The List in My Head

I had the handyman here this week. I’ve been meaning to call him for some time. Ten, eleven years, I don’t know. It’s amazing how long you can live with broken stuff if it isn’t actually endangering your life. I usually take a crack at fixing things myself. Failing that, I change my expectations and add it to the fix-me list, the one that lives in my mind.

I had ten jobs on the handyman list, which didn’t exhaust the possibilities but were all I could come up with before he got here. I figured he’d get two or three things done, but he fixed everything and was gone before I got home from work. Incredible.

The north side of my house sans woodpecker holes. I think there were seven or eight holes, drilled there by birds too stupid to know a house from a dead tree. I hate critters.
The handle on the front door. It opens from the outside now. For a long time it would only open from the inside, which was problematic if it blew shut when you were outdoors and hadn’t left another point of entry. I did get locked out one hot summer day when the power went out. I came home from work to find the garage door opener inoperable, and I couldn’t use the back door, as that lock hasn’t worked for about 25 years (don’t ask). I had to wait in my car with the windows down until the power came back on. Not long. About an hour.
Living room window. Look! It stays open all by itself, i.e., without the aid of the dictionary or any other handy solid object. I pulled the window out to wash it one spring and, when I tried to put it back in, something snapped on the right side. After that it would only stay up if you propped it or held it open yourself. Which gets old.
The closet door in my bedroom. It cracked and fell off some time ago for no reason I can discern. I had to clean the closet before the handyman came. I know he’s just the handyman and probably couldn’t care less. Still, I wouldn’t want him blabbing it around that I’m a bad housekeeper.
The new closer on the kitchen door. The door closes after you now, which I have decided I don’t like very much, as I used to be able to carry in groceries without having to open the door with every trip to the car. It’s annoying. I may have to deactivate it, as soon as I figure out how.
The jiggly tissue holder in the downstairs bath. I installed it myself the last time I painted; then it came loose and I had no idea how to either take it off again or fix it. Not that a loose toilet paper holder is a big deal but, let’s face it, it doesn’t leave the best impression when guests want to use the facilities, as guests will do.
The door to the upstairs bath, which used to scrape the floor until the handyman shaved it down. I hate to think how long it’s been. I’m guessing it happened when the house settled, and the house is 39 years old. I never use that bathroom anyway.
The screen door on the porch. Now that I think about it, I have a lot of door issues. The handyman replaced the screen – which never stood a chance against grandchildren, who will push on the screen instead of the door frame when they want out – and also fixed the lock, which was equally inefficient in either the locked or unlocked position, leaving me vulnerable to molestation every time I went out there to take a nap.
The only power outlet on the porch. I added the porch in 2005 and the outlet stopped working about two years later. I don’t know why. I never will know why.
Ah, the infamous fireplace bricks. No one has ever admitted how the two bricks on the end came loose, although I have my suspicions. This was back in the nineties, when my daughters were prone to carrying on in my absence. God knows what kind of hooligans they brought in or what inexpressible things took place. They’re all old enough to come clean now. But they won’t.

It’s funny. Nice as it is to have all these things taken care of, it hasn’t brought me as much satisfaction as I expected. And what’s that about?

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You Can Call Him Lee


You can call him Lee because that’s his name. He finally arrived, a big, chubby baby who couldn’t make up his mind whether to stay in or come out, sending his mother back and forth to the hospital like a wind-up doll and distressing the entire family for the past two weeks. I personally am exhausted.

As it happened, when the moment came, I ended up driving to the hospital with Cosette, just as she predicted several weeks ago. I don’t know how she knows these things. The neighbor guy came over to sit with Toddler Bret, who was already in bed. I was tired and anxious, of course, trying to find the hospital with a four-year-old who never stops chattering in the backseat. “That’s 36, Grandma, you go that way. That’s 3-5-W. There’s 280, Grandma, take that.” For the love of God, I thought, give me a break, Cosette!

Both siblings were beside themselves with excitement at bringing the baby home. He didn’t care. But then he probably doesn’t know they see him as a big, almost lifelike toy. Cosette has been honing her mothering skills for months.

He’s a good-natured baby, fortunately, and cute as a button. Doesn’t cry much. He’s already survived being poked in the eye by his brother. No tears but it did make him screw up his face. This is good. He should get used to it.

Welcome to the family, baby Lee. We love you very much.

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Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Bret Jr., Part 1

All kinds of things change when you’re the fifth grandchild. For one thing, Grandma doesn’t have as many pictures of you to pick from when she needs one. For another, you have to be more assertive than numbers 1 to 4 to get any attention at all. Luckily, this is not a problem for Toddler Bret.

I call him Toddler Bret because he’ll be two in July and I can’t call him Baby Bret anymore. His sister said so. As I believe I mentioned, when his parents chose to make him a Junior, they failed to come up with a nickname, leaving everyone to muck along with two Brets in the family. I’m starting to wonder what Toddler Bret makes of it himself. Conversation at the dinner table, for instance.

“How was your day, Bret?”
“Bret, eat your apples.”
“Would you pass the mashed potatoes, Bret?”
“Bret, do you want more milk?”
“Ursa really needs a bath, Bret.”
“Bret, no feeding Ursa from the table.”

I picture him throwing up his little hands in despair. “What in the name of Fisher-Price does the woman want of me??”

