The Door is Always Open

The door is always open.

It’s Saturday. It’s a college football weekend, and one of my daughter’s friends just came in for a visit. It’s a friend who went to a different high school here in Charlotte, but she’s also a friend Milly had as a toddler, so we’ve known her for a long time. I saw on the BeReal app last night that she was home, when I saw a picture of her in her living room with her parents. *If you’re not familiar with BeReal, it’s an app through which you take a picture showing what you’re doing when it sends you a notification at the same time it sends all your friends a notification. Not only does it take your picture, but it takes a picture of what’s in front of you, too. Kind of cool.*

After seeing her BeReal post, I texted her, “Omg! You’re in Charlotte?!?” She texted back, “Yes! I’ll come see you tomorrow!” And from there we made plans for her to come over between 3:30 and 4:00 this afternoon. I was excited. I haven’t seen her in a couple of months…since before all the new college freshmen (like my daughter) left for college. At about 3:30 today, I stuck a small brie wheel in the oven and put together a charcuterie board…one of my favorite things to do. Plus, everyone can find something to eat on a charcuterie board, right? At 3:45, the doorbell rang, and I literally ran to the door to greet her with a big hug. Two months is a long time when you’re used to seeing someone on a regular basis. I then went into the kitchen and took the charcuterie board to the table. The brie was ready to come out of the oven, so I took it out and drizzled creamy caramel sauce over it and around it, adding spiced pecans around the edges before taking it to the table.

And then we talked…and laughed…and talked and laughed some more.

I remember when I was in high school, and my parents would tell me how much older people (parents) love when younger people (their kids’ friends) make an effort to spend time with them. I literally remember them telling me that. And now I’m living it. I was so flattered that this young lady took some time out of her weekend to come laugh with me. We have known her most of her life, and I absolutely adore her, so it was great to catch up with her. She got me up to speed on her freshman year, and I was thrilled to hear she is doing great.

We even Facetimed my daughter who is visiting my friend, Angela, in Montgomery today. Her college is playing an away game, and according to my daughter, lots of people left town, so she went to see Angela. Just like I was thrilled to have the friend visit, Angela was thrilled to have my daughter come in. We all Facetimed together, laughing and taking screenshots during our conversation. I could see the happiness on Angela’s face, and she could see the happiness on mine! I remember even when I was in my forties, my mother was always so happy anytime I visited and Angela came over. Laughter filled the house, and Mother always said it felt like we were in college again. She loved it. Today, I felt like I had one of “my kids” at home again. It warmed my heart to have her here, if only for a little while…truly made my weekend.

So if you have never told your kids how much parents enjoy visits from their kids’ friends, tell them now. I hope more of our daughter’s friends will visit when they are in town, and I’m really looking forward to the Thanksgiving break and the big holiday break, when we can hopefully have groups of them over, and laughter will fill our house again. I hope they’ll visit.

The sweet young lady who visited today has no idea just how happy that visit made me. Her mother and I are friends, so I will text her and tell her how much I enjoyed the visit…and how flattered I am.

Looking forward to more visits from young friends to liven up our house.

The door is always open.

I’m Such a Smart Empty-Nester

I’m such a smart empty-nester!

Want me to tell you how much I know about empty nesting? Here’s how smart I am: I know absolutely nothing…nada…diddly. But the fact that I realize I know nothing about it makes me absolutely brilliant.

Remember when your kids were toddlers? You had survived the whole newborn and infancy thing, and so you felt pretty confident going into toddlerhood? And then, BAM…your kid knocked you right back into reality with a tantrum…or climbing up the stairs on the outside of the rail (it happened)…or pushed another kid down…or hurled a plate of food across the room.

Well, empty-nesting is a lot like that. Just when you move your kid into his/her new dorm or apartment, you think, “Wow! I got this! I am a pro! My kid is officially launched into adulthood, and my life is my own!”

Wrong…wrong…wrong.

What they forgot to tell you when you brought that child into the world is that your life will never be your own…never, ever again.

My husband and I were stupid enough to think we would get our daughter moved into college, and everything would be rainbows and confetti afterward. Nope. We could not have been more wrong. Soon after we dropped her off, she developed an infection where she had a heel blister, and because the doctor was afraid it would move into her Achilles’ tendon, she had to get an antibiotic injection, take oral antibiotics, and use a topical gel. Crisis averted. That was our first gut punch letting us know how stupid we are.

Soon thereafter, we went on vacation to the Bahamas thinking everything was great. We came home, and I had gallbladder surgery. I took a week to recover, and then, I went on a cruise with a friend from my college days. We had a great time. And then…the last night of the cruise, I received a call that our daughter had been in a car accident. Everything ended up being fine, but wow! Things were not going as expected.

That was just last weekend.

