Saturday, February 28, 2009
Yes. This picture had so much potential with the setting sun's rays adorning that one goose. But you see on the right that the other goose has been decapitated, thanks to the so-called photographer's inability to center the subjects. (Truth be told, I was centering the main goose and the impressive sun light - I didn't even see the headless goose to the right.)
Speaking of being off-center and feeling as though only decapitation will bring relief, I turn now to the subject of my health, or rather my sickness.
For the first time in years, I woke up yesterday truly sick. All day long I watched the thermometer rise to new heights of fever, and I bent over double in pain as my chest took a pitch fork to my lungs and a blow torch to my throat every time I tried to inhale. Then, when I was feeling my worst, CB Baby Sister and I had to play basketball for a fundraiser at the high school. You know, the normal thing you'd do when you're deathly ill.
(BTW - CB Baby Sister, who scored over 1,000 points in her high school basketball career, did exceptionally well at this event. CBW and her raging fever and inability to see, much less inhale, almost scored a bucket for the opposing team.)
Rather than focus on my ailments, though, I'd like to hear what a healthy person is doing this weekend.
Tell me what it is you're going to do--or even better what you'd like to do.
In the meantime, I will be ten toes up underneath blankets, wrapped up like a cigar.
Have a great, bronchitis- and fever-free Saturday.
Friday, February 27, 2009
When I took this picture earlier this summer, I thought it was way too boring to post. Now, I think it's anything but. Actually I love it and feel rejuvenated just looking at it.
After suffering through 28 months + 10 years + 2 leap years + the equivalent of 1 lecture on the origin of particle physics, which = the length of the 2008-2009 winter season....I officially declare that I am tired of the lifeless, leafless, greenless, snowless, lightless, birdless, charmless, heatless, joyless, antless, soybeanless, outdoorless, flip-flopless, shortless, tanless, motionless, fiddler crabless, sun-infused-Vitamin D-less--dare I repeat it joyless?-- winter.
I need to look at this picture and know that change is coming. This picture brings me hope.
Life. Green. Light. Birds. Charm. Rebirth. Sun. Heat. Flip-flops. Soybeans. Ants. Grass.
Note to self: Ants.
Second note to self: Ants and Grass.
Third and final warning note to self: Ants and Endless Grass to Mow.
One last warning note to self because Self is not a good listener: Endless Ants and Endless Grass to Mow.
After all these warnings and with full knowledge of the hours and hours of torment I will endure, I am here to confess that I'd tolerate an ant infestation and grass that grows like bamboo if I could just have consecutive warm, sunny days and the greenery and vibrancy of summer.
Remind me of that last statement in a few weeks when the ants evict me from my own house and I land right in the jungle that will be my back yard when the vegetation (aka "riparian buffer") takes over.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I took this several months ago down New Point. What exactly it's a picture of I cannot say for certain. Is it of the marsh grass? That piece of driftwood? The sand and the water? It's rather unimaginative, uninspired and boring. The angle is all wrong. The only reason I'm sharing it is because I have no time or energy to load any better pictures, and this one was already handy. In other words, I'm settling due to exhaustion.
Speaking of unimaginative, boring, and settling for what's put in front of you, I turn now to the topic of the plain vanilla diet we had growing up in the country.
In Mathews there was very little chance for cultural or culinary experiences other than your church social halls, your birthday parties, your sleepovers, the skating rink or the tastee freeze--hardly hotbeds of epicurean experimentation.
In our household, at least, we were strictly a Meat, Potatoes, One Side Vegetable, Bread and Butter family. Vanilla ice cream for dessert. Nothing fancy, no condiments, everything Plain Jane. Seasonings were salt and pepper. The End.
In fact, I never had salad dressing until I went away to college at age 17. Come to think of it, I don't remember having salad until I went away to college, and probably only ate it then because of this newfangled contraption called a salad bar. (Remind me to tell you about the guy who climbed into the salad bar once. Good times.)
If it wasn't fried chicken, hamburger, or fish, we pretty much didn't eat it growing up.
To really put a punctuation mark on this, I remember having my first pizza--a frozen one--at my grandmother's. She called it a peesapie (pizza pie). "Chesapeake Bay Kids, come try this peesapie." I couldn't stop talking about it for months afterwards. These were not your "bigger than a sombrero, cheese-filled crust, super deluxe, make you wanna slap your mamma" pizzas either. It was a very thin, very simple, very tiny frozen pizza. Yet still a novelty.
We just didn't get out much.
Take note of this entry from my childhood diary:
Wednesday, February 27, 1974 (9 years old)
Today I went to school. We had a geography test on the Netherlands. I only got 1 wrong. I got a 95. Mrs. Thomas was taking 5 points off. Today was hot dog day. I helped to serve lunch. I served 1st grade. They eat a lot of JUNK on their hot dogs. They eat mustard, ketchup, onions and relish all on one hot dog! I thought I would throw up before I even got finished serving! When I got home I rode Thunder. She's my pony.
-Chesapeake Bay Girl
I think this was when I began to realize that it wasn't simply Mathews that was responsible for our limited menu options; there was something inherently different about our family. If they were eating all that junk over in neighboring Gloucester County, then surely Mathews must have caught wind of the whole mustard/relish/onion craze. We were being deprived and sheltered.
Legend has it that Chesapeake Bay Father never drank iced tea or ate a strawberry before he met my mother. (Can you imagine? Living in the south and not ever tasting iced tea? I'm pretty sure that's against the law in the state of Virginia. They deport you if you aren't drinking tea right after you're weaned from a sippy cup.) CB Mother--even if she wanted to expand our horizons--was very limited in what she could pursue. Factor in one very finicky sister (I will not say which one, but she liked to say, "Qwah"), and we were pretty much doomed to a life of meat and potatoes.
Over time, we've all changed and expanded our horizons. CB Father is now a member of that wild and crazy club of people who eat strawberries. I have danced in that mysterious world of salad dressings and savor Thousand Island, Honey Mustard, Parmesan Peppercorn--even one that sounds inherently disgusting: blue cheese. "That Certain Sister" eats salmon and sushi. Yes, we've all branched out. No more "just meat and potatoes."
But please do NOT ruin a perfectly good hot dog with junk like relish, mustard and onions. Ketchup only, please. Otherwise, I just might throw up.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Thanks to the fact that I am so exhausted I nearly fell asleep driving home from work tonight, we are going to turn to one of my favorite games, which happens to be Anonymous Hallieford Reader's least favorite game: Interpret This Photograph.
Take a good long look and let your mind go free. There are no right or wrong answers, just say whatever comes to mind.
I'll start because I can. I promise if you were here, I'd let you go first.
1. Chesapeake Bay Woman is so tired she could go to bed right now (7:00 p.m. Tuesday) and not get out of bed until Saturday in the year 2010, and that would only be for take-out from the delightful new eatery that has taken up shop at Cobbs Creek Market. For anyone local, please call 725-9797 and order any sort of pizza; you will not be disappointed unless, like me, you were hoping for a Thai restaurant, and then you'll get over it as soon as you taste the food. Oh, but this has nothing to do with the interpretation of that photo.
2. In the stark, dreary dullness that is winter, a beautiful blue sky and a splash of green remind us that there is still life. Of course that very greenery could well be snuffing out the life of that larger tree, but let's not focus on that right now. Otherwise I just might start crying. Thank you.
3. That curved remnant of a tree on the left symbolizes the past. The past is dead and gone but still exists; the winds of time shape and mold it into something slightly different, but at its roots it is still the same as it ever was.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
I don't even have to tell you where this is but I will anyway: Commenter Breezeway's Gwynn's Island cottage. It's more of the same (which I never seem to tire of) except zoomed out a bit. Speaking of more of the same, we return now to the rest of my mother's story about a tractor gone wild.
Yesterday I shared the first part of a story in which Chesapeake Bay Mother was herding cats using a Cub Cadet riding lawn mower which my father had recently "re-engineered." In other words the darn thing was long overdue for a trip to Doc Jones, the mortician for cars, trucks, tractors and scrap metal; our local Fred Sanford--but my father insisted that he could keep it running.
This particular cat herding event did not go exactly as planned, thanks to the Cub Cadet Gone Wild.
We pick up where the story left off: Chesapeake Bay Mother has successfully herded HER 4 cats into MY basement and is now preparing to head back next door.
Runaway Lawnmower - Part II
by Chesapeake Bay Mother
"...On this occasion I got back on, shifted into 3rd and sailed home.
When I attempted to slow, nothing responded. Careening around the yard with all the stops out, I rammed a tree in an effort to stop. If that jolt weren't enough, the thing immediately hauled backward, heading for our best* car. Fearing a backward collision, I leaped off the side, unaware of turning the wheel as I hit the ground horizontally, face down in our gravel driveway--and unbelievably--watched as the lawnmower backed in a circle and ran over my butt.
