Almost Heaven

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A couple hanging out and ice fishing near Pittsfield, MA.

I made the mistake of going outside without a coat.

I was running late, talking on my cell phone and jumped in the car. I didn’t think I needed a coat – it was about 30 degrees and the sun was out. That’s practically tropical in this part of New England.

Part of leaving my coat home was wishful thinking. We’re at that point in winter that defines doldrums. Christmas is long since gone, but it’s still January. Gardens are dormant, golf clubs are in storage and it’s too cold to run outside with conviction. Whose bright idea was it to make January so long?

Going without a coat is akin to guys wearing shorts with parkas. I saw this odd fashion statement several times in a college town where anything goes. Shorts and a ski jacket are a contradiction in terms. So are Birkenstock sandals with socks, but plenty of college kids were wearing those too.

These fashion choices are a statement of our collective psyches this time of year. We’re desperate for signs of spring, and we’ll do what it takes to get there. Like someone forcing a forsythia branch for mid-winter color,  we force spring with clothing choices. We know it’s not as good as the real thing, but we’ll take it.

I usually look forward to the Super Bowl, but I may skip it this year. I don’t like the New England Patriots, though Tom Brady is sort of softening me with his new Facebook series Tom Vs. Time. I admire the fact that he works hard to perfect his game, that it doesn’t all come naturally.  It’s heartening to know that his Super Bowl losses still sting after all these years. Score one for honesty.

I like the Philadelphia Eagles even less than the Patriots. My team, the New York Giants, has been out since the season started. I have no interest in watching a game where I want both teams to lose.

With the Super Bowl off my radar, I’m facing the worst of winter with few distractions. The days are blessedly getting longer, but the landscape is mostly muted browns, grays and beiges. The days without sun are the hardest: battleship gray skies that make your brain foggy, and make you want to crawl into bed and sleep until March 21st.

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Going uphill was the easy part.

The Curmudgeon rubbed salt in the wound when he booked a weekend trip three hours north in Williamstown, MA. I generally avoid going north in winter because it feels like I’m heading into the abyss, but I didn’t argue. I’m glad. The mountains are beautiful in the winter, and residents embrace it.

They can’t walk on water, but they love walking on ice. They head to frozen lakes to ice fish, relax on lounge chairs, crack a few frosty cold ones and ride their ATVs and snowmobiles. Some people even put little sheds on the ice where they can hang out for hours waiting for the fish to bite. It takes a lot of confidence to put a structure on ice. I’m not sure I have that level of confidence about anything.

These are the people who make us southern New Englanders feel like amateurs. They’re the ones who shovel snow off the roof, put chains on tires, and spikes on the soles of their hiking shoes. They’re the ones with snowshoes used more than once, cross country skis that make it out of the garage, and mountain bikes used to climb actual mountains.

These are the folks people are talking about when they speak of hearty Yankees. They have no patience for winter wimps who go outside without a coat and then complain of being freezing. They look at you like, “Well, what did you expect Einstein?”

I asked The Curmudgeon if he’d like to try walking on the frozen lake and he shook me off with a story about one of his friends falling through the ice on a small pond in grammar school. We opted for a sensible hike.

There was no snow at the inn, but we failed to account for the rise in elevation and shaded trails. We went to a state forest just over the New York border where every trail was covered in frozen snow. The Curmudgeon wore hiking boots. I wore running shoes with no treads.

Undeterred, we hiked up frozen trails and riverbeds in hopes of getting views and photos that reflected the beauty and majesty of the setting. Every time we thought we were reaching the summit, it was just a small clearing, or the view was obscured by trees. So we kept at it, pausing a disconcerting number of times to catch our breath and for me to remark on how much I was sweating.

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A frosty cold beer and a sip of wine after the hike.

It was one of those hikes where you’re just hoping you don’t slip and break your neck, or worse. The kind where you’re on edge the entire time, stirring up more anxiety and angst that you had when you started out. It required watching every step because making the wrong one could send you sliding down the trail. The kind of hike where you’re consumed with your descent even as you continue to scale.

Of course, what goes up must go down. I’m glad no one else was around  because we looked like two fools clutching trees and branches, sidestepping as if on skis, crawling on all fours and sliding on our backsides.

At one point, The Curmudgeon remarked that I looked like I was on the luge – that tiny sled where people lay flat on their backs. I didn’t have a luge or a brake, both of which would have been nice. I had no idea a protruding stick could hurt so much until I ran over it with my right  thigh. I had to stop to make sure I wasn’t stabbed because it sure felt like I was.

