Tag Archives: Humor

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?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Lord, Isn’t There a Limit?

O Lord, Thank You for my Boy Scout and his love for Your creation. Thank You that we’ve shared several great camping trips this summer. But now he’s bought new backpacking gear for primitive wilderness camping. OMG, thank You that I won’t share in that.

I’m Not a Scientist

Sometimes I wish I were a scientist, a brainiac whose findings are held sacred.

Writers are not so privileged. If I believed aliens control all printers — especially mine — my family would hide the tinfoil.

Contrariwise, if researchers declared aliens manipulate our printers, the government would offer them millions to also investigate intergalactic control of garage door openers.

Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay.

Being a scientist would be nice.

But I’ve never displayed much aptitude. As a child, I wrote poetry about tigers instead of studying their messy hunting habits. Glittering rocks weren’t geological specimens. In my mind, they morphed into jewels from Ali Baba’s cave. The TV weatherman, with mysterious, loopy drawings, was a wizard wearing a suit. Unlike Jesus, he couldn’t stop storms. But he sure knew how to stir them up.

My world intrigued me — my mother’s roses, summer evenings lit by firefly lanterns, the moon glimmering like the Pearl of Great Price.

However, science teachers wanted me to get up close and personal with germs, gutted frogs and pickled baby pigs.

Planning a college music major, I rejoiced when I’d fulfilled my science requirement. No more icky labs!

However, advanced science and math classes at my school were given extra points. Stuck with a good but downgraded GPA, I considered chemistry and physics, both of which sounded like endless-math disasters. Physics also involved objects striking each other. I already knew too much about that, having totaled Dad’s car. So, I took advanced biology. A bonus: my boyfriend and I became lab partners!

Unlike several in this high school yearbook photo of the
Top Ten students in our graduating class, I was not a
science whiz.

However, he expected me to read the labs before class — what nerve! I discovered we were studying fruit fly (blush!) reproduction. Subconscious sympathy for the insects’ eventual euthanasia made me forget to replace lids on their jars. …

The fruit flies survived longer than our relationship.

My ex-boyfriend/lab partner rejoiced when schedule changes sent me to a different biology class. A tall, math-science type with a cute smile sat across from me. Fortunately, we didn’t become lab partners. Eventually, we dated and attended college together.

When he, a superstar chemistry major, tutored me in unavoidable College Chemistry 100, I always read the material beforehand. With his help, I passed.

A few years later, my tutor became my husband. As he went to medical school, I continued brushes with icky science. Hubby wore the smell of formaldehyde more than aftershave. I laundered lab coats and surgery shoes with mysterious smears. Though he’s now retired, a relative still may approach us while eating out, concerned about Aunt Pearlie Mae’s hemorrhoids.

I am not and never will be gifted with objectivity or a strong stomach.

Being a scientist is a privilege I can live without.

Image by Herney Gómez from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Would you like to be a scientist?

Take This Job and Love It?

“What do you do?”

You’ve been asked this quintessential icebreaker a million times, right?

Has your answer made the questioner blink? Twice?

Probably not.

We Midwesterners like others to think we’re normal. Occasionally, I regale a cornered listener with tales of my jobs during college days. One summer, my brother and I cleaned our county’s 86 phone booths. We also cleaned telephone companies, creameries and lumberyards. I learned the value of hard work, fortitude, and singing high operatic scales while cleaning men’s restrooms.

I also worked as a nurse’s aide in a county home for patients like Glen, who pantomimed shooting the staff. I combed the grounds for booze James had smuggled in for resale purposes.

After that job, even a secretarial position in academia seemed tame.

Other workers push occupational limits too. Cleaning seems safe — but washing skyscraper windows? Ulp. Few adventure films feature dusting, but consider the heroism of a cling-to-the-scaffold IMAX screen maintenance guy.

I’d rather be a paper towel sniffer, paid $19,000-$52,000 per year.

According to Reader’s Digest, airplane repossessors make big bucks. However, considering some foreign governments’ possible displeasure, a million-dollar paycheck (and funeral) hold little appeal.

Nor do I aspire to be a lion keeper, snake milker, or caregiver to other dangerous animals — though my mom experience running children’s birthday parties would qualify me.

Those who prefer underwater excitement can work as divers, inspecting oil rigs. Or they can dive for pearls, establishing meaningful relationships with passing sharks.

I’d rather become a “Keeper of the Cup,” a Stanley Cup-sitter who accompanies the coveted hockey trophy wherever it goes.

Modeling appears an equally cushy job. However, consider the stresses of smiling for hours while starving. Even at my wedding, I, well-fed as always, grew tired of posing my pearly whites.

Wouldn’t we all like a career as a bed tester?

Some consider that snoozy job equivalent to my writing profession. I do spend hours in my PJs, as defined waistbands stifle creativity. When I’m parked in a comfy chair with my laptop, the necessary daydreaming (we writers call it brainstorming) sometimes morphs into nap-dreaming (subconscious research).

Like William Faulkner, I work when inspired. He claimed he was inspired at nine every morning. I am inspired anytime from 6 a.m. on — depending on deadlines — six days a week and, occasionally, seven.

I have experienced peril in my job, climbing a fire tower so I could write authentically about my characters’ acrophobia. I’ve spooked myself riding a nighttime ferry to an Ohio River pirate cave, experiencing terror my nineteenth-century heroine felt. I’ve even faced editors who couldn’t find a Starbucks.

Still, I’ll take this job and love it.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s the best job you’ve held? The worst?

Senior Wannabes

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?

Image by Erika Wittlieb from Pixabay.

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?

“I’m Bored”

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?

Adventures with Dad

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.

Mom and Dad on their front porch in 2007.

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.

Why?

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—”

Image by Ana Meister from Pixabay.

“You didn’t.”

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 snakes.

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.

I’m grateful.

But will I be up for the next visit?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does your dad age you, too?