O Lord, so thankful for a fabulous time in Indiana’s Brown County State Park with the entire Phillips clan. But OMG, if we grow any more, the next time, we might break the bridge!
Last summer, my husband and I set up our camper in Versailles State Park amid southern Indiana’s lush, green hills. Beautiful weather. Perfect.
Except for an odd, reverberating hum whose volume increased every hour.
Hubby snapped his fingers. “Oh, yeah. Cicadas. I read the every-17-year swarm — this one’s called ‘Brood X’ — will arrive this summer.”
I recalled my childhood fascination with cicadas’ molting. My siblings and I giggled at our mother’s squeals when Dad tossed empty shells at her. We perched additional shells on the screen door for her viewing pleasure.
Nowadays, I enjoy cicadas’ summer evening concerts, but Brood X’s noise made me shudder. “Reminds me of 1960s sci-fi movies before aliens show up.”
“The Return of the Monster Cicada,” Hubby intoned in a Vincent Price voice and threw a shell at me.
The nonstop drone only hinted at Indiana’s bug invasion. According to Elizabeth Barnes and Cliff Sadof of Purdue University, up to 1.5 million cicadas per acre might leave their 17-year underground larvae childhood to climb trees and party.
I thanked God that multitudes of His interesting but noisy little creatures gathered on campsites elsewhere. Those insect swingers appeared so desperate for dates that they climbed anything resembling a tree. A few shinnied up our camp table legs. Up signposts.
Occasionally, on us.
“Get lost.” I brushed off would-be suitors. “I’m taken.”
“If we were survival camping, you’d ask them to dinner.” Hubby consulted his smartphone. “They’re low in cholesterol. See, somebody topped cookies with them.”
“I wouldn’t survive cicada cookies,” I retorted, “and neither would you.”
I suggested a walk around historic Versailles, where we read about John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raid and viewed a unique 1937 Art Deco church.
Ooooooo-mmmmmmm. The weird bug love song still sounded as if crooned into microphones. Piles of cicada shells grew beneath trees. We tiptoed along sidewalks to avoid squishing our fellow pedestrians.
Back at our campsite, I ignored ooo-mmms and gave thanks for bugless s’mores. For a fun experience amid beautiful, rugged hills, despite the swarm.
Fortunately, another Brood X won’t occur for another 16 years.
If I still camp at age 85, I plan to head north.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a swarm like Brood X?
O Lord, I can hardly believe it! Shopping for my granddaughter’s freshman dormitory supplies? But thank You our three generations did it together.
She seemed to have a good time with her sweet mom — even, OMG, with her misbehavin’ grandma.
On a blue-sky morning with a delicious summer breeze, don’t you want to hit the beach?
Me, too. (Sigh.) Instead, I meet our clean-underwear quota.
I remember clotheslines with chorus lines of jigging jeans. Wind-chubby, upside-down shirts. Billowing sheets sailing in a heavenly sky-ocean. My siblings and I flitted in and out of a blue-and-white world.
As I stuff wet laundry into the dryer, yesterdays hover like butterflies.
We were crazed moths, drawn to clean laundry like a flame. Fresh from the playground, we plopped into laundry baskets. The clothes didn’t mind grassy, muddy hugs, but Mom did.
We despised bedtime, but clean sheets’ sunny smell reminded us we could play outdoors tomorrow.
When I helped Mom, clothespins chomped my fingers like miniature monsters. A determined little laundress, I learned to pinch them instead.
Everyone possessed a clothesline, then. For big families like ours, every day was a potential wash-and-dry day — if the sun appeared. Sometimes, he’d shine while we filled lines with clothes, then played hooky. Worse, he conspired with rowdy, storm-cloud friends, who gleefully doused a morning’s hard work. When the sun left for Florida in December, clothes morphed into stiff, frozen aliens that refused to fit into a basket.
No wonder we — and much of America — greeted dryers with enthusiasm. Clotheslines became an endangered species.
Recently, however, their number has increased, mostly for ecological reasons.
Despite her neighborhood association’s rules, Susan Taylor of Bend, Oregon, set up a clothesline. She became the star of a neighbor’s covert photographing sessions. Even after Susan screened her offensive laundry behind backyard trees, then a curtain in her open garage, the association filed a lawsuit against her.
Susan and others nationwide won their point, though, because Oregon and 18 other states now ban bans on clotheslines.
