All posts by lbbray@hotmail.com

About lbbray@hotmail.com

Just a Baby Boomer trying to figure out how to age gracefully and hopefully, with humor.

Games

Game quoteThe other night I called my sister, Laura, to ask her how to play a certain game (Queen Bee).  This was not the first time I had called her about a game.  Laura and her husband David have become my go-tos when it comes to games.  While I love to play games, especially card games, I am terrible at remembering how to play and the rules.  (One rule I NEVER forget though is that play does not begin until a card is drawn nor does it end until a discard is played.  I threw a king size, Larry Barber temper tantrum over friends who seemed to think {wrongly} that when it was their turn they did not have to draw to start playing).

One of my very, very favorite card games is Booray.  Actually, that may or may not be it’s name since I have no idea how to spell it.  It is a game that Mother and Daddy brought home from somewhere and taught us.  It is a progressive rummy game played with as many people as you can crowd around a table and many, many decks of cards.  I have changed the name to Barbooray since there are numerous games of that same sort of name and none of them are the game I love.

This was a traditional after Thanksgiving game for years and could get very raucous as the game wore on.  We have played with at least ten people and five or six decks of cards.  It can go on for hours (funny, I will play this for hours but I HATE Monopoly because it lasts for days).  Throw in numerous glasses of wine/cocktails/toddies and you get the picture.  As an aside, Daddy could either be more fun to play with or voted most likely to be shot over a card game.  Any time I am around family, you can bet we will play a game.

I can’t remember a time when our family did not play games.  We played board games, card games and dominoes.  We played Parcheesi, Rich Uncle, Scrabble (Wesley had to have a timer or he would never put down a tile), Tripoli, and Clue.   We wore out numerous decks of Rook cards and Crazy Eights, Hearts, Spades, Gin, and Poker used up plenty more decks of standard cards.  Not to mention various forms of dominoes and of course, Yatzee.    Two of my most precious treasures are the green jadite domino set we played with ever since I can remember (even though one is burnt, probably from an LB temper tantrum) and a Yatzee score pad with Mother and Daddy’s scores in Mother’s handwriting.

Laura and I played at least a billion games of Jacks where we coined the term “Nors” since we could not waste time on saying “No overs” when the jacks were thrown in a really hard mess.  And we honed our concentration and planning skills on just how to pick up a stick playing Pick Up Sticks.  Speaking of concentration, we played that game with just regular decks of cards long before the actual game came out.  And Laura, Larry and I would come to blows playing Slap Jacks as kids.

In the 70s, Rook was the craze in Mulberry.  I don’t think there was ever a weekend that there was not a Rook game at someone’s house.  It was the social activity that even young couples could afford to do.  The only expense was a deck of cards, maybe some Cokes and sometimes snacks or dinner.  We and our friends would play for most of the night, talking and laughing and making plans for the future.  Games would rotate around different homes so no one was always host.

Now, I am a terrible domino player and I blame that on being a girl.  Well, a girl in Mulberry, Arkansas in the 60s and on into the 70s.  See, there was what was called the Pool Hall/Domino Parlor.  It was just catty-corner across the street from the drug store and it was a MENS ONLY place.  I never ventured more than a foot or two inside the door.  During the summers, the two doors going into the building were open so some of the past winter’s air could be let out.  It was always dark, dank and smokey.  When a female of any age entered, there would be dead silence and stares from hostile male eyes (or at least that is how it seemed).  It was so male dominated, that Mother would send us kids over to get Daddy rather than go herself.  I guess she figured they would not throw out a little girl but might try a grown woman.  So, short story long, I never developed the domino skill.  That and I had to count each dot to tell what was played…..

And that is another thing, I can’t (and HATE to play with people who do) tell what cards/dominoes are left just by knowing what has been played.  We have a friend that we play games with that used to throw down a hand of cards after just a few rounds because he “knew” what everyone had and how the game would play out.  Did I mention I inherited Daddy’s ability to throw king size temper tantrums?  Yes, even at this age, I will cause a scene at a game table if the rules are not followed.  By golly, if you pick up the cards, you play the game and if you play the game, you play it right.

My kids love to play games.  When Luke was a kid, the game of Scatagorries came out.  That was the one thing he wanted for Christmas one year and we play and played that game.  Even now he loves to play.  With his vision problems, I have made him his own set of “cards” with big print so we can keep on playing.  He loves Yatzee too and we have had some great rounds of Gin.  He plays games like Mother, calmly and methodically.  Amanda is quite a game player too, but plays more like her Pappy.

Mexican Train Dominoes is the game here in Hattiesburg now.  I can remember playing a game we called Mexican Dominoes with regular sets, but now there are really fancy ones with little plastic trains and a wheel to set up the train lines.  Depending on how high the “doubles” in the set you use, this game can go on forever too.  I really like it because it is a game you have to think about, but not so much you can’t talk and eat (really important to me) while playing.  Fortunately, in the packaged sets, the dots are various colors so I don’t have to count them to see what goes next, I just grab the right color.  I think I mentioned my domino handicap.

One game I never have been able to learn how to play was Bridge.  Mother and Daddy loved Bridge and played it often.  And I really did want to learn how to play because it always seemed so “grown up” and having a Bridge party seemed so cool.  They tried to teach me several times and each time it ended up the same.  Mother would shriek that I could not be her’s because she would never have a daughter so dense that she couldn’t figure out how to bid.  Daddy would equally declare that I was not his since he would never have a daughter so clueless that she could not figure out how to follow a lead.  Lessons were always a few years apart in the hopes that I might eventually grow a Bridge brain.  I never did.  I think it takes the same sort of thinking process that Chess takes and I could never learn how to play that either.

Come to think of it, I can’t play Checkers (or Tic-Tac-Toe either).  I can play Chinese Checkers, but not very well.  More than once I have jostled the table to make the marbles roll off, just being honest here.   Games of strategy are just not for me.  Nort talks about the joys of playing Risk, War and Battleship.  Nope, not for me.  Granted, I’ve never played any of them, but I know that I am just too much of a girl to play any of those kinds of game.

Now that there are some great games on the computers (not video games, those are a whole ‘nother creature) I love to play various forms of solitaire.  Oh, and Mahjong.  I love that!  I have seen beautiful tile sets for the real physical game, but I have never seen it played in real life.  It seems so exotic to me and I would love the chance to play an actual game, but will settle for what I do have.

What games do you play, love or hate?  I know that different personalities seem to gravitate to different types of games.  What is popular in your neck of the woods?  How many decks of cards do you have?  We have dozens. (I bought a beautiful old set of Bridge cards at an estate sale, not to play of course, but just because they were pretty).  I have shelves full of board games, how about you?  Do you stick to the classics or do you try out each new one that comes along?  There are so many games that are so much fun, what do you pull out first when people come over for game night.  Yes, I really do want to know.  I am always on the look-out for a game I can actually win……

Hey ma, check out the old dude!

Blog Hair

So if you have been following along, you know we have discussed women’s hair and men’s beards.  I think you know my stance on fun hair color and disgusting weird beard trends.  Now it is time for an update.

I have been having so much fun with my hair color.  My tresses (that sounds so much more luxurious than hair) have been various shades of burgundy and plum brown.  Right now it is pretty close to a reddish purple color.  Nort has picked most of these colors out so if he doesn’t like it, he certainly has not said anything.  Madison is used to her mother’s hair being all sorts of different colors but she is not so sure about mine.  Luke doesn’t care one way or the other just as long as I don’t shave my head.

