Wednesday, June 25, 2008

We're on Vacation

This is exactly the same view of The Creek as the one I posted yesterday, only it is slightly to the left and there is a major Weather Event occurring. For anyone just casually passing through here, please feel free to skip the boring narrative below and jump straight to the assignment at the end. Yes, you have some homework to do.

Major Weather Event pretty much describes most so-called vacations I've been on in recent history.

Today we embark on yet another camping "vacation." Allow me to exercise my ESP and/or sixth sense and make a few predictions:

1. There will be flash floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters occurring ONLY over the Eastern Shore, and, to be specific, only over our campground. To be even more specific, directly over our pop-up camper.

2. Daughter will have at least one, more likely two, accidents on her bike. Any other time of the year, there is nothin'. On vacation, she will take The Mother of All Spills and come back to the campsite bloody and hysterical. Many tears will be shed. Also by her.

3. I will reach a point, usually by Day 3, where waiting for coffee to percolate on a hot plate while wearing the exact same clothes I've slept in for two days, with no shower, very little sleep and a raging headache, loses its charm. From that point on, I will drive to the store at The Campground and buy the doggone coffee in a cup. Made by someone else. And I will love that person for the rest of my life.

4. After Day 2, Son and Daughter will have grown tired of the pool, the bay, the game room, the putt-putt golf, the bike rides, the boating, the fishing, the HEAT and their mother. They will go into the camper, turn on their video games and remain there until the end of vacation or the end of time. Whichever comes first.

5. There will be several days--no, many--where "Five O'clock Somewhere" will equate to "Noon O'clock Eastern Standard Time." This will remain in effect until July 3rd, or end of vacation, whichever comes first.

The End.


To help get my mind off the tears I am already shedding at being away from the internet for more than 2 hours, please write a comment telling me about your most disastrous vacation experience. That way, when I come home and tell you all about mine, I will know I am in good company.

I'll be back sometime on July 3rd. Or whenever they evacuate the Eastern Shore of Virginia due to the unpredicted Weather Disaster of 2008.

Also known as my vacation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


This shot of our creek is unusual in that there's no wind blowing. In this particular instance, this is not the calm before a storm. In my particular instance, this represents the calm before my impending storm, otherwise known as a family camping trip.

Tomorrow we leave for a week's vacation trapped in a camper on the Eastern Shore. I am anything but calm due to the lack of internet access I will endure. When I say endure, I mean cry incessantly about.

Also, I have done almost nothing to prepare for this trip, other than talk about lack of internet access, and I have to work all day today at the paying job.

If anyone needs tips on how to procrastinate and avoid work (or life), come see me. I can sum it up in a few brief sentences, all of which include the word "internet."


This is someone's driveway down Mobjack/Bohannon way. Long driveways are everywhere in Mathews, and most of them lead to homes on a river, a creek or the bay. I could drive around for three days and take hundreds of pictures like this. What drew me to this particular lane, even though you can't see it well, are the daylilies (or a similar flower, don't quote me, please) that line the driveway. There were exactly three million of them. I counted.

I have always been curious and love exploring the unknown. For example, when I drive past a long lane like the one above, or an old, abandoned house, I feel compelled to explore it. I'm drawn to drive down the lane, or walk into the house, and take a look around.

Of course my description of exploring is most other people's description of trespassing. This is the vexing part.

As you may have heard by now, there's not a whole lot to do in Mathews unless you have a vivid imagination. Or a lot of wine. When I was younger, I would sit and contemplate my options for the day, and, because I had all the time in the world and needed to stretch it out, I would make a list of all the 3 possibilities, which were:

1. Ride bike.
2. Go exploring.
3. Spy on Middle Sister and Little Sister and plot how they can be sent off to South America to live with some other family.

Speaking of South America, one place I've always felt compelled to explore was the Amazon jungle. Do not ask me why, I know there are bugs and flesh-eating microbes and piranhas and people who don't have any idea what a dishwasher, laundry machine, vacuum cleaner, litter pan, trash mountain, or dirty toilet bowl is. Now, can you understand why I want to go there?

Even as a young adult, I was preparing myself for this eventual and inevitable jungle exploration journey. As a Latin American Studies major in college (don't say a word) I took 3-4 years of Portuguese, which they speak in Brazil.I am quite sure the natives do not speak it in the Amazon Jungle. That is just a minor technicality.

Alas the only jungle I conquer and explore on a daily basis is this house and yard of mine.

It just isn't the same. Pass the wine.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Crab Apple Tree

This crab apple tree in our yard has been around since before I was born, which was right around the time the wheel was invented.

I remember playing under and climbing in this tree. Although it has threatened to die on us many times through the years, it still produces crab apples, which are good for the following:

1. Falling onto the ground, rotting and attracting wasps. Barefooted (or barefoot? barefeeted?) children and folks on tractors cutting grass do not care much for rotting apples that attract wasps. Also, the thought of sitting on tractors with moving blades that go over rotting crab apples and wasps while simultaneously pushing low-hanging branches out of the way to avoid falling off onto rotting fruit and stinging wasps is causing me to swat nervously at the air and is bringing tears to my eyes, so let's move on to the next possible use for crab apples....shall we?

