Sweet Time Travel to the Store

One of Murphy’s Laws plagues me repeatedly: If I aspire to pack a lunch, I am out of bread.

So I ride my bike to the local store. There is no better time machine than pedaling on a sunny morning, the fragrance of cut grass and hot blacktop whooshing past.

As a child, I gloried in my role as Mom’s personal shopper for bread, milk and tomato soup – especially if I could keep the change.

Charlie’s Store bore no sign, but everyone knew who conducted business in the 1940s-style building at the crossroads. The pop machine held a place of honor just inside. Opening it cooled me, even if I didn’t have a dime. Rows of bottles swam in ice-cold water: root beer, Upper 10, Nehi Grape, Orange Crush, and cherry red pop everyone called cream soda, though it wasn’t creamy.

I clinked bottles until I could haul out my choice. If I struggled to open it, some nearby grown-up popped off the cap.

If I had accumulated that much wealth, though, I craved nickel candy bars that stuck to my skinny ribs.

During leaner times, I bought penny candy. Though crusty, Charlie allowed herds of kids behind his counter, where we spent more time pondering choices than doing our homework.

Boxes of Tootsie Pops, Pixy Stix®, licorice, root beer barrels, wax lips and Lemonheads lined the wall.  Lik-M-Aid turned palms and tongues green, orange and purple.  Atomic FireBalls, though not radioactive, exerted a similar effect on teeth and digestive systems. Even the poorest kid could hunt for empty pop bottles, exchange them for a penny, and join the sticky masses in licking, sucking and gulping.

Charlie sold Bazooka Bubble Gum, two for a penny. Some steamy days, I sat on the store’s cool, uneven cement steps, chewing four pieces and reading comics.

Fifty-five years have passed. I can’t pedal there today. The checkers at my present hometown store greet me with a friendly “how’s it going?” The aisles bulge with food, clothing, canning jars, hardware, birdhouse chimes and roach killer. I dutifully visit the bread rack. Sweet old friends greet me from jars and displays near the registers. I purchase a piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum.

Chewing, pedaling and dangling my bag from the handlebars, I ride home, where (sigh) chores await. But I am glad for my neighbors’ flowers, thankful for the blue sky that hasn’t changed, though I have.

Hungry Hubby, too, appreciates my trip to the store.

Sometimes Murphy’s Law isn’t so bad.

 

As a child, where did you buy your bubble gum?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Adventure Accomplished

O my God, how my hubby suffered when storms forced us to cancel our camping weekend—especially as we were to inaugurate his new kayak’s maiden voyage. But thank You for providing a sunny Sunday afternoon for the above adventure. (Otherwise, OMG, I may have had to flee elsewhere for a week.)

Carding

The U.S. government’s recent studies concluded that women purchase 85 to 90 percent of all greeting cards. How many thousands that report cost, no one is saying. Uncle Sam could have asked any mall shopper and received the same information for free. But we women consider the research money well spent … because we like to be proven right.

Let’s discuss the origins of these fascinating communication tools. The Chinese sent Happy New Year cards centuries ago. Apparently, the Egyptians also shared in the ancient greeting card market. I find elegant Oriental characters and pictures easier to imagine than a card containing hieroglyphics. Gushy sentiments conveyed by zoned-out, staring people and creepy birds and snakes? Egyptians no doubt could distinguish between “I love you madly” and “Death to you, neighbor, and your loud 2 a.m. parties,” but I would find it challenging.

With polygamy the norm among ancient families, spending statistics might have been reversed: perhaps men spent more on cards than women. Take, for example, King Solomon, who boasted 700 wives. Every day was his anniversary.

No records have survived to tell us how much Solomon, Confucius or Cleopatra paid for a card, but I’ll bet contemporary consumers shell out more. Gone are the days when we “just bought a card” to commemorate an occasion. Today, it often proves cheaper to “just buy a gift.”

Craftsy folks have returned to creating handmade cards. Recipients of these works of art ponder how special they make them feel — and suffer intense guilt if they dare toss them. (The cards, not the givers.)

No grandmother can dispose of a card sporting a pink seven-legged puppy and two purple Doritos that states, “Gadma U nice.” My current grandkid card count is 937. I’m thinking of building an addition to house my collection. Or at least, adding another refrigerator or two.

However, the following are greeting cards I would rather not receive:

  • Thoughts of you . . . make me want to leave the country.
  • Congratulations … We heard you’re expecting twins!

When illness strikes, I don’t want cheery thoughts. What I’d really like: “Enclosed is an official edict from God commanding you to stay in bed three days, during which no one is allowed to ask you about dinner.”

Most women would treasure Mother’s Day cards with similar language: “Mom, I love you enough to clean bathrooms.” Or, “To the perfect mother of my children: you have not, do not, and never will look fat.”

Brace yourself: I am about the reveal the ultimate romantic card that knows no gender prejudices, covers every occasion, and never becomes obsolete.

Needed:

  • one piece of paper, folded in half.
  • one pen (or crayon if the kids have absconded with all your pens)

Front sentiment: I love you.

Inside sentiment: I’m sorry. You were right.

Sign your name.

 

What card would you like most to receive?

 

Froggy Fever

One sunny day, my husband and I, spring fever victims, rode our tandem bicycle past wetlands.

