It turns out Reading is a magical land

Lately I don’t look forward to the same family traditions like I used to. I didn’t used to be like this and find it’s a byproduct of sobriety. And so the thought of going to the same Oktoberfest that we’ve already been to 9 times in the last 10 years held as much appeal as a trip to the hardware store.

My family did not share the same epiphany that trying new things is more fun than sticking to what we already know we love. And so I met general resistance when we headed to the new-to-us Reading Liederkranz Oktoberfest celebration, which only grew when we had to park in a muddy field in the rain and catch a shuttle bus.

(Have you been on a school bus recently? And I mean one barreling down steep, wet hills or straining to climb them, always seemingly on the verge of losing control or tipping over? One of the many gifts of youth is we don’t appreciate the daily dangers we lived until much later.)

This “new” Oktoberfest turned out to be so much fun. 4 out of 4 family members said they would go back. And remember,  3 of us don’t drink so it was all about the food, music and people in lederhosen cracking whips on the dance floor. (We saw a slightly different version, but still, whips!)

On the way there, my husband noticed a sign for the Reading Pagoda, and we took a slight detour on the way home to check it out. Perched at the edge of Mt. Penn and lording 600 feet above the sprawl of Reading, Pennsylvania is a 7-story Japanese pagoda. Built in 1908 as a luxury resort, the original owner had to sell it when he ran out of money and the city denied him a liquor license. The next owner sold it to the city for $1, which is how much it costs now to climb 87 steps (verified by my kids) to the top for sweeping views of the city and closeups of Wawa and Chik-fil-a signs through the 25 cent tower viewer. That’s what my kids zeroed in on anyway.

At the top, we also found a Japanese bell cast in 1739 and inscribed with an end-of-time prophesy, as well as assorted memorabilia behind glass cases. It smelled old and familiar, like my grandparents’ basement before Sunday dinner. My husband said it smelled like “hot dog farts” which was probably more accurate since I did notice a woman eating a hot dog in the ground level cafe.

This is why I get tired of sticking to the same tried and true favorites. We’ve lived within an hour of Reading for the past decade and finally got there. We plan to head back soon, but next time we’ll try something new and that wasn’t even my idea.

 

tale from the cyber monday closet

I can’t remember if I wrote about him before on this blog, but there’s a little man in the closet underneath our basement stairs. He’s upside down, which seems like the kind of detail that might ring a bell, while at the same time feeling completely unnecessary.

I assume he’s still there, but the closet itself is so overwhelming and distracting I haven’t looked in awhile. I open the closet door and several toys threaten to spill out while the one cat – the always-underfoot one who is completely in love with chaos – rushes in to its darkest corners.

This weekend I opened the closet to find cheap stencils my daughter told me I’d never find because she doesn’t understand yet how obsessiveness gets worse by the year. I found the stencils and an old cassette recorder my other daughter promptly fell in love with and also an unused paper doll book to send to a friend. In case it wasn’t clear, this is a magic closet.

It’s also a sad closet full of neatly labeled bins that prove you can’t buy happiness but you can certainly buy too much. Polly Pockets. Barbies. Dress-Up. Crafts. Christmas Gifts You Thought Would Fix Everything And Look Where They Wound Up.

One year it was Cupcakes, legless, doe-eyed and inexplicably hard-to-find dolls whose dresses folded inside out to disguise them as delectable bakery items, which I think we can all agree is normally a dangerous disguise, but was so good they were forgotten by Christmas morning of 2005.

There’s the Polly Pocket Race to the Mall from 2007 and Raiders of the Lost Ark Legos from 2009, which may not have much in common except they both took hours to assemble and were played with for minutes. Also, they are both completely useless when a single part goes missing.

There’s the baby doll pack-n-play from 2013, which the youngest cleverly stuffs all her toys in during cleanup. She’s like a mini adult who’s figured out an unused treadmill is great for hanging laundry. Poor impulse control and improvisation only improve with age, my little one.

You’ve probably forgotten all about the man living underneath my basement stairs by now. The upside down fella? (does that ring a bell?)

He’s real. I didn’t discover him until our second Halloween in the house. I was in the basement looking at the underside of our basement stairs, as people do on Halloween, I guess, when I noticed him and raced up the steps to tell my husband. My husband was like “yeah, I know”. I don’t even think he looked up from what he was doing.

stairdudecu
Upside down stair dude – shown right-side up for your pleasure

 

He’s a mysterious upside down pencil drawing on the underside of step #7 of 11. I assume he came with the house but may have been drawn by my husband for all I know. When we had our basement finished several years ago, I had to use my best not-crazy voice while requesting the contractor please not use sheetrock or paint while turning the space underneath the stairs into a storage closet. I couldn’t bear to lose the little man.

Who better to oversee the magic and failures of reckless consumerism than an upside down fella with a fancy beaded sash and pizza slice pocket? His little hands look like flowers. I adore him.

This year the little man under the stairs used his magical powers to muck up an order I placed for the hard-to-find toy on one daughter’s wish list. He has his hands full already with the Polly Pockets, who probably drive him up the closet wall with incessant giggling aboard the Party Bus (which plays exactly one annoying techno-esque tune). I don’t think he wants anything for Christmas this year except a little peace and quiet.

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