TBT: Great Grandma’s House

Two weeks ago, in honor of Halloween, my Throwback Thursday post was about the spooky bedroom at the end of the hall at my Great Grandmother’s house. I spent a lot of time at her house. This week’s throwback looks at some of the brighter – or at least, not frightening – times.

Great Grandma was very adept at pinching pennies. Conservation was the name of the game. According to her, an inch and a half of water in the bottom of the tub was more than adequate for me to take a bath in. Can’t wash my hair in that little water? No problem. She’d just bend me backwards over the edge of the bathroom sink and wash it there.

She had a whole bunch of cheap costume jewelry. Never having pierced her ears, all the earrings were clip-on. This was perfect for our jewelry store that my brother and I would setup in the living room. We’d pull a dining room chair in as our display space. Hang the necklaces on the corners. Clip the earrings on the center portion of the chair back. We’d push the two facing couches away from the walls and each would claim one space as his or her home. The shop would be outside one of the homes. Business couldn’t have been swift. What, with only two people in the town.

My favorite activity, by far, was eating Saltine crackers. Now that I think about it, that was pretty much my favorite activity wherever I was. And I always had to be sneaky about it because crazy grown-ups seemed to have a problem with a kid eating an entire sleeve of crackers in one sitting.

Grandma kept her crackers in the little vertical storage space in her range (cooktop and oven – not built into any cabinetry). I’m sure the space was intended for baking sheets or something, but at her house, that’s where the crackers were. When she wasn’t looking, I’d swipe them and run to hide under the table in the living room.

For a smart kid, I wasn’t very bright though. I almost always forgot to close the door in my haste. So in would walk Grandma to the kitchen. She’d see the open compartment, and she’d start calling me. Problem was, she was 80-some years old and had quite a few grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It took her awhile to get to my name.

“Mary Lee? Marsha? Susan? Jennifer? Lucy?” I never felt compelled to respond until she got to mine. I mean, how was I supposed to know she was calling me? In the meantime, I’d pick up the pace on stuffing crackers in my mouth.

Eventually, sometimes after cycling through some men’s names too, she’d hit mine. And I’d dutifully call out, “Yes?” The response was always muffled since it’s hard to speak with your mouth full of crackers. She’d enter the living room and snag the remaining crackers. I don’t recall getting into much trouble for it.

She had a pecan orchard too. As she got older, she became less and less able to pick the pecans on her own. In fact, sometimes she’d call my mom or my grandma yelling, “The crows are getting my pecans! The crows are getting my pecans!!” That was the siren call that would get all family members living in the area loaded up and hurried out to her house to pick pecans.

When I was in eighth grade, I remember going out there and picking pecans. That’s when I learned that there’s some sort of dye in the soft outer green shells that protect the brown speckled shells we are all accustomed to. I was trying to be helpful and peeled them all off. And all my fingers were stained orange!

Such an event is absolutely devastating to a middle schooler. How could I go to school with my hands looking like that?! I simply couldn’t. There was obviously only one thing to do… I carefully covered all my fingers with band-aids. Yep. That’s what I did.

And being an honest child, when the unforeseen question came up, “What did you do to your fingers?!”, I told the truth. Which made me look incredibly stupid since I wasn’t actually injured.

On Great Grandma’s wall, hung a poem. I thought this was one of the most insightful things I’d ever seen. And when we emptied her house, so many years later, I learned I wasn’t alone. Everyone wanted the poem. And so we all got color copies of the original. Mine is matted and hanging on my dining room wall:

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TBT: The Battle of The Scorpions

This Throwback Thursday post harkens back to my college days.  Age aside, I think I technically qualified as a non-traditional student.  After the first year spent living on campus (first semester in a dorm, second in married student housing), we moved into my father-in-law’s house because he had moved to another state and the house was available rent free.  What college student can pass that up?

The downside was that it was almost an hour from campus, but gas in a Civic was cheaper than rent so we moved.  Another downside, I was soon to learn, was the presence of scorpions.  The house was nestled on 10 acres down in a valley full of trees in a remote, rural area with virtually no neighbors visible from the house.  It was a beautiful place.  Except for the scorpions.

My mother-in-law had told me about how she had gotten into the habit of shaking out her clothes and checking her shoes before putting them on – just to make sure no scorpions were there.  I never got in the habit of doing this and was fairly lucky that the lack of doing so never got me stung.

