Ghosts of Halloween

Greetings and Happy Halloween!  I’ve been thinking about getting back to my blog for some while now and have finally managed to find both the time and energy to do so.  After several attempts to remember and reset my blog password, I log in to find a draft post from the last time I attempted to restart the blog. Ironically and amazingly, the draft is from October 31, 2009 and it is the exact same subject matter that has been running through my head today, more or less.  I find I’ve only managed to procrastinate for the last 6 years or so.  Perhaps the post is even more appropriate now than it would’ve been 6 years ago.

I’ve been thinking of Halloween’s past and Halloween’s present. Since last I updated this blog, I have had the joy of becoming and being a father. Experiencing Halloween as a father is totally different from experiencing Halloween as a single person. You come close to experiencing the same sense of wonder you had as a child, seeing everything new again through the eyes of a child.

Since last updating this blog, I have also lost my own father. He passed earlier this year after years of suffering from Parkinson’s. Watching my own child experience Halloween, I am reminded of my own father and mother and the childhood rituals of the holiday.

I specifically remember a single Halloween, maybe the first one that I really remember. I have seen pictures of my brothers and I dressed up for Halloween but I don’t tend to remember those events much. The first I really remember was the Halloween my oldest brother dressed up in a circle of chicken wire overlaid with burlap.  On a platform on his head, he wore a plastic jack-o-lantern such as kids use to collect candy even now.  There was a flashlight inside the jack-o-lantern. I guess the costume was some kind of pumpkin-head.

I don’t remember my own costume though this may have been the Halloween that I dressed as Spiderman.  If so, the costume was nothing like the Spiderman costumes they have today. Mine was a short-sleeved plastic wrap-around that tied at the waist. It came with a plastic mask that had a little slit at the mouth and was kept on with a elastic band. Not nearly as realistic as the super-hero costumes of today. And don’t think I didn’t realize it.  Of course, this could’ve been the same Halloween that I dressed as a hobo. I don’t know. I just remember my brother’s costume.

I remember it because all the kids we passed were terrified of him. He got a great kick out of the sheer number of children that went away crying. Or maybe it was just one boy that was terrified. I remember one, at least.  He was not amused by Jack Pumpkinhead.  I remember wondering why the little boy was frightened. I cannot recall ever being frightened on Halloween. It was always a time of joy and wonder for me.

Halloween for me was always Dad “helping” us carve the pumpkins or Mom finding a costume for us to wear or Mom putting makeup on our faces to turn us into clowns or hobos or vampires or something similar. Halloween was freshly popped popcorn and lying on the floor watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” Halloween was the sense of magic in the stillness of the night under the humming streetlights. It was never scary for me.

Maybe because I knew my father was there with us. I remember that same Halloween that my father went out trick-or-treating with us. It struck me for some reason but I’m not exactly sure why. I remember him helping my brother into his terrifying costume. I remember my sense of…security? contentment? surprise? that my father was with us as we went from house to house. Maybe I was never scared by Halloween because Dad was always there with us. Maybe I just didn’t know any better.

I remember specifically going to Mrs…Edwards? house. We always went there first, I think. She has a special treat just for us every Halloween, homemade Divinity candy.  Maybe she gave it to everyone but I always assumed we were special because we went to her house first and she gave us homemade candy. I seem to recall her having to step away from the door to get the “other” candy when she figured out who we were.  I also remember not being particularly fond of her Divinity, even while acknowledging it as special.

That Halloween may be the last in which Dad ventured out with us. Maybe he continued to escort us for a few years but the other Halloween’s I remember tend to be ones where my friends and I left family at the corner and roamed all over town collecting candy until late in the evening.  We covered an amazing amount of ground, using pillow cases for our candy haul. I seem to recall finishing my Halloween candy somewhere around Easter at least one year.  We were so excited to be independent and free. If I had to do it over again, I’d take my father by the hand take him house to house, never leaving him behind.

Those Halloween memories are faded and thread-bare these days but I still cherish them and I like to pull them out this time of year. I’m glad that they will be supplemented by new memories of Halloween joy and wonder. I’ve introduced my daughter to Charlie Brown and jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating.  Whether or not she finds Halloween terrifying or magical remains to be seen.

There was one incident that might make Halloween more scary for her than it ever was for me. The second house we visited had a large, hairy, foot-pedal activated jumping spider. I made mistake of stepping on the foot pedal, clearly marked “Step Here”. I knew as soon as I stepped on it that I had made an error of judgement. The spider shrieked and jumped and my daughter’s instant reaction can only rightly be described as one of pant-sh*ting terror.  That might color her view of Halloween for a long time.  Maybe my own view of Halloween would’ve been different if they’d had motion-activated nightmares when I was a kid.

