Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Right Hook

The blinding heat of the sun burns my skin and causes sweat to form on my upper lip and forehead. As I wipe it away with the back of my hand, I walk to the batter's box. In a semi-squat, I raise my bat, ready to smack the ball to Kingdom Come.

The pitcher sends his best fast ball my way, and I let the bat fly, connecting with a gratifying crack. The ball shoots over the outfielders' heads and lands behind second base in fair territory. I take off running.

But before I can get to first base, a whistle is blown, and everyone is running to line up.

Utterly disappointed, I kick at the dirt as I trudge to line up. As usual, my fun is ruined by school.

Standing with my arms crossed, I wait for the teacher to escort us inside. The Kindergarten class comes out, excited for their turn on the playground.

Maria skips by me. "Hi, Kara!" she calls.

Seeing her smiling face brightens me a little. I accept her hug as the kid in line behind me asks, "Is that your sister?"

"Yep," I answer as I release her.

"How sweet," the kid mocks. "Does the baby have to hug her mama?"

I frown at him. "Be nice."

He sticks his tongue out at me and turns back to Maria. "Are you a baby? I bet you cry at night 'cause you're afraid of the dark."

Maria stares at this kid, her eyes wide in sadness.

"Look here," I say, "you leave her alone. Stop bein' mean."

His answer is to kick my sister -- hard -- right in her legs. She goes toppling over, crying.

I launch myself at him, knocking him in the face, and sending him sprawling into the dirt. He only laughs, but I don't let that stop me. I fall on top of him, kicking and snarling.

A teacher separates us. She can't get a word in because I'm screaming at the kid at the top of my lungs. "Don't you touch my sister again! I'll make you sorry you did! If I see you go near her, you'll get a punch in the face!"

I look over at my sister who's being comforted by her teacher. I'm so livid, I don't even realize I've shocked all my classmates. They are quickly ushered inside as the mean kid and me are given a talking to.

I don't remember if I was sent to the principal. I do remember his very round, scratched-up face, and the "dare you" expression in his eyes.

That was it for me. He was dead meat from that point on.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Woe Is Me -- Part 2

In the spirit of the season, a Christmas story for you:

I was an angel in the church Christmas pageant. (Don't laugh.) I had silver tinsel for a halo, and a white robe.

My mom directed it, which makes Big Idea Number 4.

Our last song was "Mary Had A Baby". We sang it as we processed out of the church.

"Mary had a baby, yes, Lord. Mary had a baby, yes, my Lord. Mary had a baby, yes, Lord! The people keep a comin' but the train done gone."

This is the last thing I remember before waking up in a orange-yellowish plastic chair in the parish hall. I opened my eyes to see Maria sitting across from me looking very afraid. "Kara?" she croaks at me.

"Kara, honey? How are you?" my dad asks.

"What happened?" I struggle to say, trying to figure out why I wasn't running around with all the rest of the kids.

I must've blacked out again because I don't remember getting into Noah's car. He was driving, my dad was in the passenger seat, and my mom and I were in the back.

"Kara, say your ABCs," Mom orders me.

"I know my ABCs. I don't need to say them," I argue.

"Say them anyway," she commands.

I guess I did, I don't remember. She had to keep me awake. Apparently, while having a jolly time running around the parish hall, some kid ran into me, and I fell backwards, smashing my head on the ground. I was knocked out. Maria saw the whole thing.

They took me to the hospital, which was about a 15 minute drive from the church. Noah made it in 5.

I threw up once they got me into the examination room. On that day, I felt like a I threw up a thousand times, and every time I did, they had to move me to a different room.

This isn't true, of course. I only threw up once while they examined me. I was okay, but my mother was given strict orders to wake me up every hour for the next 24 hours. I don't remember that, either.

I'll tell you what I do remember about being knocked out. It's kind of odd.

If you ever pick up a koozie, squeeze it -- just once. It probably won't give you a headache, but it does give me one. For a long time, I didn't know why that happened, but at some point I realized that when you squeeze a koozie, that's what your brain feels like when it collides with your skull. A squishy, weak mass capable of being demolished by one good smash.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Woe Is Me

I got on the bus one afternoon with a knifing pain in my side. When it came, I doubled over, holding my stomach.

I laid down on the seat, knowing Maria watched me with wide and fearful eyes. I didn't know what was wrong, so I couldn't ease her worry.

The pain came and went, came and went. I huddled in the seat, praying to God to make it go away. It didn't.

Somehow I walked home. I don't remember the trek.

