Somebody to love

If you ever loved something, you know it’s impossible not to talk about it constantly. New shoes. New boyfriend, baby, house. New pet.

I just might be more obsessive than most when I latch on to something that interests me, and now, the thing that I have latched on to, has literally latched onto me.

Raphael, cuddling.

Python regis. The Royal Python.

Oh yes. One python in particular. His name is Raphael and he came to be my little darling completely by accident. My son Christopher took him from a friend, who was going away to college and his parents, apparently, weren’t willing to dangle mice above a reptile at regular intervals.

So Christopher took him, placed him at my house and thus he became mine.

I had to warm up him a bit, I admit. I’ve never been afraid of snakes, and in fact, I used to save garter snakes from the family cat when I was a teen. I also enjoyed spying occasional rat snakes or racers in the fields next to our home. More recently, my last house seemed to be a particularly suitable environment for garter snakes because there were bunches of them. I would show them to the children for an instant nature lesson.

But snakes are objectionable to a lot of people, for several reasons, but most seem to have a visceral reaction, and I think it’s because we’re just not used to the way they move.

They’re not like mammals, dogs, kitties, that sort of thing. They’re not even similar to most other reptiles. I mean, iguanas and the like are a little startling, but they’ve got legs and stuff, so there’s no slithering, sliding, wrapping. Also, the no eyelids thing can unnerve the more fainthearted among us.

Lots of women scream at the sight of even a photo of a snake; my own mother won’t have anything to do with him for fear she’ll start having snake-borne nightmares.

But snakes — if I may modify a quote from Finding Nemo, are friends — not foes. And once I’d been around him a bit, I have to admit, a little bit of a maternal instinct kicked in and I knew I had to care for this innocent little creature who needed help.

Today, Raphael definitely knows me. People ask me this all the time. But how do you know, they ask.

Well, when I pick him up he reaches toward me and takes a good helping of my scent. You may know snakes “smell with their tongues.” They actually use them to grab scent particles then transfer them inside their mouths to something called the Jacobson’s organ, where the actual smelling takes place.

So he sniffs me, then calms right down when he’s in my arms. He sleeps there contentedly in the evening when I’m watching TV. He permits me to touch and stroke his head, which he shied away from when he first arrived.

To quote my son Tras, “He may have a little brain, but it’s like 90 percent love.”


Love and the application of lipstick

Like a good many women, I like to look my best.

Therefore, I spend an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom each morning, applying lotions, makeup, hair-styling products, and other mysterious unguents in a (more or less successful) attempt to make myself look slightly better than I would in the natural state. Which in my case would be a pale face accompanied by tired freckles, less-than-luminous eyes, and thin, non-luscious lips.

It’s the lip portion of my face that I’d like to discuss today.

My lipstick-wearing has changed and evolved since becoming a mother lo these many years. In my teens and twenties, I slathered on the lip color with abandon, never worrying about its potential effect on others. Sure, I was careful not to unintentionally give cherry-red lips to the men I loved (or at least smooched), but other than that, I lacquered up the lips anytime I felt the kaleidoscope that was my eye-shadow palette at the time — we’re talking The Cyndi-Lauper Eighties here — needed the balance of some glossy hues.

Then came the nineties, and my entry into The Childbearing Years. Once I’d produced an infant, I gave up wearing not only lipstick but also perfume, after experiencing the shock of receiving back perfumy infants when I’d allowed them to be held by over-scented female relatives.

But mainly I kissed my sweet babies so often that there never was time to even think about lipsticking myself. Occasionally I’d dab on some Carmex to ward off winter chappiness, but otherwise my lips were completely au naturale.

Later, with preschoolers around, the high-volume kissing tends to be reciprocated. You love to kiss them, and now they’re kissing you back. Double the smoochiness and lipstick-wearing its pretty much down to zero.

Then there’s the period in the middle years where they don’t seem to want you to kiss them all that much, say from around the age of 9 until about 14. Oh, they’ll put up with it a little, if there is no one important around — that is, one of their friends, someone around their age, or anyone who remotely resembles a human — and you get to sneak in a good-bye kiss now and then. But by and large, during these years, kissing your offspring is over.

