Wednesday, December 5, 2018

God's Whisper

My husband, Hank, likes to wait to decorate the house for Christmas “until at least December 1st.” 

As soon as he pulled out of the garage for work the Monday after Thanksgiving and I’d made sure his car had turned the corner at the end of our cul-de-sac, I began hauling out boxes in the garage marked “X-mas.” 

“You going Christmas crazy like me?” my friend, Cindy, said over the phone later that day. “I think that we had this same discussion last year, Heath.”

Why do I do this to myself? I don’t lovingly take a holiday decoration from the tissue and find that coveted spot in the living room. I don’t oohand awe over a treasured ornament or my collection of snowmen. I don’t love hanging garland on the mantle.  In fact, I worry that it’s scratching the paint.

But, it’s Christmas! And I’m on it. Right?

By Thursday, the 29th, I’d finished decorating the house, save the fresh greens. It was raining that day and I was obsessing about minutia, things that don’t really matter. Did I do this? I need to do that…

At a stoplight, with the windshield wipers swinging against the downpour, I was making lists in my head when my eyes went to my hand on the steering wheel and the ring that my mother had given me.  It was as if she were speaking to me as the memories came rushing back. 

“It’s the f**ing  hol-i-days!” she’d tell me. “You’re getting crazy again.” 

I’d snap at her. “Just becauseyouhate Christmas…”

“I don’t know why you like this time of year so much,” she’d say. “All the crazies come out during the holidays. Family crap. Who’s coming to Christmas? Who isn’t coming.  The goddamn lists and shopping. Who’s going to make a scene on Christmas night.  It’s endless through New Years.”

“Quit trying to make it perfect,” she’d scold me. “Christmas never is. Or should be. Relax for Chrissakes!”

I haven’t heeded her advice. In fact, I’m worse.  This year, I even put the pumpkins away before we left to go away for Thanksgiving weekend. It’s become a thing with me - a push to the finish as if it’s exam time and the final is Christmas morning. Is everybody happy?

Then, life happens.

You get yanked. God whispers, and those silly worries become luxuries. And you realize that it can all be taken away in a snap.


“I like going early,” Melissa said, walking out of SoulCycle class this morning. I fell in behind her, heading down the escalator to the lower level of the parking garage.

“Me, too,” I replied. “I’m such a morning person.”

She swung around, her wet ponytail whipping at her neck. “I did a 7:30 yesterday. Love getting it done early.”

In sync now, we headed past the entrance at a steady pace to the escalator to the lower level garage. I smiled back at her, the fluorescent underground lighting blaring as I headed to my car just beyond the walled area. “Usually my husband comes with me on Sunday and we do the 9:30,” I said. “But, we’re going to New York later this morning and he was…”

Melissa, to the right of me with vision of the open garage, abruptly moved her arm to hold me back, halting me. “WAIT! HOLD IT!” she shouted as a nondescript grey car whizzed past within and inch of me at high speed. 

I froze, eyeing the car as it rounded the corner of the parking garage, wheels screeching, to the next level.  “Oh my God,” I whispered. Was this how it could end? Some idiot in a grey car speeding in a garage taking no notice of a pedestrian? Ending it all?  Just like that? That dreaded call Hank would receive. My children would receive…

I reached for her. “Melissa, thank you…” Then, I turned to the parking attendant nearby. “Did you see that?!”

He shook his head in disgust, waving cars past with a muscled bicep.  “I see stuff like that all day. Not near misses like this one, but cars speeding around here as if it’s an open roadway.”

“Melissa,” I called to her as she was walking to her car. “I owe you…”

She turned to me. It was light-hearted and I can’t even remember what she said.

I slipped behind the steering wheel of my car, trying to absorb what had just happened. I looked down to reach for the ticket to exit when my eyes went to the ring. 

“You dodged a bullet,” Mom would say. “Pay attention and quit with the holiday crap. Quit with minutia and the busyness. You’ve been given a reprieve.”

I let out a sigh and pressed the ignition button to start the car and looked in my back-up camera for the all clear.  

Outside the space, I shifted into Drive. Moving forward, I cautiously rounded the corner of the garage and exited into the muted winter California sunlight.  Reaching for my sunglasses, I put them on, only to take them off. 

