OUR BEST-REGULATED FAMILY

A British theme, 1939, now a popular American motto.

A British theme, 1939, now a popular American motto.

“Accidents will occur in the best-regulated families.” ~Charles Dickens

These come in the mail, to offer writing courses. Mine would have to read, 'Growing up Marylin Shepherd in  Fort Scott, KS'

These come in the mail, to offer writing courses. Mine would have to read, ‘Growing up Marylin Shepherd in Fort Scott, KS’

Dear Mom,

You like to stay in your own apartment, cuddled under an afghan as you rest in your recliner. But years ago, taking off for a drive with your family was one of your favorite things to do.  It’s back-to-school time for your great-grandchildren now, which reminds me of one of our adventures. It was August, 1960…

Daddy had a meeting in Kansas City, and he offered to drop us off downtown so we could shop and then go out for lunch. Immediately you said yes, dressed us up a bit so we’d look nice, and we piled into the car. It was three weeks before my 11th birthday and David was months from being 13.  He needed new shirts and jeans for school the next week. I needed shoes, and for my upcoming birthday I desperately wanted only one thing, umm…a bra.

All my girl friends had bras. They were called beginner bras, training bras—as if young girls’ obsessions needed training—and you weren’t thrilled with the idea. But we found a huge assortment of them in the department store clothing section. They came in one cup size—flat—and the only measurement was “around” so it wouldn’t fit too tight.

All the little dressing rooms were full—my brother was taking his sweet time in one of them, trying on lots of different jeans—and soon the serving hours for lunch would end at our favorite eating place, the big Forum Cafeteria.  So you partially hid me between displays of pajamas and robes, pulled a beginner bra out of its box, and right there in front of God and everybody, you tested the fit…OVER my blouse.  There I stood, wearing a white bra over a red blouse.  David chose that moment, of course, to finally open the curtain of the dressing cubicle. He took one look, screwed up his face in a laugh, and closed the curtain. The sales lady giggled the entire time she asked if we needed assistance.

I marched ahead of you and David, clutching my package of two birthday bras, refusing to talk to either of you as we hurried the few blocks to the Forum Cafeteria. It was a bright and shiny wonderful place with a long glass-covered display of so many food choices that we could hardly decide. I let you tuck my package inside your big purse. We loaded our trays with silverware and napkins and pushed our way along the chrome tray bars.

David was in the lead. His tray was filled with plates and bowls of food when he reached the drink section. As the server handed his iced tea over the counter, he grabbed too late or she let go too soon. The tea tipped and drenched not only his food, but it also splattered on him. (Note here: At that point I hadn’t heard of Karma, but whenever I think of Karma now, I remember the miserable look on my brother’s face.)

He was given a fresh tray, all new bowls and plates, and we made our way to our table. It was at the bottom of the wide stairs leading to the upstairs dining area, our favorite place where we could look out the window at the hustle and bustle of Kansas City. It was also where we made a buffer for a businessman who was hurrying down the stairs to get back to work. He slipped or tripped or maybe missed a step, floundered, threw up his arms…and landed on our table. Seriously. Smack dab in the middle, tipping over all the glasses, flinging the food. I remember the mashed potatoes on his face.

In typical gracious form, Mom, you jumped up to help him, grabbing napkins, asking if he was all right. He was so embarrassed, stammering apologies, and I remember you giving him a tissue from your purse, smiling and telling him it was quite all right, that everyone had accidents, and some day this would be his favorite story to share. As the staff hurried over to clean up and escort the man to the rest room, I noticed your open purse, the inside drenched in ice tea…and the goo of cobbler bits clinging to my birthday bra package.

Daddy picked us up in front of a book store an hour later.  As he pulled into the downtown traffic, he smiled and said, “I had an excellent meeting. How was your day?”

You, Mom, were the first to giggle, and soon the three of us were laughing and trying to talk all at once, telling about our excellent day.

