Friday, September 26, 2014

Matt, Kitty, Doc, & Chester-Saturday Night Friends

Most every Saturday night when growing up in the country, my cousin and I slept over at our grandmother's house. One of our aunt's lived there too. Lucky for us, she never married. On those Saturday nights, cushions were removed from the sofa in the living room so we could pull our bed out.
It might as well have been a sleepover at the Waldorf Astoria. We felt like royalty on that sofa in our flannel nightgowns covered in warm blankets with puffy pillows. It was the perfect night for a sleep over because it was the best night for TV watching-starting with The Lawrence Welk Show. Our grandmother and aunt loved that show and to be honest, so did we-from the Lennon Sisters to Myron Florin, Bobby Burgess to the Champagne Lady herself, Alice Lon. But that was just a warm-up to the main event of the evening-Gunsmoke.
I can still hear Marshal Matt Dillon's spurs as he made his way along the boardwalk to the Long Branch Saloon to see Miss Kitty. I always thought Matt and Miss Kitty liked each other. I always though they'd get married. They never did. Matt Dillon was tall and handsome, always tipping his hat to the ladies yet ready to defend Dodge City from the bad guys. Miss Kitty was beautiful. Of course she had the most perfect beauty mark on the right side of her face and her long, fancy dresses made of exquisite fabrics were to die for as were her feathered hats and jewels. When she worried about Matt getting shot, so did I. Sometimes when Matt lingered at the swinging door of the Long Branch I often wondered what he was thinking-standing there saying good night to Miss Kitty.
 I loved Doc-always with his black ribbon tie and pocket watch and doses of wisdom. Chester, Matt's deputy although I don't remember if that was official, was a gentle soul complete with a limp. While there were other characters over the years, Matt, Kitty, Doc and Chester remained my favorites as we'd sit in our bed in the living room eating popcorn made in a skillet. But the night of good TV didn't end with Gunsmoke. Paladin-Have Gun Will Travel-rounded out the programming. We enjoyed Paladin. But thoughts of beautiful Miss Kitty and handsome Matt Dillon always lingered.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Me, My Friend Elaine, and Chubby Checker

     Years ago Chubby Checker was part of the entertainment lineup for an annual July event held in my hometown. For those of us of a certain age that was monumental. Most of us bought his 45s. Most everyone could do the Twist-not as good as Chubby Checker but it didn't matter. Way back when there were two high schools in our community. The one now torn down used to hold great school dances and the Twist would get everyone on the dance floor. We'd twist the night away!
I worked on the committee organizing that July event along with my friend, Elaine. We were more than excited when that night rolled around. Because my friend was beyond organized whatever the occasion, we were the first ones at the hall where Chubby would be performing. And because of her, we were the first ones to spot his bus. How exciting! We were going to meet Chubby Checker. And we did! Because of Elaine, we were the first ones he and his entourage met. Beyond exciting!
Chubby was a huge presence. Very tall with large hands and a big smile. We showed him where he'd be performing and the side room where he'd be waiting off stage. An area band would be accompanying him so they took some time talking things over.
People started trickling in. Elaine and I were all over the place until one of Chubby's people found us. They were in trouble. Chubby's one-piece stretch outfit with tons of sparkling bangles had ripped wide open in the back. They didn't have another one on the bus! The Show would soon begin.
Elaine sprang in to action. She hopped in her car and seconds later she was back with a sewing kit.
Chubby stripped down and sat beside us with a blanket around him while Elaine stitched his stretch onesie.She was good. She was fast despite the three of us laughing so hard-so very hard! After Chubby had his mended outfit back on, Elaine had him turn around a few times-bend over a few times just to make sure the stitches would hold. They had to. The King of The Twist was in the house about to let it rip. Pardon the pun!
The show was amazing. We danced and laughed and twisted all night long. That spangled outfit held its own thanks to my friend Elaine. Before leaving, Chubby thanked her again. I can still hear the reply, "Oh Chubby!" I laugh whenever I think about our sitting around with Chubby Checker. I'm sure Elaine does too!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Picking the Old Maid Every Time

When my oldest child was 3 or 4 years old we'd play Old Maid all the time. Usually my younger brother played along with us. It was always a fun time-full of laughs and jokes-until it got down to less and less cards held in each hand. That's when it became very quiet as the maneuvering and shifting of cards became the game instead of the game itself. All eyes would be on the backs of those cards and how each card was positioned and how each player played the waiting game. That was usually when my daughter blew it-especially if she was the one holding the Old Maid. And if she was the one holding that most unwanted card, she made it obvious by sticking it in the middle of her cards and holding it way above the rest. Of course she was only a little girl but she repeated this strategy every time-and every single time she'd end up with that horrid card and every single time she'd throw whatever cards she had left and go screaming to her room. Funny thing though-she'd always sit down and play Old Maid again next time. Besides being inexpensive, those little packs of cards could be played on a front porch or back porch-in the kitchen or sitting on a floor.Those little packs could go anywhere. It never mattered which game you were playing-Hearts-Slap Jack-Go Fish-Crazy 8's-even Old Maid-they provided time spent with friends and family-even if one might leave the table screaming over and over again.     

