Monday, September 14, 2015

Give and you will receive (whether you want it or not)

My mother saved everything and now wants to send it all back
The idea occurred to me several years ago, when shopping for my parent’s anniversary gift. I had no idea what to buy a couple who needed nothing, had everything, and never agreed on anything.

I decide to buy something I liked for myself, figuring I would probably end up with it someday. I didn’t know how prescient that thought would be.

Now that my widowed mother is moving across many state lines into a retirement community, everything I’ve ever given her is coming back to me. Or it would if she had her way. I’ve been fighting off the return flow of goods as best I can, but sometimes it’s easier to take whatever is offered and drive to the nearest Goodwill Donation Center.

Some of my handmade projects should never have survived this long, and yet my mother hesitates to throw them away. Nobody needs a lopsided clay pitcher that proved pottery class wasn't for me. Likewise the carved plaster turtle that looked more like a moving truck.

My mother saved everything that came from the hands of her children, whether bought, crafted, drawn, or published.

I spent many phone calls trying to convince my mother she could get rid of a career’s worth of my writing samples. I had my own copies of the annual reports, magazines, brochures, newsletters and newspaper clippings. It took some doing, but she finally agreed to recycle them. The paper, if not the content, was worth something to someone.

Some arguments have been harder to make than others. In the 1980s, I was hooked on Frostline kits for making down-filled vests and jackets. They came with pre-cut fabric, pre-measured packets of down, all the notions and tools, and easy instructions. I must have made a dozen of them, including a navy jacket for my dad. He wore it for years and then moved to tropical Florida. That was 25 years ago, and he passed away in 2014. The jacket, however, remains, and my mother wants me to take it back.

Lately, my mother has been getting sneaky about returns, mailing me packets of memorabilia. The current batch had postcards and newspaper clippings she kept by her sewing machine. She couldn’t bring herself to throw them away, but I’m not as sentimental.

Sure I enjoyed rereading the 2005 postcard I wrote while sitting in Monet’s garden in Giverny. As for the 1998 newspaper clipping, I barely recognize the corporate me, sitting in my office at Hercules, featured in a round-up article on brief cases. And the sports column I wrote in 1991 is not only relevant but more appropriate today, with the title, “If we run for fun, why does it hurt so much?”

Maybe that’s the whole point of returning gifts and giveaways. It brings back memories, allowing you to mark time gone by. I admit it’s fun to see these archaeological items from my past, but nothing is slowing me down from a trip to the recycling bins.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Living on the sun

As summer winds down, I look forward to cooler days ahead. And not just in a “wouldn’t it be nice” way. I am seriously craving a cooler environment. I used to have a greater tolerance for hot weather. Now, I just melt. I get slow and sleepy. Cranky. And good hair days are few and far between.

My frequent travels to Florida to visit family don’t help. Snowbirds – people who migrate to Florida during the cold winter months back home – actually get some wonderfully livable weather. Me? Too many August trips have tipped the balance. All I seem to get is intense heat, which brings intense storms, followed by more intense heat.

The way I see it, the Florida summer is like living on the sun. I realize I might have a different perception if I were lying on the beach sipping margaritas. Instead, I’m usually doing work around the house or running errands.

Too many times I’ve left my water bottle in the car while dashing into the grocery store. What I return to is boiling water fit for a tea bag. By the time the car air conditioning gets up to speed, I’m back in the garage. I rarely get a chance to blast the cold air anyway, because I’m usually driving with my mother. With her thinned Florida blood, she starts shivering at 75 degrees.

Summers in the Philadelphia area can be scorchers, too, but at least I can count on changing seasons to bring relief. When I’m prepared to sweat – while running, practicing yoga, or exercising in some other way – heat is a bothersome but short-term discomfort. It’s when I’m dressed for some occasion, or fresh from a shower, that I pine for air conditioning.

I’ve been to Arizona, where the lie of dry heat being easier to handle is exposed. Hot is hot, whether dry or humid. There may be less frizz to hairstyles, but it can still feel like standing in a giant oven.

When the temperatures hit the 90s, I become the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. I look green, and I frequently cry, “I’m melting, melting.”

In Florida, I just get condescending looks because this is exactly the weather that attracts vacationers and retirees. The locals say you get used to the heat. The experts say it takes about two weeks to acclimatize to hot weather. I say, on the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.