For so many years I had to be very conservative in my hair styles as well as colors.  Heck, there were some times in my career that I couldn’t even wear cool nail colors or decals.  But that was alright for the most part since I had done the wild and weird in my younger years.  Oh, and my toes were always pretty cool when I took my shoes off.  Bright orange toe nail polish with whimsical designs will always brighten your day.  Now that I am making paint, it is expected that I rock a different look.  Yippee!

Recently though, I had a woman and her teenage daughter come in for some paint for the daughter’s bed room.  “Oh mom! That is the color I want my hair!”  The look of  horror on mom’s face was pretty darn funny.  “NO!”  Then you should have seen her backtracking so as to not offend me.  “Oh, I mean, really, it looks great on you…….”  I just smiled and winked at the teenager.  What else could I do.  And, no, I was not offended.

One Sunday I didn’t even think about what I was wearing or really what eye makeup and lipstick I had on.  I was just glad I got dressed and ready so we could leave for church on time.  (Bet you have felt that way a time or two).  It wasn’t until we were leaving one of my friends said, “You really must have spent some time on what you were going to wear today.  Every thing matches your hair!”  When I got home and really looked in the mirror, she was right.  My hair matched my eyeshadow which matched my lipstick which matched my earrings which matches my top.  I was wearing black trousers and shoes so I wasn’t totally monochromatic.   I have been more careful since.

All this brings me (in a very round about way) to men.  Not so much what they are doing with their hair color, but just about every thing else.  As disgusting as I think braided, beaded beards are, I get a real kick out of the pony tails.  I just can’t help but laugh a little to my self when I see a semi-bald man with snow white hair and a pony tail.   Oh, and earrings.  Don’t you just love a 70 year old man with earrings and a pony tail?

While grocery shopping one day I saw a couple that were just too cute for words.  She had beautiful snowy white hair in a really cute cropped cute usually seen only on younger women.  He too had snowy white hair though he was semi-bald.  But what hair he did have was long enough that he could sport a cute little pony tail.  And what was even cuter was the red hair elastic that coordinated with his very neat and conservative button style shirt.   I loved it.

And that is not the only interesting hair style I’ve seen on white haired older guys.  Nort and I were shopping (he is SO patient so it is fun to shop with him) and in the check-out line was a man with some bit more hair than Nort has and much longer on top, but it was all spiky, like a porcupine.  Pretty darn cool, short on the sides (where it was thicker of course) and longer on top and standing straight up.  I looked inquiringly at my spouse but he just grinned.  Don’t think I can talk him into that.

At first I was not really sure about the look and found it kind of confusing.  I mean I’m used to old bikers and renegades.  Hippies (do we still call them hippies?) have pretty much always had long hair, pony tails and braids.  I remember when my brother got married in the early eighties there was a couple who both had lovely French braids.  The only difference in their hairstyles was she had flowers in hers and he didn’t.   But they were young and of course, hippies.

I wonder if these old guys I’ve been seeing wore their hair long when they were young men too and if this is just their chance to go back in time.  Or maybe this is the hair style they have had for sixty years and no sense changing it now.  Granted, I’ve not seen any “Beatle” cuts, but that could be because one needs lots of hair all over the head to imitate John, Paul, George or Ringo.  Oh the image of some old guy still going for that look is just too funny.  Pardon me while I chuckle.

But I think it is probably the same with them as so many of us women.  These guys are probably men who worked in conservative business environments like lawyers, bankers and such and just now get to go wild.  Remember, these are men who came of age when these careers demanded suits and ties for a work uniform.  Even most tradesmen had to be more conservative in their work life.  That is why you would see so many really colorful golf pants and shirts and other weekend wear.

So, that is what I really think it is.  We women who were either compelled to be less frivolous with our hair and such whether due to our career choices or demands of raising a family (or both!) now get to play as much as we want to with cuts and color.  There is no such thing as a matronly look anymore.  And by golly, the men get to do their own thing now too.  Once full on retirement hits and there is no more need to “toe the line” they are as free as we are to embrace our inner young person.  More power to the Age of Gray!

Cha, cha, cha changes

Mirror quote

How many of you look in the mirror and think, boy, do I look great or what? Oh, I guess it would depend on when you look in the mirror. Frankly, in the mornings when I first get up and my hair is really going every which way and my eye bags are in full bloom, I look like a deranged chicken. But, once I’ve gotten the coffee ingested and the blood flowing I get a bit better. Then after a good face splash or two and make up on and  my hair more or less styled, I think, not bad, not bad at all. And once I get dressed and accessorized then check the view, it’s darn, I’m smoking hot. That feeling will last until I run into a mirror outside of my house (or any form of reflective glass). Suddenly, I’m faced with a stranger.  Who is that person wearing my clothes.

For a while on my Facebook page I had my Senior High School portrait (for you younger people, that would be a Senior Picture, we were much more formal then).  When I look at that girl, I think my, what a pretty girl she was. Look at that innocence; you can see her hopes and dreams just shining from her eyes.  When I look at pictures of my friends and classmates from that period, that is what I see in everyone.  We were beautiful children, every single one of us.  Oh, we laugh at our hairstyles and fashion choices of clothes, but that does not hide the beauty.

At that stage of our lives, we had not faced the losses and pain that would come in later years.  We girls had not borne children that gave us so much joy but wrecked havoc on our waistlines and tummies. Boys still had full heads of hair and only the beginnings of beards that would soon turn to comb-overs and fuzzy ears.  Our physical selves were at their peak or were soon to be.   Oh we whined about pimples, greasy foreheads and braces, but I think deep down in our barely formed psyches we knew we were all that and then some. School, ballgames, practice, date nights and all that goes with teenage years were embraced without a second thought.  We were young and we would always be young.

Young adulthood did not change us that much.  We got jobs, went to college, got married, had babies, joined the military, but did not grow older.  Pictures from those days still show young, beautiful people with their whole lives ahead of them.   We did have worries now other than grades and game scores, but the biggies were still ahead of us.  I look at pictures of me with Amanda and Luke as babies.  I was just a bit more than a little girl at that time, but I felt oh so adult.

In five short years, we had high school reunions.  Some of us were married and settled into what we thought would be our lives for ever.  Others had just graduated from college and were sure their future was a shining star just waiting to be reached, while still more of us were in the Adult World of Work and beginning to see what our parents had told us about real life.  But, still we were young and beautiful and could honestly tell each other, “You haven’t changed a bit!”

I’m not sure when time started to catch up with us.  That intriguing white streak that was so sexy in younger days became a full out epidemic converting our once lush  hair into a gray dull mess.  And that was if you were lucky enough to still have it.  Those healthy tans were no longer healthy looking.  That five pounds turned into five more and five more and well, you know the rest.   Those of you who have followed for a while remember our trip to Galveston.  Nort was telling one of our friends about it.  He said that one of the men said he was so disappointed when he first got there.  Instead of seeing a bunch of his 19 year old  buddies, there was a bunch of old fat men.

I think we have all at one time or another ran into some one we haven’t seen in years and wondered, boy does he/she look old.  What in the world happened?  I look so much younger!  Ooops.  If we could see into their minds, guess what they are thinking?  Yep, we really look old to others.

And then, just when we least expect it, guess what happens.  WE START GETTING YOUNGER AGAIN!  Yes, it’s true.  Think about it.  We are starting out on a new adventure!  So much to see, so much to do.  The Golden Years are called that for a reason.  Our children are grown.  They are adults now and while we will always love them and worry about them, the pressure is off.  If their behavior is not what we would like it to be, it is because of their choices. Job not great?  Who cares, going to retire soon anyway.  Never going to fit into your cheer leader outfit or your old Army uniform again?  Do you really want to anyway.   Should I care if purple eye shadow is not stylish, heck, I’ll wear it anyway.  Want to binge watch something on Netflix instead of mopping the floor.  Go ahead, your friends are doing the same thing.

