Sum-sum-summertime!

A nice thing happened last week – one of my sister’s besties shared two pieces from my old blog and it was a huge encouragement for at least two reasons:  1) It touches me that she saved them, since I only vaguely remember writing either one, and 2) It didn’t make me cringe to read them again from this vantage point.

Reposting one here:

Kim and I have been catching some advertising on TV that has us scratching our heads.  The ads are for a well-known outdoor-recreation merchandiser of colossal proportions, touting their store-sponsored summer camps.  The footage shows happy children and their parents sleeping in tents, toasting marshmallows, going fishing, and participating in other fun activities associated with the open-air experience – all of it taking place

INSIDE THE STORE!

I’m all for exposing kids to new experiences and the joys of outdoor living, but somehow the ads only succeed in making me feel sad.  I grew up camping with my family, so I know it doesn’t have to cost big bucks for the real thing unless you require everything to be first class.

First class we weren’t – more like a band of gypsies – but I wouldn’t trade those summer idylls for anything.  My dad was an irrigation farmer, making it difficult for him to get away during the over-heated summer months; however, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Three or four times a year, between May and September, my parents, an aunt and uncle, and a raft of kids would load up and go to the lake for several days of sun, swimming, water-skiing, sleeping under the stars, and eating food cooked outdoors.  There was a little fishing here and there, too, and we were usually joined by other relatives and friends at various points during our stay.

My grandpa had stocked up on Army surplus items when the gettin’ was good (and cheap), so we had access to a big green army tent that was hot as blazes after a day in the sun but did a good job of sheltering us from the elements; kerosene lanterns; cots and smelly sleeping bags; portable cook-stoves; ammo boxes for storage; and most anything else a few days without the comforts of home might require.

After loading the station wagon with everything from soup to nuts, the first stop was the grocery store for all the real food – bags upon bags of it.  Then with everyone crammed into the vehicles we caravanned to the nearest large body of water, an hour and a half away, happy as clams, singing, laughing, and playing travel games, and with much “discussion” over who got the spot between Mother and Daddy in the front seat.

We kept a small ski boat and a big old (with the emphasis on old) ramshackle trailer house in a storage area at Cedar Bluff Lake, towing both down to the water upon arrival.  The boat would be launched, the trailer leveled insofar as was possible, the tent(s) set up, the charcoal grills placed on standby, and all things put in order for an extended stay.  We kids, of course, barely noticed that these things were happening.  We’d either worn our swimsuits on the drive up, or shucked into them the minute the wheels stopped rolling, and we were happily jumping off the dock, dunking each other, yelling, running around … and asking what we could have to eat.

Our mom and aunt seemed to do little besides cook the entire time, when they weren’t busy grabbing a streaking, flailing kid at every opportunity in order to slather him/her with sunscreen, but they were nevertheless visibly more relaxed and laid-back about life than at home.  Everyone who’s experienced it knows there’s something about food cooked and consumed outdoors that enhances its flavor many times over, and we feasted like royalty.  Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and fruit for breakfast, baloney sandwiches, chips and veggies for lunch, grilled hotdogs, hamburgers, steaks or chicken with all the extras in the evenings.  And a steady, day-long supply of cold soda and Black Cow bars, plus anything else we could manage to ferret out of its hiding spot.

The babies played in the sand.  The little kids banded together and pursued their own enterprises of hiking, exploring, sharing secrets, and defending each other from callous onslaughts by the medium-sized kids … who obviously dedicated their time to harassing the little kids.

The bigger kids’ hours were defined by transistor radios, water-skiing, sun-tanning, and keeping a close watch for interesting-looking members of the opposite sex.  The kicker was that our parents preferred going to the lake during the week rather than on weekends in order to avoid the crowds, so the pickings were slim.

Our dads spent their time trying to keep the boat motor running, hot-dogging on slalom skis as a reward for their efforts, and consuming quantities of cold beer.

And our moms, who were known to do a little sun-tanning themselves while catching up on their reading and talking, were no doubt simply thankful to survive it all one more time.

The time always passed far too quickly, and after three or four days of non-stop sun and water everything would be packed into the cars again for the trip home, each and every item either wet or coated with gritty sand, or both.

Unlike on the drive up, there was no singing; there was barely a word spoken.  We were all sunburned within an inch of our lives, AGAIN, and God help the child who inadvertently touched a sibling on any part of his or her person.  We were well-acquainted with the misery of sun-burnt skin and we swore each time that it would never happen again, but nobody in our acquaintance yet knew how potentially deadly the condition was, so we were not nearly as careful as we should have been.  On the way home, the only reason anybody vied for the middle spot in the front seat was because that’s where the A/C blew the coldest.

It was rude, it was crude, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  We loved every minute of it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat … if only to have all those people back with us for one more lazy summer.

Not every child will be lucky enough to experience the kind of summers we did, but I do hope they realize that there’s more to life than a pseudo camp-out in a retail store.

 

Burntside-Lake

 

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The Right Stuff…

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The magic was always in the secrets and the rush and the crazy, trying to make each holiday season the best one ever, the gifts perfect, the food exactly according to tradition, all for that elusive (illusive) Old-Fashioned Christmas.

On this December 24th, in the year (of our Lord?) 2016, the magic lies elsewhere. It’s in the big messy bed, the fog hanging outside our windows, the Salted Caramel Bailey’s swirling into the coffee mugs, the Kim Breakfast because Saturday, the spa tub filling.

