Perfectly fine

This is something my dad would say: perfectly fine, perfectly good. This would describe, variously, a bruised apple, an expired pint of milk, a dinged-up pair of skis that were bought secondhand, made by an off brand using a bad font.

Perfect and fine are good words, describing good things. But together, coming from him, they connoted the opposite. Not ideal but eat it any way. Maybe spoiled, maybe not but drink it anyway. You’re lucky to be skiing at all, so what if the skis are from Sears.

I tell my daughter a story about how I felt on the ski mountain with my family. My Dad would make ham sandwiches that we would stuff in our ski suits in the morning, along with peanuts, left in the shells. The peanuts were for staving off hunger so we wouldn’t have to buy the overpriced food at the ski lodge. We’d eat them on the lifts, dropping the shells into the woods below. At some point, we’d clomp into the lodge in our off-brand ski boots, extract our skiied-on sammies from our ski suits and eat them, while looking longingly at the girls with their ski-lodge chili, with their fashionable skiwear, with their smooth ponytails (this rankled me, in particular, because my hair was frizzy). We felt, somehow, that we didn’t really belong at the same tables as the chili buyers.

When I had kids of my own, I bought the ski-lodge chili and the ski-lodge cocoa as well, and felt vindicated and deserving of my seat at the ski-lodge table. But in my mind, “ski lodge chili” is still a catchphrase for something that’s close, but out of reach. Something I can’t have. Another word, meaning the same thing: Friendish. Something your friends have that you don’t have. Examples: the freedom to pour dubious but not bad-smelling milk down the drain; plastic baggies with the little zippers, not the foldover flaps; swimming pools; central air.

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