Anyway, she wouldn’t approach another house until we tore open a package of M&M’s and introduced her to candy for the first time. The promise of more M&M’s did get her to screw up enough courage to at least be carried to more doorsteps.  Good old M&M’s.

I hope future Halloween’s are more magical than frightening for her.  I know the number of Halloween’s I’ll get to escort her are limited. One day she’ll go out on her own and revel in her own freedom and independence.  Until then, I’ll bask in the warm glow of my own Halloween ghosts and cherish each and every magical moment.

The Other WTF

So I’m sitting at the dinner table with my two-year old niece, happily consuming Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m reading my book while she pokes and prods small slices of pumpkin pie. Ollie, being a relatively chatty toddler, prattles on to me, herself and the pie in no particular order.

“Unk Cha-e”, she hails from her high chair

“Yes, Precious?”, I ask without looking up from my book.

“Wha’ da f#ck?”

I am brought up short. Laying my book down, I finally concentrate my attention on her. Slowly, I answer. “What’s that, baby?”

“Wha’ da f#ck?”, she asks, confirming that I did indeed hear what I thought I heard the first time. I’m torn between giggling and calling her mother to task for the child’s foul language.

Suddenly, she whips her fork from under the table and raises it high above her head, shouting in triumph, “There it is!”

I’m so amused by the whole exchange that we end up playing “Where’s the Fork” for another 15 minutes.

In Which Daddy Gets a New Pair of Shoes

It’s a true statement to say that a man will go to great lengths when he wants to impress a young lady he finds attractive.

Generally, it starts with little things, things to get a girl’s attention. A new haircut. A fresh, clean shave on a day he might have otherwise gone unshaven. A spritz of cologne whenever there’s a remote chance that the young lady in question might be near. In some more advanced cases, the spritz of cologne turns into a few extra spritzes and worrisome questions that “maybe I used too much”. And, as is generally the case with these kinds of things, if you have to ask the question, you probably did.

In more extreme cases, a man might set about remaking himself entirely, just to make himself more attractive to her. He might join the gym and lose 30 pounds. He might throw out all his old, frumpy clothes and buy an entirely new wardrobe of slightly more stylish clothing. He might buy a new house or a new car in order to upgrade his life. He might even go back to school in order to improve his job prospects, just so he’ll have more to offer.

Of course, those are extreme cases and I don’t know that I’d ever go so far myself.

Not again, at any rate.

But I did once buy a new pair of shoes to impress a Cute Girl. The year was 2003 and there was this fancy function to attend and I knew the Cute Girl was going to be there. I had a small crush on the Cute Girl and was hoping to impress her enough to at least score a date. Doing what guys do, I went out and bought a new shirt, a new pair of pants, a new wallet, a new belt and a new pair of shoes. Not a whole wardrobe, mind you. Just a new…outfit…for lack of a better word.

Aside: I do not like to use the word “outfit”. The word is not meant for guys. Guys don’t wear outfits. We wear…clothes. Sometimes those clothes match. Having our clothes match doesn’t make those clothes an outfit. Outfits are for girls or for children.

Second aside: More often than not, our clothes do not match. Usually it is because we picked them out ourselves, without appropriate female supervision. When our clothes do not match, it’s okay to refer to them collectively as a “getup” as in, “take a look at that guy’s getup.” But it still isn’t an outfit.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. So, I bought this new…set of clothes…in order to impress Cute Girl. And I went to the highfalutin’ affair in my new clothes, on which I’d spent a decent amount of money and, as luck would have it, she wasn’t even there. Typical.

Kindof aside: I did eventually manage to set up one date with Cute Girl. We planned it right before I went out of town for an extended vacation. I call it vacation but it was really just a long, paid leave-of-absence from work so I could go to a family reunion down in Mississippi. My parents wanted me to drive down from North Carolina with them because they were nervous about making the long drive themselves, they being old or something. So I take use my vacation time to go to Mississippi for a family reunion for 10 whole days.

Aside from the aside
: I don’t know if your parents are like this but my parents love some Cracker Barrel. I swear, over two days of driving for that trip, we had Cracker Barrel for seven meals. I kid you not. It was all I could do to get them past an exit with a Cracker Barrel. Mom got “Uncle Herschel’s” for every single meal.

Another aside: And don’t get me started on how often we had to stop for pee breaks. OMG. We broke the trip up into 30 mile segments. We went from Cracker Barrel to Rest Stop to Cracker Barrel in rapid succession.

Anyway, when I get back, Cute Girl is dating some other guy, the guy to whom she is now married. I think they have like two kids or something. I dunno. Utterly freaking typical. And my parents want to know why I haven’t given them any grandchildren yet. Two words for you, Ma and Pa. Family. Reunion.