One calm afternoon found me sprawled across our bed, stomach down, arms spread out around my head, enjoying a drowsy pseudo-nap.  The windows were open (no air conditioning) and the breeze blew comfortably across me.  At one point, I felt the hairs on the back of the hand closest to the window move.

It’s just the breeze moving the hairs, I told myself.  I rebelled against the thought because it sure felt like something was crawling on me.  Open your eyes and look, I said, willing myself not to panic over nothing.  My face was toward that hand.  The hand was, in fact, mere inches from my face.  I calmed myself, convinced that it was just the wind, and then lazily opened my eyes, intending to verify what I knew to be true and then return to my pleasant slumber.

Instead, I gazed upon the scorpion crawling across the back of my hand.  I have never been that close to one before and hope never to be again.  I screamed and threw my hand away from me.  The scorpion went flying across the room.  I stood on the bed yelling for my husband to come find and kill the pest.  It had, of course, scurried away.  Needless to say, I was unable to return to my state of rest.

We would find them everywhere.  In the bathtub.  In the dogs’ food bowls.  In the sink.  One day, as I prepared to leave the house to go study with a friend who also lived an hour from campus, I noticed one in the kitchen sink.  Because I am a wise and resourceful woman, I seized the opportunity to scald it to death.  I turned on the water as hot as it would go and moved the extendable faucet head to focus that terrible watery heat on my foe.

After a sufficient period of time, I turned off the water.  The scorpion did not move.  Success, I told myself.  To my husband, who was in the living room watching TV, I said, “I just killed a scorpion in the sink.  Will you please dispose of it?”

“Sure,” he said.

When I returned several hours later, I checked the sink.  The scorpion was gone.  I thanked the husband who was still watching TV in the living room.  He responded defensively with, “Hey!  I’m sorry!  I forgot!  You don’t have to get all ugly about it!”

My skin went cold.  I glanced at the sink and then all around me.  “You mean you didn’t throw away a dead scorpion?”

“No.”

That’s when it occurred to me that perhaps you can’t adequately scald a hardy insect with an exoskeleton.  At least, not if death of the insect is your goal.

Yet another day saw us outside.  I was sitting on the front porch reading an assignment for school.  He was doing some sort of yard work.  The porch was obscured from the road – a very private place.  It was still a surprise when he walked up on to the porch, turned his back to me, and pulled down his pants.

It quickly became apparent that he was not being kinky, when he said, “Do you see that red spot on my leg?”

I looked and confirmed that I did.

“I think there might be something in my pants.  Can you check?  I think something may have just stung me.”

With that, I put down my book and gingerly pulled on the edge of his jeans to get a better look.  When I did so, a scorpion scurried out of one of the pant legs toward me.

Now, the calm and appropriate response would have been to swiftly brush the scorpion out of his pants.  And if I was quick enough, stomp it dead.  That’s what he would have done had the roles been reversed.

But the roles were not reversed.  And I am rarely calm and appropriate when faced with a surprise such as this one.  No, I jumped back from him, knocking over my chair, and screeched, “There’s a SCORPION in your pants!!”

This news, or perhaps the manner in which it was delivered, sent him into a panic.  He began to stomp around the porch, slapping at his pants and yelling, “Get it out!  Get it out!”

He was really in a predicament since he was wearing Cowboy boots and the only way to remove the pants would require him to first pull them up more so he could take the boots off.  Pulling them up would be a good way to get the scorpion back in contact with his skin.

Fortunately, I saw the scorpion fall or jump out shortly thereafter and was able to yell the all-clear before he stumbled head first off the porch.  For reasons that I fail to understand, he was a bit cross with me.  He knows who he married.  He should not expect calm in the face of such stress.  I can be calm and level-headed through many different trials and tribulations.  But if it involves a creepy crawly, forget it.  I’m out.

TBT: The Great Stuffed Animal Migration

I had a lot of dolls and stuffed animals when I was young.  I mean, a lot.  So did my little brother.  We had our favorites.  I had Julie, the wrap-around monkey puppet.  She frequently wore earrings, which really helped me out when I forgot to wear some to the lake shortly after I got mine pierced.  She let me use hers.  She also went with me when the day care center took us to see Gremlins in the theater.  That was good because that movie scared the living you-know-what out of me and I don’t think I could have survived had she not been there to wrap her arms around my eyes.

