Sunday, March 27, 2011
The check I was supposed to have deposited the night before.
My banking blunder began innocently enough. I was over at my friend Laura’s house sipping Thai tea after our Thai meal when her father came hurtling through the door. Where Douglas McCallister’s concerned, hurtling is the only word for it. He is a rip-snorting, boot-wearing, whiskery mountain man, and if I am to be honest, sometimes his machomismo scares the tar out of me.
After breaking up Laura and my heart-to-heart with talk of flesh-eating, parasitic diseases and the proper disposal of deceased animals in suburbia, Doug asked me a favor, “Do you mind swinging by Union Bank on your way home and dropping this in the deposit box?”
Putting on my glasses, I peered at the item he was waving. Something white? A surrendering flag? Ah-ha! An envelope!
Well, that sure seemed innocuous enough. It wasn’t like animal body parts or anything; I could handle that.
“Sure,” I said, taking a sip of tea.
“Now, the deposit box will be right near the drive-up window,” Douglas McCallister explained. “Okay? Just drop it in there.”
I nodded, but inside I was thinking, Buddy, I don’t need a diagram.
Saying goodbye to Laura, I drove 20 minutes back home, but first I pulled over at Union Bank like a good little girl.
Douglas McCallister’s parting words rang in my ears as I circled the Jeep around the gray-brick building: “Be sure you drop it off at Union Bank, not First National or anything.”
How sweet of him to worry! I thought. He must not know how responsible I am! Why, I was the vice-president of my senior class! Okay, so there was like 18 of us. But that still shows my maturity…right?
The cocky grin slowly melted off my face as my eyes continually strained for the outdoor deposit box and saw nothing.
Where in the world am I supposed to put this envelope? Is the deposit box in special ops camo or something? Seriously. Do I look like Laura Croft?
Incensed, I illegally drove up the one-way street (everything was very deserted, Mom) and pulled back into the bank’s parking lot. As I started poking and prodding various orifices of the bank building, I began to fear two things:
Fear Number One: That I would set off some silent alarm, and the police -- or “the law” as it is known ’round here -- would come with sirens wailing and barricade my vehicle. Since the chief of police and I aren’t exactly “buddy-buddy,” this could be a problem. (Hey, I did not care that the road below us was flooded. I did not want the LPD blocking it and inhibiting customers from coming to our store. If said customers then went on to drive their vehicles into that lake, I figured it was their own short-sighted fault.)
Fear Number Two: That I would be mugged. Since I have a highly overactive imagination and penchant for scanning local offender lists like they’re winning lottery numbers, I could just imagine all kinds of creepy men (and women--equal opportunity, here) coming out of the woodwork, just waiting to steal Douglas’ business check for McCallister Construction.
Giving up on finding the stupid deposit box, I called my husband.
“Do you know where the deposit box is outside Union Bank?” I asked.
“No.” He paused, then said, “Did you try the ATM?”
I pulled up to the ATM. Slamming the Jeep into Park, I cracked open the door and poked my fingers into the ATM’s various and sundry openings.
“See anything?” Randy asked.
“Hmmm, no….Hey, wait! This right here says…it says de-deposit!” I shakily got the envelope out of my coat pocket and jammed it into the deposit slit. No cigar. Mary Poppins couldn’t have made it work.
I searched the ATM while still on the phone with my husband. “Okay!” I hollered. “I see something that says envelopes. And--and it’s got an opening!” Crunching the phone between my ear and shoulder, I pulled open the envelope flap. I saw there were some white envelopes already in there, but I couldn’t fit the one in my hand among them unless I pried open the plastic flap and shoved some things around.
“I'm gonna hafta letch ya go,” I told Randy.
“You sure you got it?”
“Hmmmhhmmm,” I said.
The call came at 7:45 a.m. I do not like talking on the phone before noon, and only if the person’s appendage is missing. And they think it’s in my backyard.
Assuming it was our cashier trying to get into the store, I called Randy and asked if Jana had made it.
“Yeah, why?” he asked.
“I got a call from a 931 number. I thought it might be her.”
“Oh,” Randy said, “that was probably Doug. He tried calling me, too.”
A shiver raced up my spine. “What-what did he want?” I asked.
“Oh, I didn’t talk to him. I was unloading this truck. Gotta go. I’ve gotta count some pallets.”
