Everybody remembers their first pet very fondly and I am no different.  However with my first pet, everyone in my family has a Missy story to tell, and I mean everyone.  Some are good, and some are…hmmm…evidence that she wasn’t so sweet to everyone.

When I was a kid, dad had a dog named Sparky and mom had a cat named Precious.  I grew up with the two of them, but neither was mine.  Precious avoided me like the plague; due to my ill advised pulling out of his whiskers on one side when I was pretty young.  I got into deep, deep trouble over that.  I have no idea why I did it, but after that incident I was not one to harm the hair on the head of any other animal; unless it was suffering.  So, whatever punishment I got (probably a spanking, grounding, and chores) was enough to scare me straight.  Precious and I did make up once I was older and had a nice warm water bed. 🙂

Anyway, by the time I was thirteen, I had earned the trust of my parents that I was responsible enough for a pet.  Or at least mom was up for another cat; dad was still a dog person at that time and did not want to live with two cats.

Mom called the humane society on my birthday and a guy had just brought in a mommy with 6-week old kittens.  His apartment on campus wouldn’t allow pets and it broke his heart to take them to the shelter.  Dad and I met mom there and I was told I could pick out one kitten.

It’s there that my dad’s life changed because I picked out Missy.  And when I say his life changed, I mean big time.  Missy was the most stubborn, affectionate, fast, nimble, playful, protector, hunter, etc cat that I and my family have ever met.  Part of why my dad likes cats now is because of Missy.

When I held Missy, something set her apart from her sisters, and I decided on her.  Her first act was pulling a stitch out of my sweater. 🙂  Missy was half Abyssinian and half Siamese.  She looked like an old tabby cat, but her voice had the dialect of Siamese.

From day one Missy was a talker.  She would talk to you or wander through the house looking for you crying for you to answer.  She was really funny with hide and seek which was one of her favorite games.  I’d lose her somehow in our house and head over to dad’s bathroom (only named that because that’s where his stuff was).  He had a shower that we rarely used in there.  I’d quietly open the door and get inside.  Then I would holler as loud as I could “MISSSSY!!!”  She’d come flying through the bathroom.  When she got to either the bedroom or kitchen (depending on direction) she’d yell “MOM!”  I’d quietly say her name the next time “missy”.  She’d fly back through and would holler “MOM!” with urgency because she couldn’t find me.  I’m telling you she would have been a good mouser with as good of hearing as she had because the next time, I’d whisper “missy”.  She’d be right at the door.  Only the first time, did I have to step out to show her where I was.  After that, it didn’t take her long to figure it out.

Along with having awesome ears, Missy loved her tail.  Oh my, how she loved that tail.  It was the scrawniness tail you have ever seen, but she was quite proud of it.  It was the one thing that if you grabbed onto would get you bit.  She never broke the skin on the first bite; it was more of a warning.  If you continued to persist, she would go deeper until you got the idea that touching her tail was not the greatest idea in the world.  Missy would bite any kid that touched her tail.  The kids could pet her and pull her fur, and she wouldn’t say a thing.  As soon as the kids touched her tail though, there were words and usually teeth involved.  As far as I know she never bit a kid and broke the skin.  She definitely scared a few though.

What’s funny is that scrawny tail is why she was so nimble at walking on ledges or narrow fences.  She was very coordinated at maneuvering her tail to keep her body balanced.  So far, she is the most nimblest cat I have ever met.  Skip and Mason aren’t even in the same league they are so poor at being nimble and Oreo, well he’s better, but he has so much fur on his tail that he loses out.  Missy wins by a long shot.

Missy was leash trained and this time by leash trained, I mean you could walk around outside with Missy and she would follow.  Now she was a little slower than a dog because she had to smell everything, but just a little tug would get her moving again.  My favorite thing to watch was her jumping after a bug in the yard.  I’d be holding the leash, but she had plenty of slack.  The bug would jump and so would Missy.  Missy would have both paws out in front of her landing where she thought the bug would be.  She could play that game for hours.  Her other favorite outside activity was laying on a wood swing that we had.  I would tie her off on the swing; she’d climb up in it and lay across it.  When the wind blew, she was swinging.  🙂  She loved it.

One of the unfortunate things that did happened when Missy was really young was she got into some ivy that mom had up on the counter.  Ivy is poisonous to cats.  We came home from Christmas Eve at Grandma’s to a mess.  Missy knowing that she had a problem after eating the ivy started eating the real Christmas tree we had until she did what cats do and expelled the Ivy.  Not knowing what the problem was…Christmas tree or Ivy; Dad promptly placed the Christmas tree on the deck outside.  That’s how we celebrated Christmas next day with the tree lit up…outside.  On Christmas Day, Missy couldn’t keep any food down.  Mom suggested Second year Baby Food Meats because the food is already processed to try and get her system to relax.  Dad and I headed out and found the one grocery store that was open.  Missy loved the food.

It only took a week to get her back onto real cat food.  To this day, if a cat of mine is having trouble eating for whatever reason, we get the second year meats baby food.  Usually, it only takes a day or two for kitties to heal enough for regular food.  I don’t recommend the baby food for long term use because it’s baby food and has high sodium, but short term use, it works great.

Missy was rotten, but in a funny way.  🙂  One of the things she used to do was knock over the trash can for the dog.  Missy had the size and strength to do it where as our dog was little.  As far as I know Missy never actually ate anything out of the garbage, but merely assisted the dog.  My dad would be the first one up and in his bare feet (after walking through it in socks once) would walk in coffee grounds.  Sometimes he cleaned it up (it was his dog) and sometimes I was awoken (my cat) to clean it up.  Not too long after, mom and dad just bought a wood trash can that Missy couldn’t knock over.  You see we were human’s in training by the cat.  Some things were just easier to change rather than try and catch the stubborn cat in the act.

