one day… why dip a madeleine when old friends can just send you a Christmas card?

We get fewer Christmas cards every year. Older relatives and friends are, well, older. Or worse. Younger friends and relatives have taken to the internet. This year, I was happy to hear from a number of former neighbors and old friends, and my goodness did the memories come roaring back.
We lived then in a town that was known for its charm: it teemed with charming gingerbread Victorians, charming Stockbroker Tudors (this means Pre-Depression Extreme Stucco and Half-Timbering), charming Craftsman cottages, charming Dutch Colonials, charming Little Shoppes. The men were all wizards at what they did, the children were all Gifted and Talented, and the women were all Freelance Photojournalists. Everybody was right about most things most of the time.

But strangely, the town began to seem less perfect. It may have begun when Gloria threw out her needlepoint and took up figure skating. Eyebrows were raised.

Then Natasha stopped going to the supermarket and shopped only at a cooperative enterprise run by someone's cousin. She bought stuff she didn't know how to cook and displayed things in picturesque glass jars on her windowsills. Grains, beans and varicolored lentils featured largely.

Clarinda became absent minded and was not invited back into an established carpool when it re-formed after the summer. She didn't notice, because oddly her money seemed to be going further than it had and she spent many pleasant mornings at the mall, mainly at Bloomingdale's, after dropping off her children.
Marcia stopped feeding her kids peanut butter, tuna fish, American cheese and other favorite foods. She sat in front of the tv screen, transfixed by old Julia Child episodes.

I brought a map home from the gas station (yes, olden days) and proved to Himself that the beaches on the east end of Long Island were in fact closer to us than the beloved "local" beaches.


One day Clarinda's husband wondered why it was taking so long for his shirts to come back from the laundry. Clarinda said she'd look into it when she got back.

The skating instructor told Gloria she needed better skates.

Natasha went up to the attic to get some old tees to recycle and found some pieces of lentil loaf wrapped up and hidden in a storage box. The haiku inspired by this discovery was much admired.

Marcia's youngest cleaned his plate and asked for more.

At the mall, Clarinda's Bloomingdale's card was rejected and she was asked to accompany a security guard to the credit manager's office. "No! I'll bring it current by tomorrow!" she called back as she rushed out to the parking lot.

I tried on every bathing suit I could find and decided to expand one stretchy BR bottom with pieces of another.  I thought it might work for the triangle-shaped top pieces, too.

Gloria's skating instructor recommended a two-year contract of private skating lessons and a very expensive brand of skates.

Natasha's husband answered the door to a messenger and gave him ten bucks to delay the delivery by four or five hours. Natasha decided not to tell him she'd overheard this, she'd just wait and see.

I wrote a letter to the President of the local Board of Education, in which I pointed out that none of the French teachers at our high school could speak French and asked for his thoughts.

Clarinda's husband called the laundry to ask about his shirts but the person who answered the phone didn't like his attitude and hung up on him.

Marcia came home from shopping with four live lobsters.

I heard a car pull into my driveway. Fast. Clarinda was at the door, gasping and crying. "Scotty!" she said. "Scotty! Help me, I forgot Scotty!"

"You don't have to be at the school for another hour and a half, Clar," I reminded her.

"Not Alec," she said. "Scotty. Not Alec." Scottie was her youngest. He was walking, but only just.

"Where do you think you left him?" I had helped Clarinda find her car, her husband's car, her purse, her kids' bikes, their lunches, her other purse, her dog, her good raincoat…

"The men's shirts counter in Bloomingdales," and as we jumped into my car and headed out, she told me about the rejection of the card, the meanness of the saleslady, the threatening bulk of the security guard, and how Scotty had been dozing, snoring little toddler snores, in his little portable stroller and she just panicked that she'd never be issued another credit card in her whole entire life and would never be able to buy new shirts to replace the ones that she had never taken to the laundry because she forgot they were in the car and she couldn't just say the laundry lost them because it was 3 or 4 weeks of shirts and that must have been the extra money only it was spent and she'd never forgive herself if Scotty …

As we neared the mall, her breathing became more regular. "I mean, this could happen to anybody, right, Fred? Right?"

"Don't talk to me right now, Clar."

There was a parking space. "I can't be seen in there. They might remember me. You have to go in, pick up something from a counter or two, and casually approach the stroller and walk out with it."

Hoping that Scotty was still asleep, and if he wasn't, that he'd remember me, I entered the store, and in a few strides was at the fateful counter. "There you are, Scotty, I bet you were thinking Mommy forgot you," I said. Do all moms refer to themselves in the third person when speaking to little ones? I certainly hoped so. Scotty was still sleeping and didn't wake up while I wheeled him out. Clarinda had kept the motor running, and she buckled him up, folded the stroller, and we were out of there.

