Oh, my God, thank You for this final bouquet from our garden, rescued before temperatures plunged 40 degrees. And OMG, thank You for last fall’s Hobby Lobby clearance sales, providing this bouquet to greet the new season.
O my God, thank You for October, with its colorful leaves and pumpkin-spice everything. But some of Your humans have declared it National Liver Awareness Month. OMG, do You think we should spend 30 days thinking about liver? After half a century, I’m still trying to forget my mother made me taste it.
O my God, thank You for making Hubby and I unique individuals. But now that it’s October, he wants to turn on the heat. I still want to throw open windows. OMG, for us, marriage gives a whole new meaning to “hot woman” and “cool guy.”
Is there anything more fun than sneaking a walk when you should be hard at work?
Perhaps balancing the national budget, achieving world peace and losing four dress sizes rank above it. None of these, however, appear imminent. So I pilfer little thrills, like kernels of candy corn, when I can.
Autumn’s tawny, sun-freckled face grins from every yard and field, a mischievous TP-er who messes with trees so we have to clean up many-hued clutter. Scraggly flowers, survivors with colorful personalities, mix well with show-off mums. Ragged, brown corn and soybeans look weathered and friendly as smiling scarecrows that guard small-town yards and grocery store produce sections.
Al mellow and unhurried. Autumn urges me to enjoy its relaxed aura while I can.
However, calling my husband to spring me from jail isn’t the best way to celebrate fall. Forcing my steps past, I promise myself a trip to an orchard.
Squirrels, sociopathic larcenists, don’t worry about raising bail. They freely steal fruit, walnuts and acorns, which they hide in my flower pots—their personal storage units. Fall squirrels are like spring dandelions, fluffy and cute. I love both … in other people’s yards.
All paths lead to the elementary school, easily evidenced by a trail of kid stuff: a flattened baseball hat; a pink bicycle abandoned near a stop sign; a plain strawberry Pop-Tart®, no doubt rejected because someone wanted frosted chocolate with sprinkles. Scholarly endeavors are verified by broken pencils and crinkled homework. How long has this rain-faded permission slip lain here?
Rows of cars at the school speak of the commitment of teachers, administrators and staff. I pray for them, as the place — even when recess is not in session — emits energy unmatched by Hoover Dam turbines.
Ditto for Taylor University. A substantial portion of its science building’s energy needs are supplied by geothermal, solar and wind power. However, the pulsating between-class rhythm of skateboarders, scooter-riders, cyclists and joggers who don’t even notice they’re jogging prompts another energy question: Couldn’t the remainder be supplied by students, who regard midnight as the start of prime time?
I seek quieter streets, where I can saunter, unmolested by the vigorous and motivated.
Instead, yards teem with home improvement projects, and on the town’s outskirts, farmers driving giant combines lumber into fields, braving clouds of chaff. All strive to complete their tasks before cold weather.
In the face of so much diligence, goofing off is downright tough. I head for home.
But that doesn’t mean autumn and I won’t try to play hooky tomorrow. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite goof-off season, and why?
In the past, humankind took their oxygen any way they could.
Whether said oxygen seared a person’s nostrils or froze his lungs solid, whether accompanied by itchy allergens or Eau de Outhouse, he inhaled without question, never considering the possibility of an alternative.
Until Willis Carrier created the air conditioner.
Now, during summer, air-conditioning addicts and fresh-air freaks vie for domination.
Air-conditioning addicts consider Carrier their patron saint. They hole up during summer as if a three-month blizzard has struck.
I value air-conditioning on steamy summer days. Carrier’s blessed invention cools us and drains wet-cotton humidity from the air.
Yet, I crack windows a smidgen. No matter how bracing the air-conditioned breezes, I must mix fresh air to create my respiratory system’s favorite elixir.
I write every morning beside open patio doors. Riding my bike, I inhale the perfume of cool forests and wild roses that compete with blacktop’s tarry smell. I drive down country roads with windows wide open, the radio blaring.
However, I am not the radical my father is. During Louisiana’s hundred-degree weather, he runs his window air conditioner, but also throws open doors and windows to sanctify its fake chilly oxygen.
My mother, on the other hand, fostered a love/hate relationship with air au naturel. During my childhood, she chased us out of the house in the hottest weather: “Fresh air is good for you!”
Why wasn’t it good for her? The dichotomy seemed so unjust. She got to remain inside with a fan — while ironing for seven and canning vast quantities of pickles and tomatoes.
Yet air-conditioning became Mom’s archenemy. Before we entered a truck stop for Sunday hamburgers, she bundled up as if facing a November blast. Regardless of where we sat, a deadly draft lurked among the little table juke boxes.
My husband’s family, though raised on “fresh country air” (their reference to hog farm aromas), prefer air-conditioning. Drive a country road with fresh air? Only when pigs fly — and take their fragrance elsewhere.
So, as often happens, we have a mixed marriage, fresh-air freak wed to air-conditioning addict. My husband views car windows as vision aids only and had the nerve to demand I quit my crack-the-window habit at night.
