Can You Invent This Please? Recycled Sundays.

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Photo by Shane McGraw

Don’t you think the rate of useless inventions has outstripped the useful? When was the last time you really needed a skinny musician doll wavered when you placed it in front of a stereo speaker? Can you believe people are still buying lava lamps and fuzzy dice? I really think we would have a solution to the garbage problem if we just banned novelty shops. But, perhaps I am just bitter. There are too many things I need that haven’t been invented yet.

I need water-resistant pen and paper for writing in the shower because as soon as I get out, I’ve forgotten what I meant to do. How about a bathroom door that won’t open until the child has washed his hands? Or an alarm that rings when a child tries to leave the building without making his bed. Both my daughter and I could use a tiny colander for sterilizing pierced earring studs. Perhaps then we wouldn’t spend so many hours on our hands and knees playing find the microscopic piece. How about self composting toys to avoid overloading the landfill sites in my kids’ rooms? Bedrooms should be designed with slanting floors so that balls and toys with wheels all roll safely to one end.

Wouldn’t we all benefit from twist tops that didn’t require the wearing of oven mitts to prevent the need for stitches? How about childproof bottles that parents didn’t have to ask the kids to open? Or travel shampoo bottles that did not leak all over the contents of your luggage?

Let’s have some serious government grants to perfect a lie detector admissible in court. Imagine the money we’d save on lawyers and court costs as well as incarcerating innocents. There would be a lot fewer crimes if the guilty were proven guilty and sent directly to jail instead of allowed to pass, “go.”

How about suspended animation booths for hospital emergency waiting rooms? We wouldn’t get served any quicker but at least the time would past without every second seeming like an eternity.

Someone without children obviously invented Daylight Saving Time and then decided to begin it before summer vacation. That way the kids could be absolutely wrung out from lack of sleep while coping with the emotional ups and downs of the end of school.

A genuinely nasty person invented high top runners, with laces, for small boys. He probably also designed handheld (meaning small enough to be easily misplaced) video games with alarms that sound at three in the morning.

An inventor who wasn’t making his quota must’ve come up with the useless instructions I find in my bathroom. A phrase on the suctioned bathmat reads, “This side down.” No kidding. Could you imagine someone sticking the suction cups to the bottom of their feet and hopping around the tub? Obviously, he did.

How about a bottle of round, orange vitamins? Inside is a white paper square stuffed with absorbent cotton. On it is printed, “Do not eat this.” If people are that stupid hadn’t they better right this warning on paper plates, Styrofoam cups, swizzle sticks, straws and plastic wrap? Or maybe someone should invent edible substitutes for all these things. Of course that would put the person who writes warnings out of work.

December 9, 1990.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Can You Hear Me Now? Recycled Sundays.

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Some people have a strange need to humiliate themselves. A favoured method is to buy an item for display that is so tasteless, it leaves your guests speechless. One obvious example is the purchase of cow patty clocks. Honest. People actually spend their hard-earned green stuff to buy a sun-baked pile of brown stuff inlaid with a clock face. The larger the better. What can one say?

“I’d like to see the milker that dropped that one!”

The higher-priced ticking manure piles have mushrooms and weeds. I suppose one should expect to pay a little extra for natural embellishments. I mean, doesn’t a mushroom show the superior fertility of your chosen timepiece?

Maybe the idea is to humiliate the guests. After all their years of reading Miss Manners, perhaps attending Toast Masters meetings, these guests suddenly find themselves unable to say a single polite sentence.

What about the “Kiss a Pig” elections? Candidates in the U. S. actually run against each other for the humiliation of kissing a pig. Not a porcelain pig. A living, breathing, runny nosed, stinky swine. On the lips. In public. They don’t even get to choose the pig. It isn’t humiliating enough to let the entire world know that they are desperate enough to compete for Porky’s; three of the contestants will have to face the public embarrassment of losing. Imagine. “I wasn’t desirable enough to win a kiss from a pig.”

