30 March 2009

Two things I didn't expect to talk about

Monday, 30 March 2009

After church yesterday we went to the nice little place by the airport for brunch (pancakes-- it's Lent) and by the time we got home it was like 75 degrees and sunny and beautiful. Jessy and Lisa were Lisa's room playing (Barbies) till they heard Daddy start up the boat in the garage. Both of them went down there. Neither of them was fully dressed... which is only typical when the weather is like this.

I lay up here on top of my bed cutting out pictures and articles for the poster board part of this very ridiculous job-hunting project on 2-ft-by-3-ft poster board that we're supposed to have done for history class. I had been procrastinating this for about two weeks because I thought it is idiotic. Most people have done theirs on things like nursing and culinary arts and even farming-- and those things are easy to depict in pictures. I mean for nursing, you just go on any careers web site and they will have a picture of some woman in scrubs. How do I depict a teacher? --just some person standing there talking. I did get a little far-reaching about it by using a picture of the school board office-- in Ship Bottom, just down the Island from where we used to live, where I would most want to teach. When I took it in today no one knew where it was.

After I got done with that I went online and sat at my little round table in my panties telling people about my panties (red-and-white floral print, cotton blend, low-rise bikini... cute, yes). It was that warm. At supper time I put on my cover-up shirt. Jessy did the same thing. Lisa had on a t-shirt. In the middle of supper a little thunderstorm hit. It actually turned to hail, prompting Daddy to get up for a 'window check' to see if it was hard enough to break glass. (Sometimes it can. It happened to us when we were at Lewes.) But that passed into a strong rain, then a lighter rain, finally a drizzle, leaving a pure, clean sky out above the ocean. I was at my round table by the window till it was fully dark, just gazing out at it.

The result is that it got cold... really cold. This morning was nothing like spring. I wore a skirt and warm tights and my leather patchwork jacket, and Roger drove us in so I could carry my stupid career project. It was windy and for a moment I almost lost it. Mother insisted I wrap it in a big green bin liner which fluttered and finally tore in the short walk in to the building. Then I had to carry it round with me till fourth period. People kept asking what it was. It was awkward and embarrassing.

When it came to fourth period, the teacher had each of us stand up and say a few words about what we had chosen to put on the board and what it meant... naturally. I found that many people had not got their projects done. (Why could I not have been one of them?) I was surprised-- actually stunned-- to find how many people liked mine. For something I waited 12 days to start and then finished in less than three hours it was pretty well put together. They all went 'Oooo' and 'Ahhh' and everything. I used coloured paper as background and used bold fonts and big letters, very simple really, but sensible and eye-catching and clear, which are the main virtues of a successful poster-board project. The teacher hung it up in the room... in the front of the room, where we can continue to look at it during future classes. Well-- other people can. I have done with it.

Over lunch I sat with Jessy and her 10th-grade posse and also Petrel who is in my history class. When the others were talking about what they did yesterday Petrel asked me about my project. (Really.) She said, 'Some of us thought you were going to have some cool thing about singing and going on concert tours in foreign places.'

I looked at her. 'Really?'

She shrugged, now feeling a little silly. 'Well-- I did. Other people did. We thought it would be something about going back to England.'

I shrugged then too. Jessy was looking across the table at me. 'I don't know,' I said. 'Actually, I was only thinking that I would....'

Jessy smiled at me as I didn't know how to put it. 'She's going to move back into our old house on the beach in New Jersey and be a spinster who teaches little kids how to... what is it? --play their instruments very ill.'

I laughed-- she was paraphrasing 'Pride and Prejudice'. But she was right. 'Something like that,' I said, now feeling a little ashamed of it.

'Oh, no,' Petrel said then. 'You have to go away and do something really exciting, and romantic. You just--'

Then she realised we were all gazing at her like she had just figured out there is no Easter Bunny. Rita smiled at her. 'I know what you mean,' she said softly, putting her hand on Petrel's then. (I do not know that Petrel is that affectionate with her friends, as the other girls at the table have all become from hanging out with Jessy and me. But she probably will be more so from now on.) 'We all expect great things of Janine. She's kind of a heroine to all of us.'

I got red then. When the topic turned to what we all did yesterday during the hail storm, I was able to say I was lying round my room all day in my red-and-white floral-print panties and so felt a little less embarrassed.


24 March 2009

'To wardrobe' = a verb meaning to use anything you already have in a creative way.

Tuesday evening, 24 March 2009

Lisa is upset. Well, wait-- I must go back.

This past weekend, Daddy drove the 1961 Buick up to New Jersey, where he keeps his cars, and brought back the 1965 convertible. The 1965 convertible is just like the one he had back in the '70s when the band was first starting out, and in that time the big blue Buick was a common sight up and down the Island. Much later in life he located another one and had it rebuilt to copy the first one. It is a metallic light blue with white lower panels, white upholstery, and a white hood (top). There are bucket seats and the manual gearchange is in the console and it has chrome wheels and lettered tyres. And it's big-- really big, the way they haven't made cars for 30 years.

Of course when he first got the jet boat back in about 1978 he had it painted to match the 1965 convertible, in the same metallic blue with a white bottom and a white flames design on the deck. So, if you are following this, you can conclude that my daddy had gone to get the 1965 convertible this weekend for a reason. On Monday morning he drove Jessy and me to school in it and then disappeared 'on an errand', but I had him figured out by the end of the school day when he came to collect us... and yes, there was a trailer-towing ball beneath the back bumper of the 1965 convertible. How did I guess? --now that he has the original boat back, he would ensure that the car truly matches the one he once had, for 30 years ago he used to tow the Buick-powered jet boat with the 1965 Buick convertible he had then. I giggled till it embarrassed him. But this is what we love about our daddy. His optimism and sentimentality have got us through some very trying times, and there isn't one of us who would ever want him to change a single bit.

