Poor dear

I happened to look out the window last night while a car was going past and saw her illuminated in headlights. She was standing in the grass across the street, facing our house. Standing isn’t the right word, exactly. It was more like a wide-stanced lean, her head and neck bowed forward. Her whole posture was zombie-like, though I’m glad I didn’t think of that last night. When a truck stopped in front of her and turned on its flashers, my husband put on his coat and headed outside to see what was what.

I don’t really know she was a she or how to tell aside from looking for antlers. She didn’t have those, nor external injuries like the end of an arrow sticking from her midsection like one buck that used to come by our old house in the Poconos. Once or twice, my husband crept slowly, cautiously, towards him to, well, I don’t know what exactly. He wanted a miracle. He wanted to grab the arrow and pull it out, I guess, but every time he got close the buck ran off and a week or so later stopped coming around.

The first deer I ever saw was mounted above my aunt and uncle’s fireplace. My uncle shot it and at Christmas time they hung a big red bow where its throat would have been. I felt the same warm affection towards his disembodied head as I did their full-bodied golden retriever. In the finished side of their basement, my brother and I played billiards or some terrible kid version which mostly involved liberal application of chalk to pool cues. When all the cues were overchalked, we crept over to the unfinished side to peek in the closet where my uncle kept his bloodied deer dressing clothes.

I’ve never hunted. I’ve never eaten venison. I’ve eaten plenty of chicken and cow and pig and once I tried meatballs made from crocodile. I have no objection to eating animals. Sometimes I wish I did and then push the thought from my head like hanging up on a salesperson so I can sit down to dinner in peace.

When we first moved to the Poconos, we fed the deer. Everyone told us not to, but we couldn’t see the harm. They were so skinny, so hungry! All the lower tree branches and small shrubs were stripped clean by late fall. When I walked past a window in winter, their eyes locked mine, pleading, I swear. We started buying huge bags of corn at a feed supply store and spread it in the backyard in generous scoops. It didn’t take long for word to get around.

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At first we felt like Snow White. They came in polite, smallish bunches and it warmed our hearts to see the yearlings graze. Then the big bucks came. They chased the smaller ones away and stood on their hindquarters and gnashed antlers, pulverizing the corn with their angry hooves. We had made them territorial and wild, so we conceded our idiocy and stopped feeding them. I stopped making eye contact from the windows unless I was feeling especially firm.

Twice my husband hit deer while driving. The first time, the deer caused serious damage to his truck – broken headlights, a cracked radiator, lots of busted thingamajigs. It perished in  a ditch. The deer, I mean. Thankfully my husband wasn’t hurt, though that’s a real risk when you hit a deer. The second time, a deer glanced off his driver’s side mirror and did several thousand dollars worth of damage and kept on running. (Side question: if a very old car is only worth, say, $3,000 at trade-in, how is it possible that one measly side mirror and headlamp cost the same to replace?)

I’ve seen this happen before, this miraculous display of ballet and invincibility. Once I was behind a car that clipped a deer we both must have been hypnotized by as it flew in from the shoulder. I know why they say reindeer can fly. It’s the only way I can describe the particular way this deer t-boned into traffic. It was fluid and graceful and fearless. Once the deer hit the car in front of me, it sort of stumble-tumbled and resumed flying across the remaining stretch and disappeared into tall grass without losing a full beat.

They don’t always make it, though.

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As I write this, we have a deer carcass in the grass across the street. Several concerned neighbors joined my husband last night and tried to coax the deer away from the road. She bled from her nose, leading some of us to come up with half-assed theories and diagnoses. One neighbor prodded it with a property marker and the deer just sort of hobbled in a circle and resumed that awful hanging lean. A police officer arrived and once everyone scattered back home, he took out his service pistol. I was sitting up in bed when I heard the gunfire. I thought I would feel relief but just felt sad.

