Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bubblegum, a Store and Tar

This post appeared on my other blog in 2009, but belongs at The Ruralhood.  
There was not a nicer man than Ernie the storekeeper. Growing up in a rural area, his store was located diagonally from my childhood home, across the highway.

When my brother was old enough, we would sit together on the slope of our yard and watch people buy gas and groceries at the store. There were days when Ernie would step outside the store, walk to the edge of the sticky tarred highway and toss Bazooka™ bubblegum to us. He would announce that he was going to throw it our way and that we needed to catch the wrapped gum. We would race to our yard’s boundary limit and proceed to catch the gum. I can’t remember ever catching the gum in the air. 
I’ve always been a people watcher and loved spying on the patrons when they visited the store. I also loved visiting the small country store filled with counters of candy and shelves with other food items. Oh and let’s not forget the pop cooler. RC Cola™ was my favorite. Outside the men would sit on a bench visiting. Inside the store, the women would shop and the men could also sit near the woodstove, hot or cold, at the back of the store where the post office was located. Everyone seemed to know your name and your family.
As I grew older, I was thrilled to be chosen to cross the highway to get our mail. I was told to hold the mail tightly, so not to lose it. When spring turned to summer, I would shake my shoes and go barefoot all summer long. (My feet still cry when cold weather arrives in MO and I have to stuff my feet in regular shoes.) Not only was I instructed to be careful with the mail, I was also told to look both ways for traffic and then run fast over the highway. And I did. I would run like heck over the bubbly hot and sticky tarred surface that paved the highway. My feet did suffer some minor burns, but I was always up for the exciting challenge. By the time I returned to our side of the highway, the bottom of my feet were coated with hot tar, gravel (from the road that ran in front of the store) and grass (from our yard). I didn't share with Mom that the road burned my feet because she might have made me wear shoes. I would meet mom at the front door, deliver the mail, then find a shady place in the grass to pick the offenders from my (not so tender) soles.  

This picture of the store was taken six to seven years ago when I was photographing my grandchildren. Today, most of the front half has caved in.
Even though the store is a mess and Ernie is long gone, he is not forgotten by me. As long as we tell the stories of the places and people that filled our childhood, they will be remembered.
Childhood is  only a whisper in time.  Spread the memories!


Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Mary Tyler Moore in Me

During my high school years, a friend and I were looking through some of my childhood photos. He told me that he thought some of those pictures looked like the actress Mary Tyler Moore.

Like this one.

I argued, but I saw it, too.

And this one.

This one, too.

But I didn't see it in this picture, still don't. All I see is an awkward girl morphing, lips growing fuller ( thanks, Mom!) and hair getting its red tint (thanks, Dad!).  

Mary Tyler Moore! One of my favorite actresses. No relation, no MTM talent, but perhaps a slight resemblance to a wonderful actress.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Young Marrieds

I should post this now while the memory is still clear. The snowy part of the lingering 2018 winter reminded me of my first bad weather related experience while driving. 

As young married people, eighteen years old, we were hardly a step away from childhood and most definitely not old enough to navigate or cope with life issues without more instruction or experience. Right decisions were iffy.

The year before I married, I traded in my light green 1965 Ford Mustang for an orange AMC Gremlin. Neither car traveled well on Missouri snow covered roads. 

A week or so before we married, in February, a snow storm visited our area. Soon after that, we had another. 

This is clearly not a snowstorm, but shows you
how young we were. Picture taken the summer after
we married. In case you were wondering these
were the longest shorts that we owned. 😏  
The snow fell fast through the early morning hours. My new husband had left our home, located near a cool truck stop, with his carpool buddies and headed to his welding job forty miles away. I worked at a garment factory in a small town five miles from home. In spite of dangerous road conditions, I knew that my attendance was required in order to keep my job.

The first road I pulled out on was the main highway, in front of our house and  snow covered. I traveled slow speeds to the small town where I worked and used the  more traveled streets to get to the final street, leading to my workplace.