I’d heard of hog-calling contests and thought the participants were skirting public humiliation. While the pig-kissing elections definitely outrank them in weirdness, the husband-calling competition outdoes them all. Wives at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield actually compete against each other while bellowing for their spouses. Now you may think this is more humiliating for the men involved, what with their names being shrieked across the fairgrounds. Not so. You see, the women get to dress for the occasion.

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The featured competitor in the newspaper, Paula Tyler, was wearing a frumpy cotton house dress, curlers and a bonnet that looked like the tinfoil on a self-contained popper package minus the wire handle. She also utilized props: an iron board, iron, and a pair of man’s trousers. As I examined this photograph, I realized the woman was not only humiliating herself for a few laughs, but every woman who ever wore curlers while she ironed and yelled for her husband.

Not that it isn’t a necessary art for many wives. I mean when you finally have the iron hot enough and the steam hissing, you don’t want to leave the tense of the door or pick up the baby. Why is it that the husband can’t hear pounding guest or a wailing tot anyway? No wonder these women have to stretch the vocal cords. Their husbands are probably one of those men with selective hearing. You know the type. They can hear the opening notes from The National for rooms away but can’t hear the kid with his head stuck in the banister.

On second thought, maybe it is the husband who is being humiliated by this contest. Perhaps this is a not-so-subtle way of saying, “I know the real you, and now so does everyone else.”

 

Published Sunday, September 2, 1990 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Swamp weed, again! Parenting a Picky Eater. Recycled Sundays.

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Children alter the contents of a refrigerator more than marriage, low-calorie diets, or self-improvement classes. They may not do the grocery shopping, but 9/10 of the list will be parents’ desperate ideas for edibles the child might be induced to eat.

Cave Daddy had it easy. He simply clubbed the sabertooth rabbit, carried it home, and handed it over to Cave Mommy who skinned and cooked it open-pit fire style. Cave Baby either aided or starved. The first time Cave Daddy, in an effort to improve his family’s diet according to the Neanderthal Food Guide, brought home a swamp weed, Cave Baby spoke his first word, “Yuck!”

Urban parents can forget bean sprouts and avocado, even for themselves. There is no room beside the currently favourite fruit, apples and only apples. For two full years this will be the only unprocessed food the child will eat, switching overnight two pears, only pears, I hate apples.

There are no ice cubes in the freezer since space is taken by Current Cartoon Remake microwavable dinners. These are most often used after the parent has spent hours cooking from scratch. The child will recognize that the twenty piece casserole contains parsley, which he decided yesterday was worse than swamp weed, and announce, “Yuck!” This is also true when the home-cooked meal has exactly the same meat, vegetable and dessert as the microwavable dinner. If parents could learn how to add that specialized cardboard flavour, they’d have a chance. Children will eat cereal that sparkles, comes in the shape of stars, letters, doughnuts, or hockey sticks, makes noise and contains a prize package guaranteed to cause a minor tidal wave when it falls into the milk filled bowl. Granola doesn’t qualify because it has “weird stuff in it.”

Parents learn to save empty margarine containers and stock up on plasticwear. At least two thirds of the refrigerator space will be taken up with leftovers, as in “You’re not having another cookie until you eat your noodles, bacon and eggs, pancakes, soup, steak, or vegetables.” The child will reply, “I don’t like noodles anymore. The bacon is too greasy. The eggs are dried out. The pancakes have raisins and I wanted chocolate chips. The steak is too fatty. The vegetables taste like swamp weed.” In stubborn persistence, (far simpler with a microwave than an open-pit cave fire but just as futile) the parents will continually reheat the leftovers until they have reached the texture and flavour of drywall.

Pity the poor parents who express delight when the child likes a new food outside the home. Just because the child ate chili in a restaurant, doesn’t mean he’ll eat homemade chili.

“Too tomatoey,” he’ll say.

“Of course it’s tomatoey,” Urban Mommy foolishly response. “Chili is made with tomatoes.”

“Yeah, but these are the wrong tomatoes.”

“They’re from our garden,” interjects Urban Daddy. “You helped pick them. Everybody’s Chili has tomatoes.”

