When I was a teen, like most girls, I babysat. It was a way to earn a little extra money. I say “a little extra money” because my mother would not allow me to charge more than 50¢ an hour (75¢ past midnight), regardless of the number of children. It was only about a fourth of what my friends earned, but because of my mother’s insistence I was just plain stuck with it.
As you can imagine, at that price I was in high demand but had to work plenty of hours to make much of anything. So when I was hired to watch some relatives of one of my mother’s friends, I jumped at the chance, even though it meant babysitting four young children. Continue reading
Being born second can sometimes be a challenge. Up to that point, the firstborn has had Mommy and Daddy all to herself, and then here comes this usurper grabbing their attention. There’s bound to be a bit of animosity and good old-fashioned sibling rivalry.
Take, for example, the relationship between my older sister and myself. One day, when I was still quite young, she brought me the family dictionary and made a great deal of pointing out the fact that her name began with an “S” and my name began with a “K” (A.J. Avila is my pen name), and as anybody can see, there are more “S” words in the dictionary than “K” words. Continue reading
One warm spring night my husband and I had the front door open but the security door locked. While watching television, we heard a knock on that door.
It was from a young woman with a baby. She was, she said, having trouble with a tire on her car. Could she please borrow a jack so she could fix it?
I admit my first instinct was that she might be lying, that perhaps this was a ruse to get us to open the security door for a home invasion. Here in San Bernardino we were still reeling a bit from the terrorist attacks in our city. Continue reading
Little kids tend to think their parents are something like God.
It’s probably because parents know so much more than their children that the kids are astonished at the knowledge and wisdom they have. But, since adults are fallible people, that can create problems for their offspring.
Take, for example, a question I had for my mother one day when she was giving me a bath. I was fascinated by the reflection of the bathroom’s overhead light in the tub and how it undulated with the water’s ripples.
I wanted to know the word for this thing. Pointing at it, I asked, “What’s that?”
My mother, viewing the scene from a different angle, saw only bathwater. “There’s nothing there,” she said.
This confused me. I could see it and didn’t understand why she couldn’t. Finally, one day when we were in the living room, I asked, “Mommy, what are those funny things in the bathtub?”
“Oh,” she said. “Those are potatoes.” Continue reading
When we go to Mass, we don’t necessarily expect the folks there to be warm and welcoming. After all, it’s human nature to occasionally be aloof. We’re weak, sinful people, and we don’t leave our foibles at the church door before coming inside.
But we do expect—have a right to expect—that the people we encounter there will at the very least be polite, especially during that one time in the service when we greet one another: the Sign of Peace.
So imagine my surprise when at one weekday Mass I put out my hand to shake that of the young lady in front of me and got snubbed. Continue reading
The Sixties and Seventies were great decades for music. Back then, we kids usually had cheap transistor radios so we could listen to our favorite songs and disc jockeys for just the price of a 9 volt battery.
Some songs, though, had lyrics I couldn’t abide. One was “Imagine” by John Lennon, especially the first line: “Imagine there’s no heaven.” When the three surviving former Beatles were putting together a newer song—I think it was “Free as a Bird”—one of them stated that he was certain John was looking down on them from heaven.
Unfortunately, John not only imagined there was no heaven but tried to get others to do so as well. What happens to someone like that during his particular judgment I honestly don’t know, but I hope Lennon is in heaven. Who would want otherwise?
Another song I couldn’t stand, though, was “Lightnin’ Strikes.” In the lyrics a young man tells his girlfriend to be faithful to him while he cheats on her. After all, he’s a guy, and she should know “the makings of a man” and that “nature’s takin’ over my one-track mind.” It’s “hard to settle down” even if she is “in my heart all the time” (which would mean she’s in his heart while he’s making love to someone else). He just plain can’t resist temptation—”I can’t stop myself” he claims. She should therefore be understanding and wait until he’s finished sowing his wild oats because “there’s a chapel” where, when he feels like getting around to it, he’ll give her “love forever” and “make up for all lost time.” Continue reading
Recently I saw a Facebook post that described one teacher’s attempt to end bullying in her class. She got two apples and, while the students were not present, dropped the second one on the floor several times. After her class came in for the day, she had them individually praise the first apple. When they were done, she sliced it in half, showing a nice, juicy apple.
Then she had the kids demean the second apple, the one she had dropped. She had them call it names and tell it how ugly and stupid it was. When she sliced it open, it was of course bruised inside. She told the kids that that’s what happens when you bully someone.
Frankly, I have a couple of objections to this demonstration. First, it would teach little kids a lie, that name-calling bruises apples.
Second—and more important–it would increase bullying rather than decrease it. Continue reading
There’s an old saying that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get your Prince Charming.
That was certainly the case for me. One young man, with whom I had a summer romance, had to have everything his way. And I mean everything. A sandwich, for example, had to be made to his exact specifications: “First the mayonnaise, then the lettuce, then the meat, then the tomato, in that order only.” If the sandwich had all the same ingredients but the mayonnaise was next to the tomato, he absolutely refused to eat it.
This attitude of his drastically affected our relationship. Any behavior of mine that wasn’t completely up to his standards was cause for criticism. For example, he told me how rude I was for phoning him while he was watching television—as if I could have known what he was doing while I was dialing. Trust me, nothing makes a girl feel more special than being told talking to her is not as desirable as watching reruns of The Munsters. Continue reading
When you’ve lived all your life in southern California like I have, you’re bound to eventually run into a celebrity.
Or vice versa.
For example, several years ago, my girlfriend and I decided to splurge on a couple of more expensive tickets for the Hollywood Bowl. John Williams, movie composer, was conducting, and it was a beautiful afternoon for a concert of science fiction movie themes.
My girlfriend and I were delighted with seats that were down front and up close. We were used to sitting in the cheap rows. From way back there, when you see the orchestra stop playing, the last few notes of music are still drifting your way. The difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound puts the whole concert a bit out of sync. No problem with that this time.
But my friend was even more delighted when she discovered we were sitting right behind a celebrity: Henry Winkler. Continue reading
Occasionally I watch the television show Pawn Stars, shown on the History Channel. It can provide a fascinating look at historical objects, some of which are museum quality.
In a recent episode, the owner of the pawn shop (located in Las Vegas) took a trip to Los Angeles to procure more merchandise for his store. In particular he was searching for movie memorabilia.
But my jaw dropped at the amount of cash he doled out for one item: more money than my husband and I paid for our house. So what was it? The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz? Perhaps Sam’s piano from Casablanca?
Nope. Continue reading