Friday, April 22, 2016

The Box!

It’s here!
Yep, the box that arrives every year about this time was delivered to my door this morning – a day early!
And now I have a decision to make: I can either go ahead and open it or bite my lip and wait until tomorrow, which is what daughter, Toney, always tells me I should do.
She used to send the box at least a week early. It tormented me having that mysterious package in my house for days without knowing what was in it. I tried putting it in a room where I didn’t see it without purposely going into that room, but I knew it was there (it seemed to be calling my name), so that’s exactly what I did – visited that room on purpose! I’d hold the package and shake it and try to figure out what was in it and then, when I couldn’t stand it any longer, I’d rip it open.
I didn’t tell her and hoped she wouldn’t ask, but she always did and I couldn’t lie to her. So... she started outsmarting me by sending them closer to my birthday!
Party pooper!
The package I got this morning has me stumped. I carried it around, shook it, smelled it and listened to it, but don’t have a clue what’s in it. It’s heavy. I’m certain she wouldn’t have bought me an iron or a pair of dumbbells. I already have both. Hmmmmm.... what could it be?
One thing for sure – these boxes from her are always interesting. She has a real imagination when it comes to gift-buying. Wish I had it. I tend to buy one thing, usually something the receiver tells me he or she would like to have. No surprises from me. But Toney buys something you’ve mentioned plus a lot of little surprises. Makes it so much fun to open her gifts – and that’s why it’s so hard to wait!!!
Will I or won’t I?  
Let you know tomorrow. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spring Already?

It was a lovely morning!

When I stepped out the front door of my house for the first time in about three weeks, I couldn’t believe it. Without turning my head too far, I could see two dogwood trees in full bloom, one white and one pink, a large ornamental pear tree covered with white blossoms, a portly forsythia bush loaded with golden blooms, two purple tulips – all I have left from years of neglect, and a large rhododendron bush – heavy with buds. The sunny day was warm and breezy, the sky blue.
“It’s spring!” I told Mr. H.

“It sure is,” he said. “Has been for a while. You almost missed it.”
We drove to my doctor’s office, about a mile away, so I could “give blood” and were back in less than an hour.
Out of the car I bounced, feeling good... enjoying the day... and headed into the house. Inside, as I put my purse down on the floor, I saw something move. Looking closer, I saw a stinkbug that had apparently hitched a ride on my purse. Mr. H. grabbed the intruder and threw him back outside and I said, “Now you see why I like cold weather better.”
Those of you who know me, even slightly, know that I prefer winter over summer. The stinkbug reminded me of some of the reasons: bugs, lizards, snakes, flies, gnats; hot, sticky weather; thunderstorms that uproot trees and cause damage to property; allergies and sunburn and freckles, leathery skin and much more!
Give me the freshness of fall and winter any day. 
I don’t care who disagrees with me or yells at me when I say I love snow. I don’t care how many Christmas cards I get from friends who live in Florida with pictures of palm trees blowing in the breeze or how many jokes they post on Facebook about how they prefer looking at pictures of our 18” snowfall while sitting by their swimming pool sipping piña coladas. I’d rather curl up in front of a roaring fire, sip hot chocolate and watch a good movie.
Unfortunately for me, hot weather started unusually early this year. It’s already been in the 80’s several times. I’m not ready, but guess I have no choice but to take it as it comes. However, I’ll be spending most of my time inside an air conditioned house until, oh... about mid-August when the hint of fall starts to permeate the air and one can go outside without feeling breathless or sticky.
The good news is – time flies and it’ll be here before we know it.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Best Days of All


“I’ve got the ‘don’t-cares’ today.”
As a child, I was never quite sure what my mother meant when she said that, but later in life, I figured it out. Actually, it didn’t take much figuring. I experienced the “don’t-cares” myself.
Although it seems counterintuitive, the “don’t-cares” is not a particularly happy state of mind. Even as a child, I knew that one must feel a sense of accomplishment to be in high spirits. But I wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth – understand it or not – I liked it.
When my mother announced she had the “don’t cares,” I’d giggle and say to myself, Oh, goodie! No work today!
She’d lounge around reading, drinking coffee and doing as she pleased until time to cook dinner. She loved cooking and always cooked, no matter what. Unfortunately, she didn’t pass that love on to me. Everyone knows I’d rather be featured on My Strange Addiction than cook a meal.
When she had one of those days, I’d lie across my bed and talk to my friend, Carol, on the phone. If the weather was nice, we’d meet halfway and take one of the long walks we so enjoyed.
Those were the best days of all.
Nowadays, when I wake up with the “don’t cares,” I smile and remember my mother – the best of her: her smile, her contagious laughter, the way she sang as she did her housework and her sometimes humorous efforts to teach me right from wrong.
And I recall the fun things Carol and I did growing up on the same street in a small town: the walks, the giggles, breaking the rules by riding our bicycles farther than we were allowed, the carnival, double-feature movies on Saturday afternoons. And so much more!
Beautiful memories are the glue that holds life together – even if they are sometimes inspired by the “don’t cares.”


