Sunday, September 16, 2012

Week 37 of 2012 - Life's Embarrassment

I am amazed at how thought provoking some of these topics can be....Each week they make me dig deep into the memories of things I have not thought of in a long time. Each phase of your life presents you with moments of embarrassment and eventually amusement. There is the moment when the little girl in church farted so loudly that everyone around her hear it. At an age when you don't understand how your body works, it's hard to know if it will be silent or loud! I hoped that the people seated around us thought that it must have come from someone else but I think they knew it was me! Or when my baby brother belched like a sailor during a prayer...and my case of the uncontrollable giggles which followed. Or the time when you were trying to sit quietly in church but your sister kept pestering you until you hit her....and of course that is when your Mom noticed the commotion but not all the pestering which lead up to it. 

Janet, Spice being held by Sharon, Andrew and Mark - 1963
 I remember one morning standing in front of our school by the door waiting for the bell to ring so we could enter the school. It was at the elementary school in Washington, Michigan and I was waiting with the other kids from my bus. I must have gotten impatient. I began to kick the metal door jam. It made an interest noise and I discovered that if I varied the tempo, the sound for a few loud and crazy moments...I did just that! I made a music of sorts with this loud banging noise. I can only imagine the sound as it echoed in the empty halls of the school. Well, all the noise brought the ladies from the front office running to find out what was happening. I got scolded like I had never been scolded before! I wanted to crawl in a hole for the rest of the day. I was positive that everyone was looking at me for the rest of the day because I had started my day by getting in trouble ! I was afraid that they would call my mother! I honestly can not remember if they did or not. Just being afraid that they would was bad enough.

Or the time when you went to the movies in Romeo with all your new friends from Jr High school.  After the first few minutes, I realize that all they wanted to do was to hook up with the boys and maybe sneak a kiss or two. But I really wanted to see the movie! I got stuck sitting next to a boy I did not know. Some boy from Romeo who just happened to come along with the other boys. I made it perfectly clear to him that I was not interested in him or kissing.

My birthday sleepover in 1967 with my friends.
Or the time when you were dragged along on a “date” with your older sister because your parents thought that there was some “sense of safety” when the little sister came along. Well, it wasn't really a date...It was more hanging out and cruising in the car with boys who could drive.... but you get the idea! “ You can go but you have to take Janet with you!” I remember them telling Sue! Was I the witness or the deterrent ...I never figured it out. I was not too sure what the boys thought of it. Not that it mattered because if they wanted to spend time with Sue, I came with the package! I learned early to keep my mouth shut. It was along the line of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” only it was what “happens while cruising, stays in the car”. Eventually Sue protested loudly, “ Do Janet and I have to do everything together? “, and Mom and Dad relented.

Or years later when my young son, Shawn was helping Grandpa Smith on his day off. The project of the day was to replace the old leaky window in the family room. They worked diligently together all day, side by side. They tore out the old window leaving a gaping hole in the family room for part of the day. They re-enforced the wall, added some insulation, a little drywall, measure this and that.., make a cut here then there... ”Shawn, Grandpa needs a pencil, please...” “How about a tape measure?” They were working buddies! Grandma made them sandwiches at lunch time. And back on the job they went trying to get the window in before dinner time. Shawn was Grandpa's little helper all day. They made quite a mess in the family room. There was saw dust, dirt, old plaster, a bit of old and new insulation laying on the floor. As the project was completed, Grandpa took a step back to admire the day's work. And Shawn, following his Grandpa's lead, did the same. After a moment of surveying the mess, Shawn tugged on Grandpa shirt to get his attention. And in the most grown voice that a three year old could muster, he proclaimed “ You know what Grandpa, you know how to make one hell of a mess!” It took every ounce of restraint that Mom and Dad had to to keep from laughing. After a moment or two of recovery, Grandpa said, “yep so we better clean it up, huh!” When I arrived to pick him up that day, they could not wait to tell me what he had said. I was more than a little embarrassed that I had not realized that the language that I used regularly when my children were around was under constant scrutiny by my children.

All phases of life bring you moments of embarrassment. As you age, these moments often are rapidly followed by a good laugh for all who were a witness to them. Hopefully I will always be able to see the humor in them. Life would be no fun with out humor.

