Deconstrucing Roses
(insert your own thorn joke here)

I hate roses.

No, really, I do. They're nice enough in and of themselves, but to give them to anyone is completely unoriginal. It's sort of a default flower, one that everyone's supposed to adore, so after the initial decision to give someone that particular type of flora there' s very little actual thought involved--like, for example, considering whether the recipient will actually want the flowers. Plus, I was named after three of my great-grandmothers (I guess there weren't a lot of names to go around in the old country), and after a lifetime of receiving rose powder, rose water, rose stationery, rose jewelry, rose clothing, plastic roses, real roses, more rose things than anyone could ever possibly need... well, I've gotten rather sick of the things.

I'm also not too wild about the rain. Sure, we need it, but it ought to be a strictly night thing, say confined to between midnight and six a.m. I need my sunlight, or I almost inevitably become more unpleasant than usual.

So it shouldn't come as much of a shock that raindrops on roses do not number among my favorite things.

One slow afternoon in the third grade, we learned "My Favorite Things." My eight-year-old teeth clenched, making it rather difficult to sing. The high school students teaching us the song might have gone in for that sort of thing, but it was hardly my cup of tea.

It still isn't. Take the "whiskers on kittens" bit. The song's writer obviously never met Cleo the Wonder Cat. She's a perpetual kitten, and a colossal pain in the ass. Oh, sure, I love her like a younger (and, conveniently, much smaller) sibling, but it's hard to reconcile the innocent lyric with a seven-and-a-half-pound bundle of energy who thinks that whiskers are the first line of attack--right before biting the victim's nose--in getting someone to let her out to play at three in the morning. Of course, she's only successful at getting herself thrown out of the room--literally, if the victim is in an especially bad mood, as I generally am when the cat decides to wake me up at three in the morning. I'm quite proud that I taught Cleo the Wonder Cat everything she knows about getting her way, but I wish she'd stick to whining.

Bright copper kettles scratch and tarnish. Warm woolen mittens? I live in California, and only venture east in relatively hospitable months like July and August. Brown paper packages tied up in string could be anything. You can never be too paranoid these days.

These are not a few of my favorite things.

I liked horses when I was younger, but seeing what was involved in their upkeep led to my giving up my idolization of cream-colored ponies in favor of a couple of brown-and-white lab rats.

I like apple pie just fine, but apple strudel is something my parents would buy frozen and stick in the oven, and it would emerge either intolerably hot or ice cold. Either way we ended up eating ice cream for dessert instead. Our doorbell was never as loud as the knocker, and sounded more like a broken motor. After I left for college my parents installed an electronic one that could be easily heard in the back of the house but few other places. I've never heard a genuine sleigh bell on a genuine sleigh--California again, and Jewish to boot. A suspicious jingle pops up on the odd track in my music collection, but I'm not sure that's what Rogers and Hammerstein had in mind. When I asked Shannon and Lisa (who, come to think of it, were supposed to be teaching dance) what a schnitzel was, they looked at each other and changed the subject. I have yet to determine what exactly a schnitzel is and if it normally includes noodles. If it's a lukshen kugel, I wish someone would just say so. I've never seen wild geese fly, but even understanding their moon-winged flight as metaphorical, it still sounds rather implausible. If I can't even conceive of it, how can it be one of my favorite things?

The last time I wore a pretty white dress with a blue satin sash, I was in the second grade and playing Mother Goose. I had a big white hat as well, which was really the only cool thing about the costume. Had it not had these hideous tissue paper flowers stuck on it, I might have wished that my part were larger than five lines. A couple of Halloweens later, the blue satin sash was replaced by a red-and-yellow calico one attached to an apron, worn with a matching sunbonnet. My turn as a pioneer girl was at least as adorable as my turn as Mother Goose. Pity I'd already practically outgrown the dress, and that pioneer girls circa Laura Ingalls Wilder generally didn't wear sneakers.

The first--and last--time that I saw any snow was when I was seven. We spent our spring break in New York visiting the relatives and finding afikomens (Passover, you know). We arrived in Ossining 48 hours after the last snowfall, and my cousin Alisa and I amused ourselves by scraping together tiny snowmen from the one little patch of white that remained on the front lawn. From what I remember, I don't think I'd like bits of snow staying on my nose and eyelashes. In the same vein, I've never seen a silvery white winter melt into spring, but I've tramped through lawns turned into marshes by rain; I would guess that any change of season that involves melting might have much the same effect.

Luckily, I've avoided dog bites and bee stings. I do feel sad sometimes, but to pull myself out of it I don't think of Shannon or Lisa or Julie Andrews. I don't think that the mere act of remembering a few of my favorite things will cause me to not feel so bad, but it does give me something to do.

Yes, dear reader, I do have a few favorite thing. I may be clinically depressed and cynical as all hell, but there are some things that keep me going. Chocolate, for instance. Big chunks of dark chocolate from Ghiradelli's. Pints of Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk. The hot chocolate that I concoct for myself. A really good egg cream. Chocolate Madness from the Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz. It won't solve my problems, but at least it makes me feel better. Anyway, I'm not hurting anyone.

Any excess chocolate I may harbor gets worked off by dancing, one of those other favorite things of mine. These days I tend to prefer folk dancing from various places. It's usually simple enough that once you know the pattern you can talk to your neighbor or zone out without fear of breaking step. The faster, more taxing dances can be purely exhilarating. You run, you whirl, you jump, you stretch, you go high and fast and far and you feel like you don't touch down. For as long as the music goes, you fly, and that's an amazing feeling.

I like music, too. Playing it, dancing to it, listening to it. I like music that says things through words and music that says things without them. I always have music playing when I'm home, whether as a backdrop or as something on which to concentrate or just to block out the rest of the world.

I like smells, at least specific ones. I like the way some people leave their scents behind, and that I can smell them for hours after I see them. I don't like everyone's smell, though; I don't want to be reminded of absolutely everyone. It's the pleasant smells that I allow to linger.

I like the smells of springtime, of flowers and earth and sunshine mixing, never mind the allergies. Jasmine, too, I like jasmine. Hell, sometimes even roses aren't too bad.