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Baptist Camp

Kids do the darnedest things.
No matter how well-intentioned the parents, sometimes there’s a disconnect and the right message doesn’t get through. These are the times our children surprise and amaze us – either in a good way or not so good. But if we’re lucky, lessons are learned along the way that make them worthwhile and likeable human beings.
I’m guessing I was around ten years old when I learned one of the many valuable lessons I was destined to learn throughout my life.
I grew up in a small town. Although my parents belonged to the local Methodist church, they occasionally allowed me to attend a Baptist church with my friend, Anna. Actually, several of my friends from school attended this church and I preferred it. So, early in the spring, when the subject of Baptist camp came up and my friends were excited about the prospect of going for two weeks in July, naturally, I became excited, too.
I was told there’d be swimming, hiking, craft making, games, roasting marshmallows and singing songs around a campfire in the evenings; It sounded like so much fun! But I soon learned that things aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be.
I was in for a rude awaking!
It took a lot of persuading from me and a couple of friends to convince my mother that I should go, but she finally gave in and the three of us jumped for joy.
Funny how you learn later in life that your mother was so much smarter than you thought. If only I’d listened to her. She knew what I didn’t – that because I’d never been away from home and family for two weeks straight, I was likely to get homesick. I’d experienced a little homesickness from time to time when I visited my grandparents in the summertime, but I had my Aunt Betty to play with and my grandmother to hug me and hold me on her lap and sing to me if things were bad. And I never stayed homesick for long. My grandparents’ house was the nearest thing to home.
First off, I had to ride in the backseat of a car between my two friends for more than two hours to get to the Baptist camp. It was in Cowen, West Virginia. And it was not Interstate – much of it, a two-lane country road. What’s worse, the temperature was in the mid-eighties and the car had no air-conditioning! For a ten-year-old, two hours in a car with all four windows down blowing your hair forty ways from Sunday is an eternity!
When we finally arrived, I thought we’d get right down to that swimming I was promised so we could cool off, but no.... we had to get settled in. We met our counselor, an 18 year-old girl who would be in charge of our little group of 12 girls. Her name was Trudy, and she was nice. Pretty, too, with a golden tan and long blonde hair pulled up in a ponytail. And a beautiful smile.
After asking our names and where we were from, Trudy assured us she’d know our names in a few days and asked us to be patient with her. She then took us to our “cabin.” Yes, it was a real log cabin! Inside, there were three sets of bunk beds, so there’d be six girls in each cabin. She assigned our beds and mine was the top bunk by the window, which I thought was fine until that night when we went to bed and I lay there trying to see through the blackness outside the window. There are no streetlights at camp. After a while, I started to imagine all sorts of things. Maybe a bear, a mountain lion or even some kind of monster was lurking out there in the total darkness. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that first night! Trudy didn’t sleep in the cabin with us. After we went to bed, we were on our own until morning. And guess what else? There was no running water in the cabin! So, no matter what, none of us dared go outside to use the facilities until first light.
Morning brought another surprise for me: we couldn’t sleep in! When it was barely daylight, a loud, clanging bell rang, startling me out of the deep sleep I’d had trouble falling into.
Dragging myself out of bed, I yawned, grabbed my toothbrush and made my way to the outside where there was already a line waiting to use the facilities. That done, I went back inside and retrieved my suitcase from under the lower bunk where Trudy had told me to put it... along with the one belonging to my bunk-mate.
I opened it, returned my toothbrush and felt the first pang of homesickness as I caught a whiff of the sweet-smelling, well-ironed shorts and shirts that my mother had packed for me. I chose clean underwear, white sandals, and my favorite outfit: brown shorts and matching brown and yellow shirt. Donning them, I took my hairbrush out and brushed my hair vigorously, putting a yellow clasp on one side.
I got done just in time ‘cause that irritating bell rang again and Trudy appeared outta nowhere to tell us to line up to go to the activity hall for breakfast.
Breakfast was okay, though cream of wheat is not exactly my cup o’ tea. But soon, a chunky woman brought several plates of pancakes with butter and syrup and large glasses of milk. That was more like it!
Before we were finished, the bell tolled again and Trudy said, “Outside, everyone. Line up so we can split up into groups for our “classes.” (What? Classes? Nobody said there would be classes! It’s like school?)
Oh, my. Two weeks of this? I thought.
I started to walk away and Trudy said, “Where’re you going?”
“Where’s the phone? I have to call my dad,”  I said.
“I can’t stay here.”
“Why not?” Trudy said. “You’re gonna have lots of fun.”
“No, it’s not what I thought it would be like.”
“You haven’t been here long enough,” she said. “Why don't you wait and see how it goes today, okay?”
Tears welling in my eyes, I looked away for a second and finally said, “Okay. Just today, but I’m calling my dad tomorrow!”

