Friday, June 27, 2014

Practical Jokes

I like practical jokes... not the kind where someone is hurt or where someone is seriously embarrassed or belittled. I think jokes that make you laugh with yourself and others liven up the day.

That is not to say that I have not always used good judgement in practical joking. I wish to blame age but youth is not a good excuse. But for the most part my practical jokes hurt no one.

Of course there are the standard "Your shoe is untied" and "What is theat spot on your shirt?" as you flip your finger up to their nose. Most people do not fall for those any more. But they are funny when you 'get' them.

When I was in my early teens I was wandering around downtown when I came across a novelty store. By novelty I mean the kind of store that sold things like whoopie cushions and fake vomit. I must point out that every tow or three years my children and grandchildren receive whoopie cushions for Christmas as part of their stockings. So beware when visiting.

Back to the store. I found all sorts of delights but was fascinated by the loads. I say loads because they were out of cigarette loads. All they had in stock were cigar loads. I had always wanted to try them because I had seen them on television. Besides they were extremely inexpensive and I had little money.

My sister was with me. We planned and plotted. Who would be our victim? We discussed our mother. but she might have a bad reaction to it. Who else did we know who smoked? It had to be someone we had access to. It also had to be someone who would be around when the cigarette was lit so we could watch. There was only one other candidate. Daddy.

When we got home from work we managed to grab his cigarettes while he was in another room. I carefully pulled one cigarette out of the pack. I then took the loads out of their wrapping. They looked like small pieces of straw. Even though they were made for cigars they were so small. I decided to put in three just to make sure they worked.

My father smoked non-filtered cigarettes so I was not sure which end he would light so I needed to push them into the center of the cigarette. I used a toothpick and it worked quite well.

Now all we had to do was wait. Only my sister and I knew what was going on. We were on pins and needles all evening waiting, waiting, waiting...

Finally he took out the loaded cigarette. He lit it. Nothing happened. He took a few puffs; nothing happened. Duds thought we.
Suddenly BANG!!!! That cigarette sounded like an M80. It exploded right under my father's nose. His eyes popped open wide and his whole head turned red with anger. He was mad!

As he was demanding to know who did it all of us kids were finding ways to leave the room. Mom was already at the kitchen door so all she had to do was go back to cooking.

I never did admit to Daddy that it was me and my sister. I think that even after a lot of years had passed he might have spanked us. Mom told me after Daddy died that she knew we did it. She never said a word.

As i said age is not an excuse but it is the only one I have. And I was not even able to enjoy it because I was scared that he would find me out.

One of my dear friends was getting married. The best man was a notorious practical joker. When another friend of his got married he went to the honeymoon hotel the before the wedding and he and some other friends removed all the furniture from the room. Because of this the honeymoon destination was a closely guarded secret.

After a great deal of persuasion and more than a little liquor we were able to pry the hotel name from the groom's father. It was just across the border in Canada.

About 6 of us waited an indecent amount of time. Then we went to the hotel and asked for their room. The clerk was wise enough to not divulge that information.

However we had another trick up our sleeves. One of us was the bride's sister. The clerk finally agreed to connect us to the room if we would go to a house phone.

Sister was on the phone with the bride who did not believe for one minute that we were in the hotel lobby. Until sister began to describe the fountain, the entrance to the lounge, and what band was playing in the lounge. The newlyweds came down to see us.

The poor things agreed to go with us to a little outdoor restaurant for a drink. The groom was in obvious discomfort and the bride was trying so hard to be gracious. I am sure it was the high point of their honeymoon.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I do not believe in violent of destructive mischief but it is a good time for people to be good-naturedly scared. I have assisted in planning many haunted houses.

I was working in the cash office of a large department store chain. We were isolated from the rest of the store because we had all the money and records in with us. We often decorated for holidays.

One year I got the bright idea to make tombstones for those of us who worked the cash office. Of course we needed epitaphs so I wrote funny little epitaphs for each of us. The others in the office liked them so much the invited people from other offices to see them. I had to make them for those people too.

Another time those of us on the night shift decided to decorate the office right. We had access to merchandise from the store. All we needed was someone with the authority to write off the expense. We went straight to our friend and part time co-worker. The we set about getting our decorations.

We built a scarecrow using things people left on the lanes when they were shopping. (We held those items for 30 days to see if they would come back to reclaim them.) There was a jacket, sunglasses, a hearing aid, a cane, false teeth, gloves, boots,  and even a prosthetic leg. Add a mask and we had a proper scarecrow.