In spring, we might see fawns if we’re lucky. They spend more time in the woods than on suburban lawns. They have small white spots on their back that resemble speckled sunshine on a forest floor. If you ever see a baby deer on its own, don’t attempt to move it. It’s not stranded. The mother stays away from her fawns during the day so predators won’t be attracted by her scent. Baby deer don’t have a scent. Even when they wander the woods and bleat a pathetic, heart-breaking cry when it’s feeding time, please don’t gather it in your arms and carry it up the hill like you just won the cutest, most terrified prize ever.

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I’d hoped to find this great photo of a fawn I know we have somewhere and the disembodied buck above the fireplace, which I’m pretty sure we don’t have anywhere, but this and the above deer-in-snow pictures are the best I can do.

One month gray

On Saturday, I tell my hair dresser I want to go gray. She barely bats an eye and rattles off the best way to go about it. She tells me she saw another client through the process, only to have her go back to color when the last bit was growing out. I hope that’s not me, though it very much sounds like something I would do.

My grandmother used to visit her hair dresser every Friday morning. I think her hair dresser’s name was Jo and I think I played Mr. Mouth with her daughter once, though I could be mixing up memories. I’ll never forget the can of Coke and pack of peanut butter crackers I got when I tagged along to a hair appointment. There was nothing tedious about it to me. I sat on a dryer chair, shoving in dry, day-glo crackers, and watched the magical transformation unfold.

My grandmother always went in tense, barking at my grandad to quit driving so slow and did he see that red light he just ran. When she came out of a hair appointment, she was the Queen. She still barked orders at my grandad, but did so regally. Her perfectly coiffed ball of ash blond hair looked like cotton candy and made me hungry again.

In all honesty, I’m not sure what she had done at those appointments. I think it was a wash and set, which would mean she didn’t wash her hair all week? No wonder she was always on edge. (She’s been gone nearly two decades, so I can’t ask her.)

I’m a little nervous about seeing my still-living grandmother at Christmas. Last summer, we were standing in the morning sun when she said to me “You do have a lot of gray hair.” I thought we’d been talking about sandals but she’d been having an entirely separate conversation in her head. She then told me about the time she’d been sitting poolside with my brother, who is several years older than me, and accused him of wearing a white wig. She may have given his hair a gentle tug just to be sure.

My hair dresser inspects my roots and tells me I’m about 80% gray. If she’d said anything less than 75%, I admit I would have felt disappointed. She says the hair framing my face is nearly 100% white and I remember the time I got a 100% on a french test in 7th grade and I beam. She shares a theory that the hair on that part of our heads takes a direct beating from the sun over the years and that’s why it goes first. I watch her fill my head with aluminum foil wraps and think it’s all pretty crazy.

I go home with about two inches of exposed white root and a head full of expensive highlights. I don’t really understand how this is all going to work, so I make an appointment for 8 weeks away, just to be safe. I’m relieved I won’t have to do my roots anymore every 3 weeks at home. White would already be showing at the temples and part line after 2 weeks. My hair doesn’t want to be fucked with anymore. It’s been quite clear about that.

On Christmas, my grandmother will no doubt comment on my hair. It’s better when I can brace myself. I’m learning to be more gracious and brush off what she never intends as insult in the first place. She went to the school of Say What Everybody Else is Thinking. I’ll probably slip into defensive mode and explain I’m just trying it out, much like the conversation she forced out of me on the phone last week when she asked about church.

When I told her that I was taking the girls to church a couple of months ago, she started crying. She still surprises me. Part of me now wishes I hadn’t said anything because now I feel like we have to keep going. She asks me if I can send her literature about my religion, which is a mix of beliefs and a stretch from what she’s used to. I think how fun it might be to make up my own brochure in Word, arranging weird clip art (aka the original emojis) and funny phrases. Instead I tell her how a recent service went, which is similar to every other denomination I’ve been to. Hymns, saying things in unison, shaking hands with flu-infested neighbors, listening to the minister, staring at the floor and ceiling, chucking money in a basket, snacks.

