The World’s Best Blogger (No, It isn’t Me!)

Sean Dietrich inspires and amazes me! He never seems to run out of stories to tell! I started this little blog to record stories I want my kids to know about me and although I have lived almost 58 years on this planet, I can’t for the life of me think of a new story to tell each day. In two years, I may have collected a dozen…I haven’t counted really. All I know is that I admire those who are able to spin a moral out of the most ordinary of moments and connect with men and women all across the United States. Alas, I do not seem to possess this ability.

It’s funny really. I love stories. Always have. I think all of us, even those who claim they hate to read, love a good story. Especially when they are told with ease. The truth is though that crafting a good story, like crafting a good life, takes a lot of work. The one thing I have noticed about Sean’s stories is his emphasis on good lives…not perfect lives, mind you. Just plain, ordinary good lives.

I fell in love with his mother in law as he shared her last days with us through his memories of her. I feel his pain when he speaks of his father who committed suicide when he was just a boy. I think that is why his blog has been such a success. He shares all his failures, flops and fears with us so that we know we are not the only ones who haven’t quite lived up to our potential.

This past week I have been stuck at home with just my thoughts and CoVid. I would love to report that I have learned some marvelous secrets to share with my boys that will make all the haphazardness of our lives make sense. Unfortunately, being trapped with my own thoughts for days just led to severe panic attacks! My greatest insights are hardly profound. In fact, they are quite simple, which is probably why they created such a sense of helplessness. You see, I was reminded once again that I have no control over anything! Nada! Not CoVid, not the weather, not even my own crazy heartbeat! Once again, it was driven home to me that God is in control and the only pathway to peace is trust in Him. Trust does not come easily to me. I never learned to roller skate because I refused to let go of the rail. I haven’t really changed much. When I went ziplining a few years ago, the guide had to push me off each platform. No matter how many times I landed safely on the next platform, I couldn’t bring myself to willingly jump! Once pushed, I reveled in the adrenaline rush! But I never got up the courage to just let go and trust that I would reach the other side.

Like Sean and numerous others, I lost my mother to cancer when I was just a child. One moment, I was a lighthearted little girl who believed in happily every after. The next moment, I was a cold hearted cynic standing beside my mother’s grave doubting everything I had ever been told about God. After years of church attendance, prayer, and Bible study would you believe that sad, cynical little girl still rears her ugly head every now and then? It seems like the older I get, the more she wants to hang around! But thanks to bloggers like Sean Dietrich, Bible class teachers like Mac Sandlin, and the arms of my loving husband, I am learning to trust the good in this world. The plain, ordinary good people who give me a push when I find myself unable to jump.

How Do You Spell Love?

My sister came to visit last week with her son and his girlfriend. I was flattered that Will wanted me to meet Kait. I was nervous at first, but after our initial awkwardness, we hit it off and pretty much talked non-stop all afternoon. We shared family folklore and laughed as we admitted some of our most embarrassing moments while looking at old snapshots of Daddy and Nannie. Names of beloved family perfumed the air with sweet memories…Ann, the Colonel, Mom Peg, Sweetie. It was one of those beautiful moments when virtual strangers drank from the fragile, but flowing fount of times long past to become kindred souls. I have no idea if Kait will eventually join our family, but she will be most welcome should she choose to do so. Her family memories blended with ours to create a delicious infusion of faith, hope and human kindness.

During our visit, my sister Jane shared the story of how our grandfather Dewey defended our precious Nannie when she was a child at school. Dewey was four years older than our grandmother and I imagine he was probably a gawky 12 or 13 year old boy when this incident took place. According to our grandmother she had a high fever while at school, but didn’t want to tell the teacher. This particular schoolmaster (it was 1910 or so and a one room school house) was not a kind man and Nannie was afraid of him. She took her spelling test while feeling ill and missed three words. For this, the teacher wanted to cane her. For those of you unfamiliar with corporal punishment, it was common at that time for students to be spanked with a long cane made of rattan either across the buttocks or the upturned hands. It was quite painful and done in front of the other children to shame the offending student. Knowing that our grandmother was sick, Dewey offered to take the caning in her stead, but the schoolmaster refused and had Nannie hold out her hands to receive three blistering blows across her soft palms. I can just imagine my grandmother, burning with fever and shame, looking at my grandfather through new eyes. Eyes filled with gratitude, admiration, and puppy love for the older boy who sought to protect her. That puppy love would deepen through the ensuing years, leading our grandmother to agree to marry Dewey in the summer of 1920. She was 18 years old. Dewey was a man of the world at 22.

