Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Sound of Music

I was spending the day with Ma, waiting to hear the results of a procedure Dad was having at the hospital. Ma was sitting on the settee under the picture of Auntie Rose. I was sitting opposite Ma and flipping through a Martha Stewart magazine.

"There she goes again," Ma said with an irritated edge to her voice.


"The music."

"What music?"

"Don't you hear the music?" Ma looked at me as if I was dumb as well as deaf.

I concentrated. I could hear the ticking of the clock in the kitchen, the refrigerator gurgling, and if I listened real hard, the roar of the highway. "I don't hear any music, Ma."

"You mean to tell me you can't hear that? She does this every single day, all day long. It's driving me crazy."

"Who?" There isn't a soul around the neighborhood. Everyone works.

"She must have a Victrola, and she plays those records."

"What kind of songs?"

"Dirty, Italian songs."

I might have half believed her if she had said that jungle music you used to listen to as a kid. I laughed. "Ma, who around here would be playing Italian songs? Let alone dirty, Italian songs. No one is Italian."

"Come sit with me and then tell me you don't hear the music."

So I crossed the room and sat on the settee next to Ma. She watched my face expectantly.

I shook my head. "Sorry, Ma. I only hear the clock and the refrigerator.

The only part of the Italian language I ever got a handle on were the swear words. Ma and Dad only spoke Italian when they didn't want The Brother or me to know what was going on. No mistaking swear words, and usually you knew what was going on because you were at the bottom of it or soon would be. So if there were Italian swear words to be heard, I knew I'd be able to pick up on them.

I tried to get Ma to tell me the songs she was hearing, but she couldn't quite put a title to any one of them. We used to have a couple of records by Italian singer Lou Monte. He sang a few of the old favorites like "Eh Cumpare." He sang a couple of funny songs a mixture of English and Italian like "What Did Washington Say When He Crossed the Delaware." It wasn't a dirty song. Ol ' George laments the fact that it's wicked cold and he must have forgotten his mudandies (long underwear). The Brother and I enjoyed the song about Pepino a mischievous mouse who eats Lou's cheese, drinks his wine and scares the mudandies off his girl.

Ma hearing voices is sad and funny at the same time. Dirty, Italian songs. I suppose it's a blessing she's hearing them. She could be hearing voices telling her to kill those who can't hear the music.

If you want to sing along with Lou, here are the lyrics to Pepino.

Pepino, oh, you little mouse
Oh, won't you go away
Find yourself another house to run around and play
You scare my girl, you eat my cheese, you even drink my wine
I try so hard to catch you but you trick me all the time

Cesta no surecillo a basoccella dinda mur
Ogna sere quella esce quanda casa scura
Endo dindo la cucina balla sulasu
A parrano malandrino pura un gabo sapaur

Pepino suracill ana parta scubari
Managa suracill a casa ma dai
Stasira da cucina nu poco di vino ci au lasciar
A quando si briaggo a Pepino giong apa

The other nightI called my girl
I asked her could we meet
I said let's go to my house
We could have a bite to eat
And as we walked in through the door
she screamed at what she saw
There was little Pepino
Doin' the cha, cha on the floor

Pepino suracill ana parta scubari
Managa suracill a casa ma dai
Stasira da cucina nu poco di vino ci au lasciar
A quando si briaggo a Pepino giong apa
Quella non ci piace u formaggio American
Quella va trova no poca Parmesan
La fatto ghiata ghiat gusto ena cor
Quando cella camina para probino caladur

Pepino suracill ana parta scubari
Managa suracill a casa ma dai
Stasira da cucina nu poco di vino ci au lasciar
A quando si briaggo a Pepino giong apa

Theory of Relativity

Back in April, I introduced you to Auntie Rose. She's the psychic whose picture adorns the wall of shame in the Weebles livingroom.

While visiting last week, I happened to notice tucked into The Nephew's high school graduation picture is another long lost relative. She's quite famous too. Seems we have another grandma. None other than Mama Celeste of frozen pizza fame. Well, that would explain why we aren't abbondanza. Ma must have sent the do-re-mi to Auntie Rose.

The Nephew had told me he was going to stick Mama Celeste on the wall next time he went for a visit. Just to see if the Weebles would notice. I thought he was joking and the Weebles haven't noticed. Or if they did, they haven't mentioned it.

Hey Kid! You know what would be really funny? A picture of Aunt Jemima.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Perceptions. How we look at things. How we see them. How we interpret them. How we judge, but unless you’re in the situation, you don’t really know.

