Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle.

I just returned from running some errands, and as I approached the back entrance of our neighborhood, I saw the perfectly ripened yellow and white blooms! Honeysuckle! Big bushes of it!

Back when our daughter was a little girl, she and I would watch that area every year, waiting for the honeysuckle to appear. But we didn’t dare approach it too early. From my childhood, I knew we needed to wait until it was just right…wait until it’s bursting with nectar and the fragrance is overwhelming. A few years ago, though, someone mowed down all the honeysuckle, and I haven’t seen it since…until recently. A few weeks ago, I noticed the first sign of it…the yellow buds…and I thought, “Is the honeysuckle really coming back? Just before our daughter goes off to college?” Since then, every time I drive past, I open the car window to look and sniff…and today, after an afternoon shower, it smelled perfect.

I had never really thought to investigate the honeysuckle habitat before today. For some reason, I always thought it was a southern thing, but after a little research, I learned it is definitely not just a southern thing. People all over the world use it for its medicinal purpose, and lots of people make simple syrup from it. I have never done that, but I’m up for the challenge!

When I was growing up in Alabama in the 1970s, we watched for three things as summer approached: lightning bugs (fireflies), backyard or roadside blackberries, and honeysuckle.

We knew summer was almost here when we saw our first lightning bug of the season. To this day, at the ripe age of 54, I still look out into the trees around our house as summer is approaching…watching for the first flash of a lightning bug. I haven’t seen one yet this year, but I’m watching. When I was a little girl, we would catch them and put them in Mason jars…poking holes in the top of the jar so they could get oxygen. We never kept them for longer than an hour or so, and we always released them. It was just fun to see how much they would glow in a jar.

As for the blackberries, at one of our houses, we had a big blackberry bush in the back corner of the yard. We would watch for the blooms and then wait for them to ripen before picking, but I only picked right on the leading edge of the bush. They were full of “stickers” (briars), and there was no way I was inviting that pain…not even for blackberries. I was also under the impression that snakes liked blackberries, so I was afraid of that too. I guess I thought the snakes wouldn’t hang out on the leading edge of the bush. If there were more ripened blackberries on the interior limbs of the bush, they went untouched by me…they likely rotted if no one else picked them, because I wasn’t sticking my arm in there to get them.

And then there was the honeysuckle…a sweet little treat that packed a lot of happiness and sunshine. We would go to the honeysuckle bushes/vines in our neighborhood and search for the ripest blooms. We knew the really ripe ones had the sweetest nectar. We would find the perfect flower and pick it whole…making sure to get the calyx (the little green bud that connects it to the stem). With the flower in one hand, we would pinch just above the calyx…not all the way through…just enough to break the edges. We’d then slowly slide the “style” (female part of the plant) out of the flower by gently pulling. As the end of the style approached, we could see the glorious nectar, or “honey.” Once we saw that little drop, we’d stick it to our tongues and taste the sweetness of summer! And that is the glory of honeysuckle! It’s a childhood treat.

As I mentioned before, when our daughter was a little girl…probably about four years old…I showed her how to get the honey from the honeysuckle, just as I had learned as a little girl. After that, she and I would invite neighborhood friends to walk up to the back entrance with us, sharing the glory of the honeysuckle with those who had never had it before. Hopefully, some of them remember how to do it.

Our daughter is not home tonight, but you can bet tomorrow, after brunch, we will be walking up to the honeysuckle at the back entrance of our neighborhood. It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I can’t think of a better gift than spending time harvesting honeysuckle with my 18-year-old daughter who is headed off to college 450 miles away in August. I think Mother’s Day is the perfect day to revisit the honeysuckle. For a little while, we will relive some precious moments from her childhood.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Love’s Baby Soft

Love’s Baby Soft.

Anyone who was a little girl or preteen in the 70s and 80s remembers Love’s Baby Soft…a brand of cologne, body powder, body mist that smelled “like a baby” and was marketed toward girls and preteens through Teen Magazine and even on commercials. I don’t know if the commercials ran in the afternoons, evenings, or Saturday mornings, but I can still hear the jingle, “You can try hard. Or you can try soft. Soft will get ’em every time…Love’s Baby Soft!”

I’ve gone to YouTube and watched some of the old commercials. It appears one commercial from 1975 was marketed toward an older audience. It’s a little creepy, saying, “Innocence is sexier than you think.” Yuck. You can see that commercial herenot my favorite. But the one I remember most was clearly marketing to the younger generation. You can see the ad I remember most here.

What made me think of Love’s Baby Soft?

I try to walk several miles a day, and when I do, nothing passes the time better than talking on the phone with friends. Sometimes I listen to books on Audible, but usually, I talk on the phone. I was talking with a friend last night, and somehow, we started talking about riding the school bus. We both went to public school growing up, so we exchanged some school bus stories. I told her stories about the older guys on our bus singing Queen’s We Will Rock You while the rest of us pounded the well-known beat on the bus seats. We had a pretty patient, understanding bus driver named Mr. Maynard who I think might have actually been entertained by the shenanigans.