Padding into the kitchen, I poured myself some cereal. Each bite tasted like sand. When Randy came banging through the apartment door, I took one look at his face and my spoon plopped into the bowl.
He said, “The bank never got Doug's deposit.”
“What?!” I screeched.
“The bank nev--”
“--I know that! I mean, what happened?”
He shrugged. “You’re the one who dropped it off. Where’d you put it?”
“In the ATM like you said!” I wailed.
“But where in the ATM?”
“In with the envelopes--near where it said ‘Deposit’!”
My husband’s face paled. Dragging a hand back through his hair, he whispered, “I’ve gotta run to the bank.”
“I’m going with you!” I cried. “Lemme get my shoes!”
One minute later, my husband and I were out the door, in the Jeep, and roaring down the road.
Lurching into Union Bank’s parking lot, Randy circled the building and said, “Okay, in the ATM, right?”
I bit my lip and nodded.
He pulled up to the ATM just as I had the night before.
“See how it says ‘Deposit’?” I whispered. “Wouldn’t you think that’s a deposit box?”
“But that’s not where you put it, right?”
“You put it over where it says ‘Envelopes,’ right?”
“Honey, that’s where you get envelopes--not where you put them!”
“Then how come it was so hard to put it in there! I figured they did that so people wouldn’t get it out!”
Randy didn’t say anything, just opened his door and flipped open the envelope flap.
“It wasn’t that easy last night,” I murmured.
Once again, Randy didn’t say anything. Scooping out the stack of three envelopes, he set them on his lap. “Well, Doug’s check’s gone,” he said.
“No it’s not!” I wailed. “Just check!”
Randy sifted through the stack. One, two....Number three of the three envelopes was the one marked with Douglas McCallister’s spidery script.
I began to sob in relief.
Randy said, “I’ve gotta call Doug.”
“No! Just wait ’til it’s in the bank!” I blubbered. “Maybe he’ll think it was there the whole night!”
My husband just looked at me with one eyebrow raised, then something caught my watery eyes. A woman was running out of the bank. Running right toward the ATM. Since she was wearing a suit and not a ski mask, I figured she wasn’t a robber.
“I think she might be looking for this,” I said, holding up the envelope and smiling weakly.
Randy nodded and got out of the Jeep. I was too busy writhing with mortification to watch their exchange, but when Randy got back in, he explained that she was indeed on a desperate search for that AWOL McCallister Construction deposit.
“Don’t call Doug,” I begged, hands clasped in supplication. “Please, honey…puleese don’t call him. He’s ’bout as compassionate as a porcupine. ”
Right then the phone rang. Douglas McCallister.
My husband winked at me, then flipped open his phone. Wiping my tears on a Union Bank envelope, I listened to him explain in his special “Women, what can we do with them?” voice.
In return I gave Randy my “Scary Wife” eyes, but the snot dripping off my nose seemed to dampen the effect.
Clapping his phone shut, Randy started to laugh. I punched his arm.
“How can you laugh at a time like this?” I railed. “I almost cost that man his business!”
“Well, Doug was laughing.”
“He was?” My voice came out like a squeak.
Randy nodded. “Oh yes, he was. He was laughing so hard, I thought he was going to hurt himself. I'm pretty sure you just made his day.”
Honking my nose in another Union Bank envelope, I decided the next time I saw that rip-snorting, boot-wearing, whiskery mountain man, I’d wrap my arms around his machomismo self and give him a big bear hug.
Well, I might if he doesn’t spread this story to his friends.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
But it isn't mine. Oh, no siree…it is my mother’s.
You’d think by now I’d have built up immunity to her “I don’t wanna be an old grandma” advances. My future husband and I hadn’t even set the date for our wedding when my mother began stockpiling Goodwill “treasures” for her long-limbed, curly-headed grandbabies.
(For that’s how she imagines them, but she said she wouldn’t mind if some came out with short legs and stick-straight hair like mine--gee thanks, Mom--or if they’d even be bald-headed, she’d love them all just the same.)
I was christened Mrs. Petersheim for three months when my mother bestowed upon me a ring box that held not jewelry as I’d eagerly anticipated, but a pink pacifier tied with curly string.
For our second married Christmas it was a silver baby spoon. This Christmas I’m pretty sure it is going to be a weekend at Gatlinburg where our cabin will be replete with mood lighting, Barry White in surround sound, and a heart-shaped tub.
