The Birthday Party Blues (7/27/2016)

My child is already making his birthday list, putting a corgi at the top followed by Pokemon cards and DS games.

His birthday is months away, mind you.

But, he starts early. Real early. And that’s OK. It’s my way of making up for never having him a real, official birthday party.

Just hearing about friend’s planning parties for their own children is usually enough to give me hives.

All the elaborate stuff that goes into it – jump-jumps, petting zoos, themes.

What happened to just cake and ice cream?

I’m not knocking those who do the big deal birthday parties at all; they are just not something I would do and didn’t even want when I was a kid.

Nope, even when I was a kid, birthday parties kind of freaked me out.

Who in the world ever thought running around a bunch of chairs, with balloons on them nonetheless, to fight with other kids in a game of “Musical Chairs” was fun?
It was terrifying.

For one thing, the sound of a balloon popping is terrifying. Particularly if under your tater. Running around a bunch of chairs is not fun either.

It made me feel like a real life Jack in the Box toy, which also scared the stew out of me, except instead of popping up, we were popping down.

Then there was usually a pin the tail on the donkey thing. Yeah, give kids something with basically a needle and blindfold them. It made me question all the rules of safety I had been cautioned about. I mean, what was next – running with scissors?

The worst though was my own birthday party one year.

I was so excited about having my friends come over, but Mama probably chained smoked two packs of Virginia Slims while she got everything ready.

And nothing made Mama more scared than seeing a car pull up for someone to drop their child off at the party and peel away.
Mama watched the car drive away in a panic.

“Does your Mama know when the party’s over?” she asked as the child made her way inside. “She knows to come back and get you, right? Right? Where did she go? Some place close?”

I didn’t know why Mama was so upset but I think she wanted to cry. She asked me who the kid was and I told her I didn’t know. She came in toting a gift though; she couldn’t be too bad.

She wanted to sit on the couch with the other moms, but she couldn’t.

She had to make sure everything went smoothly, meaning someone wasn’t sticking their fingers in the cake.

We played the games – no musical chairs with the balloons or pin the tail on the donkey. I can’t remember what we played but it definitely wasn’t that.

As we settled in for cake and ice cream, Mama was ready to breathe a sigh of relief. Everyone knew cake and ice cream meant the party was wrapping up.

Just as Mama was thinking she had survived, she found two kids jumping on her bed.

I’m not sure how she got them down but she did and she didn’t even scream.

Maybe it was because she knew the party was about to be over.

Soon, mamas were grabbing up coats and gathering their children, thanking Mama for the party. Knowing my Mama, she was ready for them all to leave so she could chain smoke for the next two hours.

We still didn’t know if that kid’s mama was coming back or not.

Eventually, she did. It was about an hour or two after the party ended but she finally came back.

We still don’t know who that kid was.

That was the last birthday party I had at home.

“Mama, can I have a birthday party – a real one? Not at school?” Cole asked me years ago.

He had had all his parties at school which meant I brought something to the school to celebrate. One year, I even took a piñata to day care then realized that was about as bad as the pin the tail on the donkey thing.

Multiple kids running around and needing to be watched and entertained, the dogs panicking and probably getting stuck under the bed while they hid, trying to make small talk with parents while I wanted to introvert…

“No. I think I am going to take a hard pass on that,” I said. “But, I will make it up to you. I promise.”

So he starts his birthday wish list in July.

He gets one really cool gift and some small other ones; I get to keep my sanity.

 

 

The Good Old Days (7/20/2016)

Growing up, Granny loved to tell me stories about what she called, “the good old days.”

Tales involving picking cotton, drawing water from a well, and all of her siblings having to share one bed during the winter to stay warm.

“This was the good old days?” I asked her once.

“Yes,” she was replied. “They was.”

That’s how Granny, talked too. She dropped out of school, maybe in third grade or so, to help work the fields. She didn’t speak proper grammar and didn’t care. It never stopped her from getting her point across.

Her stories included growing up in the Depression and how they survived. Huddling around the wood burning stove to stay warm, wearing clothes until threadbare, and never throwing anything away. She was a packrat of the highest caliber, because she grew up in poverty.

