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.

Sleepovers- Two Generations Later

Once upon a time, I would have sleepovers at my grandma’s house with my cousins. Then I became a parent, and you would all go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a sleepover. When you were a bit older, your friends would come to our house to “sleep.”

But let’s be honest. There was not a lot of sleeping going on during those happenings. I never enjoyed these occasions, but I was still young enough to remember the excitement of spending the night with a friend or two (or three or more).

Now I am the grandma hosting the slumber events. I admit that it is very flattering to be told that Bryce has been asking more than once when he can sleep at our house and then was very excited once the date was set. He wanted to help make dinner: “Mac and cheese like last time.”

The day began with lunch and a swim at the pool followed by a trip to Publix to purchase ingredients for a smoothie.

“Grandma, we need strawberries, bananas, yogurt, and orange juice.”

We played his Thomas the Train game, built a house of cards, and then prepared and ate dinner. Bath time, story time, and prayers went by without any major hitches.

Dad and I turned off the lights after briefly tuning into Stephen Colbert’s show and sadly discovering it was a rerun. We had hoped to see Stephen’s take on the meaning and pronunciation of covfefe, our president’s newest gaffe or secret Russian code word.

I was in the middle of a dream about Jamie being arrested when I was awoken by a very quiet little voice whispering, “Grandma. I’m hungry.” Disappointed at not finding out what action caused Jamie to end up behind bars, I opened my eyes to see the little Munchkin standing beside me. (Thank goodness he did not do what I used to do to Grandma, which was to pry open her eyelids with my tiny fingers.)

“I need some yogurt, please.”

After informing Bryce that he could have his 4 am snack once he went to the bathroom (“I already did.”), I staggered into the kitchen and pulled out the yogurt and spoon. Two bites later, he was done and ready to go back to bed. Thankfully, I was able to return to sleep but not to that dream.

It seemed like a very long time later that I felt a presence staring at me. How long he was there before I opened my eyes I do not know.

“Grandma, I want to snuggle.”

How could anyone refuse that request, so I helped him climb into bed between Dad and me? By that time, Dad was finally awake. He made room for our little visitor—in vain—because Bryce truly wanted to snuggle with me. I was literally hanging off the edge of the bed while Dad was luxuriously sprawled on his side, but now wide awake.

“I’m going to make coffee,” Dad announced to the two of us.  Thankfully, there was no movement from my corner of the bed.

It was still dark, and sunrise was not until 6:15 (I had already checked that out the previous night because Bryce was excited to be able to see the sun rise from the comfort of our living room), so there was no way in the world I was going to leave my cozy nest.

“Let’s snuggle a bit more,” I instructed him, foolishly optimistic that he would fall back asleep. I don’t know if he did, but I was so exhausted that I did return to dreamland for a very brief time until I heard a very wide awake little voice cheerfully announce, “Grandma. Time for a smoothie!”

By now, it was already 5:15, so I could not deny that they night was done. So we shuffled off to the kitchen, made the smoothie, and settled down to wait for the sun to rise.  Good morning, world!


Finally Free to Blow Ourselves Up

I was driving home from the store recently when I spotted a sign in front of a local church, which I found to be quite disturbing.

Fireworks for Kids

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a state where it was not legal for fireworks to be sold at the local supermarket, church, or (I am not kidding) gas station as they are here in South Carolina. The last location is the most mind boggling to me, because I cannot understand placing fireworks just feet away from the gas pumps, but such is life in a fireworks state I guess.

Every year, these temporary pyrotechnics stands pop up before the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. If you live in one of the nineteen states that are very comfortable with their citizens blowing themselves up, you are probably familiar with what I see in my state.

When I was young, I remember standing in my grandmother’s backyard with my cousins on many a summer night holding punks and sparklers. Punks were these very thin sticks, about the size of a sparkler, which someone lit and they emitted a small stream of smoke. I don’t recall them ever doing much more than that. Until now I just assumed one of my uncles purchased them legally.

Sparklers, as you all know, are much more exciting, since they are more like fireworks on a stick. Looking at the map, I am not sure if you used them illegally in New Jersey or were not exposed to them until we moved to North Carolina where any firework which does not leave the ground is legal.

So I checked out the history of fireworks in New Jersey and learned they were all banned—ALL—in 1937 after a very bloody Fourth of July when 927 people were injured or killed. The ban passed by a unanimous vote. The fireworks laws in New Jersey are so strict that possession of any, even those which you purchase legally across the border in Pennsylvania, can result in a fine or jail time.

So if you used them in New Jersey, we could have all been thrown in the pokey! (I didn’t know!!!)

Still, I simply cannot understand the “Fireworks for Kids” sign. What are they thinking?