Tag Archives: memories

My Childhood is Being Torn Down Bit by Bit and I’m Not Mad About Some of it.

This year is a tough one for the places I went to school.  The high school that I loved with all my heart and graduated from is being torn down because the district is combining my school with the other high school in the district to create one mega school.  My elementary school which I loved is being torn down, and right next to it, the school I went to for junior high is being torn down.  These two are being replaced by a park.  It is the junior high building that I’m going to write about here.

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It was in this building that I learned the most about life.  I moved into this building in the fourth grade, and it’s where I began to learn that standing out in any way could be bad. A couple of my friends and I wrote a play and with our teacher’s permission, performed it for the class.  Mistake.

In fifth grade, I had Mr. Hudie (pronounced Huoodeye) and I lost so many of my teeth in his class that he finally just started motioning me out of the room when I would raise my hand at inappropriate times.  He also turned bright red and spit when he’d get mad and yell, and boy was he a yeller.  It was funny and terrifying all at once.

It was also in fifth grade where I began to learn that sticking up for a friend could cause you a lot of trouble with other kids.  It’s where I began to think about myself before thinking of others. It’s where I began to learn that people you’d been friends with all your life couldn’t necessarily be trusted.

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Seventh grade was a big deal because we moved to the top floor. In seventh grade I learned that the tall boys always wanted to date the short girls and since girls grew up first, my 5’6″ (at the time) self started looking at older boys.  Mistake.

I also learned in this grade that sometimes teachers liked mean kids better than nice kids and they were perfectly capable and willing, to egg on the mean kids.  I also learned that making really good grades could get you picked on, but if you let the straight A’s go, the crappy mean kids would leave you alone, at least about that.  It’s also where I learned that sometimes when people thought they were insulting you by calling you Farrah when you got your blonde hair cut into feathers, that they were actually comparing you to one of the most beautiful women of all time (remember that red bathing suit poster anyone?) and instead of cringing because of it, I should’ve tossed said blonde hair and laughed at them. Ahhh hindsight.  Seventh grade also taught me that genuinely short men, under say 5’6″, hate and despise tall women and will make fun of them and give them shitty nicknames. To that guy I say, dude, you looked like a chubby leprechaun and I hope you’re still short and I hope you got genuinely obese. And bald.

Eighth grade introduced me to lecherous teachers. A nasty, child molesting asshole, who a few years later lost his next job and maybe his teaching license for his disgusting ways. It’s where I learned that there was a big difference between a teenage boy telling you that you looked nice in a pretty dress and a 40 year old teacher pulling you out of music class to tell you that you look nice. It’s where I learned that if you forgot a book in your locker, you should always take your mom into the empty school with you to look for it; because when you go in alone, you might discover that you didn’t forget your book, your pervert science teacher picked up your book when you went to the bathroom in his class and he was standing at the top of the stairs with it in his hand waiting for you. It’s also where I learned that you can back perverts off with a loud voice, a threat of violence, and a hasty retreat sans book. It was on my desk the next day when I went into his room. He never spoke to me again, gave me an effortless A in the class and disappeared to a new school over the summer. It’s when I learned to tell my mother EVERYTHING.

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I learned about voting in that school because when I was little my parents voted in the basement.  In genuine voting booths with American flags across the opening for privacy. It’s where I won a talent show with my fantastic patriotic tumbling routine when I was little and where I won a couple of Halloween costume contests. It’s where I learned about jealousy, both mine and that directed at me. It’s where I learned that I really loved performing and began to want to be an actress. It’s where I got my first on-stage laughs because I refused to kiss my co-star so we rewrote the script and put in some physical comedy (falling off the back of the couch together and kicking our legs around like we were making out, and going in a closet together, with me coming out with his coal black wig on top of my very blonde head to imply more making out; it was supposed to be his black mustache, but he forgot it) that made the high school principle come up to us after the play and tell us we should consider acting as a profession. It’s where the seeds of the cruelty and bullying that would cause me to change schools, lose my friends and the only life I’d known were sown.

I’m sad about my elementary school and my high school being torn down, but I’m not sad about this school being torn down. I have some good memories there, but the majority of them are unpleasant, heartbreaking, sad, scary, infuriating, and unfair. The things I learned in that place made me cautious, suspicious, and untrusting. In a way though, I guess I wouldn’t trade it, because it made me tough. It gave me an edge that I otherwise would not have. It made me a better person and a ferocious mother. It taught me about human nature and character or lack thereof. It gave me one of the best bullshit detectors known to man, and it’s protected me because I will take no crap. From anyone.

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So you beautiful old building full of ghosts, adios. After you’re gone, I’m going to come walk through the park that will replace you and I’ll gather up the little ghostly wisps of myself that are trapped there. I’ll incorporate them back into that little girl still hiding inside of me, and she and I will flip you the bird when we leave. Because that’s who you made us.

Be kind to someone today.  It’s a gesture that many are denied.