We set up flying ghosts and bats to attack the cahiers when they came in for their cash drawers. If our inner office door opened there were shriels and moans. We has ghosts and bats hanging from th ceiling. In all the drawers (of which there were many. Each drawer had a special use and each was used often.) there were surprises. There were plastic worms and spiders and all sorts of disgusting things. But the best part of all was the little haunted house we had set up in the vault.

At the beginning of each shift one person had to balance all the money in the office. That included going into the vault to count the money in there.

When the morning shift came in they would have to count the safe which is what we called it. And inside the safe sat our dear friend. We had a long cape and mask on him and he just sat there and waited.

The head of the cash office was doing the counting this day. She counted the stamp drawer. Then she counted the safe drawer. The she counted the service drawer. Then she counted the cashier drawer. All the time she counted she was talking about how much she liked the decorations. We were smiling to ourselves and anticipating the moment she went into the safe.

Then she began to talk about how afraid she was of haunted houses. She said she had never been able to go into them because she was so scared. I had a sinking feeling about her going into the safe. As I was trying to find a way to tell her not to go into the safe without betraying my co-workers she went into the safe.

Nothing happened. Still nothing happened. I went over to see if she had dropped dead from fright when she screamed and came running out of the safe. I thought she was going to run me over and go right through the wall into the shoe repair. At the last minute she made a left turn at the coin counter and ran to a corner at the opposite end of the room.

As she leaned against the counter panting I told our dear friend he could come out. He said he would as soon as he could move his legs. He had sat there for so long without moving that his legs would not work.

When he was finally able to stand he came out and told us what happened. She had gone into the safe and started counting the boxes of rolled coin. She was so intent on her job that she did not even notice that he was sitting there. When she lifted her head a bit he slightly lifted his hand and gave her a little wave. That was when she screamed.

She was such a good sport after she had ascertained that she was not going to have a heart attack. We laughed about it for the rest of the time that our shifts overlapped. She also promised that she would find a way to get me back. I welcomed the threat.

These are just a sampling of practical jokes I have been a participant in. I am sure they will not be the last but it is harder to be original the older I get.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sometimes They Rhyme

I dearly loved school  In one very small town (as in most of them) all grades were in one building. Elementary school had three grades to a room. There were only three girls in my grade.

There were several programs for our parents each year. We performed plays, or sang, or danced, whatever the teacher decided we would do.

My grade was not the only one with a shortage of girls. Often the boys from another grade would need dance partners. Sometimes they would need additional girls for a play. So the girls were called upon to do many different things each time. It was fun

I was in second grade and my teacher recognized that I had a good memory. In addition to the other things I was doing for the program she would often assign a long poem for me to recite. I remember them fondly but of course I can no longer recite them completely.

I believe the first one was The Gingham Dog and The Calico Cat by Eugene Field. The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat side by side on the table sat... If you do not know the poem you can do a search for it. It is a cute little poem with a surprise ending.

Another was Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley. It was originally titled The Elf Child then renamed to Little Orphant Allie. In a later printing there was a typo and it became Little Orphant Annie forever. It is meant to threaten children into good behavior with the admonition of An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you Ef you Don't Watch Out! 

I Have A Little Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson is a description of a child's shadow. It is light-hearted and fun. I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, and what can be the use of him is more than I can see.

Hiding by  Dorothy Keeley Aldis really captures the way a child thinks. I'm hiding I'm hiding but no one knows where for all they can see is my toes and my hair. Then the parents begin to search... Have you looked in the inkwell... but I was not there.  It is absolutely enchanting.

The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt. "Will you walk into my parlour ?" said the Spider to the fly. The cautious Fly is seduced by the crafty Spider. Can you guess how it ends?

The patriotic Paul Revere by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is probably still taught in most American schools. While not completely factual it is exciting and rouses pride in our country. Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. It sounds full of action from the beginning.

The Owl And The Pussycat by Edward Lear tells of an owl and a pussycat who are eloping. The Owl and The Pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea-green boat... It is a beautiful love story.

The Raven  by my favorite author Edgar Allen Poe made my mother happy. She loved the alliteration. For those who do not want to look it up alliteration is when the first sounds of several words help convey a setting. And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain givers the feeling of being able to hear the curtain swishing against each other. It is a melancholy tale of a lost love. Most people remember "Quoth the raven, Nevermore."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote The Song Of Hiawatha. It has such a rhythmic primal beat and it was fun to recite. By the shores of Gitchie Gumie by the shining Big Sea Water tells of Hiawatha observing the morning.

There were others but I think you get the idea. I loved that teacher. All of her students did. She gave me an interest in poetry and taught me that it is more than a sing-song group of words. She also told my mother that I was too young at the time but to make sure I was exposed to Shakespeare when i was ready. She was sure I would enjoy it. she was right.