When we arrived, I stumbled into the house and fell onto the couch. I begged my mother to take me to the doctor. The shock on her face was comical, but I was in too much pain to enjoy it.

She put me in the car and drove me to see our doctor. I don't remember the examination. I only remember lying in a ball and working through the slicing pain -- my eyes squeezed shut, my teeth clenched tightly.

I fell asleep.

I don't know how long they allowed me to sleep. I woke up on my own, still in the room. When I went outside, I saw the doctor sitting in chair close by.

"You're awake?"

I nodded.

"How do you feel?"

I waited for the pain. "Fine," I finally answered.

He smiled at me. "I think you can go home. I'll fetch your mother for you."

He called it atypical appendicitis. I call it ulcers. I'll explain later.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


For this post, you'll need to hum a soundtrack for me. As you read, have the theme song to Jaws playing over and over in your head.

I stepped off the bus one lovely fall afternoon and raced inside the house. I had plans to get my red dodge ball and commandeer Scotty and Kirk into a vigorous game of Crazy Dodge Ball.

As I flew through our small entry, my eyes flashed across my mother who was seated on our piano bench, smiling like she won the lottery. I came to a grinding halt.

"Kara, I have some good news for you," she announces excitedly.

I sit on the couch, a little unsure because my mother's good news is usually weird. For example, one day she was very excited to enlist our help in planting her tomatoes. Another time, she was very pleased to see us dusting our room. Do you get the picture?

She continues to smile, oh so pleased with herself, as she says, "I found you a piano teacher! Your first piano lesson is today!"

I can't breathe for a moment. I stare at her feeling betrayed and suckered. I crumple into a fit of tears and surprise her into upset.

"Kara, dear, you don't understand. You'll love playing the piano. I learned as a child, and I have always regretted quitting."

Then why didn't she take lessons? Why didn't she spend her free time at the piano?

It was horrid. I was doomed to carry out the ideas of my mother, the ones she thought were necessary and good. I had many years left of having my life planned for me...

Oh, the agony.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


"Look. Can't you see how lovely it leaves your hands?"

"Oh, yes. They are so smooth and soft. It's like you haven't been doing dishes at all!"

I shove my hands into the hot, soapy water. "And you won't believe how quickly it removes grease from all your pots and pans."

Maria takes the pan I just finished washing and rinses it off under the faucet. "My goodness! Look at that shine!" she exclaims.

"Wait until you see the last glass. This soap will work until the very last dish is done," I proclaim.

"You don't have to replenish the water and soap at all?"

"Oh, no! Dawn does the work and keeps on working."

We proceed to show our customers exactly what we mean and finish the dishes. Of course, we are at our own kitchen sink, and our only customers are whatever insects are passing by the kitchen window.

We stand on stools as we clean each fork, pot, and plate. Our commercial for the support of Dawn dish soap continues until we are done.

What an accomplishment! All the dishes from supper are clean, we didn't have to refill the sink with new water, and our hands are still soft. Aren't we amazing for choosing the right dish soap?

Hey, wait a minute....

Did we just get suckered into doing a chore? Why, yes. Dumb-dumbs....

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ode To Apple Butter

Oh, apple butter.
Oh, how I love you.
Your apple cinnamony sweetness gives happiness so true.

The way you melt with peanut butter is so fine,
I cannot wait until you get in that mouth of mine.

When I see you sittin' on my grandma's table,
my stomach growls and is unstable.

Until I can spread you on a biscuit so fluffy,
my temperament is terrible and I'm a little huffy.

Oh, apple butter.
Oh, how I love you.
Thank you for the sweetness that always rings true.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Big Idea Number Three

So far my mother is 1 for 2. Music and Arts Week was a definite master stroke of genius. The nursery...not so much.

When "Big Idea Number Three" came along, I was skeptical and on my guard. I had several arguments ready against my involvement in this thing called the "Church Bazaar".

I was anxious it was accurately described by its title. Imagine my relief when I found out I didn't have to do anything for it.

Mom, Grace, and Jo -- and a few other ladies, poor girls -- embarked upon a journey involving glue guns, thread, fake flowers, and ric rac. They made several lovely pieces of art with these materials and others.

Their intent, of course, was to sell them and raise funds for the church.

I'm not sure how well they did. I do remember Maria getting squirted on with hot glue -- not by me. (It looked like hot mayonnaise.)

I remember running around the parish hall while the mothers peddled their wares. I also remember, upon completion of said Bazaar, finding several of their creations around the house as decorations.