The cover of a blank photo album, Kansas Originals.

The cover of a blank photo album, Kansas Originals.

“Gravity is a contributing factor in nearly 73% of all accidents involving falling objects.” ~ Dave Barry

“Everyone has accidents. Later, they become favorite stories to share.”  ~ Mary Shepherd

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65 Comments

Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

65 responses to “OUR BEST-REGULATED FAMILY

  1. juliabarrett

    What a glorious day! And memory! I remember similar times – going to Bishop’s Cafeteria with my grandmother. It was so fun. Such a MIdwestern kind of thing to do.

    • True cafeterias are fading away, unfortunately, along with downtown department stores losing out to malls. And now 10-year-old girls get colorful “sports” bras–forget the training, other than real exercise.

  2. I would go to a snack bar at a department store with my Mom. The food was basic but to a 12 year old it was wonderful and they had lime rickeys. Haven’t had one since! Thanks for the memories.

    • Ohmygosh, I ordered Lime Rickeys at the soda counter at the Kress store! I’d forgotten about that. Thanks for the reminder! So many memories just require a nudge to jump out in living color!

  3. What a nice, warm post with beautiful memories!

  4. That’s a great story Marylin. My Dad would sometimes say, when things weren’t going too well, “One day we’ll look back at this and laugh” – seems our parents’ know a thing or two!

  5. What a lovely story. And your mum’s quotation “everyone has accidents …” Is so true. It’s certainly kept me blogging!

  6. I realised recently that i have no vivid memories of “lovely, perfect” days, but the ones that stick in my mind and are recounted over and over again are the almost-disaster-days,when something like this happened. Great post 🙂

    • You know, I came to that same conclusion. The “good” times–the pretty parties and perfect days and happy surprises are kind of a blur. The almost-disaster-days are vivid, real, and actually quite wonderful.

  7. Your reminiscences are always warm and memorable Marylin. xxx Hugs xxx.

    • Thank you, David. I keep expecting the fireworks and balloons announcing the birth of your reluctant grandson. Maybe he’s holding out for a pony. Tell your daughter to cut out the chocolate and whisper to her stomach, “Do you want Grandpa to get you a pony?” He might respond, and once everyone makes over the little guy, he’ll probably forget the offer of a pony! Or maybe not…(kids today are pretty smart.)

  8. Beautiful moment in time, captured for all of us:>)

  9. Perfection is boring. What a great-fun story! I could feel all the emotion, and the laughter at the end is wonderful.

    • Thank you, Tracy. I notice everyone is avoiding the “training bra” issue, but now even that part is funny.

      • Yep. Everyone and I are avoiding it. Because I can’t say that embarrassing word. Or write it. In public. But that’s exactly what made it funny–and such a real connection.

        Me and my mom, at J.C. Penney’s…. I was 11, she rolled her eyes when I said I needed one. But, she bought me a … (can’t say that word…. in public….)

      • Oh, yeah, I understand that. All the time my mother was trying to “fit” it over my shirt, she–and then the sales lady, too–kept calling it a brassiere–which made me want to crawl under the table.

  10. Hysterical, Marilyn. You had it all. A made-for-TV sitcom complete with pratfalls, kharma and your first encounter with upper unmentionables. These are the stories that live on long after the embarrassing moments have faded from view.

    You mentioned on my blog about also having a roll-over. While we were able to laugh about ours after-the-fact, we were a wreck as well after it happened. I couldn’t get out of our rental fast enough, Thank heavens for two Alaska DOT workers who stopped to help us and warned us to release the seat belts S-L-O-W-:L-Y or we’d fall into the roof – risking a possible head injury.

    • If you put a hand over half my face, from forehead to chin on one side only, in that space I had 105 stitches. We don’t laugh about that part, but for the whole ordeal we do talk about it with great thankfulness that we all survived. But it was one of those accidents that I’m sure you and your husband can understand, actually pulls you closer together in how you help each other.
      But for laughs, I’d much rather think of the day of embarrassing moments in Kansas City.

