Anne Notations

Thursday, November 22, 2007


"It's my sock and I'll chew on it if I want to."

Did I mention that Caroline is cutting a few new teeth?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Seven things

The lovely, clever Helen Jane has tagged me with a meme, so today you get SEVEN FACTS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT ME.

1) While I'm a New England girl by birth and residence, I spent four happy years living in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, Illinois, from ages three to seven. I remember the town's friendly Midwesterners and the huge elm trees that arched darkly over our summer streets.

2) Speaking of Chicago, my first serious fangirl experience involved the White Sox. Nellie Fox was Da Man back then, maybe because I liked his name. Remember when baseball players were wiry and nonsteroidal?

3) I sucked my thumb until I was 12. Anxious much? When younger, I would simultaneously twirl strands of my fine hair into impossible knots, which Mom had to cut out with nail scissors. My preschool days were one long bad hair day.

4) The worst grade I earned in high school was a D, in chemistry. The periodic table defeated me. I think this is related to my suckiness at almost any card game more complex than Go Fish and the fact that I'm totally unable to learn chess. (Trivial Pursuit? Watch out!)

5) More failure to learn: Despite living on or near the ocean most of my life, I failed Intermediate Swim three years in a row and gave up. On a good day I can swim the length of a pool, employing a combination of simple backstroke, sidestroke, and dogpaddle. Most of the time I float. Body fat is good for something.

6) I was what we called a "tomboy" back in the 1950s: hanging out with the neighborhood boys, playing army (fake guns, oh no!) and touch football, collecting baseball cards. In fifth grade I ran the fastest girls' 50-yard dash in all of Greenwich, Connecticut; I continued to be the best sprinter in all my schools right through high school. At Brown I played ice hockey on the first girls' college team in the country.

For a good skillet-cooked meal in 1972-73, you could call Gail and Anne, the two cheerleader babes at left. Try our special sideline cocktail: cherry Kool-Aid and vodka. Great for getting through a 0-10 football season.

7) Although I could make scrambled eggs and pancakes as a kid (and have the burn scar on one wrist to prove it), I didn't really begin to cook until my senior year in college. Dorm suitemate Gail + my mom's old electric skillet = culinary school for me. Our favorites ranged from ground beef Stroganoff to beef stew to tuna-noodle delight. Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup was a staple of our "kitchen."

Now it's someone else's turn. Here are the rules for the meme:
1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
4. Tag seven random or not-so-random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.

I tag Mary, Neil, Jenny, Michelle, and Slimbolala (sorry, I actually forget your real name! Braindead in Blogland here). I'll leave it at those five articulate, witty peeps for now. I read lots of other blogs, but many are by high-profile authors and journalists who don't know me from Eve and would scoff at being tagged. The rest of you: get crackin'!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Random acts of sweetness

Little did I realize that last week, my birthday week, was officially Random Acts of Kindness Week! There is even a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation to encourage voluntary good deeds. It's all a bit Pollyanna and gagtastic if you're a cynic and tired of seeing the bumper stickers everywhere. But maybe there's something behind the cutesy slogan. Does it really hurt to do something nice for a perfect stranger?

My own random acts of kindness tend to be mundane: I wave forward a car waiting on a side street during my commute; I leave a coupon on the supermarket shelf near its corresponding can of soup.

Once I received an act too special, too sweet, to describe as mere kindness, although random it certainly was. My freshman year at Brown I lived in an all-girls dorm of recent vintage. Quaint formalities still applied: visiting hours, sign-ins at the front desk staffed by the motherly Mrs. McDermott (RIP), our own mailboxes in the foyer instead of across campus in the P.O.

It was February, and my first big passionate college relationship, with wealthy, hunky, sardonic "Rich" (not his real name), was faltering. Valentine's Day arrived, and in my mailbox I found a joke card from said unromantic boyfriend wishing me "Happy V.D.", yuk yuk. I was only 18, and the card stung a little.

Later that day Mrs. McDermott's soothing voice came over the intercom in my room. "Anne, there's something for you at the front desk." I rode the elevator down from the fourth floor and immediately saw, as I stepped into the lobby, an enormous bouquet of deep red long-stemmed roses in a milkglass vase. I ripped open the attached envelope and read the handwriting on a white card:

Pi = 3.14159265....

Nothing more.

The roses were thrilling, gorgeous, mysterious. I was the envy of my hallmates. When I queried Rich about the roses that night (tentative, hopeful), he bristled: "No, I didn't send them! Who are you seeing?"

Why did I always pick the mean, macho guys?