I had no idea The Curmudgeon could be such a gentleman, tossing me his gloves to get me to shut up about my frozen hands. I had no idea my jeans would become soaked in an instant, yet take hours to dry. I had no idea that you shouldn’t celebrate until you navigate the ice-covered parking lot and get in your car.

We didn’t get any magnificent photos at the summit. And upon returning to our car, we realized the best views were from the parking lot and the road.

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A view from the road.

Weight Watchers

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It’s places like this that get us grown-ups in trouble. This is the candy display at Alley’s General Store in West Tilbury, MA., on the lovely island of Martha’s Vineyard. You can spot the Vineyard Salt Water Taffy on the top shelf to the right.  

I did something the last two times I went to the doctor that I’ve never done before: I told them not to tell me my weight.

I’ve been feeling a little chunky (fat) since the holidays, and I didn’t want to know the extent of the damage. So on my way to the doctor’s office, I decided I didn’t want to know my weight.

I didn’t realize this was an option until one of my sisters told me that she always closes her eyes when she gets on the doctor’s scale. Ignorance is sometimes bliss, particularly when you’re waiting for your intensive exercise program to show results.

I felt a little better about my scale phobia after reading today that 45 percent of women postpone or cancel doctor’s appointments because they want to lose weight before getting on the scale. What this means is that nearly half of all women would rather have an undiagnosed medical condition than know their weight.

I don’t know what this says about women. Well, actually I do. We hate scales because we always weigh more than we think we do or should. We’d rather go by the clothes test – if a certain pair of pants or a skirt is tight, we know it’s time to dial back on the ice cream and chips. I once kept a pair of light blue pants with a high waist just to gauge my weight. I hated them, but couldn’t get rid of them because they were my litmus test.

The thing I’ve realized about weight is you either feel thin or heavy, and there’s no middle ground. One month, you’re slipping into your skinny black pants and feeling smug, while the next you’re stuffing yourself in like a sausage. You have no idea how this happened, but you’re now in panic mode, vowing to eat only lettuce until the pants fit.

In my 20s and 30s, I weighed myself every day (obsessive?). In those days, I’d gain about five pounds on the weekends (partay!), and work all week to lose it. I bought a doctor’s scale off my father for $50 because I got tired of store-bought scales being so unreliable. How accurate can a scale be when you can shift your feet and lose five pounds?

I bought the light blue scale in the 80s, and still have it in my basement. My kids and The Curmudgeon step on it regularly, but I avoid it. I realize that weight isn’t the measure of a woman, and that as you age, weight loss is often a symptom of illness or emotional unrest. I’m at an age where I’ll take an extra few pounds if it means feeling well.

Too many people I know who struggled with their weight began dropping pounds when they were sick. My mother-in-law was blessed with a strong, athletic build, but began losing weight like never before one summer. We struggled to keep her in clothes that fit as she waged her battle with an undetermined illness that eventually was diagnosed as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Think about it. Though many of us want to be thin, we’re concerned when we see someone who’s really thin because they look ill. “Are they OK?” we wonder. Watching NCIS New Orleans for the first time in two years last night, I noticed that Lucas Black has lost a lot of weight. I’m not the only one. People on Facebook are questioning whether he’s sick or doing the Paleo diet.

I’m generally pretty good about diet and exercise, but I’ve slipped up over the past few months. Sometimes, it’s harder to pass on Peanut M & Ms and ice cream than others. And hiking in 10 degree weather gets old, particularly when there are so many episodes of Kitchen Nightmares on Netflix that I haven’t seen.

As I’ve pointed out to whomever crosses my path lately, we can’t always be vigilant. In fact, periods of extreme denial often lead to excess. But getting older means cutting yourself a break, and knowing you can always begin again.

As for the scale at the doctor’s office, just close your eyes.

 

Mutt Shots

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Cali’s vet photo.

 

My dog hates going to the doctor as much as I do.

Mention the vet, and Cali’s floppy adorable Lab ears go way back, and her tail flits nervously between her legs. She cowers under the kitchen table, and trembles in the passenger seat of my car.

She knows when we’re near the vet’s office by the myriad of animal smells. I usually crack the window so she can sniff the air, confirming her worst fears. She usually walks in without much fanfare, but it’s downhill from there.

The last time we were there for an ear infection, it took two minutes to get her weight because one of her hind legs was off the scale, and she refused to budge. And while other dogs sit passively with their owners, Cali always makes a scene. She pants, paces and tugs at her leash. She jumps up on the waiting room’s wooden bench to get into my lap. She refuses to take biscuits offered in a futile effort to calm her down.