My husband and I had planned to leave this Tuesday to go to the Bahamas again but canceled the trip when we received a call that the resort restaurants were closed till November 1. At first, I was annoyed, but then it looked like Hurricane Fiona was going to move through the Bahamas this upcoming week, and I was glad we had canceled.

Here is the thing: we thought empty-nesting would be a walk in the park, but every plan we have made has been changed somewhere along the way. So I finally realized something: the only constant is change.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible.

If you want to have a good empty-nesting experience, prepare to be flexible. That vacation you have planned? It might not happen, and if it does, you might have to come home early to help your newly launched child with a problem. Sleeping well at night? Don’t expect it to last. You’re likely to get at least one jarring late night call. Think you know where your college-age kid is all the time? Bahahahahaha…think again.

Here is how you will know you are a smart empty nester…

You will know you are a smart empty-nester when you realize and can admit to all your friends that you have no idea what you are doing and you likely won’t ever know. If we could have just admitted this freely when our kids were toddlers, we would be a lot better off. If I could have just said all along that I am learning on the job (as a parent), and I am an absolute novice, I would have looked like the smartest parent in the history of the world.

As it is, I had to learn that I don’t know a damn thing.

If you’re going to be an empty-nester soon, hold onto your hat. Enjoy the ride, because you will never know what is around the corner…just like when your kids were infants, toddlers, elementary school age, middle schoolers, and high school students. Admit it. You were and still are as clueless as I am.

The sooner you can admit it, the smarter you are.

Senior Prom

Senior Prom.

It’s a tradition that has been popular in the United States since the 1930s. For those who didn’t know, “prom” is short for “promenade,” which is defined as “the formal, introductory parading of guests at a party,” according to mentalfloss.com. I know proms were definitely popular by the 1950s, because my own mother, whose nickname was “Doll” because she was so tiny, was a prom queen at her high school in Alabama. I remember my own high school proms in the 1980s with fond memories. And now, it’s time for our daughter to go to her senior prom.

Our daughter was lucky to even have a prom last year. The previous two years, prom was cancelled because of…you guessed it, COVID. But last year, when our daughter was a junior, our school made a real effort, even in the middle of a mask mandate, to make sure our kids had a prom. (If I ever complain about our school, I need to also remember how hard they tried to make things better for the kids during COVID.) It was outdoors. I didn’t get to see it in person, of course, because here in Charlotte, parents don’t go to the “lead out” like they do in some areas. I am actually glad about that…no offense to those who do…but I don’t feel like I have any business at my daughter’s prom. We go take photos at a club or someone’s house beforehand with a group, and groups of couples go to dinner before going to the actual prom. That’s the norm here, and that’s what they did last year. The kids were so excited to feel somewhat “normal” again last year, and our daughter and her beau had a great time and made lovely photos and lasting memories.

This year, things are much more normal. They are gathering for photos and dinner beforehand and going to an actual indoor prom! So exciting! I’m just thankful she is having a “normal” senior prom. She’ll make memories just like we did back in the 1980s…except there won’t be as much hairspray as there was in the 80s. They will take lots more photos than we did, because they have smartphones. They might even take some silly videos or make some TikToks. In fact, in 2022, the girls won’t have big hair, but the boys will. The dresses will be more revealing now than they were in the 80s…back when we covered our bodies in as much fabric as possible. I still don’t know how we got dates wearing all the baggy clothes we wore. Wow…it has been a long time since my senior prom. They will have fun, I’m sure, but really…the prom itself is just the excuse to get dressed up, get photos, and go to a party afterward, I think. They just enjoy being together…just like we did back in the 80s…so that’s still the same.

I hope they will remember to stop and take mental notes throughout the evening…just enjoy the moment. It’s a memorable occasion. Everyone who goes to prom remembers it. They might not remember lots of details, but everyone will remember who they went to prom with. They will remember what they wore. They might remember where they had dinner. They will even remember some funny things that happen. Because it’s an emotionally-charged night, it’s a memory that gets imbedded in their long-term memories. I’ve written before that I learned a lot about long-term and short-term memory when my husband had brain surgery. Big emotional events land in our long-term memory, because of the emotions attached to them. It’s why we remember where we were when someone dies. It’s why we remember where we were when we fell in love.

It’s not just a big night for the students, though. The senior prom marks the end of an era for parents too. Since my husband and I have just one child, this is the end of the high school line for us. And it’s the first time our daughter has ever trusted me to pick a dress for her. That’s a memory in itself!

I hope they all have a great time. I hope they all have a safe night and make good decisions. I hope they make some great memories to look back on when they’re my age. I hope they’ll enjoy this big event together, because these seniors will be going in different directions soon. Many of them have been in school together since they were four or five years old. Life is changing! Those little kindergarten students I remember from 2009 are finishing their stint at their independent school and moving on to college…many in different states!

Good times…senior prom.

The Best Part of Weekends

The best part of weekends.