And then there was Jennifer, the home-made doll that the wonderful woman next door made for me.  And Jane, the knock-off Cabbage Patch doll.  And… Rufus?  A really big dog that was usually wearing a T-shirt.  My brother had LeMutt and LeMutt’s girlfriend Fifi.  I think LeMutt and Fifi were available in different sizes and we had a smaller version of LeMutt than Fifi.  Didn’t seem to bother us much.

One of my fondest memories concerning our stuffed animals was a trip to the lake one year.  I’m not sure how old we were.  Old enough (by eighties standards) to be home alone but not so old that we had put the dolls away.  Maybe ten and seven?

Anyway, mom had left us with instructions.  We were supposed to load a few supplies into the pop-up trailer and make sure we were ready to go when she and my step-dad got home from work.  We were strictly limited to two stuffed animals each.  Yes, Mom.  We understand completely.

Two animals each, however, was unacceptable.  We soon developed a plan.  The pop-up was basically already packed and closed down so no one would be crawling into it or opening it up.  It was a safe haven.  We started carrying stuffed animals out by the armful to stuff behind all the boxes in the trailer.  We got caught up in the adrenaline rush of the plan implementation and took nearly every single stuffed animal, no matter how small, insignificant, or unloved out to the trailer.

Some careful planning went into which four animals were in the car with us.  They had to be believable as the four we would most want, of course.  Rufus was the biggest problem (literally).  He was too big to hide in the trailer without risking exposure if the parents should perform a quick flashlight check before departure.  But he wasn’t likely to be one of my top two.  I agonized over this for quite some time before deciding to risk suspicion.

Still, there were still more animals that didn’t fit in the trailer.  By the time our parents got home, we really wanted to pull off a complete coup.  So while they were busy, we’d quickly and quietly sneak small animals out to the car in our shirts and stuff them under the seats.  We hid even more animals in our pillowcases and laid the pillows in the backseat, carefully situating them so the lumps weren’t obvious.  And then, when it was time to go, we walked to the car, each holding two, and only two, animals.

Looking back, I laugh at how much work went into hiding things.  As a parent, I can only imagine how distracted they were with everything they needed to take care of.  No wonder we got away with it.

We sat quietly in the backseat as the car pulled out of the drive.  Occasional furtive glances were shared as my brother waited for me to give the indication.  The key to success with the in-car animals was to wait until we were too far away for them to turn the car back.  But not too far that we couldn’t enjoy them!  Besides, we were really itching to reveal our hand!

Finally, I nodded and we each darted under the front seats to extract the animals.  We pulled them gleefully from our pillowcases.  Our mother looked back in shock.  We laughed and laughed and laughed.  Mom grinned and shook her head.  Success.  And we hadn’t even gotten in trouble.

One more hurdle remained.  When we got to the lake, they began to raise the trailer.  (A pop-up trailer has a roof that winds up and two beds that slide out to leave you with a big open space in the middle.  Many have a kitchen and table in them.  Ours was a very basic model – just the two beds.  All of our towels, dishes, etc. were stored in Avon boxes in the floor.)  They let down the door.  They stepped inside.  They saw the animals.  We shrieked in delight.

Mom was not quite so forgiving this time.  Then again, it was so over-the-top ridiculous that after a brief expression of anger, she just shook her head in disbelief.  Then she said that every single last animal had to fit on our bed.  Every single one.  It was a challenge to do that and still have room for us but we pulled it off.  Mom couldn’t understand why we wanted so many stuffed animals at the lake.  It wasn’t the having them there that we wanted – it was the getting them there.  To this day, it remains one of our best cooperative acts of subterfuge.

I still have “the big three”: Jane, Jennifer, and Julie.  My kids found them in the closet one day and they came back to life (Woody and Buzz would love to know that).  Only, despite my insistence, they aren’t named Jane, Jennifer, and Julie anymore.

I’d like you to meet, from left to right, Shirley, Ginger, and… Mr. Muffets.  That last one has taken some getting used to.

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TBT: My Car, My Step-dad, and Me

This week’s posts about timid drivers and the discussion about bad day birthdays got me to thinking about my stepdad.  Specifically, some experiences we shared while I was learning to drive.

