Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Camping with Cicadas

Last summer, my husband and I set up our camper in Versailles State Park amid southern Indiana’s lush, green hills. Beautiful weather. Perfect.

Except for an odd, reverberating hum whose volume increased every hour.

Ooooooo-mmmmmmm.

Hubby snapped his fingers. “Oh, yeah. Cicadas. I read the every-17-year swarm — this one’s called ‘Brood X’ — will arrive this summer.”

Image by Stefan Lins from Pixabay.

I recalled my childhood fascination with cicadas’ molting. My siblings and I giggled at our mother’s squeals when Dad tossed empty shells at her. We perched additional shells on the screen door for her viewing pleasure.

Nowadays, I enjoy cicadas’ summer evening concerts, but Brood X’s noise made me shudder. “Reminds me of 1960s sci-fi movies before aliens show up.”

“The Return of the Monster Cicada,” Hubby intoned in a Vincent Price voice and threw a shell at me.

Image by Parlansky from Pixabay.

The nonstop drone only hinted at Indiana’s bug invasion. According to Elizabeth Barnes and Cliff Sadof of Purdue University, up to 1.5 million cicadas per acre might leave their 17-year underground larvae childhood to climb trees and party.

I thanked God that multitudes of His interesting but noisy little creatures gathered on campsites elsewhere. Those insect swingers appeared so desperate for dates that they climbed anything resembling a tree. A few shinnied up our camp table legs. Up signposts.

Occasionally, on us.

“Get lost.” I brushed off would-be suitors. “I’m taken.”

“If we were survival camping, you’d ask them to dinner.” Hubby consulted his smartphone. “They’re low in cholesterol. See, somebody topped cookies with them.”

“I wouldn’t survive cicada cookies,” I retorted, “and neither would you.”

The Tyson United Methodist Church in Versailles, Indiana, was completed in 1937.

I suggested a walk around historic Versailles, where we read about John Hunt Morgan’s Confederate raid and viewed a unique 1937 Art Deco church.

Ooooooo-mmmmmmm. The weird bug love song still sounded as if crooned into microphones. Piles of cicada shells grew beneath trees. We tiptoed along sidewalks to avoid squishing our fellow pedestrians.

Back at our campsite, I ignored ooo-mmms and gave thanks for bugless s’mores. For a fun experience amid beautiful, rugged hills, despite the swarm.

Fortunately, another Brood X won’t occur for another 16 years.

If I still camp at age 85, I plan to head north.

Our noisy neighbors swarmed the campground, the state park, and the nearby town of Versailles, Indiana.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a swarm like Brood X?

Bicycle and Marriage Built for Two

“It won’t be a stylish marriage; I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.”

According to writer Harry Dacre, his heroine, Daisy Bell, and her sweetheart seemed destined for marital bliss.

My husband and I? Not always.

Whatever a stylish marriage is, I don’t think ours qualifies. I don’t look sweet, either, red face sweating as Hubby and I climb hills on our tandem bike.

We’ve come a long way since our first tandem ride 19 years ago, when we bought the bike as both celebration and consolation for our empty nest.

Hubby explained this “togetherness” hobby would work for us. “It’s the perfect solution for riders of — er — unequal athletic levels.”

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay.

Let Hubby do most of the work? Sounded like a plan to me.

After 30 years, we didn’t expect our first ride would send us back to Marriage 101. That we would nearly take out our neighbor’s trash cans. Starting and stopping required the precision of our operating like bicycle gears. Hubby hadn’t realized navigating turns would be like driving a semi. Dragging an extra person up a hill would resemble hauling an oversize load.

I, taking the back seat, hadn’t realized I’d see nothing in front but Hubby’s back. Nor did I understand that without exception, I had to communicate my intention to procure my water bottle. Once, my shift in balance sent us careening toward a pickup.

Image by Simon Gatdula from Pixabay.

Hubby and I still disagree on how to deal with 4,371 dogs that guard roads throughout our county.

Canines always lunge for riders on the back seat. Ergo, my approach: “Pedal for your — I mean, my — life!”

Hubby’s: “We’ll never outrace them. Yell at the dogs to alert the owner.”

What if the owner commutes to Chicago?

Image by S Hermann and F. Richter from Pixabay.

