Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Cardinal

This is a different angle of an old house I photographed down New Point and posted a while ago. The whole "out with the old, in with the new" saying associated with New Year's Eve reminded me of this old house because the barn next to it recently fell over...out with the old. Speaking of old houses and holidays, below is something Chesapeake Bay Mother wrote that involves both.

A Perfect Storm
By Chesapeake Bay Mother

Once when I was in high school, we had a big snowstorm during Christmas holiday vacation. It increased our time home by a couple of weeks. Mother and I lived alone in the old house* which didn’t have storm windows, though comfortable enough, and having no school was better than anything under the tree. This was a particularly bleak time in our life, my parents having separated and our net worth having nothing but net.

On this day, the snow was newly fallen and more was promised. I sat on our sofa before a window close to a young magnolia tree and watched television. Gradually I noticed a regular tapping behind me. Thinking a tree branch motivated by the north wind was making the noise, I kept my gaze on the television screen. Again the tapping came, more insistent and forceful, and I turned to see a red blur on the icy pane. Wiping the condensation away revealed the up-close visage of one of our state birds, the cardinal, peering inquisitively back at me. He stunned me with his boldness as well as his bright plumage. Having cracked corn on hand, I fetched a handful, opened the window several inches and spread it on the sill from which I had brushed the snow. Retreating a few feet, I watched him fly from the magnolia to the window sill and begin to eat. He didn’t seem to mind that I was near. When satisfied, he flew off and I closed the window—touched that I had been allowed to come so close to a wild creature.

The next day, he returned; this time with his mate. They took turns flying to the window and pecking. Their handful of grain provided, I would watch them eat at close range for several days and feel very connected to the two.

After the snow was gone, they no longer required special help and moved on where their lives took them; and I did as well. But in that snowstorm, at that window, there was communication and understanding and cooperation…and I believe it was beyond coincidence that they selected my window**. You could say their needs and my needs collided in mutual compassion.
CBW's Notes/Comments
* This house was the old Gloucester Day School, now Ware Academy, in Gloucester.
** This was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with wild animals. She even had a pet fox once in that very same house. I believe they led the thing around on a leash, I don't know, I might be confusing stories, but I can assure you she had a pet fox. It may have been a chicken they had on a leash, while somebody picked a banjo in the background, but there was a pet fox, and some animal that was not a dog on a leash.

Yes, her love of animals continues to this day, and we now have a flock of non-migratory geese who visit her house for 3 square meals a day and ducks who are treated to overnight stays in a zipped-up tent to protect them from predators. (These are the very predators who can kill a duck, but evidently not pierce a tent.)

Welcome to the Chesapeake Bay Family Wild Kingdom, sponsored by Mutual of Omaha.

(p.s. Chesapeake Bay Mother - I love you, your love for animals, and your writing.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cross Country - Chapter V

This tiny little building on the Mathews Court Green is our only public restroom (the door on the left is for women; the right for men). Because of our lack of facilities, most natives quickly learn the fine art of creating make-shift bathrooms, such as can be found behind a tree or a large bush or a car. Or an A&P or Western Auto. Or a tombstone at the cemetery. For example.

Speaking of restrooms, we now return to the Chesapeake Bay Family Cross Country Camping Trip of 1977, and specifically to what I call the Nevada Bathroom Incident where Middle Sister got a toilet-cleaning implement caught in her poncho and dragged it out the bathroom with her. For the original story
, click here.
Chesapeake Bay Mother says this about Middle Sister's unfortunate encounter with the johnny mop:

"Recounting the 'Nevada Bathroom Incident'--that happened in Florida a few years earlier when visiting Disney World. We were inside eating when the children all used the restroom. On returning, the infamous johnny mop trailed an oblivious Middle Sister."
CBW here again. CB Mother? The johnny mop incident did not happen in Florida! That Florida trip, though rife with horrors and peculiar incidents, did not have anything to do with Middle Sister's unfortunate embarrassment.

To prove this, I offer the following evidence:

1. Middle Sister was wearing a PONCHO. During that Florida trip, we 3 children were stuffed like sausages into the back of a 2-door Ford Thunderbird LTD, while the parents' front seats were jammed back so far the children could put their chins on their headrests. There is no way she would have been wearing a poncho. It was HOT on that Florida Nightmare Trip (Virginia to Florida with no stopping for anything whatsoever unless someone was in so much pain they were crying or unless the driver/CB Daddy had to use the facilities) and I can assure you nobody was wearing a poncho. Various and sundry passengers may have wished a poncho to be wrapped ever-so-tightly around their neck, but nobody was actually wearing a poncho.

2. Out West, you may recall, it was FRIGID even though it was the middle of August (not July as you mentioned in another chapter). Middle Sister WOULD have been wearing a poncho in the mountains, because you packed her something warm to wear and obviously forgot about me because I recall being so cold I had to wrap myself up in a vinyl tablecloth in order to keep hypothermia at bay.

This past weekend, Middle Sister came to visit us from Georgia, and Baby Sis came in from Richmond. All five Chesapeake Bay Family Members who were on that trip were in attendance, and I broached the topic of exactly which trip--and which state--this whole johnny mop incident happened in.

Final Voting, Commentary and Reactions to the whole debate over "Which state did Middle Sister drag a johnny mop attached to her poncho from the Women's restroom out into the common area?" are as follows:

CB Mother - Swears it was in Florida on the Disney World trip. (It wasn't.)

CB Middle Sis - Went along with CB Mother, because she can hardly remember anything, and in fact thinks that we left her at the Grand Canyon when we did not...we did leave her, but not at the Grand Canyon, and we went back to get her before we left the state, for goodness sakes. More on that in a later chapter.

CB Baby Sis - Deer in the headlights. Has no idea what we were talking about.

CB Daddy - Laughed a lot and then said his famous, standard response when he doesn't know what else to say: Boom Bam Bippy! Do not ask me what that means or where it came from (although I do believe CB Mother made it up--it was part of an entire song she made up--and he borrowed it and never gave it back). Much like CB Middle Sister's "Qwah!" it can be used to express just about any emotion. In this case, I believe he was saying he does not recall the incident and has no input onto the topic. Boom Bam Bippy.

CB Woman - Maintains that this was the Nevada Bathroom Incident as part of the 1977 camping trip, not the Disney World/Florida trip where we stayed at a Holiday Inn with cockroaches the size of armadillos. Because I am the one writing this, that's where it's going to be documented as having happened. For all those other CB Family Members who wish to write their own version of events, I encourage them to do so.

Boom Bam Bippy!

Monday, December 29, 2008


This is a tiny little dock that shoots directly off the road that leads to the Islander. I was on the road and did not once trespass. If you ever wondered where the location of the highest concentration of No Trespassing signs are in the known universe, it's on the Islander road. Just in case you were wondering. Now, if you were wondering what this has to do with the title of this post, you can rest assured that there is absolutely no connection whatsoever.

And now we move to the unrelated topic of cafeterias

I've eaten in a lot of high-end places--the Inn at Little Washington; the Prime Rib in DC; the Chop House in Chicago--but none of these is as memorable as the cafeterias of my youth.

The Chesapeake Bay Family would gladly and willingly drive an hour to Newport News on a Friday night to then in turn wait in line FOREVER, half-starved, at the Piccadilly Cafeteria in Coliseum Mall. The chicken croquette and the banana pudding with the vanilla wafers were to die for. Also, one precious time, one of the servers looked at Middle Sister and said, "Serve you, sir?" and that just made me want to devote the rest of my life to the Piccadilly establishment, because they had done in one brief moment what I could not accomplish in years as a big sister - humiliate Middle Sister and provide me with a question that I gleefully flung at her at every possible opportunity.

But this story is not about that. Nor is it about the Hot Shoppes, which were only the best cafeterias ever. Ours was in Newmarket South, also an hour away, and when they closed their doors for good, I cried for weeks on end. It's still a very emotional subject for me. Pardon me while I take ten to grieve. Thank you.

The Mathews High School cafeteria, while not the Piccadilly or a Hot Shoppe, was not at all a bad place to eat. In fact, I loved it. Never in the history of bread has there ever been a finer yeast roll served: light, fluffy, billowy and like a bed of warm feathers waiting to swallow the butter right up. They were the cotton candy of rolls - they'd practically melt right in your mouth.

