Thursday, November 24, 2011
Babe turned to me. “I know we survived, but is the house still standing? I can’t look.” Glancing over his shoulder, I prepared myself for the wreckage of Rearickville.
Our cat Igor was sprawled on his back with his legs sticking straight up. He had swished his tail so many times I think he broke it. He spent the day hissing, snarling and running from the Jack Russell grandpuppy who pounced and chased him as though Igor was smeared with Alpo. If he could have, he’d have begged for Prozac, to which I’d have said, “There’s none left.” (Sucking on Prozac all day instead of hard candy can actually jumpstart a Zen experience. I know this for a fact.)
I didn’t decorate for the holiday. Instead I asked the kids to gather leaves from the yard. They thought up the live frogs on their own. My oldest grandson crafted a groundhog from a brown paper bag and called it a turkey. Not wanting to stunt a possible creative spurt, I nodded outwardly and winced inwardly.
Our family tolerates the vegetarian who eats nothing that previously wore furs or feathers, and another who eats only Cocoa Puffs. My daughter-in-law is on a hunger strike until she gets the green light to hire a live-in cook. My son, an enthusiastic jug wine drinker, will eat anything dead or alive after only a sip of the grape.
I must have been crazy to think I could restore the ambiance of a traditional sit-down dinner complete with a Butterball turkey, giblet gravy, dressing made from scratch, yams, and football blasting away in the den. Duh.
At four p.m., I announced that dinner would be fashionably late, so Lucifer’s children entertained everyone by repeating every expletive I had uttered with regard to Pilgrims and phone calls to the Butterball hotline after I discovered my turkey was still hard as last year’s Halloween corn candy.
While they gleefully shared videos of my unladylike behavior taken via their cell phones, I tried to drown them out with a tape of my son’s bass drum recital at age eight. I was really hoping to muffle sounds of my frozen turkey bouncing around in the clothes dryer.
When we were about to sit down for dinner I suggested, in the spirit of harmony that the children might sit at a separate table. In a separate room. Next door. I was voted down.
Appreciative onlookers applauding a perfectly carved, golden brown turkey is a beautiful thing to behold, but it means bupkis to Babe. He doesn’t carve; he chops. With that in mind, I thought a discreet turkey chopping ceremony in the kitchen would be wise. No way did I want anyone to see him hack up that turkey as if he were in a scene from the movie, “Saw III.”
But when everyone at the table started looking like Bosnian refugees, my son told his small, unsuspecting children to get in there and check on their grandfather.
“Stop,” I yelled. “Babe is battling an unarmed turkey with a Ginsu knife. Trust me. This is not something for young eyes to watch.”
My youngest grandson chomped his fourth bowl of Cocoa Puffs making mmmm sounds while the rest of us began to rethink cold cereal as a viable alternative to real food.
It’s a mystery to me why anyone prefers chickpeas to drumsticks, but in deference to the vegan, I sculpted a small turkey from tofu using colored toothpicks for feathers. After brushing it with egg whites, I baked it to a golden glow.
Instead of the appreciation I expected, however, laughter and name-calling prevailed. Positive reinforcement is an easily withheld commodity at my house.
Instead of the four different desserts that I might have made had the turkey thawed like it should have, I popped a Mrs. Paul’s pumpkin pie in the oven and put Cool Whip and M & M’s on top, the latter addition being another creative surge from the oldest grandson.
There could have been coffee. I can’t say for sure because I seized what was left of the wine, shut myself up in a closet and drank that jug dry as Tom Turkey’s carcass.
Babe and I have much to be thankful for, but those disappearing tail lights have taken thankfulness to a whole new level.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Well preserved? Hello? Do I look like a glob of Smuckers?
While genetics play a big part in determining how we look by the time our grandkids are married with kidlets of their own, so does that free dose of Vitamin D we call sunshine. It was supposed to be good for us. So who knew?
We of the celebrated peaches and cream complexions (aka Southern Belles) feel that living South of the Mason-Dixon Line is comparable to taking up residence at the legendary Eternity Spa.
“Well, fiddly dee,” laments my Scarlett alter-ego while batting Llama eyes heavy with mascara. “Southerners don’t need those resort spas. We’ve got humidity.”
That’s also what my mother always said and she had great skin. She left it to me as part of my inheritance when she died. No money, just good skin, but I’m not complaining. Without her peaches and cream inheritance, I would have been given the Smucker’s label years ago.
Mama was generous enough to leave me her hands too, but I only discovered that legacy the other day while trying to tie my shoes without falling on my face and breaking my daddy's inherited nose.
“Yikes! How did these old hands get attached to my arms,” I yelled out loud.
What used to be the things I kept manicured were covered with dark reddish brown spots as though they had been painted on. In shock, I naturally began to wonder about other body parts, ones I had not seen for a while. Like my navel.
That is when I found a dark dot near my belly button. No doubt another gift from my ever generous mother. I tried to brush off the dot but it wouldn’t move. I grabbed my 10X magnifying mirror to see if a tick had attached itself to my once-flat tummy. What if it had been actively sucking away my life’s blood? That might account for my low energy.
