Category Archives: my childhood

Snark: Revenge and Mary Janes


Usually I try to be calm and conscientious and conscious.

I try not to react.

Sometimes it’s just not worth it.

Sometimes, you just wanna say to the guy who drives too close to you while you’re minding your own business, “PUT DOWN YOUR FREAKING PHONE, A$$HOLE.”

Or, say when you’re heading to a soccer game, “MOVE YOUR PIECE OF CRAP OUT OF MY WHEEL WELL.”

Sometimes you want to kick a cat. Flick a beetle. Squash a bug. Slap something. Flip the bird.

Sometimes you want to hurl a bag of steaming dog poo at grown men who wear their pants too low, WITH a belt, and show the world their “pretty” underwear and scream, “YOU KNOW, IF YOU WERE IN PRISON, YOU’D BE VERY POPULAR WITH YOUR PANTS LIKE THAT!” (I only just recently learned that fashion statement was a sign of availability for dating in the penitentiary system.)

Sometimes, if you’re like me, because you know you can’t legally hurl a bag of steaming dog poo, you pretend to do it. You imagine it happening.

The monks on the mountains in Tibet would tell you that’s your false self living out a fantasy because There Is No Such Thing As Revenge.

Well, my inner snark disagrees.

Sometimes, I feel like I just have to let an epithet stream unfurl. That doesn’t mean I do it; it just means I’d like to do it.

I was a mobile executive.

Tell my five-year-old self that there’s no such thing as revenge. My father tells this story best, but I’m going to do it instead:

When I was very young, my older brother was asleep on the couch.

He was lying there, I can remember it, on our parents’ avocado-green, wool-upholstered davenport. It smelled of the long-lost manhattans, old fashioneds and cherry tobacco pipes enjoyed by relatives I would never know because they were probably dead at the time. It was about eight feet long and its armrests were paltry and mostly wooden; you could feel the ribs and spine of the structure beneath the armrests that must’ve been padded with band-aids (maybe that’s where they all went, for we didn’t have any in the house when I was a kid unless my brother bought them).

While this isn’t it, it is in spirit. Ours had flat itchy cushions and only five or six “buttons” along its backside to add dimension to an otherwise hideously flat and hairshirt-ish experience.

I will always heartily reject my mother’s opinion that the sofa was comfortable because it was covered in freakin’ wool boasting texture so irritating and painful that only burlap could exceed it. I remember seeing the outlines of its springs testing the tensile strength of the fabric that shrouded them. Its belly would yawn beneath the frame directly below the two main, ill-sized main seat cushions. That couch was not fluffy or endearing. That couch was a piece my parents inherited from someone with incredibly bad sense of the aesthetic. That couch inspired my very costly love affair with down cushions. You endured that couch, but it was the only one on the main level of the house, so that’s where my brother decided to plop himself down. He was brave.

Apparently my “revenge is best served cold” self had a message to deliver to him.

To conduct recon, I walked up to him and examined his vulnerabilities, his bodily position: face in toward the back of the couch. Good, he was inhaling old furniture smell, known amongst children everywhere to be amongst the most caustic in the world. His backside was exposed to the world. Better. Definitely asleep because his eyes were twitching. Excellent.

I crouched down, looked around the room and considered my options. I bent over, and grabbed the heel of my right foot’s mary jane with my vengeful, sweaty and dextrous hands (my mother was convinced I’d be a surgeon). I imagine that I reached back with one hand, held down the back of the heel, lost my balance and landed on my fanny on the outside left armrest of the couch, where his head was nearest. (I never heard her say I’d be a gymnast.)

From my sitting position, which was clearly better so I couldn’t be seen even if he did wake up, I imagine that I pulled in my right heel, closer to my fanny and forced off the shoe. I grabbed the armrest of the couch with my left hand and pulled myself back up to make sure he was still asleep.

With the side of the couch about six inches below my chin, I turned to my left, bent over at the hips and picked up my shoe. I turned toward my brother, zeroed in, arched over with my left arm and smacked him on the head with the heel.

They’re not as innocent as they look.

I stood there. Shoe in hand. Apparently I didn’t know enough to discard the weapon. Or to run away.

He woke up and rubbed his nine-year-old head. His hair was short and straight and he was a long child (as is he quite tall now). Running his hands through his sweaty and still sleepy hair, he said, “Owwuh. Wh-? Wh’dja do? I . . . ”

This is what I do know, no more imagining:

He didn’t smack me back, he was good to me that way. I mean, he was (and is) a really decent guy, (even though he is part of the 1%). Instead, my brother walked up to our dad who was probably screaming at a football game on TV (we were Buffalo Bills fans), and moaned, “Owwwh. Molly just hit me in the head. She just woke me up while I was sleeping and hit me on the head. With her shooooe.”