Weekends take on different meaning throughout life. I remember when I was a little girl, weekends meant going to the “candy store” on Saturday morning with Daddy after watching cartoons. As a kid, weekend nights didn’t mean much, except I might have slept over at a neighborhood friend’s house. We might have stayed up to watch Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on a Friday night…and maybe even The Midnight Special with Wolfman Jack. When we were elementary age, my parents would drop us off at the movies on Saturday nights. They went out for date night while we watched a double feature.

As a teenager, weekend nights meant high school football games or basketball games, school dances, movie dates, or just hanging out with friends…maybe staying out till midnight at a party.

College weekends were all about the parties and sporting events…staying out till all hours. Good times.

As a parent, when my daughter was a baby, weekend nights were no different than any other night. We knew we would be up early the next morning, because our daughter woke up early. As she became a toddler, we might get a babysitter and go out to dinner with friends, but the greatest thing about weekend nights was knowing we could sleep in (a little) the next day.

As she got a little older…elementary and middle school age…she developed her own social life and had things to do on weekends. We became her own private Uber, and we were OK with that. We enjoyed taking her where she needed to go and where she wanted to go.

And then she got her driver’s license. She doesn’t need us to drive her around anymore. She goes out with friends on weekends. They go to parties. They go to sporting events. They will go to concerts now that live music is starting up again. They just go. They have a lot of fun. And when the night is over, she and her friends often have group sleepovers. Sometimes, six or eight of them will sleep at our house. And we are thrilled to have them.

The best part of Friday and Saturday nights these days is seeing all those teenage girls piling into our house after a fun night. They are always hungry when they arrive. Sometimes I order pizza, but the most fun is cooking breakfast when they come in. Last night, I had a total of six girls here, so as soon as they arrived, I asked, “Who wants breakfast?” All of them were hungry, so I scrambled a dozen eggs, cooked bacon, and made enough toast for all of them. One girl wanted grits, which was fine (I love grits too), but I told her they would have to be instant grits. I wasn’t going to cook real grits while I was trying to get everything else ready. She was fine with instant grits.

And while I cooked, they sat around the kitchen table, laughing and talking. They showed each other TikToks and talked about old times, and they laughed about things that had happened during their evening out.

I worked like a short-order cook and listened to their silly stories and their funny giggles. They asked me questions about when I was a teenager, and I told them funny things that happened. They love hearing about the 80s almost as much as I love listening to them all sit around laughing together.

I love that they are making fun teen memories, and I hope late night breakfasts at our house will be locked into their long-term memories.

Soon…in just one year…they will all be off to college. They won’t be in Charlotte on weekends anymore. My weekends won’t be filled with teenage laughter anymore. Of course, there might be weekends when some of them are in town at the same time. On those weekends, I sure hope they will have a group sleepover and let me cook them breakfast in the middle of the night while they sit around laughing.

But until then, I’m going to savor every weekend night they are here. I will continue to cook late-night breakfast for them, and I will enjoy the laughter. It’s the best part of the weekends.

Be a Good Memory

Be a good memory.

Our daughter had her junior prom last weekend. Yep, even in the pandemic, her school found a way to pull it off. It was outside on one of the athletic fields, but in the pictures, it appears to have been beautiful. Lights were strung tent-style across the field, and a live band played in an area overlooking the field. The prom-goers all wore sneakers, and from what I’ve heard, everyone was pretty happy to be together at a real event.

If you have a teenager, you know they do things a little differently than we did back in the 1980s. Now, the girls gather at one place to get dressed together. And then they gather with their dates at a photo location…sometimes a park, country club, or someone’s really beautiful yard. Parents gather to take photos, and then the prom-goers go to dinner somewhere before going to the actual prom. In truth, the actual prom seems to be the least exciting part of the evening. That’s not a slam on our school. I hear it from kids everywhere…all over the country. They say the prom is the reason for getting dressed up, but the fun part is the before and after.

Because, yes…there’s an “after.”

This year, some of our daughter’s friends and their dates came to our house after prom to hang out in the game room together. When I told my husband we would be hosting, he was not a happy man. He is a man who likes his routine, and that includes going to bed before midnight. He actually said to me, “They’ll be gone before midnight, right?” Ummm…no. I had to explain to him that, no, on prom night, all bets are off on curfew. Again, he was not happy. Clearly, he doesn’t remember his youth as well as I remember mine. I suggested he go to a hotel, and he looked at me like I had fourteen eyes.

Lucky for me, later that day, we saw one of our neighbors, a mother of four. She has three grown children (all out of college, and two of them are married) and a fourteen-yr-old. She has seen it all. And for years, teenagers were in and out of her house at all hours of the day and night. My husband was standing there when I told the neighbor about his apprehension about the party, and she had the perfect response. She said, “We used to host those parties when our kids were in high school, and now I love it when I’m at weddings and baby showers for their friends, and the friends say to me, ‘My best memories from high school were at your house.'” I turned to my husband and said, “See? We want to be a good memory for these kids!”