These are all good poems for children. If you like you can begin with shorter poems that they will not lose interest in because they do get wiggly if asked to sit too long. Look them up for yourself as well. They are all great fun.

Friday, June 20, 2014


My goodness the weather has been giving us the dickens here for the last few days. It has been raining heavily with thunder and lightning. I love a good storm so I can enjoy all that.

Tornadoes are another matter. Tornadoes are pounding this area. I do not worry too much where I live because we are sort of tucked into the hills. But all around the area has been hit hard with them.

One of the worst was the twin tornadoes that hit a little town in Nebraska the first night. It almost leveled the whole town. So much loss. Two lives were lost which is two too many but it could have been so much worse.

The twin tornadoes are two funnels coming down from one set of clouds. They are not unheard of but it is not a common phenomenon. Apparently these were about a mile apart. Just as soon as the first one was finished with the town the second one hit. How frightened those people must have been.

There were so many tornadoes all around that night. I believe most of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota were either watching for signs or taking cover.

The second night there were again tornadoes all around. I did not hear of any major touch-downs but I am sure it is all in the perception. Even if the loss is minimal it can be devastating if the loss is yours.

All through this time the thunderstorms came and went. There was a lot of rain. Sometimes the wind was so strong that I could feel the house shudder.

The third day I took advantage of a break in the storms to go get some much needed grocery shopping done. I have to drive 25 miles to the store so I let it go longer than I should sometimes.

As we came over the last hill before turning off into my little town (my son was with me), I saw the biggest mirage I had ever seen. I pointed it out to my son. But it did not seem to move like most mirages will do. We decided to drive down to the highway and take that way home.

When we got there what a shock! All the fields were under water.  The fence posts showed about 6 inched from the tops so the water is deep. The fields looked like a big beautiful lake.

The river is at least half a mile away at that point so it overflowed a lot. And I had just driven that highway the day before. I saw the river at several spots and it looked high but not ready to cover that much ground. It was not over the banks at all.

The fields were growing so nicely too. The corn was between 6 and 9 inches tall in most places and the soybeans were spreading nicely. I hope they will not be too damaged.

In the meantime it began to rain again. There were severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warnings again.

I was in my room watching TV when the lightning began to illuminate the sky almost continually. There was no thunder just the flickering in the sky. I got up and went to the front door to watch. I know I should not do that but it was interesting.

Then I saw on the news that another twin tornado had hit a little town in South Dakota. Wow. So far I have not heard of fatalities but there were two injuries. Thank goodness.

The weather seems to be moving on but that could all change at the drop of a raindrop.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dear Daddy

Dear Daddy,

It is just after Father's Day. I want to write to you to tell you how much it has meant to have you for a father but I am having a hard time trying to find words.

You always made me feel like I was the most special person in the world. I was the little girl you wanted. You were always there for me.

I remember when my class took a roller skating outing. You went along as a chaperone. I did not know how to skate and was afraid of falling. I was also afraid that everyone would laugh at me. So there I stood against the wall looking as sorrowful as could be. You went to a couple of my friends and talked them into taking me for a couple of turns around the rink. You never admitted that you did that but I know you did.

You chaperoned a lot of things for all of us kids. Mom was always busy with a baby and housework so you made the time to do the un-fun things.

I still talk about the Sunday drives in the country that we used to take. You would drive slowly and point out things of interest like a squirrel or a sumac plant. Those drives are probably my favorite childhood memory.

After I was grown and had my own children you loved them so much. It made me feel overwhelmingly happy to watch you with them. You treated them just like you treated us only with that extra little bit of love only Grandpa can give.

Sometimes being a grown-up became tiring for me. That was when I would go to you. I could feel you emotionally let me sit on your lap and be your little girl for a few minutes. I always felt better and could go back to being an adult without the weights on my shoulders that I had before. It was such a luxury.

Every one of your children and grandchildren adored you. You were the rock that our family stood on. My youngest son once commented that that was the reason every single house of a member of our family has your picture prominently displayed so anyone visiting could see it.

I had a friend who asked me what I would say to you if I had another chance. I told him that there was nothing. He was shocked. He had a great many things left unsaid to his father. I gently explained that you knew how much I love you and I knew hown much you loved me. Nothing else needs to be said.

Before your funeral the minister asked if there was anything specific we wanted him to say. I told him that I wanted everyone to understand how much you loved us and how much we loved you. He was so moved that he cried during the service.

We also knew how respected you were by others. How proud we all were.

I miss you every day in little ways and big.