That particular street was the worst. No plowing had been done. As my orange car struggled through the snow, the back end slid right and left. I tried correcting, but didn't know what I was doing. When I reached the sharp corner that led up the small hill to the factory, I accelerated, not because I thought it would help, but because I was scared that I wouldn't make it. Once I reached the nearly empty parking lot, I saw that the lot had been plowed, but was still a mess from packed and falling snow covering everything again.

I drive my Gremlin as close to the door as I can and stop against a mound of plowed snow. Feeling weak, sick to my stomach and the need to cry, I rested my forehead on the steering wheel. In those moments, I considered just leaving without saying anything to my supervisor, but I'd gotten that far so I trekked through the snow to the building. 

Inside, I found Carol at her desk. I told her that I was going back home, that I barely made it there, and the roads were horrible to travel. Her face showed surprise and I thought that I would be fired for my word vomiting. Instead, she told me to go back home and that I shouldn't have tried coming in. 

Back in the car, I turn around and headed down the snowy hill without much trouble. The next corner was another story. To clear the corner, I needed to find a compromise between slowing down and speeding up. All went well until I cleared the corner and needed to accelerate again. The tires spun some and I gassed it. The car made it a couple more feet before stalling in the middle of the street. 

Out of nowhere, a man showed up at my window and knocked, and I cranked down the window. Snow blew inside the window hitting me and the man in the face.  

“You got it stuck! We'll push you out, but once we get it free, you've gotta gun it." He motioned to another man standing behind my car. Both were bundled up in coats, gloves and hat. "Keep it rolling until you get wherever you’re going.”
I thanked him, rolled the window up and waited until the back of my car rocked. When it moved forward a bit, one of the men  pounded  on the car and I gassed it.  The car moved forward, and I drove on down the street, the lightweight backend still swaying side to side. When I saw the stop sign at the end of the street, I gassed it more, prayed and glanced in the rearview mirror for the men, but they had disappeared. I kept the car going, drove through the stop sign at the end of the street without stopping and up on the next better plowed street. 
Five miles later, I passed the truck stop where several semi-trucks idled in the parking lot, perhaps waiting on drivers eating breakfast or waiting out the storm. Ahead of me, I see the prize: my little  house and its driveway! I remember saying out loud, “When I get home, I will never leave again.” 

In the distance, I also see a big rig barreling down the highway coming in my direction. Believing at that moment that I should not wait on the truck to pass or I would get stuck again in the middle of the highway, my feeble mindset influenced the heaviness of my foot and I accelerate the car to get in the driveway. It was at that moment that my car bucks and slides sideways, in the road. I don't look again at the massive vehicle coming towards me. Instead, I take my hands off the steering wheel in surrender. In that odd moment, a calm filled me. I pressed the gas petal and the car jets into the snow packed driveway and stops. The semi-truck blows its horn at me as it passes which did not make me feel any better.

For a  few minutes, I sat in my car, head on the steering wheel and sobbed. 
Not knowing me, you might think I vowed to never drive on snow covered roads again. In spite of a desperate declaration of never leaving home again, I did leave, and I became more determined to conquer inclement weather driving. Don't get me wrong, I don’t like driving in the pouring rain, icy or on snow covered roads, but over the years I've made myself drive it as needed. 

I don't like feeling a hostage to anything.
I learned my share of lessons that day. God took care of me the entire way in spite of myself and still does. I learned about angels in human form coming to the rescue, my first experience, but not my last. At eighteen, I learned about the fighter in me who surfaced that day. I will need that fighter spirit again and again.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Slides to DVD Experience

In a spare bedroom closet on a shelf, in my bedroom under my bed and in the attic, I found approximately a hundred and twenty some slides. All were taken with my 35mm camera purchased in 1978. Since I needed prints from them before I could finish my photo albums, I researched online and felt like Walmart could do the job, but it wasn't as easy as it sounds. 

Store 1: The first Walmart store photo area that I stopped by told me to come back later when another person would be there who could give me the information that I needed. Since I don't live in that town I couldn't come back later that day. 