What could he say to that? It was at that moment that he agreed it was OK to have them over after prom. After some prodding by me, he also decided it would be a good idea for him to check into a local hotel for the night. If he had stayed home, he would have been “in my ear” the whole time, trying to get me to go check on the kids every half hour. I was not going to do that…no way, no how.

Prom night came, and our daughter went over to a friend’s house to get dressed with friends. Later, I rode to the friend’s house with another mom to take pictures of all the prom couples. After getting some pics, we all left, and they had dinner before going to prom. By the time they arrived at our house after prom at around 11pm, I had pizzas, cheesy bread sticks, and desserts waiting for them in the game room. All went well. I cooked breakfast for them in the wee hours of the morning, and I finally got to bed around 4am…but I was happy.

The next day, after everyone left, my husband returned home from the hotel, asking how the night had gone. I told him all about it, and I thanked him for letting the kids come to our house. I thanked him for letting our house “be a good memory” for these kids.

I hope that one day, when I’m attending the weddings and baby showers of these same kids, they will turn to me and say, “Some of our best memories from high school are from your house.”

Top of the Rollercoaster

Top of the rollercoaster.

David Wilcox, a folk musician/singer-songwriter from Cleveland, Ohio, released a song in 1991 called Top of the Rollercoaster, a song about riding a rollercoaster on a 30th birthday as a metaphor for life. “It’s the moment of truth, the top of your youth…when you tip the top of the rollercoaster, look down the other side.” (To hear the song, click here.) Lucky for me, it came out several years before I turned 30, so I could listen to it on my 30th birthday and feel like it was written for me. However, unlike the song, which proclaims “it’s all downhill from here,” I didn’t look at turning 30 as the “top of my youth;” I looked at it as a new beginning. And honestly, my life got better after 30. But that’s not really what I want to discuss. I want to talk about rollercoasters, because at the age of 53, I still love them.

Don’t most of us remember our first rollercoaster ride? I don’t mean those little rollercoasters like Thunder Mountain at Disney. I don’t even mean rollercoasters like The Rock-n-Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios or Space Mountain at Disney. If those are the most exciting rollercoasters you’ve ridden, I hate to break it to you…they don’t even count. They’re not thrilling. Sure, they’re a little fun, but definitely aren’t thrilling. When I get off those rides, I don’t have the same “high” as I have when I step off the Intimidator or the Fury 325 at Carowinds…or even Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia. So when I say we likely remember our first rollercoaster ride, I mean a ride on a real rollercoaster…a thrill ride.

The year was 1976. It was the year of America’s Bicentennial, and I had turned nine years old in May…just as school was getting out for summer. I had been to Six Flags Over Georgia countless times with my family, and since 1973, I had been watching people disembark from the Great American Scream Machine, which at the time was the longest (3800 ft), tallest (105 ft), fastest (57 mph) rollercoaster in the world. It was a giant wooden coaster, and for a long time, I was terrified of it. But that summer…the Bicentennial summer…I decided I could ride it. I was standing with my family, watching riders disembark when Daddy asked me if I wanted to try it. I answered, “Yes,” and we got in line. The line for the Scream Machine was always long in those days, and there were no fast passes, so we waited…and I’m sure I changed my mind a dozen times before we ever boarded the coaster, but when it was our turn, I followed Daddy right into that coaster seat.

If you’ve ever ridden a wooden coaster, you know it’s not as smooth as a steel coaster. The first hill seems “rickety,” with the noise of the chain pulling the train up, and the “clickety-clack” of the tracks as you wait to reach the top. I was terrified, but I was excited at the same time. Back then, though, safety mechanisms weren’t what they are now. In my memory, there was nothing tight around my waist to hold me firmly in my seat. I recall a loose chain across my lap and a metal bar that bounced with every bump. Just as we reached the peak of the first hill, the train lurched forward as it started its descent. I weighed less than 50 pounds, and I felt like I was going to fall out of the car. I yelled to Daddy, “Push the bar down!” But he just laughed as we continued the bumpy ride. Once I knew I had survived the first big hill, I knew I could survive the rest, but it was scary…and exhilarating.

The ride ended back at the station after an exhilarating two minutes and twenty seconds. I had survived. I had ridden my first major rollercoaster and lived to tell about it. I feel sure I was giggling as we got off the ride, and I probably talked about it on the walk back up to the top of the hill near the entrance, where my mother was waiting. And then, like any coaster enthusiast, I said, “Let’s do it again!” I’ve never looked back. What an adrenaline rush! And every time I ride a rollercoaster, I remember that day in the summer of ’76.