It’s a clear day in Los Angeles, and I want to take in the light. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Pendant

“We need a secondary screening!” the male TSA agent calls out over his shoulder.  In a thick southern accent, he turns back to me: “It’s random, Ma’am.
I step into the scanning tube and place my feet on the yellow footprint markers – whoosh, whoosh.
You need a pat down, Ma’am,” the agent at the opening says. Then, calls out over his shoulder. “We need a female!”
We’re on our way back to California from a wedding in New York, followed by a business trip to Atlanta. I’m tired and cranky and feeling still a bit fragile since mom passed away two months ago.
A week earlier, I was in my therapist’s office. 
“I can’t seem to calm down,” I told her, rearranging the soft blue and grey pillows on either side of me on her sofa. “I’m on-the-go at all times. It’s as if I can’t stop.” 
“Because if you do…?”
“If I do, I might actually feel the loss of my mother.”
The room was silent. 
“I’m exhausted,” I continued. “I mean, yesterday, I cleaned out the garage. The day before that, I made a couple of casseroles to freeze. The day before that, I organized the linen closet. It’s endless. And I don’t even like casseroles!”
I reached for the pad and pen on her coffee table, anything to keep my hands busy. “I need to find a way to calm down and feel the loss so I can cry and move forward.” I eyed her with my pen posed over the lined white pad.  “Any suggestions?” 
She recommended meditation.  
“All I do is make lists in my head.”
“There are Apps to - ”
“Tried some,” I cut her off. “Didn’t work for me.”
“Being out in nature can be soothing.”
“You mean, like outdoors?”
“Yes. We’ve got The Huntington Gardens right here,” she smiled.
“I’m indoors-y. I feel good surrounded by concrete and skyscrapers.”
“How about Just Float? Some of my patients have found the experience relaxing. Maybe that will help you begin to feel.”
“That place where you float in a tank of saltwater? I’m not big on water.”

I booked an appointment for later that afternoon at Just Float, desperate to calm myself and let go.
Before going into the water, I had to watch a tutorial on an iPad at this so-called wellness center where “weightlessness awaits” in a private flotation tank filled with warm, clean, saltwater, also known as a “sensory deprivation chamber.”
The entry to the eight-by-four foot tank of water felt claustrophobic and submarine-like.  Once inside, I lowered myself into a few feet of body-temperature water. I allowed my head to rest in the buoyant water and extended my legs like the woman in the metallic swimsuit in the video suggested. I cringed, reaching my hand up to my hair. Does saltwater strip away hair color?  In minutes, the light dimmed and the soft music ceased.
As I floated aimlessly in the small, dark chamber, I had no sense of direction, making me anxious. Lying in the darkness, the only thing I could feel was the blister on my hammertoe despite the Vaseline I’d put over it to protect from the sting of the saltwater.
I tried to breathe slowly to relax like when I’m going through turbulence in an airplane. But there was no horizon to focus on to calm me. Only darkness.  Then, my foot eerily bumped against one of the walls. This is soothing? I have no idea what direction my body is going in? I sat up and groped for the light, illuminating the water. Calm down, I commanded myself.  Then, I lay back down and wondered how in the hell I was going to do an hour in this chamber of prescribed “sensory deprivation” and saltwater.  As I floated, my face remained above the water line but not my ears. That’s when water seeped past the suggested earplug into my right ear. I sat up in a panic and reached for the door handle. I pulled it toward me. Nothing happened. My heartbeat raced. Am I locked in here?  Through the muted lighting, I saw I needed to push it open. Ten minutes in, and I was done.

In the days that followed, I couldn’t get the water out of my ear. It became a daily reminder of my aborted attempt to calm down and address my feelings of loss.
So much of my life over the past ten years had been taken up with my mother’s care.  My need to visit her often, to be therefor her. I was the dutiful daughter, mothering my own mother. 
Oh, sure, there were times when it got to me when I would be exasperated with her demands. But she was always grateful, wanting to “repay” me with a watercolor that she’d painted. One day, she presented me with a little ceramic purse she’d painted in her crafts class before she couldn’t hold a brush anymore. “I know you love purses. This is the best I can do here.” 
It all came to a screeching halt the day she passed away. I loved her. I miss her and now I don’t know what to do with myself.