Missy was also a meat thief.  This is totally another story and funny, but as my aunt and uncle learned when they watched her once (only once as she was told she could not return) when we warned them about putting meat in the microwave when you leave the kitchen…we were serious.  This story is also where my dad got his big training and I think came to really respect Missy as more than a cat.  So, for now I will leave it that she was a meat thief. 😉

Another part of our training was to put the toilet seat down.  Missy loved water! And spray bottle containing water were play for her.  Before we got her, my parents and I rarely put the toilet seat down.  After finding Missy playing in a toilet which got her a prompt bath, we started putting the toilet seat down.  Any visitors were given instructions to put the seat down.  One of us would go and make sure they did when they were finished.  They probably never realized it as we did it by stealth.  She was the easiest cat to give a bath to and a single person could do it right in the kitchen sink.  She wasn’t running anywhere, she liked the water.  You could also blow dry her on the slowest setting.  Being vacuumed with the brush attachment was another of her odd favorite things.

The other thing Missy (she was really long) could do, that very few cats can do was open doors.  When we moved to our new house, Mom thought the lever handles on the doors looked nice and so she had dad replace all the round door handles with the lever kind.  Missy was smart enough that she figured out how to open them.  Obviously, if she was on the side where the door would open inward, she had no trouble.  But she was smart enough and worked hard enough at opening a door that opened inward from the opposite side.  It was really funny to watch because it took her several tries to get the door unlatched.  Once it was unlatched she’d work the door from underneath until it opened.  She loved standing on her tip toes to see over things.

Missy was really intelligent and you could see it in her eyes as she figured out how to get what she wanted.  Of course, what she wanted wasn’t necessarily what she should have or what she should do.  For example, Missy could not stand to see me pay any attention to Mechant (mom’s cat).  Mechant would pay the price for me even talking to her.  Missy would get into trouble for hitting Mechant.  And then the funniest thing would happen (funny now), whoever would tell her to go to her room for timeout.  She’d go trotting back to my room with a human following her to shut the door.  She’d be put into timeout for 15 minutes.  If Missy came out with a bad attitude which resulted in Mechant getting hit again, then we’d send her back to her room for another timeout.  The next time she came out, she wasn’t happy, but would avoid any confrontations.  For the record, there was a difference between her playing and just plain old hitting Mechant.  You’d have to be there, but we knew the difference.

Now I don’t want it to sound like Missy was a mean cat.  She wasn’t; even if she had the vet scared of her. 😉  Missy was more vocal (read Siamese which sounded really scary) than she was physical.  Her bark was actually way worse than her bite.  She was very sweet if you were dad, mom, my grandma (mom’s mom) or I.  All of us knew that to control Missy you had to get the upper hand and could not allow her to be alpha over you.  Most people (even dogs) would shy away which gave Missy power.  She once hit a German Shepard so hard that it ran tail back to its owner.  She would not back down, but would hold her ground.  If you stood up to her, she respected you.

I really miss her and some of the things she pulled.  Today they are funny, but boy she could get dad’s blood boiling.  He’s since been fully trained by Missy and our boys today don’t realize how good they have it.  We still enjoy telling Missy stories which usually begin with “Do you remember the time she…”  Everyone has a story to tell, and if I haven’t seen my aunts, uncles and cousins in awhile, they will ask about Skip and inevitably a Missy story is always told…usually with affection.  She touched a lot of people and even people who are dog people could appreciate and respect her.

Missy was the ultimate first pet and there will never, ever be another cat like her. 🙂  May everyone have a first pet that is as memorable as mine was.  Rest in peace, Missy!

Cable TV

My grandma (mom’s mom) was an awesome grandma who loved me and the Cubs very much.  Back when I was a kid, many people just used antennas to get cable channels.  There were three main channels that you could get ABC, NBC, and CBS.  If you were lucky on a clear day you might get a fuzzy picture of another channel, but for the most part, it was just those three channels.

My parents at some point when I was young decided to get cable.  It was the thing to have because you could get 12 channels with cable and the channels were so clear.  Later on, cable companies added cable boxes which started the influx of more channels until we are where we are today with way too many channels.

My parents worked different shifts, so that for the most part one was home with me at all times.  A really good friend of the family used to come over for the hour between when one had to go to work and the other was one their way home.  My dad worked nights.

Once he was home and the friend of the family had left, I was taught how to watch my shows on TV.  There was no remote control, so I learned to turn the dial to specific channels. 🙂  My shows were Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  This gave my dad some time to get some rest while I watched and played quietly.  This is something that many parents today probably couldn’t do, but my dad could because I never bothered anything other than my own toys.

At some point, my dad was switched to days and both of my parents worked the same shift.  I was in early grade school at this point and my parents had to find someone to watch me during the summers.  My grandmother was chosen and one of the few my mother trusted with me.  She was a Tupperware salesperson (and a really good one at that time), and she knew that I wouldn’t bother anyone at the parties she had to host, so she agreed.  Besides when I was older I was free labor to help load and unload the car. 😉

In the mornings, I was taken to grandmas and dropped off.  There was only one problem…they didn’t have cable.  I couldn’t watch my shows.  Before the people who say kids shouldn’t watch too much TV, at the time, those two shows were my TV.  I only watched these two shows during the day.  The rest of the time I played outside/inside or I helped grandma out.

Now my grandma was an avid Cubs fan.  She listened to every game on the radio.  Listening to the radio just wasn’t the same as watching it on TV.  She knew that my grandpa couldn’t stand to see me cry.  People tell me that I would get big ol’ crocodile tears in my eyes, but wouldn’t make a sound while crying, and it just about broke their hearts to see any tears from me.

