Were You Afraid of Santa?

When I was a little girl in Brewton, Alabama, I sat on Santa’s lap…once.

I was a fan of Santa, but I preferred to write him letters. I preferred not to sit on his lap. I was not a fan of strangers. Plus, I was stubborn. The more folks pushed me to talk with him, the more I resisted. There were lots of times I wondered, “Can’t I just write him a letter?” I never cried, though.

Ahhh…how many kids have pictures of themselves screaming in Santa’s lap?

Back in the late 60s and early 70s, folks loved to ask kids if they had sat on Santa’s lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas…even implying that if they didn’t sit on Santa’s lap, they’d wake up on Christmas morning to nothing.

My brother didn’t mind visiting with Santa. His whole life, he has had no fear. I guess I got all the fear, and he got none. And I’m sure my brother wanted Santa to know exactly what to bring…Tonka trucks (the real metal kind), Evel Kneivel Stunt Cycle, Evel Knievel Canyon Sky Cycle (you know, the toy version of the one he used in his attempt to jump Snake River Canyon), GI Joe stuff, football jerseys, and yes, BB guns…typical rough neck little boy stuff. Unlike Ralphie on A Christmas Story, though, he never even almost “put his eye out” with a BB gun, but a boy down the street did.

As for Santa, I only remember sitting on his lap once…on the bench outside The Fair Store in downtown Brewton. I wasn’t the kid who screamed and ran from Santa. I just quietly refused to sit in his lap. But that day, I not only sat on his lap, I actually conversed with him. I don’t remember the conversation, but I do remember sitting there talking.

On that day, I made the decision to talk to him. No one tried to push me into it. I think they had given up on me at that point. That, plus they knew if they pushed, I would just dig in my heels. I remember walking out of the store, seeing Santa on the bench, and walking over to him without even discussing it with my mother. She just stood there, smiling and waiting.

I don’t remember what I asked him to bring me…Baby Alive? A treehouse? A Miss American bicycle? Ventriloquist dolls? Easy Bake Oven? Fisher Price Little People house…the one with a real doorbell that rings? Probably all of the above, but I was completely and utterly obsessed with the Fisher Price Little People house with a doorbell that really rings.

Later, when I was 10 or 11, I would sit on Santa’s lap just for the pictures with my friends, but by then, I knew Santa wasn’t real.

Fortunately, my daughter never feared him. She went for her first visit with Santa in November after she turned one in October. I sat her on his lap, and she didn’t fuss at all…whew! When she was two, she wanted to visit with him every chance she got, so we spent many afternoons at Southpark Mall, visiting Santa. When we went to Winterfest at Carowinds that year, she talked with Santa so long that the folks in line got antsy. Santa didn’t care…she was his favorite visitor that night, because she talked and talked. It’s a great memory, because she had to walk up some steps to get to him. She climbed the steps and climbed up into his lap in a sleigh. When she was finished talking, he motioned for me to come up and get her, and he went on and on about how he’d never had a two year old talk so much to him. And the people in line got more antsy.

She doesn’t remember the Santa from Winterfest. She remembers a few later visits with Santa at Southpark Mall and at some local restaurants. But she knows she had some fun times at Christmas every year. We’ll have some more fun times this holiday season, but they’ll be different. We’ll go out to dinner with friends and still drive around looking at lights. I’ll even force her to go to Winterfest at Carowinds, but she’ll take a friend, because when you’re 15, nothing’s fun without friends. And that’s OK, because we’ll still be making memories together.

I wonder if I can get them to get a picture with Santa?

 

 

 

 

 

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A Southern Boy Turns 50

I wish I could remember the day my parents brought my brother home from the hospital, but I can’t. I was seventeen months old, and I was angry. According to Mother, I avoided her and wouldn’t talk to her when they came home. I’m not a silent-treatment kind of person, but apparently, I was then. My life had changed forever. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a change for the better. See slideshow:

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Today, that baby brother turns 50. I don’t want to embarrass him, but I do want to celebrate him.

Growing up, we were polar opposites. Mother used to say, “No matter how long you were outside…five minutes or two hours…you came back in clean, and he came back in dirty.” He was all boy…snakes, snails…you get the picture. I was all girl. He was always funny; I wasn’t so funny. I made mudpies, but he made mudpies to have a mud fight. I hated to get in trouble; he didn’t mind getting in trouble. I was a rule follower; he was a rule breaker. I evaluated situations before getting involved; he threw all caution to the wind. I wanted to do well on standardized tests; he wanted to make patterns with the dots on standardized tests.