Three days ago everything crowned to a head when my mother and 13-year-old brother came to see the progress Father’s been making on their Dawdi Haus at the end of our lane. (By the way, “Dawdi Haus” means “grandparents' house” in Pennsylvania Dutch--oh, how apt!)
With its high peaks, port-hole windows, and jutted nooks, their cottage is absolutely adorable in an overgrown-dollhouse kind of way, which is exactly what my mother had in mind. You see, just like that big white house was built for what’s-her-name in The Notebook, this house is being constructed for grandbabies. Oodles and oodles of them. You’d think I had a pedigree right up there with Lassie or something.
My poor father had to move every window in the house up so the grandbabies wouldn’t push through the screens and plunge to an untimely Humpty Dumpty. One of the jutted nooks is being designed with a mini table and chairs so the grandbabies can clamber up and swing their chubby legs while hand-over-fisting G’maw’s breakfast. (Breakfast! What in the world, they’re going to be my children, too!)
In the vaulted den a ginormous chest will be masked as a window seat so all the wee ones' toys can be stored and so Grandmutter can lure them down to her Dawdi Haus with not only promises of fried foods and processed sugars, but also a “new” Goodwill treasure buried in the toy chest! A set of dropdown stairs is also going to descend from the attic so the grandbabies (once they’re old enough, of course) can scale up them, peek out the port-hole window, and play like they’re captains of a ship, all the Dawdi Haus their stage, an adoring grandmutter their audience.
Seriously. How am I ever to compete with that?
My 13-year-old brother seems to be asking himself the same thing.
While our parents sorted out more window safety issues, he and I went for a walk. I made some joke about how our mother can’t wait to get her hands on a grandbaby.
My brother didn’t laugh.
I paused, glanced over. “Are you going to like being an uncle?”
“Why should I?” he grumbled.
“’Cause they’d be your nieces and nephews?”
Shrugging, he kicked at a pile of stones with his barefeet.
“Well, it’s gonna be a while anyway,” I soothed. “You’ll probably be in college or something by then.”
My brother pierced me with blue eyes and said, “Yeah, right.”
I gulped, wondering if he -- like that one kind of dog -- could sense something I couldn’t.
When we came back to the property, my mother-in-law, sister-in-laws, and six-month-old nephew had come to check out my parents’ place, too. My brother and I mounted the upside down bucket serving as a step and went inside. The six-month-old, who’d been fighting a severe respiratory infection throughout his week-long visit, was getting fussier by the second.
“Lemme see him,” my mother said, going over and scooping the baby out of his carseat. I don’t know how she did it -- for I’ve tried since and something about my anatomy won’t let me master the hold -- but she pressed that wee one so close to her chest that he just nestled down as if he’d grown there. His little legs stopped pedaling and curled up beneath him; my mother patted his diapered bottom and whispered nonsense into his hair.
“Uh-oh…somebody needs a gran-babe-y,” my mother-in-law crooned.
My mother nodded; her smile bookended with dimples. “Yes, ma’am! That’s what I’ve been saying for a lonnnng time now!”
Then my mother and mother-in-law looked at me and cocked their heads. I looked over at my younger brother for help, but he just folded his arms and grinned.
At that moment I considered getting my mother a Cabbage Patch Kid like she’d done when my older brother kept begging for a sister.
But the thing is, that Cabbage Patch Kid idea obviously didn’t work...well, 'cause here I am.
(Image can be found here.)
Sunday, March 13, 2011
When I awoke on Saturday to my stomach roiling and head pounding like a kettledrum, this personality difference couldn't've been more evident.
Flinging back the covers, I dragged myself off the bed and rolled back and forth on the carpet, resignedly moaning, “I’m gonna die….I’m gonna die.”
My husband sat up with his hair flying every which way and stared at me for a bit (gauging the seriousness of this proclamation, I suppose). Finally, he said, “You want Tums or something?”
“No!” I wailed, as if he'd offered hemlock, then writhed and groaned for another five minutes.
Despite my tendency towards drama, it really was quite awful and made even worse by the fact I’m proud of my immune system and none too shy about it. I’m always the one to eat something right off the floor (10 second rule loosely applied), and if a grocery item comes in our store with a sticker screaming, “KEEP REFRIDGERATED!” I have no qualms about swigging it straight from the carton, room temp and all. I’ll cut right through a room of people sneezing all over themselves and won’t even hold my breath or run to the nearest loo and lather myself up to my elbows like a surgeon.
