The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

Tales from New Hampshire Drive

I am offering a story sample of the Tales from Smack in the Middle of New Hampshire Drive and Beyond. The book I just recently published. A book I’ve been thinking about writing for a long, long time.

My Dad and Ivan were a unique and entertaining pair. When they were around a story was created to be retold. Ah, their lightheartedness, their lust for life.

Here is of my favorite family stories. Thinking how lighthearted it is to reflect on the fun, good times — the goofy times.

Enjoy.

One Fast Chicken

Our property sat above the fence line of a hillside urban farm where my mom used to drop off Porky, the chicken, hoping the chicken would like the farm and the farmer would be grateful for an additional hen added to his livestock count. Porky had outgrown all the pink dye s/he arrived with so maybe none of the other chickens would make fun of her, you know, for being a suburban chick or a clucker from atop-the-hill.
Mary Jo and her best friend, Becky Jo, spot the chickens in a display just outside Foodland a couple of weeks before Easter. Purple and blue and pink chicks waddling, cheeping, falling all over each other. Chickens in a giant flat metal bin littered with chicken drippings – not the kind you save to make gravy with. So cute? Colorful pastels, because we all know that sweet, soft buttery yellow isn’t cute enough for a baby chicken.
The girls beg to become chicken owners for so many days-it works! Mary Jo’s chick arrives in a little cage just outside the basement door on Easter morning as part of the whole Easter basket tradition, the whole giant, big fat Easter bunny tale parents perpetuate. Mary Jo loves Porky at first sight. She holds it. She feeds it. She makes sure it has water. She learned that animals need food and water regularly when Gerry, the gerbil, succumbed during the previous summer’s 7 day vacation with none of either.
Of course my mother’s insistent, “Don’t bring that chicken into this house,” instruction doesn’t last long. Porky gets into the basement daily and struts his/her way around, upstairs and downstairs, looking for Mary Jo. Porky likes to sit on Mary Jo’s shoulder when she does her homework. Mary Jo swears she did homework on occasion. Was the fact that Porky pooped down her back the final straw in his/her banishment or was it because s/he never caught onto the multiplication tables? Was it the extra laundry or lack of tutoring?
Or was it because Porky started crowing?
In order to safely and kindly dispose of the barnyard animal, Mom, gently, repeatedly escorts said chicken down the hill to the adjoining farm, only to return to find Porky sitting patiently on the back porch waiting for her! One homesick chicken with a sense of direction. I can assure you Porky didn’t learn that from my sister who will tell you to turn right when, really, it’s left nearly every time.
To the farm and back. To the farm and back. And the daily frustration of feathers and other trails of the chicken’s whereabouts in the house forces a more straight forward action. A frustrated Mom has Joe, my boyfriend and future husband, and I take Porky with us one day when we are going to Greenbo Lake State Park to swim. “Just drop him off where you see a farm house,” Peggy instructs. “This is one educated chicken. Porky will survive and he can teach the other chickens their numbers.” We stuff the flapping, confused, unruly animal in a box with plenty of air holes and a couple of cucumber slices.
The farm looks friendly. There are other chickens. It is close to the road so we don’t have to drive cautiously down a very long unfamiliar driveway and approach the home of a total stranger. The deed is accomplished, although my mother looks for Porky to wander in for weeks after.
Even now, 35 years later, when chicken is served at a family function, decades later, the “trauma” of Porky’s banishment is abruptly brought to the attention of those gathered around a table sharing food and creating new family memories, Mary Jo will exclaim with theatrical melancholy, “You kidnapped Porky. You took Porky to a stranger’s farm. How can you eat that chicken knowing what you did to Porky. He was a shy chicken. He was my favorite chicken.”
“He was your only chicken,” some will remind her.
“He didn’t even know anyone at that strange farm.”
She is never comforted when I reply, “No one knows he started out pink.”
My sister can be a tad dramatic, like when she is asked to start the biscuits, she will pick up the plate, set it down in front of her and pull an “air” cord making a lawnmower noise as she jerks her arm. And she’s been known to show up with an empty bowl or plate when invited to a pot luck and is asked to “bring a dish.” She loves to wash dishes but sometimes has to go the bathroom – for, like, a long time! But, really, truly, she is the best carrot peeler and silver polisher.
So, why did they color dip those innocent newborn chicks? What color sold best? And how does one train to be a chicken dipper? Do all the purple ones go into one area until they dry so as not to flap purple spots onto a nice pink batch? “This won’t hurt for long little chick. Hold your breath and no flapping. It’s just like getting your hair colored.” Dunk.
Oh and FYI, Becky Jo’s chick died young. Note to self, “Don’t fall for the blue chick.” Guess the blue dye was a harsher chemical.
I am sure there was a neighborhood funeral; that the blue chick was buried in a shoe box and we read Bible verses; and that we set out to present a service with appropriate songs but the singers all broke into shyness or laughter before the first verse of Amazing Grace was complete.