2. Crab apple jelly;

3. I have no earthly idea what crab apples are good for.

All I can tell you is one summer my mother made crab apple jelly, and I recall it was OK. Nobody ever really ate them, nobody made pie out of them, just the jelly.

I feel wasps crawling all over me and I'm starting to smell rotten apples. I have to go now.

On an entirely unrelated note, on Thursday of this week through Thursday of next week, I will be trapped on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in a camper with NO laptop, NO internet access, NO ability to read or comment on blogs, and NO access even to a library for a quick pit stop to feed my addiction. Can someone please tell me what the remedy is for internet addiction and how best to cope with withdrawals? I am already feeling the twinges and flinches and sometimes I feel a seizure coming on at the prospect of no internet access. Is there a 12-step program of some kind? Help!

Woe is She, Part II

Below is another intriguing excerpt from Middle Sister's diary.

Sunday, January 4, 1976

Dear Diary,

This morning I had to feed Thunder. Chesapeake Bay Child was to [sic] lazy. Chesapeake Bay Child and Little Sister skated. Later, CBC said I could skate.

(The rest is entirely illegible. The End.)

-Middle Sister.

Thunder was a pony we had for a million years. Seriously, we had her forever and she didn't die until I was out of college, married and living in my first house. So when a pony shows up at your house when you are, say, 9, and that pony doesn't croak until you're, say, 24, someone with some math skills can calculate how many days that is, and then multiply that number by two feedings a day, and then add one bucket of water dragged from the spigot to the pen per day, and then add hay bales in the winter time hauled by CHESAPEAKE BAY CHILD from the garage to her shed, then add all the brushing, hoof cleaning, curry combing, fly spraying, tack upkeep and MANUAL LABOR EVERY SINGLE DAY OF MY CHILDHOOD such that if I WANTED TO TAKE A HALF DAY OFF AND HAVE ONE OF MY YOUNGER SISTERS HELP WITH THE UPKEEP, I feel entitled to ask for it once in a while.

Excuse me, but I must pause for a break because once again we exceeded the recommended amount of math for the week (which for me is none). I'll try to refrain from mentioning numbers or calculations ever again.

That's all I have to say on this topic. Pony maintenance and stable management was very hard work.

Oh, I will also say this: In addition to aforementioned labor, I was the one responsible for lawn maintenance (aka marathon grass cutting sessions), garden labor (shelling endless buckets of peas, snapping green beans until my eyes crossed), and boat bailing (taking a Clorox bottle, cutting an opening in the end, and using it to scoop water out of a skiff the size of Noah's Ark. Except all of the flood waters were inside the boat and it took approximately FOREVER to remove.) Oh!! I was also responsible for parenting Middle and Little Sisters most of the live long day.

I can't seem to recall anything Middle and Little Sisters were responsible for.

Except making inaccurate statements and holding grudges.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Woe is She

Yesterday I found Middle Sister's diary and began the arduous task of trying to decipher its contents. Her penmanship leaves something to be desired, plus the diary itself is falling to pieces.

Here is one entry that caught my eye:

January 1, 1976

Dear Diary,

Today is New Year's Day. Last night I spent the night at Nanny's. I had a nice time. Chesapeake Bay Child, Little Sis and I played New Year's Eve party. We had fun. That was until we had to go to bed!

This morning when I woke up, someone was at the end of my bed, tickling my feet. It was Chesapeake Bay Child, of course. Today was fair. Sorry it's sloppy.

-Middle Sister

Now, I just have to ask this question: If Chesapeake Bay Child was such a mean and ornery sister, as has been portrayed previously, how come it is clearly documented that I would do something so playful and affectionate as tickling feet? I think that is a very considerate way to introduce someone to her day. I could have sat on her and tickled mercilessly, or I could have stuck a crayon in her ear, but I didn't.

I think this proves I was a good sister. This also proves that even Middle Sister says her penmanship was sloppy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cow Point

This gift was bestowed upon us after a thunderstorm earlier this week. There were two rainbows, although the second one doesn't show up well (or at all) in this picture. The pot of gold is a place called Cow Point, although when seen with the naked eye that evening, the pot of gold for both rainbows was Gwynn's Island, which is a little further back.

Cow Point is a small beach at the mouth of our creek. Although privately owned, it used to be so popular you'd have thought it was public. Boaters flocked here, whether as a destination or just as a place to take a break.

As a kid I had a rowboat that I treasured more than an adult would a car. This boat gave me the freedom to go anywhere I wanted provided my arms didn't give out. They never did. I could be gone for a day (and never be missed by my mother, may I also add).

One summer, my City Cousins came for a visit. I decided it would be a great idea to go camping on Cow Point, and we'd go via rowboat. I would now like to press pause and point out the many aspects of this scheme that should have prevented us from going:

1. Cow Point is not a public campground. It is someone's property. We never knew who that person was, making it even more uncomfortable if they found four unchaperoned children sprawled out on their the middle of the night.
2. When I say camping, what I mean is we would take some blankets and sleep on the sand the entire night. No tent, no protection, no nothing.
3. My cousins' parents, also known as my aunt and uncle, were both doctors and not inclined to say, "Sure. You youngsters load up a rowboat, sleep outside on someone else's property with nothing but blankets and no possible way to communicate with us here in the event of an emergency, such as there are so many mosquitoes at Cow Point that you have just contracted malaria."