One of the things I loved best when I turned 50 was realizing there was so much I didn’t have to do if I didn’t want.  I don’t have to answer the phone if I don’t feel like it, and I don’t need an excuse.  That is so liberating!  We can spoil our grandchildren (and who doesn’t) and not have to worry that we are going to make them horrible adults (that is their parent’s worry).  Laura and I were talking to our precious doggies (really, they are horrible doggies) in baby talk.  We never did that with our kids.  I commented on that.  Her response was “I don’t have to worry about Lucy having a speech problem because of how I talk to her.”  See, how much fun is that.

I have always loved to color, but there was frequently just too much that I HAD TO DO to be able to just sit down and color until my fingers cramped.  I even used to feel that I had to be doing something else while I watched television so that it was not time wasted.  Well, Laura got me a beautiful coloring book and guess what I do now.  Yep and I don’t make any apologies for it either.

Which, brings me back full circle.  Is there anything more beautiful than a face that has lived?  Our skin is softer and clearer than it ever was and wrinkles just show how much we have laughed over the years.  While our eyes may be behind bifocals, they sure do sparkle with remembered joys.  Bodies are now just perfect for cuddling little ones, be they human or furry and our laps are where children want to be.  We can embrace our salt and pepper or silver hair or we can go wild and crazy.  In fact, right now I am rocking a wonderful violet color that is just too much fun.  And don’t even pretend that a silver beard is not a thing of beauty.

Now when I see my family and friends I marvel at how beautiful they are now.  I don’t see years added, I see years lived.  There is not the self doubt and fear that seemed to develop into worry lines once we grew up enough to know there was so much we didn’t know and how scary the world can be.   Our lives have reached a point where they are OUR lives, not a life yet to be and that in itself is a beautiful thing.

This year I firmly resolve……

New Year

Hello 2016, good-bye 2015.  It is a New Year and time to start making all sorts of positive changes in our lives and get rid of all the negatives and bad habits.  This year (as in every year for way too long) I resolve to lose weight, get fit, control my spending, make a budget, be nicer and on and on and on.  Are you with me on this?  Why do we do this to our selves?  Yes, it is a new year, but what has really changed since December 31 other than the year number?  Did we become new people at the stroke of midnight?  Why is January 1st so magic and not March 1?

The arbiter of all knowledge, Wikipedia, says this about New Year Resolutions:   A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day.  

I love that phrase “something slightly nice”.  I could probably stick with being slightly nice.  I do open doors for people and hold them open for those following me.  Wow, I’m ahead of the year already!

Our Wiki friends further tell us that this form of self abuse has been around for a long time, to wit:  Babylonians made promise to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts.  The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.  In the Medieval era, the knights took the “peacock vow” at the end of the Christmas season  each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.

I have never personally met a Babylonian, Roman or knight and understand that they are no longer around so I am not sure if they were any better at keeping their resolves back then than I am today.

Studies have shown that the most common reason for 35% of NYR (New Year Resolvers) failing is because of their unrealistic goals.  Also 33% of NYR  didn’t keep track and 23% forgot about it.  I don’t know about you, but I fit into each category.   I always resolve to do something that I know darn well I won’t, I never really write my resolutions down and then I can’t remember what they were to start with.  Really, I shouldn’t feel too bad since  I also found this nugget:  A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail despite the fact that 52% of the study’s participants were confident of success at the beginning.

Now don’t you feel better?  Granted, I don’t know where in the world the University of Bristol is to start with and they may all be slackers anyway, but if the majority of 3,000 people don’t keep their resolutions, then I can’t consider myself a lone failure.  After all, there is comfort in numbers and who really wants to be out of the mainstream?  Don’t you find people who do keep all their resolutions  to be just a little bit sanctimonious?

There have been years that I have kept my resolutions for three or four months.  Want to know my secret?  Just morph your resolution into Lent.  Want to drop some weight?  Give up doughnuts.   Of course the year I gave up doughnuts for Lent was a lesson in what not to do.  My office was right next door to a small town mom & pop bakery and I had been in the habit of popping in a couple of days (5) a week for a doughnut or six.  They were just these little circles of heaven but they certainly had a way of making clothes too tight.  So, that is what I gave up.  However, I did not give up maple bars, bear claws, cinnamon twists etc.  Guess who did not fit into her Easter dress?  But still, I did sort of keep a resolution.

I think the best thing it is to not call them resolutions and try not to be too broad.  (Although I do have to be very broad regarding what I give up for Lent, since obviously I cheat.  Henceforth I give up all Fried and Baked Sugared Breakfast Pastry.)  Setting a goal is somehow a little more manageable.  Having specific end date helps too.  I don’t know about you, but I have trouble seeing more than a month or two ahead.  Doing something specific for a real length of time is just beyond me.  Oh, I start off well and can usually end up in pretty good shape, but it is the middle that does me in.  Take getting the house under control.  I joined a Declutter in 365 Days group and rocked it for about three months.  My cabinets were works of art, my drawers so very neat and my pantry actually organized.  Then I didn’t make my menus and master grocery list and the CDs never got organized and let’s not even talk about the coat closet.  But come November and the holidays are looming, I found the declutter calendar pages I had ignored and actually got November and December’s done (I’ll work on April – October this year, maybe).

One of the best resolutions I’ve heard is to make no more resolutions on January 1.  Frankly, November 22 makes more sense to me.  My birthday is November 21 and if I am going to make some big changes, it should be at the beginning of MY new year.   So in a way, that lets me off the hook (for 2015 anyway).  And even better, it gives me plenty of time to think, really think, about what I want to do or accomplish for my next year.   There are some things that at this age I should not even consider.  Really, I’m not going to EVER get back to what I looked like thirty years ago, either in weight or fitness and that’s just fine.  If I haven’t mastered the art of magazine pretty housekeeping by now, I’m not going to no matter what I resolve.  And I’m just too darn lazy to cook healthy, nutritious meals every night.  (After all, I am the mother that set three different kinds of cookies on the table along with a gallon of milk and called it dinner.)

But I do want to be more patient and helpful, I do want to make the world a better place even if it is just my own little corner, I do want to be healthy so I can have a long life with Nort, and I do want my family and friends know just how much I love them.  So maybe that is what I will resolve on November 22, 2016.  After all, I have eleven months to practice so I can get it right.

 

Merry Christmas to All

Christmas Quote

So today is Christmas and if you are anything like me it is a bittersweet day.  I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong, I even love all the commercialism, but there are so many different memories that makes for such a complex season.  And furthermore, I fully expect to have these feelings for quite a few more years as more memories are added.  My memories of Christmas past when the kids were little give my heart such a tug; when they were teens a different tug; and now as adults, still another tug.  Then, the Christmas eves and days with Maddie, are a whole different set of heart tugs.

Since both sets of grandparents lived in the same town, dividing visits up was easy.  My t Christmas Eve memories are from Mamaw and Papaw’s.  Daddy had two brothers and two sisters (he was the baby boy with Bobbie the baby girl) so that meant lots of cousins of various ages for us to play with.  One of my earliest Barber memories is of Mamaw and Papaw sitting in what to me were throne like chairs.  My rational mind tells me these were just regular living room chairs, probably wing type, but Little Linda saw a king and queen sitting on their thrones.  I’m sure now that sitting in these chairs was the only way they could protect themselves from hordes of rambunctious children!