I don’t own one, mostly because Hubby’s too busy to install it. But I’d like to fulfill our clean-underwear quota with a clothesline, hanging them behind sheets, as Mom taught me. I could return to that heavenly, blue-and-white world, then snuggle at night into sun-kissed sheets smelling of a fresh tomorrow.
Unlike Susan, I live where people care more about each other than the way they dry clothes.
Her neighborhood’s dirty laundry has been aired all over the Internet. I wonder … have they learned to be neighbors yet?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever used a clothesline?
T-ball, the kiddie variation of baseball, didn’t exist when my husband and I were kids. Instead, we played neighborhood softball. I discovered my talent for missing flies. Hubby learned to hit the ball — when new eyeglasses revealed its existence.
Thank goodness, our five-year-old started his baseball career with T-ball and a caring coach.
Most of the team managed to hit the ball, yet challenges abounded. Four-year-olds who had not learned to count demanded seven strikes. Batters chopped as if cutting wood. The tee, instead of the ball, flew into the air. Confused fielders stared. Were they were supposed to catch and throw this thing to first base? Napping outfielders found a hurtling ball a nuisance. One future ballerina at shortstop practiced pliés as it whizzed past.
Though everyone wanted to tag the batter out. Can you say, “gang tackle”?
Eventually, our son left T-ball behind for competition in which nobody took naps. Nobody practiced pliés.
Where was the fun in that? While I celebrated his Little League team’s championship, I missed T-ball’s creativity.
Fast-forward three decades. Again ripe with sunblock, bug spray and pride, I anticipated another T-ball game.
He joined a flock of pint-sized ballplayers wearing shirts that reached their knees, shorts that reached ankles, and hats that reached noses. Fielders lifted mitts half their body weights. Our son, the assistant coach (aka crowd-controller) walked players to positions, as some might get lost. He and the head coach demonstrated catching, throwing and hitting.
T-ball, like everything else, had become educational. That’s good.
My heart warmed, though, when an outfielder picked daisies. This pitcher jitterbugged rather than doing pliés, consumed with the joy of playing. The brave assistant coach refereed fielder pileups.
Having inherited his father’s early baseball passion, our grandson had been smacking it off a tee since he learned to walk.
“He’s a better player than I was,” our son admitted during a family Zoom session.
“A great trend,” his grandfather said. “Your dad was better than I. You were a better player than he. Now, your son’s even better.”
“Someday,” I interjected, “I’ll look down from heaven and watch our descendant in a Cubs uniform.”
Fun to project our dreams on future descendants.
But do such extravagant visions rival T-ball’s fun?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you attended a T-ball game lately?
Television weather experts give us blow-by-blow advice, yet anyone knows that when lightning rips the sky apart, watching TV is risky. While tornadoes flatten Starbucks nationwide, viewers plaster noses to TV screens. They may fry or be blown to Oz, but they’re informed.
Once aware of severe weather, we should stop watching weather experts.
They never tell us that.
The bold sit outside, counting lightning hits in their yards. Some attempt the photo that will appear on TV. News flash: Lightning may agree to a selfie with you, but you won’t like the results. Storm chasers may not enjoy making its acquaintance, either.
Did you know that according to The Weather Channel, men are six times more likely to be struck by lightning? Wives insist it’s because they never put their dirty socks in the hamper. However, the article ( https://weather.com/health/news/lightning-kills-more-men-women-20130805) suggests men’s favorite leisure activities — fishing, boating, camping, golf and soccer — make them favorite targets.
Ladies endanger themselves for social reasons, e.g., talking on landlines during thunderstorms. Determined brides risk lighting up entire wedding parties like marquees. And let mere funnel clouds change their romantic venues? Never!
I’ve avoided most feminine scenarios. However, Hubby, who preaches togetherness while camping, ensures that I get up close and personal with storms.
Once, while setting up camp as lightning sizzled around us, he yelled, “Hold up those tent poles. Higher. Higher!”
Maybe he’d taken out life insurance on this human lightning rod?
A tip for grandparents: don’t babysit during storms, as what worked in “The Sound of Music” won’t work for you. Grandkids won’t sing “My Favorite Things.” They will not sleep. You won’t, either.
Their snickering parents, miles away, will.
Finally, while God may not take offense to references about His moving furniture in heaven or bowling with angels, we probably shouldn’t yell at Him, as Lieutenant Dan did in “Forrest Gump.” Again, what worked for Gary Sinise might not work off film.
The Psalms state that God rides the wings of the storm. His improvement on a roller coaster?
While He grants weather experts ingenuity to guard our safety, God doesn’t plaster His nose to the TV to receive Doppler reports. He can calm the worst storm with “Peace, be still,” (modern translation: “Knock it off!”).
