Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On Love

An Arundel Tomb By Philip Larkin

Side by side, their faces blurred,   
The earl and countess lie in stone,   
Their proper habits vaguely shown   
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,   
And that faint hint of the absurd—   
The little dogs under their feet.

Such plainness of the pre-baroque    
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still   
Clasped empty in the other; and   
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,   
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.

They would not think to lie so long.   
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace   
Thrown off in helping to prolong   
The Latin names around the base.

They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,   
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths   
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright   
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths   
The endless altered people came,

Washing at their identity.   
Now, helpless in the hollow of   
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins   
Above their scrap of history,   
Only an attitude remains:

Time has transfigured them into   
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be   
Their final blazon, and to prove   
Our almost-instinct almost true:   
What will survive of us is love.


I adore Thanksgiving.  Great care goes into planning the menu, selecting the guests, organizing the house, charting seating arrangements, and choosing table settings.  The decorations are retrieved from the attic and carefully placed .  Last year, I sewed new table cloths and napkins using my new Babylock serger.  A birthday gift which I am still mastering.  Thanksgiving is how I show  the people who matter to me  that I really love them.  It is the Mt. Everest of my annual self actualization.  It is the way I prove to myself that I am a real girl, and not a sociopath, faking my way through life using my big brain to filter every emotion, and  mirror real feelings when I might not actually care at all.

Besides Christmas chocolates, that’s about it.  There are a few people too far away to participate in either ritual, and they know who they are.  They know me in ways that words, or food, or time, or geography transcend.  I like that.

As I contemplate the 2014 Thanksgiving, here is the 2013 Feast.  I had just inherited my mother-in-law’s cookbooks.  She was an intellectual woman.  I think she would have liked me mostly.  We met socially, but I hardly think it was memorable.  I was just a friend of the bride in her son’s first wedding at the time.  Anyway, I combed through the Williamsburg, Jamestown, Monticello and James River cookbooks.  And I researched every family recipe.  I interviewed  my chef brothers.  I interviewed other chefs I know.  I did what I do.

Hairston Family 2013
A Virginia Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Rosemary Parmesan coins

Smoked Trout

Steel Head Trout roe with crème fraiche and assorted crackers

Pan fried oysters

Dan Hendrix’s Clear Tomato Saffron and leek consomme

Orange Cranberry mold

Orange Date Mint Salad

Cherry  tomatoes stuffed with baby langoustine tails

Carter Mountain Apple Butter Spread with Old Dominion Cinnamon Raisin Bread

James Chiles Sally Lunn Rolls

Patrick O’Connell’s Swiss Chard with Lardons, shallots and sweet balsamic vinegar – The Inn at Little Washington

Roasted Melange of Root Vegetables

Truffle Shallot Mashed Potatoes

Venison Tenderloin Roast {compliments of Laura Kelly}, Chester, VA

Smoked Capicola Roast (smoked by Greg and compliments of the Allen family}, Burkeville, VA

Deep Fried Turkey – Richmond, Virginia

Creamy Turkey Giblet Gravy

Williamsburg Coconut Cream Pie

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Chocolate Pots de Crème

Satsuma Pots de Crème

Hairston Family Maple Pecan  and Pumpkin  “Schizophrenic” Pie – Springfield, Virginia

Assorted Still and Sparkling Drinks

Art Projects

If you need a perfect circle, you can remove one from the bottom of a paper cup.  This is exactly what we did for a project one rainy day.  There was no more paper, so we three were on the hunt for suitable materials.  I had three wire hangers.  We had pulled the triangle shapes at the bottom into large amoebas, approximating circles.  I had cut the feet off two pair of mother’s panty hose and we had stretched them over the hanger frames, tying them near the hook ends of the hangers with red yarn.  They were ready for glue.

Dan cut some things out of the stack of funnies.  Lin had the rabbit from the front of a discarded cereal box.  I was making pom-poms.  Making pom-poms is not hard.  You wind yarn around two discs, cut it in half, tie it off and give it a hair cut.   Some seeds and beans from the pantry make a nice mosaic.

Mother came into the kitchen and dialed the phone.  It was our signal to leave.

We crept into the living room.  This room was not used except for company.  Surely there was nothing in here?  “We’ll just double check”, said Dan.  And so we crept around the room while mother talked, dragging our art kits quietly.

