Tag Archives: nostalgia

The Day After Christmas

Christmas Love

My bed was warm and cozy this morning. I managed to sleep until almost 8 a.m. I have made an executive decision that most of the day will be spent in my flannel pajamas and thick fluffy robe, tube socks, and slippers that are faux fleece lined. They look ridiculous because several years ago I covered them with green felt when I went to a Red Hat sleep over. I wore a huge sleep shirt with a picture of a gigantic frog perched on a lily pad. The slippers were converted to frog feet. There were toes at one time but I had made them too long. I kept stepping on them and almost falling so they now have a toe-ectomy. Since no one will see them, I continue to wear them because they are the most comfortable and warmest in my closet.

I’m staying in this attire because it is the warmest and coziest outfit I can think of. I have given up trying to stay warm in my house when the thermostat is set on 68. As the years go by, I have made staying warm more of a priority. It is now set on 70 and the furnace is running almost constantly since it is in single digits outside. My home is as insulated as I can make it, but there is still a slight chill. I give thanks for warmth on cold winter days.

Every once in a while I am given the gift of realizing that I feel really well…not just physically but also spiritually. Today is one of those days. Even though Christmases are a little hard for me, I found comfort in this one.

A birthday buddy I found about seven years ago has included me as part of her family. She has reunited with her estranged father and so she hosts a dinner for him and his wife. After so many years there seems to be a bond forming between them again. I kind of envy that since there was never enough time for me to experience that with my own father.

After the dinner the two of us went to the candlelight service at church. It is the same every year, but this year I felt a solace that I don’t usually sense. Ill feelings about Christmas go all the way back to childhood. It was a little sad when she confided to me on the way home that she is thinking of changing churches. There has been much conflict the last couple of years in our congregation and we split almost in half. She stayed as I did but she is thinking of moving on.

Yesterday I was invited to the gathering at another friend’s home across the street. She cooks a huge pot of tortilla soup, tamales, beans, and makes wonderful chip dip. They buy a honey baked ham which gives me my pork fix for the year. Her family and friends arrive whenever. I walked across the street around one and had a nice visit while all was calm. It was very nice visiting with her and watching huge snow flakes fall outside. As the day went on, her two daughters and their families appeared, and a short while later two more relatives and their families arrived. The house was getting crowded so I decided to come home, full of her delicious food.

Her home is a little more drafty than mine so I had wisely chosen to put on another layer of underwear. By the time all those people had gathered, I was getting a little toasty. My introversion kicked in and I realized it was time to move on. I weary after four hours with any group.

Before I went to bed, another friend called to share her success about hosting her family for Christmas. She has so many best friends I can’t count them all, but she has chosen to add me to her “club”. It is one of those rare honors one is given in life to find a friend like her.

Back in 1968 I was dating a young Marine. He surprised me at Christmas and came home on leave. It was during that time we got engaged. Since he was in officer’s school and knew he would be heading to Viet Nam, I had no idea what to give him as a present. I decided to borrow a negligee gown and wrap from my aunt, (which had remained unworn in her drawer for several years), wrap a ribbon sash around me and sit under the tree with a gift of a big smile. It was a wonderful Christmas. I believed I had been given the gift of love. Things didn’t work out with him, but if I concentrate, I can connect with the good feelings of those few days.

I woke up this morning realizing I had been dreaming about him. I realized that the dream was probably because of “King of the Hill”. John reminds me very much of Hank Hill.  If I wake during the early morning around 4, that show is usually on. I guess I was hearing it in my sleep and started thinking of my love. After all these years I accepted the fact after fighting it for almost fifty years that for a number of reasons there will always be a part of me that loves him, but I realized today that I am setting myself free. Maybe the memories will now fade and I will recognize that that relationship also had its toxic moments that I have too long suppressed and all worked out for the greater good.

Whatever the cause of my feelings of joy today, I am grateful and will relish every minute. It is a new feeling to associate with Christmas and I will hold onto it as long as possible. I hope your days were as blessed as mine. Namaste. Attic Annie

holly

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What to Wear on Christmas Eve

sue's sweater

…and there it was, hanging right in front of me.

