Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Car Lag and Such

Well, I'm back.

Last week, I was in Atlanta for market.  Basically, if you'd go walking as fast as you could for 12 hours straight for four consecutive days through the largest mall ever making a continual string of quick, on the spot, financial decisions, then you'd get a good taste of what market is like.  I think I found some really good stuff for the stores and enjoyed being with my funny friend and market roomie, Jean, so I'd considered the trip a success.

So, I came home completely exhausted.  Buying for the stores is so much fun but I was so glad to get home away from the big city!  This country mouse doesn't have much patience with big city traffic.  But, after only one really restful day, Blair and I had to load up and head in the other direction to New Orleans to meet with the florist and salon to finalize some wedding details.  So, after getting back from another 8 hours in the car, I'm not real anxious to travel the interstate system for a while.  I never left the house today and finally took a shower and put on real clothes at 3:00 this afternoon so I'm on my way to recovering from my travels.

While I was in New Orleans, Carson had his senior portrait appointment at the school.  So, that is getting pretty real now. His senior year starts two weeks from Friday!  Wedding gifts and showers are starting.  My house is becoming a glorified storage unit and Blair is moving out next month.  Life is just coming at me fast right now.  I'm like....
And I don't know what it's like where you are but here, in the Hospitality State, it's just plain hot.  Let's just say there's nothing hospitable about this hellacious, humid heat.  I saw an article that listed the states according to how miserable their summers are.  Mississippi finally ranked #1 in something!  Most miserable summers in the United States.  Go, us!

And, a couple of days ago, I was in the grocery store where I saw a mother with her three boys.  One was riding in the buggy and the other two were following behind her.  They walked by me and I saw the mother grab one son's arm and tell him through her clenched teeth that if he didn't straighten up she was going to knock the snot out of him. I knew then that it was almost time for school to start.  Mamas are getting testy about now and southern mamas are even growing so cranky that they're ready to dislodge the mucus from their children.   

So, I just stopped in, not because I had anything worth saying, but just to tell you where I've been.  My writing may become more spotty until after the wedding but I appreciate you hanging in there with me.

Y'all get out there and enjoy the last drop of summer vacation.  Sandwich bags and number 2 pencils are coming for us!
       

     

            

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Lines

Well, I painted our powder room.  I was already in paint mode from our bedroom project when I realized that bathroom hadn't been repainted yet.  While I had all the pans, rollers, and vast array of painting tools out, I decided to go ahead and get it done.  After all, the powder room is really small so I knew it wouldn't take very long. 

Of course, the first thing I did was take everything off the walls including the huge mirror hanging over the sink.  Behind the mirror, I found some pencil lines. They were the lines used to find the perfect placement for the big bolt holding the heavy mirror in place.  I recognized those lines right away.

I always called Daddy to hang heavy things that needed to be stable or hang pairs of things that needed to be precise and symmetrical.  Not that Davis couldn't handle the job but, well, in his occupation, Daddy dealt in precision and stability, every single day, so it was definitely known as his specialty.  Even if I needed a large prop for a wedding, I'd call him because I knew if he built it, there would be no way that it would fall over, take out the whole wedding party, and consequently land me in court. 

He was a steel detailer.  I don't know if you know what that is.  I always had a hard time explaining it when I was a kid whenever people would ask what my dad did for a living and still probably don't do it very accurately.  But, he drew the detailed plans and drawings used to guide the manufacturing and assembly of steel beams, braces, trusses, stairs, etc......those things used in the construction of buildings, bridges, etc....usually for commercial, municipal, or industrial projects.  For long hours each day, he stooped over a drawing board with numbers and decimals and equations swirling all around.  He dealt in fractions of an inch. So, needless to say, he was all about precision.  When you're drawing the steel plans for bridges and platforms and stuff, that's kind of important, I'd guess.

So, when a heavy mirror needed to be hung or if I needed a pair of pictures centered on a wall, he was obviously the one I'd always call and he'd never disappoint.  Always right on the money.  Perfection. 

We'd painted over all his little pencil lines through the years.  One room at a time.  But, when I took that mirror off the wall, there his pencil lead was.  A horizontal line intersecting a vertical line.  The mirror was perfectly centered over the sink.  At the precise height I'd wanted.  And its weight had hung securely through all these years. 