Store 2: The next WM store, in another town, said they couldn't do it there, that I would need to go to a bigger store. I left, but was pretty darn sure they could do it.

Store 3: The next and final store that I tried, the photo clerk frowned at me and said, "I'm not sure we do that." 

I said, "Yes, you do. The website says so." Then right before my eyes a brochure appeared (like Harry Potter magic) in a rack on the counter. I pulled it out, scanned it and found the area that informed on transferring slides to a DVD. "This is what I need." I sounded more confident than I felt.

She too read the brochure, told me to bundle them in bunches of 40 when I brought them back.

The next time I traveled to that town, I took my bundled slides hoping for no more resistance. The associate helped me through using the slooooow kiosk and the packaging. It took about three weeks to transfer from one media to the other. At some point, I received an email to look at them online. Then someone from the store called me to say my order was in! When I picked them up, the same associate remembered me. She somberly told me some of the photographs were faded. I grinned and said, "That's okay because some of the slides are nearly forty years old."

The DVD, full of images, is a gift. There are pictures I don't remember taking and others forgotten until I saw them again.

This cute picture of my son and daughter was taken at Easter one year. A Chuck Norris, action figure, was in my son's basket. Little sis needed baby doll supplies. Both received those multi-ink pens. I love my kids, but my eyes are drawn to my wallpaper and paneling. My cabinets are now white and there is no wallpaper or paneling.

I could tell you a story about Mr. and Mrs. Parakeet, if I could remember them. I don't know if I took a picture of my neighbor's birds (which I highly doubt) or if I zeroed out the memory of owning these beauties.

I call this photo: The tootsie roll caper. My daughter is hiding her sucker behind her back. She's got some good hair going on there.

My son on his trike.

Several of the slides are of my dad. Seeing new pictures of him is super meaningful.

Here's one of my daughter and I in matching dresses, sort of. I wasn't much into matchy stuff, but made them to make her happy. I love how I am sandwiching her tiny hand between mine.

Lastly is of my oldest niece of whom I love so much. She's nearly forty herself (like the slides) and physically an absolute beauty. We are no longer in contact.

And that is my Slides to DVD Experience.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Year in Passing and St. Patrick's Day

(I put off posting this until now, hence the reference to St. Patrick's Day)

Ronnie Powell
St. Patrick's Day has a different meaning for me now. My dad's funeral was held on March 17, 2017, a day before my March birthday, and fitting (in my opinion) since Dad was partly Irish and redheaded. It’s been a year since his passing and still weird to be at family functions without seeing his cowboy hat and hearing the click of his boots.

Dad's fast departure from this life was difficult for us, but I'm glad he didn't have to suffer a long time with illness. He didn't want it that way. Dad's illnesses seemed to come fast and hard, but in reality had been percolating in the background. We were surprised by the diagnoses: COPD (he didn’t know), lung cancer (he didn’t know that one either until the hospital stay), pneumonia and a stroke at some point that (evidently) didn't slow him down because he never knew about the stroke. Doctors and nurses alike shook their heads regarding his shredded lungs and how he breathed without being connected to an oxygen tank, in his everyday life. He didn’t need the hospital oxygen either, they said, but they had to keep it attached to him. 

He did seem superhuman at times.

His viewing and the funeral were the best as those kind of services go. He'd joked with Mom that they would have to pay people to come to their funerals, since over the years they'd lost a lot of family and friends, but that was far from the truth. Many people attended. Each person who waited in line told us the history of their relationship with Dad. Most we knew, but some came as new information (at least to me). And many wanted to share a story about him. The funeral part was led by a pastor that we once knew. Dad was not a church goer, but he really liked this young fella. Evidently the feeling was mutual because they spent time together camping and hiking. Ben presented a message that touched the hearts of most who attended the service, from our community of friends and family, the religious and nonreligious alike.
Dad didn't compliment me much, but once said that I was a good driver. Told me he liked how I kept my house and property tidy. He loved my children an incredible amount, told me so and showed it. On our trips together and car rides to writing classes, Dad told me stories of his youth, probably some I didn't need to hear. 😉
People who have been in our lives and then die often leave their voice in our heads and claim a portion of our hearts. You'll still hear them at times influencing your actions and decisions. My dad influenced me in many ways. We both: 
  • love writing.
  • like mowing our yards.
  • walk fast.
  • are hard workers.
  • entertain a bit of the no nonsense attitude.
  • love singing. He loved to sing and felt that I got my (so called) talent from him.
  • have a love affair with bacon and over easy eggs.
  • love buzzards. We even talked about buzzards. I do like a pretty buzzard!
When you lose someone that you love, your life has to change; there's no way around it. After all these years, I have no answers for overcoming grief or living without the people that we still want in our lives.
I suspect there is no easy answer.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