Love stories buoy our spirits and give us the courage to carry on during difficult days. Days where the news is filled with stories of pandemics, prejudice, and political scandals. We all long to hear stories of selflessness, devotion, and acts of valor. For Annie Townsend McDonald love was spelled with an impetuous and tall capital D. The Colonel spelled love with an elegant and decidedly feminine A. Today, Will spells love with a cute little K. However you might spell it, remember love is nourished through kindness, sacrifice, and a little bit of laughter now and then. May you both drink deeply from the fount of family folklore and together create a deliciously magical potion that will delight generations to come.

Oh, and if you don’t know I spell love with a steady, resolute J.

Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow!

Note to readers: The title should be sung in four part harmony as it is performed by Bing and the gang in one of my favorite movies, White Christmas. I am writing this in the midst of a historical snowstorm in Arkansas. The year is 2021. We have received 15 inches of snow during the week beginning Feb. 14 and ending Feb. 20. I am putting the dates down for future reference as I have discovered my memory is often cloudy when it comes to months and years. I know that we will tell this story in years to come. Patrick has been without water in Texas, but kept power while many in Texas have been without for days. Will survived a long cold night in Huntsville without power and then another few days without water. Here in Searcy we have been fortunate. Our power has stayed on along with our water. We have been sledding several times and taken many pictures of the beautiful snow. The week of my birthday, we received sleet and ice which cancelled school and provided excellent sledding. All together we have been out of school since Feb. 10 through Feb. 19. We had been scheduled for a long weekend due to President’s Day. Our 4 day weekend turned into a week long hiatus. It has been a most unusual and wonderful February!

Of course, I have many memories of fun in the snow! One of my earliest memories is from 1967 or 68. I am a preschooler sitting on a pink sled being pulled around the yard by my cousin Sheila. Jane is wearing bread bags over her school shoes because we do not own any snow boots. We have a video of this somewhere. Hickory Street was a winter wonderland! But as I have said, I am cloudy about the month and year. It seems like it must have been a huge amount of snow in my memory, but logic tells me it couldn’t have been more than 6 inches! Until this year, 6 inches of snow was considered a lot in southwest Arkansas!

I remember lots of ice storms growing up in Texarkana. We would pull giant icicles off the eaves of the house and eat them like popsicles. I don’t remember Nannie ever making snow ice cream, but I do remember eating lots of snow straight off the ground! I know it had to be full of germs, but it was so delicious!

In January of 1988, Searcy received 12 inches of snow overnight. Your dad and I did not own a snow shovel so Jim improvised to clear a path. He duct taped our metal dust pan to the wooden part of the broom and shoveled a narrow walkway with it. I walked to my job on campus… the snow was up to my knees…only to discover for the first time ever Harding had decided to close campus for the day! I walked back to our duplex a little disappointed, to be honest. Our apartment was pitifully insulated and cold. I remember being so mad when we received a $200 electric bill that winter. I am rarely cold, but I would wear three layers in that house and still be shivering! It was an adorable duplex with a cute little porch, but I learned a valuable lesson about housing that year…check out the insulation before you sign on the dotted line. The stuff you can’t see in a house is really the most important!

Patrick was born in December of 1988. We had moved to Ohio by then. According to Ohioans, that winter was one of the mildest winters in their state history. It was the most snow I had ever seen! I was terrified Patrick would freeze to death if we went outside! Patrick was about 2 and a half months old when Lori Deacon called and convinced me to meet her for lunch downtown. She informed me Patrick would be 6 months old before the snow thawed! I bundled him up in his baby snowsuit and somehow we both survived our trip outside! I never got to experience a harsh winter there because we moved back to Arkansas that June when Jim got his job at Harding.