“What are you going to make with this?” I asked her once, moving a huge garbage bag containing fabric off the couch.

“I don’t know yet, but I’ll make something. Don’t you worry about it. Clothes, curtains, quilts. It’ll get used.”

And it would, too.

The woman would wash and re-use aluminum foil and Ziploc bags and thought if someone was using thick Dixie plates at a dinner and threw them away, they were “just showing how high fa-lootin’ they was.” Dishes were not supposed to be disposable.

She told me about riding the bus to Plattsburg, New York, alone, to get to Pop. They had eloped, Granny lying to her mother that she was spending the night at a cousin’s house, and the next morning, my grandfather headed back to where ever he was stationed in the Army. Granny went back home to her mama and daddy, never breathing a word she was married until she announced she was heading north. Their wedding night was only their third date.

“How in the world could you let Pop go back up there and not go with him?” I asked.

“Back then, you did what you had to. He was in the Army and he had to save up money to get me a bus ticket,” was her no nonsense reply.

Those times, were not easy, nor were the years that followed and they made steel run through veins. She was resilient and tough.

“Why do you always talk about those times, Granny?” I asked her one day as she started up on one of her yarns for the umpteenth time.

“Because they was the good old days, Lit’l Un.”

Good? How in the world could she describe them as good?

All she told me about was how poor they were, how they struggled, how getting through the day was sometimes a miracle of itself.

“How was that good?” I wanted to know.

“It just was. If you was breathin’ and on the other side of the ground, it was good.”

Her stories were woven around my grandfather serving in World War II, my uncle in Viet Nam. Mama, she said, made her proud because she had a job that was in an office and didn’t have to do the labor she had.
“You never tell her you are proud of her,” I said to her once. “That may make her feel better, you know.”

Granny stuck her chin out, not one to be chastised for anything. “She don’t need to know if I am proud of her or not; I am and that’s all that cussed matters.”

After over 20 years of hearing her stories, I started to tune them out or make her change the conversation. “You’ve told me this already, old woman,” I’d tell her.

“Yeah, well you ain’t listened, old gal,” she said in return.

How I’d love to hear her old stories again. The only thing close to it I have is, thankfully, a DVD my beloved cousin, Dotty, made of her talking and telling some of her stories to them.

I miss her stories and more importantly, I miss her common sense about the things that happened in the world around us. Especially lately, I’ve yearned for her comfort, for her wisdom, and for her just declaring that things would be OK and we would survive – meaning all of us – because that was the only choice we had.

It seemed like her focus was always about surviving, just surviving one thing from the next. How in the world could she consider those ‘good old days?’

I asked her that one day.

The question actually struck her speechless for a moment. “One day, you’ll understand. It ain’t about the little petty problems or any of this other junk. It’s about the moment, and being with family and friends. Don’t matter how much money you got, that stuff’s fleeting. It mattered about how much love.”

She had the ones she loved around her.

Maybe it was the good old days after all.

Trying to Break The Chicken Rut (7/13/2016)

I wanted a new small appliance and announced this fact to my husband the other day.

He just raised his brows at me, not saying a word.

“I want to make protein shakes. I get tired of chewing sometimes.”

He nodded. He probably gets tired of eating the same stuff every day, too, and I had been in a chicken rut.

“You can’t put chicken in a blender, can you?” Cole asked, grazing on a bag of baby carrots.

“Somebody else may, but I don’t.”

“Didn’t you have a blender?” Lamar asked.

I have had three since we have lived here, maybe a total of 4 since we’ve been married.

What happened to the first one, I don’t know.

I bought one when Cole was a baby because I had visions of making him homemade baby food.

I realized it was kind of easier to buy Gerber’s.

I lost the lid to it one day and quickly found out holding the lid off of a Cool Whip container on top of a blender was not a good idea.

The second one came when I was on a Herbalife kick. The blender worked for a while until one day, the seal somehow was broken.

Smoothie shot out of the bottom and all down the counters, across the kitchen and landed on one of the dogs.