Husband shows up just in time to chase it down and prevent a repeat butt-crushing by (guess what?) TURNING OFF THE KEY--a thing which I totally never considered and I'm supposed to be the smart one.
Not that day.
I got up and walked away and lived to mow another day; but I got some soft tissue damage which we won't talk about. That was the same week as my yearly gynecological. You can imagine. If I had to explain the circumstances to anyone but Super Nurse Practitioner Janet, I would have been called a liar with pants on fire. As it was, we laughed and marveled at the beautiful coloration of my bruises.
Cub Cadet was sentenced to die without the possibility of living, and it was a merciful thing."
Chesapeake Bay Woman's Background Information Which is Vital To Understanding The Hidden Meaning Behind Some of CB Mother's Choice of Words
* My father collects man-toys, such as tractors, airboats, wood-burning furnaces, table saws, chain saws, half-eaten jars of peanut butter, government-issued black pens, and vehicles of all sorts. His collection includes: one VW Thing (does not run) which my mother has called the honeysuckle planter; one circa-1960 Ford (does not run); one VW bug (does not run); one VW station wagon (does not run); one VW bus (does run, rarely used); another VW bug (does run, rarely used; is missing the front passenger seat and has a hole in the floorboard); one very-used Jeep pick-up (this is my father's main driving car - he purchased it because the VW had no heat and he didn't want to freeze to death); and then finally their "best" car, referenced above towards which CB Mother was headed, backwards, on a riding lawn mower: a Chevrolet Equinox.
It isn't just their best car, it's really their only working car with heat and a passenger seat.
Monday, February 23, 2009
This little house belongs to a much bigger old house in neighboring Gloucester, near the public landing on the Ware River (down the road between Hodges & Bryant and Long Bridge Ordinary). As interesting as the house is the big old tractor. I've always loved tractors, and it's a good thing, because all we do around here is cut grass from March through November. Speaking of cutting grass, let's revisit an episode from last April involving a tractor.
Chesapeake Bay Mother wrote some more posts for me (your applause is deafening), one of which recounts a particularly unfortunate episode on a circa-1975 Cub Cadet riding lawn mower.
Before I share her version of events, here's what I had to say about this incident last April:
Mother, Age 60-something, riding a "fixer upper" that my Father had re-engineered (using Legos and Tinker Toy parts), loses complete control when mower does not respond to brake, clutch, gas, emergency brake, or prayers to God. Mother decides to ram tractor into huge cedar tree to get it to stop. Tractor decides the fun is not even close to over and, upon slamming into tree, goes into REVERSE and even more out of control. Mother sees impending death when tractor, now going 35 miles per hour in reverse, picks up speed and begins heading towards clothes line AND car. Mother dives off tractor. Tractor runs over top of her. Mother gets up bruised, battered and shaken but thankfully ALIVE to tell the story...regrettably to her gynecologist the next day at her regularly scheduled appointment. Because the mower deck managed to impart a bruise the size of Texas right near where the doctor was checking.
I think it is important to emphasize that every bit of what I said above actually happened.
CB Mother's version of events follows.
Runaway Lawn Mower: Part I
by Chesapeake Bay Mother
"Under the heading of Things You Should Never Do comes frightening cats into the basement by loud noise emitted by a speeding Cub Cadet, which you are riding. While this requires considerable explanation, for our purposes I will just condense it down to: you should never herd cats with a lawnmower even if the blades are off, because it will become deranged and try to kill you. When the aforementioned lawnmower has a defect involving a component of the transmission called a "governor," you have hit the disaster trifecta. So it was with me.
Every evening I would make sure the young cats next door* spent the night inside to avoid contact with wild animals and other things that go bump in the night. I accomplished this by opening a basement window and shooing them in by driving by on the lawnmower, dismounting and shutting the window. On this occasion I got back on, shifted into 3rd and sailed home....."
...To Be Continued Tomorrow, and *Rest Assured* It's Good
Chesapeake Bay Woman's One Point of Clarification
* Those young cats? They were her cats I volunteered to watch while she and Daddy went out of town one weekend. We put them in my basement, and 3 years later she's never come to retrieve them--although she would come over to "herd" them back inside (my house) at night on her riding lawn mower.
She does not trust any animal to sleep outside, except her water fowl, which she zips up in a nylon tent. There were no errors made in that last sentence, up to and including the words "nylon tent."
This happens in your family, too, right? Mothers herding cats on riding lawn mowers? Zipping up ducks and geese in tents? Ramming lawn mowers directly into cedar trees--on purpose?
I thought so.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for the conclusion of Cub Cadets Gone Wild.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
In Chesapeake Bay Woman terms, "silent" means "fewer than ten pages long" or "slightly less painful than passing a kidney stone."
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I took this photo down at Commenter Breezeway's cottage on Gwynn's Island. I was there last week at about 7:30 in the morning, and at first said, "Eh, there's really nothing new here that I haven't done before," and I almost left without taking a single picture.
But then something caught my eye, and then something else, and then something else. Before you know it, 25 pictures later, I was lying on my back in the sand with the back of my head slanting downwards towards the water--taking this picture.
Later in the day I changed clothes and deposited a quart of sand on the floor.
May your Sunday be peaceful and your pants free of sand.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Here's another shot from Commenter Breezeway's beach on Gwynn's Island. When I was little, I lived on the island for about a year, and one thing I remember vividly is the color and texture of our bathtub: deep rust. Sometimes a water softener alone is not enough to tackle this Mathews water. Speaking of tackling a water softener, let's explore the softening process in greater detail.
Welcome to a special weekend edition of Chesapeake Bay Woman's Guide to Home Maintenance.
Today we will learn how to properly maintain your water softener by keeping it filled with salt. For the uninitiated, or for those lucky enough to have non-lethal water, the softener is usually located in an obscure part of the house and must be filled periodically with salt, which is not like your table salt, but more like nuggets or rocks. There are two sizes of salt bags: "heavier than lead" and "heavier than a Buick." Because I like to aim high and also because it's more cost effective, I always opt for the Buick bag, although the difference between the two is hardly discernible.
1. Notice your bath water is a murky brown. Figure it's just because you haven't cleaned your tub in a while. Or ever.
2. Notice the water tastes weird when you brush your teeth. Move to another sink where it doesn't taste so bad.
3. Notice the water stinks when you take a shower. Figure the kids have washed the dog in there again.
4. Wait until the kids start complaining about the quality of the water, and then send your son down to the bowels of the basement to check on the level of salt in the water softener.
5. Display an Oscar-winning look of shock and disbelief when son says there is not one tiny crystal of salt to be found in the water softener. If you slap your cheeks as you drop your chin, all the better.
6. Go to the local grocery store, Best Value, which sells salt. Forget to get the salt and purchase Triscuits and hummus instead.
7. Wait another week until kids begin rioting over unfit water.
8. Go back to Best Value and grasp the large, heavy-as-a-Buick bag and hoist it into your tiny shopping cart. (Best Value is a tiny store, and they have tiny carts to match. Picture kid-sized. Now picture kid-sized laden down with a Buick, and then try pushing that.)
9. Heave another bag in there. Listen carefully for a snapping noise--that's the cart bending or a disk rupturing. Only in rare instances is it both.
10. Take several deep, cleansing breaths to psyche yourself up for pushing the cart to the checkout stand.
11. Keep a stiff upper lip and hold your head high as you shake your head and say, "No thanks," when the 95-lb. teenager offers to help you get the salt to the car. You really don't need any help. (Note: This sort of thinking is produced by the very same brain cells which declared that murky, stinky water was due to an unclean bathtub. Or the dog.)
12. Plot your path to the car, carefully noting pedestrians and other vehicles that may impede your progress--or who may be harmed by a fast-moving cart gone amok.
13. Wait until there's nobody in the parking lot to transfer the bags from the cart to the car. Most people do not wish to hear the string of epithets that you'll soon be shouting in this fight between you and the water softener salt.
14. Go ahead and have a hissy fit. Just make sure nobody's watching. At this point, it's also fine to start crying if you feel like it.
15. After your emotional outburst, you'll see the bags are in the vehicle but you're not quite sure how they got there. This memory lapse is caused by lack of blood flow in the neck area due to the strain of lifting a Buick-sized bag from cart to car. Occasionally this strain is so great you may burst blood vessels in your eyes. As in all other projects described by CBW, please make sure your medical insurance card is on your person at all times.
16. Drive home and leave the bags in the car because they're too heavy to drag up the stairs, into the house and down to the basement.
17. Forget the salt and let it rest in the back of your car. For several weeks.
18. When the children call the Health Department, direct the personnel to your vehicle and have them unload and deliver the salt for you.
19. Open the bags and pour into the softener.
20. Replace the softener's lid and forget about the salt until your water starts stinking again, and the kids start asking questions.
