O Lord, This big snapper we encountered pulled into his shell, glaring at the world. Sheesh, what a grouch! But, OMG … plodding through this pandemic, am I getting a little snappish, too?
Do you know any senior wannabes?
Underclassmen — especially freshmen — have always envied these advanced aristocrats.
As a lowly 15-year-old with a learner’s permit, I drove with Mom beside me. Seniors, on the other hand, often drove in their own cars, the ultimate in coolness.
While we freshmen sweated Algebra I and basic biology, seniors studied calculus and genetics. They were the star quarterbacks, the strutters on the musical stage, the academic superstars. They wore their steadies’ class rings wound with angora. Their slips didn’t show, their shoestrings didn’t trip them, and when they laughed in the cafeteria, chocolate milk never squirted out their noses.
At our school, they owned the Senior Circle, etched into the floor. Underclassmen caught touching it scrubbed the Circle with toothbrushes while the entire school watched.
Even when a senior, I stepped into the Circle only once — ready to hit the floor if attacked by toothbrushes.
For me, the Senior Circle didn’t live up to its billing.
Neither did the fabled senior year. I still didn’t understand algebra. The starring role in the musical went to somebody else. I achieved my driver’s license, only to have two accidents. I gained the boyfriend, then had to give back the class ring. Graduation was bittersweet, with many goodbyes.
Strangely, reverting to freshman status recharged my batteries. I explored a fascinating, new world: college.
Decades later, I’ve achieved senior status again. Not many wannabes stand in line to join me.
Who signed me up for this senior club when I wasn’t looking? I still don’t know algebra. I hear not-so-distant rumbles about taking drivers’ tests again. (Noooooo!) Starring roles go to younger people.
Where’s the Senior Circle in all this?
For many of us, grandchildren light it up like a movie marquee. No angora adorns our rings, but they’ve worn sweet grooves into our fingers and our hearts. Longtime friends, belly-laugh memories, and watch-TV dinners in which we don’t have to be good examples fill our days. Quiet wisdom gained only by those who have walked the road, won and lost — all these and more make our Senior Circle special.
Best of all, the God who drafted 80-year-old Moses to lead a national exodus still inhabits the Senior Circle. He inspired Caleb, a geriatric commando, to conquer a mountain inhabited by giants. He told 87-year-old Anna a secret few knew: the newborn she blessed at the temple was Jesus, the Savior of the world — including seniors.
God urges us to live, grow and achieve, and to look forward to graduation. Yes, it will be bittersweet with many goodbyes.
But we can become heavenly freshmen, exploring the infinite, fascinating world we will inhabit forever with Jesus.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you think of growing older?
O Lord, thank You for the avid camper I married. I, too, love sharing in Your beautiful creation. But OMG, I’m wondering if each of us defines camping–and a few other things–a bit differently.
Years ago, my children learned those two words resulted in a fate worse than death.
My standard reply: “Here’s a scrub brush and bucket. When you finish washing the house, you can start on the street.”
Since COVID-19, however, my attitude has softened. Don’t tell my kids, but even I occasionally suffer from ennui.
Social media overachievers hasten to inspire me. They play board games as a family, with a minimum of bloodshed. They are pulling high school band instruments off the closet’s top shelf and practicing “Waltzing Matilda” with 500 other old band kids in Australia.
Workaholics are learning new languages, ballroom dancing and 100 ways to cook with vindaloo curry. They are painting bathrooms and portraits, creating life-sized origami NBA players. Some not only have finished Christmas shopping, but also have baked 19 fruitcakes apiece. Beware.
Some even (gasp!) clean.
The antidote for such pathological behavior, as many on the Internet have discovered, comprises consistent doses of nonproductivity. In a noble effort to help save quarantined humanity, I offer the following suggestions:
- Count the holes in a box of crackers. Hurry, before they, like every other scrap of food in the house, disappear.
- Teach social distancing to your goldfish.