Part II - next post

Baptist Camp - Part II

My little group sat down at tables in the activity room and were shown how to paint a name on a mug. “Make it anyone’s name you want,” the craft teacher said. “Your mother, grandmother, sister or anyone you’d like to give it to – a gift from camp.”
I didn’t have to think very hard. My mother’s name was Gwendolyn and that was too many letters. I’d give it to my dad whose name was Dan. (Smile) After we finished our mugs, we put our names on the bottom and left them to be baked in an oven. “You can get them tomorrow,” the teacher said.
After crafts, we got to go swimming before lunch. I was excited until I saw where we had to swim. It was a creek! A green creek! Not a blue swimming pool, but an ugly old, muddy-bottomed creek! The other kids screamed with joy when they saw it and raced to see who could jump in first. I didn’t even want to get in.
Gosh, there are probably snakes and lizards in there, and who knows what else, I thought. I did get wet, but mostly sat on my towel on a huge rock at the edge of the water and got sunburned.
The rest of the day wasn’t too bad. We had hamburgers and potato chips and a banana for lunch. Then, it was game time. Some played badminton, others, volleyball. Still others donned lifejackets and went canoeing. I had a tummy ache and felt hot all over from my sunburn. Trudy told me to go back to my cabin and lie down until suppertime.
At least one promise came true. After supper, we roasted marshmallows around a campfire and sang songs. I enjoyed it and felt pretty good when Trudy said, “Off to bed, little campers. Don’t forget to brush your teeth and say your prayers.” I was tired and slept well until that awful clanging bell rang much too soon. Crawling out of bed, I dreaded another day like yesterday.
I never mentioned calling my dad again. Somehow, I managed to survive the next eleven days of getting up at the crack of dawn when that annoying bell clanged, swimming in that dirty old green water, and eating things I didn’t like, but I was so happy when the day came to go home. There was a ceremony and each camper was given a certificate and a medallion on a chain with the name of the camp and date on it. But what a joyful moment it was when we saw Anna’s mom and dad arrive to take the three of us home! I always felt that Baptist Camp had been totally misrepresented to me and never quite got over it. One thing for sure – I never fell for it again! 

Home at last! How wonderful it felt to walk about my own yard and lounge in my own room while enjoying the pleasing aroma of the meatloaf my mother had in the oven.
During dinner, my parents questioned me about the past two weeks and the things I'd learned and done at camp. I was tired of talking about it and wished they’d talk about something else.
After dinner, my mother said, “Let’s go unpack your suitcase. I still have time to do a load of laundry before bedtime.”
I followed her to my bedroom and watched her surprise as she opened my suitcase. Except for the brown shorts outfit that I'd taken out that first day and my pajamas, everything was exactly the same as it was when she packed it.
Turning to me, she said, “Peggy, why are your clothes clean? Did somebody wash them for you?”
“No,” I said.
Turning to me, hands on her hips, she said, “Well? Why aren’t these clothes dirty?”
“I didn’t wear them,” I said.
“What do you mean, you didn’t wear them? Why not?”
“We didn’t have much time to get dressed and go the bathroom and brush our teeth and comb our hair after the bell rang every morning. It was easier to lay these clothes on the foot of my bed and put them back on every morning.”
“Peggy! Are you telling me you wore the same outfit for fourteen days?”
The look on my mother’s face was starting to make me nervous. No. Scared!
My eyes brimming with tears, I said, “Yes.”
“Why in God’s name would you do such a thing?”
Crying now and trying to avoid my mother's angry glare, I said, “I don’t know.”
“Well, get those clothes off right now and go get in the bathtub.”
As I was undressing, I heard her softly relating the story to my dad and, as odd as it sounds - I could have sworn I heard laughter - but I’m sure I was mistaken.
The worst thing was – she didn’t even bother to wash my favorite outfit. She threw it away! 
I loved that outfit!
I have no good memories of Baptist camp!