Tag Archives: decorations

The JR

Everyone has had that job.  The job that they took that was only going to last a little while.  It was an “in-between jobs” job.

I hated buying more than one uniform shirt because I wasn’t going to be there very long.  Sometimes I wore a long grey skirt instead of black pants.  And a plain black long sleeve tshirt instead of a Jolly Roger shirt when I was tending bar.  Because rebelling is not my strong suit but dammit, I hated that uniform.

I had never had sidework like that before.  Two hotel sheet trays of tiny solo cups of horseradish.  Four of coleslaw.  Make sure you are prepped to make at least 100 Bloody Marys. On Sunday.  At lunch.

Sell all the soup you can, but don’t eat it.  Eat things you see being made.  Made to order. Fried eggs.  Not scrambled.  Don’t ask about what you saw in the walk in.  It is a strawberry.  Even though it looks like a grey furry mouse.  It is a strawberry and it is someone’s idea of a science experiment.

Never, ever run out of cigarettes.  The other waiters, career waiters that have been at this since you were in elementary school and will still be at it when you are long gone, they are not likely to strike up a conversation with you unless you catch them on a smoke break. Get someone in the kitchen stoned.  Just once.  So they know you are not stuck up.

Figure out how the hostess station works.  Because that is where the money is made.  Coffee and $1.99 breakfast and a two-top of surfers.  They are cute.  But it won’t pay the bills. Suck it up and hope you get the family with the screaming kids and that they didn’t see the big sign that explains you can eat a LOT for almost free.  Write down their order.  Because it doesn’t impress anyone that you don’t have to.  And later when a customer tells you that they ordered wheat toast and sunny side up eggs even though that is total bullshit and they may have said that in their minds because what they actually said was French Toast and scrambled, you will have it written down.

Be nice to the people that everyone knows.  They have been eating here for a decade.  The man that eats breakfast at the bar all of the time, he knows where the sour mix is when you run out.  Go ahead and snicker and say “I bet you do” when the creepy guy say he likes his eggs “Over Easy.” But do not serve him a Budweiser with a Jack back at 11:57 am on a Sunday.  Drop a tray of six dinners.  But do not lose a credit card slip.

Don’t look too closely at the Christmas ornaments that hang from every surface in the entire restaurant.  You will begin to wonder when was the last time they were dusted.  And these thoughts of cleanliness will linger.  And drive you crazy. Put your tray jack back exactly where you got it from.  And never set an empty pitcher of iced tea down.

Learn to wash your own bar glasses.  Quickly.  You will run out if you send them to the dish pit.  Get your own ice.  And then get two extra buckets.  Everyone is slammed, not just you.  But it will be over soon enough.

Do not stay for late night drinks.  Do not ever sing karaoke.  Don’t ask any questions about Alan Ross’ Traveling Karaoke Road Show.  Specifically how it is that it is traveling if it is here every single night.  Do not breath an ill word to Carol Ann.  Don’t bother making a request for a specific day off.  Schedules were made this summer for Christmas.  You are working someone’s shifts that quit.  It is assumed that you will quit before the next summer.

I walked out of every shift wondering if I was going to get fired.  With more money than I thought I had made.  This is what I learned there.

I worked Christmas  at the Jolly Roger.  And all I got was this lousy ornament.

1976

Our nation’s bicentennial.  A gallon of gas was 59 cents.  Taxi Driver was a hit at the box office.  The Muppet Show was on television.  The Eagles released Hotel California.  You’d have had to wait in line to get a Stretch Armstrong that Christmas.  Nadia Comăneci scored the first perfect “10” in the Olympic games.

And I was born.

There is an unwritten law that states that when a child is born in to a family you must have a Christmas ornament to commemorate their arrival.  And this is mine.

I don’t know that you can buy an ornament like this anymore.  At one time you could get a whole box of balls that were decorated with shiny polyester feeling filaments.  This is one of those, shrink wrapped with an image of a baby and the year of my birth.