Once again it is Christmas Eve. I have been invited this evening to a friend’s home for tamales before going to the Candlelight Service. I have known this friend for about six years. I think this is the fourth year of invitations. I have been trying all day to figure out what I want to wear. It makes little difference at our church. There will be many in jeans and several in new outfits with every style in between. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like going to this place. I have never felt any sense of pretension. It really isn’t a matter of what one wears.

I have not bought any new clothes for Christmas in more years than I can count. Actually after twenty years of being unchurched, it has only been eight years that I have attempted to attend. My memory of Christmas Eves does not extend much beyond that.

I have a black long sleeve tee that is decorated with an embroidered cardinal and sequined white poinsettia  flowers. The cardinal is the state bird of Illinois, my home state, so it is a little connection with home, even though I haven’t lived there in thirty five years. The cardinal is a beautiful symbol for Christmas and winter I think.

“The cardinal makes a fantastic animal totem. It reminds us to hold ourselves with pride – not ego pride. Rather, the cardinal asks us to stand a little taller, be a bit more regal, step into our natural confidence as if we were born to lead with grace and nobility”. I tend to hold back in crowds. I thought perhaps if I wear the cardinal I can be a little more joyous.

“As we observe the cardinal – particularly against the backdrop of the stark winter months, we are reminded that even when things appear bleak or isolated, there is always the presence of beauty, hope, and love”. The tee was a gift from my cousin’s family. She transitioned two years ago. The top still had its tags on. I had been with her when she bought it. The cardinal was her favorite totem. I wanted to feel close to her tonight.

I mentally went through other things in my closet. It’s not supposed to get really colder until tomorrow when it might snow. I don’t think it will, however. I think any snow will stop about forty five miles north of us around Denton.

I washed a couple of loads of clothes and hung them on my rack in the laundry room. And there was my answer hanging right in front of me. The very last time I saw my cousin she was wearing a new sweater. When we hugged, I was amazed by the softness of the weave. It felt so like her. Her husband asked me to take whatever I wanted when I left because by that time it was a matter of weeks. I couldn’t get myself to take anything without feeling very uncomfortable. I kind of felt I would be in the deathbed scene of Scrooge when the chambermaids were stealing the curtains before he was even dead.  I did ask him to mail me a couple of things when he was able to get around to it. That sweater was one of the few things I felt I truly wanted.

So tonight I am wearing that sweater. It will be warm enough to wear without a coat as opposed to the thinner tee. It will be soft and cuddly and I will be sharing  the service with Sue once again feeling her loving arms wrapped around me. The number of people I share this holiday with has almost entirely dwindled away but the spirit of my gentle, talented cousin will be with me to the end…at least until the sweater and the tee become too tattered to wear. Merry Christmas, y’all. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Where have all the scented roses gone?

True or false? “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”…..

Evidently not anymore. It has been many years since I have been anywhere close to a bouquet of roses. I can remember once or possibly twice that my husband sent me roses and that was back some time in the early 80s. The only other bouquet of roses I received was from a male friend (I was hoping he would become a boyfriend) who was supposed to come back home from school in Chicago when I was still in high school. Instead he sent the bouquet as an apology for not coming home and stayed at school. I remember the flowers’ sweet smell.

I was unaware of what was happening to the heavenly scent of the beautiful roses. Two weeks ago, I bought flowers for the chancel for a couple who has been married for sixty years. It was supposed to be anonymous, but that message was not made clear to the church secretary who sent them a letter telling them that flowers were donated for their anniversary and they needed to be at church to pick them up. She told them who had donated them. I was really disappointed because I wanted them to wonder who their friend was….or maybe friends. Due to other obligations they hadn’t been coming on a regular basis for the past few months.

Since they already knew, after the service I walked to the front and retrieved the bouquet for them. I delivered it to the wife at the back of the church and stood there talking with her and another friend. It dawned on me that something was missing. I sniffed the roses still in my arms and I could not smell a thing. I was surprised. Yesterday a neighbor took another neighbor a bouquet of roses to the hospital rehab where she is staying while she is recuperating from double knee replacement. I went along to hold the roses so they wouldn’t spill in the car. Again I smelled the roses and again there was no fragrance to smell.

