Doing The Laundry With George

Growing up, my family lived in an old red brick apartment building in Queens, NY. The apartment building was its own little village on six floors. There was a feeling of comfort and safety having neighbors and friends around us.

I had good friends in the building and I ate many meals in my friends’ homes. In Lotti’s kitchen I always ate home-made matzoh ball soup, the matzoh balls light and airy. She introduced me to my first milkshake, made with chocolate and vanilla ice cream and served in tall, cold glasses.

Vanilla Kipferl (Vanilla Crescents)

Vanilla Kipferl (Vanilla Crescents) (Photo credit: sharon.schneider)

In Omi’s house, (my friend Linda’s grandmother) we settled into over sized chairs and we ate many home-baked cookies: granulated sugar-coated vanilla crescent cookies and chocolate kiss surprise cookies. To this day I can feel the taste of the melting sugar on my tongue, I have seen several duplicates in stores but they missed a very important ingredient: Omi’s special kind of love. I didn’t have grandparents and Omi made me feel like part of the family.

English: Windows in the red brick wall of an a...

My older sister and I, individually, had to do the laundry as our chore. In an apartment building, a couple of old washing machines and one dryer lived questionably in the basement. The basement was dank, dark, dimly lit and uninviting. Thinking back, there never seemed to be anyone else down there doing laundry, it was an experience you just wanted to hurry up and finish, it felt scary being there alone.

I would lug the metal shopping cart, that we also used for groceries, and hold on to it with both hands grasped behind me. It always left a lingering metallic smell on my fingers.The elevator always shook and made loud scraping mechanical noises as it bumped and lurched to a stop in the basement.

The only person who lived in the basement was George, the handyman.  We assumed from his accent he came from Romania or Russia but that was never confirmed.  George was a happy and unconventional man. When you talked to him, most likely he was upside down, standing on his head. There was nothing scary about him, in fact, when the door to his room in the basement was ajar we always felt safer.

Clowns Upside Down on the Ceiling

Clowns Upside Down on the Ceiling (Photo credit: wht_wolf9653)

George spoke little English but every so often he would determinedly either call himself Mr. Rockefeller or call my father Mr. Rockefeller; why we don’t know.

We accepted George the way he was as if he was a character jumping out of the pages of a John Updike novel, smelling slightly of old, cheap wine. All the mothers said “he was harmless.” Back then, he was.  In the sixties, that was normal, we trusted people. We didn’t even question his unusual style, we just laughed with him.

If you were lucky the two washing machines would be free when you had to do the laundry, the sense of achievement and happiness would be intense. I would dig my sweaty fingers into my jeans pockets, front and back, to find three quarters for each machine. The smooth shiny coins were placed in the slotted circles, I waited to hear the metal clinking sound as they dropped down.  Once I put in too much soap and bubbles, huge iridescent sudsy bubbles, started cascading down from the machine, everywhere. I was both thrilled and terrified at the same time. I ran for George.

There was one large dryer but more fascinating were these huge hanging racks that we would have to pull out of the wall and drape clothing on the clothing rods; how this was allowed and sanctioned by the fire department I will never know. Once we pulled back the steel rods and draped our clothing we could see the individual fires blazing. After we pulled our clothes from the hanging rods the clothes were stiff and scratchy. There were no fabric softeners, anything that was on those rods to were as crisp as burned toast.

Chemical Brothers

George lived in our building for many years, we would try to get  in touch with him by phone but he generally didn’t pick up. More often one of us went to his room and knocked loudly on his door.

One day, he disappeared, no one had seen him for a while. Everyone was talking about it but he literally vanished from one day to the next.

In my young imagination, I decided he must have rejoined the circus, as of course, a clown. He already had the sweet smile, the jolly personality and the impeccable skills for standing on his head.

When I remember George I remember him upside down, firmly saying “Mr. Rockefeller.” Why he did this nobody knew, but we all accepted him for who he was.  No one ever heard from him again but after all these years, I never forgot him.

 

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Decluttering My Life

Clutter

Clutter (Photo credit: marlana)

First, I thought I might be a hoarder, and believe me I am in no way making a joke out of this. I read that hoarding starts with keeping sentimental things. If that’s how it starts then I am in big, big trouble. If I look around my house, though, the clutter is really just in my bedroom and my (once) big walk-in  closet. You can’t walk into it anymore. I ‘m scared, truly scared, as I look around my bedroom filled with Diet Snapple bottles and magazines, candles, plates, lavender moisturizing creams, piles of paper… I need to breathe, I  need to breathe.  Other rooms in the house “look” fine, for example: the living room but my room and my closet are humiliating and filled with junk. Boxes and boxes, laundry baskets and laundry baskets filled with everything but laundry.

If I declutter my house, will my head and heart be clearer too?

