Monthly Archives: June 2012

It sounded something like that….

You could hear us from at least a block away… the sound was familiar and yet very distinctive.  We liked to think it sounded just like a motor… like a powerful motorcycle… but in reality it was only playing cards and clothes pins that we stolen out our mom’s clothes pin bag in the cabinet by the washing machine.  We loved it.. the more cards the better.  We preferred Bicycle brand playing cards but would use baseball trading cards if we couldn’t find some from a deck where we had misplaced several of the cards thus rendering the rest of them useless for their original purpose.  And of course we would only use the players from teams we didn’t like!

When we weren’t making noise with those cards… we might find ourselves walking down a sidewalk…. find a couple of steel cans or maybe aluminum ones.  You remember the steel ones.. the ones with the seams on the sides…  But the aluminum ones worked the best… and you wanted ones that weren’t dented at all.. still perfectly round.  What you would do is just lay them on the sidewalk right in front of you and then stomp down on them, right in the middle just as hard as you could.  This would cause the can to fold up around your shoe and hold on tight thus creating an aluminum sole… and a great clanging sound with every step all the way home.

In a more quiet moment, we might just take a jump rope and twirl it as fast as we could over our heads.. if you could get it going fast enough, it would make a great whirring sound…. and in a not so quiet moment, the sound of a thousand kids playing kick ball or kick the can, or a thousand other games that we will be revisiting soon, would be enough to “wake the dead” as my grandmother would say.

All of these sounds led to the day when we would finally be behind the wheel of a car or truck or jeep… windows open or top off…. one of a thousand different 8 tracks popped in the deck…. and enough volume cranked up to make those Jensen Tri-axles seem like they would jump out of the vehicle…. oh yeah!  That’s the way the world should sound!!

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You must have lost your mind!!

Editorial note:  Before I begin, I want to issue an apology.  To all of my companions that have joined me along this journey… I k now that many of you come here every day to see the latest goings on or meanderings along the narrows of life… I have let you down.  Unfortunately this journey we are on is not along a nice straight path and for the moment I ran into a sharp curve that took me off the path…. but I am fighting my way back!  And I thank you for coming around again…. now, where was I?  Oh yeah….

So I know you all are familiar with this… you set out a goal for yourself.. one that is incredibly ambitious.. one that people with think you are nuts for even considering, much less putting the effort out to actually think you can accomplish it.  And so it is with me.

I returned to the gym about a month and a half ago after a 7 year layoff.  I had made a promise to myself a couple years ago and I had just ignored it… but I’ll come back to that at another time… anyway, I am now working on my second month and I am thinking to myself that I can do 4 miles at a 4 percent grade on a treadmill… understand I haven’t done 4 miles on anything in like I said 7 years… or has it been 8?  In any case it’s been a long time.  So I get on the treadmill this morning and I start out.

You know how this goes…. when you start working on your goal, you are ever so optimistic.  Things are going well.  Everything is going just as you expected.  But the further and further you push the more and more the realization sets in that the goal is really out there.. I mean really, really out there!!  And so it went with me.  I got to 3 and a half miles and I was done.  I didn’t think I could take another step… and then he showed up…. Freddie… you remember him.  I heard those tight harmonies… “Is this the real life?  Is this just fantasy? Caught in the landslide. No escape from reality.”… and I just smiled.  And Freddie and his band mates from Queen took me on their shoulders and carried me that last half mile.  Four miles in 48:03… Thanks for the lift Freddie.  And remember.. “Any way the wind blows…”  Enjoy your day on the narrows.

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Building a universe in an afternoon…

It didn’t matter to us… chairs, card tables and some quilts…. old refrigerator boxes… scrap lumber from a nearby house construction (or at least we considered it scrap anyway)…. a large mound of dirt left behind from road work…we could always make it work.  We were some fort building fools!