We talked about it in the car and I was informed that all the scent has been hybridized out of modern day roses. I came home and did some research. Ecuador and Columbia  are leading producers of roses. Growing roses is a major industry.The rose fragrance was bred out of them when they bred for roses that would last longer without wilting. This is the kind of trade off that growers made in order to be able to send produce around the world.

The roses I was holding yesterday were beautiful. But it was no longer the total sensation I remember from earlier days. The roses were so perfect, they didn’t look real. Without the scent, anyone who may be blind would have no use for them. I think such roses should be sold at half price because half of the rose is missing!

Luckily, people still grow roses in their yards so if I’m fortunate enough to be invited to a home where there is a bouquet in the house, I can still smell one of my favorite scents. But that doesn’t happen very often.

Roses are a symbol of romance. The scent is supposed to evoke feelings of love. I see no value in the newlyweds’ bed being sprinkled with rose petals. It’s no different than tearing up construction paper. The experience is just not the same.

I cry for the world that is becoming more genetically modified, hybridized, and cloned every day. If this trend continues, nothing of Earth’s original cornucopia of heaven made sensations will even exist any more. What are we as humans thinking? Why do we think we can or should improve on Mother Earth’s original design? Why this obsession and failed experimentation on almost every living thing? Why do we have such a desire to not have any roses to smell if we wish to stop?

 

 

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Parents, Before you yell when you hear “Is that All?” …

Since I’m going to be a grandmother next year, even if it is long distance, I’ve started reading some of the mommy blogs like the one on The Today Show Moms blog just to see how things have changed since my childhood or my son’s. Last week they were talking about spoiled kids at Christmas. A couple of the moms commented about their children saying, “Is that all?” after opening the presents. One mother talked about immediately punishing the child and letting her know her attitude was not appreciated and sending her to her room. I tried to add a comment but I couldn’t get signed in so I let it go, but it brought back memories.

I have very few recollections of Christmas and opening presents while I was still at my father’s home. I remember my aunt complaining about having to decorate the tree by herself. She never once in my memory invited me to join her or try to make it a festive time of sharing. One year she just talked about how lazy I was not to help. It was her “chore” and she resented it. I didn’t know it was something I was allowed to do. If she had smiled and invited me to help her, I would have joined in willingly. Most years she did it when I wasn’t around. It was just suddenly, “I’m tired of doing this all by myself. You do it.” But at the same time, I could never hang the single strands of tinsel to her satisfaction. Dad’s job was to bring home the tree. There was never an invitation to help pick out the “best one”. It just appeared. It was stuck in the corner of the room next to the couch. Christmas in our home was just a time to do and not a time to share.

The opening of the presents was fairly joyless as well. I do have a memory of a couple of years running downstairs to see what Santa had brought, but that stopped when I was still pretty young. Showing excitement was only barely tolerated in my memory. Exchanging presents was just something we did. There was no oohing and ahhing or prolonged and excited thanks.

I am unable to remember exactly what year the big transgression took place. I’m assuming it was some time in between seventh and tenth grade. I seem to remember my sister was still at home. One by one my sister or I doled out the presents. The wrapping paper was strewn around. I was on the floor close to the tree. My father was seated across from me sitting on a dining room chair. My sister was on the couch and my aunt was in the chair.

The passing out of gifts had stopped and all presents seem to have been opened, but I wasn’t sure. Since the tree was in the corner, it was easy to miss presents behind the tree. I uttered the most grievous words I could have said all day. It was either “Is that everything?”  or maybe “Is that all?” I simply meant have all the presents been passed out, should we start picking up the paper…something along that line. I did NOT mean to infer I thought I didn’t get enough and that I wanted more.

My father did not interpret what I said that way. He very seldom even recognized when I was in the room with him. We just didn’t talk with each other. Suddenly he simply erupted! He must have ranted for five minutes about how selfish I was and how ungrateful and how I should be glad for what I did get. He even turned red in the face. In the meantime, if I could have dug a hole in the floor to escape into the basement, I gladly would have. My cheeks were positively burning with chagrin. I couldn’t move. I just sat there and took the blows. I couldn’t even defend myself. One thing I don’t remember doing is crying. I refused to cry in front of my father.

