Scene from a Memoir

The story of my life, one scene at a time (an occasional series)

The scenes:

Stop Mount Washington weather signHow to Hike Mount Washington When You’re Young and Clueless (in 33 Easy Steps) | 6. Stop hiking to take a photo to fool your husband into pausing so you can catch your breath.
7. Stop hiking to take a drink.
8. Stop hiking to take another photo.
9. Realize you’re not fooling anyone.
10. Spy an achingly beautiful moss-filled landscape just off the trail — photo opportunity! (May 30, 2016)

Cantering: As Easy as Falling Off a HorseMarcy on a horse | I bounced along in a fast and much too dangerous canter, which I’d just learned is like a gallop with a missing beat. I had been trotting so well, too, even lifted a hand from the saddle to give my mother-in-law a wave as I went by. I’d given the horse a little kick, as instructed, and here it was a mere two seconds later and everything had changed, all confusion, like a wave knocked me over from behind and its pal the undertow snatched me and dragged me away. (April 24, 2016)

Schadenfreude in My Facebook FeedSchadenfreude in My Facebook FeedGrowing up, Steve was a proud misogynist, calling women “Ws” for “wenches,” as in this I-swear-it’s-true command to an old girlfriend: “W, get me a beer,” in front of our family while watching football. To my never-ending horror, she got up and got him a beer. (March 21, 2016)

Searching for Dan Donnelly’s right armDan-Donnelly-poster |I had seen a little blurb in a guide book that long ago gravediggers had stolen the body of Dan Donnelly, a famed bare-knuckle boxer with arms so long that it was said he could button his knee-breeches without stooping, and that his right arm had eventually ended up at the Hideout, a pub in Kilcullen, Ireland. I felt a bit squeamish. (March 1, 2015)

Searching for Jimi’s Castles Made of SandBoys-at-ruins-Essaouira-Morocco | Our only clue was the tiny blurb in our guidebook, so we tried to ask for directions from a passerby. He didn’t speak any English, and I briefly considered whether some air guitar of “Purple Haze” would help. Not my air guitar. (December 14, 2014)

cat in a costumeThe Princess and the Peed Off Copy Machine Woman | I looked past her at the bulletin board and focused on a tableau of one cat wearing a feather headdress and another cat wearing a tricorn. Columbus Day? A Thanksgiving preview? Dear God, what were those poor creatures having to endure? I considered fawning over her cats. (August 5, 2014)

wedding bouquet A landslide brought me down | Bridezillas exist, and they are even less attractive through the viewfinder of a video camera poised on your shoulder. And when the bride didn’t spring for you to have a soda from the bar during your 14-hour workday? She’s even uglier. (February 16, 2014)

Lost in CuzcoLost in Cuzco | I had started at sea level 20 hours before, endured a cheap-flight marathon through five airports, and crashed in a hotel room at Cuzco’s oxygen-starved 11,000 feet. Altitude sickness mixed with jet lag: the greatest sleep aid known to man. (February 2, 2014)

tree removalSize Does Matter: Little Trees and Stonehenge | Remember that scene in This is Spinal Tap when the band plans a majestic replica of Stonehenge that will sing the glories of their badassitude, but then they screw up the calculations, and an 18 inch tall model stands on the stage instead, singing the follies of their inadequacy? (November 24, 2013)

Paul ReverePublic Speaking | I was 12 years old and heard the words that always scared me the most: oral report. My topic was Paul Revere, and I had a week to prepare. Each day, I worked on getting ready. I researched my little facts and put each one neatly on an index card. Paul Revere was a silversmith. One if by land, two if by sea. The British are coming. (November 18, 2013)

Boys in Summer 2000From Home Depot to Pulp Fiction | When my teenage boys were small, chores outside the house were actually a chance to enter a world filled with wonder. A trip to Home Depot: Look — a toilet in the center of the room! A room full of lamps! Once, the boys and I discovered a dark and snugly cubby under a groaning shelf of paint, with ladders on one side and tools on the other. (September 24, 2013)

Marcy and Ben Wii boxingGetting Beat by the Blind Kid with Cerebral Palsy | My nephew Ben was born prematurely with cerebral palsy. His seventeen years have been punctuated by painful operations. He has faced each one with courage and grace, hardly complaining, occasionally admitting that it doesn’t feel so great to have been dealt this hand. But his sly smile and hearty laughter show up more often than his complaints. Recently, he went blind. (July 22, 2013)

David in a yellow slide 1999The Incredibly Shrinking Tick | Once when my older boy was small, I tousled his hair and felt a tick lurking behind his ear. Black and swollen with my son’s blood, it sat there dumbly. Revulsion washed over me, and I summoned my husband, who calmly pulled it out with a pair of tweezers. (June 26, 2013)

Snake whisky in LaosGetting the Strength of a Cobra in Laos | The snake whiskey, which was actually rice wine, tasted mild and smoky, with a bit of snaky funkiness. I had a bad stomach ache for half a day that was probably unrelated to the shot, or maybe it was the cobra worming its way into my being. (May 28, 2013)