The next snow I remember well happened when we lived on Ella street. It snowed on Christmas. The O’ Neal family came over and we celebrated with a huge meal followed by board games. Our house looked beautiful lit up in the snow. We had gone all out with lights that year. Not sure if it was that year or another when we built two snowmen in our front yard. One large and one smaller that Philip considered his. Philip had wrapped his own scarf around the smaller snowman’s neck and put his favorite pair of sunglasses on it. Jim had put his sunglasses on the larger one, too. They looked so cute! The next morning Philip looked out his bedroom window to discover our snowmen had been murdered overnight! Both snowmen had lost their heads! Philip was so upset! I was sure we would find the heads lying in the yard, but we didn’t. It seems a group of high school boys were going around town stealing the heads off of snowmen and throwing them in the back of their pickup truck for fun. Philip cried when he realized they had stolen his favorite sunglasses, too! I still get mad thinking about it! Such a cruel prank!

And then there was the blizzard of 2012! Jim had asked for a Flexible Flyer sled for Christmas that year. The boys and I laughed at him as we agreed to order it. We told him a serious sled like that was a waste in Arkansas! Well, Jim had the last laugh when it started to snow Christmas night! He grabbed up that sled and spent a good hour sledding down the big hill in our neighborhood. The next morning we learned that the wind speed was high enough for that snow to actually be classified as a blizzard! I had so much fun sledding with that fancy thing that Jim bought me one of my own a few Christmases later. We have put them to good use this year!

Snow is a rare and wonderful event in Arkansas. Because of that, my inner child comes out when the weatherman suggests even the slightest possibility. The excitement that comes with the anticipation of a snow day helps keep this 50 something young and hopeful. May it always be so!

Psalm 147:16 He sends the snow in all it’s lovely whiteness, and scatters the frost upon the ground.

Present Perfect Tense

I was loved as a child. Fiercely, intentionally loved! Yet, despite their very best efforts my parents didn’t manage to get it right. I have lots of baggage. I travel with some exquisite designer luggage, created especially for me, along with several crumpled paper sacks claimed by millions. I won’t go into great detail about my personal impedimenta, but as I was reading an article this morning, I was reminded that there is a universal trunk of psychological trauma and it is generally laid at the feet of our mothers.

The article that caught my attention was all about recognizing toxic mothers. Why is there never an article about toxic fathers? I mean, I have met a few noxious men in my day! Where is their guilt inducing article on Facebook? Yeah, you’re right. They wouldn’t read it anyway! This particular writer described a toxic mother as one who expects her children to behave so that she will look like a competent mother. There was the usual comments about trouble with boundaries. It mentioned we mothers who exaggerate about our children’s accomplishments and paint a rosier picture than truly exists. Did you just hear the collective “ouch!” from mothers everywhere? No mother EVER in the history of mankind has said “Isn’t my baby the ugliest baby you’ve ever seen? ” The jokes about Jewish mothers are funny because they are so true! Who wouldn’t want to brag about their son… the doctor?

Yet, mothers try so hard to be more than just a cliche. Why do we struggle and fail to get it right?(Whatever right might be for our particular brood.) We fail to get it right because we are tense. Yes, tense as in our muscles are as taut as an over-tuned guitar. The adjective tense originates from the Latin word tendere meaning stretched. Moms are very familiar with this type of tense! It is hard to be present and perfect all the time! But there is another meaning for the word tense that comes from the Latin tempus meaning time. I think if we take these two meanings and mash them together we come up with a pretty good explanation for our failures. Our ancestors’ sins stretch across time and space filling us with a tension that feels like an old friend whose name we can’t quite remember. Young mothers will understand this the first time you realize that your baby walks just like your dad or laughs just like your sister! Some things are just beyond a mother’s control. Ahh, that pesky C word. Satan knew just how to get Eve, didn’t he? As much as I would like to change it, my name is still NOT GOD!

