A Halloween to Remember

It was 1968. Orville had recently returned from his second tour in Vietnam and purchased a small house in Copperas Cove, Texas. A few local families were the backbone of the community. The rest of us were military families attached to Fort Hood.

To give you a little background, Orville grew up in rural West Virginia where costumes were whatever Mom could scrape together out of old clothes. Because they lived in the country, the kids only went trick-or-treating at two or three houses.

I grew up in an Ohio town that was large enough to have three elementary schools. Towns were safer then, so we went in groups carrying shopping bags or pillow cases and had the run of neighborhoods that were within walking distance.

About a week before Halloween Orville and I went commissary-shopping. I began piling bags of candy into the cart. He returned most of the candy to the shelves. I put it back in the cart. He asked, “Why are you buying so much candy?”

“For Trick-or-Treat.”

“You’re buying too much.”

“No, I’m not. We need much more than this.”

“How much candy do you plan to give each child?”

“Two pieces.”

“Then one bag should be enough.”

“No it won’t. The Smith’s have four children. The Jones’ have five. We have three. The rest of the families on our street have approximately the same number and kids will be coming from other neighborhoods.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“I am. We need at least 12 bags of candy, 20 would be better.”

“I don’t believe you, but I’ll agree to 10 bags.”

“That won’t be enough.”

“That’s all I’m buying.”

On Halloween I put the candy in a soup kettle and asked Orville to watch for Trick-or-Treaters while I dressed our three little ones in their homemade costumes. I reminded him not to give anyone more than two pieces.

“We’ll have candy left for Easter,” he complained.

“No we won’t. Remember I grew up in a town and know what kind of crowd to expect.”

Soon, the door bell rang and there stood four little beggars. Three more arrived just as he was handing candy to the first group. Then there were another five. There was a Superman, a cowboy, a doctor, a princess and more. Orville ran to grab his movie camera and said, “You pass out the candy. I’m filming this.”

“We agreed that I’d take the kids out and you’d pass out the candy,” I said.

“We’ll pay the neighbor girl a dollar to take the kids out. I have to get this on camera.”

And so the evening went, until we were down to two bags of candy. I told Orville that I needed to make more treats and headed for the kitchen. I had baked cookies that day – just in case. Two cookies went into each sandwich bag. Soon all our apples, oranges and bananas flew into outstretched treat bags. Then I began popping and bagging popcorn.

That was nearly gone when, finally, curfew hit and we were able to take a few deep breaths. Orville said, “I can hardly believe what I just saw. Next year we’ll be better prepared.” I couldn’t resist tossing a “told you so” his direction.

The following year not only did we buy more candy, but Orville also invited another couple to bring their candy to our house. The men passed out the candy and filmed the Trick or Treaters while we moms took our pre-schoolers house-to-house, then returned to make sure the snacks kept coming.

copyright by Sharon D. Dillon, October 27, 2016

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Immersion at Holden Beach

A blanket of stars on a pitch black background overhead, to the left, to the right, over land, over ocean. Large, bright stars, small barely discernible stars. So many that constellations are not recognizable. The grandeur of the Universe. Thank you, Universe for this gift. Some stars shoot across the horizon. Scientists call this a meteor shower, but shooting stars describe the vision better.

Added to all this beauty is the steady pulsing of mechanical stars that keep pilots on their path. Can you imagine the view at 30,000 feet? If the stars are magnificent from the ground, they must be awe-inspiring to see at that height.

All this beauty is emphasized by the symphony of the ocean. The steady rhythm of the sea washing the beach. Tons of water crashing into itself, whooshing to the shore, then ebbing back to the depths.

How many small, living creatures wash ashore in this continuous ebb and flow? Walking along the beach we see evidence of oysters, clams, mussels, crabs, starfish and more. Some retreat in their shells and return to the ocean with the next neap tide. Some are not so fortunate. They feed the birds who peck holes in their shells. Others lie in the sun while their body fluids evaporate. Yet even their shells or skeletons tell a story of the majesty of life under the sea.

copyright by Sharon Dillon, November 6, 2015, Holden Beach, NC

Who are you?