I don’t know if I actually remember some things or if they are second hand images from so many stories, but I do know the brothers would play various instruments.  I know Daddy played a trumpet and I’m sure Stan played a clarinet, but can’t think of what Elmer played but I’m sure it was something.  I would love to see a movie of this because I can’t think of anything that would have been more fun than to see my Daddy and his brothers jamming like crazy.  Lest you think the talent stopped at the brothers, I very distinctly remember cousin Stan the Man and his pickin and grinnin.  There was a song he sang  one year once he started the adults made all of us under 21 leave the room.  Granted, we just moved from the living room to the dining room (I think, anyway, there was no wall that separated us) and we had all heard it before, still, it was very risque for the time.

There was not a formal sit down type of dinner.  Or at least I don’t think so, mostly just counters of assorted good stuff to eat.  Daddy’s favorite holiday food were wonderful cornmeal dumplings that Mamaw made.  If we were late (and frequently we were since the drug store didn’t close until fairly late for last minute shoppers) there may not be much left, but there was always some cornmeal dumplings left for Daddy.  I think the world would have stopped spinning if there wasn’t!  I have made them lots of times (I treated Nort to them one time and now he is a fan) but they are never as good as the ones I remember.  I don’t think they could be.  I put a lot of love in my food, but there is something about a Christmas dish made with so much love as  Mamaw put in these.

When we still lived in Oklahoma City and came home for Christmas, we always stayed at Ruthie and Sam’s.  Since Mother was an only child that is where we stayed.  As is always the case, when there is more than one child, someone is always going to be sick for a holiday.  That’s just the way life goes.  One year when I was seven or eight, I was the sick one.  I’m thinking I had strep throat, anyway, I felt horrible and had to stay behind.  Ruthie and Sam were the perfect concerned grandparents and felt so bad I had to miss all the fun with my cousins so they did everything they could to make me feel better.  Ruthie decided that she needed to read a good Christmas story to me.  Unfortunately, what she considered a good story and what I would consider a good story for a sick child were not even close.   She read me the story of the Little Match Girl.  I know, I know, it is a classic.  But really, is a story where the kid freezes to death good for a sick little girl?  So not only did I not get to play with the other kids, I was sick and crying my eyes out for that poor little match girl.

Christmas Day was spent with Ruthie and Sam and once we moved to Mulberry, they came to us.  Sister (my Great-Aunt Cora though we were not allowed to call her anything but Sister and that is a whole ‘nother tale) usually came too.  They would arrive after we had done the stockings and gotten our Santa presents and stayed for the rest of the day.  Again, since Mother was the only child and we the only grandchildren, they didn’t have to try to spread themselves around different houses.  We got to have them all to ourselves.  There was never a big dinner, usually we had a big breakfast bar or make-it-yourself sandwiches and just grazed all day long.

I’ve mentioned before that Daddy had the drug store in our little Arkansas town.  Not only was it the place to get prescriptions filled, but also the place for shopping and just to stop in and visit.  While I would not call Daddy a gambler, he did love flipping coins.  He would flip his lucky silver dollar for just about anything, but the holidays really brought out the flip master in him.  Double or nothing was his mantra and more than one man got his girl friend, wife or entire family’s Christmas presents free.  Not so sure that is a good business practice, but it was part of Daddy’s Christmas tradition.

Mother had her role to play in the drug store Christmas too, and took great pride in how beautiful the packages looked.  (Free gift wrap if purchased there and a fee for presents brought in for wrapping)  [As an aside, my very first paid job was wrapping feminine hygiene products in plain brown paper since they could not be just put out on a shelf for the whole world to see.  Then I graduated to gift wrapping once I could wrap neatly.  Laura and I can both still rock a neat paper fold.]   Each year there was a theme.  She picked the paper and ribbon out in the summer and we would start making fluffy satin ribbon bows in November.  The back of the store walls would be covered in beautiful bows of every size.   We probably wrapped thousands of gifts each year.  Sometimes our entire days would be filled with gift wrapping and I doubt if there was any store in Fort Smith that did a prettier job.  My favorite wrapping was heavy shiny silver paper, beautiful blue bows and “snow” sprayed on top.  They were just gorgeous!

Oh, and the tree!  What trees we had.   I’m not real clear on when the other decorations went up, but the tree was always decorated on what ever night the Wizard of Oz aired.  It was always a real tree.  When we lived in OKC  we went to a tree lot, but once we moved to Mulberry, we went out and got “wild” trees.  We didn’t get just any old tree either, it had to be TALL and FULL.   Daddy would put the lights on (picture Clark Griswald and you get the idea how that went) while Mother strung thread to hang the ornaments (no hooks for her thank you) and we put the decorations on.  When all the ornaments were on, then it was time for the hanging of the icicles.  One. Strand. At. A. Time.  Sometimes the icicles were still being hung days after Christmas was over.  There are plenty of pictures of trees half finished.

Now I did say the trees had to be tall and full didn’t I?  We had lots of trees that did not come to the traditional point because they had to have their tops cut off.  One famous year the tree was especially full.  In fact, even in the corner of the living room it filled up half the door way going into the kitchen.  Now, with a tree that size, it is bound to be pretty heavy.  One would think that a man like my father would have noticed that the puny traditional little tree stand would not support a tree like that.   Nooooooo.  That tree toppled over more than once.  So, coming from a bridge building dynasty, he fixed that little problem.  Also, being the man who always over did things he got a little carried away (remember the hanging of the socks?).  First he made a tree stand out of a piece of I Beam that weighed just a little over a ton.  Then he put giant eyelet screws in the ceiling (3 of them!).  The tree went in the stand and then wire was laced threw the screws and wrapped around the tree trunk.  Not even an F5 tornado could have budged that tree.  If I’m not mistaken, icicles were hung on the wires to keep them from being so conspicuous.

I find it funny that most of my memories are not about what gifts we received.  Well, except for one.  The Jolly Green Giant was new to the commercial scene and one year you could order a Jolly Green Giant stuffed doll.  Laura and I wanted one so bad and begged for one.  Now, we were not children who went looking for our Christmas presents, I don’t know why, but it just never entered our minds.  Our friends would talk about how they had found the gifts and what they were going to get.  That year for the first time ever we went looking and guess what we found.  Yes!  We found him!  And we told our friends that we were getting the Jolly Green Giant.  Mother over heard us.  Bad move on our part.  Come Christmas morning we were so pumped and could not wait to begin opening presents.  Guess who got the Jolly Green Giant, not us.  Our brother Larry was the proud recipient.  Mother just looked at us and said “Guess you won’t go snooping anymore will you?”  And no, we never did again.

I know that each and every one of you have wonderful Christmas memories and we could sit around and tell tales for hours.  We would laugh a lot, and would probably cry a bit too.  Some of our traditions would be so similar and some would be very specific to our individual family.  As we grow older and our children and grandchildren grow older, traditions morph into new traditions.  We wonder why our daughters don’t make the same cookies with their children that we did and why our sons aren’t putting out the same yard decorations they grew up with.  We are jealous of the time the grands spend with the other set (or sets) of grandparents.  This is nothing new, just a continuation of what our parents wondered and our grandparents before them.  And so it will go and that is just the way it should be.

So dear ones, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and invite you to relish all the wonderful Christmas memories you have and to revel in all the new ones you are making.  Love and Peace to you all.

