O Lord, thank You for giving me three generations of special guys. Not sure why You granted them legs twice as long as mine or 100 times my energy. Nevertheless, OMG, thank You that we can hike and love Your creation together!
I was born and raised in Indiana, the heart of the “Euchre Belt.” Along with understanding all things basketball and eating dinner plate-sized tenderloin sandwiches, I learned how to play euchre, right?
My father, a card-shark-turned-pastor, nixed cards. Even Old Maid made him uneasy. While friends learned to play euchre and that favorite pastime of the devil, poker, I grew up calling clubs “clovers.”
Instead, our default family activity consisted of singing around the piano.
Once, at an Indiana University summer music camp for high schoolers, I sowed the wildest of oats. My sort-of boyfriend, who also attended, volunteered to teach me euchre. He became my partner.
By evening’s end, he was crying. Why, I didn’t know. The clover issue bothered him. Also, I considered spades hearts too — pointy black hearts. He took that personally.
The relationship crashed.
Dad was right. Playing cards messed up your life.
Then, I met my dream guy: taller than me, with bigger feet and a cute smile. Like me, he enjoyed school. More important, he shared my Christian faith, as did his family.
Eventually, he invited me to his grandparents’ get-together.
I was ecstatic. Until everyone started playing heathen euchre.
Worse, no piano graced their living room.
How could this relationship survive?
Especially, as I learned his parents and grandparents played euchre every week. Grandma and Grandpa even gambled (gasp!), winning penny pots and cans of applesauce and beanee weenees.
My parents would want me to be polite. When my hosts insisted on teaching me euchre, I tried to learn.
Only now do I realize the extent of their kindness. Even Grandpa didn’t pounce on me — mostly because Grandma fixed a steely eye on him when I, his partner, trumped his aces.
Fortunately, my future husband was too in love to notice when I trumped his.
However, even he tired of waiting while I pondered various plays. He joined the others in extended coffee and bathroom breaks. Grandpa built a garage.
“With practice, you’ll do fine,” my sweet, future mother-in-law assured me.
She was right. After 25 years of marriage, I could play without anyone building garages.
Of course, our children caught on to the game as preschoolers. Their children also are fast learners.
When we play with friends, the card sharks my father warned me about, they can’t play plain euchre. No, we must bid and think high and low and upside down.
You mean the cards read the same upside down?
My euchre education continues.
Occasionally, even the friendliest card sharks lose patience with me. But the important relationship hasn’t crashed.
He still possesses a cute smile. And Hubby can sing around the piano, too.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What in-law tradition tripped (trips) you up?
I measure the distance between extended family in states rather than miles. The lone exception, my brother Ned, lives in another part of Indiana.
A year apart, we played together like twins until I started school, where he acknowledged my existence only by a raised eyebrow.
Fortunately, he no longer regards sisters as threats to his manhood. We phone occasionally, but not often enough. I recall several years ago when we met halfway between our homes for breakfast.
We chose a mom-and-pop establishment, where we could indulge in illegal eggs over easy, crispy bacon and infinite cups of curl-your-hair coffee. Or the mortal sin of biscuits with gravy.
Entering, I saw no sign of Ned. As I walked toward a vinyl booth, I expected — and received — the who-are-you-stranger? once-over.
Homeland Security should catch onto this resource, one that could revolutionize national safety procedures. We don’t need metal detectors or X-rays. If the government would pay a tableful of these locals to drink coffee at security points, no terrorist in his right mind would try to get past their scrutiny.
Born and raised in rural Indiana, I knew I’d broken the rules. No woman eats breakfast alone in a strange town. As a sweet-faced waitress brought me blessed coffee, I pulled out my Bible and read while I waited. Eye-lasers clicked off one by one. Their owners swiveled back to their breakfasts. They gave Congress and the weather their morning cussing and analyzed high school basketball with an expertise that would put ESPN out of business.
Until my brother walked in. Immediately, the force field returned. As Ned headed toward my booth, question marks formed in the air, visible as if smokers had blown them.
“Good to see ya, Sis!” Ned trumpeted. He knew the rules, too.
The diners returned to their vivisection of basketball referees, as the waitress took our order. She brought us waffles, eggs and ham. Biscuits and gravy.