The daughter of a friend of the Weebles had recently dropped in to visit them after work. She called to tell me about the visit.

“They were making toast by putting it under the broiler. They should have a toaster.”

“They did. It’s broken. They have a perfectly good toaster oven, but for some reason won’t use it to make toast.

“I think I have a toaster down in the basement they can have. I’ll have to look for it.”

“That’s kind of you, but I bought Ma a toaster for her birthday in another week.”

“Oh, that’s good because they shouldn’t make the toast in the broiler.”

They shouldn’t do a lot of things they do,

“Your mother was telling me all about the Mahket. I think she was hinting that I would take her sometime.”

Yeah, Ma was trying to guilt her into taking her, and as much as I hoped someone else would take Ma to the Mahket, I couldn’t in all good conscience let that happen.

“You don’t really want to do that.”

“Well, I could take her once in a while.”

“Got three hours to kill?”


“The trip to the Mahket takes three hours from the time we leave the house til we get back.” Three hours. Same time as it would take to drive one way to New York.

“You’re making that up.”

“Hand to God. It’s true. Three hours because Ma has to bless all the meat.”


“Your mother was also telling me I could stay with them if the weather got bad and I couldn’t make it home from work.”

“I have two words for you.”

“What’s that?”


Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Nutterone asked: ok, it just occured to me as I was dumping an old loaf of bread... What on Earth do TWO people do with TWENTY loaves of bread?

That’s an excellent question, Nutterone, and the answer can be found in nature. Ants, squirrels and other critters stocking up so they would have food for the Winter.

The Weebles were born just after The Great War, WWI. Their childhood was spent during the roaring Twenties and their teenage years during the Great Depression, then as young adults during WWII. My theory is that knowing the hardship of not having and then the frugality of rationing, they decided when they had their own family, this would not happen. They and their children would never want for anything. How often we, the children, heard about that too. We had because of their sacrifice.

When I was in my teens, the Weebles converted the cellar into a three room “apartment”. There’s a kitchen with stove, sink, one wall lined with tall cabinets, and a standing freezer. There’s a sitting area and then a laundry/bathroom. The bathroom has a stall shower, toilet and sink. All they need to have would be a few 55 gallon drums of water, a couple of bunk beds, and they would have a nice, cozy bomb shelter. Wouldn’t surprise me if bomb shelter was the underlying reason for the remodel. After all, The Brother and I grew up during the Cold War.

In the old days, before Auntie Rose scammed Ma, and when Dad had a car and was still driving, shopping was an all day expedition, not just a three hour tour around the Mahket. The Weebles made a circuit of five stores in four towns, and Ma would shop the specials for each store. If Pastene tomatoes went on sale for 69 cents a can, Ma would buy a case, 24 cans. Anything that went on sale, Ma would buy extra, and it would be stored away in the downstairs kitchen. If the store limited how many cans of an item customers could have, the Weebles would each get in line, each with the legal limit. The pantry downstairs would be filled with canned fruits and vegetables. (I counted 24 cans of beets a couple of years ago) Pastene tomatoes and tomato paste to make gravy (spaghetti sauce), pasta of every shape and size. Paper towels, napkins, paper plates, paper cups, toilet paper, cans and bottles of tonic (soda pop). The freezer was jammed with beef, chicken, sausage, bread, bagels, ice cream. If unexpected company showed up, Ma would be able to pull together enough items to make a complete feast.

The cabinets and freezer items reminded me of those bulk superstores. I used to tell Himself that if anything happened to the Weebles, the first thing we go for is the food and stuff downstairs. There had to be thousands of dollars worth of inventory.

Ma prided herself on being thrifty and frugal. She bought things because they were a good price. Though I sometimes wondered what the savings really were considering the amount of gas burned toodling around the countryside. Made no nevermind. Ma was convinced she was saving big bucks.

That frugality also shows up in other areas, too. Remember last year, when Dad had to have FIOS because the phone company had a deal where the phone and computer would be bundled? Their phone bill dropped from $50 (or over, depending if Ma called Jamaica or not) to a flat $39.99 per month. Yup, Dad was pleased as punch he was saving on the phone bill. Never mind my end of the computer bill went up from a manageable $14.95 a month to $39.99 a month. Yup, Dad is saving and I’m out $25.04. My fault, I offered him the computer. Lesson learned. Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut.