Our dad apparently eyed me, still holding my weapon. I was looking fierce, so he said.

“Well, why do you think she did that? Did you do anything to her? Upset her?” Dad asked.

“No! I was just sleeping. I couldna done anything, I was lying down,” answered my brother.

“Nothing?” my dad asked. “Are you sure?”

I was standing about 10′ away, all squinchy-faced, arms crossed against my chest in my smocked butterfly dress and supposedly fuming. A size-three black and shiny mary jane dangling from my hand was cocked and ready for more.

My brother looked at me and insisted he’d done nothing.

My dad said to him, “Not before your nap? Maybe yesterday or last night? . . . . . . . Think. She wouldn’t have done that for no reason. Maybe you,”

After a moment, my brother righted himself and then shrunk again, rubbing his head, “Oh. . . yeah.”

And that was that.

Sometimes snark wins. These days, even though I aspire for more centered behavior, I’m not above being snarky when people go below it and I am sure to have a size three mary jane around just in case.

Thank you.

"let’s talk like worms" / the silent treat(ment)


as i write this, i’m listening to a mix on iTunes i made for my mom one year for her birthday that i named, “mimiTunes.” the current song, “Old Man River” from Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess” inspires me to tell this story… 

before i do, consider this quote from Sai Baba, 
“Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? Does it improve on the silence?” 

. . . . . . . . . . .

when i was little, my mom used to play a game with us. we didn’t always like the game but we bought into it being a game and because games are supposed to be fun, we were in. we are super competitive if nothing else and thus raised to win. that doesn’t mean we do actually win…

one summer day (of many) on our way home from a jaunt (also of many) up to Niagara-on-The-Lake in Ontario, Canada, my brothers and i were existing too loudly in the car while my mom was trying to drive. 

my mother was what i could only describe as a “deliberate driver.” she had this habit of slowing down, almost to a stop, and veering hard right when oncoming traffic approached, even under the best of circumstances, so how we didn’t end up in the Niagara River upon any of our visits is a mystery. 

Niagara-on-The-Lake is a super-cutesy tourist trap, comprising ice cream shoppes, federal-period architecture, restaurants, apothecaries, and a healthy influx of American greenbacks (back when our money had value). it also had one of the best Irish stores in a 70-mile radius, so because it was summer, and my brothers and i could not be trusted to not burn down the house without her there, mom had to take us in tow as she purchased Irish fishermen sweaters to amplify her already robust stock that she’d amassed during the school year. she didn’t fish and she wasn’t a man. but that didn’t matter. 

we hated to go there because the trips were always about the sweaters, Coach handbags, first-edition books, or designer scarves. seldom was Niagara-on-The-Lake about ice cream or playing in the Queen’s Royal Park that looked over the mouth of the glorious Lake Ontario as it feeds into the Niagara River (that flows northern to reach Niagara Falls).   

“i know!” mom effused from behind her tortoise-shell 1/4″-thick framed, andy warhol-inspired prescription sunglasses. her grip on the steering wheel of our swede supposed-car also known as “bil som spelar ingen fungerar tillförlitligt” (which is “car that doesn’t work reliably” in swedish) resembled that of the white-knuckled variety so often seen on grandmothers about to ride in the car with their newly minted teenage grandson drivers on the way home from mah jong from the community center across town. mom was about 41 at the time.  “let’s play a game!” she continued.

“yay! a game!” my brothers and i sang in unison a capella, unless bounce-slapping the red, sweat-sticky faux leather seats, >shhh-smak! shhh-smak!< counts as percussion. this was our first time learning of this game. 

“let’s! let’s! what’s-let’s-called?-it-let’s!-called-play-how-it-do-you-play-it-game-this-game?” we sang again, this time not so melodiously, clearly already elbowing and angling for best position to win. we didn’t know anything about the game but we were NOT going to lose it.

suddenly, only inorganic sounds were heard. the car’s engine and the scratchy classical music barely streaming from the AM station a good 60 miles away were it. the paper speakers installed in the doors (we had broken off the antenna) made anything sound like a band of dying crickets. 

my mom had us. we were SILENT. she was already in the lead.

“the game,” she said.

“yeah… what’s-how-it-do-called-get off me-start-rules-play-it-put-that-DOWN!-play?” we asked, this time overtaking the engine’s drone. 