With bowed heads, we asked God to bless the cholesterol. Our words filled and warmed us as much as the steaming, delicious food. We solved our kids’ problems (if they would just listen!). We cheered the utter perfection of our grandchildren.
All too soon, our separate worlds called to us. We promised to connect sooner next time.
Before we separated, I demanded a hug, just to give the town conversation material for the next few weeks.
Ned’s eyebrow went up. But the hug happened.
It can’t happen today, in 2020.
But after this blasted COVID crisis ends, I’ll collect every one of those hugs that have piled up in the meantime.
Even if he raises the other eyebrow.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Whom do you want to hug post-COVID?
O Lord, thank You for grandsons whose energy output could light Chicago. You know that not too long ago, I easily outraced them. Now, however, my slow legs and weighty derriere always bring up the rear. OMG, even the two-year-old — especially, the two-year-old! — leaves me in the dust.
O Lord, with the COVID-19 crisis, my oldest grandchildren have practiced and marched in their bedrooms so they could perform for family and friends. OMG, if I followed You as carefully as they follow their directors, perhaps I, too, might help create something beautiful. And I probably wouldn’t collide with as many tubas.
O Lord, my grandchildren believe I’ve been around since forever. One asked if I knew Betsy Ross. But You truly have been around since forever. OMG, thank You for offering Your expert help to all of us navigating our senior years. Not to mention, our forever!
O Lord, thank You for the joy of picking blueberries with our son and his sons. Though, OMG, You’re so right! For accurate payment, we should have weighed the two-year-old before and after. No blueberries in his bucket, but plenty inside.
O Lord, sometimes sandy toes and grubby beach clothes accompany true worship, as when Hubby and I viewed Your heavens through our grandson’s eyes of wonder. OMG, what a holy moment!
O Lord, You have blessed us with wonderful grandchildren. Missing them so much, we appreciate technology that helps us connect. OMG, the energy You gave them! A video call feels like I’m in a roomful of human popcorn.
When you hear the word “treasure,” do your ears perk up like a kitty’s at the whirr of a can opener?
My ears wiggle, too — though as a child, jewels, in particular, fascinated me.
When I was a preschooler, a kind lady, aware of our family’s poverty, offered to buy my sister and me Easter clothes. She was rich, so I reveled in fantasies of princess dresses of red velvet, encrusted with precious stones.
Instead, we wore blue-and-white gingham. Not a single sapphire or diamond on them anywhere.
At sandy beaches, I buried quartz pebbles, marking their hiding places with an X. Someday, I would dig them up and sell them for millions. Then I’d wear princess dresses and eat Dilly Bars every single day.
In my heart of hearts, I knew few found for-real treasures in Indiana cornfields. Jesus told a story about a man discovering a “pearl of great price” in a field, but I never found one.
Still, I tried to hide my everyday treasures, with limited success. My younger brothers, who couldn’t find their shoes if their lives depended on it, possessed sophisticated built-in systems that detected all candy bars within 50 miles.
I also loved fruit — another commodity that disappeared quickly at our house. When my mother brought home ruby-red apples or golden oranges, I sneaked several and hid them in my bed’s headboard for secret indulgence while I read Little Women or Black Beauty.
Much later, I learned that I came from a long line of fruit pirates. My Southern grandmother treasured apples as if they were made of gold. When Dad brought her bags of apples from the Midwest, they vanished. An even better treasure detector than his sons, Dad found them under her bed. Once, while visiting my parents, I was vacuuming bedrooms when I discovered his apple stash as well.
Thus, my toddler grandson’s precocious ability to hide treasure shouldn’t have surprised us. He mostly spirited off other people’s valuables. When car keys, remotes, or backup flash drives vanished, his parents immediately identified the chief suspect. After extensive treasure hunts, they might find their billfolds nestled in 50 pounds of cat food.
Or maybe not.
They still considered that little larcenist a treasure — and Grandma certainly agrees.
I’ve never dug my fingers through piles of gleaming doubloons or gems, but the ring of precious faces around my table glow with greater worth. The only diamonds I own are small solitaires that shine on my left hand and on a silver anniversary necklace, courtesy of the shy, loving guy whose once-hidden treasures have taken a lifetime to discover and enjoy.
Makes my ears wiggle just to think about it.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you consider your treasures?