Buyers & Sellers

ROCKER 2There are buyers and there are sellers! Today, I was a buyer, with a great deal on a rocking chair, a deceased man’s rocker. I hope that doesn’t sound ‘insensitive’. But, a bargain is a bargain, no matter who the seller is, or was, in this case.

I looked at it as helping to settle his estate while ‘filling a need’ for my living room, killing two birds with one stone.  And isn’t that what ‘buying & selling’ is about, filling a ‘need’?

Someday, I’ll resell it when my frame finds the hardwood seat and spindled back uncomfortable, but not when I’m ‘gone’.  I‘ll sell it while I’m still here and put the proceeds toward another ‘need’.

Buying and selling one’s used, outdated or unneeded property is common in our American culture. Every weekend during nice weather, there are garage, yard and clothesline sales galore in homes, neighborhoods and towns across the country.   Look for the lawn sign, ‘Yard Sale Here’!

Bargains are waiting. Deals are to be made. Bid and offer is the action. Negotiating is almost to be expected. Junk is unloaded and becomes ‘another man’s treasure’.

Craig’s List, estate sales, penny saver ads…stuff is everywhere. Which begs the question, why do we buy so much? And, maybe more importantly, why do we keep it so long?

But back to my bargain hunting.  There’s  no doubt that this small rocker was a great deal. Yesterday, I saw the same chair for sale by a live person for 4 times what I paid. I guess you might call my sale the ‘drop dead price’. So, no, it’s not insensitive and you ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’, whether it’s dead or alive.

Go through your storage boxes, attic, garage and cellars  Have a yard sale and treat yourself to dinner with your earnings. Anything that you can’t sell, donate to charity. It’s cluttering your life and probably not worth what you think, but the fun you’ll have unloading it will compensate.  Because it really is true, you can’t take it with you. The old fellow who had my rocker would tell you that…if he could! (Rest his soul)

As my wife reminds me, ‘less is more’!

srbottch

ps. I’m gonna sell that old putter, it never worked, anyway!!!

‘Sometimes, I Like Summer Better…’

“Sometimes I wonder whether I like summer better, or winter better. Usually it is when it is NOT that season, that I like it most.” (Darcy)

-3

The town clock flashed a negative 3 bone chilling Farenheit degrees, as I stood numb at my school crossing post in January. Another western New York winter arrived with a vengeance. I wiggled my toes in desperation, confirming I still had them, and thinking, “I can’t wait for Summer”!

February found me chopping icicles off my house gutters, champion size icicles, easily 10 pounds, wishing they were large mouth bass. An avalanche of snow slid off the roof, smacking me squarely in the face while I mumbled, “I can’t wait for Summer”, and felt the watery intruder melting down my neck.

Trucks plowed heavy March snows from neighbors’ driveways, while wind gusts boomeranged it back at me as I labored with my own heavy snowblower. I uncurled my frozen fingers, one by one, from the icy grips of the obtrusive machine, and beneath a thick wool scarf wrapped around my face like an entombed mummy, I cursed the forecast and screamed in muffled frustration, “I can’t wait for Summer”!

It’s July and the humidity is oppressive.  Mid summer in western New York means muggy days and restless nights. A frosty winter breeze would feel so refreshing but the calendar gives me no solace. “How soon to Winter”?

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I mowed the grass? Yet, there it lays, waiting for another clipping. Is there no end to summer’s workload?  Safety glasses! Earplugs! Industrial yard machines cranking up the descibles! I yearn for the peaceful whisper of a powdery snowfall. “How soon to Winter”?

An evening stroll through our garden on a warm August night demands a healthy dose of insect repellant. Even then, in a struggle for survival, the stronger mosquitoes find unprotected spots on my arms and legs to draw my precious blood. A winter frost would be my ally in this ongoing battle between bug and body. Desperately, I cry out to Mother Nature, “How soon to Winter”?

I’m comforted to know Fall is just around the corner. It’s my favorite season, you know, except for the ragweed and golden rod, of course. And, yes, it’s followed too closely by winter,with its long, cold, black nights and grey, bone chilling days…

Well, there’s always Spring…

srbottch

My Shoebox Family

Shoebox

It was an old box with a flattened lid, held together by a rubber band stretched beyond its time…a shoebox, a ‘treasure chest’ of family photos, my family.

In the ‘predigital era’, a box was a common place to save pictures. If you were organized, you put them in an album, then a box. Today, they’re on smart phones, or in the ‘cloud’.

Modern technology makes accessing photos simple and quick; a couple of clicks and, instantly, you can be looking at multiple images. But the romance is gone, the romance of holding a paper image by its curled-up corner and intimately studying the people who are forever locked in that time and place.