I have to admit that it was hard to paint over those lines of his.  I'm pretty sure they were the last ones left around here and, even though the lines are gone, we still have those nails and bolts in their perfect placements all over our house.

I couldn't help but think that, one day, all of our lines will be covered up.  Life will go on long after we're gone and most of our marks will eventually be removed by the natural course of things.  Time will erase a lot of the projects, efforts, and toil into which we poured our time and energy.  In 100 years, there will be little evidence that we were ever here besides maybe some old records and a tombstone.    

But, the really important thing.  That mark where we chose to place our nail......well, that will stay in place long after we're gone for generations after us to use as a guide.  A reference for them.  Whether good or bad. 

Daddy measured carefully and figured accurately and used different tools effectively to make his mark on my walls.  He used God's word regularly and prayer fervently and his example consistently to make his mark on my life. 

I may paint over his lines or forget his efforts, but the mark that it all led to is still is at work. 

On my walls and in my heart. 

What kind of reference point will our kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, or students be left with when we're gone?  Will our mark be off a bit or will it keep them centered in Jesus? 

The anchor bolt that will hold them securely all their days.

Have a happy and safe 4th! 

God bless America!              

   


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Girdles and Bras and Eyebrow Pencils (Oh, my)

I've been on my running/no sweet tea plan long enough to safely assume that my muffin top is not going to deflate any more than it has at this current caloric intake at which I'm comfortable.  I mean, you can have my tea and I may jog a bit but I will NOT go hungry.  And I've decided that, even when I lose weight, it's in all the wrong places.  For example, my, once, bird legs become crane-like, the spindliest of all bird legs, while my muffin top remains largely intact. 

So, feeling that I'd done as much as I could do, I decided to load up the mother of the bride dress and my new shoes (which I'm so excited about) and go get it altered.  That way, I'd be locked in to this size and wouldn't be tempted to quit running mailboxes or fall off the wagon and roll into McAlister's for Free Tea Day which is, coincidentally, today.

I was in the alterations shop for about 45 minutes while she pinned and pinned and pinned.  It looked so good when she was finished.  Listen, when she gets done, that dress will fit me like a glove.  A latex glove.  So, last night, Blair and I headed to Dillard's to see what kind of shaping undergarments I might need to invest in for such a time as this.   

I spoke to the saleslady and, as we stood amongst the wide swath of spandex and nylon, I discussed my disappointment with the higher power.  Not the Good Lord, of course, but my Spanx higher power for which I'd held such high hopes.  I just didn't think that it was going to get the job done for me.  She agreed that it wasn't her go-to either and pointed me in the direction of the girdles.  I'd never worn a girdle before but was impressed with what felt like pressure treated studs in its frame and taut elastic covering.  Oh, yes.  This is what the muffin top needed, I agreed. 

I found my size and headed into the dressing room.  Since I'd never put on one before, I wasn't sure how it would go but I can tell you that eating Mexican food right before a girdle fitting probably isn't ideal.  I mean, it was like wanting to return a comforter set you'd bought for your bed but couldn't, for the life of you, figure out how to get that big, bulky thing back in that little bag in which it came. 

Well, I wrapped it around me best I could to try and get it started.  It got away from me a couple of times before I could get that first hook done.  Oh, all the hooks.  It was like trying to fasten 40 bras at one time.  But with every hook, I was transforming into a new woman.  Yes, a woman who couldn't exhale and whose blood flow was cut off to her liver and kidneys but a more shapely woman with less quesadilla in the middle.  And who needs respiration and organs when you've got that?

Next, I was onto finding the perfect bra.  My dress comes down in the back and it just has lace on the shoulders and so I was going to need some kind of creative bra solution for that.  The nice lady directed me over to the strapless bras with clear, sticky-on side panels which can be used up to 26 times for a no-show result.  Wait, what?  So many womanly things out there which lie outside my realm of knowledge. 

This might be a good time to mention that Davis was gone to the tux rental store about 13 minutes, the last time we were in New Orleans, and with about 5 swipes of the measuring tape, he'd secured everything he'd need for the day.  Unlike myself who's been traipsing all over the state piecing this complicated puzzle together which is women's wear. 