  11. Lovely story, warmly told. Still grinning here. Karma indeed.

  12. So, so funny. I’m imagining you all sitting around the dinner table later, retelling the story, remembering more details, all of you laughing together. What a great memory.

  13. Wow. Great story! My mother tried to pull one of those “Nobody is looking. Let’s just see if it fits” numbers on me. Horrifying! 🙂

    • I think our mothers went to the same school of daughter-raising, Deb. But with my brother–oh, no, we can’t embarrass him!–you notice that she let him take his time in the dressing room cubicle. But having me try a training bra on over my shirt, no problem.
      Maybe these things made us strong???

  14. An unforgettable day. It truly is the ‘disasters’ of a day that make them memorable and/or funny. I am not sure how I came by my first bra; seem to think it arrived by post, so the fact that it was a good fit was remarkable.

  15. Once, in the middle of a business meeting, I tipped over a big cup of coffee. I actually remember watching it tip (and feeling helpless to stop it), the liquid pouring out and my resisting the temptation to laugh out loud. Instead I apologized and grabbed napkins to quickly wipe it up.
    Ah, memories!! Thanks for sharing a good story today! xo Joanne

  16. What a beautiful letter to your mother and a lovely memory, Marylin. I suppose the purchase of my first “training” bra must have been so traumatic, I’ve blocked it from my mind. I don’t remember that day. 🙂

    • Oh, Jill, you are lucky on that memory, or lack of memory. Since I posted this blog, several friends have sent private emails, too embarrassed to write the details in a comment box, even though most of the stories are very funny. It’s just one of those dreaded but humorous rites of passage, I guess.

  17. Jim

    My favorite bumper sticker reads, “The worst day fishing is better than the best day working.” For my Mary, Marylin, Molly, and Grace the sticker might read, “The worst day shopping is still a good day.” Smile!

    • And you, dear Jim, have this in common with my dad and our son-in-law: shopping is one of your least favorite things to do. But when Molly was a child and now, when it’s Grace and Gannon who need school shoes and clothes, you rally and join us with a smile. Shopping is about relationships, and you’re the perfect dad and grandpa, even when it comes to enduring shopping excursions.

  18. Everyone has accidents . . . what a smart and gracious Mom you have.

    • Absolutely. And the amazing thing now–even with her advanced dementia–is that when she has an “accident” of any kind and seems embarrassed or confused, all it takes is hearing this: “Oh, that’s okay. We all have accidents.” Immediately she relaxes, takes a breath and shakes her head in agreement.
      What helped everyone else years ago, helps her now.

  19. molly

    I think that this is my favorite story yet! Although I have heard it before, now it is documented for Grace and Gannon!

    Perfect timing, too! We just were talking about KARMA after I lost my ring ( that was Grandma’s) at the watetpark in Kansas City. As a family they let us back in after closing to “search” the water. We searched for almost an hour, and found other peoples eye glasses, gold earrings, pearl earrings and money….and as we were getting out, Gannon found my ring in a place we had all looked before! Perhaps it was KARMA of finding all the other things and turning them in!

    • A perfect example of good Karma, Molly! And think of how happy all the people will be who had lost their eye glasses, gold earrings and pearl earrings. Maybe some of their lost earrings had belonged to their grand-mothers, too! Good job, and good feelings for Grace and Gannon to find and return those things for others.

  20. Great tale of woe and laughter and karma remind me to tell you how I was christened peeping Tom at aged about 10 it involved a blank keyhole plate on a door with no keyhole ….. or maybe not xxxx

  21. Dear Marylin,

    My name is Esther and I am with an organization called Caring Across Generations – we are a movement of caregivers and family members who are coming together to change our nation’s culture around aging and caregiving. I have been reading your blog and I think that you have a beautiful story to share about your mother.

