It is 8:50 p.m. and I have settled into an easy chair in front of my gas-powered fireplace after the end of a trying evening. I also have a glass a wine —a “party pour” as my 20-something niece calls a generous pour. The reason? Otis.

Otis is my 9-week-old golden retriever. Tonight we started puppy socialization. He prepared for class by peeing on the floor in my home office and biting my pant legs. When we arrived at class, he could not find a suitable place to potty outside, rather waited to pee until we were in class. He was the only dog who relieved himself in class. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

We began class with a discussion of the placement of the dog crate in our home. The teacher advises that the crate should be positioned next to my bed, so the dog can hear me breathe and hear my heart beat. If I moved the dog crate to my bedroom, he’d hear my spouse packing his bags. When we came home two weeks ago, we situated the dog crate in the laundry room. My heart doesn’t beat that loud and even if I had emphysema, he couldn’t hear me breathe. I don’t disclose this to the teacher.

But I don’t need to because Otis has already drawn attention to us by straining on his leash to interact with another puppy who is nicely lying at his owner’s feet. When the straining and choking noises don’t stir the well-behaved neighbor, Otis begins barking, then ups the ante to lunging and barking. No other puppy in class is doing this. I don’t dare look at the owners; I am certain they are horrified. Being cute can only make up for so much.

Otis and another puppy, Lena, are then banished to the other room because both are new to the class. I am sure Lena is wondering what in the hell she ever did in her short life to get assigned Otis as her playmate. She is bigger but soon Otis has her on the run. There is no “me too” at puppy school. Finally, Lena takes a swipe at him. Undeterred, Otis keeps chasing her. Lena is visibly relieved when we rejoin the others to learn a few simple tricks.

The first one is to get the dog to sit. Passed with flying colors. Then we are to coax the dog to lie down. Instead, Otis pees. I mop the floor; Otis licks the wash water. The teacher takes pity on me and attempts to get Otis to lie down. He’s having none of it. Instead, he returns to an old favorite — biting my pant legs. Finally, the teacher succeeds in getting Otis to lie down for a nanosecond. Then he returns to biting my pant leg. When I try to get him to stop, he takes a nip at my hand.

At the end of class, the teacher hands us a folder of instruction. I am to work with him at least three times per day for the next week. My mind has already raced ahead to what will happen if next week is a repeat performance.

I text my son on the way home and tell him that Otis was the worst-behaved puppy in puppy class. He responds, “He is going for the most improved trophy.”

I can only hope.

Cremation and Creativity

I have been woefully negligent in sharing my musings with my vast audience of under a dozen. I believe the trendy thing to say is that I have been, “creatively blocked.” And of all things to spur the unblocking? Cremation.

I get at least 3-4 proposals per month suggesting my cremation. Seriously. Not just funeral planning, but specifically, cremation. Makes me wonder what I’ve done to signal my intense interest in having myself cremated.

However, the growing interest in my cremation has caused me to think about retirement. So much so, that I joined a group of friends to talk about how we’d like to see our later years play out, which led to my astute observation that if I didn’t fire up my creativity, I’d bore myself to death. While the cremationists would be delighted, it seems a sad way to go. And the group challenged me to sign up for a class.

So, I signed up for a class on unblocking one’s creativity. Here I am. Now instead of boring myself to death, I can bore you to death (and send you a coupon for cremation if you like). All the talk of creativity caused me to reflect on my lifetime of artistic endeavors, so I am sharing a special memory…

I desperately wanted to perform well in art class in grade school. I always got good grades, the two notable exceptions being religion and art. The whole concept of creating something enthused–but befuddled me. I had two things working against me.

  1. My impatience
  2. The wretched condition of the Burke home art supplies

No need to elaborate on my impatience. And I hesitate to even call what I had at home “art supplies.” I always had access to a scissors–could paw through drawers and find at least one, always dull. We used the one pair to cut paper, pizza, twine. We never had fabric in the home so that wasn’t an issue (and, as I’ve pointed out, never splurged on a pizza cutter either. Why? We had the dull scissors.) We were not a home of sparkles or doilies, making my own Valentine cards was unthinkable.