Well, the middle-aged woman fun doesn't stop there.  Last week, a friend and I were having lunch and we fell into a discussion about our newfound eyebrow problems.  They're disappearing.  Nobody ever told me about this.  I guess it's not something my mother thought she should give me a heads up on.  "Now, darlin', one day, your eyebrows are just gonna fall slam out and you'll be left to figure out how to draw those suckers back on." 

I've always prided myself in my thick, robust eyebrows.  I got those from my Daddy.  It's probably not every little girl's dream to have her father's eyebrows but he did give me a lot to work with in that department even if they did require the upkeep equivalent to an English garden. 

Anyway, we sat there trying to figure out if they were just graying and becoming lighter or if they were actually falling out.  Either way, they didn't show up like they once did and that was troubling to us.  We didn't want to become one of those women with two brown marker-like lines drawn in the blank space over each eye.   

Don't fret, though.  Blair to the rescue with just the right eyebrow pencil from Ulta and free hands on tutorials, so all's well that ends well.

Women.  Bless our little hearts.  Nothing is simple for us.  It's just not.  Men will never understand how complicated it is to be us with their waistbands and belts keeping things cinched in and their bushy eyebrows that grow together in the middle..........and then out their noses and ears.

Ok, well, maybe they've got their own problems.




Y'all have a good day! 
  

       


 

        

Monday, June 19, 2017

Happy Birthday, Son


Carson turns 17 today. 

It's hard to believe that it's been 17 years since he came on the scene.  I'd spent the 6 years prior to him raising Blair, quite possibly the most feminine child ever to walk the earth, and so I knew a boy was definitely going to be a change of gears for us.....kind of like going from 4th to reverse. 

At first, the differences were subtle.  His baby hands were bigger.  His cry was louder.  He could pee in my face.  And I'd rock him and instead of cuddling sweetly on my shoulder, he'd try to scale me like a rock wall. 

He got older and other differences started to show.  He'd come in from playing outside and his hair would be soaking wet with sweat and soon there was this smell that would fill the room.  His sister never smelled like that before. 

There was this fascination with urinating outside. I didn't know what it was about relieving oneself off the front porch or in the backyard that was so enticing but there must've been something to it that I'd never get to experience.  I soon learned to appreciate the convenience, though, in that he was able to go practically anywhere in case of emergencies.

Everything he picked up was used as a weapon.  A stick.  A popsicle.  A banana.  A paper towel roll.  Pow. Pow. Pow.  If it was seen as unfit for a weapon, it was a truck.  One of the two.      

His daddy would come home from work and he'd immediately jump on top of him.  They'd get in the floor and roll around, wrestling and pinning each other down.  From where I sat, it looked like a miserable time of grunting, sweating, and turning red but it was like he'd been waiting all day for another dude to come around so he could unleash some of his maleness.  He'd been civilized for long enough at home with me all day. 

He'd stop me down the hall from his preschool room and insist that we kiss before we got near the classroom door.  Oh, how he loved me, but I soon learned that it would need to be our little secret. 

Most of his toys shot foam bullets or lasers or balls or darts or discs or pellets or water.  The rest of them made obnoxious noises.  Each action figure came with 12 guns, 19 knives, and 8 swords.    

The sight of big trucks or tractors or ATVs or sports cars or bulldozers or airplanes made him stiffen up, squeal, and make motor noises with his lips with spit flying everywhere from his intense sounds.    

Somehow, flatulence was a constant source of humor.  Anything that sounded like it, rhymed with it, or reminded him of it was considered hilarity at its finest. 

He'd get in the car after school and trying to pull information out of him about his day was like trying to birth a breech calf.  I was used to a constant flood of info from his sister about every little thing but, with him, it was more like a well pump.  You had to work for every little drop.   

From day one, I knew I was in for something different and I was right.  Something wonderfully different.  He was louder and rougher but, there was something incredibly tender about him under all of his busyness and smells.  He loved his Mama more than I ever imagined a little boy could love me. 
   
Seventeen years later and he's growing into a man. 

A good man.

And I'm blessed to be his Mama. 


Happy Birthday, son. 



And y'all have a good day!   




 

















 








Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Make Your Way to the Edge of Your Seat

Well, there's not much to report here. 


It's just that suitcase time of year. 


Travel size toiletry season. 