Hmmmm, so this is adulthood.

being young

Do you ever catch yourself thinking you would like to do something but hesitate because that is for “grown ups” and then have to think, gee, I’m 64 I can do that now?  Surely I am not the only one who has trouble reconciling the fact of another birthday with the act of actually growing older.  Now this is different from knowing I actually look older (can’t deny that gray hair and wrinkles!) but something in my mind.  It may be connected to the inability to remember that my babies are grown.  It is always a shock to see Amanda as a grown up woman with a teenager of her own and Luke with his receding hairline.

This phenomenon really struck me one day when Nort and I were talking about our parents.  I said that I remembered thinking that someday I would grow up and get to have a real cocktail party.  Something very Mad Men like.  With a pretty dress, canapes and cocktails, but no cigarettes.  Or having a cocktail hour in the evening.  That was such adult stuff to me.  My precious husband just stared at me and then said, “Linda, you are over 60, how old do you think you have to be?”  Huh?  I’m 60?  I’m an adult?  Mind blown.

When we were kids, Mother loved asparagus (I think Daddy did too, but mostly I remember how much Mother loved it).  But back then it was either very expensive or they were very young and broke.  They would buy asparagus for special occasions but it was reserved for the adults.  “This is an adult food, you wouldn’t like it” was the explanation and we accepted it just like we did anything else we were told was for adults only.  Now it could be that she knew it was taste we would need to develop, but I really think it was to savor and enjoy something that was theirs alone.

Fast forward several years.  I love, love, love lamb chops.  A lovely lamb chop and some mint jelly is a thing of beauty.  But, they are outrageously expensive.  They were so when I was a young mother and still are today.  Lamb chops are for very special occasions (like asparagus).  I would buy two lamb chops for me and then fix pork chops for the kids.  “This is an adult food.  You wouldn’t like it so I fixed something I know you like” was how I explained it to them.  And you know what?  They accepted that explanation.  Amanda loves a lamb chop now because she knows she is all grown up.  Luke still doesn’t like them.

I am not the only one who uses the “grown up” card.  When the girls were very young, Jana, Shannon, Amanda and I were shopping in Memphis.  Jana and I got a Coke and of course the girls wanted one of their own.  Now this is when we were younger and both of us definitely on the broke side of finances, and while one Coke was in the budget, two were not, especially knowing they would not finish a whole one.  “Oh girls, you can’t have one.  It is just for adults and illegal for kids to have one in public.  I’ll let you have a drink of mine,” said Jana.   And bless their little hearts, they fell for it.

Now, there are somethings that I figured out on my own.  As a teenager my need to immediately answer a phone (it might be a boy!) was a given.  Of course, this was back when a phone call was something still kind of special.  Since Daddy was the town pharmacist, we had to have a private line and not a party-line so we always knew a ringing phone was for a member of the Barber family.  This lasted for years.  The phone would ring and I would answer.  No question.  Same thing with door bells/knocks.  You hear it, you respond.  Then, one night I was watching a new episode of Hill Street Blues.  (When you either watched or had to wait until re-runs.)  My phone rang and of course, I had no idea who it was.  Maybe it was someone I wanted to talk to, maybe not.  Either way, it was going to interrupt me.  Friends, I did not answer the phone and the world did not end.  I staked a claim on adulthood.  I also discovered I did not have to answer the door if I did not want to as happened while watching Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (don’t judge).   So liberating being an adult!

Laura and I laugh so often about the “old hides” we used to work with, me at Whirlpool and she at Trane.  They seemed to be ancient and we could not imagine ever being that old, crabby and still working.  Dear Lord, we are so much older now than they were then.  When we talk about little old ladies and old men we knew and realize that they were only in their forties at the time, it is still such a shock to us.  I can remember when we first moved to Mulberry and how happy my grandparents were that we were so much closer to them.  My daughter is older now than Mother was then and I am so excited that she can meet us half way to see our granddaughter.  How did that happen?

There are so many things about being a real grown-up that I have embraced over the past years, so many things that either I wanted to do or that I realized were really necessary.  I have discovered that my parents were right about a lot of stuff we do to make our lives and the lives of our families better, whether we want to do them or not.  There are a lot of things I have let go of with gratitude since I am an adult and don’t have to do to be “cool.”  I will still continue to learn for my own sake, not because I have to go to school; I keep my room clean (well, sort of) for my own sense of peace; I don’t eat a candy bar and Coke and call it lunch (most of the time) for my own health.

There are perks to being right in the middle of the age of gray.  I know that I don’t have to measure my husband’s love by what he buys me, all I have to do is see how he looks at me.  I have seen what wonderful people my children turned out to be and I have a precious grandchild to spoil rotten.  I don’t have to put up with rudeness from people just because they are older than I am.  I have learned to love my body for what it does for me, not how it looks to others (most of the time) and that good health is more important than I ever thought it would be.  And of course SENIOR DISCOUNTS!

I don’t think I will ever fully realize that I am an adult, grown-up person since I usually don’t feel that way, no matter what the calendar or my mirror says.  Even when I am lamenting some weird new trend young people have embraced and worse, say something out loud, I catch myself saying “I sound like an old lady” and let it go.  Because darn it, I’m not an old lady.  Also, there are so many things I look forward to doing that are adult things and I know I still have so much to learn.  Have you reached that magic point of full adulthood?  What made you realize that you were there?  Will you let me know when I join you?

 

Gobble till you wobble!

Thanksgiving

We are now well into the midst of Holiday Season.  You know how quickly they all get here once fall begins.  We start off with Halloween then merge into Thanksgiving and culminate with Christmas.   My very favorite holiday of all is Thanksgiving.  I have so many warm and fuzzy memories all tied up with that day.  For our family it was just like the one pictured by the late, great Norman Rockwell in his Thanksgiving portraits.  Well, sort of.   When I was a kid it was almost sensory overload.  I’m sure there were smaller, family only gatherings (seems like I remember a thanksgiving dinner of quail at Ruthie and Sam’s, but that might be another holiday) but mostly I remember large extended family gatherings.  A typical dinner had at least 25 – 30 people.  There would be actual blood family, extended family, friends and guests (people who didn’t fall into one of the other categories).   If you didn’t have someplace to be that day, you were expected to join us.

In fact, one of the more memorable Thanksgiving Dinners included a woman no one knew.  To this day, we have no idea who she was nor who brought her.  She was an older woman and quite pleasant.   I don’t remember that she brought anything, but maybe she did we didn’t notice because it was always chaos in the kitchen.  She visited, ate, cleaned up, visited some more and just generally fit right in with the rest of us.  Then poof, she was gone.  It wasn’t until someone asked where “that lady” was that we realized no one had seen her in a while. Now our house was a big house, but not so big people could get lost in it.  No one acknowledged taking her home and after much “Didn’t you bring her?” “No, I thought you brought her” “What was her name?”  “I thought you knew her” we found out that NO ONE knew who she was, where she came from or where she went.   Cue the spooky music.

Like everyone else, our family had certain traditions.  There was the Oh My Goodness!  We Will Never Have Everything Ready freak out of Mother.  She would roust us out of bed about 5:00 in the morning to start a frenzied cleaning, dusting, waxing, ironing and silver polishing.   And then we would start on the actual food making.  From my earliest memory Laura and I sat watching the parades while polishing silver.  Eventually we didn’t get to watch the parades because we were big enough to work on other stuff besides silver.  In fact, it wasn’t until I got married that I actually got to watch a parade (granted, I caught lots of flack when I got there for being late so I never did that again).  The smell of Johnson’s Paste Wax (for the floor) and bees wax (for the dining table) is as much a Thanksgiving smell as turkey to me.