Tales from Smack in the Middle of new Hampshire Drive can be purchased from Amazon:

Leave a comment »

Pomp and Circumstance – The Class of 2015

Pomp and circumstance makes me cry. From my own graduation – The Class of 1967 – Russell High and after a few decades UK and Marshall. Then to my daughters high school and college graduations.  I still know the separation anxiety from back then. Uggg. And now, now? How did this all happen so quickly – my oldest grandchild’s high school graduation? The Class of 2015. So many changes.

William, who I held all night when he was 6 weeks old through a glorious Christmas Eve with a full moon on snow; who taught me to play trucks and then to read maps. I would pick him up at day care and after feeding him (because school makes a kid really hungry) he would draw a map. In actuality it was scribbles on a piece of paper but when we went outside he would follow the lines and we’d walk around town following his detailed instructions, explainations and directions.

I tried to understand Pokémon and listened intently but never really latched onto their collective significance. He left me with his extensive capabilities with Legos. Although I did spend many hours in ToysRUs agonizing over which box to buy.  Can you say Star Wars up the walls of his bedroom?

I sewed the official flag for Sector 7. We had road trips, one to buy a ridiculously expensive organic free range turkey for Thanksgiving. He navigated, perfectly through road construction. (Maybe it was the training from the  kindergarten map game. Hummm).

He liked to spend the night and we would talk about life’s maneuverings about soccer and bullying team mates. He helped me build labyrinths. I saved him from having to ride the school bus more often than not. “Gram, don’t make me ride the bus today.  Please come and get me!”

I took him all three times to drivers license testing. And then he was off – launched via a plastic card into his own world – friends, engineering classes, soccer, clubs,  and girls. No more exploring with a grandmother.
While Grandmother status eliminates the daily responsibilities of child nurturing, it is also a generation removed from the intimate dependency of parent-child. My link with William (and the other four) a generation removed. So I was “re-placed” by the growing up and away options. And while I know this is for sure, absolutely, positively the way things happen, I miss him.   And I know for sure, absolutely, positively our blood connection will never change nor will our history together and thus the influence we have had on each other is genetic and a part of who he is.

Life is ever changing. Like the DNA strands people, situations, places and things come together and separate. We come together and we grow apart while coursing through the mutable rapids of life where we hold tightly onto love and relationships while writing our stories a chapter at a time.  This is the unchanging part, the foundation part.

And I do not wish to stop you, William, or hinder your growth, or keep you from experiencing that which peaks your curiosity. I miss your childhood. And I do know that no matter where you go and what you do I will always be your grandmother – your favorite grandmother in Scott County. I am the one who rocked you that Christmas Eve when we talked of the life ahead. And I am the grandmother who once bought you a popcorn pan for your birthday and I am the one who lost you in the lobby of the hotel in Florida when you were two years old. And, yes, on my watch you only fell down the stairs once.  Only once. Oh and then there is the curling iron event.

Yet you did grow up, in spite of it all!

(Changing the words by inserting boy for girl, obviously!)

