Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

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Dear reader, as 2007 draws to a close, let us visit the Clarks of New Jersey and see with our own eyes a scene of domestic bliss. The year was full of such moments. We are hopeful they will multiply in 2008, contributing to a house of laughter and tranquility. Can there be more to hope for, dear reader? Perhaps, perhaps not.

In the final minutes of the year, let us also contemplate the great closing line from "Vanity Fair," William Makepeace Thackeray's masterpiece: "Which of us is happy in this world. Which of us has his desire, or in having it, is satisfied?"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Kid Stuff


Caption: Theo and Natalie wish you a Merry Christmas.

Christmas is a time of gifts. Our children don’t know it, but they are the source of some pretty good gifts – I was going to say “the greatest gifts,” but let us be honest with each other, dear reader. The greatest gifts are expensive and include major investments such as a new kitchen, or a trip to an expensive golf resort.

Our children – Natalie, 2; and Theodore, 5 – have given us the gift of poetry; they say the funniest things. Keep in mind, the written word can only give an approximation of the actual comments delivered in sugary sing-song voices, full of wonder and childish enthusiasm.

Here are some of those gifts.

• Natalie, walking into Daddy’s office and seeing a Catholic nun on the television, turns to her dad and says: “That’s Cioc Bernice.” Cioc Bernice loves you, right Natalie? “Yeah,” and she smiled.

• Theo, reading over the shoulder of his mother, asks: “Why does this say ‘Sports Thursday?” Because it’s Thursday, and this is the New York Times Sports section. “Is there a Sports Sunday?”

• Natalie, pointing to the brand name “Church” that appears on the toilet in first floor bathroom, asks her mother: “Does this say ‘potty?”

• “Desarations,” said Natalie, pointing to Christmas decorations. No it’s Decorations. Deco. “Deco.” Ray. “Ray.” Shuns. “Shuns.” Now say, decorations. “Desarations.”

• Mom tells Theo she’s not giving plastic toys for Christmas, because of lead paint. “But if it’s from Santa Claus, it won’t have lead,” he responded, faithfully.

• Practicing for a visit to Santa Claus, Natalie sits on her dad’s lap. What’s your name? “Nat.” How old are you? “Three.” What do you want for Christmas? “A present.”

• Theo explained that a dinosaur has 100 bones. Daddy wasn’t so sure. “I’m telling the truth.” Would you ever lie to me? “What’s a LIE-DA-MEE?”

• After learning how the New Jersey Lottery Winning Line BINGO scratch-off card is played, Theo says, “Dad, I’m glad you bought this bingo card.” I’m glad you’re glad, Theo. “I want to go to a store that sells a lot of them, so we can buy them.”

• Do you know where Santa Claus lives, Natalie? “Yeah; New York City.”

To all readers everywhere, The Clarks of New Jersey wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

# # # Reader Participation, Holiday Version # # #

What’s your favorite funny line from a kid? Please share it with us.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"A Trip to Gotham City" or "The Christmas Miracle"


Caption: The M&M store in the background should be called the S&M store, for the pain it inflicts upon willing visitors.

A tour of the M&M store in Manhattan, a reunion with long lost Aunt Elanore (a.k.a. Tita Norie), and a dashing car-chase through a crowded parking garage stand out as highlights from our Dec. 15 trip to New York City.

“Why does the Empire State Building keep moving?” asked five-year-old Theo as we approached the skyline.

We were the first to arrive at the Best Western on 48th Street, so the Clarks of New Jersey took a tour of the M&M store – the most unnecessary store in all of retail, unless you like M&M logo golf balls. Still, it was packed. Two employees with bullhorns stood at both ends of the escalators, encouraging the cattle to keep moving, as to avoid nasty and litigious pile ups. Yes, dear reader, the Christmas spirit was in full flow!

A word about Tita Norie: She is Margie’s cousin from St. Louis. Her personality is cheerful, funny, engaging. She works for Bunge – the world’s largest something or other in the soybean processing industry. Norie brought thoughtful gifts for the children, and led Theo by the hand through crowded Times Square to and from Virgil’s restaurant on 44th Street. We hope Norie can some day visit us in Metuchen.

After saying good bye, we walked to the parking garage, retrieved our car, then met the most depressing traffic jam ever encountered by this family. The garage exited onto 50th Street heading toward holiday-jammed Broadway, there was no opening whatsoever, and cars we’re crawling. But that was the least of the problem, because pedestrian traffic – unending and unsympathetic – on the sidewalk in front of our car made any activity on 50th Street moot. It looked hopeless.

Then came our Christmas miracle!

An ambulance begins inching his way down 50th street, lights and sirens blazing. To make way for this new catastrophe, a bus pulls over onto the sidewalk in front of us, crashing into the side of an adjacent building and destroying its awning. Now, our way is completely sealed off by the side of the immobilized bus. As attendants rushed to the crash scene, Daddy seized the opportunity. He put the car in reverse, and headed to the other end of the parking garage, against traffic and amid howls of protest from parking attendants.

The 49th street exit was in clear view, when a small angry man with white hair jumped in front of the car to block my exit. (Apparently, this garage was engaged in some kind of business feud with the other garage.) He looked like he would not let me through, even if it kills him. Margie pleaded with him. Then we told him about the bus, then another attendant pointed toward the blocked exit. Finally, grudgingly, he said “you can go.”

Was the angry man inspired by divine, Christmas angels? Dear reader, who can tell? But the Clarks of New Jersey witnessed a transformation as dramatic as that of Ebeneezor Scrooge or George Bailey. Except, it was real!

For all we know, the bus is still there on the 50th street sidewalk blocking the exit of the garage.

# # # READER PARTICIPATION SEGMENT # # #
Do you have a Christmas miracle story? Please share it with us.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Clarks of N.J. Join the YMCA


Caption: Theo, Nat and Margie, before dad's prodigious sleep.

If a member of the Metuchen YMCA, let’s call him James, had walked into the men’s locker room at 2:20 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 1, here is what he would have seen. Casey, Theo and Natalie fumbling with clothes, shoes, lockers, shoes and swimsuits. And, oh, by the way, James would have also seen Margie. That’s right – all four of us were in the men’s locker room organizing our gym clothes!

It’s a long story, but let us turn our eyes from this scene of familiar disorganization. There were plenty of other happy moments to record for posterity. All four of us enjoyed our first day as members of the YMCA. We remained to the very end of the “Family Swim,” then we discovered that there’s really no difference between “Family Swim” and “Open Swim,” and we didn’t need to rush.

Then Natalie enjoyed what to her was an exotic hydro therapy during which she stood in a tiled room and let water fall from a specially designed faucet over her back, washing away her stress. It was the first such experience for little Natalie, and she eagerly looks forward to her next “shower,” as most of us call it.

Casey performed heroic feats of strength in the exercise room, where several flat screen TVs broadcast sporting events to inspire members to new levels of exertion. This place is fabulous. And we all enjoyed meeting our tour guide, Maddie, who helps out in the babysitting room occasionally.

Finally, this is going to sound like an exaggeration, but Casey slept a full 13 hours Saturday night. It must have been all the swimming.

Note to friends and relatives: When you come visit us, there’s a good chance we can secure guest passes for you. We ask only that you follow normal locker room protocol.

# # # Reader Participation # # #
Is there anything better than 13 hours of sleep? Anything in the world?