Art class was the ONLY place I could shine. I couldn’t draw to save my soul, so imagine my excitement when the art teacher assigned a paper mache project. We could make anything. My mind raced ahead, and I heard, but ignored the “add a layer of newspaper, LET IT DRY, add another layer” admonition. I “knew better” (as my Dad was fond of saying).

So, I waited until after dinner the night before the project was due and began construction of a turtle. I soaked newspaper strips in flour and water and layered and layered and layered them until I had a nice plump turtle. But the hour was growing late, and I had to paint it, so consulted my Mother–a grave error as she was no artist, much less a paper mache-ist. However, she was smart and aptly observed that the considerable mound of wet newspaper would not dry in time for a coat of green paint, so she advised putting the turtle in the oven. I did. Now I had a warm mound of wet newspaper and the whole house smelled.

Panic was setting in. My Dad then got into the action. He at least painted pictures so there was some artistic something in his genes. He suggested starting over with a base so I would only need one or two layers of newspaper. A round pink styrofoam bowl was produced. I added one layer of newspaper strips, barely wet. Things were looking up but I panicked again when I realized I just had a round mound which didn’t suggest a turtle with a head. I could not submit a headless turtle.

Again, my creative parents suggested I modify to a lady bug. Sure lady bugs have heads but they are so small they run into the body. I was thinking of this, minus the legs:

Excellent. I then applied a layer of red paint and in the morning, added some black dots. And my Dad drove me to school.

The lady bug was still dampish, leaching a bit of red paint, but was much improved from the headless unpainted sopping wet turtle. But when the art teacher saw it, she accused me of cheating. Apparently no honest paper-mache-ist starts with a pink styrofoam base.

Does anyone wonder how my creativity became blocked?

At the time, even in the mid-1960’s in Chicago, we burned some trash in our backyard (In fact, one time, our cleaning lady, Delores, set her hair on fire while tending to the fire, but I digress.) I mention this because I am quite sure that my paper mache turtle turned faux lady bug was cremated.


On Thursday, I awoke to a 5-alarm fire of phones ringing. The house phone, my cell phone, the house phone — I knew, without question, that someone had died. My husband ran frantically, phone to phone, missed the call, missed the call, then hit pay dirt. Found Marilee on the line on the very last ring, then promptly handed over the phone to me, still semi-comatose in bed. Although I am generally up at 7:40 a.m. on a Thursday, I had indulged myself by staying up to watch the end of the Cubs baseball game. Marilee was unhappy.

First, an aside. Although I presume Marilee spells her name Marilee, henceforth I will refer to her as “Merrily” because her name is incongruous with her chosen profession. Dental hygienist.

Merrily sounded anything but merry. Stern, annoyed, grumpy. Any of those adjectives would do. And because I was just stirring from sleep, her voice sounded so very loud.

She started off by saying, “This is Merrily from Dr. X’s office,” then pointing out the time. Having  just awakened, I had no idea of the time, so that was somewhat helpful, but my gratitude was quickly replaced with dread.

“Oooh. Sorry. I totally forgot, just blanked it out, I knew I had an appointment, but then forgot…” I could have gone on for hours with my mea culpas, but Merrily was having none of it.

“You confirmed the 7:30 appointment,” she pointed out stonily.

“Yes, yes, I know. I did. I just forgot, you know, just forgot.”

She didn’t know. Clearly Merrily has never forgotten one single thing in her entire orderly life.

After a stone cold silence, “Can you be here by 9:40?”

“No, no, I have to go to work. Have meetings.” Frankly I couldn’t remember if I had a meeting or not, but I was petrified to face Merrily in less than two hours. Best to wait until her memory of my grotesque inadequacy had dulled.

For a moment, I considered offering an explanation, but it was clear from Merrily’s tone, that telling her I overslept because I stayed up until midnight watched a baseball game would never do. So, I pivoted quickly to my stock of white lies — stomach flu is always reliable. But before I spat it out, I realized if I had stomach flu, I could not be going to a meeting. Should I offer a death in the family? No, no, too big a lie. Car trouble? No, because she can tell from my voice that I am still in the sack. My panicked review of possible excuses was interrupted by her next question:

“Do you want to reschedule now?” But it came out like, “You lazy good-for-nothing, when ARE you coming in?”

