Friday, September 29, 2006

'Tis the Season to be Frightened


To: Major Retailers
Everywhere, USA

From: Vikki Reich
Minneapolis, MN

To whom it may concern,

When I go to your store to shop for Halloween costumes, miniature candy bars and scary cauldrons, I do not want to see Santa's ass sticking out of a chimney. No one should ever be able to buy a Halloween costume and Christmas tree at the same time. It's wrong, WRONG, I say. It seems that you have forgotten that Halloween is in October and Christmas is in December. I know that math can be difficult, so, I wanted to let you know that Christmas is actually three months away. Three months. So, please free Santa from that chimney and send him back to the North Pole. Mrs. Claus needs help with the Trick or Treaters.


Vikki Reich, Marketing Critic Extraordinaire

Monday, September 25, 2006

Blondes Do Have More Fun

I am walking in the cold rain. My hands are in my pockets and I am looking at the ground. Suddenly, I feel that someone is watching me. I turn and look up to see four Barbies sitting on a roof top. Their vibrant halter tops and short shorts stand out against the pale gray shingles. They are all smiling and each one has a hand raised above her head, waving to me. They are having a grand old time and the rain doesn't bother them a bit.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Frosted Mini Whites

There is a mountain of shoes in our foyer. There is a jacket on a bench, a jacket on the back of a chair, a jacket on the desk and a jacket on the floor (note to self: get rid of some of the damn jackets). The glasses of water the children had to have because they would otherwise die of thirst sit on tables virtually untouched. “But Not the Hippopotamus” peeks out from under the radiator. The dining room table is covered in newspaper that needs to be recycled. There are socks on the bedroom door knob and there is a Transformer in one of the socks. There is a tube of lanolin and a beach towel on the banister. Welcome to my house, throw your shit everywhere and make yourself right at home. Before having kids, this kind of clutter would have never been acceptable to me but, now, I can step over the scooter to let the cat out without giving it another thought.

My mother was a single mom for most of her life. There was barely enough money despite full-time work and overtime. She would come home after work, make dinner and then do the dishes. The house was always immaculate – no dust, no crunchy kitchen floor, no mysterious sticky substance on the table. There were always crisp sheets and gleaming white toilets. The yard was a showcase with a beautiful lawn and amazing gardens. I imagined the marigolds were my mother’s little soldiers, always standing at attention and keeping the weeds at bay. There was order to everything and, yet, I never saw my mother clean or garden. It was a miracle.

This week, I was talking to my sister about all of this. I was telling her how tired I am in the evenings and how I just don’t feel like doing anything but I have to make myself do things or succumb to utter chaos.

Vikki: How did mom do it all?

Sis: Mini whites.

Vikki: What? Is that a cleaning service?

Sis: Mini whites. You know? White crosses.

Sis underestimates my naïveté. She can hear my blank stare through the phone.

Sis: Speed, Vikki. Speed.

How about that? Better home management through chemicals!* It's no wonder that I can't compete. I may have a moldy bag of lemons in my pantry but, by god, I am drug-free.

*My mother’s doctor gave it to her and described it as a "little burst of energy in a pill". Apparently, many helpful doctors prescribed speed for women so that they could manage everything. The practice fell out of favor in the early 80’s when the drugs became harder to get and, well, the facts about the resulting heart damage came to light.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Presidential Hopeful

This morning, sitting at the dining room table:

Miguel: How many more years is George Bush going to be president?

Luisa and Vikki (in unison): Two.

Miguel: And John Kerry is not going to run again?

Vikki: No, I don't think so.

Luisa: Yes, I think he will but he won't get the nomination.

Miguel: Mama, I think you should be president.

Vikki: Really? Why?

Miguel: You wouldn't send people to war.

Vikki: Probably not. I'm not going to run for president, though, because it takes too much money.

Miguel: It costs more than building onto our house?

Vikki: It takes millions of dollars.

Miguel: And you want to spend your millions of dollars on something else?

Yeah, that's it...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Return

We land in Philadelphia and everyone applauds. The children look at me like, "What the hell? What's with the applause?" I look at Luisa with the same expression. Luisa shrugs. We wait until everyone else has left the plane because it makes it easier for us to lumber down the aisles dragging children and bags behind us. We are exhausted but very happy to have the longest flight out of the way. Innocently, we believe that the worst of the trip is over. The smiling, receiving line of flight attendants compliments our children and wishes us well as they are paid to do. Sadly, that is the last pleasant interaction we have with airline/airport personnel for the next three hours.

