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MAY 2006 -DECEMBER 2007

DECEMBER 2007

Dear Madrone, We are scandalized on the block. The neighbor down the street, I'll call him "Lenny", although his name is really Joe, was married to "Maria" (that's her actual name, but I figure no one knows a Maria married to a Lenny, so I'm safe. ) These two were married a long time 25 years, three kids, and Maria, rest her soul, up and died from one of those diseases that no one talks about. At least no one talked about it to me. Anyhow, it wasn't that long ago, maybe five six months. Last night, at the softball game, there was "Lenny" with a blonde, half his age, which doesn't make her all that young, cause "Lenny" is no spring chicken, believe me, who, how can I say this, was airing her"girls" enough so that the umpire kept calling balls when clearly the strikes were right on the money. The problem is this.. there is a neighborhood picnic every year, and we think that "Lenny" is going to bring the blonde as they are now seen everywhere together glued to the hip. Can we do anything about this?

Shocked, shocked shocked, Stormstown

FULL STORY

NOVEMBER 2007

Dear Madrone,

The man who does the gardening is not a bad man, don't get me wrong. He comes on time, most of the time, and does a reasonable job, most reasonably. But he charges me an arm and an leg, and doesn't hide the fact that it's the most he gets from anyone. I don't know why I should put up with this, so when I very nicely pointed this out, he, can you believe this, raised his voice. So I says to him, who do you think I am? Your daughter? Which I am not, so he had to apologize. Which he did, but he still charges me extra. What should I do?

Steamed, Frog Hollow

FULL STORY

OCT 2007

Dear Madrone,

The problem is my daughter in law's best friend's mother, Renny. I've known her for years, we grew up on the same block in the old neighborhood, her husband and mine were in the same union, (may they both rest), and on top of that, we are born exactly three days apart. So you think we could get along. But no. Every time, and I mean every time, it doesn't matter if we're at a funeral or a first communion, she has to compare. If it's something good, she has better, if it's something bad, then she has worse. If I have a pain in my hand, she has one up her elbow. If I got a bargain at Costco's, let's say ten boxes of pasta for $5.00, she got 20 boxes for $7.00, if my mother in law got me an abandoned mink at a discount at the repair department, her cousin found her one for half the price on eBay whatever that is. I thought I was used to it, that's how she is, not malicious.

FULL STORY

SEP 2007

Dear Madrone,

What is it with people who say one thing and then do another? Let me tell you what happened to me. My neighbor across the street, Lismina, told me that under no circumstances was she going to the fortieth birthday of our neighbor Caddie's husband down the block, which was being held at the Legion Hall, but we were told it was formal, and that they were keeping a list of who gave what. Which I didn't mind, because, hey, it's their party. By the time Lismina got through with her complaining about their nerve and the dump that the Legion Hall is, and why should she spend good money on a nice dress, and who did they think they were, demanding gifts, especially after the skimpy check they gave her goddaughter for her first communion

FULL STORY

AUG 2007

Dear Madrone,

I hate spaghetti. What can I say? I've hated spaghetti ever since the first time I tasted it. It looks like worms. And I don't eat worms. Macaroni, now that's a different thing all together. It's round and smooth, each mouthful is a little bit of heaven, if heaven is a marinara sauce seasoned with just a hint of basil, flavored by the browning of an onion, that is taken out, not left in to fall apart, thank you very much.

FULL STORY

JULY 2007

Dear Madrone,

My sister in law's youngest brother's nephew, is, through nobody's fault, a very religious person. He prays at the drop of a hat. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against prayer, really. And he can pray 24/7 in the privacy of his own home, more power to him. It's just that at the family barbecues, he makes everyone drop what they are doing and hold hands while he composes prayers that wander around a whole bunch of different neighborhoods, some of which I don't mind living in, but some of which I would lock the car doors before I drive through, if you know what I'm saying. How can we tactfully suggest to my sister in law that she makes this problem go away?