End Asides.

Anyway, the whole point is that trying to impress a girl by buying stuff was and is a total waste of time and money.

Except that I still have the shoes from that particular purchase. As you might imagine, they’ve seen better days. They are scratched and scuffed and haven’t been my dressy black shoes in many years. After six years, they’re getting to the point where I really shouldn’t be wearing them at all. As comfy as they are, I feel poorly put together when I wear them.

Like I did yesterday when I wore them to work. I felt so poorly put together that I decided then and there to buy a new pair of shoes. I went to Zappos and I ordered a new pair of Giorgio Brutini’s.

The experience was so positive that I had to blog about it. As per usual, I got an email stating that my order had been received and was being processed. An hour later, I got an email stating that my already-free shipping was upgraded to “expedited” shipping at no charge to me, by way of saying “thank you”.

I was, of course, pleased and thought I might return from my Thanksgiving holiday to find a new pair of shoes waiting on my doorstep. Imagine my surprise to find a new pair of shoes waiting for me when I got home from work today, not even 24 hours after placing my order. Free overnight shipping. Zappos rocks.

I was already a fan of Zappos because of their excellent customer service on previous orders. They do not charge for shipping to you and, more importantly, they do not charge you for shipping any returned merchandise to them. My loyalty to Zappos is that much stronger now that they’ve given me a free upgrade to overnight shipping.

If you don’t want to get out and brave the Black Friday crowds after Thanksgiving, you might check out Zappos for shoes, clothing and other fashionables. If you’re a guy, you might even find something to impress the Cute Girl in your life. But, whatever you buy, remember this.

It isn’t an outfit. Ever.

Why Southerners Are Fat

Why are Southerners so fat?

I came across this article on Time.com today and thought I would share with all of you. The article covers a topic I’ve pondered once or twice, typically coincident with the Stafford family reunions in Mississippi. If you came to the Stafford family reunion, you might understand why the topic crossed my mind.

The Stafford family, while not uniformly obese, has quite a few specimens that tip the scale somewhere between 250 and 350 pounds. I have aunts and uncles that come in all shapes and sizes, as long as those shapes and sizes include squat and round. I have one cousin that had a heart attack and bypass surgery at 35 and one cousin that I thought was a garden shed when we were first introduced.

The other thing you notice when you’re in Mississippi for the family reunion is the fact that people in the deepest parts of the South will literally flour and fry anything. Fish, chicken, shrimp, tomatoes, okra, pickles…you name it. If you can eat it, chances are someone in Mississippi has tried it fried. I’m convinced people down there would fry the sweet tea if they could only figure out how. The state is awash in grease.

And there’s only one serving size for all that fried food. It’s called “all-you-can-eat”. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single restaurant I entered in Mississippi was a buffet. I cannot think of a single restaurant we patronized that was not a buffet. Not one. I once tried to count the number of buffet restaurants that we passed as we drove. You may as well try to count the grains of sand on a beach. It cannot be done.

But the reason I think Southerners are fat goes beyond both of those items. The reason I think Southerners are fat is the same reason I think my father is fat. It’s not that he’s lazy and doesn’t exercise. The man ran 1000 miles in his 40th year. He’s walked many times that distance since, much of it with bad hips and knees. At 75, he still tries to exercise with barbells.

The reason I think my father is fat, (or was for most of his life) is because he has a love affair with the food experience. For him, the food experience goes beyond just food. It is an infinitely social thing, a finding of joy in the breaking of bread with his family and friends.

The food experience for him is finding joy in an abundance that he did not know as a poor kid growing up in the poor South. It is a recreation of Granny Holloway’s Sunday dinner, the maybe once-a-week meal in which he found plenty as a child, the one meal a week from which he did not walk away wanting more. It is a purely emotional response to food, a happiness found in satiety.

The food experience is something Dad always wanted to share, too. As a friend of mine growing up, you could not come to my house without being offered a meal of some sort. “You boys want sammich?” still rings in my mind as the question most often asked of me and my buddies. My father has Parkinson’s and cannot drive but will still, to this day, ask us if we want him to get us a chicken biscuit from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. In his retirement, his favorite way to pass the time is to enjoy a meal with one of his good buddies. The food experience is in his bones.

Couple that with the larger sense of Southern hospitality, a tradition that almost always involves sharing food with family, friends and neighbors, and I think you go a long way towards explaining the prevalence of obesity in the South. Southerners love food and they love the food experience. They love socializing over a meal and love the feeling of plenty when times are often lean. This keeps them coming back to the trough again and again and again, whatever the consequences to their appearance and their health.