I faltered. I couldn’t face a reschedule. I hate the dentist’s office and all the worse, when I know they hate me. “No, no, I can’t. I am still in bed.”

There it was. Out. Admitted. A longer, stonier silence. “So you’ll call later?” Translation: Any self-respecting individual would have leapt out of bed and had calendar in hand by now.

“Yes.” I almost said, “Yes, certainly” for good measure, but I was feeling anything but certain.

And here’s the worst part. I didn’t call later Thursday or even Friday. I remembered, but didn’t call. Her chastisement laid me low. It is on my calendar to call tomorrow. God, give me courage.


Crafty? Or crappy?

Several years ago, before banks got too big to fail, they bestowed cloth-covered checkbook register covers on their preferred customers, which I was. (I am also a preferred customer at the nearby liquor store, which is awkward because the program is titled “Frequent Buyer Program.” I do not like announcing that I am a frequent buyer at the liquor store, thus have taken to telling the clerk upon checkout that I am a “member of the club.” Wink, wink. Nod, nod.) But I digress. Back to the bank.

My cloth checkbook register was a lovely red, but alas, now, after a dozen+ years, it is looking worn and faded. So I went to the bank the other day, asked to see a personal banker, smiled, and asked for a new one.

First of all, she looked astonished. “Who uses those anymore???” she asked, rhetorically I am sure, because it was rather obvious that I DID use one. Then she pawed through her desk to find one. I wanted to tell her I didn’t want some old thing with her pencil shavings and cough drop sweat on it but I held back. No harm done because no register covers were among the plethora of shit in her drawer.

She sighed and said she would have to go ask one of the tellers. I was glad she offered as there was a very long line of desperate looking individuals waiting for tellers. Plus, a reaction from the teller like that from the personal banker would hurt my self esteem. After a short while she came back and handed me a very ugly, navy blue, stiff vinyl cover. “This is it. No one asks for these anymore. Surprised we had this one.” Well la di dah.

Undeterred, I took the offering and returned home, fired up the computer and went to Amazon. Sure enough, Amazon sells them–for $14.99. Highway robbery. Then I got to thinking …

Encouraged by my recent knitting successes, I found a cute piece of fabric hanging around the rag bag and carefully ironed it and cut it into a rectangle. This is when, if not before, my guardian angel should have asked what I was doing. But she was AWOL. Or maybe she was laughing too hard to interrupt my concentration..

I hunted around for some spray glue. I knew we had a can when my last child did his Minnesota History Day project 9 years ago. Sadly, I couldn’t find it, but did find an adhesive I used (unsuccessfully) on his and his siblings’ Scout badges to avoid having to sew them on circa 1995.

Wouldn’t you know — the adhesive container was clogged. (Aside: Including my travel time, I had spent well over an hour to obtain a cloth-covered checkbook register. Who says I don’t have enough to do?) But, still, I had options.

I found some fabric adhesive in the back of the laundry room drawer. Damn. Despite using it 26 years ago to make my daughter’s Halloween costume, the cap was stuck on the tube. Couldn’t even wiggle it off with my teeth. But there’s more … In the very same drawer, I spied some iron-on fabric tape. Perfect.

I returned to the ironing board and proceeded to iron the fabric onto the vinyl register cover. Who would have guessed that in the process some of the vinyl melted and got stuck to the iron? No matter. I picked it off and left the project to cool.

When I returned, the cover did not meet my stringent quality standards. In fact, the iron-on tape failed to secure the material to the vinyl so I went to my “craft cabinet” where I happened upon some ALL PURPOSE glue. Excellent. This purpose certainly comes within the umbrella term of ALL PURPOSE, and due to the small size of my craft cabinet, it only took a second to locate.

Given the condition of the other household adhesives due to the frequency with which I use them, it will surprise no one that the ALL PURPOSE adhesive cap was stuck on the ALL PURPOSE adhesive bottle. This top was easily unstuck, unlike the fabric adhesive top that even my teeth could not dislodge. But having removed the ALL PURPOSE glue container cap which had a nice point, I could not dribble a thin line of ALL PURPOSE glue onto my project, so tried to gently squeeze a tidy mound from the mouth of the bottle.