Love, Emma

Friday, June 13, 2014

Look At The World With Wonder

Have you ever watched a two-year-old see a butterfly? The look of wonder and happy surprise lights up a little face just before the child takes off to try to catch the butterfly. That look of amazement as the child discovers something new is priceless.

It is a bitter shame that we lose that wonder as we age. Our lives become as ho-hum as our reactions to new experiences.

I have tried not to lose the feeling of wonder completely. Sometimes it takes work so it is not quite the same. Many people think I need to be institutionalized. But I find my enjoyment of new things is enhanced by allowing the wonder of the newness to envelop me.

The nice thing is that it does not have to be limited to something entirely new. A beautiful flower is a good place to start. Take a real look at its shape. Can you see the artistry? Then there is its color. Is it soft and soothing or is it bright and exciting?

The smell can be strong or softly sensual. When you touch it it can be soft, or slightly fuzzy, or sleek and smooth. Is it delicate and in danger of losing its petals when you touch it? Or is it one of those sturdy flowers that fights back if you try to pick it?

Does it grow in bunches all together. Or is it a loner with no other flowers like it close by?

See what I mean. And this is just for a flower. All things have an excitement about them. All we have to do is be open to them.

Try to see one thing each day that makes you feel awed. It becomes easier as you get in the habit of doing it. Then when you see a child with a look of wonder on its face you can enjoy the wonder of that little one's face.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Second Grandson

My second grandson is my daughter's oldest child. You have already read about his rabbit funeral and his adventure with my nephew and the go-cart. From that you might think he is a "quirky" child. You would be absolutely right.

I was fortunate to be with my daughter and the baby's father when he was born. It was an extremely difficult delivery. My daughter had to stop working early because her blood pressure was too high. She felt fine but the doctor said it was just too dangerous for her and the baby.

They decided to induce labor because her blood pressure had risen anyway. During the last stages of labor she was having a difficult time and the baby was in distress. But as I could see him being born I could see what a pretty baby he was. He looked just like his grandfather.

When I called my mother-in-law to let her know the baby was here I said, "He's a real pretty baby. He looks just like John." She said, "Well now you know Emma that Johnny always was my prettiest baby."

He was a tiny baby and they did not let him go home for a few days. He needed to weigh at least five pounds. They would not allow my daughter to stay with him and she suffered so. She wondered if she had done something wrong. She was at the hospital each day for as long as they would let her stay. After a few days he came home.

I stayed with them to help with the baby. I was able to sing to him and tell him stories. He seemed to be an appreciative audience. The first song was of course The Unicorn and the first story I told him was Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Even before he could get up onto his hands and knees to crawl, my grandson could propel himself around the apartment with amazing speed. When we put him on a blanket on the floor he wiggled like a little worm and went wherever he wanted to go.

One day I was talking to my daughter on the phone. We were having a thunderstorm and she was looking out the window to watch. All of a sudden a huge crash of thunder sounded. She was laughing because my grandson started to cry. He did not like storms at all. I asked her if she was sure he was ours. We all love a good storm.

My grandson was fascinated by ceiling fans. It was one way to keep him in place at home. If he lay on his back he would watch the fan and become mesmerized. Any place we went he would spot the ceiling fan if there was one then stare seemingly hypnotized the whole time it was in sight.

That was a blessing in the store because he was also a screamer. He seemed to think that rather than be placed comfortably for all in the cart he should be carried. If we insisted that he stay in the cart he would scream. We never gave in to him but he did not care. He could screech as long as we left him in the cart.

Once my son, my daughter with my grandson, and I were shopping in a department store. My grandson was screaming. Suddenly I could take it no more. I took off. I hid among the racks of clothing. I could hear my son and daughter looking for me. When they would get too close I would move. Finally when I composed myself I reappeared and we continued shopping.

He was so very thin. He looked like a child from a third world country but he was perfectly healthy. I used to tease him that if he turned sideways he would disappear.

You should see the way my grandson sleeps. He lies on his back. He then folds his arms on his chest the way a vampire is shown at rest. That is the way he sleeps. Like a dead man.

My grandson could sing the theme song to every television program he watched. He could also do quite good impressions of a lot of the characters. For a while Popeye was his favorite.

We were sitting in a little diner when he suddenly stood up on his seat and sang the theme song for Popeye. Everybody turned to look. When he finished he took a bow and sat down. He was done.

He had funny eating habits too. He sort of naturally ate a low carb diet. He loves vegetables. He liked pancakes but nothing on them. No syrup, no butter, no jam, no sugar, nothing. And he ate them strangely. He would pick up a pancake and peel it open Then he ate the inside of the pancake and left the brown outside.

He also liked grilled cheese sandwiches. He would pull the two slices of bread apart and peel the melted cheese from inside and eat it.