When the technician calls her name, she looks like she’ll cooperate, then veers sharply for the door. Every time. When we finally get into the tiny examining room and close the door to wait for the vet, she sniffs, whimpers and then barks to leave.

When the vet sees her huddled in the corner, and asks if she’s always so anxious, I say, “She’s usually worse.” And even the vet is slightly amused by her overreaction. “It’s going to be OK Cali,” she says. “I just need to look at your ears.”

I don’t know when dogs begin to fear the vet, but in Cali’s case it began after she was spayed at 6 months old and did an overnight at the vet hospital. I had no idea how attached she had become to us until I went to pick her up. You’d think she’d just been sprung from a year in prison.

In almost nine years, we’ve had our share of health scares with her:  Eating mouse poison during a kitchen renovation project (don’t ask); devouring 30 freshly baked dark and white chocolate cookies (the vet asked for the recipe), and a dog bite that required a trip to the 24-hour veterinary hospital during a blizzard driving ban.

The good news is I made the half-hour trip in great time because there were no other cars on the road. The bad is that I broke the law and was driving in a blizzard. Note to self: When the governor issues a driving ban, it’s probably a good idea to stay home.

When you do silly things like drive during bans, you always imagine the headline in tomorrow’s paper: Woman charged with reckless endangerment after taking bleeding dog to clinic.

Although I felt a bit unhinged during the trip, I was heartened when I arrived and the emergency clinic’s waiting room was packed with other lawbreakers with sick pets. The weirdest: an older couple who arrived with a standard poodle wearing a T-shirt and rain boots, and a Great Dane who got a gash in his leg from a gas grill. The cute couple who owned him didn’t really explain why they were using a gas grill during a blizzard, nor did anyone ask.

I’m not sure why vets began taking photos of dogs for their files, but I’m beginning to think they’re the canine version of driver’s license photos. I stopped gussying myself up for my license photo several years ago when I realized it was a lost cause.

But I’m going to be really mad if doctors begin taking photos of patients for their files. That would mean I’d have to fix my hair and face in addition to fasting for a week before the appointment. I’m not sure I can handle that.

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A smiling pup at a nearby sunflower field.

Curtain Time

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There’s nothing complicated about buying curtains, and I can buy these at Ikea 20 minutes from my house. . . so why are some of my windows still bare after nearly 15 years? 

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I broke the first rule of blogging.

Before we stepped into the sweet spring air after our final class at Gateway Community College in New Haven, CT., last May, our food blogging teacher Priscilla Martel gave us one piece of advice:

  • Post at least once a week. If you don’t, people won’t take you seriously, or worse, think you’ve abandoned your blog.

I get it. When someone who regularly posts abruptly stops, your first thought is, “I hope she’s OK.” When Waking Up on the Wrong Side of 50 missed a daily post several months ago, I was concerned. I can set my watch by her posts. Turns out she was under the weather, as I suspected.

But other bloggers suddenly disappear without even a one-line explanation, like “I just can’t deal with you all right now,” or “I’m spending my time with my kids, so get a life.” It’s a little like someone leaving your party without saying goodbye. Um, not so fast. Where are your manners?

I appreciate most bloggers’ realizing that we wonder about them when they’re MIA. When Chrissy of Chrissy’s Fabulous Fifties had computer problems, she told us. She explained that she’d be offline for several days, but that she’d be writing during her absence. True to her word, she was back about a week later refreshed and ready to roll.

What I’ve realized is that once you do something regularly, people expect it. The Curmudgeon was upbraided when he arrived at a monthly business meeting without doughnuts and muffins after he’d been bringing them for several months. “Where’s the food?” one of his partners asked. “What kind of operation is this?”

After sprinting to the Dunkin’ Donuts around the corner – and sadly receiving the senior discount without being questioned about his age – The Curmudgeon was on notice: Show up with the goods or don’t come at all.  (Footnote: After the meeting, The Curmudgeon rushed to his computer and Googled “Age for Dunkin’ Donuts’ senior discount.” He was relieved beyond words to learn it’s 55.)

But back to me being a slug. A friend asked if I have writer’s block, but I don’t. I’ve been writing every day, but nothing is grabbing me. Two pieces I wrote about racial prejudice and fat shaming didn’t develop properly. And as I’ve over-shared before, I won’t post a piece unless I like it.