As you might imagine, rather than a tidy mound, a big plop came flooding out causing panic. I quickly employed my finger to spread the glue in a nice, even, light layer but then the fabric stuck to my hand. I looked around and spied an old toothbrush. Ingenious. I used this to spread the glue, (also spreading some glue all over the top of the washing machine) and repurposed my finger to smooth the bubbles out of the fabric. But I didn’t wash my hands before I did this — really, there was no time — so I got glue on the OUTSIDE of my new cloth-covered register. I attempted to wipe it off with a wet rag. Thinking I had been successful, I left it to dry.

When I returned, the finished product was stiff and sticky. Some places the cloth had pulled away from the vinyl and, as previously mentioned, the vinyl was melted in spots.

Today I purchased a $14.99 cloth-covered checkbook register from Amazon.

Determination, Resolve. And Cheating.

By the end of today’s post, I hope to weave together three disparate thoughts about my life and my past:

  1. My Mother told me that my Uncle Jim, the millionaire, began each day with a glass of tomato juice and some cookies.
  2. When my Mother ate lunch, she used a dish towel as a napkin.
  3. Yesterday my internist confirmed that I had gained weight over the last 15 months. No shit Sherlock. She also ordered a cholesterol test. To prepare for the result, I preemptively ate a donut, a cookie, two chocolate-covered pretzels (dyed purple in honor of Prince–how could I refuse? Home town hero and all (let’s set aside the opiate addiction)), then made a special stop for a bag of Wavy Lays potato chips.

Last things first. I am not that big a salty snack gal but yet today I rationalized a special stop at the gas station to get a bag of Wavy Lays. Not the lunch-bag size — laughably because it seemed too large — but the “family size.” By the time I dug out the $4.59 for the family size, I had rationalized that I was really buying said Lays for “the family” — which would be me and my husband.

They were sooooo tempting that I dug into them on the way home. In fact, by the time I pulled into the driveway, I was nearly sick of them. But I haven’t yet admitted the worst part…

I justified the purchase because I had to stop at the gas station to buy gas so why not throw in a bag of Wavy Lays for good measure? Alas, when I exited the store and returned to the pump, I noted that, in my haste, I had not properly prompted the pump, thus had no gas, but a sad gas nozzle hanging out of my vehicle awaiting instruction. Because I was certain others would stare if I started the dispensation of gas after I had lolly-gagged in the store choosing my chips, I elected to give the impression that I had filled up and had incidentally purchased the Wavy Lays. (Did anyone notice the $00.000 on the pump? I think not. Surely not.) I drove off, still at half-tank, steering and ripping into my Wavy Lays with admirable coordination.

Good thing, because but a few hours later, I got the email from the internist–your cholesterol would make a blind man blush (or something to that effect). Shit.

With this awful news, I trudged into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of white wine and snack on last night’s doggy bag (a delightfully indulgent truffle-cream-sauced pasta). I think about the need for a napkin but think, Fuck No! I AM GOING TO USE A GOD-DAMN DISH TOWEL. Praise be God and my Mother.

Which brings me to Uncle Jim–the one who began in Cannelton, Indiana (perpetual victim of Ohio River floods)–who became a — (drum roll please) — MILLIONAIRE.

[Aside: Who wants to be a millionaire? Not me, I just want to be the heir of one. Alas, Uncle Jim’s widow died at age 106, 6 years ago and I’ve still not heard from her lawyers …]

But let us return to UJ (Uncle Jim), whom I never remember meeting because he was cold, hard dead before I started kindergarten but who was, nonetheless, held up as the family member who preserved, made good. A millionaire, a philanthropist. Great sense of humor. And best of all — HAD TOMATO JUICE AND COOKIES FOR BREAKFAST!!

Which brings me to the obvious question… Am I — donut plus chocolate-covered, dyed-purple-to-honor Prince pretzels, plus Wavy Lays — really just a modern day millionaire in the making?


I had my first taste of Comcast today. Generally I delegate those calls (and any to the IRS) to my husband because he is infinitely better natured than I (or maybe than me – I wonder about but am feeling too raw to resolve the grammar issue. IF I had Internet service, I could commune with Grammar Girl and figure it out. Alas, I don’t.)


