Just Walking Each Other Home

Life is Good, and Sweet and Short.

Remember the Good Times.

Not too long ago, I read what life is all about is that we’re all just here to walk each other home. A person could become very philosophical about that, pondering the religious meaning of “home” and guiding people in the right direction, but you know, I had one immediate and very poignant thought.

In a post about dogs in small towns, I told the story of Officer-Father-in-Law of My Niece bringing our dog home one morning when she’d left the yard on an adventure to visit the local elementary school. That dear, kind man could have lectured me about breaking the “dogs off leash” law, or even taken her to the local dog pound for the people there to track down her owner via her county dog tag number.   Instead he listened, patiently I’m sure, to the words of the schoolchildren who told him that was Mrs. Weatherly’s dog.  He simply put her in his cruiser, tied a short rope around her neck as a makeshift leash, drove to my house and kindly walked her  to my back door and handed her over with a smile.

That man did many kind things in this small town we now call home. He once responded to a 911 call I made one day when something rather suspicious was going on at a neighbor’s house. After ensuring all was taken care of, he could have driven away, but instead, calmly walked up to my door, assured me all was fine, and thanked me for making the call.  For more importantly, this police officer has been recognized  for outstanding bravery when he was on foot at a parade route and a car began rolling down a slight slope toward children in that parade.  That caring, brave man actually did his best to physically stop that car, succeeded in ensuring it didn’t hit the children, but sustained significant personal injuries himself.

Just walking everybody home. A small town police officer who served his country and community, who was a kind and beloved family man, a good neighbor, a respected gentleman. He did what we’re all here to do, but going the extra mile, did it with kindness, humbleness, professionalism, and genuine class. Rest in peace, Officer.  I’m certain that when you arrived in heaven, you were met with open arms and walked gently home.

Posted in Gratitude, Small Towns, Special Characters | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Just Seven Things I Want to Say Today

Life is Good, and Sweet, and Short.

It’s okay to break some of the rules, some of the time.  Like a glass of wine before five;  that’s okay.  The nuns taught me I’d burn in hell for breaking rules, so I’ve decided I don’t believe in hell. 

1.  I am blessed to have a good husband (39 years!) and two wonderful adult children who I have adored since before they were born and love more with every passing day.  I lucked out, too, in the daughter-in-law and son-in-law department;  I feel as though these two special people have always been a part of our family, not just with us for the past few years.  There are dozens of nephews, nieces, great-nephews, great-nieces, and even two great-great-nieces and two great-great-nephews and one more on the way and dozens and dozens of cousins.  There are special brothers and sisters-in-law and a sister, too.  There are aunts who are truly inspiring, and many people in heaven who I think of every day.  I don’t bother with the distinction of “step-” relatives, or “in-laws,” or even “exes.”  Once you’re in my family, you’re in.  No escape.

2.  I was one of the lucky ones who grew up in a small, mid-western town in the late fifties and sixties — lucky, because that is an experience you can only cherish if you had it as a child.  You might relocate from an urban setting to a small town as an adult, but you can only truly experience the wonder of it all if you got to be a kid in a place where you knew everybody in every house at least on your own block if not in most of the town, and where  it was okay to climb the neighbors’ trees, run across the neighbors’ yards and down the alley behind the houses (yes, we had alleys – I thought everyone did!) and run outside to play “in the neighborhood with the kids,” without anyone making a “playdate” for you.

3.  I am proud to be a graduate of The Ohio State University, a Buckeye!  It was perfect to go from a small town where-I-was-related-to-everyone to a large campus in a metropolitan area with a myriad of options for majors, for classes, for entertainment.  There are those who say large schools are impersonal, classes are filled with hundreds, and no one  knows your name.  That was never my experience.  I was never “closed out” of a class, most of my classes had fewer than twenty students, I received outstanding personalized advice from the College of Arts and Sciences,  the advisor in my academic department – the esteemed John F. Cuber, r.i.p. – and a caring Assistant Director of Financial Aid who believed in this kid who was working her way through school.  Best classes taken?  Philosophy of Ethics taught by Daniel Farrell, and Cultural Anthropology, taught  by E. Ojo Arewa, both intelligent, dedicated, caring, , funny, enthusiastic young profs, and now both emeritus Professors.

I was lucky to follow that degree with several years working for an OSU Vice President  from whom I learned something new every day;  most importantly, the significance of always speaking with the utmost respect and professionalism, and never taking ourselves too seriously.

