Author: Diane Otter

My Best Sports Moment Ever: That Kickball Homerun 35 Years Ago

The daily recess kickball game told you pretty much everything you needed know about the pecking order at our tiny school. The little kids stuck to the swings and slides on the grass; the fourth-graders were allowed to play the fifth- and sixth-graders in a parking lot kickball game. There were just 16 of us in the fourth-grade class versus twice as many older kids. None of them particularly liked me, the new girl. I had bushy hair and an annoying habit of showing off my vocabulary. One day at lunch the kids formed a circle around me and demanded I recite big words. I probably deserved it. I had never played kickball before. The game made enough sense, but I was not what you would consider “sporty.”  The whole sequence of running up to a rolling red rubber ball, calibrating your speed just so to get a good “smack!” and kicking the ball beyond your opponents’ reach confounded me. In the outfield, I usually misjudged where the ball was going to land and let …

Lady MacDeath to Dirt

  Out, damn’d dirt! Out, I say! I entreat you, be gone from my hardwood floors this day   Swiffer in hand, I walk this abode all the hours long, My heart a-full with dark song   Why must this grit persist? We are not that kind of a home, I insist!   When I wake, I run the Roomba, and that’s not a moment too soon At noon, comes the Dyson vacuum   The evening brings the Wet Jet And yet and yet! This dirt remains set   Oh how I long for a clean, clean floor Shining in the sun, greeting me as I walk through the door   I crave that smooth, silky feel beneath my feet, No dust, no junk, no earthly particles do I want to meet   No crumbs, no scraps No Lego pieces that go snap   No shriveled Cheerios No nastiness from heaven knows   I want “House Beautiful” clean, Scandinavian cosmopolitan clean, Never-have -to-wash-your-gray-feet at night clean Friends, do you know what I mean?   But this …

Am I a Better Mother When I’m in the Car?

The rain came down so hard that night 10 years ago I couldn’t tell where one droplet ended and another began. The New Jersey Turnpike looked like a black creek. The windshield wipers were heavy and sluggish as they tried to move enormous quantities of water. I was driving on my first solo trip with the most precious and delicate thing I had ever known, my one-year-old daughter. The struggle to get her in the car seat (when the rain was just a gentle twilight drizzle) had been the epic event it always was with her. The screaming. The back arching. The kicking in my face. It had come after an hour or so of chaotic packing, eating, chasing. My little girl had a mind of her own since birth, and I was perpetually exhausted trying not so much to tame her, but to channel her. But as a I stole a glance at her in the rearview mirror during that furious storm, her face was utter calm. Mine was pale and terrified. I told …

Gloria, Calvin, Earl and Not Me: On Being a Denim Disaster

I hate jeans. I have hated jeans since, like, forever. This may be an unpopular opinion, perhaps almost un-American. But jeans almost never look good on me, and I dread the days I have to wear them. Which, if you work in the new media world in New York now, is pretty much every day. Instead, I do my best to get away with the cute dresses I love and, in the winter (if I have to) black pants. But you only have to look around a meeting once to see who, among all those young denim-clad cool girls, comes off looking more like their Sunday-best-dressed aunt. If forced, I can don a pair of Gap legging jeans (weekends or anytime we go outside of New York). But I have to tell myself they are leggings in order for me to get out the door, confidence somewhat intact. Why are jeans are so unflattering on me? I’d love for a fit specialist to explain it. I suspect it’s a combination of short legs, long torso, …

Cataloguing: The L.L. Bean Backpack

When it comes to shopping for my kids, thank goodness for the wonderful world of the Internet. There are a dizzying variety of colors, hipster styles, Euro shapes and eyeball-searing prints to choose from. But it’s overwhelming. And personally, I long for the simpler styles of the 80s. That’s, of course, about the time I was buying my own backpack as I entered high school. I already owned one — a nylon Eastpak that my mother bought for me at the Jewelcor showroom. It was fine for junior high, but it didn’t have the cool factor a freshman truly required. Back then, there was really only one place to find the “must-have” backpack: the L.L. Bean catalogue. But this required some work. It’s hard to remember a time when catalogues did not fill our mailboxes unbidden, but back then, you had to request to be on the mailing list, and our family was not. I think I must have cribbed the L.L. Bean address or phone number from The Official Preppy Handbook and ordered a …