I believe there have been thousands of days of my life that I have spent creating my own little universe… places that I saw as castles or caves or log cabins… there were always these elaborate stories that I would create in my mind that went along with the latest construction activity… involving fair maidens in distress or ruthless villains that needed to be brought to justice… or just a matter of being domestic within a world that I controlled and not a bunch of stupid adults… who really didn’t have a clue anyway.

We would create these worlds anywhere we could.  Some appeared in the garage while others would appear in the living room floor or the front yard or in a tree in the woods.  In any case, there were all so very temporary… just something to fill some time with some friends… a place that we had created all by ourselves with whatever we had available.  And for that brief period of time.. we were in charge and in control of the destiny of our universe…  nothing could happen to us that we didn’t want to happen… we were always happy… we would always win… I am really feeling the need for one of these structures right about now… where are those blankets?

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Waiting on the bell…

Don’t know why but I’ve had playgrounds on my mind lately.. well, not just play grounds but more specifically those places at school where we had to wait to get in the building.  I ‘m not talking about those places off the school grounds where we would gather (I imagine some of you remember the Whaley’s vs. Hill’s debate from Jr. High… if not, I am sure I will resurrect it here some day…)  You remember the places, I know… these places were the bars and night clubs of the elementary and Jr. High set… where all the significant social interactions took place.  It is where friends would gather in small groups and be loud and obnoxious and bother those around them.  It’s where the level of testosterone would sometimes get too high and it would boil over into some sort of physical fracas setting the world to buzzing.  It is where you would flirt with that particular boy or girl.  And not just flirting… it is where the loves that would last forever were born… and mostly died.  It’s where you’d try to convince your best friend to let you copy their homework because you were just too darn lazy to do it yourself.  It’s where you’d have a heart attack because you just learned about that science test in first period that you didn’t study for… only to find out your friends had gotten together and were just messing with you… maybe.

We’d stand behind PW Moore and watch as the buses came in and new friends would come join the group and we’d have to catch them up on all the latest 7th grade gossip.  We’d gather under the huge oak tree that stood in front of Elizabeth City Jr. High and argue about is it State or UNC or very awkwardly try to talk to the cute girls sitting along the wall on Road or Elizabeth Streets.  We’d get into fierce volleyball battles back behind the school after we ate lunch but before classes started back up again. Once we got to Northeastern we would either hang out in the cafeteria or the smoking area (yeah, they had designated areas for such things back in the day).  Then there were all my band friends that didn’t hang out with the rest of us but rather they all gather at the band rooms.  But I’m pretty sure the stories are somewhat similar there too.

Oh, there goes the bell now!  Come on!  Time to get to class… don’t forget your books!

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Strong enough….

It was Easter time of my 8th grade year.  Back then they always let us have off some time around the holiday but I can’t remember specifically what days we were off from school but I know we were definitely off on Good Friday.

The reason this is so vivid in my mind is the events that occurred that day.  I was really searching my faith at the time… and spent lots of time thinking about Christianity and its impact on humankind in general.  I know that may sound weird for a 14 year old but as I am sure you can tell… I am a little different.  Anyway, there was a community service for Good Friday being held at Blackwell Memorial Baptist Church that started right before lunch time and went until about 3 o’clock.  There were different preachers from different denominations speaking at different times and people came and went as their schedules allowed.  Since I was off all day, I got up, did some things around the house and walked into town to attend the service.  I actually sat through the entire thing… enjoying each preachers message and spending much time in prayer.

I was feeling great on my walk back  home, even though I was wearing my Sunday shoes (and we all know that those were made for looks, not for walking!!).  In any case, I felt like I had gotten enough spiritual enrichment for one day so now it was play time!  My neighborhood friends and me were currently spending out days playing around in the dirt and mud and debris piles from the construction of Knobbs Creek Drive.  I quickly changed clothes, and met all my buddies out for an afternoon of running, doing nothing, and just exploring…

In the midst of all my running, I happened to step on the end of a long, road survey stick… the kind that was painted red on the top with numbers written down the side of it.  Well, the opposite end from the one I stepped on flew out of the ground and hit me right in the eye.  The pain was excruciating…. My hand immediately flew up to my eye and my friends ran over to see what had happened.