The room had recently been redecorated.  The carpeting was the thickest and softest dark blue plush.  It squished between our toes.  To me, rolling over that soft carpeting was like crossing an ocean.  The sofa was a lighter blue velvet boat floating on that ocean of blue.  At each peak of the dust covers hanging over the legs on the bottom of the couch, there hung a silken blue tassle.  So beautiful!  And in each corner of the room was a raging red raspberry chair.  The armrests on the chairs had coverlets which doubled as hats when we were allowed in the room.  The drapes were Mediterranean blue brocade, and behind them hung the most delicate while sheers.  They were perfectly creased.  I learned many years later that is carefully done with steam.    I had my blunt nosed scissors.  I cut the center blue tassle, so the couch would still look balanced.  Then I climbed behind the couch, gathered those perfect creases the way they taught us in school,  and cut myself a single perfect snowflake from the hem of the white sheers.

All of the booty we gathered was carefully glued to our stocking covered hangers and hung where the projects could be admired.

Mother called us for lunch.  She lined up paper cups on the counter and poured punch into the bottomless cups which simply floated off the counter in a sea of sticky red.  Poor Mother had no idea what was happening!  She had no idea what was happening all day!

I found my project in the bottom of a box of things mother saved a few years back.  Hanger frame, ruined stockings, pom poms, couch tassel, and a frayed white snowflake stuck to it.  The beans fell off long ago.  Who knows, maybe they even sprouted.  I do know it cost her  something and that is why she saved it.

After that she always had a “kit” ready for me.  It was a lunch box filled with art supplies, and I loved it!

I personally keep a load of art supplies for my daughter.  The worst that has happened is pencil on walls.  She knows she has an eraser.  So she writes freely and then erases stuff.  I can live with that.  No so different than life really.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thirty-Two Lizards in a Pitcher or a Pot

Mother often gave us an empty pitcher for things.  We used it for collecting rocks or fossils.  Sometimes it was used for small bait fish or worms for trout fishing.  But one day, I cannot say how we had such great fortune, but a nest of blue bellied fence lizards must have hatched!  They were everywhere and we just had to go after them!  We asked for the pitcher and mother, without questioning, granted our wish.  She was on the phone and eager to be rid of us for a little while.  We ran outside with the pitcher and began running after the little buggers, careful not to harm them lest they lose their tails.  One after the other, we dropped them inside the large putty colored tupperware and snapped the lid down before they could scramble out!  Before long, there was a great ball of blue bellies clinging together in the bottom of the pitcher.  “Count tails”, said Lin.  “How many do we have?”  Dan said, “More than thirty, thirty-two exactly!”  I couldn’t believe our luck!  Thirty-two lizards holding hands in the bottom of a pitcher.  We could race them!  We could feed them.  Oh I had elaborate plans.

We set the pitcher on the counter and went to get the hot wheels tracks.  Mother hung up the phone, set a glass on the counter, opened the lid and began to pour with hardly a glance.  Never have I heard such a blood curdling scream.  Mother had poured our lizards out of the pitcher.  How could she!  Upon sensing their freedom they skittered over counters, up curtains, under cabinets.  They were everywhere!  I was delighted to see the kitchen decorated with blue bellies!  My mother was horrified and surprised beyond measure.  It is a terribly good thing we counted them.

I have seen no blue bellies lately, but we have five lined skinks with beautiful blue tails that live under our porch.  I see them hanging on the brickwork sunning themselves, and it makes me smile.  We had a beautiful red hibiscus in a large wheeled pot.  It attracted hummingbirds all summer.  It lasted three years and then died.  The pot remained empty on the porch, and eventually the skinks moved in and built their nests inside.  They were not discovered until this summer when I bought a new hibiscus and wanted to plant it in the large pot.  When I saw the parents guarding their eggs, we quickly covered the nest and left the pot undisturbed.  One cannot imagine my joy and excitement when I saw the first teeny skink racing around the inside of that empty pot with no hope of escape!  We built a little "bridge" for the skinks to escape the pot so the cowbirds that attack the reflective material on our windows will not eat them.  It is so tempting to catch one and tell my daughter I don't mind if she brings them in the kitchen for a short visit.  But then again, they are so fragile and beautiful.  I think there are at least thirty-two of them.

Rocks and Scorpions?

