Latest Scott Saalman Herald column: Column: Amore, little notes fill the past 52 years

moonstruckDear Mom and Dad,

Come New Year’s Eve, you will be married 52 years. Incredible. Inspirational. I am most proud.

I like your chosen wedding date. Dec. 31. This has represented, to me, a culmination of calendar years both ending and beginning with matrimonial bliss, annual affirmations of enduring affection.

Flashback: It was a small bridal party; Uncle Bob and Uncle Ronnie wore dark suits; Dad wore a white sport coat; Aunt Charlotte and Aunt Sandy wore blue velvet dresses; Mom wore the traditional white wedding gown, complete with veil.

momanddadBack story: Dad, in wedding-morning panic, realized he lacked a dress shirt to go with his jacket. Desperate, he found the owner of the men’s clothing store at the Snappy Grill. The kind man made it snappy, shoveled down his eggs and bacon and agreed to open shop early to sell a white dress shirt and help a marriage.

Over the years, because of working different shifts, you communicated via notepads. I uncovered your collection of correspondence from among the clutter of a kitchen drawer. These are a grown child’s cherished artifacts. Each notebook page contains two or three sentences, with a lot of “honey” and “love” and “miss you” in the mix. Some entries make me laugh aloud; some carry innuendoes that make me squirm.

• Hi Babe, Here it is 9:00 a.m. and silly me is going to bed. Wished you were going with me…uh oh. Save me the sports page and crossword please. Love you.  —  M.J.

• Happy Birthday Lucky. Had fun all night. See you. Love You.  —  Patty

• Good morning. I got up before alarm so I won’t wake you to say goodbye. Here’s Master Card payment. Love you. I’ll see you this evening. Bye.  —  M.J.

• Honey, Hi! I fixed a pork roast that’s in fridge for a sandwich. Also, I have chicken salad. Don’t feed dog that pork. I might use it tomorrow, maybe, or go ahead. Love you.  —  Patty

• Honey, Pot Pies in oven. Went to bingo to win our fortune. (Ha). Love you.  —  Patty

• Honey, fireplace blower is on manual so just because it’s blowing doesn’t mean it’s burning. Love.  —  M.J.

• Honey. I took $6.00 from purse for Lotto.  —  M.J.

• Honey, If bottom element is bad, you may have hot water but will be in short supply. Check bath water as you are drawing it. Love you.  —  M.J.

• Honey. I’ll be home sometime. Love you.  —  Patty

• Hi! Sure would like a date Friday night at our favorite place and next weekend also. Miss you.  —  Patty

• Hi baby! Went to bed 9:30. You can sleep in my bed anytime. Who knows, maybe I’ll wake. Love you.  —  M.J.

• Good morning and thank you. My apologies for yesterday’s conversation — sometimes I’m just stupid. Love you.  —  M.J.

• Don’t get your hotdog mixed up with dog’s sack of meat. Miss you and thought of you all day.  —  Patsy

• Good morning. Had pleasant dreams of you last night, or was it a dream! See you later. Love.  —  Patty

• Good morning. Happy anniversary. We made it one more year. It’s been almost heaven. Love you.  —  Patty

Your togetherness is a tough act to follow. An impossible act, actually, when it comes to love’s longevity. At 50, I’m too old to match you year for year. If I married today, I would be 102 by the time I caught up. No woman wants to be with a 102-year-old man. I wouldn’t want to be with me at that age either.

But that doesn’t mean I am throwing in the towel. I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to put the good love DNA passed on to me to good, proper use.

The immortal words of William Butler Yeats come to mind: “Wine comes in at the mouth/And love comes in at the eye/That’s all we shall know for truth/Before we grow old and die/I lift the glass to my mouth/I look at you, and I sigh.” OK, so it’s no “Don’t feed dog that pork.”

Back to you, Mom and Dad. A toast to your 52 years of “honey” and “love,” to your kiss at the altar and ardor displayed within the walls of St. Paul’s. You remain inseparable, your mutual adoration indelible. You inspire. A toast to you two; to true love that sticks; to the luck of (if not long times) good timing that poses promise; to the blessing of good times; to being moonstruck; to a New Year and happy anniversary; to the warmth of this wine; to amore.

—Your son.

