Sunday, May 19, 2013

The "Possessed" Stuffed Animal

Ask anyone who has ever visited the Build a $5,974 Stuffed Bear Store, and they'll tell you, be prepared to take a second mortgage on your home before your little cherub feasts his or her eyes on the rows and rows of animals just waiting to be "adopted" by a nice family like your's!

Once inside the store, you must DO MUCH MORE than merely stuff your child's chosen Bear.  You also have to purchase clothing for your Bear, lest you bring home a naked Bear and are accused by the Department of Stuffed Bears and Family Services of Bear Abuse.

After your child personally cranks the fluff machine to fill his or her Bear with fluff and stuff, it's onto phase two.  This is the point where sweet, and oh so greedy compassionate sales people show your offspring the wide range of latest Bear fashions so that your new Bear will be, without a doubt, the coolest, most stylish Bear on the Block!

Bear shirt - $39.93
Bear pants - $24.74
Bear shoes - $25.63
Bear cheer leader outfit - (Because you never know when you'll be bringing your Bear to the next professional football game) $76.39
Bear super hero costume - (Because you never know when your Bear will be called on the save the world) - $64.73
Bear water bowl - (Because in your child's mind, the Bear is real, and will need to drink!) - $10.95
Bear bed - (Because merely sleeping in the same bed as your child is not good enough - your Bear must have a bed of its own.) - $35.71
Total: Your second mortgage

My 15 year old daughter Melissa received her first delightful taste of Build a Stuffed Bear at the age of six while we were vacationing in Disney Land in California. (Who needs Mickey Mouse when you can stuff your own animal?)  Although the store's name suggested it only carries bears, the animal selection extends far beyond the bear genre.  With patience, Melissa examined the thousands of bears and dogs and cats and monkeys and kangaroos and elephants and beavers and snakes lying there, limp on the shelves, just waiting to be stuffed.

My daughter gave her choice careful thought, and finally picked a black and white dog that she happily named Biscuit.  After we purchased the mandatory accessories for Biscuit, he immediately became a part of our family, in more ways than one.  Melissa took him everywhere!  With tender love, our "2nd child" accompanied us on cars, trains, cruise ships, and planes.

Yes, there were many more visits to Build a Stuffed Bear, and animals of all shapes and sizes joined their cousin Biscuit under our roof.  But none of those "inferior" animals were awarded that special place of honor next to Melissa in her bed each night.  No, those less loved stuffed toys ended up ignored, lying in a pile in her toy chest underneath puzzles and blocks and coloring books.

Over the years, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends have added to Melissa's stuffed animal collection, but still, none compared to Biscuit!  Finally, as my daughter evolved from an innocent baby into the throes of adolescence, we gathered up the 3,953 stuffed animals that littered every nook and cranny of her bedroom, shoved them into three huge boxes, pushed those boxes down the hall and abandoned stored them in our spare bedroom.

Yes. We abandoned stored every last one of them.  Except Biscuit.

Even though her favorite black and white stuffed pup no longer accompanied us on vacation, he still remained a steady presence on her pillow every night.  A tender reminder of her sweet innocence, and a sign that perhaps I could hold back time.

Recently, as rain pelted the windows, Melissa sat in the hallway while I carried a mop, broom, paper towels, bucket of sudsy water, and plenty of sponges into our spare bedroom. Unfortunately, I had neglected this particular area of our house for years, and had made a vow to finally get in there and tackle nearly a decade's build up of dust and dirt.

Task number one - go through the 3,953 stuffed animals that had been lying there, ignored for years.  I thought that some of them might hold special meaning for Melissa.  So out of courtesy to her, before I simply donated the entire box to charity, I held up each animal, one by one, to see if there were any she wanted to keep.

Melissa smiled as each toy brought back treasured memories of how and when it came into her life. Yet she consented to give the majority of them away, content to let her collection bring happiness to another child who may not be as fortunate.

As I neared the bottom of the box, I picked up a yellow doll called "La La" from the Teletubbies (the worst children's TV show ever created).  We both laughed as we remembered how much she used to sit for hours watching the antics of the dreadful Teletubbies.  Then, after she shook her head to indicate that "La La" was no longer welcome in our home, he joined his animal friends in the hefty bag that would soon make its way to Goodwill.

Suddenly, Melissa and I distinctly heard the sound of "La La" coming from the depths of the bag.

In a high-pitched voice as clear as day, he said......................................................

"Bye Bye"

We started at each other in horror!

Did "La La" know we were giving him away?

Could "La La" be possessed?

Would "La La" crawl his way out of the bag in the middle of the night and take out his revenge,  Chucky style, on his former owner and her mother???

So Melissa and I did the only thing we could think of at that moment.