One day, while grandpa was at work, grandma asked me if I wanted cable at their house.  Of course I said yes.  She told me that when he gets home that I needed to crawl up in his lap and ask for cable TV.  When he told me no, I was to start crying and tell him that I couldn’t watch my shows and I really wanted to.  She said that will get cable TV for you to watch your shows and for me to watch the Cubs.  Grandma was adamant that I had to be the one to do it and that she couldn’t ask for me.

Now some might say that this is a bad habit to start with a little kid, and I’m not real sure if grandma thought I’d go through with her plan or not.  I was a really shy kid, so she probably figured that I would back out.  But we made a deal, so in my young mind I couldn’t back out.  Plus I wasn’t just doing this for myself; I was doing it for grandma, so that she could watch the Cubs.

Grandpa finally came home from work and gave me the gum from his lunchbox.  Grandpa always bought a pack of gum from the vending machine at work.  This was back when it only cost a quarter for 5 sticks of gum.  Whatever gum was leftover at the end of the day was mine.  I think he bought the pack everyday for me.  Sometimes there would be 3 sticks and sometimes, he never even touched it.  It was just something little that he could give me, and he knew I would light up with happiness that he had thought of me.

I took his lunchbox from him and into grandma, so she could clean it out and get it ready for the next day.  Grandma looked at me and motioned to the living room with a wink.  I nervously turned around and quietly went into the living room.

Grandpa was in his chair cooling off.  So, I crawled up onto his lap.  By this time, I was so nervous about what I was to do, that I already had tears streaming down my face.  I had never manipulated anyone in my life to get what I wanted.  This was my first time, and I was scared that I would get into trouble.  Even knowing that grandma would come to my rescue couldn’t stop my tears.

Grandpa scooped me up and asked why I was crying.  I said in a very garbled voice “I <sniff> ca <sniff> <sniff> n’t <sniff> wa <sniff> <sniff> tch <sniff> <sniff> my <sniff> s <sniff> <sniff> ho <sniff> ws <sniff> <sniff> be <sniff> ca <sniff> <sniff> ca <sniff> use <sniff> <sniff> you <sniff> <sniff>  do <sniff> n’t <sniff> <sniff> ha <sniff> ve <sniff><sniff>  CA <sniff> BLE <sniff> <sniff>”  Of course my grandfather couldn’t understand me.  He asked me again which just made it worse because I was worried this meant he was onto me.  Finally grandpa hollered into the kitchen “What’s wrong with this baby? She’s crying and I can’t understand what’s wrong!”

My grandma came in and said “She’s upset because she couldn’t watch her shows today or any other day.”  Grandpa replied with “Her shows? She has shows?” An exasperated grandma said, “Yes, her shows: Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  They are on cable and she can’t watch them here because we don’t have cable.  She’s upset because she found out that she can’t watch them all summer because we don’t have CABLE.” She really stressed the word cable.

Grandpa looked at me and asked if that was why I was crying.  I nodded my head while looking at him with the crocodile tears welling up in my eyes.  It’s the last part that put him over the edge.  He gave me a big hug and said, “It’ll be ok.  Grandpa will fix it. How much is cable?”  Now if he were thinking, he’d realize that grandma answered a little too quickly.  He pulled the money out of his pocket and told grandma to go down to the cable company tomorrow and get the cable installed for this baby.

My tears turned into a big smile!  It worked!  My grandma just winked at me and said to grandpa, “Whatever you say.  You know you spoil that child too much!”  🙂 I spent the rest of the afternoon on grandpa’s lap.  When I went to leave, my grandma gave me a big hug and told me that I did great.

And that my friend is how my grandparents got cable.  My aunt who was still living there at the time was livid.  She had been trying to get them to get cable for a long time, and all it took was little ol’ me to cry and get what I wanted.

My grandmother and I had an agreement.  I got to watch what I wanted in the mornings and she got to watch the Cubs in the afternoon.  Back then all games were day games, so I became a huge Cubs fan growing up.  I usually watched the game with her, but some of the time, I did 50-50 between watching the game and playing outside.  In the mornings, I usually only watched a couple of hours of TV (sometimes while helping her bag Tupperware) before heading outside; unless it was raining of course. 🙂

Today my grandfather tells me that I owe him for the years of the cable that he has had to pay for.  At some point, someone told him about grandma’s scheme.  Of course, he came to enjoy watching cable and decided to keep it even after he found out.  You just never know what you want until you have it. 🙂

I’ll Follow You

As you may have determined, my poor mother who is probably about ready to kill me, was just a tad protective.  My aunt is the one, who thought of this story, and it is funny in a way and we laugh about it now. 🙂

An exciting time in any young person’s life is getting their driver’s license.  I was no different.  My parents sent me to Driver’s Ed the summer before I turned 16.  Driver’s Ed was fun, easy, and nerve-racking all at the same time.  You see I had no problem with driving and the instructor only commented that I was cautious which I don’t think is too bad.  Of course my car had the scary driver in it.  You know the type where they hit the gas instead of the brake. 🙂  I think our instructor about lost it when that happened.