Over dinner last night he announced that, with the weather improving so dramatically, he was looking forward to commemorating the start of the season by towing the jet boat with the 1965 convertible over the Ferry and up the Parkway to the beach house where we will use the boat this summer. When he gets excited like this there's no stopping him. So we all discussed who would ride in which car (for of course someone has to take pictures!) and what we would all wear for the commemorative start-of-the-season event. Since I already have a red-and-white polkadot swimsuit that matches the softball team's jerseys I decided I would find one in the same blue as the car and the boat, hopefully with a complimentary white in it too. Little Lisa said she wanted the same thing; but that was just a ruse to get to go shopping with Jessy and me because, as Mother said, Lisa already has a white one-piece that would do just fine, especially if we are in blue. Lisa is a little too little for a two-piece anyway. (I never understood that-- and never wore a two-piece myself till I was old enough to... fit one. What is the point of a 5-year-old in a bikini?)

This morning I was saying good-bye to little Lisa (which really means we were hugging the stuffing out of each other) and we looked up as Jessy descended to the front hall. My mouth dropped open, and then I started to laugh. After all, we already knew Jessy already had the perfect swimsuit to wear when Daddy takes us out on the speedboat. It's a traditional Speedo racing one-piece in the very same light blue as the car and the boat... and THIS is what she wore to school today, as a shiny light blue leotard under her little tan cotton ruffle skirt and a white shirt with the tails tied round her middle, with opaque white tights and her tan round-toed pumps. This is my sister! --wearing a swimsuit to high school! --and it was superb and yet tasteful in every way.

Mother was impressed. 'You look... cute,' she finally pronounced.

Jessy shrugged, with a cute toss of her head (and those natural curls never fall out, unless of course she lets them fall out, and either way she's stunning-- grrr). I giggled. Lisa did too, mainly because I did, and then she said, 'Is that your bathing suit?'

Jessy shrugged again. 'People wear leotards under other stuff,' she said. We know. She has. I suppose we all have-- even Mother.

'It's brilliant,' I said to her.

'Mummy!' Lisa raved excitedly then, even as Jessy and I were kissing her good-bye. 'Can I wear mine too? The white one you said I have? Can I wear it too--' now she was looking at Jessy-- 'with my little brown skirt, and a shirt tied like that... and I could wear my good church shoes-- And did I get my white tights for Easter yet? Mummy!'

Lisa is still upset over it.


23 March 2009

Sweating like a pig, thank you; and yourself?

Sunday 22 February 2009

For a while after he was married Daddy used to ride a bicycle, a really nice Italian racing bike, pretty much everywhere. Using all sorts of 'excuses' to ride, like marathons and fundraisers, he crossed the state a few times on it, going both ways, and rode up into New York State and as far south as Chincoteague, just above where we live now. Then we moved to southern Delaware, and he continued to ride till Jessy was walking, or learning how to ride a bicycle herself, and by the time Mommy got sick he had stopped for some reason. Recently he has been interested in riding again, and down in the basement here at Terncote he has been using the rowing machine.

I sort of accepted a dare from Jessy to wear my new bikini for certain softball practices. The team jerseys are red with white polkadots and so is the swimsuit. And I'm totally willing to do it, because I think the little girls will think it's very cool of their coach and just because it would seem cute anyway. The one thing that would NOT be cute about it is if I did it looking as I do now... so... it is down stairs to the rowing machine with Daddy for me.

The machine has a computer on it that tells you what your time and speed would be in a standard 2-km race. A good speed for someone who does not compete too seriously would be under 9 minutes. Right now I am rowing about 9:50, which is deplorable. Daddy rows about 9:20 and he's fifty years old. Jessy came down, observed our times, and then said, 'Well, there's more to being a pretty girl than rowing fast.'

I wiped my forehead with the back of my hand and looked up at her as the rotor spun down. 'What's that supposed to mean?'

Girlishly she shrugged. 'I guess I'm saying you can get away with not being too athletic if you're pretty.'

I stared at her. She was totally serious. You would never expect it but Jessy is much more conservative than I am when it comes to gender relations. I actually believe she would be content to marry someone a little older and a lot richer who would happily support her while she bakes brownies and does aerobics to stay slim and then greets her husband at the door with no clothes on when he comes home. When you're as pretty as she is, why break a sweat?

I should say that Jessy is by no means UN-athletic-- she swims very well (and fast), she used to race karts in England, she is a good surfer and an excellent ballerina and can run almost endlessly without having to breathe through her mouth. She was also really good at football (soccer) and rounders.

I looked at her and realised she was serious... or at least trying to dare me. 'Grrrrrrrgh!' I growled, and reached for the bar and gave it a long hard pull. I cranked that stupid machine right back up to about 2:20 per 500 and concentrated on not breaking form. I did not watch Jessy but out the corner of my eye I saw her wander over and sit down on Mother's stationary bike. But she didn't ride it.

(Did I mention that The Princess was in panties? --cute ones, too, silver-and-white, satin-finish, low-rise bikini... the kind of thing only a true underwear princess would ever wear... and no, she wasn't wearing anything else because, after all, she doesn't need to.)

