February 17, 2021 | View PDF
Our neighbor lady has quite a few talents. She has imagination, a sense of humor and artistic talent to boot. She excels at creating posters, cards and other graphic materials. Three years ago, she produced a collage as a memento of the first year the four of us had spent in our respective mountain homes. The collage featured many of the humorous and unexpected events our two households encountered over the course of that first year.
This past Christmas she gifted us with a new collage, one that totally captured the year of 2020; logging in a snowstorm, constructing a double decker outhouse, COVID, and a few hilarious moments we encountered while taking a camping trip together, to name just a few.
I will share a few of these moments captured in the collage. Our husbands have the unfortunate habit of specializing in spending money, plenty of money. They want, for the most part, outlandish items that are about as useful or necessary as an earthquake. It became a favorite joke of ours that when our husbands began wishing and wheedling for something totally unneeded or gratuitous, (which happened multiple times a week, incidentally), my neighbor lady would ball her right hand into a fist, smack it against her open left palm, and say “denied by the budget office!” Those five words would quickly deflate whatever pipe dream the two husbands were attempting to bring to fruition.
There it is on the collage, “Denied by the Budget Office.” I chuckle every time I see it.
This brings up another, related piece of the collage. A simple statement at the bottom of the collage that says, “hard done by” makes me smirk as well. We can apply this phrase to our husbands immediately after the budget office has denied an expenditure.
I grew up with this saying, which, of course means that when one of us kids had a tantrum or otherwise chose to feel sorry for ourselves, the expression ‘you are so hard done by’, usually stated by our mother or father, served as a reminder that, of course we were not treated unfairly or discriminated against, so we needed to get over our unfounded dissatisfaction with the world.
My neighbors had never heard that axiom, but they quickly adopted it and it now comes up frequently, especially when the two husbands realize they can’t purchase a sawmill or buy another mechanical device that for the most part would sit in the back of the shop collecting dust and mouse poop.
Then I see the little picture of crackers on this treasured crazy quilt of delightful memories, a picture of normal ordinary crackers that we like to eat with cheese. Except crackers has also become a bone of contention between the sexes on this mountain. The ladies of the respective household purchase tasty crackers, but ones that also offer a semblance of healthy eating connected with them. We buy whole grain crackers, select those with less sodium, and treats that feature other supposedly more healthful benefits but still provide taste. The men of the households, of course object. They prefer ‘real’ crackers, those made of lifeless refined flour, loaded with salt, and containing 17 chemical additions that no one can pronounce. A delightful Triscuit made with three ingredients -wheat, salt and oil- is not acceptable. Manly crackers must also contain possible carcinogens, dyes and other assorted badness in order to qualify as an edible snack.
Obviously, when we invite the neighbors over for cheese and crackers, the choice of cracker can become a topic of heated discussion.
Then, of course there is the cheese that one needs to slather on the crackers of questionable value. Our neighbors introduced us to Boursin cheese, which quickly became a mountainside favorite. Of course, when we visit them for crackers and cheese, our neighbor reminds us that Boursin cheese costs more than regular cheese, so we are not to eat much of it as it is quite expensive. Naturally this encourages my husband and I to pile it on thickly and to savor every bite. The little saying on the collage reminds us ‘that cheese is expensive.’
My husband was in the service. Since I have known him, he calls an overnight bag a ditty bag. We were visiting the crazy neighbors one evening discussing an upcoming camping trip. My husband announced he would pack his ditty bag for the occasion. The neighbors had never heard of such an expression so our neighbor lady looked up ‘ditty bag’ on Google (where on earth would we be without Google???) and discovered that yes, there is such a thing. It equates to a schnitzel bag (Germany), overnight bag, tote bag, or shower bag. The words ‘ditty bag’ are now enshrined on the collage.
I’ll share one more gem from our collage. My husband has the distressing habit of destroying lawn ornaments. He’s backed over the trellis, leaving a sizeable dent on one side, he demolished a marvelous gazing ball and solar night light by dropping a ladder on it, and he ran over a solar light with the lawn mower. These unlucky incidents are memorialized on our much-loved collage, which by the way hangs in a prominent spot in our living room.
Here's to great memories and a fantastic way to remind us of the fun and fellowship we enjoy on our little corner of the mountain.