The Tekcub List

If you know me – if we have spoken for even five minutes – you know that worrying is one of my greatest skills. In fact, there are few things I do not worry about. So when my guru Mama Kat posed the idea of creating a reverse bucket list – a list of things you hope you NEVER do before you die – I could barely contain the creative juices (which could be laced, I’m just sayin’). In order to avoid jinxing myself and boring you, I decided to set aside my chronic day-to-day worries (car accidents, aneurysms, cancer, public pukage, genetic diseases, dying alone, poverty, Rick Santorum, etc.) and focus instead on some of the more obscure (but real!) concerns I have. As such, below are some highlights of my “Tekcub List.” I never want to …

Be without the fabulous prompts provided by Mama Kat and her Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop

Suffer the kind of brain damage that leads to “Locked In Syndrome
I officially appoint my sister and my friends Kiki and Loren to ensure that if this does happen, and if for some odd reason the plug is not pulled IMMEDIATELY upon diagnosis, a private waxer is brought in at least once a month to maintain my dignity.

Live in Michigan again
Despite my new-found appreciation for Detroit thanks to Jeffrey Eugenides, and despite my love of Pizza House chapatis, I very much hope I am never again forced to live in bad-accented Midwestern hell (no disrespect to any indigenous peoples, some of whom I consider close friends).

Find myself in a desolate Utah canyon with no cell service, trapped between two boulders and forced to choose between dying a horrible death or cutting off my own arm with a pocket knife
I think we know how that would turn out.

Appear as a contestant on “Fear Factor”
Worms send me into convulsions, in general and as an entrée.

Be photographed by paparazzi/run into John Taylor, Simon Le Bon, Scott Porter, Kyle Chandler, Jon Hamm or Jean Dujardin while not wearing make-up
Believe me, it would hurt the public as much as it would hurt me.

Be framed for a heinous crime, wrongly convicted and sent to maximum security prison

Observe a heinous crime and have to enter Witness Protection

Attempt, fail, and die trying to climb Mt. Everest
Just seems unnecessary and not a particularly enjoyable way to expire.

Get stuck in the Sierra Nevadas during a blizzard and have to resort to cannibalism to survive

A Donner Party is no party at all.

Sky dive
More like sky die.

Contract cholera, Ebola, Fatal Familial Insomnia, dysentery, typhus, kuru or the plague, among many, many others
These are just a few of my greatest hits.

Wear Mom Jeans

Choke to death on a cheese doodle

Have someone sneak into my bedroom whilst I slumber and cut my hair into a 70s-era bi-level

Become allergic to Cadbury Crème Eggs

Seek treatment at a fertility clinic where, unbeknownst to us, the evil doctors replace their patients’ manly “samples” with their own, resulting in 8,000 artificial insemination babies who all have the same genetic lazy eye
Please see the terrifying 1994 made-for-TV movie “The Babymaker: The Dr. Cecil B. Jacobson Story” starring Melissa Gilbert for details.

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The Tekcub List

Two of Diamonds

Grandma E and Me, 1973

It has never been like me to lose things of import – or un-import, really. But not even the best keepers of shit have flawless track records. And last spring, I made the fatal mistake of getting into the shower still wearing my earrings – small diamond studs I had worn every day for 13 years. This day, only one came home.

I was devastated, not because I had lost a diamond earring but because I had lost this diamond earring – a little piece of my Grandma Ethel I carried around every day. Jan had specifically given the earrings to me and not my sister when Grandma died, because she trusted me and not my sister to keep them safe. Now, as usual, I had completely failed her. The earrings sat in a dark green velour box from Marsh & Sons in Millburn, even though they actually came from the less upscale Walter Baumann in West Orange. Just like Grandma seemed to be doing for much of her life, the earrings were posing as something “better” than what they were.

Grandma Ethel was really the only grandparent I knew (that’s another blog post). She valued appearances and labels and titles and thought her ginormous gold, diamond and eilat stone ring was the ultimate sign of taste and class. She missed the Friday night service of my bat mitzvah so she could go to the beauty parlor. Rich people impressed her, and she aspired to be like them (hence the ginormous ring). She didn’t cook in her apartment; she used her oven for storage (sometimes of cookies, which was nice). The only food she ever served us was boiled hot dogs, or grilled cheese, when she babysat at our house. Grandma didn’t winter in Florida or live in a retirement community. She didn’t brag about us to her mah jong friends, but she bragged about her mah jong friends and their families to us. She referred to said friends as “the girls,” even though their average age was 86. She used all kinds of derogatory Yiddish terms I can’t spell. She was known for ending every meal with, “I couldn’t eat another bite,” then eating another bite. Or four. She chose which “Jeopardy” contestant to root for based on which one she thought was Jewish. Nevermind if said contestant was not actually Jewish, or was, but also happened to be a serial killer/child molester – “I hope the Jew wins.”

But she was also a third parent to us – the kind you could confide in, the kind to whom you could confess your real whereabouts, the kind who would talk to you on the phone for as long as you wanted on Saturday nights when you were lonely and sad. I still know her old phone number by heart. She let us stay up late to watch “Fantasy Island.” She picked us up from school when Jan couldn’t, including on the day of the Great 2nd Grade Barf Incident of 1980. She waited on endless lines and went to every store north of the Raritan to find us Cabbage Patch Kids (which she finally did, at Caldor’s). She sat with us at the kitchen table making macrame braclets and ribbon barrettes in hideous color combinations Jan would not approve of. She pretended to care that John Taylor’s birthday was June 20th and she listened intently to endless middle school dramas as if the were the plot of her “stories.” Jan’s beauty supplies were totally off limits, but Grandma let us play with her Final Net and teasing brush. She took us to lunch at Diet Works and for ice cream at Friendly’s (she liked coffee Fribbles). When I was bracing for one of the most difficult challenges of my life – a pre-K swimming lesson at the Fanwood Y – she told me she had faith in me. (I still cried.) It was not uncommon for her to call us “Doll.”

When I lost the earring, I felt like I had lost a part of her.

Last Saturday, I awoke to find that Keith was already out and about. He called and said he was “running errands,” which made me suspicious, because he usually provides specific coordinates. A little while later he returned carrying a jewelry box – not a green velour box from Marsh & Sons, not a blue box from Walter Baumann. This was a brown box from a place, no doubt, where no New Jersey Jew had ever set foot: the cross-wearing Italian diamond dealer from whom Keith and his brothers purchased my engagement ring and my SILs’. Sparkling inside was the surviving earring from the pair Grandma had worn, plus a new, perfect match. Neither of which will EVER see the inside of a shower, it should be noted.

I love having that lost piece of Grandma back. But what I love even more is the idea that now “the pair” is half Grandma, half Keith – as if they collaborated. It’s ridonculous, I know. But it comforts me because it makes me feel like she’s a little closer to still being part of our lives.

Two of Diamonds