One poor person, David H., who was/is a genius, loved those rolls so darn much he'd buy about 10 at a time - nothing else, just an arm full of rolls. We'd all wait for him to leave the checkout stand and when he came towards the table, the whole cafeteria would holler, "ROLLLLLLLLLSSSSSS!!!!" Poor guy. But he did have good taste.

One fine day, we had chicken. Fried chicken, one of my favorite foods, right up there with All Food, which is also my absolute favorite. Anyway, one particularly clever and hilarious individual, named Robbie R., picked up his chicken. Just as he was about to devour it, he paused. He studied it a little more carefully. He pursed his lips and furrowed his brow. Something was amiss.

Robbie took this chicken and marched over to the long table all the teachers congregated around. Our principal, Mr. Harry Ward, was among them.

Robbie went over to Mr. Ward and showed him the piece of chicken.

"Harry Ward?" Robbie said. "Meet Hairy Chicken."

Sure enough, his piece of chicken had feathers coming out of it. Not just one. Multiple. Feathers.

Robbie was a hero in my eyes from there on out. I laughed until I thought I would die. It probably wasn't even that funny to other people, but I didn't care. He received a perfect score of 10 in my book for bravery (confronting the principal) and quick wit (he came up with this in less than seconds it seemed).

For the record, though, I didn't let a few feathers deter me from eating. There's not much that can.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fast Food

I shot this yesterday off the road that leads down to the Islander on Gwynn's Island. This serene water scene belied a cruel and unusual punishment that I was about to endure, and that's what this post is about.

Yesterday, Chesapeake Bay Daughter and I went out to take some pictures because I am bored with the 4,000 I already have taken.

We stopped over at the Islander, and then, because I was feeling guilty for dragging her along (sitting in the back seat while your mother drives two feet, pulls over, snaps pictures of Who Knows What because you have no idea what she could possibly find interesting enough to photograph), I told her I'd take her to Hardee's drive-through for a milkshake. A milkshake would buy me enough good will to be able to drive down to Haven Beach to take even more pictures.

First, some background:

1. I am exceedingly non-confrontational and would rather eat undercooked poultry served up on a skewer as an appetizer than complain to the waitress that it was uncooked. (Just ask my friend Kathy. When Kathy told the waitress it was "rare" chicken, I smiled and said, "Yes, but it tasted fantastic.") I do not like to make anyone feel bad for any reason whatsoever. (Unless it's my sisters or family, and then it's clearly spelled out on my job description that I must be aggravating.)

2. I have had The Worst Possible Luck Ever in the History of Bad Luck with all fast-food restaurants and their drive-throughs. I could write a book on this topic alone.

3. This Hardee's in Mathews--at the risk of being sued for libel/slander--is without a doubt The Slowest Drive Through in the History of Drive-Throughs.

In spite of these well-documented facts, I pulled up to the Hardee's drive-through to get the daggone milkshake. Surely with only one car ahead of me, and hardly any cars in the parking lot - and it being well after lunch time- there would be no problem.

Why did I think that?

I placed the order and drove around the corner. With two cars ahead of me, we sat there for five minutes. Ten. Fifteen. Not budging. Nobody moving. No money being exchanged, no food being passed into vehicles, no cars pulling away. Nothing.

Then I started to play the game that you play where you consider other options yet don't act on them because you'll jinx yourself. Why don't I just pull over and walk in to get the daggone milkshake? Answer: Because that's when the line will move. Why don't I just go somewhere else? It'll take too long and there's only one fast-food establishment in Mathews. Why not just tell Chesapeake Bay Daughter we'll get it some other time? Because I need her to be a willing participant so I can get more pictures.

Well then, let's just wait. TWENTY MINUTES PASSED.

We finally made it to the window. The lady quickly took my money and said, "Your milkshake will be ready in a moment." Chesapeake Bay Daughter said, "I wonder what she thinks a moment is."

Come to find out, a moment at Hardee's is defined as six more of the most excruciating minutes that you ever plotted to strangle someone.


Boy, I sure told her and gave her What For! I'm sure she will miss our three-times-a-year visit and that'll really get 'em in the pocketbook where it hurts.

She said she was sorry, and then I felt bad. I started to realize hormones could be a factor here, but then I quickly got over it. If she had just said to me, "Ma'am, I'm sorry you had to wait so long, we're understaffed today," I would have been all, "Oh, don't worry about it, we weren't in any rush." But no!! She just passes me the stuff and says nothing.

Because Chesapeake Bay Daughter has experienced each and every one of my "fast" food nightmares, she started laughing after we drove away. Then I did too, and good thing because my temples were throbbing a pre-stroke throb.

In other "fast" food fiascos, I once was forced into an argument with a most nasty and impatient voice coming through the loudspeaker at Burger King in Richmond* and ended up pulling away from the window on TWO WHEELS hollering that I would never, EVER, NEVER go to a Burker King again.

But that's yet another story for another time.

*Richmond is not only the capital of Virginia, it is also the Capital of the World's Worst Fast-Food Employees. There was a period of time when it had the reputation of being the Murder Capital of the United States. Coincidence? I think not.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Cross Country Trip - Chapter 4

This adorable birdhouse is outside of an old building down New Point near the fire house. It's approximately the size of the VW van the Chesapeake Bay Family took from Virginia to California on a cross-country camping adventure in 1977. In it were packed 2 adults, 3 sisters, no entertainment to speak of and one porta-potty.

The Chesapeake Bay Family left Mathews the summer of 1977 with absolutely no camping experience under their belt, yet pulling a Coleman pop-up camper which was to be their sleeping quarters for the duration of the month-long journey across the country.

The very first night they stopped in Charleston, West Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay Children were very excited to be spending their first night in the camper, and after much ado (meaning after the Chesapeake Bay Children scurried off to the swimming pool, the parents could finally focus on the task at hand) the campsite was ready.

We all sat around the campfire singing koombaya, holding hands, smiling and laughing. OK, so we weren't singing, we were bickering; and we weren't holding hands we were having a fist-fight. Nobody was smiling and there was not one hint of laughter the entire trip. I can dream, can't I?

Darkness fell upon the happy family, and it was time to go to bed. We climbed into the tiny matchbox of a camper and took our spots. Mine happened to be on top of the kitchen table, which converted to a very hard, extremely uncomfortable bed, while everyone else was able to stretch out and luxuriate in the vast expanse of a nice comfy mattress. But I wasn't resentful or anything. No, not me.

Silence. Darkness and silence. More silence. Lots of darkness. And then it happened. No more silence. But still plenty of darkness.

Chesapeake Bay Mother screamed--it was a sound of sheer terror. She tripped over herself and everyone else in the pitch-black dark to fling open the camper door and hurl herself outside.

What was the matter? Nobody could figure it out, and we were none too pleased at the disruption.

Evidently, The Matter was a spider crawling on her, and she somehow determined--even though none of us could see anything--that it wasn't just any spider, but a black widow spider. Yes, of all the possibilities, it most DEFINITELY was a poisonous black widow spider. Right there in the bosom of the Chesapeake Bay Family Vacation.

Well, at least on a bosom. Of one particular Paranoid Family Member.

Chesapeake Bay Mother would not go back into the camper. She insisted on sleeping in the back of the VW bus, and left her three exhausted, traumatized children and one eye-rolling husband in the camper to spend the night with all the other imagined poisonous creepy crawlies.

The spider was poisonous enough to scare her out of the camper and into the car to sleep, yet harmless enough for the rest of her family to sleep inside the infested camper.

In other words, this was one of the first examples of insects or arachnids or fiddler-crab-like entities igniting fear and panic in an otherwise level-headed, reasonably intelligent human being.

Thanks, Mumma.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Ornament

This gorgeous barn is in a most unusual spot. Instead of presiding over a vast expanse of field, it sits on a waterfront lot on Gwynn's Island, just a few steps away from Hills Bay. I'm sure when it was originally built there was far more land separating it from the water than there is now, which makes it all the more interesting.

Here it is the day after Christmas, and you'd think that Chesapeake Bay Woman would give you a day off from the insanity that spews forth with more force than Old Faithful or a water main break in downtown Washington, DC. But the thing about insanity is it knows no breaks.