If you haven’t already guessed, I am a word nerd with a capital N! As a student, I enjoyed diagramming sentences. The Bible tells us God is Love. Using love as a verb, one could say God is the Present Perfect Tense. He is not confined to a specific time frame. Because he is not bound by time or space , He is not subject to conditions. His actions are pure and intentional. Parental love, in comparison, is the present IMPERFECT tense, sometimes called present habitual tense. As love, moms and dads are an unfinished action. We are subject to conditions. Sometimes our love is influenced by how we ourselves were loved and like it or not, some of our baggage is gonna spill over into our child’s suitcase! (Just an FYI, prayer helps to lighten everyone’s load.)

Like my parents and their parents before them, I didn’t get everything right. I loved fiercely and intentionally, but imperfectly. So the next time I read an article that fills me with guilt I am going to remember my name is Not God. I did the best I knew to do at the time. I am so thankful that God loves my children with a love that is present and perfect. Relax those tense muscles, mama, God’s got this!

Never Skip School Wearing Heels

I never got in trouble at school. This is not to say that I never did anything wrong, I was just very careful, you might even say sneaky, and seldom got caught. The handful of times I did get caught, my reputation as a “good” kid and my mother’s reputation as a perfectionist with no tolerance for mistakes, kept me from any form of serious punishment (paddling) at the hands of my teachers. In fact, I received mostly Outstanding in conduct throughout my elementary years. I would like to believe I was truly an exceptionally well behaved child, but the fact that my mother had marched into the school demanding to know what my big sister had done to earn an A minus in conduct, no doubt prompted the school to deem my extremely average conduct unprecedented. It probably prompted the move to Outstanding and Satisfactory instead of A and B grades, too. I’m sure word was out that a minus was tantamount to failure by my mother’s grading system! A paddling at school…the equivalent of the electric chair! My mother would never have stood for it!

Even at the tender age of six, I realized my mother was counting on me to show the world what an exemplary mother she was. So when Mrs. Gantz, my first grade teacher, sent me out into the hall for building camaraderie (talking too much), I began praying in earnest that my mother would never have to find out! The rules at that time stated that if the principal came across a student in the hall for disrupting class said principal could inflict corporal punishment on said student swiftly and without mercy. My mother’s rules stated that if said student were punished at school, said student, namely me, could expect to be sentenced similarly at home, with no hope of appeal. I had only been out in the hall about five minutes when I saw our principal, Mr. Pope, headed my way. GULP! At about that same time, I heard Mrs. Gantz telling the rest of the class to line up for lunch. As luck would have it, she had kindly left the door open after ushering me into the hall. Ever so casually, I eased over so that it looked like I was lining up for lunch and had just been jostled out into the hall by the other starving animals in our class! It worked! The principal smiled benignly at me as he passed by our door, mercifully turning a deaf ear to that tattletale calling out a play by play of my scheme to Mrs. Gantz! Lucky? Possibly. Grateful? Most definitely! I am pretty sure I saw Mr. Pope wink at me as he walked by.

Fast forward to my junior year of high school. At 17 I idolized James Dean. Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young” had become my anthem. I was still viewed as a good girl by my teachers. My grades were okay and I liked to learn, but the Friday morning pep rallies rankled. Our school spent an enormous amount of money on football while drama queens like myself were doomed to wander in vain searching for the nonexistent theater department. I saw red on Fridays, not only literally because our school colors happened to be red and white, but figuratively, as well. Football players and cheerleaders were the stars of the show at every school function. I knew that schools were designed to function to conserve and promote culture. I was just sick and tired of the football culture our school was determined to conserve and promote! So when my friend Cindy suggested we skip the pep rally that Friday morning in late fall, she didn’t exactly have to twist my arm.