I had a class project once to collect insects and identify them.  The process was simple.  You netted a bug.  You identified it.  If you didn’t have it in your “collection”, then you put it in a babyfood jar that had some alcohol soaked cotton in the bottom and put the lid on.  The insect would humanely die (I hope),  and then you could mount it in a pencil box inside which you had put a small rectangle of Styrofoam.  “Mounting” consisted of stabbing the dead insect carefully through the point between the thorax and the abdomen without breaking it.  Exoskeletons can be quite brittle!  Usually, heads or antennae fell off, or legs broke.  After that, a small label with genus, species and common name was glued underneath.

It was then such a joy to look at them under a magnifying glass with my brothers, and pretend we were in a kind of sci-fi horror adventure inside the box with all those bugs.  Even more fun was having an insect “safari” with butterfly nets to collect new bugs for the collection.  I desperately wanted a walking stick, and a praying mantis.  Sadly,  we were overflowing with grasshoppers and butterflies.  There were a few beetles.

Dad woke us early one Saturday, as he often did, to take us up the canyon for a sunrise breakfast.  I loved these adventures.  They were a welcome break from the monotony of Saturday chores and babysitting my younger sisters.  It was a great opportunity to climb and hunt for fossils and rocks.  The air was chill.  Dad was still building our fire, and mother handed us an empty juice pitcher for our rocks.  We followed a hiking trail and crossed a rocky ridge into a field of sharp mountain shale.  I began to peel layers apart and lift larger rocks on a hunt for a good trilobite.  Dan and I spied a larger rock in the middle of the field and ran to it.  We pried it up, and there, underneath, we spied a small yellowish white scorpion.  It seemed to be nocturnal.  It was curled slightly in a ball as though resting or sleeping.  We knew better than to touch it.  What a find!  I found a long stick-like pointy piece of shale and gave it a poke.  The thing sprang to life, arching its tail threateningly and holding those delicate little pincers out.  Just as it did so, Dan gave me a shove and made a hissing sound.  It gave me quite a scare!  I scooped it up in the pitcher and slammed the lid down, and started sliding down the mountain toward my parents breakfast camp.

We showed our prize to Dad upon arrival.  He told us we could kill it in the baby food jar and mount it in the collection.  Technically not an insect, I hoped I could get extra credit for a rare arachnid found on a Utah mountain top.  Scorpions found in shale fields in the Wasatch mountains are not terribly common.  Mother shrilly told us to keep it away from the baby girls and never, ever touch it until it was good and dead.  We gave our solemn promise. 

And that is where things went awry.  We had used all the alcohol.  We put it in a baby food jar with a hole poked in the top and took it to school the next day.  Mr. Marzo took one look at it and said, “Wow, take it home, and don’t bring it back until it is dead.”  So I put it in my book bag and schlepped it home. 

Mother made us leave the jar on the picnic table on the patio.  “You are not bringing that thing in my house,” she said.  She had said it before.  About mice, a garter snake, a rabbit project we did for scouts, and other  dirty treasures we found that were incompatible with the inside of her house.  She was serious!  I  simply found an empty pickle jar and dumped it in.  No need for a lid, it wasn’t getting out.  I started looking for things a scorpion would eat, but it just remained in the bottom of the jar all balled up.  After a few days, I poked the scorpion with a pencil.  It didn't move at all.  “It is dead,” said Dan.  “We can take it back to school now.  So we tossed it around the yard for a while.  I know it seems odd, to play catch with a dead scorpion, but that is what we did.  Just some light catch with the little scorpion ball before dinner.  I can’t say exactly why.  I think we were just overtaken with boredom. As mother called us in for dinner, I tossed the little scorpion back into the bottom of the jar. 

The next morning before school, I cannot say what possessed me to grab a pencil and poke that little scorpion.  Maybe it was because it was sitting in sunshine.  I will never know exactly, but when the pencil poked it on the back, it sprang to life.  Tail curled, pincers out.  I could almost hear my brother hissing in my ear like he had on the mountainside all over again!  And just yesterday we had played catch with the thing!  “MOTHER!!!!!  How can I kill this thing once and for all?”  She donated a tablespoon of nail polish remover.  I drowned it, and proudly carried it to Mr. Marzo.  Who knows.  It may still be displayed in his collection.  If he is still living, that is.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Magic Mushroom

One night at bedtime my daughter held out her hands and asked me to hold something invisible but precious to her.  It was apparently very valuable and extremely fragile.  “Be careful!” she exclaimed, don’t drop it or get it dirty”.  I held the invisible something so gingerly while she said her prayers and slid down under the sheets.  She arranged her blankets and cuddled her stuffed monkey, and then she asked me to return it to her.

