Janet Sheridan: Things I could do without
I droned on and on about my dismay when I pronounced sherbet and then everybody, even my friends, laughed like hysterical hyenas because Mrs. Jensen said, ”Janet, it’s sherbit like hermit, not sherbert like Herbert.”
When I continued to describe my humiliation in tedious detail, Mom moved from amused sympathy to grim patience and then arrived at the end of her rope. “Janet, please, I could do without your self pity.”
As I stomped indignantly from the room, I thought, “Well, I could do without pineapple tidbits and Bob, but I’m too polite to say so.”
Though I resented Mom’s insensitive reaction to my plight, I appreciated and adopted her phrase of dismissal. To me, “Barbara, please, I could do without your off-tune warbling,” sounded smarter and more sophisticated than my usual, “Stop singing or I’ll cover your mouth and squeeze your nose until your eyes bug out.”
Sixty years later, I still use Mom’s classy phrase when things irritate me, and I use it often.
For example, I could do without lengthy road trips. Joel asks me to drive only when he’s falling asleep or hallucinating; then, he can’t rest because he’s so busy issuing corrections: “If you don’t get over or slow down, you’re going to backend that RV up ahead. The one pulling a boat and bristling with bicycles! JANET, DO YOU SEE IT?”
I could also do without smudgy pencil erasers that absorb lead during their first few uses, then smear it all over everything until the end of time. When young, I gnawed off the smudgy parts, but then, Mrs. Beal caught me mid-chew and said I looked like a black-toothed beaver. So I started buying those peaked erasers that fit over ruined ones, but, within days, the useless things split up the side and fell off whenever I tried to use them. Finally, I gave up on erasers, switched to ballpoint pens and decided to never write anything in need of erasing. Then, I spent a lifetime being a bitter disappointment to myself.
I could happily skip the day after any major holiday. As a child, I thought nothing sadder than an empty Easter basket, watermelon rinds and burned sparklers littering the yard the morning after July 4, and a Christmas tree stripped of presents and losing its needles. Now, I dislike days-after, because I have to say goodbye to loved ones, decide what to cook for dinner after relying on prescribed holiday meals and repair the ravages holiday merriment inflicted on my sanity, sleep and diet.
I’d also be thrilled if I could do without the dog days of summer. Generally thought of as the sultriest part of summer, the dog days occur approximately July 3 to Aug. 11. That’s when the Dog Star rises with the sun, and extreme heat causes us to be lethargic and inactive. I can sink into summer sloth quite well on my own, thank you, without enduring a heat wave.
I’d like to do without cookies, cake, ice cream and candy — but I can’t. If they are available, I will eat them; if I have hidden them from myself, I will find them; if they are not in my house, I will stand at the store and debate them; if I lose the debate and purchase them, I will eat them. If I eat them, I’ll feel guilty. If I feel guilty, I’ll eat more to comfort myself. So I don’t keep treats in the house — except potato chips. I’m afraid if I banned those, Joel would leave as well.
And that simply wouldn’t do.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at auntbeulah.com the first and 15th of every month.
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