Fortunately, my own daughter is a rollercoaster enthusiast. When she was a little girl, she would cry, because she wasn’t tall enough to ride the coasters at our local amusement park, Carowinds, which was owned by Paramount at the time, and then purchased by Cedar Fair Parks. As soon as she was tall enough, we rode them all the time…for years. When the old log flume ride was removed from the park in 2010 to make way for the Intimidator, a rollercoaster with a height of 232 feet that goes 80 mph, we had to work up the nerve to ride it, but once we did, we never looked back. And then, five years later, the Fury 325 debuted. Reaching a maximum speed of 95 mph and with a height of 325 feet, it looked daunting. But the first time we rode it, we rode in the second seat. The next time? Front car with my friend, Angela, and her daughter, Hannah…and it was a big adrenaline rush! My daughter was 11, and Hannah was 13…and we loved the ride! In fact, every time I’ve ever ridden it, it has been a big adrenaline rush. I feel pretty sure that if I can ride that coaster, I can ride just about any coaster anywhere.

About 34 years after that Bicentennial summer and my first major coaster ride, I took my daughter to Six Flags Over Georgia. She was six. She wanted to ride the Great American Scream Machine as soon as she saw it. So while my friend, Wendy, and her daughter watched, we boarded the same rollercoaster that was my first major rollercoaster, and it became my daughter’s first major rollercoaster too. The ride was even more bumpy that I remembered, but she loved it. She was laughing when we got off the coaster and wanted to get back in line immediately…like mother, like daughter. Maybe one day, my daughter will have a daughter whose first coaster will be the Great American Scream Machine. A weird family tradition, for sure.

Going back to David Wilcox’s song, maybe when he said “it’s all downhill from here,” he didn’t mean it was all going to be bad. Maybe he meant it was all going to be fun…a rush…exhilarating. Now that I think about it, I prefer that version. Because honestly, I’ve done my best living after 30. Well…there were those four college years in the 80s, between the ages of 18 and 22…those were pretty awesome too. But there’s something special about being over 30. And if you haven’t turned 50 yet…just wait…it’s great too.

Are rollercoaster rides good metaphors for life? I don’t know. But I do know rollercoasters are fun, and they make me feel young! I’ll be glad when Carowinds is open again! Till then, maybe we’ll even make a trip down to the Atlanta area to visit Six Flags Over Georgia and ride the Great American Scream Machine again…they’re open on a “reservations only” basis! They’re even offering BACKWARD rides on the Scream Machine for a limited time!

We love rollercoasters!

If you’d like to virtually experience the Great American Scream Machine, click here.

Memories of a 1970s Childhood

Memories of a 1970s Childhood.

After reading the Leif Garrett memoir, I find myself thinking about the 1970s. I was born in 1967, but most of my childhood memories were in the 1970s. In fact, I think my brain retains information from that time in my life better than it retains any other decade…and in much more detail. I’ve written before about how I believe we remember events better when they are attached to an emotion…happiness, fear, sadness. Maybe childhood is more emotional, because we have so many more new experiences, so we remember more. Lots of my memories from adulthood are either gone or more difficult to retrieve.

I can probably tell you the telephone number of almost every childhood friend I ever had, and I lived in different places. It’s not like I was dialing the same numbers in 1980 that I was dialing in 1975. I can even tell you the street addresses of childhood friends…the ones I went to kindergarten with. 112 Lakeview Circle? I know whose address that was. 203 Dawson Street? Yep…I know that too. If I don’t know the house number, I know the street name of almost everyone.

It was an epic time. I’m sure everyone thinks their own childhood was the greatest era, but I truly believe it. Our country was pulling out of Vietnam. We didn’t feel the imminent threat of nuclear war that kids felt in the early 1960s. Our relatives weren’t being drafted. Lots of cool things were happening. Here are a few:

