Category Archives: Stories

These are my recollections of people, places and generally anything else that I can pull forward from the past.

A “quarter”ly revisiting….

quarters-photoThere are times when people from my past seem to fade way into the background of my thoughts.  It’s not like they go away completely but I don’t seem to think about them as often some times.  And then there are the other times when the come screaming right to the front of everything.  I can’t hardly get through a day without spending some quality time in thought about them.

This has been the case with my grandmother lately.  I guess it’s just my tendancy to live in the past but particularly as we approach the holidays each year, I see her face and I hear her voice again.  This particular story isn’t about the holidays exactly.  It is more about just the person that she was.

My grandmother was a very special woman to me.  She worked in the hosiery mill in Elizabeth City for 70 years… yes, you read that right… 70 years.  She never had very much but everything she had, she gladly shared with others.  There was always food to eat and the warmth of the old Seigler oil furnace blasting away in the sitting room to knock the chill off on those cold winter days.

She always made a fuss about her grandkids on their birthday.  I never will forget those Sundays close to my birthday when we would go visit.  She would always call me out by name… and the others that were there as well to come into the sitting room.  We would gather around her as she opened up her old secretary, take out her purse and hand me 50 cents… 2 quarters… just for me… because it was my special day!  And because she never wanted any of us to feel bad or left out, she would give each of the other grandkids a quarter a piece as well.  So not only did I always look forward to my own special day… but I always loved my cousin’s birthdays too!

I hope that I can be as caring as she was… not just for those that are having their special day, but for everyone that is a part of my world.  May I always have quarters available… and a willingness to share them.

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Somethings just aren’t that funny…. but the lessons are valuable

WARNING…. This one isn’t light or funny or all that nostalgic feeling.  It is however a part of my life just the same.

My college roommate and I started off with a fairly decent relationship.  He was an athlete from the western part of NC and of course, I was a non-athlete from the east.  We didn’t have very much in common but were always cordial when we were in the room and would chat about what our days had been like but nothing super friendly.

As the weeks progressed though, I noticed a change in him.  He became more confused or disconnected with his comments about things.  It was like he wasn’t sure about classes or his sports activities… or anything else.  Since I was having my own struggles with this whole college thing I didn’t take it too much to heart that he was in a much deeper / more dire situation than me.  Looking back on it, he was becoming very lethargic… just laying around the room and struggling to get through each day.

I really wasn’t paying much attention…. I was lost in my own troubles… I had ended up on crutches (yes, I still owe you that story too, I know) and classes continued to be a struggle and this long distant relationship just wasn’t working so well either so, I just couldn’t take it any more.  I needed something familiar before I completely drown in it all.  So I convinced my sister to let me borrow her car to go home, if I could get to Raleigh to get it.  I finally found a way up there so I took off for the weekend and went home.

I came back on Sunday feeling a bit stronger or at least rejuvenated from having some time with things that are familiar… just being home for a day or two was a help… but….

When I walked back into my room, my roommate was sitting in his desk chair… staring blankly into space.  He didn’t move or acknowledge me when I said hello and ask him about his weekend.  After a few minutes, he turned and looked at me and said, “I want it back.”  I had no clue what he was talking about.  I couldn’t get him to engage in a conversation.  I stepped out in the hall and asked a guy that lived next door what had gone on.  He told me that some guys from one of the religious groups on campus had been over visiting for a quite a bit over the weekend.  After some further investigation I found out that these guys had been over, determined that he had some significant spiritual issue and did some praying over him.  After much questioning of my roommate, I figured out that he felt like they had driven something out of him through their prayers…. and whatever it was, he wanted it back.

This whole thing scared me half to death.  I left him just sitting like a zombie in his chair and I went down the hall to see if I could find someone to help me.. or just to talk to about it.  The folks I turned to weren’t in so I went back to my room.