Or maybe not. His days are full. He’s like a little locomotive, legs pumping, running here, running there. He has wants. He has needs. He has a lot to think about: “What’s going on? Wait for me, Cosette! I want to do that. Run, run, run! Where’s Ursa? Get the ball, Ursa! Where’s Mom? It’s time to jump off something! I can dance like the Wiggles. Mom, I need a hug. I want to go outside now. Where’s Cosette? What’s Cosette doing? I can do that!”

And that’s pretty much how it goes, all day long. His sister is commander in chief, i.e., whatever she does, he does. WHATEVER she does. Cosette jumps off the bed, Bret jumps off the bed. Cosette sticks out her tongue, Bret sticks out his tongue. Cosette marches down the driveway carrying a stick, Bret marches down the driveway carrying a stick. Cosette picks a flower and throws it in the bushes, Bret picks a flower and throws it in the bushes. Well, you get the picture.

Cosette likes to call me on the phone and let me know what’s going on at their house. Lately she’s been putting me on the speakerphone, because Toddler Bret has things he wants to say too. Well, yell. “Ball! Dog! Ma! Down!” God knows what he’s saying. It doesn’t matter, he just wants to be acknowledged.

Of course, very soon now he won’t be the youngest grandchild anymore, but number 5 of 6. It’s hard to say how that’s going to go over. As I said, he has wants, he has needs. On the other hand, he could end up commander in chief.

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Shopping With Maria

It’s been a long time since I went shopping with a preteen girl. I tried it yesterday and remembered why God created menopause; i.e., ten or twelve years after giving birth, you have to take them shopping. This requires more fortitude than you’re likely to have.

Maria and I hadn’t spent any quality time together for a while, so she came over in the afternoon and stayed the night. We had pedicures and she had a manicure (tiny white flowers on every pink nail), got something to eat and went to Target to get her a new outfit. We started in the Girls’ department, but as she’s several inches taller than me now, ended up in Juniors.

Needless to say, the things she was pulling off the racks bore little resemblance to anything I had in mind. We headed to the fitting room with armloads of clothes; then it was just me running back and forth like a mad gopher. This went on for about two hours.

Maria liked everything she tried on no matter how inappropriate. She was particularly smitten with a little black and white striped number that looked like something out of Sweet Charity. Didn’t keep count, but I believe I said “Your mother will kill me if I buy you that” around fifty times. It isn’t easy getting through to an eleven-year-old girl. It’s like the words float out over their heads somewhere and only reach their ears on an intermittent basis.

She was sweet about it though. The pleading was minimal and she never broke into tears. I’m not her mother, after all. Eventually we compromised on a pair of navy blue leggings, a sheer, flowered tunic and a tank top to go underneath. Middle ground to be sure, and she still could pass for fifteen in it.


Dear God: This is Judy. Thank you for menopause.

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Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Maria, part 2

Sept. 8, 2006
Maria started first grade on Tuesday. It was her first time riding the school bus, which should have been largely uneventful, except that she fell asleep on the way home, and instead of being the first one off the bus she was the last one off. By the time she got there, her mother was barely coherent and her two aunts (the first-day welcoming committee) were ready to call the chief of police. You might think this would be a little traumatic for a 6-year-old, but apparently it wasn’t. She said she had a great day.

Dec. 13, 2006
Hoping to find someone with an extra Baby Alive they’d like to sell. The sad scenario:
• I did not buy Baby Alive at Target when I had a chance, even though I helped another grandma find one on the shelves.
• My 6-year-old granddaughter expects Santa to deliver a pooping doll.
• Target and everyone else is OUT of Baby Alive, although it is available on e-bay for roughly the cost of a new sofa.

[Epilogue: Yes, I bought one on e-bay. Of course I did.]

Jan. 28, 2009
Had Maria over to spend the night last week, and she wrote a story about me. I especially liked the title (“A Woman and Her City”) and the ending (“She loves us anyway.”)

May 15, 2009
I was talking to Maria on Mother’s Day (on Mother’s Day, mind you) and she was telling me about the plans for her 9th birthday, which is two months away, but why wait? She said she is having two parties: a Friends party at the beach, which I am not allowed to attend, and a Family party, which will be held at my house. Excuse me?

“Are you saying I’m an embarrassment to you?” I asked her. She said yes, I was. Well, I can understand that. I tease her a lot, which amuses her when it’s just us but could be tiresome when your friends are around. (“That’s my Grandma. She tells lame jokes.”)

So I asked, “How about if I don’t talk? Can I come to the Friends party if I don’t talk?” She said I’m an embarrassment even when I don’t talk. “Okay,” I said. “Maybe I won’t get you a birthday present this year then.” Right. She would not deign to respond to such a ridiculous threat.

This reminds me of the elderly gentleman who, when asked how winning the lottery had changed his life, said, “Well, the grandkids come around a lot more now.” I’ll bet.

[Epilogue: When the Friends party rolled around, Maria expected me to be there. “Oh, Grandma,” she said, “I was only kidding.”]

Jan. 28, 2011
Went to see Tangled with Maria last weekend. I used a couple of free movie tickets I got for doing a rip-roaring, outstanding job on something at work, I forget what. Then I spent $10 on one small popcorn and one small Sprite. That is correct – ONE popcorn, ONE pop, TEN bucks. Lord help me if I’m starting to sound old, but $10, for cripes sake.

Anyway, we liked Tangled a lot. I asked Maria what her favorite part was, and she said the part where Rapunzel hit the hero over the head with the frying pan. Repeatedly. She’s growing up.