In which Mister Bubby espies his school janitor catching the city bus

Mister Bubby:  Hey, that’s Mr. M.

Mad:  So it is.

MB:  I like our awesome janitor better than Mr. M.

Mad:  Who’s your awesome janitor?

MB:  I don’t know his name, but he has a white ponytail.

Mad:  Is that what makes him awesome?

MB:  And a tattoo.

Mad:  What kind of tattoo?

MB:  I can’t tell, it’s too messy.

Mad:  Oh.

MB:  Also, he never wears pants.

Mad:  I see.

MB:  By that, I mean that he always wears shorts.

Mad:  That’s a relief.

MB:  And a suitcoat.

Mad:  What?

MB:  Just kidding.  But not about the part where he doesn’t wear pants.

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In which I ponder the true meaning of Christmas:  giving and guilt

I am more or less done with Christmas shopping, amigos.  I believe everyone for whom I am supposed to have shopped or taken the kids shopping has officially been shopped for.  Did you see how I took such care to avoid ending an independent clause on a preposition, only to end the sentence on a preposition anyway?  Good thing I don’t care about the Man’s outdated, outmoded and unworkable usage rules.  It might be fun, though, to see if I could word the above sentence without a preposition tacked onto the end.  Sure, I could say, “I believe I have shopped for everyone on my Christmas list,” or something equally un-cumbersome, but that would not be fun.  An exercise for you budding copy editors:  Reword the above sentence, maintaining the spirit of its convoluted structure whilst simultaneously correcting it.  That should keep you busy for a while.

This year, for once, I did not have any difficulty shopping for my husband.  He gave me plenty of ideas to work with, so he ought to have a pretty decent Christmas.  I, on the other hand, did not give him much to work with, so I will deserve whatever Christmas I get.  It’s a good thing I don’t want very much out of Christmas.  I’m pretty much only in it for the food.  (Talking of which, that might be one area of Christmas shopping where I am still deficient.  But I won’t think about that now.)  As I was saying on my sister‘s blog the other day, I am at that unfortunate stage of life where what I most want in life cannot be bought.  It’s a problem.  As far as material goods go, I like books–I love books, in fact, and I love getting books as gifts–but my husband put a moratorium on book-giving-to-me until I finish reading all the other books that have been given to me as gifts over the years.  Well.  I think I have read the vast majority of books I’ve been given.  I’m just not very good at reading all the books I buy for myself, especially the cheap ones I buy at the Goodwill and garage sales and junk.  I don’t think I should feel so guilty about not reading the cheap books.  There’s only one actually-expensive book I’ve bought for myself that turned out to be so dull that I simply could not read it.  That’s not a bad track record, when you think about it.

Yes, I am rationalizing the fact that I had an entire year and didn’t come close to reading all the books on my Books I Must Read in 2010 list, which I published back in January and shan’t link to now because of the shame.  I started several of the books.  I completed…a couple.  The ones that were borrowed I have come very close to returning (unread), several times.  It’s not too late, you know.  There are still ten days left in 2010.  I could return them yet!  I’ve told the person I borrowed them from that I have every intention of returning them.  Once I even brought her cupcakes along with that message.  I would have brought the actual books with the cupcakes, except that I forgot all about the books until I was already at the house with the cupcakes, despite the fact that several months ago I took the books out of my bookcase and set them aside in a prominent location, so as to inspire me to put them in the car and take them with me the next time I drove over to this person’s house.  Take-home lesson:  DO NOT loan books to Madhousewife.  Sometimes she returns them.  Like, when she actually reads them.  I have returned every borrowed book I have actually read!  It’s the unread ones I have difficulty with, for reasons I delineated in the original I Must Read These Books in 2010 blog, to which I am not linking for reason aforementioned.  But back to my point:  DO NOT “loan” me a book, for there is a strong possibility that you will never see it again.  Perhaps if I have picked it up and am already reading it when you decide to loan it to me, there is a much better chance that you will get it back because I will finish reading it, once begun, assuming that it must be riveting and that is why I was rude enough to start reading it in your home when I was supposed to be socializing with you.  But do you really want to loan a book to such a person?  Maybe, if it will get me out of your house.  Some things to think about, my friends.  That’s all I’m saying.

Perhaps the real take-home lesson is “never suggest a book to Madhousewife and then loan it to her, unless you never want to see it again, because she may not find it as riveting as you did.”  But I don’t know.  Maybe the real take-home lesson is “Madhousewife has an Amazon wish list, and if you want to give her a book, since her husband won’t, well, there it is.”  I just didn’t want to be presumptuous.