When we were kids, Brother (I call him Brother, and he calls me Sister) loved playing outside. And I mean he loved it. He loved fishing, hunting, baseball, basketball, getting muddy, Tonka trucks in the dirt…if he could be outside, he was happy.  He was always athletic. I think he could ride a two-wheeled bicycle before he was three; the neighbors in Brewton were amazed. He played baseball with the older boys in the neighborhood. He fished in the neighborhood lake. When we moved to Spanish Fort, he would talk me into going through the bamboo to the creek behind our house…where I once saw a gigantic rattlesnake swim past; I ran home and never went back after that, but he did. I would still venture into the bamboo with him, so he could show me green snakes eating frogs or black snakes slithering by, but I didn’t go back to the creek.

Daddy spent countless hours throwing a baseball with my left-handed brother. Oh, I was so jealous that he was left-handed; it got so much attention. We all had fun together, but Brother and Daddy were a team. They were both funny and appreciated each other’s humor, but Daddy was more serious and cautious than Brother.

Because he has always been adventurous and funny, there are stories. Oh, the stories! One of my favorites is about a phone call Daddy received one night when Brother was in ninth grade. It was from a teacher whose class I had been in two years before, Coach Long. I had always behaved very nicely in his class. And then along came Brother. That night, Daddy picked up the phone, and Coach Long said, “Mr. Parmer, I sure hated to have to call you.” I’m sure they exchanged pleasantries before Coach Long told him the purpose of the call. “Mr. Parmer, your son is a leader, but he’s leading my class in the wrong direction (emphasis on the first syllable..DI-rection).” Uh-oh. Uh, yeah…. Brother was in big trouble. Apparently, he had been quite the class clown during Coach Long’s class. For the rest of the school year, I had to visit Coach Long every two weeks and ask him if Brother was behaving correctly. He would laugh, and I would too, but Brother behaved well for the rest of the school year, and he and Coach Long developed a mutual respect for each other…later becoming friends.

When Brother was 14, Mother drove past a local church and saw Brother driving a friend’s car…doing doughnuts in the parking lot. When she asked him about it later, he told her everything was under control…he knew how to drive…at 14. Apparently, he had been driving a friend’s car…frequently…big trouble. Another time, after he could drive legally, he and a friend drove a truck into a construction site. It was a weekend, so no one was there. They drove the truck down a steep loose-dirt hill and then couldn’t drive it out. Daddy borrowed a truck with a winch to pull them out…more trouble…and a lecture about responsibility and self control. “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.” I know about the lecture, because I sat quietly at the top of the stairs and listened.

Brother is a lot of fun, with a contagious laugh and a sometimes warped sense of humor.   But Brother’s not all fun and games. He’s a licensed airplane pilot and skilled boat captain. He’s strong in a crisis. He helps folks on a regular basis and expects nothing in return. Over the years, he has helped stranded motorists on interstates and back roads; helped people move; and more. When we were young, we looked out for each other and felt each other’s pain. If someone slammed Brother’s fingers in a door, I cried. Mother told people when we were little that if something happened to her, since Daddy traveled with work, my 17-months younger brother would take care of me. We’ve been through life together. We’ve lost both parents together. Everyone else may not get us, but we get us. We are connected.  All his humor hides a big heart.

That class clown is all grown up now; he’s still an overgrown little boy, but he’s 50. He has a beautiful wife; two handsome, smart sons; and three awesome bonus sons. I’m lucky he’s my brother. Have there been times I’ve wanted to wring his neck? Yes. Have there been times I’ve needed his support? Yes. Now that both our parents are gone, we know it’s even more important to support each other. We talk almost every day  and often call each other with silly trivia questions.

I’m lucky my parents brought that baby home 50 years ago. Happy Birthday, Brother!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Wilderness Life Skill for Girls

Guys have it made when they’re stuck outside with no bathroom. On camping trips or hiking trips, they just walk over to a private place in the woods and do their thing. It’s not so easy for girls. First of all, there’s no way for a girl to make her bladder gladder without actually exposing herself. Well, there is a product out there called Go Girl that helps, but it takes a little practice at home before trying to use it in the wilderness. You can see it here. It really does work and makes going outside much easier. I know, because my sister-in-law gave me one for Christmas. Do you camp? Do you fish? Do you ever find yourself needing to “go” when you’re hiking? I don’t. I don’t camp. I really don’t, but there were times in life I needed wilderness relief. Therefore, I know the importance of carrying the Go Girl with me.

When I was a little girl, my friend, Allyson, who lived down the street, had two older siblings…a sister in the high school band, and a brother on the football team. Allyson’s mother took us to games, and what fun it was! To a little girl in a small town in the south, a high school football game is a big deal!