Our plan was simple, skip the pep rally and be back in plenty of time for second period. No one would miss us! My car was parked in the main parking lot, far away from the gym. Cindy who was always late had parked haphazardly in the makeshift lot nearest the gym. The lot everyone walked through to get to the pep rally. Naturally, we took my car. That was mistake number one. We didn’t really have a plan so Cindy said we should drive out to Coca Cola lake because no one we knew would see us if we drove away from town. Her logic was impeccable! If only her parking skills had been, as well! But I am getting ahead of myself. We got to the lake and walked around a little bit. Cindy was grunge before grunge was fashionable and was wearing sneakers and overalls. I was wearing a rather chic ensemble that included wedge heels. Mistake number 2! So when for some unknown reason (I think it was temporary insanity) we decided to cross a downed log, I took off my wedge sandals and attempted to cross barefoot which proved to be very cold and painful. Painful enough that I slipped off the log and fell into the brackish water! Cindy almost wet herself laughing until I reminded her that I could not go back to school looking like I fell in a lake. Second period was English, not underwater basket weaving! No worries. We would drive to her brother’s house, dry my clothes, and go back to school after lunch. Well, her logic was getting less impeccable by this time, but I really didn’t have much of a choice. If I drove her back to school on my way home to change clothes my chances of being seen were pretty high. Trying to come up with an excuse for my grandmother as to why I got wet at school seemed impossible. So, because I had been in for a penny I was going to have to pay the pound it seemed. To make a long story short, we didn’t get back to school until after lunch that day. By the time my clothes were dry and I looked normal again, it was our lunch hour. We had an open campus at that time and I usually went home for lunch. Our plan was to go to my house, eat lunch and pretend we had been at school all morning. Mistake number 3 or maybe I should say strike 3! I knew the jig was up when my grandmother was waiting for us on the porch! Her first words to me were “Well, did you girls have fun?” Turns out another girl at school had gotten sick at the pep rally. When she tried to go home, she found her car blocked by Cindy’s car. Like I said, Cindy was always late and basically drove into the makeshift lot and stopped regardless of whether there were any spots left! They tried calling for Cindy to move her car. No luck. By the end of the pep rally, the office had realized Cindy was not at school and because it was well known we were best friends, they began to look for me, as well. By now, the whole school knew we had ditched the pep rally! It wasn’t long before they let our parents in on our secret. So what did my grandmother do? Ground me for a week? Take my car keys? No, she simply sent us back to school to face the music, but only after feeding us a delicious last meal. So back to school we went. I sweated through two class periods before I got the dreaded call to the principal’s office. Turns out the school secretary had torn up my office referral at the principal’s request. I was ordinarily such a good girl that they both just knew I had learned my lesson! The Assistant Principal didn’t quite share their high opinion of me. When he heard that the principal was letting me off, he went ballistic and called me in. In his opinion, I needed detention but since that was off the table he would at least give me a good talking to. He immediately let me know that if it were up to him he would have thrown me in detention for a week! Did I know how dangerous my little stunt was? Did I know how to swim? What if I had drowned? Where was my school spirit? Did I think I was funny skipping the pep rally? Pep rallies were a privilege! I answered every question in a quiet voice designed to show just the proper amount of respect tinged with remorse. I knew that there wasn’t a thing he could do to me, but I still didn’t want to make any unnecessary enemies at my young age! I still laugh when I remember how mad Cindy was at me for getting us off! She had actually hoped we would get D-hall. I guess she was a bigger James Dean fan than I was… definitely more rebel with out a cause than me! I was simply relieved and grateful to my principal. All those nights of babysitting his children had paid off in a big way! Then it hit me, I had skipped school on a day I was scheduled to babysit for him! How stupid could you get?

That night as I opened the car door and crawled in beside him, my principal grinned at me. He asked if my impromptu swim had been fun. Like Mr. Pope, he winked at me, as he said ” Just don’t ever do it again!” and drove us toward his house. Good looks and money are nice, but I love a man with a sense of humor. I have for about as long as I can remember!

My Aunt Evelyn

I just celebrated my 35th wedding anniversary and have been reminded of so many family funnies/oddities that need to be saved for future generations to ponder. You may be wondering at the title of this blog and why my wedding anniversary makes me think of my Aunt Evelyn, especially since she wasn’t able to make the ceremony. I guess family memories are a lot like loose threads on a sweater, you tug on one tiny stitch and before long, if you are not careful, it unravels to reveal it was really one big stitch holding the whole thing together. My Aunt Evelyn would be that big stitch in my blanket of memories.