4.  In a fourteen-year period, Wilt and I and our children, Walter Wesley and Wilma Wendy, (you are probably correctly guessing by now that I use a pen name for myself and my family members) lived in five states, eight cities, and eleven homes, one corporate apartment (and a partridge in a pear tree.)  Yes, in my mind, “move” is a four-letter word.  I have a lot to say about the moving experience, and daily I mentally compose bits of what I tell my children will be my first book, “Every Time The Dog Farted, We Moved.”

5.  I have been blessed with good friends throughout my life.  I’ve written about Sam, both in my initial post, and on her birthday in 2012, and earlier today I wrote about her Daddy.  And I’ve written about Nancy, both here and here.  There have been other Facebook “finds” as well – old friends, and one “new/old friend” (to be explained later in a blog post.) There are others who have touched me deeply as well:  college roomies who are forever friends (you know who you are, Girls!) my very special and very Irish friend met during our years in south Florida (you know who you are too, Dear Friend!) cousins and nieces who are more friends than relatives.  And there are the Facebook friends, those who I haven’t met in person, and yet  talk with sometimes every day — most notably, The Blue Collar Philosopher (Facebook), The Minnesota Farmwoman (http://themnfarmwoman.com)  and The Happy Housewife (http://thehappyhousewife12.blogspot.com/).

7.  Most importantly, in my eyes, I was – and am – one of the lucky ones.  When we had our first child, I was ready to be a stay-at-home mom.  I never lost that sense of wonder for  our children, and with every passing year — day — I cherish how fortunate I was and now still am to be at home full-time, even as an empty nester.  I’m a homebody, and grateful that Wilt is okay with that.  Blogging and Facebook make social connections easier now, but I know that even without them, I’d still be an “At Home”  person.

That’s it.  I just had those things to share with you all out there in blog-reading land.   Thanks for joining me.

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A Great Man

Life is good, and sweet and short. 

A great man left this earth recently.  He was not famous, nor perfect, nor rich in material goods, but in the wealth that matters, he was blessed.  He loved his family, his friends, his community and his God.  He was loved in return by all who knew him.  He sang like an angel, one tune continuing right on into another seamlessly as he strummed his guitar.  He loved his children, his wife, his music, his home, and his work. 

He was a second father to me, always speaking to me with respect, listening to what I had to say, occasionally giving his advice — always good — and always making me laugh.  He took me into his family without question, without being asked.  I was not the only one.  There were others who he took under his wing, taught the basics of life survival — get an education, get a job, work hard, love your children, do good wherever and whenever you can.  

He worked non-stop — yet always had time for his family, his friends.  He never met a stranger.  He invited who his family sometimes thought were “stragglers” in for a meal, but they were always good people who became family friends. 

The first time I saw him, I was a child, it was a cold winter afternoon, and he was hard at work in his cement block garage with a fire going in a small pot-belly stove, humming and tapping tacks into a piece of upholstery, and as I passed by the door he said “Hey!!!” in his mock tough tone and with his mock scowl.  As soon as I jumped in surprise, he gave a genuine smile at having gotten the reaction he’d sought, and then he said “Hi :) ”   What was that in his mouth?  A mouthful of upholstery tacks;  what an amazing talent — the man could hold tacks in his mouth, hum a tune, talk and work all at the same time.  As  far as I know, he never swallowed a tack.  He sure did a great job of upholstering beautiful furniture. 

My Second Daddy was a bit eccentric – driving his personally restored antique car, riding his plain and simple black bicycle around town, driving his small airplane on the neighborhood street as he gave it a test-drive after doing a little work on it…  (Yes, that really did say “driving his small airplane on the neighborhood street…” ) He didn’t care what people thought, and he didn’t pass judgment on others.    He was not pretentious, he was not vain. He was direct, and honest, and caring.

Just a few years ago, I saw him in his workshop, an old barn that stood behind the historic bed & breakfast he’d restored in a quaint and amazing little town in Florida.  There sat his sewing machine, his tools, his trade.  I have a treasured photo of him — he thoroughly enjoyed posing, moving here & there for me to get the perfect shot — standing in front of that barn beside his beloved bike, looking dapper, smiling, full of mischief. 

