Sunday, October 27, 2013

Monster Mashers

Whatever the season or holiday, living in the country provides the perfect backdrop. Growing up, this proved especially true on Halloween when spooks could be hiding in cornfields or in gardens almost bare or in haylofts where bats swooped and creepy creatures lurked behind the bales piled high. With poplar trees nearly stripped of leaves, the remaining ones on the gnarly branches would rustle in the wind-their edginess scripted for the night of ghosts and goblins.

And if nature's backdrop wasn't enough for little imaginations to grab hold of and enhance all the more, stir in ghoulish adults with a foot still firmly placed in childhood wonder and pranking and you had the perfect scenario for the most scariest-most horrifying, monster mashing Halloweens ever-the kind you look back on as an adult and feel blessed with the memories. Memories of a grandmother whose nose was fit for a witch as was her heckle and whose long grey hair when left to fall seemed to fall forever; an uncle with not only one but both feet firmly planted in childhood with creepy masks and an ability to appear out of the dark on any given twist or turn as one is trick or treating; another uncle who could recite "Little Orphan Annie" in such a way that when he looked up and with a final pause and twist of his tongue said, "And the goblins will get you if you don't watch out" you'd feel chills down your spine yet you wanted to hear it again and again; and an aunt who made that season of suspense even more fun by hanging apples by strings for us to try to bite with our hands behind our backs plus bob for apples floating in a bucket of water. Most times the water ended up covering the floor and those trying to snatch hold of one.

To top it all off-when you'd get home and empty all your goodies out on the rug and divide them into piles you'd keep an eye out for that witch with a hook nose or monster with a creepy mask because it'd turn out out they loved eating candy too!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Families and Their Wheels

On the back of this family photo it's written-"Sold Good Friday-1947." I have no clue who in the family owned this car. I do know it was probably considered a part of the family for more times than not, that's what our vehicles become-part of our families. Many people even have names for their cars. We certainly did!

The first vehicle I vaguely remember is my grandfather's old Ford truck. I don't remember seeing him in it. I just remember seeing it sitting here and there. My mother loved buying new cars which is surprising because she didn't get her license until later on in life. I think it must have been the experience of going into a showroom and wheeling and dealing for something shiny and untouched and smelling like only new cars do. Any car she bought had to be black because my father was a funeral director and sometimes the car was used for work. I remember when my parents and my aunt had the same model car. Both black, they were the latest model of a Ford-I think. That aunt later had a little white Chevy something that was shaped like a square. My parents once owned a black Mercury. It was kind of a big car but I drove it. We called it the Black Bird. Over the years they owned an Olds Cutlass, 98, and Toronado. I think a few were green and not black!

My brother had an awesome TR-3. He was quite the guy zooming around in it! Girls loved it! I can't remember the color but I do recall the only time I drove it. We lived in the country. I'd asked him if I could take it for a ride. I wanted to go into town-show it off with me driving it. The only problem was shifting the gears. I'd never done it. My brother gave me a quick lesson but once I got behind the wheel and I was in town with stop lights and people and yield signs I forgot everything he'd told me. I ended up swerving into someone's front yard. That's when I decided to get the hot sports car back home in one piece. He treasured that car more than he did me! His first car had been a GTO but this TR-3 was his pride and joy.

My pride and joy was a 1968 cherry red Mustang with black bucket seats and a stick shift on the floor. As soon as I graduated from college and landed a job I asked my father to go with me to the Ford dealer. It didn't matter what the salesman told me. I didn't hear any of it. I knew that brand new shiny Mustang sitting in that showroom in front of me was mine. I'd fallen in love with it. I don't know why-maybe the design or that awesome logo or the way it made me feel. I'm not much of a car person. That is the only model of car that has ever caught my eye-and it still does.

Cars we've owned turn into memories of certain times in our lives. They weave their way into our story-taking us on rides and adventures; errands and duties-zooming us along this highway called life-through all kinds of weather-in good times and in bad-and that is a pretty good deal!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Junk Drawer Treasures

I'd venture to say that just about every home has a junk drawer. Growing up we always had one in the kitchen. I've carried that tradition on-having my own junk drawer in my own kitchen. Maybe it's called something else by some people but it means the same. It's the place where anything leftover from a package of something like batteries or thumb tacks-anything small that doesn't have a designated place-like on a bookshelf or in a closet or in the garage or on a wall but rather  has a potential to be used like an odd nail or two, a hook, a screw and a screwdriver, a hammer, hair clips, paper clips, pennies, dice, toothpicks, plastic ties, coupons (many outdated), tape, half-used crayons, tubes of glue, pencils and pens, etc.-is thrown and forgotten about until the need arises for a 'what-cha-ma-call-it' or a 'thing-a-ma-jig' and then the hunt begins. It's a place you should go into very carefully for as you ramble through it-your fingers might get scraped or poked or streaked with color from topless markers.