10

One more post and then it’s time for bed. Besides being the anniversary of my grandfather’s passing, today is special for another and more happy occasion. Today is the 10th birthday of Courtney, the girl who I call the daughter of my heart.  I met her when she was 10 months old and fell in love with her immediately. There’s been a whole bunch of water under the bridge since then but I still think of her often, especially on her birthday. I know her mother, who reads this blog, will pass on my love and birthday wishes.

Happy Birthday, Court! Hard to believe you’re double digits now! Miss you every day. Uncle Charlie

Anniversary

For Mother’s Day yesterday, I got a chance to share something from my mother’s cookbook with you all. Today, May 11th, I wanted to share another piece of writing from another woman that’s been a huge influence in my life. I wanted to share something written by my grandmother, Iva Harris Wright. She is the most remarkable woman and is someone I respect and admire greatly. She has a great sense of strength and faith that I have striven to emulate in my life. I can’t say enough good about her.

Over the last two days I have had ample opportunity to think of my grandmother for a number of reasons. Obviously, yesterday was Mother’s Day and mothers and grandmothers readily spring to mind. Today is another notable occasion but one that is not so obvious. Today is the 39th anniversary of my grandfather’s passing.

Since I was still a month away from being born at the time, I did not get a chance to know him.  But, because of my grandmother’s love and respect for him, shown through all the stories she has told me about him, I am sure that he was a great man and I regret that I shall not have the chance to know him personally.

The one thing that strikes me when I hear my grandmother speak of him is that she still, after 39 years, misses him daily. I know that today he is on her mind as he is every day. So I think of her and how she’s been without her husband for 39 years and I hate that she is lonely for him. I cherish every moment I have with her and hope there are many more to be had but I know that I will be smiling when God calls her home, knowing that she is finally reunited with the man she’s missed all these years.

The piece below is from a collection of verse my grandmother has written since she moved into the Cypress Glen Retirement home in 1993.  It is about her life with my Pappa (paw-paw), Reverend Carl Wright.

***

His Guiding Hand

It came about so gradually,
I really could not tell
Just when it started happening,
But I recall it well.

It was, I know, soon after
My graduation day,
My life was full of happy plans.
All seemed to go my way.

And then one Sunday morning,
Dressed neat, in coat and tie,
A young man sat before me.
Who could he be, thought I?

With dignity and reverence
He sat that summer day,
While others who were near me
Were whispering away.

His hand lay very quietly on
The backrest of the pew,
And somehow there, it spoke to me
Of character and devotion, too.

Before long, he was coming to
Our evening Epworth League.
We thought it very nice of him;
He was helpful, we agreed.

We found he was a hometown boy
Who’d spent his recent summers
As counselor of boys at Camp Cosby
And was hoping to help others.

He’d finished at Birmingham Southern
And was looking for work to do,
But because of those depression days,
There were no jobs to do.

The meantime, we took advantage
Of his willingness and skill
By making him our president,
But a vice-president was needed still.

Well, I was the one elected, and
Luckily we had to meet
Quite often, so it seemed to me,
For program planning each week.

We worked together also at
Our Summer Institutes,
Gathering food from farmers nearby
To feed the hungry groups.

And more and more I noticed that
He sought to be with me.
He also asked if he could have
The pleasure of my company.

He said, “Am I too old for you?”
“Well,” I said, “Not at all.”
So we began a courtship that
Blossomed on into the fall.

My plans for going to college soon
I realized could not be.
My father could not find the funds
To pay my bills and fees.

There were no jobs available,
No scholarships – how sad.
What disappointment was in store
For those lovely plans I’d had.

But when Carl said, “I love you.
I need you. Marry me.”
His plans became my own plans, and
Where he went, I’d be.

By this time, Carl had realized-
No longer could he delay-
He would say “yes” to God’s clear call,
That call he would obey.

We were married at the parsonage
By our dear pastor friend.
There ceremony was a simple affair,
But we were joined then.

We had to wait for several months
For Conference in the fall.
Then, if things went as we hoped,
We would receive our call.

My father’d retired from his postal job
And was seeking work to do.
He rented a nearby truck farm, and
He needed Carl’s help too.

My parents asked if we could stay
Until our call came through,
And get the farm in readiness;
There was much work to do.

During the summer, we were asked
To preserve all food and meat
To help us through the winter months
So we’d have plenty to eat.

There were more than a hundred peach trees,
Two acres of strawberries, too,
Plus other vegetables and fruits.
We canned sausages ready to use.

Finally, the waiting was over.
The Bishop let us know
That we were to serve a mining town-
Cordova, our first place to go.