I'll compromise and not spew forth as much as I normally do, but in return you have to do some thinking.

See how you fare on this quiz.

Which of the following DID NOT occur in the Chesapeake Bay Family Household on Christmas Day?

a) Chesapeake Bay CAT not only slept on the dining room table all day but also decided to throw up on it--and the nice Christmas linens--just prior to dinner. Or rather, CBW did not excavate all that was atop the dining room table until just before dinner and only then discovered the cat and the throw-up, not necessarily in that order.

b) Chesapeake Bay SON walked barefoot on the roof of the house. This is what all children do on Christmas Day, no? While I was cleaning cat-produced liquids and solids off the table we were about to eat from, CB Son had to retrieve an errant remote-controlled helicopter from the roof, while his mother fended off compulsive thoughts of impending disaster which is inevitable when a 13-year-old is climbing a 10-foot ladder onto a 400-foot roof on Christmas Day.

c) Chesapeake Bay WOMAN burst into tears when she opened up a present from her children. It was the most beautiful ornament she's ever seen, and it had her first initial on it. CBW could not control the tears and blames them on stress, hormones and love, but mostly hormones.

d) Chesapeake Bay Woman went an entire day without seeing one sign of an insect infestation.

Correct Answer = (d)

Because what would Christmas be without some cat hairs, cat throw-up, moths flying around your living room and your son walking barefoot on the roof?

Correct Answer = Christmas Day in a nice, normal household far, far away.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, love, peace and joy from the Chesapeake Bay Family. I cherish each and every person who reads and comments here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


If you've ever lived in Mathews, you'll recognize this house, which is more like a cabin, on Route 14 as you come into the county. I have always called it the Zebra House because of its blackish-brown and white stripes. I'm certain the person who built it did not have zebras in mind when he built it. But that only makes me wonder what on Earth that person DID have in mind. Other than the fact that it was used for an antique store and Something Else Which I Can't Remember, I've always wondered what its purpose was and how it came to be.

Because you never know which direction this blog is going in (and trust me, I don't either until the very last second, and even then it's highly questionable that there even is a direction), we're going to change things up. But first, some background.

1. Today is Chesapeake Bay Mother's birthday.

2. Today is NOT Christmas Eve. If it were Christmas Eve, then Chesapeake Bay Woman would have to get up at 5:30 a.m., commute to Williamsburg to go to work; waste the entire day at the paying job; bite her fingernails while nothing happens at the paying job because it may or may not be Christmas Eve; fret and stew over all she needs to do which includes: bake chocolate chip cookies; wrap presents; make Chesapeake Bay Mother a birthday dinner; purchase all the things for this birthday dinner, and for Christmas Day breakfast, and Christmas dinner; clean the house for incoming Baby Sister; go to the bank and the post office before they close (Wait! Are they even open?); and finally, close eyes, tilt head upwards, click heels three times and say, "There's no place like denial. There's no place like denial."

3. Thank heavens it is not Christmas Eve and is only Chesapeake Bay Mother's birthday.

4. Excuse me while I go have a nervous breakdown.

In honor of the above, I have two questions, and you only have to answer one depending on who you are, but if you wish to answer both, go right ahead. We don't have hard and fast rules here at Life in Mathews.

For Folks Who Currently Live Or Who Have Ever Lived in Mathews
Please tell me what you may know about this strange--yet interesting--building on Route 14.

For All Other Folks, Including Folks Who May Be Reading But Have Never Commented
(First of all, forgive today's photograph which will not be very meaningful if you don't live here...I like to say to myself that the real subtitle of this blog should be "Come for the Pictures; Stay for the Insanity." But I can't even say come for the pictures today. We're light on the art and heavy on the insanity). Anyway....Please give me a message to send to Chesapeake Bay Mother who is celebrating her 67th year of life on this planet.

Or just say whatever you want. Remember, there are no rules.

And there's no place like denial.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Information Overload

Here's another shot of the old pier at New Point, which is nothing but bare posts stripped of their planks. Speaking of stripping, my mother has written a little something that she'd like to share. It's a little something I like to call Too Much Information.

I am in utter and complete denial that Christmas Eve is tomorrow, and after reading this post, you will be in utter and complete denial that you ever visited this Life in Mathews site. I do not blame you, not one bit.

Voted Best Dressed
by Chesapeake Bay Woman's Mother

I was born naked and from what I can remember, nobody in the delivery room screamed or went blind. I was a little smaller then, but what is the big huge deal, why be so appalled by Nature’s original plan? After all, did Nature include cloth, needle and thread in the package? Not in my package. Are we to assume that God took care of all the other animals, with feathers and fur, and forgot about us, his masterpieces? I think not.

Oh, sorry, too much information for your already overly informed brains (CBW is now interjecting herself here to say I am nodding my head so fast my vision is blurred. Now back to my mother, whose disturbing images are already in progress.) Well, toughen up, ‘cause when you die, they send you to the morgue buck-naked * in a bag with a zipper over your nose and a tag on your toe, neither of which is Gucci.

No other animal on this planet is ashamed of or prudish about his natural physical state like the human one. We’re so far advanced in intelligence and evolutionary adaptations that we run and hide when spied in the undressed condition. Interesting.

Since we are as we are, the question of why is moot; but the next time your modesty overpowers reason, just try to imagine a highland gorilla skittling about to find her cover-up when approached by a stranger. Of course not, that might be considered neurotic and even foolhardy if the stranger had a gun.

Here on the Chesapeake Bay, we sometimes** disobey the law and go as God intended. Husband frequently entertains by flinging open a door and appearing resplendent in his favorite leather belt. That’s all, just the belt. *** No shoes, no socks, just the belt. ****
Mind you, he reserves such behavior for my eyes only.***** We are hoping.******

Sundays are our favorite time—the neighbors are in church, fully-clothed and praying for the likes of us. Last Sunday I heard Husband in the kitchen. So, I got undressed, went downstairs, flung open the door, and asked, “Have you seen my belt?” He did smile.

It’s only a matter of time before we do jail time and have records.

Until then, I’m going shopping for a new belt.
-CB Mother
Chesapeake Bay Woman's Comments and Pleas for Help

*Or, as some people around here say, butt naked. These are the same people who say chimbleys instead of chimneys.
** Where “sometimes” is defined as “often.”
***I’d like to take this opportunity to say this about that: WAY too much information.
****CB Mother? We heard you the first time about that daggone belt.
*****Thank goodness for small miracles.
******Excuse me, I have to phone a therapist now. There has been substantial, permanent and irrevocable damage to my psyche caused by the images conjured up in this post.

Is there some nice family out there who doesn’t run around naked and tell their children about it? I’m officially up for adoption.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Shopping

This building is next to New Point fire house. I love how the shadows of the tree branches on the side look like veins. Speaking of veins, mine were throbbing today after I tried to finish up my Christmas shopping.

In today's edition of Chesapeake Bay Woman's Guide to the Holidays, we discuss the very important process of shopping for gifts. Shopping is really all about strategy, planning and a careful attention to details. Only 17 basic steps are required for a successful shopping experience.

Once upon a time, children woke up Christmas morning and were thrilled to find oranges and nuts in their stocking.

The End.

If only that still were the case.

For some people, the process of Christmas shopping and gift-giving is so well-honed that it is listed as a skill on their resume. For others, such as Chesapeake Bay Woman, shopping is viewed as something only slightly more palatable than emptying the litter box; going to the dentist, and hanging suspended upside down from the top of the Eiffel Tower. For four days straight.

Just as an example.

Today I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the home of Civil War battles, Civil War museums and also a Target Super Center. And when I say "super" I mean "a Target the size of Indonesia, with the population of China inside."

Now it's time for me to share the Chesapeake Bay Woman Approach to Christmas shopping. May I? Thank you. Here we go.

1. Make a list of everyone you have to buy for. Be sure to add a line for yourself, this is crucial to a successful venture.

2. Beside each person's name, write down some things you know they want, and then some things you think they want. Also be sure to write down "avocados."

3. Take this list and stuff it somewhere. Quite possibly "somewhere" is the bottom of your pocketbook, but in all likelihood "somewhere" is "balled up in the bottom of the Hefty trash bag on its way to the Mathews Convenience Center, also known as The Dump, because you tossed it aside like all other scraps of paper that look like bills--which you also toss in the trash because you're only going to get them again next month, so what's the harm?