Now lest you think it was all women’s work, Daddy and the boys had their own jobs to do.  They got to lug around chairs and any heavy cooking paraphernalia.   And they were in charge of making sure the outside looked as nice as the inside.  Even though no one (other than strangers) used the front door, the front porch and yard had to be inviting.  Family cars (we always had at least two extra for some reason) had to be moved to make room for the invading hordes.  The red wagon had to be ready for bringing in food stuffs as they were unloaded from said vehicles.  We knew that the outside work was just about done when we heard the unmistakable sound of the patio being raked.  Yes, raked.  Daddy never did anything the easy way.  Granted this was before leaf blowers, but why use a broom to remove leaves when there was a yard rake handy.  Besides, the sound let us know that his martyrdom had begun.

Speaking of martyrs, more family lore.  One year, after the raking of the patio, Daddy made the mistake of coming in and sitting down to watch a ball game.  You would have thought he knew better.  I’m not really sure what Mother said, but I’m sure it was said in very gentle tones (ha!), something in the line of cleaning up the bedroom since their bathroom would also be in use.  After a while Mother sent one of us to find him since he had not been seen since he had been given his instructions.  He was in the bedroom HANGING UP HIS SOCKS.  I mean, using clothes pins and hanging his sock on hangers and putting them in the closet.  Mother had told him to clean up and that is what he was doing it, damn it!  Did I mention my father was a martyr?

Finally, it was time to eat.  Oh. Dear. Lord.  What a spread.  My grandmother, Ruthie always did the turkey and dressing.  She was the best.  The turkey was always perfect and the dressing the best ever.  (Laura now claims that title).  There were huge pans of dressing and the biggest turkey she could find.  In addition there was always: pork backbone and noodles, ham, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, candied sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, corn, green beans, lima beans, field peas, green peas, greens, jelled and whole berry cranberry sauce, salad, fruit salad, jello (plain & with fruit) and assorted breads and rolls.  For desert there was: apple pie, chocolate pie, cherry pie, pumpkin pie, butterscotch pie, pecan pie, mincemeat pie, cookies, and a cake or two.  There would always be an added something different each year.  One year I brought hominy I had made (yes, from scratch!) and one year Laura made a celery dish using Martha Washington’s recipe she had found somewhere.  One year someone (I’m pretty sure it was Doris Wilson) brought the most disgusting looking Pink Stuff.  To this day I have no idea what it was supposed to be, but it looked like a fungus from outer space.  But by golly, you had to have a bite whether you wanted to or not.

So this brings up the big dressing vs stuffing debate.  I was raised on CORNBREAD dressing.  That was made from CORNBREAD.  Not some of this stuff called cornbread dressing that is really bread dressing with some cornbread thrown in.  No, no, no.  That is not cornbread dressing.  Not sure what it is, but it is not cornbread dressing.  Dressing is supposed to have cornbread (homemade not from a box), onion, celery, eggs, broth, salt, pepper and sage.  Oh, and lots of butter.  No oysters.  No chestnuts.  And no livers!  Mother had some dear friends that joined us one year.   They were from the north somewhere.  Way north, like New England maybe.  They wanted to bring the stuffing.  Please note the term used.  Laura and I were horrified.  What!  No dressing?  Stuffing?  I must say it was lovely and it was lovely for her to bring it.  I ate some.  It was not easy.  Fortunately, my favorite sister in the whole world knew what to do.  Hidden in her car was a huge pan of beautiful, wonderful cornbread dressing!  Thanksgiving was saved.

Now I don’t know how other families spend the rest of the day after the feast, but we played games.  There would be the obligatory walk to settle things down and a sort of straightening up, but mostly it was games.  Board games, card games, horse shoe (if the weather permitted), dominoes and any other game that could be played.  Yes, the football games would be on, but they were a background noise.  There might be two or three games going on at any one time.  There was always another piece of pie to eat between hands, a turkey sandwich while cards were shuffled, warmed up potatoes after a ringer.   Some people would leave and others would appear.  Coffee was brewed and drinks poured.  And it just kept going until we were so sated with food and family we could just bust.

If the Doctor ever shows up with his blue Police box and offers me a chance to go anywhere in time and space, I know exactly where I would want to go.  I would go back to the top of the hill, just outside of Mulberry, sometime in the 60s or 70s or even 80s and watch my Daddy hang his socks, Mother take another pie out of the oven and get ready for my favorite day in the year.

 

 

What’s that on your face?

Beard quote

Okay, let’s talk facial hair.  Not my facial hair of course, though there would be plenty to talk about.  I mean, what is with all these little upper lip hairs (I will NOT call them a mustache!) and weird chin hairs?  What’s up with that?  One of my recurring fears is that I would be just chatting away having a good hair day and make up just right and everything matched and fitting and all the other person could see would be this black hair right in the middle of my chin.  I personally think that allowing your wife to go out with an errant facial hair that is visible to the naked, non-magnified eye should be grounds for divorce.

Oh, and don’t get me started on women who shave and walk around with a stubble!  Oy!  If you are going to shave, shave every single day.  Stubble is barely sexy on a man and is so not sexy on a woman.  Invest in a good magnifying mirror and a good pair of tweezers.  Pluck as you notice.  Simple.  Of course some people (meaning me) tend to feel these hateful little hairs when they are no where near a mirror or tweezers and then have to keep reminding themselves to look and pluck as soon as they get home.  But by then the hair has grown enough and and is soft enough it is invisible.  Until you get in the car and check the mirror for lipstick on your teeth, and then, THERE IT IS.

You would think that white hairs would not show as much.  Oh you silly person, they positively sparkle in the sun light!  And white eyebrow hairs.  They are the worst.  They won’t lay down like a good eyebrow hair, no,they have to stick straight up.  And you can’t pluck out the one white hair, oh no.  They are sneaky so instead of plucking the one white eyebrow hair sticking straight up in the middle of your eyebrow, you end up plucking three or four.  Just enough to make a funny place in your otherwise nice eyebrow.  So you have to even it out, which means you have to even out the other eyebrow and there you are.  Bette Davis eyes.

But that is not what I want to discuss today.  Now I am a facial hair loving kind of girl.  My daddy had a beautiful beard.  And I do love me a good mustache.  Is there any man much sexier than Sam Elliot or Tom Selleck.  Let’s just visualize facial hair for a moment, Burt Reynolds, Clark Gable, Billy Dee Williams, George Clooney, Jeff Bridges, John Legend, Hugh Jackman, Kris Kristofferson.  Siiigggghhhhh.  My beautiful husband, siiiggghhhh.  But the abomination I’m thinking of is the disgusting trend of braided chin hair on men.  Who ever decided that would be a thing?  I can’t imagine it being anyone sane.  Some lunatic must have been sitting around in the asylum playing with his beard (since they are not allowed razors you know) and got it all tangled up.

Years ago I saw David Allen Coe, and he was the most disgusting thing I’ve seen on a concert stage.  He looked to be somewhere around 110 years old, humped over, bare chested with a suede looking vest with fringe and skin tight leather pants.  Did I mention he looked to be 110 years old?  He had long, nasty stringy blonde hair down past his shoulder but the worst was the twin braids with beads hanging from his chin.  All together now, EWWWWWWWW GROOOSSSSSS.  My eyes actually hurt.

That was bad enough, though I could chalk it up to way too many drugs and it just being his stage persona.  But, lately there have been all sorts of men coming into Lowe’s with chin beards.  The first I saw looked to be washed up jockey.  He might have come up to my chin.  I think he was going for the cowboy look with his jeans, plaid shirt and jean jacket.  His hair was not that long and he was shaved but for a goatee.  Which would not have been that bad if not for his chin, which had a braid.  Granted it was a neat braid, but still, it was a chin braid.  He was at least as old as me, so it was not some hipster fashion statement.