We were so thrilled about our church,
We danced all over the room,
Then hurried home to spread the news,
And pack to move on soon.

We were given a small apartment there,
Not a big, old empty place.
‘Twas fine for us – just large enough,
Except for shared bathroom space.

The church was full of children, and
They needed a younger man,
So we felt we had been sent to a place
Where we would fit right in.

That year, it passed so quickly, and
We saw much poverty.
For the miners were on strike, you see,
And suffering desperately.

Then in the Christian Advocate,
Carl saw an interesting note –
A couple were being sought to serve
An island church, they wrote.

The church was on Harker’s Island,
Up on the N.C. Coast.
It sounded exciting, so we sent
The information needed most.

The forms were sent, but not returned.
Our decision? What should we do?
Should we leave the little church we loved
And take on something new?

Later on the Bishop said,
“Harker’s Island has been taken;
But just across the water there,
Marshallberg’s church is waiting.”

When this door was opened to us,
We followed our hearts and prayed.
We would leave our mountain homeland for
The land of sea and spray.

That seaside town was quite different,
The food cooked a different way;
The talk, it was not our talk,
But we could all sing God’s praise.

So the Alabama mountain’s folk
Met the Carolina shore,
And we started our life of moving around
And really stopped no more.

It was not long ’til we were blessed
With two little daughters, sweet,
Then two fine sons, so welcome,
To make our home complete.

The children brought real joy to us,
Through all their growing days;
And just when they had flows the nest,
God called Carl home to stay.

Today, I am remembering
The day God guided me
To recognize in Carl’s strong hands
The things a mate should be.

How very fortunate we were,
To have our thirty-six years;
Some easy times, some hard times, and
Some laughter through our tears.

When we began our life as one
We struggled in many a way;
But all of it was rewarding, and
It brings me happiness today.

“All along my pilgrim journey,
I want Jesus to walk with me.”

Happy Mother’s Day from the Baby Birds

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m here to fulfill the one request my mother made of me today: write something for the blog. Happy Mother’s Day, Ma.  This one is just for you.

My intention for the Mother’s Day blog was to honor my mother by typing up one of her recipes in this space. Given that it’s two hours later than I’d hoped to get this done, that may have to wait until a time in which I’m not utterly exhausted.  I may be able to find a suitably short recipe if you’ll give me a moment.

Okay, the following is not short but it is a good story and mentions my great-grandmother, Granny Holloway. She is the woman responsible for raising my father and it seems appropriate to honor her and my mother on this Mother’s Day occasion. I hope you enjoy it.

***

Granny’s Recipe For Feeding Baby Birds

My Harris grandparents loved parakeets and they had more than one pair during the years I best remember them. One pair they had in the 1950’s were named Ike and Dick after President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon. (My grandparents were ardent Republicans during the years when most Alabama citizens were rabid Democrats.) My grandfather doted on them. He taught them to say “I like Ike” and “Dickie Bird” and they flew around the house freely or rode on his shoulders.

Granny Holloway loved birds as well. According to Sidney, she always kept a red bird (cardinal) in a cage and had an uncanny way of finding young birds that had “fallen from the nest.” Perhaps Granny helped some of them fall but, however she found them, she successfully raised them to adulthood and kept them for her pleasure.

When our children were small, we raised baby birds as well – once two blue jays we named Jack and Jill, and once several starlings. Sidney remembered Granny’s recipe for feeding baby birds and they did well. We kept them in a cardboard box until they began to perch on its sides and then we moved them to the back porch.

When they learned to fly, they enjoyed perching in the trees in the back yard but would come back to the porch to be fed. Later they perched on the telephone wires in front and flew down the street to greet Sidney as he walked home from the college. Unfortunately, they began to fly down to greet others who did not understand their friendly intentions. Our mailman and our neighbor were terrified when the birds began darting down from the sky and landing on their head and shoulders.

Unfortunately, Jack drowned one day, apparently while admiring his image in a tub of water. But Jill and the starlings lived to fly off into the trees and become independent. We suppose they did, that is. They came less and less often to be fed and eventually they didn’t come back at all. We hope they adapted themselves to the wild and lived long and happy lives.

Granny Holloway was half Indian (her mother was either full-blooded Creek or Choctaw) and she must have learned Indian ways. (Sidney was fascinated that, while she was working outdoors or in her garden, Granny would often pee while standing straight up and without removing any underwear. I have read that this was an Indian practice. Apparently she was wearing no underwear that required removal.) It may be that her joy in raising birds was one of her Indian ways. Her recipe for feeding them was simple:

Boil one small potato in its skin and cut it up fine. Hard boil one (or more) egg and mash it up very fine. Mix the egg with the potato. Feed the mixture to the birds with a pair of tweezers as often as they clamor for food (just stick it down their throats). Occasionally give them a drop or two of water from a clean eye dropper.