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In which I relate a miracle of long ago, unrelated to Christmas

OBL‘s piano post has inspired me to a piano-related anecdote.  I have the piano that was in my parents’ house for all the years I was growing up and before that belonged to my grandmother, who got it cheap from an old schoolhouse.  It is an upright grand, very large, very heavy–as most pianos tend to be–very cumbersome and difficult to move.  It’s been moved dozens of times.  It moved six times in the first seven years of my marriage.  Who knows how many times it moved during my parents’ marriage?  Well, anyone who grew up in my house would be able to answer that question; I’m just too lazy to think about it.  But my anecdote is from one of the times that my parents moved it.  They put it in the back of someone’s pick-up truck, and the truck went up this hill, and at the top of the hill the truck stopped.  The piano, however, did not stop.  It fell out of the back of the truck and bounced down the street.  Yes, bounced.  My parents were adamant on that point.  They didn’t know pianos could bounce, but they can.  Pianos, I mean. Ours did, anyway.  Down the street.  And eventually it crashed into many pieces.  Keys all over the road.  A devastating sight to behold.

The good news is that my father was able to put it back together.  You may have guessed that part already, since I did say that I still own the piano.  While it’s possible that I meant that I owned the pieces and have been carrying them around in a big heavy box all these years, that probably seemed unlikely.  Nevertheless, whatever.  My dad put it back together.  It was pretty banged up, of course.  He had to use a lot of wood putty, let me tell you.  I remember him doing it.  I was probably six or something.  I asked him why he was putting peanut butter on the piano.  He said he wasn’t.  That’s as far as my recollection of the conversation goes.  Anyway.  He put it back together.  Relevant aside:  he had a little difficulty with the keys.  He put them back in but they didn’t look right; they were all at different heights, if you know what I mean.  My mother had asked him, when he was putting the keys in, if the little numbers on the keys had any significance, and he said, “Pshaw, no.”  (Or words to that effect.)  But when he got all the keys in and they looked funny, he decided to take them out and put them back in again, in numerical order.  Then they looked fine.  That is the part of the story my mother liked to tell.  My father took more relish in the “bouncing” scene.  But I digress.

It was something of a miracle, don’t you think, that a piano could survive such an accident?  But you haven’t heard the most miraculous part yet.  My father put the piano back together, and it was still in tune.  True story.  I don’t think my parents ever had that piano tuned, actually.  Of course, eventually it did fall out of tune.  You can’t move a piano that many times and have it sticking around for that many years and not have it go out of tune.  However, interestingly enough, the entire keyboard shifted out of tune together.  A half step, then a whole step.  Then maybe a step and a half, who knows.  I don’t know.  But coordinated.  I should age so gracefully, after so much abuse.

And I did abuse that piano, growing up.  I took lessons for many years.  I broke several hammers in artistic frustration.  My father repaired them.  I think he put up with my behavior because he was so grateful to have someone in the house who loved to play (artistic frustration notwithstanding).  I continued to play, fairly seriously, even after I stopped taking lessons.  Then I had kids.  None of my kids has been able to tolerate my piano-playing, which I don’t really understand.  It’s not like my singing, which is terrible.  I’m really a good piano player.  (Or, as some people like to say, “pianist.”)  At least I was.  I’m less good now, since I don’t play very much because my children don’t like it.  When they were little, they would either say, “Mommy, stop it,” or crawl onto my lap and physically remove my hands from the keyboard.  Of course I am just making excuses.  I still sing, even though my kids hate it, because I am cruel and don’t care about their feelings.  Also, because it is easy to sing while you do something else.  It is impossible to play piano and do something else at the same time.  Well, theoretically, you can play the piano and sing simultaneously, but I mean that it’s impossible to play the piano and do some other kind of work simultaneously.  You can’t play the piano while you do the dishes or fold the laundry or change diapers or pick toys up off the floor or pay the bills or drive kids to school.  (Right now my husband is itching to comment, “You don’t do most of those things anyway, so why not play the piano?” but he’s not going to say that because he’s going to think better of it.)  So, yes, it is easy to make excuses for not playing the piano because there are so many other things to do with one’s hands, specifically mine.  I’m not proud of it.  I’m just telling you.

It’s true that one of my children is fine with me playing the piano, and that’s Girlfriend.  Unfortunately, she only likes me to play the songs she likes, like the theme from The Muppet Show and “Rubber Ducky.”  Also, she likes to play with me–which, I guess, is a sign that I should probably have her take lessons.  The older two children have been taking lessons since May 2009, but they do not enjoy playing and they complain not only about practicing but also having to take one half-hour out of their week and devote it to attending lessons.  Well, I didn’t much like the piano at this stage of the game myself, but my parents made us take piano lessons.  My older sister took for five years before she was allowed to quit, and that became the bar over which we all had to jump.  By the time I’d been playing for five years, I liked it and wanted to continue.  I don’t think I have the stamina to insist that my children take lessons for five years.  The whining!  I don’t think my parents had to put up with that much whining vis a vis the piano, or they probably would have let us quit, too.  We told the kids they had to take lessons for two years, and the two-year mark comes up in May 2011 (for those of you who went to public school and/or weren’t paying attention to the rest of the paragraph).  They will both probably quit, and we will let them.  Maybe then Girlfriend will be ready to start lessons.  Heck, maybe even Elvis could start lessons.  Because, you know, I just don’t have anything else I could be doing with that money.  Like hiring a sitter to take the kids out of the house so I can play the piano in peace.  Maybe some of the things I most want in life can be bought with money.  I just have to be more creative.

I know just how this cat feels.

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