4. So, enter Target Super-Incredible Center of the Universe with no list, and no memory to speak of. See all the nice food as you enter the gates.

5. Place two avocados in your basket. You read recently that avocados have trace minerals and "the good fat" that will undoubtedly keep your feet moving on this planet another few decades. Avocados are really a super food, and thankfully they're on sale at Super Duper Target for .99, which is exactly a dollar less than they are at Food Lion in Mathews Court House.

6. Go down the frozen food aisle. Marvel at all the organic stuff and the frozen seafood; start to wonder what you'll have for Christmas dinner, and then get distracted by something called blue organic tortilla chips. With flax seeds.

7. Determine that Blue Organic Tortilla Chips with Flax Seeds is not an item on your Christmas list, whether you brought that list or threw it in the trash can. By accident. However, in your food-focused mind, Blue Organic Tortilla Chips with Flax Seeds and two avocados are moving quickly towards a delicacy known as Guacamole Heaven, which is a little-known Christmas delectable, and--all of a sudden--declared to be a brand new Christmas tradition in the Chesapeake Bay Woman household. Push your cart down the wine aisle.

8. Notice that Target Super Center has boxes of wine packaged in sophisticated looking boxes not found in Mathews County. Notice that the Target brand of boxed wine is on sale, and put two in your buggy. Also known as a cart.

9. Realize that you've been in the food section for an hour and that you've purchased nothing that was on your Christmas list, which is now being squashed by the Mathews County Convenience Center, aka The Dump.

10. Run over to the small gadgets/appliances aisle and remember that your mother wants a mixer. Throw that in the buggy.

11. Realize that you've wasted way too much time in the store altogether-- never mind the amount of time spent in the food section--and need to get on Route 17 to head home before it gets dark.

12. Go to the checkout stand.

13. Notice that when the cashier rings up your boxed wine, that the price is not the same as what it said on the shelf. Don't say a word.

14. After the purchase is complete, proceed to the Customer Service desk and tell the teenager that you feel certain this price is wrong.

15. Wait 2 hours while they check the price.

16. Due to your patience in the matter, where "patience" is defined as "Chesapeake Bay Woman stood eye-to-eye with the teenager and would not give up until her point was proven," Teenager decides to give you the wine for whatever price you said you thought it was.

Have a vague memory that you did not enter the store for boxed wine, rather for Christmas gifts.

17. Depart Target Super Center with this:

2 avocados
2 boxes of wine
0 Christmas gifts.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

College Friends

This is a picture I took last Sunday down New Point way. I know nothing about it at all but liked the way it looked. It would have been better if those two posts weren't in the foreground, but beggars can't be choosers, and if I had moved in for a better angle that would have been considered trespassing, and we all know that I don't do that.

This weekend, I am traveling to Northern Virginia to meet my two roommates from college, Icey and Finnish Friend. (FF was born in Finland , now resides in England and struggles a great deal with the English language even though she is fluent. She also folds her socks and underwear, but that's a story for another time.)

My friend Icey has written about a trip we made one Spring Break from Charlottesville to Key West. I'm going to leave this post up until probably Sunday night or Monday since I'll be out of town, plus it may take you two days to read it all. (Just kidding Icey! My posts are longer than Route 66.)

WARNING: CBW does not condone any of the juvenile behavior described herein. The actions outlined below can be attributed to teenager hormones and stupidity, plain and simple.

Here is Iris. I mean Icey.

A Key West Story
by Chesapeake Bay Woman's College Roommate Iris. I mean Icey

Some of you readers may recall a post from several months ago wherein CBW alluded to a college Key West trip during spring break and offered one of her former roommates the opportunity to write a guest post. I volunteered and said I would get to it “soon”. She said no rush as she would not post it until after her vacation.

However she made the mistake of not specifying which vacation and then school started and schedules got crazy again and I continued to give myself an extension on my assignment. (Yes, like CBW, procrastination is a top 5 character flaw.)

Then the other week an obituary caught my eye. Captain Tony Tarracino, “former mayor of Key West, bootlegger, gambler, saloon keeper, fishing boat captain, ladies’ man and peerless raconteur” died at the age of 92 and I realized I’m not getting any younger either!!

For those of you who can’t remember back that far, CBW started as follows: “Once upon a time, three girls, with no fear and not a lot of common sense among them, drove from Charlottesville to Miami in one session. “

Our mode of transportation was my bright yellow diesel VW rabbit with no air conditioning and a top speed of 75 miles an hour. On the plus side, it got 45 miles to the gallon, for a round trip cost of about $65 (yes we were green before being green was cool). Also, it was our only alternative since Chesapeake Bay Little Sister had pimped CBW’s ride over the summer, electing to fill the back seat (of a VW bug) with two giant stereo speakers, precluding a third passenger.

And also a brief word on our travelers – First there was CBW, tall and blonde, with a loud laugh and a hollow leg. There was FF, which in prior CBW posts has been short for “Finnish Friend” but could just as easily stand for “Finnish Fantasy” - as in every man’s fantasy. And there was me, Icey (so named by CBW son because my real name was too hard for a one year old to say), a geek from the engineering school with living habits sloppy enough that only CBW would share a room with her.

So how did we come to think that driving in one long session would be a good idea?

The drive from Charlottesville to Key West is around 20 hrs and most people elected to spend a night in a cheap hotel along the way. However wanting to maximize our beer/food budget, we did not want to allocate any more of our limited funds to lodging than necessary. Over the long drab winter months, one of our friends had introduced us to a medication called “No Doz” . The night we tried No Doz was a glorious night … we floated from fraternity party to athlete party to after-party with ease. We laughed, we made new friends, and even though the sun was rising, we had no trouble mustering the energy to hike up the hill to get our 7-11 burritos.

Remember in the introduction, we had no common sense.

As a result we came up with the bright idea that if we were to procure more No Doz, we would not need to sleep because we could stay up all night. Sure, we would get to Key West a day early, but we could nap poolside during the day and then we had some friends who had left a day early and were there already and we could just sleep on their floors or something.

For the first 16 hours, it was a great plan. However by the time we got to Fort Lauderdale, we had a crazy paranoia incident inside a Wendy’s bathroom which caused us to realize that maybe being awake and being alert and safe drivers were not quite the same thing.

After another couple of hours we hit Miami and decided we’d better stop. We found a cheap roadside motel, checked in and tried to sleep. Unfortunately that was impossible due to the medication so then we had to start drinking to counter the effects. At least we kept to our original plan of lounging poolside. After scaring all of the other hotel guests with our splash dives, water ballet and other pool stunts (we needed to drink A LOT to counter the effects) we finally got to sleep and drove the last 2 hrs of the trip in the morning.

Our time in Key West was roughly spent as follows:
Drinking: 75% of the time * (see CBW's note below.)
Eating: 5%
Sleeping: 25%
Sightseeing: 1%

Highlights of the week included:
• Multiple visits to most of the available watering holes
• One trip to the beach (Zachary Taylor Park – too rocky and too far from the bars)
• Hitchhiking on a stranger’s boat**(See CBW's Note below.) at the sunset festival so we could get to a little island (sand and one palm tree) across the way (remember, no common sense!) Thankfully he was not an axe murderer and he was kind enough to also bring us back.
• Learning the Mike Cormier method of cheap dining (hang onto your Wendy’s salad bar plate and you can reuse it at restaurants up and down the eastern seaboard)
• A house boat trip with FF’s boyfriend and his fraternity brothers. They sent us to buy beer at the Winn Dixie so they could kick off the snooty sorority girls. For some reason we all remember FF farted very loudly in Winn Dixie.*** I also remember that a guy slept in the bathtub so I could sleep in his bed (yes, I was that hot … or maybe he was that chivalrous …)
• The St Patrick’s Day Suds Run. Sure, it meant missing Monday classes (and is the reason we went a day later than other folks) but none of us were well known for missing parties or turning down excuses to skip class. Besides, for only $15 we got a t-shirt and a beer in 10 bars around the island. We could not afford NOT to participate! Needless to say we competed in the “Pub Stroll” division.
• Met, flirted with and had a few beers with Captain Tony. Again quoting the obituary: “He told his stories with great zeal, especially to the ladies, at his bar, Captain Tony's Saloon, where bras hang from the ceiling … “ Not content to be just like all the other women, we left our underwear stapled to the wall. Captain Tony, RIP
• Got stuck behind an accident on one of the mile long bridges between the Keys. Got so hot we had to take of our shirts. We did not know it at the time, but we had just started the tradition of the “Bra Ride”

CBW's Comments and Clarifications:

* - The drinking referenced is of course water and iced tea. It was hot down there.
** - Warning: Do NOT try this at home. Hindsight in the rear-view mirror is much clearer than it seems. Getting into a vehicle or a boat with an utter and complete stranger who happens to have a tooth missing (not that there's anything wrong with that) and who also happens to have some fish cleaning knives handy is hazardous to your life.
*** - It never ceases to amaze me the details we remember. But it's true. She was squatting at a magazine rack and it accidentally happened. We could NOT stop laughing and I believe management was a bit suspicious of what was really going on.