For starters—and by that I mean for the first hour—I attempted to call and resolve my intermittent Internet issue.


I called the customer support # provided and punched in all sorts of numbers—you know the drill–#1 for English, the last 4 of the SSN. I am not sure if the subject SSN is mine or my husband’s. On the first call, I report his, then, for good measure, on my second call, I cite mine.


I press #2 which indicates I do NOT want to complete a customer support survey at the conclusion of my call because I know I will use bad words if I do. The automated voice asks why I am calling. I tell it. It “didn’t get that” so I tell it louder. No dice. Once more it “didn’t get that.” I want to scream, “Clean the wax out of your ears” but I know it has no ears, much less wax. I now shout any and all words synonomous with intermittent Internet service. Roget would be proud. It tells me to wait. I do. Then it tells me I need to call another number.


I do. And I repeat all of the above but guess what? At the end of my regurgitation of information, it tells me this number is out of service but helpfully recommends a third.


I call the the third. We go through the same identifying info. For the third time, I assure them I don’t want to complete a customer service survey at the conclusion of the call, and finally get a very sunny individual who tells me all is well with my Internet service. Au contraire. Although I remind her that the problem is not NO service, but intermittent and slow service, she continues to happily report that I currently have an Internet connection.


I give up and go to the online chat option. Linda is assigned to me; I am cranky. Linda asks questions; I am snide. But over the course of several minutes and multiple trips to the basement to report on modem qualities, Linda establishes that my Internet connection is “less than optimal.”


AHHHH. I feel vindicated. Linda says she will refresh something. I grow excited. The Internet goes out, then reappears, apparently refreshed. I grow confident. She then tells me I must trundle back downstairs and stick a “non-metal” object into the reset “slot” to reset. I am surprised and disappointed that a refresh standing alone was not enough, but I can taste success so I am willing, although concerned. I asked what kind of object she has in mind. She keeps her cards close to the vest. “Whatever fits.” Curiousity alone drives me out of my chair, down to the basement to see the aforementioned slot. As I travel, I wonder—bigger than a bread box? Like a credit card? Is that metal? Oh I know it is not, but what of the strip? Is that metal-like? Will I be electrified as a result of Linda’s instruction? Maybe the reset calls for a playing card. A knife? NO, NO! A KNIFE IS METAL. Suddenly it seems like all stickable objects in our home are metal. How can this be? In this age of plastic, surely we must have a plastic something we can use to reset?


I have now reached the modem. I scan the backside for the reset “slot.”


What the hell? This is no slot. This is a hole about the size of a large paper clip tip. NO, NO!!! METAL!!! A pen? NO, NO. METAL! My mind is blank. I panic that Linda is headed home. I must act fast! I briefly consider getting a step stool to access the 300 wooden skewers I bought on three separate 100-skewer purchasing occassions thinking I would skewer things. I just mentioned them the other day to my sister and we agreed that this summer at the lake breakfast, lunch, and dinner must be “on-a-stick” to address my glut of wooden skewers.


Time is of the essence, however, so I grab a pencil and stab it into the reset “slot.”


I kill our Internet connection. Success? Linda is gone now, our chat “interrupted.”


I say bad words. I wait for the Set after the Reset, but in vain. I try yet another 800 #. My representative observes that I have no service. No shit, Sherlock.


The worst thing wasn’t that I called to complain of intermittent service and after three calls and one online chat, it was determined by the Gods of Comcast that I DO in fact have a problem and now, in fact, I have no service whatsoever. The worst part is the script. At each turn, I grew more irritated.


Luckily, I have a verbatim transcript of my interrupted online chat available to rant on.


Here are some examples:

Linda: Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support.

I am glad Linda is grateful, because I am feeling like I’ve made more effort than one should have to make to get my Internet service working better.

Linda: Thanks for contacting Comcast! I look forward to helping you today.

I feel like we have already established how grateful she is that I have contacted Comcast. If she knew how crabby I am, she would not be looking forward to helping me today.

Linda: I’m sorry to learn that your internet connection is not stable, Nancy.

In addition to being grateful, Linda is sorry. Maybe Linda needs to talk to a therapist and refer me to someone who has less emotional investment in me and my service and more technical knowledge. Linda doesn’t know the half of it. My sanity, as well as my Internet connect, are now unstable.