“I’ll be careful,” I replied.  And I ever so carefully, and with great curiosity, I handed the thing back to her as she lie there smiling at me.  As soon as the transfer was completed (and to my horror), she noisily ATE it!

“What happened?” I asked.

“Oh, that was Dee Dee”, she said.  “Dee Dee was a mushroom!”

Every once in a while, I ask her about Dee Dee.  She tells me to check her belly button.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

You’ll Get Yours!

Have you ever wondered why water balloons are so tiny?  Not only tiny, but very hard to fill.  We tried stretching them over the end of the hose, the kitchen sink, the bathroom sinks, and any other hose that would build enough pressure.  It is not like today where they actually make an attachment to facilitate water balloon filling.  No sir, you were on your own.  It was hard work.  And then the infernal things were as fragile as eggs!

But Oh!  The joy of plastering your brothers in the face with cold water bombs!  Hardly anything else could compare.  Especially if they were caught by surprise and could not immediately retaliate without making their own water bomb arsenal.  And so we spent the first weeks of summer hoarding chore money and allowance in order to buy small bags of the tiny balloons.  Keeping the buckets, water pistols and the number and location of balloons as state secrets.  And of course carefully plotting the strategy of water fights.

Until one day, everything changed.  We were in mother’s bathroom filling water balloons because it had the tiniest faucet.  We found a small foil packet by the sink.  It seemed curious.  So we opened it.  Inside was a balloon!  Not just any balloon; a wondrous stretchy magnificent gigantic unbreakable water balloon!  We filled it so full of water it was the size of a large watermelon!  We placed our newfound treasure in the bucket with all those teeny tiny colorful pain-in-the-neck water balloons.  And we hauled that bucket up to the roof where we had determined was the optimal position to drop water bombs on the enemy.

The “enemy” never knew what hit them.  He led his troops under the porch and never received such a soaking!  We were hooked.  We needed more!  Into my parents bathroom we dashed to rifle through everything looking for more of the foil packaged balloons.  And we filled every single one of them with water.  Then we hauled them up to the roof.

Dad pulled up into the car port as we were hurling the last batch of giant water missiles at my brother and his friends, who had abandoned hope and had turned the hose on us.  It was all out war!  He stared at us for a minute, and then he just started yelling.  Kids scattered every which way.  And we slithered off the roof; a soaking mess of humility.  We three sort of just slinked into the house with Dad stomping in behind us after turning off the hose.

We waited in anxiously in our rooms all through dinner for punishment to be handed down.  Mother came to our rooms after dinner and quietly told us why we could not use Trojans for water balloons, EVER.  And then Dad visited and informed me that one day I would have a child probably a lot like me.  He said it with affection, and pride.  And then with what I think was a lot of embarrassment, he added, he wanted me to remember this, because, he said, “You will get yours”.

And that brings me to a Sunday night not so long ago when I noticed my night table drawer standing open.  Now, I’m a normal woman, not a huge perv.  I go to church every Sunday, and I’ve been married a while.  Bu no one opens that drawer except me.  So I checked the contents and something was missing!  I asked the spousal unit, “Did you take a toy out of there to put batteries in it”?  Nope.  OMG!!!!!  I AM GETTING MINE RIGHT NOW!  “Self”, says I, “remain calm”.  And then I freaked out and tore the house apart.  My daughter was in bed asleep.  No sense in waking her.  Eventually, I found it in my daughter’s church bag (of course).  Cause that is where you take a pocket rocket.  To church!  Bible: check.  Coloring book and crayons: check.  Vibrator: you betcha!

The following morning, I asked her as casually as possible, “Did you find something in my room, that maybe you wanted to ask me about”?  And she said, “Oh mommy yes!  It was the coolest.  I showed it to all my friends in junior Sunday School, and my teacher too!  And the teacher told me to just keep it in my bag”.