I started dating my husband, Jim, in the fall of 1984. We were both students at a small private college in Arkansas. I was from the ArklaTex, a region where Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma meet on the map. He was from Missouri. When I told my grandmother about him and stated that I thought we might get married someday, her reply was less than enthusiastic. She said, “We already have one Jim from Missouri in the family and that’s enough.” Ouch! Poor Uncle Jim. Nannie could be so hard on her sons-in-law. She would have said the same thing if I had been dating a man named Bill, my Daddy’s name. Nannie was not a huge fan of men, in general, so I just laughed it off and changed the subject. Oh how I wish I had asked more questions! I am not sure how Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Jim even met! I just know that I admired their wedding photo that sat on my grandmother’s dresser for years. Uncle Jim, the handsome soldier and Aunt Evelyn, so beautiful she could have been a movie star!

My own parents had eloped and there were no pictures to document the quiet affair. As a child, I vowed I would not settle for an elopement. I wanted a church wedding like Aunt Evelyn! Which leads to my next wedding memory…

It was the Spring of 1985 and I had brought Jim home to meet my family. He had already met my little sister who had reported that he was okay, but his ears were really big and our future children didn’t stand a chance…between my ears and Jim’s our offspring would have Dumbo ears, for sure! Fortunately, Jim has a great sense of humor and didn’t take offense when Nannie repeated this story to him almost the minute he walked through the door! Oh, Nannie was doing her best to scare Jim off! I just glared at her and changed the subject. We were washing the supper dishes when Jim decided to tell Nannie we were getting married. There was a moment of chilly silence followed by a quiet but firm, No. Nannies exact words were “I raised this girl to keep, not give away.” I began to realize just why Mama and Daddy had eloped! Laughing it off, I told Jim not to worry. Daddy was the one giving me away and he would be more than anxious to get rid of me! So we went out on the front porch where Daddy was sitting. Looking back, I realize he probably knew what was coming and had been waiting for us. He didn’t miss a beat when Jim asked if we could get married. His first words were “I’ll give you a thousand dollars if you elope!” Poor Jim, I could see he was beginning to wonder just what kind of crazy family he was getting himself into! I told Daddy that I wanted a wedding and nothing would change my mind. I had grown up hearing tales of how Nannie eloped, Mama eloped, even my great aunts had eloped. The only Aunt I wanted to emulate was Aunt Evelyn. I even fashioned my wedding dress after the 1950’s style she had worn.

It wasn’t until three years later that I learned Aunt Evelyn had followed the family tradition of eloping, despite the much admired wedding picture on Nannie’s dresser. Take note, family secrets can be landmines when not shared with younger generations! Jim and I had come home to introduce our new baby, named Patrick, to Aunt Evelyn. As always, Aunt Evelyn was elegant and poised as she oohed and awed over Patrick! It wasn’t until after she left that Daddy told me about my unfortunate choice of names. Turns out Aunt Evelyn’s first husband, a not very faithful man from New York, with whom Aunt Evelyn had eloped in the 1940’s, was named Patrick! Aunt Evelyn was ever gracious and never said a word to me about my name choice.

And so dear children that is why I have started this blog of family memories. Some secrets need to be shared sooner than later! It was only after Daddy told me about Aunt Evelyn’s first husband that the mystery of the wedding photo was solved! I had always wondered why my Aunt Evelyn, who possessed exquisite taste in clothes, had bucked tradition and worn a blue wedding dress!

Is there a lesson somewhere in this rambling story about love and marriage? Well, family history reveals that men named Jim and Bill make good husbands, I guess. The other lesson would be when choosing a name for your baby there really is no perfect choice. Every name in history has been soiled by some jerk’s misdeed and will cause some regret. I have to admit that most of my regret over Patrick’s name came from watching a big pink starfish created by Stephen Hillenburg on television. I never saw that one coming! To be on the safe side, you could always follow Gwyneth Paltrow’s example and name your child after fruit or other grocery items. But in my opinion, if you are having a girl, there really is no name more gracious and elegant than Evelyn. Although, Alison isn’t too bad, either.