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Abandoned Apple Farm

My Facebook friends have already seen some of these pictures, so I apologize to them for posting stuff they’ve already seen.

When I was a little girl, my mother took my brother and me to this apple farm every year to get our Halloween pumpkins. It was awesome and the inside of the store smelled like apples. I’ve thought of it often over the years, so a few weeks back, my husband and I took a drive out to see if it was still standing. It was. Sort-of.

The store.
The store.
Old Mrs. Fagley's spot.
Old Mrs. Fagley’s spot.

Right next to the fireplace, beside that white pillar that you see, the grandma of the family sat. She reminded me of a Russian fairy tale grandma. She was always bundled up, and working on some kind of crafty thing. She never looked up. If I am remembering it correctly, she smoked a pipe. I was simultaneously fascinated and terrified of her. I wanted to talk to her, but I was too little to have the guts to do it.

Abandoned books and an apple sticker.
Abandoned books and an apple cider sticker.

If the books hadn’t been so moldy and gross, I would have liberated them from their depressing captivity. As it was, I had to leave them behind. A sad state of affairs for a book lover such as myself.

Freezer door.  Beautiful.
Freezer door. Beautiful.
What was BEHIND the beautiful freezer door.  Scary, scary, scary.  Didn't linger here...
What was BEHIND the beautiful freezer door. Scary, scary, scary. Didn’t linger here…

Speaking of abandoned books. I love this photo. So simple, so bleak.

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I think that’ll have to do for this post. I have a lot more pictures from this day. I’ll have to do another post with some of them another day. Don’t wanna bore ya.

Have a beautiful day, send positive vibes into our troubled world and be kind to someone. 🙂

Book Opinion: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

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When I was a teenager, my Mom and Dad and I went to Florida several times on vacation. We always drove and we always stopped at the Quality Inn in Valdosta, Georgia on the way down. This hotel screamed “The South” to me; plantation shutters, beautiful gardens, a pool that I loved and a small-ish, original to the property house all graced the place. We ALWAYS ate dinner at the Ho-Jo’s across the street then came back and my Mom and I would wander the grounds before my solo swimming sessions at the pool. Mom would sit there and watch me swim “in case something happened” but she would’ve not been much help if something HAD happened because she couldn’t swim. My Dad would usually stay in the room smoking and watching t.v.

Even though we always only stayed there one night because we were just passing through, I loved that place. I entertained some of my most vivid Gone With the Wind fantasies inside my head as my Mom and I walked the grounds. I kept waiting for Rhett Butler to come around a bend and fall in love with me, and beautiful girls in hoop skirts to be flirting with handsome boys at a barbeque on the lawn. I loved it so much that when I grew up, I wanted to stop there with MY family, so one year when my daughter was little, we got off the highway and went to the hotel. It was some other chain by then, but the plantation shutters, gardens, pool and house were still there. They were shabbier than they had been and I realized that the property was literally RIGHT next to the highway. When I was a child, the grounds had been so lush that you couldn’t SEE the highway, so I had no idea. It was a little chilly, so we couldn’t get in the pool, which was disappointing, and if it had been warm, I would never have let my baby in it anyway because it wasn’t really clean and THAT was disappointing. The Ho-Jo’s was gone as were Rhett and the rest of the gang and THAT was disappointing. The whole experience left me feeling let down and I was glad to leave the next morning. The only way I’ll ever go back is if I win the Power Ball and go buy it and return it to it’s former glory, so when I heard about Sarah Addison Allen’s new book Lost Lake, I felt that I might be able to relate.

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors. I have all of her books and I love them all. They are all lyrical, and a little magical. One of her books has a protagonist who enchants with her baked goods, another book has mysterious lights in a garden. They are lovely, beautiful stories, and Lost Lake is no different.

Kate is a young widow with a daughter named Devin, and a mother-in-law named Cricket. After the loss of her husband, Kate “goes to sleep” for a year. When she finally snaps out of it just as she is about to take her daughter and move in with Cricket, she finds a postcard from her great-aunt Eby who owns a lake resort in southern Georgia. Eby is the last relative Kate has, and on a whim, Kate decides to load Devin into the car and drive down to visit Eby who she had only met once, when as a child, she and her family had spent several weeks at Lost Lake.

When Kate arrives at the lake, it is obvious that time has taken it’s toll. The property has fallen into disrepair, the guests who summered there for years are aging out of coming back, and Eby has decided to sell and retire. During the course of her visit, Kate reconnects with people she met before as well as meets a whole new cast of characters. Without giving too much away, there is a mute French woman, a ghost in a chair, a ghost alligator, a mystery, and a lovely man to occupy her time.

Lost Lake is a beautiful story about families, new beginnings, endings, tying up loose ends, grief in many of it’s forms, forgiveness, understanding, letting go of the past and embracing the future. You can’t go home again, but you CAN use your past to make your life move forward. Sometimes ghosts can help you learn how to go on. I enjoyed reading this book in the middle of winter, because it transported me to summer; to cool drinks by the water, lanterns in the trees and dancing in the moonlight. Thank you Sarah Addison Allen for giving me another beautiful story to think about and another book to add to my stack. It’s a keeper.