Allyson’s mother volunteered in the concession stand sometimes, and on those nights, Allyson and I waited for her to close up shop. It probably didn’t take long, and we were happy to get to keep playing together, but on those nights, we were the last ones out.  One night when I was probably six or seven, while we waited for her to close up the concession stand, I knew I needed to pee…I was in a bind. The field lights had all been turned off, except at the concession stand. I told Allyson’s mother I needed to go to the bathroom, but she laughed and told me the bathrooms were locked. Eek. Her mom was (and still is, I’m sure) a sweet lady…not all stuffy and formal, so she gave me an alternative: “Nobody’s here but us. Just go around the stands where it’s dark and tee-tee in the grass.”

I’m sure I looked at her wide-eyed, and said, “I’ve never done that outside.” With a little encouragement from her that I would be able to pull it off, Allyson and I set off into the darkness. We walked around the bleachers, but not too far because we were a little scared. I remember vividly that I was wearing my very favorite little navy, sailor-style skort with white, anchor-embellished, decorative buttons on the front. I went behind the bleachers, pulled down my little sailor-style skort, and tinkled…all over the back of my favorite little sailor-style skort, but I didn’t know till I pulled it up. I had discovered what many women have known for years: it’s not that easy to pee outside. It was my last attempt for many years. When it was time to drive home, I had to stand up in the backseat of the Buick. I couldn’t sit on the seat…I would have gotten it wet. And since there were no seatbelt laws in the mid-70s, standing up while the car was moving was not unusual.

Years later, I attempted wilderness relief again…desperate times call for desperate measures. I was in my twenties and had walked down to a river with some friends. Realizing I wouldn’t be able to wait till we got back into town for the bathroom, I went behind a tree down by the water. This time, I was old enough to understand how to do it correctly. It’s all about balance…no big deal, right? Right…except for the boat that came around the bend just as I got started. They got a look at that full moon, and they honked and waved. I was past the point of no return at that point so all I could do was continue and give a big wave…and laugh. But I didn’t wet my shorts.

Wilderness relief is a life skill. For whatever reason, my mother didn’t teach me that one. It’s likely she tried and I flat refused. I’ve always been a little stubborn. But when I became a mother, I knew my daughter needed that life skill. I taught her the skill of wilderness relief when she was about two…in the Nordstrom parking deck at SouthPark Mall in Charlotte. I don’t know that you could call it wilderness. She was potty-training, so we had visited every ladies room in the mall, and I made sure she went in the last one before we walked to our car. As soon as we arrived at the car, she said, “I need to tee-tee.” I didn’t have the time, patience, or energy to go back into Nordstrom, so I said, “Well, you need to learn how to do it outside.” And right there, in the Nordstrom parking deck, between two parked cars, she learned about wilderness relief. It has come in handy over the years when she has had sports practice at fields where the bathrooms were locked.

I hope it’s a skill she will pass on to her daughter one day…just so she won’t mess up her favorite little, sailor-style skort.

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After the FIRST Final Rose…in 1973

I turned down the FIRST final rose…with pee in my shoes.

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After the FIRST final rose. While I love sharing favorite things, I love sharing favorite stories too.  With another season of ABC’s The Bachelor in full swing, I’m reminded of a story from my childhood. I like telling stories. This story is about a bachelor, shoes, and pee.

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My first memories of  childhood are in Brewton, Alabama. I have memories of riding bikes and fishing in the neighborhood pond, and I have lots of memories of Mrs. Peavy’s Kindergarten. Back then, public schools did not offer kindergarten, so in small towns, you either went to a church kindergarten, an established kindergarten in someone’s private classroom, or you didn’t go. ***Info about all photos at bottom of page***

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Mrs. Peavy was all business. Her kindergarten, which I attended at age five for the 1972-73 school year, was in a big room in the back of her home. She meant for us to learn a lot, and we did.  She wasn’t warm and fuzzy, but she loved sharing information with us and exposing us to new things. Dramatic  performances were her forte, and she produced a kindergarten play and an elaborate graduation ceremony every year. I don’t think any of us thought, at the time, Mrs. Peavy loved us, though looking back, I’m sure she did. She wanted to provide us with the best early education possible, and she succeeded.

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Mrs. Peavy might not have been warm and fuzzy, but she had the best playground in town. With a child size gas station, pedal cars, a teeter totter, monkey bars, and a child size “house,” it was awesome. That is one thing everyone I’ve talked to seems to remember…the awesome playground. I still wonder what happened to the vintage playground equipment when the house was torn down. To see or purchase vintage pedal cars like the one pictured below, clickhere.

