I admit – nay, revel in – the fact that I am not entirely normal. I had a somewhat less-than-ordinary upbringing. To this day, I strive to lead my life on my terms, as much as that flummoxes my friends and family. I was an odd little girl. Okay, maybe not as unique as Wednesday Addams, but odd in my own way. My Mom and Dad didn’t try to change that. My evil, wicked, former stepfather Fulldemerde, did try to make me toe the line (his line), but I resisted. More on that later.
When I was five years old, Mom and Dad (still married to each other), moved to Holland. I loved it. Remind me to regale you with tales of my Dutch childhood some other time. The summer of my sixth year, Mom and I took off on our own for several weeks. We were like Thelma and Little Louise. We didn’t really have any plans. Let me re-phrase that…Mom, being the adult, didn’t have any concrete plans. I was the kid; I didn’t need no stinking plans. I was happy to be away from my brother and having a real-life adventure with my beautiful Mom. Life with Mom was never dull. I learned how to read a map so I could help Mom navigate. Strangely enough, we ended up lost a few times. I learned how to make a martini, an important life skill. I rode around in the back of a bright red MG. Mom and I visited family friends who lived near Geneva. Aloha (yes, that was her name) had a zippy MG. Mom and Aloha made a little nest for me on the back shelf, complete with a pillow and blankie, and we zipped happily around the Swiss countryside, laughing the whole time. Mom and I discovered the magical village of Verbier, Switzerland. I was in heaven there, traipsing through fields full of wildflowers, splashing about in ice-fed streams, eating my body weight in raclettes, making martinis for Mom so we could enjoy the sun setting over the mountains and valleys. You know, normal, ordinary childhood stuff. It was the grandest of Grand Adventures, and came to an end far too quickly.
The next year, Mom and Dad decided to travel to Scandinavia. We left the pesky younger brother behind in the care of our immensely unpleasant Dutch nanny, and off we went. The nanny loved my brother. She didn’t like me. It was mutual. Mom, Dad and I also had a great time…maybe not as Grand as the girls’ trip the year before, but it was nifty.
We went to the Gardens of Tivoli in Copenhagen. I rode my first roller coaster, and loved it. I think I dragged the parental units back several more times. To hear me crow about Denmark, you’d have thought there was nothing there but Tivoli, and nothing else in Tivoli but the big roller coaster. We saw the Little Mermaid statue. Mom and I took a day trip, just the two of us, around the Danish countryside. We went to Norway. What a marvelous country. We traveled ALL THE WAY NORTH to Kirkenes. Who knew it was so close to Murmansk? Someone knew, but that someone was not a seven-year-old Mari. We stayed out past midnight and it didn’t get dark. We had both reindeer and whale meat. Whale meat was heavy and oily and I wasn’t a fan. We traveled around other parts of Norway – saw fjords and stave churches and ate lots of fish.
What, to a seven year old, could top Denmark and Norway? I’ll tell you what: Sweden. One nifty fact about our trip to Sweden is that it coincided with the Högertrafikomläggningen. You know, I am not making up this word. This was the weekend that traffic in Sweden changed from driving on the left side of the road to the right. The day itself was “Dagen H” – “H” being for that smorgasbord of letters above.
Here’s a succinct description:
“On Dagen H, Sunday, 3 September, all non-essential traffic was banned from the roads from 01:00 to 06:00. Any vehicles on the roads during that time had to follow special rules. All vehicles had to come to a complete stop at 04:50, then carefully change to the right-hand side of the road and stop again before being allowed to proceed at 05:00. In Stockholm and Malmö, however, the ban was longer — from 10:00 on Saturday until 15:00 on Sunday — to allow work crews to reconfigure intersections.”
It was all very civilized…those crafty Swedes. It worked. We tourists were not killed in a fiery head-on collision of confusion and speed. And, so we went to Stockholm, Dad happily driving on the “correct” side of the road.
Stockholm was lovely. I don’t remember much. It is a big city, with pretty buildings, surrounded by water, surrounded by islands. All with Swedes driving on the right side of the road, likely swearing loudly in Swedish and offering all manner of creative hand gestures. Probably while eating lingonberries, meatballs and chewy fish-shaped candy. Although this, in and of itself was a blast, it was not Stockholm’s defining attribute. What made Stockholm so fabulous? I’ll tell you!
My parents thought they’d do something nice for me. (As if taking me, without the pesky younger sibling, on a trip to Scandinavia wasn’t nice enough). They got tickets to the Osmond Brothers “Park Tour.” I don’t remember the name of the venue. The concert was a dinner show outdoors. We had tickets very close to the stage. Close enough for me to reach out and touch (figuratively speaking) Donny Osmond. I was enthralled. Mesmerized, even. I developed an instant crush on the young Donny. Some might have called it puppy love. What wasn’t to love? His adorable grin. His abundance of white teeth (is it me or do all the Osmonds have an abundance of teeth?). His voice, personality, charm. I decided that THIS was the boy for me. Mom somehow even got us backstage after the performance to meet the Osmonds. I, normally a chatty little creature, was unable to utter a word. I think I drooled. I probably giggled a lot. I SHOOK DONNY’s HAND. I was in heaven. Tivoli became a distant memory. Land of the Midnight Sun? Meh…these could not hold a candle to the Osmonds.