A hallelujah chorus of spring peepers nearly deafened us. Soggy Froggy City posted record decibel levels. Had these amphibians gone high-tech, renting rock-concert sound systems?

After compiling the results of a survey I sent them, however, I’m convinced frogs are musical purists who not only sing without artificial amplification, they don’t even open their mouths. Instead, they balloon their necks.

Unlike most human choirs, the majority are males.

These guys don’t waste words or melodies. They not only establish territories and predict weather changes with their songs, they also romance their ladies. Listening to their impassioned harmony, I wished I could understand the lyrics.

Then, remembering current Top 40 titles, I gave thanks I didn’t.

I’m not so enthralled with peeper music that I’d pay $75 to buy a frog online.

Nor would I pay $10 for flour beetles culture to balance his nutrition pyramid. I’ve paid more to get rid of such “cultures.”

Owners concerned about their pets’ boring diets can buy frog bites which, according to the Arizona Dendrobate Ranch, “add variety to a young amphibian’s diet.”

Many devotees will attend California’s American Frog Day. They’ll revel in frog symphonies, bet on jumping contests, even purchase driveway signs: “Frog Parking Only. All Others Will Be Toad.”

However, in 2002, the BBC did not consider frogs a joking matter. Intense headlines implied that killer bullfrogs had attacked Great Britain. Having eaten Parliament, they were last seen headed for Buckingham Palace.

Further reading, however, revealed that the bullfrogs, an American threat mistakenly imported in batches of water plants, were devouring fish and other small critters. Not a national disaster. But something else for which Europe can blame us.

If frogs from South/Central America invaded their territory, they might have reason to gripe. Poisonous frogs abound there, and those who flaunt the loudest wardrobes — gold, blue, orange, and black-and-yellow-striped — present the greatest threat. The poison dart frog of South America, Phyllobates terribilis, is arguably the most dangerous animal in the world. This little golden frog resembles a kindergartener’s eraser. But according to the University of Georgia EcoView, its slime is 400 times as toxic to a laboratory mouse as a king cobra’s venom.

For those who adore poison dart frog songs but prefer long life spans, CDs of their calls can be purchased online.

Me? I’ll stick to live, free concerts by less flashy, Midwestern types who stay in their swamps, go to bed on time and only give us an occasional wart.

Describe your favorite frog encounter. Or, like biblical Pharaoh, do you consider them a plague?

  • Spring Peeper photo by Joshua Derck, Photo By <a target=’_blank’ href=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/51109932@N00/32910893583/’>Joshua Derck</a> via <a href=”http://www.stockpholio.net/” target=”_blank”>StockPholio.net</a>
  • Bullfrog photo by Kevin Vance, Photo By <a target=’_blank’ href=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/23446980@N07/9703424655/’>Kevin Vance</a> via <a href=”http://www.stockpholio.net/” target=”_blank”>StockPholio.net</a>

Playground Magic

Do you remember your first playground?

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?

 

 

Confessions of a Tree Borrower

This spring, God has outdone Himself. Lush lilacs, like grape clusters, decorate bushes. Redbuds flaunt finery like skinny little girls wearing new Sunday dresses. Pear, crabapple, and locust trees grace the landscape like young girls on prom night.

I yearn for the trees’ beauty and fragrance the way some crave the first steak on a grill.

Not surprising, as my parents, tree huggers long before the concept became popular, adored flowering trees. Gradually, we children realized that most families’ Sunday afternoon drives did not achieve action movie status.

MOM: Ooooh, lovely dogwoods.

DAD: Aaaah, those lilacs smell wonderful. Roll down your windows.

KID #1: Shouldn’t you keep both hands on the wheel?

KID #2: How about one?

MOM: I’m holding the road. Mmmm. Isn’t God good?

KID #3: But no one’s watching the road!

KID #4: Let us pray.

ALL KIDS: Look out! (Dive for the floor.)

DAD: What’s your problem? I missed that guy.

KID #5: Um, Dad … we missed the bridge. We’re floating — sort of —

MOM: But look at those crabapples!

I succumbed to the habit, passing it on to my small children. Their pursuit of blooming beauty resembled search-and-destroy missions. When their quests expanded to others’ yards, I intervened.

We began with the Eighth Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal,” and its corollary, “Thou shalt not stomp thy neighbor’s tulips in order to shred his lilacs.”

“But,” I told them, “if branches hang over sidewalks, you may smell them, if you’re careful. That’s just borrowing.”

Chubby hands grasped behind their backs, they sniffed away.

I followed their good example. Besides, borrowing kept me out of trouble, too.

Our next home’s trees seemed under a curse, succumbing to lightning and disease. One of two peach trees went into a coma and never recovered.

Having witnessed her partner’s demise, the surviving peach tree eyed us with trepidation. Thankfully, Penelope, as I named her, greeted me at my kitchen window the following spring, wearing clouds of delicate salmon-colored blossoms.

We planted a redbud and two lilacs. Their first spring, they wowed us. However, the following year, they too succumbed to the curse.

I wandered the streets … and borrowed past my limit.

My husband wasn’t keen about calls from the police, so we planted a crabapple and a pear that flourished. A generous friend gave us rose of Sharon starts.

As ours didn’t survive, I now bicycle to a road I call Redbud Row. There, I feast on an unbroken line of magenta loveliness.

I will try not to run you down. Or miss bridges.

But you won’t mind if I borrow your trees on the way, will you?