Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mom Had Some Eccentricities of Her Own

My mother never wore shoes and rarely left the house. Mom wore "Zorries," which was the original word for "flip flops," which later became "thongs," which was changed to "flip flops" with the advent of a certain item of underwear. There were times when it was 5 degrees below zero, and Mom wore Zorries. She would walk on snow to grab the newspaper in the morning with Zorries. One of the few times she wore shoes was at my grandfather's insistence because she had just left the hospital after having double pneumonia. Her shoe slipped on a wet rock at the lake we were visiting, and she fell in the lake (wonderful for a pneumonia patient). She swore that if she had been wearing Zorries, she would have been fine.

I don't know how this little oddity began. Maybe she just found Zorries comfortable to wear. She had a AAAA narrow foot, and finding shoes to fit was not easy. It could have been that raising four children she didn't have the money for shoes very often, or the inclination to go shopping in light of the fact that she rarely left the house.

I've often wondered if Mom had Agoraphobia (fear of leaving home), or whether she was just very content. Dad did all the grocery shopping because he loved it! He loved getting the best deals and clipping the coupons. He loved talking to all the butchers who he knew from when he sold meat for Swift & Co. Mom never liked to shop for clothes either. So if you don't shop, I guess that narrows down your reasons to leave your home. I don't ever remember her being afraid (or at least she never acted afraid) when she did leave the house -- but then she was not much for complaining and bellyaching either. As a matter of fact, she hated whiners.

Mom had one form of discipline -- the Zorrie. She could flip that Zorrie off her foot in a split second and whack you with it! She rarely whacked more than once -- you got the message. Maybe that's why she wore them. Actually, she had one other form of discipline for my brother, the silent treatment. She discovered that my brother absolutely couldn't stand it if she didn't talk to him.

Swear words (not the vulgar ones) would roll off her tongue quite easily, but she blushed if you said "belly button." Many a family member has tried to figure that one out.

There was Native American ancestry on Mom's side, and she had an uncanny gift for knowing if something was wrong. She had some pretty weird dreams at times, and after my grandfather died, she got really "weirded out" when she began to write a grocery list and realized that it was my grandfather's handwriting. It was a definite "Twilight Zone" moment, and it pretty much freaked her out.

I've always described my Dad as the most eccentric person I've ever met, but I have to admit that Mom would take second place in that contest.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Take a Little and Leave a Little

My grandfather Bernard (Pa) used to say, "Take a little and leave a little." It was expected that if we took enjoyment from camping in the woods, we needed to leave the campsite even better than we found it. Sometimes we would rake pine needles from a trail, or line the path with rocks. It always meant taking more trash out than we brought in. My parents took that to heart and always taught their children to take a little and leave a little.

Pa built a cabin in a beautiful narrow mountain canyon for his children and grandchildren on property that he leased from the power company where he retired. Originally, the property had a beautiful meadow that extended clear to the Carson River. Unfortunatley, a year after he built the cabin, the highway was cut right through the middle of the meadow. Since he was leasing the land from the power company, there were no clear boundary lines for years. After the highway was built, Pa ignored the land between the highway and the river because he didn't want his grandchildren getting hit crossing the highway, and after he passed away, it was assumed the forest service was in charge. Unfortunately, the forest service wasn't taking care of the land, and campers were staying there to fish and camp and leaving their garbage. It became an unsightly garbage dump very quickly because the campers did not "take a little and leave a little."

Do you want to have some fun? We never learned to run when Dad said that -- I'm not sure why -- but it would have been the smart thing to do. On this fateful day, fun meant cleaning up the campground dump across the highway. I'm not even sure Dad realized how much garbage was there! Every time we moved a can, a rat would go scurrying. I believe we hauled three pickup truck loads of garbage out of that little campground. It was a stinking mess!

After it was cleaned up, my siblings and I would go across the highway every weekend and monitor the campers. We would explain to them that it was "our property," and that they could stay there only if they cleaned up their mess because our mean father made us clean up the garbage from the campers. It worked pretty well for a number of years. Eventually, the lease was rewritten to give back that portion of land to the forest service, and they patrolled the area.

The lessons learned from Pa and my parents stuck with us. Danny and I decided to get married at the cabin. We had an outdoor wedding in the middle of December when it was 16 degrees. The cabin was only one room, a bathroom, and a closet -- just a place to get out of the rain. There was carpeting on the floor, however, that had come from my uncle's office -- take a little and leave a little. The decomposed granite that was tracked inside literally ate vacuums. Danny and I each had a vacuum when we were married, and we obviously only needed one. I knew that the cabin vacuum was on its last legs. So Danny and I took the worst of our vacuums to the cabin the day we were married. "Take a little and leave a little."

There was snow on the ground that day so we couldn't drive completely into the cabin. We had to park just off the highway and walk in. Danny, wearing his blue suit, carried the vacuum; and I, wearing my pink formal dress, threw the hose to the vacuum around my neck and proceeded to hike up the meadow towards the cabin. I'm not sure why that seemed strange to my aunt Billie, but she came unglued, ran down the hill, and rescued us from the likes of the vacuum cleaner. Hey, it was just family at my wedding plus my roommates and my husband's best man. I took the most perfect day of my life (outside of the day we were sealed in the temple 17 years later) -- it was not very much to ask that I leave an old vacuum cleaner.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How It All Started

It was my "young and dumb" years. I left home when I was 18 and moved to Sacramento. I was not active in church and had no intention of changing that status. Bitterness on that end abounded. My testimony remained strong (and that is not an oxymoron -- most inactive members are inactive for other reasons, contrary to popular belief). Occasionally, when the desire to go to church would hit, I would slip into the back of the chapel late for Sacrament meeting, and then leave prior to closing prayer to be long gone before anyone noticed me -- or so I thought.