My father ran out of steam and the room became silent. I started collecting the wrapping paper to give myself something to do. In those days we opened the presents carefully and folded the paper so that it might be used again the next year. I have no idea what happened after that. I guess we all went our separate ways in the house. The memory fades.

I wanted to yell at the mother in the blog who talked of immediately punishing her child for her “attitude”. She knows her child better than I. Perhaps the child was being a brat. But on the outside chance that the child simply meant, “Are we done with this activity?” or something similar, he or she should at least be questioned before the parent goes into such an action. It’s only fair.

Do I remember what I got for Christmas that year? No way. Do I remember the chastisement? You bet I do…like it was last year. I have pretty much blocked out any memories of Christmas at our house. It was not a time for joy.  That episode made Christmas something even less to be thankful for.

Parents, give yourself  and your child a break. Question them calmly before acting. It may save a lot of lingering bitterness. You may never know. Namaste Attic Annie

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Why doesn’t Santa stay in stores year round?

I try to start my day with positive uplifting information. Today was not one of those days. I read in our local paper about Santa arriving in Hurst this weekend.

Really?

When I was really young all we had was a parade when Santa came to town. He then sat on his “throne” in the department store and we stood in line to see him. I remember gazing at the wonderful window displays downtown. My Christmas in Illinois was not unlike Ralphie’s Christmas in Indiana.  A few years later when I was in third or fourth grade I could watch THE Parade on Thanksgiving Day on television. By that time I was no longer taken to the parade but it was still a thrill to see Santa arrive at the end in his big sleigh.  Thanksgiving Day ( or a day close to it) meant the start of Christmas to the children.

Now stores are putting up Christmas decorations before Halloween and sometimes immediately after the Back to Schools sale. And Santa is arriving earlier than ever. November 5? Really? The stores say “they are starting early because there is a demand.” Really? It’s not from mothers who are hassled and harassed every day by young children who demand to know how much longer. It’s not from fathers who traditionally wait until the last day to shop any way. Who is actually causing the demand?

This event is taking place at Bass Pro Shop,  which features “fishing tackle and equipment, hunting, camping, marine, and outdoors supplies, plus clothing”. Firefighters are going to pick him up at the “remote sleigh parking area” and drive him to the food court. I’m curious as to who is picking up the tab for this ride.

The shop has a Santa’s Wonderland on display with a crafts section and a train display. The columnist who wrote the news article called it “Occupy Stores event.”

I have accepted the fact that Christmas and commercialism go hand in hand. After all, Macy’s first parade in New York was way before my birth. It was done to draw people to the Macy’s store instead of Gimbel’s. I guess maybe it was in answer to Gimbel’s parade in Philadelphia. I don’t know. Maybe I have that backwards.

That’s not the point. Actually, today I am not certain as to what my point is. Other than Americans have allowed their children to be persuaded and manipulated by mass media and mass commerce from the time of their birth. Little girls no longer are allowed to be little girls. They are bombarded by clothing and behaviors that were once reserved for mid teens. Babies before they can walk are entered into beauty contests. By the time they are three, they are sexual objects.  They all want to be like teenagers even when they are as young as kindergarteners. The milk they drink is laced with hormones that start their puberty by second and third grade. Little boys? They have their pressures too.

What does that  have to do with Christmas? Santa to me is the spirit of giving. Christmas is a time of wonder for little imaginations. We have turned it into a season of me me me. Parents go into debt trying to satisfy the greed they nourish in their children that so often starts with early Christmas.

Almost two months is an awfully long time for children to have to wait. Seven weeks is an eternity. If Santa comes the first weekend in November, by Christmas all the joyous feelings will long be gone. Attention spans are just not that long. Anticipation will be replaced by apathy. Either that or the stress caused by the unending anticipation will cause their little bodies more harm.

My argument has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus which is well known to not have occurred on December 25. So responders, if any, do not have to go into the real “reason for the season”.

It has to do with the insatiable desire to hook customers at a younger and younger age. It has to do with robbing children of their childhood. It has to do with stores like Bass Pro Shops baiting children to try to get their fathers to shop early. OK that’s sexist I know but look at what they sell.