There was more than one wife over the years; there were many children.  There was his hometown, and later, his adopted hometown.  And music;  there was always his music…  There were jam sessions in his living room when we were youngsters & he was a young adult, and there were jam sessions in his kitchen when we were adults and he was a young eighty.    Those rooms were always full of family and friends, smiles and happiness.  His voice was smooth and comforting, and never seemed to change, and when he strummed that guitar, his eyes twinkled.

My Second Daddy’s oldest daughter is my friend, Sam, and she has her dad’s sense of what’s right, his sense of humor, mock crankiness and genuine mischief, and big heart.  When Sam and I were about 18 years old, we sat on red vinyl-topped stools in his kitchen, and he pointed to her and to me, back and forth, and told us “Remember, this is what lasts.  Friendship and love.  This is what lasts.”  I am blessed to have known him, and all his children, and especially to count Sam as my good, good lifelong friend.

The last time I saw my Daddy Bob, he lifted my hand, kissed the back of it, and said “You’re a good girl, Emma Ann.  I love you.”  I love him, too.

A great man left this earth, but while he was here. he lived and he loved.  He changed my life. 

Posted in Childhood Memories, Family, Friends, Gratitude, Special Characters | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Hoosier Kids

Mothers’ Day brings back memories that grow more vivid, more distinct, more special with each passing year…

I was a Hoosier Kid. No, not from the lovely state of Indiana, but one of those kids who hung on the side of the Hoosier while most of the kitchen activity went on there. The one we had when I was a child was the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen, the most practical, organized and complete “kitchen work center” ever, and I’ve never seen another like it.  I’ve searched, and searched…

Our Hoosier was painted white & had small wooden doors with glass window panes up high, but I’m not sure what was stored up there, because it was way higher than I could see. At the very bottom there was a big door on the left (I think the pots and pans were in there) and more storage on the right — three drawers there, if my memory of back-in-the-day is correct.

In the very center of this perfect piece of furniture —  this kitchen-in-one-piece —  were wide and beautiful, wonderful accordion doors that slid open to reveal a large metal dispenser on each side, one for flour, one for sugar. Just a turn of the crank and the ingredients flowed into the tin measuring cup my mother held. I’ve got that cup; as far as I know, it’s all that’s left from that magical cupboard. In the center of that space, between the flour and sugar dispensers, was a suspended spinning rack that held ribbed glass jars with metal tops for spices. I don’t even have to close my eyes to see exactly what they looked like.

Below the accordion-doored section was the porcelain workspace, white with blue cobalt trim, and best of all —  magical to this then-toddler/pre-schooler —  it slid forward to create a huge workspace. I can still feel that cool porcelain on my fingers.  This was the heart of the kitchen to me, the heart of the house where I grew up. Here was where my mother mixed pie dough by hand, rolled it out, tossing flour on the surface — because we really didn’t need a fancy non-stick slick plastic sheet, we just needed her slightly age-spotted capable hands to toss just the right amount of flour there. I can still see that motion of her right hand, tossing…  She rolled the pie dough to exactly the right thickness with her white ceramic rolling-pin with real wooden handles, lifted the dough without a tear to place in the pie tin, trimmed it precisely with a plain old kitchen knife so it was the perfect size, filled it with fruit (sometimes what she’d canned the past season) then topped it off with another perfectly non-sticking, rolled-just-right crust. Next, she’d pinch the edges of the bottom and top crusts together, then ever-so-deftly spin the pie pan with her left hand while using her right thumb to press a pretty crimped design into the edges of the crust.  Her final touch was to make freehand cuts of pretty shapes into the top crust to let the steam escape. No fancy tools;  merely — wonderfully — my mother’s beautiful, aging yet beautiful, hands.  I thought her pies were the most beautiful thing in the world.   The memory of watching the creation of homemade pies on that Hoosier is way more special to me than any piece of pie could ever be.

But one more thing came from this pie crust making! The scraps of dough from the trimming of those perfect crust circles were placed in a miniature pie tin, or sometimes in another full-size one if it was a two-pie-day, sprinkled with sugar, and baked as a treat – for me!  I was the only kiddo around during the school day.  On an extra good day, cinnamon was added with the sugar;  yummy.