Within the week Rich went back to his preppy Skidmore girlfriend, causing me to shed some ritual tears and move along. In the years before I graduated, I occasionally thought about my mysterious Valentine; the memory made me smile and feel warm.

Fast forward: Four days before graduation, I was in the hardware store on Thayer Street buying God knows what. I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Are you Anne H_____?" asked a young man standing near me. He introduced himself, a fellow senior about to graduate.

"Our freshman year," he said, "did you get some roses on Valentine's Day?"

My eyes flew open and I gasped. "Yes! I never knew who sent them."

He smiled. "My friends and I were sitting around the night before Valentine's Day, going through the Pig Book" – Brown guys' charming name for the women's freshman photo directory. "We decided to pick out someone who looked nice and send her roses. We all chipped in for them."

The mystery was solved – fortuitously, just before we dispersed into our futures. I was the lucky girl who had "looked nice" in the photo book.

"You guys made me so happy," I told him. "My boyfriend was being a jerk, and I was lonely. Your roses made me feel special and appreciated. Thank you so much."

Those boys had committed a perfect, anonymous act of sweetness. With this eleventh-hour revelation, my undergraduate years felt complete.

Maybe I'll set up a Random Acts of Sweetness foundation. Yeah, it sounds cloying and corny. So what. Everyone deserves a thrilling little mystery – and some flowers – in their life.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fifty six

Today I wore this little pin on my sweater. Yes, it's a birthday cake. I bought a handful of them a few years ago when my high school gang reunited, and suggested we could each wear ours on our birthday and think of the ol' group. So, ORR ladies, if you're reading this: I thought of you today, and I want to give you a huge hug and a big kiss. May we gather again this coming year.

Nice stuff: My co-workers surprised me with a delicious chocolate layer cake yesterday afternoon and an odd, counterpointal (is that a word? my spellcheck thinks not) rendition of "HBTY" in several different keys. I love my peeps.

Nice stuff, part 2: Peter bounded into my office this morning with a cute flowered box chock-full of Bath & Body Works scented goodies, from hand cream to lip gloss to hand soap and body wash. I will have no excuse for being anything but fragrant as a dewy young flower. (TY, bb!)

More nice stuff: The physical therapists at my noon knee-torturing session gave me a gray T-shirt with a funny cartoon face looking agonized, and the words "Got pain?"

I received lots of cards, both e- and snail. Thank you, everyone. I can't lie: I love the attention.

The best part: Going for my mammogram today and being stopped at the inner door after the tech called my first name. "No, I need Anne D_____," she said, glancing at my intake sheet and then peering past me at the other women in the waiting area. "That's me," I assured her. Double-take. "Oh! I never would have taken you for 56 years old! You look so much younger." I really love that woman.

Not so nice stuff: This gasoline bill. Damn, I hate it when the total is over $50.

Per gallon, gas is up to $3.05 today and sure to rise some more. I need to start taking the bus, and intend to when the aforementioned knee will tolerate my walking to and from various stops.

Happy endings chez nous: Mexican pizza from Picasso's, then our favorite lemon mousse cake from Pastiche. Last course: a glass of crisp white wine and a snuggle with my fellow-Scorpio hubby - who, by the way, dislikes having his picture taken. Bet you couldn't tell.

I can smile for both of us. As for turning 56: as long as the "6" isn't the first numeral, I'm fine. Check back in four years.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Eyes wide shut

Caroline is all smiles, but Daisy will never be a model at this rate.

Earlier, much earlier, while the frost was still on the beach grass, we watched the Brant geese floating near our seashore, softly honking to one another.

The year-round beauty of this coastline-heavy state is something I'm privileged to share with our granddaughter. She loves being outdoors in all weather, and is captivated by flowers, plants, birds, airplanes, and trucks.

Are we born with an innate attraction to beauty, or do we learn it? I believe some people are blessed genetically with a heightened aesthetic disposition, but we can all learn to open our minds and hearts to beautiful aspects of this world -- seen, heard, and felt. My beloved Nanny Girthofer sat with preschool-me for hours and helped me crayon in the intricate floral designs in an old-fashioned coloring book. With her embroidery scissors she snipped out roses and lacy borders from greeting cards, then helped me arrange them in lush collages that we pasted to construction paper. Dad took gorgeous color photographs on his travels around the country, but Mom in fact was my greatest aesthetic influence. Nature, art, music, literature: these were her passions, and at her side I learned them well. Now, they are mine.

Caroline will turn two at the end of this month. I have a few cute gifts ready to wrap for her birthday party. It will please me if I also give this curious little girl some of my own joy in the beauty so generously surrounding us. Unlike a toy, the love of nature is a gift that lasts a lifetime.