Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All I Wanted Was an Ice Cream Cone!

Only 50 more miles to go on my 3,093.9 mile road trip. The last day of driving was the most difficult. I was driving directly into a very strong west wind. And my little Prius was only getting 35 mpg when it should have been getting 50 mpg.

Only 50 miles to go, but I was getting sleepy and needed a break. An ice cream cone and a cup of coffee sounded really good. Taking the first Fort Morgan, CO, exit, I walked into Burger King and asked for my cone. "We don't have ice cream", she said with a deadpan face. What?? Well, I thought I might as well get my coffee there and stop at McDonald's a mile down the road to get the cone. So I ordered my coffee, gave her the money, and waited. She disappeared and I waited. And waited. Finally, after several minutes, she appears, plops the coffee down, and starts to walk away again. "Where can I find some creamer?" I shout after her. She trudges back, reaches for a bucket of creamers, slides it towards me, and disappears again. I open the coffee, see that it is very strong, and add three creamers, noticing a lot of coffee grounds as I stir it in.

Now, off to get my ice cream cone. I take the next exit and drive up to McDonald's. It is closed!! Getting frustrated, I drive through a parking lot full of potholes; then I see a brand new McDonald's right across the street. I just may get my ice cream yet, I thought. Just as I'm driving into the parking lot, I see a sign - new McDonald's opening Wednesday. Well, this was Tuesday. By this time, I was wishing I had stopped at the Dairy Queen back by the Burger King; even if their small cones were more than $1. But after making my way through more construction and back onto I-76, I decided to give up on my little treat. Forty-five minutes later, after I pulled into my driveway, I took that horrible Burger King coffee and dumped the whole thing out.

It was good to finally be home.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Beanie Stein

I don't know if I spelled his name correctly, but this is a true story! It happened somewhere around 1962 - 1964.

It was another beautiful fall school day in Churchs Ferry, North Dakota. From time to time one of us grade-schoolers was lucky enough to bring a quarter or two to school. Why? Because during noon hour we would walk down to "Bert's" grocery store and purchase some candy. It was only a short walk, maybe 2-3 blocks. On this particular day, my friend, Lisa, had the money and she asked me to walk with her to Bert's. Enjoying the lovely weather, we skipped and hopped along the broken sidewalk. On an impulse, I hopped up onto the cement stoop of a little house that set right up against the sidewalk. Suddenly, the door flew open and I was confronted with ... a scraggly looking man ... with a shotgun! In shock, for a moment I was unable to move. I gaped at the whiskered man in the flannel shirt. He had his gun pointed at me. Lisa and I heard him say, "You stay off my property or I'll shoot you!" Like a human bullet, I shot off his stoop and Lisa and I ran the rest of the way to Bert's. We were shaking with fear.

My shaking lasted a long time. It may not have been visible on the outside, but it was weeks before my "insides" settled down. And you can be sure I never walked in front of Beanie Stein's house again; and I certainly never placed a foot on his stoop!

What is strange to me now is that we never told our teacher about this experience. No cops were called, the principal never found out. Eventually, I told my mother, but as far as I know, no one ever had a conversation with Beanie Stein about how he shouldn't threaten little girls with a gun. Maybe he was just another harmless old man ... but it sure didn't feel like it to me!

Friday, October 8, 2010

If She Had Died in Her 80's - Chapter 4


There is no other word that can more accurately describe the feelings I had. Why should others receive from my mother what I so strongly desired, yet was denied? I could hear it in the lilt of her voice; I could see it in the softening of her face. And I first noticed it in relation to my sisters-in-law. She seemed to genuinely like them. She said nice things about them and to them. She enjoyed visiting with them. As much as I myself liked these new women in the family, it hurt that they were so quickly able to have an affectionate relationship that was beyond my grasp. I saw the hugs, I heard the words, “I love you, too”. And I was intensely jealous.

Later, it was the children of my brothers. I would hear about how cute they are and how smart they are. I would hear about the nice cards they sent on her birthday and for Mother’s Day and how pleased she was with them. She would brag about their accomplishments and their activities and their dreams. Yes, that, too, made me jealous. I never saw any of that spirit exhibited towards my children, even though they, too, were cute, they were smart, they sent cards, and they had accomplishments and dreams.

Often over the years I would agonize on how to break the silence, the sterility of our relationship. Always the obedient and dutiful daughter, inside I longed for a relationship of love and tenderness, affection and pride. I would see the easy, fun and loving relationship some of my friends had with their mothers and feel … jealous.