21. Go back to Step 1. Rinse and repeat.
Friday, February 20, 2009
This is from Commenter Breezeway's lovely Gwynn's Island cottage. Do you see that water? It's salt water, and it tastes almost as bad as the water that comes out of our spigots here. Speaking of salt, that reminds me of water softener salt, which is as essential as oxygen in Mathews.
Mathews County is well known for its abundance of waterfront property, but not for water that's fit to drink. Don't believe me? I don't blame you. So to help substantiate my claim, I turn to the Dept. of Agriculture's 1962 Mathews County Soil Survey, which everyone has in their home library. I'll wait while you go get yours, so you can follow along.
OK, turn to page 40:
"...In Mathews County, drinking water is obtained mainly from hell..."
Oh, sorry, that last word was a typo (arguably). Let me try again:
"...In Mathews County, drinking water is obtained mainly from wells. The water in creeks and rivers is salty and unfit for consumption. There are a few springs in the county; the best of these are in the higher terraces in the northwestern section..."
My parents happen to have a spring bubbling up on their property, right near the intersection of our lane and one of two main roads running through Mathews. In fact, just today when I was leaving to run an errand, I saw people out there on their hands and knees filling up plastic milk jugs with this eau de le gods. My mother and I have a ball making fun of this spring and the amount of time Daddy has spent getting it rigged just so, but the truth is that water is far superior to anything I've ever tasted coming out of a tap or even from the store.
So, to recap: I'd rather stick my face down into a ditch and slurp water from a "spring" than drink our well water. (By the way, well water is pretty much our only option. There is talk of us getting all hooked to some "city water" but so far it hasn't happened.)
Let's continue with what the government said about our so-called drinking water over 45 years ago:
"...The average depth of dug wells is approximately 10 feet, and the quality of water ranges from poor to good, depending on the content of sulfur, iron, salt and carbonates. Also, the water ranges from soft to hard, according to the kinds and amounts of minerals. Deep wells are more likely to produce hard water; shallow wells, soft water."
I have yet to find one single house here with soft water. Instead, we are laden down like pack mules hauling hundred-pound bags of water softener salt from the Best Value grocery store, into the house, into the softener system, only to have the water come out of the shower not only smelly and stinky, but capable of rendering a perfectly good head of hair frizzy, green and unmanageable.
Speaking of pack mules, water softener salt, unruly hair and unmanageable individuals, stay tuned for tomorrow's rip-roaring episode of Chesapeake Bay Woman's Guide to Water Softener Salt Procurement and Installation in 10 easy steps! Where "easy" is loosely defined as "so excruciating that I am convinced hoisting 800-pound bags of water softener salt will cause my untimely demise."
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I shot this from Haven Beach a month or so ago on a very dark, bleak, overcast, dreary day. Yesterday was one of those days around here. Cold. Rainy. The sort of day that makes you want to feign illness, fall back into bed, and fly post haste to the land of nod. Speaking of "feign," "fall," and "fly" which are all "F" words, I continue my assignment from yesterday.
Val from Monkeys on the Roof tasked me with identifying 10 words which are important to me and which start with the letter "F." Yesterday I wrote about the first five words; below are the remaining.
I do believe in fairness for all, and most of my life I've taken up for the underdog, for those who couldn't fend for themselves, in the name of fairness. We're all in this short life together, and no one person is better than another.
How can you not like the word "favorite?" Even if used in an overall negative sentence, such as "My favorite way to clean the house is to have somebody--anybody--else do it," well that's just wonderful because it is your favorite, the best of all possibilities. Not to mention, in this instance you don't have to clean the darn house! Bonus! Anyway, "favorite" is one of my favorite words.
Just hearing the word "frizzy" makes me laugh a little bit, but when I think harder about the word it makes me laugh a lot. You see, all my life I had hair straight as a poker. You couldn't get that stuff to curl if you stuck your finger in an electrical socket while holding a curling iron between your teeth and standing knee-deep in bath water during a thunderstorm. No amount of effort was going to get my hair to do anything except look like straw. But wait! Now I'm in my 40's, and all of a sudden I find out from the lady who attempts to work with the gray, black, white and red sprigs that now coil from my scalp that, "Honey, your hormones are kickin' in and that changes the consistency and texture of your hair, so welcome to Frizzyville!" Great!
Now, on top of that add the fact that the water that comes out of Mathews County spigots is lethal, deadly and disastrous for hair. You couldn't tell me from Bozo the Clown in a line-up except the clown would be wearing more make-up, and my hair would be green instead of red, thanks once again to Mathews water.
So in conclusion, "frizzy" makes me laugh. The End.
I'm talking The Big Freedom here, but I'm also talking about the Little Freedoms: the freedom to sleep in late and listen to the water hit the roof on a rainy day or the freedom to wear a bathrobe all day if I so choose.
A fat-tailed sheep is "a coarse-wooled mutton sheep that has great quantities of FAT on each side of the tail bones." I'd never heard of a fat-tailed sheep before I flipped through the dictionary trying to remember some good "f" words. I decided instantly that it was highly meaningful, mostly because it made me laugh.
Thanks again to Val for giving me this assignment, it was fun (for me anyway, I can't speak for y'all).
And now a word from today's sponsor:
The past two days of mutterings and ramblings are brought to you courtesy of our little contest, which gave me almost two weeks without having to write a blog post after writing practically every day for going on a year.
I wish I could say things will improve, but I don't want to tell you yet another word that begins with "f"......a fib.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I took this a long time ago as I was leaving commenter Breezeway's property on Gwynn's Island. (In Chesapeake Bay Woman terms, a "long time ago" is anything farther back than a couple of days, because after a while it all blends into one great big blur of a memory, and after it has been stored in the blurry zone it moves to a Data Black Hole, never to be retrieved again.) I liked the silhouette of the tree even though there isn't a whole lot of light in the picture.
Speaking of a long time ago, and of vague memories of facts and details, I turn now to an assignment I was given long before I ran my story-writing contest. That contest allowed me to take a brief blogging vacation during which I did nothing but eat bon bons and twirl my hair. Mark my words, y'all are going to be begging me for another contest here soon. You just wait and see.
Once upon a time, probably several weeks ago, give or take a year, Val from Monkeys on the Roof asked me to participate in a fun little assignment to take a letter of the alphabet and come up with 10 words (beginning with that letter) that are important to me.
Before I go any further, I want to say that Val really does have monkeys on her roof sometimes, and wild boars running around her yard, and elephants running around the village--seriously. But more than that, Val is a very gifted writer, and I am very grateful to have her visit here every so often. The fact that someone with her writing skills--who lives in a place so far away--would be interested in a place like Mathews is mind-boggling to me. Please take some time to check out her blog, you won't be disappointed. Tell her Red Rover, Red Rover, Chesapeake Bay Woman finally completed her assignment and sent you right over.
I was assigned the letter "F" which is really not an easy letter to work with, especially when one is trying to maintain a PG-13 rating on a blog. Nevertheless, here goes.....
Just kidding. Sort of. Of course food is important to us all because we need it to survive, but I take thinking about food to a whole new level. I'm always wondering what my next meal will be. I love eating--food is another art form--and wish I could do more of it without gaining weight. Alas, ever since turning 40 I have to closely monitor my intake, but rest assured I'm always thinking about it....
2. Fried Chicken
See? I can't get off the topic. But I'm serious. Fried chicken is very important to me, and I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill, fast food chicken. My Gloucester grandmother used to take a whole chicken, cut it up, soak it in salt water for hours, season it just perfectly, slather it in flour and fry it up in Crisco in an iron skillet. Her entire house was filled with the heady aroma of perfectly fried chicken, an aroma so thick it seeped into your pores. Oh, how I long for some of her fried chicken. Alas, nobody really takes the time to fry chicken the right way anymore. After all it takes an entire day to do it properly. (You can bet your sweet bippy Chesapeake Bay Woman not only lacks the patience to fry up chicken the old fashioned way, she cannot locate her fire extinguisher that would be deemed essential should she, high temperatures and grease ever come into close proximity.)
Yes, family. You cannot choose your family members, but they're yours no matter what, and they're important no matter how crazy they make you. Or how crazy they are. I know many people who have tattered-and-torn relationships with family members for one reason or another. I always encourage them to re-establish contact and be the one who extends the olive branch. If they choose not to accept it, at least you have offered. In the end, family, friends and our loved ones are all that really matters. Well, that and a platter of hot, fried chicken.
See above, only the difference is you can choose your friends. Living in Mathews afforded us an opportunity to make life-long friends. I run into people in the grocery store I went to kindergarten with, and it's a great feeling. I think it's important to surround yourself with friends who are low maintenance, don't require anything in return, and who make you laugh. And laugh some more. If my letter were "l," laughter would be at the top of the list, but friends who make you laugh are even better. (Of course you can laugh at family members, too, but sometimes you want to keep that laughter to yourself. Or, you can do what I do and post their stories on the internet for all the world to see. For instance.)