“I only like tomatoes when you can’t tell they’re tomatoes,” the child will respond firmly.

Childcare experts (few of whom I’m sure actually live with children) say parents should learn their child’s preferences. Right. They hate macaroni and cheese casseroles, but love it packaged. They prefer chili without beans, lasagna without onions, and pizza with cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. Any of this can be reversed at the stroke of midnight. In which case, the parents put the newly rejected food in the refrigerator in a container knowing it will be eaten the same day that the children claim to be receiving too much allowance.

Published Sunday, February 16, 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.

Parents please note: this was written before the risk of putting hot food, and especially microwaving, in plastic became public knowledge. Please use glass containers in your microwave.

P.S. This same picky eater, now an adult, has become an advocate for plant-based healthy eating. He’d have no problem eating parsley, tomatoes, or even swamp weed now.

            

Click on the cover for more information or to buy the book.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

How to Get Robbed. Recycled Sundays.

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Having grown up in a twelve street town, I wasn’t prepared for life in the city, complete with burglars.

When my husband and I moved into our first single-family dwelling we stupidly considered ourselves at no risk. The house was older than our combined ages. We owned a rusty Chevette and wore clothes from the bargain bin. Surely no one would consider robbing our home worth the risk of incarceration. There hasn’t been such naïveté since Wendy trusted Tinkerbell.

My husband, infant daughter and I lived in a 2 1/2 story home. The bedroom ceilings were sloped. We adopted a permanent stoop after repeatedly dashing our skulls in Wile E. Coyote style. In summer, the upper half of the home retained heat like a kiln. We ran fans in our room and the baby’s, as well as the furnace vent. Every night we propped up the windows with the removable screen and then shouted good night over the whirling machinery.

One sultry evening my husband and I stared at a mountain of dishes and engaged in dueling excuses.

“The baby has been so colicky today, I’m just exhausted,” I said.

“It was so hot today, I shouldn’t have done all that yard work,” responded my husband.

“She didn’t sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time. I couldn’t get anything done,” I said.

“Those cinder blocks must’ve weighed a ton,” he said.

“I’ve got such a headache,” I said.

“I’ve got such a backache,” he said.

“It sure is hot,” I said.

“Really hot,” he agreed.

We left the dirtiest dishes to soak and stacked the rest on the counter. Suddenly, my husband noticed two teenagers in our backyard. He hammered on the window and thumbed toward exit. The boys scrambled over the fence and disappeared.

“What do you suppose they’re up to?” I asked.

“Probably raiding the garden,” said my husband.

Now I suspect they had bigger thefts on their minds than wormy carrots. But we will never know for sure who visited us at 3 AM. My husband had just placed the baby back in her crib after a diaper change, when he heard a faint crash. With all the fan noise he couldn’t tell the direction. He switched on the hall light and went down to the landing. All was quiet.

The next morning I couldn’t find his lunch pail among the mountain of dirty dishes. Then I noticed the screen was gone from the window and his small portable saltshaker was in its place. After investigating, we discovered the lunch pail, thermos, two potted plants, and four dishes on the backyard lawn. A prickle went down my spine.

Someone had piled our cinder blocks against the wall creating makeshift stairs, climbed on top, and then tried to climb through the kitchen window. There they encountered the stacks of dirty dishes. They tried to remove them in order to get onto the onside counter. The crash my husband heard must have been the window accidentally falling shot and trapping the saltshaker. Switching on the light had scared them off.

Our newest home is comfortable, but hardly a burglar’s paradise like the last. I suspect a thief who gained entry would be easily caught. We would be bound to hear him rolling on the floor with laughter over our $50 third-hand stereo with eight track tape deck.

Nevertheless, we’ve installed double dead bolt locks on the doors and bars on the basement windows. There are bright lights on all the exterior walls of the yard are easily viewed by the neighbours. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can buy to protect me from a recurrence of stupidity.