My grandmother tells me she wants my brother to go to church, that he needs it. She wants my husband to go to church. She probably wants you to go to church if you don’t already. The thing I can’t quite tell her is that church isn’t everything I’d hoped it would be. It turns out that it’s just me showing up and feeling awkward and out of place. The hymns are lovely, but in truth I’d rather not stand and I’m still lip synching all of the high notes and at least half the low ones too. When service is over, I beeline out of there to find my kids because awkward small talk feels like gargling with battery acid. There are definite points during the service where I feel peaceful and connected and outside myself, which is a very good place to be, but as it turns out, I’m no better at embracing community at church than I am anywhere else.

How did I start talking about gray hair and wind up at church? It might be worth mentioning that while counting hats is pretty impossible at church these days, I did count quite a few white heads in the congregation. A surprising amount of women too. So maybe I’ve found my people afterall, at least for where I am right now, which is all any of us can hope for.

us gray gals gotta stick together (if only mine would come in that lovely)

us gray gals gotta stick together (if only mine would come in that lovely)

tale from the cyber monday closet

I can’t remember if I wrote about him before on this blog, but there’s a little man in the closet underneath our basement stairs. He’s upside down, which seems like the kind of detail that might ring a bell, while at the same time feeling completely unnecessary.

I assume he’s still there, but the closet itself is so overwhelming and distracting I haven’t looked in awhile. I open the closet door and several toys threaten to spill out while the one cat – the always-underfoot one who is completely in love with chaos – rushes in to its darkest corners.

This weekend I opened the closet to find cheap stencils my daughter told me I’d never find because she doesn’t understand yet how obsessiveness gets worse by the year. I found the stencils and an old cassette recorder my other daughter promptly fell in love with and also an unused paper doll book to send to a friend. In case it wasn’t clear, this is a magic closet.

It’s also a sad closet full of neatly labeled bins that prove you can’t buy happiness but you can certainly buy too much. Polly Pockets. Barbies. Dress-Up. Crafts. Christmas Gifts You Thought Would Fix Everything And Look Where They Wound Up.

One year it was Cupcakes, legless, doe-eyed and inexplicably hard-to-find dolls whose dresses folded inside out to disguise them as delectable bakery items, which I think we can all agree is normally a dangerous disguise, but was so good they were forgotten by Christmas morning of 2005.

There’s the Polly Pocket Race to the Mall from 2007 and Raiders of the Lost Ark Legos from 2009, which may not have much in common except they both took hours to assemble and were played with for minutes. Also, they are both completely useless when a single part goes missing.

There’s the baby doll pack-n-play from 2013, which the youngest cleverly stuffs all her toys in during cleanup. She’s like a mini adult who’s figured out an unused treadmill is great for hanging laundry. Poor impulse control and improvisation only improve with age, my little one.

You’ve probably forgotten all about the man living underneath my basement stairs by now. The upside down fella? (does that ring a bell?)

He’s real. I didn’t discover him until our second Halloween in the house. I was in the basement looking at the underside of our basement stairs, as people do on Halloween, I guess, when I noticed him and raced up the steps to tell my husband. My husband was like “yeah, I know”. I don’t even think he looked up from what he was doing.

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Upside down stair dude – shown right-side up for your pleasure

 

He’s a mysterious upside down pencil drawing on the underside of step #7 of 11. I assume he came with the house but may have been drawn by my husband for all I know. When we had our basement finished several years ago, I had to use my best not-crazy voice while requesting the contractor please not use sheetrock or paint while turning the space underneath the stairs into a storage closet. I couldn’t bear to lose the little man.

Who better to oversee the magic and failures of reckless consumerism than an upside down fella with a fancy beaded sash and pizza slice pocket? His little hands look like flowers. I adore him.

This year the little man under the stairs used his magical powers to muck up an order I placed for the hard-to-find toy on one daughter’s wish list. He has his hands full already with the Polly Pockets, who probably drive him up the closet wall with incessant giggling aboard the Party Bus (which plays exactly one annoying techno-esque tune). I don’t think he wants anything for Christmas this year except a little peace and quiet.

