Sunday, October 31, 2021

"The Pajama Game"

By Jerry Zezima

Every day, no matter what time I get up, I look like I just rolled out of bed. And nobody sees me, not even my wife, Sue, who either is still sleeping peacefully or is secretly awake and waiting for me to get up and make the coffee.

But on a recent morning, several astonished people saw my disheveled self because I ran errands in the pajamas I bought from my granddaughters’ school fundraiser.

Chloe, who is in third grade, and Lilly, who is in kindergarten, were selling such fantastic and indispensable items as wrapping paper, which Sue bought, and nuts, which I am, so I shelled out (sorry) some money for a jar of them.

Also in the brochure were pajamas, which I had never seen when the girls’ mother, Lauren, who also happens to be our younger daughter, brought home school fundraisers.

She and her older sister, Katie, almost succeeded in bankrupting Sue and me with sales pitches for magazines, toys, games and other things we didn’t need or even want but bought anyway because we feared being known as the cheapest parents in town.

Instead, we ended up being the poorest.

When Katie and Lauren reached high school, they not only were still selling stuff but went to class every day wearing plaid flannel pajama bottoms, the hot style of the time.

Because the girls thought I was the most uncool man in America, I decided to prove them wrong. So one day, I wore pajamas to work.

Before I got there, however, Sue sent me out on some errands.

Everywhere I went — the bank, the post office and the newsroom — flummoxed onlookers thought I was off my rocker. But Katie and Lauren, for the only time in their lives, said I was a dude of a dad.

The memories flooded what little remains of my mind when I saw the pajamas being sold in the fundraiser that Chloe and Lilly brought home.

I purchased a pair, which featured plaid bottoms with the school logo, and a blue, long-sleeved top, also with the school logo.

When they arrived, I put them on, hit the sack and slept like a baby, or a log, or a grandfather who can no longer stay awake for the 11 o’clock news.

The next morning, I rolled out of bed — bright-tailed and bushy-eyed — and ran some errands.

My first stop was the gas station, where Chris, who manned the cash register, said my PJs were very stylish.

“They look comfy,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have kids and has never bought anything from a school fundraiser. “But you’re not the only guy I have seen pumping gas in pajamas. A lot of people do it, mainly at night. But yours are definitely the nicest.”

Next I went to the store to buy a birthday card for Sue and saw Christina, a shift manager who said, “You look good. I like the colors. You’re very fashionable.”

Christina said she has bought items from many school fundraisers.

“You can’t say no,” she told me.

“Have you ever bought pajamas?” I asked.

“Yes,” Christina answered. “In fact, my husband wore fundraiser pajamas last night.”

From there I went to the post office for a book of stamps and saw Renata, a friendly clerk who said, “You look good.”

“Do I have your stamp of approval?” I wondered.

“Yes,” replied Renata, who said she once bought pajamas from her daughter’s school fundraiser. “They’re hanging up. I don’t wear them much — especially out in public.”

My last stop was the bank, where a nice officer named Sharon said my pajamas looked terrific.

“When my daughter was in elementary school, I bought magazines, candy and — my favorite — cookies,” Sharon said. “There were sweatshirts in the fundraisers, but no pajamas. I like yours. And I like that you wore them to the bank. Your granddaughters will be proud of you.”

When I got home, I told Sue about my PJ adventure.

“I got a lot of compliments,” I reported. “And I didn’t get arrested.”

“That’s always a good thing,” she replied.

When I asked when the nuts would arrive, Sue looked at me and said, “The biggest one is already here.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 24, 2021

"High School Reunion: The Big 5-Oh!"

By Jerry Zezima

There is a saying among people of a certain age (67, which is the new 47) that we’re like fine wine: We’re not getting older, we’re getting better.

This adage was proven beyond a reasonable doubt — even though there is doubt that I have ever been reasonable — at my 50th high school reunion, where I drank some mighty fine wine and my wife, Sue, won two bottles of the stuff.

Sue and I attended Stamford Catholic High School, Class of 1971, where Sue was the epitome of class and I was the class clown.

So when it came time to get together with fellow classmates to mark half a century since we graduated, we headed to our hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, for a weekend of fun, frolic and — with apologies to Marcel Proust, an author I was supposed to read in high school but never did — remembrance of things past.

The reunion committee, headed by Vivian Vitale, did a tremendous job of coordinating the event, which drew about 100 people. They included Hank Richert, who was my college roommate for three years and was the best man at my wedding to Sue, as I was at Hank’s wedding to his wife, Angela, who didn’t go to Catholic High but, as Hank’s guest, added wit and elegance to the proceedings. They are dear friends we hadn’t seen in a long time.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, Sue and Angela looked beautiful. Hank and I looked almost respectable. Everyone else looked good, too. And this wasn’t astigmatism talking. Or even the wine.

“It’s a shame that our kids are getting older but we’re not,” I told one classmate. “I feel sorry for them, but what are you going to do?”

The reason I couldn’t identify him was that, at first, I didn’t know who he was. That’s because, the evening before the reunion, we attended a meet-and-greet at Zody’s 19th Hole, a great restaurant where, unfortunately, there were no name tags for us to identify other attendees.