The friend I was talking with asked if, when I was growing up in Alabama, high school kids were allowed to take jobs as bus drivers. I don’t remember that being the case, but she said teenagers could be bus drivers in North Carolina back then, adding, “We had a cute bus driver named Chuck. He was probably 17, and I was 11. Anytime I knew Chuck would be driving, I’d spritz myself with some Love’s Baby Soft before running to the bus.” I died. I could just see it…a preteen girl with a crush on the 17-yr-old…trying to get his attention with some Love’s Baby Soft! “You can try hard…or you can try soft…” After I recovered from the laughter, I asked her if she put on her Kissing Potion too. We both laughed and laughed, because we had dug up some old memories.

In the 1970s, I was a big fan of both products. I wasn’t romancing anyone, and I certainly wasn’t kissing anyone, but I was one of the best customers for both. I remember hearing at school when new scents of Kissing Potion had been released, so I would get Mother to take me to the local TG&Y in Spanish Fort Shopping Center, so I could use my allowance to buy the latest Kissing Potion roll-on lip gloss. All the girls in my fourth grade class had our favorite flavors. Bubble Gum was quite popular, and I liked the minty flavored one.

And guess what! You can get both products today! I don’t know if they are the same as they were then, but I’m going to find out. I’ll be ordering them for myself and for future surprises for friends who need a pick-me-up. Nostalgia makes for great gifts. If I had the blues and someone gave me either of those products, I think I would instantly feel better. You can find Love’s Baby Soft on Amazon here. And get the original formula Kissing Potion from Tinte Cosmetics here.

I should probably add that the Love’s Baby Soft didn’t catch the attention of the 17-yr-old bus driver, Chuck. My friend might have dodged a bullet on that one. If the 17-yr-old had liked the 11-yr-old, there would have been bigger issues!

What Other People Think of Me…

What other people think of me is none of my business.

I can’t take credit for that. In fact, I have no idea who the originator of that quote was, but I like it. And you know why? Because really…what other people is think of me is none of my business. Isn’t it completely and utterly liberating to know that?

I’m what lots of people would refer to as an “over-sharer” on social media. I like to post all kinds of stuff…funny stuff, pretty scenes, and yes, lots of pictures of my family having fun. Just like everybody else in the world, my life isn’t perfect. I’ve had my share of tough times in life…losing loved ones being at the top of the list. And I have had my share of embarrassing moments. I tell people all the time that I have fallen down in all 50 states; well, not quite, but I do think I have probably fallen down in 35 or so. In February of 2021, I fell down the stairs of Galatoire’s in New Orleans! My teenage daughter was mortified, of course, but lucky me…no broken bones. Just a bruised ego. However, since I’m over 50, I know when to be really embarrassed, and since I knew I’d never see most of those people ever again, I wasn’t terribly embarrassed. Fortunately, as far as I know, there were no photos of the incident and no video. It would have been pretty funny, though…even I can admit that.

If there had been photographic evidence of it, I likely would have shared it on social media. Nobody loves seeing a good fall more than I do. I think I’ve written about it before. As long as no one is hurt, a good fall is downright hilarious.

Lately, with the ringing in of the new year, I’ve been getting lots of ads from PastBook on Facebook. PastBook prints all the photos you post on Facebook in a calendar year in book form. I ordered one last year, just to see what it was like, and I really liked it! I keep that 2020 PastBook on the coffee table in my livingroom for all the world to see. I don’t know that anyone has looked at it besides me, because even though I “over-share,” I know everyone in the whole world is not interested in my posts. I started over-sharing when my mother was still alive, because she lived hundreds of miles away, and she liked seeing pictures of her granddaughter. It was an easy way to share. And then, I guess I became addicted, because I realized Facebook is a good place to store memories! And Pastbook puts them all in print form!

Looking through my PastBook from 2020, I can see that, despite the pandemic hiccup in all our lives, I managed to have some fun that year. My husband and I spent a lot of time outdoors, and I had the most beautiful garden I have ever had in the history of my gardening! Even without air travel most of that year, we managed to go some fun places and make some new memories. Looking at the book, though, I can see clearly that by September of 2020, I needed to get on a plane…and I did. I threw up some prayers and flew to California…and then I did it again that November…unvaccinated! And then everything surged again.

But in 2021, I started throwing caution to the wind, so I think my PastBook will be better for 2021. We met friends in New Orleans, LA, and the Bahamas…just like old times! I can hardly wait to order the Pastbook and see all the memories in print.