Have a great day and read a great book 🙂

September 11th

For the last eleven years, September 11th has caused me grief.  Nothing like it had happened in my lifetime and I was unprepared for the depth of feeling the incident caused.

My daughter was a brand new kindergartener.  My son was two months old.  My girl was in the afternoon session of school, so I left her sitting on my bed next to the baby who was in his pumpkin seat while I went in to take a shower.  I was only in there for about three minutes when she started pounding on the door.  It frustrated me, because all I wanted was ten minutes of peace and hot water.  I’m sure I snapped at her when I said “what??”  “Grammy is on the phone, she said you need to get out, something bad has happened somewhere.”  So I rinsed my hair as quickly as I could and got out.  Those few steps between my bathroom and my bedroom tv, before I knew what had happened, were the last truly secure moments of my life.

Like everyone else, I thought it was an accident.  Then I SAW the second plane hit the second tower.  I saw it with my own eyes and I knew that nothing would ever be the same again.  This was even worse than Pearl Harbor, because although that was a sneak attack, at least the Japanese had attacked fighting men.  These people attacked civilians.  There were children on those planes.  We found out later that there was a little girl on one of them who was headed for her first trip to Disney World.  Happy, excited, innocent.  Terrified, confused, pain, death.  The juxtaposition of what should have been to what actually WAS, was almost more than I could process.

The morning it happened, I watched it all unfold on tv like everyone else.  I sent my daughter into her room to play.  I held my baby.  I talked to friends on the phone.  Then, another plane into the Pentagon.  The brain of our military.  In my mind, we were officially at war.  My husband was at work forty miles away.  We talked on the phone.  Everyone in his office was watching it on tv.  Then, there was news that there was another plane in the Cleveland area that was not responding.  I live in southwestern Ohio.  That was too close for comfort for me.  Then, a little while later, news came that the plane from Ohio had gone down in Pennsylvania.  I called my husband and begged him to come home before he wasn’t able to get there.  He was already on his way out the door.  In our minds, we were at war and our enemy would have no hesitation in killing civilians, or women, or children.

We watched tv for the rest of the day and nothing else happened.  We were ready to go donate blood for the survivors, but there wasn’t the influx of survivors everyone hoped for.  The buildings came down. Thousands of people died.  President Bush made a wonderful speech that gave us hope for revenge, or retaliation or at least some action against the brutes who would attack civilians who were just trying to go to work.  It was the worst day ever.  I can’t wax more poetic about it, because it was just the worst thing ever.

In the days that followed, everyone watched tv.  We waited for the other shoe to drop.  Is this it?  Was that all they had?  Are they done?  Or are they going to do the horrible things like attack schools and malls and football games like they threatened to do.  The sky was so blue and so quiet.  The only air traffic for a week or so were military aircraft patrolling.  How could the sky and the weather be so beautiful when something so horrible had just happened?  Wasn’t war supposed to be black and white like all the old WWII movies?  Did the people in London right before the Blitz look up and see a blue sky?  Did the people in Dresden see sunshine and birds before they were blown away?  What about Japan, at the end.  Were the flowers blooming in color?  Apparently, because we were at war and everything looked beautiful.

I had to explain to my five-year old daughter what had happened.  I had to tell her that if anything bad happened while she was at school, to do exactly what the teachers told her to do and wait for me.  I would be there to get her if I had to walk with the baby strapped to my back.  I had to teach my five-year old daughter what it meant to be brave, what it meant to soldier on in the face of fear, what it meant to be an American.  We don’t cower.  We don’t run and hide.  We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we tip our chins to the sun, we stand up straight and we go on with what needs to be done.  We put a black ribbon on our flag pole for a while, and then we take it off and let Old Glory fly free and proud.  We take care of one another and we NEVER FORGET.

So as another September 11th comes tomorrow, I WILL watch the footage on tv.  I WILL have my kids watch it.  We WILL talk about what happened and who did it and why.  I am not afraid of the truth.  I am not afraid of what happened.  It still makes me sad though, and although it may be politically incorrect, it still makes me angry.  The heat of the slow burn in my chest when I see those planes hit those buildings, when I see my fellow Americans leap to their deaths rather than burn, when I see office workers covered with dust and tear streaks down their faces, when I picture my innocent babies sitting on my bed and remember that I realized that their lives would be forever changed for the worse, when I remember all those brave souls who ran in to save people when everyone else was running out and when I remember President Bush promising that we would come after the people who knocked down those buildings, that slow burn I feel kind of shocks me with its intensity.  I haven’t forgotten how I felt.  I haven’t forgotten all those nameless innocents who died that day because of religious radicals.  I have not forgotten how we all came together in the days and months following.  I have forgotten none of it, and to be completely honest, I haven’t forgiven it either.  And I never will.

Rest in peace, and God Bless this beautiful country of ours.

Be kind to one another.