Who Are You?

On Jeopardy the answer would be, “What was the most asked question at the Shelby (Ohio) High School 50th class reunion?”

After mysterious people introduced themselves to other mysterious people, hugs and warm handshakes ensued. The experience was fun and heartwarming, but often baffling. Some of the people who hugged me had never spoken to me during our four years of high school. Others had spoken to me only when required by courtesy.

Even so, the meet and greet and the reunion dinner were fun. Some women still have shapely bodies and lovely faces. Some men are still as handsome as they used to be, albeit with gray or no hair. Some men look every minute of their 68 years. No woman has passed 25.

I found myself walking up to both men and women and introducing myself, something I would have been afraid to do in high school. My most amazing adventure was speaking to the Class Hunk. Back in high school all the girls adored him, even though we knew that he was not aware of our existence.

I approached this tall, slim, retired judge whose white hair did not age him, but added a patina of sophistication. Knowing exactly who he was, I asked, “Are you ____ ____?”

“Yes, who are you?” I told him, knowing my name would mean nothing to him. Then I said that I had read about some of his decisions in the newspaper.

Shocked, he asked, “What newspaper?”

“The Daily Press.”

After a moment he made the connection and replied, “I went to law school at William and Mary and liked the area, so decided to stay there.”

Grinning, I asked if he had taken any classes from George Wythe (W&M’s first law professor and Thomas Jefferson’s mentor.)
He asked me to repeat the name. I did and spelled it out. Then he caught the joke and responded that he wasn’t able to take any of his classes. We laughed, bid each other farewell and never spoke again.

Then we faced the real test of our age – dancing to the oldies. A few remembered the steps, most of us pretended we did. Some pooped out after a few dances. Our bodies couldn’t rock all night like they did in high school. Couples still slow-danced the same way they did at prom, steps that seemed unique to our school; at least I never saw those steps at any other dances I attended over the years.

Learning that after 50 years the class VIPs are just regular people was worth the trip across three states. The measuring stick for who is “in” and who is “out” is gone for good. We’re all adults, first year baby-boomers, who still like to play. And play we did. You should see the “dress up” photos. We picked outrageous costumes and posed dramatically. The results were hilarious.

Several of us began leaving about 10 p.m., a travesty in 1964, but necessity in 2014. We went to bed and dreamed of being 18 again.

© by Sharon Dillon, August 12, 2014

Thoughts to Ponder – Anger

June 4, 2014

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrong.” – Charlotte Bronte

 “You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.” – Indira Gandhi

“What I’ve learned about being angry with people is that it generally hurts you more than it hurts them.” – Oprah Winfrey

 Message

 People seem to be angry lately. We were angry in the 60s and 70s, but seemed to come back to our senses and live more quietly. During the decades since our world made a lot of strides and a lot of mistakes, but we grew and lived together in relative peace, that is, until the past few years when our personal, national and international anger has grown and become more dangerous for the citizens of many countries, including our own.

In some countries the citizens are overthrowing their governments. Others are being invaded by larger and more-well-armed neighbors. Some people think that anyone who has a different outlook on life should be killed. In our own country more and more people who feel alienated decide to take it out on others, sometimes many others. We then grieve for those who gave their lives.

Some of our politicians seem to think that the only way to achieve their ends is to set up blocks to any kind of progress or change. Some seem to think that anything proposed by the other political party is evil and must be obliterated. Some seem to think that particular politicians are determined to destroy our country. This was the attitude in the years leading up to and including the Civil War and several years after.

Do we want to relive those years with more deadly weapons?

Are we willing to see that we all bleed the same color blood?

Are we willing to try to accept our neighbors for who they are?

Are we and our politicians willing to listen to the others’ opinions?

Are we willing to accept that we all want the same outcome but are approaching the problem from different angles?

Are we willing to talk to each other and learn what is in the other person’s heart?