Oh, but the Hoosier did more than provide a spot for pie-making. The porcelain top had a sturdy spot to attach the hand-cranked grinder, and tomatoes were pureed there, too.  No food processor, no blender, just that grinder, a hand-held whisk, and the old yellowed-cream and black Hamilton Beach electric mixer, whirring away, mixing egg whites for my very favorite – Angel Food Cake, and then whirring again after it cooled, to create the makings of 7-minute boiled frosting.  After the frosting went on with a small hand-held spatula, my mother took the time to make little curls in it, all over the cake.  No microwaves, no just-add-water mixes, just creativity and hands-on activity right there on that lovely porcelain work area of my beloved Hoosier.

I remember watching my parents and two older brothers busy at work making “Beer Bottle Ketchup” at that Hoosier, too. Homemade ketchup, made from the huge red tomatoes from the big garden that provided nearly all our food, bottled into recycled and sterilized brown beer bottles. There was a bottle capper that rested on the edge of that porcelain surface, and I can still see my brothers, then teenagers, laughing and “cutting up,” as my mother would say, as they capped the ketchup bottles.  It seems this was always done when it was dark outside, and I was made to stand in the kitchen doorway while “the big people” did the work.  It never seemed to me that they were “working,” and if you could hear my brothers laugh and see those stinkers’ faces, you wouldn’t believe they weren’t having fun, either.

On the right side of the Hoosier hung the thick, thick & dark wood-stained yardstick with black lettering and numbers, and that year’s Farmer’s Almanac. I still feel a compulsion to buy the Old Farmers’ Almanac each year, although I don’t need to check the weather and planting guides there as my Dad did.  Despite the weather channel and internet minute-to-minute updates… I prefer that Farmers; Almanac.

The Hoosier went away when a new kitchen was put in; remodeling, making things “new.”  Gone were the beautiful grey-painted big old built-in cupboards with wide doors and heavy drawers, gone was the big old sink in the corner, gone was the full-size window in another corner —  low enough for me to look out at the big, shady back yard with a lush carpet of grass — gone was my beloved Hoosier. The “new” kitchen always felt quite sterile to me, with no personality whatsoever.  There was no more pie-making, no more Beer Bottle Ketchup, no more cool, smooth porcelain worktop.

I don’t know what happened to that bottle capper or the grinder. I shudder to think of what happened to the Hoosier.  Two pie tins, the tin measuring cup and the red-wooden-handled wire whisk sit behind my mother’s rolling-pin on a shelf in my kitchen. I walk by them many, many times a day, glance at them, and each and every time, I remember the smell of fresh pie dough and flour and cinnamon and homemade ketchup, and best of all, see & hear my two brothers smiling at each other and laughing together.

Somehow, it seems if I keep buying that Old Farmers’ Almanac each year, one day I will come upon a beautiful old Hoosier exactly like that one I loved to hang onto, and will make it my own.  If I ever find it, I shall build my own kitchen all ’round it.

Best of all, though, I can always keep all those good memories tucked away in my heart.  It is great to be a “Hoosier Kid.”

Posted in About Me, Being At Home, Childhood Memories, Family, Hoosiers | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

What She Did Not Learn in School That Day…

Life is Good.  Sweet, and Short… 

And as always, the Ordinary is the Extraordinary…

And please: Ignore the Silly Rules — for you will not burn in hell for it…

Once, I had a conversation with a young lady about how her day had been.  “Pretty good!”  she chirped, at first.  But within a few minutes, she began telling me what was really on her mind… deep in her heart.

“We might not have recess tomorrow.  Or the next day, or the next, until the whole week.  And then, we might not even have our party on Friday.”

Questions, answers.  Bottom line?  Someone in her class had done something wrong, but hadn’t admitted to it.  The teacher’s response was to impose the “No recess for the entire class or any party until this has been admitted and righted.”   My little confidant’s sense of unfairness was matched by my own.  No, I hid my disappointment, because it was really  outrage.  I was outraged.  Group punishment… for children – for anyone of any age — for one person’s wrongdoing?

(Let’s step over to the side for a moment, as well.  No party that Friday?  Having been a very active parent volunteer back in the day, I have no doubt that several parents and perhaps grandparents and aunts had been planning that party for a few weeks, purchasing supplies, making treats… doing all the usual things.  Some might have scheduled a vacation day from work, or simply re-arranged their schedules.  Bet they’d be really pleased if it were to be cancelled at the end of Thursday’s school day.  Would it really be cancelled – or was this simply a threat that would prove to the children that an adult could make threats of making them sad?)