  • The milkman delivered to our house. When I told my daughter about the milkman, she looked at me like I had fourteen eyes, saying, “Wait a minute. A man drove a truck around town, dropping off milk on front porches?”  We bought a lot from him…regular milk, chocolate milk (only one carton per week of this special treat), and even eggs, butter, and orange juice! The really big treat we got sometimes, though, was ice cream in a rectangular cardboard carton, and somehow, it just tasted better!images-2
  • When we took photos with our Kodak Instamatic cameras that used 126 or 110 film, we had to drop off the film cartridges at a local TG&Y, Harco, Revco, or other five and dime store to have it developed. We would pick up our photos a week later. We didn’t have the instant gratification…looking at photos immediately to see if they were good. And if we needed flash for our photos, we used flashbulbs atop those cameras! Correction…we had the instant gratification if we had a Polaroid instant camera. They were fun, but with only eight photos per photo cartridge, we wanted to get it right the first time.il_1588xN.2288145040_30ua
  • Kids rode bikes any time the weather permitted. My brother could ride a two-wheeler when he was two or three…much earlier than most kids. I could ride one when I was four or five, and we rode bikes all the time. Our only rule? Don’t ride it across the highway. So if we rode our bikes up to the front of the neighborhood, we had to leave them on the side of the road while we crossed the FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY to get candy and a Coke at the little mom and pop grocery store on the other side. Yes, I said FOUR-LANE HIGHWAY.
  • Kids rode their bikes in the fog from the mosquito truck. OK, so this is not such a great thing, but it’s a memory, for sure. Personally, I was terrified of the mosquito truck, but there were boys in our neighborhood who looked forward to seeing that truck in the summer. I don’t know why it was so much fun for them to ride in the fog…that may or may not have contained DDT…but I can see it vividly in my mind.images
  • Sunday nights were for TV dinners, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and The Wonderful World of Disney. We had to buy TV dinners on Saturday, because blue laws meant grocery stores were not open on Sunday. In fact, nothing was open on Sunday. Beer and alcohol certainly weren’t sold on Sunday.
  • Families watched TV together. Parents sat in chairs or on the sofa in the family den, while the kids lounged on the floor in front of the console television. It seemed everyone had a giant, color console TV in the family den. Johnny Carson was America’s favorite talk show host, and occasionally, our parents would let us stay up to watch him on The Tonight Show. Later, TV stations signed off with the National Anthem.56adbe711edad2afdadc86c0de9153f8 
  • We stayed outside all day and sometimes, into the night. Our mothers wanted us to come home when the streetlights came on, but with permission, we could stay out and play Kick The Can at night with the neighborhood kids.
  • Seatbelts? What seatbelts? Yes, cars had them, but hardly anyone used them. Kids bounced around on the back seats of cars or stood on the front seat…while the car was moving on a busy highway!photo-1564833840938-2f5041df082d
  • We had a locally owned single-screen movie theater, and it cost $1 for kids and $2 for adults. Most weekends, you could get in at 5:00 for the double feature, which meant you watched a full-length older film first…or maybe an old cartoon movie. Our parents dropped us off in time for the double feature, so they had four hours to go have date night. We got Cokes, popcorn, and Milk Duds. When I was eight, I saw Jaws on the big screen with my six year old brother! It was rated PG; PG-13 didn’t exist yet, and anything that wasn’t rated R was fine. We also saw Smokey and the Bandit, Rocky, Car Wash, The Bad News Bears, and more…all unaccompanied. If you think The Bad News Bears was made for kids, watch it now. I bought it years ago on DVD for my then-five-year-old daughter, because I didn’t remember just how bad the language was!
  • Pizza parties. We were thrilled to go to Pizza Inn (or Shakey’s or Pascuale’s) for a pizza birthday party. Everyone sat around a big table eating pizza. That was the party. We were likely in middle school, and we had the best time hanging out, eating pizza with our friends! Just good fun.
  • TV theme songs and commercial jingles were the best! Seriously. Do TV shows even have theme songs anymore? I can throw out one line from so many TV shows, and I imagine most folks my age can name the show.  1. Come and knock on our door… 2. Here’s a story of a lovely lady… 3. Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed… 4. You take the good; you take the bad; you take ’em both, and there you have… 5. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, shlemiel, schlimazel…Those are TV theme songs, and for commercial jingles… A. Here’s to good friends, tonight is kind of special… B. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun! C. My baloney has a first name… D. Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us! E. Have a bucket of chicken… *See below for answers*

Oh, those were the days! A lot of life revolved around television. It was epic in the 1970s. And to think we fret about our kids’ screen time! Bahahaha!

I’d love to hear your memories from the 70s…

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TV them songs shown above: 1. Three’s Company 2. The Brady Bunch 3. The Beverly Hillbillies 4. The Facts of Life 5. Laverne and Shirley

Commercial jingles: A. Lowenbrau B. McDonald’s Big Mac C. Oscar Mayer D. Burger King E. Kentucky Fried Chicken

Remember Leif Garrett?

Remember Leif Garrett?

Yes, this is on my mind today…Leif Garrett. He was a teen idol when I was a preteen in the 1970s. He had been on a couple of TV shows…Three for the RoadFamily (with Kristy McNichol), and a guest spot on Wonder Woman. He had a singing career with a hit in I Was Made for Dancing. He was in the Walking Tall movies. He was on American Bandstand. And he even had his very own TV special on CBS. All that happened before he was 18.

I don’t even know why I started thinking about Leif Garrett yesterday. Sometimes, I start looking for movies I liked as a child or teenager, and yesterday, I thought of a coming-of-age film from the 80s called Little Darlings, starring Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal. Somehow, that made me think of Leif Garrett.