I was not that scary driver.  Of course my dad might comment that I was scary in my own way.  For example, if I didn’t need to cross a centerline, I wouldn’t.  I drove my mom’s Buick Regal down a road with parked cars on it and didn’t cross the centerline once.  Dad actually brought his arm in which he had been hanging out the window.  I made him a little nervous.  When we got to my destination, my mom started criticizing me in front of my grandparents.  Dad had a nervous laugh over it while we were there and was more teasing me.  I asked a simple question, “Did I hit anything? The answer is no, and I knew that there was room for the car and had no need to cross the centerline, so why would I.”  Grandma (GmaS) sided with me which put an end to the discussion. She was great about that. 😉

Anyway, I flew through Driver’s Ed without any trouble and at some point close to my birthday my dad and I went car shopping.  Dad was looking for something in good condition that looked sporty, but without the cost of a sports car.  I was just excited to get a car.  Honestly, I think getting me a car was more for dad than me.  My father had been hauling my behind to/from school for band practice, games, competitions, clubs, etc through junior high and high school.  At least my high school was only 15 minutes away (the junior high was over 30 minutes away).  🙂

We found a 1987 Plymouth Duster in red of course that I fell in love with and dad liked as well.  It looked sporty, but wasn’t a sports car which meant the price was reasonable.  This became my car and was promptly named Little Red.  Dad had a red pickup at the time which he called Red…he soon got another vehicle, but the name stuck with my car.

Luckily my birthday fell such that I didn’t get my license until the weather was nice out, so I could get a whole spring, summer, and fall behind the wheel before dealing with snow.  I still remember my first time driving.  This was before cell phones, so I had no way to let my mom know I was ok until I returned home.  I am sure she worried the whole time.

Anyway, my first drive was up to the general store that my other Grandma (GmaB) worked in.  I drove up there and spent some time with her.  It was a Thursday and little did I know I was there on delivery day.  I stood talking to GmaB while she put price tags on items and stocked the shelves.  She was the only one working, so she had to take care of the register too.  Well, stocking is in my wheel house.  I love organizing things.  So, while she took care of a customer, I stocked the shelves for her.  When she returned, she was a little surprised, but I had done it correctly by moving the old stock to the front and every single can was turned in exactly the same direction.

Before the next customer arrived, GmaB showed me where the price was on the next box and how to set the machine.  So, I just continued on stocking the shelves.  I loved it and GmaB was happy for the help.  After that, I went down there every Thursday that summer to help with the stocking.  Most of the time it was for free, but every now and then I’d get $20 from GmaB for helping out without being asked.  She said it was gas money for coming down there.

Fridays I spent at GmaS’ house taking her to the store and wherever she needed to go.  We played Yatzee and ate lunch together which usually consisted of Totino’s pizza.  I loved spending time with both of my grandma’s.

Time flew by and school was back in session.  I was driving to school every day and made sure before I left that the calendar was up to date with my after school activities.  The snow came early that year and we got some snow in December.  I woke up to about 2 inches on the ground.  Not much at all, but enough to panic my mom.  The normal routine in our house in the morning was dad was up first and then I got up at 6 am.  My job before walking out the door was to wake mom up.  This was back when alarm clocks only had one setting.  I know the dark ages.  It was easier for me to get mom up than for dad to reset the alarm clock.

Dad told me before he left for work to be careful and take my time getting to school.  He also suggested leaving at 6:30 am instead of 6:45 am to ensure that I had enough time.  He may have been nervous about me driving in the snow, but he didn’t show it.  Dad told me that what would be, would be and if I got in an accident, that we could fix the car and just relax and drive smart.

Dad left and mom was up.  I think he knew what was brewing and got out of there.  Mom first said, “You’re not driving today.  You’re taking the bus.”  To which I replied, “Of course I’m driving to school today.  I refuse to take the bus.  I hate that bus.  Plus dad is fine with me driving.”  My bus went through a bad neighborhood.  We lived in a safe area, but there were just a few of us over there, so we got stuck with the bus that went through the bad trailer park.  I had some trouble in the past with bullies on the bus, so I was not eager to get back on that bus.  I had the taste of freedom.

I told mom that dad said for me to leave a little earlier and that I would be fine.  Mom, not wanting to undermine dad, found another way to make sure I was ok.  She said, “Fine! I’ll follow you.”  I was flabbergasted, “What? To school? Nobody else’s mom is following them.  You can’t do this to me.”  She said, “It’s that or the bus.”  I then realized the time…Dad had told me to leave at 6:30 am and it was 6:10 am.  I could get ready in 20 minutes, but could mom?

I said, “I’m not riding the bus.  If you want to follow me, fine! I will not be late to school though.  Dad told me to leave at 6:30 am and that is the time I will walk out the door.  You want to follow me?  You have 20 minutes to get ready.”  It’s funny now, but I was hopping mad.  Mom was just worried.

Miraculously, my mother was ready at 6:30 am.  I have no idea how she did it.  Knowing her, she probably didn’t put her make-up on until she got to work.  So, out we headed.  I had to clean off my car since it sat outside, but I was ready to go in no time.  Mom said she was ready and for me to lead.

I was nervous, but I kept my head like dad told me.  I put the car in reverse and backed out of the driveway.  I pulled forward to the stop sign on the street and waited for mom.  When I saw her behind me I took off.  Our road’s speed limit is 45 mph, and I gradually increased to 35 mph.  I was comfortable at that speed and the car was fine.  It was not slipping or sliding.  All was good.  I decided to look to see how mom was doing.

Let’s just say not well. 😉  Hee-hee.  You see my car was front wheel drive and hers was rear wheel drive.  This means that my car had the weight of the engine on the tires with the power.  Moms’ car however did not and add on top of that that dad hadn’t put weights in the back of mom’s car yet, so she had no weight on those tires at all.

I was fairly confident in the road ahead, but I couldn’t leave her, so I slowed a bit and watched her in my rear view mirror.  Mom’s car was fish-tailing like you wouldn’t believe.  She had absolutely no traction at all.  I was just thinking “Ha! My car is just fine!”