Lately, I have misplaced things too. My keys, my sunglasses, my plane ticket,  lipstick, my book, my jacket. Also, recently I have been very stressed out, emotionally. This is MORE than my nemesis Fibro Fog from Fibromyalagia. I misplace one thing after another, panicking and starting the cycle over again. There has to be a connection here I’m trying to slow myself down, so far it isn’t working. It’s not amusing when I “lose” something, my daughter helps me find it, ( I always find things,) I misplace things rapidly. I need to slow down.

I can’t deal with anything when I am feeling so overwhelmed. I need to start cleaning and organizing now, actually yesterday. I feel the stress in my stomach. I always feel stress first in my stomach, is that just me or does it happen to everyone? The tender points in my neck and shoulders are all raw, tap me lightly on a tender point and I will let out a blood-curdling scream. Last week the edge of my husband’s sleeve brushed against me and my scream was so awful and so loud that it scared both of us. Damn disease.

Next morning: I can breathe a little easier today, I really did work myself into a panic but once I started organizing my room and recycling a lot of papers and magazines I felt better. There’s still a lot on my mind, I don’t feel settled yet, but even if I make a tiny bit of progress it will make me fell more in control. Of everything. I will need to work things out, in my head and in my heart. I will do all that while I am cleaning, because cleaning will give me more control, I just feel that. I can’t be wrong. Can I?

Household Chores

I’ll Take Laundry If You Take Dusting

Dishwasher

Least favorite: the dishwasher. Particularly UNloading it. I can deal with loading it, not that I like it, but even then I get criticized for it not being done in a military precise way. Hey, it gets clean, stop complaining. Unloading dishes? I need my favorite music blasting in the kitchen to distract me, it’s really such a boring job and I just feel like putting them all in one place.

I LOVE to go grocery shopping and I like doing the laundry though sorting and folding and putting away I could do without. Maybe we could switch our dislikes with other people and it would be a perfect, blogging, household cleaning world! What do you think?

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Plinky: How Do You Define A Friend?

Hot Glass, Ice Cubes and Room Temp Cola causes...

Image by srboisvert via Flickr

I had a best friend for years, where trust, laughter, love and an eager dining companion perfected my single world.  Her name was Katy and we met in a small apartment building in a suburb of Boston. We were the “Mary” and “Rhoda” of the 80’s. The only thing missing from our studio apartments, one above the other, was the big first initial of our names hanging on the wall, just like Mar had. We met in the tiny laundry room one day where she gave me advice about wrinkles. When she grabbed my clothes from the washing machine, and shook them out, I felt a little uncomfortable.

We had been best friends for years and when I met the boyfriend I would eventually marry, I couldn’t wait to  introduce him to my best friend.  I admit, the first meeting was a little awkward; Katy was polite yet distant. Their was no warmth as we passed vegetable lo mein and chicken with broccoli amongst the three of us.

Later, my husband and I introduced her to the man she would marry, a friend of my husband’s. Katy and Bob were both loners and somewhat eccentric but we took enormous care in matching them up. There was no doubt in my mind that they would take to each other and they did. We danced at their wedding while my husband and I waited for the toast to us the “matchmakers.” There was none. The bride and groom sat alone, away from their family and friends, secluded from their own party. No, I was not the maid of honor.

There were normal friendly disagreements, like in any friendship, yet Katy never wanted to talk things out; she hated any type of confrontation. Looking back, our friendship was at its peak when I constantly placated her. When I became a more confident, independent person she did not like it yet she wouldn’t talk about it either. This started the chilly decline and her withdrawal. All of a sudden the warmth I had initially felt became a fake veneer, breaking glass to reveal nothing but ice.

One devastating situation that I shared with her was when my husband and I were trying to have a baby and I was depressed. She was in my car when I broke down once and sobbed. Back in the late eighties and early nineties no one talked about infertility treatments, it was a hushed topic filled with shame and heartbreak.

After two and a half years of painful infertility treatments I FINALLY got good news. I got a call from the nurse in the doctor’s office telling me I was pregnant; I softly closed the door to my office, sank on the dirty carpet, and wept. We waited through the first trimester with extreme caution telling no one except for immediate family.

I couldn’t wait to tell my best friend the news! She was so special to me I didn’t want to tell her on the phone so I invited her to dinner at her favorite restaurant.  With my voice filled with emotion, my Diet Coke shaking in my cold hands, I told her that I was pregnant and she was going to be an aunt. I waited for her response with tremendous excitement. I was expecting a shout of glee, a warm hug, excitement but there was nothing but silence. Nothing.  What I did get was a frozen expression and a few tears trickling down her face. She wouldn’t even talk; I was in utter shock, deeply disappointed and confused. When I questioned her reaction all she said was “I’m fine.”

What happened later is not my story to tell and I will not share her secrets because it’s not my place.  Her husband confided in us and told too many intimate things. I told Bob that we didn’t want to be put in the middle of their drama, that he should talk to her. He didn’t. When I tried to talk to Katy she denied everything and lied to my face. I can accept a lot in a relationship but lying is absolutely abhorrent to me. Tell me it’s none of my business but do not look me in the eye and lie.