And y’all can make fun of me for over-sharing all you want. When our daughter was a little girl, I took pictures of every move we made…actually, I still do that. As much as it can be an annoyance, she appreciates it later. I’m the one my friends come to if they need pictures from the past, because I was always ready with a camera…till smartphones came along…so now I just use that. But my over-sharing is not for the rest of the world. It’s for me. And it’s for my daughter.

One day, many years from now, our daughter will be thrilled to have all the photos I have taken over the years. Just like I loved going through the pictures my nephew brought me from my mother’s house last weekend, she will likely enjoy going through all the photos I have taken and stored in books, on social media, and in Rubbermaid bins in our attic. She will be able to look through the photos and try to remember who the people are. She’ll likely have lots of stories to tell about the photos too. I made my nephew and his girlfriend sit through a lot of my stories last weekend!

I finally went through the second bin my nephew brought, and near the bottom, stuck in a Bible, was the black and white photo of my kindergarten graduation in 1973…something I thought was long gone. It’s the photo I used in the header for this post…just like the graduation caps worn by all those six-yr-olds, the photo is a little askew. My family had moved several times, and I hadn’t seen that photo in years, but there it was…at the bottom of a Rubbermaid bin. And I was thrilled to have it! In fact, I have now framed it and put it on a shelf in my livingroom, so I always know where it is. But I also shared it on Facebook. And lots of those kindergarten classmates chimed in, helping identify the kids in the picture! I remembered lots of them, but since I moved away in February of 1975, less than two years after the photo was taken, my memory was a little fuzzy on some of the faces. That’s OK, because after a little time, one classmate found a newspaper article that listed all the names and shared it in the comments of the photo. It made for some fun exchanges on Facebook…all of which will show up in my PastBook for 2022, I’m sure.

So yes, I over-share, and I’m glad I do, because I’ll have a record of so many different things in my life, and my daughter will have that record too. I might not ever write a bestselling novel or biography, but there will be proof of my life in pictures. And if my over-sharing is annoying, well, keep scrolling. Whatever you do, don’t tell me, because “what other people think of me is none of my business.”

***If you’d like to check out PastBook and possibly make your own, click here.***

Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be…

Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be…

Songwriters Ed and Patsy Bruce wrote a country song titled Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys back in the 1970s, and Mr. Bruce released it on his album in 1975. (For the record, I prefer to spell it as “mamas” instead of “mammas,” but that’s how it’s spelled in the song.) The version I’m more familiar with was recorded and released by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson in 1978. I’m not a big country music fan, but for some reason, I’m familiar with that song. The song lists a whole host of reasons mammas shouldn’t let their babies grow up to be cowboys. You can hear it here.

I don’t recall anyone telling me, when I was growing up, that they wanted to grow up to be a cowboy. I remember my daddy saying that when he was little, he wanted to be a cowboy when he grew up. Western movies were all the rage then. But one day it occurred to him that his daddy was a cowboy…running a farm…and as soon as he realized it, he knew he didn’t want to be a cowboy. He didn’t want to do what his daddy did when he grew up. I’m sure he had mad respect for his hardworking daddy, but he didn’t want to follow in his footsteps that way.

Recently, I flew home from Miami on American Airlines, and I found myself seated next to a lady who works for a department within the federal government. I didn’t get her whole name, and I don’t even know her official position, but she told me she majored in Criminal Justice. My own daughter had expressed an interest in that at one time, and I said to her, “What are you going to do?” I don’t even remember what her response was, but I forgot about the conversation and moved on, thinking that was probably just something she said on a whim. But in talking with the lady on the plane, I began to second-guess myself. She had majored in Criminal Justice and loves what she does! I shouldn’t have been so dismissive of my daughter’s desire to major in Criminal Justice. It’s her life! She gets to decide what she wants to do with it, and maybe she knows something I don’t!

When I got home, I went to my daughter and apologized for poo-pooing her idea. We had a long conversation about her future, and I told her I had just gotten a reminder that it is her future, after all. She can major in whatever she wants, but we need to discuss, so we can make sure she gets all the information she needs before deciding on a major. She needs to understand what kinds of careers she can have with what kinds of majors. She needs to make an informed decision. And I was reminded of that once more just two days later, when we met with the assistant dean of a division of a university we visited. He talked with her about who she is and what she enjoys, and he suggested some majors she probably didn’t even know existed…and the careers that go with them.

It’s a big world out there with lots of opportunities. For me, I think I have realized it’s important that I help our daughter decide what she wants to do, but I don’t tell her what she can and can’t do. That’s for her to decide. It’s her life.

That being said, if she comes to me and says she wants to be a cowgirl when she grows up, I won’t tell her she can’t, but I might discourage her for any number of reasons. She has ridden horses but doesn’t have a whole lot of experience in that department. And there aren’t a whole lot of cowgirls in cities. I just don’t see her living in a rural area, so the cowgirl life could be tough for her in, say, the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area…or New York…or Chicago…or even Charlotte, for that matter.