One evening I switched on the outside lights, checked the windows and doors, and went to sleep in my quiet bedroom feeling confident and safe. The next morning, as my husband headed out the door to work, we heard rattling. The burglars had missed their best opportunity. There, in the front doorknob, hung my house keys.

July 7, 1991

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

Do You Have to Suffer to Be Beautiful? – Recycled Sundays

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“You have to suffer to be beautiful,” was drilled into my head as a child. I wouldn’t have minded the suffering, if the beauty was forthcoming.

When I was little, every spring I got a haircut and perm. The old permanents burned like Mount Saint Helen, though no one believed my discomfort. Now there are gentle concoctions for delicate scalps to prevent burned skin. I no longer have to look like a nuclear fallout victim in exchange for curls.

I was a long, skinny kid – all elbows and knees. I resembled a Q-tip with my new hairdo, until I moved. Then I changed to a walking stick with a dandelion stuck to her head.

I never had much luck with hairdressers. In high school I begged, borrowed and babysat to earn enough money to get my hair done for the prom. I browsed through racks and racks of magazines with glamorous models (whose hair was teased, braided, sculptured, curled, coiled and bobbed) to find just the right style. Triumphantly, I marched to the hairdresser’s with my clipping in hand. She’d nodded and said, “Yes, I could do something close to that.” We differed on the meaning of close.

I sat patiently through the procedure.

Washing: whereupon I arched my neck backward in a position guaranteed to make an executioner drool and me walk like Igor for at least a week.

Towel drying: here the hairdresser aired her bottled frustrations by rattling my brains.

Combing: due to the excellent towel drying, my hair was now knotted like the Griswold strings of Christmas lights. Periodically, the hairdresser paused to clean the clumps of yanked hair from her comb and occasionally empty the overflowing trash.

Wrapping: the hairdresser used little pricks to anchor the rod to my scalp, stopping just short of driving the plastic sticks into my skull, not that I could tell the difference. Here she gave a Cruella DeVille smile asked, “Comfortable?” As comfortable as a frog mating with a hedgehog.

Drying: I was parked under a loud whirling dome in search of stacks of Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Love Story, and Glamour, all of which were filled with teenage models wearing perfect hair. They subdued me into submission even when dehydration caused my nails to split and my tongue to curl up like a taco chip.

Styling: Unlike today’s stylist, who generally works with the patron and uses a curling iron, the hairdresser unrolled all the curlers and stared at the result like a village witch reading the tossed bones. She back combed and pinned and sprayed until she created a hairdo suitable for a woman 20 years my elder who wore red nail polish and tight fake leopard pants. When I protested, she announced, “Your hair’s too (choose one) fine/long/short/straight for the style you picked. This is beautiful.” It must have been, I certainly suffered for it.

No matter what style I brought in, I always left with the same style – a combination of bouffant and pinned, stiff waves which reminded me of the bride of Frankenstein. I rushed home, yanked out all the pins, cried a great deal, and telephoned my sister to fix my hair or I would stretch out on the tracks waiting for the next train through town.

My sister used to help me color my hair as well. My father refused to allow bleach, so our options were limited. We learned that brown hair with auburn tints cannot be dyed blonde without bleaching first. Mix these colors and you get a particularly this vivid shade of Halloween orange.

Eventually, the hair gods smiled on me. I finally have the hairdresser I can trust. My sister learned all about color mixing and the tricks of the trade and opened her own shop. Now I can go anytime, ask her to do what I want, and emerge with a style recognizably resembling the picture. It’s a bit of a hassle though, especially in winter. Her shop is 70 km from where I live. Oh well, I couldn’t expect to be beautiful if I didn’t suffer at least a little.

September 1, 1991.

                    

Click on the book cover for more information.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Adopting a Fluffy White Kitten, Maybe. Recycled Sundays.

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I have three cats but I’m still a normal person. I’m not a victim of feline reproduction since I’m adamant about neutering. I’m a victim of innocence.