By some miracle (?) both sets of parents decided it was OK for us to go through with our adventure. We loaded the rowboat, and the four of us went to Cow Point. All we had was a few blankets and...I don't remember anything else. The End.

No, the one other thing I remember is in spite of all my clever scheming and attention to details, such as we were sleeping unprotected outside on someone else's property approximately 20 minutes from home by rowboat, I did overlook one thing.

The next morning when we woke up, the tide had gone out. Way, way out. The lowest tide ever recorded. Our boat, now sitting high and dry on the beach, was approximately WAY TOO FAR from the water.

I remember the Virginia Marine Patrol helping us get the boat back into the water, but I don't remember much else. The End.

No, one more thing. Can any of you parents imagine sending four children off into a rowboat with no cell phone, no possible way to communicate, on someone else's property, in the heat of summer, with mosquitoes the size of vultures and the possibility that some crazy lunatic could have showed up and absconded with everyone?

Me either, but it sure was fun.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Serenity Now

To distract attention away from sisters who hold life-long grudges simply because someone serves them rat poison at a tea party, I am focusing on peace and tranquility. Those words define Gwynn's Island.

My Little Sis and I drove to Gwynn's Island the other night after she was done smearing lipstick and gum all over my stuff. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that the exact same stretch of highway which is my favorite is also one of hers. We were fortunate enough to witness this absolutely spectacular sunset.

So please, wonderful sisters, gaze upon this and toss those grudges away.
Right along with all that lipstick.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sibling Rivalry: Part 2

For anyone unfamiliar with The Lipstick Wars, please click on the Sibling Rivalry post in the right-hand column and pay particular attention to the comments.

For everyone else, please fasten your lap buckles and pull the safety harness over your heads. Remain seated and keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times. The ride is getting ready to start.

This may not look so bad, and in fact it isn't unless you're the one who has to pick it up, put it in the sink and clean it with a power washer. But what you do not know is that this glass was procured and lipstickized within thirty minutes of Little Sister's arrival at the house this weekend.

The following atrocity is a new turn of events. Presumably in an effort to conceal the lipstick marks, or rather because she's unable (?) to get up, walk the three steps to the trash can, and deposit her gum there, Little Sis decided to press it firmly on the side of the glass.

Note: This picture is most definitely blurred due to Photography Wizard's forgetfulness in the department of changing the setting from landscape to portrait or auto. By the way, I am totally making up these setting names because I am only guessing based on the pictures displayed. Point being: I forgot to change the setting, so it's blurred.

GUM. The last indignity. I'd like to point out that she left this glass on a coffee table and made no effort to take it into the kitchen and/or remove the offensive deposit.

A Very Brave Volunteer used some of the existing lipstick in my house to portray how my sisters wear their lipstick. Note that hardly any is on the actual lips. That's because it's easier to slop it on a glass or cup this way.

There are only two things I'd like to point out that are not fairly depicted here: (1)Their lipstick, especially Middle Sister's, is much darker, the essence and thickness of mud. Because I AM THE ONE WHO WEARS THE GLOSSY, DEWY STUFF this picture does not do anything any justice. (2) Brave Volunteer, not realizing she was going to be photographed on the spur of the moment, had not shaved her moustache and beard, so I do not expect to hear anything from any sister about facial hair because this is a Brave Volunteer sacrificing herself for this story. It has nothing to do with me.

One last thing. Tomorrow I have to work, where I will have no internet access. If Middle and Little Sister have anything to say on this topic, I will be responding tomorrow evening or Thursday morning at the latest.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Riding Ponies Down 198

Because this computer is allowing me to do some things, such as create a post , but not most things, such as ANYTHING ELSE, I am reasonably sure I cannot load pictures tonight--but will try tomorrow.

That diary from my youth has produced yet another interesting topic.

I was glancing through it while waiting for the dial-up internet to load and the blood pressure cuff to blow off to the next county over.

Here's an interesting entry:

Saturday, February 23, 1974

Dear Diary,

Today I got home from Cindy P's house. Before I left I rode Lucky* with Cindy down to my house and back to Cindy's house.

-Chesapeake Bay Child

*Lucky was one of Cindy's ponies. Cindy and her sisters were very accomplished riders. We always rode bareback. There was no such thing as riding boots, riding gear, or evidently saddles either; we did have bridles. It was all bareback and barefoot. Straight down Route 198.

By way of explanation, Cindy lived at Ward's Corner, which is only accessible from my house by way of Route 198. Today, if a person were to walk that route, he'd be taking his life in his hands. The fact that a nine-year-old and her slightly older friend were riding ponies on the side of the road from Ward's Corner to, oh, SOMEWHERE NOT VERY CLOSE TO THERE , would be distressing to any mother. Back then, nobody thought twice about it.

Today, you don't even see kids riding their bikes along 198. Much less ponies. Bareback. Without adult supervision.

Times have changed.

I swear I was not born in the 1920's. This was only a few days ago.

Or so it seems.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Technical Difficulties

Today I nearly threw my computer into the creek. It's been acting up in ways that are not natural, so just in case I can't get back on here for a while, I wanted to stick this up as a placeholder.