“it’s called … ‘let’s talk like worms!’ doesn’t that sound great?!” she begged, eyebrows arched, seeming eagerly hopeful. 

note: worm with closed mouth.

i scanned her smoky hazel eyes in the rearview mirror, now unsheathed from the glasses. she was engaged in transition mode and this was a critical operation at the moment: as she stopped at the light, she deftly swooped her artist’s hands to grasp her thick, mid-shoulder-length ash-blond hair as she slid one of the two-dozen size 64 putty-colored rubber bands from amongst the 14 silver bangles on her wrist to make a tight bun. she was clearly executing  Leadership Mode and the efficient up-do was evidence of her determination. then she slid her Mondrian print silk scarf from around her neck to adorn her turbo coiffure. she was nothing if not well dressed; the woman has seriously good taste in classic fashion. something i apparently never really inherited…

she donned this new scarf as a helment. my brothers and i were four-years apart (eight years between my younger and older brothers). despite her refined demeanor and breeding, we were maniacs. we grew up with very little rules and oversight, so when she put down the hammer, which was seldom, we didn’t know what to do with it: do we respect this or do we laugh at it? we did a little of both, truthfully. we were loved, in the best way our parents knew how, but we were pretty much considered full-fledged adults with no restrictions as soon as we could put on our own socks. hey man, it was the 70s and from the cheap seats i inhabit as i watch “Mad Men” what my parents did was nooooOOoooOooo different from any of my peers’ parents at the time. (doesn’t mean it was riiiiight…)

“ok! sounds-ok-fun-like-yeah!fun! we-like-play-WORMS?!-good-idea-not-understand-worms-how-do-you-worms-play-game?” 

my older brother, who is a very successful banker now, elbowed one of us and hissed, “SHHH, i’ll TALK” to me and our younger brother.

the light turned to green and the car started up again. TH-TH-UNK-UNK-UNK. we all slammed back into the back of the benchseats. i think she loved doing that. lurching and slamming as she pretended to drive along the Niagara Parkway.  

“how do you play it, mom?” the would-be banker asked. the way he’d demonstrated his finesse and interest in rules and regulations, it seemed as though a signing bonus and performance commission were riding on the outcome. 

so there we were: the three of us in the back seat area; my little brother and i rapt with attention, our very beings trembling with anticipation on the edges of our sweaty seats. i’m sure i slapped and pinched my baby brother at least a couple times due to my own inability to contain my excitement.

“well, it’s simple, and there’s only one loser.” she said, with a native lilt.

“huh?” asked my older brother. 

“how can there be only one loser? there are three of us. there has to be one WINNER. you mean, ONE WINNER, mom. not ONE LOSER.” he was about 11.

“no. i’m not wrong. one loser, sweetie. that’s what’s so FUN about this game,” she said, now fake giggle-speaking, no doubt to incite enthusiasm which had quickly evaporated from the kids in the back seat of the car and who had been replaced by her new three children Apathy, Grunting and Agita. “what’s FUN [smiling voice] is that the first person to DO something LOSES.” 

good feeling’s gone.  

“the first person to do anything?” my brother asked. 

“well, no. the first person to break the only rule loses,” she clarified. 

“Only One Rule! i LIKE this!” i said, refusing any longer to be kept silent by eventual 1%.  

“the one rule,” mom said, “is that you talk like worms. and how do worms talk?” 

“they. don’t. say. any. thing.” growled my big brother. 

“RIGHT! so ready, we’re gonna start. . . . NOW.” 

“but…” said the baby brother. 

“haha! YOU LOSE! LOOOser”my older brother shouted and pointed at my younger brother, who was possibly all of 3 years old and henceforth destined to be part of the 99%.

however, being the third of three, he was quite intellectually mobile due to his witnessing of his older siblings’ shenanigans. these days, he sings for his church and has become an ordained reverend professionally, so he’s got pipes. and if he’s part of the 99%, he’s got God on his side, so i’m good with that.

so my little brother lost all the time. it went on for years, his losing at Let’s Talk Like Worms. his losing was met with such hearty worm shrieking due to the loss of the game, that i wonder if my mom ever thought she won the game. . .
note: hysterical worm.

mom probably thought she was gonna get the silent treat(ment) that she sought. that if we were serially quiet enough, she’d get a decent ride home.

as i look back on her instituting the “Let’s Talk Like Worms” game, i laugh at its cunning design. last night, my Things and i were preparing for the cleaning ladies Thing 2 (11) proposed that we play the “let’s CLEAN like worms” game. Thing 3 (8), who’d never played the game was schooled by his brothers, but he held silent. they were silent for several minutes and i was beginning to think, “this is pretty cool…” however, it was so quiet that i wasn’t aware of the fisticuffs going on behind me as they all (even Thing 1 who is almost 14) wrestled each other to the ground over a Lego piece. ironically, the Thing 2, the one who proposed it lost consistently three times in a row. then the Lego fight and then screaming. sometimes silence ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

today during yoga my teacher read the quote at the top of this post by Sai Baba that struck me as profound given what i’d experienced last night with the kids and the Lego piece.     