We laughed!

And laughed!

And laughed some more!

Oh well, if "La La" does decide to attack, at least Biscuit will be there to protect my daughter, for Biscuit still holds his place of honor on her pillow.  Somehow, I don't think Melissa will ever part with Biscuit.  For as long as he stays, she holds onto a piece of her early years, and I get to cling to my baby, for just a wee bit longer.

"Biscuit", who came into Melissa's life nearly 10 years 
ago, still holds his place of honor on her bed!

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother of the Bride Dress Shopping

Last September, after a hectic holiday dinner involving some 15 people, my step-daughter Jessica and her boyfriend Brian helped us clean up, lingered a bit until everyone had said their hour-long goodbyes, and then closed the door behind them in preparation for their three hour journey back to Washington, DC.

No more than five minutes passed when my husband Bob, 15-year old daughter Melissa, and I heard the door creak open again.  Curious, we made our way to the front foyer only to see Jessica and Brian standing there, unsuccessfully trying to hide their sheepish grins.

"We wanted to be the first to tell you, and we wanted to wait until everyone went home," said Jessica, a hint of anticipation in her voice.

Bob and I met each other's eyes.  Were we about to hear the announcement that we'd hoped would be coming for months on end?

Indeed, we were!  Jessica and Brian were going to be married!

Although bursting with excitement, the announcement would have to wait until Brian officially presented Jessica with a ring.  Until then, I vowed to uphold my commitment to secrecy, and in true "spy" fashion, I told my two best friends, all of my co-workers, the hair dresser, the dry cleaner, the mail man, nobody!

As the December holiday season approached, with a beautiful diamond just dazzling on Jessica's hand, we could finally start talking about the wedding!  Slated for August, I thought I had plenty of time to lose 3,000 pounds so that I could fit into the perfect, sleek, "out of the pages of a fashion magazine", mother of the bride knock 'em dead dress!

Fast forward five months.

The wedding is now less than 90 days away, and I am completely perplexed that my daily intake of pizza, pasta, pretzels, and frozen yogurt has not helped me achieve my weight loss goals.  I mean....the yogurt was even fat free!


Last month, my oh so patient friend Angelica agreed to accompany "Orca the Whale" to several dress shops in hopes of finding the perfect fit.  Part of my challenge lies in my age.  At 48, I am not the typical age of a mother of the bride.  In fact, Jessica and I are only ten years apart. (No, I am not married to an 89-year old man. Bob happened to be quite young when Jessica came into his world.)

Our first attempt at finding the perfect dress yielded limited results.  The racks were filled with dresses of the wrong size, style, color, and fabric.  What's more, when I explained my proud status as mother of the bride, seemingly helpful sales ladies pointed me in the direction of dresses designed for 69-year old, size 28 women.


On our next attempt, we made the short journey down the road to David's Bridal, where a much larger selection offered a glimmer of hope. After nearly breaking the zipper while attempting to try on dresses that were the same size as my professional work clothes, I finally consented to allow Angelica to bring me a (gulp) LARGER SIZE.

In the meantime, I called Bob and told him to set aside our retirement savings for therapy, as every woman knows that the need to advance to a larger size results in a nervous breakdown.

Finally, I tried on a dress that could possibly work. I managed to get the zipper up without needing gastric bypass surgery, and, after stealing a glance in the mirror, I thought, "Hey, I don't look half  bad!"

Still, logic told me that the perfect dress might still be waiting, somewhere hidden in a crowded clothing rack at a fancy boutique in a far away land.  So I did not purchase the "not bad" dress, but took plenty of photos in case I changed my mind so that I could always go back and order it online.  I also held onto the ridiculous possibility that I might actually drop a pound or two and could order the smaller size. (Yes, I'll address this delusion during my therapy sessions.)

Yesterday, Angelica and I again resumed our search for the impossible to find dress. We walked into a fancy boutique and the sales lady, envisioning a huge commission, greeted me with a warm smile.

"I am looking for a dress for my step-daughter's wedding," I explained with a slight hint of hope in my voice.

"How nice," she exclaimed!  "Is your budget over or under $1,000?"

Thunk! (The sound of me fainting)


Significantly UNDER!

After the smelling salts brought me back to a state of consciousness, Angelica and I tried to think of a polite way to gracefully leave the store without having the sales lady think that my budget would barley get me a dress made out of a paper bag.


Well, at least I can afford some frozen yogurt, and lots and lots of therapy.

My "oh so patient" friend Angelica and me!

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Frozen on the HIGH DIVE!

The diving board loomed thousands of feet into the air.... reaching heights of epic proportions and nearly touching the clouds.

