Tag Archives: Grandma

Our Normal Vacation

Summer trips with stops at Stuckey’s and Storybook Land. Sleeping in genuine teepees at the Woocheekoochee Warpath Motel — with a swimming pool!

A normal vacation for many kids during the 1960s.

But nobody ever accused my family of normalcy.

Any July morning, Dad might casually inform my mother he planned a family departure to visit his parents in Louisiana. At 8:00 p.m. that day.

Mom would have scorned comparison to that Wonder Woman hussy in bustier and tights, but she herself represented a true marvel. By 8:00 p.m. she had washed and packed clothes. She had canned every ripe tomato and pickle within 20 miles. Pets were exported and schedules rearranged with the decisiveness of a Fortune 500 CEO. Why Mom also cleaned our car remains a mystery. One root beer stand stop, and the station wagon again was infested with French fries, seats freshly graffitied with ketchup.

Her most amazing feat: Mom never hired a hit man to bump off Dad.

Arriving home, he flattened station wagon seats, loaded suitcases and cooler, then stacked us on top.

Dad loved all-night driving because he endured few dollar-eating, time-consuming restaurant stops. No tinkle breaks every two miles. Nothing to interrupt his love song of the open road — after children nodded off.

I often awakened with a sibling’s foot in my ear or an arm strangling me in a half nelson.

Sometimes, I awoke to discover Dad catching a few winks along an unknown highway. Waking siblings — especially the baby — was a capital crime. So, I watched in mingled hope and terror as headlights approached: hope because they lit the darkness; terror because the Hatchet Murderers of America were traveling tonight, too.

Mornings, we played tag under cedars at a Tennessee rest stop while Mom cooked bacon and eggs over a campfire. The smells alone made the all-night drive worth it.

After crossing the Mississippi River, we soon stopped outside Monroe, Louisiana. Mom extracted The Washcloth from its plastic bag to scrub us, making us smell as if we’d spent the night in a dumpster. Still, it ranked above spit and shine with The Kleenex, Mom’s substitute if she forgot The Washcloth.

Dad called Grandma from a phone booth. We all knew this dialogue by heart.

“Mama, we’re in Louisiana.”

“No, you’re not.” She’d fallen too many times for his fibs. “You ain’t left Indiana.”

“Mama! We’re just outside Monroe.”

Grandma Oglesbee, wearing the wary expression she usually did when my dad fibbed to tease her.

She didn’t buy it.

Finally, Dad admitted what Grandma had suspected all along: “The car broke down. We haven’t left home.”

“I knew it! Ya’ll think I’m soft in the head.”

His favorite part of “normal” vacation: 30 minutes later, when we pulled into Grandma’s driveway.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What vacation memory can’t you forget?

How Do You Like Them Apples?

“A is for apple.”

Today, little Apple lovers might expect a Macintosh laptop on an alphabet book’s first page. In 1959, however, technology never entered my mind. Instead, I eyed the luscious red fruit on my teacher’s desk. I focused on bites, not bytes.

I savored the school lunch’s apple crisp — until Joey Bump told me the topping consisted of fried ants.

Smart guy. He doubled his apple crisp intake.

Ants notwithstanding, I come from a long line of apple lovers. Every autumn Dad bought bushels of fragrant fruit at a nearby orchard. He peeled an apple with a surgeon’s precision, dangling the single long red curl, then sliced it into white circles whose dark seeds God had arranged in a flower pattern. A boy during the Depression, Dad scoured the woods for fruit — for anything — to nourish his scrawny frame. Forever, he would regard apples as a cause for celebration.

Whenever we visited my Louisiana grandparents, Dad bought Grandma bags of apples, fruit too expensive to frequent their black-eyed peas/turnip greens/corn bread diet. My four siblings and I waited for Grandma to share.

The apples vanished within seconds, never to reappear — while we were there, anyway.

Dad often surprised Grandma, driving all night from Indiana to visit. Once, he brought four-year-old Kenny, whom Grandma hadn’t seen for a year. Kenny and Dad dozed in his truck until they smelled bacon’s tantalizing fragrance. Dad’s resolve wavered. Did he dare rile his mother and risk losing a free breakfast?

Dad debated only a moment. Handing Kenny a bag of apples, he pulled my brother’s cap over his eyes and sent him to Grandma’s door. Hunkering down in the truck, Dad watched apple drama unfold.

At Kenny’s knock, Grandma appeared. “Child, what are you doing here at this hour?” She showed no sign of recognizing Kenny. “Where’s your mama? Your daddy?” She cast a wrathful eye at the truck.

When Kenny offered her the apples for a quarter, Grandma suffered pangs of conscience. How could she take advantage of this baby-child?

But the bargain apples proved too much.

Grandma retrieved a quarter from her old money sock.

As she handed it to Kenny, he tilted his head back. “Hi, Grandma!”

Dad strode to the porch, wearing a huge grin.

Grandma laughed and cried. When her voice returned, she said her 35-year-old son needed a good licking. How could such a bad apple turn out to be the only preacher in the family?

Grandma hugged Kenny, then welcomed him and his prodigal daddy, stuffing them with eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy.

But no apples. The bag already had found a new home — under her featherbed.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite apple dessert?