Father, so glad You gave us the idea for our neighborhood S’Mores Night. What a joy, to share each other’s lives on a starry night! Will there be s’mores in heaven? Not sure, but OMG, the evening was a teensy taste of friendship we’ll savor with You and Your children. Every. Starry. Night.
My first hayride at age nine in a creaky farm wagon — a 4-H outing — puzzled me. A novelty? No. Tractors prowled in fields surrounding our little Indiana town. My siblings and I rode in the back of a pickup at highway speeds, so burning up country roads at 15 mph didn’t shake me up.
Waving at farmers? Fun, but not extreme entertainment.
So, why did chaperones’ heads swivel as we chugged along? Just because they were responsible for children who had danced around a campfire, waving unfurled metal clothes hangers armed with burning marshmallows. Just because we’d consumed 10 s’mores apiece, why eyeball us like tractor hijackers?
By junior high, though, I’d figured out that mass sugar buzz didn’t cause the adults’ angst. Even clothes-hanger-marshmallow weapons appeared less threatening. The big concern: harvest moons, starry nights and chilly temperatures invited major snuggling.
Chaperones blackmailed into volunteering wished they’d signed up to dig the school’s new basement instead. But they yelled, “Heads up!” and bravely dug seventh grade babes and their current Numero Unos — generally six inches shorter — out of the hay.
Meanwhile, skinny nerds like me took extreme interest in local soybean crops.
Those popular kids were stupid. Embarrassing.
By high school, few stared at soybean fields, and no one waved at farmers. Our choir performed a wholesome, cheesy song at fall concerts — “Hey, hey, hayride!” Privately, we chuckled. Dumb old people would believe we were equally wholesome.
The old people — aka our parents — didn’t buy it. Later, when our own children reached adolescence, we didn’t, either. Surprisingly, though, hayrides no longer seemed popular.
However, recent years have brought a hayride resurgence. Given helicopter parents and predatory lawyers, are wagons now equipped with car seats and airbags? Or is everyone swathed in Bubble Wrap?
Yet, hayrides have evolved to scary, elaborate levels we 4-Hers couldn’t have imagined. For example, a Maryland “family” attraction offers haunted hayrides in which zombies assail the wagon, even crawl aboard. Also provided: refreshments, bonfires, live bands, plus a haunted hotel, haunted corn maze, and a haunted circus.
Give me the boring version, with only a full moon, crisp fall air, and burning up country roads at 15 mph.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever gone on a hayride?
Father, I know — theoretically — that both pumpkins and grandsons grow. But OMG, this big? REALLY??
If you still reside in your hometown, changes might raise your eyebrows and ire. Soon, though, surprises make themselves at home, part of everyday experience.
Visiting a distant hometown, however, shifts one’s universe. A once-busy shopping center has been conquered by Bennie the Bomb Fireworks. Why did town fathers allow trees to grow so big? That implies we’ve added rings to our girth, too.
My husband and I grew up in the same city, but our parents — and we — moved decades ago.
Now, new roads have sprouted like kudzu vines.
Though I can’t find our motel, I’ve located the street where I failed my driving test. I remind Hubby that I’ve never received a traffic ticket, whereas I can point to the stoplight he ran to earn one.
Hubby and I recall our accidents: mine, near the high school, watched by God and everybody; his, when a coal truck smacked his Opel two weeks before our wedding.
We cruise past former homes.
“They cut down my favorite tree!” I complain. Without my permission, yet.
“Our yard’s taken over by creepy little gnomes,” Hubby rants. “They’re by my room!”
We tour our old high school. Star Wars technology prevails, even in drinking fountains. The school now boasts a food court instead of a cafeteria. Too many choices! A few familiar areas comfort us. We recognize the classroom where we counted red-eyed and white-eyed fruit flies for our deep, dark genetics project. His locker’s still nearby — next to my ex-boyfriend’s. A nice reminder of how lucky Hubby is to have reversed the situation.
We visit the ice cream parlor where not only I, but my mother ate hot fudge sundaes after school. The store where Hubby rented prom and wedding tuxes. The restaurant where I, wearing the world’s ugliest uniform, served customers for a dollar an hour. The pre-McDonald’s fast-food restaurant where Hubby donned a folded paper hat and baggy uniform pants five inches too short.
We visit childhood churches that nurtured our faith in Christ. We reminisce about our wedding.
Finishing the tour, we agree: Our hometown is where we live now, not where we resided 50 years ago. However, this place continues to impact us. Nothing will change that.
Not even a gnome invasion.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you visited your hometown recently?