 

Scott Saalman on Abbie Rumbach

cassposterabbie

The woman at the tiny table was gasping for air, desperately trying to catch her breath and regain composure and at least some respectability—well, as much respectability that a full-grown adult can muster while trying to remain seated on a tiny, school library chair designed for a first-grader’s frame. Think Gulliver in Lilliput.

She was the latest victim of a laugh attack launched by humor writer Abbie Rumbach, who was reading aloud about burning the family dinner Poppin’ Fresh dough biscuits to a group of two dozen other laughing women sitting in tiny chairs too. The audience could only look sillier if they had been strapped into highchairs.

The wheezing woman was yet another joyous victim of what I call “Abbie Arrhythmia.” Abbie’s humor hobbles our hearts a bit, makes us gasp when she’s building steam and really Poppin’ Fresh. She writes funny stuff about modern family life, sort of like Erma Bombeck once did, but with a wicked, sometimes R-rated bite (you won’t find her in a family newspaper)—and likely with what I imagine is a flask in her housecoat pocket.

The scenario above was a reading she and I did for the local chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa, a sorority of outstanding women educators. We were a package deal, though I felt more like Abbie’s agent since the initial invitation to me stated, “We were wondering if you (and maybe Abbie R) could come to our Nov. 13 meeting . . .” A-ha, it was Abbie they wanted. A little blow to the ego, but hey, I took it like an adult. Once there, I asked Abbie to read first, making her appear to be my opening act, when actually it should be the other way around. (Hey, just let me have my little moment, OK?)

Reading Abbie is funny enough; hearing Abbie is even funnier. It’s all in her self-deprecating delivery. If you don’t know, Abbie has a hilarious blog, The Kids Made Me Fat. Her posts are sometimes picked up by the Huffington Post. Not too shabby for a Jasper mom.

Here’s a sampler from her blog.

On realizing (way too late) it’s time to buy new bras: The following list describes most of the bras I am currently wearing: 1. Some of the hooks are rusted or missing; 2. It’s nude but I’m pretty sure it used to be white; 3. The underwire is now squeaking—I wish I was making this up but sometimes when I move it like, moans, like it’s begging for mercy; 4. The material is transparent and not in a sexy way but in a stretched-out nasty itching-my-nipple kind of way; 5. It has snaps to unleash my boobs for feeding, and my baby is now eating lunch meat.

On running: Running is horrible, and I’m horrible at it. Though, I’m not sure you can call what I’ve been doing running, as I recently got passed up by an elderly couple who was walking their elderly dog. Seriously, this dog did not look good. They were dragging it down the street. Yet, they passed right on by me.

On the Tooth Fairy: The Rumbach family Tooth Fairy is ridiculous. She went completely over the top when Hadley lost her first tooth. Hadley didn’t just get a quarter as in days of old, but rather was given $5, a packet of Reese’s Pieces, a new Barbie DVD and a bottle of nail polish . . . When more and more teeth started to fall out (which, by the way, is gross), and once our kids started knocking them out on purpose for reward, we realized that we needed to explain to the kids that the recession had effected everyone, including Tooth Fairy.

On a Christmas present from her daughter, Hadley: My present was a coupon book. She filled it with coupons that I could redeem for help around the house. Her coupons included things such as, “Watch Jack for 30 Minutes,” “Clean My Room,” and “Pick Up The Toys.” I thought it was wonderful. Without any money to spend, Hadley had created the perfect present. A week later, on my birthday, the only thing I wanted was to take a shower. I remembered my coupon book and asked Hadley to watch her brother . . . She put her hands on her hips as she then said, “Mother. You need to look at those coupons. They have expired.” I got out the coupon book and sure enough, she was right . . . I forgot to read the fine print. All of the coupons were good for 3 days only.

On witnessing her father’s unfortunate attire at church: The adults made their way to the choir loft when I spotted my dad, a 30+ year member of the choir . . . He was wearing sweatpants. A T-shirt and sweatpants. I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t mind my Dad’s sweats, but I’m quite certain my mother did . . . apparently Dad came from his bowling league (where I guess he wears sweat pants?) directly to the church. And he must have had some nachos, because I’m pretty sure I could see some cheese dried on his thigh.

Read more Abbie at www.thekidsmademefat.com.

Spying Santa, by Scott Saalman

“Don’t look out the window.”