Oh, he was such a dreamboat at the time! With his flowing blonde locks and surfer-boy looks, lots of teenage girls had his posters all over their bedrooms. Back then, we had Teen Beat and Tiger Beat magazines (remember those?) to keep us up-to-date on our teen idols, and in the late 70s, Leif Garrett was at the top of the list. But as we all know, most teen idols don’t last. Most are a flash in the pan…including Garrett. But there was something different about him. He had charisma that the others didn’t have. Well, David Cassidy had it, but I can’t think of anyone else from my time who had the same X Factor as Cassidy and Garrett. Somehow, David Cassidy managed to reinvent himself as an adult in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on Broadway, but the only place we’ve seen Garrett was Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew…sadly.

I’ve seen clips and read articles about him over the last 24 hours, and his story is tragic. He started acting in commercials as a child before moving into TV and movies. At some point, a management team decided to make him a singing star. With his charisma, Garrett was a walking dollar sign. He felt like he had no say in his own career and told Rosie O’Donnell on her show that he didn’t see a lot of the money from his fame.

But the real turning point in his life was a tragic car accident when he was 17. He was driving his Porsche, and a friend was riding with him. They had an accident, and the friend was left paralyzed from the waist down. Alcohol and drugs were involved. All terrible. It’s also something that could happen to lots of teens…a cautionary tale.

It’s tragic. The friend’s paralysis is tragic. The guilt and downward spiral afterward of Garrett are tragic too. Had he not been in show business, would this have happened? It’s an ugly business. Tragic. He became an addict…cocaine, heroin…sad. Was it the guilt of the accident that sent him over the edge? He made some bad choices, but this was a kid who had too much freedom and too much power too early. Who could handle that at 17? Fame and money make a strange life for a teen. Even good people can get caught up in the trappings of fame. Drugs plus guilt…perfect storm.

I am not diagnosing Garrett. I am not a psychologist. I just wonder what could have been. I look at that innocent face of the 1970s, and I want him to have a mother or someone else to keep him grounded. Had he been more closely supervised, and had he not chosen to drive under the influence that night, would his life have spiraled out of control? It’s sad to look at the photos of that sunkissed, young, hopeful teen and know what a terrible turn his life took. I don’t think he was a horrible individual. He was a teenager without boundaries. He’s likely not a horrible individual now, but wow, he has had a tough life. If he had stayed clean, would he be living a “normal” life now? We will never know. Some teen idols go on to have seemingly healthy lives, but the vast majority seem to have more issues than the “average” kid.

So that brings me to Garrett’s book, released at the end of 2019. Of course, I didn’t know about it then, and I didn’t hear about it earlier this year. With COVID in our midst, there hasn’t been a lot of press about the memoirs of former teen idols. But when I learned about it yesterday, I ordered it from Amazon, and I’ve read a couple of chapters, and it’s pretty darn good so far. It’s called Idol Truth: A Memoir. Yes, I will be the first to admit that I tend to be sympathetic. I’m a bleeding heart. I tend to want the best for people, and I’m sure I will still want the best for Garrett when I finish this book. If you’re interested, you can order from Amazon here. It will be available on the Audible app on August 11…I’ve already preordered it.

In the meantime, I’ll give my teenage daughter some extra hugs and be grateful that she’s a normal teenage girl living a normal life in North Carolina…not a teen idol. And I’ll tell her the story of Leif Garrett as a cautionary tale. I’ll tell her how quickly his life spiraled out of control, and hopefully, we will both learn some valuable lessons from Garrett’s experience.

Big Blue Marble Penpals

Big Blue Marble penpals.

Who remembers Big Blue Marble, the TV show that came on Saturday mornings back in the 1970s (and apparently, on into the 1980s, according to Wikipedia)? Those of us who watched it know the title was a reference to our home planet. In each episode, it featured stories about real-life kids…one segment about an American child and a segment about a child living in another country. The show also encouraged viewers to send letters in to start penpal relationships with kids around the world. I loved it the show, but I never mailed in a letter. But maybe I should have! Because of this pandemic, I’ve discovered that having penpals is fun!

Weeks ago, in an effort to brighten the moods of my friends who are stuck at home, I started sending out letters and some postcards I had collected on different vacations. We are planning to travel with some friends this summer (yes, still planning to go…fingers crossed), so I sent them postcards featuring the places we will visit…because I’ve visited the places before. And lucky for me, when I was there, I picked up some picture postcards, and till now, I’ve never felt the need to use them. But thank you, COVID-19, for encouraging me to dig through all my stuff to find those postcards and send them to friends who live far away.

But here was something cool that I saw on Instagram: one hotel where we have stayed before posted something saying, “Send us your name/address in a direct message, and a member of our staff will mail you a letter from the hotel!” Because I thought it was a fun idea, I submitted my teenage daughter’s name and address…knowing she would love to get some snail mail from one of her favorite places on the planet.

And I was right! When the picture postcard arrived with a sweet note written by the director of guest services, she was thrilled! Without my having to tell you, I’m sure you know what I did. First, I encouraged my daughter to write back…and she did. And instead of just mailing her letter back, I stuck a letter of my own into the envelope, thanking the director of guest services for sending her a postcard.