We've got trips going in all different directions, this summer.  Blair got home from Canada, late Saturday night.  Being in my element, I burned the midnight oil and stayed up until I heard her flight had landed while Davis was in there sawing logs.  On Monday morning, Carson left for Ridgecrest, NC with his youth group and he had to be at the church at 4:30 a.m..  I only know about one 4:30 and I'm not the least bit interested in getting familiar the other one, so Davis was responsible for getting him there in the pre-dawn darkness while I was sprawled out unconscious in bed.  That, my friends, is what you call a marriage that works.  Each person coming to the table with his or her own strengths, whether it be embracing the late night or ushering in the ungodly early morning....all for the good of the family. 



Something about Carson being out of town has gotten me in project mode around here.  I don't know why that is but it seems like I always saddle up for some big undertaking when he goes on a trip.  It's not like he's 3 and always underfoot or anything but I do seem to get in gear when he's gone.  I've got a list of projects I want to accomplish around the house this summer.  Some painting projects.  Some serious cleaning.  Some new floor covering. 


So, this week, I decided to tackle painting our bedroom and master bath.  We built our house over ten years ago and everything has been repainted, at least once or twice, except those two spaces. Deeper, richer colors were the thing back when we built and so, I needed to lighten and brighten our bedroom to fit into this Joanna Gaines world in which we live.  So, for the last two days, I've been busying myself with a couple of gallons of "Lamb's Ear".  Who names these colors?


Summertime is my nesting period due to my work being slow but, this year, there's an added undercurrent to my housekeeping urgency.  My sweet friend, Regena, is coming to stay with our elderly, ornery dog, Sugar, while we're out of town for the wedding in October.  Sugar just loves her and you know when dogs get to a certain age, it's just too traumatic to take them out of their routine.....especially if they're as anxious and tightly wound as ours is.  So, anyway, when someone is coming to stay at your house and you know you won't be there to steer them away from problem areas, well, that takes you to a whole new level of manic house cleaning and that's where I am right now.


So, as riveting as this all was, it's all I've got today.  Lamb's ear in my hair, freshly painted walls, and just wanting to check in and say "hey"!




Y'all have a good day!






  













     

Monday, June 5, 2017

Hello?

It's 11:00 a.m. on any given day and I talk to my mother on the phone.  She rattles off the list of people she's already talked to that morning.  Before I've got all the sleepy rubbed out of my eyes, she's had meaningful conversations with a string of family and friends.  She has a good friend who's also a widow and they talk first thing each morning to check on each other and make sure they both "made it through the night."  Then, she calls and checks on her sick friends.  She calls to keep in touch with friends who've moved away. She calls her cousins and elderly aunts in other cities and visits with them through the phone.  She calls the older ladies in her Sunday school class to see if she can help them in any way.  She's just the queen of keeping up with people.  And I'd bet that she's pretty typical for her generation. 



Our generation, well, we used to be good at that.  I mean, really good.  We'd talk and talk and talk on the phone for hours.  Our age ushered in the miracle of call waiting and caller ID and free long distance.  Exciting breakthroughs occurred on our watch. They were life changing in our phone centered world.  We'd call and check in with friends between visits.  We'd call to sing "Happy Birthday"....before Facebook.  We'd call to get a recipe.  We'd call just because we were bored.   


I remember having to shift the phone from one ear to the other to relieve the aching pressure points or to cool the heat radiating from the phone.  Pretty often, the phone would beep to warn me that it was about to go dead.  It had even had enough of my conversation.  I'd talked all the life right out of the battery laughing, telling stories.....maybe snorting.  I remember hanging up my cordless phone and seeing the call time being 2 or 3 hours.  My neck would be hurting from clinching the phone between my shoulder and cheek while multitasking in the laundry room or over the heat of the stove.  It was the way we'd always done keeping in touch except with the newfound freedom of not being tethered to the wall by a coiled cord.  Between visits and lunches and get-togethers, it's how we communicated with our friends. 

Our kids got older and they started this new texting thing.  We made fun of it at first.  Call your friends and actually talk to them, we'd preach with cordless phones stuck to our ears. We warned them they weren't going to know how to have actual conversations with other people if they didn't quit all that texting.  But, while we jeered at it, we also began to see the value of being able to shoot a quick message in a setting where a phone call wasn't possible or when we just didn't have time to spend in an involved conversation.  I mean, you have to admit it's invaluable in certain situations. 


