Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ooh, Ahh Moments

There are times in life when we have one of those Ooh, Ahh moments. They are often few and far between which we should sometimes be thankful for but they are certainly life changing moments. I have had several of those moments so earth shaking that they will stay with me until my dying day.

First I should explain what I am referring to as an Ooh, Ahh moment. Ooh moments are always bad. You do something or something happens that involves you and you just know that nothing good is going to come from it. In fact, dread climbs on your back and sits like a heavy weight for weeks or years waiting for all the fallout to subside. Ahh moments are always good and happen much more often than their trouble loving cousins. Ahh moments, however, can come and go so quickly that you almost miss them entirely and certainly do not have time to enjoy them, all that might remain is a faint smell, a smile on a loved one’s face, or the soft caress of having been part of the most rare of magical moments. Other times the Ahh moments will linger and you will find that feeling or scent returning to be enjoyed over and over as you go through the day. Sometimes you just get that relaxed, everything-is-perfect feeling and want to make time stand still so it will stay with you forever.

The first serious Ooh moment that is committed to my memory happened when I was eleven. It started out as what seemed like the absolute worst thing that could happen to a young city girl and was the catalyst for my next even more serious Ooh moment ten years later. That is when I learned that Ooh moments can come strung out like beads on a chain with all of them traced back to some original Ooh moment that was the silent trigger.

One day my parents sat their six children down and told us we were going to have two new changes in our lives. First, we could expect a new sibling to be arriving soon and second we were moving to a larger house out in the country. Well, as the oldest of the bunch the new addition was no surprise. I was a smart child and had that one figured out many months earlier. I also knew that a move was planned because my parents had the habit of waiting until they were in bed each night to discuss all their important business. They thought that would make the conversations childproof. They did not know that I would pretend to be asleep until after Mom did her bed checks, then I would get up and place my quilt in front of the bedroom door to block the light from going under the door into the dark hallway and read with one ear glued to the door until after their nightly talk turned to sounds of things more adult or they said their good nights. I just never expected my parents would drag us all off to a house so far in the sticks that it had no indoor toilet and we would be attending a four room school house, of all things. I was devastated.

I was in the sixth grade and it was the first year that I had what I would call real friendships with a group of girls in my class. Barbara Clark claimed to be the niece of Dick Clark of American Bandstand fame. None of us believed her but liked the idea that we knew someone with a famous relative so we never let on. Barbara lived close enough that I was allowed to go to her house and play and often the twins Suzanne and Stephanie would be there as well. At the time of my parent’s big announcement we had just been to our first boy-girl party with a real jukebox and dancing and now they wanted to take me off to the boondocks and away from not only my new friends but Elsie the lady that helped care for us. I knew that, as the oldest, I would soon have to change my name to Cinderella. I think I cried myself to sleep every night for weeks before and after that move.

I admit that for the remainder of that year I took every opportunity to make my parents life as miserable as I was. If my brothers felt any of the same emotions about moving I do not remember because it only took one visit to the new house for them to fall in love with it. Finding the new place had a field big enough for baseball, the promise of a dog, plus learning the family down the road had eight boys added to their excitement so they were soon in their glory. We had been eight people in a small four room bungalow and now we had four bedrooms with a large kitchen and a full basement. Sure, having more room was nice, but all I could see was an old house with a musty basement covered in coal dust, and a well worn path to the outhouse. Besides, all my parents grand stories about how we would have a garden, chickens, milk cow and even a few pigs did not sound like it would be as much fun as they made it out to be. The last thing I wanted to do was have to touch some smelly old pig.

My dread of the life I would have after the move was not unfounded and my life was forever changed, but, so was the life of every member of the family. For me, the seedlings of resilience, adaptability, and personal growth began to grow, but a life long struggle with the weeds that choked my self worth, inner peace and personal harmony also became firmly rooted as well. After our move the family grew from seven to thirteen children and the struggles of my parents to care for their growing brood added considerably to the responsibilities my oldest brothers and I were expected to take on. The struggle to find and be myself, and not the person everyone else expected me to be, was what lead me to my second most serious Ooh moment in 1967.