 

 

Beat the Bridge

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I’m loading loose groceries into a tiny, ancient rental convertible and waiting for some guy to bring me paperwork so I can leave. Apples roll into the front passenger side, smooshing a shrink-wrapped pack of sausages. I check the time. 6:45am, the same time I’m supposed to meet my sister for the race. I still have a two-hour drive ahead of me. Where is that guy with the paperwork?

The nice thing about built-in alarm clocks is they have the opposite of a sleep function. At least mine does. That’s when you wake up before the alarm is set because your subconscious doesn’t trust real alarm clocks on account of not using them much. I imagine a mostly unused alarm clock might be passive-aggressive when it comes to big events. Plus I’m not sure I even know how to set mine properly.

There’s no taking chances when you have to meet a group of people two hours away at 6:45am on a Sunday morning and you have the parking pass. The rental car dream was a big red flag, so I got up before the alarm did or didn’t go off and I went downstairs to make coffee and mentally prepare for the big 10K.

A 10K is 6.2 miles, which I’d run a half dozen times since late August. My favorite run was also the first one I did along a flat and shaded roadside to an abandoned watchtower on the Delaware coast. On all my practice runs, I paused my running app so the clock wouldn’t roll while I snapped pictures, a hobby that paired nicely with running this summer.

This was the summer of running for the enjoyment of it. Actually, I forgot that I wasn’t going to call it running anymore. I jog. What happened when I went out for sporadic, leisurely jogs and left the timing gear at home was I got slower. Like, a minute-a-mile slower. I started tracking my pace again around the time I started 6 mile practice runs, but I never got faster.

I was nervous going into this race. The night before, we all got an email from the organizer that basically said “Look, we better tell you right now: expect long lines and delays. In case you didn’t know, you’re not the only one doing this race. You’ll be running with 20,000 other people. Twenty thousand. So take off the crown and just show up and enjoy yourself.” I thought it was the kind of email that might be helpful to get every single morning.

It turns out, the race was extremely well organized. I met my baby sister and her running buddies right on time and we parked at the nearest shuttle stop and were whisked off to the start line. Here I am in the only pair of sunglasses I seem to have left after summer, with the stunning Bay Bridge in the background, plus what looks like an unsuspecting woman getting ready to take a swim.

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The course was 4.35 miles of bridge, plus some mileage before and after to make up the 10K. The bridge part was absolutely amazing. At the midpoint, we were hovering 186 feet above sea. There were telephones and sobering signs for a suicide hotline. My sister said she looked over the side at the top, but I didn’t dare. We were so close to heaven. This is where I hit my peak, the part in the run where I felt strong enough to keep going to the finish line and maybe forevermore.

Then mile 5 came. For some reason, I was still chewing gum I’d had since the drive down. I didn’t want to throw it over the side of the bridge and hit an unsuspecting seagull, and suddenly this old gum felt like an albatross, a real liability I was lugging towards the finish line. My mouth was desert-dry and I a little panicky. This is where I wanted to walk so bad. Then a song came on my playlist that made me keep going.

I’m superstitious about using the shuffle feature during races. One reason is that it’s really hard to get my phone in and out of a running belt (more on that in a bit) to skip songs, but I also think the songs talk to me at various points, and often when I need to hear them the most. Around mile 5.2, when desert mouth hit and I noticed a hill looming in the distance, Ray of Light came on. I don’t even know I’d ever listened to the lyrics before, and then in my about-ready-to-give-up-and-walk state, I heard this:

Faster than the speeding light she’s flying
Trying to remember where it all began
She’s got herself a little piece of heaven

I happened to be jogging alongside an airport with grounded planes that were “flying” faster than me, so I got a case of the chuckles, which are like giggles for delirious, tired people. Then trying to remember where it all began brought it home.

