Security Breach

Last week, we woke up and discovered that we had been victims of a home invasion robbery.

Foolishly, we had left the back door open to the night breezes and everyone knows that a flimsy screen door doesn’t stand in the way of a determined burglar.

The door opens onto a balcony and only scaling the walls to the second floor will put you a position to know whether the door was actually open. We thought we were safe.

Afterward, my daughter remembered seeing a movement from the corner of her eye two days prior, a quick shadow in the evening gloom, hanging around our garage and disappearing when she turned to get a better look.

He was casing the joint. Waiting for his moment. Admiring the goodies he imagined were inside.

The dirty rat broke into our home in the wee hours on Monday and took his time wandering around, deciding what he wanted.

I shudder to think we were all deep asleep and heard nothing. What if our bedroom doors had been open? What if we had heard footsteps and gone to investigate? I can only promise you one thing for sure: I would have taken one look and run into the streets shrieking. To my shame, I would have left my family in the house asleep and hailed a cab headed for anywhere else.

I’m helpful like that.

Instead, I staggered into the kitchen that morning and saw the destruction left in this guy’s wake. He obviously took a joy ride through the place. There were big, fat rat droppings everywhere, and puddles that glistened in the early light.

I did an about-face and shrieked for Hubby. Bad enough I had valiantly fought the ants all summer, now we had rodents. Maybe roaches are next. We did find that scorpion once. And termites are common here.

Best to burn the house down and start over with a concrete tilt-up and a gallon of caulk.

What’s the world coming to when you risk dying of plague in your own house?

My sweet Hubbs went into the kitchen while I showered even the thought of rats off of me, and he covered everything in sight with Lysol. All of it. To soak. The droppings got fatter.

He threw away the food that was on the countertops and wiped most of the rat bits from crevices and told the kids that making peanut butter sandwiches for school was totally doable on our new, clean sofa. Probably. Then they all left.

I threw everything in the area made of fabric into the washing machine on the hot wash/extra rinse cycle, and pushed the go button. Shrink if they must, but I’m not carrying leptospirosis into the world on my spandex and starting a pandemic.

What if the rat was still in the house? What if he was hiding under the washing machine waiting to jump me with his sharp little incisors and scratchy scrambly claws when no one was around to save me? The thought kept me motivated. You’ve never seen such discipline. I poured a gallon of bleach and an ounce of water into the mop bucket and shined every bit of floor. The ants were very confused. I considered washing down the walls and ceiling.

There was no police report I could file. I had no witnesses, no suspect in cuffs, no video surveillance, and our alarm system hadn’t been activated that night. Certainly not at three inches above floor level. The police couldn’t help me, but I have the right to bear arms. I loaded up on rat traps.

When we visited the animal shelter three weeks ago, I had looked around for an anteater, which is definitely my first choice of pet, but they mostly had cats and dogs. They did have a horse outside.

And a cage in the lobby.

With a rat in it named Ginger.

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband

To every other little bride
Who has a “Bob” to please,
And says she’s tried and tried and tried
To cook with skill and ease,
And can’t! – we offer here as guide
Bettina’s recipes!

To her whose “Bob” is prone to wear
A sad and hungry look,
Because the bride he thought so fair
Is – well – she just can’t cook!
To her we say: do not despair;
Just try Bettina’s Book!

It’s been 100 years, ladies. And I want to know. Can you cook yet?

This little gem, circa 1917, is on my bookshelf, a wedding present from Hubby’s younger brother who stole it, I am sure, from a distant great-aunt’s box of cookbooks, gifted partly in jest and partly in fear that I would try to cook a chicken without looking inside of it first…again.

Written in chapters with roman numerals, the book follows the first year of Bettina and Bob’s wedded bliss as they keep house in a bungalow during the roaring ’20s, somewhere in America. Through dialogue with friends and family, we discover that “new fashioned breakfast foods are for feeding the stock, not human beings!” We learn what Bettina keeps on her “emergency shelf”: cans of pimentos and tuna, jars of dried beef, marshmallows and macaroni, a one-pound box of salted codfish. With a thousand ways to please a husband and three of them are “Jellied Beef”, “Radishes”, and “Peanut Butter Sandwiches”, I’m confused.

But what can you expect? When an engagement is announced, it’s toasted with…grape juice. Like. Until 1933. And, fresh out of World War I, “dainty, delicious, and simple” are the words of the day. This can be interpreted as: tiny little portions. Her flower arrangements are bigger. Good thing dessert is included almost every night. Bettina meets Bob on the porch as he returns from work each day, she in her apron, he in his spats. Recipes for “Tuna Loaf”, “Prune Souffle”, and “Ham Timbales” support their complete happiness.