Looking more closely, I found five more tick-sized dots. Slowly, I inched the 10X mirror up toward my waist to examine my once-firm breasts, the ones that were gradually drooping down to say howdy to my navel. And there in plain, magnified site were Miss Georgia, Miss Tennessee, Miss Alabama, all flaunting their dots like Miss America contestants.
I know now that my friend yesterday was just being polite when he told me I was well preserved. I am not. Like many other women my age who are growing dark dotted thingies all over their body maps, I’m just another Botox candidate with a glob or two of Smucker’s on her well-done biscuits.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
I sort of slept through the provocative 60’s because I was busy having babies and pretending to be June Cleaver. Chasing after two rambunctious boys left me way too tired to focus on anything more serious than Pablum. I thought the Beat Generation was a tired group of housewives and mothers like me.
Years later, far removed from the self-containment of my earlier days, I woke up from my civic narcolepsy and joined a protest march against the war. My personal efforts did little more than insure that my name and photograph would be forever embedded in a folder at FBI headquarters. But by that time, I didn’t care because I had done something I felt strongly about and it felt good; I had broken with tradition and survived. I was proud of myself and I stood a bit taller.
That was back when I believed God favored America above all others because our country was a beacon of freedom, a place where dissension was not only possible without fear of reprisal, it was expected. Adlai Stevenson said, The sound of tireless voices is the price we pay for the right to hear the music of our own opinions.
The existing dissention throughout our country today has made me rethink my earlier perceptions. It is no longer acceptable to question authority, to ask why. Politically, when friends disagree they too often become hostile. Ordinary citizens are afraid to express different opinions because saying the wrong thing to the wrong people has consequences.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Every day, 24-7, our brave military men and women are fighting in other countries for our inalienable rights while the liberties they defend are snatched away, one by one, in our own backyards.
Even obscured by a fog of indifference in the radical 60’s, I was to learn the messages set in motion by the Beat Generation, if you can believe that. By opening up a political Pandora’s Box, cans of bureaucratic worms were forced to wriggle out. Kesey’s unbridled arrested childhood may not have been popular in conservative America, but he and his group of merry men stood up for what they believed in and it took guts.
Jack Kerouac. Neal Cassady. Allan Ginsburg. William Burroughs.
I was changing diapers and making formula when Kerouac took his first cross-country trip. If there was a difference between the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Clorox’s tests for removing grape Kool-Aid stains, I wasn't aware of it. Long-haired hippies? They did not live in my white bread neighborhood. By the time I was in a position to boogie with the Grateful Dead, I was too old.
I never met Ken Kesey, but he took me to the movies. I willingly went with him on a journey inside of his head, a much shorter trip than he ever took, I’m sure. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was my Aha Moment so when I walked out of the theater that day, I felt like my brain had been washed clean by new thoughts.
At that time, I was more like June Cleaver than June Cleaver, but I easily identified the counterculture and anti-establishment in that film. Many people raised in the 50’s, middle-American housewives like myself, only saw a stellar performance by Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy, and Louise Fletcher portraying Nurse Ratched. In personifying the nurse’s total authority, I got that the Ken Kesey film exposed the inherent dangers when authority figures are given too much power. It was a wake-up call for me as well as for America. Or so I thought at the time.
I don’t want government or its banking minions to control my thoughts, my decisions, my speech or my pocketbook. I don't march around holding protest placards these days, but as an American citizen, I insist on retaining the right to do so. I am not willing to give away that privilege. The Bill of Rights says I don’t have to.
If we are to make our dissenting forefathers as proud of us as we are of them, we cannot sleep through White House shenanigans or the partisan games being played by our elected officials. It is up to us to preserve the vision of those brave patriots who defied England two hundred and forty-one years ago in order to insure our freedoms. As Americans, can we do less than honor their courage?
The beat goes on.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
And therein lies the rub, the conundrum, the moral quandary with which I, and other Americans are forced to grapple these days. War, some say, is inevitable. But how can that be when it flies in the face of all things holy? War, in and of itself, takes away our humanness.
Friday, July 1, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Nowhere is God’s grace more evident than when a Hospice Angel walks through the door.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
By Cappy Hall Rearick
I can hear my mother’s voice. “Cappy, go out there and pick those figs before the birds get ‘em.” Mama never knew my St. Simons Island neighbor, Ed Cheshire, aka the Fig Filcher. I once saw him out there picking only a fig leaf. Knowing Ed, he probably had plans to wear it. If Mama had known Ed, she'd have amended her warning so as to include the Fig Filcher.
When I was growing up, we always had a fig tree in the back yard. It was the first thing Mama planted whenever we moved. Now, as I look at our neighborhood tree, I am reminded of when back yards were playable, trees were climbable, hopscotch was hoppable, and if any cement could be found, it provided a perfect surface on which to play Jacks.
