Southern Traditions

While Dad and I were in Charleston recently—the only thing I told him I wanted for my birthday—we meandered into an art gallery off of Broad Street. We spotted a painting of South of the Border. This got Dad into a discussion with the two women behind the counter, during which he explained about his family’s annual December trips to visit his grandparents in Miami.

During those early years, Interstate 95, which now goes from Houlton, Maine to Miami, Florida, intentionally kept a completed section of the highway closed for several years. All travelers heading toward the Sunshine State were forced to exit the highway and drive on route 301 until returning to the interstate.

Dad explained that a particular section in Dillon, South Carolina was not opened specifically so travelers would be forced to drive by South of the Border. He implied that there was some unofficial exchange of money. Sounds sketchy to me! We did not purchase the painting.

Then the conversation drifted to a discussion of Moon Pies, which are apparently Southern delicacies which I have not yet experienced. FYI, they are made in Chatanooga, Tennessee. Naturally, I had to do a little research.

Moon Pies are 4-inch in diameter and appear to be made of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate, and have been in existence since 1917. Here’s where it gets interesting. We learned, from the nice women in Charleston, that they are traditionally accompanied by RC Cola. Who knew?

So last night, Dad and I were in Walgreens picking up some photographs, when what did we spot but a package of Moon Pies! Being in the South, we assumed the gentleman behind the counter would be familiar with the Moon Pie tradition—but he was not. So after Dad refreshed his memory (I only remembered that it was a soda which began with the letter “R”) by researching it on his phone, he announced “RC Cola!”

“Now he will remember us,” I told Dad.

Just maybe he will.



Shopping Stress

Dad and I went shopping the other day to pick up some supplies for our family vacation. It should have been easy. We were looking for toilet paper, bug repellent, and sunscreen. Easy, right? It turned out to be both stressful and funny.

We usually purchase our paper goods from Sam’s Club, so we only  have to replenish those supplies a few times a year. We had forgotten how difficult buying large quantities of toilet paper is. I watched as Dad walked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth between two displays of Charmin toilet paper. Then I laughed as he reached for his phone so he could pull up the calculator app. He was trying to determine which to buy: 36 = 93 rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft for $20.98 or 24=108 Ultra Strong at $21.98. The engineer in him, the man who runs family seminars on how to properly load the dishwasher, finally announced, “We should get the Ultra Strong.” I was fine with either. I just won’t buy Scott.


Our next stop was Walmart, where we intended to buy the sunscreen and the bug spray. After deciding on a cream instead of spray, and SPF 50, it was simply a matter of comparing price and reading the labels. It was an easy decision to choose the store brand over the name brand.

The final purchase was bug repellent, because we don’t want to come home covered with mosquito and tick bites. We took off towards the skin care aisle since it was not near the sunscreen. No luck. Then we moseyed over to outdoor toys and supplies, but still no success. Finally we decided to try the camping department, which was the winning move.

This was very stressful. Several brands bragged about the amount of deet in their product: 15%, 20%, 40%, or 100%, while others touted the fact that they were “deet-free.”

Out came our cell phones to determine which was best for our precious bodies. In the end, we left the store without any repellent, determined to get to the bottom of the situation with the help of further research.

It was then that I was reminded of Grandpa’s cousin, Misha, who came to visit one year from Russia. I remember how impressed he was by the product choices on our store shelves. While I would never, ever want to live in Russia, particularly with Vladdy at the helm, it would be nice, at times, to have less choices. This is why I hate to shop!

Let’s Rent Another Movie

There was a time in our family when a typical Christmas present was a single VHS blank tape, which cost about $20 back in the early eighties. It was considered a generous gift, equivalent to somewhere between $50-60 in today’s dollars.

There were benefits to those tapes. They did not scratch, could not be so easily lost since they were so much bigger than a DVD, and when you rented a movie, they did not come with any annoying commercials and movies previews.

We purchased our first video recorder when we moved into our first house. We had no cable television, so we were unable to watch anything but what we could view from the antenna—a total of seven stations.

Dad recalls that it came at a hefty price—$600. I do not how we afforded such an extravagant toy back in those days, but I think our rationale was that we had money for little else. We did not travel unless it was on business, nor did we go to the movies. It was a rare treat to go out to eat that first year or two after purchasing that house.