Awhile back, I wrote about how driving across the Bay Bridge in the worst hungover state of my life indirectly, and not until many months later, led me to remove the demon alcohol from my life. Running over it sober, healthy? This was a big deal for me. I did remember where it all began and in that moment I was like “okay Universe, thanks buddy” and kept dragging towards the looming hill and heaven.

I got this when I crossed over. The finish line, I mean, not heaven. Maybe they give medals in heaven too, not that I’ll probably find out.

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a major award

I had the best cup of coffee in my life after the run. I got a space blanket, which I thought they only gave out for marathons, but I took mine because a 10K is as close as I’ll get to running a marathon.

The coffee wasn’t free, but luckily I’d brought a twenty dollar bill in my running belt. Remember the post where I shared the preachy, tragic short story I wrote when I was 11? Well, it almost came true.

While taking out my phone at the 1.5 mile mark to take a blurry picture of my feet or something, my precious $20 fell out! Now, I might let a $5 spot go, but not a $20. I nearly took out two unsuspecting runners in a mad scramble to pick it up. I feel really bad about that part and only later did I make the connection that I very nearly died, just like 11-year old me predicted.

So the run is over and I had such a wonderful time. It was amazing and empowering and all the things I’d hoped it would be, despite the race organizer’s low-expectations email. The best part was getting to spend time with my sister, who I don’t see nearly enough. After the race, we cleaned up and went to lunch at a fun place on the water with her husband and sweet baby boy. These are the precious moments, you know? This is what life is all about.

Mule

I have another confession to make. I’m gray as a mule. You might not know from the highlighted, touched up version of myself I put out there or because you’re not super tall like my husband, who notices my roots coming in before I do. So much for feminine illusions of dewy youth. I’m tired of the whole process myself.

Every three weeks, I have to do something or my hairline spreads thick with white. I’m like Pepe Le Pew, or more like his bewildered love interest. Why me? I’m sure it has nothing to do with genetics and the fact that my dad was gray since the day we met and my brother is gracefully headed that way. Why are men so much braver in this way? My husband grayed at the temples and sideburns and he truly does look distinguished. Doesn’t it just make you sick?

Do you know I’ve dyed my hair since college? I got my first gray at 14. My mom noticed it while french braiding my hair and plucked it out at my insistence. This must have been my fatal mistake. All the slumbering grays heard the battle cry and rose up. I have a distinct recollection of being described by a drunkard at a bar as having “stringy gray hair”. I was 24. In my memory, he also has stringy, gray hair because my memory is awesome and always has my back.

It’s all coming to a head now. Not only do I feel like I’m constantly dyeing or getting ready to dye, but the texture is all wrong. My poor hair is dry and lifeless, rightly exhausted from pretending to be a fun blonde. The gray hair underneath is wiry and coarse. It brays when I liberally condition and apply product, a word hairdressers are quite fond of in its vague invocation of miracle.

This is my first glimpse into getting older. I’m fighting myself from the root down and I don’t want to do that. I write all of this just before going upstairs to mix another batch of magic potion that will allow me to fool the world for 3 weeks. Then I’ll go online to google articles and tips from others who were brave enough to stop dyeing and transition over. I’ll probably start a Pinterest board with too many pictures of Emmylou Harris and Heloise.

Next month I turn 41. If I start to transition now, I can take advantage of the Steve Martin effect and age minimally over the next 20 years. At my 40 year reunion, people will say “you never seem to age!” They won’t know that even though I was terrified to look old, I was more terrified at the thought of fighting it for the rest of my life.

I think this is an album cover? It's also my new battle cry.

I think this is an album cover? It also makes a nice battle cry.

Don’t stop believin’

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In less than two weeks, I will run across a 5 mile bridge normally closed to pedestrians. The bridge hovers above the sea, which I have loved since I was a child. As proof, I submit a handwritten short story from the summer of 1985, when I was 11 and had not yet worked through how long it would take to walk 5 miles against the wind versus how quickly a cop car could swing by and whisk me off to jail. I guess I could have told the cop I was going to fix a so and so wire, which is bulletproof as far as excuses go.