If she had died in her 80’s – there is a lesson I would never have learned. I’m glad she didn’t die in her 80’s.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

If She Had Died in Her 80's - Chapter 3

Surely it must have happened when I was very young. Surely there was a little cuddling, a hug, a tender touch. But there is no memory of any affection, any tenderness extended towards me. Oh, I received lots of expressions of love from my older sisters. They were tickled to have a baby sister after having four brothers come into our home. But it seemed my relationship with mom was all brusqueness, practical, sterile. But I knew the day would come that my mother would embrace me and kiss me. I knew it because I saw what happened to my sister.

I was only nine when Evie got married. It was so exciting. Evie even bought me a coloring book about a couple who became engaged. Every page to color was about the steps they took preparing for the wedding. I colored each page and dreamed. Finally, the big day arrived. I don't remember a lot about the wedding itself, but I vividly remember the reception line. Standing off to the side, I watched as my mother came through, gave Evie a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I'm sure my eyes widened in wonder as I witnessed this demonstration of affection. From that moment on, I held it close to my heart - on my wedding day, I would receive a hug and kiss from my mother.

Ten years later, I was the bride. The ceremony went off beautifully and we were introduced as "Mr. and Mrs.". Walking down the aisle, I felt both anticipation and trepidation for the moment I had been awaiting for ten years. There were hugs, kisses and well-wishes from the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Then came my parents. A hug from my father, a perfunctory handshake from my mother. And a sense of something lost forever.

If she had died in her 80's - there is a lesson I would never have learned. I'm glad she didn't die in her 80's.

Monday, October 4, 2010

If She Had Died in Her 80's - Chapter 2

There were around 150 students -- in grades 1-12. Yes, it was a small school. So things were done a little differently. For two or three years prior to junior high the girls in my class often talked about being a cheerleader. In our tiny town, that was one of the most prestigious and "popular" thing a girl could aspire to. The junior high basketball team had four girl cheerleaders, and they were "elected" every year. Finally, we were in 7th grade! Shortly after the school year started, we were told that the next Friday all the 7th and 8th graders were going to vote on who the cheerleaders would be. Oh, the anticipation was high! Will I get it? Will I get it? I didn't mention anything to my mother because I know she would say I needed to withdraw my name. If I didn't tell her, and I was elected, there is no way she could take that away from me. This was the most important thing in a 7th grade girl's life! And, besides, my brother, Tom, was on the basketball team. How could she NOT let me do this??

Friday finally came, the votes were counted, and YES! I was one of the elected cheerleaders! I was so excited. But with great trepidation, I broached the subject with my mother that evening. Surely she would be happy for me; be proud of me; understand how important this was to me. "Mom," I said, "I'm going to be a cheerleader." "No you're not," she replied. "But I was already elected!", I cried. "That's too bad. We're not going to start driving you all over the place and pay for those silly uniforms. You better let them know on Monday that you can't do it." My heart fell, but I would not give up. I had all weekend to work on her. And, she didn't know it, but on Monday after school I was meeting with the rest of the cheerleaders to pick out our outfits. I planned to stay overnight with my friend, so there would be no inconvenience for my parents.

By Monday morning, the answer was still "No!" But I didn't let on to the other girls. Together we went through the catalogs, choosing the skirt, the sweater and the shoes. I began to worry about how to pay for them, as it was more money than I had. Tuesday night, I approached the subject with with my mom again, and it was not a pleasant conversation. It ended up with me crying in my room behind my locked door once again. I knew I had lost the battle. Knowing I could not face the class without crying, I wrote a note to my friend and had my brother give it to her the next morning. And I played "sick" and stayed home.

Oh, life went on. I went to a few basketball games and cheered on our team from the stands. I listened to the cheerleaders talking, I watched them practice, I told them what a good job they were doing. But this big disappointment rooted deep in my heart. Throughout the years, if I looked hard enough, I could sense a little resentment against my mother -- buried deeply within me.

If she had died in her 80's - there is a lesson I would never have learned. I'm glad she didn't die in her 80's.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Health and Wealth

I've been reading through the book "Poems Teachers Ask For". This is the book that mom wanted and Amy found it on the internet. I gave it to mom on her 90th birthday. I found the following poem today. Rather pessimistic, isn't it?

Health and Wealth

We squander health in search of wealth;
We scheme and toil and save;
Then squander wealth in search of health,
But only find a grave.
We live, and boast of what we own;
We die and only get a stone.