With any luck it will keep functioning properly, because I have quite the picture to show you from my Little Sister's visit this weekend. To refresh your memory, click on the Sibling Rivalry post and the subsequent comments. Pay particular attention to the sparring on the topic of LIPSTICK stains on my glasses and coffee cups.

I will be displaying some exhibits which will prove my case once and for all.

Stay tuned. I hope to have it up by tomorrow night or Tuesday, assuming the computer is not at the bottom of the creek collecting barnacles.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day

Half of Mathews will know who we are just by the picture above. Lucky for me I only have two readers, and only one is from Mathews. Our identity should be safe. This is my father's, and he is known as the VW expert around here. There's so much to say about this particular VW that I will tell you about it another day. It has to do with the Bicentennial. Remind me.

This used to be a meter maid vehicle. We don't have meters in Mathews. Or Gloucester. I have no idea where it came from, but my father fixed it up and now uses it as a farm vehicle. He also uses it for what he calls perimeter checks. Again, this is a story--a good one--for another day. It has to do with "only in Mathews." Remind me to tell you.

My Daddy's pretty darn cool. Let me count the ways:

1. He has beaten the odds.

In the early 1940's, Daddy was born with a hole in his heart at a time when heart surgeries were not the norm. I believe he was a teenager when he had to have his first operation. To lower his body temperature they had to submerge him in ice, and the whole thing was very risky. Since then he's had numerous heart operations and a few other scares, but he's still plugging away. I've heard him say a number of times that he wasn't supposed to be here this long. Thank goodness he was wrong.

2. He is a talented drummer.

At a time when race relations were tense at best, the late 1950's to early 1960's, my father was a white drummer in an otherwise black band. The Dynatones were wildly popular, and they played up and down the East Coast. To this day people talk about how good they were. In spite of being physically attacked once because of other people's biases, he looks back on that band as one of his greatest achievements. From early on, my sisters and I had absolutely no concept of prejudice at all. Through his actions he taught us that everyone is equal and to be respected, beliefs we share to this day.

Subsequently he played with various local bands, all very popular. It was cool having a father who played in a band, especially when they practiced in our basement. I would always show off upstairs on the piano and hope they'd invite me down there to play. They never did.

3. He worked his behind off to keep a roof over our heads and has an incredible work ethic that all three of his children share.

My father owned his own business, a car repair shop in the court house, where he worked from 8-5. He'd come home, eat, and sleep for a few hours before he had to get up at 10 or 11 p.m. to work the night shift at the Naval Weapon Station. He'd come straight home from that and go to his day job. That was his routine Monday through Friday, I don't know how he did it. Friday and/or Saturday nights he played in the band, and another side job was selling fish from the gill nets. Other things he did in his youth include: bowling pin setter (in the days before automated bowling alleys); school bus driver; tractor trailer driver, chartered bus driver, and outboard motor repairman. Even now that he's retired, he gets up at 2:00 a.m. to drive a seafood truck from Deltaville up to Landover, Maryland, several times a week. I simply do not know how he does it.

4. He can fix and/or build anything.
You name it, he can do it; he can fix it; he can build it. Even if he's never done it before, he'll figure it out. The two vehicles above are but a small sampling of his ability to renovate, tinker and rebuild. He is loaded with ingenuity.

5. He has a great philosophy and a very laid back attitude.
I don't know if I've ever seen him stressed; it's possible but I can't recall a single time. One of his favorite expressions is, "Confucious says, 'Don't worry about it.'" He likes to use that one when he hears one of us talking about some problem or concern. He takes each day as it comes and makes the most of any situation.

Thanks, Daddy, for giving us so much, for teaching us so much, and for beating the odds.

We love you.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


This aging beauty displays many of the qualities inherent to Mathews. She's an honest, simple, wooden structure. A dying breed who is clinging to her roots and refusing to let go no matter how hard outside influences try to force her to change.

And now it is time to stop talking about me (all except the beauty part...and perhaps the wooden structure part, although that is debatable; particular emphasis on the simple part) and start talking about houses in Mathews.

Mathews, Middlesex and Gloucester Counties are loaded with old houses of the same vintage: two-story, white clapboard farmhouses with multiple chimneys, green trim, green shutters and green roof. Some have incredible porches, others have remarkable outbuildings. The kitchen was usually located in a wing directly off the back to keep any potential fires confined to one place. Or that's what I've been told. By someone. At some point. Probably in a dream. Or not at all. Many of these homes are still lived in, many have been updated, but too many are skeletons like the one shown here.

I'm a substitute driver for Meals on Wheels. (The rest of my resume is more impressive and includes such occupations as strawberry picker, substitute lifeguard, monorail operator and career development manager for a global consulting firm in downtown DC. Excuse me while I go cry in the corner about that last job. The only careers being developed there were the employee's next one - I had to fire a kajillion people or at least tell managers how they could get away with firing people. It was very cut-throat. I get high blood pressure just thinking about it. Of course I also get high blood pressure looking at my mountain of laundry. Back to the point. What was it again?)

This particular day my daughter and I covered the Mobjack route, and this house was close to two of my stops. I should state that although I am talking about the typical Mathews farmhouse (as well as my previous jobs, totally unrelated), this structure actually is atypical, and I'd wager it was used as either a store, an inn or something else besides a home. It would have made far too much sense to post a picture of typical farmhouse when that's what I am trying to explain.