Next I saw a youngish plump guy.  And this was really bizarre.  He was dressed in kahki pants, t-shirt and had a crew cut type hair cut.  Also beautiful clear blue eyes and rosy cheeks.  But his beard, oh my.  A beautiful lush full brown beard with multiple braids hanging down.  He jiggled when he walked and the braids just bounced around like they were skinny snakes all tangled up on his face.  I stared.  Everyone stared.  What was he thinking?  Doesn’t he have someone who loves him to tell him no, you can’t go out like that?

Since then there have been young guys with the cute man buns and not so cute chin braids.  An old man who was bald on top with a very skinny pony tail and an equally skinny chin pony tail with multiple rubber bands.  There was even one with what I swear was a French braid chin braid.  Wildest thing you can imagine.  Picture two French braids that meet at the middle then blend into a single braid.  But instead of going from front to the back of a woman’s head, it was on a man’s face.  Again I stared.

The biggest crime against nature was last week and I’m still not sure I am over it.  A very pleasant  looking (I guess, I was to busy staring, but at least he appeared clean and neat) young black man.  And he had, oh, my gosh, I’m not sure I can say this without freaking again, a chin dreadlock!  Yes.  On his face, hanging to about mid-chest, was a chin dreadlock.  What in the name of all that is good and right with the world made someone do that?  He was clean shaven except for a little round spot on his chin with a dreadlock!  Down to the middle of his chest.  Yes, you read that right, a dreadlock.

I don’t think I have quite recovered from that.  So, the question is, are these things limited to Hattiesburg, Mississippi or have they spread.  Is it something in the water here that makes men go insane?  Is this a form of self protection to keep women away as I just can’t (or refuse to) imagine any woman finding that attractive in the least.  What is the strangest thing you have seen a man do in the way of “grooming” lately?  And I guess the question must also be asked, do you find it attractive?

It’s fair season Part II

 State fair

After the county fairs, there are the regional fairs followed by state fairs.  I truly loved the Arkansas/Oklahoma fair which did run for a full week.  There were of course the exhibits I loved, a wonderful midway with games, rides and fair food and music.  Each night featured a different musical event.  One year a friend and I bought full pass tickets for every night.  It nearly killed us.  Not only did we work all day, but went to the full fair every night.  Each night we did a different exhibit hall, hit the midway for a different fair food experience, then headed to our third row seats for the music.  Country, rock, pop, gospel, it was all there.   By Saturday night, I was so tired of fairs!

That brings us to the STATE FAIR.  The smack daddy of Arkansas fairs is held in Little Rock, the state capital.  For a small town girl, this was the big time!  When I was a teenager, my best friend (who lived in another itty bitty town) and I would meet in Little Rock for a long weekend at the fair.  I would board a bus at Daddy’s drug store, she would hop on a bus in her town and family friends would pick us up and more or less keep an eye on us.  Their house was our home base even though all we did was sleep there.  In the morning we were dropped of at the gates when they opened and at night picked up there when they closed.  Now, you must remember this was a loooonnnnngggggg time ago.  A much simpler more trusting time.   I think that now our parents would be thrown under the jail for allowing two teenage girls to ride a bus that far alone, not to mention allowing us to spend an entire day alone, unchaperoned, unsupervised and among heaven knows what kind of weirdos.

In 1964 Elvis Presley had a movie, Roustabout, where he play a “carnie”.  This made carnies intriguing and romantic, or at least they were to a couple of teenage girls. I remember them all as young, well built and cute.  When I close my eyes I still see blue eyes in a tanned face, hair just long enough to be rebellious and killer smiles.  Not a toothless, creepy old man among them.  We batted our eyes, giggled and practiced our flirting skills.  Sure enough, we were almost always rewarded with a smile, wink and an extra long ride.  Now, we did have enough sense to not try this at any games, these guys were out for our money.  No, we left the games to the boys.  Where did we get boys?  The livestock barns of course.

Imagine all these small town, 4-H country boys in the big city for the fair.  There was only so much grooming and showing of livestock they could do in a day.  Usually there was a father or big brother along because they were small town, 4-H country boys in the big city.  While we did go to look at the beautiful cows and huge pigs, fluffy sheep and goofy goats, we also went to look at the cute boys.  And practice our flirting skills.  It was a rare trip through a barn that did not result in at least one father telling his flirting back son, “Here, take the girls for a ride or win them a teddy bear.”  Off we went and being young and healthy country boys, we usually got a stuffed animal or two.

One year, my friend (oh, let’s call her Jana) and I figured out that if we were so successful at the fair with just our natural beauty and wit, how much more so if we were foreign!  Bear in mind, this was in the 60s and the height of the British invasion.  We knew all the British slang and had perfected the ultimately cool Cockney accent.  Now I don’t really remember who thought up this great idea or whether it just happened, but for an entire day we were no longer from Mulberry or Aubrey, Arkansas, we were worldly British citizens.  Who knew, maybe we were actually friends with the Beatles or Dave Clark Five.  People stared with amazement at the two young women from London who had come to the fair; how brave they were to come all this way for the fair!  We got even more long rides, extra cotton candy, bigger corn dogs.  4-H boys fought for the privilege of escorting such rare birds (Cockney slag for girls you know) to the midway.  Well, that is how it appeared to us anyway.  Hind sight does tell me otherwise and I’m pretty sure my hillbilly accent diluted the Cockney.  But let me tell you, it was FUN and even today makes me laugh.

The State Fair also had the best sideshows.  We saw fire eaters, sword swollowers, elastic men, and bearded women.  Somehow we even got in to see Little Jessie Jane And Her Chest Full Of 44s (they didn’t check ages back then).  There was Pop-Eye who you guessed it, could pop his EYEBALLS OUT! So cool! But the very, very, very best was the gorilla girl.  Yes, a girl who was also a gorilla!  How could anyone resist?  One year we had a third fair goer, let’s call her Arbutus, just to protect me.  She was as eager to see the gorilla girl as we were.  For those of you who have never seen this amazing show, let me tell you how it went.

You went into a good sized tent which had a stage with a big iron cage.  In the cage was a beautiful young woman wearing a leopard bathing suit.  Her hair was wild and she looked deranged and dangerous.  Her handler (a man in safari garb) told us how he had found her in the deep dark jungle where she had been held captive by an insane witch doctor.  He could put her into a trance and she would turn into a gorilla RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES!  Yes!  We want to see that!  A few words of mumbo jumbo then the girl closed her eyes started murmuring,  Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla. And suddenly, SHE WAS A GORILLA!  She rattled the cage, it sprang open, she jumped into the crowd, and we ran!  Oh the excitement, oh the thrill.  Worth every penny.

End of the story?  Hardly.  Sooner or later, all good things must come to an end and it was back home and back to school.  Now Arbutus had a very good imagination and she had been really impressed with gorilla girl.  One day she was in a class which was very, very boring and since she sat at one of the back tables, she decided to see if she could turn into a gorilla.  I’m not sure if she did the mumbo jumbo (I never asked), but she did close her eyes and mummer, Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla.  Maybe she didn’t mummer as softly as she should have, because her teacher heard her and went back to see what was going on.  Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla. ” Arbutus!” he said, “Arbutus!”  No response. Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla,Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla.  “ARBUTUS!” he finally shouted, fear in his voice.  “Oh, my God!” screamed Arbutus, “I’ve turned into a gorilla!”