After a few decades, though, he gave up. “Only God can change your mind.”
Recently I was snoozing away when a sudden wet blast, like that of a garden hose, sent me flying to shut the window.
Lightning, like a camera’s flash, lit his smirk. “Maybe God’s trying to tell you something?”
I covered my head with damp pillow and bedclothes. I prayed my husband might change his stubborn attitude. That we would survive another season in the same space. …
So we can turn our mixed-marriage attention to the winter thermostat debate.
Which are you: fresh-air freak or air-conditioning addict?
Baby Boomers still like to think they’re brave. Creative. A generation like no other.
Anything but respectable.
During the ’60s, “respectable” reeked of The Establishment: Father Knows Best, the suburbs, hairspray, and Lawrence Welk.
My generation, on the other hand, was born to be wild. We listened to sounds of silence, but obviously didn’t like them, because we played our music loud.
Baby Boomers once believed “all you need is love.” However, we discovered the need for a little bread for mortgage payments. As Boomers age, the word “drugs” now turns thoughts toward AARP insurance plans rather than The Moody Blues.
During our hairy, youthful era, how could we have foreseen being buddies with barbers and beauticians?
That people would regard us as trustworthy. Even (ulp!) respectable.
Have we really sunk so low?
Oh, yeah. While I waited for my husband outside a convenience store, a flashy convertible with a monster dog and beefy driver pulled in. Most Gen Xers avoid eye contact, but he approached me with a big smile.
Whoa, my wrinkle cream must have worked magic.
“Ma’am, I need to go inside. My dog might jump out. Would you stay with her?” He disappeared before before I could say “yes,” “no” or “I have rabies.”
I decided to change wrinkle creams. If I lived.
PuppyZilla didn’t growl, but I estimated her mouthful of teeth just about spanned my neck.
Staring at me, she probably entertained similar thoughts.
I told her Lassie and Benji were my heroes. That I hated Cruella De Vil and would never, ever wear a Dalmatian coat.
PuppyZ shifted restlessly. What if she decided to raid a garbage can in, say, Alaska?
Maybe I should sit on her. I pictured my husband finding me astride a giant dog in somebody else’s convertible.
Fortunately, the driver returned. I waved a motherly goodbye as they drove away.
Only one incident? I wish.
The Boomer part of me rejoiced. Did I resemble a vagrant who needed to move on?
He shattered my hopes. “My daughter needs her clarinet. I’ll return in 15 minutes.”
In 15 minutes I could have procured free Christmas presents for the next 30 years.
Instead, I made sure nobody raided the cash register.
He had faith in me. What had I done to deserve such treatment?
Nothing. But he, like the Gen X guy and PuppyZ, trusted this Baby Boomer when they needed a helping hand.
But definitely groovy.
Well, that’s me. But how does the tag “respectable” hit you?
Where, instead of instructions to keep clean, don’t run, don’t touch it, climb it, or break it, you were urged to “get rid of some of that energy.”
You welcomed this strange, magical kingdom where pint-sized liberty prevailed.
My first playground was three skips across the road from the blue trailer where my parents, two siblings, and I lived. We never lacked playmates, as many other trailers encircling the playground also contained multiple children. Someone was always swinging, pushing the rusty merry-go-round, or up-and-downing on the seesaw. Mothers felt free to let us roam, supervising from yards or windows.
The school playground presented a panorama of new experiences: zooming down a slide that loomed, to my first-grade eyes, tall as the Empire State Building; learning softball rules and spending entire recesses arguing about them; turning 27 nonstop somersaults on the bars.
We played basketball, four-square, hopscotch, tetherball, Red Rover, and at least 17 versions of tag.
Imaginative children found more interesting things to do. One boy used a magnifying glass to set other kids’ coats afire.
How could my classmates and I abandon such a creative atmosphere?
Yet, by middle school, we did. My only venture onto a playground during high school involved my singing buds and I who, having climbed a jungle gym late one night, shared our talent with the neighborhood. Someone called the police.
Perhaps that brush with the law — or the elementary school memory of my smoking coat — discouraged any desire to visit a playground
I did not return until I told my little ones to “get rid of some of that energy.” They never did. I, on the other hand, grabbed children poised to jump off the curly slide, children bent on consuming gravel, and children who shinnied basketball goals and dunked themselves through hoops. For years, the playground served as my gym until I — with my children — once again left it behind.
Years later, our first grandchild reintroduced me. A baby swing swept her into giggly ecstasy. A springy horsie became her best friend. There still was that gravel-eating thing. But our shared delight was so real I hardly noticed my steps didn’t match her sprints.
Our spirits were the same age.
Thanks to my children and their cooperative spouses, playgrounds will remain on my horizons for some time. But even when grandchildren outgrow them, I can savor the life emanating from a nearby grade school. At recess, boys and girls run like hamsters escaped from cages.
There, on the playground, magic reigns once more.
What was your favorite playground activity?