2009.01.07 Celebrating with broccoli and black beans?

By COLLEEN LEDDY

It wasn’t just the melting polar ice caps causing the future disappearance of the Bahamas that influenced my decision to follow Maddie’s suggestion to go on a three-day cruise while visiting Ben and Sarah in Miami before Christmas.

I had that 50/58 celebration thing going on. Remember that silly bit of insanity? From Nov. 9 to Jan. 10 while I, born in 1958, am 50, and David, born in 1950, is 58, I decided that we should celebrate at every opportunity.

David is having a hard time keeping up. His all-consuming job at the Observer, his Puritan work ethic and his fiscal responsibility and restraint don’t leave much room for idle celebration.

Meanwhile, I’ve been making up for his lack. Oh, I’ve lived a frugal life alongside him for many years—it’s what allowed us to pay off our 15-year mortgage in eight years and put two out of three kids through college, for example, but I have a distinctly different background from his.

Growing up poor in the Bronx in a single-parent household had many challenges, but my mother always found money for celebratory treats and indulgences that would seem wasteful and wanton to those raised with a Protestant ethic.

Springing for ice cream cones on a Saturday night when you’re having trouble paying the grocer bill may seem like fiscal folly, but oh, how I savored those mint chocolate chip cones with chocolate sprinkles and oh, how the memory of those happy times lives on—walking to the corner store on a Saturday night with my younger brothers, waiting for the Sunday paper to be delivered.

So, even with the prospect of a Greater, perhaps Greatest, Depression looming before us, I have the constitution that allows me to be swayed by slightly senseless reasoning to spend money that I might possibly regret.

However, in this case, spending even more money made it all worthwhile. Ben and his wife Sarah came on the cruise too, and under Ben’s influence we took a little snorkeling excursion to a coral reef while docked in Nassau.

It was one of the highlights of my life, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done and I am indebted to Sarah for so effectively explaining how to snorkel while my own children swam off with the incredible multi-colored fishes.

The cruise itself was fun, but I lamented David and Rozee and Taylor not being a part of it, too. And, although I didn’t get seasick, I felt the earth move under my feet for several days after returning to Miami. Or was Miami experiencing earthquakes in the days before Christmas?

It’s such a unique feeling experienced every now and then on the ship—that kind of a sway with the top of my body going one way as my feet stay rooted and then a sinking feeling like a heavy dose of gravity drawing me down.

One of the most exciting features of the cruise was the food—most people will proclaim how wonderful cruise food is. I found the taste kind of mediocre, but the quantity incredible. The indulgence was astounding for a menu waffler like me—having trouble deciding between stuffed mushrooms, soup, and farmers’ Greek salad? Get them all! Key lime pie or warm chocolate melting cake? Have both!

In contrast, David seems like a total ascetic who doesn’t know how to celebrate. I don’t mean to paint that picture of him.

The day after Maddie and I arrived in Miami, David sent an email with the subject line, “Correspondence.” I thought it would be a note telling about the mail that had arrived while I was gone.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the attachment and discovered a photo of David in bed and a woman’s head peaking out from under the covers.

I laughed uproariously and more so when Sarah called out to Ben to come look at the photo.

“Ben, your dad is sleeping with another woman!”

It took a second to get the “correspondence” connection. The woman under the covers was actually a cardboard mask depicting an Asian woman with her hair piled atop her head in a bun.

David’s subject line was shorthand for a spoof on the “Oriental woman desires correspondence” ads that used to be found in the back of comic books. Before we were married, David took photos of me dressed in a red and white kimono with my hair done up just like the lady in the mask and made postcards with that correspondence line.

So, I guess he was having a good time in my absence. And he seemed to be celebrating not just in the bedroom, but in the kitchen.

This email came a few days later:

“I put broccoli and black beans in my soup this time. I thought it would make it special. I was wrong.”

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    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
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