I pulled the full extra 500 metres at 2:27. Not bad. At last I sat back on the thing, letting go the bar and listening to the rotor spin down again. Daddy came back in then, seeing us like that, Jessy perched prettily on the completely stationary stationary bike and me bent over backwards boiling in sweat. 'Two-twenty-seven? That's good.'

'My two-k sucked,' I groaned over myself.

'At two-twenty-seven, you did a nine-oh-eight.'

'I did a nine-fifty-something!'

'Really? Okay... well... that sucks.'

Jessy laughed. 'Grrrrrrrgh!' I complained.

He leaned over and poked me gently in the bare belly. I sprang up as a reflex. 'All right,' he said. 'Go easier tomorrow, shoot for ten, and get yourself four times that beat it during the week.'

I looked at him. 'I'm not raising my target time because I suck,' I said.

'Yes, you are. That's exactly what you're doing. You're being realistic. Look, from how you're panting right now, you got a good workout. What do we care what your time is?'

I thought about that. 'I wanted to break nine,' I said.

'Why?' he asked me.

I thought. 'Because that's what I used to row, in--'

'In your old school? A year and a half ago?'

I had to think about that too. 'Yeah,' I finally said.

Jessy wagged a finger at me from behind Daddy. Daddy didn't see her. 'You're living in denial,' he told me. 'Deal with the reality and stop trying to kill yourself. You row twice a day, four days a week on that thing, you'll be gorgeous by Memorial Day.'

I made a sad face. 'I thought I was gorgeous now,' I said, pretending to be offended.

'I was trying to tell her she already is,' Jessy said.

Daddy looked at her for a moment and then back at me. 'She is,' he said. 'You are. I mean, you'll be running marathons. You handle four workouts a week on that thing, twenty minutes plus warm-ups and cool-downs, getting your time down each time... my God. You'll run rings around a marathon.'

I nodded. 'I know.'

He held up a finger at me. 'You're done today. Stretch it out, have a shower. Your mother is making supper.'

I nodded. 'Yes, Daddy.' He left. I looked at Jessy then. 'Why does he think I want to run marathons?'

She shrugged, looking pretty. 'I think he just wants you to feel healthy. And to like yourself more.'

'Whoever said I didn't like myself?'

She shrugged again. 'Personally I think you ask too much of yourself.'

I pinched my side. 'See this? This, right here? THIS is too much of myself.'

Jessy laughed. 'This is what you get for buying the polkadot bikini before you can fit into it yet.'

'Stop it,' I said.

She only laughed again. I reached down and pulled the bar back to start another 500... with vengeance.


21 March 2009

Twittishness is contagious.

Friday evening 20 March 2009

It was colder today but I had a little fire and was sitting in here typing in my cover-up shirt. The cover-up shirt is something Mother (our stepmother) had, when she used to be our teeanged nanny, just an old cast-off men's dress shirt that you can wear over a swimsuit. Being too big, it comes down low enough that it's almost like a robe. Mine is pale blue with a button-down collar and long sleeves. It is NOT an old one of Daddy's but something I got in a charity clothing centre. I am still wearing panties (because of...) but with the cover-up shirt on I am comfortable.

Out in the side gallery I heard a curious exchange. It might have sounded like someone stepped on the cat...but we have no cat. In the first second there was a high-pitched chirp. Then there was a loud excited squeal, breaking into inane laughter, and then footfalls of bare feet and a door closed. Half laughing myself I got up to see what had happened.

Little Lisa, still naked from her own bath an hour ago, hovered in the doorway to her own room at the left end. 'She didn't see me! I wasn't looking! I wasn't!'

Across from mine the bathroom door emitted the steam of a warm shower just ended. Jessy's door was closed at the other end. There was silly giggling going on in there. Of course Josie is still staying with us, till tomorrow. I rapped gently on the door. 'Are you guys okay?'

'Eeek!' I heard.

Then Jessy called calmly. 'It's okay.'

The door was not fully closed and I pushed it open gently. Jessy's fireplace cracked softly. Jessy lay across her bed like she often does, calmly reading in a magazine by the one lamp on in the room. Behind her on the other side sat Josie, her hair in one towel, just closing, or reclosing, the other towel round her chest. By now a presence behind me told me Lisa had returned. 'Sorry,' I said. 'It sounded like a catfight was starting out here.'

'Oh, no,' Josie said, and then she smiled at me. 'It was just....'

'I think they surprised each other,' Jessy said, and then looked up, seeing Lisa cowering shyly beside my leg. 'I think that one is supposed to be in bed.'

I nodded, putting my hand on her head. 'Yes, well... sorry for that, Josie. She's quite good at wandering round where she shouldn't be... but, no harm done then.'

'It's all right,' Josie said, smiling demurely from under the big towel round her hair. 'I don't... mind.'

As I looked down Lisa was smiling over at her, feeling much better from that remark. She wants so much to be accepted... even if she seems a little in the way at times. I always say, if you have to have a little sister, let her not be a total nuisance! And Lisa really never is.

'Let's get you to bed,' I said, wrapping the shirt round myself and leading her off up the gallery. I pulled Jessy's door closed to preserve her room's warmth. 'Get yourself in there, and I will call Mother for you.'

She nodded, impetuously wrapping her arms round my legs and leaning her head upon my hip as a kind of hug. This is her way of saying 'Thank you, and I love you.'

Mother came up and tucked her in and then knocked quietly on my door. When I called she came in and said, in her tender nighttime voice, 'I'm sorry, Janine. She wants you to go in and say good-night too.'

I nodded, sitting back from the computer. 'All right.'

'Are those other two birds settled in for the night?'

