“Women like a man with a big back po’ch!”

Scenes from The Princess and the Frog that we watch over, and over, and over . . .

One of my kids’ favorite Disney movies (and mine) is The Princess and the Frog. Lately we’ve been watching it a lot, and there are a few scenes that always make us laugh, rewind and watch again.

One is the first scene with Raymond.  I apologize for the terrible quality clip. It’s the best I could find.

“Women like a man with a big back po’ch!”

S. likes to say this randomly during conversation and then slap his rear end. J. says he has a “juicy butt,” which is kind of gross, but the description has stuck.

So . . . as Ray would say, “Well, there you go!”

 

Looking at life from behind: In no particular order

I have an empty photo frame that has been hanging on our stairway wall for three years. Every now and then, my daughter will ask why I haven’t put any photos in it. Until now, I could honestly say “I have no idea!”

It’s not like we don’t have photos in frames all over the house. We have tons of them. All happy, smiling faces of our family at different points in our lives—soon after J. was born, at the beach, us beaming and her peering out from her Baby Bjorn with an expression both concerned and nearsighted. A posed family Christmas photo when J. was about 6 and S. was a toddler, where only I noticed the slight yellowish bruise on her cheek from the latest episode of S.’s “enthusiastically throwing board books” phase. In front of the Eiffel Tower, the week after Princess Diana died, long before we had any idea how full and chaotic the next 20 years would be.

I kind of felt like, “been there, done that” in the hanging photos department. But the stairway wall was bare, and needed something. So up went the photo frame, and there it sat. Somehow filling it with more of the same types of photos didn’t seem right. This frame should have its own special type of photos.

But what?

Recently I was transferring photos from an old hard drive to my laptop, and it struck me: The photos that I found most poignant were the ones taken from the back. Photos that spoke to me not through the expressions on the subjects’ faces, but their poses, their posture, their surroundings. The photos where no one felt obligated to create a “hey we’re having fun” face, but were simply going about their business, thinking who knows what.

Here’s one of my favorites: A perfect late spring day, after coming home from a joint birthday party for both kids. He was three, she was seven. We had to explain to S. what a pinwheel was, but he was fascinated. He didn’t let go of that pinwheel the rest of the afternoon. Here he’s taking a breather and watching the rest of the kids running and doing cartwheels in the yard. Who knows what was going through his head? Not knowing, I’m free to make up stories about what could have been happening in the photo.

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Here’s another one–walking to our first ride on the Tower of Terror (and many more to come):

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And there are more:

Even though I know the back story (sorry, pun really wasn’t intended but I like it so I’m keeping it) for all these photos—after all, I was always the photographer—it makes me happy to think that they could have been telling any number of stories. I can make up new ones to match them if I want. There are no faces or expressions to prove me wrong.

Which reminds me of something I sometimes think about: What are the stories of the people who randomly appear in your family photos? What were they doing at that moment? I know what we were doing, but their narrative was completely different that day. And come to think of it, wouldn’t it be cool to be able to locate all the family photos that YOU have randomly appeared in? Those photos alone could tell the entire story of your life, in no particular order.

But that’s a whole separate line of musing that I’ll get into later.

J. and I finally took that empty photo frame off the wall and filled it with a crooked collage of our favorite photos. It took some wrestling (“Aw man, now there’s a HAIR between the two pieces of glass! Ok, take it apart again.”), but now it accurately represents us: Not perfect, a little askew, slightly messy, memories overlapping, mostly happy.

Mad Hats and Teapots

Sometimes the theme of the day just presents itself. This morning J. walked downstairs wearing her Alice in Wonderland long-sleeved t-shirt from our last trip to Disney, holding the Alice in Wonderland collection of stories I gave her almost exactly a year ago (which she had just rediscovered while cleaning her room), and sat down at the dining room table with her Alice in Wonderland tea cup to drink (coffee) and read before school. As we chatted, she showed me some of the vaguely creepy illustrations in the book, and I opened Facebook to see the prompt from this day last year, which was a quote from the Mad Hatter.

Well, duh. Today I’m going to be thinking about tea. But also Disney. Which reminded me that I need to arrange her flights to visit a friend in Florida this summer. But I’ll do that later. Now, for the tea.

It just happens that a couple weeks ago, we visited a tea house for an afternoon lunch/brunch. The Mulberry House in Westfield, a cute little place that, like so many of the businesses and doctor’s offices in the area, used to be an actual house. It still feels like you’re eating in someone’s front room, shoulder to shoulder with strangers who are, like you, pretending to be civilized and pick at their very small plates of food.

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Upstairs where the bedrooms must have been, they host bridal showers, baby showers and other events that are primarily attended by women. Believe it or not, those events can get rowdy. Who would have thought that miniature cucumber sandwiches and scones would bring out the crazy? More likely it’s the BYO wine, which I wished I had thought to bring.

Downstairs in the main dining room, we choose our tea for the meal (passionfruit rose) and our food. None of the traditional teeny tea food for us. We’re ordering like we’re at the diner—an omelette and salad for me,  an omelette, hash browns and a plate of bacon for her. At least the pink teapot makes us feel somewhat dainty.

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It’s part 1 of a belated Mother’s Day “girls’ outing”, which ends with an evening trip to a nearby spa. The teen facial for her (75 minutes of scrubbing, masking, and extractions, ouch!) and a scalp/neck/shoulders/upper back massage for me. It was the only thing on the menu that I could handle. I won’t get any facial treatments because my skin is so sensitive and it’s embarrassing to leave the place with a face that resembles a ripe tomato. And I can’t book a massage because the thought of getting completely naked in front of a stranger makes me break out in hives. So, a neck massage it was.

We have a history of mother/daughter tea time. When she was little, like most little girls, she had several tea sets and I we would have mock tea dates. About that time, it became popular for girls to have actual tea parties for their birthdays, so we attended a few of those. We had our first very fancy tea at the American Girl store/restaurant in New York. At some point, going to tea became our mother/daughter bonding activity.

To be honest, looking back on the day, I’m not sure that we really enjoyed the tea, or the meal, or the spa, as much as we would have enjoyed anything else. But we had a wonderful day nonetheless.

There’s something about the ceremony of drinking tea in a place that’s dedicated only to the appreciation of tea that makes it a special experience. Like wandering around a museum, or sweating in identical short robes in the spa’s completely silent sauna, it forces you to focus on the thing that you are doing together at that very moment.  Nothing else matters, and for that brief time, only the two of you exist.

So although I don’t especially love tea, we have an entire shelf full of exotic and store-bought tea at home. Here’s the shelf.

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Choosing the tea, boiling the water, steeping the leaves, pouring the tea into our special mugs, drinking it together . . . It’s not really about the tea, it’s about quiet time spent together enjoying one, singular, solitary (yet bonding) thing.

Time for tea!