The water was still swilling in my ears four days after my Just Float debacle. I visited my doctor, explaining what had happened and how I needed to let go and have a good cry.
Peering into my ear with his light, he said: “Whatever happened to a cocktail, a cigarette and a weekend in Palm Springs?”
       I couldn’t remember that last time that I’d laughed that hard. “You are soright…”
       It was as if my mother was speaking through him. She would have been the first to suggest that option. Still, the damn of emotions remained clogged.

At the New York wedding I just attended, a friend of mom's was there. She came up to me and continued to regale me with the wonderful and wild antics of my mother. “She was never dull. Remember when she sold her diamond engagement ring to find the next prospective husband in Italy?”
I smiled with her while touching Mom’s ring for strength (the one she hadn’t hawked), the one on my hand that she’d left me. Hold tight. I told myself.


At the TSA checkpoint, I do as instructed.
In compliance, I walk over to the bubbled rubber mat. A young female TSA agent approaches. “You have any injuries? Sore parts of your body?”
“Your necklace is beautiful,” she says, through false eyelashes. “Where’d you get that?” 
I bring my hand to my chest. “Oh, this gold pendant? I’ve had it a long time.”
She nods. “Would you like a private screen for the pat down I need to conduct?”
“No, thanks,” I answer her.
“What’s that on your necklace?” she asks. I dutifully turn around with my arms still extended.
“It’s my monogram. My mother’s is on the back.” I pause. “She passed away in July.”
“It’s so beautiful,” she says, as I turn back around to face her. “So, now you carry your mother wherever you go.”
She ushers me off of the plastic pad. “You’re free, honey. Safe travels.”
Beyond the TSA security screening area, I see my husband, Hank, holding my handbag and laptop case. He’d retrieved it from the belt.
I reach him in a few steps and my hand goes up to the pendant. I hold it to Hank. “I carry mom with me wherever I go,” I tell him. “That’s what the security woman just told me.” 
And, there, right in the middle of Security at Hartsfield Atlanta Airport, on a business trip with my husband, the damn breaks and I finally let the tears flow.  
At the gate, I pull out my boarding pass as we wait to board. Just then, I remember Mom telling my sister, April, that she wasn’t afraid of death.
“All my friends have done it, so it’s no big deal,” she’d said. 
I wipe the tears away and break a smile, bringing my hand to my pendant. She’s with me alright.


Sunday, August 5, 2018

"The Gated Community"

My mother was a character, a cross between Carol Channing and Phyllis Diller, who in her day, looked like Marilyn Monroe. She drew the spotlight wherever she went. After a full and, in many ways untraditional life, she passed away peacefully July 26th at the age of 91. She’d been under excellent care at The Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging and while Parkinson’s took it’s toll on her, she hung in there, and we would continue to see glimpses of the oversized personality that we loved right ‘til the end.
Most of the arrangements had been made at the mortuary; all but one. Her epitaph.
My sister, April, and I remembered what she’d wanted, but I needed to make sure, hunting down an essay I’d written in 2010 when she’d mentioned it on a visit to Dougie’s niche on the fifth anniversary of his passing. I jotted the epitaph down on a slip of paper then reread an essay I’d written in 2005 the day after Mom and Dougie had purchased their cremation niche.  

“The Gated Community”