Despite our differences, we enjoy aspects of the Indiana countryside many people miss — rustling cornfields, forested hills and flower-covered meadows. Cows and horses can’t make heads nor tails of this odd, two-headed creature passing their fields.

Image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay.

Daisy and her man probably discovered that riding a tandem and achieving wedded bliss are work! Both are acquired tastes — especially puffing up those hills.

Though on that first ride, we hit speed bumps, Hubby and I have kept both tandem and marriage moving. They’re our favorite pastimes.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever ridden a tandem bicycle?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Whatever Happened to Buying Fisher-Price?

O Lord, I can hardly believe it! Shopping for my granddaughter’s freshman dormitory supplies? But thank You our three generations did it together.

She seemed to have a good time with her sweet mom — even, OMG, with her misbehavin’ grandma.  

Church Lady Complications

Image by Barbara Jackson from Pixabay.

Sunday, when I worship Christ with His family and grow in my faith, is my favorite day of the week. However, even a confirmed church lady occasionally experiences a Sunday that makes her wish it was Monday.

Those tough Sundays happened more frequently during my years as a church music director.

One unholy morning, my pastor met me at the door. He’d changed his sermon topic on the way to church. Would I please restructure the service in five minutes? Thank you.

Half the choir music had disappeared. Who steals church choir music?

The regular accompanist had left on vacation. Our substitute struggled, but she played loud to make up for it. During practice, I sneaked a signal to our young sound man, Dylan. Turn the piano down.

Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay.

I fastened a microphone to my lapel and hung its little black box on my waistband. Dylan usually did a good job, but this morning, the sound system hated us both. After squawking and squeaking sound checks, I quickly made a restroom stop before heading downstairs to warm up the choir. Without warning, the microphone leaped from my lapel and dove into the toilet, followed by the clunk of the little black box.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay.

I screamed, clearing the restroom of primping churchgoers.

Did I really have to fish the mic out of the toilet?

Ewww. …

Its green power light no longer shone. I wiped the microphone with a dampened paper towel, then tried to dry it. As I headed to the sound booth, I pasted on a toothpaste-ad smile and avoided shaking hands.

Dylan was also a church board member. What could I say?

In a microsecond, I evaluated my fib files. None came close to explaining this.

I held out the still-damp, $200 device. “Dylan, I dropped the mic in the toilet. I’m sorry.”

He stared, then whipped around to test a second mic. “Hurry! Service starts soon.”

No threats of dragging me before the Inquisition. Or the budget committee.

Image by Valerie from Pixabay.

The little green light on this second mic shone like a candle of compassion. I rewired myself, incredulous at his forbearance.

Decades later, I remember that complicated Sunday, when I wished with all my heart it was Monday.

Thanks to a fellow Christian’s maturity, not so unholy, after all.

Image by BenteBoe from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a complicated Sunday?

A Clothesline Chat

Image by AlkeMade from Pixabay.

On a blue-sky morning with a delicious summer breeze, don’t you want to hit the beach?

Image by Willi Heidelbach from Pixabay.

Me, too. (Sigh.) Instead, I meet our clean-underwear quota.

I remember clotheslines with chorus lines of jigging jeans. Wind-chubby, upside-down shirts. Billowing sheets sailing in a heavenly sky-ocean. My siblings and I flitted in and out of a blue-and-white world.

As I stuff wet laundry into the dryer, yesterdays hover like butterflies.

We were crazed moths, drawn to clean laundry like a flame. Fresh from the playground, we plopped into laundry baskets. The clothes didn’t mind grassy, muddy hugs, but Mom did.

Image by Adriano Gadini from Pixabay.

We despised bedtime, but clean sheets’ sunny smell reminded us we could play outdoors tomorrow.

When I helped Mom, clothespins chomped my fingers like miniature monsters. A determined little laundress, I learned to pinch them instead.

Everyone possessed a clothesline, then. For big families like ours, every day was a potential wash-and-dry day — if the sun appeared. Sometimes, he’d shine while we filled lines with clothes, then played hooky. Worse, he conspired with rowdy, storm-cloud friends, who gleefully doused a morning’s hard work. When the sun left for Florida in December, clothes morphed into stiff, frozen aliens that refused to fit into a basket.

No wonder we — and much of America — greeted dryers with enthusiasm. Clotheslines became an endangered species.

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.