There is a cipher lock on my bedroom door now.  And if anyone at church gives me a sidelong glance, I’ll be happy to let them know they are eligible to get theirs too!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Triangle of Course

My daughter had to do an “All About Me” presentation at school.  Of course it was loaded with rocks.  We tumbled small rocks in the tumbler so that she could present each of her classmates with the gift of a polished rock.  As each child selected a stone, she identified it for them.  Rose quartz, fluorite, jade, jasper, moonstone, etc.

She showed pictures and objects as prescribed by the assignment on her poster board.  She talked about being born on Christmas Day.  And she did a small presentation of rocks.  There was hackmanite with tenebrescence.  She turned off the classroom lights and showed everyone how it glows eerily under ultraviolet light.  Wow!  There was a piece of willemite laden with zinc crystals which glows green under UV light.  It makes one feel as though it is from outer space!  And she shined a light through a piece of selenite.  Selenite conducts light much the way fiber optics do; and I am positive the science grew out of its study.  Last, she showed a river stone which we had painted together.  She painted hers to look like a frog, mine is a skunk.  It is a cute little guy, but I never thought it was anything special beyond the time we spent together. 

After the presentation, she was able to call on her friends who raised their hands.  They peppered her with unrelated questions.  One child asked her, “What is your favorite shape?”  Her immediate reply, “The triangle, of course”.  And this gave me great pause. 

I have never considered my favorite shape!  Do I have one?  What would it be?  What is my favorite shape?  And I had a small existential crisis.  I did geometry for a while looking for it.  I went back through notebooks and discovered I DON’T DOODLE.  I don’t even fill in the spaces in the letters like some of my colleagues do.  I do glance at pages and see every crooked line, every imbalance, every misspelled word, every error.  And it is like a secret joke to me.  I long ago squashed my need to perfect every page.  It only belittles and alienates those around me for whom I care so much.  With whom I feel so connected in myriad other ways.  Unless you ask, I will not tell you what is wrong with it, even if it is obvious to me.  I was hooked on two parallel lines for a while, but I decided they're not really a shape.  So for now, I have selected an infinity sign.  Eight that fell over is ok with me.

She came home with a pile of thank you cards.  The feedback from her friends was most articulate for children of that age.  What do you imagine impressed the children the most?  It was a 50-50 tie between the UV flashlight and the rock painted to look like a frog!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rock Trouble

“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, mom, MOTHER”!

“I am on the phone!”, she hissed.  She spent a lot of time on the phone.

“Mom, if you don’t listen to me right now, I am going to drop this rock on your foot”, said I.

“Ok”.  She said.

So I did.
It was high crime at our house to hurt mother.  I didn’t think it would hurt.  Not really.  I am sooo glad I did not throw that rock.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


We had a partially finished basement.  Most of the rooms were forbidden to us.  We knew this by the hooks and eyes at the tops of the doors which were meant to keep us out.  This problem was easily solved with a broom handle.  We just pushed the hook up through the eye and opened the door into a brave new world until mother came back.

Dad placed 4 boxes of ripe peaches on the cool cement floor in the basement hallway.  To me, they smelled like summer.  Warm and sweet.  And they looked like the sun itself. 

It started innocently enough.  Mother said she was going out for just a bit.  We went down to steal a sweet peach or two.  One rolled to the floor with a gentle thud.  Lin tossed it to Dan, but it hit the wall instead and slid down very slowly.  Dan threw one at Lin and it rolled under the couch.  I overshot and mine landed on the windowsill.  Pretty soon peach missiles were hitting the wall and sliding down in sweet gloppy blobs up and down the narrow hallway.  Oh the sweet smell of an orchard!  And then we heard the car in the driveway.  We switched off the light and ran upstairs.

When mother saw the peach covered wall she shrieked, “You will clean this up, I do not care how”!  And that was her first mistake.  Her second mistake was getting back in the car and leaving.

We stood there a few minutes puzzling over it.  I found a bottle of dish soap by the kitchen sink and a stool, and we put a squirt of dish soap next to each peach bomb.  Then we opened the basement window and hauled in the hose with the sprinkler head on it.  Dan ran outside and turned it on.  We squealed with delight as it started to go “ch ch ch” and bubbles formed; indeed cleaning up our mess.

So we left.  The three of us went next door to play twister with the neighbor children.  Mother pulled up in the car some time later, followed by Dad in his car.  When the phone rang, we ran home for dinner.