America has gone crazy with Christmas. I think it’s time to restore the sanity. I’d love to hear that this event was a big bust. Not that I have anything against the store. My beef is with stores like them who are like the Grinch who stole Christmas! Let’s keep the Christmas season at least confined to the month before the actual date. That’s long enough for any child to have to wait. Otherwise, let’s just keep Santa in stores year round and he can become an ignored fixture that kids pass by without paying any attention. We can then admit that there is no longer a “season” for joy and GIVING!

 

 

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Mizpah

A friend of mine posted the following item on his FB page this morning.

“Thank you God for the opportunity to spend time with family. As always, it is tough to leave but keep them in our hearts while we are away and be with us as we continue our journey through life. I love all of you and am eternally grateful to have the honor to be poppapete in your lives. AMEN”

I replied “Mizpah Genesis 31:49”.

It seemed an appropriate reminder to him of the prayer asking God to watch over us while we are absent from one another.

It originally referred to the story of Laban and Jacob. They made a covenant with each other that neither of them would cross the place where they had set up  a heap of stones and a pillar.

“This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me.”

Over the years it came to symbolize an emotional bond between two people who want God to watch over each other while they have to be apart.

I’ve been thinking about forty-three years ago when I bought a coin and necklace like the picture above to share with my friend who was leaving for Viet Nam. He was no longer my fiance. That engagement was broken before I went out to Washington, D.C. to spend time with him before he shipped out. He had broken the engagement with me saying he didn’t want to leave me a war widow in the event he never came back. He claimed he couldn’t say he didn’t still love me.

Before he left I gave him half the coin to wear with his dog tags. I wanted him to come back to me.

I didn’t see him again until he returned from serving his time in the Marines and finally came home from Nam . He came by himself to the wedding of friends of ours. I set up his best friend with my best friend. I had asked someone else to go to the wedding with me but he backed out at the last minute leaving me to go by myself as well.

After the service I asked him if he would give me a ride to the reception. Before we went inside I gave him some of the things he had given me, including the other half of the coin. It was obvious by that time that we were not going to get together.

I’ll skip the part about the reception and the ice cream social at the church we both were members of. Needless to say there were some very uncomfortable moments since my best friend had fixed him up with one of her bridesmaids who kept him company all the time he was home on leave. He sat at the bride’s table with her. My “friend”, the bride, paid no attention at all to me.

He left again and a month or so later I received a letter from him apologizing for the way he behaved.He asked me to forgive him.  I had been told he was gone or I wouldn’t have gone to the social only to watch him with the other girl. It was not a pretty sight.

I wrote back to him since I was still not ready to give up and told him all was forgiven. Then I talked with him, thinking I would fly to see him, and found out in the meantime he had met someone else. They had a very brief relationship before he married her.

Turns out his wife and I became friends. For one year we lived within easy driving distance from each other. She had a baby and seven months later I had my son. The friendship was not to last long since my ex was transferred again to my current home.

About three years later I was in Chicago with my son. I was still in contact with her. She invited us to visit. We spent the day at the museum and then spent the night at her house with her, her husband, and her two sons. Her husband was supposed to come home to take us all out to dinner. He was late. When he did come home, he was drunk. We both drank while we dated. He seemed to have stepped it up somewhat. He drove but I was very uncomfortable with the situation.

The next morning he went to work. His wife and I were sitting at the table and she suddenly asked me what Mizpah meant. I was taken aback. I asked her why. She said that her husband had the coin in his drawer. He had never gotten rid of it.

They drove me to our home town where my son and I continued our visit with other relatives. I was out at the car while her husband unloaded our suitcases. Before we left, he hugged me good bye.

That was the last time in thirty years that I saw him. His boys grew up and stayed in Illinois. He and his wife moved out to California. Once in a while I make a game out of trying to find old friends through the internet. I finally found him on Linked-In. He has done exceedingly well for himself. He is still listed with his wife. I have no intention of re-establishing any contact. I’d hate to be thought of as a stalker even though his wife and I became very close that year we spent in the same area.