Dad was recently bragging the town granted senior citizens a special dispensation. If the seniors used only a certain amount of water, the seniors would be exempt from paying a water/sewerage bill which in recent years had skyrocketed above the property taxes. Yes, Dad was insufferably pleased with their low water consumption and no water bill. How do they do it? I’ll share the dirty, little secret. They don’t flush the toilet unless they absolutely have to. Yes, you are all allowed to utter a loud and long EWWWWW. I do quite frequently when I’m at the Weebles. I think water savings also extends to hand washing, and bathing, but I don’t like to think about that, and I’m sure you don’t want to think about that either.

I’m sure they don’t run the dishwasher that often. They eat off of Styrofoam plates which Ma used to burn (I hope that’s past tense) in the fireplace. There’s only two of them so the laundry isn’t piled that high. I’m pretty sure Dad doesn’t sort the laundry into whites and darks, just piles clothes in the machine. More like a guy thing than frugality.

We’ve had so much rain; there’s been no reason to water the lawn. No car, so no car to wash. So that’s the why of having 20 loaves of bread. And so we come to the conclusion of Weeblenomics . Any questions? Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Seven Things

Nutterone asked: ok, it just occured to me as I was dumping an old loaf of bread... What on Earth do TWO people do with TWENTY loaves of bread?

So, Nutterone, seven things you can do with 20 loaves of bread. (Wonderbread was not on sale 2 loaves for $1. Ma bought the Mahket store brand big sandwich loaf, but I needed a picture of loaves of bread and Wonderbread used to be baked in the town where the Weebles live)

1. Make toast.

2. Make sandwiches.

3. Make bread crumbs

4. Use bread to sop up gravy (spaghetti sauce for non-Italians.) Scali bread works better and tastes better, but Ma didn't buy the scali bread because that was not on sale.

5. Make fairy bread. Spread a little butter and sprinkle with a little (colored) sugar. (No Australian child's party is complete without fairy bread)

6. Tear the crust off slices of bread. (Bread crusts can be used to make the bread crumbs) Roll the white bread out thin and flat with a rolling pin. Cut out bread circles with a shot glass. (The Brother was a master at this technique). Now you have the communion wafers to play Mass

7. When the loaves of bread go bad, you'll have lots of penicillin.

Okay, okay. The real reason is to be continued tomorrow. I love cliffhangers! ROTFL

Monday, August 04, 2008

Mamabinladen and The Shopping Expedition, continued

When we last left the Weebles, Dad was staring at me, horrified to realize we didn't have all the groceries. The saga continues:

“Go back to the check out while I get Ma in the car.”

Ma had finished writing in her check book and I helped her into the car to wait.

“Where’s your father?”

“He went to get the other carriage.” I didn't want to tell her the groceries were missing because I didn't want her singing the He's Stupid Song on the sidewalk.

She nodded, and we waited, and waited.

I was now illegally parked in a clearly marked no parking fire lane. Even though the tailgate was raised, Ma’s door was open, and the handicap placard was hanging from the rear view mirror, I was still illegally parked. Across the way I could see a handicap spot. I was just about to buckle Ma in when around the corner, came a fire truck. The firefighters glared at me. Great, I’d probably end up with a ticket.

Dad came out all smiles, pushing a carriage overflowing with groceries. We unloaded the bags.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’d be eating bread for the next month.”

We drove home and Dad and I unloaded groceries.

“Are you staying for lunch?”


Dad gave me the Ma isn’t going to like it grimace.

I had left the house at 9:50 am with The Eldest to drop her off at work. I back tracked and headed to the Weebles arriving there at 10:50am. By the time Ma was done dithering around, and we got to The Mahket, it was 11:30 am. I called Himself from the car at exactly 1:30pm. Dad came out with the first load of groceries at 1:50 pm. Another 15 minutes or so to hunt up the carriage. We left the parking lot and got to the Weebles at 2:30 pm. And 15 minutes later the car was unloaded. I was hoping to be home by 3:30 pm.

Dad went into the kitchen where Ma was putting groceries away.

“The girl wants to go home, Ma.”

“I have to get the cards.”

I sat down silently fuming. It’s always like this. When I want to leave there’s a last minute thing that has to be gotten or showed or given.

Ma went looking for the birthday cards. Then a pen to sign the cards. She handed me checks, cards, envelopes to assemble.

“Don’t cash the checks until Saturday,” she said. Because Auntie Rose got most of Ma’s money, Ma is singing Mafundsalo [my funds are low] along with the ever popular I got a lot of money coming in two weeks.