- Practice the polka. You know you always wanted to learn.
- Recall your childhood paper airplane expertise. Fly a squadron late at night or early in the morning, when they’re trying to sleep.
- Per video call, lecture children/grandchildren on the concepts of “rad” and “groovy.” If they close the connection, educate your cats.
- Steal one piece from every puzzle in the house. However, if you share isolation with a puzzle addict, I do not advise this unless you have made all your final arrangements.
- Ask your GPS for directions to Pluto. And no, Pluto, Mississippi, doesn’t count.
- Practice mastodon mating calls on a garden hose. Believe me, this works. Years ago, when I was working nights and sleeping days, a visiting family’s seven-year-old treated me to an hour’s demonstration.
- Debate the actual color of taupe.
- Count the pens in your house that don’t work. Multiply by 23 and divide by 9. No reason. Just do it.
- The walls may be shaking as your teens play a favorite song for the 41st time. But take heart. Knowing the words and music(?) so well, you can perform it for their viewing/listening pleasure. Then post the video on YouTube.
You can even project your concert on a giant outdoor screen.
Then your kids won’t become bored while they’re scrubbing the house.
And the street.
And the nearest water tower. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How have you and your family fought quarantine boredom?
In honor of Father’s Day, I’m celebrating my dad’s independent spirit. Until a few months before his death at 91, he never ceased seeking new adventure — and scaring his kids spitless.
Visiting my parents lapses me into Louisiana slow-mo. Lounging on their front porch, eating Mom’s peach cobbler, we watch mercury in the ancient thermometer soar. A hound dog snores in the road.
This Mayberry moment feels timeless. But it will disappear faster than my cobbler.
In a word, Dad.
My 82-year-old father, rocking away, looks harmless. But this man has given his guardian angel a permanent tic.
Dad regales me with his latest exploits. Although my parents rent Great-granddaddy’s homestead from my cousin, Dad claims responsibility for it. One morning, he scaled the heights — “No dizziness a’ tall when I take my pills” — and cleaned gutters.
When I choked and asked why he hadn’t called my cousin, he said, “Why bother her? I got time.”
However, 96-year-old Great-aunt Footsie spotted Dad on the roof. She told him he hadn’t gained a lick of sense over the years. A polite Southern boy, he agreed. Yes, ma’am, he shoulda called a young ’un to do that. No, ma’am, he wouldn’t climb up on the roof again.
Instead, Dad hauled his buzzing chainsaw up a ladder to trim trees. Suddenly, the ladder lurched, and he tumbled. Lying dazed, his life passed before him. Then, enough of that. Dad stood, revved his chain saw, and finished the job.
Now he sniffs the steamy air. “Something smells bad. Smelled it the other day, too.”
I gag. “Whew. What is it?”
“Don’t know. Thought the cats dragged something dead under the house. Then I wondered if the sewer was leaking. So I—”
He did, though deep in these pine woods, rattlesnakes consider a crawl space the ultimate in creature comfort. Still, Dad slithered through under-the-house muck himself.
No plumbing problems.
Now, he inhales again. His eyes widen. “That’s gas. Better check it out.”
Not with a lantern, I hope. Thank God, he calls the propane company, who sends an inspector. The man’s eyes bulge like a frog’s. “Ya’ll got a prob-lem.”
Years before, someone removed a gas heater from the fireplace. He kind of forgot to cap the gas line.
Escaping gas. In the fireplace, where, for three winters, Dad has built his famous infernos.
When my cousin discovers the current excitement, she calls me. “No more home maintenance, y’ hear? Tell him to take up a different hobby.”
As if Dad listens to me.
At least, he permits the repairman to fix this. And because of his alertness, we escape a trial by fire.
Dad ages me with his antics (my true biological age is 213), but he also has played the hero many times.
But will I be up for the next visit?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does your dad age you, too?