I’ll always consult Him first.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you react to storms?
As a child, it never crossed my mind that supervising a busload of screaming kids with unsynchronized bladders wasn’t a teacher’s dream. We must have pushed them over the edge.
We children celebrated with 30 choruses of “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall”— amending to “Ninety-nine Bottles of Coke®” when Teacher threatened to return home to soul-choking fractions, verb conjugations and Norwegian exports.
I recall only two scenes from our trip to Indianapolis. First, the governor’s office, with its kingly desk and (gasp!) gold trim on the walls. Surely, this guy wore a crown.
Second, at the Indiana State Museum, an enormous stuffed owl stared with topaz-colored eyes. We remained a respectful distance away.
The final event overshadowed all others: the Dairy Queen. I ate my huge hot fudge sundae without sharing a bite with siblings.
Fast-forward a quarter century. I volunteered to chaperone my child’s class trip to Chicago.
I handled “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” with parental aplomb. My charges only got lost 23 times in the Field Museum of Natural History. It wasn’t my group who knocked down the dinosaur skeleton. I felt in charge — until we reached the Sears Tower (renamed Willis Tower in 2009).
I must have repressed this destination. I don’t like anything higher than one-inch heels.
No time for regret. We rocketed 103 stories up in the elevator.
Any rational architect would have designed small peep windows at the top. Instead, the area resembled a giant greenhouse.
“Come back!” I simultaneously gripped a railing and grabbed at my charges.
They escaped to the windows.
I yelled, “Don’t look down!”
“Isn’t that why we came?” A sensible girl cocked her head.
“Cool!” A nerd plastered his nose against a window. “That’s a cumulonimbus cloud formation below us.”
The wind kicked up. The building swayed like a giant Hawaiian dancer.
Hours later, I woke up on the bus. “Kids! Where are you?”
“We’re fine.” All four were eating hot fudge sundaes.
My daughter slipped beside me. My failure as a field trip chaperone shrank in the face of her loving solicitude.
“So glad you’re sitting with me.” Tears welled.
“Teacher said I had to thank you.”
I stared. “For what?”
“She knows she can finish the school year now. Compared to you, she feels perfectly sane.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you chaperoned a school field trip?
My grocery cart contains skim milk, black beans and Fiber Buddies, but I pause near the “Seasonal Items” aisle.
Chocolate bunnies. Fifty percent off.
If there’s anything better than chocolate, it’s cheap chocolate.
Focus elsewhere, I tell myself.
Jelly beans help me lose the trance. Because they’re favorites? No. As a kid, I liked them, especially green ones — minty treats like chewing gum, only Mom let me swallow them. Nowadays, jelly beans initiate a decades-old mental playback.
My sister, Jean, and I were sneaking cream-filled cupcakes she’d baked for our get-together. Between us, we had five children, ages six and under. We gladly welcomed the help of our younger brother Ken, the handsome hero of his little nieces and nephews. He swung them, threw balls and told stories about valiant exploits as a Pizza Hut waiter.
My five-year-old wandered in.
I said, “Whatcha need, hon?”
She drew close as if sharing a terrible secret. “Mommy, I don’t want to hurt Uncle Kenny’s feelings. But these jelly beans he gave us hurt my tongue.” She deposited the green, gooey mess into my hand.
Fearlessly, I tasted it. Flames devoured my tongue.
I told Jean, “Ken fed our babies jalapeño jelly beans.”
She motioned me from the window, steaming. Our offspring covered the swing set, green tongues hanging out and eyes crossed.
Before mother fury could send us outside, Ken entered and helped himself to several cupcakes.
“Mmmm.” Ken snarfed two down. “What kind are they?”
My eyes met Jean’s for a brief, telepathic moment. Yes. He deserves it.
“French white-worm-filled,” I told him.
“I got them at the gourmet shop downtown,” Jean deadpanned.
Kenny’s face turned green as the infamous jelly beans. He backed into the bathroom, gagging, while we triumphantly bore cupcakes to our children.
Later, we relished telling him the truth.
Kenny couldn’t believe it. Betrayal! At the hands of his coupon-clipping, Sunday-school-attending big sisters! “You lied to me!”
Jean glared back. “You fed jalapeño jellybeans to my children.”
“Do that again or anything like it,” I said, “and you will die. S-l-o-w-l-y.”
Although twice our size, Ken took a step back.
Decades later, green jelly beans still give me an inner glow. Oooh, sweet revenge.