Christmas Memories 1966-1970

Bubble lights. Do you remember? My earliest memories of Christmas are of sitting in the dark mesmerized by colored liquid bubbling in a tiny tube, watching the light from our tree reflected in my big sister’s dark eyes. It was magical. There was also a hint of danger sizzling in the air around us. We knew that if the tubes got too hot, they might explode, releasing toxic fumes. My mother constantly reminded me not to touch, as like a moth to a flame, I inched ever closer to the tree. That sense of danger only added to their allure. We didn’t dare move from the tree because we knew our mother would turn them off after a short while, usually after we had listened to both sides of our Little Drummer Boy LP. (For those of you under the age of 50, LP stood for long playing album. Vinyl, before it was hipster cool.) When I would hear the words “I have no gift to bring, ” I would think to myself, what a wonderful gift Bubble lights would be to give to a King. Surely, those lights were the most beautiful thing we possessed. I could imagine Baby Jesus smiling at me as I proudly draped his manger in colorful bubbling tubes of light.

A couple of Christmases later, I was seven years old, and wanted nothing more than to look like the rest of my family. My mother and father had dark hair. My older sister had dark hair. My grandmother’s hair, though streaked with gray, was dark also. Baby sister was bald or I might not have believed my sister when she teasingly told me I was adopted. But having strawberry blonde hair, in a family of brunettes, emphasized that I was an outsider. Maybe I really had been adopted. Never one to sit idly by when presented with a problem, I told my mother I wanted a wig for Christmas. I might be adopted, I thought, but with the right accessories, I could happily blend in. And even if my sister Jane was just yanking my chain, a chance to look like my hero, Ann Marie, from the show That Girl, was an opportunity I wasn’t about to miss. A wig was the perfect solution. Santa’s elves could surely manage one tiny brunette wig, couldn’t they?

The memory of my mother buying a wig for me, somewhat insecure, after being knocked from my throne as youngest child by the birth of my baby sister, is a sweet one. I am still amazed that my very frugal mother spent a great deal of money on something so frivolous. But the craziest part of the story is that she let me wear it in public! I think I might have been a teensy bit strong willed. I wore that dark wig, a wedge cut (longer in the front, short in the back), with great pride to church the Sunday after Christmas. No doubt, it sat crooked on my tiny peanut head, but I thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world. The theme to That Girl played in my imagination as I walked into Sunday School, although in my mind I was walking the streets of New York. You know the song I’m talking about, admit it, you loved it, too. Diamonds, daisies, snowflakes…That Girl! Gingham, blue birds is that girl… You are probably waiting for me to trip over my two left feet and send the wig flying through the air in an appropriately ridiculous sitcom ending to this absurd chapter in my life. Sorry to disappoint. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred that day. I don’t even remember people laughing at me, although I’m sure there must have been a few snickers here and there. What I do remember is sweating a lot. Wigs are hot! The longer I wore the thing, the less enchanted with it I became. Just as my mother knew I would!

Looking back on that Christmas, the wig was not the greatest gift my mother gave me. The true gift was understanding and patience. Understanding and patience are hard things to wrap and put under a tree, but they were just what I needed that year that I was learning how to be our family’s middle child. Fifty years later, I can appreciate how very blessed I was during the years I had my mother beside me. She would pass away when I was ten, but her memory shines brightly and bubbles up inside me each holiday season when I think of all the love we shared in our short time together. Love can sometimes be dangerous, like those bubble lights on our tree, fragile, but when shared sincerely, it brings a smile to our King. Merry Christmas, everyone!