I shrugged. 'Who knows? I'm sure they're fine.'

Mother leaned on the doorway to my dressing area and folded her arms across her tummy. 'You are all good girls,' she said. 'I thank God you all get on so well.'

I smiled. 'But of course.'

Then she stood up straight to go. 'Good night, sweetheart. I love you.'

'I love you, Mother.'

And I had to go in to Lisa's room to kiss her good-night then.


20 March 2009

Castle Field.

Friday 20 March 2009

Some time ago I promised my blog readers I would let them in on a secret and then I honestly forgot I said that and the secret never got spilt. Please forgive me-- this is what I was going to tell you about.

Since we came back from England Daddy has wanted to try a little 'experiment' and broke ground on it last fall. There is a tract of land immediately to the south of ours that he was able to buy up with the stipulation that he could NOT built residences on it. But he already had a plan for something else.

We all got into softball a lot during the two or three years we were home-schooled in Delaware. We didn't have PE class and so joining a team was valuable for a lot of reasons. It became a lot of fun for the whole family. Daddy found out how inexpensive it is to support a team and vowed that if he ever had the property to do it he would build a playing field and give the kids a really nice place to call home. And so was created Castle Field.

Castle Field is a modest but well-equipped girls' softball stadium. It is intended to host two, possibly three teams, specifically 5-6-7, 8-9-10, and 11-12-13. It has permanent stadium seats for about 150 people. At each end is a flat terrace for like a barbecue area. The dugouts are low in front with a 'secret door' to the locker rooms. Under the guests' side is a snack bar, some really nice restrooms, and the guests' locker room. Just to one side of the backstop is an actual tower, identical to the top two floors of the tower where Lisa's room is, with a real announcer booth at the top-- hence, 'Castle Field'.

Under the home- team's side is a weight room and offices for coaches. The individual players' lockers are these really cool stainless-steel forms that Daddy designed. The whole place is a soft grey and white colour scheme. The home team's locker room has a wide red stripe round the top of the wall because red and white are our team's colours. While it is set up only for girls' softball, Daddy designed an annexe on the home team's side with more locker-room space and another workout room for when J.J. is old enough to join a team.

The best part is that Jessy and I will both be assistant coaches. Jessy chose the 5-6-7 team. They are called the Ladybits. They have red t-shirts and cute pale grey pants. The 5-6-7 league is a 'coach pitching' league. Jessy is perfect for that age group... and Lisa will be on the team.

I have chosen to co-coach the 8-9-10 league. We are called the Ladybugs. We wear red jerseys with white polkadots. The caps and jerseys will be done next week. We have already drafted to the team and have a lineup of eleven girls. (The league assigns the players to the teams. We just coach and host them.) We will be looking for two more for when practice starts next weekend.

We are leaving the 11-12-13 team till later, to be made up of players who advance from the Ladybugs. They will be called The Ladybirds. (It's all 'lady' as in the ladies of the castle.) I will probably move up and co-coach them while Jessy moves up with Lisa. Lisa is phenomenally excited over this. As of right now she wants to play about 15 field positions.

We all contributed to most of the phases, from the layout of the field to the kind of food we will serve there. Mother came up with the uniforms and the colour scheme. It was almost red-and-black, like a ladybug, but we all thought that was too severe for nice little girls. My job is to be the den mother (ha!). I will teach them to be polite as well as sportsmanlike and our coach and his wife, who played on an NCAA college team, will teach them the major skills.

The first team meeting is Saturday the 21st... at Castle Field. I'll get to meet everyone and show them round what will be their team home. Then we'll go out for water ice [wink]. The first practice is Saturday the 28th. They will be on Saturday mornings till Easter and then we'll have them after school or in evenings till the season begins the first week of May.

The worst part of all this is that last month I found (and bought) a red-and-white polkadot bikini. Jessy dared me to wear it to practices, 'just to stir things up'. I wonder what kind of role model that will make me. Jessy's friend Josie says it might be more positive than I think. 'Everyone likes a pretty girl who cares about little kids,' she says. That of course describes herself. But, as to me... we shall see....


We accommodate a visitor.

Thursday 19 March 2009

We have had a visitor these past few days. Josie's father had to go out of town for a few days and her mother works an early-morning shift, so Josie would have been alone when she woke up. Even though she is 15 this would still have been awkward. So Mother, in her infinite generosity, just suggested, 'Why doesn't she stay with us?' So Josie's little sister went to stay with one of her friends and Josie has come here.

You may want to believe this is a big house, because I refer to it as a castle. It is a castle, architecturally, in that it is a castellated dwelling capable of surviving a storm, a famine, or an assault with conventional weapons (okay, just guns). But it is not so castlelike when it comes to size. My room is the biggest bedroom (after my parents') and it is only 13 x 14 feet. You may want to believe it is a big house, because there are nine bedrooms. But one is for my parents, each of us girls have one, little J.J. has the one that will eventually be a guest room or Mother's parlour, Gran has one down stairs and two are intended for housekeepers (which we don't currently have). And the one in the tower above Lisa's room is currently a playroom with almost no furniture. So if you are staying over, and Gran's room is not available or desirable, we kind of don't have anywhere to put you up. (We do have a guest house-- that's not finished yet-- but who would want to sleep out there when we're all in here?)

Of course Jessy intended that Josie would stay in her room. No one doubted that. Josie came over at 7.00 on Wednesday morning and has been here or at school with us since. Roger drives us all to school, we have plenty of room at the table, and Josie takes her shower in the evening like Jessy does so we scarcely even know she is here. She is a very sweet girl and we are all fond of her. It's especially nice because she is so attentive towards Lisa, who in turn has proclaimed Josie her new best friend.