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, Santa will bring the Zen all over again – Black Forest ham, scalloped potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, lovely rolls, easy munchies. Vino, always. A Pentatonix Christmas, we love those sweet babies. And later, when we’re in our cups, Bad Santa. Saving Hudsucker Proxy for New Year’s, 2017 apropos.

The Real Christmas was always at my maternal grandparents’ house, where one long, very long, table was set up through the living and dining rooms, and pretty packages spilled far past the tree while Grandma and her daughters and daughters-in-law still frantically wrapped gifts in a spare bedroom, giving the door a kick once in a while to keep nosy grandkids away. My mom was one of nine offspring, who were themselves fairly prolific, so Christmas dinner could involve 40 people or more, with additional afternoon drop-ins.

The women cooked the enormous meal, the kids raised hell, and after dinner my good-looking uncles rolled up their sleeves, stored food, picked the turkey carcass clean for leftovers, and washed the dishes, no rugrats allowed in the kitchen. The uncles, former Marines, Korean War, could be intimidating when they put their foot down, and were no doubt laughing up their collective sleeves at us every year. Omigod, we were insufferable.

They’re gone, those people, and I can’t even find a photo this morning to honor the first Christmases of my heart. The pictures are here somewhere, in an album online or on a shelf, old Kodachrome color snaps – upwards of 60 or more of us crammed into one glorious photo with the tree barely showing in the back and wrapping paper still strewn. That’s how my heart remembers it.

I hope your Christmas, old-fashioned or otherwise, will be sweet. Tuck it into your heart…those memories belong to us forever.

 

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The calm before the earthquake…

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Another beautiful Saturday morning in the neighborhood – Farmers Market is busy, #lfk is opening her arms to us as always, the sun’s shining, 67º and easy. Friends who are family have included us in their 3-Day Labor Day Blow-Out, so the day promises lazy fun around the pool and great food including BANANA PUDDING!!

The Official Saturday Breakfast that hasn’t diminished an iota in more than twelve years of Saturdays – always the best-tasting, most satisfying meal of the week – has been humbly savored. And now Kimmers is in his Happy Place, the one with the stove, putting together a big pot of beans & hotlinks for the Framily. The sun is in its heaven and all’s right with the world – we’d make every day look pretty much like this if it were in our power.

Turns out, and experience teaches us this, there’s bloody little we control, and there are watershed events as we roll through life that abruptly stop the momentum and make us take an accounting. Therefore, second, third, eleventh chances cannot be overrated, and spending vital chunks of the past week with my cherished baby sister has driven that point home as nothing else has in years. It’s never a bad idea to stop and take a look under our public face, down to the one we wear for our own use, and past that to the Real Us. A fresh face-off (see what I did there?) with mortality is an exquisite motivator to change what needs changing, fix what needs fixing, just DO it, now instead of someday.

To close out The Week That Was, we had an earthquake mere seconds after Kim took the sunrise picture. It was apparently 5.6 at its epicenter, 3.2 here, 235 miles northeast. Rattled things pretty energetically up here on the 4th floor…but after the earthshaking week behind us it was only an entertaining blip.

I hope your Labor Day celebrations will be earthshaking in all the best ways.

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Memorial Weekend…again

Went back to my 2014 remembrance post this morning, knowing that for too many people every weekend is memorial weekend.

It’s a typically perfect Memorial Day morning here, like so many from my childhood, when every year we could count on it to be raining or blistering hot and windstill, or freezing cold, or all of the above, in gusts, or maybe cool and clear after one of those rains. In Lawrence this morning it’s 79º headed for 82, sunny, blue skies, humidity has dropped from 89% when I went out at 7am to 60% five hours later, and it’s exquisitely beautiful out.

But life holds more than beauty  – especially for those who will never see any of it again – and cloudy skies take over sometimes.  By 2pm we’re supposed to be mostly under cloud cover here, which seems altogether fitting for the day.

In 2016 I reshare my family’s story out of gratefulness, and out of reverence for, and abhorrence of, unspeakable loss on all sides throughout the generations.

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First posted Memorial Weekend 2014 (with edits 5/30/2016 – a personalized haiku for anyone who’s bored enough to find them all – link provided below.)

My grandpa enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 and served at the front as an infantryman during WWI.  His six sons were all military men, Army, Navy, and Marines.  The three Marines, 18, 19, and 21 were in the Korean Conflict at the same time, in the same general location, under miserable conditions.  All seven Reese military personnel returned home intact in body and went on to raise thriving families of their own.  Many of my cousins have also served with honor in the military.  The only family member I’m aware of, without digging into the archives, who was directly lost to war, was my Aunt Bette’s husband, making her a teenage widow with a baby. The baby, my cousin Vickie, is standing in front of her mother and between our grandparents in the family portrait. My mama is top right in both the portrait and the thumbnail pics, somehow descriptive of her position in my life for all time. And kudos today to my Baby Aunt Barbara, lower right in both, who put this collage together.

So thankful to have four of the original Reese Dynasty kids – Vic, Jerry, Barbara, and Roger – present and accounted for, on this Memorial Remembrance in the year 2016. Hugs and kisses all around, beloved.

Ongoing family is priceless. Feeling deeply thankful right about now.

Reese Family

 

Okay, Constant Reader, the edits took on a life of their own, so don’t even try. If, however, you’d originally thought you might, for the haiku, throw me a subject and I’ll do it anyway!

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