Friday, October 28, 2011

Good News and Bad News

There is good news and bad news.

The bad news is that this will be the first Halloween I don't get to spend with my grandkids in the four-plus years since Sooby was born.  On the brighter side, we have already racked up some serious pre-Halloween fun.  We have stuffed a scarecrow with straw and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows at the farm.  Twice now they have terrorized the house and yard in the costumes I bought last November at Wal-Mart for 75% off.

Speaking of which, there is good news and bad news on that front as well.  Sooby's candy corn witch outfit, though adorable, was not without its drawbacks.  Once the spring-hoop skirt emerged from the package where it had been restrained against its will for Lord-knows-how-long, it refused to go back in like a good little article of clothing.  For the two weeks that followed, it took up so much room that it practically required its own closet.

Then, there was the problem with the hat, an ingeniously designed little headpiece shaped like the traditional witch hat but colored yellow, orange, and white like a piece of candy corn.  In his or her preoccupation with aesthetics, the designer failed to take into account the centrifugal force that comes into play when a child reaches mach speed and negotiates a 180-degree turn.  Translation: the hat won't stay on.  But good news prevails once more when Googie whips out her trusty needle and thread, slices a shoestring in half, and fashions a clever, makeshift tie that fastens right beneath the chin of the whirlwind.  Once again, all is right with the world.

That is, until we get to Pooh, whom I had envisioned in the requisite headband and a little black Ninja jumpsuit whose bright blue apron is emblazoned with a very mean-looking golden bird of some sort.  The bad news is that the Ninja costume has never hai-karated itself out of the package.  Instead, Pooh has been obsessed with an old skeleton costume that I picked up at a garage sale a couple years ago for a quarter.  It seems that he rather likes being a "'keleton."

The good news here is manifold.  He is absolutely the cutest 'keleton I have ever seen, and the Ninja suit will more than likely still fit him next year.  As an added advantage, his little bones will glow in the dark while he trick-or-treats, duly terrorizing his baby sister while enhancing his safety.  OK, so no foul here.

Here is what is foul.  I absolutely could not wait to see Baby Bootsie as a wooly little white lamb, and the suit did not disappoint.  It was soft and cuddly and couldn't have fit her better, from the fleecy bodice to the little pink satiny hooves.  Indeed, Googie was patting herself on the back from the utter perfection of this picture--that is, until we looked around for the hat.

We looked everywhere.  The fluffy tie-on hat with the little pink ears was nowhere to be found.  It had either been omitted by the manufacturer or lost somehow in the giant Wal-Mart bin as greedy customers like Googie churned and pawed the contents in search of the perfect deal.  Clearly, it was a situation where the emptor did not caveat quite enough, and, let me tell you, I was one disappointed emptor.  However, the good news is that Bootsie's mama thinks it will not be too hard to fashion substitute ears for our little lamb, and she will not have to take to the streets as the sheep-like equivalent of a centaur.

And so, as Halloween arrives a few nights from now, I will miss the jack-o-lantern carving and cookie decorating of the past several years, and that might be construed as bad news.  But I understand that, although I am and will always be the only true Googie, we are not the only grandparents, and this year it is our turn to share.

On Monday night I will watch out the door as hordes of costume-clad children revel in the excitement of their annual candy-gathering odyssey.  And in my mind's eye, I will see a candy corn witch, a 'keleton, and maybe a little earless lamb doing the same, and that, any way you look at it, is good news.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A New Take on Sweet Dreams

The family pitch game that ensues when the kids have finally gone to bed at Googie's was well underway.  Engrossed in tricks and trumps, no one paid much attention to the first tiny sounds of shuffling and bumping coming from upstairs.

Eventually, my daughter Cookie imagined she heard a small voice.  Then another, this time louder.  Two voices.  More shuffling and bumping.  Finally, between hands, Cookie headed up the steps to investigate.  After all, Sooby and Pooh had gone to bed over an hour ago.

The look on Cookie's face when she returned to the pitch circle was beyond incredulous.  "Do you know what they were doing?" she asked, and I thought maybe she was directing this at me.  "They were eating PEZ!"

I looked away, cleared my throat, and tried to think how I was going to get out of this one.  Truth is, I had found two PEZ dispensers among the kids' stash of "tiny toys" that I keep in a tall kitchen waste basket that doubles as a toy box up in their room.  Spiderman and Tow-Mater, the tow truck from Cars.

I don't even know where they originally came from, but it occurred to me how much fun it might be to fill them up and wait for the kids to discover them.  I just hadn't counted on the discovery occurring some night at midnight.  More importantly, I hadn't realized I might get caught plying my grandchildren with tiny pink bricks of compressed sugar when their mama had plans for them that did not mix well with a sugar high.