Then come the teen years where they seem to crave it — then abhor it on alternating days. But never, ever, kiss them and leave your lipstick behind! That’s a death sentence from a teenager, right there. They will rub their face until it’s raw rather than having something as embarrassing as Mommy Lip Residue on their cheek, forehead, or whatever part you can snag before they flee. But oh how they hug and kiss when they themselves are in need of affirmation and affection! Mama’s need to kiss ’em and show these ingrates how much she loves them? Fuggedabowdit!

The only good thing I can conclude about these many-changing periods in the life of a kissing mother is that is spreads out the cost of purchasing cosmetics. Right now, with kids at the 8, 15, and 17 levels, I’m doing a moderate amount of kissing, and thus only remember to apply lipstick every third day or so. I’ll probably make it until Spring with this tube I’m on right now.

With no female relatives either in the possession, or in the manufacturing phase, of an infant currently, I don’t envision having babies to kiss on the regular, so my lipstick-wearing will doubtless increase.

But whatever the state of my lips may be, I’m happy to report that I am the satisfied owner of a husband who allows me to kiss him whenever the mood strikes, and I don’t remember any complaints as to whether my lips be lacquered or bare. He seems to appreciate any and all affection I throw his way, irrespective of whatever the state of my war paint may be.

I burn for you

For every couple, there is a story. Ask your parents, your grandparents, your co-workers, your friends. Whether they’re newly married, long wed, dating around or wistfully remembering relationships of the past, I’ll bet there’s an abundance of good stories about How We Met.

In the case of my parents, we’re back to McDonald’s.

Golden arches!

The time: the late 1950s. The place: Hike’s Point, Louisville, Ky. The cast of characters: my father, the French Fry Boy; my Uncle Bruce, future McDonald’s baron of Northern Kentucky, and my mother, She Who Would be Fixed Up.

Back then, as now, mostly, the house that Kroc built was staffed by young people; in those halcyon days, though, the staff was exclusively teenage boys. You’ve seen the photos, probably; crew-cuts topped by paper hats. Think Goldie Wilson, aspiring mayor, from Back to the Future.

I grew up listening to stories about this old-timey french-fryer my father manned; here no fancy newfangled timer was available to dear old Dad. No, he stationed himself there at this antiquated beast, all senses keenly attuned to the condition of the spuds bathing dangerously in animal fat. Poised and ready to — the moment they reached golden perfection —  snatch them from their tallowized inferno, shake, rattle ‘n’ roll them, ultimately flinging them into the drainer where they would acquire the exact level of salty goodness required to create The Perfect Fry.

Just what Uncle Bruce saw in this man, this teenage potato czar, that made him think my dad would be a good match for his sister, I suppose I’ll never know. Was it the dedication he brought to his fryer, the patience he mustered to turn out the crispy goldens on the basis of his skill and knowledge alone? Was it the fact that he was Catholic, attending Bellarmine College and a serious young man — a perfect match for his bookish and bespeckled sister?

Perhaps one day I’ll grill Mom about it. Grill. Ha!

At any rate, I love to think back on the innocence of the time period, the poodle skirts my mother wore, the appalling shortness of my dad’s crew cut. As I grew older, so McDonald’s grew in popularity and at some point, became firmly entrenched in the American psyche. How lovely it was to know that it was the McDonald’s French fry, that most tasty and desired of treats, that brought my parents together — and me into the world.

What brought my husband, Tras, and I together was a bit more complex, nuanced and sprinkled with, instead of salt, humor and pathos. Not unlike many steam-soaked tales of Southern decadence, or maybe accounts of Southern politics a la All the King’s Men (what is it with me and Robert Penn Warren lately?) our joining can be traced back to the Kentucky State Capitol, election night and live television.

I work at a public television station, and until a couple of years ago, I was a writer and associate producer in our production division. These days I toil in the marketing vineyard, squeezing the juice from our agency and fermenting it, as it were, for the masses.

But then, as was the case for most everyone in Production, Election Night found us in one of a number of locations around the state, up to and including the Capitol itself.

It’s an unlikely setting for the birth of a romance and frankly it took another several years for the two of us to even know that’s where it all began. Because it began not with doe-eyes across the tabulated election returns, but with some coolness and insults and a touch of embarrassment — it’s a story worth telling, considering how low-key and in sync we are with one another today, nearly six years hence.

It’s a story I’ll have to tell you one day. Tomorrow good for you?

There’s really nothing like a good love story. Pioneer Woman wrote one — and it took her 40 chapters and nearly a year to complete. I promise you, this won’t take nearly as long.