Saturday, August 16, 2014
A place of unfinished floors, filled with boxes of treasures that were once important, the attic sprawls out in every direction with tiny walkways of plywood leading into the dark spidery corners. The children were never allowed into the attic when they were young, for fear that one wrong step would send them through a thin layer of insulation and straight down to the floor below.
Giant stuffed snakes, won at the State Fair, and over sized Teddy Bears who were simply too big to manage, rest at the entrance of the attic and oversee the coming and going into this world of Christmas decorations, discarded luggage and dozens of boxes marked "Do Not Throw Away." While simply a graveyard for things once loved and unfinished craft projects, it is a world of old memories and favorite things. It is this exact mix of old and familiar, dark and light, known and unknown that crafted the idea in my children's heads that a man lives in our attic. It didn't help when I shared with them the story about my childhood friend who did have a man living in her attic. Unknown to her family, a friend of a friend had set up residence in their attic and would come down at night to eat and drink as her family slept. My own children cringe at the thought of this.
I cannot explain why boxes frequently move in my attic or why we once found an empty coke and bag of chips up there, but I am certain nobody lives there. Perhaps the cable installer left his snacks when running line. Maybe it is squirrels who make the faint sounds above our heads at night. I would believe the toys were coming alive and rearranging the contents of the attic before I believed that a man was living up there.
This mystery resident in the space above our heads has grown famous as the tale of his existence has spread from one child to another. It was not long ago that a man at church asked me about the man living in my attic and I just had to smile.
The more I think about it, I grow jealous of the man living rent free surrounded by the good things of my life. If there is a man in my attic I have a "To Do " list for him that is long overdue. He needs to bring himself down from there while I'm at work and start on the laundry, pick up the house and do a little yard work. It would be great if he could start dinner before I get home and then return to rest among the six foot plush snakes and bears that live overhead. There is a roof leak that I'm certain he should have noticed by now and he could lend a hand with the repairs.
While my children fear the man in the attic, I welcome the extra help that could come along with such. There is no time in my household for crazy psychopathic attic dwellers and anyone who sets up residence there will certainly be given their fair share of the workload. Next time I pull down those creaky stairs and look upon the big red snake head that stares down from overhead, I hope to find a plumber or electrician hanging out up there, too. Now that would be real treasure to find!
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
When my children were born, I knew that I would treat them to the same experience one day. When that day finally arrived and we pulled up to the beach in our giant conversion van with buckets, shovels, floaties and more, I knew the magic was about to begin. Since it was late afternoon we had missed all the good shells and made plans to walk the beach earlier the next day. We had a large bucket to collect the many seashells such early risers were certain to find.
Just after sun-up, my son and I hit the beach only to realize that some unexplainable scientific phenomenon had occurred, as all the shells were gone. A few broken pieces of shells were scattered along the shore, but the ones like those of my childhood were nowhere to be found. I promised my son it would be better the next day, but it wasn’t. My mind filled with shell theories and doubt about those shell stores that obviously had an insider connection to shell gathering. Giving no thought to the outcome of my actions, I purchased a bag of beautiful shells in all sizes and shapes. And then it happened… I pulled my husband into my conspiracy and made him walk ahead of me on the beach, secretly seeding it with cleaned, bleached, polished seashells. My child squealed with delight as he filled his shell bucket with treasures from the sea. Other parents looked in our bucket of shells with great doubt as our son pulled out conch shells and horn shells and ones that looked like little ashtrays. He was so happy. We were so wrong… but it continued even as the second child was born and two parents and a brother seeded the beach for the next child to enjoy.
Unfortunately, as the second child aged, so did we and it happened that we weren’t quite so discreet in our shell placement. My husband would walk ahead of us and fling shells from his pockets. My daughter was about ten when she looked up at me and said, “You know I can see Dad, don’t you?” I smiled and gave her that same look as when she questioned Santa. She knew, but it was more fun to continue believing.
The kids continued to grow up and we eventually stopped seeding the beach. We came to accept that the days of great shelling were over. This past year, as an older version of us visited the beach, I watched as other families kept the hope alive and searched for any sign of treasure from the sea. None could be found. After a week of algae filled water and diminished hope that the gulf would clear up for swimming, we woke to crystal clear water. It was as if God had brushed His hand across the sea and returned it to its beauty. The kids grabbed their snorkel gear and jumped in the water only to discover a world of beautiful shells just short of the shoreline. They gathered shells for hours and reveled in their find. The magic was still there, just waiting to be found.