O Lord, when Hubby and I first rode our new tandem, we nearly took out our neighbor’s trash cans. He wasn’t perfect then and isn’t now. And unlike Daisy, I don’t always “look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.” But OMG, thank You for 17 years and 5,500 miles of mostly fun cycling together without a crash.
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.
Each year, taking our first tandem bike ride, Hubby and I huff, puff and yell at each other to keep pedaling — and that’s just getting out of the driveway.
In spring 2019, however, we had put on major pounds. Dogs that normally pursued our bicycle built for two didn’t bother. Their snores said, “I’d get more challenge out of chasing a parked car.”
Spring 2020, we decided, would be different. Or did Hubby decide? Whatever — I admit all those stay-sane-during-quarantine walks made us fit and ready to ride.
Hubby services and washes the bikes. Buys new helmets. Fires up his cyclocomputer that records mileage, speed, and number of bugs encountered and swallowed.
Despite lighter traffic than usual, we face certain risks. The above-mentioned dogs might supplement their diets with an ankle or two. Some drivers believe bikes are imaginary. Occasionally, a crazed farmer tries to flatten us with his field planter. Maybe his girlfriend named Daisy dumped him, and he’s hated bicycles built for two ever since.
Still, Hubby and I take to the road.
As we pedal out of town, Hubby supplies most of the power. He also steers, changes gears, brakes, and does maintenance.
Me? As we approach stop signs, I proudly exhibit an innovation: hand signals. Correct, most of the time.
Impressed? Hey, I fill water bottles, too.
Zooming along Hoosier country roads, we spot landscape changes. A new house has sprouted. Young trees have grown. On the familiar route, I notice one homeowner’s switch from planting red geraniums to peach-colored.
“It’s great to be on the bike again,” I yell.
Hubby nods, mostly to keep bug-swallowing statistics low.
After several miles, though, a repressed truth returns full force: we are fit, but that does not mean the bicycle seats fit. A month will pass before our um, muscles, adjust — or total numbness sets in.
Plus, seduced by sunshine on this “perfect bicycling day,” we had ignored the wind’s powerful gusts. With the west wind behind us, we might eat lunch in Pittsburgh.
Then we turned.
Now, with the crosswind, our bike almost flew to Pittsburgh.
Still, even the last gasping miles of our return couldn’t detract from the green rivers’ flowing loveliness. From intoxicating apple blossom and honeysuckle fragrances. From glorious redbuds, as if God had tossed His favorite bouquets to us.
Yes, this first ride is different, and not just because we’re in good physical shape.
In spring 2020, we’re learning to live in the moment. Beauty bursts our hearts with gratitude. We’re extra thankful for health and strength to ride.
More than ever before, we are fit to enjoy it.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you spent more time outside during quarantine?
At school’s end in the 1960s, tents bloomed in backyards like roses. Kathy, Debbie, and I couldn’t wait.
Safety didn’t concern our mothers. Still, yakkety phone calls ensued before we extracted unanimous permission.
We campers stocked up on penny gum and Pixie Stix® at Charlie’s general store. If rich, we bought enough candy bars to ensure membership in the more-cavity group on Crest® Toothpaste commercials.
Lacking sleeping bags, we dragged old blankets and pillows to my saggy tent.
“Don’t knock down the poles,” Kathy warned.
We ate 17 pieces of bubble gum each and read Bazooka Joe fortunes aloud. Debbie had confiscated her older sister’s teen magazine. Which Beatle was the cutest? This cosmic question kept us arguing and giggling until darkness fell.
According to reliable sources, Gary and Tim were camping that night in Gary’s backyard. Younger than us, Tim was beneath our notice. Kathy and Debbie considered Gary icky, but no other boys on our block were outside. The so-called lack of prime victims didn’t bother me. I’d never told my friends I liked Gary’s cute smile.
We sneaked out, careful not to topple poles. Creeping through several other yards, we halted behind lilacs near Gary’s house. We made it!