There were more questions.  What else had gone on that day?  How was lunch?  Who did she sit beside on the bus?  Did she have reading?  What was the “special” class that day — gym?  Music?  Computers?  She had few answers;  she was focused on the unfairness that had been imposed in that threat… that pointless, useless, totally unfair threat.  Was a lesson learned from it?  Sure:   Sometimes adults are unfair.

This, dear friends, is why —  although our own children attended public schools (as opposed to homeschooling) and I firmly believe in the concept of the right to education & the need for education for  everyone — this is why & how I see our school systems failing our children miserably.  Oh no, not this one act.  Not even this one concept of “group punishment.”

And so what, you ask?  It wasn’t what was learned that day…

This is what that child did not learn in school that day.  She did not learn that an amazing story had been read to the class, that a fun math concept had been introduced, that science holds the answers — and even better, the questions — to so many mysteries.  She did not learn that you can learn while having fun.  She did not learn that running and racing and climbing and jumping are all, in fact, an essential part of making your brain, as well as your body, work better and smarter and wiser and more interestingly.  She did not create something with her hands, did not listen to the wonders of music, did not see the beauty in a painting.  She did not listen to a story of long ago, and during the same lesson, listen to the music of that time period, see pictures of the clothing worn then, or hear about what every day life was like at the time when that story was set.  She did not hear that there are many, many countries in this huge world, and each has so many unique and interesting things to be learned about it.

Perhaps some of these concepts were a part of her day, but if so, they were totally squashed by an unfairness introduced by an adult she trusts – and the adults in her life trust —  to open her eyes to the world.

She simply learned that if one person does one thing outside the approved list of things a child can do in school:

Sit still.  Stay in your seat.  Listen.  Memorize.   Stay in line.  Get a drink from the water fountain and go to the restroom when the entire class does…

then punishment will be imposed.

I’m so glad she is already wise enough to know that this is unfair, wrong, and has nothing whatsoever to do with learning, education, or resolving a problem.

I am so sad that she has to learn this.  But I am proud of her.  She is strong, and wise.  She will learn, and she will persevere, and she will survive.

But how many others will not?  How many others will learn simply to hate school, will drop out, or perhaps finish high school but never go on to college, will learn that school is — for far too many children, as one told me years ago —  “School is just like prison.”  How many children will never find what they feel passionate about?  How much talent will go untapped as adults focus on rules and threats of punishment instead of possibilities and imagination and genuine learning?

And that, folks, that is how I believe our school systems are failing each and every child who is denied the right to learn within the classroom with all the resources available, because far more importantly to an adult out there, is that every child will follow the rules rigidly, and for every child who does not, many children will receive a punishment.

I am sad.  Truly sad.

Posted in Education, Silly Rules | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

MOB Scene

Life is Good.  Sweet, and Short. 

And the Ordinary truly is the Extraordinary.

Our beautiful, clever, witty and wonderful daughter, Wilma married a truly special, generous, loving & handsome man, Garth, last month. They planned a simple, very meaningful, private ceremony, followed by a low-key and very fun dinner reception with dancing.

From the moment the engagement was announced, people asked me “Are you stressed?! Is it awful?!”  It seemed every time I turned around, someone was asking “Are you okay?  Isn’t this stressful?!”
Well… no, I wasn’t stressed; it wasn’t awful.  It was:  Happy. Simple. Low key.  The couple chose the things they truly cared about.  The minor things were left to me.  Anytime I asked a question, the answer was

“We just want to get married.” 

If there had been any stress, that statement certainly would have eliminated it.  They were focused on the marriage, not a production.  It was wonderful.
The Wedding Day:  Things went well.  Lovely wedding, beautiful bride, handsome groom, gorgeous bridal party, adorable flower girls and ring bearer, officious and gracious judge,  good food, wonderful guests, fun dancing, beautiful floral decor by an outstanding creative and talented lady, and some great photos by two special and also creative, talented people.

Life is good.  All that truly mattered was perfect:  they’re in love, they genuinely like each other,  they’re married,  content & happy.

“However,”  you are asking,  “what about this MOB Scene?”

My experience as Mother of the Bride, “M.O.B.” — as all the thousands of “how to” and “what to do” blogs, magazines, and articles, & apparently every person on the street call us — well, my ten days surrounding the wedding were far more interesting than I’d anticipated.