Once we got to the busy intersection at the end of the road, I could no longer hang back or I would affect other drivers, so I said to myself “Self do you what you need to do to get to school safe and sound.  Do not cause an accident by driving too slow.  Mom is an adult and can take care of herself.”  I did just that.  The light turned green and I took off.  I glanced back and mom was still at the intersection spinning her tires.  Hee-hee. Poor mom!  This wasn’t turning out how she thought it would.

I drove the rest of the way to school which wasn’t that far.  Mom followed the whole way with her car fish-tailing the whole way.  I pulled in the school parking lot, and mom pulled in to go out the other entrance to get turned around.  When I walked in school, several people walked up and asked me if my mom followed me to school.  I said yes, but my car was better and I don’t think she’ll do it again.  Most kids left at that because they all knew my mom and how protective she was.  I just had to endure teasing from a small lot which I could handle.  They were friends and I would certainly rib them a bit if they’re parents even thought to do the same.

After school, I headed home.  The roads were clear by then, and dad asked how it went.  We got home around the same time.  His eyes twinkled when I told him mom followed me to school.  He asked how that went.  I said, “I had no trouble, but mom fish-tailed the whole way.”  Dad was a little worried that he had forgotten to put weights in the back of mom’s car.

When she got home, we asked her how her morning drive was.  Her reply?  To dad, “You need to put weights in the back of my car.”  To me, “Don’t ever drive away from me again when I’m following you.  You were going too fast.”  I had already told dad of my speeds and that I traveled with traffic, so I knew I had backup if needed.  I just simply replied that I did not want to cause an accident by not traveling with traffic because I was waiting for you to catch up. I then dropped it.  Mom hadn’t thought of that.

After that whenever it snowed; my mom may have been concerned about me driving, but she never followed me again.  In fact, my mom would beg me to let her drive my car.  I think this did two things, she knew I wasn’t driving and she got a better car in snow.  The only drawback for her was I still wouldn’t ride the bus, so I said “Fine, but you have to take me to school and I’ll get my friends to drive me home.  Also, please don’t make me late because I don’t want to get into trouble.”  Mom agreed knowing that more than likely the roads would be fine for the drive home, but she was putting my life in my friends’ hands instead of mine.  It is a thought that has always occurred to me.

And so that’s how it went all winter.  It would snow and mom would steal my car.

I don’t want people to think that my mom and I fought all the time.  We didn’t and we probably weren’t even close most of the time.  This is a story that we laugh about now. 🙂  I think in general we picked our battles.  Most of the time I had no problem with respecting my elder’s decisions, but in certain instances like this one, I wasn’t giving in.  Riding the bus was like a death sentence to me.  I had put up with it for four years and I didn’t feel like I should have to deal with that any more because I had my own car.  Although at some point during the year, I did make “friends” with the people who previously picked on me.  Helping out their friends with class work helped with that. 🙂

The moral of my story is please parents who are worried about their children driving in inclement weather for the first time and there’s only 2 inches on the ground…relax and trust your kids.  Every time they drive, it is a learning experience and that is how we grow up.  As my dad said, a car can be fixed and just tell them to use their heads.  Please don’t follow them to school and embarrass them.  For some kids, that could cause a major uproar in their school life where you just try to fit in.


After my brother passed away (well even before then), my mother became extremely protective (an understatement).  This was the 70s back when parents who grew up in the 50s-60s still remembered what it was like to run around a small town without parental supervision as very young kids.  But times were different, Manson and Dahmer were well known serial killers plus Adam Walsh was kidnapped and killed in 1981.

So my mom was extremely protective.  Dad was protective too, but I think he remembered what it was like to have freedom as a kid to make decisions and learn what the consequences to those decisions would be.  When my parents moved into their second house (the first I remember), they put up a privacy fence.  This fence was funny because if the wind blew just right, sections would fall down.  When it was built they didn’t use treated lumber, so it just came right back down.  I think in the time that we lived there that my dad actually put up two fences.  The first fence was all at once and the second fence in sections as they fell down. 🙂

When I finally learned to ride my bike at five, my mom would only let me go to the end of the third house to the right and to the end of our neighbors to the left.  The reason I couldn’t go far to the left was our neighbors had a really tall hedge that my mom couldn’t see over.  If she couldn’t see me, then I couldn’t go there.

Btw, the guy in the third house really didn’t like us kids.  He hated kids riding in his yard.  I was ok because my father was the same way only he had a kid (and I told my friends to not ride in our grass), so the guy never had any ill will towards me because I wouldn’t ride in his yard or anyone else’s.  But I do remember my friends telling me that they got yelled at by him.

Once I was in elementary school and had friends in the neighborhood, this was a pain.  Nobody wants to play with you if you can’t go very far.  I mean what’s the fun in riding on the sidewalk between 5 houses?  Not much.

Around age nine, my reach extended to riding on the sidewalk to the end of our street.  This was about 3-4 houses more to the right.  I still couldn’t go past the hedge to the left.  This opened me up a tad and at least I could use my imagination to go further.  My friends still lived in another area of our neighborhood.

At age 11, I was allowed to ride in the street.  I still had the same reach, but now it was extended to the other side of the street.  I used to log a lot of hours just simply riding up and down the street looking for someone outside to play with.  The problem was that most of my friends could go further than I could and went to play on other streets.

Around this time, my mom started working some Saturdays.  It wasn’t all the time and she only worked a half day, but those were the greatest days of my life. 🙂  One would think that a child would miss their mom on that day, but my dad made things fun for me.  🙂  Dad was the more relaxed parent in case you can’t tell.

