Category Archives: Traditions

The Invisible Egg

It’s that time of year when many people color an egg or two for Easter.  Well, I remember one Easter in particular that had a very elusive egg that no one could find.

Easter every year was always held at Grandma & Grandpa’s house.  The whole family would gather and enjoy some great food and an inevitable game of progressive rummy with the adults.  Everything from ham to mashed potatoes to succotash was there, including homemade pies and Schwann’s ice cream for dessert.  (There are apparently very few people who like succotash in this world; my grandma and myself were two of them.)  It was a time us kids always knew we’d be seeing all of the cousins.  Well, I have a cousin named Erik who is about four years older than I am.  This particular year, Erik helped Grandma color eggs for all of us younger kids to find.  Most of those eggs were brightly colored and relatively easy to locate.  But one particular egg Erik decided to do something special with.

My grandma had a small plant terrarium in her living room (similar to the picture above but with taller plants in it).  It had a variety of colors in both the gravel and the plants that it contained.  Erik decided that he needed to color a camouflaged egg to blend in with the plants and gravel in the terrarium.  Us younger cousins were told that if we found this “camo egg” we would get a significant cash reward.  If memory serves me correctly, $10  was the reward and he himself was fronting the cash for it.  I think he thought the chances of us finding it were virtually impossible, especially with no hints being given to us.   So a $10 bill was a tantalizing carrot to dangle in front of us.  As I recall, us older cousins had him a little worried about his money though.

I would love to be able to tell you that I found it!  But I didn’t.  I would love to be able to tell you that anyone found it.  But we never did.  Not even the adults were able to locate it.  Eventually, when the adults had long grown tired of watching us kids desperately trying to find this elusive egg,  Erik had to show us where it was.  When we saw it, we all agreed:  This is an absolutely ugly egg, and no wonder we couldn’t find it!  It was painted to perfectly blend in with the plants in the terrarium and it did its job well.  I really wish I had seen it!  To see a reward of that caliber go unclaimed was a heinous act on Erik’s part.

In our household, the focus of Easter is the death and resurrection of Jesus (the empty tomb is still an historical event that non-Christian historians still cannot accurately explain away).  Even though colored eggs and such aren’t what Easter is really all about, it has certainly made for some interesting memories.

Happy Easter!

Of Ghosts And Flying Reindeer

The Christmas season certainly has a lot of traditions attached to it, doesn’t it?  From what we actually celebrate (namely Santa, Hanukkah and the birth of Jesus) to countless family practices within countless households, traditions hold a significant place within our society.  We’ve all got our favorite ones, too, don’t we?  But do you ever stop to think about where they came from?  “How did this tradition start?”, is a question that can produce some interesting answers.

Hanukkah and the birth of Jesus are both historically accurate occurrences (although tradition has put Jesus in a manger on Christmas, when he actually was at least a few months old by the time the wise men found him on December 25)*.  When it comes to Santa, though, the earliest accounts of this fable only date back to 1821 with a children’s poem (author unknown) titled “Old Santeclaus with Much Delight”.  At that point, the earliest drawings depict Santa being pulled by just one reindeer** (and you’d think that Rudolph would have been that reindeer, what with Santa needing his glowing nose and all).

As a result of these foundations for most of our holiday traditions, it has led to one of the biggest and most well-known traditions of them all:  Christmas carols!  Obviously, many are about the birth of Jesus and quite a few are about Santa as well.  But then we also have carols that are simply about our traditions:  sleigh rides, children playing in the snow, chestnuts roasting over a fire and the food we eat during the holidays.  One of these songs is called, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.  Ever heard that one?  I didn’t hear it until I was working for an upscale hotel restaurant in my early twenties.  My first Christmas season there, I actually heard a few songs that I never even knew existed (and I was even one of those kids growing up who would listen to Christmas carols as soon as Thanksgiving was over)!  This one really threw me for a loop, though.  And let me tell you why…..