Along the same vein as laughing with friends and making fun of family, having fun is essential. Basically, I live for having fun, and it's important that we try to make every aspect of our life fun, otherwise there's nothing left to do except start crying at how mundane it all can be. For example, are you drowning in clutter and dirty laundry? Don't let it bother you. Just forget about it and watch some television. Have fun! Dishes piled high in the kitchen sink? Play on the internet all day long--go ahead and enjoy yourself! Dreading a day full of meaningless chores and errands? Punt all those horrible tasks and take a nap.
As you can see, I've only shared five of the ten "f" words which are important to me and yet have used the same amount of text as Tolstoy in War and Peace. Therefore, the remaining five words will come tomorrow.
Right now, I'm going to pick up dirty clothes, do some laundry, clean up the kitchen, and tend to starving animals. Or not.
In other words, I'm going to have some fun.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This spectacular Gwynn's Island sunset from last summer was taken from the very beach where our Blog Fest picnic will be held in July. I am posting this up here for a couple of reasons. One, this spot of Earth always calms and relaxes me. Two, I'm tired of the dreary brown, lifeless scenery that abounds this time of year.
Speaking of Blog Fest, which rhymes with contest, it's time to announce the winner of our recent competition.
I cannot begin to express my gratitude to the participants in our recent story-writing contest. I was very pleasantly surprised with the responses, and I loved each and every one of them.
If I were writing this for work and/or if I were the succinct sort, I would have told you in the first sentence who won, short and sweet. As I wait for you to stop laughing at the notion that I might be capable of being succinct, I will go into more detail about who wrote what and other background information; in other words I will drag this out until you're blinking back tears.
First of all, I want to identify the writers using their internet screen names:
Contestant #1 - Moon Over Mathews - Submitted by first-timer "Jack" who has never commented before, but says he's been reading a while. I hope he and his crew continue reading and that they'll leave comments and/or send me more stories.
Contestant #2 - Most Memorable Hitch-Hiker - Commenter Anonymous Mathews Native (AMN)
Contestant #3 - Everything Old is New - Commenter Anonymous Mathews Native (AMN)
Contestant #4 - Cast of Characters - Ann Marie
Contestant #5 - First Kiss - Commenter Mathews Mountain Man, aka MMM
Contestant #6 - Young People - Phyl
Contestant #7 - Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister - Commenter Icey
Contestant #8 - Hitch-Hiking: A Lost Art - Commenter Anonymous Mathews Native (AMN)
Contestant #9 - Larry -Foolery
Every single story received votes, and truly they all are winners. It is important to me that all the participants know it was a very close race, and there were only a few votes separating the winners from all the others.
And now, without further ado, I am pleased to announce we have a tie for first place between
Moon Over Mathews by "Jack" and Young People by Phyl
I am declaring these two winners. Congratulations! They both received the same number of votes. The runner-up was First Kiss, and all the others were very close on the heels of these 3. Again, I truly applaud your efforts and thank you so much for participating.Thanks to all who took the time to vote as well.
So, "Jack" and "Phyl" went up the hill to fetch a pail of water....
No, just kidding. "Jack" and "Phyl", please send an e-mail to ChesapeakeBayWoman@gmail.com and let me know if you prefer lunch at Linda's Diner or a $25 gift certificate.
And now, folks get ready to go into hibernation until our next contest, because it is back to the Same Old Same Old CBW hot air since I no longer have other people's stories up here to carry me through these winter doldrums.
Given that I'm off to the paying job today and tomorrow and have absolutely nothing lined up as far as posts for this week, you can rest assured that anything you read here after this contest will be as mind-numbing as ever.
If not more.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Back in the fall I took this picture of a soybean field. Starting off a lush, green carpet, soybeans slowly turn yellow before becoming a crispy brown at the time of harvest. Speaking of green and yellow, but not of crispy brown, I turn to the topic of my favorite flower, the daffodil.
Below is a continuation of the speech my paternal grandmother gave to a convention in Richmond in the 1970’s. My grandfather was a commercial daffodil grower, so she had first-hand knowledge of the topic at hand.
“…The taxonomists still refer to our subject matter as “Narcissus,” although in common practice, in the catalogues of the world, and in most garden magazines, they are called “daffodils.” I think we may as well accept the facts and call them daffodils, since the word “narcissus” and “daffodil” mean exactly the same thing. There are a great many people who call all daffodils “jonquils” but this is completely erroneous. The jonquil is merely one of eleven families of daffodils—a little multi-flowered, sweet-scented item—and actually constitutes only a very small part of the whole daffodil family.
Many of our friends and neighbors in Mathews County refer to these flowers as “lilies”—but since many of the early colonists came from England and brought wild Lent Lilies, you can understand why the nomenclature “lilies” has persisted, as have many other words and expressions, dating back to Colonial days and their English heritage.
If you’re a lazy gardener, like me, and/or often ask yourself questions, a $64 one might be, “Why grow daffodils?” Well, here might be an answer. Few members of the plant world are easier to grow and keep growing year after year with a minimum of attention than the daffodil, once it is established. No special care is required unless you count good drainage which most plants and all bulbs need. Since daffodils are planted well beneath the earth and enjoy sun or shade, sweet or sour soil, it is obvious that they can fit perfectly into any perennial border or naturalized area, into any odd nook or cranny among the shrubbery, such as a border down a fence or wall, and even in flower boxes, rock gardens, greenhouses or for forcing indoors.
You just can’t find anything easier to raise and get along with.”
The grandmother who wrote this was not from Mathews, she was a "come here" born in Coffeeville, Kansas, and was the wife of an Army man who retired in Mathews.
I confess I've never heard daffodils called lilies, or rather I don't remember anyone calling them lilies. All that means is that people probably have called them lilies right to my face--no doubt as recently as yesterday--and I've forgotten about it, due to the fact that all memory functions were deleted from my brain after having children.
Stay tuned for the day when the Surgeon General slaps a warning label on all newborns that says, "Caution: Do not attempt to take this child home with you until you have deposited your brain in the dumpster behind the hospital. You won't need it any longer. Trust us on this topic. Thank you."
Remember to cast your vote for the winner of last week's story contest. Go back and read the entries below, and send your vote to me at ChesapeakeBayWoman@gmail.com.
I will accept votes up until 7:00 p.m. tonight, and I hope to announce the winner on Tuesday, although the fact that I have to commit to a day is very distressing, so let's just say I'll announce the winner as soon as I can. Or later.
Contestant #1 - Moon Over Mathews
Contestant #2 - Most Memorable Hitch-Hiker
Contestant #3 - Everything Old is New
Contestant #4 - Cast of Characters
Contestant #5 - First Kiss
Contestant #6 - Young People
Contestant #7 - Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister
Contestant #8 - Hitch-Hiking: A Lost Art
Contestant #9 - Larry
Sunday, February 15, 2009
I took this from my back yard, it's a zoomed-in view of the creek looking east at sunset. I'm always amazed at the spectacular displays the eastern sky puts on at a time of the day when the western sky is usually receiving the most attention.
Speaking of being amazed at spectacular displays, it's time to talk about determining the winner of my little contest.
I thank all of you who sent in entries for the story contest. Each and every one was wonderful and I personally think they are all winners.
However, we need to determine one winner. Below are the 9 entries. Please review them and select your top choice and a runner-up, and send me an e-mail at ChesapeakeBayWoman@gmail.com by Monday at 7:00 p.m. (Those of you who have my other e-mail address may send it there if you prefer.) You may only vote once.
I will announce the winner some time early next week. (See how I avoid specifics with the "some time next week"? This is intentional because it gives me a buffer in case I have a computer crash, or we have a natural disaster, or I am distracted and forget to count the votes, for example.)
Contestant #1 - Moon Over Mathews
Contestant #2 - Most Memorable Hitch-Hiker
Contestant #3 - Everything Old is New
Contestant #4 - Cast of Characters
Contestant #5 - First Kiss
Contestant #6 - Young People
Contestant #7 - Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister
Contestant #8 - Hitch-Hiking: A Lost Art
Contestant #9 - Larry
Saturday, February 14, 2009
This workboat was at the Seabreeze restaurant on an unusually cold, windy day. I have very fond memories of a workboat that actually looks identical and for all I know may be this very one. My high school boyfriend was a waterman, and I'd go clamming with him sometimes. I'll write a whole separate post on those experiences and my intense love for workboats, because that love can't be conveyed in a few brief sentences here.
Speaking of past boyfriends-- but not about how some crazy woman just professed her love for a wooden vessel--we turn now to a brief glimpse at some of the antics that Chesapeake Bay Woman has found herself a party to. Or a victim of. Of which she found herself a party. To.
