly, how to figure tax on the monstrous adding machine, which copy to give the client, and generally trying not to look like an imbecile. At least once I even filled in the check blank for a client who “forgot his glasses” so he could sign it. Please consider this, an eleven or twelve year old girl alone in an office full of drugs, some of which could be recreational, with a cash box, dealing with total strangers who drove in off the highway. It was a more innocent place and time. I did it all the time, and the biggest thing I worried about was screwing up. If a client didn’t get what he needed from our office, he’d go to another vet. This was unthinkable. On the other hand, there were lots of ten- and eleven-year-olds driving pickups and tractors around on their family’s farm fields, literally farming. I didn’t learn to drive until I was fourteen at the earliest, so in some ways, I was a late bloomer.

Sometimes Dad would call one of us down to give him a hand during small animal surgeries, like spays.  We’d help hold the animal until it was anesthetized, then stand by while he laid it out on its back and tied its paws with gauze to rings on the sides of the stainless steel operating table, and shaved the incision area. Dad scrubbed up and we would help him into his surgical cap, mask, gown, and gloves. Dad looked just like the surgeons on TV as he made the incision, splitting open the iodine-swabbed abdomen. The inside of a living creature has a distinctive aroma that is hard to describe. It isn’t quite like meat, and if the gut is intact, there isn’t a fecal odor, either. It is a solemn, unsettling smell. There is an inescapable feeling of voyeurism, viewing the tender, pulsing organs in various shades of pink and gray. Our job was to let Dad (who was intently focused on the job at hand,) know if the animal stopped breathing. Dad worked, and I watched closely praying the whole time, afraid I’d miss the moment the short, spread out gasps stopped completely. Afraid I wouldn’t alert my dad to trouble in time. Life and death. My first job.

Reading II

It is textbook season again at State Services for the Blind. Today, I got to finish the college history text, Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves & the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia, by Woody Holton. I got the last chapter and a half, and the Epilogue. Reading history silently tends to make me sleepy, but reading a good text out loud is, weirdly, one of my favorite things. I learn so much! Also I love reading about things from the Revolutionary War that have value today: for instance, be wary of fighting a war on unfamiliar terrain against a foe defending their homeland, and watch out for those grassroots movements during a recession. This was a very good book. Holton gives us a  bit of a cynical take on our founding fathers and how things shook down back in the pre-Revolutionary day, which was just what I was in the mood for. Except for the footnotes, which were a pain in the breeches, I enjoyed reading it for three and a half hours today. I had to make a lot of corrections to my work, because I found in this text, as in many academic works, the author will zig when I was expecting a zag, tripping me up. I’ll be reading along and then a sentence or two later there I will be in my little recording booth, saying out loud, “Oh. Ohhhh! That’s what you meant.” Erase. Re-record. There are a lot of ways to err, as a reader. You can mispronounce a word, stumble or stutter within a word, change the meaning with intonation, leave too long a pause as you try to figure out if the footnote is explanatory or a citation, determining whether it needs to be read…and the list goes on. Even when I am (totally not sarcastically) having a ball reading, I’ll hit a sentence now and then that will get me swearing and threatening physical harm to the author because although lovely, it was not written with audiotext in mind. For instance, consider the following footnote from page 203:

“Lee, in fact, lost two elections in April 1776. After his defeat in Richmond County, his supporters ran him in neighboring Lancaster, where he lost again. The April 1776 voting was something of an electoral massacre for the Carter family. In addition to Rober Wormely Carter and his cousin Carter Braxton, both of whom actively opposed Independence, two other Carters–Charles of Corotoman and Charles of Ludlow were also defeated. The Carters were among the wealthiest families in Virginia, and their unprecedented repudiation at the polls seemed to reflect the ascendancy of antielitism.” (emphasis mine)

That particular finishing sentence caught me on tape in the middle saying, “You have GOT to be kidding.” Erase. Re-record. There were several easier sentences that gave me even MORE trouble, because once I screw something up, I find chances are at least 50% of the time I will screw it up multiple times in the same or different ways. Holton made it all up to me with this next little passage from page 219:

“Between 1782 and 1806, Virginia allowed slaveowners to emancipate their slaves without legislative approval, and some did so. Between 1790 and 1810, the state’s free black population more than doubled, largely as a result of emancipation. George Washington provided in his will that his slaves be freed upon the death of his widow (after he died, Martha Washington, prudently deciding not to make the slaves’ freedom contingent upon her death, freed them immediately).”