Keep the birds in a cardboard box with newspaper lining the bottom. Add small strips of newspaper to serve as nesting material. Change the papers often. When the birds become active and seem ready to leave the box, move the box outdoors but away from cats. Continue feeding them as needed until they fly away.

By the way, we don’t recommend caging wild birds.

***

Thanks, Ma, for the story and the recipe and for raising all of us and the baby birds. I know we’ve all flown away but it’s nice to know we can all fly back again when we need to be bed.

I love you and hope you’ve had a lovely Mother’s Day.

Doing Good, Doing Bad

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting here enjoying a little peace and quiet and a whole bunch of coffee. Saturday is typically the day when I rest and relax and enjoy my coffee but my Saturday this week was rather more eventful than not.  Because of this, I’m postponing church until the 6 p.m. service and enjoying my Saturday morning routine on Sunday. Since I haven’t blogged in a while, I thought it best if I caught everyone up on my doings as well.

Thus far, it’s been a pretty busy weekend.  Friday started things off with a group gathering at some guy’s house to meet the founder of the Ugandan American Partnership Organization. The story of this young lady is quite amazing. At the age of 19, after her sophomore year in college, she and several friends decided to go to Africa for the summer.

You might well imagine that a young sorority girl might not care for the African heat, the mosquitos or the poverty and, it’s true, the young lady in question did not. But through a series of circumstances, she came in contact with a Ugandan woman overwhelmed by trying to care for a group of young orphans and decided she needed to help her in some way.

I won’t recount the story here but her intention to simply leave a little money and go her own way turned into a crusade to build a house for the orphans. That snowballed into the building of an orphange to house 180 kids and that grew into a non-profit responsible for five orphanages in Uganda.

The whole story is pretty impressive and certainly bears all the hallmarks of a tale in which God is at work in a big way. The thing that struck me is that she really didn’t want to do it, much as you and I don’t want to do things that might interfere with our own selfish wants and desires. But, because she said yes rather than no, God has wrought an amazing work from her efforts. It makes me wonder what opportunities I’ve turned down simply by saying no instead of yes. I encourage you to visit the site and watch some of the videos. I know we’re all inundated with images of Sally Strother and starving children in Africa but I think you’ll be struck by the founder’s tale.

And, if you are touched by the story and want to help, you can get a great deal at Tom’s Shoes. If you buy a pair of shoes through the website, Tom’s will donate $8.00 dollars and a pair of shoes to the cause. I am now eagerly awaiting the pair I purchased this morning. I got the “Brown Leaves”. Not sure I’ll wear them but, what the heck. It’s for a good cause.

So, that was Friday. Saturday was more self-centered. I didn’t get to hang in and drink coffee but did have a lot of fun. My friend Pepper invited me to accompany her and her beau to the Inman Park Festival and parade. I’d heard the parade was a lot of fun but have not had the chance previously to attend. The morning started with a bruncheon at her friend’s house and then we walked over to the parade route.

What with the large crowd, it was pretty difficult to find a good spot to watch the parade go by.  It was hot and we were being jostled and bumped and pushed and just generally having a disagreeable time.  As we made our way through the crowd, we spotted this beautiful mansion fronting the parade route. The house had a lovely rooftop patio and we thought it would be a great place from which to watch the parade, especially seeing as how there was a group of people gathered upon it to watch the parade.

What a great place to watch a parade!
What a great place to watch a parade!

We were definitely covetous of their view and their roost safely out of reach of the crowd.

We decided that, were we to loiter around the gate long enough, we could meet people as they were going in and score some kind of invitation to the gathering. So we loitered.

Much to our chagrin, many of the attendees failed to acknowledge our presence as they were climbing the stairs and passing within. It was at this time that we decided to do something bold. We simply invited ourselves.

Now, this is not something I would normally do.  Abiding by the rules is something deeply ingrained in my nature. When I’m out hiking and a sign says “don’t climb on the rocks”, I typically don’t climb on the rocks, even if no one is looking. And when someone puts up an eight-foot iron and brick wall around their beautifully manicured lawn, I tend to stay outside of it. Especially when someone is looking.

But not today. Pepper and Pete (her beau) led the way and I, sucking up my inhibitions, followed. I did tarry briefly before crossing the threshold of the gate. Apparently I’m much like a vampire. If you don’t invite me in, I have a hard time inviting myself.

Pete and Pepper surely thought I would blow their cover. The way to invite yourself to someone elses’ party is to act like you belong there. If you act like you belong, no one questions your presence. If you hesitate and look like you’re out of place, people notice and question whether or not you should be there. Knowing this, I sucked it up, kicked the rules in the stomach and passed within.