(I know the grammar rules, really I do, in spite of all my obvious errors. I just choose to ignore them. I pay attention at work, but I'm not at work because this blog gig doesn't pay one red cent. So if I want to have dangling participles, run-on sentences, split infinitives, conjunctivitis and prepositions at the end of a sentence, I'll go ahead and do it. And yes, I know what conjunctivitis is, I was just seeing if you were awake.)
Valentines Day conjures up images of homemade cards made of construction paper and adorned with white lace. Conversation hearts, chocolate, flowers and romance. Chasing a blond-haired boy around the playground in second grade. Throwing him down on the ground and kissing him. Woops, I got side tracked, I'm sure not everyone did that....
If I ever had a particularly special Valentines Day as an adult, I don't remember it. Of course that doesn't mean I didn't have one, it just means that like most everything else that happened before I had children, I've forgotten it. (One day, "they" are going to discover that I'm right, that kids cause mothers to have permanent brain damage which renders any and all memory functions null and void. In case I'm not alive when this happens, please tell them that Chesapeake Bay Woman says, "I told you so.")
No, there isn't a particular Valentines Day that stands out in my mind, but I do recall some memorable dates, none of which have anything to do with flowers, romance or chocolate, but at least one of which has something to do with mud, stolen bicycles and awkward first impressions.
One time a guy I barely knew asked me out to dinner in Williamsburg. Yadda yadda yadda, close to midnight he decided he wanted to take me to one of the local plantations. Yes, a historic plantation at midnight. As my eyes shifted quickly from left to right, I pondered his proposal and decided it sounded like a good idea. This is because I had Stupid Teenager Hormones coursing through my veins.
When we arrived at the plantation, he (but not I) was surprised to see that it was closed. We couldn't enter the grounds thanks to a locked gate at the end of the driveway. Mere rules were not going to deter him, however. He put his truck in four-wheel drive and barreled through a swamp with the intention of going around the gate. Once again to his surprise (but not mine) we got stuck in the mud, had to leave the truck and hoofed it back to Colonial Williamsburg. It was cold, dark and we were very far away from Colonial Wiliamsburg thereby creating the longest walk in the history of walks on a first date with someone you barely know where both of you are covered in dried up mud from the swamp outside a historic plantation.
This happens to everyone, I know, but it was a first for me. The excitement didn't end there, though, not for a Chesapeake Bay Woman date.
He borrowed (some people would say "stole") a bicycle that was leaning up against someone's tree, and I rode on the handlebars. This is what everyone does on a first date at two in the morning, right? I casually admired the pretty Christmas lights in the windows of the historic buildings as I delicately balanced myself on the handlebars. He on the other hand strained to see where he was going and grunted as he struggled to pedal a teetering bicycle that was very heavily laden down in the front. Somehow we found a pay phone, called a cab and ended up getting a ride to his mother's house, about 20 minutes away.
Did I mention I hardly knew this guy? "Hey, Mumma, have you met Chesapeake Bay Woman? We got stuck in the mud trying to bust into a historic plantation, and I drove her on a stolen bicycle while she sat on the handlebars, and can she spend the night in the guest room because my truck is stuck in a historic swamp, and I can't drive her home--which is over an hour away?" They say first impressions are everything. Mine reeked of mud.
There are several other dates which stand out in my mind, but I'll save those stories for another time because I now see that everyone has fallen asleep.
In the meantime, speaking of stories, stay tuned for info on how to vote for our contest winner. If you have time this weekend, check back through our list of entries and begin thinking about your first and second choice.
I hope everyone spends Valentines Day with someone they love, whether it is a spouse, a significant other, a parent, a child, a friend, a pet, or simply the memory of someone special.
Celebrate the love, but steer clear of historic plantations after hours.
Friday, February 13, 2009
This building is located at the intersection of Route 3 and the short-cut to Deltaville, whatever that road is called. I posted a picture of the door to this place earlier in the week, and much to my surprise Anonymous Hallieford Reader correctly identified it. She travels that way so often she probably has the image permanently etched on her brain. I'd like it noted for the record that I had a very narrow patch of ground on which to park my car, and as a result, I was practically in the road trying to take this. Several people driving by gawked and wondered what on Earth I was doing. I'm starting to get used to it, sort of like getting used to people's quirks and eccentricities, which has something--but not much--to do with today's post.
This entry in my little story contest is about quite the character, although he's not from Mathews. That's OK, though, because I specifically stated in my rules that anyone, anywhere could participate, and it is comforting to know that Mathews doesn't have a monopoly on weird and/or memorable people, although I do believe we give other communities a run for the money.
Here's #9. #9. #9. (I'm having flashbacks to college for some reason.)
by Contestant #9
Well. Now that I have recovered sufficiently from MMM's most excellent and moving tribute to his Poppa, which is to say I teared up, choked up, considered taking a smoke break even though I've never smoked, and instead went in the editing room to jabber at my co-worker . . . now that all of that is behind me, I believe I have a story for you.
There's one guy in town who doesn't really need a last name. Every town has a couple of those, right? Colorful singular, memorable. And they're probably octogenarians or at least AARP members. But this one is a little different. His name is Larry, and he's the same age as me, and as CBW, by the way. Let's just call it late twenties, and don't start counting on your fingers.
Larry is different, though I can't give it an exact name. He's not retarded -- he took mainstream classes, including my biology class in our freshman year. He just looks through a different camera lens, shall we say. You can see it immediately in his expression, which often looks tense, almost pained. But he's quite happy, Larry is.
In high school Larry attended every single sporting event, and I am not exaggerating by much. He went to band concerts, plays, and, yes, even dances, although I don't think he went to proms. He loved to dance, but never asked anyone to join him, preferring instead to pogo joyfully around the edges of the teeming hoards of way-cool teenagers. At about six feet tall and comfortably under 150 pounds, Larry dancing the pogo dance was an impressive sight.
As you might expect, Larry's voice is quite recognizable, too. He has at least two pronounced speech impediments -- maybe like a thin little high-pitched nasal version of Barbara Walters doing a Rain Man impersonation. I'm not trying to be mean here, but it's important you know what Larry's voice sounds like, because he is not shy, and speaks right up in any situation. "Oh, I hear Larry," you might say, and the person you're with never asks "Larry who?" and then you'll see him, talking to someone while waiting in line at a book signing, or standing behind the coaches on the sidelines. Oh yes, Larry still goes to every single sporting event, graduation and concert he can attend.
In the aforementioned biology class Larry had the distinction of being the only person I ever saw to make Mr. Teacher lose his cool. Larry sat in my line of sight so I saw the whole thing. On this day, as Mr. Teacher lectured, Larry would get up, walk silently to Mr. Teacher's desk, take one Kleenex, and return to his seat, and he did this many times (Larry always had a runny nose). He then twisted the Kleenex into a long thin sword shape, jammed it up his nose, and began the process of pipe-cleaning his nostril, all the while listening to the lecture and taking some sort of notes. When Larry needed a fresh tissue, back he went to the desk. Mr. Teacher, a man who each spring willingly took a busload of teenagers on a three- to five-day field trip, a man completely impervious to the antics of 16-year-olds, had had enough. "Larry, take what you need -- take the whole box if you have to, but SIT. DOWN. and don't get up again." He fairly spit the words at Larry, who seemed surprised, but not upset. Larry solved the nose problem by putting a pipe-cleaning tissue sword up each nostril and leaving them there, the fluffy ends blooming luxuriously below his nose as he made notes. I imagine my own notes that day were pretty useless.
I saw Larry in July at my mumble-mumble-something-something class reunion. He pogo danced a little bit; his vertical leap isn't quite what it used to be, but it's still impressive. He had a couple of cocktails, but not to excess -- not like the last reunion, five years before. (Larry had a GOOOOOD time that night.)
Larry is a good conversationalist, in a way: he makes a point of remembering everything he can about everyone he knows, or even knows just a little. At the reunion he remembered that I was married with two little girls, and also that I used to have a gift store, but not anymore. This doesn't sound impressive until you remember that Larry does this with everyone, and his memory is long. And if Larry is really taken with someone, his level of fascination approaches the stalker level, if it were done by anyone else. He was particularly taken with a county supervisor and her family, and also our classmate Melissa, back when we were still in high school. "I don't know how he knows the stuff he does," she said to me once. "If it were anybody else I'd be frightened, but it's just Larry, so . . ." I knew what she meant.
"How many kisses did Larry give you?" my husband asked me after the reunion.