Recently, however, their number has increased, mostly for ecological reasons.

Despite her neighborhood association’s rules, Susan Taylor of Bend, Oregon, set up a clothesline. She became the star of a neighbor’s covert photographing sessions. Even after Susan screened her offensive laundry behind backyard trees, then a curtain in her open garage, the association filed a lawsuit against her.

Susan and others nationwide won their point, though, because Oregon and 18 other states now ban bans on clotheslines.

Image by Jay Mantri from Pixabay.

I don’t own one, mostly because Hubby’s too busy to install it. But I’d like to fulfill our clean-underwear quota with a clothesline, hanging them behind sheets, as Mom taught me. I could return to that heavenly, blue-and-white world, then snuggle at night into sun-kissed sheets smelling of a fresh tomorrow.

Unlike Susan, I live where people care more about each other than the way they dry clothes.

Her neighborhood’s dirty laundry has been aired all over the Internet. I wonder … have they learned to be neighbors yet?

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever used a clothesline?

T-Ball Time Again

T-ball, the kiddie variation of baseball, didn’t exist when my husband and I were kids. Instead, we played neighborhood softball. I discovered my talent for missing flies. Hubby learned to hit the ball — when new eyeglasses revealed its existence.

Thank goodness, our five-year-old started his baseball career with T-ball and a caring coach.

Most of the team managed to hit the ball, yet challenges abounded. Four-year-olds who had not learned to count demanded seven strikes. Batters chopped as if cutting wood. The tee, instead of the ball, flew into the air. Confused fielders stared. Were they were supposed to catch and throw this thing to first base? Napping outfielders found a hurtling ball a nuisance. One future ballerina at shortstop practiced pliés as it whizzed past.

Though everyone wanted to tag the batter out. Can you say, “gang tackle”?

Eventually, our son left T-ball behind for competition in which nobody took naps. Nobody practiced pliés.

Where was the fun in that? While I celebrated his Little League team’s championship, I missed T-ball’s creativity.

Fast-forward three decades. Again ripe with sunblock, bug spray and pride, I anticipated another T-ball game.

Our grandson’s.

Image by Chris Pastrick from Pixabay.

He joined a flock of pint-sized ballplayers wearing shirts that reached their knees, shorts that reached ankles, and hats that reached noses. Fielders lifted mitts half their body weights. Our son, the assistant coach (aka crowd-controller) walked players to positions, as some might get lost. He and the head coach demonstrated catching, throwing and hitting.

T-ball, like everything else, had become educational. That’s good.

My heart warmed, though, when an outfielder picked daisies. This pitcher jitterbugged rather than doing pliés, consumed with the joy of playing. The brave assistant coach refereed fielder pileups.

Having inherited his father’s early baseball passion, our grandson had been smacking it off a tee since he learned to walk.

“He’s a better player than I was,” our son admitted during a family Zoom session.

Three generations of Cubs fans on their way to a game.

“A great trend,” his grandfather said. “Your dad was better than I. You were a better player than he. Now, your son’s even better.”

“Someday,” I interjected, “I’ll look down from heaven and watch our descendant in a Cubs uniform.”

Fun to project our dreams on future descendants.

But do such extravagant visions rival T-ball’s fun?

Nah.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you attended a T-ball game lately?

Classic Post: Festival Magic

This post first appeared on August 1, 2018.

If you’re a normal Midwesterner, you have attended or will have attended a festival this summer.

If abnormal, you saved lots of money. And added years to your life.

Still, we who joyously hand over cash and longevity wouldn’t miss these hometown Mardi Gras for anything.

Not long ago, I helped staff a booth at the Blueberry Festival in Plymouth, Indiana, my former hometown. Not a novelty. When we resided in Plymouth, I sold soft drinks to fund my children’s activities. I also joined most of the town’s population (10,000) in parking cars that annually brought 350,000 people to the party.

This time, however, I signed books I’d written, including The Return of Miss Blueberry, set during this festival.

Yay! I didn’t sink into melting asphalt. Nor did I, like dozens of stand owners, hover over sizzling stoves. Instead, I perched inside the souvenir/information booth, yakking with old friends. I even met Miss Blueberry, whose golf cart graced the park.

My privileged position, however, brought new challenges.

If you stand behind book stacks, people think you know something.