As I walked in…. there was my roommate… he had climbed out of the window and was standing on the ledge.  I slowly walked over to him and ask him what he was doing… he just kept saying “I want it back.”  I was afraid he was going to jump.  As soon as I got close enough that I could get a hand on him, I grabbed him and pulled him with all the strength I could muster to get him back in the window.  We fell to the floor and he just broke down crying.  I yelled for the guy in the next room to come over…

While I sat with my roommate, our next door neighbor contacted someone in administration.  The next morning, my roommate’s dad showed up, loaded up his son and all his belongings and left.  I never saw him or heard anything about him again…

This event profoundly impacted me in more ways that I can even begin to write here.  But even so, there are instances even today, when I catch myself so focused on myself that I worry that I’m not seeing people around me that are in much greater need of my help / support than my petty little issues.  Watch out for each other… there are lots of folks that could use your help.

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Moving out…. moving on….. growing apart…. and growing up…

It’s been a long time coming but recent events have pulled me back into writing a little bit.  I have just completed a move of my daughter back up to App State for grad school and many of my friends have been posting on Facebook about taking their freshmen sons and daughters off to college so of course, that led me to thinking about my college days.  So here we go….

It was August 1977. High school was over, I had said good bye to the love of my life for the first of many times… and I was off to college. To summarize my college experience, I can’t say that it was some of the best years of my life. I know that many people found the experience to be the best and that they would go back to those days in a minute. I wouldn’t… well, let me qualify that a little bit… there are some specific days and some relationships that I cherish deeply. It’s just that this particular time in my life was extremely difficult for me.

I like to tell people that it was all I could do to figure out how to cram 4 years of college into 6 years… but somehow I did finally get through it. But let’s go back to the beginning of it all.

I never will forget sleeping in the back seat of my parent’s station wagon as my dad drove the 4 plus hours between Elizabeth City and Fayetteville.  I look back on those days and laugh about how little “stuff” I had… and that every single bit of it was crammed into that one vehicle.  That whole first weekend as school was very surreal to me. I was really numb to the whole registration, moving in to Sanford Dorm and going through the paces of being a freshman. I met a lot of new people from lots of different places. My roommate and I seem to hit it off pretty good so I’m thinking things are going to be okay… but still there was this gnawing at the pit of my stomach. I just couldn’t figure it out.

I struggle with classes, the love of my life (that I had seen and spent time with every day for the last 2 years) being away at a different school, a stretch of time on crutches (I’ll come back to that), and just general depression with being gone from everything familiar and that I truly loved.

But then there was a group of friends that I made… a rather strange group with different personalities from all over the place. For some reason I connected with this group.   We were all freshmen, trying to find our way and were just somehow drawn to each other.  In particular there was this one girl that I felt a true comfort with… a real kinship if you will.  I can’t tell you when we started hanging out or how it happened… she was just there.  We spent so many hours together… just sitting and talking… I shared stories of my struggles with school… with my roommate… with missing home and all the things that brought me comfort there… with all that boy / girl stuff that we all dealt with at one time or another…  That relationship was a true lifeline for me.

I’m not quite certain how this relationship changed but I am pretty sure it was me… the confusion and frustration and fears of that time caused me to be very irrational in my behavior, not just with her but with everyone in that group.  I don’t know if we just drifted apart or if I did something really boneheaded, which I was apt to do, but in any case, we just kinda went our separate ways.

I read somewhere recently that one of the things they don’t tell you when you go off to college is that the original friends you make when you first get there aren’t the ones you usually keep.  I can see that as the case here.  But I can tell you this much… I do think about that relationship often… and how much it meant to me back then… and how I don’t know how I would have survived without it… and it still makes me smile.

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Burgers, BarBQ, a hamburger steak and a great memory or two…

I have a real love / hate thing going with Google Maps.  I love nothing better than going there and typing in an address from the past and then flying down to the street level view and wandering up and down the highways and byways of my past.