Sunday, June 29, 2014
The first mistake began with a GPS re-route around the thee hour traffic jam that is the Mobile tunnel. We skirted across lower Mississippi traveling back roads that had not seen beach traffic in forty years. My mother could not understand why there were no roadside parks on this two lane highway through the middle of nowhere. My husband would have opted for pulling over on the side of the road and eating off of the tailgate of his truck. The kids wanted something from the modern world such as a Chili's or Zaxsbys. We were set for failure from the beginning.
I stopped at a small gas station in Laurel, Mississippi and asked for directions to the public park. Tired from trying to meet the dining expectations of the ten people traveling with me, I pulled up to the first picnic table I saw. Our tiny caravan of beach goers pulled in behind me and we offloaded lunch. The heat was sweltering. The boys chose to stay in their Fiat and requested drive through service. They did not get it.
The picnic table had an unusual design as it was very tall and the seats were set oddly close to the table. When you sat down, you were tucked in so tight that your chin could rest on the table top. While this position was fine with me as I was ready to lay my head somewhere, it was not functional for dining.
We ended up eating from the tailgate of my husband's truck after all. My mother had prepared a feast of chicken salad, pasta salad, deli meats and cheeses, fresh fruit, homemade cookies and lemonade. Eleven people inhaled the lemonade as the Mississippi heat enveloped us. About the time the food was laid out, ready to be consumed, the flies smelled the sweet nectar that was our lemonade and the battle was on. We swatted the beasts out of our way as we tried, in vain, to make sandwiches and serve up sweet treats.
Everyone ate as fast as they possibly could so they could return to the comfort of their cars to escape the flies and the heat. It was the shortest picnic I have ever been on. I suppose it was a good idea pulled from memory when we traveled in a station wagon with no air conditioning and a stop at a park was a welcome change. Our modern day travelers who move with climate control, a bird's eye view of their path, stereo sound, and a Starbucks latte in their cup holder are not looking to escape the confines of the wonderful environment they travel in. Never again will we choose to picnic in Mississippi in the summer heat! Some ideas should remain just that...ideas, thoughts or simply a good memory that belongs only on memory lane.
Friday, June 20, 2014
Better planning on my part would have prevented the untimely arrival of my long awaited dream car in the very same month that my daughter received her learner’s permit. While I mistakenly assumed the new car belonged to me, I should have noticed the tiny Cadillac reflections in my child’s eyes. My heart sank and her excitement grew, thus tugging at opposite ends of the wellness spectrum. No one had explained to me that the arrival of her license to drive meant the end of my place in the heated seat behind the wheel. Without fanfare, the pecking order changed and suddenly I was on the wrong side of the ATM and unable to catch a full view of the drive-up menu ever again.
After weeks of driving down unknown roads and failed attempts at parking between the lines at the Sonic Drive-In, my child had quenched her thirst for grape Slurpees and gained the skills needed for safe driving. She had learned that the rear view mirror was not placed in the car for her to watch herself drive. She learned that turning the wrong way on a one-way street will cause immediate screaming from all passengers and someone in the backseat will capture it on film and place it on social media for all to see. She had become a good driver and had rightfully earned the paperwork entitling her to a driver’s permit.
As she smiled for the camera, excited about her license, the agent asked her, “Do you want to be an organ donor?” Time stopped. We were not prepared for this question. While organ donation saves lives, I could foresee the 2:00 a.m. cry from my child’s bedroom, “I gave away my liver!” Unable to change her answer from yes to no at 2:00 a.m., a few layers of plastic laminate would prevent me from stopping the oncoming panic attack that was headed our way, just like the cars on the one-way street.
I chose to postpone any personal commitment to organ donation until we could sit down and talk about it at length. In the past, I had reserved such important talks for those times my child was trapped in the passenger seat and we were driving down the road at 70 miles per hour, thus making her a captive audience. She had learned the truth of Santa, Sex and the Easter Bunny all while I clutched the wheel of a moving vehicle, unable to make direct eye contact with her. No longer able to hide behind the wheel of my car, I realized future talks of life will be given from the passenger side of my daughter’s new ride.
Sunday, June 8, 2014
I would like to point out that health eating is expensive eating as indicated by my $250 grocery bill. I stocked my pantry with nuts, grains, fruits and seeds - all whole foods promising energy and wellness. A 24 pack of assorted chips used to last two weeks. A $9 can of pistachios lasted two hours. I watched in dismay as hungry children gobbled up banana chips, sunflower seeds and pecans. It took half a bag of oranges to get enough juice for a few good drinks and I wondered what the true cost of all of this would be. My worry set in and I sought out a Reese's cup and Coca Cola, but none were to be found. I downed a few sunflower seeds and pieces of beef jerky. While tasty, they didn't give me that sugar rush I wanted from chocolate and soda.