When I turned 16, I bought a 1972 VW bug in bad need of a paint job from my grandparents.  I paid them something like $50 a month for a year.  In the months and years leading up to that birthday, I had insisted that I would take any car, ANY car, except a bug.  I don’t know why I hated them so much, but I did.  By the time I turned 16 though, an 18 year old hand-me-down bug for $600 seemed just fine, thank you very much.

Now, this car had more issues than peeling paint.  It also had a sticky throttle.  Sometimes I’d pull up to a stoplight and the engine would begin to race.  I’d have to put the car in neutral, engage the parking brake, run around to the back where the engine was, pop the ‘hood’, push the throttle thingy back down, and then race back to the driver’s seat, put it back in gear, and take off before the car behind me honked.  If I was lucky, I was transporting either my little brother or my boyfriend, both of whom had been trained to hop out and do it for me.  Sometimes I wonder how much experiences like that keep you humble.

Anyway, before I was trusted to drive around by myself or with other young passengers, a lot of time was spent driving around the neighborhood with one of my parents.  It was a manual transmission, quite different from the automatics that we learned with in my Driver’s Ed class at school.

The neighborhood had a lot of hills and I’d typically pick routes that would not force me to stop on a steep uphill incline.  I hadn’t yet mastered the (now probably lost) art of balancing my left and right feet on the clutch and gas to keep the car stationary and then gently transition to forward progress.  It seemed like a good plan to get good at that on flat surfaces before attempting hills.

My stepdad had a different view of the world though.  He was more in the tradition of “sink or swim” training.  So one day, he directed my progress and it resulted in me stopping at a stop sign at the top of the steepest of steep hills in the neighborhood.  I protested as we approached, saying I wouldn’t be able to start up again.  He said yes I would.  Shortly after I stopped, a car came up behind me.  I began to sweat.  I rolled (yes, actually manually rolled) down the window and tried to motion them to go around me.

I can’t remember now what happened next.  Maybe I’ve fused several memories into one.  I don’t remember if they went around me or refused.  I don’t remember whether I stubbornly stayed put or gunned it.  I don’t remember if I successfully (but with a really revved up engine) passed through the intersection or if I killed it or rolled all the way down the hill.  It seems like I had all of those experiences.  Obviously, I eventually left the hill.  All I know for sure is that I was irritated with him.

I doubt it was that same trip, but on one such neighborhood tour, he insisted when we returned home that I back into the driveway.  I’ve noticed over the years that most people don’t back into their driveways.  Most pull in and then back out.  Both my mother and my stepfather, however, strongly believed that you should back into the driveway and pull out.  The best explanation that I was given was that on icy days, it was easier to exit if you had previously backed in.  If I pointed out the unlikeliness of getting iced-in during the summer months, for example, I’d be told that it was important to keep good habits.

Anyway, I began to pull into the driveway one day and he told me to back in.  His car was already in the driveway and I told him I wasn’t comfortable backing in with it there.  He told me I needed to learn and to do it anyway.  I insisted that I wasn’t comfortable.  He insisted that I do it anyway.

“Fine!” I finally responded angrily.  I pulled either down the street or into the drive across from us, threw my arm over the seat, and looked over my shoulder as I began to maneuver into the driveway.  Likewise, he looked over his right shoulder to watch my proximity to his car.

“You are getting close to the Ford,” he said.  I corrected my motion some.

“You are getting too close to the Ford!” he said again.  I made another adjustment.

“You are getting too…” {{BAM!!}}  “…You just hit the Ford!”

I quickly adjusted the car and hopped out.  So did he.  We were both angrily yelling at each other about the accident that had just occurred in the driveway.  He was yelling about how he had been telling me I was getting too close and I didn’t adjust.  I was yelling about how I told him I didn’t feel comfortable backing into the driveway but he just wouldn’t listen.  My mom came hurrying down the sidewalk from the front door: “What is going on?!”

“She just hit the Ford!”

“He made me back into the driveway!”

I don’t remember anything after this.  I think they made some deal about them paying for repairing my car and painting it if I just did XYZ.  I never did XYZ.  I don’t know why.  I came to love my little bug in serious need of a paint job and a nice dent in the rear passenger-side fender.  It was a very nice match to my platform shoes, bell-bottom jeans, and rainbow sunglasses that I wore to the band’s “hippie dance”.  And it got me where I needed to go.  Most of the time.