Thankfully, after 28 years of Blueberry Festivals, I could answer the Number One Question: “Where are the bathrooms?”

When 350,000 people need to go, they mean business.

“Paid restrooms across the covered bridge,” I recited. “Free portable johns near Jefferson School.”

By the 177th inquiry, a tiny inner voice whispered, “For this you achieved an English degree?”

I quashed it (See, the degree didn’t go to waste.), glad I could, um, serve humanity.

Question Number Two: “Where are the blueberry doughnuts?” The seekers’ eyes mirrored the restroom hunters’ urgency.

Yes, people came to scream themselves into spasms on carnival rides, to applaud bands, crow in rooster contests, paint faces, reenact battles, cheer Little League, rassle pigs, and test testosterone with sledgehammers and souped-up tractors. They scoured craft tents for quilts, stained glass, handmade furniture, John Deere china and marshmallow shooters.

But whether attendees wear polyester shorts, Amish attire or tattoos with little else, food sends them to festivals. All year, everyone dreams of favorites:

  • Corn popped in an enormous black kettle.
  • Thanksgiving-platter-sized tenderloin sandwiches.
  • Deep-fried elephant ears, butter, Pop-Tarts® and Kool-Aid.
  • Plus, all things blueberry: doughnuts, pies, sundaes.

“If you buy here, neither of us starves!” read one stand’s caption. Watching the line at his window, I doubted any danger of either.

Back to booth duties. I was not only expected to know all, but to locate all: lost eyeglasses, car keys, phones and preschoolers.

I also was to ensure good weather for the hot-air balloon launch.

I had no idea that booth would grant me such cosmic power. But that’s what festival magic will do for you.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What is your favorite festival and why?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Wish I Hadn’t Quit!

O Lord, You recall how my mom begged me to practice piano, but finally gave up and allowed me to quit lessons. Thank You that my daughter didn’t cave — and, OMG, her boys make wonderful music!

Graduation Then and Now

Image by Gerhard C. from Pixabay.

High school graduation celebrations have changed since my husband — then boyfriend — and I graduated in 1971. Boy, we painted the town red.

We went to the Dairy Queen.

Today a 50-cent sundae no longer cuts it. Graduation celebrations now resemble a Times Square New Year’s bash or a Walmart’s grand opening.

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay.

Parents suffer from open house syndrome, in which they attempt to recreate their worlds before anyone discovers they’ve been living in squalor. Forget painting the living room. Talented home renovators add new wings, while home improvement klutzes knock out one too many walls. To offset costs, creative parents charge admission to open houses, with extra fees for use of bathrooms and chairs. Some install magnets in sofas to collect loose change.

Image by Vicki Nunn from Pixabay.

Mothers experience acute cleaning disorder. Even the gentlest women blow away dust bunnies. Advanced cases not only clean under their own appliances, they sneak next door to scrub under neighbors’ refrigerators. While most recover, chronic sufferers cannot cope with normalcy. When they run out of children to graduate, they recruit teens off the street.

Those with severe graduation syndrome also share all 50 poses of their children’s senior pictures with waiters, flagmen and ATMs.

Other aspects of graduation have changed. Cards nowadays are honest: “Congratulations! We never thought you’d make it!” and the ever-popular “Happy Graduation. Here’s money. Please leave our state.”

Although graduation gifts have evolved from pen sets in 1971 to Porsches in 2022, books remain a staple — a mystery to students, as they have waited 13 years to escape books. Still, they open Great-aunt Clarabelle’s rectangular gift, hoping it contains gold bars rather than devotionals like God Is Watching You at College.

Image by Kris White from Pixabay.

Hubby and I would never hurt friends’ feelings, so we attend open houses and force ourselves to eat piles of meatballs and little hot dogs. To honor graduates, we sample each and every cake, finishing with a sentimental stop at the Dairy Queen.

With full stomachs, Hubby and I return to a house full of junk. We’re afraid to open closet doors. The yard resembles a pasture.

We jump back into the car and cruise downtown. There’s gotta be a kid there who needs an open house.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How are graduations celebrated in your area?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Grandma Blinked

O Lord, You know that once upon a time, this beautiful little girl invited me to Grandparents’ Day. The happy ever after is that she’s grown into a beautiful young woman, inside and out. But OMG, can’t we replay the story a few dozen times?