She’ll be off to college next year, and who knows what she will major in or how many times she will change her major? I just want her to do something that helps her become a contributing member of society while being able to take care of herself.

Who Is Thinking of You Right Now?

Who is thinking of you right now? I had to go to the grocery store two nights ago. On the way there, something made me think of a boy I grew up with …a boy who passed away a few years ago. I don’t even remember what made me think of him…maybe a song? When I arrived at the grocery store, I grabbed a cart and started shopping. I hadn’t been to the grocery store in a while, so I needed lots of perishables…eggs, pepperoni (a staple in our house), cheese, sour cream, butter, etc.

I picked up the first perishable item (the very important pepperonis) and checked the date, only to find it was dated with the birthday of the boy I had been thinking of earlier! It felt serendipitous, so I smiled and just thought of it as a God-wink. I kept shopping, and as I did, I noticed a trend: every perishable I picked up was dated with the birthday of someone who had impacted my life in some way. One item had a college friend’s birthday. Another had a childhood neighbor’s birthday. Yet another was dated with my daddy’s birthday. It went on and on, and each time I saw a different birthday, I smiled to myself and remembered something about the person whose birthday was on each item. When I saw my college friend’s birthday, I thought of ordering delivery from Wings & Things. My childhood friend’s birthday made me think of playing on the swings in elementary school. My daddy’s birthday…well, that just made me think of him.

Later that night, I received a text from a friend I met in California a couple of years ago. I tend to talk to everyone I see, so I make friends that live in different cities. This particular friend is bi-coastal, living in New York and Los Angeles. (Don’t get all weird on me now…my husband is very aware of this friend and enjoyed watching him in the FX documentary, Hip Hop Uncovered, which I highly recommend, but that’s a story for another day. See the trailer here. You can watch the documentary on Hulu now.) I rarely hear from him. But the text on Wednesday night simply said, “Hi Kelly! How you been?” I smiled and replied with, “I’m doing great! How about you, my friend?” We had a brief text exchange, and afterward, I thought about how often we all think of someone and never let them know. All those friends whose birthdays appeared on my perishables have no idea I was thinking of them that moment in the grocery store. If my friend in California hadn’t texted me, I’d have never known I had crossed his mind.

So now, I think I need to sit down and make a list of those birthdays from the grocery store. I need to reach out to those friends whose birthdays made me smile in the dairy aisle of my local store. I need to tell them I’ve had them on my mind. I need to tell them I’ve been thinking of them.

I have lost several friends to COVID over the past couple of months, and my only regret is that I didn’t reach out to them more often. Maybe my grocery store trip combined with my message from my California friend is God’s way of telling me to reach out. It will make me happy, and it might just bring a little happiness to someone else just to know someone is thinking of them. Don’t we all like to think friends and family have good memories of us or just think of us every now and then? Remember those old Bell System “Reach out and touch someone” commercials from the late 70s (see one here) and AT&T in the 1980s (see one here that features the late Janet Carroll, the mom from Risky Business)? Maybe we should remember that…and actually reach out, even if it’s just a simple text asking “How you been?”

Get Out Your Skylab Repellent

Get out your Skylab repellent!

With the impending crash of a Chinese rocket sometime today, I’m reminded of the Skylab “incident” from my childhood.

Remember that?

It was July of 1979, and the whole country was waiting to see where Skylab, the first successful space station, would crash to Earth. It had been launched by the United States just six years earlier and had successfully housed astronauts for extended periods of time, but after unexpectedly high sunspot activity, it began to deteriorate and eventually, came crashing to Earth, raining debris on the Indian Ocean and Australia. No one was injured by the falling debris.

But in the lead-up to the “event,” enterprising people all over the country cashed in. My parents wouldn’t let me waste my money on it, but at twelve years old, I sure wanted to buy a can of Skylab Repellent. It was a joke, of course, but people really bought it. There were also t-shirts depicting a “Skylab Protection Device,” featuring an umbrella with a satellite dish on top. I’m not sure how that was supposed to protect someone, but OK.

Everyone was wondering aloud where Skylab would fall to Earth, and kids like me were terrified we would be squashed by it. No one was squashed.

In the aftermath of the Skylab crash, people continued to cash in, selling t-shirts declaring, “I Survived Skylab.” Cha-ching! Cha-ching! That was the sound of dollars hitting their bank accounts, because I feel pretty sure they sold quite a few of those gimmicky shirts. And after that? I don’t know what happened to all those t-shirts, but I haven’t seen one in person in years. I’ve seen a few on eBay, but I don’t know anyone who actually has one. Maybe they are locked in trunks in people’s houses. Most of them were pretty crude designs, so they’d look silly today. Maybe people are embarrassed they actually spent money on them. Or maybe they all just got lost along the way.