When he and his sister were small they would come to my house while their mother worked. I believe in outside activities so we would go to the back yard. One day the phone rang. I told them I would be right back. They practically beat me into the house. They were afraid the wind was going to blow them away.

On hot summer days I would turn on the sprinkler for them to run through. My older two grandchildren's cousin lived a couple of doors away. She is about the same age as my second granddaughter so she was usually at my house while they were there.

My grandson had to go to the bathroom. I could not leave the girls outside alone because they were too small. My grandson needed to have me with him when he did what he needed to do. I told him to go in the bushes. He balked at first but finally went in the bushes. Then he proudly came out and urged the girls to come see the puddle he had made. After that he could not wait to play outside so he could water my bushes.

My grandson was not thrilled to have a sister. When she was first born he was very proud and very protective but that wore off quickly. When he was old enough he would request "only child" days.  His little sister would come to my house so he could have his parents all to himself.

One of my grandson's testicles did not descend. The doctor advised waiting because that is rather a normal thing and often it will move into place when it is good and ready. But his did not. He needed surgery which was completely successful.

My daughter and her family went to visit my mother-in-law. Everyone was sitting in the living room talking. My daughter urged my grandson to go tell Grandma about his operation. He walked over in front of Grandma, dropped his pants, and held up parts so she could see his scar.

My second grandson was just like my first grandson in one way. They both would come in the door at my house and begin to shed clothes. He would strip down to his underwear and socks. Then he would head for the computer and that would be the last peep out of him.

My grandson played soccer for a little while. After a couple of years he said he did not want to play any more. But he loves basketball.

He played basketball for several years before he realized that he was never going to be tall enough to make most teams. But I loved to watch him. He was defense. He could confound the player for the other team better than anyone I have ever seen. I once saw him slap the floor with both hands and come back up with a roar. The player opposite him just stopped and stared at him in shock. He actually was awarded a trophy for defensive player of the year.

My grandson is also unusual in the reading material he chooses. He reads things like The Iliad, political treatises, and the Bible. For enjoyment.

One year he decided for Halloween he would be Moses. He encouraged his friends to dress in similar characters. Most people thought he was dressed as Jesus. That upset him. "Can't they see that I'm Moses?!?"

My grandson graduates this year and will be off to college. He has a job. He used to have a car but after a couple of accidents (just like his older cousin) his parents only allow him to drive under specific conditions.

See what I mean about "quirky"?

Friday, June 6, 2014

I Am Seeing Stars

I have never had much money. I do not need much but there have been times I wished there had been just a bit more.

For instance I could not afford to go to many of the concerts that occasionally came to the moderately sized city I lived in while I was in high school. The very biggest stars did not come because the market was much too small but there were well-known names.

My friend's grandfather was a janitor at the auditorium where such things were held. Sometimes he could get free tickets for us. It was there that there was a country/western revue. It was called country/western at the time instead of country music as it is now.

The headliner was Skeeter Davis. She had a marvelous stage presence. No wonder she was so loved by her fans. This was before she had her big hit of "End Of The World" so she was not known throughout the country as she became later.

Then there were Gary Lewis and the Playboys. He was the son of comedian Jerry Lewis. They had a huge hit with "This Diamond Ring". They seemed a bit bored and I believed they performed only in order to boost sales of their record. It showed me that not all performers care much about the audience.

At school Dear Abby and Ann Landers visited and gave talks to the assembly. They were twins who had attended the school so they were warmly welcomed. Their talks were always based on advice for teenagers who as we all know are tempted to all forms of evil. I have to say though that the talks were not as dry as one might think. I rather enjoyed them.

After I married I moved to a large city. There were concerts all the time with a lot of famous artists. My husband was not interested and we could not have afforded to go even so. But as my children began to get older I allowed them to go with my younger brothers and sisters. For them I could find the money.

After my husband left I felt like I could do more of the things I enjoyed. So I did.

KISS was a favorite of my brothers and sisters and my kids. That was probably the first concert any of my children went to. I like KISS well enough but not enough to pay for a ticket.

My oldest son was out of school and working. There was to be a KISS concert in a smaller city nearby. The kids wanted to go. As they usually did they asked if I would like to go. I said no. They bought me a ticket anyway.

As usual we had a niece and a nephew who went too. So here I am driving a small car with me and six young people filling it. It was not a fun trip.

We stopped for dinner at a small restaurant. With all the boys (four of the stinkers) a food fight was inevitable. Of course the girls joined in. Did I mention that I am a girl? I left a very generous tip.