May your warrior heart be guided by compassion, tenacity, joy and love. And may the pitfalls be pot holes not sink holes.

I love you, William. Always.

4 Comments »

Goal #1 – check!!!

This story is a fictionalization of an actual event in my life. Were were stranded in a snow blizzard one post Christmas visit to Marion, Indiana to visit Hazel. We did spend the night at a stranger’s house where we were warm and safe and dry! We got a Christmas card from that family for years.
While I am unsure about many of the details I do know it was the first time I knew my parents to be afraid and not in compete control.
It was a scary event. It was a blessed event.

And it is published.  Forward I go!

2 Comments »

Cars and boys but not just teenage things

I fell out of a car once, a moving car! Carrie Lee and I were in Ashland, the nearest town from our small village of Russell. And although we went to church in downtown Ashland, did all of our shopping in Ashland and had great relationships with the Tomcats in youth group, we were venturing into hostile high school rival territory. The rivalry had recently gotten ugly at a basketball game where a row of Tomcat football players jumped down from bleacher seats onto a row of Red Devil boys who then cascaded onto the Russell High School Band. Trombones and flutes and backpacks and purses and children flew. Police escorted bloody victims and a community was in shock. The follow up was stern police warnings for students to stay in their own territory until things calmed down.

Soon after, a girl rubbed a greasy BBF hamburger on our windshield one Friday night we were daringly stupid enough to venture outside there. Then ten or so girls surrounded our car and wiped nasty hamburger and catsup and whatever all over the windows. The 5-6 of us inside knew we=d pushed the envelope too far. We went to the nearest gas station and cleaned the windows. The attendant told us to get ourselves back to Russell. We drove straight back home to the Outpost to shriek our injustice like only pumped up teenage girls can do. We incited our boys to the defense which lead to retaliation, vindication, and more than a few bruises and bloodied noses. The boys continued to taunt each other, challenge each other fights, and to count their victories by drag race.

We did, however, win that basketball game and even went to state that year and several years after. Russell briefly knocked the Tomcats, the biggest, most winning school for many years, off their throne.

So, in the heat of the rivalry the two of us going to Ashland was a daring adventure. Carrie Lee was driving a maroon Chevy Impala, one of the many cars her big brother Tommy crashed up. While still driveable, the passenger side was beat up significantly. He hit a mailbox while delivering papers.

Oh and the other part… Our Red Devil boyfriends did not fancy their girls going into Tomcat territory especially to wave at boys at the Bluegrass, their Happy Days hangout complete with speakers and curb dog delivery. (The Outpost did not have speakers.) This well established teen hang out was the place to drive around and be seen. And drive around and be seen. And drive around – well you get the picture. (One time, much later, Sally and I drove over a hundred miles going from the Outpost to the Bluegrass when we were supposed to be at the library. Who knew her mom was checking the mileage?) The routine was drive around a few times, park, order probably a Flying Saucer, onion rings and milkshake, to enjoy while watching the cruisers. Then become the cruiser. Gasoline was $.28 – $.30 a gallon. Yep, it’s a fact.

So…Carrie Lee and I NEEDED hose and makeup for Homecoming and we managed to get a car for an hour. We cruised the Outpost – always the first thing to do when commandeering a vehicle. Then off to Ashland.

First stop Merle Norman. Carrie Lee pulls up in front of the Arcade for me to run in and after pushing and shoving, I can’t open the car door. I try and try. The car behind us honks so we go around the block. She pulls up to the same spot. Door is still stuck. She puts the car into park, hops out, comes to my side, opens the door and I get out. She slams the creaky door shut. She runs and gets back into the driver’s seat and drives around the block. She gets out of the car. I get in and we drive a block to our next stop.

Onto the next block to Parsons, for hose. The door remains stuck from the inside. Same routine. Car into park, hop out, pull open cranky passenger door, shove passenger door shut, hop back into driver’s seat, drive around the block, get out of car, Susan slides in. We take off.