I haven’t seen any of that entrepreneurial spirit about the Chinese rocket. I guess, these days, we are all too jaded by 24-hour news to get interested in much. If you’ve seen anyone selling rocket repellent or t-shirts, let me know.

Of course, we don’t have any idea how much of the Chinese rocket will actually make it back to Earth. Some of it will surely disintegrated on re-entry into the atmosphere, but pieces of it could still fall. The chances of you or anyone you know or love being in its path? Let’s just say it’s not very likely. It’s not something to worry about, and if it does fall on you, you won’t even know what hit you…literally.

Which Gilligan’s Island Character Are You?

Which Gilligan’s Island character are you?

If you’re about my age, you likely remember Gilligan’s Island. It was a favorite when I was a kid, and frankly, I can even laugh at episodes now. Interestingly, I guess I saw it in reruns (also known as “syndication”), since it only ran for three seasons, from 1964 to 1967. I was born at the tail end of its run, so I certainly don’t remember it from its first run. If you’re familiar with the show, you probably remember the personalities of each character. Remember the characters? Gilligan (the first mate), Skipper (the captain) Thurston Howell III and Mrs. Howell (the millionaire and his wife), Ginger (the movie star), the Professor and Mary Ann (the farm girl)…all on Gilligan’s Isle.

I took my daughter and some of her friends to Miami for Spring Break a few weeks ago, and a friend met us there with her daughter. One day, we chartered a boat to take us out on Biscayne Bay for a day of boating and swimming. On the way to meet the boat, my friend and I were laughing that we were going out for a three hour tour, based on the Gilligan’s Island theme song. In case you don’t remember it, it went like this:

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The mate was a mighty sailing man, the Skipper brave and sure. Five passengers set sail that day for three-hour tour…a three-hour tour. (Lightning cracks.) The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost…the Minnow would be lost. The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann…here on Gillian’s Isle.

Yes, we actually sang the song while we rode in the car, and the kids had no idea what we were singing. Sad. Truly sad, because Gilligan’s Island was some comedy genius. I’m sure there are people who would say it was just a series of slapstick gags, but there’s a reason we all remember it…it was funny!

As we drove through Miami, our conversation turned to those very characters. My friend asked me, “Which character are you? Ginger or Mary Ann?” I laughed and laughed. I know I’m not Ginger, the sexy movie star. But I don’t think of myself as naïve Mary Ann, either. And then it hit me, and I responded, “Oh honey, I’m Lovey.” If you don’t know who Lovey is…she’s Mrs. Thurston Howell III. Apparently, her legal name was Eunice Wentworth Howell, but I don’t remember hearing her ever referred to that way. Mr. Howell called her Lovey, and everyone else called her Mrs. Howell. She was a little spoiled (ahem), but she was always up for some fun and for trying something new. I’ll take that description of myself and run with it. My friend laughed…and then started calling me Lovey. I wear my “Lovey” name tag proudly. In fact, I might just start calling myself “Lovey” in real life. I wonder if my husband can adjust to that?

We decided my friend had to be Mary Ann…not because she isn’t a sexy movie star, but because she gets things done. Mary Ann was naïve, and my friend is anything but naïve. But Mary Ann was also a farm girl who knew how to get things done. You might remember Mary Ann doing laundry or cleaning up around the place. Well, my friend is no farm girl, but she takes care of business. Ginger could never do what my friend does in a day, but Mary Ann could!

We designated one of my daughter’s friends as the professor. Sure, she’s not a man, and she is a whole lot prettier than the professor on Gilligan’s Island, but she had a solution for anything that came up during our trip. There weren’t a lot of obstacles to overcome, but she was organized and came up with different ways to do things.

All the other teenage girls with us were Ginger. Aren’t all teenage girls a little bit like Ginger? Teenage girls, generally speaking, are a little self-centered and concerned about their appearance…much like the sexy movie star from Gilligan’s Island. They’re also a little delusional about real life…much like Ginger, who always thinks she can solve problems with ideas from some of her movies.

As for Skipper and Gilligan, we found them on the boat. We had a captain who drove the boat, and one crew member who assisted with everything. The captain was knowledgeable, gregarious, and strong, and our “Gilligan” helped us onto and off the boat when we swam in Biscayne Bay, providing us with swim noodles and a kayak. Our “Gilligan” served us our afternoon snacks as we soaked up the sun and poured the champagne for me and my friend.

We had a great time on our little tour. We didn’t encounter rough weather. We didn’t get stranded on an uncharted island. We didn’t have to build our own huts and sleep in hammocks for years while finding our own food. We didn’t have to gather around a radio to listen to news from the mainland, where we had been forgotten. None of that happened. We made it back to shore alive and well. We were all a little more tan. No one was hungry. Everyone was happy.