In the end, you almost always find what you're searching for in that drawer plus a whole lot more stuff that you forgot you had or that you think you might need so you take it out and put it on the counter-and then someone comes along later and puts it right back in the drawer of treasures-of beloved odds 'n ends that you know at some point you might need so you keep whatever it is in there-just in case-adding to the hodgepodge of stuff without even thinking about it.

Going into that maze of miss-matched objects is as exciting to you as a child rummaging through a toy box spilling over with stuff-only your stuff has a bit more history. While you won't find a bike or a skateboard; an onion, ice cream cone full of ice cream, or a carrot or a snowflake, you will find forgotten bits and pieces that tell a story-your story through the treasures you and others once placed in a junk drawer.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

And You Think It's Just A Birdbath

Putting little fingers in a birdbath may sound simple yet to a child looking at and feeling the water trickling down her fingers it opens her curious mind to imaginative possibilities and unending questions.

Just what is this stuff? Why does it move down my things called fingers and fall to the ground-and then where does whatever it is go? Why does this stuff feel like it does and why can't I hold it like I do my favorite blanket or mommy's hand? Why does this stuff move around like it does when I put my fingers in it and why does it go all over the place-including me-when I move my fingers faster and then put one hand in it and then the other hand and move them faster and faster-in a circle and then up and down-even faster-so fast that I can hardly breath because the stuff gets in my eyes and I can't see and that stuff on my head called hair is wet as are my clothes and I feel chilly as the summer breeze passes me by. Yet whenever I am able to catch my breath I laugh and giggle-still with my eyes shut and still with my fingers and hands going so fast that surely I will fly way up high like those pretty things with wings dancing around that place I hear called a garden. And just when there isn't much stuff left to splash in and the breeze makes me a bit chillier but I can't stop what I am doing, I feel someone picking me up and hugging me, wrapping me up in something that smells like those things Mommy calls flowers that are all colors and grow in that garden.

Hmmm-maybe when I get back outside I will go check out those flowers that are all colors growing in the garden. I will play in that box full of sand stuff and fill my trucks and pails with it and make piles and knock them over and make castles and live in them-fighting off monsters until my blue swing hanging from the thing called a tree branch catches my eye. Then Mommy will strap me inside it and I will soar way up high-laughing every time my head brushes those green things hanging from the branch.

And to think-we adults think it's just a birdbath-just water-just fingers-just hair-just butterflies-just a garden-just a towel-just flowers-just a sandbox-just a tree branch-just leaves.

Take the time to find the Wonder around you. It's still there-just ask a child!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Searching for S & H Green Stamps

I remember my mother, grandmother and aunts all saved S & H Green Stamps. They'd lick the backs of the stamps and place them on pages of small booklets. Once they had enough booklets filled, they would go downtown to the S & H Green Stamps store and redeem their books of stamps for merchandise-really good, brand-name merchandise-everything from pearls to luggage to kitchen pots and pans, etc. The more expensive an item-the more books one needed to redeem the stamps for the merchandise. That's how many Christmas presents were 'bought.' Some people would save their  books of stamps all year long and then go shopping at the S & H Green Stamp store. It was fun looking through the 'S & H Distinguished Merchandise Idea Book.' It was like the Sears Toy Catalog-but not as exciting!

My cousin and I liked to save the stamps too. I remember searching anywhere to find enough stamps to fill a book-my mother's purse (after asking), desk drawers, under couch cushions, under chair cushions, in my father's car, in kitchen drawers, pant pockets, jacket pockets. And when a book was almost filled, the search became intense. Sometimes my grandmother would give me some of hers. My grandmother had lots of stamps. It felt good to finally have enough stamps to fill enough books to go shopping. It was like getting stuff 'free'-no money needed-just books of stamps. What a nifty idea-clever actually because people would shop places that gave out those green stamps when buying something. Stores would display the S & H Green Stamp logo in the window. One particular department store in my hometown was know for green stamps. Once a customer bought something, their money and sales slip would be placed into a cylinder-type container-then put down  a tube that carried it to the office. The fun was waiting for it to come back to see how many Green Stamps were inside-and then see who would get the stamps to take home, lick and put into booklets.

I have no clue how S & H Green Stamps really worked. But it never mattered. It was too much fun searching for enough stamps to fill a book-and then another and another!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Leaf House is a Fun Place to Live-and Play!