After a day of healthy eating and drinking lots of water, I settled in for a good night's sleep, proud that I was making healthy choices for my family. It was about 2:00 a.m. when I woke to the feeling of being run over by a truck. I thought these healthy foods were supposed to make me feel better! There wasn't a joint in my body that didn't hurt. Perhaps it was withdrawal from the buttery goodness that once filled my cabinets and possibly the spaces between my joints. I sought comfort in a jar of natural peanut butter and a bottle of Motrin, my new midnight friends.
Out with the old and in with the new. Fifty may be screaming at me from the horizon, but I plan to greet it in a pair of running shoes with a bottle of Fiji Water in hand. After all, this is just the beginning of the next fifty and I want them to be grand!
Sunday, May 25, 2014
My daughter is always first to jump in. Her eyes open wide as she sees the new flavors and she races to fill her tester cup with Mango Delight and Triple Chocolate Monkey Crunch. I'll scan the choices several times as I don't want to waste my two chances to use my tester cups and get a free taste of the wrong thing. My son stands back and checks his watch, sends a text message to a few friends, and simply disconnects from his mother and sister who are riding the roller coaster of choices up and down Yogurt Mountain.
We each branch off in our own direction, traveling further into the unknown as we move past tester cups and begin creating the final yogurt choice that we will have to live with. Without fail, I always retreat to the classic flavors of vanilla and chocolate, filling my cup with equal amounts of yogurty goodness. I'll toss in a blackberry or two for good health and call it complete. My daughter will load her cup with an assortment of flavors that may actually glow in the dark and then finish it off with a topping of sour candies and gummie worms that hang over the side of the cup. It is at this exact moment that I begin to make bad decisions and return to inventory the choices once again. A small dollop of Watermelon freeze or Red Raspberry yogurt couldn't hurt and I'll add a little to my cup... an impromptu decision I will regret once I join my family at the table.
My son has been moving quietly in the background the entire time and will arrive to the cash register with some concoction that must have been crafted in the Southern Living test kitchens. A small amount of vanilla yogurt has been perfectly dusted with graham cracker crumbs, walnuts and a spoonful of fresh strawberries. It is apparent to everyone in the restaurant that these are flavors that naturally go well together and scream of summertime goodness. They might as well just hand him a blue ribbon to go with his spoon.
As we sit at the table to enjoy our treats, I'll wish for a cup of yogurt like my son's. My daughter will enjoy her cup of frozen candy and smile with blue lips at the choice she made. I'll dig around in my cup of frozen yogurt and push the bad decision out of the way and mine for the goodness that is buried there somewhere underneath the blackberries and artificial raspberry goo, knowing that I should not have ventured from that which I know to be good.
It takes no personality inventory to see the extrovert who loves life, the thinker who maps out a plan and carefully executes it and the woman who second guessed her good choices that were perfectly fine without the need for anything new.
Myers Briggs has nothing on Yogurt Mountain!
Saturday, May 10, 2014
In the mornings, there is timing to the symphony of sounds that softly wakes each person. There is a rush of water through the pipes in the walls as the first person to shower is greeted with the hottest water of the morning. The hum of a hair dryer mixed with the scent of cologne is like a soft alarm clock telling us we are late and should have been out of bed before now. The clinking of the door knob ornament tells us that Allie is up and getting ready. My son's door will open later and brush against the tuft of the carpet letting us know he is awake and starting his day.
Nighttime is full of wonderful sounds, too. One of the greatest that I am blessed to enjoy is the sound of string instruments as my son and nephew strum their guitars or ukuleles. I never knew a uke' could produce such pleasing sounds, but the right hands can make magic with it. Whether it is background sounds of someone writing songs in the den or a full concert of instruments in my living room, the laughter of children and the music in our home is nothing short of magical.
With an extensive collection of songs and greatest hits from the decades' greatest artists, I would trade them all for one simple recording of the gentle sounds of home. Time will come and these sounds will make homes elsewhere. It is then, when I can't hear them anymore, that I hope I can close my eyes and recall them all with vivid detail. As children return home, I will delight in the sounds they bring back with them. While the creak of the back door signals coming and going, it always gives hope that familiar faces have found their way home.