Sharing memories...

Love, Jan

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Week 34 of 2012 - Local carnivals and other things...

Probably the largest ferris wheel I've ever seen
The Ferris Wheel at Niagara Falls, Ontario

Whats the matter, Aunt Sha
"Local" Romeo, Imlay City, Harbor Beach, Bad Axe and even Cedar Point.  I remember as a child being intrigued with them and yet knowing that we wouldn't have very much money to spend on  the event.  It was usually a couple of carnival games...Games of Chance they called them.  Maybe a horserace, ring toss, darts, basketball toss, even the fish or duck pond or bowling...anything to win one of the large, stuffed animals.  That was the envy of every kid on the grounds.  I would watch someone carrying one and wonder what they did to win it and how much money they spent.  I also remember as a teenager pitching coins into the center of the booth.  The object of the game was to get so many into the glass dishes in the center.  The coins just kept bouncing out...those darn stuffed animals were still enticing!  Rides were the ferris wheel, tilt a whirl, scrambler and the dreaded salt and pepper shaker.  I remember being talked into riding it with Bianca Banash.  Her older sisters kept after us and we finally gave in and climbed aboard.  We both screamed our heads off...and I really was scared and didn't like it at all....the older sisters stood on the ground and laughed themselves silly.  Being best friends with Bianca was a great thing...except on the salt and pepper shaker ride.  My husband Mike says he NEVER did ride it.

I remember only a couple of small carnivals set up in Harbor Beach, with most of the "carnival" action taking place at the Huron County Fair at the fairgrounds in Bad Axe.  Fair Week is always the first week in August and is a big event for the whole county.  4H involves raising farm animals, showing them at the fair and then selling them.  There are also 4H exhibits of craft projects, sewing, cooking and equestrian exhibits and shows.  There is a substantial midway of rides and quite an assortment of carnival food...corn dogs, elephant ears, caramel corn, lemonade and snowcones, cotton candy and of course, Gibby's fries!  Attending the county fair was something that I tried to do once the boys were a little older.  We'd do a little budgeting so that we'd have money to go on "one price" day.  After paying $3-5 for parking the van full of boys...for $6-8 each, a wristband was worn and you could ride and ride and ride.  The boys would run from one ride to the next, over and over.  Occasionally, Mom would have to ride with them on one of the bigger rides.  If there was money left for a treat, they was extra...but everyone went home tired and happy.  Not being a "lifer" or part of the farming community, the fair was a new experience...but only for a few hours.  The locals sometimes camp in their RV's or campers to be close to the animals and give them the attention needed.  They would spend the whole week at the fair.

Pretty soon, Brad, Greg, Derek and Kevin (Brad's friend and our 4th son) and Jason (Derek's best buddy and our 5th son) would all beg for a trip to Cedar Point each summer.  We would get up at 4, leave by 4:30am and pull into the parking lot at Sandusky, Ohio just before the park opened at 10pm.  Kevin's mom, Marge, went a couple of times and she and I would see multiple shows in the air conditioned buildings while the boys stood in line and waited for the next adventurous ride.  We'd have a time to gather and make sure everyone was doing fine and then they'd run to the ride.  Marge and I would go to the next show.  We might see 6 shows during the time we were there.  The boys might ride the summer's "latest and greatest" 6, 8 or 10 times.  Occasionally, they would beg Mom to ride something.  When the boys were younger, I would ride right along with them.  My undoing....the last time I rode with them at Cedar Point...was the Iron Dragon.  It's a coaster ride that you have an individual seat and it is suspended from the top.  You kind of hang in the air and fly around the track.  For some reason, I got off that with my neck, shoulders and back totally out of whack...and that was my last coaster ride at Cedar Point.
Aunt Sue, Madison and even Aunt Sharon enjoying the great view!
Ashley and Greg on Ferris Wheel at Niagara Falls, April 2010

I have been to Disney in Orlando with the grandkids, recently ridden the huge ferris wheel at Niagara Falls and enjoyed every minute of it.  Would I make a vacation out of an amusement park?  No...but there's lots of fun memories that last a lifetime!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Week 36 of 2012 - Dances and sleep overs

This week's topic was suppose to be about the Sadie Hawkins dance. Humm. I don't remember one. I know that we had them at school but..I never went to one. I must have been too much of a chicken to ask any one. So I guess I talk about dances and the events of Jr High School, in general.