Four days before the wedding day, I visited my sweet hairdresser for fresh highlights, and had an appointment with the esthetician to have my  eyebrows properly shaped so that I would be the lovely M.O.B. in all the photos for posterity.  Things went a bit awry, and I was left with rather red abrasions – not wax burns, but genuine abrasions –  on my eyelids.  Fortunately, I had some prescription antibiotic cream on hand at home, and used that – it helped immensely.

The morning of the wedding the hair dresser worked her magic to give me some curls that would hold up throughout the day and evening, and the make-up artist did an outstanding job of concealing my still-red eyelids.  More make-up than I usually wear (being none) but necessary for the photos.

That afternoon, I pulled on the beautiful black silk dress I’d fallen in love with, and began to zip it up.  Hmmm… not “stuck,” exactly, and the dress wasn’t too tight, but there seemed to be a problem.  I brushed it off as M.O.B. low-key stress, and consulted Wilt.  He, too, could not make it zip.  We consulted Walter.  Walter could not make it zip.  (Major clue missed here:  you know you’re in trouble when an engineer cannot make a zipper work properly.)  I removed the dress, examined it closely, and discovered the teeth on one side of the zipper at the mid-point were curled inward… on the brand-new, wonderful I-am-in-love-with-this-dress dress.  One more try.  Wilt methodically & successfully un-curled the zipper teeth as he zipped it.  Yay!  Dress on and zipped!  For about 30 seconds.  Zipper then said “I will not stay zipped here where my teeth are curled;  I do not care what you do.”  Next dilemma was to get out of said dress – it being zipped at the bottom and the top… Oh, let’s skip that part of the story.

Free of my beloved dress, I gave it a long, sad look, but breathed a sigh of relief, for there had been no time to return the first purchased dress which I’d felt was “OK,” but didn’t really love.  So on I popped it – a Back-Up Dress!  How fortunate!   I’d forgotten, though, that I’d lost fifteen pounds over the summer, and so was looking at myself in the full-length mirror — complete with my “well concealed” eyelids — wearing what resembled a lovely black satin feed bag.  But…

Ninety minutes to the wedding!  Let’s go!

For my next trick — which really pleased my very efficient-and-slightly-OCD-like-his-mother-son — I stepped out the door & got the heel of my shoe caught in between the boards on our porch.  R e a l l y  stuck.  I don’t ever recall having gotten a heel stuck in my entire life, but after all, it was a truly special day.  Finally, I removed my foot from the shoe & while I hopped a bit, Walter was able to retrieve it from the jaws of the porch without breaking the heel.  Once again, we set off, with Wilt nervously advising that I should not fall down the porch steps, and I’m pretty sure I heard Walter muttering that we needed a protective bubble for me.  I thought I was holding up rather well, all things considered.

Staying with the chronology:  Wedding was lovely.

The following day, we enjoyed a small brunch here at the house for out-of-town family.  Ahhh… A day of total relaxation.

That evening, I ran out of my prescription antibiotic cream for the eyelids, which now looked only like I’d received two good scratches from a cat.  Being resourceful, I applied an over-the-counter antibiotic cream from the medicine cabinet, and went off to bed, to dream the happy, contented dreams of the M.O.B. with healing eyelids.

Next morning, I awoke to a red, itchy, throbbing swollen face:  allergic reaction to the OTC cream.   Our skilled, good-natured and compassionate  physician prescribed a low dose of a steroid which took care of the problem.  Third and last night of the dosage, however, I had a reaction to the steroid:  36 hours of total insomnia, followed by 48 hours of sleepy exhaustion.  I had no idea what fun a pharmaceutical roller coaster can be.

The following Sunday evening, Wilt and I enjoyed a light supper of some leftovers.  At exactly 6:55 pm, five minutes before we were to set off for the airport to pick up the returning-from-the-honeymoon newlyweds, I was stricken with a sudden, painful, violent case of apparent food poisoning from too-old leftovers, followed about thirty minutes later by an allergic reaction to the “returning” food:  my lips and tongue swelled, then my tongue broke out in hives.  Two adults in a panic:  Wilt certain I was about to die & shouting “We need an epi pen!” and me, splashing ice-cold water on my lips & tongue,  saying insistently, “Someone’s got to get to the airport!”   Friends were summoned for the airport trip to rescue Wilma and Garth, & a dose of antihistamine resolved my lip-tongue problem after a couple of hours.

Oh, yes.  Being the M.O.B. offers so many opportunities to make a scene.