In the fall of 1965 I became enamored with a very handsome young man. Looking back I realize that my parent’s disapproval of the relationship probably increased my attraction and within six weeks we became engaged. We were married in the summer of 1966 and as the saying goes, “the blush was hardly off the honeymoon” before I realized I had jumped from the frying pan into the blazing fire. Being a proud and stubborn Catholic girl I was determined not to let my parents know just how right they had been. There was no way I was going to crawl home admitting that I should have listened so I set about doing all I could to make things work. The problem was that we were both of that sandwich generation wedged between the strongly chauvinistic husbands of our father’s era and the more liberal thinking males of the next generation. In other words he wanted to be a classic nineteenth century male while I wanted to be a twenty-first century woman. We were married for 37 years until his death in 2003, and during that time I never once doubted my husband loved me as much as it was possible for him to love anyone, but, his kind of loving did not translate into the kind of support I so desperately needed. One day in 1967 my second major Ooh moment occurred when I suddenly realized that I was pregnant and any chance I might have had of achieving the life I dreamed of was forever lost. Regrettably, that child died shortly after birth and the resulting grief and depression caused me to overlook the perfect window of opportunity to undo the mistake I had made. By the time that thought finally occurred to me I was pregnant again and the dye was forever cast.

Until this year the ahh moments in my life quickly became indelibly etched in my memory because of their rarity. I am not referring to things like the first time you held your newborn child, watched as they performed their first violin concert or strutted across the stage to receive their diploma. Yes, those are all Ahh moments but I am referring to moments that are unexpected and send warm tingles all the way to your toes. For example, if you and you spouse are out walking and notice a spectacular sunset and stop for a moment to watch that is a nice moment. But, if when you stopped your spouse put their arm around you and said, “What a lovely sunset, I am so glad I was able to share it with the person I love most,” That is an Ahh moment to remember and will probably have you walking an inch off the ground for awhile besides.

Yesterday, my husband and I were sitting in the office of our investment banker and while she was busy entering our information into her computer my dear husband leaned over and whispered into my ear that he wished he was free to nibble on my ear lobe at that precise second. Now that is an Ahh moment that had me floating on air all the way home and other events like it are the reason that the Ahh moments in my life are on the increase this year.

You will have to forgive me because I am going to end this now and go tell that sweet man how much I love him.

Ohhhhhhhh Frank, where are you?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fairy Tales

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from someone who read one of the stories on my blog. They wanted to know how I got ideas for the stories I write and said I had great imagination. They also suggested I take up writing fairy tales.

Most fairy tales tend to open with “Once upon a time” or even “once upon a time in a land far far away.” Well, my stories are not fairy tales. They all happened to me or someone I know and often I was the witness to the event taking place in my story. I do best writing about things I know, but my stories might as well be happening in a world that existed once-upon-a-time for today’s world is no longer the same.

Those entering college this year have always had such things as color TV, cell phones, video games, computers, designer jeans and Reeboks. They would probably find the world of my youth as foreign as Nardia or Hogswart Academy, so in a sense, the world of my stories is now truly a place far far away.

I can imagine the reaction I would get from my nieces, nephews and grandchildren, if they were told they had to go to school where girls never wore anything without a skirt and boys could no wear jeans. Tee-shirts were considered underwear and books were strapped together with an old belt. School work was only done in pencil until high school, and then everyone had to have a fountain pen and a bottle of black India ink.

It was a place where the roads were still dirt or gravel, families had one car and some had no TV. The television was a small screen in black and white with no remote. Telephones only came in black, had a rotary dial and were attached to a wall, plus every family was on a party line with several other families, all of whom could eavesdrop on every conversation.

The lucky folks got their water from a well and had a flush toilet. Everyone else got water from a cistern and they followed a well worn path to an outhouse that made today’s porta-potties seem like mansions. There were no sewers or trash collection and a few homes were still so far off the main road they lacked electricity.

Could today’s young people go back and visit much less live in a time and place where the only violence on TV was a Roy Rogers shootout and only the bad guys got killed. A place where married couples on TV always slept in twin beds and the only sex they were exposed too happened between house pets and then all they saw was the basket full of fluffy kittens or furry puppies. This was a world where no man had walked on the moon, drank a Mountain Dew, or saw an SUV. Movies were watched through the car window sitting on giant parking lots we called “the drive-in theater”.

Basically, the answer is that I am an “old lady” and I just write about the things I remember or the people I have known. My point of view may be different from the events as you remember them, but this is, after all, a blog about the recollection and other dumb stuff that runs through my head and seeps out through my fingers. If you were there and have a different memory or can add to my tales then please, leave your comments here or send me an e-mail. I would love to hear from you.