Some things feel even better than chocolate, 50 percent off.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever tasted jalapeño jelly beans?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “trend” as “a general movement” or “a current style or preference.”
Sounds simple. Yet, anyone who’s studied human behavior for five minutes knows better.
Take, for example, the current fad of torn jeans, some composed of more air than cloth. Designer rip-offs boast price tags approaching a thousand dollars.
Others on my what-are-we-thinking list:
- Bacon ice cream. Like pleasant people from different planets who should never marry, these two yummy foods should never share a carton.
- Cyclists wearing earbuds. Don’t these people want to live long enough to know how the song ends?
- Man buns. Somebody, hide the bobby pins and hairspray. Please.
- Sleep trackers. Rumpelstiltskin never wore a Fitbit, and he slept so well nobody could wake him for 20 years.
- Shoes minus socks. During a Midwest winter? Though we could start a new, exciting trend of blue feet as chic accessories. …
- Gambling TV ads. At least, the IRS is forthright about taking our money.
- Finally, antler chandeliers. Neither Bambi nor I like this trend. Especially when they cost up to $3,000.
By now, you assume this GOL (Grumpy Old Lady) disses current culture as a favorite hobby.
It’s fun. Below, however, I do list trends that hopefully will endure:
- Mom jeans haven’t yet topped the torn-jeans fad. Still, I’ve informed my daughters their mother is a fashionista.
- Excellence in women’s sports. No girls’ team was formed at my huge high school until I was a senior. Now, I watch young women compete with joy (and secret gladness I never worked that hard).
- The coffee craze. May Mr. Coffee, Mr. Keurig and Mr. Starbucks continue forever.
- Plentiful public restrooms. During shopping trips when my children were small, we raced madly to the library restroom, our only refuge. Thank God, some businesses got wise. Decades later, my races have resumed, and I can’t always make it to the library.
- A “my pleasure” response to a customer’s thank-you instead of “no problem.”
- Delivery service and free shipping.
- Church services streamed for those who can’t attend.
- Tunic tops and ponchos. They cover a multitude of sins.
- Excellent male fashion insight. Most men reject rompers as possible summer wear. Thanks, guys!
Now, don’t you feel better already?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What trends should go away? Which should stay?
What fragrance sends you back to childhood?
The scent of bubbling soup time-travels me to my mother’s kitchen. Cold and wet after slogging home from school, I filled nose and soul with her soup’s warm promise that I’d soon fill my empty stomach.
Mom would’ve agreed with Molière, a seventeenth-century French playwright: “I live on good soup, not on fine words.”
Whether Molière wrote about soup, creative minds from centuries past have told many versions of a European folktale, “Stone Soup.” What modern child hasn’t heard how a hungry traveler(s), using empty kettle and stone, persuaded stingy villagers to share? Books, magazines, movies, songs and even software have borrowed the concept (though personally, I’d rather eat the soup.)
Another classic, Alice in Wonderland, features a soup song that’s puzzled me since childhood. Why would the Mock Turtle — obviously a turtle himself — laud turtle soup as “beau—yootiful soup”? If cannibals were boiling me in a pot, I would not sing.
Enough literary commentary.
How do you like your soup temperature-wise? Like model Chrissy Teigen, I “need my soup to be crazy hot.”
My husband has ducked under many a restaurant table when I’ve sent lukewarm soup back to the kitchen. He says nothing, but I read his mind: If I had to marry a hot-soup fanatic, why not Chrissy, instead?
Too late for you, bud.
Enough marriage commentary.
Back to soup temperature. Enthusiasts refer to cold concoctions as gazpacho, vichyssoise or Polish chlodnik, made with beets and yogurt. Fine. Just do not call them soup. When thermometers reach 90 degrees, hand me a Popsicle® instead.
Not that I diss foreign soups. For centuries, Thai curry, Portuguese caldo verde (potatoes, kale and sausage) and North African squash soup have nourished thousands. Most of the world, though, might question a remote Japanese tribe’s recipe that includes bananas, coffee and dirt.
Still, soup brings humans together. Mom understood this as she added more potatoes or broth to feed our ravenous family, lonely parishioners, and the occasional, hungry stranger.
Author Kate DiCamillo said, “There ain’t no point in making soup unless others eat it. Soup needs another mouth to taste it, another heart to be warmed by it.”
Mom, Kate isn’t the only one who got it right.
You cooked hundreds of kettles of beau—yootiful, beau—yootiful soup.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite soup?