Once pregnant, she dropped me, cold. I didn’t understand. There was nothing I could do to re-establish the bond which I thought was absolutely unbreakable. For many years I tried to reconnect but she didn’t want to have anything to do with me. She made that very clear. I can’t say I didn’t have clues, I had many: the way she treated her parents and only saw them once, maybe twice a year. They were not allowed to visit her in Boston.There were many other signs, I saw the pieces of the puzzle but never put it together until now. She was emotionally damaged and people had been telling me that for years. I just couldn’t believe them, I didn’t want to believe them. My very best friend in the world, not only broke my heart but shattered it. She ended our friendship quickly and abruptly as if she was throwing an emotional grenade in our direction, then she turned and fled. Not looking back. Ever.

Prednisone Bitch, Part 2 (ENERGY!!!)

The Energizer Bunny

Image by Ben+Sam via Flickr

I just made 5  huge portions of baked ziti and covered them all with shiny aluminum foil. I put two small portions in the freezer, for my daughter (she’s a vegetarian) I made a big one for all of us to eat tomorrow night and made 2 to give to a friend.  I also made chilled peach soup with spices  for my friend and bought her a still-warm Italian bread from the bakery as well as a bag of brownies. I delivered the food, found room in our crowded refrigerator for ours and practically buried my head in the freezer to make room for the rest.  I have folded three loads of laundry, have one load in the washing machine that I will soon transfer to the dryer. I loaded the dishwasher and ran it, and then washed various pots and pans by hand, rapidly. This is so not me, this is me on steroids; I could be a walking, no sprinting, advertisement about drugs: this is my body on steroids, this is my body without; what a difference!  I am spritzing  Fantastik on paper towels to wipe up spills, I am cleaning up the house. My movements make me dart back and forth and I am talking at a really fast pace. I actually think my husband prefers me like this, the “energizer bunny” onspeed and not my usual low-key self. He better not get used to it because in a few days it’s all over and I will be back to my old chronic pain and fatigued self. Unfortunately.

I know it will be depressing when I come 0ff of this steroid high but it’s amazing how good I feel. Rush, rush, rush. My fingers can’t  type as fast as my thoughts are running, streaking through my head. My son, looks at me both amusement and  concern: “Mom, calm down” he advises, but I explain to him that I cannot. I will however, be back to my usual sub-par pace in a mere few days. As for now, I feel chipper; a little too chipper. Remind me later, friends, when this wears off, what it felt like to read this, to feel this, to embrace this because every day I will feel less and less energized, more and more lethargic. I am the movie “Cocoon” for those of us old enough to remember. I am “Cocoon” the re-make, 2010.

Luckily, the bitchiness of the first day is over and I am no longer throwing darts, figuratively, at someone’s head. I am not sending off vapid e-mails and insulting comments, that was bad-me, ” Prednisone Bitch-Me.”  Thankfully, she  has left, departed, disappeared, leaving behind sparks and energy.  It was as if wild-me had been let out of hiding after many years or I had broken out of prison. The energy is here, the meanness is gone, it was a good trade.

Perhaps I will go to bed late tonight ( can you see me tiring out quickly?) and do a few more chores, instead of what I usually do: read in bed, watch a little Food Network television ( or Bravo or Travel) and play on my computer. Luckily, I have already DVR’d a few shows, which I have never done before but accomplished that this morning after my first cup of really strong, aromatic, Bustello coffee. Now I know that I can watch these shows at my leisure, when leisure finds its way back to me, say in about 4 days or so. Right now, I can’t at all describe myself as leisurely.

The first night I was on Prednisone I was roaming the house, inside, up and down my 13  carpeted steps because I could not fall asleep, I was up until after 2am, now I know why. Last night, with my allergies so bad I had to take a Benadryl, I nodded off at about 12:30am. My usual bedtime sans Prednisone is about 10:30 and that’s on a really good night.

My mind races, my legs, that usually, carry the weight of the world, walking slowly  and painfully in sneakers has all but disappeared. I am practically frolicking. It’s like a vacation from chronic pain, fatigue, fog, and lethargy. I am very alert though when someone is speaking to me I don’t listen as carefully because my mind is already formulating the next sentence.

I’ve typed this whole page in less than a few minutes but don’t give me credit. In a few days I probably look back and say how artificial the feeling was, how the energy was just too much. Will I do that? Probably not. I will remember how I felt with great fondness and longing. This is not what normal people feel either, this is steroids, pure and simple, artificial and dangerous and today, it feels good. I’m not going to lie.

The Top 8 Reasons Why It’s Not Good To Have A Torn Ligament (foot)

8 ) you no longer have the stairs to count on as exercise while doing laundry

7) you don’t get to go out to eat and choose what you want

6) if you have assorted chocolate snacks next to you, you eat them all, you can’t go to the kitchen and put them back

5) you can’t do the laundry (see number 8 )

4) if someone visits or calls you, they KNOW you are home

3) your kids pretend you’re just taking one long nap

2) all you think about is if you should watch Ellen or Oprah on TV?

1) Nobody really cares