Do you remember dances in Jr High? I remember them in Romeo. They were on Friday and if I wanted to go, I had to stay after school because there would be no way for me to get back to town if I rode the bus home.  And if I stayed after school it was always at Janie Dembowski's house.  It was so much fun being at Janie's house. They had a big family too so I felt right at home. She had more older siblings than I had. She was one of the youngest of the kids. Where as in my family, I was smack dab in the middle of the pack! Her Mom was a great cook and she always had enough food for everyone! She was full of love with lots of hugs and made you feel like you belonged.

Janie happened to live directly across the street from the Jr High School so it was very convenient. Her father owned the Ford dealership in Romeo. They were fairly close to downtown so we could walk to Main Street. It was quite a thrill for a country bumpkin like me to be able to walk to town. To a place where you can actually buy something! We were used to walking all over the place but there was never an actually business which you could arrive at! We had beaches, woods, ponds, creeks, swamps, farms, a gravel pit, a nature preserve and long dirt roads. She had a dime store, a drug store, a shoe store, a grocery store and all the other shops in town. I remember there was a small shop next to the drug store which I think sold trinkets, collectables and maybe clocks...but they also had candy. It became one of our favorite places to visit. They sold candy sticks in a wide assortment of flavors. I tried most of them and decided that Chocolate Mint was my favorite! I think it was this store that I also bought the dark cherry candy drops which I loved. ( It's funny how these memories start to flood your mind when you start to write.) We always had time after school to head to main street for a piece or two of candy.

I have vague memories of getting ready in Janie's room for the dance, putting on new makeup and doing out hair. I must have worn my dress to school or brought it in a bag, I don't remember. At the appointed time, we walked crossed the street and entered the school. Once there, all the kids assembled in the gym. There were chairs all around the out side walls of the gym, kids mingled and the music played. No one would dance for quite a while as we "warmed up"... Girls sitting with girl friends, boys sitting with their friends too. All engaged in nervous chatter not quite knowing what they should be doing next. Eventually a brave group or two of girls would get on the dance floor. It was all a matter of “breaking the ice” and getting the dancing started. The boys would eventually warm up and most would dance. It was obvious that some of the boys really liked to dance while others merely pretended to and some never left their chairs. By the end of the evening some of the boys were brave enough to ask a girl to dance. As long as the music had a good dance beat to it, the floor got pretty full. When they played a slow song the dance floor emptied much like the drain in a bathtub! You could almost hear the sucking sound as the kids raced for the chairs that circled the gym, much like a game of musical chairs leaving some people to stand on the side lines with no where to sit. I remember having fun.

It became a regular ritual, me staying after school on Friday with Janie. Sometimes it was for a football game, a basketball game, a dance or no reason at all. Sometimes my Dad would come get me on his way home from work. Other times I got to spend the night at Janie's and they picked me up in the morning on the way to get our weeks worth of groceries at the A&P grocery store. It was at this age when sleeping over at your friends house became very important.

Happy memories, Jan

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Week 35 of 2012 - Music - Has it influenced you?

We came from a family where music was important. My Dad played piano and organ. He would sometimes be a substitute when our regular piano player was not able to play at our church and often played for Sunday School and MYF. We had a piano at home which he played regularly and tried really hard to spark an interest in playing the piano with all of his kids. I wish I had given it more attention. It was hard with your Dad being your teacher. I just did not want to practice. I must not have liked it all that well. His father, Everett Smith, played piano too. We have a picture of Everett playing piano and with his brother Fred. 