It is customary for ticket holders in that part of the country to be searched before entering the concert area. They were looking for cameras and liquor mostly. Unfortunately now they also look for weapons. Anyway I decided to be cute when I got to the check point.

I pulled my coat open and told the guards (a male and a female) to be careful. All those big boys behind me were mine and very protective. One wrong move and there would be trouble. The boys obliged by leaning forward and looking fierce. The guards were unimpressed. After my search they passed me through.

I truly enjoyed that concert. KISS puts on a show for and with the audience. I recommend them for anyone who likes their music.

Grease is one of my favorite music. So many of the things that happen in the movie remind me of my high school days. And the music is great.

When the movie first came out I wanted to take my children. But I had heard that it was not always suitable for children so I went with my sister and her friend to see it first.

There is a scene in the movie at the drive-in theater. Danny and Sandy are in their car. Danny finally manages to jerk his class ring from his finger to give to Sandy. In the process his elbow hits her in the chest. I flinched because I know how that can hurt.

After she accepts it and gushes about how she knows that he really respects her, he treis to make his move. She shrinks from under his grasp and jumps out of the car. She slams the door in anger and hits Danny in the groin.

I jumped up, right there in the theater and groaned. Loudly. My sister and her friend both slid down in their seats, embarrassed to be seen with me. You would think my sister would be used to me by this time.

I decided that my children could handle whatever they saw in the movie. I saw it as often as I could. I watch it when it comes on television. I have several DVD's all gifts from my grandchildren. If they replay it at the theater I make an evening of it with my granddaughters. I have even seen Grease On Ice.

Grease began as a play. It was so popular that a movie was made. In the meantime the play is constantly being redone. It tours the country periodically. Each time the cast is different.

I have seen (to name a few) Mackenzie Phillips (daughter of John Phillips and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas), Sally Strothers, the winners of a reality show that chose the Danny and Sandy for the tour, and FRANKIE AVALON! After the play Frankie Avalon came out and sang most of his big hits. My granddaughters got to see this.

Christmas and a ballet just seem to go together. My friend got tickets to The Nutcracker and invited me to be her guest. I quickly accepted. It was the final year that Mikhail Baryshnikov was touring. It was a fairy tale come to life.

One of my granddaughters has the nerve to have another grandmother. (Of course they all do) Her grandmother was taking her and her cousin to see The Nutcracker. She graciously invited me. We all had a marvelous time. It is a good piece to introduce little ones to ballet. The tradition has continued without me in attendance. The girls even had backstage passes one year. They were able to meet the stars of the show.

I love the magic of a song like The Unicorn. And it is the best lullaby I know. It is the first song I sang to all my children and grandchildren.

I had wanted to go see The Irish Rovers who sang it for a long time. I even looked into taking a trip with a group from one of the community colleges one year. Then I discovered that my daughter was due to give birth during that time. Plans cancelled. My granddaughter was born the day of the concert.

None of my children wanted to see something as corny as the Irish Rovers. Then my grandchildren turned up their noses.

I noticed one evening that they were coming to town again. My daughter's son and daughter were spending the weekend with me. I was lamenting to my son that I wanted to go. He told me to go ahead and go. But I lamented that it would be no fun to go alone and even my friends did not want to go with me. (Some friends!)

My granddaughter said, "I will go with you, Grandma." I was shocked. I asked if she was sure. She was. I checked the date, got permission from her parents, and bought the tickets.

We made an evening of it. We dressed up and went out to dinner. Then we went to the concert. Because we got the tickets late we had seats in the balcony but they were good ones. We could see very well and the acoustics were good.

My granddaughter was mesmerized. She loved the music and the sing-alongs. She laughed heartily at the jokes. She was in love.

She gave off such a glow. The man who sat on the other side of her was having as much fun as I was watching her enjoy the show.

Before the intermission the band announced that they would be staying after for a "meet-and-greet". My granddaughter asked if we could stay. Of course we could.

Besides a fun show that appeals to everybody, these are truly nice guys. As they sign autographs they speak to the person they are signing for. They especially take time with children.

We made a yearly trip to see the Irish Rovers. Each time it was dinner first. Each time the band members spoke to her and made her feel special. After a couple of years they recognized her and made little gifts to her, like a shamrock from the table where they sat. Little touches like that have made her a fan for life.

As you can see I still did not attend many concerts. I do not like the crowds. I do not like waiting in line to get in. I really hate the rush of people who are in such a hurry to leave.

But my oldest son is a huge fan of Queen. He was too young to see them when they toured the United States years ago. He regretted not being able to see Freddie Mercury perform.