We had enjoyed a Happy Cruise…that’s the name of the company we hired to take us out, Happy Cruises. If you are going to Miami and would like to charter a fun little boat for a day, see the website here. Tell Captain Derek you were sent by Kelly from North Carolina!

Or just call me “Lovey.”

And don’t forget the Gilligan’s Island closing song: So this is the tale of our castaways; they’re here for a long, long time. They’ll have to make the best of things; it’s an uphill climb. The first mate and his skipper, too, will do their very best, to make the others comfortable in a tropic island nest. No phone! No lights! No motor car…not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s primitive as can be. So join us here each week, my friends; you’re sure to get a smile…from seven stranded castaways…here on Gilligan’s Isle!

Old School Fundraisers (You’ll Recognize a Few)

Old school fundraisers.

Back in the day, public schools, like the ones I attended, were all about fundraisers. PTOs, PTAs, marching bands, sports teams, and cheerleaders all raised money for one thing or another. And back then, there were lots of different things you could sell to raise funds.

The earliest fundraisers I remember were in Brewton, Alabama, where I lived till I was seven. I remember two different fundraisers, mostly because I remember the items my mother purchased from band members or athletes who lived in our neighborhood. One of my favorites was a birthday calendar. I hope someone else will remember these, because over the years, I’ve asked people if they remember them, and no one else can recall them. Back in the early 1970s, some part of our local school…I’m guessing the band or an athletic team…sold birthday calendars. They were wall calendars, but I don’t even remember what the pictures were. I just remember that on each date, it listed local people’s birthdays. I don’t know how it worked, but I guess you got to submit your family birthdays if you purchased a calendar. I loved it. As a kid, I was obsessed with little facts like birthdays, addresses, and phone numbers…weird, I know, but these fundraiser calendars made me very happy…especially when I saw my own name on my birthday. In fact, to this day, I still remember the birthdays of some of my childhood friends, simply because I flipped through that calendar all the time. I could also tell you some of their phone numbers, but that might be weird.

Something else my mother purchased through a fundraiser at TR Miller High School in Brewton? Red and white pleather (plastic leather) duffel bags. They were emblazoned with “TR Miller Tigers” and a graphic of the tiger mascot on one side, and it seems there were ads for local businesses on the other side. If I remember correctly, the bags were red with white lettering and white piping and a white plastic handle. I could be a little off with some of the details, but that’s how I remember it. Unfortunately, my family moved several times when I was growing up, and that duffel bag (or gym bag) got lost in the shuffle somewhere along the line. I sure wish I had it now. Apparently, they were popular at the time, because you can look on eBay for “high school duffel bag” and see quite a few of them (like the ones below)…from lots of different high schools across the country. Heck, I might purchase one from a different school just for the nostalgia!

Later, when we lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama, we sold chocolate bars to raise funds for the PTA at Spanish Fort School…our local elementary school. I think the brand was World’s Finest. I was probably in third grade, and I was all excited to sell some candy bars out of a cardboard box with a handle on it, but my mother was not keen on it. What I remember most? Each candy bar wrapper had a “buy one get, get one free” Whopper at Burger King. That sounded awesome to me! Nevermind that the nearest Burger King was across the bay in Mobile. In fact, the only one I remember at the time was way out toward the airport, but there might have been one closer to town. Either way, it was at least 30 minutes from our house, and we never went to Burger King. Also, I’d never had a Burger King Whopper at the time, so I had no idea that there was no way I would eat a burger with all those veggies at the time.

We moved another time, and my new elementary school, Wetumpka Elementary (or Bobby’s Brain Factory, as my parents called it, because the principal’s name was Bobby, and we all loved him) which I attended in fifth and sixth grades, was on a perpetual quest for air conditioning. I’m sure I participated in fundraisers for that…or maybe I should say my parents just bought all the candy bars I brought home…only to move on to middle school before the air conditioners were installed. I then went to a middle school that didn’t have air conditioning…in Alabama. In fact, I never went to a school that had any kind of air conditioning till I was in ninth grade…in Alabama. And then, it was just window units…in Alabama. Do I need to mention how hot it is in Alabama? We were tough, though. Seriously, I know I sound like an old person, but can you imagine today’s wimpy kids going to school without air conditioning? In Alabama?!?! Folks make fun of southerners for not being able to handle a little snow, but I remember reading about some schools in New Hampshire canceling classes a couple of years ago because of a “heat wave.” I think the temps were in the 90s. Haha! It was in the 90s from April or May through September (and maybe even into October sometimes) in Alabama, and we didn’t miss a day of school because of it!