She repeated this sentence over and over as twilight leaked its ink across southern Indiana.

“Don’t look out the window.”

It sounds like a good title for a drive-in horror movie, but actually this was our mother’s five-worded Christmas Eve mantra, which always began at 5:30 p.m.

“Don’t look out the window.”

My younger brother Patrick and I still butt-scooted our way toward the living room window, of course, inch by cautious inch, but mom’s voice always caused us to abort our mission before the living room curtain could be parted for a looksee.

Even from a different room, out of sight, she knew what we were doing. “Don’t look out the window,” she’d warn, hollering over Buck Owens and the Buckaroos’ “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy” playing on the stereo console. Dad always got a kick out of that song. It played 100 times that day, confounding me with its lyrics.

“Santa looked a lot like Daddy/Or Daddy looked a lot like him/It’s not the way I had him pictured/Santa was much too thin/Well he didn’t come down the chimney/So Mama must have let him in/Santa looked a lot like Daddy/Or Daddy looked a lot like him…”

There was a hidden message in that song. The wink-winks between adult relatives when it played told me so.

“Don’t look out the window.”

“Why can’t we?”

“He won’t come if you do. He’ll fly right over our house and take your toys to other girls and boys.”

It was torture being blocked from looking out the front picture window. We wanted to see Santa and his flying reindeer in action. As 6 p.m. drew closer, we were sequestered in the kitchen where we anxiously watched the wall clock. Before Santa came, we knew the phone would ring. It would be Grandpa Saalman pretending to be Santa. We knew it was Grandpa; it just sounded like him trying to sound like someone else. He was a lousy impersonator. Yes, we had been good that year, we told him. We recited our wish lists per his request even though it was too late for Santa to be asking such questions. It was Christmas Eve for Pete’s sake. We also knew it was impossible for Santa to be talking on the phone airborne en route from the North Pole. This was way before cell phones — even Santa’s elves lacked the imagination to dream up a sleigh phone.

We also knew that the arrival of Grandma and Grandpa Goffinet, plus some of our aunts and uncles, had to happen before Santa’s visit. We prayed they wouldn’t run out of beer before getting to our house, or they’d have to make a stop at T&R Liquor, preempting our Christmas. I doubt the Three Wise Men posed a similar dilemma. It was tradition for mom’s side of the family to arrive before Santa, their Stroh’s and Sterling in tow. They liked watching us get our gifts. Oddly, Uncle Bill and Aunt Bonnie were always missing from this gathering. It concerned me that Bill and Bonnie apparently didn’t care for Christmas.

Our house was one of the few I knew where Santa didn’t mind being seen in person. We actually sat on his lap, fielded the same questions asked of us by Grandpa Saalman mere minutes before and then Santa personally handed us our presents pulled from his huge cloth sack (the toys always what we wished for).

One year, though, he pulled a real zinger. He brought in a sack of twigs — the dreaded switches we were always warned about by our parents, usually beginning around Dec. 1. My heart dropped seeing those switches. That Christmas song was right after all. He does know if you’ve been bad or good. I had a summer flashback of me coaxing my brother to poop in his ball cap much to the amusement of our visiting cousins. Patrick saw the switches and burst into tears. The aunts and uncles, even our grandparents, laughed. Their laughing, fiendish faces reflected off the Christmas tree’s shiny glass ball ornaments — the worst holiday moment ever. This wasn’t Norman Rockwell; this was Norman Rockhell.

The bag of switches was just a big fat joke — though it made a lasting point. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ho. Ho. Ho. We were Punk’d decades before Punk’d existed. The real sack of toys, pulled from outside, cheered us up.

Santa never stayed long. There were many houses to visit. When the heels of his black boots exited through the doorway, mom would warn us once more, “Don’t look out the window,” depriving us of seeing the sled’s liftoff with Rudolph leading the way.

On my 11th Christmas, though, after Santa stepped outside and mom issued her final window warning, I noticed her preoccupation with installing batteries in one of Patrick’s gifts. So, naughty or nice no longer seemingly applicable, I looked out the front window. I saw Santa climb into the passenger side of my Uncle Bill’s big brown Buick. Aunt Bonnie was behind the wheel. Even now, I wish I had listened to my mom. Never look out the window.