Broken glassesFirst World Problems | …I lose the struggle and burst out crying, the left lens of my broken glasses steaming up. I am afraid the lens will fall out if I try to clear it because it is held in precariously with Super Glue. I broke my glasses the other day… (April 14, 2013)

baseball diamond through fenceBad News Shop: Bases Loaded, Bottom of the Ninth | Shy and awkward, I was the kid always picked last in gym class, but I had just seen Tatum O’Neal in The Bad New Bears. Inspired, I slipped on some confidence and carried it into 7th-grade wood shop. (April 9, 2013)

Eli'sShort. Ponytail. Wearing black. | A really smooth character would hide the bill in his hand, extend his arm into a shake with a sly nod, and be seated now, considering appetizers. Instead, we’re waiting in a corner, having fun, sure, but thinking we’ll need to leave without eating; it’s a work night, and it’s getting late. (April 1, 2013)

Jimmy and Joe cropHey, Raw Meat! | Jimmy and my dad played a lot of poker together, and when one of them bet on a losing hand and had to flip over his cards, the other would shout: “He’s raw meat!” (March 12, 2013)

Parthenon Athens GreeceWhen the lights flicker on at the Parthenon | After a disappointing first impression of the Parthenon, I wait on Filopappos Hill for the sun to set to have my awe-inspiring Parthenon moment. (March 3, 2013)

trout fishingTrout Fishing in Ireland | An unexpected gift of a fishing pole leads to a wonderful afternoon in Ireland and a simple, memorable meal. (February 27, 2013)

David driving lessonsDriving Lessons | Timid and introverted, I suffered through driving lessons as a kid, and now my kid is about to begin lessons of his own. I have some advice for him. (February 17, 2013)

Wasp faceTerror at Three Feet | I experience a moment of terror as I attempt to bring boxes up to the attic. Whant–wahhh, Whant–wahhh, Whant–wahhh. (February 11, 2013)

my clothes like my personality quotationLaughter from a Bright Yellow Sweater | My clothes, like my personality, usually blend in with the background … but not this time. The joke’s on me at a New York City comedy club. (February 3, 2013)

Place Jemaa el-Fna, Marrakesh, MoroccoFried Chicken on the Marrakesh Express | With many restaurants closed for Ramadan, we resigned ourselves to a greasy meal of fast food in the train depot. While not happy about this, truth be told, I couldn’t look at another tagine after two weeks in Morocco, and my boys were enthusiastic for a quick meal. There was the issue of time, however…. (June 1, 2012)

 Bringing my dad to the hospital | Regret is not quite the right word for how I feel about bringing my father to the hospital to die, but it comes pretty close. (May 18, 2012)

Just Do It Backwards | I bend my knees, arch my back, twist, a slingshot pulled back; for one frozen moment, I’m still as the tennis ball rises in the air. … Admittedly, it’s only in my imagination that my serve is a perfect explosion of grace, but my imagination also takes me back through the years. (May 4, 2012)

Bangkok, Thailand, tuk-tuk driverTuk-Tuk Hell, or Heaven | The four of us squeezed into a glorified golf cart, gasped as our driver gave a polite bop-bop on his horn, barreled through a lane our driver had just invented between two trucks, and inhaled a sooty, smelly mouthful of hot, humid air. Obviously, standing on a street corner with our faces hidden behind a huge map on our first day in Bangkok could have identified us as easy marks. (April 20, 2012)

How to Respect Your Kid’s Intelligence and Ruin Easter All at the Same Time | Out tumbled a gush of words: “You know what I think? I think the Easter Bunny didn’t come at all, and I think you went to the store and bought all our favorite candy and that green stuff for grass, and you hid all the wrappers, and you figured out where you could hide our baskets…” (April 6, 2012)

My Ántonia Didn’t Change, But I Sure Did | Writing prompt: Share a story about one of the following. Have your views on a character ever changed as you’ve changed? Does the adult version of you have different values than a previous version of you? (March 16, 2012)

That’s the Way the Fortune Cookie Crumbles | Writing prompt: Share a memory about a superstition or a time you felt superstitious. (March 2, 2012)

Cornered on Bourbon and Canal | Writing prompt: Share a memory about Mardi Gras, New Orleans, or a time you got into a bad situation. (Feb. 17, 2012)

Kittens in a Drawer | Writing prompt: Share a memory about kittens (or something else adorable), or a time someone wasn’t believed. (Feb. 3, 2012)

What’d You Do with the Money? | Writing prompt: Share a memory about a time you’ve been the life of the party, a song, an insult you’ve given or received, or a favorite bar/restaurant. (Jan. 20, 2012)

ThailandMamas, Don’t Let Your Babies in Cages with Tigers | Writing prompt: Write about a time you were criticized for a choice you made as a parent (or other relationship), or  about an encounter you had with an animal. (Jan. 6, 2012)

Barracuda on the Beach | Writing prompt: Write about a time you were disappointed that things didn’t turn out exactly as planned, a time when your dreams did come true, or a “Someday … but” poem. (Dec. 16, 2011)

Love in a Mixtape | Writing prompt: Write about the moment you knew someone loved you, or make a list of songs for a mixtape that tells a story. (Dec. 2, 2011)

My First (and Second) Confession | Writing prompt: Share a memory related to your religious upbringing or a rite of passage,  or tell us a story about religion. (Nov. 18, 2011)

PlaygroundDitched | Writing prompt: Write about a childhood memory involving a playground or mean kids. (Nov. 4, 2011)


(Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish


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