Or are we going to continue to act on what we think the other person is thinking?

 Meditation

 Creator,

Thank you for this beautiful world and all the people and creatures on it. Open our eyes to see that all of us just want what we think is best for our loved ones. Open our hearts so each of us can learn to accept the other for who he or she is inside. Open our minds to be willing to reach out to those we think are our enemies. I ask this for each person on our planet Earth, no matter who he or she may be. And, so it is.

 If you know someone who would appreciate reading “Thoughts to Ponder,” please suggest that he or she contact me at: energywriter@cox.net

Sharon D. Dillon, energywriter@cox.net, http://energywriter.me

Chesapeake Bay Writers, Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, Southern Humorists, National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Is author of one of 14 stories in The Book of Mom: Reflections of Motherhood with Love, Hope and Faith, published by booksyoucantrust.com and available in print and e-format at Amazon.com.

                                                                                             

Nude Hiking??

This is something I couldn’t resist writing after reading a local columnists take on the subject. It’s old, but I think, still funny.

Copyright by Sharon Dillon, May 6, 2009

 Recently the Daily Press printed a brief article about Germans hikers who have scandalized their Swiss neighbors by hiking the Alps wearing only backpacks and boots. This was followed by a lengthier piece, “Nude in the News,” by my favorite Daily Press columnist, Tony Gabriele.

Tony researched this practice and learned it is called freikorperkultur, literally translated as “free body culture” or more accurately “let it all hang out.” He advised readers to “invest in German sun block lotion companies.” Tony proceeded to reduce me to giggles discussing the history of nude warfare and potential political results of future attempts. However, he missed some vital complications to nude hiking.

While Tony mentioned the sun block issue, he did not address the problem that, for most of us, certain body parts have not been exposed to fresh air and sunshine since – well – ever. Oh, wait; my mother did explain the old-fashioned method for healing diaper rash.

Those of us whose ages are north of 50 have body parts that are not creeping, but rushing quickly, toward the Equator. But this is just a matter of pride. I want to talk about more serious problems. Shall I enumerate them?

  1. We live in an area where mosquitoes rule the world. So, do we invest in buckets of insect repellant or risk lumps on our rumps? If we go for the risk, how do we explain to our co-workers that we are scratching body parts that are not, shall we say, socially acceptable? If we choose the other route, other questions arise. Do sun-block and insect repellant work together? And, how can we feel confident greeting other hikers when we reek of “eau de yuck.”
  2. Ticks may cause another big problem. People who work outside tell us to wear our pants tucked into our socks to keep the miniscule critters from migrating to “warm” body areas.” Hmmm???? If we are letting it all hang out, what do we tuck in where? Once we’ve contracted Lyme disease, imagine our physician’s face when we bare the classic target rings.
  3. Lunch time? When out in the woods, most people tend to take their lunch breaks while sitting on fallen logs or tree stumps. What lives in fallen logs? Well, all sorts of tiny and not so tiny creatures. We are all familiar with the office-mate who is Johnny-on-the-spot whenever cookies cross the threshold. This person is a slow poke when compared to an ant looking for a picnic. Imagine the ant’s path as it climbs, by the shortest route to the crumbs on our chests.
  4. Weather is another issue. Do sweat bands work effectively when perspiration is rushing down our backs and fronts to puddle in our boots? Does that much moisture in our boots cause blisters? On the other hand, being from Wisconsin, I’ve known many serious winter campers. Weeeeelll, we all know what happens to our various appendages in cold weather. Not a proud site to greet another hiker. This could also lead to another trip to the doctor to explain a frost-bitten whatever.

On a balmy, late spring day before the mosquitoes buzz, this hobby sounds appealing. I might be tempted to join the fun. But two things stop me; I wouldn’t want a lump on my rump or a tick on — whatever.

I am not alone

 Since my mother passed several people have asked if my siblings helped take care of her and make funeral arrangements. When they discovered I am an only child they look shocked and say, “You went through all that alone! I’m so sorry!”