“Fix it!” I begged Lamar.

“This is a part I can’t fix,” he said. “You’ll need to order a replacement one online.”

Said replacement part was more than the blender had cost to begin with, so Lamar discreetly and without discussion, put the broken blender in the trash.

I decided my life was not complete without a blender and decided to get another about a year later.

“Are we really back on this aisle?” Lamar asked as I dragged him to look at blenders. “It’s just gonna tear up, you know.”

He was probably right, but I bought it anyway.

I think we used it maybe five times.
I nearly choked on a piece of frozen fruit that wasn’t even close to being blended.

This thing was not really good for blending anything with ice.

It was stored for a few months until Granny had mentioned before she died, she wanted a blender.

“Are you making margaritas or pina coladas?”

“Neither, I want a milkshake every now and then,” she said.

I took her the blender but with the caution of slightly thawing her ice cream first.

But now, as I said, I am in a chicken rut, meaning if I eat anymore dang grilled chicken, I may sprout feathers.

“If I had buttermilk and flour, I could fry it,” Lamar said.

He has to be the one to fry chicken; I have caused near fires in my attempts that somehow yielded chicken burnt on the outside and raw on the inside.

I get tired of salads. They feel like a tremendous amount of work for stuff that a rabbit eats.

“Didn’t you get a new juicer a while back? What happened to that?” Lamar asked.

“It was a juicer,” I said. “I don’t want to juice; I want smoothies.”

“I like juices better than smoothie,” he responded.

We stared at each other for a moment.

“So what kind of smoothie making blender are you thinking about getting?” he asked.

I wasn’t sure yet.

Then, I saw an infomercial about the Nutri Ninja Nutri Pro Auto IQ Super Sensory tabletop duo thing that would not only make me smoothies, it looked like it could juice, too. Or maybe it just pulverized the vegetables into liquid. It had all the bells and whistles. I mean, it had ninja and ‘nutri’ in the name – it was like stealthy nutrition just sneaking up on you.

“Your own body has been breaking down food to get the nutrients since you’ve been eating, you know,” Lamar said when I told him it would break everything down into easily digested liquids.

“Yeah, but a frozen chunk of strawberry can nearly choke you to death,” I said. “I kind of want this.”

It had all these attachments. It had a big pitcher to make a huge things of blueberry-almond milk-banana smoothie for us. There was even the option to get a food processer bowl or something like that.

“It does look like it can do everything,” Lamar said.

Was he hooked too?

I needed this. I was already thinking of how I was going to be getting all my fruits and vegetables in. I was going to be healthy – healthier than I had ever been in my life because this thing was going to extract all of the nutrients I had been missing.

I wondered, briefly, if you could juice cheesecake. A cheesecake infused smoothie maybe?

I pulled up the website and was set to order, until I saw the price. Considering my history with blenders and other small mixing-type appliances, that sounded awfully high.

Did I really want to be that healthy? I was doing OK on my steady diet of Dove bars and coffee.

I was sick of chicken now, but in a few months, I may be ready for grilled chicken on everything again.

And I would probably get tired of smoothies or juices or whatever concoction the thing made.

It sure would be a spendy item to be stuck in the bottom cabinet behind the cake plate I never use.

“You gonna order it?” Lamar asked.

I sighed.

I think I’ll wait.

And once again, healthy decisions were sacrificed because cheesecake – and chicken — is cheaper and doesn’t take up precious real estate in my kitchen cabinets.

 

The Original Stay-cationers (7/6/16)