“You don’t know who I am,” a second guy said to me.

“Do you know who you are?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Prove it,” I said.

He pulled out his wallet and showed me his police badge (he’s a retired cop), which had his name.

“You’re Bob Shawinsky,” I told him.

“That’s right!” he said.

“See?” I announced triumphantly. “I do know who you are.”

I’m lucky he didn’t arrest me. But we did have some laughs, a sure sign of our arrested development.

Another guy, Don Sabia, gave me his business card, which contained his alleged occupation: “Consigliere.”

I kissed his ring.

It was a fantastic evening, but the best was yet to come.

The following night, we had the reunion at the Stamford Yacht Club, which went all out for us with dining, dancing and, yes, name tags.

“Zez!” more than one person exclaimed, using my most popular nickname (and the only one that can be repeated here). “What have you been up to?”

“No good,” I replied each time.

It didn’t surprise anybody because, 50 years ago, I spent so much time in the principal’s office that the administration could have charged me rent.

“I was on the dishonor roll,” I told a classmate.

“You graduated anyway,” she pointed out.

“They couldn’t wait to get rid of me,” I said.

“You look great,” another classmate said. “What’s your secret?”

“Spackle,” I replied. “It hides the wrinkles.”

Bridget Ormond Kopek, who was on the reunion committee, announced that we were going to have an “organ recital” before the formal festivities.

“You can discuss your organs, backs, eyes and any other medical problems,” she explained.

One guy called himself the “bionic man” because he has had knee and hip replacements and lots of other surgeries.

“There isn’t too much of the original me left,” he said.

Another classmate complained of constant soreness.

“What do you do for joint trouble?” he asked.

“Move to a new joint,” I suggested.

Many of the conversations centered on grandchildren. Sue and I have five — the most, as far as I know, of anyone there.

“And,” I told a group standing next to the bar, “they’re all more mature than I am.”

Retirement also was a big topic of conversation.

“I don’t know how I could have stopped working when I never really started,” I said to a couple of classmates.

“Do you get in your wife’s hair?” I was asked.

“Yes,” I responded. “Shampoo doesn’t help.”

After dinner, it was time to hit the dance floor.

“Do you have your dancing shoes on?” a woman asked.

“I sure do,” I said. “And they still fit my two left feet.”

Sue and I boogied to “My Girl,” which was appropriate because she has been mine for 43 years.

“You missed our wedding song,” Sue said, referring to “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I was in the bathroom swapping funny stories with a few of the guys.”

We stayed out on the floor for several more oldies until the raffle, which was held to defray expenses.

Among the items on the list were three copies of my latest book, “Every Day Is Saturday.”

“I’ll sign them,” I promised, “which will reduce their value even more.”

The most coveted items were bottles of wine.

When the number on one of Sue’s tickets was called, she shrieked, “That’s me! I won! I never win anything!”

Lightning — actually, cabernet — struck twice when Sue won again.

“This is your lucky night,” I told her.

It was a lucky night for everyone because the reunion couldn’t have been better.

To all our classmates of 50 years, a toast of wine and rousing cheers!

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 17, 2021

"Taking a Stand With Lemonade"

By Jerry Zezima

When life hands you lemons, goes an old saying, you will have a lot of car repair bills. That’s why you should have a yard sale. And what better way to lure customers than with a lemonade stand.

That was the brilliant idea my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly had when my wife, Sue (their grandmother), and our younger daughter, Lauren (their mommy), decided to embark on this allegedly moneymaking enterprise.

The idea of the yard sale, which was held in Lauren’s front yard, was to foist a bunch of junk that had been piling up in our respective houses on bargain-happy people who would, we hoped, pay fistfuls of cash for stuff they don’t need, take it home and make it their junk.

On the day of the big event, the lawn was filled with stuff, much of which was priceless, mainly because it wasn’t worth anything.

In a prime spot was the lemonade stand.

Chloe wanted to charge $3 a cup. Lauren said no, so Chloe suggested $2. Finally, it was decided that 50 cents was a fair price.

“OK,” said Chloe. “But I want a tip jar.”

That was nixed, too, though Chloe did prevail in charging 25 cents extra for Unicorn syrup, which is colored sugar water that could be added to the lemonade.

And there was enough to quench the thirst of the entire population of Luxembourg: two 96-ounce bottles of “organic lemonade.” We also had three small bottles of syrup (red, green and purple), 100 seven-ounce cups and an equal number of ecologically correct straws.

The sale was supposed to begin at 9 a.m. The first customer showed up at 8:15.

“How much is this stool?” she asked.

“Ordinarily, it’s a thousand dollars,” I replied, “but there’s a special deal today for only five bucks.”

“I’ll take it,” the woman said.

It was my only sale of the day.

Another woman came by and asked about a wine rack.

“I’ve lightened the load for you by drinking all the wine,” I said.

She left without saying another word, probably because I had driven her to drink.

Someone else asked about a baby seat.

“It’s three dollars,” I said. “Baby not included.”

Money wasn’t included, either.

Chloe, 8, and Lilly, 5, had better luck with other customers.