It seemed they had bought each others stuff. How nice, I thought.

Perhaps Number Three needed some work....

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Maria's First Day

On rainy days recess was on the black top. For those of you who didn't go to my school, that meant the teacher parking lot.

This was fine with me. Part of it was painted with hopscotch squares and four squares. I had as much fun on the black top as I did on the playground.

But, I was sad for Maria. On her first day she couldn't play on the playground, and she didn't care to organize games of four square or hopscotch. She depended on me to do those things.

While I was worrying about her good time, I was surprised when the Kindergarten class filed outside. Maria was in line, wearing her favorite twirly dress. It was brown with tiny maroon flowers. And it twirled like a West Texas dust devil.

I immediately dropped the ball and ran to her, eager to bring her into my circle and show her the ropes of the black top.

But my plan was interrupted by a shrill whistle. I look up as the second grade teachers are ordering us to line up. Anxious and still determined, I run up to my teacher.

"I need to stay here and play with my sister," I announce.

She said no.

Everything inside me deflated as I turn to face my sister. She starts to cry as I am ordered to line up.

I can still see her face. The memory is sharp and still wrenches at my gut. I can see her, standing in the hopscotch squares, in her pretty twirly dress, as tears stream down her cheeks.

Walking away from her was the most torturous thing I had ever had to do.

She was fine, of course. I agonized over it for the rest of the day, but when we got home she was as happy as all get-out.

It comforted me, but did not release me from the horrific feeling of walking away from my sister when she needed me.

I was determined it would never happen again. Sometimes I set my goals way too high....

Monday, September 17, 2012

If You Can't Beat 'Em

Time goes by too fast. Too many moments zip by us, never to be experienced again. If we aren't aware, we may not realize how important certain events are.

Like lying in the grass, watching the lightening bugs twinkle and flit above you. Or rolling down the hill at Miller Outdoor Theater. Or running through the sprinklers. Or having a full team for kickball.

Those dusky summer evenings when adults sat in lawn chairs, and we ran around with water guns.

I can't get those back. They are gone...forever. Swallowed up into the gaping mouth that was Fall.

Just the word....Fall. It makes me nauseous.

Your hopes are falling. Your fun is falling. Your life is tumbling into an abyss of pencil, paper, "quiet water, still water", and math.

I think my mom forgot to tell me school was starting until she walked me to the bus stop. Maria was with us.

"Maria is starting Kindergarten today," Mom announces proudly and excitedly.

Maria is smiling, and I am looking at her like she has drunk the koolaid.

"And Kara is starting second grade."

WHAT?!!??!! Whoa, there. Slow down, boy! "What are you sayin', Mom?" I almost scream at her.

She raises a brow as if to say, "Deal with it. You'll be fine."

Oh, my Lord. It's starting again! Does it never end?

As a voice above me whispers, "No.", I realize there was nothing I could do about this hamster wheel I was on. They'd beaten me. I was a student, and I was going to school. No manner of wishin', hopin', or prayin' would change it. So, I might as well bear it.

I look down at my sister and see that hopeful gleam in her eye. She gazes up at me, unafraid because I am beside her.

Standing a little straighter, I decide I could handle anything for the sake of my sister. Even school.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thwarted Fun....Again

Pain, constant and crushing, resonates from my kneecaps up my thighs and into the small of my back.

Time ticks by as slowly as a caterpillar inching along a twig, and I groan inwardly, yearning for the chance to move back just a tad and relieve the pain in my knees. They are going to be bruised permanently, I know it.

I can barely see over the pew in front of me, but I know where we are in the order of the mass. We are only almost done with the "Christ Has Died" song. Ugh...

The priest says more words. We sing the "Amen" and, thank God, we can now stand up.

More words are said. I squirm and swish and sway back and forth, moving as much as possible before...God save me...we have to kneel again.

As I lower myself to the unpadded kneeler, I suddenly remember the compact mirror in my little purse. An idea forms, and the excitement of fun completely erases the pain in my knees. (Of course, they are probably numb.)

Pulling out the compact, I flip it open and lift my eyes to the ceiling. With any luck, all the adults will think I am praying to the Heavens.

As everyone processes to communion, I stay kneeling and watch the reflection of light from my mirror bounce over the ceiling of the church. I flick it from one side to the other, let it mingle with the reflections of the wine goblets, let it disappear into the light bulbs, and even go so far as to let it shine on the number boards.

My fun is quite short-lived. I mistakenly let my gaze stray to the choir where I find my father glowering at me from his seat. I snap the compact shut so fast the rush of air dries my eyeballs.