And, of course, Jessy and Josie are sharing the bed. I find this terribly cute-- well, when Becky stayed over New Year's she stayed with me and Rita stayed with Jessy... no problem. Why do so many people think this is awkward, even risque? We girls don't mind. Especially with this weather trend, Jessy's been keeping as comfortable as she can, considering what week it is. Lisa was in there earlier this evening, right after her bath (say no more) and the three of them were lying across Jessy's bed looking through 'Teen Vogue' and, may I say, there was only one shirt between them. I saw the laugh in Josie's eye-- she thinks it's hysterical, in a really cute kind of way. And so do I.

At the risk of indulging the puerile, I think Jessy would sleep in the bed naked if it were convenient this week, even with Josie on the other side. It's all she does usually anyway, and Josie knows that. Of course I have not looked in on them to see, but-- Maybe we'll just let that one go.


St Patrick's Day... bah!

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Jessy took Daddy up on a dare this morning and came down stairs in her close-fitting khakis, black shoes, and a navy-blue long-sleeved tee with another tee over it... and the other tee was her St Patrick's Day shirt.

Daddy claims he has never been a fan of the Irish cause. The whole issue of the Troubles aggravates him so much that ever since Bloody Sunday he has been avoiding green on St Patrick's Day. But he has reasons.

1. Our family heritage does not include ANY Irish. Actually, my sister Jessy and I are ethnically English three times more than anything else.

2. We are not liberals. We do not support the overthrow of a monarchy that has worked, in one form of another, for over 1100 years.

3. We are nonviolent and Christian and believe in the Martin Luther King philosophy that all good things come to those who keep faith and refrain from violence, and not the Malcolm X philosophy that you have to achieve your goals by violence if it's easier or necessary, like Sein Fein and the IRA believe. (The British in Northern Ireland have used police force when necessary. The IRA have used terroristic tactics when expedient. They are not the same thing at all.)

4. We are not Catholic. In fact as a family we object to a culture that believes in 'one island, one nation, one religion' as Irish President Mary Fitzpatrick said in the 1980s. We also object to liberal American Catholics seeking capitalist American money to support a political action group who seek to establish 'one nation, one religion' in a foreign country. These are the same Americans who would object very loudly indeed if a president of this country were to take foreign money and say, 'one nation, one religion'-- unless of course it was THEIR religion. Being liberal relativists they should therefore understand my family's objections... but they don't because they're just liberal relativists.

5. We are more 'politically correct' than most people who say they are. The problem with the liberal/relativists' concept of 'politically correct' is that it's only considered 'correct' if it supports THEIR side. But if you look at it objectively you will see that, on a cultural level, it's kind of offensive to assume that 'everyone has a little Irish in them'. It's also kind of offensive to support a cause that deliberately offends what someone else believes in. I always thought 'political correctness' was about not offending anyone, but it seems to be more about certain people being allowed to offend only certain people. After all, in modern American culture, the English are the only people you're actually SUPPOSED to offend. As an Anglo-American, that offends me.

6. St Patrick was an English Roman Catholic monk who was sent to Ireland to convert druids in about 375 AD. Ironically, while the Irish complain that their native celtic (Druid) culture has been deliberately washed away or covered up by the English, as a nation they are firm supporters of the religion this Englishman gave them. Who is the hypocrite?

Jessy's St Patrick's Day shirt has a screen print of the Union Flag front and back (though it is intended to be a shirt and not a flag). I have one too-- we each bought one in London when we were visiting the Tower-- but as this is a new school I was a little wary of wearing it. Jessy would not shrink from the dare. Daddy congratulated her (laughing though. This is really only as serious as people wearing green is... but there is a point to it). All day at school people were coming up and saying to her, 'Cool shirt' (it's the first she's worn it since we moved here). It was funny because although everyone noticed it was not green, only a few people happened to notice that it was making a statement. Some people really don't see the significance of symbolism like this.

Then again-- maybe that's just living in America.

(Now all the liberal/relativists will email or IM me to say I have offended them for saying that I have been offended by a tradition they took for granted. Either you're tolerant of all points of view, or you're not.)


07 March 2009

Bring it on

Saturday 7 March 2009

Well, the weather broke... finally... and you know what that means. I was up MUCH too late last night (this morning) and by the time I got up (late this morning) both my sisters had come up with an excuse to do... yard work. Yes, both of them were out there-- actually the moment I looked out my window both their bare bottoms were up in the air. Jessy and Lisa were out by the back garden wall, clearing out leaves and trash that had blown there over the winter. As I watched Jessy actually crawled in under one of the evergreen bushes and came out with a surprisingly large arm load of tumbleweeds and leaves. She saw me then, dropped the stuff into the bag Lisa held, and then Lisa turned round and they both waved. I giggled. Well-- it was about 65 degrees outside. Why not?

I washed, brushed teeth, and shuffled down the front stairs. Little J.J. (3) was sitting on the dining room floor playing with trucks. 'Uh-oh,' he said, looking up at me then. 'Someone has no clothes on!'

I laughed. 'And good morning to you too!' I teased.

'Mummy! She has no clothes on!'

I stepped in to the kitchen and Mother was there, just pouring out water for tea. 'Well,' she said, 'I was wondering when you would join the day.'

I smiled and leaned on the counter. 'Well, I saw those other two birds out there.'

'Yes,' they're out there.... I'm sure Lisa was up at the crack of dawn.'