Linda: Rest assured I will do everything within my means to address your concern today.

This doesn’t give me any comfort whatsoever. Without knowing more about Linda, “everything within” her means, is an empty assurance. Right now I feel like nothing is within her means except her over-empathy with my situation.

Linda: I’ll be asking you a series of questions regarding your connection so that we can better resolve this concern, will that be okay?

I am tempted to say “no” just to test Linda’s emotional mettle. Why is she instructed to ask me this? Do some people say, “No, I will mime my connection issues”???

Linda: To help us isolate the cause of the issue, would it be fine to ask you a few questions?

Although I assured Linda previously that I was okay being asked a series of questions, she now wants to know about “a few questions.” I want to explore whether the few are part of the series or are separate. Are they a separe series? Or just separate individual questions.


Tomorrow Mr. Comcast will visit between 10 am and noon. I will let you know.





May Crowning

The topic of today’s post–long overdue–is May Crowning. And being that it is nearly October, you probably thought I was going to chat with you about apple orchards or Halloween. Ha! I have no October Catholic school memories etched into my brain. All Souls Day is scarcely the stuff of memories.

No, Catholic School + seasons for me only results in a few writing topics:

  1. Stations of the Cross during Lent
  2. May Crowning

Both are more memorable than Christmas and all the holy days of obligation combined because they both represent unrelenting suffering. Let me begin with May Crowning and the associated suffering, which continues to this day.

Despite the fact that the May Crowning procedure was the same every year, we practiced. And practiced. And practiced. And practiced. E_V_E_R_Y  D_A_M_N  Y_E_A_R. Talk about taking the joy out of those first spring days in Chicago . . .

My Catholic grade school was situated on Cumberland, the speedway of the Chicago suburb where I grew up. The school was located on the west side of Cumberland, but the playground was located on the east side.

A short aside: The “playground” to which I referred in the previous paragraph was really a parking lot. It had no play features whatsoever. I have a vague memory that about the time I graduated, “they” spray painted a few hopscotch outlines on the pavement, but that was it. The south half was designated the girl’s half, and the north, the boy’s. God forbid we play in the same half. Heavens no! In fact the ONLY time I ventured into the boy’s half was when my grade was assigned a north-half location for May Crowning. It goes without saying that the statue of Mary was on the girl’s half–one of the few privileges the Catholic Church extended to females of the era. Naturally we could NOT be altar boys. HELLO–the title is “Altar BOY.” The roles available to me were

  1. Reader at daily Mass (Although I signed up, each time I was called, I feigned illness because I was petrified. Brilliant strategy–I got credit for volunteering but never exhausted my emotional capital.)
  2. May Crowner–the 8th-grade GIRL who actually got to put the crown on flowers on Mary’s head (in the south half of the parking lot).

I had many, many years to prepare due to the abundance of May Crowning practices.

A couple of absolutes re practices:

  1. They always occurred on the most unseasonably warm days in May prior to the actual Crowning.
  2. They always occurred in the afternoon, when the sun was beating down.

The first step was getting every room in every grade (3 rooms per grade,  24 rooms @ approximately 30 kids per room) to “line up” and “file out” (“double-file”) of the school  to the sidewalk on the east side of Cumberland. Note: “Double-file” meant that we had a partner; if he/she was absent (lucky dog), God help the poor fool who filled in the space. NO, NO, NO! You leave a space for your absent classmate and process, silently and orderly from the classroom door, down the hall, down the stairs (if you had “graduated” to the grades located upstairs), to the exit, down the school sidewalk to the sidewalk along the west side of Cumberland, to the crosswalk. And for GOD’s SAKE!! DON’T RUSH!!! Some of my fool classmates would hurry along. HELLO??? It is a P-R-O-C-E-S-S-I-O-N for God’s sake. Stately. Calculated, Dignified. Slow. Reverent.

In fact, the only interruption in the procession was the walk light at Cumberland and Granville.

So it went like this:

Process, process, process. STOP (Don’t Walk sign has stopped the advance.)

Process, process, process. STOP (Don’t Walk sign has stopped the advance.)

Process  Process, process, process. STOP (Don’t Walk sign has stopped the advance.)