As the youngest of seven children, I never knew my older siblings as kids, only as adults. If not for a treasure trove of family photos kept in a shoebox and stored in a cluttered closet, that wouldn’t have changed. With those priceless pictures, I saw them differently, in a life and time that I never knew.

In hindsight, we were two families, the first five followed later by my sister and me. Theirs was a family living on a ‘blue-collar’ street where renters far outnumbered owners, a city neighborhood. Wearing ‘hand-me-down’ clothes, my siblings looked like Dickens characters, slightly worn but always smiling, four boys and a girl.

I missed the opportunity of their companionship which I would have enjoyed at that age. Later and older, not so much. Families move on and grow apart, ours did.

The black and whites revealed a stern looking father but a content mother for whom marriage at a young age must have been arduous and challenging, managing a household of five children born within the first seven years.

Later, there are pictures of my closest sibling and me. She and I came along when life was becoming more stable, a ‘new’ family was starting. Photos show a relaxed, smiling father and his enduring love affair with my mother.

Life was better and my sister and I were the beneficiaries. It would be a different family experience for us than for those first five siblings, whose young lives I only knew from the pictures.

My digital library is versatile and accessible, but, occasionally, I still enjoy visiting that ‘treasure chest’ shoebox for some old-fashioned ‘family’ time.

I wonder, do you have a ‘shoebox’ family?

My Mother was Catholic, My Father was Handsome…a Love Story

Mother & Dad

My mother was Catholic, my father was…handsome. The daughter of poor immigrants, and poorly educated, herself, this young girl of Irish/Italian heritage was looking for a better future. My father, too, was of immigrant parents, hard working, middle class, and Protestant. 

She wanted the love that an abusive father never showed her, and he, this dashing young tradesman, would give her that, and more. Still, she was Catholic and, well, he was a pool shooter.  Living in a flat above the pool hall he frequented, evenings would often find her purposefully loitering on the building steps, easy prey for his roving eyes.  Love finds a way…

Barely 19 and in a ‘family way’, she married him, probably to the chagrin of the family patriarch, and the local priest. After all, she was a Catholic girl and he…well, he was careless and cavalier.  In all likelihood, he was careless more than once, as six more children were added to the family tree in rapid succession. She was very Catholic.

Life was challenging for a young wife with five small children and an ‘old school’ husband who set the rules and expectations in a firm manner. Yet, for all the hardships endured, she worshipped him, depended on him for her well-being and her place in a middle class America. Besides, what were her options?

Their marriage endured, and only strengthened with time. My mother loved my father dearly and he relished his role as a strong family provider and leader. He was doing what was expected of him, then.

It was joyful, watching their love grow, an affair lasting 50 years. Life’s tough challenges were met and now behind them, and they basked in the comfort of their companionship, each one knowing the other’s pleasures.

And then, it ended. One morning, he kissed her goodbye, twice, went to work and didn’t come home. To the end, the handsome pool player fulfilled his vow to love and cherish, protect and provide.

The Catholic girl survived another twenty years, still in love with the same man but now adding God in her daily thoughts. After all, she was Catholic, and He…well, He was her Savior.

srbottch

Dedicated to my wonderful parents

Today, I Was a Kid, Again

Jack RabbitWhat an amazing place, Seabreeze Amusement Park*, where you can feel young, be entertained, exhilarated, energized and exhausted. I hadn’t been to Seabreeze in 25 years and now I’ve been twice in 3 weeks, thanks to my wife’s insistence.

Braving the Jack Rabbit and Bobsled roller coasters, surrounded by hordes of screaming kids with their arms skyward as we ascended and descended steep inclines, was like visiting the mythical fountain of youth. This senior citizen felt like a kid, again.

Flume Pants

Getting drenched on the Flume was like splashing in a giant puddle, but it helped take an edge off the hot, sunny day. Who cared if you looked as though you just wet your pants? No one knew if you soaked yourself from fright, sliding down the steep falls, or just from the splash when you landed, maybe both.  We wore the giant wet spot on our bottoms like a badge of honor, blending in with everyone on that ride, young and old, proudly parading around the park while drying our pants in the sun

Planes

Watching little kids on their tiny rides took us back to our days as young parents, ourselves, when we introduced our children to fun rides at this American pastime we call amusement parks. Enjoying them, we could easily see our two kids in the brightly colored ‘speed boats’, the ‘fighter rocket planes’ armed with front and rear guns, the ‘spinning teacups’ and ‘speedy’ convertible hot rod cars.