We ran so hard. Ran till we were out of breath and had to stop and hold our aching sides. “Time Out!” we yelled if we were being chased in a wild game of tag. We drank sugared, thirst-quenching Kool-Ade in frosty aluminum tumblers, ate Cracker Jacks for only one reason: the prize in the bottom of the box, usually a plastic monkey with its tail curled into the shape of an “O.”
“Oh, shoot! I got a gnat in my eye,” I so often said. We grew up with gnats, mosquitoes and houseflies. We didn't use “Off” to keep them away. Insects coexisted (with an occasional swat) alongside children tumbling onto stretches of dirt at the bottom of a sliding board, or kids looking for the elusive four-leaf clover in patches of green not yet planted with St. Augustine.
We skinned the cat on tree limbs big enough to hold us, and small enough on which to wrap our skinny legs. We even climbed fig trees, once the birds had come and gone.
The birds! I totally forgot about them! I need to take a detour off Memory Lane and get cracking before they pick that tree clean.
I park my car, unload groceries and think all the while about the bulging fig-laden tree just outside my door. In less than twenty minutes, I am there, scanning up and down Butler Avenue for either Ed the Fig Filcher or the swarm of expected black birds. Neither, they are anywhere in sight. My window of opportunity appears to have been extended beyond the fifteen minutes, which makes my heart pound in expectation.
I continue to gaze at the sky and down the street while moving stealthily with plastic grocery bags in both hands. As soon as I reach the tree, I am thunderstruck. There is but one fig left. One! And it’s hiding underneath a fat leaf way in the back.
Damn those thieving black birds! Not only did they strip the fig tree bare, but they stole my fifteen-minute window right out from under me.
I shake my fist and yell Just wait till next year at the few remaining birds hovering over the roof of my recently washed car.
“And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves.”
We hold these truths to be self evident: every mother’s spaghetti tastes better than anybody else’s, and every hometown has a hot dog dive serving up the best hot dogs on the planet.
No argument on the spaghetti issue, although honestly? MY mama's spaghetti can beat YOUR mama's spaghetti. Also, the Dairy O hot dogs in Orangeburg, South Carolina, really ARE the best anywhere.
It’s only natural for folks to claim their hometown eatery to be better than anybody else’s because being loyal to hot dogs, apple pie and barbeque is the American way. Nowhere is that more true than south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
In Orangeburg back in the day, there were two hot dog dives, one with curb service and one without. The place on Broughton Street was truly famous for hot dogs served to you in your car. They were ugly dogs, but who cared? A Julius’s hot dog, even today, can resurrect saliva glands in a corpse.
In Babe’s Pennsylvania hometown, folks show up at Bailey’s when they crave a taste of yesterday. Nailed to the walls are hundreds of football, basketball and wrestling team pictures, some going back as far as the Forties. Bailey’s sells all manner of fast food, but their made-to-order hot dogs topped with their secret sauce, is what keeps people coming back for more.
Bailey’s puts out a pretty good dog, but … not as good as the ones served up at Orangeburg’s second most famous place: the Dairy O. It’s impossible for me to pass through the burg without stopping for one or two.
In Hendersonville it’s Hot Dog World, touted as one of the best restaurants in North Carolina. I know a fellow who, when on vacation in the mountains, heads for Hot Dog World before he unpacks his suitcase. There was even a couple that hosted their wedding reception at Hot Dog World. (I didn’t make that up.)
Close to Duke University in Durham, Pauly’s Dogs rule. Each one, created by Pauly himself, is named appropriately. The Southern Belle is the standard h.d. with mustard, catsup, onions and Pauly’s special sauce. Aunt Jamima is a breakfast hot dog topped with maple syrup, and Cap’t Crunch is topped with … you guessed it. I doubt he’s ever offered one named Fido.
St. Simons Island’s hot dog claim to fame is Hot Dog Alley. The owner set up his business on a corner fifteen years ago, a cart on wheels usually seen at flea markets. I call them Roach Coaches, but that’s just me. He eventually bought the building on that same corner next to an alley and voila! Hot Dog Alley was re-born. A pretty good dog, but not great. My opinion is obviously jaded due to past eating experiences at the good Dairy O in Orangeburg, SC.
Walterboro South Carolina has Dairyland and my kids, raised in that small lowcountry town, claim it to be the very best. Ehhh …
When I was a student at USC in Columbia, South Carolina, we used to go to the old Sears store in Five Points to gobble up the best slaw dog ever made. Sadly, the little annex hot dog joint hooked onto the big Sears building has been gone for more years than I want to count. Only the memory of that special taste is left. But oh, what a fine memory it is.
I am on a quest to find where the best hot dogs can be found. Next week, I am going to Hendersonville to chow down on a recommended dog from an appropriately named place: Piggies. I am told it is so good you won’t want to stop with just one. We’ll see.
In any case, as we approach the Fourth of July, America’s official National Hot Dog Day, I hope you’ll stop for a moment and think about that special dive you knew as a kid, the one that floods you with memories of days gone by. By all means, stick to the July 4th menu by cooking up a bunch of dogs. Serve them to your kids and grandkids while telling them about that special place in your old hometown that served the best hot dogs on the planet.
I dare you to name one of them FIDO.