It takes 3,000 pounds of pressure to make one of these cute, yummy little candy pieces.  I ingested this, along with a bunch of other equally intellectual bites of trivia, from the official PEZ website.  Introduced in 1927 as a breath mint and smoking substitute for grown-ups, PEZ expanded its appeal to include children with the fruity flavors the company introduced in the 1950s.  This is also when the popular character-head dispensers replaced the "regulars," those original  (read "boring") dispensers designed to mimic cigarette lighters.

The website touts PEZ as "the pioneer of 'interactive candy.'"  (This is a fun notion.  Before now, I had never thought about any type of food being "interactive," except maybe beans.)  It takes its name from an abbreviated version of the German word pfefferminz, meaning "peppermint."

The popularity of PEZ is nothing short of phenomenal.  Americans consume over 3 billion pieces annually, and the candy is sold in over eighty countries worldwide.  Collectors of PEZ dispensers now have their own yearly convention. The best-selling dispenser of all time is Santa Claus.

Of those 3 billion PEZ consumed this year in the U.S., I am proud to say that my grandchildren, on the aforementioned night, are already responsible for twenty-four of those.  They will enhance their contribution this weekend, when they test-drive their brand new jack-o-lantern dispensers fueled with rolls of lemon and cherry candy.

I will be more careful with the timing, though.  No more midnight dispensing. This time, I am thinking maybe we might embellish our Saturday morning breakfast with, well, a little PEZ-azz.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In Halloween Mode

Maybe I was homesick for the old journalism days.  Maybe I was missing the grandkids.  Maybe I was just looking for a way to indulge myself in the substance of my favorite holiday. 

Whatever the case, the result was a hankering to once again conduct a phone interview.  With Sooby and Pooh.  On the subject of Halloween.  Following is the closest thing to a transcript of that event I can muster.  It began much as you would expect, with Googie on speakerphone.

Q:  What is your favorite thing about Halloween?
A:  (Sooby) Going trick-or-treating.  (OK, scrap that.  Unnecessary question, obvious answer.  Duh.)

Q:  What is your favorite kind of candy to get when you go trick-or-treating?
A:  (Sooby) Candy bars, lollipops, candy kisses, Nerds . . . . (List continues, but voice trails away.)
A:  (Pooh)  Chocolate.  (A child after my own heart.  Succinct answer.  Recognition that, when you say the word "chocolate," nothing more needs to be said.  Or eatenOr invented.)

Q:  What is your favorite costume?
A:  (Pooh)  A 'keleton.
A:  (Sooby) A candy corn witch.  (Note: Both are costumes from Googie's house.  The 'keleton: a quarter at a garage sale; the witch: 75% off sale at Walmart last November.  Good job, Googie.)

(Long silence.  Interviewer falters.  Interviewer struggles to recall TV interview style and content, then resumes.) 

Q:  Many people seem to denounce Halloween as a dark holiday that celebrates wickedness and evil.  Do you perceive evil forces at work on Halloween?
A: (Pooh) Huh?
A: (Sooby) Just my brother.

Q:  What do you consider the sociological ramifications of Halloween in a society where such a pronounced dichotomy seems to exist between the ideologies of good and evil?
A:  (Pooh) ZZZZzzzzz . . . .
A:  (Sooby)  (After a long silence and two verses of "Old MacDonald") Halloween is fun.

Bingo.  I couldn't have said it better.  For me, Halloween has always represented pure, carefree fun.  You get to dress up.  You get to be outside in what is usually gorgeous Indian summer weather.  You have parties and bonfires.  You get free candy.  You collect a stash of sweets that, if you are judicious, will last until Christmas. 

Halloween has never required that I thaw a rock-hard turkey in my refrigerator for four days and then cook it for hours.  It has never asked me to drag a tree out of the attic and stick stuff all over it.  I don't have to send dozens of cards against a deadline or negotiate a shopping list as long as my arm.

Halloween asks me only to think like a kid and have some serious fun.  I love doing both, and I think that people who read all kinds of sinister things into the holiday should maybe buy their underwear a size bigger.

That said, I have a confession to make.  It may surprise you to learn that not all of the phone interview went exactly as recorded above.  I  allowed myself a tiny bit of poetic license toward the end there.  Forgive me.  It is the season of Halloween, and the kids and I are in full fun mode.



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Googie Reflects

"Googie" is starting to stick.  The grandkids have always called me that, but more recently I have caught myself answering to the name when I hear it used by other family members, people at church, and people I run into when simply out and about.  Often, it takes me by surprise. 

I became the "Googie" of "Googie's Attic" seven months ago today.  I was here at home nursing Pa-pa back from shoulder surgery when it occurred to me that I might enjoy blogging. I have always considered my writing a huge part of who I am, yet, since retiring from teaching, I found myself writing very little other than the occasional poem.  That bothered me.

When I started the blog, it was my goal to produce 100 pieces in a year.  I am a little behind this self-imposed schedule, as this writing is only the fiftieth treasure to occupy the old attic.  However, the goal may still be reachable, and this seven-month, 50-piece mark affords me good opportunity to reflect on how the project has gone to date.