"Only one kiss and two hugs," I replied. "I must be aging poorly; it was three kisses and four hugs at the last reunion." Sigh. Not interesting enough to be stalked by Larry.
p.s. by CBW
I received an e-mail from Contestant #9 detailing how she had to attend a funeral recently and as she was crying her eyes out she was distracted by the flash of someone taking a picture. At a funeral. She started to become irritated that anyone would take flash pictures at someone's funeral until she saw who was taking the pictures: Larry.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
This No Wake sign is right near the Seabreeze Restaurant. It would seem that some form of wake knocked it sideways, or perhaps some errant boater misjudged the dock. (Ask me how many stories I have of folks ramming their boat into the dock as they pulled in. Then ask me how I can pull a 20+ foot boat into a boathouse and never touch a thing. Except for that one time when I ripped the rubber stripping off the side of the boat, but that was because it was blowin' a gale and there may or may not have been beverages involved. I said may or may NOT have been beverages involved. Oh, and also remind me to tell y'all about being pulled over by the Marine Patrol. A little bit of wake jumping was involved, only we were in a tiny boat so loaded down it looked like we were smuggling in refugees from Cuba.)
No Wake is the second worst sign next to No Trespassing around here. When I say "worst" of course I mean "prevalent and annoying." Speaking of trespassing, we turn now to our 8th entry in my little story contest.
Folks, we have two more entries after today to read before we begin voting. I will divulge the "identities" (internet identities, or pseudonyms, that is) of the writers after the contest is over and the winner is announced. Thanks again to everyone for doing such a grand job. And now, the 8th entry. -cbw
Hitch Hiking - A Lost Art
By Contestant #8
My Daddy and his brothers were much like many other working men of a certain age in Mathews County: tall, strong, sun-burned (farmer’s tan), honest, trusting and old-fashioned. Daddy picked up hitch-hikers on a regular basis and never gave a thought to the potential danger of the out-dated practice.
In the pre-cell-phone era, when he had mechanical trouble with his farm equipment (or when he just plain ran out of gas) he would resort to hitch-hiking himself, with unmitigated success. He never walked all the way home.
For my part, I was totally amazed that anyone ever let him into their vehicle. He was so tall, he barely fit into most people’s cars. He had hands big as dinner plates, and shoulders as broad as your front door. After riding a tractor all day, he was a SWEATY, DIRTY GIANT. I cannot over-emphasize how SWEATY, how DIRTY or how GIGANTIC he was, so I’ll spare myself the effort, you can just let your imagination run wild. I loved him dearly, but if I didn’t know him -- I'd have left him on the side of the road! He always expected people to be kind, and for the most part they didn’t disappoint him. He always got a ride.
Which probably explains why my uncle (his brother) was so exasperated one hot summer afternoon when his truck broke down on the way home from the post office. He’d probably always gotten a ride, too. Except this afternoon, every car in sight just kept speedin’ on by. It was truly puzzling. He’d pause, stick out his thumb and they’d just keep on going.
They had their windows rolled up, and the AC cranked, and by George, he was getting HOT and TIRED. As he told my cousin later, he was actually starting to get angry, because after a while, he realized he knew most of those people flying by, and he was pretty sure that many of the cars were actually SPEEDING UP as they passed him.
He was not a young man at the time, and not really up to walking all those long miles in the heat. He actually walked backwards for a time, to rest his tired, forward-going muscles. And still nobody stopped, and he just kept getting madder with every step. After all, these were his friends and neighbors! What was the world coming to if you couldn’t count on them for a ride when you needed one?
He walked almost all the way home, stopping at his daughter’s house for a cool drink and some commiseration. She listened to his sad tale of woe. She almost managed to maintain a straight face as she pointed out to him that his choice of WORKING GARB for the day – the old, worn uniform that he’d recycled from work, might be the cause of his troubles.
As she told him, “You see, Daddy, prisoners in the road gangs also wear those BLAZE-ORANGE JUMP-SUITS. They probably thought you were an escaped convict!”
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I bet I could give Mathews natives any number of guesses and they'd never figure out where I took this. For now, I'm keeping it a secret, because I have some better shots that will be more revealing, but I will say this old building is not in Mathews, it's in a neighboring county at an intersection very well travelled by anyone who's been here for a while.
Speaking of secrets that I'd like to keep, and shots that are revealing, we turn now to a story about college, in particular about Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister even though it appears to be about a certain hungry--if not savage--older sister.
We're up to Contestant #7 in my little story contest, and this one is a story I am all too familiar with. I will do the impossible and refrain from adding my two cents and instead will merely place an asterisk * in all parts of the story that I would ordinarily feel compelled to comment. Since this isn't my story, it isn't fair for me to interject myself, but that doesn't mean I can't do it after the contest is over.
Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister
By Contestant #7
Once upon a time there was a girl from Mathews County called Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister who went to UVA, following in the footsteps of her older sister. CBMS has been much maligned in this blog* but I have always loved her. Tall and beautiful* like her sister* and incredibly silly*, she has always been able to make me laugh. She was also a novelty* to me since I never had a younger sister, just an obnoxious* little brother.
During her first year in college she spent quite a lot of time in our apartment*, as in almost every weekend*. It could have been that she was homesick*, but there were a number of other compelling reasons for her frequent visits. First of all, she lived in the furthest dorm away from UVA civilization. Even the fact that it was a football dorm was not enough to mitigate the fact that it was incredibly long hike to anywhere important or even to anywhere unimportant (such as class). Second of all, we were at least a mile closer to the fraternities*, the downtown bars, the athlete apartment complex, etc. We also had a couple of cars* and were old enough to buy beer*. Best of all, we lived right behind a 7-11* and a Hardees, ideal for late night snacking. More often than not*, she would stop at one or the other on the way home and then “stop by” to see if there was a late night party going on. More often than not she would stay the night*. After all our whole living room was taken up by a couch/bed – as in a regular couch (also from Mathews County) with a fold out twin couch placed horizontally in front of it (abandoned by prior renter).
One night she got home some time before us with her snack*. We came home to find her “fast asleep*” wearing her coat and gloves and with a half-eaten Hardee’s biscuit in her hand – held straight up in the air with her elbow at a 90 degree angle*. In spite of the fact that she had obviously been there for some time (as evidenced by the cold congealed biscuit), CBW* exclaimed, “Waste not, want not!” and proceeded to finish off the biscuit*. This was when I came to truly admire the thriftiness of Mathews County folk – or maybe just CB Family.
* As I said, I will refrain from adding my remarks even though I really, really, really want to. Oh, and I will, just not during the contest. - cbw
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
This picture will look very familiar, but I can assure you I am not reposting the same one. This one's just a sister to the other 12 that look identical. I took this on a calm morning when the day was very young.
Speaking of young, this is a story about a former Mathews High School teacher, Mrs. Thomas, who was well known for dispensing nuggets of life lessons to her "young people" as she also juggled the responsibilities of teaching gym, health, driver's ed and any number of other subjects to some very unruly high school students. Her favorite way to begin the dispensing of her wisdom or to call the class to attention was always with the phrase, "Young People!" and usually included a well-timed, methodical shaking of her head or a dramatic rubbing of her temples or her eyes (*cough*) as she conveyed with minimal effort how much pain and distress we, the Young People, were causing her. She had her work cut out for her, I'm here to tell ya.
We have now arrived at the sixth contestant in my little story contest. I was wrong yesterday when I said we had only 3 left; we actually have 4 (3 after today's), so we ought to have the last one up by Friday and can start voting then. Because Chesapeake Bay Woman is so good with numbers, details and facts/figures, there's a very good chance that she has under- or over-estimated the number of entries left along with how many days until we can vote, but let's just use her terminology and say this: We are getting close to the end of our contest, and we have several more stories remaining. I anticipate voting will be possible in the very near future."
Thanks again to all participants, and to Contestant #6 for bringing back such fond memories of my favorite gym teacher, Mrs. Thomas.
By Contestant #6
We were lucky enough to have her for two years. It was really one year because we alternated health with gym. I’m not sure any of us could have handled her for back to back weeks. It wasn’t until after I left school, I realized she really passed on some great wisdom mingled in with the craziness. One particular piece of wisdom came in rather handy when I was exiting a limo in college. She saved me from having my own little a “Brittany moment”. Or at the time I guess it would have been more along the lines of a “Basic Instinct” moment. Only this Young Lady wears her drawers with skirts!
The first year I had Mrs. Thomas, her room over looked the parking lot. It was early in the year and still warm. We all entered the classroom and you could tell it was going to be one of those days. She was sitting at the desk, her head in her hands. We all took our seats and begin to wonder what she had seen in the parking lot. So far, we had learned that “Young Men should never giggle”, “Young Ladies should have more respect for themselves than to walk up and kiss a Young Man” and when your pencil on your eyebrows, you really should be very careful rubbing your face.
With a flip of her hand, she signaled someone to shut the door. As the door clicked shut, she slowly lifted her head, rubbing her mouth with her thumb and forefinger. A move we’d come to learn that would mean, “Young people, I’m distressed, I’ve seen something today . . . .” And so she started with a dramatic pause right there. Looking around at all of us captivated but near giggles, to afraid to look at anyone else in the room but her for fear of completely losing it.