“We have lots of nice things!” Chloe chirped.

To which Lilly added, “Let’s sell everything for free!”

“I can go for that,” a man said.

Meanwhile, the lemonade stand was cleaning up. I poured the drinks, Lilly put in the syrup and Chloe collected the money.

Unfortunately, the swarm of people was outnumbered by a swarm of bees.

“This must be a wasp neighborhood,” I told a guy who didn’t buy any lemonade but left a 25-cent tip for the girls anyway.

When it was time for lunch, Chloe and I went inside for a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of lemonade each.

Then Lilly came in and had a bowl of macaroni and cheese. I had one, too.

“Have some lemonade,” Lilly said.

I filled a cup, to which Lilly added red syrup.

Then she wanted me to have another cup with green syrup, followed by one with purple syrup. Lilly stirred all of them with paper straws.

“Why don’t you have some?” I asked.

Lilly shook her head and said, “I don’t like lemonade.”

Seven cups later, I made a beeline — even though the bees were outside — to the porcelain convenience.

Back in the yard, a woman walked up with her young son and a pair of giant schnauzers, who smothered Chloe in kisses (the dogs, not the kid, who lapped up three cups of lemonade).

The woman yakked with Sue and Lauren for an hour before buying something.

Tom and Mary Ann, husband-and-wife neighbors who have an 8-month-old granddaughter, bought a kiddie slide and some children’s ride-on vehicles.

“They’ve all been grandfather-tested,” I assured them.

The sale ended at 3 p.m., at which time we calculated the day’s receipts.

Lauren made $160.

Sue made only $32.

“Considering the sale lasted for six hours,” Lauren commented, “that’s not even minimum wage.”

Chloe and Lilly raked in a grand total of $6.25. I threw in 10 bucks.

“Let’s put it in our piggy banks!” Lilly said.

I got to take home the rest of the lemonade.

“Maybe,” Chloe suggested, “you can have a lemonade stand at your house.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 3, 2021

"A Farewell to Fins"

By Jerry Zezima

It is with a heavy heart and stewed gills that I announce the passing of Camilla, our beloved and semi-intelligent betta fish, who tragically succumbed to water on the brain and now sleeps with all of our other fishes.

Camilla, who should have been called Camillo because the fish was gender-fluid and very coy, though not koi, died at the ripe old age of 2.

She was the longest-living of the family’s fabulous fleet of fine finny friends. The average lifespan of most of the other fish we have had over the years was approximately as long as the Super Bowl halftime show.

A notable exception was Curly, who survived for weeks after the demise of his bowl mates, Moe and Larry, who died within minutes of each other, probably in a suicide pact.

Curly was killed when I opened a kitchen cabinet and a bottle of vitamins fell out, conking him on the head.

My wife, Sue, was aghast, as were our young daughters, Katie and Lauren, who wailed, “You killed our fish!”

I tried to soothe them with comforting words: “They were Mommy’s vitamins.”

Another standout was Pumpkin, out of whose bowl Ramona, the first and dumbest of our four cats (all of whom have since gone to that big litter box in the sky), liked to drink.

Pumpkin would play peekaboo with Ramona. The scaly scamp also liked to squirt the flummoxed feline, though Ramona never succeeded in gobbling up Mrs. Zezima’s unfrozen fish stick.

I actually bonded with Pumpkin, who would greet me every day by swimming to the side of the bowl and gulping a silent “Good morning!” Then I would feed a flaky breakfast to the flaky fish.

When Pumpkin passed, at about a year old, Katie and Lauren sobbed uncontrollably during a solemn toilet-side service that concluded when their lifeless pal was flushed to kingdom come.

It was the same sad routine with all of our other, similarly doomed, shorter-lived goldfish, a couple of which didn’t survive the car ride home from the pet store.

Then there was Camilla, whom we adopted a couple of years ago at the urging of our granddaughters Chloe and Lilly.

Sue and I drove with the girls to the pet store and bought a pink female betta fish and color-coordinated pink pebbles in the hope that we would be the cover story in Good Bowlkeeping.

Unfortunately, Camilla’s bowl held only 16 ounces of water, the same size as the bowl that houses Igor, a blue male betta fish that lives with Chloe and Lilly.

“You should get a larger bowl,” a pet-store employee suggested.

I ignored the advice. Forty-eight hours later, Camilla went belly-up.

Unbeknownst to Chloe and Lilly — who also are unaware that the first two Igors had suffered the same fate and that the third one is now the charm — I launched Camilla into the porcelain version of Davy Jones’ locker and bought another pink betta fish, this one a male that we also called Camilla.

The friendly fish, who had the same bubbly personality as the late, lamented Pumpkin, far exceeded its life expectancy, probably because I gave in and bought a one-gallon bowl that was a spacious mansion compared to the cramped condo where the original Camilla lived ever so briefly.

On visits to our house, Chloe and Lilly were none the wiser and always loved to feed Camilla the same drab food that nourished so many of our other fish.

I have not yet broken the news to the girls that their tiny friend has gone to fishy heaven, but Sue and I did have a respectful funeral that involved indoor plumbing.

Farewell, Camilla. Float in peace.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima