O my God, I loved teaching at Taylor University’s writing conference last weekend. Students listened. Didn’t swing from light fixtures or explode cherry bombs. Yet I’m bushed! OMG, perhaps I should pray more for teachers starting their school year?
Hubby and I have just returned from two weeks of camping, aka our vacation. Grateful to return with only 4,271 mosquito bites, I greet my calendar, which features a two-scene 1947 Norman Rockwell print entitled “Going and Coming.”
In the first, a grinning guy showing off a snazzy fedora and big cigar drives a station wagon topped by a boat. His smiling wife holds Little Sister on her lap. Junior and Fido hang out a window. Warm air flaps their ears and ours, and spit hits our windshields as they pass. Big Sis blows a bubble with her gum that could carry her to the lake by air. Little Bro holds his nose, giving the “You stink!” gesture that passed for rudeness during that era. Beside him, Grandma, sitting straight as a general, ignores the little heathens because of her poor eyesight.
At least, that’s the excuse we grandparents give.
In the second scene, the family returns from the beach. Dad sports only a stump of his cigar and bravado. Mom and toddler snooze. Even the boys and dog sit sedately, and Big Sis’s bubble has shrunk to earthbound size. Grandma, still ramrod straight, probably sleeps with her eyes open, a skill she’s perfected during church.
These Rockwell pictures shout their message so loud and clear even art experts can’t mess with it: “Vacation’s Over … Thank God!”
Each spring, epidemic celebrations offer a taste of summer, tantalizing as our first mouthful of strawberry shortcake. We view new territory, thumbing our noses at those less audacious, confident our bubble gum will taste good forever.
By late July, however, we surpass our quota of quality time together, especially in the car. We peel from the sun’s overfriendliness. Sand has made itself at home in cars, carpets and shorts. Kids have grown an extra epidermis comprised of sun block, Popsicle®, and dirt.
Oddly, something deep inside us craves an alarm clock — and regular bath times. We still love barbecues, but a Sunday roast with mashed potatoes and gravy sounds even better. We want our beds, our messy houses and our schedules.
Even messier because of vacations.
In Rockwell’s return scene, Dad will unload the car, including boat, gear, and sleeping children. Mom faces the formidable task of putting the remaining kids — freshly energized by their arrival home — to bed. (A side note: Both scenes feature children who appear entirely too clean. Mrs. Rockwell never would have painted them thus.)
We wouldn’t miss it for anything.
Today, are you coming or going?
One sunny day, my husband and I, spring fever victims, rode our tandem bicycle past wetlands.
After compiling the results of a survey I sent them, however, I’m convinced frogs are musical purists who not only sing without artificial amplification, they don’t even open their mouths. Instead, they balloon their necks.
Unlike most human choirs, the majority are males.
These guys don’t waste words or melodies. They not only establish territories and predict weather changes with their songs, they also romance their ladies. Listening to their impassioned harmony, I wished I could understand the lyrics.
Then, remembering current Top 40 titles, I gave thanks I didn’t.
I’m not so enthralled with peeper music that I’d pay $75 to buy a frog online.
Nor would I pay $10 for flour beetles culture to balance his nutrition pyramid. I’ve paid more to get rid of such “cultures.”
Owners concerned about their pets’ boring diets can buy frog bites which, according to the Arizona Dendrobate Ranch, “add variety to a young amphibian’s diet.”
Many devotees will attend California’s American Frog Day. They’ll revel in frog symphonies, bet on jumping contests, even purchase driveway signs: “Frog Parking Only. All Others Will Be Toad.”
However, in 2002, the BBC did not consider frogs a joking matter. Intense headlines implied that killer bullfrogs had attacked Great Britain. Having eaten Parliament, they were last seen headed for Buckingham Palace.
Further reading, however, revealed that the bullfrogs, an American threat mistakenly imported in batches of water plants, were devouring fish and other small critters. Not a national disaster. But something else for which Europe can blame us.
If frogs from South/Central America invaded their territory, they might have reason to gripe. Poisonous frogs abound there, and those who flaunt the loudest wardrobes — gold, blue, orange, and black-and-yellow-striped — present the greatest threat. The poison dart frog of South America, Phyllobates terribilis, is arguably the most dangerous animal in the world. This little golden frog resembles a kindergartener’s eraser. But according to the University of Georgia EcoView, its slime is 400 times as toxic to a laboratory mouse as a king cobra’s venom.
Me? I’ll stick to live, free concerts by less flashy, Midwestern types who stay in their swamps, go to bed on time and only give us an occasional wart.
Describe your favorite frog encounter. Or, like biblical Pharaoh, do you consider them a plague?
This spring, God has outdone Himself. Lush lilacs, like grape clusters, decorate bushes. Redbuds flaunt finery like skinny little girls wearing new Sunday dresses. Pear, crabapple, and locust trees grace the landscape like young girls on prom night.
I yearn for the trees’ beauty and fragrance the way some crave the first steak on a grill.
Not surprising, as my parents, tree huggers long before the concept became popular, adored flowering trees. Gradually, we children realized that most families’ Sunday afternoon drives did not achieve action movie status.
MOM: Ooooh, lovely dogwoods.
DAD: Aaaah, those lilacs smell wonderful. Roll down your windows.
KID #1: Shouldn’t you keep both hands on the wheel?
KID #2: How about one?
MOM: I’m holding the road. Mmmm. Isn’t God good?
KID #3: But no one’s watching the road!
KID #4: Let us pray.
ALL KIDS: Look out! (Dive for the floor.)
DAD: What’s your problem? I missed that guy.
KID #5: Um, Dad … we missed the bridge. We’re floating — sort of —
MOM: But look at those crabapples!
I succumbed to the habit, passing it on to my small children. Their pursuit of blooming beauty resembled search-and-destroy missions. When their quests expanded to others’ yards, I intervened.
“But,” I told them, “if branches hang over sidewalks, you may smell them, if you’re careful. That’s just borrowing.”
Chubby hands grasped behind their backs, they sniffed away.
I followed their good example. Besides, borrowing kept me out of trouble, too.
Our next home’s trees seemed under a curse, succumbing to lightning and disease. One of two peach trees went into a coma and never recovered.
Having witnessed her partner’s demise, the surviving peach tree eyed us with trepidation. Thankfully, Penelope, as I named her, greeted me at my kitchen window the following spring, wearing clouds of delicate salmon-colored blossoms.
We planted a redbud and two lilacs. Their first spring, they wowed us. However, the following year, they too succumbed to the curse.
I wandered the streets … and borrowed past my limit.
My husband wasn’t keen about calls from the police, so we planted a crabapple and a pear that flourished. A generous friend gave us rose of Sharon starts.
I will try not to run you down. Or miss bridges.
But you won’t mind if I borrow your trees on the way, will you?
Thank you for informing us, as people bail out living rooms. Facebook whines and surly crowd mumbles at Walmart — my scientific tools for measuring demographic mood — have reached record levels.
So I share suggestions for coping with April showers until they produce May flowers and golfing hours.
What’s your favorite rainy day activity?
Most people stay far too busy during spring to pause and practice their God-given powers of observation. Although I, too, keep an encyclopedia-sized to-do list, I decided to sacrifice the time, pour myself a cup of coffee and ponder spring stuff:
Perhaps it’s time to rouse myself from my profound cogitations and determine if this year’s cone will uphold the standard.
No weightier spring pursuit than that.
What’s your favorite spring stuff?
Thanks to my in-laws, I realize snowbirding isn’t easy. Snowbirds deal with two sets of household worries. Before leaving the Midwest, they must forward mail, stockpile medicines, and empty refrigerators. By law, they cannot desert the state until they eat or give away every single egg.
I only had to stockpile frozen dinners for Hubby — and assure him I would try not to enjoy my work too much.
However, I faced wardrobe complications, digging through mountains of summer clothes for an outfit that fit. Usually I don’t even have to say the word “waistline” until May.
Migration itself proved challenging. At the airport, I, a sixtyish grandma armed only with expired Liquid-Plumr® coupons, was dusted for explosives.
The airline also implemented an aggressive program to increase passenger space. All zone four passengers, including myself, were tossed into compactors that crunched us into pillow-sized rectangles. We fit into the airplane seats, no longer suffering from lack of leg room.
Finally carted from the aircraft, I understood why snowbirds brave Florida migration tribulations. Palm trees, with real green leaves, fluttered a hello. Brilliant flowers abounded. No wonder the Spanish explorers named it “Flowery Land.”
Today, however, they might name it “Trailer Court Country.” Thousands bloom on the Florida landscape. These mobile home parks offer neighborhood lifestyles like no other. Need to borrow a cup of sugar? Simply stick your measuring cup out your window into your neighbor’s kitchen.
Need exercise? Walkers benefit physically and enjoy constant access to neighbors’ favorite episodes of The Andy Griffith Show — at Cape Canaveral sound levels.
I did enjoy the novelty of hearing, “You’re so young!” Throw in fresh seafood, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Given my schedule, I did not see the ocean. Had I viewed its blue, sparkly waves, I might have, as my hospitable hosts urged, stayed much longer.
Instead, the heat chased us inside, where they turned on air-conditioning. I tried to imagine avoiding torrid Easter temperatures. Seeing Santa in a red tank top.
I envisioned myself in a bathing suit most of the year.
That prospect scared this temporary snowbird back to airport security, zone four passenger compactors, and a flight back to her Midwestern nest.
Are you a snowbird wannabe? Or do you prefer snuggling by the fire?