A Pot is a Pot is a Pot Except for When It’s Not

I like the pot. It’s a beauty. It’s cast iron with an enamel coating. The pot’s a nice size and it cleans up like a dream. I’ve baked cabbage rolls in the pot. I’ve roasted chickens stuffed with garlic and rosemary. I’ve spent hours simmering beef bourguignon. Last December the pot helped grace my table with the prime rib roast I make for Christmas each year.

The pot was a wedding present. Not my wedding mind you.

I have a lovely friend. She met a man and fell in love. They threw caution to the wind, picked up their lives, and moved across the country. They bought a house. They made new friends. They got married. They received the pot as a wedding present. The marriage ended. The house was sold. They divided the things they wanted and gave away what they didn’t. And now I have the pot.

I was okay to take the pot. I’m always up for new cookware. Well I was okay until someone mentioned that the pot was high-end Le Creuset cookware. A quick internet search revealed what I was calling a roasting pan was in fact a pot referred to as a Dutch oven and the one taking up space in my cupboard had a suggested retail price of $380.00 …plus tax. Of course I called my friend and tried to return it. She just laughed and said she’d known it was an expensive item but didn’t care. She wanted it gone. It was a mystery to her why her ex in-laws had bought it as a wedding gift as neither she nor the man she’d married were big home cooks.

Eating together is one of those traditions that strengthen the ties that bind. You sit and talk. You share yourself as you share your meal. Perhaps that was what the pot was supposed to represent as a wedding gift – the opportunity to build, in part, the foundation created when lives are experienced together. I don’t know.  Maybe my friend’s ex in-laws are the kind of people who like to spend hundreds of dollars on vaguely unsuitable gifts. Or maybe the pot wasn’t only a pot but instead a best wish for a happy future together.

The pot isn’t the most expensive item that Le Creuset makes. I found a goose pot on Amazon selling for $674.00. If you believe the online reviews it’s worth every penny. I can’t even imagine spending that kind of cash for a pot or a pan. That being said, chances are I’m going to own the pot longer than my friend was married. Longer even than the sum total time of her relationship.

Le Creuset cookware is warranted to be free from defects in material and workmanship at the time of its purchase. If it’s broken when you buy it they replace it. I spoke to my friend last week. She moved back across the country earlier this year and she’s still trying to figure out where it all went wrong. It’s never easy. People aren’t cookware. Relationships don’t come with any kind of guarantee. The strength of the promises made between two people is only equal to the will and intent of the parties joined together. And what you see (or choose to see) isn’t always what you get.  If someone is broken, a bad fit, or just wrong, you don’t get to simply reset. You either decide you can live that way or you move on.  It’s much easier to fix a pot.

I’m going to make something warm and bubbly this weekend. I’m not sure what yet but it’s going to be one of those dishes that fill the house with a marvellous smell. As I sit down to share my meal I’ll spare a thought of thanks to my friend for her friendship as well as the pot. I think she’s going to be okay. It will take more of letting things go but she’s well on her way. And like the pot her heart might even find a new home.

Because the pot and the marriage contract are the promise and the meal and the relationship are the fulfillment the music for this post is the Wilder Adkins song When I’m Married

Octogenarians Want Love or Something Not Even Remotely Like It (Too?- Hell I don’t know)

I like reading the weekend newspaper. I work on the NY Times crossword that runs only in the weekend edition. I enjoy the letters, the editorials, the comment pages and perusing the classified ads. I recently came across a slice of life in the singles column of the Classifieds.Singles Ad

The singles section in my regional paper is located near the euphemistically titled “adult entertainment” ads which are followed by the escort ads. I don’t know why adult entertainment and escort services need different headings because as far as I can tell they seem like the same things. For those who can’t find “Twoo Wuv” I suppose it’s convenient to have the services that replicate the mechanics of said relationship for pay advertised nearby. This gent seems to be trying to cover all bases-wide age range, possible marriage (based on a 2 hour a week get to know you time schedule) and cash for…well…“stuff”. I’m guessing he’s not shelling out $500 a month for 8 hours of holding hands at the movies. I have no idea what the hell is going on here but there is no denying that his hope, or something else, springs eternal. Whether it’s for love or a cash transaction only is uncertain. Will it be wedding bells or is this a senior ready to “mingle”? There is no doubt that age has no bearing on desire. I’m no expert but I’ve had my own little run in, rather unfortunately, with that truth.