To impress you with my architectural knowledge, I'll point out that those three upside down V-type structures across the roof are unique as are the two overhangs coming from the front doors. Two front doors? Extremely uncommon. For all I know this is a picture of some historic landmark that everyone else knows about except me. That would be common.

There are so many things I love about delivering to these older people, but most of all I relish every interaction with them, the last of the truly old-fashioned Mathewsonians. They speak with the thick Mathews accent I knew growing up; they live in very small, modest houses; they are unpretentious, straight forward, kind people with very few requirements in life.

The older folks are like these older homes: beautiful tributes to a bygone era when life was much simpler and less demanding.

Pound Nets

Once again this appears blurry on my screen. If y'all don't hear from me after this, it's because I've thrown my computer in the creek.

In order to put the ugliness of yesterday aside, I am veering off the topic of my diary and focusing more on the bigger--albeit blurry-- picture. You can rest assured I will be returning to the diary, but only after I dig into the deep, dark recesses of my brain for the best stories to accompany that diary stuff. That could take a while.

Recently I traveled to the Eastern Shore of Virginia to drop my son off at camp, and I snapped a few pictures including the (blurry) one above of the bay and a pound net. The Eastern Shore probably merits a post in and of itself, but today I want to focus on pound nets.

My one Mathews reader will know what a pound net is, but I must confess I was not entirely clear myself even though I've seen and heard of them all my life. Be advised that "not entirely clear" is standard fare for me. On practically every topic.

Before I go into that, let's take a quiz to see how much you know about pound nets.

A pound net is:

1. A weight loss tool that "scoops" those pounds away!

2. A measure of weight, as in, "I could eat 52 pound nets' worth of hummus, but that isn't such a good idea. Or is it?"

3. A device used to keep pesky sisters in check. I've ordered two, one for each sister.

4. A centuries-old method of harvesting fish that is still used on the Chesapeake Bay, including the Eastern Shore and Mathews.

Time's up.

Pound nets have been used for a long time and are not unlike methods used by the Indians to trap fish. I read somewhere they were introduced to the bay around 1858, but don't quote me on that. Or any other topic.

The purpose of the pound net is to guide shore-dwelling fish into a trap. Poles, with mesh nets suspended from them, are stuck in the mud. There are three major sections: a long straight net that leads the fish off shore towards the center portion, which is shaped like a heart. The heart funnels the fish into the crib, which in this instance does not mean a baby bed or a house, but rather is the final holding pen until the fisherman comes calling.

Pound nets are not to be confused with gill nets, which are used in deeper water, without poles, and work their magic by trapping the fish by the gills when they attempt to swim through.

Gill nets are also known as The Equivalent of Torture as far as I'm concerned, because my father used to set them. Having no sons, the oldest daughter (me) had to go out with him to set and later check them.

Here's what that entails:

1. A very long ride through choppy water in a boat that is too small for a father, a child and 450 pounds of stinky--very stinky--fish-smelling nets.

2. Manual labor. One person drives the boat (I seem to recall my father doing a lot of that, sitting in his chair and supervising the labor portion of the project) and the other person drops the net over. And does everything else.

3. Another very long boat ride through choppy water to go home and wait for the fish to get trapped.

4. Another long boat ride out to check the nets.

5. Hoisting the now-slimy net filled with wriggling fish, who are also slimy. Fish are casually tossed into the boat, which is way too small for all this commotion. Fish are flapping all over the place, gasping for breath. As am I.

6. Child closes eyes and dreams of a place far, far away.

7. Another long boat ride home.

8. Helping unload the fish and running as fast as possible to avoid having to help with the cleaning of said fish.

9. A great explanation as to why I do my level best to avoid eating croaker or spot, which are the two fish we caught in the Piankatank River using gill nets.

Yes, please do not confuse gill nets with pound nets.

And don't confuse this with anything other than a firm resolve on my part never to fish a gill net again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

This is the diary I found yesterday. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through it. Even though I was only about 9, the quality of the writing is slightly better than what I put here on a regular basis.

I have two younger sisters, both of whom now live far from Mathews. As the oldest sister, I was often put in charge of them, and this gave me an unnecessary license to boss them around. And torture them.

I will save the stories about how I bossed and tortured them for later. This is more about some of the minor flare-ups caused by irritation. You know…you live with someone for so long, there’s really not much else to do, little things start to irritate you, and because you are bigger and older you start things.

Such as World War III.

For example:

Saturday, January 26, 1974

Dear Diary,

Today it is raining. I came home from Nanny’s. When I got home I played with my horses. Middle Sister always cries when you touch her horse. She is a big crybaby (underlined so many times there is almost a hole in the page).All she does is cry. Today I just stood and looked at the rain.

-Chesapeake Bay Child

*I’m talking about plastic horses here. More importantly, if it’s true that I was only playing with my horses, then why would I be touching Middle Sister’s enough to make her cry?

Answer: Because I was the older sister and I could get away with it.


Or this:

Tuesday, December 23, 1975 (a year later)

Dear Diary,

Today I walked down the street with Nanny to go to the store. After that Mamma came and took me home. When I went to my room it was a mess. Middle Sister hadn’t made up the bed or anything. She likes to live like a pig. I just cleaned up my room the other day.