That particular VCR had no scanning capability, so we would have to FAST FORWARD, STOP, PLAY, and continue to do this until we arrived at the spot we wished to view. The scanning feature came with the next model.

The video store in town ran a special. For $100 and for a period of one year, we could rent as many movies as we wanted. The catch was that we could only rent one movie at a time.

Uncle Mart was living with us that year, so he would watch a movie and then walk down to the video store to get another one. (He did not have a car.)

Looking back, this all seems so primitive. Now we can rent movies at our local video store or from a vending machine called Red Box , choose a film from a plethora of cable stations, live stream via so many different services, and borrow as many as 60 at a time from the library. (This is in case the kiddies want to set up their own movie rental stand next to their lemonade stand, I guess.)

I wonder what the future will bring.

Wonderous and Creepy

A lot has changed regarding telephone technology since the advent of this communication device at the end of the 19th century. From the first call made by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876, we have come a long way.

My great grandfather had one of the first telephones in town. His phone number was simply “4.” What would he think if he saw all the advancements that have occurred since his death in 1917: from the basic telephone to the cordless phone, to the cumbersome “car phones,” which morphed into the very small cell phones, and now smart phones, which are literally pocket-sized computers which connects the world?

I love my iPhone. Truly I do. I love having conversations with Siri, being able to look up just about any piece of trivial thought that pops into my mind, go shopping, quickly communicate with my friends and family via text, email, or a phone, and easily obtain directions via multiple routes—even warning me of traffic or accidents along the way.

My phone is truly a wonder, but it can also be downright creepy. Take yesterday, for example. Dad and I spent the morning doing a few errands around town and then returned home for lunch. After our bellies were filled we hopped into my car, and while we were still in the driveway, I looked down at my phone and was informed of the number of minutes to Kelly’s house.

“This is very creepy,“ I remarked to Dad.

It was downright disturbing. How did it know? I had made plans to go there on our landline, and there was no mention of any activity that day at Kelly’s house on my cell phone calendar. Was Siri a real person listening in on our private conversations?

I looked this up on my computer, not my iPhone, and was instructed to turn off my GPS on my phone. So I will see if this makes any difference in the future; otherwise, my only explanation is that Big Brother is watching. How very 1984!


Hello World

I considered ignoring this day because it’s just not the same once you are no longer a kid. No longer do I look forward to the pool parties in my back yard or playing pin-the-tale on the donkey or bingo for nickels with my school friends. No longer do I have milestone birthdays to look forward to such as my seventeenth, when I could get my driver’s license, or my eighteenth, when I could vote, and back then, legally drink. Now the years are just reminders of my mortality.

There is a movie—City Slickers—which came out in 1991. In the opening scene, Billy Crystal is lying in bed when he is awoken by a telephone call from his mother. He is expecting this call because it’s his birthday, and every year, Mom calls Mitch to relive the day he was born.

I laughed when I saw this, understanding exactly how his character felt, because every year, Grandma would call me on my birthday to discuss the day she gave birth to me.

Grandma: “It’s June 16th. I remember the day well. I was in my bed in the hospital when an orderly walked in with a tray of food for me. It was dinner—a nice steak dinner. I looked at it and told him to take it away. Without hesitating, your father, who did not have a shy bone in his body, looked at the tray and said without hesitating, ‘I’ll take it,’ and proceeded to eat my entire meal. I was not happy…. You were born much later that night. One hour more and it would have been the 17th.”

Baby me and Great Aunt Mary. This is the earliest photo I have of me.

Labor and delivery sure have changed a lot since I was born. Steak dinners would never, ever be allowed today. I think the medical world would laugh at the thought.

When Kelly and Jamie were born, I was permitted to eat nothing except ice chips. (I was allowed to sprinkle lemon juice on top for flavor.) The good news was that there were no restrictions regarding the amount.

By the time Casey came alone, pre-delivery rules had relaxed a bit, so I was allowed to have juice, Jello, and bouillon. Clearly not a steak dinner but still, so much better than only those stinking ice chips.

Now, based upon Kelly’s experiences thirty years later, the rules are back to ice chips. History repeats, but not like during those good old days when I screamed my way into the world while my dad enjoyed a nice steak dinner.

And here is the world the day I was born:

P. S. I am okay with the aging process. Not thrilled, but okay. I will thoroughly enjoy the milestones of my children and grandchildren and hope to share lots of them with them all. 