Also, as you can see, we did not end up saving any money by driving straight through to Miami in one session because we ended up stopping at a hotel anyway. Stupidity, plain and simple.

And finally, I'd like to say once again that the contents of this post represent the antics and poor judgment associated with youth.

This is in no way representative of the highly responsible lives we currently lead.

Otherwise, I'd be dead. Or in jail.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Breaking the Ice

This is a picture of our creek at a recent sunrise. There was a point in time when this creek would freeze so hard that you could walk across it, which is what this next story's about.

Once upon a time, back in the days when it used to snow, the Chesapeake Bay would freeze over and so would our creek.

The End.

No, silly, not The End, this is Chesapeake Bay Woman's opportunity to take a paragraph of a story and stretch it like salt-water taffy into a mind-numbing experience that you can't wait to escape from. From which you can't wait to escape. From.

Anyway, our creek used to freeze over so thick we could sometimes walk across it, and as kids we'd do just that. Left unattended while our mothers were watching Secret Storm and the Edge of Darkness, the neighborhood kids would get together and spend hours slipping and sliding on that ice.

Nobody had skates, they weren't necessary. Chesapeake Bay Woman really wished she were on an ice hockey team, though, and OH how she wished she had some ice skates because she wanted to fly instead of slip clumsily along in her mother's over sized work boots with her feet wrapped in bread bags for extra protection. (Anyone else do that? No? Never mind then, we didn't either. Let's move on.)

One day Middle Sister, Neighbor Friend, Neighbor's Sister and I (ages 10-13) were skating/sliding around the edge of the shoreline having a grand old time. We went way down the end of Miller's Cove, where Neighbor's Sister decided to venture to the end of a nearby dock.

Because this freeze wasn't entirely "walk across the creek" thick, Neighbor Friend and I watched Neighbor's Sister with some trepidation as she ventured further and further down the length of the dock. (Naturally we were in charge of the two youngsters, since our mothers were busy watching Search for Tomorrow as their children pranced across paper-thin ice barely covering a creek that can reach depths of 8 feet in some places. But this is neither here nor there...)

Of course you know what happened next. We heard the inevitable crack. Every one of us froze in our tracks and watched in horror as, in super slow-motion, the ice gave way and Neighbor's Little Sister's feet started disappearing. With the reflexes of a cat and the clutches of a koala bear with a side order of Velcro and Crazy Glue tossed in for good measure, she wrapped her entire body around the nearest dock pole, just as her feet started going under. She was clinging to the dock pole for dear life.

The rest of us clambered to shore and up the dock. Somehow or another we hoisted her up and out of the icy water. Our mothers never knew what happened.

Until last Friday night.

At the Neighborhood Christmas party, Neighbor's Little Sister made a surprise guest appearance. One of the very first things we talked about was the time she fell through the ice. It is permanently etched in our brains.

Our mothers, both in attendance, perked up and said, "What's this? Who fell through the ice? When did this happen? How come we didn't know?"

Neighbor and I just shook our heads. The answer lies somewhere in between Secret Storm, the Edge of Darkness, and the code of silence that exists among kids who have almost killed themselves.

We just laughed nervously and changed the subject. Much like we did the day the ice broke.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Mathews folks will recognize this as Cobbs Creek Market. I know it's been there a while (as in forever), but at one point in time Alda's parents ran this as well as Port Haywood Market. Remember when the door/entrance was on the side of the store facing the road (directly under the Coke sign in this picture--you can see it's all boarded up)? There are various rumors as to what's going to open up here ever since it shut down several months ago. (Or years ago? I lose track.) Personally I'd like to see a Vietnamese restaurant or a Japanese steak house, but something tells me that ain't happening.

Speaking of old stores, that reminds me of my grandmother, Nanny.

Nanny was my favorite grandmother, and perhaps my favorite person, of all time. She was from Gloucester, born a Strigle; her mother's maiden name was Kemp; and she wound up a Jones by marriage. She ran a store out of just about every building between Flat Iron and Gloucester Court House, or so it seemed. She raised my mother by herself, and worked a paying job almost until her very last days on this Earth.

She had no license and no car, so she had to walk to get to the store, which was either Leigh's Market (where I "accidentally" stole a candy bar and, when confronted, hid underneath her bed and denied taking it), or the Colonial Store in Gloucester Court House or Safeway, where the Gloucester Library now stands.

Of course to walk to any of these stores, we had to pass by Tuckers--the most incredible toy store this side of FAO Schwartz except it had wooden planks for a floor, and a delightfully musty old smell-- in the court house circle next to the CJ Kerns Real Estate building. Tuckers made the walk from Corr Street to the grocery store all the longer, but more than worth the effort.

No matter where we went (where "went" equals "hoofed it"), I'd be starved half to death whenever we finally lugged the groceries all the way back to her petite house. But you could never open up anything or touch anything or slobber over the accidentally-procured candy bar until she went down her ticket and checked the price tag on the product against what she was charged by the check-out lady. She'd pull a pencil from behind her ear and start checking, and counting, and re-checking, and re-counting, and ciphering and STARVING A POOR, HUNGRY, IMPATIENT, DETAIL-DISORIENTED CHILD--CLUTCHING A CONTROVERSIAL CANDY BAR--TO DEATH.

In the unfortunate candy bar episode, she picked up her rotary phone, dialed Leighs Market, and told them we had an illegal candy bar outside the store premises. They thanked her and said she could pay them next time she came by, but the lesson was not lost on me. All I can remember is hiding underneath that bed counting the mattress springs, because Have Mercy was she gonna let me have it once I came out.

I miss my Nanny, and I miss Tuckers toy store, but I do not miss having to wait for the coast to be clear so I could escape from underneath a bed where I held the most delectable candy bar ever to be gently lifted from Leighs Market. I honestly did not know I had stolen anything, either that or I had really convinced myself that I hadn't.

The details escape me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Interpret This Photograph

Here is a close-up shot of the same New Point building that I put up here day before yesterday.

Due to many reasons--all of which are dull, exhausting and caused by an inability to think coherently--I am not writing a story today. Instead, I want to play one of my favorite games, which I call Interpret This Photograph.

I need something to take my mind off the tedious, boring, predictable and exhausting day-to-day responsibilities and obligations; a subjective interpretation of a picture, a poem, a movie or a doughnut is just what I need right now.

Take a good, hard look at the picture above, and pause a moment to reflect on everything that's there. Tell me what you see, what it conjures up. There are no right or wrong answers. But I want you to say something about the picture, even if you mumble it to yourself, and even if those words are, "Why do I keep returning to this blog when all she does is ramble on and on about mundane, everyday nothings? Why?"

Some of you will see nothing, and will wonder if Chesapeake Bay Woman hasn't finally lost it completely. Some of you will see exactly what's there, a literal interpretation, such as an old house in need of paint and a new window.

And then you have someone like me who can look at it and spew off pages and pages of lengthy descriptions and subjective interpretations. Thankfully I'll only offer one interpretation, because I've already lost 3/4 of my four readers by this point anyway. Go ahead and take a nap if you want - I'll wake you up when it's over.

Let's get started, shall we? I'll go first, because I can:

The two main things I notice right off the bat are the colors (including the lighting) and the shapes.