I worked as a museum manager for almost 5 years. As a not for profit organization funding was always an issue. I was the only employee (with the exception of summer students). It would have been difficult to operate the site without volunteers. During my tenure I came into contact with a number of seniors.  I unintentionally managed to secure the “affection” of a married man more than 45 years my elder. Unbeknownst to me he had a reputation in the community for womanizing.  If I had known that, when I got to the end of the line of seniors I was giving a quick hug and a peck on the cheek to after an event, I would never have included him.

An explanation might be in order as it may seem strange that a professional would engage in such behaviour.  The individual who had held the position before me had complained about visits, from volunteers and members of the society that established the museum, hampering his administration. When I was hired it was made very clear to me that it was a part of the job and as such took priority over other administrative tasks. I was to have an open door policy and work to establish strong ties with any local individuals who chose to visit or participate on site. It led to a very interesting dynamic developing with a number of senior members who were involved with the organization. The closest term I might use to define that relationship would be “familial”.

I once had a senior volunteer end a phone call with “I love you” to which I responded to without a moment of hesitation with a “Me too. See you tomorrow”. For months I spent several hours each week visiting with a gentleman (not the not-so-secret admirer) whose wife was confined to a care facility as the result of a stroke. He would stop by my office and bring samples of his wood work as well as photos of his former property and harness racing horses he had raised. As the manager of a historical site with a mandate to preserve local history people would come by to share stories of family histories, traditions and of course gossip. I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy sharing a bit of gossip whether it happened last week or a hundred years ago.  Living and working in a small rural community, as well as the nature of my job, meant that the lines between my work and personal life were at times nonexistent. It wouldn’t be unusual to have someone drop by my house on my days off to talk about something work related or to drop by my work to talk about something personal.  So hugs and pecks on the cheek for pseudo grandparent figures were not out of line.

It wasn’t even a week after the event that I realized I had unintentionally created a problem for myself. That small gesture of affection had fanned the flames of a desire and I found myself the subject of some very unwanted attention. Suddenly I noticed that my not-so-secret admirer was around more often. He would make excuses to speak to me (not that he had to, it was my job after all) but he didn’t really have anything to say. I began to hear about him asking for me when I wasn’t on site, wanting to know when I would be back. He would take any opportunity he could to come into contact with me. At one point he took my hand and wouldn’t let it go. I can tell you it is very awkward trying to disengage your hand from an 88-year-old man’s grasp without hurting him when he’s determined not to let go. At that point I was embarrassed and I felt a bit sorry for him as well as his wife. I blamed myself because you know maybe I shouldn’t have hugged him (even though it had never been a problem with any of my other seniors). I had no idea this was a regular thing for him. If I had, I would have faced it head on. He wasn’t making any attempt to hide his interest. I began to make sure I was never alone with him. That wasn’t so hard during the summer when there were students working through the busy season. The slow season began in September. The students would be heading back to school and I was going to be alone on site. So of course you know that’s when it came to a head.

It was just a normal weekday when he showed up. I was sitting at my desk doing some administrative work on the computer. I kept working as he came in hoping he would see I was busy and leave. He stood behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. Well I tell you I was at a loss. I began to explain what I was working with on the screen. I looked up at him and he said “You look sad” and then he bent down AND KISSED ME ON THE MOUTH and said “Does that make you feel better?”. HOLY-CRAP-IN-A-HAND-BASKET. I was stunned. Just then out of the corner of my eye I saw the gas lady walking across the lawn to check the meter. “Oh it’s the gas lady” I exclaimed and I almost ran out of the room. He followed me. Now this man was in his late 80s at the time. He then had and still does have a Tweedledee Tweedledum physique. I wasn’t afraid of him. I’m pretty sure I could take him in a fair fight. But I was extremely uncomfortable and angry. I was angry at him. I was angry on his wife’s behalf and I was angry at myself for waiting and just hoping the whole thing would go away.  I turned to him, making no attempt to hide my anger and asked “Does your wife know you go around kissing other woman?” My tone of voice made it clear it was both a question and a threat. I walked away to talk to the gas lady and my not-so-secret admirer left.