Bettina is quite accomplished in economy (“I always try to use the oven for more than one dish if I am using it at all”), so you won’t find her spending all her allowance on the gas bill (“open fires are so nice”), and full of advice on how to use up those leftovers in the icebox (croquettes, salads, molded, or en casserole). She can remove ink stains with sour milk, heal burned fingers with olive oil, and cleans her steel bread knife by dipping it into the dirt in a flowerpot. I laughed at her newfangled “fireless cooker”, then pondered her jars of jellies and pickles, but when I read her conversation about how to get rid of ants…I got in line. Talk to me, Betty.

“Mrs Dixon was dressed in a trim street costume, but under her veil Bettina could see that her eyes were red, and her lips quivered as she answered, “Forgive me for coming so early, but I just had to. I know you’ll think me silly to talk to you confidentially when I met you only yesterday, but I do want your advice about something.”

“Why my dear, of course. I like economizing; it gives me an opportunity to use all the ingenuity I have.”

“Frank and I’ve lived in a hotel but – lately he’s been so different. Why – he hasn’t been at home with me two evenings a week – ”

“You must be dreadfully unhappy,” interrupted Bettina, “Why, Bob doesn’t like to be away from home any evenings at all.”

“But you’ve just been married!” said Mrs Dixon tactlessly. “Wait and see how he’ll be after a few years! Why, I can’t cook a thing – I can’t even make coffee! Frank says if he could only have one breakfast that was fit to eat – ” and she buried her face in her handkerchief.

“Why Mrs Dixon!” cried Bettina, cheerfully, although her heart was beating furiously. “Your trouble is the easiest one in the world to remedy! Your husband is just hungry – that’s all! You do just as I tell you for one month and I’ll guarantee that Frank will be home every single minute that he can!”

Coffee

7 T-coffee
3 T-cold water
1/2 T-egg white
4 1/2 C-boiling water

  1. Scald the coffee pot
  2. Add the coffee, cold water and egg-white
  3. Mix thoroughly, add the boiling water
  4. Boil two minutes
  5. Allow to stand in the pot one minute
  6. Serve
  7. Brace yourself

San Diego, August 28, 1965

She wore a hot pink and black granny dress chosen specially for the event, and white go-go boots zipped up the back of her calfs. The boots she had begged for and received last Christmas. Her straight-as-a-pin strawberry blonde hair swirled around her shoulders as she hopped into the car, her freckled face rosy with excitement.

A sophomore at Castle Park High School, she barely knew the three senior girls who were giving her a ride to the concert that night. But it didn’t matter. This wasn’t a concert you take your boyfriend to. Her parents weren’t interested. And she needed to get there.

The girls parked in the lot of the Balboa Stadium, a horseshoe shaped AFL venue, home of the newly acquired Los Angeles Chargers. A pack of cigarettes was passed around, but after two coughing fits, her attempt at senior-level coolness was abandoned. The ride was enough.

With hard-earned nickels, she had purchased an advance ticket for a front-row seat, the very best in the house for $5.50: on the field, with only a rail between the bleachers and an elevated stage. The girls pushed toward their seats, surrounded by over 17,000 fans.

The opening acts began. King Curtis Band, Sounds Incorporated, Discotheque Dancers, Brenda Holloway, and Cannibal & The Headhunters. Each new band raised the anticipation level for what was to come as the sun set in the west and stadium lights flickered on. In the open air that warm August night it was a challenge to not overheat from singing, dancing, or simply leaping over the benches with impatience.

150 San Diego police roamed the area, keeping fans in place. The chanting thousands stood up, searching for any sign of the impending phenomenon. Her hand kept straying up to the commemorative pin given out by the sponsoring local radio station, KCBQ, the station who knew her by name, she called in so regularly with song requests.

And now they were bringing her the music in person. She could hardly stand the wait.

Just after 9pm, the British Invaded.

The screams reached octaves that only dogs can hear, it’s likely ships in the harbor began evasive action. The Beatles ran on stage and began a one and only, last minute concert in San Diego. There was mass gyration, a flailing of female forms, as devoted fans completely lost their minds. Our sophomore, only Sweet 16, watched John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr performing only a few feet away, their perfect mouths singing into microphones…and couldn’t hear a single note.