But on Saturday morning my immune system let me down. Not only that, it dropped me like a hot potato, and I morphed from a semi-responsible adult into a sniveling, whiney mess.
God love ’im, this was not the first time I expected my husband to whisk into action like some bearded Florence Nightingale. A few months after we started dating, we went out for a late supper. No sooner had I eaten my broccoli and red pepper pilaf when my stomach started spitting and sputtering its protests.
Randy stopped for Sprite at a gas station, and the whole drive home I took sips from the green bottle then stuck my head out the window, lapping up the summer breeze like a dog. Thus distracted, I made it to my parents’ driveway without incident; but when I was walking up the path to the house, a wave of nausea knocked me flat, and I lost my lovely rice pilaf right there in the bushes. Instead of keeping my hair off my face or rubbing my back in a gentle circular motion like my mother’d always done, my boyfriend was nowhere to be found.
Miraculously revived, I marched into the house and up the steps into the den. There my knight in shining armor sat--hands in his lap, staring at me.
“Why’d you leave?” I snapped.
Shrugging, Randy said, “Thought you’d wanna be left alone….”
“Well, you were wrrrong!”
Although a few years old, this exchange must be fresh in my husband's mind, for on Saturday -- once he’d fully awakened -- he leapt into action. Popping open a can of ginger ale, he set it on the bureau and helped me get off the floor and into bed. This movement made me stumble for the bathroom and dry-heave into the toilet, and once I returned, I took a dainty sip of ginger ale and Randy piled me with blankets.
Sitting at the edge of the bed, my husband asked, “Is there anything I can do?”
I paused a moment, then worked my feet out from beneath the ton of covers and wiggled my toes. “Yes…” I whispered, “can you rub my feet?”
“Do they hurt?” Randy asked, his face awash with skepticism.
Making my voice as weak as possible, I took a shuttering breath and closed my eyes, “Oh, yes…terribly achy.”
My husband didn’t say if he believed me or not, but I still felt him take my feet between his hands and begin to massage. At that moment I was so grateful our marriage vows said, “through sickness or health,” but I’m pretty sure as my husband oh-so-kindly rubbed my feet, he was thinking more along the lines of “for better or worse.”
Sunday, March 6, 2011
I don’t know why I am this way. Perhaps it is my predilection for order. I like going to the grocery store for milk or filling my car with gas and knowing I am going to pay the same per gallon as I had the week before. I like checking the headlines and seeing nothing’s changed except the price of bail for Lindsay Lohan. I like laying my head on the pillow at night knowing my house is clean and the world’s ducks are in a row.
But the world doesn’t even have any ducks to place.
Everything is in chaos. Egypt, now Libya. You don’t even have to watch the news to know. In our store I’ve overheard the nervous twittering of the blue-haired ladies discussing food shortages and watched the shifty-eyed “survivalists” lugging sacks of rice and flour out through the double doors. These changes are happening continents away, and yet they are affecting our borders, too.
The soaring gas and food prices are cutting the legs out from under businesses and crippling personal bank accounts. Small talk seems to have flown the coop along with that elusive row of ducks. Instead of asking, “How’s the weather?” the new saying is, “Found a job?”
As the Middle East’s political upheaval takes over headlines and gas prices skyrocket, my nervousness mounts. How am I ever to bring children into this crazily shifting world? And if my husband and I are blessed with them, am I to do as my Cold War-era parents did? Map out escape plans in case of invasion; tell my children about the room hidden behind a friends’ bookcase where we’re all going to live until some unseen war ends?
But then I think of the Italian film, Life Is Beautiful, which features a Jewish family carted off to a concentration camp. The mother is separated from the father and four-year-old son. Instead of telling his son their plight, the father turns it into a game. The whole time they are staring into the face of starvation and death, the young boy thinks he's only racking up points so he can win an army tank trophy. At the end of the war, this child doesn’t even know he is among the handful who survived, he only knows that he is the winner and runs up to his mother with his tiny hands raised and yells, “We won! We won!”
So, even if gas and food prices continue to soar and jobs continue to be lost, I'll keep the lesson of this film in mind: life’s harshest realities can be made beautiful if we will only change our perceptions of them.