The Great Toilet Paper Crisis of 1984

Many of us are worrying about the toilet paper situation. We cannot believe that hoarders are at it again! Why toilet paper of all things we ask ourselves. I know why. I learned the hard way that some things just should not be flushed! Let me tell you a story…

Picture me a young, cute 20 year old living in my first apartment. Calling it an apartment might be a bit of a stretch. I was living in a room with a sink, a fridge and a thin wall of imitation paneling separating the “facilities” from my bed which also served as my living room sofa, study lounge and dining room. I had a clunky 20 inch tv at the end of my bed so you could say it was also my media room if they had been invented yet! Think Mary Tyler Moore’s apartment at the top of the old, Victorian mansion, only not as cool and trendy. More like Rhoda’s apartment, only without the bohemian charm. Okay, really it was more like the hole you imagined Lenny and Squiggy crawled out of to pester Laverne and Shirley every Tuesday night. I was a broke college student living off campus in a rundown two story walk up and eating ramen noodles every meal. Fortunately, I had a roommate to split expenses or it would have been ramen every other meal. Sara and I shared a lot of adventures and misadventures in that old house. Like the time we discovered the thin layer of ice that had formed on the window INSIDE our apartment! But no memory is as clear in my mind as the week we ran out of toilet paper!

It was spring. We had almost made it through the semester and were looking forward to bidding farewell to our dump of an apartment. Summer at home had never seemed so appealing! If I had known how to, I would have been whistling a happy tune, completely oblivious to the impending bathroom crisis. I never saw it coming as I carelessly unrolled that last long ribbon of paper from its cardboard tubing. Even when I reached for a new roll, only to run my fingers through a thin film of dust on the bottom of the otherwise empty cabinet, the seriousness of the situation eluded me. It was only when Sara and I had used every last Kleenex (including the crumpled ones in the bottom of my purse) that our predicament became undeniable. We couldn’t squeeze the Charmin even if we wanted to, payday was still a week away! What were we going to do?

Remember how I said some things should never be flushed? Well, let me be clear, PAPER Towels should never be flushed! At least not for more than a day or two! They are called towels for a reason. Those suckers are thick! We had almost made it through the whole 7 days when our paper towel dam burst! I will never forget the sight and sound of gallons of water pouring out of the stairway chandelier (apparently, our toilet was located directly above the antique fixture, who knew?) like some crazy Dr. Seuss illustration as I ran sloshing down the stairs to find our landlord whose office was down the block. Hysterical and hoping she wouldn’t ask too many questions, I waited to see what she would have to say about the new water feature in the foyer. I was so relieved when she burst out laughing! Her first words were “let me guess you were using paper towels for toilet paper!” I never dared ask her how she knew. But, as a wise comedian said once, you can tell just how screwed up someone is by the kind of toilet paper they use!

So now that I have shared my cautionary tale, my wish for us all in 2021 is that we may ever be flush with toilet paper and that our health and prosperity overflow like that clogged toilet in 1984!

Let Me Tell You A Story About My Name

My name is Alison. I am called Al, Alice, Ali. I endure the standard joke upon introductions, when thinking themselves incredibly clever, someone invariably calls me Alison Wonderland. My name is terribly important to me. I hate seeing it misspelled. So what did I do when I became a mother? Passed down the curse of the one L, of course. Poor Philip, he has born the burden well.

I was almost named Alice after my daddy’s favorite aunt. The one who wrote the now faded letter telling Daddy the father who deserted him had up and died on him, as well. But my mother liked Alison better and so after a rather heated argument Daddy agreed to call me Alison with one L and NO Middle Name. He said Alison was enough of a name for anybody and he was right.

The lack of a middle name hurt my feelings as a child, but on the bright side, gave me license to create a new one for myself weekly! A dream situation for an imaginative girl who loved words as much as I did and still do!

So now you know the story behind my name. I hope to share more interesting tidbits in the weeks to come. Do I hope to become a world famous blogger? Not really, although I wouldn’t complain about it. I am basically writing down family stories because I have reached that age where I am now the matriarch of my family… gray hair, chin whiskers and all! Since I want to be remembered for more than needing a monthly wax job, I am sharing some memories, some dreams and some family folklore in hopes that they will live in my family’s heart long after my chin hairs cease to grow. Hope you enjoy them, too!