That’s how I roll. I’m the same way shopping for gifts. I don’t buy anything unless I think the recipient will like it. Some might call this attention to detail people-pleasing, over-thinking or obsessing. I prefer to view it as wanting to give something that won’t be returned, or thrown in the back of a drawer.

Of course, taking your sweet time to find perfect things or craft perfect prose often leads to frustration and inertia. My house is a testament to my tendency to drop things midstream.

The previous owners covered the walls in eye-level electrical outlets for lights to showcase the wife’s artwork. Shortly after moving in, I searched for sconces for outlets flanking the living room fireplace. I was thinking flunky blown glass, art deco or mid-century modern.

What I got was nothing because I completely overwhelmed myself. It’s been 15 years and the outlets are still hiding behind cheap wall candleholders. The lesson: Strike while the iron is hot. If you don’t, things won’t get done. Or worse, The Curmudgeon will impose a spending freeze.

It’s the same thing in my family room. I removed the area rug when my Labrador retriever Lindsey began having accidents on it in her golden years. My “new” Lab Cali is nearly nine and I still haven’t replaced the rug. So what if the room looks like an Arthur Murray Dance Studio?

I bought fabric for dining room window treatments about 13 years ago – and it’s still neatly folded in my linen closet. I’ve wanted to replace the ugly brass light fixtures in my entryway and dining room since we moved here in 2002, but haven’t gotten around to it. I removed a broken Roman shade in my mud room six months ago, and haven’t even measured for a new one.

I bring all of this up not to flagellate myself, but to point out that sometimes (often) seeking perfection is paralyzing. After one of my friends did a major renovation on her house, I was most impressed by her amazing window treatments. I’m still slogging away with my bamboo blinds from Lowe’s that I meant to replace 10 years ago.

Like a lot of things in life – say, a flabby backside or sudden emergence of jowls  – it’s easier to notice other people’s imperfections than your own. A family recently (six months ago) moved into a new house around the corner. They seem settled in: they had pumpkins and cornstalks at Halloween and were flush in Christmas decorations.

But they still don’t have any window treatments. This would be fine if they lived in the woods, but they’re on a main drag and have neighbors like me. I’ve given them a pass because I realize window treatments take time, but it’s been six months. I’m starting to really feel like a Peeping Tom now.

I know it’s none of my business and the world has far bigger problems than window coverings, but it bothers me, just as it bothered my father. Growing up, I had a friend on the next street whose natural shingle saltbox was devoid of window coverings. About the only thing my Dad ever said about him was, “Why don’t they have any shades?”

I understand some people’s need for light, particularly in the winter. My father-in-law despised curtains, permitting only wooden shutters and mini-blinds lowered at night and raised at dawn. I’m not a fan of heavy or ornate window treatments, but I appreciate them in the right setting.

But I realize my bare windows – and I’ve got plenty of them – really just announce to the world that I haven’t a clue what to do with them. Besides triggering the occasional optic migraine, having light constantly streaming in is drying out the kitchen cabinets and fading the upholstery and carpets.

My inertia – OK, let’s call it a tragic flaw – is catching up with me. But not any more. I’m hanging curtains, shades, mini blinds or shutters – I’m still deciding – and posting whether I love a piece or not, starting right here.

 

 

Clean Sweep

 

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It’s amazing how some items survive every decluttering effort. Here is the fluffy outfit we brought our son home in 20 years ago, and a towel from college circa 1980.

The Curmudgeon is a pack rat.

He’s not ready for “Hoarders” yet, but close. Our basement and closets are testament to his inability to part with anything.

We still have the cheesy fake wooden bar with the American eagle on the front that we bought for our first apartment nearly 35 years ago. A moving guy looked at me quizzically when we carted it from our old house nearly 15 years ago. “This is a piece of s&*t,” he said.

“He’s very attached to it because it’s the first bar he ever owned,” I explained. He uses the back of the bar as shelving for his basement office. Yes, it looks as hideous as it sounds.

Any mention of clearing clutter sends him into a tailspin. He was very excited when I told him the Vietnam Veterans of America are coming to pick up things we no longer need. He even pulled out a postcard outlining things they need – clothes, shoes, small appliances, linens and jewelry.

But when I suggested that he use an unexpected snow day to gather items, he rebelled. He began defending everything in his closet, including ties he hasn’t worn in 20 years. He began questioning why I was giving away books that I’ll never read again. He argued that Kitty Kelly’s unauthorized biography of Nancy Reagan should be saved because “it’s a very good book.”