FULL STORY

JUNE 2007

Dear Madrone,

What do you tell someone who has no clue? I mean, the person in question THINKS that her husband is faithful, her children are smart and her clothes fit. And that's just the beginning of what she doesn't know. She also thinks that the earth, the sun and the moon revolve around her pinky toe. This person, my baby brother's second wife, BTW, I'm not saying her name, let's just say it begins with C for Clueless is the burr on my a**, excuse my French. I have to see her every Sunday for the barbecue, and I have to listen to her go on and on about how great she and everything she touches is. I have to smile, because my mother, god bless, will not allow anything but smiles, and I am a good daughter, I will not upset her just to get the satisfaction of seeing the smile wiped off the face of someone who thinks who she is, but she really isn't. I could put up with it, I really could, if it was just about me, but last Sunday, at the barbecue I was just telling you about, her brat child snatched my daughter's Napoleon, and ate it right in front of her while the tears ran down my honey's face. Clueless laughed it off, saying her baby did mine a favor, since when did a fatso need another Napoleon. I managed not to throttle her, but with difficulty, plus which, my brother, because he has a guilty conscience from all his running around, stuck up for her. Now I ask you!!! Am I within my rights to tell her off? Or must I hold my tongue for peace in the family?

FULL STORY

 

MAY 2007

Dear Madrone,

I will get right to it. My ankles are very FAT. So fat that if I don't wear some kind of girdle sock, they look like pizza dough that's been rising overnight and is spilling out over the bowl just before you punch it down to reknead it. That fat. So along with the girdle socks, I always wear bell bottom pants, this works very well. No one has to know, and that's how I like it. Not that I'm vain or anything, but the rest of me is pretty darn nice. My ankles, however, forgettabout it. Here's my problem. My best friend in all the world, Lallie, is getting married and she wants me to be maid of honor. Nice, you say, how's that a problem? You wear a nice gown, whose gonna see the ankles? Well Lallie isn't a lace and roses type, she wants her girls wearing cocktail dresses. At the knee. I can't do it, Madrone, I can't. So I told her no. And now my name is mud.

Mud, Meridien

FULL STORY

APRIL 2007

Dear Madrone,

Why must I give so much money every year to people that I am not related to? This irks me to no end. Taxes keeping my family from having a nice house in Westchester.

Dear I figure you don't live in Westchester,

FULL STORY

March 2007

Dear Madrone,

My mother, knock on wood, is doing OK in the health department considering she's pushing 90. But what can I say, the wool is beginning to gather where there aren't any sheep. I mean, she can't remember from one day to the next, this one's phone number or that one's arrangement to go to the Costco with her for end of month specials on bulk Contadina crushed tomatoes, or what I, her son, do for a living. But when I took her to the doctor, she was sharp as a frigging tack. Every medicine, for each ailment, on lists, with dates, and costs, as well as the tests she had to take, their results, which doctor looked where, inside and out. In other words, it was like Web MD, but personal, for her.

FULL STORY

FEBRUARY 2007

Dear Madrone,

I was walking down the street thinking evil thoughts about a certain person who would have no problem thinking the same about me, and who should appear out of the blue, but another person I can't stand. Like I conjured him up. It scared me so much, I started to think nice thoughts, about my grandson and how good last night's lasagna tasted and the fun I was going to have at the senior center tomorrow, we're knitting socks for people with one foot only, so we don't have to do pairs. And I looked up and there was my best friend's daughter pushing her little baby, such a doll face, in a stroller, just came from the store, and invited me over for coffee. I mean is it possible for the malocchio to work in reverse? Concerned, LaJolla

FULL STORY

JANUARY 2007

Dear Madrone,

My husband, god bless him, puts up with a lot from everyone. The car he bought second hand from his brother Lou has bald tires, he shrugs. The postman delivers our mail looking like the FBI examined it for fingerprints, if you know what I'm saying, he smiles. He lends money with an open hand, and doesn't spend any of his precious seconds trying to get repaid. My sister hit him up for a decent amount WITHOUT TELLING ME, and it was only when I wondered to her face how she and her husband managed a vacation in Aruba when their electricity had been cut off the month before, she let it slip. I got the repayment but only because I threatened to tell our mother exactly what she'd been doing when everyone thought she was working nights at Cost Co. What can I do? I'm going crazy with the way everyone takes advantage.

Not a chump, Bemidji

FULL STORY

DECEMBER 2006


Dear Readers

It's the holidays. And many of you write me, Madrone, tell us what to do about all these thingamajigs that everyone has to have. Phones take pictures and our hair dryers are also good for making bread. What's going on, the world is going crazy. How can we buy something for anyone when we don't know what the thing is called let alone what it's good for. Help us we implore you Madrone, take pity on us!! We're begging you.