Process  Process, process, process. STOP (Don’t Walk sign has stopped the advance.)

Let me remind you again of the sun beating down and draw your attention to the fact that the girls wore nylon blouses and wool jumpers. I remember thinking how happy I’d be to pass out as opposed to sweat, process, stop. Sweat, process, stop. And so on.

When all 800+ of us had processed until we’d sweat every ounce of water ingested over the winter AND crossed Cumberland with the “Walk” light, we lined up on the asphalt parking lot according to grade. Of course, the 8th grade was closest to the statue of Mary, because, as I have already hinted, the Crowner is an 8th grade girl and will emerge at the proper time and place the crown on Mary. What that means is that for grades 1-7, after processing to the death and crossing with the light, we must then process PAST Mary to take our place in the north half of the parking lot.

In reality I don’t know how long we processed and practiced processing, but I can tell you that from my perspective, it took several days, made still longer by the fools who didn’t leave a space for a missing classmate and hurried ahead thereby screwing up the whole damn organization for the rest of us. Thank God our teachers/nuns were observant and at the ready to stop and correct the procession when someone’s neglect fouled it up.

At last. In place. In the parking lot. On the east side of Cumberland. Missing partners accounted for, all crossed with the “Walk” light.

Before we go forward, I feel compelled to say that I NEVER envisioned myself as Crowner. It only took a few years of practice for me to recognize that the Crowner would be Mary F.

For starters, her name was Mary. (Thanks for nothing, Mom and Dad . . . Nancy???? I think not. NO ONE named NANCY would be selected to crown Mary.) And I was okay with that. Mary looked beatific, was popular, reasonably smart, and well-behaved. Fit the bill in my book.

Now, I return to the parking lot where we are in place and it is time to practice the May Crowning songs. We must practice every verse, every year, although the soundtrack never varies. There are a couple of run-up tunes . . . the most effortful being one whose chorus was, “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria” but sung like:


Imagine a bit out of key and RRRRRR part requiring one’s voice to go from the lowest possible note singable by a human to one above the highest note singable by a human.

Then, it is time for the piece de resistance: “Bring Flowers of the Rarest.”

It started off slow:

Bring flow’rs of the fairest,
Bring flow’rs of the rarest,
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale;
Our full hearts are swelling,
Our Glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.

But then, kicked into the main event:

O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May,
O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.

Then we processed back: South through the parking lot. Turned west. Waited at the light. Walk sign. Processed across Cumberland, turned north, continued processing north til one (and one’s partner) arrived at the school sidewalk. Turned west. Processed into school.

Every year.

Practices upon practices.

Years upon years.

Now, at long last,  it is my 8th grade year. This is it. The pinnacle.

But who is chosen as the Crowner? Mary F? NO!!!! Suzanne D. WHAT?????????

The name “Suzanne” is no better than “Nancy.” Both are a far cry from Mary, not even an “Ann” or a “Joan” or a “Therese.” Sure, Suzanne had flowing blond ringlets, but What the hell? Where are the standards?????????

I do remember that Suzanne shed a tear, which admittedly was a nice touch. Nonetheless, I was let down. Really let down, disappointed, perhaps even aghast. After years and years, hours and hours, sweaty blouses upon sweaty blouses, “they” picked the wrong person to be Crowner.


I am now 56 years old. I never expected nor wanted to be Crowner. Nor an altar boy. Nor a reader. But golly by golly, all that time in grades 1 through 7 processing and sweating, processing and sweating some more and some more–not to mention waiting for the “Walk” sign. All for a dreadful miscarriage of justice and judgment.

opportunity of a lifetime

Everyone likely has an opportunity of a lifetime. The challenge is recognizing it as such and capitalizing on it.

For example, my sister got into a kerfuffle with an airline over the cost of her ticket. The details are unimportant. What IS important is that she was able to recognize and seize on an important opportunity, in fact, in all likelihood, the opportunity of a lifetime.

You see, once she was irritated, she demanded to talk to a customer service representative. And she was connected with one named Buster. Perfect. Excellent. Once he regurgitated the company spiel re cost of one-way v. round-trip flights, she was able to say, “Listen Buster . . . ”

Like I said, what an opportunity.