So here, I am picturing the reading of the will, and a house slave in the corner thinking, “Upon her death, huh?” and Martha thinking, “That’s terrific, George. Thank you so much…” and out loud saying, “No worries, folks! Freedom for everyone! No waiting!” I had to re-record that one because I got the giggles. Makes you wonder how often Martha had to help George out with practical thinking during the presidency. We’ll never know.

So while it isn’t parasailing, or a night at the comedy club, this volunteer gig has its moments. Besides, where else would I get to use words like “sobriquet” AND hang out with the nicest state employees in Minnesota?

Related Post: Reading, or How This All Started.

The Matter of a Severed Finger

When I was a girl, about nine or ten years old, one of my favorite indoor activities was to rifle through the stash of books and other treasures tucked into a dresser and closet in our rec room. My younger sister and I spent hours sitting on the hard linoleum sifting through mom’s shelves of piano music, Reader’s Digest Condensed books, and tins, boxes and tubs of inherited and collected memorabilia. It was kind of like a cross between our own private flea market and an archaeological dig to a time before our memory. My older sister is eight years older than I, so all her outgrown stuff was fascinating to me, even if she was a little bit more into the horse stories than I was.

One afternoon I found an old paperback book of hers: “Clever Tricks to Play on Your Friends!” We lived in the country, about a mile from any friends I might have had, but my mom was upstairs and my little sister was around somewhere, probably out playing with the cats or talking to the horses. Following the book’s instructions, I found a small cardboard box with a lid and carved a hole the size of my finger in the bottom with a dull penknife. I poked my middle finger up through the hole, tucked some cotton balls around it and flexed it flat so the box nested in my palm. It really looked like a severed finger laying in the box, without the blood. Nice! I thought about finding a red magic marker to add to the illusion, but I had already been working on it five whole minutes already and had to show my mom this cool effect RIGHT AWAY. I covered the box, hustled up the stairs and found her in her bedroom.  I was bursting with excitement that my trick would really work, but at the same time that I was terrified she’d see through it. My face cramped with energetic smiling, I said “Mom! Look!” and she walked over to me, probably thinking, “What now?” Watching for her reaction, I lifted the lid off the box, and was honestly surprised to see her stare blankly at my lifeless finger, then look at me with an expression I’d never seen before. I would describe it as horror-struck. She looked like a crazy person. She grabbed me by the shoulders and screamed, “WHAT DID YOU DO TO YOUR SISTER!?!?”

??? I was disappointed and confused. What did my sister have to do with anything?  I looked at the box and then I realized, ohhh. If there was a part of a finger in a box, it had to have come from SOMEWHERE, thus the sister… I was exasperated; Mom was completely missing the point. I demonstrated that the finger was mine, and Mom turned an odd color and literally sagged. I guess when the crazy drains from your body that is what happens.

This is the kind of story that gets re-told at family gatherings, and I always thought it was pretty amusing, until about a year ago when, for some reason, I was able to imagine the scenario from my mom’s point of view for the first time and realized what a horrible, horrible thing I had done to her. I imagined looking from a dismembered body part to my own child’s maniacally grinning face. If one of my boys had pranked me with a severed finger, I am pretty sure my head would have exploded. There she was, out on the farm, with one daughter mutilated at best and the other a complete psychopath.  So sorry, Mom! Being absolutely unable to empathize with my mother’s experience then, or for the next thirty+ years could, I guess, define me as a minor-league psychopath. Is it bad to say that this makes it even funnier to me?