Summer Memories

We’ve all got summer memories, right?  Memories of bike riding, games played outside, romps in the woods, and on and on it goes.  A rather disturbing thought is us older folk probably have more of those kinds of memories than our kids do today.

What would those kids that were us back then have to say to the kids of today?  (“You wear what? On where? Why??”)  What about the parents?  (“You let your kid wear that? On where? Why??”)  Especially when it comes to riding in a car! I have memories of moving all around our family van as my Dad cruised down the highway. Nowadays, you just about get arrested for that. At the very least, the video someone has taken on their phone in the car behind you of your kid moving all over your van gets posted on CNBC, Fox News and any other T.V. show that will have panel after panel of so-called “experts” deliberating and arguing back and forth about the merits and pitfalls of such actions in today’s society.

So what would they say about “Yard Darts”?

Remember those? Two colored plastic circular tubes the diameter of a pencil.  These made up two big rings that were the targets (the boring part); then, four darts–two sets of two different colored 12-inch long, plastic-finned, 3-sided tops with heavy metal bases that came to a point–completed the ensemble (the exciting part). Ours were in a cardboard box with those happy 1970’s family posers throwing the darts at the other team’s target. Nothing but good safe family fun, right?

What did kids do with this family-fun game when the parents weren’t around? What every kid did! Throw those sharp pieces of kid-dom fun straight up into the air as high as possible and try to calculate trajectories to see if they’ve gotta run like a banshee to avoid being pinned to the ground. We had a big side yard to do it in, too! As I recall, sometimes my brother and I would spread out on the side yard and lob them into the air to see how close we could come to the other brother without him actually having to move.

Yep….not smart. But it sure was fun. And very memorable. Mostly due to the fact that neither one of us ever got hurt playing with those things (God was certainly true to my mother’s prayers for our protection growing up). So what’s available now? Maybe a Nerf version of what used to be a thrill ride for a kid–something “safe” and non-threatening. That’s like giving a kid a chocolate cake without the frosting. No thanks. Give me the real thing. We’ve become too “safe-sensitive” in today’s culture–not that I want to go out and buy a real Yard Darts game for my kids. But I do recognize a tendency in myself and my parenting to be over-protective and unwilling to just let my boys be the kids that they are…kids that want to do things that in my adult mind seem unsafe and unwise. Yet what did I do as a kid? Some of the exact same things I catch them wanting to do.

Us adults need to remember what some of the joys of being a kid are. And when you stop and think about it, those childhood experiences really all come down to this:  Sometimes the best teacher for a kid is the freedom to experience something for himself.

Popcorn On The Ceiling

“Popcorn on the ceiling.”  A short little phrase that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense by itself.  Except to people who own a pop-up camper.

To these folks, uttering those four words evokes every memory of every time they’ve camped when it has rained.  Fond memories of trying to sleep with the ever-present POP-POP-POP popcorn sound the rain makes on the camper roof (the bunk-ends too) pounding all around.  Glowing memories of family time around the camper table playing card games.  This, of course, involved using sign language and baseball signals since the rain on the camper roof was so loud that no one could hear each other speak.  Throw in a couple arguments from the kids about whose turn it is or the very outspoken opinion from one that the other didn’t do something right, and memory-making opportunities abound.

As true as these things can be, they come with many other memories and events that are truly worth the popcorn on the ceiling.  Especially when experienced with other families.  We are camping this weekend with Rick and his family (yes, the very same Rick you’ve read about in other stories–particularly the one involving Grape-Nuts).  They own a pop-up as well, so the popcorn on the ceiling that we experienced last night was also experienced by them.

This is our first time camping with them.  Something we’ve tried to make happen for a couple of years now.  We met in the middle, so to speak, both families driving upwards of two hours to meet at a campground in northern Indiana.  Sure, it’s inconvenient that it’s raining off and on this weekend, but being with them more than makes up for any whims of the weather.

God is good!  To have a great friendship in high school continue all these many years later is highly unusual in my book.  It is something I never thought would mean as much as it does now.  Friendship is definitely a gift from God to be treasured.

See you soon!

A Quick Thought

Just a quick thought for today.
Why is it that I can go to the store for one thing and find that I inevitably need to get something sweet to eat? One thing and one thing only turns into six (actually seven with my wife needing me to pick up buns).
You may remember from earlier conversations that I love sweets! Especially homemade things. But within the past few days, I have had a hankerin’ for those cheap powered sugar donuts that come in a bag. So I went to Kroger and got some. But then I thought I’d just swing by the ice cream (it is extremely hot outside, you know) and see if anything was on sale. Low and behold, it was!
Pints that normally cost $3 were on sale for $1. Well, I just had to take advantage of a sale like that! The maximum number to get was five, so that’s what I got (generously providing one for my mother-in-law, who was over to the house visiting).
We’ve all got our issues. I guess this one is mine. In the Big Picture of things, that’s not so bad.
Catch you next time, my friend.

A Bike Story

Everyone likes a good bike story.  It’s the middle of summer, which means it’s the middle of bike-riding season.  So I thought I would share with you a memory from an earlier post.  Enjoy!

You remember my telling you that we lived on a dirt road when we were in Bath? I’m pretty sure I mentioned that before….so…..we lived on a dirt road when we were in Bath. It was Drumheller Road. We had a big side yard on our property that was between our driveway and the gravel pit that was next door from an earlier story. At the end of our side yard and across Drumheller was another dirt road that ended on our road. This was Watson Road, and it ended in a very steep hill as it came up to Drumheller. Add to that the fact that our driveway also had a nice steep slope to the last 15 feet of it as it met the road, and you’ve got another “potent and high-risk” situation brewing.