Because, in the words of the great Bill Cosby....

"My father established our relationship fairly quick. He said, 'I brought you in this world, and I can take you out.'"

And now the pain in my knees is ten times as worse as before.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Carpenter

What was a concert with a name like "100% Chance of Rain" without a Noah?

Well, I can't tell you because we had one. He had a full beard, brown in color, kind eyes, wide hands, and a voice that poured like molasses.

Somehow my mom got him up on stage. His wife got him to build all the sets. It was quite impressive really. And real.

He has never sung solo since this concert. (Well, that isn't true. But I don't know how aware he was of the next time. For a later post...I promise.)

As we processed down the center aisle with our poster board animal suits slapping against our bodies, the melodious tones of his voice lifted through the hall. "Two by two" he sang.

It was the first time I bore witness to his kindness and generosity. He is an unassuming man, kind, but firm. He is the one behind the scenes, turning all the ideas my mom, Jo, and Grace had into things better than they imagined. All was done without complaint.

He will always be "Noah" to me, following God's word when no one else does.

He has only one flaw...he is a Steeler's fan. Well, in the Bible, Noah wasn't perfect either.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Another Big Idea

So, Mom, Jo, and Grace did not stop creating after starting the nursery. Oh no, nothing could stop them now.

Their next big idea was a little thing called "Music and Arts Week". I am certain it was mostly Jo's idea, but Mom and Grace jumped on the creative, "be involved" bandwagon without hesitation.

It took place during the summer.......kill me now.

"Kara," says Mom, "there will be no whining. You are going to enjoy this and put a smile on your face, or there will be no outside when we get home."

This was an effective threat for me, so I pasted a big smile on my face and pretended the crafts, the music, and the "togetherness" were wonderful.

Jo was in charge of the lessons, and Mom was in charge of the music. We would rotate between different activities, making things for the big concert at the end of the week.

Our first program was called "100% Chance of Rain" and by the end of the third day, I was starting to genuinely enjoy myself. The music was awesome.

When we practiced for the concert, we did so on wood risers. I wore sandals so I could tap my feet to the music. The clacking sound echoed through the hall, and everyone could hear me keeping time to the song. I was quite pleased with the effect.

I also was chosen to play the xylophone for one of the songs. I felt pretty important, let me tell you.

With a theme like "100% Chance of Rain", you have probably guessed we were learning about Noah and the Ark. Part of our week was spent making costumes of various animals out of poster board, grocery sacks, and construction paper. We each got a partner and during the concert, processed down the aisle "Two by Two".

I was a turtle. I think Maria was a raccoon. I can't remember what Alex, Blossom, Georgie, and Jack were. Phillip and Roxi were rain drops. They were too young to be in the entire concert. So were Lela, Wendy, and Bill.

All in all, the week was a big success. By the end of it all, I thought this "big idea" was a pretty smart one. However, there was one unfortunate moment...

Mom made me wear tennis shoes during the concert.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Activity

I rose at 7:00 every morning during the summer, and by 7:15 I had eaten and was heading down to Miss Holly's to see if her boys wanted to play.

I think I always woke her up...and the boys. Even though she stood there in her robe, with groggy eyes, I still asked, "Can the boys come out and play?"

Sometimes they were ready to go, but sometimes I had to wait. I would occupy my time by playing in the lot across the street. There were no houses on the opposite side of the street, which created a HUGE playground for all sorts of things.

The boys down the street, one was my age and the other was around Maria's age, helped cook up a bunch of great activities. They liked Star Trek, so I'm gonna call the older one Captain Kirk, and the younger one, Scotty.

Once Kirk and Scotty came outside, there was the world of kickball, Hide-and-Seek, Ghost-in-the-Graveyard, dodge-ball, four square, and hopscotch. Maria played with us because I made her do so. You can't really play these games with only three people.

We even turned the vacant lot into a series of underground tunnels...which would eventually be used to cover us during World War III. (That is for a later post.)

This is what I was meant for...gettin' dirty, organizing games, and livin' life.

Of course, my mother decided to infiltrate summertime with Music and Arts Week.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Beach Boys

I am not sure when it happened, but I was introduced to the music of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys at an early age. (Bet you thought I was really referring to the actual beach and real boys in my last post. Come on! I am only in "almost" second grade!)

From the first moment I heard their sound, I was hooked. The melodies, harmonies, was all good. I danced to their music, learned The Twist, The Freddy, The Jerk, The Monkey, and The Swim. I liked spontaneous dancing. Maria and Roxi, however...