'And tomorrow is Daylight Saving's....'


I took the cup she gave me and made my way back to the small parlour and stepped outside. The late-morning sun was actually hot-- out of the breeze, at the back of the house, it must have been 75. 'Wow,' I sighed.

'Janine!' Lisa ran up past the pool to me. 'You're up!'

I nodded. 'I see you two are busy.'

She nodded. 'Daddy told us to do something while we are out here. Jessy picked cleaning up.'

Daddy was somewhere else; I heard the tractor off past the kitchen. 'Well, I'll help if you want. Though I'd rather....'

Lisa giggled. 'Do nothing?'

I nodded and we both laughed.

I had missed breakfast and so only ate when Mother served grilled-cheese sandwiches at noon. It's Lent, so we won't be having meat. We all came in to eat, even Daddy. The three of us unclothed people sat outside at the table. Afterwards Jessy and dragged out chaises out to the lawn and read. Lisa brought a blanket and lay on the grass beside me. About an hour later Mother sent J.J. out to collect her for a nap. She complained, but went. Jessy and I lay out in the sun for another hour or more. It was absolutely delightful.

As I write this I have not had clothes on all day (except for sneakers but I never count footwear). I will have to get dressed for church tomorrow, of course... and that's not quite a good enough reason to not go, but believe me I've been tempted. I can't believe this weather trend will last; if I were a bettor my money would be on more snow, closer to Easter, just enough to ruin everyone's optimism, not because I'm a pessimist but because this winter season has just been weird we should expect what we're afraid to expect.

So for now I am enjoying it, savouring the sensation, so to speak. After supper Jessy and I watched 'Bring It On' on Oxygen and I sat down in the TV theatre wrapt up in two blankets because it's been chilly in the basement all day. But the blankets were way more than I needed and I was actually uncomfortable. I just kept them on because Daddy came down to watch it with us... and Lisa though Daddy was uncomfortable with the language Oxygen allowed in their TV edit and sent her up stairs. That's funny because all week there have been commercials about being the boss of your TV and blocking certain shows. I hope he doesn't block Oxygen just because of a few words. I don't use those words and neither does Jessy, and neither of us would ever let Lisa use them. Sometimes the best influences are ourselves, you know.

Speaking of influences, little Lisa was naked all night too. Mother tucked her in and she insisted on not wearing pyjamas. Oh, well.


03 March 2009

The Snow Bunny

Tuesday 2 March 2009

On Monday afternoon, even as the snow came cascading down all round us, Jessy came into my room, naked except for sneakers and socks, and said, 'I got an idea.'

I looked up from poking away at this computer. 'What is it? And aren't you cold?'

'No,' she said. 'I have a fire. I want to go out and take pictures.'

I narrowed my eyes at her, thinking. 'Okay.... What kind of pictures?'

She giggled. 'Cute pictures. Come on.'

Suddenly I realised what she meant. 'You are not thinking--'

'Well, it might be cute, you know. I saw this really good spot--' She leaned over the other chair, across from me, to see out the window. 'Just around the corner from here, against the wall.... I was thinking, just for a minute, I could kind of recline there, and--'

'You imbecile,' I said. 'It's coming down like crazy.'

'But it's supposed to stop, and then--'

'Jessy, you are not serious.'

She stood up straight, glanced at herself in my mirror, and then looked round at me again. 'Well.... I just thought it would be cute.'

'And cold!'

She shrugged. 'Only for a minute, and then I'll come in. My fire is going really well, so--'

'You could catch pneumonia out there!'

She made a face. 'I'm not that sickly,' she said. 'You and I have taken out the trash without coats. Without shoes. Gotten the mail. You know. It's not the end of the world for one minute.'

'It would take me that long to set up the camera,' I said. 'And you know nothing's going to come out with this much snow in the air.' I actually looked then. 'And the light is fading.'

She shrugged, disappointed, and went back to her room.

In a few minutes I followed her. She was right-- her room was toasty warm, illuminated only by the cracking birch-and-hickory fire and the fading lights outside her windows that face the ocean, away from the sunlight. Anyone would have happily taken refuge there from the cold outside. 'And you know,' I said, 'if Daddy ever found out....'

'All right, we won't do it. I just thought it'd be cute.'

I smiled. 'It would be cute,' I said. 'But what would you ever do with those pictures?'

She shrugged, as before. 'Just... have them. You know.'

I smiled at her. 'Just don't put them up on FaceBook!.'

'I can't,' she said. 'I would lose my general rating.'

I nodded. She would, you know.

Over dinner, just to tease her, I mentioned it. Daddy sat back and laughed. Mother looked from one of us to the other with this worried look, as though we were totally serious. 'That's really funny,' Daddy said. 'My cousin had a girlfriend who got him to take her picture lying in the snow in a bikini. But this is not quite the same thing....'

'No,' I said, 'it's not.'

'And,' said Daddy, 'you're not going to do it.'

Jessy nodded, blushing. 'Okay, Daddy.'

Lisa looked wide-eyed from one of us to the other. That evening she came into my room. 'Jessy wants to go outside with no clothes on?'

I nodded.

'Wouldn't that be cold?'

I laughed. 'Terribly.'

'That's silly.'

'She thought it would be cute,' I said.

Lisa giggled. 'It would be. Can I--?'


Today (Tuesday) we had school again. The sun came out and the snow began to melt. It was not even very cold at all. Upon returning home we found ourselves alone in the house-- Daddy had gone out somewhere and Mother had taken J.J. to pick up Lisa at school. Jessy was ecstatic. 'Let's do it now!' she said.