But, then, our lives got so busy.  So, so busy.  Busy with our jobs and our families and we started leaning on it more.  I don't know how it looks from where you are, but, from here, life feels like it's spinning so incredibly fast, these days.  I don't remember it ever being this way.  People have so many commitments.  So many places to be.  We're all hanging on this twirling globe for dear life.  Just trying not to get flung off by the whirl of incessant activity.  Our time is so limited and we've become so very selfish with it.  I guess when you're running short on something, you tend to guard it more carefully.  Hover over it and hold it tighter than before.  


Well, we saw the time savings and easy maintenance that texting and social media provided in relationships.  I mean, after all, you could check in with someone without all the energy it took to sound chipper.  You didn't have to act like you were in the best mood if you weren't.  You didn't have to stop what you were doing to have a conversation.  You could carry on with your day without getting bogged down in details.  You just carefully crafted a message with a well placed emoji for emphasis and sent it and, just like that, you'd shown the recipient that they were on your busy, busy mind.  We lowered the bar a notch or two and soon became satisfied with the new way we were doing things.  We realized we'd discovered the easiest mode of maintaining a friendship and we're all about easy, these days.


Our kids, well, that's all they've ever known.  That's how they've always communicated.  How they've always done friendship.  But, us?  Well, we remember when it was different.  When it was better than it is now.  And, sometimes, I think we find ourselves feeling lonely.  Unsatisfied with our 900 Facebook friends, 400 Instagram followers, and phones that only ding and never ring.  It's like how we're doing it now just isn't cutting it. 


Yeah, it's easier.  But, maybe it's not enough.  I think if we were honest, we'd say that we find ourselves missing the voice.  The sound of the phone ringing and a friend being on the other end.  No typed word can replace that.   


I've got friends from different circles and from different moments of life.  Our varied groups try to get together as much as we can.  Even though we do a pretty good job at it, it's never as often as we'd like. I ran into one of those friends, last week.  She said something to me that I've heard so many times before...."I never talk to anybody and I need that in my life right now."

Maybe because, at our age, our kids don't require as much.  Some of our nests are emptying.  We don't feel quite as needed as we once did.  I'd dare say that many of us are struggling with the downshift in our roles as moms.  It's all we've known for a really, really long time.  Maybe we're starting to see more life in the rearview mirror than we see up ahead.  Life is changing and we just need our friends.  Maybe that's what she was really trying to say.  Maybe that's what I was thinking, too.     


I suppose time savings is a really good thing to look for when deciding how we should do our banking, our cooking, our housework, our taxes, our shopping.  But, maybe it's not the best way to do friendship.  Maybe the really important things demand an investment from us.  Maybe the good stuff refuses to come cheap.  Maybe because if valuable things came easily and without much cost, we wouldn't take care of them.  Just maybe there's no such thing as a shortcut to the things that really matter in life.     


I'm guilty. 


So guilty of taking the quick and easy way. 


Like trying to get a home cooked meal from a frozen dinner.  As quick and appealing it looks from the outside, we'll always find that the content just isn't the same. 


So, in the days ahead, if you hear a strange ringing coming from your purse, it may be me calling.


If I remember correctly, you would then pick it up and say, "Hello?" 




I'm going to try to do better.




Y'all have a good Tuesday!


And call a friend today!!   






  


        

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Summer Days Past

Well, Memorial Day has passed and summer is finally here.  I don't know why but I've always considered summer to be official only after Memorial Day weekend.  Around here, most kids have already been out of school for a week or two.  We live on a street with a cul-de-sac and there are kids living in almost every house.  We love our sweet, little neighborhood but I can't help but notice that kids don't stay outside like we used to when we were young.  Of course, I see an occasional bicycle roll down the street or hear the faint bouncing of a basketball but they certainly don't reside outside like we did. It was almost like our job to be outside all day.  Only hopeless bookworms and kids who had fever were inside on a summer's day. 