TBT: Square Peg in a Round Hole

The discussion on my post about my youngest child’s recent Kindergarten homework reminded me of my daughter’s struggles that year.  So this week’s Throwback Thursday travels back eight years.

She’s nearly 14 years old now and in the eighth grade. But eight years ago, she was the bright-eyed, excited Kindergartener in our house. She had a great teacher. The teacher was highly requested, was very good with the kids, taught them a lot, and even received the district’s teacher of the year award that year. I loved almost everything about her.

What I didn’t love was a facet of what made her so good. She ran a tight ship, which allowed her to produce solid results. However, she didn’t have much room for out-of-the-box thinkers on that tight ship. And that’s where my problem lay. Because my kids aren’t good at fitting into other people’s expectations.

On the first day of school, the teacher greeted each child at the door and encouraged them to find their chair and sit down. At each place was a big glob of gray clay. She cheerfully encouraged each child to kneed their “magic play-doh” and see what would happen.

Jane looked around the room at the children who had arrived before her, all gleefully squishing their clay and laughing in delight as it began to change color. Some had red, some blue, some yellow, and so on. She glanced down at her clay and pondered it for a minute. Then, as if she had a sudden inspiration, she tore the ball of clay open to reveal the drops of food coloring inside.

With her face lit up and expecting praise at solving the puzzle, she ran over to the teacher, “Look! Look! I figured it out! See?! I figured it out! There’s this stuff inside. That’s what’s making them change colors!”

The teacher was more irritated at the possibility of the cool activity being ruined for the other kids than she was appreciative of my daughter’s skills of deduction. She gave a quick “That’s nice, Jane. Now go sit back down.” before turning her attention to the newcomers. This left a bad taste in my mouth but I chalked it up to new-mom-pride on my part, bothered that the teacher didn’t seem to find my child as impressive as I did.

Several months later, it was time for “brown” show-and-tell day. They had gone through a series of colors, shapes, and letters over the previous weeks, each one being the criteria for choosing a show-and-tell item. Jane had been growing increasingly frustrated with a boy in her class who always tried to figure out what everyone else had brought. She wanted her item to be a surprise.

So for brown show-and-tell, she came up with the perfect solution – many days or weeks ahead of time, actually. She was so excited when she told me how she was going to bring her hair for show-and-tell: “Because that way, he won’t be able to see what I have because it’s my hair!”

I was excited for her on brown show-and-tell day so as I tucked her into bed that night, I asked her what her teacher had thought of her brown show-and-tell item. Her face fell.

“She didn’t like it.”

“What do you mean she didn’t like it?”

“I didn’t get a ‘good choice’ Kissable.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you do something good, she gives you a ‘good choice’ Kissable.”

“And you didn’t get one?”

“No.”

“Did everyone else who brought something for show-and-tell get one?”

“Yes.”

I was flummoxed. The best I could come up with was that the teacher thought Jane had forgotten her show-and-tell item and had chosen her hair while sitting at the table, waiting her turn. I thought a letter to the teacher would surely clear things up.

In the letter, I explained that Jane said the teacher hadn’t liked her show-and-tell item. I explained that Jane had not forgotten, that she had been planning it for some time and was very excited about it. I told the teacher that she had done it so the boy couldn’t guess what she had and that we had been proud of her problem solving.

The return note surprised me. First, she showed an inability to understand that children can tell when adults don’t like something even if the adults don’t explicitly say they don’t like it. “I never told Jane I didn’t like her show-and-tell item,” she said. As if withholding the treat for participation did not say it clearly enough.

Continuing, she said, “I told the children that they were to bring an item from home. Her hair is not an item from home. If I start letting them use their hair or eyes or clothing, then pretty soon we won’t have anything to show and tell about.”

To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I will concede that the teacher had considerably more experience with Kindergarteners and thus her concern was probably reasonably well founded. My problem was not that she didn’t appreciate Jane’s contribution (although taking the time to understand why she did it would have/should have caused her to appreciate it). No, my problem was how she handled the situation.

She didn’t need to shame Jane by denying her the same reward everyone else got. She didn’t need to hold her accountable for a very strict interpretation of “an item from home.” She could have achieved her objective of stopping the impending snowball of non-item show-and-tell presentations by simply saying this:

“That’s very creative, Jane, thank you. But when I said I wanted you guys to bring an item from home, I meant one that you don’t bring to school every day already. So let’s everyone keep that in mind next time. Here’s your Kissable. Joseph, you’re next.”