I don’t know how their married life has been. They are still together so I guess things are good enough between the two of them. When I found out about the coin, he had been married for seven years or more. I often wonder if he ever tossed the coin or if it is still in his drawer. I never did toss out the college pin he gave me on Valentine’s Day or the earrings he gave me for my birthday. I just can’t let myself do it. I sometimes wonder if he ever feels the same way. I wonder if God is still watching over us while we are absent one from another. Namaste Attic Annie

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The answering machine speaks the truth

This video of an Australian answering machine has been through my mailbox more than once, but perhaps some of you have not received it.The video says that it is an actual message to the parents. I would like to think this actually happened. If it didn’t it should have.

As I’ve said before, I was fortunate enough in my teaching experience to teach the majority of my time in a gifted and talented program. As a result, I had few real run ins with my parents.

I do remember one parent.. Her eight year old firstborn was in in my class. He was a nice enough little guy but he was not the most organized. He was supposed to hand in a writing assignment. When it came time to collect it, it was nowhere to be found and he was quite rightly upset. However, he was not upset with himself. He was upset with me because I, in my kind-hearted attempt to show mercy, told him he could do it over again and I would accept it. I did accept late assignments although they started with ten points off the grade to begin.

He didn’t say anything but obviously he said something when he got home. The teachers in our program often stayed several hours after school because there was so much planning and lesson preparation to be done plus grading of the assignments. These children routinely accomplished in one or two lessons what the regular classroom did in a week or more. Thus more work. I was staying late.

In those days the school did not find it necessary to lock the doors until everyone was out. The mother came directly to my room. It was obvious that she was upset.

She swore up and down that her child had completed the assignment. I never mentioned to her son that I didn’t think he did. She felt I didn’t believe him. (Which may have been the case.) She proceeded to take everything out of his locker and go through it all. Not finding it there, she then attacked his desk and repeated the process. That was difficult for her because she was a hefty woman and the desks at those time had cubbyholes underneath the seats for the children to store all their materials. There was just enough room for books and folders, yet some children had a knack of accumulating a lot of other junk (like graded assignments) stuffed into the spaces around the books.

She sat on the floor and actually cried out of frustration of not finding the essay. It was really quite a show of parental concern. “I know he DID it. I put it into his backpack.” Evidently she still didn’t understand the concept that I would accept it as a late paper on Monday morning. His was the only one missing from the entire class. I swear she was about to accuse me of picking on her child and disposing of the essay he had worked so hard to produce. She didn’t go quite that far that evening to my face. She gave up and on Monday morning her son handed me his assignment.

There were a couple of more incidents with this mother that I won’t detail but the one on Valentine’s Day REALLY set her off. The children were allowed to bring Valentines to class to pass out. As an art lesson we even made bags for them to hold the cards. The bags were all lined up along the ledge beneath the chalk boards. I’ll stop here to say that the children were told explicitly, and were given a note to go home, that they were only to sign each card without putting any other child’s name on it. They were to go to the bags one at a time and slip one valentine into each bag.

Now granted there were some holes in the plan. If a child really wanted to give another child a particular valentine, it would not have been impossible to do it. Also, if the child didn’t wish to give a particular child a valentine, it would have been easy enough to skip a bag. Either way, the plan was not foolproof. The instructions were put into force for two reasons: one, it would have taken almost the entire time allotted for the party for each child to go back and forth trying to find a particular bag. Also, it assured as much as possible that each child would get a valentine from every other child regardless of how unpopular they might be.

If you guessed that the child in question came to school with every valentine addressed to each individual child, you are correct. I told him to take the valentines out of the envelopes and do what every other child in the class knew what to do. Again, the mother was very upset. Her child had spent much time the night before agonizing over choosing just the right valentine for each classmate…and I ruined the whole day for him.

That child is in his mid 30s now. I have heard about many other students but I’ve not heard any more from him. I often wonder if the mother ever let her child be responsible for his own actions or take the consequences of not listening to or following directions. It makes one wonder. This answering machine would have been ideal to answer her calls when she called about his mean teachers.

I cannot remember the time line but it seems soon after that event the old fashioned doors were chained at 3:30. Teachers now had to exit the front door which could be locked without chains. There were no answering machines in those days. It’s too bad. Other teachers had parents who were like that as well. It could have saved a lot of hassle…if this is really how it could be handled. Namaste. Attic Annie

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