On the typical summer weekday, I'd stagger out of my room around 9:00, greeted by my mother who was anxious to get us, kids, outside so she could commence with the house cleaning.  She'd get the bowl of made-from-scratch pancake batter from the fridge and melt the butter in the iron skillet.  I'd get out the Mrs. Butterworth syrup and tub of margarine then go put on my cut off jean shorts and pom pom socks while she finished cooking breakfast.  If it was a particularly busy day for her, she'd set out the box of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch and I'd pray the submarine prize would fall out into my bowl but, with two brothers, that rarely happened.  Anyway, on the days that she was on top of her game, she'd call us all to the kitchen where she'd fry up pancakes until we'd had enough.  By that time, I was hooked on the episode of Card Sharks playing on the TV and Mama would fix my hair into either a ponytail or pigtails while I watched to see who was going to win so I could move along with my day.


After Card Sharks, the Price is Right would start calling people to come on down and that seemed to be my mother's cue to have everyone vacate the house for the day.  It was like a fire alarm.  The Price is Right theme music meant "EVERYONE OUT!  MAMA'S GOTTA CLEAN!" If you were still in there when the Cliff Hanger yodeling started, you'd be assigned chores. 




With a full stomach, we headed outside into the Mississippi sun knowing we'd been evicted for the day.  By then, there was a small gathering of kids forming in the street.  A brief meeting was held as the crowd grew.  We'd kick the gravel on the road and break sticks as we discussed all the possibilities that the day held.  Country Jay, wiffle ball, baseball using a tennis ball, kickball, hide and seek, bicycle obstacle courses, fishing, fort building.  I don't know why but we always seemed to follow the sports seasons.  Basketball and football were reserved only for the fall and winter months.  Anyway, each possibility was carefully debated until one or two rose to the top.  I mean, we were going to need some careful planning to fill all the humid hours ahead and it usually required a patchwork of activities to get us all the way to the end of it. 


Baseball/fishing/bicycle follow the leader was always a popular combo.  Fishing was usually better in the morning so that was a good lead off activity.  We'd break up and everybody would head home to get their poles with instructions to grab some white bread from the Sunbeam bag while they were there.

Not to limit ourselves to just one bait, we'd dig for a few worms under the pine straw mound that Daddy kept down by the back fence.  The black dirt under that straw was a popular hangout for the long, slimy things. With black dirt under our fingernails and a can of doomed worms, we'd climb the barbed wire fence over into the adjoining pasture where the neighbors had a small pond.  On any given day, a couple of us would be left with long, bloody scratches down the back our legs from the rusty barbs but we couldn't be worried about lock jaw and things like that because the crabapple tree was just over the fence and they were the Sour Patch Kids of our time.  We'd stuff our cut off shorts pockets with the little sour gems and head to the pond.


The boys usually used the worms for bait because, while the girls didn't mind digging for worms, stabbing them with a hook was another thing altogether.  We'd use the white bread and toss our hooks in the water.  After an hour or so of catching various forms of small fish, we'd head back to see what else we could find to do.  Sometimes, a stop by the railroad tracks to lay out coins on the tracks before the train was scheduled to come by was in order.  We'd go back and collect the flattened currency after it had passed.  Children playing on train tracks must have been commonplace back in the 70's.  I guess our parents assumed we had enough common sense to know if a train was coming, we should get out of the way.  I guess they were right.   


By this time of day, it was usually humid and the southern sun was hotter than a $2 pistol as my Daddy used to say.  I'd usually run in the house to get a little drink before the gang got started on another activity.  Mama was usually vacuuming at this point with The Young and the Restless playing in the background so she'd shoo us away and bring a glass of Kool-Aid or sweet tea to the door. They weren't the most generous portions but we were warned if we went overboard on the drinks, we'd ruin our lunch.  Oh, the air conditioning felt so good from the door.....if only we were allowed to stay in and enjoy it.  But, there was cleaning still to do and the house hadn't yet reached an adequate saturation level of Pine-Sol fumes so we were sent on our way and told that she'd call us when it was time for lunch.


Lunch usually came after The Young and the Restless went off because, well, you didn't want the house full of loud kids when you were trying to see what was going on in Genoa City with Nicki and Victor.  This was about the time that Katherine Chancellor was presumed dead in the tragic fire so missing a day was not an option.  Now, thanks to me, my mother's Sunday School class knows that she watched a soap opera in the 70's and early 80's and for that I'm sorry.  I'm sure they'll extend mercy.     