A squeal of tires, the pleasant smell of burning rubber, and I was on the Pike. Home at 3:45 pm. I could just hear Ma spouting off all the way home. Ma holds the world and Olympic records for emotional terrorism.

“Hmph, she just came for her money. Doesn’t do anything for me.”

I should have left the last load of groceries in the store. Let her eat her 20 loaves of bread for the month.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mamabinladen and the Shopping Expedition

Emotional terrorists. You must have run into them. The ones that try to hold you hostage with guilt. Everything from who you link to on your webpages to doing favors.

After 53 years, it comes as no surprise that Ma is an emotional terrorist, Mamabinladen. “No one does anything for me.” Her hallmark motto. So I don’t pay too much attention when Ma has me in her emotional gunsights, but it does chap me when she drives her spurs into the grandchildren.

Tuesday last, I was to take the Weebles to my favorite destination and activity, grocery shopping at The Mahket. Before I left my house, I took a dose of Tylenol and asked my Young One if she wanted to tag along. I already knew what the answer would be, but asked out of courtesy. After all, what teen wanted to spend three hours standing by the meat cases watching the blood in the packages congeal?

I arrived at the Weebles after I dropped The Eldest off at work. Dad answered the door with a big smile on his face, a huge hug for me, happy to see me. He announced my arrival at the same time I shouted “I’m here”, and I sat down to wait for Ma to finish dithering. Dad and I chatted.

After twenty minutes, she came out to the livingroom and took note of me.

“You didn’t tell me you were here!” Meaning I didn’t go into her room, genuflect and kiss her…hand.

“Where’s The Young One?”

“She’s home.”

“How come she didn’t come with you?”

I tried to hold my patience in check as I waited for Ma to finish.

“She didn’t want to come and visit her grandma? She doesn’t love me.”


“She’s a teen. She’s got her own life and things to do.”

“It’s too much to ask for them to come visit their grandmother…”

Emotional terrorists. They force you to give explanations or apologies. I was in no mood to do either.

“I had birthday cards for the girls.”

That translated into if they don’t come to visit, they don’t get the money in the cards.

“Oh for Chr…” I could feel my voice rising in tempo to the throbbing of my blood pressure. “Are we going to The Mahket, or not?”

Ma grumbled as she made her way down the front steps to the car.

Dad just kept shaking his head with that dear-Lord-take-me-now-look.

It was a quiet ride to the Mahket. Thank God. It was the end of the month, so the store was busy, but not overly crowded with elders spending their social security checks. I had my choice of handicap parking spaces.

Dad ran to the front door of the store, went inside and brought out the scooter for Ma. I returned her walker to the car and went back to the store. Dad was feeding soda cans into the return machine.

“Tell her, I’ll get the bread,” he said, and he handed me a grocery list. The grocery list makes me laugh. Ma has bought the same produce and meats every time we’ve made the trip for the last two years.

I sprinted ahead to see Ma by the bread display. It was on sale, two loaves of giant sandwich loaf for one dollar.

“Get twenty loaves,” Ma snapped at me.

I was going to say something, but decided to keep my pie hole shut. I counted out twenty loaves of bread and completely filled the double bicycle sized basket on the front of Ma’s scooter.

Go ‘head. See where you’re going to put the produce.

The thought must have crossed Ma’s mind because she sat blinking her eyes at the bread.

Sure, I could have gotten a carriage and put the bread in it, but I refuse to push around a carriage. I have enough problems getting items for Ma and helping her maneuver the scooter without pushing a carriage into the mix. An extra cart would also mean extra time to fill. A three hour trip to the grocery store from start to finish is long enough. Thank you very much.

Dad came up behind us, saw Ma with the bread, and he started to sputter.

“I told her, I’d get the bread!”

I held up my hand signaling fussing was futile. I offloaded the bread from Ma’s basket to Dad’s carriage.

“We’re being punished,” I told him.

“Punished? Why?”

“Because The Young One didn’t want to come, Ma is going to punish us.”

He mumbled something that sounded like justifiable and ended with homicide.

Ma toodled off to produce with me trailing behind. She came to an endcap of bagels.

“Get me two bags of the raisin ones.”

Ma was more pleasant when we got to produce. She complained about the high prices while I sympathetically nodded and un-huhed in the right places.

She sent me to get a bag of carrots while she wheeled over to inspect some zucchini. When I got back she was leaning over trying to reach the squash when a small one, took a header.