There are the solid, straight lines of the photo's border; the rectangles within rectangles comprising the windows; and the horizontal lines of the boards. These are your standard, boring, predictable squares, rectangles and lines they teach you about in pre-school--or high-school geometry if it takes you that long to grasp the concepts, hypothetically speaking, of course. They're perfectly shaped, nothing unusual, your standard squares and rectangles.

Then there are the less obvious, more imperfect shapes formed by the shadows and the light that form a crisscross/diamond pattern on the side of the house. If you look carefully, you will see a similar diamond shape formed by the broken pane that is sideways in the otherwise rectangular window.

The colors are stark; this almost looks like a black and white photo even though it's a color picture.

However, if you look reeeeeaaaaaly closely to the right of the window, you will see--amidst all this lackluster wood--the tiniest hint of vivid color, a vine with a few green leaves.

So, to summarize my interpretation: Even the ordinary (plain shapes, lackluster colors) can contain the extraordinary (a flash of green leaves; some more interesting, less perfect, less noticeable shapes) if one simply takes the time to look closely enough, or if someone is there to point it out to you.

What do you see? Remember, there are no wrong answers. I'll pick out my favorite interpretation when I return from another way-too-lengthy and tedious (much like this post) day of work.

Speaking of pointing things out, could someone please point me to a vacation? Thank you.

(And for those of you who were napping, here is a gentle nudge for you to wake up. Also, you were drooling, but I promise I won't tell anyone.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Historic Homes

I took this on Sunday down New Point. There's really no connection between this picture and our historic homes, but if you pretend you're viewing this from a great big porch on a great big estate, then it is indeed relevant. Ignore the fact that very few--if any--historic homes around here face the bay, they almost all face rivers or creeks. But we're just pretending here, so play along if you don't mind.

Mathews, Gloucester and Middlesex Counties are chock-full of homes that date back a century or two. Most of them are located on a river or a creek, and all of them are exquisite in their beauty.

Some famous Mathews homes are: Poplar Grove, which is the site of one of the (if not the only) last standing tide mills and dates back to 1750; Providence, also dating back to 1750, which overlooks the Piankatank River close to the bridge; and Woodstock, a gorgeous home dating to 1730, which is down Port Haywood on the right, just before you get to the old Port Haywood Market.

Rumored owners of some of our historic homes are Tom Selleck and Yoko Ono. I can’t remember who owned what, but I “heard tell” at one point in time they both owned property here. (I'd wager that Yoko owned Poplar Grove, but don't quote me on that one. I always thought Magnum P.I. owned the Hyco House, but don't quote me on that one either. Pretty much don't quote me on anything, and all will be just fine. Again, just play along.)

Once upon a time, Chesapeake Bay Woman attended Gloucester Day School, and unbeknownst to her some of her fellow students lived in some of these magnificent, centuries-old homes. I was completely oblivious to differences in social status, so the fact that I was visiting in—-or was friends with an occupant of-- a historic home was entirely lost on me, still is. (See how I shift from third person to first person in the same paragraph? See how lazy I am that I won’t go back and change it?)

Frederick H. lived in Woodstock, and we rode the same bus. He was older (not older than the bus but older than I was.) One day he decided to call me up. Keep in mind that I was very young – it couldn’t have been more than fourth or fifth grade. I didn't understand why he’d call me at home, and I distinctly remember him saying, “Chesapeake Bay Naive Girl, I like you. Do you like me?” I had no idea he was referencing anything other than what the word “like” meant at face value. So I answered honestly and said, “Yes.” He said “Oh, that’s all I wanted to know.” From there on out, things changed, and I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t leave me alone. Not until many, many years later did I realize he lived in such an important home, but that wasn’t until after he’d long moved away. To think, I might have been known as Chesapeake Bay Woman, Mistress of Woodstock…..instead of Mistress of the Ant Farm. I’m better suited to the Ant Farm, and could never survive in a Woodstock environment. I think the Woodstock Crowd would frown upon someone who dishes out salad onto her guests' plates using her hands. (I only wish I were making this up.)

Another friend of mine named Charlotte lived in what is now known as Cherokee, a former ice house that was originally part of Exchange, another beautiful, old home in Gloucester. I spent many a night at Charlotte’s house, playing Ouija, or making fun of Stevie R. and stuff like that. I always thought the round section of the house was a bit unusual, and if I’m not mistaken Charlotte’s bedroom was on the second story of that old ice house. Let me tell you something, the Ouija board was mighty active there....

Finally, there’s Pig Hill, also in Gloucester, on the way to Ware Neck. In spite of the name, it is not where I currently live, or where the Chesapeake Bay Extended Family comes from. Arguably. My only connection to this place is that my great-grandfather, who was a blacksmith at Flat Iron, made one of the first signs for Pig Hill (which has a cute metal pig on it).

So, folks there you have my brushes with infamy, my dabbles into the world of people who have enough money to live in historic homes, and a glimpse into my fascination with the Ouija board. (OK, so that’s not really what this story is about, but I did love playing Ouija, nonetheless).

I’d love to hear from any locals who have any information or ties to our old homes. I know you’re out there….let’s hear your stories. Also, if you know which homes were owned by which celebrities, let me know.

Oh, and one last thing, speaking of Tom Selleck, and at one point we may have been: Baby Sister was an "extra" in a Magnum P.I. episode if I'm not mistaken. Well, actually I might be mistaken. It might have been Heat of the Night. Or the Price is Right.

But don't quote me on that. Please.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Speaking of Mathews

This is another shot of an old place I photographed earlier this summer. I was driving down to New Point today and could not resist taking some more pictures of it. It's right near the New Point fire house.

As I’ve mentioned here before, Mathews—and its surrounding counties—has a unique dialect that traces its roots all the way back to Captain John Smith and 17th century England, the language of Shakespeare; the East Midland dialect. (The last 8 words of that sentence were not drawn from Chesapeake Bay Woman’s cob-webbed, detail-deficient brain, but rather from the book “Speaking of the Northern Neck” by Jackson Simmons).

Many of the words we use on a daily basis are now obsolete in England, or at least used differently. I'm not suggesting we're the only ones who say or use these words differently, but I'm saying that we probably have more folks using them on a regular basis than most other places. (One paragraph, four uses of the same word. Now up to five. Nice writing skills, Chesapeake Bay Woman.)

For example, in Mathews a “neck” is not just something that connects your head to your body, or something that gets wrenched out of alignment when your riding lawn mower hits a tree stump, rather it describes a relatively narrow, long piece of land, often one that juts out into water, similar to a peninsula. There’s the Northern Neck, Tick Neck and Lily’s Neck, all of which have nothing to do with body parts or potential lawn mower mishaps but are descriptors for specific places, similar to saying, "my neck of the woods."

There are other words that describe our surroundings--words that are no longer used this way in England: "run" as in Dragon Run (a spot at the end of the Piankatank River); "branch," as in, "The dog chased the rabbit down into the branch and came out muddy and wet." Or even how we use the word "creek" to describe very large bodies of water that most people would call rivers.

I’d like to recognize another saying here that most definitely can be traced back to the British due to how we say it: “Jesus Masters,” which is pronounced “Jesus Mawstuhs.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard my mother, my grandmother--and most recently a Gwynn’s Island friend--use this phrase with its unusual pronunciation, for example: “Jesus Mawstuhs, the cows have gotten loose again.” Or, “Jesus Mawstuhs, that Chesapeake Bay Woman just drones on and on and on and on. Can somebody teach her to write more concisely?” In other words, it is taking the Lord’s name in vain but with an unusual twist (with all due apologies, I am not advocating use of the saying, rather I am documenting an anthropological/linguistic/sociological/whatever artifact from this area). This saying--and its unusual pronunciation--is dying fast.

Other phrases such as “heard tell” are derived from the Bible (I don’t have a particular passage to illustrate this fact, but just trust me, I read this somewhere in that book referenced above). For example, “I heard tell that Chesapeake Bay Woman’s Christmas decorations look like something a five-year-old put up.” Or even, “I heard tell that fiddler crabs and ants have taken over Chesapeake Bay Woman’s house, and she’s been evicted.” And there’s always, “I heard tell that the interior lights in Chesapeake Bay Woman’s car are permanently stuck on, so that when she’s driving home in the dark she’s blinded and does not know how to get them to turn off.”