When Queen + Paul Rogers announced their tour my son received a pre-order offer that he could not refuse. He asked if I would like to go and I accepted. He could get four tickets for an extraordinarily low price so he asked if my son and his wife would be interested. She was not but my granddaughter was so my son and his daughter were with us.

My oldest son was warning me when we left our house that my youngest son seemed to be a violence magnet at concerts. Usually all he would have to do is tell the offender to "sit down and shut the *^#* up!" Then he said, "Do you know what happens then?" I said, "They sit down and shut up." *^#* is not a word I say. And he said, "Yep." with a certain amount of pride in his voice.

My granddaughter was 14 or 15 at the time. She is tiny and asked if she could sit on the aisle seat so she could see. Of course. I sat next to her, then my oldest son, then her father.

In came "Mr Super Cool". He sauntered and surveyed as he walked. His seat was right in front of mine. He removed his leather jacket with a great deal of ceremony and placed it over the back of his seat. He then sashayed ( I know. Men are not sashay-ers but he wanted to be noticed) away until the concert began.

When he came back he noticed my pretty granddaughter. He noticeably noticed her. My antennae went up. I felt my son's blood pressure go up.

The concert was fantastic. It was exceptional in every way. It has to be at the top of any concert list.

At about the middle of the concert the man in front was turning often to look at my granddaughter. She did not seem to notice so I said nothing. My son came over and said he wanted to sit behind my granddaughter. I told my other son to be ready just in case. He already was.

Suddenly my youngest son reached between me and my granddaughter to point that family finger about half an inch from the guy's face. He ranted for a couple of minutes about perverts after little girls and then told the guy what would happen if he did not leave his daughter alone.

"Mr Super Cool" quickly and nervously apologized. He meant nothing according to him. The show went on. Then I saw him eying a little girl of about twelve across the aisle. Worse than that her mother seemed pleased. Ick.

When this indescribably wonderful concert was over the lights went up. The man was gone like a thief in the night. He was probably lucky. By the way the little girl and her mother were still there so she was also safe.

My granddaughter held her father's hand all the way to the car. He told me that she always did. That way he could protect her. It was so sweet.

So this is my concert experience. I missed seeing Ricky Nelson not long before he died. My boss would not let me have the night off. Since he was my all-time favorite I was more than disappointed.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

America's Pasttime

I love baseball. Other sports I need to have a person to cheer for. When my uncles played football and basketball and ran track I yelled as loud as anyone. But for baseball I can follow a team.

When I was a little girl there were no professional baseball teams near us. We could get games on the radio or sometimes on television on the weekends. But we only got games involving the St Louis Cardinals or the New York Yankees. For some reason I have always preferred the American League as opposed to the National League. That means I rooted for the Yankees.

Today I still have a soft spot for the Cardinals. I remember listening to Dizzy Dean doing play-by-play. He had such a great voice with a touch of a southern twang and a laid back good old boy way. He had humorous stories about a lot of the players both past and present. And at the end of the game he would say something like, "This is your old pal, Dizz, saying goodbye till next time."

A favorite activity in the summer was to get a bunch of kids together to play baseball. We would choose sides and play in a yard or field. To decided which team would bat first the captain of one team would toss the bat to the other captain. then they would hand over hand to the end of the bat. Whichever captain was the final one got to choose whether they would bat first or take the field.

I was a mediocre fielder. I did okay but nothing fabulous. I had to learn to hit the ball often and far. I could not run so I needed the time to get to base. I was also notorious for tossing the bat when I hit the ball. Until one day when my brother was playing catcher while I batted. I tossed the bat and hit him in the mouth knocking his front teeth (permanent) loose. Luckily the damage was not permanent.

The boys played little league baseball. There was nothing like that available for girls then. One town wwe lived in had a player in the older division that eventually went on to be chosen by the Yankees. He mostly played in the minor leagues but was called up in the fall many years to play with the majors.

My father would not coach my brothers because he did not want to be accused of favoratism. But he liked to umpire the games. And we watched all the games. It was an event in town.

When we moved to the big city after I was married there was a major league baseball team there. Unfortunately I married a man who had no interest at all in baseball. When my parents and siblings moved to the city I was finally able to go to some of the games.

We lived a few miles straight down the street from the ball park. All we had to do was hop on the bus to get there. And that was cheaper than paying for parking if we could find it.

And little league was available for my kids. My youngest brother played for the same league as my boys in the beginning. He is quite a bit older so he played with the older teams. My daughter was almost as interested in baseball as her father so she did not play.

The city park system had a park in our neighborhood. It had been allowed to rundown over the years. There were baseball diamonds that were overgrown with weeds. There were no organized activities of any kind.