I don’t know if the other students ran screaming from the class room, but parents were called.

 

It’s fair season. Part I

Fair Quote

In 1962 the movie State Fair came out.  It was a re-make of 1933 and 1945 movies of the same name.  From what I can find out, it was a bomb.  But, if you were a teenager when you saw it, you did not know that the critics didn’t love it.  Heck, you hadn’t even heard of movie critics if you were a teenager in Mulberry, Arkansas.  I don’t remember that much about the movie itself other than the music, which since it was a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, was great.  Not that we knew anything about Rodgers and Hammerstein at that time, but that should give you a good idea.  And, it made me want to go to the Texas State Fair more than anything.  I’ve still not made it to the Texas fair, but I have a life long love of fairs and the movie may have played a big part in that love affair (get it, love afFAIR?).

I have vague memories of the Oklahoma State Fair which would be only right as we lived in Oklahoma City in our formative years.  Oh dear, now I have to bust out singing so join me with OOOOOOOKKKKKKLLLLLLAAAHOOOOMMMMAAAA where the wind comes racing down the plains…. Yes, I know, different movie but still, how could I help myself?  I’ve been to the Arkansas State Fair many times and even made it to the Alaska State Fair in Fairbanks.  Now that was a different experience, let me tell you.

But I love county fairs more than anything.  The Crawford County Fair was held in my hometown of Mulberry, Arkansas.  It was a huge event for everyone in town, in fact, for everyone in the county.  It was such a big deal, that we got out of school on the Thursday it opened.  Most of us kids had something to enter or our mother and father’s needed our help with entering their items.  Now the fair itself only ran from Wednesday until Saturday, but the preparations began months, and in some cases, a year in advance.  Many entries in so many categories were valid from the end of the fair the previous year to the beginning of the fair in the current year.  Apples came in to their glory after the fair closed so applesauce, apple jelly and other apple stuff had to be made then and held over until the next year.  And wool coats, skirts and dresses would be made in the winter and entered the following fall.  What a thrill to wear a blue ribbon winner to school!  And of course, animals had to have a chance to grow.

Each class in the junior and senior high schools would make floats for the parade.  And I mean floats, beautiful fancy floats.  Not just someone in the back of a truck throwing candy.   We would spend  entire class periods haggling over the theme and name  of the floats and just who was going to be what on the float.  Hundreds of hours were spent stapling chicken wire around a flat-bed trailer and then stuffing thousand and thousands of pieces of tissue paper into the little spaces to make this confection like base.  Construction paper letters were carefully cut out to spell out the theme and the class.  Glitter was sometimes used for extra sparkle.  And costumes, always costumes of some sort.  No brag, just fact, but our class was almost always the winner.

Miss Crawford County and Crawford County Princess contestants were always a big feature of the parades.  Girls from all over the county vied for the titles.  This was back in a more simple and gentle time too, so the dresses were beautiful but not something that would set a family back for years.  For the big girls, long formal gowns and for the little girls, fluffy and full Sunday dresses.  The bathing suits were something you could let your grandmother see without fear of her having a heart attack or your grandfather throwing a quilt over you.  And that was it.  No speeches, no need for talent (other than to be able to walk in a pair of heels without falling off the stage), just wholesome, healthy girls.  If a girl was going to be in the pageant, the first thing she had to do was line up a convertible for the parade.  Once you had that, then you planned your dresses around the car.  It was not unusual to see a girl in her Rainbow Girl formal or prom gown doing double duty.  As an aside, when my daughter was in the pageant, she wore my pageant gown (red dotted swiss southern bell with hoop skirt) for the parade, how cool is that?).

Mulberry didn’t have a band, marching or otherwise, but other schools in the county did and they would come.  Alma’s band was always there.  They might have been our big basketball rival, but we sure could appreciate their band.  To our eyes, these bands could not have been more impressive than the biggest college marching band with fancy footwork.  They were awesome with their baton twirlers, impressive uniforms and brass instruments shinning.  Not only did they march, they played the entire route.  They went from the high school, down Church Street, up Main Street, across the highway and out to Kirksey Park.  The bands didn’t just perform in front of the judges, but played their music, real music for miles.  I can only imagine how tired those kids were when they  finally made it to the fair grounds.

The county fair was not just spectacle either.  There was livestock.  Lots and lots of livestock.  Chickens, turkeys, goats, calves, cows, pigs, sheep, rabbits, you name it, they were there.   The 4-H kids would show the animals they had raised over the year.  These beautiful creatures were washed and brushed until they shone then trotted around in the show ring.  Nothing like seeing a seventy-five pound little girl bossing around an 150 pound hog to make you appreciate all their hard work.  There is something so very nostalgic about the smell of the livestock barn, the very rich pungent aroma is like nothing else.  It is the smell of animals, sweat, love and pure joy.

But my very favorite exhibits were the Home Economics exhibits.  Canning, baking, sewing, needle arts, photography, quilting, knitting, crocheting, painting and crafts of all kinds.  Various groups, from Boy Scouts to Home Extension clubs had displays set up for judging.  These would range from whimsical to inspirational to informational, but all were colorful and fun.  My passion was canning and I led the Senior Canning division for years.  There is nothing more beautiful than a shiny jar of a garden’s bounty.  A nice jar of beets is a work of art.  Each green been would be exactly the same size as the other and cut to the same length.  Jellies and jams would glisten, pickles would shimmer and tomatoes glow.  This was show off time.   The art was not in how good something would taste, but how beautiful and perfect it looked.  I would see women (and men) carefully clean off each jar they had carefully wrapped in newspaper for transport as they handed them to me.  I would actually use Pledge on my jars to make them shine.

After the jars had been entered, judging would begin.  I loved our judges.  Judges always came from another county (and we would send ladies to other counties to be judges there) but over the years, I came to know them all.  One year I was, shall we say, great with child.  And a very active child at that.  The baby would kick and squirm so much that it got in the way sometimes and a really good kick would leave me huffing and puffing.  Christine was one of the judges that year and she just knew I would give birth before she got finished.  Amanda did hold off until the end of September, but that was cutting it a little close.  Amanda never missed a fair after that, then Luke came along and it was pretty much the same story since he too was an end of September baby.  As soon as they were old enough, they had their own entries.

After the judging and when all the ribbons had been awarded, we would carefully line up the jars on the shelves where you could see the contents and the ribbons.  I loved seeing the variety off canned goods.  Some people would have an entry in each and every single category and one in each miscellaneous one too.  I guarded those jars like a mother hen.   They had been entrusted to me and everyone wanted their award winning jar back.  Now, I love a funnel cake, it is my very favorite fair food.  I would promise myself if I didn’t yell or shriek at a fair goer for touching the canning, I would get one on Saturday night.  After three years of missing my funnel cake, I gave up and just figured people needed yelling at if they couldn’t ready the bloody signs and rewarded myself for not hitting anyone.

My biggest disappointment in Mississippi is that people here don’t understand what a county fair should be.  The Neshoba County fair is famous, but it is not a fair.  There is enough politics and house partying for the whole country, but no real fair.  One year we went to the Forrest County Fair.  I was so excited to go and could hardly wait to get there.  In the parking lot, all I could see were rides and the mid-way.  Then, we got to the entrance and I asked where the home economics building was all I got was a blank stare.  There wasn’t one.  I asked for the livestock, seeing that would make me happy. There was a petting zoo I was told.  I cried, I actually cried.  I don’t remember where Nort took me to try to make me feel better, but it was not a fair.  When we move back to Arkansas, I’m going to a fair.