I could feel my eye watering like crazy from the sand and debris that was now in my eye.  As I took my hand down, I realized my eye wasn’t tearing but rather I had blood running all the way down to my elbow.  I’ll stop right there with the graphics of the moment and just say…. it hurt really bad and it was NOT a good situation.  My friends were all terrified and ran away… and I too took off for the house.

My mom and dad cleaned it up the best they could and took me straight to the emergency room.  As luck would have it, the one ophthalmologist we had in town was at a day long conference and wouldn’t be back until close to midnight.  So I laid in the emergency room for hours… trying to remain calm and wondering… how could God have let this happen to me… of all people… since I had been so faithful that day…

That was a thought that crossed my mind a million times over the coming months as I went through the pain of having my eye examined and cleaned many times… the doctor said he wasn’t sure whether I would ever regain my vision… I was devastated.

But as the months went by, and things improved… and I got to wear my sunglasses in school all the time (how cool was I?!?!)… hope returned..

My vision fully recovered… and I came to realize that the reason God let this happen to me… is that I was the one strong enough to handle it… Just as God recognizes that you are the one strong enough to bear your burdens…

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A #10 wash tub and a Tupperware bowl…

There has never been a more versatile creation by man than the #10 wash tub.  It could be used just as the name describes.. for washing.  But it makes a great container for holding those tadpoles that you dipped out of the nearby ditch… or it was great for housing turtles or frogs or any other sort of creature that wasn’t capable of reaching up those slick galvanized sides to escape.

But the main thing I remember them being used for was crop harvesting.  Yes, I can remember many a day with a #10 wash tub full of butter beans or snap beans of peas (called May peas by some and June peas by others…. I guess determined by the month you picked them) or freshly picked ears of Silver Queen corn.

It always amazed me just how much would fit inside one of those things.   I can remember sitting under a tree with a large Tupperware bowl transferring the freshly picked veggies to the bowl for shelling… then sitting there for days on end until every last pea or bean or ear had be shelled, snapped or shucked.  My fingers would be raw by the time we finally got through… and I would have lost an ENTIRE day of my summer break with those stupid wash tubs and those idiot vegetables.  Or that was the way I felt until my grandmother would tell us it was time to eat.

Then all of a sudden.. all that shelling and snapping and shucking didn’t seem quite so bad!

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The Bread of Life….

Something that I have had on my mind a lot recently for some reason is my grandmother’s cooking skills.  She never had a recipe that I ever saw.  She never really used precise measurements of items either.  She could put flour, milk and some animal fat (don’t go getting all healthy on me… it was a time and place thing, okay?) in a bowl, mix them all together, measure out the exact right amount of dough in her hand and make the exact same number of biscuits every time.  To this day, I have never had a biscuit that compared to hers.

My grandmother made bread or some sort every day.  There were always biscuits in her house.  She baked an incredible cornbread too.  She also fried cornbread on occasion.  They looked almost like pancakes and would melt in your mouth just like the butter did when you smeared it on them.  The smell of those breads baking or frying would fill her house… and bring me comfort just knowing what was to come.

And it just wasn’t for meal time either.. her biscuits with her fig preserves were probably one of the best desserts I have ever had in my life.  oh, so good!

I still to this day, do not understand how but she could take  three day old, rock hard biscuits and soured milk and vanilla and create the most wonderful bread pudding ever.   I can remember my dad and I fighting over the corner pieces that were a little crunchy on the edges.

I miss so many things about my grandmother.  She was a true inspiration to me as you may have read in other posts.  And even now.. when I am seeking comfort… the memories of those wonderful breads are all it takes.  And let me tell you about her pecan pies……!!!!

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