Father, thank You for interior decorators, for those who beautify so many inside spaces for us. But, OMG, how thankful I am that You are the Master Exterior Decorator — and You do it all for free!
When my future husband graduated from high school, his parents gave him a manual typewriter.
If a fussy professor at our college demanded typed assignments, perhaps I’d ask to borrow his gift. I’d hunt and peck because I’d taken no typing classes. After all, I’d planned to major in music.
Unfortunately, I dropped out. My medical-school-student fiancé and I married when even fast-food jobs were scarce. No one paid singers, even if they knew 10 Italian songs and five German. Would the typing classes I’d taken at night help me find work?
Yes! We would eat.
However, I refused to sacrifice my lunch hour to type Hubby’s papers on my office’s Selectric. At home, the manual machine made me crazy.
He typed. In our one-room apartment. At night.
Clackety-clack … clack-clack-clackety-DING!
I buried my head in my pillow. Midnight came. One o’clock.
When I later worked at a medical center, my speed increased and I learned to spell words like “ecchymosis” and “telangiectasia.” Then I worked in a newspaper’s secretarial pool, where we typed obituaries and The Cow News (stockyard reports) on a word processor.
No paper, carbons or correction fluid — yay! No “ding,” and clacks morphed into taps.
When our children were born, I quit typing. Little fingers would have turned my attempts into Sanskrit.
A decade later, though, as a church choir director, I wrote newsletter articles. Despite rusty skills, my fingers navigated a computer.
Amazingly, I found myself writing newspaper and magazine articles.
Now, having published more than 800 short pieces and 27 books, I type much faster than I write. This longtime marriage of mind and fingers works. Will I follow current dictating trends and break them up?
Hubby uses dictation, though, murmuring a pleasant background as I work elsewhere. His late-night sessions remind me he’s there. I like that.
What if we had to use manual typewriters? Clackety-clack-DING! 10,000 times a day? My predawn inspirations would prove fatal. He’d never live to teach.
If either partner wants to wreak post-spat revenge, the cobwebby manual still resides in our garage.
No. Let’s leave that antique in the garage, where it belongs.
Besides, even for this antique pair, making up is much more fun.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What was your first typing device?
Lord, how blessed we are to see our handsome grandson march with his award-winning high school band!
And, OMG, thank You for the nearby food trucks, too. …
When Old Friends visit, we eat at Ivanhoe’s, a restaurant boasting 100 sundaes and shakes.
Still, I’m the star attraction, you understand.
I come to Ivanhoe’s early, where I hoard the last empty table and chairs like a miser. Seventy-three people lined up at the counter glare.
My mean face warns every Harley rider, professor, farmer, mommy, pastor and sixth-grader: Go ahead, make my day. Grab this table, and I’ll dance on it to the loudspeaker music.
You don’t want to see that.
Old Friends arrive! We hug, and they join the line. I remain at my post, teeth bared.
Finally seated, we catch up on marrying and burying news. The crowd’s noise makes it difficult to hear, but we fix that. We yell.
Old Friend #1: Our 401k tanked.
Old Friend #2: (louder) My son’s driving an army tank, too.
O. F. #3 (louder) My last tank of gas cost a second mortgage.
O.F. (LOUD) Your septic tank overflowed?
The dining room clears. We don’t have to stand in line for dessert.
We study the menu as if it determines our eternal destiny and choose Moose Tracks, Mocha Almond Crumb, Fudge Mint, Butterscotch, Raspberry, and Boston Cream Pie Sundaes. Sacred silence prevails as we dig in.
Even after ice cream, we fit in the van — if we bunch like celery and don’t breathe. But Jaws of Life has to free us.
As we yak at my house, I remember when my husband and I sang at one Old Friend’s wedding. Another O.F. and I, having daughters of similar ages, braved training bras, driving lessons and wedding planning together. A third O.F. created an over-the-hill cake, complete with open grave, for my 40th birthday.
We prayed together throughout decades. About real estate, wars, car break-downs, pregnancies, weird relatives, the President, potty training, abortion, teen drivers and last, but not least, our husbands. No one could — or can — escape our prayers.
All too soon, they leave. But I’ll travel to one Old Friend’s feast in December, when she prepares homemade soups and breads with melt-in-your-mouth Christmas cookies of every size, shape and flavor.
I can’t wait to see Old Friends again.
They’re the star attraction, you understand.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What old friends are special to you?
Jesus, thank You for the beauty and grace of the deer You created. I’m thankful You preserved them on Noah’s Ark. But OMG, did those lovely Bambis and Falines wreak havoc there the way they do in my yard?