Chesapeake Bay Woman has only one response to all this stuff people have heard tell: “Jesus Mawstuhs.”

(Forgive me, please, it slipped out. I won’t ever say it again.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Cow Tale

This is a picture I shot from down the Glebe earlier this summer. I was not trespassing because I was on the state road. Only my camera lens trespassed.
Today we have a guest contributor, none other than the Anonymous Mathews Native Residing in the Suburbs of Richmond, otherwise known as AMNRITSOR in the comments section. Anonymous Native is not so anonymous to my family; she and Baby Sister played basketball "back in the day," and she lived in the house right across from the high school, which, ever since I can remember, has had a field of cows in front of it.

Cows are the subject of the story she is about to share with us. Thanks, AMNRITSOR for contributing, and welcome to the family - because based on what I'm reading here, we surely are long-lost relatives.

If there are any Mathews people reading this who would care to contribute stories, I welcome them with open arms.

A Story by an Anonymous Mathews Native

Young readers, let this be a cautionary tale – never tell anyone that you enjoy gift-wrapping, you will be cursed with doing all the gift-wrapping for your family FOREVER.

I have wrapped everything you can imagine -- from a single 4 mm pearl to an ironing board. My mother hands me my own gifts already boxed, SO I CAN WRAP THEM FOR MYSELF. I no longer do fancy bows or ingenious tags -- the thrill is gone.

When I was in college she saved all the wrapping for me when I got home for winter break. I usually accomplished most of it in the middle of the night when everyone else was asleep -- and it’s there that our tale really begins….

One night (at about 3 AM) I was sitting up to my shoulders in gifts and wrappings on the living room floor, wrapping like a robot, and trying to stay awake by watching a silent movie version of “A Christmas Carol” (has CBW mentioned that we only had 3 TV channels in Mathews back in the day? Well pickin’s were even slimmer at 3 AM -- the silent movie was the only thing on TV.) I was jolted out of this zombie-state by the surprising vision of headlights rounding the driveway, and I headed to the back door to see who it could be. No, no, it wasn’t Santa Claus -- if it had been any time before midnight, I would have stopped to put the coffee pot on , because it surely would have been my uncle, but this was even too late for him. I was met on the back step by a Mathews County deputy (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty), who calmly informed me that our entire herd of cattle (about a dozen cows) was outside the fence and wandering on the highway.

This was really bad. I had visions of horrible cow/car pileups and ensuing lawsuits. (I really need for CBW and CB Mother to find out the name of that stress-hormone they often reference in their posts, ‘cause whatever it’s called, it immediately started surging through my system.) I told the deputy that I would awaken my parents and that we’d be out the lane in a few minutes to gather the herd. I roused the ‘rents and threw on some warm layers, because it was about 17 degrees out, and trotted on foot out the lane.

I paused long enough to collect a “cudgel,” in case any of my bovine friends needed to be either persuaded (to come home) or dissuaded (from trampling me) and I was accompanied by my cheerful, loyal, loving, yet-not-too-bright dog. I set off down the lane, and found the oh-so-helpful (hear the dripping sarcasm?) deputy watching from his (warm) car across the highway, shining his headlights on the herd. The cattle were now between the highway ditch (remember this is Mathews – the ditches are six feet deep) and the pasture fence. There seemed to be no imminent danger of them getting back into the road.

I had no idea how they had gotten out, so my plan was to drive them along the fence/ditch corridor. Once I had them in motion, I’d climb back through the ditch to the highway, circle wide enough and fast enough to meet them at the lane, and encourage them to turn into the lane (instead of the highway) without spooking them. Once I got them back into the yard, I could put them into another enclosure until we could inspect the fences and gates in daylight and see where they had escaped.

The plan was a good one, except for one oversight which shall soon be revealed…. I trotted down the highway, and climbed (with some trepidation) through the dark ditch and began slowly to herd the cows along the ditch/fence corridor (and away from the church and graveyard on the corner – Yikes, cows in the graveyard! now that could have been very bad!). At this point, THE “HELPFUL” PUBLIC SERVANT DROVE AWAY--and left me alone—with twelve cows—in the dark—at 3 AM on Christmas Eve’s Eve! I couldn’t believe it! And still no sign of Mama (mumma) and Daddy!

I turned my attention back to the cows, who had gained sufficient momentum to make it to the lane. I was about to cease encouraging them from behind and to slip around to the side to perform the tricky one-woman-herd-turning-maneuver (ideally it should have taken about three people to do this easily – one “encourager” in the rear, one in front to stop their forward progress, and one to dissuade them from turning left onto the highway, leaving a right turn down the lane as their only option). Just as I was preparing to cross the deep, dark ditch once more, my not-too-bright “oversight” kicked into high gear.

The sight of several cattle moving in the same direction was just too much temptation for my mixed-breed, sheep-doggy, “Benjy-on-steroids” hound to resist! He suddenly started barking and nipping at their heels and driving them with such ferocity that I saw at least two dark shapes keel over belly-up into the ditch in the confusion. The rest of the cows high-tailed it for the courthouse! They were almost to Linda’s Diner before I could get them turned around.

And the dog! Afterwards, the crazy, dumb dog came loping up to me, grinning from ear to ear. If he could speak he would have said, “Wasn’t that great? They ran like crazy! Four of them s**t themselves and two of them fell into the ditch! This is fun! Why don’t we do this every night?”

I caught the dog by the collar and performed the rest of my herding maneuvers while dragging him along by the neck.* My lungs were burning from my belly-button to my earlobes. The mad dash in the cold night air catching the courthouse-bound cows almost KILLED ME. However, SHEER RAGE at the dratted dog and the disappearing deputy spurred me on and I caught those cows and turned them around. With gritted teeth, dragging the dog behind me, I managed to get them headed down the lane and into the yard.

Just as I chased the last cow into the yard, one parental unit careened around the house in her large sedan. The other cruised up from the barn in his pickup truck. Steamy, warm air billowed out of their vehicles when they rolled down their respective windows. I swear I could smell hairspray on my mother, and minty-fresh breath on both of them.

I mean come on, people! This was an emergency! No time for teeth-brushing and hair-combing! Where are your priorities?

My dad got a good chuckle out of the dratted dog and the courthouse-bound cows. At the time, I did not think it was funny.

*no actual dogs were harmed in this process -- he was just as happy and goofy as ever afterwards. Nothing fazed that dog -- one of his most endearing traits. The cows, even the ones who fell in the ditch, were equally unharmed. I, however, had a vicious cough for the rest of winter break (and a serious grudge against that deputy to this very day).
Chesapeake Bay Woman's Comments:
Anonymous Mathews Native is correct in that the ditches in Mathews County rival the Grand Canyon, and you surely do not want to end up in one, especially if you are a cow recently sprung from prison heading to the courthouse and/or Linda's Diner.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Morning After

This is a photo I took over the summer from Gwynn's Island.

In honor of my headache, which is approximately the size of Oklahoma, Texas and California combined, I am taking a break from my usual lengthy, rambling, run-on-sentence filled posts. (Stop clapping so loudly, you're hurting my hair follicles.)

The neighborhood gathering went well last night, and there are a few stories I'd like to tell, but now that the neighborhood knows about this blog, I will opt to state simply that I enjoyed having everyone over and hope we have another one again soon.

At somebody else's house. (Just kidding. Sort of.)

Tonight is the Mathews County Christmas Parade, which is my all-time favorite parade. If I remember to bring my camera, I'll take some pictures to share with you.

Right now, I'd like to share my head with my pillow.

Have a great Saturday, everyone.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Song and Dance

Here we have a picture of a dead tree reaching upwards to the dizzying heights of a confused blue sky. Or rather, here we have a dizzy Chesapeake Bay Woman who is very confused and wishes she were a tree standing in a swamp rather than someone supposedly hosting a neighborhood party this weekend.

In today's segment of Chesapeake Bay Woman's Guide to the Holidays (aka Folly Days), we'll discuss two important parts of the season's festivities: song and dance.