Danny noticed. In fact, Danny notices everything. He wasn't quick enough to catch me, but he managed to get my phone number from a friend of a friend of my roommate, who was a recent convert. He called, found a way to introduce himself, and asked me out. I'm not sure why I said yes, but I did.

Our first date was less than perfect. As a matter of fact, it was awful. Danny had a very bad cold, and should have cancelled. Instead, he picked me up in his old rattletrap Plymouth. The passenger door was broken, so I had to crawl in on the driver's side. He apologized for driving with one contact lens because when he gets a cold, he gets cold sores in his eyes. He took me to see the movie "Earthquake." For the benefit of the younger generation, let me explain that when you see this movie on television, it is NOT the way we experienced it in the theater. There were special sound effects that made loud rumbling noises under your feet that made you feel like you were actually experiencing an earthquake. Danny had no way of knowing that I was born in the worst earthquake Nevada has ever seen, and I'm just superstitious enough to believe that there's a good possibility that with an entrance like that, my exit might just be as dramatic. I was terrified, and he was trying to be a gentleman (or maybe it was the cold), so he didn't even hold my hand.

The second stop on the date was Pizza & Pipes, where there was a real old time Wurlitzer organ salvaged from silent movie days with a live organist. I loved the place, and it remained our favorite pizza place until they finally went out of business when my kids were teenagers. In light of his cold, however, I sat on the opposite side of the table from him, as opposed to sitting next to him, an act which he still has yet to forgive me.

The entire evening, he talked about his ex-wife and his divorce (between nose blows) -- not smart. I went home and told my roommates that he was looking for a wife, and I was NOT interested -- especially since he had been married before, had a son, and was 12 years older than me. I refused to go out with him by avoiding his seemingly endless phone calls for the next eight months.

Eight months later, I walked into the back of the chapel late and exited early. He must have been wearing his running shoes. In order to get away from the church quickly, I agreed to let him call me.

The following Sunday afternoon, he called extremely excited, and his voice was very animated. He wanted to come to my apartment and show me the pictures that he had taken of his 3-year-old son at Sears. I let him come over. As he showed me the pictures of his son, two things happened. I didn't realize it at the time, but I fell in love with this man who so obviously loved this adorable tow-headed little boy. I also fell in love with the tow-headed boy before I ever met him. It would take many months (and many fights) before I would figure all that out, however. I finally figured it out the day a drunk driver hit him and totalled his new Datsun. I had injured my back and was working with a heating pad. When I got the call that he had been hit, I took off at a dead run and ran from my office at 7th and K Streets to the scene of the accident at 5th and P Streets. You can do the math. The next day, he was fine, but I was flat on my back in bed contemplating why in the heck I had done that.

The drama didn't end when I figured out I loved him, however. Danny and I had the stormiest courtship on record. As a matter of fact, we fought more the year before we were married than we have in the last 33 1/2 years of marriage. I gave the engagement ring back three times -- but that's a story for a future post.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Making Memories

An on-line friend, Mike Henneke, wrote a blog that I haven't been able to get out of my mind. You can find it here:


It takes so little time to make a memory, but oh how we fight it. Mike's post reminded me of memories my parents made with me and my siblings, and later with their grandchildren. It reminded me of memories my husband and I have made with our own children. It also triggered a knee jerk for all those times when life seemed too busy to make a memory. I was saddened for those times. What could possibly have been so important? What was I thinking? I'm sure my children don't remember how important it was for me to make that phone call, wash that load of laundry, or rearrange the furniture. They just wanted to go to the park, or have a water fight, or pop popcorn.

Before you all think I was an uncaring parent who never spent time with my children, that's not the case. We made lots of memories together. But is it ever enough? There were also those times when I jokingly told them to go play in the traffic. I remember being tired enough to quote my own mother, "I can't. I have a bone in my leg."

Every parent gets tired -- and who can possibly keep up with the energy of little children -- or even teenagers? There will certainly be times when all parents will be justified in saying, "Hey, take a chill pill." I just hope that in the end of our days we can look back and say, "We really did make some good memories! Remember how much fun we had!"

So here's a reader's challenge: Make a memory this week. If you don't have the time, make the time. Cross off some things on your "to do" list -- you know, the ones you won't care about ten years from now. Nothing is more important than our families.

Ideas for Summer Memories:

Watch a sunset while blowing soap bubbles
Pick berries
Barbeque and make smores
Have a water fight
Go for a picnic (even if it's in the park)
Go to the airport and watch the planes take off and land
Make homemade ice cream
Go to a kid-friendly museum
Take a tour of a local factory
Watch the clouds and look for pictures
Find the north star and the big dipper
Do simple science experiments
Go for a bike ride
Learn a new skill like yo-yo or hula hoop
Play card games or board games
Put a jigsaw puzzle together
Take a historical cemetery tour
Make shadow puppets
Camp in the backyard
Tell ghost stories