Mom had called me early the morning after she and Dougie had purchased their cremation niches.
“I’ve finally made it into showbiz!” she’d said.  
In my morning haze, I couldn’t figure out what on earth show business had to
 do with cremation niches.
 “Fannie Brice is buried close to ours. She has all her group reserved there, and we’ll be in the same area as Carol Burnett’s family.  But, guess who’s right across the lawn from us?”
“Who, Mom?”  Now, I was fully awake.
“Marilyn Monroe!  You know, people used to say that we look alike.  Do you realize that she’d be the same age as me if she’d lived?”
I pushed back the pillows and sat up in the bed.  “It’s hard for me to talk about this with you, Mom.  It scares me.”
“Relax, I’ll take you there next week,” she’d offered.  “Then, you can see it for yourself.   
“What a way to start the morning,” I said to my mother, as we drove past the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood Boulevard, supposedly, the busiest intersection in the world.  “What street do I turn on?”  
“Let me see…Glendon! That’s it!” She pointed her index finger at the next street sign on the right.  Her acrylic nail looked ridiculously long and was painted metallic gold.
I made a right and reduced my speed to a crawl.
“Turn in here!”  Mom said suddenly.    
“This leads to the cemetery?”  I asked.  “The sign says ‘Theatre Parking.’”
“That’s if you go left.  See, there’s an arrow on the right.” She pointed the gold talon again. A little diamond ornament on the end of her nail caught the sunlight.  “Plain as day,” she said. “Westwood Village Memorial Park.”
“This place isn’t easy to find.” I steered my Volvo wagon into the narrow driveway behind a bank. “I can’t believe your cemetery shares an alley with a multi-plex theatre in the middle of Westwood Village.”
“Been here for years,” Mom said. “Westwood’s a great location.  I’ll be so happy here in the middle of all these tall buildings.  And, it’s just a stone’s throw from Beverly Hills.”
The grounds were peaceful and manicured.  A variety of shade trees created a natural setting among the tombstones that were embedded in the lawn. Impatiens, azaleas, and begonias in cheery pink colors were in full bloom.
In the distance, at the far end of the cemetery, a small crowd of people gathered in a circle.  Everyone was dressed in black, except for one tall man in tan slacks and a dark blue shirt.  I looked away, to give them their privacy.
My mother, who was Dougie’s fourth wife, is a youthful seventy-seven.  And, my stepfather, Dougie, Mom’s third husband, is eighty-six. They were a pair. He’d just recovered from heart surgery and hired a “low key” personal trainer at the gym.  I was glad that Mom was so enthusiastic about their “final resting place,” but the whole idea of their dying made me uneasy.
I parked the car by a path just outside the small chapel adjacent to the offices of the mortuary.  While Mom walked slowly, enjoying the beauty of the grounds, I stepped up my pace and looked straight ahead past the open door of the chapel for fear of seeing something morbid, like a coffin.
Once we entered the office, a bland-looking gentleman, somewhere in his thirties, standing behind a high desk on the phone, motioned for us to take a seat in the foyer. “I’ll be right with you,” he mouthed.
“Let’s just stand,” I said to Mom, not missing the boxes of Kleenex discreetly placed on every tabletop. 
“Mrs. MacDougall?” the man asked my mother after he hung up the phone. His hair matched the color of his beige dress shirt; his skin, a shade lighter.  He directed us to another room and he told us to wait for Enid, the sales rep, who’d helped Mom and Dougie secure their final resting place. “She’ll only be a minute,” he said.  “Make yourself at home.”
Home? I thought, as we made our way past a large television that was playing a documentary tribute on the life of Ronald Reagan to an empty room.
My mother plopped down at the table and instantly took out a small spiral notebook, she refers to as her “Tablet,” and crossed off “Cemetery-Heather.”
I continued to stand, way too uptight to sit.  “Mom, those casket molding things,” I nodded in the direction of the far wall displaying various casts of partial caskets. “It’s like shopping for carpet, you know, with samples and all?  Weird.”
“Don’t be silly,” she laughed, “People are dying to get in here.”
I walked over to the urns on display at the opposite corner of the room.  Little white tiles with prices were placed at the base of each urn.
“Look,” Mom said, pointing to a cylindrical copper urn on the end of the bottom shelf.  “That’s ours!”
“This one?” I tapped it as if it were sizzling hot.  “The price says $450. Mom, it’s the cheapest one.”  I suggested that maybe she should have gone with the cloisonné one, or maybe the porcelain one with the roses.   
  “Did Dougie talk you into the plain one?” I asked.  She’d mentioned earlier how Dougie had unsuccssefully tried to bargain with Enid to get a discount on their plots.  He’d already purchased two for himself and his third wife, Marion. “Look,” he’d told Enid, “I don’t want to be next to her anymore.  That leaves an empty spot that you can sell again.” 
“No, I wanted the plain urn. But, wait ‘till you see our actual niche,” she said, enthusiastically. “Dougie went all out for that one.”
Enid appeared at the doorway, smiling wide.  “Good Morning, Mrs. MacDougall.  And, this must be your daughter.” Her fixed smile fixed dripped down just a hair. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”
 I could tell that she adored my lively mother.  Mom greeted her with a wave of her pen, causing the red and white sequins spelling out “chic” on her blue t-shirt to shimmer under the bright ceiling light.
“I’m still looking,” she said to Enid, referring to her efforts to find a man for her. Mom was always setting people up and offering relationship advice.  “I just don’t know any single guys anymore, and with your kind of work, the timing’s all wrong for you to meet somebody.”
Enid was dressed in an appropriate somber blue skirt and blazer with a lacey white camisole peeking out from the top of her jacket. She was prim and professional, but the camisole signaled that she had a little flair. Leave it to Mom to find out that Enid was single and would love to find a mate.
“How do you deal with all the families and their grief?” I asked Enid.
“With compassion,” she answered in a soothing voice.  “There’s no real training for compassion.  You just have to have it in you.”
 “You’ll just love where we are,” Mom interrupted, too thrilled with their purchase to think of much else.  “It’s very exclusive,” she added, fiddling with her frosted bobbed hairdo. “We’re in the Garden Gated Estates!”
“Then, shall we?” Enid swept her hand toward the door.
As we headed down the path to Mom’s “gated community,” I was constantly aware of the internment at the other end of the park. 
Enid led us to a granite column about seven feet high.  “This is where your parents will be,” she told me.
I fingered the blank gold leaf plaque at the top of the monument. 
“See, we have top billing!” Mom said. 
I looked around at the bright yellow and orange marigolds and the elegant row of topiary rose bushes nearby. 
“Not bad, eh?”         
“Everything’s done,” Enid said, “Except your parent’s have to pick an epitaph.”
“She’s doing it,” Mom said, pointing to me.
“I am?”           
“You’ll know the right thing to say.”
“How about ‘Together Forever,’” I offered, remembering one of the epitaphs on display in the offices.
“No,” Mom said. “You never know what happens in the afterlife and I don’t want to be tied down.” 
Mom chatted with Enid, but I fazed out of the conversation.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of the far end of the lawn. Two gardeners had arrived on the scene, and there were some gaps in the tightly knit group now.  I hadn’t seen the casket before.  The gardeners, in their Village Memorial Park uniforms, gently lowered the casket into the ground.  Couples and threesomes embraced.         
On the way out, I drove slowly around the perimeter of the park and Mom proudly pointed out Marilyn Monroe’s grave with the ever-present fresh flower.   
“I can’t deal with all of this. I don’t want to think about your dying, Mom.”
“Look, sweetheart,” she said.  “When I wake up each morning, if there are no candles burning, and if I don’t see any flowers or hear music, I get up.”           
“But, how can you be so at ease with this?” 
“Listen, darling, I love life.  You know I do,” she explained.  “But, frankly, Heather, this is reality.”        
As soon as we turned out of the gate, Mom pulled the visor down and started to paint her lips with her favorite, Revlon’s “Crystal Cut Coral.”  She swept the tube round and round her lips.  Smacking them, she flipped the visor back up.  
“So, how about going to The Cheesecake Factory?” she asked, tossing the lipstick back in her oversized white purse.  “I love the bread there.”