One Sunday Morning

My brother and I - 1961- Easter 
As a youngster, after Sunday school in our beautiful country church, my mom, two siblings, me, my maternal grandma, cousins and aunt that lived with Grandma all sat in the same pews (one or two) for the worship service. Since my grandma (and grandpa) had eight children, the extended family was large. Added to the "family" pew each weekend were visiting family members who sometimes attended church with Grandma Sadie. Needless to say, the family pew(s) overflowed. I would like to add that these were not assigned pews, but squatted, claimed emotionally by families.

My involvement with the family pew thing changed as I became a teenager and wandered around the church with friends,  until I married.

But this isn't a story about family pews. No. This story is about the pew that helped trap me. 

We weren't the only ones that sat in the same place each Sunday. In front of us, sat three of the elder women of the church and community who often sat together. They all had fluffy white sometimes blued tinted hair which I fought to not touch because their hair 'looked' soft. (I read somewhere that women blued their hair because they didn't want their gray hair to look yellow.)

One particular Sunday, the congregation sang its hymns, stood and sat as directed. (I can still hear my grandma’s sweet singing voice.) I liked two of the ladies who sat in front of us, but the third I did not care for since she was surly to me.  I witnessed her snippiness to others, too. All three of the ladies were close neighbors to us and each other. That day, a couple of things were flitting through my mind and it wasn't church related: obsessing on their soft hair and thinking on what I would do after church. I don't recall if I was singing, but I do remember running my hand over the wood of the back of the pew in front of me. That is where I left my arm, dangling over the back of the next pew when the singing stopped. 

After that last song, the song leader told us to be seated. Before I could collect both arms, the lady that wasn't so nice, fell back into her seat, slamming her body against my arm. There I stood with my skinny little arm pinned by her back to the pew. The moment was so brief, but felt lengthy as I pondered how to free myself without talking to the surly woman. I knew she would say I shouldn't have put it there in the first place. 

The woman didn't seem to notice that MY arm was the lump between her back and the seat. Maybe she thought the lump was her sweater or something because she shifted her shoulders side to side then pressed back even more against me. Suddenly, she moved again, this time forward, giving me the opportunity to pull my arm out and sit down. I looked at my mom who hadn't noticed my dilemma. She'd been in a whispering conversation with my grandma, as they sat down. 

I want to point out that others thought this woman was not surly but instead likable. Somehow, she left that impression on me. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

To Grandmother's House We Go

This week on FB, I posted a photo that I have hanging on a wall in my house of a road that once led to my paternal grandparents farm near Long Lane, Missouri. The road is still there. My grandparents are not and their farmhouse has since burned down.

The photo evoked emotions from some who had lived off of and traveled the road. 

Those people shared their memories. One said that the trees in the photo were no longer there. A couple of people wrote about riding the school bus and playing in the creek that the road runs over and picnics. I talked about my own memories and a cabin that my dad had built overlooking the creek when he grew up there.   

For me, the road begins at a highway just before the small town of Long Lane and eventually passes a church with a cemetery where some of my relatives have graves. There were other ways to get to this road that turned onto the road where they lived, but we normally didn't go those routes.

A sign on the chain link fence around the cemetery.
This sign good to know. 
Memories are what we use when we cannot revisit something or someone. 

Memories are unique for each person, personalized by experience.