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As mentioned before, her forte was dramatic productions, and in 1973, she lined up a fantastic production for our kindergarten play, Ole King Cole Takes A Wife. I was cast as Little Bo Peep. I’m sure I was cast in this lovely role for my short stature (she is LITTLE Bo Peep, after all), and not my singing talent. I loved my little blue and white costume full-length dress, bonnet, and shepherd staff. My mother’s friend, Martha, found a big shepherd’s staff, and she and my mother wrapped it in pink ribbon, tying a big bow near the top. I remember going to her big, old house with the wraparound porch on Belleville Avenue and standing in her yellow, gingham kitchen while they worked. I had the best costume.

I know what you’re wondering…how do Little Bo Peep and Ole King Cole go together? Well, in this production, all the ladies/girls of Nursery Rhyme Land were competing to become Ole King Cole’s bride, like an early version of The Bachelor! The king’s courtiers would bring in each potential bride, one at a time. There was Old Mother Hubbard, the Widow Humpty Dumpty, Peter Pumpkin Eater’s Wife (ex-wife? I guess she escaped the pumpkin shell…played by my friend, Cindy Finlay Fleming)…you get the picture. As luck (the script) would have it, Little Bo Peep was the last one called to see the king.

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Over the course of the play, Little Bo Peep (played by me) was waiting in the wings, and after all that waiting, not surprisingly, I needed to go to the bathroom. Mrs. Peavy was standing beside me behind the curtain. I remember exactly where I was standing. I looked up at Mrs. Peavy and said, “I need to go to the bathroom.” She responded angrily, “Too late now! You should have gone earlier.” I knew I’d never make it through my appearance without squirming. My five year-old self thought, “Humph! No, it’s not too late.”

As I mentioned before, my costume was a full-length dress, so unbeknownst to Mrs. Peavy, I set my feet apart and peed…right there in the wings of the stage…standing up. It was a calculated decision. Wearing a dress meant there was no visible wet spot on my clothes (which I realized in advance), so no one in the audience would know.

My shoes were a little squishy as I walked out for my moment in the spotlight, but no one in the audience knew I had just peed standing up or that I had squishy shoes. I turned around quickly and looked at the puddle on the hardwood floor as I walked away. Mrs. Peavy saw it too…too late now! I glanced at her and could almost see the steam coming out her ears!

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After the king proposed marriage to me (Little Bo Peep), I sang my solo, “I’ll Never Give Up My Sheep For A King” (yes, I can still sing some of it). He wanted to marry Bo Peep, but he didn’t want her sheep to come to the castle.

No dice.

So technically, I guess I turned down the final rose way before The Bachelor was even an idea! And I did it with pee in my shoes.

My family moved from Brewton to Spanish Fort when I was in second grade, and a few more times after that, but when Facebook came around, I reached out to some of those old friends from Mrs. Peavy’s Kindergarten. I’m proud to say Ole King Cole is among my friends, as are Peter Pumpkin Eater’s Wife (ex-wife?) and the Widow Humpty Dumpty.

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When I was driving from the beach to my mother’s house last summer, I drove through Brewton. As I rounded a corner in downtown Brewton, I saw vendors in a park. There, among the vendors, was Ole King Cole.

I parked the car along the curb across the street from the vendors and walked across, and Ole King Cole and Little Bo Peep had a reunion right there, but this time I didn’t have pee in my shoes.

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So, yes, Mrs. Peavy and her kindergarten made quite an impression on me. Some of my favorite childhood memories are from Brewton and her kindergarten. She was a great teacher and a great piano teacher to many in the community, as well. I’m grateful Facebook has made it possible to reconnect with childhood friends. I’ll share more childhood stories another time.

In the meantime: Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, the other gold.

And yes, Ole King Cole is gold.

XOXO,

Kelly

P.S–Kindergarten Classmates: Does anyone else remember the dog’s tail falling off as he crossed the stage? I think the dog was played by a boy whose initials were K.I. I won’t put his full name, in case I’m wrong. Anyone?

***Photo info below***

Mrs. Ella Mae Peavy

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PHOTO INFO

*I am the little girl in the green and white dress in the headshot.

*The next two photos are from the graduation ceremony for my class in 1973.

*The black and white photo is from a 2012 story The Brewton Standard did on Mrs. Peavy. It is a photo showing the 1974 graduating class at their play, or as the article called it, their “operetta.”

*The cute little girl in the red outfit in the snow picture was Peter Pumpkin Eater’s Wife in the play. Her name is Cindy Finlay Fleming, and the picture is from the Great Southeastern Snow Storm of February 1973. It was the first time most of us had seen snow.

*The photo of two adults near the end is a photo of me and Keith Pugh, also known as Ole King Cole, when we reunited last summer.

*The photo of Mrs. Ella Mae Peavy is from an article in The Brewton Standard in 2012. Mrs. Peavy passed away in 1993.

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