-Chesapeake Bay Child

*My grandmother Nanny lived in the next county over and had no car. We would have to walk about two miles to get to the grocery store. More importantly, the biggest pig in the family was me! If I did in fact clean that room up, it would have been the first and last time.

I did cruel stuff to both of my sisters. I can’t even tell you some of the things I did because they’re so awful. A less awful thing I did often, especially on long car trips, was to lick my hand and then wipe it on their arms or legs, any exposed patch of skin. This was usually because they were getting too close to me. They had crossed that invisible line that separated my territory from theirs. Then they’d holler, “Mamma, Chesapeake Bay Sister is licking me,” and start to whine and cry or something. If one of them licked me back? It was full-on war.

Many times my mother nearly had an accident in the lime green VW bus due to such fights going on in the back seats. The beauty of the bus was we were so far back she could not reach us. It is a wonder my poor mother has any marbles left after all those years of our fighting.

Now that we’re older, we have put all these silly tiffs aside. When we see each other, we don’t lick each other. I don’t touch their stuff.

I will say, though, that both of my sisters have this irritating habit of wearing too much lipstick ,and when they drink coffee or wine their lipstick marks are all over the glasses and cups (and I find the glasses and cups all over the house). They wear so much lipstick that sometimes even the dishwasher doesn’t get it off. And no way am I putting my hands in those glasses to wash that stuff out. No way.

That would be just like them licking me.

Gwynn's Island Sunset

On my screen, these pictures are blurry. If they are on yours too, try squinting and imagining the most beautiful sunset in the world. This was over on Gwynn's Island looking towards the vicinity of the Piankatank River. You may now unsquint your eyes.

I had every intention of writing about sunsets today, and I was going to talk about the sunset in Key West at Mallory Square. (By the way, Key West has absolutely nothing to do with life in Mathews, but by now surely you know how easily I stray from any topic.)

As I was considering what I would say, I wanted to talk about how three girls, with no fear and not a lot of common sense among them, drove from Charlottesville to Miami in one session. I was going to say something about it being the equivalent of driving from (insert a country here) to Saudi Arabia. Contemplating just the right country, I looked for a world map and instead came upon my childhood diary.

So, never mind about that story. This particular entry from 1974 caught my eye:

July 9

Dear Diary,

Today was realy [sic] rough. I had to be at the orthodontist's by 8:30. Then when I got home, I hit my head on a box at the pool. I had to get 3 stitches. Boy! And before that Mamma ran over my bycicle [sic].

-Chesapeake Bay Child


I have always said that when I have a bad day, I do it up right: When it rains for me, it typhoons. I am surprised, however, that it started at such a young age.

Let me explain why each and every one of the statements above is so traumatic.

1. The orthodontist was located in Denbigh, which is approximately an hour's drive from Mathews. If I had to be there at 8:30, that means I had to get up way earlier than usual. No good.

2. The orthodontist was tightening my braces. Back then, braces were like wearing a steel vice around your head. I would be in pain for a good couple of days after the vice-tightening. No good.

3. I already wrote about the time I ran into a fire extinguisher box at the Islander. That was the only time in my life I've ever had stitches. They were IN MY HEAD. No good.

4. My bicycle was my life, my only means of transportation. I rode that thing hard and often. But, I would leave it in the driveway on occasion, without using the kickstand. I was in a hurry and had no time to stop and tend to such details. The bike was casually tossed wherever I got off. In this case, it happened to be behind the car. My mother drove over more than one bike in our childhood, and each and every time it was very traumatic. The bike was done. Stick a fork in it. Twisted and mangled beyond recognition. NO GOOD.

So how can I relate this story to (possibly blurry) pictures of a sunset? Easy.

No matter how awful a particular day is, and the above one should go down in the history books for me because of the sheer volume of traumatic events, the sun is always going to set and always going to rise on a fresh, new day.

Hopefully that new day won't be filled with stitches and braces and mangled bicycles.

Or blurry photos.

Friday, June 6, 2008


This is the view of the creek from my back yard. A storm is a-brewin' even though you can't really tell here. I can, though, just by looking at this. See how calm that water is? That's unheard of. Almost always there is a wind blowing; sometimes there are white caps (waves, not hats) in this creek. I've even had white caps in my yard before, but that was during a hurricane when the tide brought the creek uncomfortably close to my house. White caps in the yard are not a good thing. No indeed.

This was taken from the exact same spot, except it's looking due north (to the left) towards Deltaville. This particular storm hit them pretty hard, but barely touched us. Still, we enjoyed all the benefits. And if you didn't know it, there are benefits to storms.

I absolutely love storms. Ice storms, thunderstorms, snow storms, nor' easters, hurricanes (as long as nobody's hurt), and anything that causes--or, rather, forces--us to alter our daily habits and routines. Anything that reminds us of just how dependent we are on modern technology and how distanced we are from folks who lived only a short time ago without such luxuries, arguably on the luxuries part. A reminder that when all is said and done, no matter how much control we think we have over life, ultimately we have none.

I love these reminders.

Power outages, whether caused by storms or not, are included--and highly regarded-- in the category known as What I Love. The true, blue locals here don't refer to it as power or electricity. It's current. So, if we have an outage, my neighbor, who can trace his roots to Tangier Island, a topic for another day, will come over and say, "You got any current?" No, I don't have any current. "My current went off fifteen minutes ago." So did mine. When the lights come back on, current has been restored. And Neighbor can finally stop pacing.