The first Saturday mom worked, my dad and I were eating breakfast when mom left.  Dad looked at me and asked if I could keep a secret.  I replied with yes thinking that he and I were going to go buy or build something for mom.  He told me that a half hour after mom left; I could go outside and ride my bike.  I said ok, but I was a little let down…I mean I do that all the time and I was kind of thinking that this was going to be special.

He continued and said that I could go anywhere in the neighborhood I wanted as long as I didn’t cross or go near the busy road that was the entrance to our neighborhood.  My jaw dropped at this!  I mean, I could go over to Eddie, Jesse, and Melissa’s house!  A miracle was happening right in our kitchen. 🙂

He finished with asking if I was wearing my watch.  Of course I had my Big Bird watch on and dad made sure that the battery was still functioning and that it was currently set to the correct time.  He told me that mom was due home around 12:30 pm and to be safe that needed to be back home by 11:30 am an hour before she was due home.  He asked if I could do this, and I said yes.

Dad finished with “It is real important that you are home by 11:30 am or we will both be in trouble.  You cannot tell your mother now or ever.  This has to be a secret because if she ever finds out, we will both be in more trouble that you know can happen.  Have fun and be safe!  I will be here if you need me.  You have to finish your breakfast first and then you can go.”

I think dad knew that I wouldn’t be back until 11:30 am, so he wanted me to be nice and full before heading out.  I snarfed down breakfast at a pace that was very unladylike.  I put my plate in the sink and ran to put on my tennis shoes.  With a “Thanks Dad”, I headed out on my adventure.

My first stop (and I would formally like to apologize to Jesse’s parents for showing up at 8 am on a Saturday) was Jesse’s house.  I rode as fast as I could to her house because I knew she’d be surprised to see me.  She knew I wasn’t allowed out of my area.  I knocked on the door and asked if she could come out to play.  I think her mom was shocked to see me and that shocked expression it wasn’t just the time of day I was there, but that I was there at all.  Her mom said something about Jesse watching cartoons and asked if I wanted to come in.  I told her that I would pass because I only had until 11:30 am to ride my bike around the neighborhood.  My mom didn’t talk to her much, so I figured I was pretty safe.  Plus I think most of the mom’s around the neighborhood were just happy to see me get some freedom.  They wouldn’t rat me out.

The next thing I knew as I was riding away I heard my name being called.  Jesse heard what I told her mom and went to get dressed and put her shoes on in record time.  After chatting about this new liberty I was given while riding, I asked if she wanted to ride over to Eddie’s house to see if he could play as well.

Jesse knew exactly where he lived and we headed over there.  Once again a mom was surprised to see me at her door and called Eddie to see if he wanted to play.  He did and so our group was now three.  We all three wanted Melissa to play as well, so over to her house we went.  Now going to Melissa’s house was interesting because she lived close to the road that I was not allowed to cross.  I was a tad nervous, but I knew we wouldn’t cross it and she wasn’t on the corner, so I went along.

Melissa being a really good friend, of course came out to play.  Her mom was the one I was most worried about because our mom’s talked more frequently.  I was asked about being over there, and I said that my dad said it was ok and that mom wasn’t home.  I asked her to not tell my mom or dad and I would be in trouble.  She smiled and said that she was very happy to see me and that she would keep our secret.  She told us all to be safe, smart, and to have fun.

We rode all over the neighborhood.  We had bike races and stopped to chat with various friends along the way.  We all wound up over at Eddie’s house playing some game outside.  Time flew by and the next thing I knew it was 11:00 am.  I told everyone that I wanted to ride some more before going home as I only had a half hour.  I thanked them all for being great friends and making my Saturday the best I had ever had.  Jesse and Melissa joined me on my final ride.  Melissa had to head home as well, and Jesse was getting hungry for lunch as she didn’t get any breakfast because of how early I was at her house.  So, we rode over there first.  Then I rode with Melissa to her house.  I circled back around and still had five minutes, so I went down a cul-de-sac behind our house before going home.  I was in the driveway right at 11:30 am.

I went inside to let dad know that I was home.  Dad told me that he was happy that I was home on time because mom got off a little early and was on her way. 🙂  He told me to remember it is a secret and to not tell her.  Plus he said that since I was responsible with my time and as long as mom doesn’t find out that I could do this again, the next time my mom worked on Saturday.  Dad then said that I should head out and ride my bike because that is what I would be doing normally on a Saturday morning.  I headed back outside to ride in my limited area.  It was way different riding there after having all that freedom.

I soon saw mom’s car come down the street.  So I did what I always did, I headed home to say hi.  Mom gave me a hug and asked if I had fun with dad this morning.  I told that I did and that he let me ride my bike all morning.  She simply assumed it was in the designated area.  😉  I never elaborated on it.  I was honest, I did ride my bike.  Dad said that same thing that I just rode my bike all morning.

I had a blast that morning and I thank my dad for allowing me to ride my bike around the neighborhood.  I remember asking mom week to week if she had to work on Saturday.  If she said yes, I said “Awww, that’s too bad.”  Inside I was excited as could be that mom had to work.  And so it went while we lived in that house.  If mom had to work on Saturday, I had freedom for a few hours.  I think dad planned to not have any errands on those Saturday mornings, so that I could have a little freedom.

I know that no one ratted dad and I out.  None of my friends or their parents said a word to my mom.  I know this because one evening when I was in my 30s and was home visiting, dad and I came clean.

We were at dinner and were reminiscing about the days gone by.  Without thinking first, I asked dad if he remembered those Saturdays when mom worked.  He said, “The ones where I let you ride around the neighborhood?”  I think both of us thought we would be in the clear at this point.  I was 30 for Pete’s sake.