First, I have to say that I love having this creative outlet.  Non-writers may find this difficult to understand, but writing can be addictive.  Now that I am in the habit again, I am a junkie who simply must sit down at this computer every so often and shoot myself up with words and ideas and turns of phrase.  When circumstances prevent or delay that, I get restless and fidgety.  I have been known to experience symptoms of withdrawal in the middle of the night, and when that happens, there is no choice but to stumble to this keyboard and get myself a fix.

Also, I feel good to know I am creating this unique legacy for Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie.  When they are teenagers, they will probably be embarrassed if their friends find out that, years ago, they were the stars of a blog.  Most likely, they will not be calling me "Googie" anymore; that may be too juvenile and undignified.  But at some point, I can't help thinking, they may cherish these vignettes of their childhood much as they would an old photo album.  It is a legacy of word pictures that I hope will some day make them laugh and cry and know how much they were treasured.

Finally, I have enjoyed a response from a reading audience that far surpasses anything I expected.  Often, my readers--or, in blog language, followers--weigh in to let me know that they had a similar experience, that I made them laugh, that I struck a universal chord that reverberates with some kind of meaning for them.  This is every writer's wish: to touch others with their words in a way that somehow makes a difference.

I am so glad I chose to focus on the grandparenting experience in "Googie's Attic."  It insures a constantly renewable source of material.  Every visit, every phone call is ripe with potential blog material.  And, because I know I will soon want to write about the kids, I am more attentive and more watchful of the things they say and do when we are together.  This makes me less likely to miss those precious little moments that, when captured and preserved in words, become immortal.

In this way, writing the blog further enriches an experience that is already a life pinnacle.  "Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild."  I believe that statement, and, as Googie, I welcome the opportunity blogging gives me to examine its truth for myself, for the kids, and for you.   

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Naming of the Two

Sorry, Mr. Shakespeare, but I couldn't resist this play on words.  I'm sure you understand, having reached the pinnacle of punship in those masterful comedies you penned all those years ago.  Bear with me here.  I have a story of my own to tell.

"The Two" refers to a pair of newly acquired donkeys in dire need of appropriate monikers.  When said beasts, one white and one gray, took up residence on our farm a couple weeks ago, Pa-pa announced that the official dubbing was to be done by Sooby and Pooh.  My initial reaction was relief.  I had already begun to worry that their names would be something like "Whitey" and "Silver."

It is probably a good thing that Pa-pa and I were not Adam and Eve.  It is the sad truth that, in our thirty-five years together, Pa-pa and I have never seen eye to eye on the fine art of naming our various critters.  It would seem that the old saying about opposites attracting is certainly true in our case.  Pa-pa lives in a literal world, while I tend to inhabit the figurative.  He is "Hee-Haw" and I am "Saturday Night Live."  He is a belly laugh and I am a Mona Lisa smile.

Nothing makes this difference more pronounced than when a new animal joins our menagerie.  For instance, during our years together we have had occasion to name a number of dogs.  I once named our black lab/cocker spaniel mix "Pavlov," which I considered extremely clever and Pa-pa considered ridiculous.  His choice for another dog?  "Red."  (Red, you see, was a red heeler.  You get the idea.)

I once named an orphan calf born on a drizzly spring morning "April Rain."  Beautiful, I thought, even poetic.  Pa-pa's bovine name choices, to mention a few, have included the likes of "Goldie," "Spotty," "Blackie," and "Ring Nose." (The one exception was a bull he named "Dinger," which I considered mildly humorous--but as I say, that was the exception and not the rule.)

When the donkeys first arrived, I will admit, my mind was instantly awash in possibilities.  Because they are females with sweet, friendly dispositions, I went immediately to the "girlfriends" genre of name pairs.  I thought of "Lucy" and "Ethel," but the image of the red hair was troublesome.  I thought of "Laverne" and "Shirley," but I couldn't imagine a hee-haw with a Milwaukee accent.  What I absolutely adored, however, was "Thelma" and "Louise."  (If you saw her, I'm sure you would agree that the white one even looks like a Thelma.)

As luck would have it, the kids were excited about naming the donkeys and took the responsibility very seriously.  To make a long story short, Sooby named the white one "Maisie" and Pooh named the gray one "Rosie."  Not bad names, I suppose, and much more interesting than "Whitey" and "Silver."

As we prepared to leave the farm, I gave a quick departing scratch to the huge, furry ears of Thel--er--Maisie.  I tried not to let my disappointment show.  After all, the kids got such a kick out of picking the names themselves.

But, I couldn't help thinking to myself, if, down the road, Maisie and Rosie try to jump a 1966 Thunderbird convertible over the ravine that runs through the south forty, I won't be able to keep from smirking.  And I won't be able to avoid the superior air that will certainly dominate my demeanor when I say to Pa-pa, "See?  I told you so."