    I wanted to ask if you would partner with Caring Across for our upcoming Grandparents Day campaign (Grandparents Day will be on Sunday, September 8). Through this campaign, we hope to honor and celebrate grandparents and to facilitate cultural change that will enable families to open up the conversation around aging and care.

    We are relying on grandparents and caregivers like you to help us spread the word about Grandparents Day and to share your own stories with us. Between August 22 and September 8, we would like to ask you to:

    Write a blog post about your grandparent, or about your experience as a grandparent. Possible topics are: a fond memory or a funny story about your grandparent, or lessons and advice from grandparents to their children or grandchildren.
    • Please send me an email at esther@caringacrossgenerations.org when you publish your GP Day blog post so that I can make sure to share it on the Caring Across website!

    Tweet or post on Facebook using the hashtag #granecdote. We hope to collect thousands of stories about grandparents by tracking the #granecdote hashtag. Here are some sample tweets/posts:
    • Just sent a postcard to grandma for #GrandparentsDay for free! Create & send your personalized card at caringacross.org/gpday!
    • [Insert story about or advice from grandparent] #granecdote Share yours at caringacross.org/gpday!

    We will happily share your blog post and #granecdotes through Caring Across’ social media channels, as well as host your blog post on our site!

    If you feel that your story is disconnected from Grandparents Day, we hope that there will be other ways to partner together in the future!

    To learn more about us, check out the Caring Across website and facebook page. Our Grandparents Day landing page (caringacross.org/gpday) will launch on August 22nd. Please feel free to reach out with any questions. I look forward to hearing from you and collaborating for Grandparents Day!

    Best,
    Esther

    • Thank you for this opportunity, Esther. Many of the posts on my blog have done what you’re describing. Read through and if you find some that can help with this project, please let me know and I’ll release them for reprint to caringacrossgenerations.org. My mother is the great-grandmother of the young children in the blog, and I am their grandmother. The stories are based on experiences and memories that are in danger of being lost because of my mother’s advanced dementia. So take a look and see if any of the posts will be a good addition to your campaign, and then please write me a personal email and we’ll set this up.

  22. I enjoyed the story thoroughly. What beautiful, funny memorable day that must have been. I specially liked the Karma thing. I think I believe in it now. Beautiful letter to a wonderful mom. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more.

  23. Jane Thorne

    I love this story Marylin. You are still communicating and sharing with your Mum and it’s lovely to share your stories. My Mum and I have spent most of my adult life thousands of miles apart, but we have always found a way to communicate. Loving links. Xx

    • It’s a long drive between Colorado Springs and Fort Scott, KS., Jane, but some little thing–her enjoyment over a treat, a song she sings along with while I paint her nails–something special always makes me glad I made the trip.

  24. What a wonderful memory! You tell the story in such an interesting way, and I really enjoyed reading it. I have similar memories of shopping with my mother.

    • Thanks, Sheryl. It’s one of those special (and sometimes awkward and embarrassing) things mothers and daughters do. And my mother was so right; these are the embarrassing moments that we’ll remember with laughter later. Please join us again. I enjoyed your post on the 100-year-old diary entry about crocheting.

  25. We had the Cadena Café in Oxford when I was young; my early memories are of fabulous meringues lingered over whilst my mother and her friends drank coffee. Later on it was the first place I was allowed to meet up with my friends unsupervised while mum did her shopping. These places seem to have created important memories for a lot of people. And yes, I went through tears and embarrassment attempting to acquire my first training bras too, but I still remember unpacking the two pretty cotton 30AA-cup bras in the privacy of my bedroom when I got home and feeling so grown up and that was 52 years ago!

  26. dianabletter

    Ha! THat is so funny, Marylin. As writers know, the worst reality makes the best story!

  27. Such a lovely memory Marylin! And so true that “home is where your story begins”.

  28. This is such a funny and cute story. I love that line, they came in one size – flat. Too funny!

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