The thing that I hate so much about Google maps, is that while it provides me a chance to revisit those old locations…. it also provides me a chance to revisit those old locations…. or rather, it let’s me revisit some of those “old” locations as they exist today.  It breaks my heart to see some of these locations and the state of disrepair and abandonment they are in.  Maybe it bothers me so because it is a true mark of time passing… of things moving relentlessly forward.  In any case, I thought I’d drag you along to a couple of these locations and tell you a little about them… at least the way I remember them anyway…

The Arrow Drive-In

Arrow Drive-InIf you are driving out of Ahoskie on Hwy 13 heading toward Windsor, you will pass this place on your left.  It is a traditional drive-in with the long awning coming out of the front of the building where cars use to park side by side.  The waitress would come out and take your order while you were able to sit and listen to music of the early 60s coming from some speaker that you never could figure out exactly where it was located.  I remember sitting in the back sit with my sister… drinking chocolate milk shakes and eating a deluxe hamburger and those wonderful crinkly fries.  The coolest thing about this place was that in the late 60s my best friend’s family bought this place.  I thought that was the coolest thing ever!  In August of 1969 we left Ahoskie for Elizabeth City and I don’t recall ever visiting  there again… but I still remember those burgers… and that ugly milk shake spilling incident that I won’t rehash here!

 

Simp’s BarBQ

Simp's BBQIf you are travelling south on hwy 17 between Hertford and Edenton, you should take the left onto hwy 32… cross the sound bridge, then take the right at the fork onto old hwy 64 heading back toward Roper.  Yes, my friends, you are definitely in rural northeastern North Carolina at this point…. mile after mile of corn and soy beans and peanuts.   Not too far up the road was a little gas station / grocery / restuarant looking place called Simp’s.  I remember summers visiting with my cousins.  There were two things about Simp’s…  if you followed the dirt road next to the building, at the end was the Albemarle Sound where we were lucky enough to spend an hour or two on a hot summers afternoon… and then there was the pit cooked Bar BQ!  If it wasn’t pit cooked back then, it wasn’t worth eating.  You could get a sandwich (with slaw of course), or minced or chopped.  It was as good as Que could ever get!!

 

The Tomahawk Restaurant

Tomahawk Restaurant Before the family moved back to “the narrows”, we lived in Ahoskie (have  mentioned  this on several occasions I think).  Well, the Sundays that we didn’t make  the trip to  Elizabeth City to visit with my grandparents, we would often have Sunday  lunch at  the Tomahawk.  There was always a crowd there after church.  This was as fancy as  dining got in my life back then.  Looking  back on it, it was just a little diner kinda    place but I always love to get a hamburger  steak and fries.  What a treat that was.

And now I look at these places… and it makes me a bit sad.  All the signs are gone, the parking lots have grass growing through cracks in the asphalt, windows are broken or have just been neglected to the point that you couldn’t see through them if you pressed your face right against them.  Time hasn’t been very kind to these monuments of my youth.  But as I sit and ponder them all, the memories of  my youth take over… and I can smell the smells and taste the tastes and hear my the loud conversations and laughter… and those places will go on forever regardless of how they appear…

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Oh great!… some new clothes! Ugh!

 

Let’s be honest here… who really cared about the clothes.  It was never about them… it didn’t even matter if it was some that you had wanted, like a new pair of bell bottomed Levi’s or a Hang Ten tee shirt… nope, it was never about them.  It was always about the toys!  Its funny when I look at the toy ads today.  Everything is electronic it seems, even the games are mostly electronic.  And it seems that most folks want the latest “i” thing, whatever that happens to be.

I was recently looking back through some pictures of Christmases past… pictures of the much younger me with my cool new toy.  So I thought I’d share a couple of two or three with you.

$_57 (1)Rocking horse:  This was no ordinary piece of plastic on a medal frame with springs.  This was a wild stallion that just wanted to run fast.  Heaven only knows the number of miles that I went up and down on that thing.  I would spend hours trying to emulate the jockeys I saw on the Kentucky Derby.. but off the seat, back straight and still, only my arms img_7061.jpg_thumbnail02and legs rising and falling with the mad rush forward… what a thrill!  I believe we won every single race we entered.

Mattel Winchester rifle:  There is no point in having a horse, if you aren’t going to have a rifle too.  This was the best there was out there… just perfect for protecting the payroll (and those pretty women passengers) as you drove that dusty stage coach across the prairie lands of the west.