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Heirloom Tied with Lime Green Yarn

My youngest child never knew my grandmother. She passed away when he was a baby. But that doesn't mean she didn't leave him a memory-something just for him from a great-grandmother who wanted him to feel he was as special to her as the other great grandchildren who knew her-who sat on her lap and rocked with her in her rocking chair by the front window. 
My grandmother was always using her hands like instruments to cook-to clean-to hold little ones and tell them she loved them-and to create. Sewing-darning-crocheting-braiding rugs-quilting. It never mattered what she was creating as long as her hands were busy with a task.
My grandmother set out to make my unborn a quilt. She had some of the little squares cut out.
Back then we never knew if we were having a boy or a girl so she chose colors at random. It didn't matter what the colors were to me. What did matter was despite the fact she was tired and weak she kept pushing to finish the quilt before she no longer had the strength.That in itself was a testament to her grit and determination.
My grandmother never did finish the quilt. She ran out of time. But what she left for my child is a masterpiece. With unsewn edges and hand-stitching still intact and little bits of lime green yarn tied amongst the squares, the unfinished work is priceless. Instead of putting it away in a dresser drawer I had it framed. It hangs in my dining room. My grandmother is always near. My son knows the heirloom tied with lime green yarn is his-made just for him by a great-grandmother who loved him.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Out On The Range on Summer Evenings

Don't you wish you'd paid more attention to certain things when you were growing up? Looking at this picture I realize now I wished I'd done just that but I guess when you get to be a certain age the world as you consider it to be is meant to revolve around you and whatever the adults are doing or saying is trivial. After all, what do they know? And when you are growing up surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents there's lots of adult trivia going on-like the summer evenings when they'd gather outside around a fire in a stone fireplace and talk-as this picture shows them doing.
Whenever my parents told me they were going 'out on the range' I was thrilled. That meant they'd be out of the house and I could do just as I pleased which usually wasn't anything different than what I'd be doing if they were home. It was the fact they weren't there. Sometimes my older brother joined them. That was even better! The TV would be all mine as well as the couch and the refrigerator. My cousin who lived in the farmhouse next door couldn't come over because she had to be there for her younger brother and sister while her parents were out on the range. I had to do the same. I don't remember my little sister or brother waking up once!
Now when I look at the adults in this picture they look so young to me. Back then they looked so old to me. Back then I thought they knew nothing. Now I know they knew everything-everything that matters-everything that touches most everyone at one point or another-love, sorrow, loss, disappointment, joy, worry, and so much more-so much more than a young teenie bopper watching TV on the couch even understands.
I've come to realize what 'out on the range' meant to them, sitting in their enamel chairs or on seats from a school desk coming from our clubhouse-with their dogs resting nearby. Just as I felt that was my time to be rid of them-I believe they felt the same way. That was their time to come together without children-to talk, share some stories and laughs, have a few beers and snacks-relax-unwind-before they had to go do it all again. Looking at them, I wish I could hear their conversation now as an adult.The more I look at this picture the more I can imagine crickets chirping-a breeze sifting through my aunt's pine trees-the damp air coming from sucker creek not far away-the fire cracking-and glorious stars shining.That sure beats watching TV. But you never could have convinced me back then.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Off to College in a Hearse!

Sometimes having a father as a funeral director led to some unforgettable memories!
Most people knew my father as a funeral director-a caring man who took great pride servicing families in their time of sorrow. I love this picture of my father because it's about the only picture I have where he is not wearing a tie. He's kidding around, enjoying some down time-showing his sense of humor. Growing up around a funeral home offered a unique awareness of the frailty of life-and some unforgettable moments-some quite hilarious-like the time I went off to college in the hearse and never thought a thing about it. When it was time to go to that community college, my father just happened to be going that way to pick up a remains to bring back home. So we loaded up the back of the hearse with all of my stuff and off we went. The school didn't have dorms on campus so I was renting an apartment with four other girls I'd never met.(This was way before facebook)! Adding to the plot was my hair. At that time The Munsters was the #1 show on TV. The vehicle used in the show resembled a hearse. Lily Munster had hair down to her waist with a strip of white down each side in the front. Well I had hair down to my waist just like Lily's but my strip wasn't white-it was a blondish shade. So not only did I arrive in a hearse-I looked like Lily Munster! At first, my landlord thought the hearse was a joke. My roommates loved it. After we unloaded everything, my father and I jumped back inside the hearse and went to dinner-parking right in front of a spaghetti place nearby!