The Dream

I had been counting the money ever since Friday when I started my shift. Each day I took a small amount. About $100 every two days. Crumpled, torn bills. Straight, crisp bills. The thing that really mattered was that it was money. I stared out the smeared glass window into the clear dark night.

What my mind was focusing on wasn’t the beauty of the cool clear autumn night but it was on the calm shiny water which I could view quite clearly myself from my booth. I loved the sea. Ever since I was a kid. My dream was to live at sea forever. That is till I died. I wanted actually to die at sea. True that isn’t the nicest thought but perhaps it will help you to understand my craving for sea. As far as I could see there was only the cold, metallic shadows and shapes of the bridge. It’s a wonder anyone would have the stupidity to build such an ugly thing (even a bridge) over an amazingly beautiful thing as water. I knew tonight I must escape. By then I would have enough money and no one would be able to catch me. It was all planned out.

First I would take about $600 out of the cash register. I would wait until 5 minutes before my suspected shift was over and I would leave my toll booth and cross the bridge by foot to my dream come true. A boat shop. I would have enough money. I don’t have a car only because I couldn’t afford to be saving up for a yacht. A beauty too. There I would spend my time every day traveling sea after sea. Come winter time I would be so far away it wouldn’t matter if I docked in for the season. Oh, I’d fish for a living. It would be wonderful. Amazing something could be that good.

I glance at my watch. 11:45 PM. Almost time. I was nervous. Why be? My money (well not exactly) was ready. Neatly packed away in my jacket. Looking around I checked the coast to make sure no one saw me leave. As I stepped out of the door a cool wind made me ask myself whether I wanted to go through with it. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a cop! He wouldn’t notice me. But then again it was permitted that no one be able to walk across the bridge. It was 5 miles. I could’ve taken a boat. But that would take money and time. No, I needed to go now. The guard was staring at me. Without a moment’s thought I just walked past the sign that said “No walking or biking past this point”. The wind whipped through my thin hair and summertime jacket. I could have been more prepared but I had no idea it was going to be this cold.

Really it was no big deal. I had been walking like anybody else would. Occasionally a car would come by and the driver would give me a weird look but I could have been a guard going to fix a so and so wire. I could plainly see lights ahead. It would take awhile to get there. The strong wind was slowing down and yet I had 5 miles to walk.

Suddenly I lost balance and fell as my jacket blew open and back in place. Frantically I dug my numb hand into my pocket to see if my treasure had still remained safe inside. That was a big mistake. Because as it was safe, only on the edge of falling out, now that I opened my jacket it blew out. With a miracle happening (indeed it was too) it caught itself between two wires near the railguard. And it wasn’t harmed. Without hesitation I stepped over the rail. Then, while gripping the bar with one hand, bent down and grabbed. I had it safe in my hands before I realized that I was on the ledge of the 50 story bridge. I knew that falling meant worse than falling onto concrete. My friend had once knew a person who jumped off a bridge to commit suicide. With that thought came a loud shrill sound from behind me. A huge rig went shrieking to a hault as with a scare so sudden my nerves and feelings lost control as I went plunging 50 feet to my death, rather my dream.

I had a few thoughts after reading this story and sharing it with my 13 year-old daughter, who asked to read it because she was supposed to be studying for a history test and would have gladly swept the entire house instead.

1) Don’t bring a huge wad of cash to a 10K on a windy bridge. I’m assuming a secondhand yacht would have run around $10K in 1985 and the toll was about $2 then, meaning the thieving toll collector had roughly 10,000 singles. The cash really isn’t an issue, but I’ll secure my phone and car keys in a running belt.

2) Never give up your dreams. Whether it’s to live and die at sea or write short stories or be able to run 6 miles continuously, if very slowly, keep at it. Revisit dreams you had when you were very young if you can remember back that far or maybe you too had the foresight to write them down in a swanky cloth covered journal with built-in bookmark.