My daughter, my son and I went to buy a sweet white kitten, the fluffy heart-tugging kind they show in toilet paper commercials. It was for my daughter, a cat-aholic if there ever was one. It would be a low maintenance pet and we’d feel good for having saved an animal from euthanasia. Unfortunately, all the ivory colored kiddies were gone. My daughter asked to see a gray female that was caged with the black and white male. The woman in charge met us at the counter with both kittens.

“One for me!” cheered my son.

I protested in vain. The woman promptly dumped both in my arms explaining that they were littermates who hadn’t been separated since birth. A single kitten would be lonely. The pair would play more and be physically and emotionally healthy. The kittens looked up with their huge trusting eyes. My children stared pleadingly. The woman smiled and offered two for the price of one. Ten eyes, waiting. I was a goner.

The black and white kitten we named Patch was the friendliest. He also had ear mites, which required swabbing both cats twice a day for two weeks. There aren’t enough pillows or oven mitts in the world to stave off a panic kitten. My husband and I looked like we’d wrestled with thorn bushes.

They did keep each other company, for almost a year. Then Misty developed into an aloof, “don’t bug me, that’s if you can find me” cat. Patch was constantly rebuffed. In a sickeningly weak moment, I decided to get him another playmate and take the pressure off Misty. I waited until another white kitten was up for adoption.

I made it clear to the children that this was to be my kitten. The white kitten was fluffy and plump. It had one blue eye and one pink. Pink eyed white cats are sometimes deaf. I clapped my hands and made silly noises, but the cat did not respond. It was either hearing-impaired or very dull.

“Look at this one, Mommy,” called my son as he watched the loose kittens through the viewing window.

I was doomed from the first glance. A black and white kitten, one ear up, one ear down, was bouncing sideways across the floor. He stopped to tumble with a tabby, and then tried to crawl up the wall to the window, meowing frantically for attention.

“He’d make a good playmate for Patch,” said my son.

The moment the scruffy little fellow was put in my arms, he twisted around and licked me.

“He’s rather ratty looking,” I protested. “Why is he scratching his ear so much? I hope he doesn’t have ear mites.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” said the woman. “We put down any that have ear mites.”

My children’s eyes widened. They looked from me to the kitten in horror. It’s always the eyes that get me.

“We’ll take him,” I sighed.

He didn’t have ear mites but Virgil’s done more than his share of damage and had more than his share of trips to the vet. He gives new meaning to the word pest. He’s also funny and affectionate. Patch and the kids love him. So now, we have three cats, none of them white.

September 9, 1990

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

The Only Diet That Works. Recycled Sundays.

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Like many people, I spend much of my life concerned about dieting. Not actually dieting, mind you, just concerned about it.

The first stage is “awareness.” Or, I realized that the water in the bathtub rises to an unusually high level when I step in. I noticed that my pants are a little tighter. “Oh, these 100% cotton slacks always shrink,” I’ll rationalize. Tight polyester pants are a bit harder to excuse.

The second stage is “realizing that the weight isn’t going away on his own.” I haven’t lost as much weight as I thought suffering through camping and hiking season or starting a new exercise class. Even though I’ve substituted chocolate chip cookies for chocolate chocolate chip cookies, I’m still overweight.

The third stage is “doing a little something” such as drinking diet pop instead of regular with my family-sized pack of ripple chips or eating frozen low-fat yogurt instead of ice cream with my cheesecake.

The fourth stage is “denial.” Here I buy baggy clothes that deceive the eye, baggy sweaters, puffed blouses, and layered outfits. I compare myself, favorably of course, to heavier women even though they are becoming harder to find.

The sixth stage is “shock”. This is when something happens to bring all the other stages crashing down. It may be going up a size in clothing, weighing in at the doctor’s office, or having a child comment that I’m getting harder to hug.

The seventh stage is “actual dieting.”

I’ve tried various methods of dieting, most of which fail. The only thing that works is calorie counting combined with an increase in exercise (from none to some). Calorie counting is a lot like the old game show where people guess the price of certain items. I add, subtract, divide and estimate with the skill of an accountant in order to squeeze in one more snack.