I was recently reminded how absolutely fantastically wonderful it is to play in the leaves. And if that reminder comes from a child-as it did for me-then the experience is all the more amazing-turning an afternoon visit into an afternoon of imagination through the eyes of a 3-year old granddaughter.

When I first arrived she and her mommy and daddy had been gathering leaves into a giant pile. She came around the corner of the house, sitting on her daddy's lap-smiling-as he drove the lawn mower while holding a rake. The fun soon began as she buried her daddy-and then her mommy in the picky leaves. Then they turned the tables and covered her in the leaves. She didn't stay still for long. Up she jumped-her hair twisted in leaves-coughing and laughing and jumping around.

 After a bit, it was just the two of us at the leaf pile-then in the leaf pile-then under the leaf pile over and over again. But that curious, childhood imagination really kicked in when I took a rake and made us a leaf house. While she anxiously waited I framed off some of the leaves-like putting up the framework of a house. Then I took more leaves and 'built' walls in our house-adding doorways and a kitchen and living room, a bathroom and two bedrooms. Each bedroom had a very comfortable leaf bed with a very comfortable leaf pillow. The kitchen had a leaf table and leaf refrigerator. The living room had a leaf chair for each of us. She never mentioned adding a leaf TV! But she did add an extra front door and a leaf window in her bedroom and mine. Then we moved into our leaf house. She placed her sippy cup on the leaf table in the leaf kitchen before going to sleep. Night time flew in that leaf house as a few seconds later she jumped out of her leaf bed, got dressed, brushed her teeth. Then she ate breakfast and came rushing into my leaf bedroom telling me it was time to get up.

"Gra-Gra. I have to go to school now."

So up I got out of my comfortable leaf bed-brushed my teeth-had a quick cup of leaf coffee and off we went. We did this over and over. After taking her to school-which was the front porch, I'd go home and clean the leaf house and cook leaf food. When I picked her up she'd show me all the things she drew or colored in school. Some ended up taped to the leaf refrigerator.

With all our comings and goings our leaf walls needed constant patching-meaning raking the leaves back in place due to a certain little someone getting so excited she'd burst right through the leaf walls, forgetting about the two leaf doorways. When she realized what she'd done she would go back through the leaf wall and then out the leaf doorway-always laughing and always running. And when she wasn't going to school up on her front porch she was a little puppy, wagging her tail, whimpering as she fell asleep in her leaf crate after my feeding her a leaf biscuit in our leaf kitchen.

What was to be an afternoon visit turned into a most magical journey with a most imaginative little girl. It reminded me that Mother Nature remains the best toy store ever-providing us with leaves and puddles and snow piles and twigs and grass and stones to play in and play with-turning them into whatever we choose-and it's all free-no batteries needed-no need to power up. Just bring along a child bursting with imagination-that's all the power you need!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sitting on a Fence in a Cardigan Sweater

There are some things that really don't change-like the love of a cardigan sweater that spans generations. I don't know when this picture was taken showing some of my aunts in their cardigans but I wear similar cardigans today. A cardigan is timeless-versatile-always adds the perfect touch.There's just something about them. They become old friends-always there for us-always making us feel warm-making us feel like all will be okay.

Although some cardigans come with buttons, hooks, or zippers, the style of the sweater remains the same despite the use of a variety of fabrics. I still remember a cashmere cardigan my mother wore when dressing up-quite possibly the softest sweater I've ever felt. With small silver buttons up the front, I thought my mother looked like a fairy princess every time she wore it to go some place special with my father. When she wasn't wearing her cashmere sweater, my mother kept it in a dresser drawer wrapped in tissue paper.

I remember a certain aunt who would spend a day caring for her cardigans-washing them in woolite-blocking them out on a towel to dry. Thicker ones would be stored away for colder months-some in mothballs. I remember another aunt who would button her cardigan up the front and then wear pearls to top off the look. She always seemed dressed up to me. A cardigan fits any need-any mood. Like my aunt did, you can dress your cardigan up or as shown in the picture above you can wear a cardigan on down time over a shirt. I remember when in high school, we'd wear them backside front and sometimes top them off with a small Peter Pan collar that buttoned in the front.

In this age of so much changing and so many of us moving so fast it is nice to know there's quite possibly a cardigan in a drawer waiting to wrap us up and give us comfort and that is why a cardigan sweater remains a staple no matter how much fashions come and go. I'm not sure about those saddle shoes my aunts are wearing. But then, the three of them sure look quite fashionable sitting on a fence in their cardigan sweaters in the countryside.