Why didn’t we just park the car, walk through town to both stores? I suspect we sped through our mission so we could cruise the Bluegrass and have a vanilla coke before returning home in time to dress for the dance. I also suspect there is a slight possibility we were being the daring, sneaky, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do 16 year olds. Just saying.

Hose, makeup mission accomplished we are off to teen mecca way up on 33rd and Winchester – way out of our safety zone, but we have some minutes of rebellious freedom even if it’s in a banged up Impala.

Confidently and quickly Carrie Lee backs into a spot on the front row, without hitting the speaker or another car! (Maybe she is a better driver than Tommy.) We lucked into a very cool parking spot even if it’s early on a Friday evening when not many are hanging out. We recognize no one, not even any of those really cute church boys. With a little trepidation and cockiness, we order and sit, holding our spot for a while, knowing that soon we would have to parade out of there with our Greenup County license plate and really be seen.

Carrie Lee starts the car, pulls out and we turn toward the 33rd street, and the car or Carrie Lee must have taken on its dragster Tommy persona. “I’m going to peel out,” is the last thing I hear before my ass hits the ground and I scoot in the opposite direction the car is squealing into. Dazed, I sit for a second only to realize she has thrown the car into reverse and a red fast moving machine with the door hanging open is heading straight for me. I roll over in the street. She stops beside me and I crawl in, my face in the seat because by now the pain in my buttocks starts screaming. I do get the stupid door shut.

And as we drive away hysteria ensues. Laughing. Crying. Laughing. Spitting. Choking. Laughing. And a couple of blocks away I realize the hose and makeup are missing.

We are forced back to the scene of the humiliation. Maybe the items are lying on the street and no one even noticed. And so maybe no one even noticed the giant screeching rubber peeling sound or a young woman sitting in the street and a big red car backing up about to run over her.

No package. And no more money or time to repurchase said items.

Driving and laughing our way down Winchester Ave towards home we stop at a light only to see the driver in the car behind us holding our packages out his window. I refuse to even touch the door again and besides that, I can barely move my lower half. I am still face down in the seat. So, she puts the car in park, and goes back to retrieve the goods, only to face the witnesses who are also laughing hysterically.

I literally keep my tail tucked and we drive home laughing so hard we are speechless most of the way.

Ruined was my favorite pair of dark green wool bell bottoms that zipped up the back. The seat scorched through to the lining. As my pride slides down the street, in sashays laughter that hasn’t yet stopped. In fact, we laughed when I called to tell her I was writing this post. And not just a chuckle, a real belly laugh.

The boyfriends who both eventually became husbands failed to see the humor then or really anytime thereafter we laughed about it! My mother didn’t think it one bit funny. And it did affect my dance moves that night although I couldn’t sit down so I guess I tried to shake a little that evening. But, my shake had been rattled and rolled!

End of story? Nope. Just when some of the humiliating events of one’s past seem to fade into oblivion a 15 year class reunion is held and out of the blue a class mate asks, “Wasn’t that you I saw fall out of a car at the Bluegrass one time?”

Yep. That was me. I loved those pants.

I would like to dedicate this blog post to:
Thomas Leland Moore, Jr. November 8, 1947 – December 21, 2013.
Tommy had the best duck-tails ever. He could throw his hip out while he slicked his side hair smoothly from the top of his ear to the base of his neck.
He perfected the Outpost strut. He walked the swagger; a tall, blonde, handsome boy with a tantalizing, mischievous smile.
He was my first husband’s BFF for many, many years, through many, many trials. And they served in Vietnam about the same time as helicopter crew chiefs.
Tommy loved cars. He liked to build them, and fix them. He raced them. He watched them race. He helped others race. He also wrecked cars. He wrecked a bunch of them. He also gassed them when he ran the gas station. I wonder if he created Morehead Auto Parts to have all the wholesale venue he ever needed?
I like to think that all those times in life he ignored the caution flag he was clutching to win all he could out of this life. I like to think he crossed through the Pearly Gates carrying the checkered flag proudly one more time.

8 Comments »