O Lord, my God, today I thank You for my dear in-laws. For decades, they have blessed us with love and faith in You. Thank You, too, that of the millions and billions of people on this planet, there are still two who think of us as “the kids”!
Fierce soprano voices yell, “Batter! Batter!” Super-sized helmets top skinny little necks. Pint-sized players wield mitts big as sofa pillows (and about as effective).
A hometown crowd cheers and munches hot dogs and popcorn.
It’s the season for Little League Love.
Unlike most onlookers, my husband and I are comfortable spectators. Our children are too old for Little League, and our grandchildren have taken different directions.
During our son’s baseball career, I spent years at ball parks with my eyes tightly shut — often double-covered with hands — only venturing out of hiding to visit the concession stand.
Now, I actually watch. These players’ ages range from nine to 12. Some kids probably do Gillette shaving commercials to supplement their allowances. Others might be mistaken for bats — except for hats, mitts and spit. For not only do they imitate favorite major league players with elaborate windups and batting rituals, they have mastered expectoration at near professional levels.
Moms don’t applaud this aspect of their game. But they cheer every catch, throw and at bat. Family members try to behave so their kids will. But when offspring are involved, the gentlest mom — and grandma — grows fangs when the umpire dares call their boy out.
I never acted like that. Though … I do admit going a little overboard in motivating my child, egged on by another mom.
Still, we helped our sluggish team morph into a slugging team. My friend jumped up and informed her 12-year-old that if he fanned again, she would dance for the crowd’s entertainment. I informed my son that I would sing. Very loud.
Not only did our boys smack the ball, we inspired the entire team. Yet nobody put our names on their trophy. Where’s the Mom Love in that?
A roar from the present crowd brings me back to the end of a last-inning 0-0 tie. On a wild pitch, a youngster steals home! After the good-sport slapping of hands, they adjourn to the concession stand, where winners celebrate and losers drown their sorrows in sno-cones — and all look forward to the next game.
It’s easy for me to laud the joys of Little League from my maybe-I’ll-go-to-the-game-maybe-not stance. For parents who spend enough time watching, waiting and transporting to earn a degree, Little League Love wears a little thin.
But one dad near us sees his sons’ games as win-win situations. If their teams win, he’ll return for championship competition. If they lose, he’ll stay home and run a combine over his neglected lawn.
This dad cares about his kids, but not too much about their games’ outcome. That’s the very best kind of Little League Love.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you like best/least about Little League?
Oh, my God, You know that after my first child’s birth, my pastor told me, “Nothing, short of salvation, will change your life like motherhood.” Duh. With my watermelon-sized stomach, hadn’t I been defying gravity? OMG, little did I know that after it flattened—sort of—the real labor began.
So did the joy.
Oh my God, thank You for the get-up-and-go You give this little guy. After a blow-out first-year birthday party, he still puts the Energizer Bunny to shame. His grandma? Not so much. But OMG, that baby face’s glow still warms Grandma’s busy Monday morning. …
Do you remember your first Girl Scout Cookie?
During the early 1960s, a neighbor girl rang our doorbell, and my mother happily did her civic duty. I tasted my first Girl Scout Cookie, a peanut butter sandwich called a Savannah.
Today’s savvy cookie-taster insists Savannah Smiles® are lemon-flavored half-moons, a 180-degree turnabout from those I first savored.
I thought my memory must be 11 short of a dozen. Comparing notes with other Boomers, however, I discovered I was right! Those peanut butter confections are now called Do-si-dos®.
I may forget my parking spot location, social security number and computer password, all within the same hour. But I never, ever forget a cookie.
Not that I ate many then. My brothers also tasted their first Savannahs. A severe cookie famine ensued.
I sought to ease it by joining the Girl Scouts myself.
I soon discovered my Girl Scout uniform did not come with a free admission to an endless cookie buffet. Each box cost (gasp!) 50 cents — a king’s ransom to an 11-year-old.
Somehow, I’d signed on an invisible dotted line to sell them. By then, I understood many people did not welcome door-to-door salesmen. Little-girl appeal redeemed my fellow Scouts, but my weed-like growth spurt nixed that angle. Walmart and cookie stands did not exist.