We step off the plane and wait to pick up our stroller. An airline lackey tells us that only one family member can wait for the stroller. I've never heard of that rule before and we ignore her. She gets serious and insists that I proceed with the children while Luisa waits for the stroller. Miguel bolts ahead and I swing Zeca onto my hip and head out of the jetway. We get to a small hallway with windows on both sides. I must corral both children (not an easy task after they have been sitting on a plane for 8 hours) in this area. There is another family with us and we are all monitored by another staff person. The children begin to talk to each other and laugh and sit together on the window sills. When Zeca finally nestles herself between the 3 other girls there and they sit smiling with their arms around each other, I think the staff person will be powerless against the cuteness and will smile. Instead, she admonishes the father for taking a picture. Our stroller arrives and we make our way into the airport.

It is time to claim our bags and we are anxious to get through customs and recheck them so that we can get some food for the kids. They are getting tired because it is 6:30 p.m. to their little bodies, though it is only midday in Philadelphia. For the next two hours, we sit in the baggage claim area waiting. Our only entertainment other than chasing our manic children is to listen to the calm, female voice that occasionally comes through the loud speaker telling us that the bags from the Lisbon flight will be arriving "momentarily". I believe her for the first half hour but then I grow jaded. The voice had made so many unfufilled that we don't believe her when she tells us the bags have arrived. Only the stampede of our fellow passengers makes us believe. We finally load our bags onto a cart only to head into the first of many lines. We wait in line to have our passports checked. We wait in line to go through customs. We wait in line to get bording passes. We wait in a different line to check our luggage because they can't possibly do that when you get your bording passes...even though they check luggage for flights that are not connecting. The luggage is gone and I suggest to the children that our family deserves a treat for how well we all did. We set off to get that treat only to find another line. We wait in line to have our passports and bording passes checked again. We get through that and I tell the children that we will now get our well-deserved treat and we round the corner and are stopped in our tracks by the mother of all lines - the security checkpoint. Crowds of people standing without moving. When we are 6 feet from the security checkpoint and conveyor belt, we are instructed by a highly irritated pregnant security agent who screams to the masses an incessant litany of instructions. We suck down all the water in the sippy cups and water bottles we have because there are no trash receptacles and we are not going to leave the line to empty them. We remove all of our shoes and place each pair in their own bin, even Zeca's tiny little tennis shoes. We put every bag in a separate bin and load them on the belt which gives the illusion that you may actually be finished with the process in moments. No. They are searching many bags. The pregnant woman shouts, the children squirm, the conveyor belt lurches, the security agents pull people aside for searches. The security agent at the metal detector insists that the children go through the metal detector alone. I can't go through first and have Luisa send the children because there is a terrible back up on the conveyor belt and she is negotiating the stuff. I send Miguel ahead and hope that he stops and waits. Zeca clings to me and will not let me put her down. Finally, I get her to toddle through the gate. I go through last and hope I don't get stopped because I need to keep the kids from wandering off. I make it through, followed quickly by Luisa. A security agent approaches Luisa and tells her there is something concerning in our backpack. Our minds race: Is it the small, metal can with the wooden bead for Zeca to play with? Is it the empty sippy cups? Do we have any metal objects? No, the agents says with a furrowed brow, something else. They are going to search our bag. They take Luisa into a glass room and remove all of the contents of our backpack. They find the dangerous object - a tube of Desitin. They confiscate it and let us go. From exiting the airplane to this moment, it takes over three hours. We are lucky - we have a seven hour layover. Most people miss their connecting flights.

The airport is dirty and rundown. There is a live band and I have to fight the urge to openly mock them. We eat airport Chinese food and the kids fall asleep. We board our flight to Minneapolis and then spend the next 1 hour and 10 minutes taxiing and waiting for permission to take off. It is a very special kind of cruelty. I vow that I will never fly through Philadelphia again.

We are home now and returning to our normal routine. Luisa and I are reluctantly back at work. Zeca returned to daycare and Miguel returns to school on Friday. We had a fabulous vacation...we just have to forget about Philadelphia.