George Wyle (the vocal director for The Andy Williams Show), along with Edward Pola, actually wrote this song for Andy to sing on the show in 1963.***  It’s a song that’s all about traditions.  But when I heard the lyrics within a certain part of this song, it stopped me in my tracks and forced me to do a double-take on what I had just heard.  Here is that part of the song:

There’ll be parties for hosting

Marshmallows for toasting

And caroling out in the snow

There’ll be scary ghost stories

And tales of the glories of

Christmases long, long ago

Do you see it?  Who on God’s green earth associates scary ghost stories with Christmas??  What does that even look like?  Can you picture it?  You and your family are sitting in a comfy room in front of a cozy fire that crackles and hisses in the fireplace.  The smell of pine fills the air from the garland of real pine that lines the mantle above it.  Across the room is a beautiful Christmas tree, glowing warmly with the colors of red, blue, orange and green.  The gentle flames of candles scattered around the room cause firelight to dance on the walls around you.  You have just taken part in one of the best Christmas dinners you’ve ever had–every dish that every family member is known for making the best of was part of that meal.  Suddenly, as everyone is basking in the serene atmosphere that surrounds them, Uncle Joe blurts out, “Hey, just between you, me and the fence post, has anyone heard about the ghost of the truck driver that was killed in that horrible accident a few years back?  They say he still roams these parts, looking for the kids that ran out in front of his truck.  Anyone seen Billy lately?”

Apparently somebody thought this was a good idea, but why?!  Talk about a really weird and disturbing tradition!  After much contemplation, the only connection that I can make is that this could be referring to the ghosts in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.  Then recently, I learned that it was actually a Victorian tradition to tell ghost stories at Christmas time (could explain why Dickens’ story was considered such a classic).

So, needless to say, not all traditions are worth carrying on!  Personally, I’m glad that that one has fallen by the wayside….

Enjoy your traditions, my friend.  And have a very blessed and Merry Christmas!!

 

* DVD entitled “The Star Of Bethlehem”.

**Wikipedia, “Santa Claus’s reindeer”.

***Wikipedia, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

Euchre Of A Different Breed

Remember the Euchre Club I mentioned we were a part of?  It’s been a while since I was able to participate in it, due to work schedules and summer “busyness” that other couples in the group had also experienced.

Well, one of them had the bright idea of “dressing up” for this one since it’s the weekend of Halloween.  Some of us were fairly keen on the idea, while others were more or less forced to participate.  The card-playing itself was pretty good (although we all felt a little “off our game” since it had been so long since we’d played).  But certainly the highlight was seeing how everyone had decided to dress for the occasion…..

Let’s start with my wife and I.  We didn’t want to actually dress up, so  she had the idea of sending a message through matching t-shirts.  Here’s what she decided on (if you’re not familiar with the message they send, I’m sure you’ve got some connections that can fill you in):

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Jason and Patty drove with us (I imagine you can figure out who they dressed up as, but if a hint is needed, think “insurance”):

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Kevin and Lori followed us over.  If you’re not from Ohio, you may not know the significance of what they’re wearing, but I believe you’ll figure it out:

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Then, when we arrived at Brad & Stephanie’s, guess what we saw walk out their door?  This:

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How about that??  Is that a coincidence?  Might be a subliminal message to change insurance companies.  Well, we went ahead and ate because the other two couples were apparently lost and were going to be late.  I didn’t see when they arrived, but when I heard laughter erupt from the front living room, I knew something was amiss.  Yup….Craig and Stacey had arrived….as a hillbilly and a poop emoji (no, those are not his real teeth and that’s not poop on her face):

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Shortly after they arrived, everyone witnessed the most amazing transformation of any couple there when the arrival of Kerry and Stefanie occurred.  Of course, you need to first realize the uniqueness of Kerry’s personality and what makes him so “par for the course”.  This is the same individual who took it upon himself to dress up like “Cousin Eddie” from the movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation” on one of our many camping trips (complete with a can of root beer in his hand):

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So, as our eyes began to burn from the image we were seeing, he showed up as “trailer trash” with his wife dressing the part as well, cans-for-curlers and all:

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Yes, that’s a pair of underwear that he’s wearing for a top.  (You can’t see it in the picture, but he even went so far as to have yellow pee stains on the front [where he stashed his pen and cigar] and a “skid mark” on his backside from….well, you know.)  Stefanie’s strapless jumper still had straps from her pink bra and Kerry’s name was stenciled like a cheap tattoo across her upper chest.  We were all shocked and amazed and impressed, all at once, all night long.

Quite befitting (although in real life this is a special couple who is very dear to us) and definitely the most memorable of anything or anyone we saw that night.

Grandma’s Horseradish

Remember the town I told you about that I grew up in?  (In case you don’t, just type “Bath” in the Search bar and you’ll read about it.)  Remember the story of watching the volunteer firefighters at my Grandparents’ house?  They were my Dad’s parents and lived about a mile away from us.  My Mom, my brother and I would often walk or ride our bikes up to their house.  We did that a lot through the summer months.