We all as children loved those snow days when school was cancelled. But for whatever reason, I have not surrendered my love for such days. It goes so far as this: Even at work I will pray for a power outage (aka no current). Because no current means no computer which might mean go home early. With pay. All together now: THANK YOU, WORK GODS, for giving us this paid break from what is otherwise known as drudgery.

We interrupt this post to sidetrack because the author cannot help it, and by now her reader surely expects it. The best job I ever had was at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg the summers during college. I earned the hefty salary of $3.25/hour but could go into the park whenever I wanted, which to me was priceless. Anyway, I drove an hour and fifteen minutes one way to get to this summer job. Staffing always depended on the number of guests in the park. (I had a different word for them, and it was definitely not so favorable, particularly since I worked in The Complaint Department, which was considered the highest "honor" bestowable. When it is 100 degrees in the shade and your Complaint Line stretches to North Carolina, and 95% of those standing in that line drove from New Jersey with a family of 10, come talk to me about how that's considered a promotion.)

My supervisor, on slow days, would always come in and ask if anyone wanted or was able to leave early from their shift. I was, without fail, always the first one to volunteer. I just didn't care about the money (what was there to care about?) or the hours. Celeste, my boss, would always say, "I don't think Chesapeake Bay Woman really needs to work. I think she's just here for entertainment." Because I always volunteered to go home early. I worked because I had to, but I also gladly stopped because I wanted to dillydally and daydream and not be tied down to a stringent job. To this day, I only work part-time for that very reason. I will gladly sacrifice income to make way for life. Back to whatever I was saying, that you've probably forgotten about, as have I.

Storms and current issues (not to be confused--at all-with current events) give us an excuse not to do anything other than chill. We can't vacuum because there's no current. We can't do the marathon grass cutting required, because we might get struck by lightning. The added benefit of even a rain storm is that you can't cut grass until it dries. Sometimes that takes a good day or so.

Storms provide a legitimate excuse to procrastinate. I'm all over it.

But let's assume that you still have current, you still have all your modern luxuries, and there is no change to life as you know it. I get excited about storms because they are beautiful, exceptionally beautiful. Exquisite. Unpredictable.

A good storm takes your ordinary, mundane point of view and shakes it up a bit
. I love being shaken up, as long as there's a safe landing, and for the storms I'm talking about, there usually is. The only thing shaken up is your perspective.

That, in my opinion, is a good thing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dr. K.

Without going into the details, the past 24 hours have been unexpected and dramatic. With no warning, my son collapsed and was rushed to E.R. #1, where they were ready to send us home, except that our Voice of Reason, otherwise known as Dr. K, prevailed. We went to Better E.R. #2, otherwise known as Civilization. All is fine now and the drama and suspense are behind us. This is just a small way to say: We love Dr. K.

Dear Dr. K.,

Thank you for marrying who you did and moving to Mathews, more than likely a destination you would never have selected. Because you did marry him (whom I have known forever and also admire except that he has this habit of being a p.h. - ask him what that is and wait for him to tell a lie about it referring to me), I knew you were a good person. Step One for a quicker transition to Mathews: Know someone who is from here. Marrying them is even better.

Thank you for moving here in spite of the fact that you and he could have been successful doctors anywhere in the country. Anywhere. And incredibly successful. Did I say ANYWHERE?

Thank you for being so funny and so entertaining. I've said before you missed your calling as a stand-up comedienne. Step Two for being successful here is the ability to put people, especially From Heres who often are intimidated by outsiders, immediately at ease and able to say anything without being perceived as different or inferior. You are able to do this in the first minute of talking to a patient.

Thank you most of all for being the only voice I heard, understood and--this is critical-- believed in a situation where I thought my son was going to die. He didn't and he's fine, but you were the only person whose voice stood out and made sense to me. Your prediction as to how it would play out regarding next steps-- even though you did this over the phone without seeing Son--were so vastly different from the emergency personnel there with Son. You set my expectations right up front as to what we might be dealing with, and projected a sense of urgency when the hospital staff was ready to send us on home.

Even when we got to Major Hospital Number Two, where every possible local expert you could want was on hand, your voice and opinion took precedence over everything.

Mathews is a small town without a lot of high-fallutin' luxuries. But the quality of the people who are either born here or choose to live --and for that matter WORK-- here cannot be matched. Anywhere. By Anyone.

Thank you, Dr. K. As I told you today, you grossly underestimate the value of your phone calls and your solid, straight-forward, no-horsin' around words.

And thank you Mr. R. for marrying her and bringing her here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Swing Set

This swing set came from my son's first babysitter, who ran a daycare out of her home in Northern Virginia. When she was in the process of shutting down and needed extra money, she offered to sell it to us. Realizing the trauma (my word) of my son not seeing the babysitter anymore, I bought the swing set in the hopes of having some sort of continuity around and to serve as a reminder of Nhiem, the babysitter. I even disassembled and hauled it from No-Va to Mathews when we moved back here. I just couldn't let it go or leave it behind. I've had it for about 10 years now.

