Light Box II
My trek began by getting a little delayed due to the drawbridge. The traffic here is horrendous anyway … yet the view of Sarasota Bay from atop the north bridge certainly eased my anxiety. And I still managed to walk into my dermatologist's office slightly early.
The waiting room had about 7 or 8 eighty - somethings, sitting ... pretending to read 3-year-old magazines. As I patiently waited, an elderly woman strolled to the reception window after seating her husband.
“I’m going to need to see his Insurance and Medicare cards” proclaimed the voice emanating from behind the sliding glass.
The wife turned and repeated the instructions in the general direction of the old man. He responded … not once … but twice … with a loud “WHAT?!!” So, as she marched across the waiting room to retrieve the necessary identification, I sauntered up to the reception window.
Recognizing me … the receptionist smiled and said "Shelley will come for you soon.”
Sure enough, minutes after I sat down the office door opened.
The cheerful … 30 - something Shelley chirped "Mr. Brown!" and quickly enough we were standing side by side in the light box room. I get two "light" treatments a week ... so this woman and I are relatively familiar with each other.
"Please call me 'Rick" I said to be friendly … and to subtly distance myself from the small crowd of 80 year olds back in the waiting area.
"Okay …. I'll try. But I was raised to call older people Mr. and Mrs. You know … to be polite … and out of respect for my elders." was Ms. Shelley's response.
This was not exactly what I was going for ... sigh.
My Friends’ Moms
I won’t say growing up on the outskirts of a small Northeastern Ohio town in the 1950s and 60s was idyllic. Nor will I contend that my childhood was carefree. But I will admit I was surrounded by a lot of good people. And at the top of that list … or very close to it … would be my boyhood friends’ mothers.
You see … back then almost every mother was at home … all the time. Women rarely worked outside the home. Most of them … including my mother … didn’t have a driver’s license or access to a car if they did. There were comedians … men of course … who made careers out of “women drivers” jokes. Options were few besides homemaker. It was all in the Bible … or so some claimed.
Things have changed considerably … mostly for the better … with a long way yet to go. And every mother I knew back then found a way to be unique.
Donny’s mom was a horse woman. The Chilchers had a horse or two … beautiful animals. Consequently, Don and his family were into 4 – H and riding culture. It was all kind of cowboy-ish really. And while it was all good experientially for me, cleaning stalls the morning after a sleepover made me prefer the poop of a small dog … with a large yard. Yet I can still picture Donny’s mom atop her galloping steed in the corral behind their barn.
The Shylos were a large Italian family who were not Catholic. I found this very out of the ordinary in my youth. Nonetheless … Doug’s mom was in most ways a typical Italian matriarch. She loved to cook and entertain. She was generous, welcoming and loved to throw big parties in their spacious yard. I drank my first Rolling Rock beer at such a soirée … when I was 15.
Then there was Keith and Dick Fowler’s mother. The Fowlers were a lovingly LOUD family and she was the loudest. Had to be. She had a wonderfully bodacious sense of humor. The kids numbered 4 … not unusual back then. There was a Chocolate Flat-Coated Retriever named Punch … and later a black one called Judy. The dogs were the quietest family members. And the entire family was more than generous.
One time I dropped over and Scott … affectionately called “Bean” … was topsy-turvy … head first … in the laundry chute immediately in front of Keith and Dick’s bedroom door. Bean was kicking his feet furiously outside the chute while screaming … bloody murder … southward … in the direction of the kitchen. Soon enough Mrs. Fowler yelled from the bottom of the stairs … sounding like the Voice of God (… see … the Almighty IS female) “GET SCOTT OUT OF THE LAUNDRY CHUTE NOOOOWWWW!!!”
The three of us obliged immediately.
I recall a time being invited to dinner … and Mrs. Fowler served beef tongue. I’m not sure I enjoyed it … but the sight of that big tongue in the middle of the Fowler family’s dining room table seemed like a very appropriate metaphor. The memory still makes me smile.