But we’d forgotten to bring Crazy Foam. Or squirt guns.
“Pound on their tent,” Kathy urged.
Except … no tent.
Gary’s sister had revealed his campout tonight. How dare he mess up our plans?
I didn’t like his dumb smile anymore.
Then wild, still-soprano yells erupted.
I rocketed through darkness. Where were my girlfriends? The boys — probably well-equipped with Crazy Foam — would attack our tent.
Something sliced my throat!
I stumbled into our tent. In mistaken self-defense, Debbie and Kathy clobbered me. We knocked down poles. Entangled in canvas, we awaited Crazy Foam explosions and buckets of water.
Nothing. No one.
Perhaps the boys feared we would report them to their parents.
Propping up the tent, we tried to regain our bravado. Kathy told about the Man with the Golden Hook. Though I’d heard the tale a million times, scary scratching on our tent kept me edgy all night.
Also, Debbie had eaten beans for supper.
We couldn’t open the window because the Man with the Golden Hook would get us.
My friends nodded off, but my neck hurt. If only I could slip through my house’s unlocked door … But then, I’d have to explain my injury and betray our raid.
Finally, I slept.
Kathy and Debbie left early. Mom, unaware of my wound, insisted I clean up our mess.
I considered swearing off backyard camping forever.
At least, until tomorrow night.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Did you conduct backyard campout raids?
I appreciate dedicated farmers and truckers who continue to bring us produce during this challenging time.
Still, grocery-store tomatoes provide fresh gardening inspiration. They also inspired my tomato-loving dad. One February day long ago, he filled egg cartons with dirt. In our mother’s clean kitchen.
My siblings and I awaited her fiery, fly-swatter judgment.
Instead, Mom said, “I can almost taste the tomatoes now.”
Dad explained he was planting seeds that would grow into tomato seedlings, which we’d later plant in our garden. Unfortunately, only a few lived.
Though Dad doubted the scrawny survivors would produce, he planted them. One he named Methuselah, after the biblical character who lived 969 years, almost filled our family’s pantry by itself.
Methuselah grew as tall as I and spread out as if king of the tomato patch. Dad often counted more than 70 big, juicy tomatoes on Methuselah’s branches. We hauled bushel basketfuls from the garden until Mom locked us out. After canning for weeks in 90-degree weather, she considered the bumper crop a for-real attack of killer tomatoes.
Decades later, my husband and I relived that abundance when we bought a house with a garden full of tomato plants, heavy with fruit. We would enjoy fresh-tomato goodness — with almost zero work!
Eventually, I understood why Mom ran screaming from the patch when new blossoms appeared. Way too many tomatoes! Lacking canning equipment or a freezer, we put dozens outside with a “free” sign.
Still, that tomato-y summer ruined us forever. The following spring, we could hardly wait to raise our own. Where to buy seedlings?
Hubby’s barber shop, the source of all small-town wisdom, supplied the answer. The local Future Farmers of America raised and sold seedlings every May.
Since then, we’ve grown tomatoes every year. Red sunshine not only tickles our taste buds during summer, but during winter in homemade spaghetti sauce, chili and stews.
This year, however, the Future Farmers cannot grow seedlings. When Covid-19 first struck, I feared a run on gardening supplies.
Hubby gave me a you’re-so-paranoid look. “It’s not even Easter.”
With a few more gentle (Ahem!) reminders, he tried to order seeds online. Garden websites sang a unanimous song: sold out.
Would a similar run gobble up all seedlings? Would we be condemned to store-bought tomatoes forever?
Having learned his lesson (Always listen to your paranoid wife.), Hubby tracked down and planted tomato seeds. The seedlings will mature too late to plant at the usual time. But we’ll repot and keep them indoors. We’ll share them with others, spoiling them forever for tomatoes that taste like red sunshine — one small way to sweeten this pandemic.
Methuselah would be proud.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite fresh veggie?