Both my son (12) and my daughter (9) have known this swing set since they were toddlers. When my daughter was a baby, I replaced one of the swings with a baby swing, and she loved nothing more than to rock to and fro, laughing the whole time, her incredibly soft, chubby baby legs sticking straight out, ripe for kissing.

Son and daughter outgrew this years ago. I've said several times that I'd like to get it out of the yard, get rid of it, give it away or haul it to the dump. Yet I can't really bring myself to do so.

Can I take a time out here and point out the tall grass sprouting in various parts of this picture? The grass cutting required to tame this is for the detail-oriented and requires a push mower, or rather someone who wants to push a push mower. That someone is not me. I'll ride a tractor until the cows come home, but push mowing and weed-eating are not something I'm interested in. And don't get me started on the mowing required to cut the bank along the shore line (located further back in the picture along with a glimpse at a tiny cove in our creek, although you can't see it well). Herculean strength is required to balance the push mower with the 90-degree angles and the stumps and sticks getting caught up in the blades. I'm starting to sweat just thinking about it. Back to whatever I was talking about.

The last day of school for us is today, and although time has definitely picked up speed the older I get, I have never experienced a quicker school year than this one. Even they say so, it's not just me.

This summer, my son will become a teenager. This frightens me for a number of reasons. First, in my mind I am still a teenager, so to have a child that age is not right. Second, he's old enough not to need--or necessarily want to be around--me as much any more. He's growing up. I can't accept that yet; I don't want to let go of the notion of him as a little boy who needs me.

This swing set represents a lot of things for me. Mostly I see Son and Daughter as toddlers loving it. And now it sits as a relic of the past. They are growing, growing too fast.

I'm clinging to the swing set like I'm clinging to them.

At some point I have to let go.

Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tin Can Alley

I started off with the right idea for this picture, but it did not turn out the way I planned. I should have zoomed back/backzoomed/dezoomed/taken the camera lens back more. (As you can tell, I am a very seasoned photographer and am comfortable with all the lingo. Actually, the only thing I know about zooming is a convenience store here called Zooms. Guess what you can get there? Did I hear someone say beef jerky?)

Tin Can Alley is a small public beach located on Gwynn's Island, which is my favorite place in Mathews and the world, even though I have not seen much more of the world. There are only a few points (two or three) on the island where the beach is open to the public. Most of the rest is privately owned (and gorgeous, may I say).

My father's mother, also known as my grandmother, but for some reason I always refer to her as my father's mother, I've got issues, let's keep going here, used to take my sisters and I here on occasion. At the time she was probably in her 70's, but she was a spry thing who walked many miles every morning delivering people's newspapers. She also very rarely ate and was as skinny as a rake. In short, she was in good shape for an old gal.

One particular time she took us here it was sweltering hot, one of those days when you can hardly catch your breath and even the water feels like a sauna. The stinging nettles were out in full force, and of course I got stung. (I don't know why people, for example my children, make such a big fuss over getting stung by a nettle. It does hurt a bit at first, but it goes away quickly. And I've even fallen down skiing before and had them wrapped around my neck. Actually, that did hurt. As usual, I've side tracked from the story. Let's return, shall we?)

It just seemed like we were burning up hot, getting stung too often, and biting flies were starting to swarm. If you've never been eaten alive by these things, thank your lucky stars. Biting flies (that's their scientific name, derived from the Latin word for biting, which is known as insectus insipidus) should be let loose on our country's enemies. It is a cruel form of torture that has you quickly jumping up and down, swatting and cussing like a sailor. You will continue swatting and thinking flies are landing on you for a good hour after you're safely indoors. Once again, I am off track.

Anyway, my sisters and I were very antsy to leave. My grandmother finally agreed it was time to go, and back to the car we went. After piling in, she realized she couldn't find her keys. We were sweaty, hot, sandy, burning up from nettles and biting flies and were in no mood to be sitting in a smoldering, hot car waiting for her to find her keys. Rewind and repeat that last sentence for about half an hour, which was when she finally decided to walk down the road, approach someone's house and ask if she could borrow their phone. She called home and had my uncle bring us a spare set of keys.

My uncle decided to look around for the original keys before giving her the spare set. In about two seconds, he located them. They were in the floor* of the car underneath the driver's seat. My grandmother, looking baffled, said, "How on Earth did those keys pop out from the ignition to underneath the seat?" She kept asking this over and over again. (I should probably explain that it is not uncommon to leave keys in the ignition in Mathews, even today. Clearly that's what she thought she'd done. The chances of someone stealing a car were virtually nonexistent.)

For a while, she had me believing that it was possible for them to spontaneously pop out of the ignition. I would crinkle up my nose and shake my head in disbelief. Something didn't make sense.

That's because, while she may have been spry and in good shape, she just might have been showing signs of her age. She put those keys in the floor* and forgot she put them there, and absolutely would not admit it. And it wasn't until I was much older that I figured that out, even though it doesn't take an Einstein to have figured it out to begin with. I blame it all on the poison from the stinging nettles and those daggone biting flies.

Now I've got to think up a good reason why I lose my keys on a daily basis. Perhaps it's genetic.


*Note: My roommate from college to this day finds it peculiar that I always say something is "in the floor" rather than "on the floor." I have no explanation for that other than to say most everything around here is peculiar to an outsider. And to some insiders, too.