Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Confessions of a Mad Menagerie Owner

It's not my fault. I didn't do it--at least most of it--except for one or two creatures among the menagerie. Other people did it. I became their unwitting victim. For some reason, I am viewed as a "critter magnet." It's true that I really love certain types of animals, especially reptiles and amphibians, fish and odd beings like armadillos. Yesterday's influx of frog gifts just finally made me give up. Why fight it? I'm like an inanimate-object equivalent of a crazy cat lady. If I weren't so terribly allergic, I probably would BE a crazy cat lady. As it is, my "pets" are surrogates and require no vet bills.

I'm not sure how it all started, but one by one people pegged me as someone who "needed" this or that little animal thing they saw. They spied it while they were out somewhere and immediately thought of me and decided to indulge me in it without my express consent. I hadn't really examined this issue until one day I was looking around the kitchen thinking, "If we were to renovate this kitchen, what would be the aspects of it I'd want to keep, and what do I hate that we will change?" It was then that I truly noticed the plethora of stupid little animals everywhere in the kitchen. They sit on window sills. They hang from window frames. One has been living in the fruit bowl since Halloween of 2002. They lurk on walls and sit atop the canisters. It's embarrassing, really. I've just been so preoccupied that I hadn't thought about the alarming quantity of kitsch I've collected. I just dust them off regularly and take them for granted. They're members of the family.

As an attempt at therapy, and perhaps to keep for posterity in case I ditch them all if we redo the kitchen, I've made portraits and have decided to "out" my strange collection.

Cam the Ram and e-Claire the Cow

I got these one per year on two annual trips to the museum shop of historic Deerfield, Vermont. They're old-fashioned cast iron and are excellent for holding open cookbooks. I got Cam because in the 1400s to 1700s my ancestors, the Camfields of Northamptonshire, England, became serious experts in sheep husbandry. Matthew Camfield was the first to move to New England--right here where I now live, in fact--and became a greatly celebrated wealthy man for selling his services as a sheep consultant to the settlers who had no idea how to keep their animals alive in this new environment. Matthew moved his way right up to the top of society and married Connecticut's first colonial governor's daughter, Sarah Treat.

E-Claire appears desperate to be milked and was discovered and named by Tyke, who is very fond of anything pastry, sweet, or creamy. He came up with the name instantly and no one could think of any improvements--it was just the right name for her.

About five or six years ago we as a family attended a Halloween costume party. This was before Harry Potter was fabulously successful, but we were among early adopters and by 1999 we were wild over the first book. G went as Harry (this was before the movies and we had our own idea from our imaginations how he should look). Honey went as Hagrid and was quite the riot. We recreated Hagrid in great detail and I decided that he had to have a mouse for his pocket (this is mentioned in the book, along with the pink umbrella which actually disguises his forbidden wand). I made the "mouse" too big, however, and it came out more like Ron's stupid magical rat, Scabbers. After his debut at the party, Scabbers was relagated to the fruit bowl, where he guards the bananas on a daily basis.

Assorted Little Guys

The wonderful beaded Huichol turtle was brought to me by a friend/neighbor who has a time share in Puerto Vallarta. He is hand-carved of wood with individual beads placed in black wax. He hangs on the wall. To his right are two frogs--one Fimo clay, the other pewter. They don't have names. The small armadillo was my Christmas gift from G a few years ago and is named Austin. The shark has no name but is a small bath toy that can squirt water. They all live on top of canisters and get baths on Saturdays.


Hand-carved and hand-painted in either Malaysia or Thailand, he has lovely details. He is a "flying" fish hanging on nylon line from the recessed light panel above the window.

Finally, there's the

"Duck" that's not

. . . whom I wrote about in an earlier post.


Monday, December 25, 2006


Merry Christmas!

I received a few lovely gifts, and this was the theme (yes, singular) of the day:

Frogs. Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil frogs! They fit on the window sill. They are supposed to go in the garden, but we have an evil squirrel posse. The squirrels regularly knock over pots and break them, so I am not about to let them near my frogs.