In high school, in the 1980s, we had more fundraisers, and I have some fond memories of them. When I was a cheerleader, we sold lots of things…ice cream from a freezer in our advisor’s classroom, suntan lotion (because we called it suntan lotion instead of sunscreen then), spirit towels, and my all-time favorite: booster badges! I don’t know if other high schools had booster badges, but they were all the rage at mine. As cheerleaders, we were given a stack of booster badges on Thursday afternoon to sell every Friday during football season. I think they were fifty cents each, and we each had to sell $50 worth each week. I would get to school early Friday morning with a shoe box full of booster badges to work the parking lot. It worked out that each cheerleader ended up having loyal customers. In fact, I remember who my loyal customers were to this day! If you’re not familiar with booster badges, they looked like the photos below. But ours weren’t all positive like the signs kids are expected to make today. Our said things like “Mutilate the Mustangs,” “Pulverize the Panthers,” and “Butcher the Bulldogs.” As soon as we had sold all our allotted booster badges for the week, we would take our boxes to our advisor who would take the money, and we stored our shoe boxes in her room till the next week, when we picked up more booster badges.

I remember our marching band selling Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (I think they were $2.50 a dozen), candy bars, and boxes of M&Ms. One reason I remember is that I often had those M&Ms for lunch. If I arrived in the school cafeteria and found they were serving something I didn’t want to eat, I would search out a friend who was selling M&Ms and have Peanut M&Ms for lunch. I probably washed them down with a Coke or Dr. Pepper from one of the school vending machines, but that’s a story for another day. I also remember one person in the band who had a car accident and woke up to find herself at the bottom of a ravine, alone. One thing she remembered about waking up? She had M&Ms in her hair from the fundraiser. She was fine…no injuries.

Things are a lot different now. My child has never come home from school with stuff to sell for a fundraiser, and her school doesn’t have vending machines with sodas or snacks for students. The food in her “dining hall” is prepared from scratch by a chef and skilled staff, and the food is fantastic…and there are lots of choices! While I know my parents thought some of those fundraisers were just a scam to get them to send in money, I feel like my daughter has missed out on some special memories. I’m going to eBay now to order a duffel bag.

My Favorite Martian

My Favorite Martian.

Yesterday, the NASA Mars rover, Perseverance, landed on the red planet. I was slightly intrigued, but not nearly as interested as I would have been if it had happened in the 1970s. In the 1970s, Americans were obsessed with Mars, Unidentified Flying Objects, Martians, aliens, and Skylab. Remember Skylab? Remember folks making a quick buck on Skylab repellent when we knew the orbiter was going to be falling back to earth, crash-landing somewhere?

Skylab was the first United States space station, launched in May of 1973. Six years later, in 1979, its orbit began to decay, and NASA could no longer communicate with the satellite. I was 12 at the time, and while we awaited the “crash,” I was truly concerned Skylab would cut my life short when it fell to earth. I felt sure I would die without ever having kissed a boy. Kids in the neighborhood were talking about it, and I was terrified. My parents tried to tell me the odds of that happening were very minute, but when you’re 12…it’s scary, especially when people are selling Skylab repellent, even as a joke. Skylab came “crashing” to earth in July 1979…ultimately disintegrating over Esperance, Australia, where residents saw bright lights and heard sonic booms before finding debris from the space station spread over their town.Once I heard it had fallen in Australia, I could relax, and I desperately wanted one of those t-shirts announcing “I survived Skylab.” I didn’t get one…I’m sure my parents thought it would be a ridiculous waste of money, but I sure wish I had one now…just as a silly souvenir.

Today, with the landing of Perseverance on Mars, people are talking about Martians again. “What if we hear whispers from Mars?” “What if we see alien beings on the red planet?” It’s enough to make a 12-yr-old kid worry, right?

I spent my entire childhood looking for UFOs in the sky. We heard about them from every angle, including The Brady Bunch. Remember when Greg tricked Bobby and Peter into thinking a UFO was flying past their house? Remember the chaos it created?

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a UFO, but when I was six or seven, the local high school had its annual bonfire. I don’t even really know what happened, but maybe a helicopter flew nearby? Who knows? It had to be 1973 or 1974, when UFO talk was at its peak. Someone at the bonfire made me think there was a UFO in the vicinity. To me, at that age, “UFO” meant alien spaceship ready to land, kidnap me, and probe my belly button to learn more about the human race. I was terrified. I ran to my friend’s mother’s car as fast as I could and jumped into the backseat. I don’t even know what happened after that. She took me home, but I truly believed there had been an alien spaceship at the bonfire…hovering over TR Miller High School, in Brewton, Alabama. Hmmm…why would an alien spaceship want a small child from Brewton, Alabama? Short answer: no alien spaceship wants a kid from Brewton. No offense to the kids from Brewton, but if I’m landing an alien spaceship somewhere, it’s more likely to be in the desert in Arizona or somewhere…not small town Alabama.