I looked down at the slip of paper and called the mortuary.
While on hold for Enid’s replacement, Kathleen, I thought about what Mom’s nurse, Roxy, had said to me about the day before Mom passed away. “I’ve got to go,”  Mom’d told her. She’d had her hair done and her glittery clutch bag was at her side.  “My husband is calling for me.”
“Which one?” Roxy’d asked.
“The last one.”

Feeling the grief over her passing – expected, but never fully prepared for –I smiled to myself.  Someone said to me that Heaven would never be the same. I can hear her now. “Hats and horns!”

“This is Kathleen.”
“Hi Kathleen, it’s Heather Haldeman. Ok, it’s what we thought.”
“Go ahead, I’m ready.”
“Ciao Bello.”
“Ciao Bello,” she said. “Got it.”

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Dr. Jekyll Meet Mrs. Hyde

If you met me in a coffee shop, you would think I’m nice. And I am. I tip well, address the barista by name, and let that harried customer behind me go ahead in line to order.

My local teashop even knows me by name. “Hi, Heather! Iced or hot today?”

So sweet, I am…

But, get me behind the wheel of my car, I transform. It’s as if horns sprout from my head and fangs overlay my bottom lip. I’m a monster on the road.

It’s a buildup of ferrying kids across town and years of having to go from Pasadena to the Westside to visit my aging mother in declining health. “If I never see Sunset and the 405 again,” I told my sister, April, “I’ll be satisfied with life.”