FULL STORY

NOVEMBER 2006

Dear Madrone,

My mother-in-law keeps bugging me for the recipe to my gravy. Now don't get me wrong, I love her as much as I love anyone I'm not related to, but I can not under any circumstances give her the information she requires. Even if I wanted to, which I don't, she is deaf as a post and a complete train wreck in the kitchen. It's a wonder my husband and his sister didn't die of botulism before they were twelve. I can't have her going around telling everyone that she learned this recipe from me. I learned it from my own mother, may she rest, who made me swear on her death bed that not one word of it would pass my lips to anyone other than a child of my own. My husband says nothing, but I know his feelings are hurt. But what can I do? Stewed, Lowville

FULL STORY

OCTOBER 2006

Dear Readers, I would like to share with you this series of letters, after which I would like to make a very important point,which could save, if not lives, then a great deal of agita down the line.

Dear Madrone,

What do you think of someone who wears white pants after Labor Day?

Shocked, Lost Valley

FULL STORY

SEPTEMBER 2006

Dear Readers,

Back to school. Every September I find I have to repeat this, just because new people need to hear it, and old people have brains like the cheesecloth we used to strain my grandfather's jugs of Marsala.

For the love of Mike, don't go telling your kids never to fight. That's insane. It gives all the bullies they are ever going to meet a free pass. The thing about bullies is that they can SMELL the free pass three hallways away. Your poor schmoe of a kid sends out a radar, and kaboom, gone is their lunch money, or their gym clothes or their new pencils. Now I'm not saying they need to start fights, or even lift a finger They just have to have no problem with landing a good kick in the shins IF it ever came to that.

FULL STORY

AUGUST 2006

Dear Madrone,

What can you do when faced with a no class individual, who has no idea of what's right and when this is pointed out, takes offense when he should take a lesson?

Let me explain. I was at dinner, a nice restaurant, cloth napkins and flowers so perfect you could swear they were real, and this babbo starts in on the cell phone. Now if it was an emergency, like his mother was drawing her last, or he hit the lotto and someone was calling to tell, now that I could understand. But no, it was an old girlfriend calling up to find out the high school reunion time. When I pointed out that the call could wait, it was our tenth anniversary, he, shall we say, reacted poorly.

FULL STORY

JULY 2006

Dear Madrone, What is the correct thing to say when someone asks you who you think the baby looks like? What if it doesn't look like anyone? Or worse, what if it looks like someone who the resemblance would not be polite to bring to people's attention, if you know what I'm saying? The Milkman, Port Jervis

Dear Milk, There is only one safe response in either case, in fact, in any case. It is as follows: You look carefully at the infant in question, puzzle for a while, like you're really thinking it over and then without exception say: Well, the baby is perfect mix of ______________ and _______________. In the blanks, insert the names of the people who have publicly claimed the child as their direct genetic material.. In the case of only one person claiming, then there is only one blank. Fill it with that name. Use my reply and that will be the end of the conversation, trust me.

FULL STORY

JUNE 2006

Dear Madrone, what is attitude? How do I get some? Doormat, Lesterville

To ALL the Doormats: Attitude is related to savvy, but not the same thing. A person with attitude but no savvy often ends up in the emergency room of life, with things broken, hearts, noses, promises. A person with savvy, but no attitude might end up a professor or something, an egghead who knows what's going on, but can't do anything about it. Attitude comes in degrees, and you don 't have to say a word...it's how you look out of your eyes. BACK OFF! or DON'T START WITH ME! or I KNOW WHAT"S WHAT. In other words, MESS AT YOUR OWN RISK.

FULL STORY

MAY 2006

Dear Madrone,

I worry about my boy Eddie. He lives a wild life, ok he's 21, when else is he going to do it? But still, no health benefits, smokes cigarettes, and who knows what else, rides a motorcycle without his helmet, and doesn't go to church. I can't even talk to him these days without bringing up one or another of these topics and then we fight, or worse, he ignores. You don't have to tell me that nagging is a waste, it hasn't done any good. and yet, what if he kills himself or someone else, how will I feel if I just let all that go without saying a word. I will feel guilty, which is another one of your wastes. HELP ME MADRONE!! I am going crazy. Worry Wart, North Pensacola

FULL STORY

MORE COLUMNS (DECEMBER 2004-APRIL2006).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pamela Bongiorno Monk is a full time faculty member of Penn State University, where she teaches creative writing, both fiction and non fiction. She pursues freelance writing, authoring plays and feature articles. She has broken nearly as many rules of family as she has enforced.

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