Still, a Girl Scout keeps her promises. So, I trudged through subdivisions, praying with every doorbell’s ring that no one would answer. Sadly, during the 1960s, everybody was at home. When doors opened, I had to say something. Usually, “You don’t want to buy any cookies … do you?”
Amazingly, they often did. Despite setting new substandards for salesmanship, I sold my share.
Both my daughters, cursed with my door-to-door DNA, did well in the cookie-table arena. Tiny, with Bambi-brown eyes, our younger girl even persuaded a kindhearted baker to purchase several boxes.
Our older girl later worked for the Girl Scouts, dedicating weeks of her life to sorting, distributing, selling and collecting payments for stacks of cookies that filled her living room.
Why didn’t she accept my offer to serve as official taster?
Soon, my granddaughter proudly wore the Girl Scout sash and kept the promises, faithfully contributing a million-dollar smile to the cookie cause. Plus thousands of calories to Grandma’s mostly theoretical diet, which she was happy to break to do her civic duty.
I thank the Girl Scouts for promoting superior values, as well as good taste, throughout three generations of my family. Also, for providing inspiring, delicious writing material (munch, munch, munch).
If a cookie quality control position opens up in your organization, you know whom to call.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite Girl Scout Cookie?
Ah, resolutions. As in shaping up. Getting a grip.
You gotta love ’em.
No, you don’t. I don’t, either.
I used to procrastinate, thinking long and deep about resolutions, researching, editing, and reediting. My well-honed list didn’t emerge until February. I ate junk food, remained a couch potato, and avoided being nice a whole extra month.
Recently, though, I discovered a new, improved resolution-making method that reduces procrastination, yet prevents the root-canal effect of good behavior. My secret? I make only resolutions I can keep.
Simple. Profound. Why didn’t Einstein or some other genius with funny hair discover this?
I’m already hard at work, keeping my 2019 list.
In household matters:
- I resolve not to embrace the latest décor: skinny sofas with all the cushy comfort of park benches and chairs designed by those who hate vertebrates. My outdated sofa will continue to encourage naps instead of body casts.
- I also resolve not to rearrange my current furniture. My heart couldn’t take moving it. Or, seeing what’s under it.
- I will resist the temptation to make our bread from scratch. Admittedly, I used to do this. But we must shed past follies, right?
In transportation matters:
- No white car of mine shall remain white.
- I will never take a flight to see my dad in Louisiana that doesn’t include a stop in Fargo, North Dakota.
In sports matters:
- I promise to cheer against the New England Patriots forever, even if they move to the Midwest.
- I promise to cheer the Kentucky Wildcats only if they move away from the Midwest.
In marriage and family matters:
- Even in January, I will crack my bedroom window for fresh air. An added plus: I like sleeping with a giant burrito.
- I resolve to freak out as my only granddaughter blossoms. Two freaked-out parents aren’t enough to supply the embarrassment levels every teen needs.
In miscellaneous matters:
- I promise not to pay perfectly good money to die on Six Flags Great Adventure’s Kingda Ka, the tallest roller coaster in the world.
- I will waste time viewing sunrises and sunsets.
- I promise to sing along with raindrop music, and
- I will click the TV remote when Victoria’s Secret ads appear.
Finally, in post-holiday matters:
I won’t take down my Christmas tree until I’m good and ready. Between Advent celebrations and a January 1 book deadline, I’ve taken little time to enjoy it. Besides, snow deserted Indiana this year. True Christmas tree appreciation requires snowflakes dancing outside my window. So, I’ll cradle my steaming holly mug, with carols playing and tree glowing, until my snow-goal is met.
Not that I’m procrastinating, or anything.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What keepable New Year’s resolutions will you make for 2019?
Hubby says, “Would you like to go out to eat?”
Do I like to breathe?
He complains the car is cold. However, I’m chilly, too — which never happens.
Hubby spots the problem: “Who flipped on air conditioning?”
Who can I blame? Where’s a grandchild when you need one?
Rats. They went home yesterday.
As a child, I never lacked blamees. While I longed to beam little brothers to the planet Gorlojxx, they served as excellent reasons for everything wrong with my life. I couldn’t complete kitchen assignments because they never stopped eating. I couldn’t finish piano practice because they shot me with dart guns. Later, I blamed them for my nonexistent dating life. What guy would brave those little commandos, armed with Crazy Foam™, cherry bombs and Peeping Tom mirrors?