Mom asked what we meant by that with a very wary voice.  We came clean and explained everything.  As we were detailing my exploits, mom’s eyes got darker and darker as she became madder and madder.  She turned and looked at dad and said “I can’t believe you let her do that.  She could have been kidnapped or worse.  How could you do that?” Dad and I said we were sorry for deceiving her, but I told her that I was happy that dad let me ride around the block and trusted me to be safe.

With that, mom was done with dinner and ready to leave.  In fact she walked out ahead of us.  We were upset that she was mad, but grinning from ear to ear that she never found out.  I figured one of the other mom’s would eventually say something offhandedly not remembering it was a secret.

Mom has never forgiven us for that and I doubt that she ever will.  She did say that she was happy that nothing happened to me and dropped the subject.  I am happy she knows though.  I think in today’s world that there are a lot of parents who are just like my mom which is why I am telling this story.  Should they be?  I don’t know, but I think the media adds a lot to perceptions about today’s world; just like the media did back in 1981 when Adam Walsh was kidnapped.

So, for those very protective parents, I suggest (unless you truly live in a bad neighborhood…we didn’t) that you let your kids have a few hours to ride around the block.  If they are responsible, let them do it every now and then.  It teaches them responsibility and gives them a feeling of independence plus it is a way to show your kids that you trust them.  If they don’t follow the rules, don’t let them do it again for awhile.  This will help teach them that there are consequences to their actions.

I know I will always cherish those days and I remember them fondly. 🙂  Thanks Dad!

Morning Sanctuary

As I posted previously, every year my family would make the drive down to Tennessee to visit with family. For most of the trip, we stayed at my great aunts house that had at least a window air conditioner in the kitchen. Since we always went to visit at the beginning of August, it was always hot and sticky down there and the window air conditioner gave a tad bit of relief from the heat. I am also a lover of animals as you may have figured out by now and would do anything for my own pets.

My great aunt (Nanny) and great uncle (Papaw) had a dog and a whole lot of cats living on her farm. The cats on the farm were all strays that somehow found their way to Nanny and Papaw’s house. They had a building that Papaw cut a corner off of a door, so that the cats could get in and be safe from any wild dogs running around. Nanny put a plate of food and a bowl of water in the building for the cats to eat something if they needed to. Every day Nanny went out to put out fresh food and water for the cats, and when we visited; I got the job along with gathering eggs and feeding the chickens.

Nanny always named every single cat that came to live on their farm; no matter how long it stayed. Sometimes, the cats stayed for just a couple of days and sometimes they stayed for years, but they always had a name and she knew them on sight. Sometimes they would leave and return a month or two later, but she always knew which cat was which.

One cat that stayed for years was named Tom-Tom. He was a beautiful yellow and white cat, but could be really mean. Tom defended his territory and was good at it. Tom wasn’t the type of cat that you just reach down and pet. Doing that would get your hand swiped at, and he had sharp claws. 🙂 He was always around, but resisted petting. He’d even take swipes at Nanny and Papaw. Papaw would just tell him “To git on out of here”.

I mentioned a dog, and while I don’t know how they came to have Bo-Bo, I know that they had him for many years. I believe Bo-Bo was a large shepherd dog. Not German though.

Bo-Bo was kid friendly and would protect any kids to the best of his ability. When I was outside, Bo-Bo was right there. If I stood still, Bo-Bo would sit in front of me. Of course to get there, when he sat down he’d knock into you and just about put you on the ground if you weren’t ready for it. I remember going to Nanny’s and being excited to get out of the car because Bo-Bo was right there to greet you. Basically, the whole time I was at Nanny’s, I had a shadow. 🙂 I miss Bo-Bo.

At Nanny’s there weren’t any air conditioners in the bedrooms, so you slept with the windows open. During the night, the fog would settle between the mountains and cool it off outside. Every morning the sun was up in the sky way too early for summer vacation. Of course as soon as the sun would come up, the rooster would start crowing. The rooster woke me up everyday. I have no idea how mom could sleep through it.

One summer when we were there, I would actually get up when the rooster crowed. My dad was already up and chatting with Nanny and Papaw and mom was still snoozing. I can’t remember how old I was (probably 10-12 if I had to guess), but I did this for a few years until first Bo-Bo and then Tom-Tom died. I asked my dad if I could go outside knowing that he was very likely to allow me to do so. He always said I could. He probably thought I was playing in the yard, but I couldn’t do that or I would risk the wrath of my mother who liked her sleep.

The first time, I did this; I had no destination in mind, but just kind of wandered out into the field. I had two companions: Bo-Bo and Tom-Tom. They simply joined me. Bo-Bo was in the lead and Tom-Tom was following me. We walked out to the edge of the property where you could see the other mountain and I realized that the fog was still in the valley. I sat down in the tall grass to watch the fog rise.

Bo-Bo was lying right behind me, so that I could lean on him and pet his head. In his older years, I didn’t lean, but simply petted. Tom-Tom the first couple of days simply laid next to me. I would chat with the two of them asking questions like what was their plan for the day and just talking in soothing tones. On the third day, Tom-Tom crawled into my lap and took a snooze. This was so out of character for him, but I figured he needed the sleep and felt safe in my arms. It was probably one of the few times that he didn’t feel the need to be on alert. I could pet him to my heart’s content during this time. He even let me rub his belly which was a sign of full trust.

We would sit in our morning sanctuary and watch the fog rise out of the valley. It was very peaceful out where we were. The only sounds we heard were the sound of the land. There were no people around, and if anyone had come close to where we were, I knew that Bo-Bo would let me know. The fog would slowly rise leaving behind the beautiful trees and farmland that was just waking up when the sun finally made it through the thick fog.