We strode boldly across the lawn to the front steps. We climbed the front steps to the porch. We crossed the porch in through the open doors, up two flights of stairs and into the line of people waiting to get on the roof. No one said a thing. We got several smiles and greetings that we returned, climbed onto the roof, found a good perch for viewing and proceeded to enjoy ourselves. It was awesome.

This was our view:

The crowd of peasants below.
The crowd of peasants below.

As you might gather from the photo, the view was not quite as grand as we imagined from the street. You really couldn’t see the parade. All you could see was the mass of people lining the route.

It was also just as hot on the roof and perhaps even more so since the sunlight was reflected off tarred shingles. There was a pleasant breeze but, after half-an-hour of mixing and mingling, we missed the vibrancy of the milling humanity. The thrill of naked and willful tresspassing faded and we descended from our perch, having conquered the castle of the bourgeoisie.

Plus, we were never able to successfully locate the keg. We were pretty sure there was one in the house somewhere.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on porches and patios, drinking and dining and whiling away the hours. It was a pleasant way to spend a day.

Now I have to get cleaned up to do it all again. Friend Kim is coming over and we’re traipsing down to the park. It’ll be good to get in some exercise but, at this point, the last thing I need is more sun. I missed a spot with the sunscreen yesterday and I look like someone tried to press the wrinkles out of my forehead with an actual iron. Either that or I’ve been suffering from spousal abuse. I look forward to the liver spots and cancerous growths of my age.

Until then, I’ll slather on more sunscreen and wear a hat. Maybe somebody will come up with a cure for all these things in the interim period. Sure hope so.

Anyway, I’m signing off. See you all soon. Thanks for stopping in. Even if you weren’t invited.

The Calm Before the Storm

It’s 11:43 a.m. I have, I think, roughly forty-five minutes before the Rug Rats return. Forty-five minutes of peace and calm before the madness begins again. Forty-five minutes until the shouting, screaming, hitting, kicking, climbing, jumping, crying, begging, laughing, dancing, candy-consuming little bundles of joy burst through the door screaming for Uncle Chawee. From that point on, I will be under assault by children.

Olin will come running to pounce on my peaceful rest and composure. He’ll climb onto it’s shoulders and beat it away with a tattoo of drumming hands, relentless in his desire to display his violent affection.  He’ll screech and whine and beg and plead until either he is allowed to play video games or until I play a video game whilst he watches, offering a non-stop stream of loud and repetitive advice.  I generally try to encourage him to play but he insists that I watch, ensuring my inability to concentrate on anything by constantly demanding that I “watch this!” “Watch this, Uncle Chawee! Watch! Are you watching? Watch me! You’re not watching. Look at me!”

Competing for my attention will be big sister Tato. (Tato used to be Toto but the littliest indian now refers to her as Tato. So will I.) Tato will be right behind little brother. As soon as his attention is split between me and the game, she’ll charge. “Will you play a game with me? Can we play cards? Will you come up to my room? You want to play “Scrabble”? Come with me! Come with me!”

This will, of course, infuriate Olin. “Chawee is watching me! Chawee! Look what I can do! Watch me! Watch me!”

And then the fight will start. Olin will insist I watch. Tato will insist I play with her. And the Littlest Indian, rapidly becoming my favorite of the three, will watch or do his own thing. He is the only one that does not appear to need me as a source of entertainment.  He’s pretty self-contained.

Occasionally he’ll join the fray, generally as an unwilling participant or pawn. He’s pushed aside, picked up and moved, commanded to act, commanded to stop acting or wielded as weapon or king-maker.  Our usual interaction involves him making a series of indistinguishable noises that approximate speech, mumbled around the shield of his pacifier.  I have no idea what he’s saying most of the time. His preferred method of communication is a whining grunt and a pointing finger.  “Uh! Uh!” <Finger point>. I generally nod and verbalize my agreement. This typically satisfies him and he goes about his business. We get along well.

***

I think there’s more to be said in this post but I hear a car door. At least I think it’s a car door. My peace is about to be shattered and time for blogging is coming to an end.  Maybe there will be more tonight when they finally drift away to bed.  One can only hope.

My fight or flight instinct is kicking in. Maybe I should hide. But where? The only place I’m safe is…ah, yes…the bathroom.  It’s the one private place for which they have a smidgin of respect.  I still have to lock the door and they hover outside the door waiting impatiently for me to emerge. They shout and bang on the door and shove little fingers underneath it, begging me to come out, but they can’t physically get to me while I’m in there.

But that won’t stop them from trying.