Since I started mailing postcards and letters, I have had the most fun opening my mail to find some of my friends in faraway places have written back! Some thanked me via facebook or email, and that was thrilling too, because they all said it brightened their days. It’s funny how a simple gesture can make a difference. Seriously, it doesn’t take long to write a quick note, especially on a postcard, and mail it.

If only Big Blue Marble were still on, kids could all get some new penpals all over the world. If I had actually participated as a kid, it would have been a great way to learn about different cultures. I suppose it’s a little old-fashioned now, but I still think it would be fun. Sure, some people use social media to meet “new friends” in other countries, but I don’t trust that. I’ve seen a few too many episodes of 90 Day Fiance, so I see how people get “catfished.” I even saw an episode of Dr. Phil on which a woman had sent thousands of dollars to her “true love” in some foreign country, and then, every time she was supposed to meet him, he missed a flight or had some other lame excuse. He was catfishing her. So no, social media is not the same as the good old Big Blue Marble days, and receiving an email isn’t as much fun as receiving a handwritten letter or postcard.

So I’ll just keep on sending letters and postcards to friends and family in faraway places. If you’d like to receive a postcard, send a private message with your name and address!

In fact, I’m walking down to the mailbox to send off a few more postcards now.

 

Graduation Gifts

Graduation gifts.

Yes, it’s getting close to that time of year, and sadly, this year’s graduating class is not going to have the same experience as other classes. I have lots of friends whose children are graduating from high school during this terrible pandemic, and I know they feel “ripped off.” That seems to be the general consensus…ripped off.

As much as I feel ripped off on my favorite things…vacations, sports, etc…I’m an adult. Some might argue that I don’t always act like an adult, but technically speaking, I’m an adult. At 52, I know “this, too, shall pass,” but then, this isolation isn’t delaying my graduation, my prom, my wedding, or anything else. Sure, I’m having to delay (or even cancel) some of my vacations to some of my favorite places. Sure, I’m not getting to watch my daughter, who is a sophomore in high school, play school lacrosse. But “good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise,” she’ll be playing next year, and I’ll get to take other vacations.

These high school (and college!) seniors don’t get a “do over.”

And as I sat thinking about that recently, it occurred to me that, at the very least, I can let them know that I’m thinking of them. Normally, I would wait till the end of May or early June to send graduation gifts, but I decided to go ahead and start sending them now…just trying to put smiles on their faces right now…let them know we’re thinking of them. These kids are missing out on so much, and I think they will be thrilled to start getting some early gifts…no matter how big or small those gifts may be! They just like knowing someone remembered they are graduating.

So, while it’s on my mind, I want to share a few ideas for graduation gifts, in case you want to go ahead and send something to someone you know who is missing out on the fun stuff of senior year.

AMAZON GIFT CARDS. Seriously, this is what I’ve been sending. You can pick the amount you want to send, and Amazon will attach a gift note and ship it out to your favorite grad. With an Amazon gift card, they can order just about anything they want, right? I’ve been ordering the card that comes “wrapped” in a box with a bow. You can order here.

BATHROBE. For young people who will be heading off to college in the fall, a bathrobe makes a great gift. Many of them will have community bathroom situations, which in my mind, is part of the “joy” of freshman year, and they will need a good bathrobe. Lands’ End has some quality robes starting under $50, and many of them can be monogrammed. See their selection here.

OTHER PERSONALIZED GIFTS. Personalization Mall has lots of great ideas for personalized graduation gifts. When I graduated from high school many moons ago, some of my favorite gifts were a personalized laundry bag and shower caddy. Personalization Mall offers those and lots of other things. I know, a laundry bag sounds old-fashioned, but if a college student is as crafty as I was, they’ll find the nearest place that will wash, dry, and fold all their laundry for a small fee. Yep, I dropped mine off regularly…so much better than waiting for a washer and dryer to come available!  You can see their selection here.

OTHER GIFT CARDS. There are so many great gift cards graduate will love. Whether they are going off to college or not, they can use lots of different kinds of gift cards. Just think about what your graduate likes or enjoys. Most young folks in our area love Chick-Fil-A, so that’s a safe bet for a gift card. A Netflix gift card is another safe bet. Target and Walmart gift cards could come in handy for almost anyone. You can get them online at each company’s website.

CASH. Because cash is king. No doubt. Doesn’t every graduating senior love to get some cold hard cash as a gift? This year, I will be sending one cash gift to a friend’s daughter in Alabama, but I’m afraid she will have to get it in the form of a check, since we can’t see her to hand her the cash.

All these ideas are not new ideas for graduation gifts, but my point is…start gifting these grads NOW. They will appreciate the recognition. It might take some of the sting out of this isolation for them. Who doesn’t like to receive a surprise gift? Plus, you’ll not only be helping the graduates; you’ll also be helping the economy when it needs it!