The Doctor is In

I’ve known him all my life. And after my dad, he’s the “adult male” that I would turn to for car maintenance advice, a kind word, a belly laugh in the form of some hilarious anecdote that had  happened that week. Uncle Tracy has been a comfortable constant in my life no matter where the Army sent us throughout my childhood.

My cousin, Wendy, was my best friend/pen pal during all that back and forth moving overseas to Texas to Alabama and back overseas, etc. I felt grounded reading her letters and a sense of normalcy writing back to tell her all about my softball season, how much I hated Algebra II, and which boy I had a crush on that week. I always sent love to her parents and she always sent it back to mine. And for us, there was never any awkwardness. Even though she wasn’t a military BRAT like me, we would pick up right where we left off three years before. We’d run out to play on the zip line that Uncle Tracy had built using the tallest trees in the backyard or play basketball or throw pine cones at each other or at night, jump out from behind a fat bush on the side of the road to scare the crap out of teenage drivers who were speeding up the street and then take off running as they slammed on brakes and cussed at us out the open windows.

When I spent a week with them during the Summer Wendy had gotten her learner’s permit, Uncle Tracy earned a new nickname. We were in his pick-up truck. Wendy was driving. We were in the left only turn bay and she was having trouble with the 3-on-the-tree. Uncle Tracy was patiently bellowing directions from the passenger seat. I was the quiet moron in the middle; head turning left then right then left again as the conversation continued across me. After about 4 light changes from red to green and back to red, Wendy was beyond frustrated as the engine choked and died again. Uncle Tracy stated loudly, for the tenth time, “Wendy, you’ve got to put the damn thing in first gear!”

“It IS in first gear!” she shouted back, red-faced.

“Wendy, if this damn truck was in first gear, we’d already be in the driveway by now. Put it in first gear.”

She violently pulled the shift bar from where it was to neutral and then back to where it was. “It IS in first gear, Daddy!” The light turned green again. She let up off the clutch again. The truck jerked forward and died again. The car behind us started honking again as he was too close to go around us like the cars behind him. The light turned red again.

“Wendy, you’re in third gear. Put the truck in first gear!!”

“Daddy, it IS IN FIRST GEAR!” she shouted back.

Uncle Tracy actually yelled this time, “IF THIS TRUCK IS IN FIRST GEAR THEN I’M A GODDAMN BRAIN SURGEON!”

The dumbass in the middle, sensing the tension and trying to show solidarity with her cousin waved and said, “Hiiiiiiiii, Doctor Tracy!”

They were too pissed off at each other to laugh. She finally found first gear and we went home. When we got  back to their house, I figured I should make myself scarce and then I heard my aunt laughing in the kitchen. I went to get a glass of tea and she handed me a tall cup to take to “the good doctor.” She and Wendy howled with laughter.

I handed him his tea and he just looked at me. Then he laughed and said it was in third. I  told him that out of all the pipefitters in the world, he made a fine brain surgeon. He’s been Dr. Tracy ever since.




Setting Down the Baggage

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in a surprise birthday party for a friend. I am perpetually broke, so I suggested that we do this as a pot luck lunch rather than going out to eat. The idea was liked by the others in the group. I said that I’d bring some sort of chicken dish and then I didn’t hear boo about it until the day before.

One of the ladies was in a bit of a panic because the room reserved to hold our small event had  not been reserved. She’d been asked to jump through seventeen different hoops, which she did. But the person who’d asked her to do all that jumping hadn’t bothered to even open the email that contained all of the hoops she’d required. Then one of the ladies who’d said she would make chicken flautas was sort of “off the grid” and it seemed that things were falling apart. My panicked friend handed me a $20 bill and asked if I could pick up some red tablecloths and some salsa and rice from a popular Tex-Mex restaurant on the other side of town. I told her I would. Then she asked what I was planning to make and I told her that I had intended to make a curry chicken dish but that she and the birthday girl were so picky about food that I figured I’d just go with the Tex-Mex theme and also make
Mexican rice.

Later that night, I got a call and my friend was even crankier and more stressed. She told me that she’d finally gotten in touch with the lady who was making flautas and that someone else said that she’d make rice and that I should just “shred some lettuce and maybe buy some guacamole. Can you handle that?”

Now here’s where things got a little prickly for me. I lived in Egypt for 12 years very near my in-laws. My sister-in-law ate shrimp that I’d made Cajun style before my husband and I had even married. She didn’t like the seasoning and then immediately went around the rest of the family swearing I didn’t know how to cook. She doomed me to being the “salad maker” for the next 15 years and it just pissed me off. I’m a foodie. I LOVE to cook and try new things. My brother-in-law’s wife knows this and she used to try all sorts of new things with me and we would always eat each other’s cooking. It was always fantastic. But any large gatherings, the others in the family would tell me, “Why don’t you just make a salad.”

So, my Salad Baggage got really heavy all of a sudden when my friend, who was really just stressed out and actually trying to alleviate some of my stress by getting me out of having to cook, suggested this to me. She didn’t know about my Salad Baggage. She was actually trying to help me. But because she was stressed out with her own baggage and because she doesn’t really seem to enjoy cooking, it came out a little snarky. And then I went and tossed that snark and stress into my Salad Baggage and just tossed the hell out of it…making it a full Salad Baggage Bar.

And even though I was kind of shitty to my friend, I realized later that she wasn’t actually being snarky or mean or anything at all to me, other than considerate. I apologized to her because I realized that there was no way she could have known about my Salad Baggage and that I really should just set that stuff down. Our birthday girl friend was completely surprised, by the way. And she had a wonderful time and enjoyed all of the food and the cake and the present and cards. And I’m walking away from this entire thing having learned that I still have some growing up to do….and I need to stay the hell away from the baggage claim area.