Get it Off!!

It was a bright and sunny day, so Dad and I decided to hit the road and do some errands followed by lunch at a new restaurant. We were having such a nice day.

Suddenly, as we were tooling along in the family truckster, I felt a slight presence on my right arm. I looked down and shrieked, and I must say, I was quite impressed with Dad’s non-reaction. I know that if I had been in the driver’s seat, I probably would have screamed, flailed my arms in horror, and crashed into the nearest vehicle beside me. But Dad maintained our lane.

“What’s wrong?” he asked with great concern and probably a bit of annoyance as well.

“Get it off! Get it off!” I screeched, trying desperately to rid myself of the nasty creature, all the while constrained in the car by my seatbelt. Fortunately, I was able to shake it off, but I had no clue where it had gone. Was I sitting on him, had he headed over to Dad, or was he crawling somewhere along the floor?

Fortunately, he was at my feet, so I somehow had the presence of mind to stamp on him. Sorry wildlife lovers, but it was him against me. The gloves were off!

I felt a little calmer now, so Dad did not have to pull off to the side of the road immediately but was able to drive to the nearest parking lot instead.

While the bug appeared to be lifeless, it turned out that one of his gargantuan legs was wiggling a bit. Dad decided to euthanize him, rationalizing that he was near death, so it was kinder to end it all sooner rather than make him live out a few extra minutes in the heat.

What had precipitated my reaction was this:


The nice name for this insect is a palmetto bug, which is Southern for cockroach.

The interesting thing was that I kept feeling his presence on my body. Every itch and every breeze made me wiggle in horror. Dad was no help. As we were standing in line at the supermarket, he lightly touched my arm, knowing how I would react.

“You’re not my friend,” I told him with a scowl on my face. Then we burst out laughing as the cashier looked on with a questioning face.

So ended our bright and sunny adventure.

Popping Out the Lenses

I have not been blessed with good eyesight, but I should not complain because my vision can easily be corrected. It was in fourth grade when I realized that it was possible to look at a tree and see each individual leaf. What a wondrous moment for me—so much so that I can still remember it to this day.

For the next four years, my light blue, plastic-framed glasses enabled me to clearly see the world. Unfortunately, boys did not notice shy girls with geeky glasses and crooked teeth.

So in ninth grade, I convinced my parents to allow me to get contact lenses. I was positive it would be a game-changer.

Back in the late sixties, contacts were not nearly as comfortable as the soft lenses that you all have today. They were smaller, hard, rather than flexible, and could be worn only 8-10 hours per day. If I was planning a late-night activity, I would usually remove them for a while during the day. Very annoying!

I clearly recall the day I got them because I was so excited at the prospect of finally shedding my glasses. The idea of putting a hard, foreign object in my eye scared me, and after several unsuccessful attempts, I was able to insert the first lens. Suddenly, the world around me began to fade. My skin felt clammy, the voices around me sounded far away and hollow, and I felt dizzy. The next thing I know my head was between my knees as the nurse tried to prevent me from fainting.

Eventually I left the doctor’s office able to see without my spectacles. I had to slowly build up a tolerance for the lenses, increasing them by an hour each day until I reached the maximum number of hours of comfort for me.

The vision with the hard lenses was exceptional, but occasionally, they would pop out, and I would end up on my hands and knees trying to locate my missing “eye.” As you may recall, I was not a fan of gym class, so on occasion, I would fake a popped contact so I could return to the locker room and reinsert it. Of course, that would take a very, very long time—so long that I would miss the rest of my class. Oh well!

Many years later, I was grown up, married, and off in Hawaii with Dad. This one particular day I left my contacts in too long, and the next day, I awoke in excruciating pain and could not even open my eyes.

We were staying on the island of Oahu, and on that day, we were leaving for Maui. Dad had to lead me to the plane, and I was allowed to board ahead of the other passengers. I remember having to keep my eyes closed for the next twenty-four hours or so, which resulted in me missing the very scenic plane ride to our next stop. I sat out on a lounge chair at the condo we had rented while Dad acted as my servant.

When we returned home, I decided that despite the fact that my eye doctor informed me that my vision would not be as crisp with soft lenses, I felt that my Hawaiian experience was enough to convince me to switch.

I have been a loyal wearer of soft contacts ever since. Maybe I should return to Hawaii to recapture that missing time.