Well, at least that what it seemed like from the perspective of a "not so brave" 13-year old girl.

Sure, I could swim.  That skill had been perfected early on thanks to forced lessons at summer camp and the insistence of my father who picked up where the swim instructors left off.  In fact, I could even perform a fairly decent dive.  I'd stand at the edge of the water in the deep end of the Olympic size pool at Southampton Swim Club, making sure that at least one or two of the cute teenage lifeguards were watching.  Then I'd push off, entering the water head first with the skill and grace that surely would have earned me a "10" at any professional competition. (In reality, the more appropriate score probably would have been a "2".)

But take a head first plunge off the HIGH DIVE?!  No way!  That feat was reserved for the mighty, the brave, the fearless...AKA... the popular teens.

In fact, the sign in front of the HIGH DIVE might as well have read:

Gawky, chubby, 13-year old girls with braces, glasses, and big noses not admitted.

The terrifyingly tall HIGH DIVE loomed over the aptly named "diving tank".  A smallish, 12-foot deep pool reserved only for jumping, flipping, flopping, skipping, or diving off of one of two boards:

1. The normal, regular, run of the mill type of board, situated a mere two feet above the water
2. The.......... (cue the Jaws theme music) HIGH DIVE 

Occasionally my friend Joy and I would take turns on the low dive, happily waiting in line for the chance to strut our stuff on this simple, inviting, not so scary board.  

Then, one day, life as I knew it changed forever.

Joy got in line for the HIGH DIVE.

No, this could not be happening.  My friend could not abandon me!  We had made a silent pact born out of fear of breaking every bone in our body.  We would not, could not, should not ever, ever, ever, go near the HIGH DIVE.

It didn't matter that taking the 20,000 foot plunge off of the terrifying apparatus would give me the sliver of a chance of being inducted into that oh so exclusive club of "popular" kids who apparently came into this world without a fear of anything.  Yes, I wanted to shed the title of "nerd", but I  simply didn't have the nerve.

I watched with jealousy as Joy climbed the ladder to the sky, stepped tentatively on the 
HIGH DIVE, walked to the edge, and took the plunge.

When her head reappeared from the depths of the pool, a huge grin showcased the delight on her face.  "It's not that scary Lisa," she encouraged with enthusiasm. "Seriously, you should try it!"

With terror in my heart, I took my place in line for the (yes, you guessed it -  the theme from Jaws is playing again) HIGH DIVE!

At least seven kids stood in line in front of me. Then six.  Five! Four! THREE! (GULP) TWO! (Yikes)  One! (AAAHHHHH!!) 


I put one foot on the ladder, then another, and up and up and up and up and up and up I climbed.

Finally, I reached the surface of the HIGH DIVE.

I tiptoed towards the edge of the board, telling myself over and over that I could do it.  Finally, there I stood, at the very tip of the board, looking down at the water below and facing three choices.

1. Jump to my death.
2. Turn around, face utter humiliation, and climb back down the ladder.
3. Do nothing.

Much to the dismay of the 3,985 kids now lined up waiting to get their turn on the 
HIGH DIVE, I chose option number three.

Quite simply...I froze.

I'm not sure how long I stood there at the edge of the board, contemplated the horrible situation I had created.  The jeers of my fellow jumpers echoed as if from a distant planet.  

"Just jump already!"
"Jump or climb back down!"
"You are holding up the line!"
"C'mon, stop it, stop being such a coward."
"Just jump"
"Just jump!"

Eventually one of the cute lifeguards got into the act, kindly encouraging me to make a decision so that the rest of the kids who were not total geeks could actually enjoy their day at the swim club.

Still, I froze.

The jeers of the crowd below grew louder.  Kids young and old as well as the grown ups who were usually too busy playing cards or gossiping to care about such mundane things as swimming stopped what they were doing to investigate the ruckus at the HIGH DIVE.

Five minutes turned to 10....then 15....then 20.

Still, there I stood at the edge of the HIGH DIVE, frozen in terror.

Drastic times called for drastic measures. In came the BIG GUNS....the owner of the swim club.

He made his way over to the diving tank, and the kids in line parted ways to make room for his approach up the ladder.  

At that moment, for reasons to this day that are still unknown....I threw caution to the wind..... 





Bravery had triumphed!  

When I emerged from what I has assumed would have been my watery grave, I swam over to the ladder, climbed out of the diving tank, turned to Joy and said...............................................

"That was fun!  Let's do it again!"

The HIGH DIVE at Southampton Swim Club, circa - mid 1970s. In retrospect, it probably was not quite as high as I had imagined!  Also, sadly, the swim club no longer exists, as the valuable land now plays host to a housing development.

If you like my stories, feel free to tell me in the comments sections below.