I didn’t blame them for everything, though.
I blamed our parents, too. They should have stopped with me.
My left-handedness also came in handy. I first discovered this instant alibi while learning to tie shoes. No wonder, while doing The Hokey Pokey, I knocked down classmates like dominoes. No wonder I blew story problems, my socks slid down, and skirt zippers always wandered to the front. I was left-handed!
Later, I discovered right-handed people invented algebra. They also designed SAT tests and college applications.
The bank did not buy it, though, when I wrote my first overdrawn check.
And I thought story problems were a problem.
My generation and I blamed the Establishment, then eventually graduated to blaming the government: Democrats for deficits and potholes; Republicans for job losses and crabgrass.
McDonald’s, because they make us spill hot coffee.
If all else fails, we can blame the stars. Perhaps left-handed, too, heavenly bodies stumble in a cosmic Hokey Pokey that affects paychecks, love lives and bowling scores.
Some take the blame straight to God’s Complaint Department. “My life’s a mess. Your fault!”
He eyes the patched-up, parts-missing, jumble of perpetual motion. “Did you read the Directions?”
Funny. We rarely blame Him or other people for good things. Just sayin’.
- Instead of pronouncing traffic “god-awful,” we could describe sunsets, babies and cardinals as “God-beautiful.”
- We might compliment a busy McDonald’s employee for hot coffee.
- Or even praise a hardworking public servant.
- We could thank parents who let us live. Ditto for teachers.
- I might learn to appreciate my brothers, even if they didn’t move to Gorlojxx.
Thankfully, Hubby has not moved, either, despite living with Quirkzilla for 44 years.
Approaching the restaurant, I admit, “I forgot to turn off the air conditioning. Seriously, that hot flash would have melted Alaska.”
“Thanks for dinner out,” I add. “If I’m spoiled, I blame you.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Whom can you blame for something good?
Once upon a time, colleges didn’t evict students from dormitories three minutes after final exams. Back in the Dark Ages, Hubby and I stayed until the following Monday.
Eventually, some grinch discovered that supplying extra days’ heat for 30,000 students spoiled the university’s merry Christmas. College officials also realized that multitudes of sleep-deprived, de-brained students + 24-hour blocks of free time equaled … excitement.
In the early ’70s, though, they assumed we couldn’t wait to go home.
Sure, we’d missed our dogs.
If we’d hacked with colds, cough syrup and aspirin were blocks away instead of steps. We anticipated parents smearing us with love and Vicks® VapoRub®.
We’d languished without Mom’s cooking. Meals with fewer than 500 people might be nice. Plus, a refrigerator of free food would be at our disposal.
Free laundry, too! Mom might reintroduce us to clean clothes, as opposed to those sanctified by optimum time at the bottom of the hamper.
Add Christmas magic, and most students wanted to share the holidays with family.
Just not quite yet.
Having been chained to books, typewriters and labs, we needed to celebrate. Even our nondrinking Bible study required a two-day party.
We snarfed Christmas cookies by the bucket and played Monopoly all night. Only one guy owned a car, but 13 of us jammed into it, rolled down windows, and sang Christmas carols at the top of our flattened lungs. At stoplights, we emptied the car with Chinese fire drills.
Who needed sleep?
Besides, we comrades in the trenches of academia soon would part. For couples, December and January stretched like a forever, empty tundra.
During that long-hair era, guys dreaded welcome-home haircuts. We girls combed bangs out of our eyes to please our moms.
We loved our parents. But they would expect us to talk to them. To hundreds of relatives. We’d repeat our majors and future plans a gazillion times. If we didn’t have any, we’d have to make them up, quick.
Worse, our families went to bed early. At the crack of dawn, they took showers and slammed doors so a normal person couldn’t get proper rest.
Parents would expect help with the dishes. Why not summon the fairies who had done that all semester?
Ditto for putting gas in the car. Whatever happened to “free”?
Sigh. How had we lived at home so long?
After a 48-hour party, though, a 10 o’clock bedtime didn’t sound so bad. Eating a nutrient or two might be nice.
With the arrival of a station wagon loaded with delighted smiles and hugs found nowhere else on earth — well, Christmas break might be worth the sacrifice, after all.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How did (do) you celebrate Christmas break?