I could deal with a little resistance, but The Curmudgeon gets testy.  At one point, he looked up from working at his desk and announced, “OK, now I can’t concentrate. You’ve gotten me very upset. You are not going into the basement. I’ll do it over the weekend.” It’s now Monday, and no progress has been made.

I detest clutter. In fact, it makes me very anxious. I’m not a clean freak – anyone who’s ever seen my car can attest to that – but I’m happier when my house is in order. One of my neighbors used to say if her kitchen was clean, the rest of the house followed, and I agree. Keeping the kitchen clean is one of the great challenges of life, and it’s hard to do when your cabinets are full of clutter.

One of the best tips the Vietnam Veterans give is clearing your kitchen of duplicates. Who knew I had four replacement Mr. Coffee glass pots in the cabinet over the refrigerator, or two of those gizmos for spiraling vegetables? I had no idea I had so many can and bottle openers, or coffee mugs I just don’t use.

Anyone who has ever watched “Hoarders,” which I admit to occasionally watching, knows what I’m describing with The Curmudgeon. Hoarders become anxious, sweaty and irrational parting with things. They have an emotional attachment to objects, and some look like they will die if they lose them.

For me, the show is always a great wake-up call. I’ve never once watched it without launching into a cleaning spree.

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Some of The Curmudgeon’s ties. I’m trying to convince him to donate the ones on the right, which he hasn’t worn in 20 years.

Of course, there are items that slide through every decluttering: the fuzzy onesie that my son wore the day we brought him home; the navy blue skirt I wore when I met The Curmudgeon’s parents; a red printed silk dress from our honeymoon to California, one of my mother’s angora sweaters from the ’50s, and a tiny red velvet dress my daughter wore when she was 1.

I also have a lime green towel from my days at Wheaton College, mainly to remind me to buy quality linens. It’s tattered and threadbare, but it’s the only thing that remains from my college days so it’s staying. I can’t be that old if I still have a towel I used in college.

One of the most irritating parts of dealing with pack rats is their tendency to postpone the dirty work or blame you for your home’s state of affairs. “If you think you’re so great, go through your closet,” they say. “And while you’re at it, take a look at your bureau too.”

They also gang up on you, enlisting the rest of the household to their side. “Get a load of Mom,” The Curmudgeon said to our kids. “Telling us to declutter when her stuff is everywhere.”

Guilty as charged, but at least I’m trying. I promised to gather up to 15 bags of stuff, and I’m currently hovering at about seven. I’ve found decluttering is done in fits and starts, and I’m in a bit of a lull again. But I hope to gather some momentum today. There’s not a lot else you can do when it’s 10 degrees outside.

I’ve given up on The Curmudgeon. After 34 years of marriage, I realize there are some things I can’t change, so I guess I’m on my own. Will I reach my goal? I’ll let you know.

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You have to start somewhere. I promised the vets 15 bags. I’m about half-way there.

Potty Mouth

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The Smiling Pile of Poo Emoji. (Photo credit: Huffingtonpost.com)

When you write, you need a tough skin. People love to tell you how you misquoted them, how stupid you are, that you’re biased against them, and a shining example of “bozo journalism.”

Frank Purdue, the old one who looked like a chicken, was among the rudest people I ever interviewed. He made it clear that he’d rather be anywhere but another supermarket grand opening in Milford, CT. He was bored and impatient, letting you know by rolling his eyes, pursing his lips and huffing and puffing. If I had known then what I know now, I would have written a piece about how a guy with such a bad attitude became a chicken magnate. But I was young and naive, failing to see the deeper story.

Reporters never get used to personal attacks, the worst drawback of the job besides lousy pay. You take it, but it stays somewhere deep in your psyche. No one likes to be criticized or attacked for doing her job, particularly me. In elementary school, teachers remarked, “Does not accept criticism well” on my report cards. I still don’t.

After I wrote a piece about a sewage problem, a tax scofflaw I had written about called me. “Well, at least you’re writing about something you’re very familiar with,” she said.  “Very funny honey. Pay your  taxes like everyone else and you won’t end up in the paper,” I wanted to say. What I actually said was nothing.

But here I go again, writing about human waste. I’m taking a chance that you will relate and not retaliate, but you never know. I had a picture of a woman’s saggy butt on my college dorm door senior year that said, “The Cellulite Eliminator,” and people walked by and said, “Ew, gross.”

So here it goes. I’m baffled by the explosion of poop-related merchandise on the market, and wonder what it says about us. From poop emoji plungers and mini music speakers to chicken poo chapstick and brown bean bag chairs that look like a huge pile of dung, #2 is apparently now #1.