Another shopper was trying to get between Ma and the scooter so she could rescue the poor little squash. The woman looked over to me.

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll take care of it.”

“Are you together?”


I got between Ma and the cart, retrieved the squash, gave it Last Rites, and sadly set it aside from the rest of its family.

Ma had moved on to eggplant. She reached over and the eggplant mountain shifted and one started a slide.

I lunged with my hand outstretched. Safe!

“Get me the eggplant on top. Not that one. No, over. There. Your cousin came to visit me last week. She said she’s coming every week to visit, and she would take me where I wanted to go.”

This snack of guilt was meant to get a rise out of me.

“That’s nice.” One three hour trip to the Mahket, and Ma wouldn’t see hide nor hair of that girl.

After we finished Produce, Ma made her way to the meat counter.

“Wait, do you need frozen vegetables?”


“Well, that aisle is here. Let’s go get them so we don’t have to come back.”

The Frozen Foods Manager and a helper were unpacking cases as Ma whipped up the aisle.

“How ya doin?” he asked.

“Fine, thanks. You?”

“Couldn’t be better.” He gave me a wide happy to see you smile. Happy to see me because the last trip I made to The Mahket, he helped me get Ma the items she wanted.

The manager stayed busy while I dove into the cases. My hands were blue, my teeth chattering. It was quite nipply in the aisle.

Coming out of frozen foods on the way to meat, we met Dad. He caught sight of the two packages of bagels.

“I can get those cheaper at The Building.”

“You can?” Ma queried. The Weebles launched into a cost discussion about the bagels.

“Get those out of there,” he whispered to me. “I told her not to go overboard, and I can get them cheaper.”

This type of logic just eludes me. Each bag of bagels wasn’t more than $2.00. Looking at what was piled in Dad’s carriage and Ma’s basket, I figured he was close to $200. In order to get to The Building for the cheaper bagels, he would have to walk to the store. I’m thinking, you’re here. You’ve already spent a good $200. What’s another $4?

It’s the same logic he used on me when I suggested, once in a while he could pay the Senior Van $2 round trip to take him where he wanted to go.

“But that would cost me money!” he said indignantly.

Yes, and I get my gas for free. What would you do if you had your car? Whiz into the tank? You’d still have to pay for gas and the $4 trip by the van is cheaper than burning my gas.
What would they do if dropped dead?

I shook my head trying to grasp the logic as I struggled to remove the bagels. Bagels out, I headed to the other end of the store to return them. I hadn’t done my daily mile on the treadmill figuring that a few laps around the store would more than make up for skipping my morning

When I got back, Ma was just beginning the blessing of the meat. The ritual went quickly as Ma was not happy with the high cost of the meat.

They turned to check out, and I happily skipped out to sit in the car. There would be a 15 or 20 minute wait as the Weebles got through the check out. I called Himself on my cellphone to pass the time.

“I usually pull the car up in the fire lane to load the groceries,” he said.

My thought had been to punish Ma by making her drive the scooter across the drive to the handicap space. Considering she looks neither right nor left as she enters the crosswalk, I decided like Himself I should be generous even though I felt more like Grace Off!

“Okay, I’ll see you in a couple of hours,” I cheerfully told him and hung up. I caught sight of Dad, got out of the car, and signaled for him to wait while I moved the car.

Ma was still on the scooter. She had her checkbook out and was writing checks. No, not for Auntie Rose and the rest of the scammers, but birthday money for the girls and myself.

Dad was beaming as he folded the cash register receipt. “We did pretty good. I thought she had spent close to $300, but she only spent $212”

Four dollars more would have saved you a long walk for bagels.

I smiled and began taking the bundles out of Ma’s basket. She had 4 paper bags with the loaves of bread. I put them in the back seat so they wouldn’t be crushed.

Dad had emptied his carriage, and I was about to close the tailgate hatch when I noticed the cargo bay was halfway loaded.

“Dad, where’s the other carriage?”

“There’s no other carriage; this is it.”

I rummaged through a couple of bags. I had packed twenty loaves of bread in the back seat along with four dozen eggs. There were two gallons of milk and a gallon of orange juice.

“There has to be more. Ma bought vegetables. There’s no vegetables and no meat. You bought laundry detergent and a gallon of bleach. Where are they? All you have in the car is twenty loaves of bread.”

He looked at me horror stricken, a deer frozen in the headlights.
To Be Continued....