I wish I could say that was the end of it but of course it wasn’t. A year later he showed up for a site event. He tried to speak to me and I walked by him without acknowledging his presence. Later that day I had a chat with one of the organization’s board members and related the whole thing to him. It was agreed that this man would be “discouraged” from participating on site. I don’t work at the museum anymore. I made sure to warn my replacement during her orientation. Sometime later I mentioned to a friend who had grown up in the area that I’d had a problem with a senior volunteer being inappropriate. I didn’t even have to mention his name. She knew who it was right away. Then someone else mentioned another incident they’d heard of.  With all the gossip I had been privy to while running the museum there’d not been a whisper of his womanizing.  On reflection I realized the majority of those talks on site had been mostly with older women. It seems that younger women had borne the brunt of his attention. Don’t get me wrong I’m not one of those people who believe love is only for the young or that May-December romances are wrong. I do believe if you’re married, YOU’RE MARRIED. And if you want to carry on like you’re not, then you shouldn’t be anymore. I also think that a healthy dose of reality should temper every ego. If the person who placed the ad I pasted above is single and ready to mingle by all means he should go for it. I hope he finds someone who is looking for what he has to offer. All things being equal both of them should meet on common ground regardless of age but equal in availability and desire.

I still have strong ties to many of the people I met while I worked at the site. I’ve heard my not-so-secret admirer still stops by to ask about me. There’s that hope (in his case that can be translated into an amoral and misguided ego/libido) springing eternal I suppose. Obviously I’m no longer contractually obligated to talk to any and everyone but when I hear that he’s been asking about me I like to imagine I might allow a very brief discussion with the desired effect on my part of further crushing that hope like a nasty bug beneath my heel.  The reality of course is that hope is indestructible.

Songs for this post

What a Fool Believes by the Doobie Brothers because delusion played a serious role in my unfortunate incident. His for thinking he had even a smidgen of a chance or mine for hoping it would just go away-pick whichever you’d like.

Backdoor Man by the Doors. Not because my not-so-secret admirer believed he had that Jim Morrison thing going for him. Rather he was hoping to sneak around with someone, anyone, as long as she was decades younger than him and not his own wife.

Here Among the Scotch

The day dawns clear with a bright sun in a cloudless sky. There is a light breeze skipping among the garden blooms and the humidity of the past week is history. To some it might seem the perfect day for a picnic but, for myself, it seems the perfect day to hang the wash out on the line. 

As I live here, among “the Scotch” (to quote John Kenneth Galbraith), there is no guarantee that the skies will stay clear so one must make hay while the sun shines. A common saying in this part of the country states that if you don’t like the weather…wait 5 minutes. During the past several rainy days the laundry pile has been multiplying in girth exponentially on the basement floor so I decide to take the chance.

A perfect laundry day as I have said; the sun is warm and the breeze is steady but not strong. There’s nothing worse than a wind that sends you 2 concessions over looking for your potholders. Today even the towels are dry in an hour. All is well and fine, until I get to the white load. Herein lies my weakness, my hypocrisy. Today the white load is my Waterloo.

I’ve never had the least bit of trouble hanging out my “tidy whities” (at least not the romantic ones) but the husband is consumed by the thought that the neighbours must have an all-consuming interest in his delicates. He insists that his unmentionables must be hung in the basement away from the mysterious league of underwear inspectors that wander the rural backyards seeking out the jockey shorts of the local men. It is a subject that I’ve never failed to exploit for some small bit of humour at his expense placing an emphasis on the fact that no one is interested in our laundry. Imagine my chagrin when my laundry hang up came to light.

I take some pride in my whites and I am constantly carping at the prodigal son to stop walking around outside in his white socks with no shoes on. Of course a brick wall responds with more interest than the prodigal son. Frustrated, I finally tell him that I am ashamed to hang his socks out on the line lest the neighbours see my whites aren’t the whitest and judge my merit as a woman /domestic goddess/ member of the human race … Oops, I should never had said that in front of the husband.