1976.

I bought my first album at Waxie Maxie’s in Springfield.  KC & The Sunshine Band.  I rode a Big Wheel with a hand brake.  And I did it without a helmet.

I wanted to marry Tom Selleck . And have the Solid Gold dancers as my bridesmaids.

I didn’t mind black and white tv shows because one of the tvs in our house was black and white anyway.  I Love Lucy was the funniest show and it was on every morning.  The Love Boat seemed very risque to me, with all those unmarried, beautiful people vacationing together.  I wasn’t sure if I liked Chrissy or Janet better.  Chrissy had better clothes, but Janet was smarter.

I will never forget the episode of “Real People” where Sarah Purcell interviewed the woman with Lobster Claw Syndrome.  For years one whole side of my basement smelled like Strawberry Shortcake.  I made mixed tapes with songs I taped off the radio.

When I was very little I was afraid of Libya,  an economic recession and my father’s unemployment.  I knew that groceries were cheaper at Shopper’s Food Warehouse, because they didn’t give you any bags.  I have waited more than an hour at a video store to get a new release on VHS.

Pantyhose came in a plastic egg and the underwear section of a magazine was embarrassing.  I wanted to smell like Prell shampoo and Love’s Baby Soft and wear my dad’s old fraternity baseball jerseys.

I thought Parkay was fancy.  Sodas were for grownups. Fruit roll ups were for special treats and fast food restaurants gave out tiny orange juice glasses that were going to be collector’s items.  Everybody’s thermos smelled weird and their milk was lukewarm, but no one ever got sick.  I never met a kid with an allergy.

Because I was born in 1976.

Simply Red

Cherries in the Snow.  Raven Red.  Cha Cha Cherry.  Really Red.  Love that Red. Fire and Ice.  Ravish Me Red.

I was not always faithful to a single shade.  But I was a Revlon red lipstick girl for a long, long time.

In high school it was a look  I dabbled with.  There was a Degenerate Art exhibit at the National Gallery in the early 90’s.  I had the tshirt.  It was black.  It said simply DEGENERATE ART.  And I had new black cowboy boots.  Red lipstick completed the look.  It goes without saying that I wish I still had that shirt.

Cowboy boots were eventually  traded for Chuck Taylor’s and overalls, the red lips came and went.

In college I was the girl that didn’t wear shoes very often. I still wore Osh Kosh overalls almost every day.  But low maintenance I was not.

I fell in love with two things early in my college career.  Getting a wee bit baked and acrylic nails.  The hours I spent watching syndicated Beverly Hills 90210 on the WB (the only channel one could get in the dorms without cable) and sculpting the perfect red fingernail out of acrylic were  immeasurable.

To any and all concerned about the effects marijuana can have on a young mind I assure you the acrylic I inhaled in my dorm room did more damage.  Red lips completed the look.  Perfect red nails.  Red lipstick.  Overalls that haven’t been washed in who knows how long.  I was ready to go.

The latter half of my college career had me on my way to or from dinner theatre more often than not.  My “casual attire” moved from overalls to Ben & Jerry’s tshirts, tie dyes and pajama pants.

But the red lips remained.  In large part because the cold cream required to remove the make up I had spackled on for the evening was too time consuming.  And if you have a good reason to sport a painted on mole all night I have always been one to encourage you to go for it.

Bonus points for pearls and a red pageboy wig.

In summary, red lipstick and I go way back.

Red lipstick.  You can open a fashion magazine from nearly any decade and see at least one of the models wearing it.  It is timeless.  Classic.  But it’s only half of the equation.

Red lips without a pout?  You might as well be half dressed.  Ever since I was a little girl my mother has remarked upon my cupid’s bow lips.  (And my heart shaped butt, but that is a post for another day.  One perhaps not so rich with images.)  The first piece of art in her now vast art collection was a Tarkay.  She remarked then that the red pouty lips on all of the women in his paintings remind her of me.