With no intermission, they played a dozen hits: their truncated version of Twist And Shout, followed by She’s A WomanI Feel FineDizzy Miss LizzyTicket To RideEverybody’s Trying To Be My BabyCan’t Buy Me LoveBaby’s In BlackI Wanna Be Your ManA Hard Day’s NightHelp! and I’m Down.

There were Charger-worthy football tackles as each song brought more fans over the rails. Police held back the tide of sobbing humanity while the Beatles worked off their pre-show dinner of sodas, sandwiches, and KFC.

We know now that this August would mark the last of their commercial concerts, at the end of a frantic four year touring schedule. They could not compete with the fanbase wall of sound, realizing that live performances no longer had anything to do with their music. The next step in their musical journey would be the creation of Sergeant Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band.

So I’m glad our sophomore – when she realized The Beatles were done, when she watched them abandon their instruments on the stage and flee for their lives across the field to a waiting helicopter – hiked up her granny dress and hopped the rail. Racing ahead of the surge, she and everyone else ripped up the turf that the musicians had run their rhythmic shoes over. She held onto that contraband fistful of sod for the next 25 years. In a baggie. Like weed. Until it turned into dust.

She kept it next to every album The Beatles ever made, heaps of memorabilia, and of course, her KCBQ pin.

Fast forward to June 6, 2019. I’m at the Fair, standing right in front of the stage, singing at the top of my lungs with the band: The Fab Four. I’m delighted that my childhood training was so thorough: I know all the lyrics. I know all the dance moves. I hitched a ride with girlfriends. I’m only missing the go-go boots.

I’m happy to report that mom never did take up smoking, although The Beatles were all heavy smokers and worse. KFC, however, remains a family delicacy.

Get it While It’s Hot

I guess I saw this moment coming, I just didn’t realize it would arrive so quickly.

My children are splitting up their inheritance and I’m not dead yet.

As begins most of my plights, I was going along, minding my own business, cleaning stuff. This is my happy place and people should respect it. By people, I mean the quasi-adult humans that I spent many hours and several body parts birthing in a hospital and the rest of my life cleaning up behind. We are hosting actual adults this summer and naturally, this means my feather duster is putting in some overtime.

I cleaned out my bookcase.

Here’s how that looked in my mind: These treasures came from a used book shop for a quarter each. They are ratty because they were loved but no one reads them anymore. I shall return them to the shelves from whence they came and rejoice some stranger’s heart.

Here’s how that looked to my kids: These treasures came from Mom’s bookshelf and they are spun from pure gold. They are ratty because I accidentally left them in the tree fort/floor of my car/washing machine. I shall rescue these irreplaceable tomes and anything else not nailed down before my mother’s dementia progresses to the point where she can’t remember that I wanted that!

Now. As I descend from a long line of women who kept stuff around just for the pleasure of dusting it, I am not emotionally bound to any one item. If it delights the heart of my children, by all means take it now. They can dust it for me and decide whether I get visitation rights.

But. In the back of my aged mind I hear warning bells. Don’t confuse the real things with the fake. I’m not talking about diamonds. I’m discussing relationships. Things are replaceable. Books are dime a dozen. You only have one Mom and her shelf life isn’t quite the same.

Well, depending on who you ask, I suppose.

You may have noticed, no one is ever pronounced “dead” at a funeral. Lots of interesting phrases though – the latest trend being “celebration of life” – because who wants to be a Debbie Downer when someone exits their current house full of loot, never to return?

Most religions subscribe to a “Me, Act 1” and “Me, Act 2” version. There’s a ‘before’ and an ‘after’. It’s uncomfortable to discuss the turning point. No one likes to dwell on that little detail. But you’re not dead.

Buddhists would have me doing re-runs until Netflix is obsolete. Not so exciting, but steady work.

Hindus would put me in a mini-series (starring Angelina Jolie).

But if this life is a one-off, he who dies with the most toys wins. Of course, if you’re the lucky dead dude, you yourself won’t know you won, but everyone left standing around will, and as that’s the whole point, it’s a win-win. That would be cause for celebration, certainly.

They will put my ashes in an urn or my photo in a frame, and set me on the shelf with the books they rescued and dust us all the same. I’m okay with that, because I read a Book that says dead is dead and dust is dust and if I am interested in an Act 2 I should bring it up with the Big Guy and make resurrection arrangements.

Meanwhile, allow me to suggest an excellent book: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.

No, you can’t have it. Yet.

I am merely suggesting that if we’re going to go around putting PostIt notes under the big-screen TV and the InstantPot, there had better also be a modicum of manners.

I’m not dead. Yet.

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten.”
Ecc 9:5