Keep in mind, I could spend a great deal of time talking about how the rain shorted out one of the 14 inter-connected strands of lights on my cedar tree outside; I could speak about finding a leaf blower in my living room (yes, a leaf blower); about how I moved the leaf blower to the front stoop as part of my cleaning dance discussed below; about sitting through 3 hours of basketball and driving home in the dark in horizontal rain; about almost ending up in the front flower bed due to losing control of my car as I pulled up onto the lawn to get closer to the front door due to the dark and rain, because naturally I did not leave any lights on, and my outdoor Christmas lights were shorted out. I could speak about finally making my way up the steps to the front door and tripping over that very same leaf blower that earlier was in my living room--but I'm not going to talk about any of that.

Instead I'm going to talk about song and dance.

The Dance
Part of Chesapeake Bay Woman's Holiday Survival Tool Kit includes a cleaning method that doubles as a dance, and it's known as the Clutter Shuffle. No partner is required, and it's super easy--anyone can do it. While dancing around the house, you pick up items from one room and place them in a new location, but you never accomplish anything other than moving the very same junk to a different location.

The Song
by Chesapeake Bay Mad Woman

Be sure to add this to your repertoire as you and your friends sip cider and gather around the piano with a roaring fire crackling in the background....

On the first day of party planning,
Guess what happened to me?
An altercation with my Christmas tree.

On the second day of party planning,
Guess what happened to me?
Two nasty wreaths
And an altercation with my Christmas tree.

On the third day of party planning,
Guess what happened to me?
Three bloody fingers
Two nasty wreaths
And an altercation with my Christmas tree.

On the fourth day of party planning,
Guess what happened to me?
Four botched invitations,
Three bloody fingers,
Two nasty wreaths,
And an altercation with my Christmas tree.

On the fifth day of party planning,
Guess what happened to me?
Fiiiiive hours in Wal-Mart
Four botched invitations
Three bloody fingers
Two nasty wreaths
And an altercation with my Christmas tree.

On the 100th day of party planning,
Guess what happened to me?
Chesapeake Bay Woman says, "Never again!"
Five never agains
Four never agains
Three never agains
Two never agains
And a never again, never again.

The End.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cross Country - Chapter 3

I took this at Haven Beach last week. There's a whole lot of nothingness looking at the bay from this beach. Sort of like the vast expanse of endless highway as a family of five travels across country in a VW bus.

Today I return to another chapter in the Adventures of the Chesapeake Bay Family: The Cross Country Trip of 1977, only this time we will hear from Chesapeake Bay Mother, who endured one month of travel from Virginia to California and back with three bored kids and no felonies committed.

If you've not read the previous two episodes, simply click on the links to the right. If you have read the previous two episodes and are still reading, I applaud your stamina.
The Cross Country Adventure
By Chesapeake Bay Mother

In July* of 1977, our family began a pilgrimage from sea to shining sea in a bilious** yellow VW van, pulling a pop-up tent camper Husband bought for $500. Inside, we were equipped for any eventuality: a huge cooler, porta-potty, metric tools (for adjusting VW valves sensitive to changes in altitude and phases of the moon), cans of oil (for the engine, which craved it), and medicines, including antibiotics, cough medicine, earache oil, sulfur medication--for Husband's chronic colon problem, bandages, iodine, snakebite anti-venom and Valium.***Dr. Kearney, whom Husband took fishing, thought of everything. We would have been a welcome sight in any third-world country with or without a big red cross on the side.

For amusement, the children had flatulence, which they thought extremely funny, and licking one's adversary somewhere on her person as a vulgar form of tag. "Bickering" would be putting it politely.

For most of the trip, Baby Sis was, as usual, sick with a bug. We used antibiotics, but still there were times when you wondered if she might not be delirious.****No excuses for the other two, but conversations went something like:

Oldest Sister: Are we there yet? Are we halfway?
Middle Sis: Qwah. I said qwah.
Baby Sis: Mama, what is apple skin made of?
Middle Sis: Qwah.
Baby: Am I kin to Aunt Marian?
Middle: Qwah.
Oldest: Middle Sister licked me! Make her stop!!

After a few days,it is all background noise.

Chesapeake Bay Woman's Clarifications:
* It was August, but whatever.
**I had to look "bilious" up. It is not a compliment (derived from the word "bile"). And it was NOT a yellow van, it was lime green. We never had a yellow van! But this is neither here nor there...
***Valium? This explains a whooooole lot. Yes indeed it does. Maybe the van SHE saw was yellow.
****Baby Sis was not delirious, but as you can see, Middle Sister was. Yes, she invented the word Qwah and she said it with mucho gusto and she said it often. She'd say it and then cackle as we stared in disbelief wondering how on Earth it was possible that she could on the one hand go to the Governor's School for the Gifted, and on the other be sitting in a car puttering across country yelling QWAH!

Chesapeake Bay Mother has also written something to clarify the Nevada Bathroom Incident I described in my first chapter, and I am very proud to announce to Middle Sister that the incident DID in fact occur in Nevada, Lake Tahoe to be exact.

Stay tuned, especially you, Middle Sis. QWAH!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


This beautiful old house is located on the way to Haven Beach, at the intersection of two roads. Don't ask me to name those roads, I implore you. Speaking of ramshackle houses (and I wasn't, this one is beautiful), I continue now with how I'm preparing for the neighborhood Christmas party I am hosting this weekend.

In today's segment of Chesapeake Bay Woman's Guide to the Holidays we discuss how to properly invite guests to your annual neighborhood holiday function. Let's begin.

1. Decide on an invitation, but do not purchase any. Instead, use some leftover Christmas cards from last year. Nobody will ever notice.

2. Use Word to create an insert with all the pertinent information such as date, time, location and other germane facts. You will tape this over the cheerful Christmas message inside the leftover cards.

3. Call your 13-year-old son to ask for technical guidance related to designing the insert to be taped on the card. When he says this: "Wah wah wah MAIL MERGE wah wah, create the whole thing in Word wah wah" go ahead and give him the deer in the headlights look. It's your right and privilege at this age (yours, not his). Then explain that your way (i.e. take Christmas card, open, tape the relevant info you created in Word, hello? this is so much easier) will be less stressful for all parties involved. Remain calm as he rolls his eyes and shakes his head.

4. Print the inserts and cut them to fit inside the old Christmas cards. Utilize basic cutting skills most folks acquire in kindergarten, yet remember that cutting is not always like riding a bicycle, and some people are more patient and better at it than others. Repeat this mantra over and over until you are convinced it is true.

5. Tape the inserts in the old Christmas cards, covering up the Merry Christmas greeting. It's OK if your taping isn't perfect or if things are slightly cock-eyed (present company included).

6. Don't forget to include a phone number for your guests to RSVP, so you will be able to plan accordingly. Since you did forget to type that in the insert, go ahead and hand-write that nugget of information on the poorly cut invitation. You are currently way too far into the project to start over.

7. Say a few choice words when the envelopes from last year's Christmas cards are permanently sealed shut. Thank you, Virginia humidity. From last summer.

8. Write the names of your neighbors/guests on the envelope. At this juncture it is helpful to know the first and last names of your dear well as their spouses' names. Hypothetically speaking, if you can't remember Dear Neighbor's last name, or a spouse's name, go ahead and jot down the part of the name that you actually do recall. Assume they will know it is also for their spouse, and certainly they know their own last name. Since your children will be delivering the invitations, there's a possibility the neighbor will assume the children created the invitations. In fact, when they open it up, they will be 100% convinced the children created the invitation.

9. Blow kisses to your children as you send them off to hand-deliver the invitations to your neighbors.

10. Wait about an hour for the phone to ring. Here's what you can expect:

Neighbor: "Chesapeake Bay Woman, are you trying to tell me something?"
CBW: (No response. I have no earthly idea what he's talking about.)
Neighbor: Well, I received a Christmas card with no information in it."
CBW writes another Note to Self: "Dear Self, Do you remember in Step 1 where you said nobody will ever notice the re-purposed Christmas card? Guess what? When you neglect to INSERT the insert and tape it over top the greeting, they WILL notice."

This concludes our segment on how to properly invite guests into your home during the holidays. Always remember:

1. The actual invitation--which includes the who, what, when and where of your delightful holiday function for which you are completely unprepared--is an essential ingredient in the invitation process. Without it, there is no invitation, is there?

2. Wah wah wah The invitation sets the tone for your party and gives your guests a hint of what is to come. Wah wah.

(Go ahead and insert a pregnant pause here while you reflect on #2 above.)

3. Uh-oh.