I also received a large, heavy hand-carved onyx paperweight frog, and a pair of frog sterling silver earrings. None of the people who gave these gifts to me knew someone else was giving me something froggy. For me, it was serendipidous. The gifts were brilliant individually, but taken together they were a hoppy opus.

So, the Tyke saw the three frogs on the window sill and said, "Mom, is the last one 'taste no evil,' or 'smell no evil'? Which is it?"

Yep. You would expect such a question from the "gifted program" kid with highest marks in LANGUAGE ARTS who also asked today, when we were watching the director's cut version of Amadeus, "Mom, is there a difference between a 'bistro' and a 'maestro'?"

Yes. In one you hope to taste no evil. From the other, you hope to hear no evil.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bah, Humbug!

Happy official first day of Winter (I'm beginning to write this post on December 21, no matter what it ends up saying for the post date.) Yeah, yeah, it's about time I got back to this thing. Just what with all the listing, shopping, hiding, wrapping and decorating, and shuttling young'uns hither and yon for lessons, winter rehearsals, recitals and concerts, time's flown.

So this post began on a maudlin note, but that's because I've been waxing nostalgic of late and thus, as is my typical personality, quite melancholic. For the past two weeks, late at night, I've been either 1) staying up late and being attacked by the dark night of the soul or 2) waking up in the middle of the night and being attacked by the dark night of the soul.

The character of the attacks is as follows: Like Scrooge, I suddenly remember people from my past en masse and miss them terribly. (Not all of them are ghosts, but incidentally, many of them are. In other cases, I don't even know.) I think that without them all somewhwere accessible, I feel naked, vulnerable and alone. Now that I have had enough incidents to make a list, I can see that the thread running through the series is the "comfort and joy" they made (or make) me feel. Sometimes all it took for them to get on my list was that they made me laugh my ass off, which I (as the aforementioned melancholic) desperately need every day just to remember I'm alive and ought to want to keep it that way.

I wish I could have a party and invite these people and have them attend one and all, no matter where they are spiritually or geographically, alive or dead. It would make a room full of touching (I mean emotionally, not physically), rollicking fun.

Today I will deal with only #1. Otherwise I will never finish this post.

Paternal Grandpa. His personality tickled me silly, and sometimes he just actually tickled me silly. And then there was the time I had my hair in a braid long enough to sit on, and he came up behind me with the vacuum cleaner and sucked it up right to my scalp and scared me to death. Or like the time when I was seven and he was in the driver's seat and let me sit on his lap and actually let me DRIVE the car on the beach. Or the many times he had me help him develop and hang photos to dry in his darkroom. Or the times we were at my Cherokee relatives' house next to their oil field, and he would always ask me if I wanted to go ride one of the big horses (the oil drill, like this picture).

Or the time he got me a pet turtle without asking my mom. Grandpa often had really bad judgment, like the time when he and his crazy brother Dee took my dad (then a young kid) to Mexico and they rented a Jeep and parked on the beach to go to sleep and woke up floating in the ocean. Or the time way before I was born when he let a dog off the leash and it immediately got hit by a car.

My grandmother left all his stuff to me, and after she died I found an incredible treasure trove of memorabilia. I was quite shocked to find among it a hidden collection of his photographs all the way back to--it must have been 1914 or something. In that stash was a set of apparently candid photos that would have been considered scandalous then--they were of people at what looked like a Montana resort coming out of the water naked and heading toward a lodge, and the ladies had their long hair flowing behind and were certainly unaware that some kid was snapping pictures of them. [Oh, my lord, I hope it wasn't his 11 brothers and sisters!] But he was always the life of any gathering and told amazing funny stories (over and over and over again) and just loved everyone to bits. Also, he was a genuine gentleman and was always gracious to the ladies, opening doors, kissing hands and cheeks, giving lavish but sincere compliments. And he dressed like an absolute dandy.

I miss you, Grandpa. I hope you and Uncle Dee and everyone else are having a grand old time, wherever you all are.