While I know these comments are offered in love, I have no idea how to respond. I was not and am not alone. Although my parents were supportive, some things were mine to handle. I learned early how to entertain myself and handle difficult situations.

One advantage of being an only child was that I had no “discussions” with siblings about what Mom would want. She rejected delaying actions such as surgery and chemotherapy. She had a living will and a prepaid funeral and burial. Her wishes were clear.

Family and good friends called or texted me frequently during the two months I was many miles from home. They offered love as well as advice and care packages that brightened those weeks. A special Mother’s Day gift was a video my daughters made of mom’s great-great grandsons.

Other visiting friends provided laughs and comfort. My best friend from our school years still lived in the area. She listened to my woes and shared what she had learned when her dear ones passed.

During the last couple weeks at her apartment three cousins and a volunteer sat with Mom while I went shopping or did laundry. Her neighbors visited and did small favors to make Mom’s last days easier. This support gave me the opportunity to do what needed to be done. My home meditation group supported us through prayers and assurances that life on the other side will be wonderful. Two pastors answered questions about the afterlife. Mom listened while I humbly offered my beliefs about that subject. It seemed to comfort her.

I can never express enough gratitude for the fantastic Hospice staff both at Mom’s apartment and at Hospice House. They listened to my worries and offered comfort as they provided optimal care for Mom. When she breathed her last Earthly breath, they were there with hugs and kind words. They and the funeral directors took care of all the details. All I had to do was to notify family and sort Mom’s belongings, a daunting task.

My school friend went along to make final arrangements. On Memorial Day she made sure I was busy and entertained. Other friends and cousins provided their loving presence and delicious food. My children drove several hundred miles to attend the visitation and funeral. They helped sort Mom’s belongings and gave lots of hugs.

The morning following the funeral my daughters and son-in-law left with the mementos they had selected. The next morning my son left with his car full of chosen items.

Then I felt alone. I couldn’t wait to leave that tiny, empty apartment and be home. The apartment complex manager agreed to handle what was left.

The next morning I hopped into my overstuffed car and headed home. Once here I was able to relax and enjoy hugs from my family and friends. I feel sad that my mother is no longer with us, but I am too surrounded by love to ever feel alone.

 © by Sharon Dillon, August 1, 2010

Handy Woman, my Aunt Fanny!

Today was an exercise in learning that I should have spent $25 for a do-it-for-you person.

One of my mother’s belongings was a porch-size American flag. I proudly brought it home to install in time Independence Day. Not having a place to fly it, last week I went to my local Helpful Hardware Place and bought a flag holder. Only three screws to install it. This would be a piece of cake. I’ve done other simple jobs around the house.

Today I chose to work in 105 degree temperature and install the holder. Not a problem. This would be a five minute job.

I gathered my tools and headed to the front porch. I tried marking the places where the screws need to go with a pen. The pen didn’t fit in the screw holes so I went back inside for a long, skinny screw to mark the site. That done, the drill wouldn’t start. Uh-oh, I left the battery pack in the box, a trip inside to retrieve that.

Did you know that you can’t drill upside down? Well, at least it didn’t work for me. So instead of drilling/screwing from the deck I needed to do it from the ground, using a two-step step stool to reach the railing. After another trip inside for the stool and sidestepping the phlox and nandina, I finally situated the stool so it wouldn’t tip with me on it.

Finally, I was ready to drill. Three holes appeared to replace the marks and I was ready to pound in the plastic screw anchors. Only they didn’t fit. The 11/64 inch holes were not big enough. I went back in the house to retrieve the 3/16” bit. Much better.

Now all I needed to do was pound the anchors into the holes. The people who design those objects must think we have upper body strength. They obviously don’t envision limp wrist-forearm-elbow-upper arm do-it-yourselfers attempting this task. I pounded and pounded and repeatedly dropped those little white anchors. Two of them never went in further than 1/4 inch. The third one actually went in about ½ inch. After all this effort I decided that the flag was light weight and just plain screws would hold it. Removing that third anchor proved to be a task and a half, but it finally popped from the hole.