“Young Men! Out.” And so they scampered (all elbows and knees at 14!) out the door of the classroom and promptly out the school door to listen at the window. Lucky them! They could now laugh out loud.
A few of us girls steal a look at one another as she gets up, goes to her high bar stool and places both hands on the seat staring us down. With a big sigh and another rub around her mouth she starts again, “Young Ladies! It distresses me so. I see you in the parking lot.” Pause. “You wear those skirts.” Pause. “Young Ladies, you must take more care. You simply must!”
We steal more glances at each other wondering where is this going? Another lecture about the too short cheering skirts? Personal hygiene? What?
“Young Ladies, don’t show your goodies!” Too stunned to laugh, we sit and stare at her. Huh?
“I see you in the parking lot, you do no know how to get in and out of a car without showing your goodies. And that, Young Ladies . . .” Pause and rubs her face. A larger circle and off goes the right eyebrow. This is serious.
She proceeds to show us on the stool the WRONG way to exit a car. (Thankfully, she always wore pants.) She says to us, “Young Ladies, Young Men will be looking and looking hard. They want to see your goodies.” As she stares very intently at one particular Young Lady!
Mrs T says, “Listen! Close your legs together at the knees and swing both legs out the door at the same time.” And very gracefully mimics the movement on her high bar stool. “Young Ladies, keep your goodies hidden. The Young Men try to look but they really don’t think well of Young Ladies who show the world!”
She beams a great smile at us all, making us feel a bit like we were now in on a great secret of womanhood. With a nod of her head, one of us motions for the Young Men to come back in the room.
As I slid across the leather seat of the limo almost 3 years later, with a Young Man waiting at the door, hand extended, I remembered her advice and the gracefulness of her move even on that high bar stool, 1 eyebrow and all! I turned and watched the other Young Ladies exiting and cringed. They needed a crazy Health teacher with one eyebrow and honest advice.
The next year they moved her classroom behind the school and into a trailer. I am curious if the upcoming Young Ladies got a lesson in properly getting into and out of a car.
Monday, February 9, 2009
I took this last week on a bitterly cold morning when the sun was making its first appearance for the day . At my house it was cold, but there was no wind. Here, though, the wind was blowing so hard I was nearly blown backwards to Deltaville, even though it doesn't look rough in this picture.
Speaking of unexpected events, we turn now to a story about a first kiss. Oh, and remind me to tell y'all about my first kiss which involves a Ford Pinto, a family reunion and a whole lot of "What in the world is goin' on here?"
Below is our fifth entry in my little story contest. If I'm remembering correctly, there are three other stories after this one to publish. Thanks to all who have participated, and hopefully by the end of the week we can get around to voting for the winner.
The story below is not entirely true, but it was inspired by events that actually occurred in Mathews. The one name given in the story has been changed; and, as far as I know, no one on this blog, other than the contributor was involved in any of the events detailed below – similar events, likely, but not these. In some ways, "Life in Mathews" is just like life everywhere else.
In some ways I was a slow starter; a fact that caused me much frustration and embarrassment as a teenager, but I eventually came to terms with the pattern of my adolescence. Thankfully "Anna" was there, patiently waiting for me to catch up. When I think about the times when she was not around, I don't feel as though I missed much. In fact, I find it easy to believe that some sort of guardian angel was looking out for me. Those pimple-faced days were often confusing.
Not that I see it this way, but let's assume that to some adolescents in my hometown a real date occurs when two people who would consider the most intimate of relations with each other spend a significant amount of unsupervised time together – I also recall that a date somehow seemed even more official if a car was involved. According to that definition, my first date was with a girl I hardly knew. In fact, the only time I ever spoke to her before we went out was to ask her out. We went to a movie with another "couple." Two things about that night stand out. The first is that I sat silently in the back seat two feet away from my date while my buddy, who was driving and looking at me through the rear view mirror, kept suggesting with his eyes that I get closer to her. The only other thing I remember is how my date introduced me to French kissing when I walked her to the door to tell her good night. I enjoyed the kiss for a moment, but then something my older brother had once said began haunting me: "If you French kiss a girl for too long an allergic reaction will cause your tongue to swell and you could choke to death." That night when I got home I brushed my teeth three times, gargled twice and took two Benadryl. I also prayed that I'd wake up in the morning. The only good the Benadryl did was put me to sleep and give me a hang-over in the morning. The unfortunate thing about that first date was that I think I liked the girl, but I was not brave enough to ask her out again.
Progress was slow, painfully slow at times. When you're sixteen and someone you think of as a friend says, "She told me you wouldn't do it," it hurts. Somehow I survived. I hope she did. I'm glad I listened to whatever force, or perhaps counter-force, of nature was telling me not to "do it".
Then there was Anna. When we were in middle school we went to dances together and had great fun. There was no pressure to be anything more than friends. We were in the eighth grade before I first dreamed of kissing her.
Soon after school started that year a friend invited me to a party. My mother drove me there. I didn't know that Anna was going to be there, so I was pleased when I arrived and saw her standing outside with our friends.
"Anna, you're here."
She spread her arms out and said with a big smile, "I'm here."
"So what are we going to do?"
"Play records and dance."
"Dance?" I said, making it clear that I was not interested.
"Dancing is fun."
"Not for me. Are we playing any games?" I asked anxiously.
"You mean like 'truth or dare'?"
"I hope so," said Anna.
"I hope not." I was always terrified that someone might chose "dare" and the "dare" would be to kiss me. When we played the game, I always chose "truth."
Anna and I stepped up onto the porch and sat down together in a swing. Anna softly said my name and asked, "Have you ever kissed anyone?"
"No," I said nervously.
"It's nothing to be afraid of."
"Oh, I know," I said, as I regained my composure and tried to act nonchalant.
"It's really kind of nice."
"It is?" If I had not been so worried about where our conversation was leading I might have felt a rush of jealousy and I tried to figure out who Anna had kissed.
"Yes, it is," she said.
We both sat quietly. Each time the swing came forward I touched my foot to the porch column and lightly pushed backwards. Although the sun had not set, the porch was darkened by the shade of the many tall trees in the yard. I assumed that all of the guests had arrived because everyone, except Anna and I had gone into the house.
Anna turned sideways on the swing and looked at me. "Would you like to try?" she asked.
I knew what Anna was asking me, but I didn't know what to say. My heart was pounding; I felt dizzy and wanted to run. The best I could do was delay the inevitable. "Try what?"
"Don't be afraid," she whispered.
"I'm not afraid," I said defensively.
Anna placed her hand on my arm and leaned forward. She looked into my eyes and said, "You're very special to me. Don't you ever forget that and don't let me forget it either. Promise?"
"Promise," I said and I closed my eyes.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
What's wrong with this picture? Correct - that telephone pole in the background ruins the whole thing. If I were the photoshopping type, I'd eliminate it, but I'm not so here it is in all its imperfection. That sea gull looks bored. He looks like he wants to get into some trouble.
Being bored and looking for entertainment that may or may not have been trouble is the topic of our next entry in my little story contest.
Below is Entry #4 in our ongoing story contest.
Contestant #1's story is here.
Contestant #2's story is here.
Contestant #3's story is here.
Cast of Characters
By Contestant #4
To write a story about only one character in Mathews would be unbelievably hard to do without it intertwining with others, much like our family trees around these parts. So today I give you a glimpse into a few of the characters and experiences that one might have had the great opportunity to meet and live through by growing up around here.
First time you got a job here in Mathews and if you worked in the right spot, a spot that many teenagers in this tiny little town could have considered their second home; you would have learned the art of compassion and generosity from the owner. (Unlike her counterpart where you may have learned, how to scribble out a license plate on a order pad or the art of the piercing mean look) The sweet lovely owner of this popular hang out gave me my first job, even if I never could get the grill quite right or maybe I spent more time flirting than working, I still got paid and she never told me not to come back. I remember late one night long after we had closed we sat down and tallied up the “I O U” list and being shocked to find that the total was STAGGERING. I learned a huge lesson that night, I learned that a big heart also had a big price tag, but that it was OK because it meant you could be happy with who you were and that is a gift that is priceless. I have often thought about the peoples names that were on that list and wondered if they realized the price that this woman had to pay so they could go home that night full, and I wondered if they had enough in them to go say “Thank You” and offer her a big Mathews county hug.