Fred and Everett
Our family sang ... I remember when I was a small girl, one Sunday when we were visiting Grandma and Grandpa's church in Lapeer, I decided to sit right next to Grandma Smith. It was my first time in church with her that I remembered. When the first hymn was sung, I was startled by the sound of her singing voice. I couldn't hear anyone else in sanctuary, only Grandma. She was a quiet minister's wife but in church she belted each hymn with gusto in a high pitched voice which to me sounded more like our cat, Spice when I stepped on her. I looked around to see if everyone was looking at us...The spirit of the Lord really moved her and it frighten me. It seemed that her whole personality changed and I just did not know what to make of it. From that time on, I always made it a point to sit at the end of the pew, the opposite end of the pew from Grandma. That way I was a bit further way so it was not quite so loud and I could peek at her and the other people around us to see how other people were reacting to her singing. I will never forget the time when she and her sister Florence were singing in church and then I knew it ran in her family! I loved my Grandma but I could never get used to the way she sang. 

Everett and Lillian - 1950
Many members of our family sang in the Church Choir. We have several photos of church choirs which Mom and Dad sang in and Grandma and Grandpa too! Mom and Dad sang in community choirs in each town that they lived in. Need I say.... we were singers! 

Harold and Leah in the Marine City Choir
 We sang in the car, we sang in church, we sang while we worked, we sang while we played, we sang outdoor, we sang indoors, sang while camping...Did I say we liked to sang?  "Ninety nine bottles of pop (never beer) on the wall", "Row, row row your boat",  "Jesus love me", The Little Spider song, you name it we sang it.  We sang pretty songs and we sang silly songs.  And that brings me to Dad!  For as good as my parents could sing, my Dad could sing really badly, much like his Mom, when he wanted to! Dad invented our silly off key Birthday song and we all still sing it today. When he started it, I think it was his way of teasing Mom. She would beg him every birthday to sing nicely...and every birthday he belted “Happy Birthday” off key and we followed his lead. 

When it became time for music in school, everyone of us  got involved with the school band.  I played flute. I began in 5th grade. There were quite a number of flute players in Jr High school once you put all the new 7th graders together. And I was always at the bottom of the pack. Our band director was Mr Middleton, he also happened to go to our church and I liked him really well. 

Mr Middleton and the kids at MYF - November 1967
He was looking for someone to play the Oboe, so I decided to try it. The fingering is the same a a flute but of course it is a reed instrument. It took some getting use to but I liked it real well and felt like I was really making progress. We could not afford to buy an Oboe, they were too expensive, so I used one that the school had.

In the summer between 7th grade and 8th grade, we moved from Romeo to Imlay City. When I started 8th Grade in Imlay City, I had to go back to playing the flute and back to last chair. Especially since I had not played it for over a year and I was the new kid who just moved to town. I was so disappointed. The Imlay City Band had an Oboe player already and only one Oboe in the school district.  I felt like and played like I was a year behind all the other kids and I really was. I was the new kid who did not seem to fit in either. All the other band members had played with each other all through school. After a few months of band, Mr Cummings asked it I wanted to play bassoon. I really did not know what I was getting myself into. I had always played an instrument which played the melody and playing the Bassoon would be very different. Now I had to learn bass clef, all the new note fingering, and play HARMONY..WOW...honk, honk, count, count, honk, honk, count, count, count.... I did more counting, tapping my foot than I did playing and the bassoon sounded more like a Canadian goose and than an instrument. ”Oh my, what was I thinking,” I thought at the time. I got discouraged and before long I decided to quit the band all together. It was strange, I really did not think I had any friends in band...until I quit...All the band kids became and still are my best friends. I just did not give it the time that it needed I guess or it just wasn't my thing. We all have the things that we are passionate was not it for me.
I have always liked music, all kinds of music. When I was a teen, it was all about Rock and Roll, like all the teenagers! I remember sitting 2 feet from the TV and watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show and later the Rolling Stones! Then it was the Beach Boys, Creedance Clearwater Revival, the Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Elton John and so many more. As I aged I have mellowed a bit, I started to listen to many other types of music and now have became a Country fan. I love a good concert. Today I like Sugarland, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Reba McEntire, Brooks and Dunn, and Keith Urban just to name a few.   I listen to instrumental and orchestra, and recently singing bowls!!!! Listening to Celtic Women with your eye closed,  just once, and you will magically be in heaven. Check out the South African band Sterling EQ. These four women are truly amazing!

So I guess you could say that music has had a pretty BIG influence on me and it still does today!

Happy Memories!