Everything tastes great when I’m on a diet. The food has more texture and flavor then when I mindlessly stuffing myself. At least, that’s what I remind myself when I’m down to 47 cal left and it still for hours until bedtime. There have been occasions when I’m tempted to eat the calorie counting book, staples included.

One problem is that I really hate exercise, especially exercise that makes me SWEAT! Yuck!! I try to develop a few simple toning up movements to go along with my weight loss but it is difficult. You see, when I wake up, I’m too hungry to exercise. Then, I can’t do situps on a full stomach. During my busy day, I seldom have time to even think about exercising. Before I know it, it’s bedtime and I’m too exhausted to exercise.

Finally, I force myself to diet and exercise. I’m unable to decide what hurts more, my clenching, growling empty stomach or my aching, over-taxed muscles. I sleep a great deal and snap at my husband a lot, especially when he is wolfing down cheese.

Experts tell me that regular exercise will increase my energy level. I’d like to know in what decade I get the payoff.

Finally I become so worn down and frazzled that I get sick. Bingo! That’s the only time I don’t feel like eating. Before I know it, my appetite is shrinking and so is my weight. By the time I finished my second round of antibiotics, I’m thin again. It’s a tough price to pay, but it still beats dieting.

February 23, 1992

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Being Santa Isn’t Easy. Recycled Sundays.

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Although people often criticize the Santa Claus figure for intensifying the commercialism of Christmas, I enjoyed his special magic. I confess I was one of the greedy children who boldly listed numerous presents, numbered in order of desirability, with appropriate locations and prices. On Christmas, I tabulated the haul beside my stocking with my requests. It never matched, but I was thrilled that an enchanted immortal elf had come right into my small shabby house and left gifts of love for a little nobody like me.

Fortunately, my own children accepted my rules about Santa letters. Santa would fill their stockings and leave one special toy for each child. They could suggest one or two ideas, but it was up to Santa to decide. What? No list? Ah, but what a thrill knowing Santa might bring that extravagant toy advertised on Saturday morning cartoons, when Mom and Dad said it was too expensive. This put the jolly man in red on SUPERHERO status.

My children suspected that Santa did not have the same standards of “good” behaviour that Mom and Dad did. Didn’t the hair-puller up the street get an incredible Ghost Buster vehicle? Didn’t the manipulative girl from school get a Barbie bride doll? Santa obviously loved them in spite of their flaws and all these dire warnings about “watching out” and not crying or pouting were nothing but parental machinations.

Fuelling the legend did not come without its physical as well as financial price. Every year we would allow the children to stay up a little later for family carolling, the reading of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and a check with CBC radio on Santa’s progress. They’d set out the snacks for Santa and his reindeer. (Honest, honey, Santa doesn’t mind store-bought cookies.) Mom and Dad would watch a bit of television or read for a while, naively assuming that the children would fall asleep during this time, enabling Santa to make his visit.

Not that our children didn’t appreciate what their parents brought. I always planned a perfect balance of gifts, equal number and equal cost. Christmas Eve, I would slip them into their sacks (I may not be able to fly in a sleigh, but I can save a few trees). The sacks are numbered, each child receiving the same number, opening them in the same order, and each matching number containing a gift of similar value. (Santa would have ho ho hoed himself silly.)

Inevitably, I would discover one of my daughter’s gifts hadn’t arrived. I would try to rejuggle them into balance of number and quality. Sometimes, I gave up and slipped a few bucks in place of the missing gift. I’d pile them carefully under the tree, then realize my son was missing a package. I already gave a gift of clothing to him on the night of the Christmas concert because last year’s outfit was suddenly too small, even though it fit the week before. Then, I’d root through the packages in search of the money, renumbering and rejuggling. (Fortunately, I have mellowed over the years.)

Time to check the children. Like four blue spotlights, their eyes shone in the dark. “Is it morning?”

“How could it be morning? You haven’t gone to sleep yet!”

“It seems like a very long time.