They had a small garden in the back of their yard and grew a variety of things–one of them being horseradish.  Now, if you’ve never had horseradish before, it is a preferred taste.  Horseradish is actually a root that has no smell to it until it’s cut open.  Once that’s done,  however, you’d better be wearing a gas mask, because the aroma will burn the hairs right out of your nose as it makes its way into your sinuses.  It’s a great way to clear your nasal passages if you’re fighting a cold!  But it has to be homemade to work like that (the sissy stuff that you find in the store next to the ketchup is hardly worth calling “horseradish”).

I have never particularly cared for the taste of this decadent condiment, but my Dad absolutely loved it–but only my Grandma’s homemade stash.  This stuff was so strong that you could stand on the other side of the kitchen with your eyes closed and simply let your olfactory senses warn you that they are being assaulted by a jar of this burnin’-hunk-a-somethin’ that someone has had the gall to open on the other side of the room.  My Dad would eat this straight out of the jar, a big smile on his face as his nose would begin to run like a sieve.  He lived for late summer when the time for making homemade horseradish was nigh upon us.  More like nigh upon my Grandma, who didn’t seem a bit bothered by the overwhelming aroma that always emitted from her kitchen when making it.

We always steered clear of their place for a few days when we knew she was in the middle of this annual assault on the senses.  But that didn’t always work.  One day, the three of us decided we’d walk/ride up to Grandma and Grandpa’s house unannounced–beautiful day, nice breeze, perfect for being outdoors, right?  When we got up there, though, we found out that she was in the middle of making a batch of this homemade horsey-sauce.  My Mom told us both to stay outside (because the aroma was so strong in the kitchen that she figured it would drive us right back out anyway), so we rode our bikes around in the driveway.  It wasn’t but a few minutes later that we heard a very strange and unnerving sound emanate from Grandma’s kitchen.  It was something between a whoop! and a scream and it was coming from Mom!  We came off our bikes at a full run and bolted into Grandma’s kitchen, only to see Mom standing at the counter, her hands up to her nose and tears in her squeezed-shut eyes as she stood there laughing.  For some reason known only to herself and God, she thought she would take the top off of one of the jars of horseradish and take a whiff.  To the best of my knowledge, she only did that once.  It was at that moment that I vowed I would never touch a jar of that Dad-beloved, nasal-hating sauce in my life!

A Christmas Carol

Christmas carols.  We all love them.  Usually.  When we don’t, it’s probably because we’re walking through Wal-Mart a week into November and already hearing Christmas music.  But barring those kind of episodes, most of us look forward to playing our favorite music and carols this time of year.

I’ve got my favorites, but in thinking about one to convey my best Christmas wishes to you today, I found it hard to settle on just one.  I thought of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”.  Nice sentiment, but all the song is really about is singing until someone decides to hand out generous amounts of figgy pudding.  It’s an early English carol from the West Country of England about wealthy people giving “Christmas treats” to carolers.  Sure, that sounds like something worth singing for, except that these so-called “treats” were some form of figgy pudding, as previously mentioned.  This figgy pudding could have been made with figs, raisins or plums.  It really doesn’t matter, since my idea of a “Christmas treat” does not remotely involve these three…….(gag)…..things (something about fruit-cake-molasses-cookies comes to mind).

Then there was “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.  Sounds like it would be a better choice, right?  This is a song that was written for Judy Garland to sing in a 1944 musical.  Her and her family were to be moving away and she is singing this to her younger sister.  The problem was that the original lyrics were so depressing that she asked the song writer to rewrite them.  Get the tune in your head and put these original lyrics to it:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

It may be your last.

Next year we may all be living in the past.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

Pop that champagne cork.

Next year we may all be living in New York.

I know!  Who knew??  Thankfully, when Frank Sinatra recorded this song and immortalized it in 1957, he finished the positive lyrical change by requesting that the line “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow” be changed to something more positive.  And so the line we’ve all since heard many times was created:  “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough”.  Interestingly as well is the fact that the line ” If the fates allow” was originally “If the Lord allows”.

Since it looks like most of this country will be having a green Christmas this year, “White Christmas” came to mind.  Written in 1940, it was sung by Bing Crosby in 1942.  It is the best-selling single of all time and is #2 on the “Songs Of The Century” list–second only to Judy Garland’s “Over The Rainbow”.  This song also has the distinction of being broadcast on Armed Forces Radio as the pre-arranged signal for the U.S. evacuation of Saigon on April 30, 1975.  There have been over 500 recordings of this song, but only a handful of musical artists have included the original opening verse (my favorite being the rendition by Karen Carpenter):

The sun is shining, the grass is green,

The orange and palm trees sway.