You can buy almost anything with a poop emoji on it – comforter sets, PJs, table lamps, napkins (?), slippers, earbuds, ceramic bowls and hair bands, but the question remains: why? Apparently, the smiling pile of poo emoji is one of the most popular, transcending language barriers to convey a sense of dissatisfaction. I get that. But I don’t understand wanting poop images on your T-shirts, keychains or socks. And I really don’t get wanting (or eating) poo-like cupcakes, The Original Bag of Poo (brown cotton candy) or chocolate lollipops.

I asked The Curmudgeon, the arbiter of good taste, what he thought. “It’s kind of funny, but juvenile,” he said. Yes, that man has horse sense. I knew there was a reason I married him.

Bathroom humor is pretty much kids’ stuff. Well, let me qualify that. Whoopie cushions are funny, particularly when an unsuspecting soul sits down and is pranked. So are some novelty items, such as the pig that I bought that dispenses candy from his backside. A pile of fake dog poop on a rug is also funny, at least when you want to get a rise out of The Curmudgeon. Real dog poop left by your relative’s visiting Maltese is decidedly not funny.

Merchandise that looks like human poop is, shall we say, gross. No one needs or wants to be reminded of their daily constitutional with a brown poop-shaped plunger. Well, maybe there are some people. Augusten Burroughs wrote about his father saving and examining his excrement in his best-seller Running With Scissors – but that was disgusting. Most sane people don’t want or need any reminders.

My son brought the issue to my attention during a swing through Bed, Bath & Beyond. He picked up one of the plungers and asked, “Who would buy this thing?” I felt vindicated that a 20-year-old who doesn’t know how to wash a sink or use a hamper found it ridiculous. I’m not such a humorless stooge after all if a college kid thinks it’s dumb. They think everything is funny, from picking up a 65-pound Lab to wearing a Christmas cap and dancing on a coffee table while watching football.

The one exception for stupid stuff, of course, is gag gifts. I gave my in-laws a mallard duck phone whose eyes turned red when it rang. I was poking a bit of fun at their collection of wooden decoy ducks, though they became fond of “the duck phone.” It’s funny how some gifts meant as jokes  – like the talking bass, the Clapper or dreaded Chia Pet – find a way into your heart and home. But these things are tricky – there’s a fine line between what you love and what goes straight to the Yankee Swap.

I understand the temptation to jump on the poop market. It’s one of the first topics of discussion and jokes among kids. One of my darling nephews used to call me “Diaper,” “Underwear” and “Poop Head” when he was 3. This was more acceptable than his other moniker for me: “Aunt Fat Face.” When a kid calls you that, you  wonder if an adult is behind it. At least I did.

We’re aware from an early age of the importance of nature calling. Parents begin the training process as early as 1, and people look askew at kids that are still in diapers at 4 (or above). My mother thought I was crazy and inept when I didn’t train my son by 2, but you can’t force some things. “Just put him in underpants and he’ll learn,” she’d insist.

But that’s hard to do in the middle of March, and he had a mind of his own. He knew he had to be trained for pre-school, and he was – with about a month to spare. His funniest potty line came at a McDonald’s in Swansee, MA., on the way home from Cape Cod. We stopped for a potty break, but were too late. “Do we have a problem Matt?” The Curmudgeon asked. “Oh, you’ve got a big problem,” he answered.

Little kids think everything about the potty is hysterical and for them, it is. Putting underpants on your head is funny when you’re 5, but bizarre when you’re 40. Wearing pull-ups to bed is acceptable at 4, but disconcerting when you’re knocking on 60. Having an accident is expected in children, but mortifying for adults (not that I know from first-hand experience). Taking your diaper off and throwing it across the room is amusing (sometimes) in children, horrifying (always) in adults.

During a recent visit to an assisted living facility, an old friend asked, “Hey, have you seen adult diapers today? They’re really pretty nice. Not bulky at all. No one even knows you’re wearing them.” I was relieved to say that I knew nothing about them because I don’t need them – yet. It’s the little things that make your day as you age.

The discovery of underwear in strange places is among the most puzzling questions of humanity. My brother-in-law retrieved an upholstered chair in New York from one of my great-aunts after her death in the early 80s. When he got it home, he lifted the seat cushion and discovered a pair of my great-uncle’s underwear. We have no idea how long the drawers were there, or the story behind them. But we never looked at the chair the same way, and I never sat in it.

To my East Coast friends, stay home and safe today. It’s horrendous out there.