"Kara, you are going to stand on the chair," Maria orders me. "You're going to wait for Jack to turn around and see you."

"Jack, you're going to stand at the fireplace," Roxi tells him, "and you'll use this for your guitar." She pulls the shovel from the fireplace tools. "We need sunglasses!" she exclaims and runs upstairs for the prop.

As I stand on the chair, Maria continues to give orders.

"When the music starts, Jack you turn around and play your guitar for a little bit. Then, when you see Kara standing on the chair, throw your guitar down and come over to her and lift her to the ground."

Roxi comes running in with the sunglasses. "Here, put these on."

"Roxi and I are going to stand on the couch, with our backs to y'all, and one foot pointed in the air." She demonstrates this, bending her leg at the knee and pointing her toe. "When the song gets to 'Some honeys will be comin' along', Roxi and I will turn around and jump off the couch. Then we'll all start doing The Twist."

Poor Jack. Georgie and Phillip were not with us on this day. He was relegated to these sorts of things as was I. I would've preferred to be playing with Lela and Wendy -- eating fake spaghetti was way better than doing a routine -- but we almost always made Maria and Roxi play outside, so...I guess it was only fair.

The music starts and Jack and I both do what we are supposed to, but Maria and Roxi just stand on the couch, with their toes in the air. Jack stops the record.

"Hey, y'all were supposed to jump off the couch," he reminds them.

"Right," Maria confirms. "Let's do it again."

So, we do it again. And the same thing happens. So, we try again. And again. And again.

Boy, Jack and I really got our part down that day. Maria and Roxi never turned around.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

It Continues

First grade is coming to an end, but school is not over. Oh, no. There is a second grade, and there is no reason to be excited about being promoted. I have no illusions this grade will afford me anything to look forward to.

There will be more work, more monotonous, mind-numbing work. I will have to walk in a line. I will have to be quiet. I will have to listen to the relentless droning of an adult who squeals, "Oh, look everyone! Suzy Q has discovered the letter A!"

We must all ooo and ahhh over Suzy. Every accomplishment will be celebrated no matter how irrelevant it is. The letter A? Really?

I just knocked a boy out of Crazy Dodgeball, and she wants to celebrate the letter A. What is the world coming to? I learned letters from Sesame Street. Now, let's get into the stuff that matters...stomping the boys out.

But, they aren't interested in female dominance. They think stickers are fabulous. "Here! Scratch-N-Sniff!" they cry with enough enthusiasm to turn Amelia Earhart's hair white...wherever she is. God bless her.

So, I continue second grade. My infamous rebellion against turning in homework did not inspire anyone to expel me.

Thankfully, there is summer first. With the beach...and the boys.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Big, Fat Zero

"May I speak with Mrs. Atterbury?"

"This is she."

"Mrs. Atterbury, this is Ms. Adams."

"Oh hello, Ms. Adams!" my mother exclaims, but inside her head she is saying, "Oh, hell, what did she do now?"

There is a slight pause on the end of the line as Ms. Adams seems to be gathering her thoughts. "Kara hasn't turned in a single paper for this grading period."

My mother's jaw drops. "Nothing?"

"No. And if we can't find the work, I don't know what we'll do. Right now she has a zero in my class."

My mother's head is spinning as she has no idea what to say or how to proceed. "Can I...can I look for them?"

"Absolutely! Do you think they are in her room?"

Mother doubts it as she works hard at keeping my room spic and span, but she promises to look. After hanging up with my teacher, she goes on a hunt and comes up empty. Beside herself, she puts Maria, Wendy, and Bill in the car and drives up to the school.

Imagine my surprise when my teacher doesn't allow me to line up for the bus. Am I being held hostage? Am I going to be locked up in the classroom? What happens in the school after the kids leave? Is this when the teachers eat the children? Am I going to be eaten because I have red hair, because I play kickball and don't wear hair bows?

Heart pounding, chest heaving I am contemplating running for my life as I am pretty sure I am faster than my teacher, when my mother and my sisters and brother walk through the door. "Praise God!" I declare, relieved my mother has come to save me.

She and my teacher begin talking and I listen intently to make sure negotiations aren't taking place. Luckily, all they want to do is go through my tote tray.

I pull it out and set it on my desk with a loud bang because, inside, is every paper for the grading period. My mother and teacher are going through the sheets, their mouths hanging open. I am asked if I know where to turn my papers in and of course I do. I am not an idiot.

Why didn't I turn them in then, they ask.