I am jinxed. Honestly, I will take a bible oath to that fact. It there is anything odd, strange, unusual, unique or different going to happen, it will seek me out. It is as if I have some sort of magnetic field around me that draws the unbelievable, and causes it to attach itself to me.

Over the years many of my friends and co-workers have accused me of sitting up nights inventing stories that I could use when I needed a reason to cover for some absence or tardiness. I’ve been told that so many odd events could not believably happen to one person. But, the solid truth is that they have, so the only explanation is that I must be jinxed.

Have you ever:
Had a fork in your arm up to the shank? Been in a car up to the dashboard in water and about to float down a small creek during a flash flood in a area that has no history of flooding? Been driving down a busy roadway and suddenly had your front wheel weaving between the cars in front of you? Driven your car down the steps on the hillside of the courthouse grounds? Lost your many layers of crinolines in the middle of the dance floor while dancing with the most popular boy in school at homecoming? Been trapped in a chicken coop by a rogue rooster? Forced to spend hours of a day home alone on top of a dresser because of a five foot snake on the bedroom floor below? Stuck at the top of a Farris Wheel all night?

Well, each of these things and many more have all happened to me over the years and are all on my list of future stories to write. It’s like Mark Twain said, “the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense”, so check back occasionally and see if I ever get any of them out of my head and on the screen.

Hot Summer Days

The picture outside my window each morning as I sit at my breakfast table is one of a beautiful summer day waiting to be enjoyed. Here in my part of Missouri, we have had lots of bright blue skies and fluffy clouds with the trees rustling in a steady breeze. But, once outside, I am assaulted by a breeze that seems to be circulating through a blast furnace with humidity like some monster sauna.

Our record breaking heat of the last few weeks with highs in the triple digits and a heat index as high as 110 degrees has my mind working in overdrive remembering other hot summer days. Perhaps one side effect of recently having a birthday that marks me as an official old lady is my mind continually jumps to reminiscences of times past by the oddest of triggers. Something as normal as spending a few minutes outside on a hot day brings back memories of things long forgotten or things that had little impact at the time but now take on a whole new life in my head.

My dear husband, of 5 months, has on several occasions asked me to tell him what I was thinking about because he saw I was off somewhere deep in thought. Sure it is easy to talk about the joyful days and all the silly happenings of your life but, how do you explain thinking about love and loss and other emotions that cut to the center of your very being without making us both feel uncomfortable or causing embarrassment to yourself or him.

Well Frank, just so you will know here are just a few of the things I have been thinking about recently. First, I was thinking about when I was eight and five playmates and I wanted to find out if we really could fry eggs on the sidewalk. We met on the school lot one afternoon with all the eggs we could get from our parents refrigerators, only to be caught by a nun before the eggs were cooked. Besides scrubbing the entire walk, we had to spend a half hour kneeling at the communion rail in church praying to be forgiven for our sins.

Then there was the heat wave of 1984, when I became bothered by an intuition so strong I left work and made a long drive to the home of relatives, where I found them overcome by the heat and passed out on their living room floor. The ER doctor said if I had been ten minutes later one would certainly have died and the other was only minutes behind him.

I’ve also been thinking about the hundreds of miles my brothers and I walked during the summers of our youth hauling five gallon buckets of water from the house to the garden and spreading it, one tin can at a time, on each plant to keep the garden from dying because we did not have a hose long enough to reach. Then there was the hot summer day when my brothers set fire to the barn and another when a girlfriend and I snuck off to St. Louis on a date with some college boys and I ended up in the hospital with what the doctors thought was appendicitis.

These hot summer days reminded me of the time I won a speech contest in 4-H and got to make a trip to the state competition only to have one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. After sitting in the back of the auditorium for hours, listening to the other contestants give their talks, my name was finally called and I made the long trek up the aisle to the podium wondering what had the audience whispering as I passed, only to discover later that I had started my period and there was a large red stain on the back of my new white dress.

But mostly I have been thinking a lot about the surreal events of that hot August day in 1966 when I married my deceased first husband, and the even hotter days in August 1970, one when we buried my grandfather and the one two days later when I gave birth to my daughter.

Maybe I am different than most folks but hot summer days hold some of the best and worst memories for me. So I have been mulling over thoughts of everything from lazy afternoons playing in the sprinkler as a child, to hours sitting in the ER with a little brother who cut off the end of his finger in the screen door while I was babysitting as a teenager. Maybe one of these days I will actually write about a few of these events in more detail, some are quite humorous while for others I will need to be sure that the statutes of limitations have expired on some of the secrets I still keep.