'What? No-- you heard what Daddy said.'

'Then we won't tell him! Come on, Janine, please! For me!' And she began peeling off her clothes.

Five minutes later, after standing in Gran's first-floor room studying the corner of the garden wall outside, we had set up the shots. I stood, with no coat even, on a clear place of the garden walk and my twittish sister dropped her robe-- really dropped it in the snow, as there was nothing to hang it on-- and in her sneakers and socks again bounded across some untouched snow to her chosen place along the garden wall. I snapped about 14 pictures of her, standing by the gate, waving, posing, and even reclining in the snow itself. Actually most of them are really cute. Jessy is always cute, and in the bright sunlight, with her hair blown about in the bit of breeze that carried inside the garden, and her skin still carrying a pretty good suntan (yes--all over), she looked great. But she became red and cold and by the time her lips were turning blue there was really no point in taking photos of her any more, so I threw her the robe and ushered her back inside.

The pics are up on her computer and on mine, for safekeeping.

And, NO--- they WILL NOT be made available on FaceBook or by either of us to anyone. Do not ask.


01 March 2009

Something in the atmosphere

Sunday 1 March 2009

It is March now. Snow falls from a leaden sky, swirlling round the corners of Terncote Castle like an ominous portend. Out beyond the garden wall a leaden sky hovers over the slow, rolling slate-grey sea. Behind me a small fire of hickory crackles and seethes soothingly, and, illuminated by the firelight and the glow of the computer screen, my room is comfortably warm and dry. I am in a long flannel nightgown and socks now, but this afternoon I was in much less as I lay curled up in bed reading over my writing. A glass of wine, unfinished since dinner, sits with the last of its second ice cube dissipating into the golden sheen. I am content.

Jessy came in earlier, herself much less dressed than I, to report that 'Amazing Race' is on again and asking if I would watch it. I declined, and she dragged a quilt wrapt round her shoulders out to the stairs and descended with little Lisa to watch it in the TV room down below. I believe the whole wing this end to be dark but for my computer and firelight. But we often leave Terncote in darkness here. It is no gothic mansion, but we are frugal and not a little bit romantic. I often carry a candle round with me rather than switch on unnecessary lights. Mother (my stepmother) came in with one not an hour ago, 'checking on' me, as she said, but really to find like-minded company, for she knows I am always a little dramatic and much more traditional than most people my age, and she likes that about me.

Sometimes I really like to think I belong to another century. It's something I got from my own mother, I know. She so loved living a traditional kind of life. All Daddy's experience in the limelight meant little to her. It was not what she loved about him. To her, he was just a man, gentle, kind, intelligent, cultured, affectionate, and a little vulnerable, who needed to be loved for who he was, not what he was. From that marriage came Jessy and me. And we cannot escape the inevitability of what we have become any more than we can avoid being human beings. If Mommy were here right now she would have lit this fire herself, sat back with me in bed to read along with me, worn her flannel nightshirt and socks like I'm wearing mine and declined the invitation to watch a modern 'reality show' on TV for the chance to type some atmospheric philosophies on a personal online journal during a late-evening snowstorm in March.


Culture clash

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Mother and I drove up to the beach house last night so that we could have an early start this morning for my appointment. Georgian Court is a Catholic women's college in Ocean County, probably the closest campus to a beach in all of New Jersey and definitely-- by statistics-- the safest one. I had read over all their stuff and decided that in spite of all the Catholic influences-- they have nuns on campus-- I like it. For what it's worth jessy likes it too, which may be a good sign that she'll follow me there. But she's not allowed to have a day off from school for MY college visitation and so she's not here with us.

I drove the Regal, up to the Ferry terminal, up the Parkway, and today up Route Nine to Lakewood. We arrived a little early and were shown to a very pretty waiting room at the admissions office. Both Mother and I were in skirts and tights and sweaters, typical for both of us though I wore a pretty cute pink-and-black striped skirt and white sweater with my leather patchwork jacket and grey pumps. We sat with three other girls and their parents and listened to the school's presentation. Several times Mother caught my hand and squeezed it. I know she is excited about seeing me go off to university somewhere. It's what she did, but it's also that since I am not her actual child she hasn't had me round so long as to miss me. I am sure when Lisa goes away she will feel something a lot different. For example, I know Daddy hates the thought of it-- he would rather have me stay home till I become a forty-something spinster writing stupid romance novels... and he has said exactly that, more than once. Personally I am ambivalent about it all. Maybe Mother's enthusiasm for my university career will energise me. I really don't know yet.

We were given a campus tour by a very sweet girl with good manners and excellent diction who wore snug jeans and a school jersey. She seemed to embody everything good about the school itself, both pretty and pleasant as well as polite and proper. I suppose that was a good influence on me, then. I will say that Mother's accent, though mostly English, gave her away as Australian and since most Aussies are Catholic this seemed to make sense to the admissions people. And once or twice we were asked for our last name and someone knew who Daddy was. My being his daughter then began to hold some weight. Of course we cannot expect much from financial aid. Daddy has trust funds set up for all of us that have matured as we have, and mine is just about able to cover the whole tuition in cash. But we have applied anyway and found that Georgian Court offers scholarships for 'college-preparatory' study and also for church involvement, even if it's not a Catholic church. I also have come with letters of recommendation from HOH, my old school in England, and also from our church rector there who wrote about my organising a children's Epiphany pageant the year I turned 16. The people at Georgian Court were impressed by that and asked if I want to study for a schoolteacher. I said I don't know.