Usually, though, I’m not a clock-watcher; my devout, free-spirited parents lauded flexibility as a key virtue. Keeping track of time? Not so much. Church services they led not only seemed to go on forever, they actually did.
So, when my second-grade teacher instructed our class about telling time, I didn’t see the point. Besides, if the big hand was on two, plain as day, why did she insist it read 10 minutes after the hour? Why should insignificant dots between the numbers dictate the operation of the universe?
Given that cosmic view, I didn’t own my first wristwatch until eighth grade.
My husband received his as a kindergartner. Perhaps his family operated like normal people?
Decades later, our toddler grandson, Liam, exhibited that “normal” behavior tenfold. Every visit.
LIAM: Grandma, want pretty “numbers-clock.”
GRANDMA: If you wear my watch, you must give it back before I leave.
LIAM: (nodding vigorously) I will.
(Grandma doubles the band around his tiny wrist.)
LIAM: (caressing the watch) My numbers-clock.
At least, I escaped the mugging Liam’s library storyteller suffered when he refused to give up his numbers-clock.
While most North Americans don’t go to that extreme, other cultures do puzzle about our clock fetish. The Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels, captured that viewpoint perfectly in describing Gulliver’s pocket watch as a god he worshipped: “He assured us … that he seldom did anything without consulting it. He called it his oracle and said it pointed out the time for every action of his life.”
Centuries later, I find this true, even at night. Do you, too, play peekaboo during the wee hours with merciless numbers that scare away sleep?
Perhaps a residue of freedom from time survives, as demonstrated in our living room. Two clocks reside there, neither of which works. As dusty décor, they read 1:57 and 3:01, respectively. This annoys Liam, no longer a mugger, but still a clock-watcher at 10.
The first is my husband’s great-great-grandfather’s mantel clock, with its ornate brass lions, rings and trims. But I like the other best, a modest crystal clock Hubby gave me for Christmas long ago.
A note accompanied it: “My love for you is timeless.”
Clock-watcher or not, exercise-bike rider or chocolate-eating slacker, I have time for that.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: When do you watch the clock?
The dresser’s original kid probably wadded clothes Mom had folded and stuffed them into its drawers. Perhaps he yanked out drawers, climbed the “stairs” and jumped off the top with an umbrella parachute.
Years later, I discovered that dresser in a secondhand store, marked half-price. It would do until my three-year-old son started school. However, it wore a woebegone, cast-off aura.
As a teen, I’d rolled my eyes when Mom painted end tables orange and a bedroom suite blue. Who did that?
Well … I did. After a critical paint chip comparison, I began painting the chest eye-popping blue. I planned to paint its handles equally vivid red.
Then my young husband needed an emergency appendectomy. While Hubby slowly recovered from complications, I slowly finished the dresser. Late at night, I added a second coat, a third, maybe more — I don’t remember. I experienced a glad moment when I hauled the completed dresser upstairs to my son’s bedroom. An even happier one when I brought his daddy home.
Both had jobs to do. Daddy returned to work. The dresser once more endured yanks, shoves and a “helpful” kid who stuffed clothes Mom had folded into its drawers. (He also attempted to climb to the dresser top, but I stopped him on the second step.)
A doggie bank constructed from a Pringles can resided on it, along with half-consumed PB&J sandwiches and piles of baseball cards. With ABC curtains, Mickey Mouse sheets, and a carpet perpetually layered with toys, the dresser helped make the room my kid’s haven.
But adolescence sneaked in. The first clouds of Eau de Gym Shoe settled over his room and, with them, a dark cloud of protest: Mickey Mouse sheets? Seriously? Did he really need ABCs displayed on his curtains?
I changed his décor to manly navy blue. Strangely, he didn’t ask me to lose the dresser.
Perhaps, even he realized he didn’t need a bigger one. Why, when his wardrobe resided in heaps on the floor?
Plus, the doggie bank’s big smile still matched the dresser perfectly.
One day, he departed for college, then marriage. The cheerful blue dresser, deprived of its kid, looked a little sad.
Now, though, it proudly houses coloring books, finger paints, and Play-Doh for grandchildren.
That dresser was made for kids.
And this old kid still loves it.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What furniture in your home tells your family’s story?