3) Share your passion with others. My daughter read a few stories and told me she was sure we would have been friends. She said “if we had a sleepover we’d probably stay up late talking and you’d say ‘oh honey, one day I’m gonna be your mama‘ ” and we both laughed and laughed because we share the same sense of humor and rudimentary grasp of time travel. I feel 10,000 times prouder of creating her, although I had a little help so cannot take all the credit.

Dicky Turner and the Tee-Totals

Dicky Turner was an illiterate fish hawker from Lancashire and one of us. I stopped using the word alcoholic awhile back, not because I know what I’m doing but because it feels self-punishing. Do not mistake this for denial, but rather a search for a more proactive label.

Could it be Teetotal*?

The first time I heard this word was in my parents’ kitchen one Christmas Eve many years ago when an elderly neighbor came by and declined the glass of cheer my mother offered. “Oh no thanks. I’m a teetotaler,” Mrs. Wimbly screeched, her characteristic gameshow host smile stretched across her bony face. She wore the smile in striking contrast to her personality, which, if I had to personify it, might be one of the apple trees from The Wizard of Oz. She was a tough one to love, and she didn’t give a flying you-know-what. Mrs. Wimbly was unapologetically who she was, and only many years later do I appreciate this and wish I could invite her over for a cup of tea and a thousand Lucky Strikes, as she was also a smoking fiend, another possible tip off that she too may have been one of us.

A more recent use of the word Teetotaler came in a comment by a lovely reader I’d always felt must have stumbled across my blog accidentally and then was too polite to leave. Though it turns out she too does not drink for her own personal reasons. I do tend to think of teetotals as people who develop an early preference not to drink, rather than those of us who tried it – and how – for many years before being more or less forced to let it go. And by let it go, I mean having it pried from our stubborn, palsied hands.

And that may be why I like the word Teetotal so much. It implies the plucky, can-do attitude of someone who frankly doesn’t care what everybody else is doing. Alcohol isn’t for everyone, and it’s certainly not for me.

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The Drunkards Progress, by Nathaniel Currier, Wikipedia Commons

The origin of the word brings us to plucky Dicky Turner, who was part of the Seven Men of Preston, early movers and shakers of the temperance movement. By 1833, temperance societies were cropping up everywhere, and at one meeting fish hawker Dicky uttered in response to moderation “nothing but the tee-total would do”. Or else he said in strong accent “I’ll be reet down out-and-out t-t-total for ever and ever”. Which, I tend to bet it’s the second, or maybe hope is a better word.

Reading a little about the history of the teetotal movement reminds me of the excitement I feel in the sober blogs. This was all happening close to two centuries ago, and more than a century before AA was founded, and these people were fired up about not drinking and eager to find others to share in the joy of their newfound lives.

The most recent time I heard the word Teetotaler was in my parent’s kitchen again. Mrs. Wimbly is long gone, god rest her surly soul, so this time it was a family friend asking if I was “another one of those teetotalers”. Out of 10 adults gathering, 3 of us were teetotalers. This is remarkable and, I realize, possibly temporary, as not everyone sticks to the movement long term.

“Yep, I sure am,” I said proudly flashing my own gameshow host smile and doing my best not to throw in jazz hands.

“So what’s that all about?” my friend asked.

“Hangovers, mostly.” Every adult understands Hangovers. They are hard to argue with.

“It just wasn’t good for me. I’m much happier without,” I added.

This led to a branch-off discussion about how sensitive this person is to whiskey in particular, at which point she excused herself to grab a beer. Not everyone wants to be a Teetotal. It’s an exclusive club, and maybe we drink tea or sparkling water or nothing at all, but a great number of us are full of good cheer and I am one proud member.

* please note teetotal, teetotaler and tee-total are used interchangeably in this post but all mean the same thing, much like alky, alchy, and drunk.