Hot Wheels race track (with supercharger of course):  I wore the knees out of my super-chargerjeans scooting around on the floor configuring and re-configuring that race track.  And when you got the supercharge set just right…. zoom!  those cars could fly… sometimes right out of the curve and across the room under the bed!

There are many others floating through my mind… Lincoln logs and bicycles and drums.  Is there anything more exciting than the anticipation of a Christmas morning as a kid!  I sure can’t think of anything!!!

 

 

 

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Just because…

dad in 1991It was 253 steps from the parking space to the front door.  A walk that he had made thousands of times before.  The collar of his jacket was turned up trying to keep the cold wind from creating too much of a chill.  His steps were a bit forced, his knees hurting from years of stooping down to get items up from the storage under the counter to restock the tops shelves for his customers.  He is tired…. so very tired indeed for he didn’t rest much last night…. worrying about his job…. and his health…. and his kids.

As he gets to the door, he reaches in his pocket and feels his keys.  He doesn’t even have to look.  He knows the key by feel.  He has unlocked this door thousands of times.  Today is no different that any of them.  Just the start of another long day in the continuous parade of days  that make up his life.  He gets the cash registers set up, makes sure everything is straight and opens the door for customers.  He spends most of the day dealing with inventory, talking with customers, directing employees… just like every day.  Later he goes up to the office and pulls out his journal.

The journal is old and worn.  It is obvious it has been used for years… tracking the days of a working life.  He documents the sales for day, if it rained or snowed and what the temperatures were (highs and lows).   He sits and wonders…. will tomorrow be different?  And he knows the answer, it will be exactly the same… just like every day for the last 40 years have been.

And so another day ends… the lights are turned off, the door is locked and the 253 step walk is taken again… back through the cold to the car.  And back to the house to face another sleepless night full of worry and a tad bit of regret… and I can’t thank him enough for all those years of all that effort… just because he wanted my life to be better than his.

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Linking the unlinkable

instamatic cameraSo lately I have had a bunch of old stuff on my mind.  I guess if you’ve read through all of these posts you would say so what makes this different than the last 5 years of your life… and I suppose that is actually a fair question.  But these thoughts all seemed so scattered and all over the place and then this weekend… in the middle of a 5k run… it all came together.  Why it happened then is beyond my feeble understand but here is an attempt at linking the unlinkable.

Here are the topics: a record album (vinyl for those of you unfamiliar with the format); 110 Kodak Instamatic camera (with flash cubes, of course); hand cranked ice cream freezer (the wooden ones were always better than those new fangled plastic ones were); and finally the TV show Hee Haw.  Okay, got them all?

These are the things I’ve been tossing around in my head and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out the connection of it all and then it dawned on me… all of these things, while the are very specific things, the all represented one thing in my life… anticipation.  Today, if you want music, you can immediately access daggone nearly every song every recorded in just a matter of seconds.  And listening doesn’t have to be an active thing… just fire up the ipod and let ‘er rip for hours on end.  We had to anticipate what was going on with an album… and pay attention so we could turn it over or select a new one to play.  And what was ever more exciting than going by the Oxena or whereever you had your pictures developed to pick them up and see just how lousy most of them were but there would be that one or two that were exactly as you had hoped.  Now I can have a gazillion pictures of what I did in the last 20 minutes posted on the internet for the entire world to see in a nanosecond.  And who can ever forget the anticipation of the hand cranked ice cream churn… if you didn’t crank, you didn’t eat so we all definitely cranked!!  And while that soft serve frozen yogurt by the gallon with 5 thousand toppings to choose from is nice… it can’t beat hand cranked peach in the summer time.  And so I come to Hee Haw… it isn’t so much about Hee Haw… it is about the time… I remember every Saturday night anticipating the next show coming on… and when it was over… the anticipation of the next weeks show would already start… whether it was Hee Haw or Laugh In or the Carol Burnett Show or whatever you watched…

So where is the anticipation in my life these days?  We live in an all access, instaneous available world.  I miss my anticipation.  I liked knowing that there were things out there in the near future that always bring me so much joy and happiness and laughter.  And then it hit me… My daughter is coming home for spring break this weekend!  Oh how I do love the anticipations of life!!!

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