Between my brother and I, one of us would be stationed at the end of the driveway (henceforth known as The Spotter) to warn the Evil Knieval wanna-be of any oncoming traffic–although I can remember more than once having no spotter to do this. The other brother (forthwith referred to as The Speed Freak) would race down the stone driveway, gathering momentum as the tires bit into the stones. The Speed Freak would tear down the sloping end of the driveway onto Drumheller, the bike’s tires spitting gravel up into the air as he turned left towards Watson Hill (this stretch of Drumheller had a slight downward slope of its own, so….brewing….it’s brewing). Then The Speed Freak would turn right onto Watson Road and commence a careening ride of trying to maintain control of a bike screaming over dirt and gravel as it keeps a more or less straight trajectory down Watson Road, The Speed Freak’s feet and pedals a dizzying blur as he gets as much speed as possible down the hill. Then, breathless and covered in sweat, bug guts (we weren’t wearing helmets) and tears of exhilaration, The Speed Freak would come to a complete stop.

Enter the “I-want-to-be-like-Calvin’s-bike” bike with the really cool banana seat.

There I am, in the starting blocks, listening to the announcer as he introduces the next racer. My engine is revved–I’m ready for takeoff. The “Christmas Tree” hasn’t lit up yet. Suddenly, there it is! Yellow, yellow, yellow, GREEN! I’m tearin’ it up, trying to get some air between the bike tires and the stone driveway before I’ve even hit Drumheller Road. I’ve got flames coming off my back tire as I fly past The Spotter onto Drumheller. As I turn onto Watson Hill, I’m barely keeping the bike on the ground as the tires begin to melt. It’s screaming down the road, gravel shooting out and ricocheting off the trees. Suddenly, it happens. The bike decides to steer for a huge piece of gravel that wasn’t even in my way. As it hits it, the really cool banana seat lets The Twins know that it’s there and that it doesn’t like twins. I bring my bike to a screeching halt, horizontal tear paths on my face (these are not tears of exhilaration). By the way, it’s extremely difficult to bring a bike to a stop while looking through tears–and my eyes were filled with them. I look down at The Twins to make sure they’re ok and what do I see? The long pointed end of the really cool banana seat–the accomplice to the “I-want-to-be-like-Calvin’s-bike” bike that committed this heinous act against innocent parties involved.

The really sad climax to this story is the fact that not only did I not learn the first time of what this bike’s evil intentions were, but I even tried many times going down Watson Hill no-handed (no racing, just riding). Who’s bright idea was it to put a metal bar right under the seat between the seat and the handlebars on a boys bike?? The bike knew that as well. So did the really cool banana seat. And so did The Twins. More than once. In extreme peril. And all I could do was try to bring the bike to a complete stop while trying to see through tear-filled eyes.

…..sigh…..The price of exhilaration.

The Flies of GTI

Flies are disgusting.  Is there anything beneficial to their existence?  Nothing comes to mind.  Kind of like mosquitos.  A result of “The Fall” and evil personified.  A slight exaggeration (but only slight).

I work at a local factory (called GTI) that makes plastic parts for certain Honda vehicles.  I never thought I would have a factory job, but it’s really been a good experience working there.  There are three departments on the production floor:  Injection, Paint and Assembly.  They all have their own section of the plant, but they all share the same building space.  As a result, the air moves freely from one section to the other.

And so do the flies.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the normal behavior of flies.  They’re usually skittish and very hard to sneak up on.  And when they land, they move around like they’ve got a permanent sugar rush going on.  Have you noticed that flies seem to have a “sixth sense” about them?  I noticed one flying around the kitchen the other day.  My eye was tracking the fly in the air the whole time I was moving for the fly swatter.  Even as I began to grab the handle of it, though, I watched the fly’s behavior change before my eyes.  It was like it immediately knew what I had just put in my hand.  I could almost hear its communication link in my head:  “Bandit 1 to Tower, Bandit 1 to Tower.  I’ve got a bogey at five o’clock and he’s coming fast.  Taking evasive action.”  That fly promptly went into camouflage mode and disappeared before my eyes.  I hate flies.

The flies on the production floor at GTI seem to always be the shiny green ones.  Like this:

The behavior of these flies is odd, to say the least.  Sometimes the fumes from the paint lines waft their way out to where we are in Injection.  And when that happens, it’s pretty noticeable.  So I can’t help but wonder if it’s these paint fumes that alter the behavior of these green flies (for that matter, maybe it’s the paint line that makes them all green, too).  It’s odd, but when these flies approach, it’s like you can hear them coming.  A drone in the air that gets louder with a sudden “plop” as it lands in front of you or on your shoulder.

I had a conversation with one once.  I was on the line, checking parts as they came down the belt.  Suddenly I heard the low, droning sound of something heavy flying through the air and saw a big green fly plop down on my shoulder.  I looked down at it.  It was looking up at me.

“Hey,” I said.

“Whassup.”

“Why are you staring at me?”

“Know where I can get some?”

“Get some what?”

“You know.  The Stuff.  Everyone around here is talking about it.  I hear it’s pretty good.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Get off me.”

“Awww, come on, man, hook me up.  I gotta have some.  I came a long way for this.”

“I shouldn’t be talking to you.  You’re causing a scene, Freak.  There’s nothing to see here.  Move on.”

“Yer bringin’ me down, man.  I’ll make it worth your while.”

“You’ve got nothing to offer me.  I’ll swat you if you don’t get your shiny green butt off my white shirt.”

“The hospitality around here stinks.  Fine.  By the way, dude, your deodorant is giving out.  I like that.  Catch ya on the flip side.”

A day in the life of a factory worker.  Can’t say it’s boring….