The encouraging calls of excited parents added to the kids’ thrills. Refrains of ‘again, again’ made me see our own children zipping from ride to ride, and, like a time machine in my mind’s eye, watching them grow again from dependant children to young adults, when they chose the scarier rides and thrills themselves. It was wonderful.

My wife, the adventurous type, urged me to take her to Seabreeze to ride the Jack Rabbit wooden coaster. I’m glad she did. We’ll do it again this year and every year. I might even get brave enough to venture on the WhirlWind, a ride that takes you on the ups, downs, twist and turns while spinning you in your seat. Then again…well, I’ll have all winter to think about it. And in Rochester, NY, that can be a lonnnnggg time!

*Charlotte, NY

I wrote this a couple of years ago but Seabreeze Park is now a regular stop in the summer. I still haven’t ridden the ‘Twirly Bird’!

Dedicated to my wife for her enthusiasm and youthful exhuberance

“My Front Porch”

Front Porch (1)

Forty miles west of Boston, in central Massachusetts, between the Berkshire Mountains and Cape Cod, is Worcester. It was good place to be a kid.  We owned a three family house there, a ‘3 decker’, a style exclusive to New England blue collar neighborhoods.

The big house had some fascinating features: a slate roof, windowed side porches, utility sheds on the back with access to outside turning clothes lines.           Front Porch (Clothesline)On wash day, everything from underwear to pillow cases hung from the backside of the house, drying to a fresh air finish in the feint summer breezes.

To me, the deep, wrap-around front porch with spindled railings, round columns and a narrow board floor was the best part of the house, a place in the hot summer months, where I could escape to relax, reflect and reenergize.

Front porches were common in New England, as gathering places for family and friends.  In summer, my porch collected morning dew that gave way to evening sunsets.  Daytime found the porch abuzz with children playing and adults relaxing with idle chatter over cups of hot tea, unknowingly making memories.

Overgrown forsythia and fragrant lilac bushes served as a wall of privacy, like a moat to a castle.  A pull-down shade kept us cool and dry from summer sun and rain.

Imaginations came alive as friends gathered on the porch to play or plan games. My body found a way to adjust to the stiff aluminum chaise lounge where I often settled in, to read on lazy summer days.  There, I muddled through ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ got lost in ‘Lord of The Flies’, with my own sea conch by my side, and hid ‘Catcher in the Rye’. Comic books were a favorite staple and napping was allowed.

The front porch of our home was a launching pad to juvenile adventures, where a kid could feel brave and safe.  But all good things end, as this did when my dad announced that he was ripping off the porch because it was in disrepair. I was devastated.

I knew, then, an idyllic chapter in my life had ended, as I pulled nails from the splintered boards that once made my porch.  I felt like an executioner.

But the memory of that porch and those times remains vivid.  And, I wonder, did you have a ‘front porch ‘ in your life?

srbottch

Today, I Shook Hands With a Naked Man…

Swimsuit

Today I shook hands with a naked man.  Okay, so it seemed odd as it was happening because it’s never happened to me, shaking hands with a completely naked man.  I’ve had the opportunity, but never the inclination.  Yet, today, it just happened in the most common way that two dressed men would do it. 

 “Hey, Steve, is that you”, he asked while reaching out his hand as a courtesy.  I responded likewise, with my own extended arm and hand, completing the traditional up and down hand shake…all the time maintaining good eye contact.

It had been several years since we last saw each other.  He transferred to a new health center, where I was today for a swim. So, you can imagine the exuberance in our encounter, spontaneous for him, a little less so for me. What was he thinking?  Then again, I believe he’s Italian. My mother, an Italian, herself, proudly described that ethnic group as a ‘touchy-feely’ kind of people.  There was no ‘touchy-feely’ today, as he stepped out of the shower and approached me before I could escape to the pool.  So, not only was he naked, he was dripping wet, as well.  

The encounter wasn’t quite the same for him because I was wearing a swimsuit.  He didn’t have to think, “Gee, I just shook hands with a naked man.”

His complete lack of modesty didn’t surprise me, at all.  Each of us had honed our locker room mannerisms in the manliest of locker rooms, an old gym with 4 man shower posts, not unlike my basic training barracks. The handshake was over quickly and we went our separate ways.  I headed for the pool thinking about the whole experience, while he went back to his shower with a spring in his step and a whistle on his lips.  I didn’t the have slightest clue how he felt about this odd exchange, nor did I want to know.

But, it’s experiences like this that help create the grand camaraderie and atmosphere in a men’s locker room.  So, while shaking hands with a naked man wasn’t terribly traumatic, it did make me take pause and think…do women shake hands in a locker room?

srbottch