I shrug. I don't know. Just didn't.

My teacher takes my work, my mother takes my hand and we all walk out of the room. I am triumphant because I have some how beaten my teacher and I am not going to be held against my will. But...this triumph is short-lived.

As we head toward the parking lot my mother says to me, "You're grounded."

Oh, the torture! I might have been better off being eaten!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Our Music

"My song first, Maria. Then we'll listen to yours."

Maria glares at me, her hands on her hips. "We listen to yours all the time," she declares.

I roll my eyes at her and reach for the sleeve that holds my favorite 45.

"No!" Maria shouts. "It's my turn."

I stop and think. Now that I have discovered I am good at taking care of people, I realize I am not taking good care of my sister. I can share, can't I? I'll get to listen to my favorite song later. After all, isn't it better to be kind?

"Okay," I tell Maria. "We'll listen to yours first."

With a triumphant grin, Maria slips her favorite 45 onto our plastic record player and the music of Lipps, Inc. blasts through our cotton candy pink room. We dance to Funkytown, Maria, Wendy, and I. We giggle when the "Darth Vader" voice sings, "Won't you take me to". We lip sync, we spin, we sing, we laugh.

Ah, music...

Maria's song ends and now it is my turn. Maria and Wendy don't stay because they don't care for my song, but that is alright with me.

Reverently, I place the 45 on the record player and close my eyes in anticipation. The music hits me, wafts around me and fills me with gladness. I sing along without dancing. Singing is more important.

I don't really know what the words mean. The melody is all that matters and I sing every note perfectly.

"Lookin' For Love"...

What a song!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Searching For Me

Let's see...

I can't do Math. 6 + 7 is too much for me. I can't sit still in my seat. I can't keep my hair neat.

I can read and I read very well...but, I can't answer questions about what I read.

I can throw and kick a ball with vigor and accuracy, but I can't usually beat the boys even though I try really hard.

I can spell and I never even have to study, but I can't seem to win the spelling contests in class.

I have enough energy to play from sun-up to sun-down, but not always someone to play with.

I can sing, but there isn't an appropriate venue for singing since I am only 6.


I can get Bill out of bed in the morning. I can make him smile at me. I can change his diaper and I can feed him...

And there is no "but" in that sentence.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Absolute Fav-o-rite Place!

An acre and a half.

A cement driveway large enough to hold 6 or 7 trucks.

The cement wraps around a garage that doubles as a small engine repair shop.

Enough smooth surface for bikes, scooters, skateboards, and big wheels.

Enough yard for baseball games, dune buggies, go carts, tractors, and motor bikes.

This place, this Heaven, is my grandpa and grandma's house. My grandpa created a Mecca for his grandchildren. There was a vehicle for everyone and we were always drivin', or ridin', or scootin', or hittin'.

Inside there were people playing cards, or scrabble, while silver pots bubbled with potatoes and the oven produced a roast so fine, it melted in your mouth.

"Hey, Kara!" my dad calls as I careen around the corner of the garage on a big wheel. "Get in," he orders.

He is driving the go cart. I hop up from my big wheel and he cries, "Hurry every chance you get! Your mama will be stickin' her head out the door any second!"

Mom didn't care much for the go carts and worked really hard at keeping us off of them. She lost the battle frequently.

I hop onto the cushioned seat next to my dad and he takes off. The wind is whipping through my hair as we shoot across the driveway, over the grass in the front yard and swerve around the house into the big yard out back. "Yeehaw!" I scream just like the Dukes, my grin splitting my face.

The frigid air (it is December) burns my cheeks, but I don't care. My dad is driving like he's Bo Duke and I am screaming at him to go faster. Luke and Han are racing past us on the motor bike and dune buggy, swapping insults with my dad as they pass us up.

We race around the garage, coming back toward the big driveway and as my dad takes the small jump up onto the driveway, I go rolling out of the go cart. I roll and roll and roll and when I stop, I am surprised as all get out that I am not hurt at all.

"Hey, girl, are you alright?" my dad asks.

I hop to my feet and say, "I'm ok! My puffy coat saved me!"

"Well, thank God for the coat," he says. "Now get back in here and we'll do one more lap."

I hop in and off we go!

Goodness, I adore this place.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Efficient Evening Activities

That time between homework (God save me) and bedtime was my favorite time of day. Mom would make supper, while Bill played with his cars as he sat in his high chair, and Dad would play with us girls.

Hide-and-Seek. And this is how it went.

Dad was always "It", which blew my mind because who would choose to be "It" every time? However, I didn't question him aloud because I wasn't going to be the one who ruined a good thing.

Dad would start counting and we would run and hide, giggling as we ran, pushing long hair out of our faces as we raced to the best hiding spots in the house. He always counted slowly, giving us plenty of time to hide. I made my decision quickly, but Wendy would take forever, giggling as she would hide behind the couch and then change her mind and hide between the piano and the plain view. Then she'd giggle again and run off to a new spot.

I assumed he counted slowly to increase the suspense of the finding. I am not so sure now.

When Wendy finally settled on a place, he would shout, "Ready or not, here I come!"

We'd squeal and giggle with excitement and then he'd say, EVERY TIME, "Are you girls ready?"

And we'd all shout, "Ready!"


And wouldn't you know it, he would find us in less than 10 seconds. At six and a half I thought he was the best detective in the world. At thirty six I am feeling a little stupid.

My dad certainly knew how to get things to work in his favor.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Trials of Playing

Jack and Roxi have a vacant lot next to their house. It is the perfect place for Hide-and-Seek, or tag, or fort building.

Jack, Georgie, Phillip, and I head outside to breathe in the fresh air and run out the ants that were always in our pants.

Roxi, Maria, Wendy, and Lela are still inside where there is air conditioning.

I breathe in deep, relishing the sun's rays on my skin and the sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet, as I follow the boys to the fort.

It is just a floor suspended between three trees about 10 feet off the ground, but it is magical to be up in a tree.

"After we nail the boards to the trunk for the second floor, we'll play Hide-and-Seek," Jack informs us.

"That's a good plan," Georgie agrees. "How many boards do we need?"


I look up and narrow my eyes at the space above us. It is a pretty wide expanse between the three trees, and it is much higher up. I don't think Jo is gonna go for a second floor of the tree house.

"That's gonna be too high up," I inform Jack. "I bet your mom doesn't let you."

"Then why do I have the boards for the steps up here already?" he asks me, his hands set on his hips.

"Did you ask your mom?" Georgie wants to know, probably realizing the same thing I am.

Jack rolls his eyes and doesn't answer the question. Instead he tells Phillip to grab some nails from the bucket and he picks up one of the boards.

I sigh and sit, watching the three boys nail four boards into the trunk of the tree. Jack steps back and admires their work, declaring it to be perfect. We climb back down, ready to play Hide-and-Seek, but I don't want to play with only three hiders.

"I'm gonna go get the girls."

I dash inside, hollering for the girls, taking the stairs two at a time. I find them arguing because Wendy and Lela were spying on Roxi and Maria while they were playing college girls. I holler above their arguing, "The boys wanna play Hide-and-Seek. Do y'all wanna come play?"

Wendy and Lela giggle and stick their tongues out at Roxi and Maria, completely ignoring me. Roxi and Maria screech to see the protruding tongues and I start to get impatient. Jack isn't going to wait forever.

I holler again, "Let's play Hide-and-Seek!"

Maria whips around and glares at me. "I don't want to sweat, Kara!"

I roll my eyes, put my hands on my hips, and yell, "Well, you aren't gonna run that much anyway!"

"Then why do you want me to play?" she says, raising one eyebrow just like my mother.

I groan and flounce off. It is so annoying trying to get a good game of Hide-and-Seek going. I can't afford to argue with them anymore because Jack is going to get impatient and find something else to do if I don't hurry up.

I run outside to find the boys gone. Disappointed, I walk back inside. least I know his mother isn't going to let him build a second floor and now I'm glad Wendy and Lela are annoying Maria and Roxi...

I decide to go help them.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dutiful Catholics Continued

"Because, Dear Heart, if God gives you a gift you must use it in service to Him. You share your time and your talent so others might do the same."

So advises, with a raised eyebrow and a calm, steady, English teacher tone, Mylin. My mother always gives a rebuttal with a formal tone and a raised brow.

It was at this point I became aware that she would expect the same from me.

I am scared...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dutiful Catholics

Oh, wouldn't it be great if there was a nursery at church? Parents could actually listen to the homily instead of whispering in a fierce, yet God-like tone, "Get off the floor." "Stop jumping." "Don't turn around." "Be quiet."

Parents could sing without having to keep tiny hands off the pages of the hymnal for fear of that sickening sound echoing high into the rafters....Rip!

Oh, how wonderful that would be!

And, even better, it could be open on Thursday evenings during choir practice. More adults would join the choir and wouldn't have to pay for a babysitter! Grace and Jo would trade off watching the lovely children and...another brilliant idea...we could teach them about their Catholic faith through song and dance and coloring!

Such dutiful Catholics...

So, it was all wrecked. Everything. Ruined.

No more bowling alley. No more balance beam. No more sliding down the stairs with the couch cushion.

No more...

Why, oh, why does my mother have to always get involved?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Eating At The Table

Canned tomatoes...

Red, large, watery...disgusting.

Mom put those in almost everything she made. It made supper not always enjoyable, but I ate. Luckily, I had something to distract me.

"Hi, girls! What y'all up to? Eatin'? You eat it all up now."

The chair scrapes out and he sits down.

"Well," he says, after filling his plate, "what'd y'all do today?"

Shouts of "I played wif my dolls!", "I drew a picture!", "I didn't get into trouble!" go 'round the table. He smiles.

"That's good. That's real good. Well, I heard a new one today."

"Drum!" my mom warns.

We all get quiet, looking at Dad out of the corner of our eyes and trying very hard not to grin.

Mom gets up to get something for Bill. Dad leans in and whispers, "Did you hear the one about the dog that walks into-"

"Drummond!" Mom yells, her head popping up from behind the refrigerator door. "No inappropriate jokes!"

"Alright, Mylin."

We sit back, but we know the funny isn't over. We eat some and the silence stretches. Mom comes back to the table and begins to feed Bill.

"This dog walks into a bar and says-"

"Drummond Atterbury stop telling these girls your jokes!"

He leans back and grins at us. And then he winks. Even as young as we are we know he's flirting with our mom and --- he's gonna tell us that joke later. It's just fun to watch them argue. And he NEVER stopped. No matter how hot and bothered she got.

He leans across the table again. "Hey, Maria," he whispers.

Mom pauses and raises an eyebrow at him.

"Come hear for a second."

Maria scoots off her chair and stops beside Dad. We are all waiting. I can barely contain my excitement, my legs are swinging back and forth like they're wiper blades on steroids.

"Pull my finger!" he tells her.

"Drummond!" Mom yells, popping up from her chair, but she is too late and a very inappropriate sound rips through the air.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Tragic Sleepover

My first sleepovers were either at Roxi's house or with a family my parents went to college with. They had two boys and one was my age. We had fun together.

One evening we spent the night and when we woke up, Wendy's cheek was swollen to twice its size.

I don't remember anyone being very scared, but all the adults were trying to figure out what had happened and if she should go to the emergency room.

I was sitting next to her on the couch, while she sat in my dad's lap. I stared hard at her, trying to figure out why her cheek was sticking out like she maybe had a bouncy ball inside her mouth, pressed up against the side of her face.

She wasn't crying, but staring right back at me, telling me without words to figure it out and fix it.

The adults were all chattering around us, trying to decide what to do. I narrowed my eyes at her face, turned my head slightly to the left, then to the right. She copied me.

Then, I reached up, touched her check, and snapped my hand back in surprise. It was so hard! Almost like she did have a bouncy ball pressed up against the inside of her cheek!

And that was when I remembered! Wendy had been sticking this toy in her mouth the night before. It was a little kitty cat with a fat, round bottom in place of its legs. I concluded she must have fallen asleep with it in her mouth, and now her cheek was permanently stuck out there for all the world to see!

I proudly announced my findings. The adults disagreed.

I argued. Argued some more.

"We probably just need to get a needle and pop it!" I told them. They ignored me and took her to the emergency room.

I didn't see her for the rest of the day, or the next day. I was worried. I started wondering if she was going to be allowed to come home, but I couldn't say that to anyone. Maria was beside herself with sadness and Mom and Dad would panic if I brought it up.

So, I waited. And waited.

Dad finally took us to the hospital to see her. I was sitting in a chair in a small waiting room staring down a very large, never-ending, stark white hallway when I saw her.

She was holding Mom's hand and they were walking toward us. I jumped up and shouted to Maria, "There she is!"

She was wearing jeans and a blue, long sleeve shirt. I could feel my smile splitting my face.

But, before she even got half-way down the longest hallway in the world, Dr. Stanley swooped in, picked her up and carried her off!

I was livid! "That's my sister!" I cried. "Where is he taking her?"

Mom finally reached us and said, "He's figured out what kind of spider bit her, and now he can give her the medicine she needs."

I put my hands on my hips and glared at her. "So, she didn't swallow the cat toy?"

With the utmost seriousness Mom replies, "No, she didn't swallow the cat toy."

She was home that afternoon.