Since there usually wasn't enough time for another lengthy activity before lunch, we'd all agree to play something like Follow the Leader on our bicycles.  Somebody would be selected as the leader usually through a process of eeny, meeny, miny, moe or something terribly sophisticated like that.  The leader would hop on her bike and we'd all follow.  She'd take her hands off the handlebars for a while.....and so would we.  She'd zigzag from one side of the street to the other .....and we would, too.  She'd pop a wheelie.  We'd pop a wheelie.  She'd ride off the side of a driveway and jump a ditch and we were right behind her.  The fact that nothing stood between our delicate heads and the pavement only made the game more exciting.  We looked like Hell's Angels all lined up in a row with the roar of playing cards flapping in our spokes.  Banana seats and streamers and fluorescent bike flags as far as the eye could see.


About the time we'd be getting tired of that, we'd hear Mama yelling for us to come have lunch.  It usually consisted of a hot dog or a fried bologna sandwich with chips, apple, and a piece of pound cake or a couple of duplex sandwich cookies.  By that time of day, there was nothing that appealed to us on TV so, after we'd eaten and gotten cooled off, we'd head back out.  The other kids would trickle back out from their peanut butter and jelly buffets and we'd usually decide to get together a game of kickball or whiffle ball.  Captains were usually selected by drawing straws or picking a number between 1 and 20 and then the draft would begin.  Of course, the older, bigger boys would go in the first round which included my older brother, Zane.  And while I don't like to brag, I went pretty early in the draft considering I weighed 70 pounds soaking wet and my arms looked like you could snap them like a twig.  Players were picked, one by one, until it was down to the tiniest, most uncoordinated of the neighbors......but there was a place for everyone in the backyard league.   


At this point in the day, most of us were barefooted.  Shoes were only for climbing barbed wire fences and pedaling ten speed bikes with the spiky pedals.  The side yard between our house and the neighbors' house was a popular ball field because of its length, width, and overall turf quality.  The bases were usually the bare spots worn in the grass from their continual use while home plate was always the water meter cover.  We'd play for innings and innings.  We'd move in when one of the kids with two left feet came to bat and we'd back up when it was one of the older boy's turn.  And if someone hit the ball out into the woods, we'd all go tromping through the brush to help find it. 


We always had the rule that you could get someone out, not just by catching, tagging, or forced outs, but also by pegging them with the wiffle ball/kickball in the head as hard as you could......or anywhere else on their body.  This only added to the allure of the game.  There was the occasional timeout called when someone would step on a sticker bush or, heaven forbid, a fresh pile of dog excrement.  Of course, rules were usually made up as we went along to fit the circumstances.  Like if the score was really lopsided, we'd declare that all the big boys had to bat left-handed or something like that. 


Sometimes, later in the day, we'd splinter off and do things in smaller groups.  If we were thirsty and Mama was mopping, we might get a drink from the hose.  If the coast was clear, I'd go in to cool off for a minute with a pudding pop but then I'd be ready to find the others and climb trees, play board games on the carport, run through somebody's sprinkler, play croquet, or find a swing set that we could make one of the legs pop up out of the ground when we'd swing really high.  I knew if I stayed inside too long, I'd be handed a rag and a can of Pledge and I wasn't real interested in that.   


We'd play until the sun started to go down.  The crickets started chirping.  The frogs started singing.  The mosquitos would begin nibbling on my skinny legs and, in the distance, we'd hear our Daddy whistle.  He had this loud, two-part whistle that the three of us recognized as our call home.  It didn't matter how far away we were, we could hear it and it meant it was supper time.  We'd pedal as fast as we could to a big supper of fried chicken, roast and gravy, or, sadly, sometimes, the dreaded salmon croquettes.  We had to get fed, bathed, take in an episode of The Waltons or Barnaby Jones, and then get some rest because, well, the next day, we had to to do it all over again.


And we couldn't wait.


Eric, David, Jennifer, Annabelle, Jeff, another Jeff, Paul, Ronald, Melissa, Stacy, Rush, Marsha, Michael, Suzy, Mike, Ken,Wesley.....and, of course, Zane, Lee, and Joni.  We had some good times on our little street.


Here's to summer days past.





Y'all have a good one.....and tell the kids to go out and play! 


It's not so bad out there.