Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart and Cele?

Look, I know I'm no Martha Stewart.

And, frankly, I don't want to be. I just don't have the patience, let alone the talent, to create things to hang on my shutters, decorate the garden, bake a special cake, or decorate for every holiday.

And Betty Crocker...well, she's not the same old Betty Crocker that used to look over all of our shoulders as we cooked and cleaned and prepared for a life as a housewife. She's had a few facelifts, and new hairdos, since I first met her.

Of course, I didn't really meet Betty Crocker, because she doesn't exist. But many many years ago in a school far away, I was forced to take a home economics class. It was mandatory, required, and, as I recall, I wasn't at all happy about it. I wanted auto mechanics, but girls weren't allowed.

To this day, however, I remember that this course taught me to keep the forks on the left, knife and spoon on the right with the knife blade facing the plate, to eat the salad that is on your left, put the silver and napkins one thumb joint in from the edge of the table.

I guess it was better than the mandatory sewing class when it took me all semester to make one apron. I still have it. I don't throw things away easily.

But I digress. I want you to know that, in that faraway state, that probably still requires young women to take a home making course, I earned the Betty Crocker of the Year Award. No kidding. I can show you the medal I got to prove it.

It was, I assure you, book learning, never to be applied in real life. Ask my husband, Curt, who grew up cleaning and cooking and making things neat. Emphasis on the neat. And, after 33-plus years, he's learning that I will never be neat.

I can happily exist from pile to pile, sleep in unmade beds, and appear at Wal Mart when it opens at 7 a.m. to buy underwear when the drawer is empty and the laundry basket full.

Further proof is probably still to be found in a file cabinet in the Coconut Grove, Florida, police station.

About the time Curt and I were to be married, I was a reporter for The Miami Herald, and lived very happily, but messily, in an apartment with my two Siamese cats, Hecat and Shecat, who were free to travel out and in through a cat door cut out of the kitchen door.

The police called one day and told me to come home. My burglar alarm had gone off, the door was open, and the apartment had been ransacked. Naturally, I left work, and rushed home to meet the police. And, very sheepishly, had to tell the officers that the cats had bumped the door and that my apartment had not been ransacked. It always looked that way.

Well, I have improved, no matter what Curt might say.

Which is why I'm planting bamboo this weekend.

And that brings me back to Martha Stewart. Bamboo.

A month ago, three weeks ago, two weeks ago, I wanted to plant bamboo. And I couldn't find any. I called, or visited, every plant place in Greater Westfield. No luck, no one wanted it, it was out of favor.

Just as I found a source of bamboo, good old Martha mentioned it in her newspaper column. And now it's going to be popular and I'll be so trendy. Finally, able once again to hold my head high when it comes to gardens and yards and decorating.

So I drove to Rockport and the New England Bamboo Company. A wonderland of bamboo. Big (up to 65 feet high) and miniature (3 feet). Fat and clumpy, tall and willowy, variegated or green. With names like Phyllostachys auerosulcata spectabilis and its willow like leaves, canes that may have kinks near the base, rare and spectacular, 35 feet tall.

It wouldn't fit in the car. I came home with three pots of short stuff.

And a lot of cheap advice from my children, who at 29 and 30 should leave their mother alone and let her plant bamboo if she wants.

They're convinced it is the bamboo that will devour Westfield, take over Worcester and move into Boston, all in their lifetime.

I now have my bamboo. Even though the kids refuse to talk about it, Curt's agreed to get the manure to plant it in. I'll supervise. And, I'll let you know how it goes. Or grows.

Eat your hearts out, Martha and Betty.

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