2011.05.11 Sweet Caroline chases away bad memories

Written by David Green.


A couple weeks ago, I attempted to  unearth the surface of my computer desk. While sifting through the pile of papers, newspapers, cards, notes—even jewelry (a penguin pin made of multi-layered watercolor paper that says “chill out and read!”), I found an envelope on which I had taken some notes about dealing with the horrors of not being able to turn off my new cell phone after the flight attendant announced that all electronic devices had to be turned off. 

I wasn’t sure if I had already written about this problem in a column or if the envelope, with a return address of Joyce Holdman, was in my pile as a reminder to write a note to her. 

Joyce, David’s godmother and one of Bob and Jackie’s oldest friends, is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I know. She often sends notes with newspaper clippings or words of encouragement and praise. Even in her 80s, she still takes her role of godmother seriously.

I’m pretty certain I didn’t write to Joyce, but I also couldn’t remember writing about the horrible feeling of not only not keeping up, but not being able to comply with the rules.

I didn’t want to get tossed off the plane and I didn’t want to be the old lady who didn’t know how to turn off her cell phone. I was staring at so many buttons, several of which looked like they should be able to perform the off function. But none of them was responding.

Just as I was moving into the frantic stage and about to turn to the woman on my left for advice, I must have hit the right button because suddenly graphics were streaming across the screen and AT&T was bidding me goodbye.

“Whoooo!” I exclaimed to my seatmates. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to turn off my phone!”

“You should have sat in a row with young kids,” said the older gentleman on my right. “They’d be able to help you.”

I feel that way every now and then—that I could use a kid at my side to help me navigate through life. I’d prefer one of my own shepherding me around, and long for the days when several generations lived under the same roof.

I’m sure it would cut down on kitchen catastrophes like the one I created a couple weeks ago when making tofu fried rice for a potluck at Maddie’s house. I had wondered why the marinade smelled funny as I added the tofu to it. And thought it odd that the onions didn’t smell as fragrant as they usually do after I splashed on the sesame oil while they sauteed.

Then I looked at the sesame oil bottle and discovered it was actually Premium Fish Sauce and the main ingredient was anchovy extract.

Ewwwww! Anchovies head the list of disgusting foods and always make me think about the time in high school a man followed me as I was walking home from the subway one night. 

Rather than turn down Guerlain Street which would eventually become more residential with fewer people around, I continued walking up Unionport Road until I got to the pizzeria where I told the proprietor I was being followed and asked him to call the police.

To pass the time until the police arrived, he gave me a slice of pizza—with anchovies on it. It was the most disgusting thing I ever put in my mouth. Back then I don’t think I ever ate anything on a pizza but green peppers. Even now, I prefer my pizza plain. And anchovies? They still make my spine shiver with disgust.

These days, whenever bad thoughts like anchovies come into my head, all I need to do is think of my now two-month-old granddaughter, Caroline.

She is just the super sweetest little thing. And her parents are so kind—they brought her to the airport when I arrived last week—and Caroline is so accommodating—she didn’t choose that as a time to cry or fuss or need a diaper change or to nurse. 

I emailed David: “Caroline is in a really fun stage...smiling a whole lot. She was in her car seat when they picked me up and when I started talking to her she just started smiling right away like she remembered me.”

In response, David highlighted “started smiling right away like she remembered me” from my email and then wrote this.

“Whatever grandma wants to think.”

Grandma thinks she needs Caroline by her side.

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