Posted in Family, Weddings | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Dear Halloween…

Life is Good.  Sweet & Short.
  And the Ordinary truly is the Extraordinary…

Dear Halloween,
When I was a little girl, you provided lots of giggles on dark & starry nights as friends, cousins and I carried our brown paper grocery sacks or old pillowcases door-to-door, wearing our made-up costumes from old clothes found in the backs of closets, trunks, and cedar chests, and inexpensive masks from the local Five & Ten Cent Store. At each house, we’d knock on the door, the friendly neighbors would open it up, feign surprise at the sight of costumed & masked children, invite us in, then spend a few minutes guessing who we were with questions answered only with silent nods or shakes of the head (and giggles – lots of giggles.)  Best of all was when the adults would say “I give up! Who are you?!” We’d giggle (more) slip off our masks, they’d cry out “Oh my goodness!!!” laugh and smile, tell us how clever we were to fool them, then give us a candy bar, & send us on our way to repeat the performance at house after house.  We were lucky — small town kids who knew  who lived in just about every house in town, and they knew us, too.  It added to the fun.

When my own children were little, you, Dear Halloween, remained lots of fun. I usually sewed their costumes – enjoying every moment of their choosing who they wanted to be, selecting just the right fabrics & fun add-ons, and creating something with thoughts of all the fun they would soon have. There were sometimes classroom parties, and in one school district the rule was for each child to arrive dressed as his or her favorite book character.  Imagine that!  Learning while having fun!

My favorite costume creation at our house was one that seemed to take on a life of its own. Initially, a soft & fleecy fabric was made into a bunny costume. A couple of years later, with the addition of black patches and new ears plus a replaced tail, it became a dog costume. Not long after, it became — with lots of additions of tawny-gold fabric and yarn for a mane — a lion’s outfit. The following year, altered yet again, it was turned into yet another animal for a church Christmas pageant.  I think that costume still lives in a box somewhere in this big old farmhouse, bits and pieces of it intact & others missing – looking like a strange bunny-dog-lion creature that would confuse any of today’s trick-or-treaters.

Even when Walter & Wilma were in high school, there was creativity involved in the costumes. Our daughter once made herself a Hershey’s Kiss by wrapping up in aluminum foil & tying some sort of ribbon in her hair. With the proper hat and old leather jacket pulled from a closet, our son became Indiana Jones one year & with a white sailor’s cap and plain old tee shirt, Gilligan another.   OK, so maybe Walter opted for less creativity than Wilma did, but still, the idea of “making” a costume was intact.  Besides, his somewhat cynical nature by that age required he only go half-way in celebrating the holiday.

Halloween, back then, you were fun.

I’m sorry to say this, but Halloween of the millennium, I really don’t like you anymore.

Oh, I make cute little decorated treat bags of candy for the neighbor’s grandchildren, a young niece and two special little girls, and I think they all look adorable in their costumes.

But you, Halloween, you yourself – well, you have changed.

I don’t like blood & gore, chainsaws, slutty cop costumes, or serious fright, or movies about vicious violence. I don’t even really like store-bought costumes — but I know, not everyone wants to – or has time to – pull out the creativity and make a costume.  But when did you become about sexy vamps with blood dripping from some extremity?  When did pre-schoolers dressing up as ghouls become “fun?”  When did the costumes begin taking on the price tags of a designer handbag?

I am a dud in the world of Halloween, I know. A first class Dud.

I love Autumn. Harvest, Hayrides, Corn Mazes, Hot Cider, Beautiful Trees, Bonfires, Pumpkins and Gourds, and then best of all, Thanksgiving.

But Halloween, you can skip my house this year. You’re just not really much fun anymore.

Wanting to end on a happy note, though, I’ll share the tale of my favorite Trick-or-Treater — other than my own children.  One dark Halloween evening about 25 or 30 years ago, a little boy who was probably about 4 years old sauntered up our front walk with his best Cowboy Swagger.  Decked out in blue jeans, a plaid shirt, a brown fringed vest with toy Sheriff’s star, cowboy boots and hat plus a simple black eye mask, he stopped just short of our steps where we sat with a big bowl of candy treats.  Pulling out his toy gun, with the cutest little grin ever, he drawled, “Trick or treat… Pardner!”

Now Dear Halloween, that’s what it’s supposed to be all about.  At least in the Land of Emma Ann.   Imagination, and fun.

Love,
Emma Ann

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