The Summer Stay-Cation: A Labor Day Story

For Labor Day Weekend: A short-short story just for fun…

A lone leaf drifted lazily into the small kidney-shaped swimming pool in the backyard of my dear friend Muffy. An orange leaf. The three of use, Muffy, Buffy, and myself peered up with trepidation at the large elm tree that shades the deep end of the pool.

“Is that what I think it is?” asked Muffy, with a pained sigh.

Buffy lowered her huge, protective sunglasses and tilted up her enormous hemp sun hat to further assess the situation. She sighed as well. “Yes, I’m afraid summer is almost over. Before you know it the Neiman Marcus holiday catalog will be here.”

“Are you still getting that?” asked Muffy. She sounded a bit smug and sanctimonious, and I knew what was coming next. “I e-mailed all my stores and asked them to not send me any more catalogs. Do you know how many trees it takes to make one Neiman Marcus holiday catalog? More like a forest!”

I couldn’t see behind Buffy’s sunglasses but I knew she was rolling her eyes. Continue reading

An Old-Fashioned Fourth of July

The Fourth of July brings back my childhood to me in a way that other holidays don’t. The Fourth brings with it the pure, unadulterated joy of being a kid.

Just when the thrill of being out of school started to wear off, the fireworks stands went up. Rickety, wooden contraptions with hand-painted signs that listed the various fireworks available. Rockets! Sparklers! Poppers! Roman Candles! Black Cats! Punks!

Suddenly summer wasn’t so boring any more. Continue reading

A Present for a Stranger

(Originally published in the Chicago Tribune)

As I write the gift tag, “To a twelve year-old girl,” I remember with startling clarity myself at the age of twelve. I am waiting excitedly in a crowd of children for just such a gift to be delivered into my hands.

It was 1964, a time when people still had large families (I am the oldest of seven). A time when those of us growing up didn’t know we were on our way to becoming boomers and yuppies.

My family struggled daily to maintain a foothold on the lowest ring of the middle class. We were never on public assistance or welfare, but we were the next level up. My father worked during the day at his “regular job” (that job changed with some predictable frequency), worked nights at Montgomery Wards selling carpet, and on summer weekends at the track. He drove the bookmobile once a week to make an extra $15. The bookmobile was an enormous, lumbering blue thing that you could never believe made it up and down the mountain roads. My mother waitressed when things got really tight.

Continue reading