sometimes the silent treat(ment) is a LOVELY experience. there are those of us who are silenced by fears, by memories, by oppressors or worst of all, by ourselves. the thing is, sometimes the best thing to say is nothing at all; when we choose silence, we take back our power. y’know, like in Ghostbusters, don’t think about the Stay-Puft marshmallow man and he won’t appear. but that doesn’t always work out; sometimes, we must speak up, we must stand up. and then there are time when we must speak up for those who can not speak for themselves; they do not know the harms in their path and while there ain’t never anything wrong with standing up and speaking up and being true to you,

i propose again: “Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? Does it improve on the silence?”

but if you’re ever not sure: just talk like worms.

thank you. 

when you’re five years old


when you’re five years old, you don’t know about tomorrow. you know that bump down in the sidewalk when you’re in the wagon goes like this: ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum-DUM. 

when you’re five years old, you know the path to the park like the back of your own hand. if you cared to learn about the back of your own hand, if you could see the skin beneath the dark gray, dried sparkly dirt. 

when you’re five years old, you don’t worry about an hour ago. you worry about whether Wyle E. Coyote will catch the Road Runner, big brother says so. 

when you’re five years old, anyone over 4 feet tall, with clean hands and brushed hair is met with suspicion until they pick a better hiding spot than you. 

when you’re five years old, you don’t care about the president. you care about what’s your dessert in your TV-dinner. will it be the apple turnover or the cherry pie? you also plan to eat that first because you know they’ll make you eat your veggies first if they catch you.  

when you’re five years old, you don’t care about china. you care about what you’ll be for halloween. and if old mrs. neill will give out pennies again instead of candy. you hate it when she does that, even though your parents say it’s better than candy. 

when you’re five years old, you see everyone’s bellies before you see their faces. some bellies are big and you bump into them and others have belts, sashes, purses in front of them. 

when you’re five years old, your hands are dirty, sticky sweaty, nimble and strong. they can make mud cakes with your eyes closed and top them with the poisonous red berries your mom told you not to eat. 

when you’re five years old, you know which tree branches are the strong ones and which branches are not as strong. you know which branch to stand on for launching paper airplanes to get the best loft. 

when you’re five years old, you don’t go to school, you go to kindergarten and that’s better than school. 

when you’re five years old, snow is just like dirt except that it’s cold, wet and clean.  snow-cold is never really cold and wet, red hands from soppy mittens don’t feel bad until they come off.

when you’re five years old, a glass of milk and a peanut butter and bacon sandwich tastes better than candy and you don’t care for anything else for weeks. no, really, you don’t. even if little brother makes a barfy face. 

when you’re five years old, cleaning your room is stupid and under the bed is a secret hiding spot. oh! that’s where your bear went! 

when you’re five years old, brushing your teeth is boring so swishing your mouth with toothpaste works just as good. 

when you’re five years old, ski wax is great for putting up posters

when you’re five years old, any blank wall space is a canvas and people look like eggs and don’t have bodies; their heads are their bodies and their arms come from where the ears are on other peoples’ drawings.  

when you’re five years old, a spoon is a shovel and a fork has too many points, so you push part of the fork against a wall to bend a point.  now it works.

when you’re five years old, a tennis ball is big. throwing a tennis ball very far is hard.

when you’re five years old, a cat’s back is as high as your knees and picking them up takes all your muscles.

when you’re five years old, the wind outside sounds like a monster. 

when you’re five years old, crayons melt on the furnace vent.

when you’re five years old, your Big Bird record player makes fun noises when you rub the needle against a washcloth.

when you’re five years old, you can’t reach the faucet, so you put your stomach on the counter and hold your breath to reach to turn on the water. 

when you’re five years old, the attic is haunted and you don’t like to pass by its door on your way to your bedroom. 

when you’re five years old, a dress over pajamas is suitable for trips to the bank with dad.

when you’re five years old, you hold everything with two hands and you stare at it if you’re walking with it and it has water in it.  

when you’re five years old, banisters are the quickest way downstairs for teddy bears in blankies. 

when you’re five years old, the inside curve in the back staircase where you can’t be seen from the top or the bottom is the best place to hide when you’re gonna get in trouble

when you’re five years old, bedtime is for tearing your favorite pages out of your Babar books and sleeping with them. 

when you’re five years old, doing your own hair is mandatory. if you don’t like your bangs, you just cut them and they are gone. and bangs can never be too short. even if mom disagrees.

when you’re five years old, you have your front teeth, unless you lose them during a game of cops and robbers with your big brother when you slip and fall and have to rush to children’s hospital to have them taken out. 

when you’re five years old, tricycles are for babies. big wheels are for winners. health-tex vested pant-suits are The Best for meetings, mary janes are better than sneakers and speed rules. 

this is me when i was five. 

if you’re not five years old, remember these things for your friends who are five years old. maybe they can remind you to loosen up, cut your own bangs and feel how cool it is to be a kid.