Adding to my personal belief in alien beings was the TV show called My Favorite Martian. I don’t even know how I watched it, since it premiered in 1963 (four years before I was born) and only ran for three seasons…in reruns, I guess…probably after school. My Favorite Martian starred Bill Bixby as Tim O’Hara and Ray Walston as “Uncle Martin,” or the Martian anthropologist who crash-landed on Earth and was rescued and taken in by O’Hara. I don’t remember a lot about the show itself, but now that I have it on my mind, I plan to watch a few episodes on Amazon Prime. Yep, if you’ve never seen it or if you liked it back in the day, you can watch it free with your Amazon Prime membership. I’ve actually watched the first episode and found it rather entertaining. Just be forewarned…it’s filmed in black and white. Also, the first episode has some racy references about “a man’s metabolism.” Who knew?

Of course, seeing Ray Walston in My Favorite Martian made me think about Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Yes, this is how my brain works…from Skylab to Fast Times at Ridgemont High…it’s why I’m good at Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. (Not familiar with Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? It’s a game based on the premise that we are all separated by six degrees of separation or fewer. In the “Kevin Bacon” version, participants try to find connections between Bacon and another famous person in six steps or fewer.) Walston was awesome in Fast Times. I don’t know if his character, Mr. Hand, a history teacher at Ridgemont High, would be very interested in the Perseverance landing on Mars, but surely he would recognize it as a significant historical event.

It is an historical event, indeed, even though the people of our country don’t seem nearly as excited about it as we have seemed about other NASA missions. I guess we have all been conditioned to it by now. And while I don’t find it particularly interesting, I will be listening for news of life on the red planet…life that’s bigger than an amoeba.

Don’t Look, Ethel!

Don’t look, Ethel!

Earlier today, on Facebook, a friend posted one of those memes saying, “The song that was number one on your seventh birthday defines 2021 for you.” The song that was number one on my friend’s seventh birthday? Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy. What the what?!?! I was a senior in high school when that song was number one! I was sneaking into R-Rated movies, and she was just seven years old?!? I felt old, but I also felt lucky….lucky that Prince was the soundtrack of my high school years.

But then, I couldn’t resist. I’m a sucker for notalgia, so I checked to see what the number one song was on my seventh birthday. The song that was number one? The Streak by Ray Stevens. I laughed out loud. Of course it was number one on my seventh birthday! I loved that song! I played the 45 single on my record player regularly, because I thought it was hilarious…with its laugh-track and everything. I didn’t understand all the references, but I still thought it was funny.

Streaking was a thing in the 70s. For a long time, I didn’t know if Ray Stevens made it popular with his song, or if he made the song because streaking was popular. You know…the chicken or the egg? I read recently that Stevens totally capitalized on the streaking craze of the 70s…smart move. If you’re familiar with the song, you know Ethel is a “character” in it. There’s a lot of “Don’t look, Ethel!” followed by things like “It was too late…she’d already been mooned!” At seven, I had no idea what “mooning” was. But back in the 70s, spectators streaked across the field at Major League Baseball games. They streaked across college campuses. They streaked through cricket games, soccer games…and unforgettably, across the stage at the 1974 Academy Awards ceremony. Streaking was big in the 1970s.

The summer of 1974, my whole extended family on my dad’s side gathered in Mexico Beach, Florida, for a big family weekend…all of us in one house. It was great fun. We went “scalloping” in St. Joe Bay. We went to the beach every day…getting shocked by the crosswalk button only once before we knew not to do it again. We laughed. We played. And the few of us who were 10 and under plotted to “streak” down the street. We were in a back bedroom, plotting our streaking event, but none of us really had the nerve to carry it out, so we decided to streak through the house where all our parents and cousins were. Silly, I know, but hilarious to a 7-yr-old. Years later, my mother told me she heard us plotting our event in the back bedroom, and she told my aunt, “Kelly will be the first one to run through here.” She was right. In fact, I’m not sure if any of the others participated in the “event.” I wrapped up in a towel and walked into the hallway, then dropped by towel and ran through the main room, where all the adults and teenagers were. Is there anything less exciting than seeing a 7-yr-old run through a room naked? It seemed funny to me, but I don’t think anyone else even cared. It was pretty stupid…but at the time, it was fun.

Ray Stevens had other funny songs, and I guess he still sings them at his Ray Stevens CabaRay in Nashville. I have to get there one day, simply because I am cool with anything that’s completely hokey and nostalgic. Maybe I can get my friend, Mary Ann, to meet me there to hear him sing some of our silly road trip songs like The Streak, The Mississippi Squirrel Revival, Ahab the Arab, It’s Me Again, Margaret, Gitarzan…so many politically incorrect songs! I hope he still sings them, because political correctness aside, they are hilarious!

So one silly meme on Facebook now has me listening to Ray Stevens on Apple Music…and laughing a lot as I sing along while running errands all over town.

According to that Facebook meme, that song defines 2021 for me. Next thing you know, I’ll be streaking through 2021! Bahahaha!