We formed a committee to make things happen at the park. Crafting classes and art classes were presented inside the renovated building. Games and sports were made available outside. But no baseball. We had no coaches.

At a community meeting we found that fathers felt they did not have time to devote to coaching for their children. I suggested that perhaps some of the mothers would be interested. On e father was vehemently against that. After all baseball is a BOYS' sport. Mothers could not possibly know how to teach boys. My argument was that if we could teach them to use the bathroom without making a mess we could certainly teach them baseball.

Finally we had enough coaches for four teams. I was one of them. The others were fathers. I did not want to make a bad showing. As long as my team did not come in last I would be happy.

We drew players. I had two of my sons who were automatically on my team. I then was incredibly lucky in drawing some of the best players in the other little league my boys played for and some really good players who had never been in a league before.

The first game came. We lost miserably. After the game I called my team together because I saw some things I did not like. I had some really good players but i also had some inexperienced players. All had the right to play. But the more experienced players were not good team players. If someone made a mistake or was unsure of how to make a play the experienced players would belittle them on the field.

So I told my team that I knew why they lost. If another player makes a good play tell them so. If they make a mistake tell them they will do better next time. Between games teach them some of the things they need help with. I saw lights go on over all their heads. They had not realized that boosting each other might help them and they understood what I was telling them.

Our next game we won. There were congratulations all over the place and a lot of "That's okay. You'll do better next time" all through the game. As a matter of fact we did not lose a game the rest of the season. We were a team.

Now back to my major league team. For years we were underdogs... the perennial 4th place team. Then came a new manager. My father was very upset. He did not like this manager at all. His nickname was The Hook. Daddy thought he did not give pitchers a chance before he would pull them from the game.

The Hook was Sparky Anderson. He came to the Tigers and made a statement to the press that we would be champions in 5 years. Five years after that we were the winners of the World Series. We had players like Alan Trammel, Lou Whittaker, Lance Parish, and so on.

We had a pitcher before that who was the biggest phenomenon in baseball. He talked to the ball as he pitched. He got on his hands and knees to shape the pitcher's mound to his liking. He had energy that kept him moving all the time. If another player made a good play he would run up to that player and congratulate him. He was Mark Fidrych also called The Bird because he reminded people of Big Bird on Sesame Street. We saw him pitch his first game in a major league game. Before that we saw him pitch in a charity game with another major league team.

The winningest pitcher of the 1980's was ours. Jack Morris should have been elected to the Hall Of Fame but was not. Travesty.

Now we have the best hitter in baseball. Miguel Cabrera is so far above all the others. He has won the batting title the last three years in a row. Two years ago he was a triple crown winner which is nearly impossible to do. He was voted the Most Valuable Player (MVP) the last two years in a row.

We also have the best pitcher in baseball today. Justin Verlander won the Cy Young award for pitching. He also won the pitching triple crown as well as MVP.

Another Cy Young winner from last year is on our team. Max Scherzer is our number two pitcher. Anibal Sanchez is last year's ERA (earned run average) player. These are just a few of our players.

We had one of the most beloved managers until this year. Jim Leland retired at the end of last season. I miss him but I think Brad Ausmus has done a fine job so far this year.

I hate when players are traded away. I grow attached to them. Even if I understand the logic in the trade I feel bad. I follow them too. Some of the players we receive in a trade are players I did not like before they came to the Tigers. Sometimes I never like them. Sometimes I come to like them a lot. But I cheer for my team.

Most summer days you will find me glued to the television watching my Tigers play. They play 162 games in a regular season. I watch them all. I scream at the television. The dog took a while to be comfortable with my shouting but she sleeps through it now.

My children have always laughed at me watching baseball with my yelling. My mother and I would watch and yell and all the kids would sit outside and make fun of us. Rotten kids.

I realize that logically my team will not win every single game. But WHY NOT??? I hate it when we lose. I call them names. I pout. All things I would never do if I were at the game. I am full of glee when we win. That I would do at a game.

I hate it when fans at the game boo players or teams. I hate the Cleveland Indians drum player who pounds that thing all through the game. I know he is supporting the team but he gives me a headache. I hat cheating of any kind. That includes chemical cheating.

I hate it when fans throw things on the field. I hate when fans throw back a baseball they caught when it came from a home run ball from the opposing team. Are they stupid? If they do not want it give it to one of the children waiting for a souvenir of the game.

I love when players toss a used ball to a cute little kid. The smiles on those faces are priceless. I love watching players sign autographs. I love watching a player who is happy for making a good play or who congratulates another player for making a good play. I love the good natured interactions between players from opposing teams when they are together on the field.

Did I tell you that I like baseball? It is fun to play. It is fun to watch. What more could you want?