I like to tell people that I was such a tomboy that I wrote fan letters to football players (namely, Quarterbacks, with the occasional Wide Receiver thrown in for variety) when my peers were swooning over the Teen Magazine heartthrob du jour. This is a true statement. However, I made an exception for Donny. I sprinkled my prolific NFL letter-writing campaign with letters to my One True Love, Donny Osmond. I don’t think he ever responded. If he did, the letter must have been intercepted by Fulldemerde (Mom married him when I was nine). He found, opened and destroyed mail containing autographed photos of players he didn’t like, so why not a return letter from Donny? How else can I explain not hearing from Donny. Surely, he recognized that we were destined for each other.
I was not heartbroken for long. I am blessed (some would say “cursed” – they would be wrong) with a short attention span. The love of my life when I was seven was did not occupy that same exalted position when I was thirteen. Or eleven. I tried to get him to notice me, to no avail. I moved on to professional athletes. Because I felt thwarted by Donny, I never did pursue another typical pre-teen heartthrob. He ruined me.
I also quickly outgrew the music of the Osmonds. You can’t really blame me, can you? I don’t dislike the family. I just don’t like their music. It was great when I was seven. Actually, even then, had Donny not wormed his way into my heart, I probably would have recognized that their music was not for me. Why, oh why, couldn’t Mom have taken me to Montreux, Switzerland, while we were in the area to see Deep Purple?! Alas, I digress…
I have a very dear friend who, to this day, LOVES the Osmonds. Alba is a grown up. Really. She also loves show tunes. Again, not for me, but I’m not judging her.
I had the opportunity to meet Alba for lunch last week. We’ve been friends for 30 years. We haven’t seen each other in eight years or so. I love this woman. We had so much to talk about, we needed to catch up on years of life. The subject of Donny Osmond came up in conversation. How does that happen, you may ask? I have no idea. Of all the topics to discuss, why did Donny even make the top 40? Speaking of Top 40…did he or this toothy brothers ever record anything that made the list?!
Alba, too, has a Donny Osmond story. Hers is much better than mine…and more recent. A couple of years ago, Alba and her entire family (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews) rented a home in Colorado. Every family member drove to the vacation home; some from the West Coast, some from the East Coast. After an idyllic holiday, the family dispersed. Alba, one of her sisters and parents drove back to California. En route, they stopped in Las Vegas for a few nights. Somewhere between Colorado and Nevada, they had lunch at a questionable restaurant. Alba’s sister started to feel ill immediately. Alba thought her sister succumbed to a stomach bug, and didn’t think twice. When they checked into the hotel, they discovered that Donny and Marie were in town, so they bought tickets for the show that night.
This was not a dinner show – it was a traditional theater setting. Although the tickets were pricey, Alba thought they’d be in the nose bleed section, as these were last minute acquisitions. An hour or so before show time, Alba started to feel poorly. Her stomach rumbled; she was chilled but sweaty; she was green around the gills; her throat was tight. Nothing, however, would dissuade her. She had tickets to see Donny, and she would not be flattened by intestinal distress. She came to realize that perhaps she and her sister had food poisoning. Food poisoning be damned. The show must go on.
I may have stashed some plastic grocery bags into my purse, just in case. I may not have done that. I may have stayed in my room and complained, all the while staying within arms’ reach of the toilet. I am not a stud or diehard fan. Alba is. Alba stood in the line waiting to enter the theater. She breathed deeply and clenched her teeth. Upon entering the venue, she discovered that their seats were front row center. Close enough for her to reach out and touch (figuratively speaking) Donny Osmond. No nosebleed seats for these sisters. Alba was beside herself with joy. And still her stomach rumbled. Alba kept her hand over her mouth, willing her stomach to behave nicely.
Towards the end of the show, Donny went to the edge of the stage and started to shake hands with his adoring fans. Alba extended her right hand, her heart was hammering in her chest. She was about to touch her idol. It was at that exact time that her stomach decided to misbehave. And misbehave it did. All over Donny’s shoes. Alba wanted the earth to swallow her.
In my own inimitable and insensitive way, I suggested that maybe, in the future, Alba should carry airline-style barf bags when she attends concerts. This suggestion was met with invective. My helpful suggestion was followed by a question. “Did Donny say “Go Away, Little Girl” when you did that? Then I laughed uproariously. All by myself. I have a genetically-programmed character fault – I laugh at other people’s misfortunes and mishaps. My cackling was not appreciated. I think Alba and I may still be friends, but I may have to give her a couple more weeks to consider this.
Strangely enough, Alba did not find consolation in the fact that her Donny Osmond story is far, far superior to mine.
***Note – this topic for “The July Blog Challenge” was provided by Becky Harper. ***
1 July 2015