Another trip inside for the 1/8” bit. Three new holes appeared next to the others with little stress. Now I could place the holder and insert the screws. But the drill/screwdriver was too big to fit around the various bumps on the holder.
So I made another trip inside for the battery screw driver. After the hammering incident I knew I wouldn’t have the strength to insert the screws manually. I installed the left top screw about ¾ of the way and moved to the right top screw and installed it about the same distance. Next I moved to the bottom center screw and installed it all the way.

Now it was time to go back and tighten the two top screws. But, the battery screwdriver has lost its oomph. Back inside again, this time to find a manual Phillips screwdriver. After tightening the screws I’d be all set for the Fourth of July. Small problem – the screw heads were stripped. Don’t ask me how. They just were.

After considering the option of driving to the Helpful Hardware Place to buy three new screws and drill yet more holes in the porch rail, I decided that since the flag was light the holder as installed could do the job. I came inside again. Unrolled the flag and tried it out. Good fit – success at last. However, rerolling the flag was another issue. After three tries I finally rolled it tight enough to fit back in the box.

After three trips to get all the tools back inside the house, this five minute job took only 50 minutes in 105 degree heat. I couldn’t wait to wrap my lips around a frozen fruit bar. So cool and refreshing!

I just have one fear. What if the flag falls? I can envision an apoplectic veteran pounding on my door and heaping imprecations upon my head for treating our flag disrespectfully. How will I ever explain that not only was I a Girl Scout who taught younger scouts flag protocol but I am also a daughter and niece of WWII veterans who were also carpenters? To heap more potential shame upon my shoulders, I’m the former wife of a Vietnam veteran and the mother and mother-in-law of five more veterans.

© by Sharon D. Dillon, June 26, 2010

Lost in my home town

Events have a way of coming full cycle, yet never really coming back to the beginning. After being gone from Shelby for more than 40 years I’m back, but both Shelby and I are different.

When I left I knew nearly all the people, streets, stores and factories. I was born here and graduated from the “old” high school. Shelby was all I knew, though I longed to see the world, or at least more than Richland County.

Leaving started me on a journey that would take me many miles and experiences away from Shelby. Each city became my new home and memories of Shelby began slipping away. I learned what I could of the new locale, made friends and made myself comfortable. I soon learned that home is wherever I am.

I have always been baffled when I heard people say they were going “home” for a visit when they had been living in their current location for many years. I say that I’m going to visit my family.

Now, I’m back for a temporary stay and feel like an alien. Except for two close friends and a few of my mother’s neighbors, I don’t see people I recognize. Everywhere I go I look at the faces and wonder if I should know these people.

A couple days ago I answered my mother’s door; and the woman standing there said, “May I come in?”

To my question about her identity, she responded, “Your cousin, Sue.”

Looking closer at this stranger I could see Sue’s features and her warm smile, and welcomed her into the house.

I get lost in the grocery store across the street. Any time I want to buy a specialty food item or something other than groceries, I have to ask what store carries it and how to get there. Many times I’m told I have to drive to Mansfield. That’s a big change.

As a youngster growing up in Shelby I remember that our family did all our shopping here, only riding the bus to Mansfield for a special occasion. Main Street hosted a flower shop, a photographer, three or four women’s clothing stores, at least two men’s clothing stores, three drug stores with lunch counters, a couple shoe stores, two grocery stores, two movie theaters, two banks, a shoe repair shop, a restaurant and a bakery with a lunch counter, a candy store and the Shelby Dairy, where we could buy giant ice cream cones for a nickel. We could even stop on the way to school and pet the horse that pulled the milk delivery wagon.

On summer Saturday evenings we would dress up and walk downtown to meet Mom’s sisters and my cousins who were in town from their farms. We’d walk down Main Street together giggling and gazing at the wonderful displays in the store fronts. Of course, nearly all the stores were closed. Most only stayed open until 9:00 on Monday and Friday evenings. The other days saw stores close at 5:00. Everything was closed on Sunday except for the movie theaters that opened after church hours.