Actually I am inclined to study English, but I really don't know what I will do with that. Will I teach school? Will I take a graduate degree and teach at university? Will I go into journalism? Mother never applied her degree in English beyond writing her journal and hundreds of letters and the odd article or two... but she is a happy homemaker now and doesn't need to do more at this stage of her life. I am not anyone's nanny-- nor am I inclined to be, much as I love little ones-- and I do not have any grand penchant in my life at all. Listening to these other girls today made me feel like a profound nothing. They all have grand schemes for their futures. Somewhat sceptically I wonder how many of them will amount to anything in the way that they think they will. I mean, what is accounting? --but counting someone else's money? What is 'computer science'? --I don't even know what job that would be. What is business administration? --but becoming trained in a management job you might not ever have the experience to deserve?

I am sorry for how this sounds but I promise you I am very clueless about anything regarding my future.

I do have to say that Lakewood, where the university is, is a very funny community. From what we saw of it, there seems to be a large Mexican neighbourhood on one side of Route Nine and a positively enormous Orthodox Jewish community on the other side. One the one sides, idle Mexican men stand round street corners like the workers in the Gospel story waiting for someone to call them up and hire them for the day. On the other side Jewish men all in black stride rapidly about on some business that keeps them out of doors on a cold winter's day. Neither community seems to work very hard at anything-- they've all got too much time being outside in plain view doing, well, nothing. I wonder who pays the taxes in this town!

(I hope it's not the university!)

Mother and I had some errands to run and so I drove us over to the shopping arcade after our appointment. We had plenty to eat-- the admissions people are positively lavish with food and apparently feed everyone at every event. At the food market Mother needed the 'little blue box' as she calls it and I wanted to pick up some conditioner as I had brought the only bottle I had at home and it's run out. Whilst we stood in the checkout line her phone rang and she handed me some money and stepped aside to report to Daddy about our visit. A young Jew in his black clothes stepped up behind me. I could not tell if he were 16 or 21-- they all dress the same. But he was young and so gravely serious that I was nearly afraid of him. To be rid of my anxiety I said hello to him when we happened to meet eyes.

'Hello,' he replied, nodding more than he spoke.

'Is this place always so crowded?' I asked, merely for conversation.

He only shrugged and then looked away as though I were not worth any more of his time. That kind of hurt, you know-- I am not a monster and will always be friendly to strangers, even people who are markedly different from me. I just believe it's a way to bridge divides, you know. But the young man did not seem to care. I thought maybe that was because his belief system tells him to not meddle with Gentiles-- that's a terrible way to think but it's all I came up with at the time. And I did not like the thought. My belief system is the way of the Good Samaritan, to accept and respect all people regardless of their race or creed, in the same way as I would want to be respected by them. That means I say hello to people I don't know-- yet-- and I will help anyone who needs me. In that way I don't judge.

One thing about us girls, however, is that we can always tell when someone is checking us out. It's not such a difficult skill to master-- you first rule out your own ego and then sort of focus on people's eyes, and you can tell what they think of how you look. I usually get guys looking at my chest. To avoid feeling totally humiliated I usually amuse myself by saying something completely esoteric and profound to see if he can even hear me. Usually he cannot. Guys have a very narrow band of attention... it's about as wide as a girl's hips and doesn't allow for much past that.

The Jewish guy behind me was looking at me. I found that terribly hypocritical-- he will not exchange pleasantries with me, but he will look down at my short skirt and my legs in the white tights and have some kind of thought about me. Of course the girls my age in his community don't dress like I do. They're all in cute little button-up black jackets and calf-length black skirts and black socks and low-heeled black shoes. And they keep their eyes down when a guy looks at them. I didn't keep my eyes down. I looked right at his head till he looked up again and realised I had seen him looking. But he didn't blush. He didn't even flinch. He seemed to regard it as his right to check out Gentile girls in short skirts as though we don't matter. He doesn't have to safeguard my reputation or treat me with respect. He can just look, and imagine, and he doesn't even have to apologise for that because his creed only applies to other Jews. A Gentile is an outcast, a heathen-- any unclean thoughts about me don't count as sin because, since I don't matter, anything he thinks about me doesn't matter.

I am sorry if this sounds prejudiced. I know a little about the Orthodox faiths from my evangelism study at my old church, and I won't pretend to be an expert on any of them. But I do know that most of them consider themselves as set apart by God, for some special treatment, and that it is their responsibility to keep themselves 'unstained by the world'. To them that means not mixing up with nonbelievers in social situations. They don't go to parties, they don't go to the beach, they don't go to concerts or anywhere they might be exposed to outside influences. I find that cowardly and foolish. Jesus scolded the Pharisees when they attempted to correct Him and His disciples for eating with unclean hands. He told them that nothing that goes into a man can defile him, only what comes out of him can. I could go to wild parties every night of the week and sit there, sip tea, and talk with other people about the Lord's work in my life, and would that be a sin? But if I were go to church every day of the week, participate in ECW, teach Sunday school, and attend evangelism seminars and Bible study whenever it was held, but take drugs and sleep around and lie and condemn God in the rest of my life, I would not be a Christian.

People online have asked me why I go into questionable chat rooms, and this is the reason. I challenge those people-- have I ever done anything wrong in those rooms? Jesus went and sat with sinners and tax collectors, because it was there that His influence was needed. Nothing anyone says to me in a chat room can defile me, only what I say to other people can. I remain unafraid of outside influences. I am not the frightened little Jewish guy in the market at Lakewood. I am stronger and better than that. I am a Christian.