Too late. Tato is here. “Peaceful time is over!”,  she says.

Don’t I know it.

Going Home

Good evening! Not sure what I’m here to post but I figured I shouldn’t let another evening go by without putting something in this space. Do I have anything to say? Not really. I can’t say that ever stopped me from speaking in the past. Why should it stop me now?

Let’s deal with the minutia of the day, shall we? First off, and apropos of nothing, I forgot my belt this morning. It used to be that wearing a belt was not  a requirement in my daily dress. Now I find that I feel naked without it. I was self-conscious about my lack of accoutrement all day long. Kinda’ threw me off my game. Not quite as badly as wearing my underpants backwards all day but definitely in the same vein. Maybe I should start a checklist in the mornings to make sure I have everything I need and it’s all right-side forward before I leave the house every day.  Probably not a bad idea.

Song of the morning was “Berlin” by Intercept. I’ve blogged the lyrics to this song once already but it hasn’t made the morning mind rotation until now. It was rapidly overwhelmed upon wakefulness by an old camp favorite, “Rejoice in the Lord Always”. That’s a happy tune for a morning. It didn’t help me remember my belt but it was cheerful.

Heading home to North Carolina this weekend and looking forward to that in the extreme. In case you’ve been living under a rock or outside the United States, UNC is in the Final Four this weekend. The last time they won the championship, big brother Bigwig, niece Toto and I were in the Dean Dome watching the game on the big screen.

Toto was about four at the time and, with two minutes remaining in the game, had had enough. She was whining and ready to go home. With one minute to go in the game, the partisan crowd started to awaken to the fact that we were going to win and began to vocalize the same. Toto woke up immediately and did her best sorority girl impersonation all the way to Franklin Street. It was good times. Hopefully we can repeat the experience for the benefit of her little brother.

There are also others to see whilst I’m in NC.  I’m heading the beach for a few days with Tiger and Bee for our sorta’ annual outing.  I couldn’t make last year but we spent a lot of quality time the year previous MySpacing at one another from across the room. I hope Bee has a laptop this time because I’m certain we’ll Facebook the hell out of beach other this time.

Besides Tiger and Bee, I’ve got to see if I can’t make time for a few other friends while I’m traveling. Pooh for one. Haven’t seen her in some years and it’ll be good to catch up.

Jeffrey for another. Haven’t seen him in even more years. I don’t think I’ve seen him since our graduation from high school, really.  Jeffrey is one of my first, and oldest, friends.  I’ve been chatting some with him on Facebook and it’s really taken me back. I’ve been trying to think of a time when Jeffrey wasn’t my friend and I don’t seem to be able to remember that far back.  He just always seems to have been there. Since Kindgergarten at least. It seems like whatever I think about from my youth, Jeffrey was part of it. He was part of school, part of the swimming pool…just part of life.

And he always seems to have had a moustache, at least if my memory is correct. Jeffrey is one of those guys that, even when he’s clean shaven, you’d swear he had a moustache. It’ s like a moustache of the soul. It’s just part of who he is. I’m pretty sure it’s always been there, though not always visibly. Even when we were five. I’m pretty sure.

Anyway, Jeffrey was my first best friend. I remember this very clearly. David S., Steve Y., Jeffrey and I were…well, best friends, but once, when we were playing kickball, David turns to Steve and claimed him as his “best” friend. I remember feeling very territorial and, much as Britain and France raced one another to colonize the globe, I felt that I needed to call dibs on a best friend.  I turned to Jeffrey and asked if he wanted to be best friends, he said yes and that was that. We were best friends.

All four of us. But in pairs.

For a while there, it seems like we did everything together. We hung out at the pool in the summers, playing “Black Magic” or ping pong or whatever. We’d have sleepovers at somebodies house, doing stupid things like eating chili and then taking a laxative, just for “shits and giggles”. That was at David’s. At Jeffrey’s…well. I remember breaking into his father’s liquor cabinet once. That might’ve been the same night we spent mooning cars on the highway.

Yeah. That sounds plausible.

Funny thing is, I remember breaking into his father’s liquor cabinet but I don’t remember actually drinking. I’m pretty sure we didn’t. At least, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I dunno. Maybe I did.

I’m one-hundred percent certain that we spent a good hour mooning cars on the highway, however. That was good times.

Sorry, Ma.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to some time in NC. I miss my folks and I miss my friends and I have to say that, for the first time in my 38 years, I’m a little homesick. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time in the past lately, remembering way back when. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe everybody else is getting old. Whatever it is, it’ll be good to go home again, if just for a while.

I think that’s it for me, folk. Bedtime beckons. Good night to all and, to those in NC, see you soon.