While everyone else is uploading pictures of their toes in the sand, or a view of the ocean set against the backdrop of their tanned legs, the Crouches are staying home.
Again.
For the 13th year in a row.
No loading up the van and heading south to Florida and its heat. There’s no sandy beaches in my future nor in my recent past.
And in a way, I am kind of OK with that.
I am not a huge vacationer to begin with. Even when I was a child, we didn’t go anywhere.
Mama asked me once if I wanted to go to Disneyland; whether or not she would have taken me, I don’t know. But I remember asking her how much walking was involved and after considering having to use public restrooms along with countless others, I told her I’d rather go to the library instead.
Maybe it’s because the one time we tried to venture anywhere for any length of time, it seemed like something always happened.
I was maybe 5-years old the first time my family decided to go anywhere.
This was a big deal – huge, actually, because my grandfather agreed to go and it was on a Sunday.
So there must not have been any kind of sporting event on TV that day that he had to watch.
It was spontaneous; I had got up to get ready for church and Granny had announced we were not going.
“Did church go out of business?” I asked over my Fruity Pebbles.
“No, but we are going to do something today we ain’t never done; we going on a day trip.”
Granny called to inform the preacher he was on his own this Sunday, she was not there to keep the congregation in line and God help him, keep them awake, either.
Mama worked all the time, Pop & Bobby worked all the time and were self-employed, and Granny worked and thought she kept a tri-county portion of the state in line. There was no time for vacations or up until now, a day trip.
But here we were, loading into Granny’s Oldsmobile, all of us, and heading – of all things – out of state to North Carolina.
We went to Cherokee, in all its gaudy glory.
I was amazed at how everything looked, and all the Native American regalia that was displayed in shops. I wanted one of everything; I think Mama decided on a pair of moccasins and a headdress with a toy bow and arrow. Why she refused to get me a real one, I have no idea. I was protesting this fact when a man dressed in Native American buckskin told me I needed to respect my mother.
All I knew was based on the size of his headdress, he must have been the head guy, so I shut up. Until he decided to flirt with my Mama. The crazy redhead seemed to like it too.
“He was handsome,” she giggled when I grabbed her hand to pull her away.
I was tired. I was hungry. My feet hurt. I was ready to go.
We had been there about one hour and 15 minutes.
I stated my complaints. “We drove all the way here – out of the dadblamed state. You gonna have fun it if I have to make you!” was Granny’s response.
I didn’t, but I knew better than to say anything else.
Maybe it was the boiled peanuts, or maybe I was carsick because I ventured out of state, but by the time I got home, I was feeling quite queasy.
Granny called the preacher to make sure the church had not imploded or Jesus hadn’t come back in her absence. He assured her the church was still standing and that Jesus wouldn’t make any decisions without consulting her first.
The next week, Granny found chewing gum – chewing gum, which she never allowed in her nursery – stuck in the carpet.
You would have thought all 10 commandments had been broken as the old gal was in the floor muttering under her breathe as she scrubbed.
“See! See there! That’s why we don’t go nowhere!” she screamed at me.
It wasn’t my idea to go anywhere but she wanted me to understand her logic train.
I just felt sorry for whoever was going to receive her wrath.
You’d think Granny would learn, but the next year on another Sunday, she decided we were going to Stone Mountain.
She called and told the preacher, reminding him about the gum from the year before. He assured her no gum would be chewed while she was gone.
We walked around, found a funnel cake for me, followed by ice cream, then watermelon. We walked some more. My uncle asked me if I wanted to walk up to the top.
“Why would anyone want to do that?” I cried.
He asked if I wanted to ride the cable car to the top instead. “Good lord, no!”
He went alone instead.
Mama complained about the heat. “You know I get sun poisoning real easy. It’s too hot!”
Someone got the grand idea for us to take a riverboat ride. The thing wasn’t going that fast, really, but watching the water rolling and swaying was enough to make me really, really sick.
“Maybe it was the funnel cake,” my uncle suggested.
“Or maybe it was the watermelon,” my grandfather said.
“Yeah, or the ice cream,” my uncle added.
I was sick. So sick. And ready to go home.
I think we were maybe there 2 hours.
As we headed back home, we realized we didn’t need to go anywhere. Not for a few days, and sure not for a week or longer. Heck, we were doing good to get to the grocery store once a week without some major catastrophe.
Granny set it in stone when she declared, “That’s it. We’ve tried day trips and this mess ain’t working! We ain’t going nowhere ever again!”
And I pretty much haven’t gone anywhere since then. Why tempt fate when it seems to be something my family just isn’t good at doing?
At least I don’t have to worry about the vacation laundry.