Finally … there was Jeff’s mom. Mrs. Correll was like no other mother I knew. As a young boy … to me … she seemed … worldly might be a good word. It must have been because … well … she was actually out in the world. She had a job … as a real estate agent. She drove … her own car. And while she might not have been home as much as other mothers … her presence was certainly an impact on her children … and me.
Sometimes when I was visiting Jeff I’d hear his mom singing. Sure … my mom sang around the house. But she’d belt out “Mairzy Doats” or something like that. Jeff’s mom would stop me in my tracks with a smoldering “Stormy Monday” or sensual “Misty”. And when I asked Jeff about it he told me before she was married and became a mother, his mom sang in a jazz combo … in jazz clubs.
Wow … I found this all too intriguing … especially as a young teenager.
Still … Mrs. Correll was first and foremost Jeff’s mom … a real estate agent … and a nice woman … albeit worldly.
My most vivid memory is a time when I went along with her and Jeff to visit her parents … at their farm … somewhere in Western Pennsylvania. It was a long enough drive that we stayed overnight. And to entertain my 14-year-old brain, I brought along a little reel to reel tape recorder.
We stopped about halfway on our journey at Pymatuning Reservoir. The lake is formed by a dam with a huge spillway and is shared by state parks on opposing shores … one in Ohio … one in Pennsylvania. The touristy thing to do … and we did … is visit the spillway to feed the carp. There are so many carp in the water that ducks … a lot of them … walk on the fish!! And there is NEVER a shortage of carp for ducks to walk on because there is NEVER a shortage of dumb tourists throwing bread into the water for the carp to devour.
Even at age 14 I had been around Lake Erie enough to be pretty familiar with carp. Considered a scrap fish, bottom feeders … however you want to describe them … the existence of carp can make you doubt the existence of a Supreme Creator. And I found the scene at Pymatuning Spillway surreal … macabre at best. Just the sucking sounds of hundreds of frenzied carp vying for tourists’ bread haunts me to this day. Some clown thought it would be cute to throw a whole LOAF of bread in at once.
And I almost hurled.
Fortunately, Mrs. Correll said it was time to get back on the road. Once in the car I pulled out my little tape recorder. I wanted to be creative. And I wanted to get the sights and sounds of bread sucking carp out of my head. So I began narrating about what was around us … like a travel show. Jeff soon joined in. We went by a pickup truck pulling a horse trailer. I stuck the microphone out the window and “interviewed” the horses. When we stopped at lights we would yell “Hey NATIVE!” to people on the sidewalk.
Jeff’s mom thought this quite entertaining and chuckled. But the people we yelled at … not so much.
Finally, Jeff spoke into the mic … “Hey Rick … how come the natives never answer us?”
I replied, “Maybe they speak a different language.”
To which my friend responded, “And what language might that be?”
Never one to be outdone … I glanced around and saw a Pennzoil sign in front of a gas station. I had never seen a Pennzoil sign before in my life.
“Why I believe they speak Pennzualian”. I retorted.
And Mrs. Correll laughed so hard I thought she was going to crash the car.
Jeff’s mom is still with us. I can’t be sure of my other friends’ mothers. All of these ladies made me feel like a member of her family … in a very special way. Jeff’s mom and I are FaceBook friends after all these years. She’s asked me to call her Dottie. But after more than 50 years … I simply cannot. She will always be Jeff’s mom … Mrs. Correll to me.
… I can learn what “Dottie” is in Pennzualian.
Beauty is Gone
Beauty is gone
like a wilted rose.
Truth is lacking
like tattered clothes
and the old equation
is poetic licence,
Knowledge is gone,
buried deep in muck
by theory's Babel.
History lies like driftwood
scattered in the sand and
memory barely holds
as the glue dissolves.
Rick's Books, Naked Sunfish Caviar
& Best Bites,
are available at:
book, Best Bites is available at:
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Jimmy Mak's new book,
Daddies Shouldn't Breakdance,
is available at:
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The Wall Plaque
Storm & Whale
aNna (Wellman) rybaT
Elva Griffith's new book,
The Analysis of H Final,
is available at: