A Ferry Fun Vacation

Sometimes we went way, way far away from home to camp.  That took forever.  Mom and Dad scooped us right out of bed, still in our pajamas, and put is in the car so early in the morning, it was still dark and headed Up North to Brimley Park.   That was way up in the Upper Peninsula, across the Mackinaw Straits.  We had to take the Ferry over there.  That was really fun.  I never saw a boat so big it could take thousands of cars over, all jam-packed together like sardines in a can.  Once Dad got the car in the Ferry, we squeezed out and took a walk around, and watched the white caps crash up against the ferry.  The smell of the lake filled up my nose and reminded me that this week was going to feel like it lasted forever.  Still I couldn’t  dilly-dally yet ’cause if we weren’t in the car when the Ferry got to the other side, our car would hold up everybody else, and people would be mad as wet hens at us.  That’s no way to start a vacation.

Once Grandma got the bright idea to send Mom’s cousin Joey along with one of her girlfriends.  Grandma was always thinking Mom needed some help with all us Magpies.  Grandma had two boys first, then Mom way before she had Aunt Annie.  Uncle Gene was a big teaser from the get-go, and Uncle Kenny was a pee wee until after he got out of school, then he got big and strong, but it was too late to be much help for Grandma; besides, she didn’t believe in boys doing much work.  Mom didn’t either, but Mom had four girls before she had any boys.  That was the best idea Mom ever had, ’cause she put us girls right to work, so by the time she had any boys, she had a whole bunch of girls to help her out.  Grandma should have done that, ’cause then she would know that all the help she tried to give Mom kinda backfired. Continue reading

Jumping off the Dock

When I was a little girl, I loved to swim, almost as much as I liked to dance.  Every summer, Mom signed me up for swimming lessons at Myers Lake.  All through grade-school I took swimming lessons.  I learned to swim the first year, still, it was loads of fun to go back each year.  I’ll never forget the first time.  I’d never been to Myers Lake before.

Nobody swam at a pool around my house:  there were no public pools around me, and for sure nobody had a pool big enough to swim in at their house.  For Pete’s sake, everybody knew that kind of stuff was just for movie stars and millionaires.  Around me, pools were just for the Little Kids.  Mom bought one of those, but it was a pain in the neck:  grass got kicked into it, the our dog Nikki, drank out of it, Frankie went #1  in it, I think our lamb, Jack, went #2 in it, and finally it sprang a leak and failed to hold any water at all.  Like I said, Mom bought one.  Once.

Mom drove me to school, where I got on a school bus with a whole bunch of kids.  My friends Daylene and Connie walked to school, so swimming lessons was the only time they rode a bus.  It was different from school.  For one thing, everybody had on shorts and jeans over our swimsuits.  No dresses, not one.  Nobody knew where to sit, ’cause lots of different kids and no high-schoolers, so everybody just got mixed up and in different seats than on the way to school.  I liked to sit on the bump; the wheel was under there, so if the bus driver went over a bump, Continue reading

Soldier Brothers

My Dad was in the War, way back before me or Deanna were born, and way back before he met Mom.  His brothers were in the War, too:  Uncle Frank and Uncle Merle, and Uncle Glenn.  Uncle Ellis was in the Korean War.  Uncle Gerald never had to go because the President said Grandma had enough sons in the War.  Grandma said ‘enough is enough’, and even though that made no sense, I knew just what she meant.

Dad told me he was in the War way back before I was even a twinkle in his eye.  I don’t believe that one minute, ’cause I can’t imagine my Dad without a twinkle in his eye.  Same thing for his brothers:  blue eyes like the sky, that danced like they had stars, in broad daylight, if you can imagine that.

Dad and his brothers never talked about being in the war, except that Dad got a purple heart for getting his appendix out, and once Dad found a German shepherd dog that he kept around for a while and that’s how he fell in love with German shepherds.  I asked Dad if the War was scary, Continue reading

A Smart Head of Hair

Sometimes Mom let me stay overnight at her Aunt Pauline’s and Uncle Basil’s house, all by myself.  Aunt Pauline and Uncle Basil didn’t have any little girls, just one teenage girl, Joey.   Aunt Pauline and Uncle Basil were old like Grandma and Grandpa, so they always loved me up a lot when I was over; they were so happy to have a little girl around reminding them of the good old days when they were younger, and Joey was littler and smiled more at them.  Now she mostly rolled her eyes and smacked her lips together in a sideways frown.

Uncle Basil looked a little bit like Santa Claus:  a big round belly and rosy cheeks with a nose like a cherry, and eyes that laughed all the time, just like that poem.  But no beard.  Uncle Basil’s round face and head were all bare-naked, like my head was when I was born.  I saw pictures of me:  no hair at all.  Grandma said Uncle Ken was bald like that ’til he was over two years old, so she glued a piece of her own hair on the inside of  his bonnet, ’cause she was afraid people would think he was a moron.   I sure laughed at that one, ’cause nobody told me having lots of hair made a person smart.  Me and Uncle Ken both got lots and lots of hair, and we both were smart cookies, so being a bald-headed baby was a poor predictor.  I thought Uncle Basil was pretty smart too, anyway everybody listened to him when he talked:  he was super loud and threw his arms around a lot, and laughed like crazy with his thick neck bent back and tears running off his face and getting stuck in his ears;  he took a big white handkerchief out of his back pocket, wiped his face and head, and said, “ohhh, hheee,” letting his breath out in a giant huff, like laughing just exhausted him.  I wasn’t sure if he was as smart as Uncle Ken, but he was an awful lot of fun.  Uncle Basil smelled like sausage and cigars, not like cookies and cherry pipe tobacco like I was sure Santa did.

Joey was a little bit kooky, especially if my Aunt Annie and another teenage cousin, Bubbles, came over, then they got extra-kooky.  Joey, Bubbles, and Aunt Annie just giggled up a storm and whispered, and looked sideways at Aunt Pauline.  Sometimes they rolled their eyes at each other, but with the giggling thrown in it seemed nice, not mean, like when Joey did it at Aunt Pauline and gave that sideways lip-smack.  Bubbles’s real name was Apollonia, but everybody called her Bubbles ’cause she had really big eyes and she laughed so much her eyes just bubbled all the time.  Anyway, what kind of name is Apollonia for a girl, or for a boy for that matter?  Mom said Apollonia is a name from the Old Country.  Later on when Bubbles got married, her husband said nobody could call her Bubbles any more, so she changed her name to Anne.  Now that seems kookier than all those teenagers together.

Aunt Pauline was the best at loving me up.  She gave me cookies in the middle of the day, and a bubble bath at night; she even washed me in the tub, took me out, helped me dry me off, then laid me on her bumpy, white bedspread and put baby powder all over me, just like I was a baby.  Mom’s bedspread probably had white bumps like that a long time ago, but now they were all worn down, with just little tufts of thread where the bumps were.  I was really too big for all that fussing, but I never complained, ’cause it felt kinda good to be treated little for once, and it was really nice to get my pajamas on without them sticking to me all over the place, making it feel like I got them on backwards or put on somebody else’s by mistake.  Aunt Pauline acted like it was a real treat to have me over at her house; she sat down to have a cup of coffee with me, only my cup had milk in it, with a tinsy bit of sugar. I never ever got that at home.

Aunt Pauline had a great idea that’ll tickle your Mom pink.  “How ’bout we cut your hair?” she asked me, and her eyes got all big and happy, peaking out at me over he coffee cup.  “Won’t it just surprise her so?”  I had to agree with that.  “I’ll give you a D.A. haircut like Joey’s. That’s so much easier to brush.”  Joey’s hair was short almost like a boy’s;  she just put some Vitalis on it, brushed it back on both sides, and done.  My hair was long down to my shoulders, and always getting snarly.  Mom insisted that it be tangle-free every single morning; by supper-time it was snarly again.  I thought Aunt Pauline had a super-duper idea.

I hid behind Uncle Basil’s car when Mom came to get me, so I could really catch her off her guard.  She was so surprised, she said she thought I was someone else’s little girl.  That made me laugh.  She just kept saying, “Oh.  My.  Oh.  Look at that.” sucking breaths in-between each word, and touching my neck like she never saw it before.  Her lips were smiling, but her eyes looked more like the way someone looks when they get surprised with a punch in the stomach.  Right there, I knew that was going to be part of my memory until I was as old as Grandma, maybe longer.  There we were, sitting on the bumper of Uncle Basil’s white and deep-red car, the sun shining down all over the flower beds, Aunt Pauline standing on the porch looking so proud and happy, and Mom touching my neck with a smile on her face, but looking like she wanted to throw-up or something.

Years later I asked Mom about that haircut, and she remembered it as clearly as I did:  all my wavy strawberry-blond hair gone; Aunt Pauline looking so pleased about the big favor she did,  and Mom just standing there feeling sick. Mom said the damage was done, so no sense in getting angry.  Besides,  hair grows back, and hurt feeling sometimes last forever, so it was better just to let Pauline think she did something nice.  Whenever I’m shocked speechless, I consider it’s a special little gift. I have some time to consider the right words and the right tone of voice, without any eye rolling or sideways lip-smacking.  Or perhaps, I may even choose to say nothing at all.