Becoming One’s Parents

Remember all that stuff – sayings, instructions, advice, behaviors – that made you crazy once you hit nine years?

Usually, it was stuff either delivered or modeled by parents. Sibs present, as is well known, were merely temporary and insignificant passersby of little consequence and to whom no attention was warranted.

My father demanded I spend a fair amount of time in the driveway. Not playing, mind you. No basketball net on my garage.

Instead, there I could be found, sitting on a wooden stool, screwdriver in hand, pulling dandelions out (by the roots, please) from our gravel driveway.

“Can’t we get an asphalt driveway,” I’d wonder.

Stoic, as men are maddeningly known to be – or maybe they’re just smart enough to know better than to engage – no answer followed. Maybe he thought I was practicing delivery of rhetorical questions.

Advancing boldly into mid-century Modernism, at some point an automatic dishwasher was added to our 1920s Tudor-style stucco house.

“Automatic” meant no human hands were involved. Previously, I had been the dishwasher. And pretty automatic.

The appliance doubled as a source of great amusement and vigorous ridicule. The never-to-be-used, mint original condition dishwasher stayed virtually pristine.

While my hands wrinkled.

Not sure what we were saving. Water? Electric? The entire appliance? I am pretty certain the Smithsonian was saving an exhibition space for it behind glass walls.

Were I to remark (OK, “complain”) that it was cold in the house, my mother’s response did not reference the thermostat.

“Put on a sweater,” she’d say, with Sunday’s New York Times draped over her own stocking feet for warmth. To this very day, I refuse to wear sweaters. Scarred for life, as you can see.

Today, on Sundays during three seasons, you can find me comically parked on my gravel driveway atop a tiny plastic stool, weed-puller in gloved hand (blister prevention, don’t you know), pulling dandelions.

My home’s kitchen is equipped with a GE dishwasher. I turned it on once. By accident. When I bumped into the “On” switch. To tell the truth, I’m afraid to turn it on now as I assume the hoses have dry rot.

The thermostat in my house is permanently set to 68 degrees, thereby ensuring a crisp three season ambience well-suited to the Scandinavian half of my family. (As though my deep blue eyes and striking blonde hair were not the give-away.) A desperately worn flannel shirt substitutes for the awful sweater, though publicly I claim it as homage to grunge and Seattle.

As well, I confess, I’ve been known to comment on other people’s appearance and attire, not to mention the desperately poor state of popular music.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

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