Or, maybe it began back when our oldest, Allan, was eighteen months old and learning to talk. He commuted with me to my work at the Santa Monica Athletic Club across town. That Christmas we were driving to my mother’s home in Hancock Park. Hank was at the wheel when a snappy red Camaro cut him off as he was changing lanes, causing Hank to step on the brakes to avoid a collision.

Allan, seated in back clutching his gingham blanket in his car seat, called out:  “Fucka!”

Hank turned to me, “Heather, where’d he learn that?”


I’m not alone. There are a lot of us out there. I see them daily on my jaunts. Only they act on it, speeding, swerving and cutting in. I just swear and police in my head. Yesterday, I counted four illegal maneuvers in a two-mile stretch on the 134.

This morning on a call to April, I’m behind the wheel. She was greeted with a cheery hello and conversation interspersed with:  “No, you don’t, damnit,” as I inched my way closer to the car in front not to let in the guy in the Mustang who’d been riding the side lane that wasn’t even a lane. “I need to teach this jerk a lesson!”

“Oh, boy,” she laughed. “Sounds bad out there this morning. Be careful!”

Just then, I saw a woman zipping over two lanes across traffic to make an offramp. “Plan, ahead! You’re taking other motorist’s life in your hands, you F**er!”

“Sorry, Ape. Now, where were we?”

“Is that your sister swearing at the drivers again?” her husband, Dennis, said in the background while she had me on speaker.  “I love it when Heather swears. I can’t believe it’s coming from her!”

And don’t get me started on drivers who text. Yesterday, I saw a young guy on the 101 in the fast lane. He had two phones going - one in one hand to his ear and on the other phone he was texting. “Jesus!” I’d said aloud to myself. “How’s he steering? Frigging idiot!”

When I see an Uber or Lift driver vacillating or dropping a passenger in an unsafe corner, it’s all out. “You’re not a professional driver! You A**hole!”

This all coming from me, who at sixteen, failed my behind-the-wheel driver’s test by accidentally running over a cat that had darted out in front of me.

Who am I to swear and criticize?

Yet, I do my best to be a safe and courteous driver. No texting and I’m always “hands-free” when I’m on the phone. I’ve only had a few tickets in forty-four years of driving and, thankfully, no accidents since that fateful driving test. Perhaps, that’s why I try to be diligent out there. In the blink of an eye, anything can happen.

Becoming a monster behind the wheel can be a hazard in Los Angeles when you spend hours on the road and I’m getting worse. I mean, I’m not that person who is about to get out of my car and take a pipe to an errant motorist, but I need to calm down here.

So, I’ve taken steps. I’m leaving earlier so I don’t get revved up in snarled traffic and I’m turning to “Chill” on Sirius XM when I start to feel my temperature rise.

Has it worked? Not really. “Chill” is for the spa. Not the transition from the 101 to the 405. But, leaving early is key.

I think back to my daughter, Hilary, the ultimate in nice, a clinical therapist and social worker, when she moved back to Los Angeles. After riding the rails in New York for three years, she was ready to get back behind the wheel. “Mom,” she’d said, “it feels so good to just drive around. I miss being in a car by myself.”

Didn’t take long, though. Now, in my morning line-up of calls, I’m hearing myself back at me as Hilary and I talk while she is driving to work. “Shoot,” she’d said, the other day, “Just go ahead, mister!” I hear a honk. “Ugh, these drivers!”  Another honk. “What’d you say, Mom?”

Maybe it’s hereditary and in a matter of time, she, too, will begin to insert those profanities. It gets to one out there on the roads in this city.

This afternoon on Colorado Boulevard, I put my indicator on to slip into a coveted parking space, turning my head (I never trust the back-up camera), I slowly backed up, breaking to an abrupt stop when a guy in a grey Camry, ignoring my signal, sped up from behind and zipped into the spot.

I shook my head at him, mouthing, “Are you kidding?! You Sh**t!”

Miraculously, on this busy shopping street, another space opened up down the block. I dashed in to Bird Pic to get a quick iced tea. There, in front of me, the guy in the Camry. He grabbed his iced tea and shot me a quizzical glance. Is she the same woman…fumbling, he dropped his straw.

I picked it up and handed it to him with a smile. “Have a good day.”