Now, those stores are gone, replaced by different businesses. A stroll down Main Street to learn who is there seems to be in order. Why are all those stores gone? I understand that times and trends change. Yet those shops offered a personalized, quality shopping experience not available in big box stores. The sales staffs knew what brands we each preferred and what sizes we wore. I could go in any store and tell the sales staff I wanted a gift for my mother or father and trust that he or she would guide me to a wise choice. Though, I didn’t always take their advice and my parents ended up with some strange, “kid” gifts.

And, the factories, where are they? I can’t recall their names but I recall that one made ammunition. One was a flour mill. Another made bicycles and later business forms. Fire alarms came from another workshop. Bubble gum aroma escaped another huge building. The former Air Force Depot is an industrial/vocational park, an appropriate retrofit. At least, the “Tuby” is still here.

Sometimes it’s fun to look back and feel nostalgic about days gone by. But, they are just that, gone by. Shelby is a great place, but it isn’t my home any more. Shelby feels as foreign as any other city I’ve never seen before. Hopefully, before my stay is over I’ll begin feeling comfortable again. The key to that experience is people, not stores or streets or factories. I hope to renew old friendships, get reacquainted with my cousins and make new friends.

Then Shelby will truly be my home town.

© by Sharon Dillon, April 27, 2010

I’m not lyin’ – I’m 29

I’m 29 and will be that age until I’m old and gray-er. If you don’t believe me, just ask my 44 year old son. If Jack Benny could stay 39 until his death, I can stay 29 forever. (For you younger than 29s, Jack Benny was a comedian whose popularity was highest in the 1935-65 era. One of his ongoing jokes was that he was always 39.)

Actually, my family is one of a kind. Mother, daughters and I are all 29. Granddaughter hasn’t reached that elevated status yet, though she doesn’t have far to go. For the purposes of this tale, she is being promoted to 29. Since we are all the same age, we all have the same memories and enjoy the same music and activities. Well, kinda-sorta.

We all remember when Grandchildren graduated high school and their sons were born. But gosh, not everyone remembers manual typewriters, cooking without a microwave oven or riding bicycles without a helmet. Some can recall when home computers were first on the market and mobile phones were carried in a heavy tote bag. One thinks anything older than an iPod is ancient history.

The five of us 29 year olds have eclectic music tastes. Mom (or GG) likes the Big Bands and Frank Sinatra, as do I, though I tend to listen more frequently to Elvis, the Beatles and Carlos Santana. Their music, according to Mom was invented by some crazy person who drank too much. Daughters admit that GG’s music has some good qualities, as do those of my era, but they prefer Michael Jackson and Garth Brooks. Granddaughter, on the other hand, prefers Taylor Swift and Jay-Z and thinks, like GG, that 60s rock was invented by a crazy person who drank too much.

One conversation with Granddaughter went something like this.

(Gd) “What was special about Elvis?”

(Me) “How can you ask that about the King?”

(Gd) “Michael Jackson is the King.”

(Me) “Michael is the King of Pop. Elvis is the King of Rock and Roll.”

(Gd) “You’re weird, Gramma.”

Another day I was telling Granddaughter that she looked cool and fresh in her tube top. She responded, “Go buy one, Gramma.”

After I stopped laughing, I said, “Sweetie, it’s not a good idea to wear a tube top when your boobs reach your waist.”

That conversation leads us to fashion statements. GG prefers elastic waists and polyester. I tend to hang out in jeans and pullovers as do Daughters. However, being stick women, they look much better in jeans than I. My body type could be best described as fluffy. Granddaughter on the other hand is wearing GG’s elastic waists until she loses her “baby weight.”

All things considered,  I want to recommend staying 29 forever to all women, especially if they have three other generations who share being 29.

Men, take a page out of Jack Benny’s book and stay 39.

 © April 2010 by Sharon Dillon