Once it fully lifted, I would tell my companions that our time was up and that we should check back in. Tom-Tom would rise up and stretch and get off my lap. Bo-Bo would yawn a sleepy yawn that said lets stay a little longer. We would start our trip back to the house. Once we got close, I would ask if they wanted to race. They would happily agree. Tom-Tom always won, and I came in second. Bo-Bo was always more interested in staying back with me than in winning the race. As soon as we were back at the house, I had to be careful to not overstep my bounds with Tom-Tom. Once Nanny caught me petting him and said “You better be careful! That cat will bite you!” Tom-Tom and I just looked at each other and I swear his eyes twinkled at me like we have a secret.

I enjoyed my peaceful mornings with Bo-Bo and Tom-Tom. I like to believe that they remembered me from year to year because the following year I did the same thing and had the same companions. Tom-Tom never hesitated after that to crawl in my lap and Bo-Bo always came along. In his older years, Bo-Bo was stiff in the mornings and our walk took more time, but he always came on his own. It was always his choice as I never said “Come on! Let’s go for a walk.” I think that is what made it so special. We were three beings who wanted to be together.

Now my dad knows where I went on those mornings. 🙂 And even more importantly mom knows that I was out in the field alone with two protectors. Dad will be in trouble…sorry dad. 🙂 I bet you don’t even remember those mornings. And to mom…you know Bo-Bo would have protected me with his life and plus out there…nothing can happen to you! 😉

Long Distance to Ireland

When I was a kid, we did not have cell phones or portable phones, and calling long distance was extremely expensive.  We had a rotary dial telephone.

What’s a rotary dial telephone, you ask.  It’s a phone that had a dial over all the numbers with a hole for each number.  To call 234-5678 for example, you would stick you finger in the 2 hole and turn the dial clockwise until it stopped.  Then the dial would spin back in place and you would then proceed to do the same step with the 3.  It took a long while to just dial a seven digit number.

So, you get the point of how the phone worked.  Rotary dial telephones did not have any memory capability at all, so you had to either memorize your friends phone numbers or write them down.  My mom had a list of common phone numbers that she called on a piece of paper taped on the wall next to the phone.

When I was 5 years old, my mom taught me to dial the phone using the first number on her list which was my grandparents’ number.  I knew my numbers at this point, so she knew if there were any problems with my brother who was a very sick child that she could count on me to call for help.

Please note that there was no such thing as 911 either.  If you needed an ambulance, you had to call the operator, hospital, police, or fire department for assistance.  Those numbers were on mom’s notepad as well.  Also, there was no digital display for the emergency personnel to know where you were calling from, so you had to be able to give them your address and maybe even give some directions on how to get to your house.

All of these were skills that as kids, we were taught by our parents, family, and nursery school if you were lucky enough to attend one.  The nursery school that I attended even gave a grade out for being able to write your name, address, and phone number.

So, there I was 5 years with the knowledge of how to use a telephone.  I decided to play with the telephone like it was a toy and just started to randomly dial numbers.  I knew better, but I really liked dialing the telephone.  Believe it or not, listening to the clicks was fun…I liked 9s the best because it took awhile for the dial to get back around. 🙂

All of a sudden there was a voice on the other end that sounded funny. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was in English and basically it was a Hello and who is this type of question.  Well, I knew that answer because I had been taught the answers.  I told him my address and phone number.  He just started in conversing with me and learned all about me and my family through our conversation.

Well, mom came to check on me, and heard me talking out loud to someone, but there was no one else other than my little brother in the house and he was with mom.  She came in the room and saw that I was on the phone. Thinking that I had simply dialed my grandparents, she wasn’t too worried until she asked to speak to Grandma.  Of which I responded with, “I’m not talking to Grandma.”  She said, “Well your Grandpa then.”  Of course I said again, “I’m not talking to Grandpa.”

At this point she took the phone from my hands and politely asked who the person on the other end was.  It wound up being some kind gentleman from Ireland who had received a phone call from the nice, young lady.  My mom thanked him for being so kind to me, and said goodbye.

Now I was in for it.  Remember what I said above that long distance was really expensive…well, calling internationally was extremely expensive.  With the medical bills that my brother had, we had no extra money to pay for a call to Ireland and mom had no idea how long I had been on the phone.

Mom and I had a discussion that involved my not touching the phone unless asked to.  And then the dreaded, “We’ll have to tell your father about this when he gets home.” line was stated.

Mom lost her zeal though by that time.  When dad got home and we were at the dinner table she said offhandedly “You’ll never guess who your daughter called today.”, and then she launched into the story.  My Dad was laughing by the time she was finished, so I knew that I wasn’t going to be spanked (yes, back then kids were whipped when punished) for it.  I was however very sternly warned to never do that again and to only call the numbers on mom’s list when asked to.

Today parents have to deal with text message rates and cell phone minutes to deal with, but back then it was long distance minutes on what is now called a POTs (Plain Old Telephone) phone that could get you into trouble. 🙂

I Remember

Have you ever wondered what Laura Ingalls Wilder thought when she wrote her Little House on the Prairie (LHP) books?  Did she think no one would read them because most people had grown up as she had and therefore the books were nothing new to her generation?  Was she surprised when people did read them?

I wonder what would happen if someone today wrote a book about their childhood.  Would it take years to be accepted?  Or would it be a hit with young readers today as the LHP books were?  Would it take someone with Mrs. Wilder’s prose to be able to pull it off?

When I grew up, we did not have cell phones, portable telephones, computers, gaming devices and VCRs, microwaves, and dishwashers came much later.  Plus when we visited my great-grandparents, they had an outhouse.  What would kids do today?

I’m going to start an “I remember” series here to show what it was like when I was a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s.