Meanwhile, Gloria remembered that every time a teacher told her she'd benefit from private lessons, it had meant that in fact she had no talent. No talent for piano, no talent for ballet, no talent for tennis…

Natasha got ready for company, checking under cushions and behind curtains for any suspicious objects that could once have been lentil loaf. She lit some scented candles just in case.

Maria told her husband to come home early so he could freshen up, she had a surprise for him. She thought she could hear him grinning over the phone.

Having slept all morning, Scotty refused an afternoon nap, then was cranky and threw his supper dish through a window. "Kid's got an arm," said his father.

Clarinda located the missing shirts in her car trunk and rushed them to the laundry. She decided to give the laundry the credit for searching everywhere and then finding them, and asked for and got a separate ticket for each week's worth.

Natasha changed her menu for the evening. Her neighbors and inlaws were enjoying her bean dip and lentil loaf when a messenger arrived and announced in a loud voice that he was from the publisher and was making a priority delivery of the galleys of her husband's book. "That cost more that ten dollars, you vain piece of garbage," she said in an equally loud voice.

Marcia's husband was surprised to learn that the surprise was Lobster à l'Armoricaine and Chocolate Mousse, but he tucked right in and loved every mouthful, and when she said she was thinking about setting up as a caterer, he said it was a great idea. Her kids volunteered to be Junior Waiters.

Update: Gloria took the right courses and is a certified EMT.

Update: Natasha is still married to the jerk, but she meditates.

Update: Clarinda is still married to Shirtless Mike, who has taken charge of his own laundry and dry-cleaning. Scotty and Alec grew up to have a successful demolition business.

Update: Marcia's husband still eats every bite she puts in front of him. She writes recipes and consults.

Update: I have - and not a moment too soon! - learned what I was meant to do and what my life heretofore has prepared me for. All these years with a NY Giants fan, all these years of desperate football. Finally it has become obvious to me that the Giants are in need of a Voodoo Priestess. Only summoning the right spirits at the right time or times can help them. I got the idea from watching the New Orleans Saints, whose Priestess closed her law practice to be able to devote herself to the team.

Update: I never did hear back from the President of the Board of Education.


  1. well thank god you have found your calling! I am sure nothing that compelling happens in Manhattan! This has all the makings of a new TV series!

    1. I dunno, Wendy, seems there's a lot more to this business of encouraging good things than just a few chalk drawings. Rethinking the priestess business.

  2. I just get cards with their updates, all I know is they're still kickin it.

  3. teeheehee!! I love Clarinda leaving Scotty in the shop!
    I once left Dom in his pram in the park and walked home with just one child.. I think he was about 1 week old, so I was still getting used to having 2 children...
    None of my old friends do or did anything nearly as interesting as yours...

    1. Hi, Ruth, fine line between interesting and aggravating some times...

  4. Clearly, a novel should be in the making here. You have a lot of material! We get some of those "my year in boasts" from a few people who been to Easter Island and the Dolomites,become CEO of something, attended their triplets' graduation from Harvard or some such; otherwise mostly pictures. I love the pictures.

    (Bit late here-- was in FL vegging out)

    1. Hi, Lane, one year someone sent us a wonderful parody of a Christmas letter - diseases, guilty pleas, indictments, cult conversions.... I wished I had the nerve.

  5. Genius. Mos def a novel. You have pretty much described most of the people in the East Bay in this one.."She bought stuff she didn't know how to cook and displayed things in picturesque glass jars on her windowsills. Grains, beans and varicolored lentils featured largely." We didn't send out cards this year, thought no one actually even mentioned it. The fact we were only invited to one Christmas party this probably tells the story...

    1. Thank you! A whole novel is beyond me but I'd love to be your occasional east cost correspondent..

  6. Just scrolled down and found this post. What a corker, so funny and well-observed


As Alice Roosevelt Longworth said, if you've got anything bad to say, sit next to me! No, really, please remember to be kind, and don't say anything fred's mother would not approve of (Diner's mom didn't approve of anything. Including fred.)
Wellfedfred and the Whining Diner reserve the right to edit or delete any comments submitted to this blog without notice if we find:
1. Comments deemed to be spam or questionable spam
2. Comments including profanity or objectionable language
3. Comments containing concepts that could be deemed offensive
4. Comments that attack a person individually
and since there's been a flood of spam lately, we're trying the Robot thing to see if we can block some spam...