Not as long as it was going to seem. Mom and Dad lay quietly in the dark, trying not to fall asleep and wake to the horror that Santa screwed up. Periodically, the toilet would flush, reminding us that little children awake past their bedtime have busy bladders. Eventually, we gave the big threat. “If you keep getting up, Santa won’t come. In a couple of hours, the sun will rise and he’ll have to head back to the North Pole without bringing your presents. Stay in bed with your door shut.”

Finally, Santa arrived. He dragged out all the presents that had been stashed in obscure places. He could have stored them in the bottom of their closets or under their beds and they never would have noticed amid all the refuse of Christmases past.

The stiff plastic bags sounded like gunshots going off in the night. To his surprise, many of the gifts still had price tags. Santa peeled and scratched, only to discover most have another price below. The tags stuck to his sleeves, his pants and the bottom of his big black boots.

He filled the stockings, then turned with a sigh. One looked fuller than the other. He knew that small gifts often cost more than large ones, but did the children? Of course, I didn’t mind if he used something from under the tree to help stuff the sock. He rooted through the sacks to find something that would fill out the smaller stocking, while I rejuggled all the presents again.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, we finally got it right.”

December 1990.

                    

Click on the book cover for more information.

 

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Confessions of a Chocoholic (Recycled Sundays)

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One of the things I love about kids is their unabashed honesty. One December, long ago, when my son was rifling through the Christmas Wish Book for the 800th time, my daughter asked him, “Is that all you ever think about…presents?”

“No,” replied my son. “I think about candy too.”

I must admit, we share this passion. While I have risen above candy bottle caps and dinosaur eggs, chocolate still has a vicious grip on my body.

We have a love-hate relationship, chocolate and I. I love the taste, hate the calories. Love the rush, hate the caffeine. Love the texture, hate the cramps. Love the variety, hate the headaches. Love the convenience, hate the price. Except at Easter.

Come spring the store shelves are filled with tinfoil encased Super Rabbits, hollow icing-smothered giant hens, and 50-pound bags of jellied eggs, all costing the same as an RV. But somehow, the cheap solid chocolate rabbit has survived.

Now I’m not talking exotic Swiss chocolate here. This is just one step up from last season’s chunk of chocolate that sits by the cash register in convenience stores and gets handled in passing by every money-short child. It didn’t matter though, it still gave me my chocolate kick.

There are certain times in my biorhythms when I craved chocolate like Santa craves milk and cookies. If I had to, I’d meet pockmarked men named Scud or Slash under damp bridges to buy it. I’d let the electrical bill go unpaid and sell my mother’s china. Combine this physical urge with a tough day and I’m one desperate consumer.

Some people come home after a tough day, fire up the sauna and mix a martini. I rifled through the cupboards, shoving aside unsalted nuts, yogurt-covered raisins and whole grain pretzels in search of the elusive chocolate bunny. With shaking hands, I peeled back the plastic and bit off his ears. I sighed with satisfaction, then chomped down. I picked up the cleaver and hacked his body into bite-sized pieces. On a really bad Friday, I’d run a damp finger along the bottom inside of the wrapper fishing for slivers.

Suffering from chocolate shakes, I’ve been known to dump half a bag of chocolate chips into two grilling pancakes. The rest of the chips, I mixed with ice cream.

Once I satisfied the compulsion and break the chocolate cycle, I avoided the stuff like a recovering addict. Generally someone showed up about this time with a gift of high quality chocolates. I was all right as long as I didn’t break the seal. Once that gold pull string tore through the plastic wrap, I was done for. The only thing worse than a chocolate bunny frenzy was a Nutcho pig out. The combination of chocolate and nuts was like gold and diamonds. Each complemented the other.

Now that I’m retired, I set up a plan to control my addiction and improved the quality of food I ingest. I try, as much as possible, not to have chocolate in the house. This will be my first Christmas without a pile of gifts from students, half usually chocolate.

Still, I can’t give it up completely. I put my husband in charge of my chocolate fix. I bought several dark chocolate bars and handed them over to him.

“Hide them,” I begged. “When I really need a fix, give me three or four squares.”

This worked really well, until he forgot where he hid them! That’s one way to get me to clean out the closets.