Ah, Family

Is dementia contagious? Because yesterday afternoon I put a grilled cheese sandwich for my mom on the stove and promptly forgot all about it until I looked up from Bloglines and noticed the pan smoking.

Things that my oldest brother has done this week that have made me want to kill him:

1. Ate french fries out of the oven just before dinner.
2. Burped.
3. Said "THANK YOU!" and "GOOD JOB!" like a six-year-old's soccer coach when I came back from Target with a new plastic pitcher for iced tea.

You can see where this is going. Only your siblings can make you insane by saying "thank you." I mean, we're good and I love him and all, but damn, quit being so appreciative, it's embarrassing.

Wednesday I went into downtown Littleton to pick up a new set of double-pointed knitting needles for my mom. Her knitting is erratic at best, but what the hell, give her whatever she wants, she's 83. Earlier I'd been talking to one of the hospice nurses and she told me that it's too bad when families wait until the last minute to move a dying member to hospice, then they can't really take advantage of everything hospice can offer. My mom has been supported by hospice for almost six months now and Medicare will pay for it as long as the nurses can show that she's steadily declining. And she is, but reeeeally slowly. HER mom did the same thing, I can remember visiting my Grandma Gustafson in a nursing home in Eveleth, Minnesota, when she was in her early nineties, she was lying on a bed, knocked out cold. My mother said she'd been "over-medicated." I never knew if that was a temporary or permanent condition but she stayed in that home for ten years, until she finally died at the age of 99. My family has incredible longevity (my great-grandmother on my mother's side lived to 103) but it's kind of a bummer if you're spending those last ten years in bed. Just ask the person who has to wipe your ass.

Okay! Anyway, after I bought the needles (and if you're ever in the neighborhood, A Knitted Peace is as fine a yarn shop as you'll ever see in these United States) I decided to take a stroll around downtown Littleton to see how it had changed since I was a kid growing up in the suburbs, when a trip downtown was a miraculous adventure that ended, if I was lucky, with time to browse the Betty and Veronica comics at Rexall Drugs.

Littleton Cleaners

Littleton's pretty old. It was founded in the 1850s by a guy named, no kidding, Rich Little. Littleton Cleaners probably isn't that old, but its building, on Prince Street, which street was named after Little's favorite horse, probably is. Also, I was messing around with Photoshop and I discovered the "vivid light" layer setting thing, so excuse me if I totally overuse it for the next couple of weeks.

Main Street

Main Street has certainly changed since the seventies. Vito's Shoe Repair is gone, sadly. Boxes and boxes of Red Wing shoes lined the shelves on either side of the store, they had big leather chairs set up high where you could sit to get your shoes shined, the whole store smelled like leather and shoe polish, and Vito, an Italian immigrant with big burly arms and slick black hair, always patted my head and said something that made me blush whenever I came in with my mom. Vito Sr. was always bent over his bench in the back. I loved Vito's.

Littleton town hall

But as is the case with a lot of small towns, if they don't dry up and blow away they start getting weirdly boutiqueified. Fortunately, Town Hall, on the right, hasn't yet been turned into an Aveda Spa.


Jose's! Jose's opened in the seventies and my family thought it was so exotic because they served MEXICAN FOOD. We never went because were afraid of spicy foreign flavors. Also, they served cocktails and that was too far out of the realm of bland suburban living for us to contemplate.

Penny Robin, exterior

Penny Robin! This is where I got all my leotards and pointe shoes during my ballet years. Their logo is a robin with a penny on its head. Because the woman who owned the store had two daughters named Karen and Rochelle. No, Robin was the oldest girl, I remember her being very solid and grounded and about five years older than me. Penny was tall and had long red hair and was very elusive. They both took classes, like me, at the long-gone, back-of-the-strip-mall epicenter of many a girlhood, Carol's School of Ballet. I could talk about that place for two weeks straight but I think I'd better set aside that topic until I can scan some photos of me at age twelve in full Swan Lake costume.

Penny Robin, interior

Tutus hanging from the ceiling!


When I was little this was the police station, and before that it was the library. Now it's a fondue restaurant called The Melting Pot. I guess that's better than knocking the whole thing down and putting in an Olive Garden, right? Depending on your feelings about Olive Garden.

Masonic temple

I still don't know what goes on inside Masonic Temples, and I don't want to know.


Look! It's a Skamper! And yes, I do enjoy taking pictures while I drive, officer.


Back in my mom's neighborhood you've got Columbine High. I used to get pretty creeped out driving by here but I don't anymore, the place has settled somehow. I went to Columbine for my freshman andsophomore years, but late in 10th grade I discovered it was a requirement for graduation to take this class called "Basic Essay." The class was built around how to write a goddamn sentence. Since I'd been writing complete sentences since the second grade I was not just insulted but bored out of my mind, so I ended up chatting a lot with the guy in the seat next to me, Jaime. We really hit it off. Jaime was as bored as me, but he liked telling stories, I remember one about him breaking into a sporting goods store that was quite exciting. Jaime's life of crime aside, when that class was over, the day I walked home with my report card I told my parents I was not going back to that stupid place ever again. This caused some minor parental panic, but my mom quickly found another school for me to transfer to, a private one that cost money, so she got a job at the phone company to pay the tuition for my last two years of high school and I cannot thank her enough for that. I loved my new school, my mom loved her new job, and she still gets a pension and free phone service because of it.

mom's hyacinths

Anyway, when I got back home from shopping I found my mom hanging out in bed reading some large print book from the library, and when I checked out her window I happened to notice a bunny nibbling on an apple that had fallen off the tree and some hyacinths sprouting up. She probably planted bulbs in that spot fifteen years ago, but maybe hyacinths are some sort of crazy flower that blooms like hell even in the midst of total neglect. If so, hooray for hyacinths! They smell fantastic, too.