On a Friday afternoon, you may have met up with two of your high school friends for a couple of laps around the town. You would enjoy your ride from the back seat of a Ford Escort, a little gold one, in which may or may not have been a beer or two. Windows down, hair flying, radio up, brakes tapping. As you ride by the ever popular local teen hangout the driver of this little adventure notices that EVERYONE (by everyone I mean anyone who was in a truck with 4 wheel drive and a 3 inch lift kit) was going through the HUGE hole in the back of the joint and water was flying!! The driver exclaims “WE ARE DOING IT!!” to which the Shot Gunner replies “ YEA!!! WE CAN DO THIS!” to which the back seater says.. “Better not.” they laughed at me.. Called ME a wimp.. Me the leaper of tall buildings with a single beer? me the leader of the let’s try everything once club? ME A WIMP??? So through their fits of giggles with anticipation of driving through the mud filled crater I repeated my slightly annoyed now plea of “Seriously.. You really ought notta.” (side note: ought notta is perfectly good language around here) A peal of laughter erupted from the front seat as we pulled into the parking lot in that little one horse sled of a car, I knew we were head straight to the back for our spin through bottomless pit. By this point I knew there was no turning back so I just shrugged down in my seat and smile an evil little grin knowing where we were headed no self respecting teen aged Mathews county girl would want to emerge from. Right about that second SPPPLLLLLOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH!!!! The water hits the car and the laughter from the front seat quickly turned from squeals of delight to screeches of disgust!!! As I leaned up to my mud covered counterparts in the front seat perfectly free of mud and dirty water I could not help but giggle and say “Told ya. Maybe next time you should put the winders up.” Characters those two..
Due to the lack of better things to do around here while at the rough age of somteen, you may spend hours consuming really bad wine combined with really cheap liquor with your sister and a pair of brothers, only to find about 5 pm you are on the brink of death from boredom. You all decide that it would be fun to “go across the river” I don’t think there was ever a real reason to make that trek other than it was something to do rather than sit there looking at each other. After consumption of all that yummy cheapness you would be surprised to find that the bridge in itself is more fun than the Loch Ness Monster! You spend roughly an hour going up one side at about 20 mile an hour to make it to the top to FLOOR BOARD IT on the other side to the bottom. (Luckily we did not meet a character that night in the form of the local police occifer.) On about the 2nd or maybe it was the 25th trip you may realize that you are mortality drunken and desperately need to get to a hospital quickly or you may die right there in the arms of your sister. You may in fact scream TAKE ME TO THE HOSPITAL for the next 30 minutes as the driver of the Loch Ness makes his way back home which is no where close to the direction of the hospital. Believe me realizing you are not headed in the direction of your request will upset you greatly and you being planning your next move 13 minutes before you are even home. “AHHHHHHHH... Know what ta do!” is the phrase that pops into your alcohol pickled brain.. The doors of the Loch Ness at last open and you SPRING (OK OK stumble) into action. While everyone is fumbling around getting this and that out of the ride... You slip off into the darkness. Seconds later (dang it stop that will ya this is the way I want the story to be... Ok Ok.. It was really 42 minutes later) your sister realizes you are missing and quickly gathers a search party (sigh .. FINE.. She put on her shoes alone and wanders out in the yard to peer into the darkness for your drunken self) This gets quite complicated and lengthy from here so I am going to wrap this up by saying..
You see if you have grown up around here you may have had the opportunity to climb a tree while completely intoxicated and giggle at the lone searcher of your dead body. You may have also had the opportunity to sit in the tree until someone finally found you because you realized that you were slightly related to a cat and could figure out how to get up there but couldn’t get down..
After writing this little excerpt of memories of Mathews I realize there is no place I would rather have spent my youth, no matter how many times I raged at hating this tiny little town to my parents, or threw the words out to my friends “As soon as I graduate I am outta here!” This town is full of people and memories of a youth gone wild that no other place on earth could ever compare to. The big city could never hold the excitement that one experienced by riding around after school with your friends, or working in a large department store could never hold a candle to the place where you learn valuable lessons of life as a 14 year old employee. Even as an adult and having moved back to this tiny little town (yup I really did take off after school) I can feel the kinship in my heart as I log online and spend hours with my regular cast of characters reminiscing over days gone by.. We will always be one. The cast of characters of Mathews.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
I love this, but I am befuddled by it. Is it a shed? Is it someone's former residence? If it is either one of those two things, why is the entrance so low to the ground such that you'd have to stoop to get in? To me--and I'm just Chesapeake Bay Woman who knows a whole lot about nothing, but a little about a lot--I'd say it was the top section to an old farmhouse (we don't know where the bottom section went), and that door you see is really a window. No brain cells were injured--or even used--in the uttering of that last statement. Speaking of old houses and looking through the window of the past, we turn now to a story about just that.
This is Day Three of reading the entries in my little Story Contest, and let me tell you we have some really good ones from which to choose. For anyone just joining the party, here are links to the first two submissions:
Below is our third entry. Enjoy.
Everything Old is New
I read on someone's blog the other day about a little polite trespassing going on in my home town, and I was reminded of my Daddy's penchant for crossing property lines.
When Daddy was a child in post-depression Virginia, it was an unsurpassed joy to go riding in the family sedan with his mother and grandmother. He was the fifth of six children, so alone-time with his much-beloved mother and grandmother was a rare treat -- and only made possible by the fact that his older siblings were probably in school, and his younger brother had not yet been born.
Grandma Alice and Grandma Susie's travels included a detailed travelogue designed to educate their young charge in the nuances of kinship, and his family's place in Tidewater society. He was chauffeured to his ancestor's home sites and the dwellings of his cousins both far and near.
The man had a memory for genealogy and geography. He knew his own family tree back seven generations, as well as that of many other families in the area. Sometimes he was a little shaky on the specifics ("Daddy, how did you say they were they related?" "Well, he was his brother or his cousin or his uncle, or somethin'"), but with a few (prying!) questions, he could place you and your family in that vast network in his head. He had lots of strange information stored in that cranium of his: he probably knew what kind of truck your grand-daddy drove, the location of the saw mill your great uncle operated in the 20's, or perhaps the name of your grandmother's sister-in-law who used to carry the mail!
Needless to say, he soaked in all the information those fine ladies were so anxious to impart, and in his turn he was equally anxious to impart it to me.
To understand my reluctance to receive it, you have to understand a bit about the geography of my region.
Tidewater Virginia, and specifically my hometown of Mathews, is blessed with a surrounding network of river, creeks and coves that, until the advent of the automobile, made traveling by land completely unnecessary. Study a Civil War era map of Tidewater and the Northern Neck and you'll notice a decided lack of railroad tracks east of the fall-line of Virginia. Why construct roads and rail-roads when you could travel so easily by boat instead?
Therefore, all the older homes in the area were not constructed near the road, they are almost all located on the waterfront. To view these ancestral halls, (now most likely inhabited by a couple of "come-heres" from Richmond) one must trespass drive down the long, narrow, bumpy lane, with no idea whether these were friendly "come-heres" (sipping iced-tea in their newly renovated kitchen), or grumpy ones (who might shoot us).
The thought that anyone might be less-than-enthused about our unannounced visit never occurred to my Daddy. He meandered on down the lane, and never worried about what he might find at the other end. You can do that when you're 6' 5 1/2" and weigh 275 lbs. (Unless they actually shot at you, grumpy "come-heres" mattered little in his reckoning). He was not worried.
I, however, was examining every hedgerow and road-shoulder for a spot wide enough to execute a three-point turn. I was sure we were going to be shot, or worse, embarrassed. I cowered in the back seat and waited for it to be over.
Skip forward thirty years, and my mother and I are touring the back roads of Hanover County near the historic landing at Piping Tree Ferry. We've been told by family-lorists that my great-grandfather's first wife, mother of my father's half-uncle (yeah, you heard that right, would I make something like that up?), was from this area, tantalizingly close to my current domicile, and that her ancestral home still stands! I've lived here for over seven years and never found her house, although in recent years, with clues from my eldest uncle, I've gotten really close.
On this particular sunny day, we've located a subdivision with a road named after the old home, but no evidence of a house old enough to be the right one in sight. On the way in, we passed a tall, elegant old place whose property borders the little subdivision. Its painted brick facade looked to be of the right vintage, so I determine that I will just STOP IN and ASK.
A certain four-year-old captive, tightly spancelled in her booster in the back seat, immediately begins to protest LOUDLY. "NO Mama! Don't get out of the car! Please don't knock on the door!" I can read between the lines - "YOU MIGHT GET SHOT!" I ignore her protests and proceed to have a perfectly lovely conversation with a very nice gentleman (who I swear was sipping iced-tea when I got there).
I explain to him that I am searching for the ancestral home of my great-grandfather's first wife, who died in childbirth. Her baby boy lived to a ripe old age, but was childless. His half-siblings loved him so dearly, that they passed his mother's family name down to their children, and we carry it forward in our family line to this day. I would dearly love to see her family' home.
The very nice gentleman just beams, and happily assures me, "This is why I just love Virginia."
His home was not the one for which I was searching for, but he directed me to it. The object of our search stands just around the corner: a beautiful old farm house -- majestic, plain and stately at the top of hill, hidden by a bend in the road.
I love Virginia, too, and if I don't someday get shot for trespassing, maybe I'll get a chance to pass that love on to my own little captive audience.