One underwear joke too many apparently makes one a little touchy on the subject of neighbourly laundry inspections. I’m not quite sure when I will hear the end of it and I “guess” I deserve it (but it was fun while it lasted).

Here among “the Scotch” my laundry hangs on the line sans jockey shorts and the prodigal son’s not so white socks even though I know the neighbours aren’t interested in either. Personally, I think the less said about the secret league of laundry inspectors the better. Your personal hang-ups are just that…personal and people should respect them.

I think I’ll buy some 20 Mule Borax tomorrow…just in case.

Make a Wish and Blow Out the Candles

My birthday has never been a favourite day of mine. Maybe it stems from many years ago on the occasion of my 5th birthday which was celebrated with a broken arm. I had actually broken the arm several days before. My mother had found me crouched in the sun room on the porch of our old Victorian house hiding from the sun. I remember that I held my arm up to her and told her the sun was burning it. Three days later she took me to the hospital to find that it was indeed broken and a cast was duly applied. She still has a picture of me in front of a birthday cake, tiny and tow headed wearing pastel blue and pink beads with a cast starting just above the elbow and stretching down to cover most of my hand. Birthdays have just never been my thing.
This year my birthday was one of those “landmark” birthdays that sometimes cause people to look back upon their life and assess their progress as they see fit.  The past two years have been full of a great deal of change for me.
Big change number one – I married approximately two years ago. There’s a book that could be written about that. Family always puts such an “interesting” spin on those things.
Big change number two – A new plan for my employment situation was required a little more than a  year ago as I was on the receiving end of a hockey puck that gave me a cut that took 15 stitches to close and permanently altered my depth perception and ability to tell the difference between particular colours. The old job was a dead end but it was a hell of a nasty way out.
Big change number three – Nine months ago I moved from a good sized urban center to a very small community leaving behind all my friends and networking opportunities. So definitely there was a lot to look back on.
So lots of things to think about. As well for the first time that I’d really noticed my birthday coincided with Fathers Day. So that was more to reflect on.
I have no memory of ever having met my father. As a matter of fact, although my mother has been married several times I grew up having no idea what a father did or even that having one around might be an asset. When I was younger I never gave it much thought. I was a single parent at 25 and that did not strike me as odd. It was the type of family I had grown up in. I probably would have gone through life none the wiser but for one thing; I married a good father. I’m not saying that he’s Ward Cleaver, don’t get me wrong. He’s an actual human being with all the flaws and quirks that all of us have.
He hogs the television and falls asleep on the couch. I made him breakfast in bed on Fathers Day and when he spilled his orange juice he laid in bed and yelled for me to come up and clean it. He’s a smart ass with the kids. When they go out he eats their Christmas and Easter candy. He nags them to pick up their stuff and to take the dog out. I’ll ask him to do something and he’ll tell the kids they have to do it. He drives them crazy and he loves them. He calls his kids every day because they don’t live with us. He helps support his children financially. He is raising another man’s child as his own with all that entails. He gets along with his ex wife to the best of his ability. He tries to be a fair and decent human being and set a good example for his kids and my son who lives with us. He loves his children more than anything else. It shapes his days and his nights. It has determined the course of his life and there have been times when it has been very difficult. Even so, while he might change a few of the details he wouldn’t give up the whole of it for anything. That is how I know what a father is and what a father does.
We were watching something on television, some Kodak moment between television father and daughter. I said to my husband, ” I wonder, why my father didn’t love me?”. My husband told me that I couldn’t possibly know whether or not my father loved me and that I didn’t really know what had happened. I didn’t say anything. Kindness on his part had extended the benefit of a doubt to a man I have never met. That kindness came from a heart that would never choose to absence himself from his children’s lives and be anything less than a real father.
And this is the man I married, what does that say about me? I don’t know…something…nothing…everything?
So I was miserable on my birthday.
Maybe that is the way it’s supposed to be. I’ve never really been very good at this birthday thing.