There was no dinner!  Mother and Dad were at the bottom of the stairs calf deep in a soup of peaches and foam.  The couch was floating nearby along with various other basement items.  Dad was yelling and trying to force open a door which was secured with a hook and eye, and mother was in hysterics – I could not say whether she was laughing or crying, maybe both.  Two mops lay on the steps above them.  The drain was locked inside that room, and the space at the bottom of the door was clogged with peaches and peach pits.

We did finally push all the water down that little drain hole.

Be careful what you say to your children, and problem solve together.  That’s my advice.

Hey Batter Batter Batter!

An apple a day, so they say…  Even so, I would eat them.  I love them.  Every Labor Day or sometime after that, I drive up past Michies Tavern, past Monticello, through Spring Valley, up the mountain, through the mist, past the vineyard and I pick apples the way Virginians have for probably better than two centuries.  Rain or shine, you’ll find me there on top of that mountain eating sweet winesaps, tart granny smiths, romas, and a few Asian pears.  And I cart my carefully selected bounty home where I can it, dry it freeze it, bake it, sauce it and revel in it.  Yes!  You can play with your food in my kitchen.

But it was not always so.

We had two apple trees in our back yard.  It was our job as young ones to pick the apples, sort them, wash them,  and bring them in to mother in the kitchen.  I imagine she was doing much the same thing I do, but with no pleasure.  It was a job.  She hated it.  I have no idea why.  I only know it was many years later she learned to cook and actually enjoy it.  Her hatred was a cancer that spread to us so much so, that the chore of picking apples was our most dreaded and hated activity.  We met it head on with crying, complaining and reticence until Dad pushed us out into the yard and told us not to return until the bushel baskets were overflowing!

We three picked the lower branches clean in silence.  Only two baskets.  It would take the entire Saturday.  No Superfriends.  No bike riding.  No ball games with our friends.  I got the ladder and climbed one tree.  I tossed a few red ones to Dan.  He easily caught them and dropped them into the basket.  I threw harder.  It wasn’t fair being stuck up here with all this fruit on Saturday!  “Hey”, he shouted up, “take it easy”!  I shook the branch and a few apples fell on him.  I tossed a few to Lin.  He dropped them.  He couldn’t catch.  “Get him a mitt” I called down.  “Naah.  He should practice batting.”  Dan said.  And I started throwing apples down to my brother Lin who swung at every one.  Some were shattered into applesauce.  Others were merely bruised and tossed into the basket.  And many he missed.  Dan retrieved them and put them in the basket.  Pretty soon, I was pitching directly to Dan’s mitt and Lin’s bat, and oh, the evil chore had been turned to a glorious game of apple ball just like that!  Dan climbed the second tree and I came down to take my turn catching.  Two trees were picked clean in half a Saturday with our game and we found our release to freedom!

Mother canned applesauce that year.  I heard her comment to Dad that the fruit was very soft and badly bruised.  He simply told her we would pick earlier next  year.

Genetically Rock Crazy

Being rock crazy is genetic, I swear.  My own daughter always has one.  They are in little piles by every door.  They are in every bag.  They are presented to me for safekeeping.  Small altercations can be started over who spied one first, even.  And pockets are filled with them.  If you have laundry duty you absolutely must remove rocks from pockets.  If not, you will have to rescue them from the clanging dryer later!

On one such occasion, I heard a perfectly egg shaped rock destroying the inside of the dryer, and removed it from the Kenmore.  It was quite pretty actually.  Small, perfectly rounded, white and sparkly.  My daughter had quite a fit when she saw I had it.  We were going out, so I tossed it in my purse to keep her quiet.

As I pushed her through the store in the front of the shopping cart, I noticed her mouth was very full of something!  I held out my hand and said, “Spit it out”.  She spit the white egg rock from my purse into my hand.  I spelled out all the arguments for why she should never put rocks in her mouth.  They can be dirty!  You can choke, etc.   And she fixed those fierce blue eyes on me and said, “You washed it.  It’s clean.”  Then she smiled and said, “It is for you.  It looks beautiful”.  I'll take it.  Flowers die after all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rock Crazy

If you are rock crazy, you look down a lot.  It helps in Paris because you don’t step in the dog crap before the men on the green machines come and clean it up, and you don’t make eye contact with the fanny pinchers on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées  as often as other American women who are dazzled by the city.