I’d like to think I’ve not lost my pout.  Every girl ought to keep that skill in her back pocket.  But somewhere in the last decade the red lipstick started fading.  Traded in for chapstick with sunblock.  This weekend the red lipstick made a mini comeback.  Just for the day. But a gal can not wear a red feather headband with chapstick.  It was a no-brainer.

Every year when I hang this Patience Brewster ornament I will let it serve as a reminder.  Red lipstick is a bright idea.  Merry Christmas, Red Lipstick.  You have never let me down.  

Soup

At first glance you wouldn’t guess that the ornament that says “God made the beautiful skies with stars like twinkling eyes” would rank high among my all time favorite ornaments.   I don’t exactly go very far out of my way to keep the Christ in Christmas.  But this ornament has something special inside.

A little Kelly, circa 1979, plastic dress up shoes, Raggedy Ann pajama top, Dorothy Hamill haircut.  Behind that pantry door was the first and maybe second of what would be many marks indicating the heights of everyone in our family.

On the back it says “Love, The Speedys, Xmas 1979.”

The Speedys lived next door to us when we first moved in to the house I grew up in in 1979.  They had two teenage boys and a huge dog.  Sue Speedy liked to garden and she did so in a manner that made her appear as though she had just stepped out of an LL Bean catalogue.  I remember her seeming so put together.  Decked out in the best of early 80s fashion, whale turtlenecks and duck boots.  There were snap dragons planted in the island between our yard and theirs and I can remember sticking my finger in and out of the snapdragon’s mouths while my mom chatted with Sue.

This ornament is interesting to me for a couple of reasons.  The first, of course,  being that it has a picture of me.  And if you read here, you know I am wildly fascinated by old pictures of myself.  Heh.  But this year it took on an even greater degree of interest.  Christmas, 1979.  My mom was pregnant with my brother.  Not very, as he was born prematurely six months later. But she was pregnant.

I remember the snapdragons that spring.  I remember Sue Speedy’s duck boots.  I remember my brother being very small.  (Or at least I think I do. The line between photographs jogging your memory and real memories made up of smells and “brain movies” is fuzzy to me.)  But I have no memory of my mother being pregnant.  None.  I remember the way her perfume smelled, the way she looked in this amazing water-colored silk dress.  Her closet.  But I don’t recall her being with child. Strange the things the mind omits.

I wonder how Emily will recall this pregnancy.  If she will remember the nights I climbed in her bed.  Because pregnancy induced insomnia had me pacing the house and her steady breathing and warm little body relaxes me.  Last night as I slid in beside her she rolled over, brushed her hand across my face and said “Sleep, Mommy.  You need to sleep before the baby gets here.”

Earlier in the evening I was overwhelmed.  A sudden rush of “holy-shit-we-are-going-to-have-a-baby” consumed me and I sat down on the couch with a huge exhale, called MQD and said “I can’t make dinner.   My hip hurts, I am tired, I just can’t.”  Kindly, he said to just tell him what I’d like for him to pick up and he’d get it on his way home.  Ever the pregnant woman I was not satisfied with this answer and complained that the pressure of having to make up my mind was making me feel like I was going to cry.

Em sat beside me on the couch.  She put her arm around me and kissed me on the cheek.  “Just let it out, Mom.”  I smiled at her wordlessly.  She held my hand.  “We can get Mexican food?   Yanno, Mexican soup.”

She’d effectively broken the spell of my bad mood. “Sweetheart, I don’t think we have ever had any Mexican soup.  Do you mean Chinese food?”

“Yeah, Mexican soup is Chinese food.”

Of course it is.

And so I wonder if she will remember when we sat on the couch, side by side, because she no longer fits on my lap.  And she offered me Mexican Chinese soup and held my hand.  “We’re a perfect little family.” And my eyes teared up, worried that somehow I was destroying our perfect family of three with the new addition.  She continued, “and it will be even more perfect when the baby comes.”