That night, I had one of my better parenting moments when I comforted her. I told her about how all my friends, some of whom were teachers, simply loved her show-and-tell item and her reason behind it. I told her I thought it showed tremendous creativity. “But that’s not what Mrs. Smith was looking for. And now that we know what she’s looking for, we’ll be able to meet her expectations next time, won’t we? I love you sweetheart. Good night.”

What I didn’t do, and now wish I had, was contact the teacher again. Then again, I had already explained the motivations of my child’s choice. All that was left was to tell her how she could have done her job better and that seems like a dangerous area to enter into. Maybe it’s best that I let it go.

But sometimes, looking back, I wonder how much the push to conform has changed my children. Are they as creative as they would have been if people hadn’t kept trying to force them into a shape that didn’t fit?

TBT: An Ugly Car and Cloud Gazing

I’ve told a couple of stories from my past recently, one verbally to some friends and one in a blog comment.  Both times, I received such a positive response that I thought I should write them up as blog posts.  And that made me think that surely I have more stories from my past that would be entertaining to at least a few souls.

So I’m embarking on my first ever “feature” on this blog.  We’ll see how long it lasts.  Taking a page from Instagram and Facebook, each Thursday, I hope to post a story from an earlier time period in my life for “Throwback Thursday.”  As they are stories I remember well, I suppose they very definitely qualify as “bright spots” in my life if their memory is still shining bright after all these years.


My husband and I were High School Sweethearts.  We met somewhere around the start of our Junior year.  His best friend had a crush on me that summer and talked about me in such a way that my future husband was fascinated and interested in meeting me.  The start of the school year saw me dating his best friend and he dating mine.

One day, my best friend and I met up with him to go to a party.  He had spent the day polishing his not-yet-operational-again ’57 Chevy with a bottle of Windex to show it off.  We drove up.  He stood proudly by his car and asked what we thought.  I was doing my best snotty teenage girl imitation and told him I thought it was ugly.  He was crestfallen.

Within a couple of years, I’d be using a manual to rebuild the master cylinder of that “ugly” car in the band room after school.  I’d ride in it to prom.  I’d later retrieve him from it when it threw a rod through the oil pan on our wedding night.  I’d chastise him for driving it in a torrential rain storm that swept it off the road while we were in college.  I’d willingly have it towed to Texas when we moved.  It’s still sitting in the backyard now, waiting for our time, money, and interest to revive it.

Anyway, the car was not operational at the time and he was not 16.  My best friend was to drive us to the party.  I very snottily told him that I was riding in the front; he could sit in the back.  We stopped at an ATM and my friend and I went in to get some cash.

When I came out, he was sitting in the backseat with his head leaned all the way back so he could gaze out the back window.

“What are you doing?!” I asked.

“Looking at the clouds…” he said in a drawn-out, dreamy voice.  I remember very distinctly thinking that he wasn’t a very good match for my friend and that he would be a better match for me.

There was no motivation to steal him.  There was no emotion, no burning heart thumping in my chest, no desire.  Just an observation of fact.  I remember nothing of the party or anything else we did that day.  But I remember that young man gazing out the back of that window and making that comment like it was yesterday.

Within a couple of months, she had dumped him and his best friend had dumped me.  He had migrated through another girlfriend (who he confided to me he thought he could marry – I still don’t let him forget that remark).  While he was with that girl, I was growing to realize just how much I liked him.  Again, clear as day, I can remember my reaction to his writing that he wanted to marry her in the note we were passing back and forth at a Latin Club event.  This time, I felt the burning feeling in my chest and a profound sense of disappointment.  That feeling of loss was followed immediately by a firm decision that I wasn’t going to react.  That I really liked this guy and if I couldn’t be his girlfriend, I certainly wanted to be his friend.

She dumped him a week later.  And we began to date a month or two after that – after a drawn-out note-passing courtship that we were enjoying but was driving my friends batty.  And I became the first girl in his life to not dump him.  I never have and I never will.


Interestingly, this wasn’t the story I set out to tell.  I set out to tell the story that got my friends smiling last night.  I was just trying to set the stage when this story fell out instead.  Funny how that works.  Well, maybe the other one will come next week.