Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Parlor Tricks

My first husband, He Who Shall Not Be Named, once described me in glowing terms to a friend of ours. I don’t recall his exact words, but suffice it to say that they caused me to stop, cock my head (and my imaginary Colt 45), and say, “I think the sum of my existence has just been condensed into ‘an incredible ability to solve anagrams.’” Oh well, if you have to be known for something…

Then there’s my pal Barbara who likes me to go along with her when she shops for fabric. Not only because I tend to love the same vintage prints for quilts, and the same colors and textures for home décor projects that she does, but also because I function as her personal calculator.

“So if my window is 60” long, and I want two panels…” she begins.

“You need four yards,” I offer, completing her sentence. “And that’s $104, less your 40% off coupon makes it $62.40.”

Barbara’s eyes have rolled so far up into their sockets that I think she’s going to faint, but then she cracks up laughing and tells me I’m a freak of nature. Duh. Tell me something I don’t know.

I’m sort of cursed with these odd little parlor tricks that no one except Will Shortz could possibly care about. I also know all the words to a million show tunes, and old songs from way before my time. I’m what you should probably call a throwback. It’s like a weirdness that I don’t even understand. Lastly, I have an uncanny ability to remember everyone’s birthday, wedding anniversary and date of their first communion or bar mitzvah, as the case may be. My step-daughter calls me Rainman for a reason.

Meanwhile, back at the fabric store…

“See, I’d love to ask you how you did that, but we both know I couldn’t possibly process that in a hundred years, so I’ll spare you the effort,” Barb says.

“But wouldn’t you rather know how to do it, too? I can tell you, it’s really easy. Besides, you have a very big brain and your capabilities far exceed mine in a zillion ways. Come on… it’ll be fun.”

“Fun? Have you totally lost your mind? Travel is fun. Movies are fun. Except for that awful movie with Mickey Roarke last year. (The opposite of fun.) Shopping for fabric is fun. Computing yardage, cost and discounts: decidedly not fun.”

I admit defeat. If Barbara doesn’t want to know, I can’t insist. Besides, now she’s dependent on me, and she needs me to go with her whenever she’s on a quest for just the right fabric. I’d say I’ve got it made.


  1. Sounds like a great arrangement! I say when you have a great parlor trick, just do it with flair and never let 'em see what's behind the screen.

  2. Oh wow.. I wish I had your head for numbers and computing. I use my husband for this. If you ever wanna share your tricks, I'll be happy to enroll for the class:-)

  3. I used to be able to do math, but I'm afraid I only remember phone numbers now! Let me know if you're ever in the mood to go shopping in Lawrence, I could use your skills on Mass Street! (More importantly, we need to find a way to channel your skills into exponentially increasing our 401k's!)
    I also wanted to propose that 2010 actually does begin a new decade, if 2000 began the new millennium... 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 are the 10 years that comprise the first decade, while 2010-2019 will comprise the next decade (uh, the "teens?"), 2020-2029 will comprise the next (that one should definitely be called the "twenties" and with any luck they will roar), etc.
    That, and the Oreo Truffles sound divine!

  4. Math is not and never has been my strong suit. I usually grab my phone and use the calculator on it when I'm at the store.

  5. That sounds cool to me...mostly because I can't do math. But you reminded me that I will soon be using the words "My first husband," actually. I hadn't thought about that. "My first husband," "stepdaughter," "my husband"...an adjustment, to say the least!

  6. Hi Leah! Fast mental arithmentic IS a blessing and (unlike calculus) a huge life skill. But I'm with you - more folk would have it if it was valued and regarded as a learnable skill, and not freakish. What's next? "Gosh you're a freak! You can spell and do punctuation without thinking!" Closer than we'd like. Indigo

  7. I have to do this for my mom. Math is not her thing. I don't mind, but I wish she would at least try it on her own.

  8. I can do a lot of numbers in my head too. I had a teacher in 7th and 8th grade who insisted we learn how to do simple math in our heads. I'm thankful for that now.

    My only parlor trick now is that I know a lot of useless information, and despite my age, can beat most people at Trivial Pursuit. No one will play that game with me anymore.

  9. It is definitely a good thing to have a good memory. But your mind does remind me of a fast computer. A bit much for a mortal. It is a blessing!