I found my first fossil right before I started kindergarten on a forced march up to Timpanogos cave.  It is a tiny trilobite and I still have it.  But I sifted through a lot of rocks before I learned what I was looking at.  They just feel good in my hands.  And in my pockets.  And everywhere else.  You might think the best place a little girl would find rocks is in the dirt.  You would be dead wrong.  The flat roof of our carport was covered with pea gravel.  And to get up there, we had to take our “elevator”.   It was easier than climbing the crab apple tree and jumping on to the roof after all.

The ”elevator” was a broken wooden baby gate that mother tossed out in the yard.  We turned it on its side and one of us operated it as the elevator man.   The elevator man would put his (or her) feet on it and then slowly expand it calling out the passing floors until the roof top had been reached.  The others of us would run over the wood pile, climb the fence, edge along the fence to the last fence post, and then scramble to the top of the car port.

We could then sit on top of the car port and sort gravel into different colors, weights, sizes and hardness until mother called to us to come down immediately.  Pockets filled with beautiful bits of gravel, we would call to the elevator man, “Ground floor please”!  And he would lower the baby gate from full extension to the closed position, calling out floor numbers as we jumped from the roof to the fence post, ran along the fence, and over the woodpile, tumbling on to the grass, and rushing back to the elevator man.

I know of only two major incidents in my gravel sorting career.  The first was when mother came out into the yard and insisted we come down and then took away the elevator.  We threw crab apples at her!  She retreated into the house and called Dad at work.  He came home red faced and furious and stood in the yard yelling at us to come down at once!  He paddled us with the breadboard and sent us to bed with no lunch.

The second was when Dan, upon reaching the rooftop, noticed his shoe was bleeding.  He removed it to find he had picked up a nail in the woodpile.  He put his shoe back on with a terrible grimace and called to the elevator man, “Ground floor please”!  He ran across the car port roof, jumped to the fence post, ran across the fence, over the wood pile, tumbled to the grass, ran to the elevator man, removed his shoe which now full of blood because he still had the nail (and now two puncture holes) and screamed, “MOTHER”!

After that, we were banned from the roof, so we stole a few spoons from the drawer and began digging for bigger rocks along the fence line.  Besides, the “elevator” was broken.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Unwritten Code

So I read a friend’s blog yesterday.  He is very funny, and he inspires me.  In one post he broke the code.  There is an unspoken rule among siblings to NEVER tell.  Not even on yourself.  It is the worst kind of betrayal.  I imagine after you are a certain age, your parents simply do not care.  Family stories become legends and it doesn’t matter what you say, no one will believe you anyway.  I assumed I have not reached that age, because I am technically still grounded.  My dad said at the top of his lungs once, “YOU ARE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU ARE FIFTY-TWO”, and I’m not yet fifty-two.  But I’m going to tell a few things because they make me laugh, and I have to get them off my chest.

Dad tied an old sheet up in a tree for three of the five of us.  It was our “hammock”.  My two brothers and I would sit up there high above our world in the breeze and plot our adventures like three little pirates.  Woe to the interloper who disrupted our plans!  He might be pelted with crabapples picked from the nearest branches, or chased off by whooping braves!  You just never knew. 

Until one crisp autumn day after a lot of heat and rain, the sheet simply split.  Out tumbled the boys.  I, the older and quicker, remained high in the tree.  I was just clinging to the nearest branch like an old cat.  Dan landed on Lin, his two front teeth buried in Lin’s head.  Far below me, they rolled off each other and each ran away.  “MOTHER!  HE LANDED ON ME!”  and “MOMMMMMM!  I’M BLEEDING!”  They put Dan’s teeth back in his head, by the way.

And my two little brothers told mother I had done the unthinkable.  They still think I untied the hammock.  And nothing I say will convince them that all the sun, rain, wind, and temperature change along with the weight of the three of us split an old cotton sheet.  Because I stayed in the tree.  But it comes up from time to time.  And it always ends the same way.  The three of us laughing hysterically.

But here is something I did do.  My parents 69 Mustang quit one day.  It just wouldn’t go.  And they thought Dan had put his juice from his sippy cup in the gas tank.  He told them he did.  He WANTED to.  But I stopped him.  I stopped him by dropping in a Bic pen and wadding up the sheets from a small spiral notepad and shoving them in the hole where the gas goes.  And that is where my adventurous life of crimes against my parents began.