There’s never been such a day,

In Beverly Hills, L.A.

But it’s December the twenty-fourth,

And I’m longing to be up North….

By the way, both of these last two songs I’ve mentioned were extremely important and became the mainstays that we know them to be because of WWII.

Let’s finish with this one:  “O Holy Night” is a French Christmas carol that began in the French town of Roquemaure at the end of 1843.  The local parish priest was wanting to celebrate the renovation of the church organ and asked a local native to write a Christmas poem.  Pretty remarkable, since the local native that he asked to do it was an atheist!  Music was put to it soon after and a singable version of the poem was created in 1855.  What will follow here is what amounts to the first verse and chorus of the original English translation of the poem, with the singable carol that we are all so familiar with following it.  Compare the two  and remember that an atheist wrote this remarkable piece of poetry:

English Translation

Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour

When God as man descended unto us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

The entire world thrills with hope

On this night that gives it a Saviour.

People, kneel down,

Await your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

Christmas Carol

O holy night!

The stars are brightly shining.

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees!

O hear the angel voices!

O night divine,

O night when Christ was born.

O night divine,

O night, O night divine.

Just an interesting thought about this that I heard someone share recently.  The night before this one was the last night Satan and sin and death would reign.  The night that Jesus was born (and it’s a fact that this night actually happened) was the first night that things would never be the same–ever!  As of that holy night, God sending His Son like He did forever changed life on this earth as we know it.  For all of mankind–past, present and future.

It is my prayer that you have a peaceful, relaxing and fulfilling Holiday season and that you are able to see the fullness of Jesus Christ and His love for you this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cookie Mahem

I suppose it’s probably the same in your household.  The Christmas lights are up….the tree has been put securely in place….(ahem)….next would have to be the annual making of the family-favorite Christmas cookies.

So what is that for you?  Cut-out cookies with lots of frosting in all kinds of colors?  Sugar cookies?  Mexican wedding cookies?  Snickerdoodles?  Candy cane cookies?  Molasses cookies?  Oh, man, the molasses cookies….

Just about every Christmas during my childhood, my Mom would decide to make a molasses cookie recipe that my Dad absolutely loved–and my brother and I hated (which says a lot when you consider that usually almost any kind of a cookie recipe will leave a kid drooling at the smell and anticipated taste of said baked cookies).  I don’t remember everything that went into this recipe, but I have very distinct memories of my parents buying those nasty colored fruit bits that go in fruit cake and lots of molasses.  Mom had these really old wooden bowls that she loved to use for things like this and would fill the biggest one with a double-batch of this molasses cookie recipe.  She would let it sit for a day or two to let all of the flavors meld and then she’d start baking them up.

The smell of these cookies baking was….well….pungent.  I like molasses cookies.  But these were–shall we say–intense.  Every year I would try to convince myself that I could handle eating them (what kid in his right mind refuses  a fresh hot cookie from the oven?  Especially when enough time has passed that he forgets just how much he hates that candied fruit?).  Those cookies had so much molasses in them that they were almost black, which worked very well for hiding all of the red, green and yellow bits of fruit hiding in each one, just waiting to explode with nauseous viciousness on the unsuspecting taste buds of an innocent child such as myself.  I would try my best to find one with the least amount of fruit bits showing, but it was a gamble on what I would find once I bit into it.  Then my Mom would frost some of them.  I love frosting!  So I already was faced with the obvious problem that none of these cookies had enough frosting on them to sustain my taste buds for any length of time.  Besides, I knew that the frosting would do something for hiding the taste of those vile, evil bits of colored nastiness.  But that only went so far.

I never did develop a taste for those.  And year after year I would inevitably try.  I’m devoted like that.  So my Mom made up for it by baking up some amazing cut-out cookies with an amazing recipe (that my wife still uses every December) and lots of wonderful frosting in plenty of holiday colors.

Merry Christmas to me!

Putting The Tree Up

Yup.  It’s that time, too.

First, the Christmas lights outside.  Then the Christmas tree inside.  Fake or real, they’re beautiful when they’re finished, aren’t they?  But what about the work it takes to get to that point?  Uh-huh.  I know.  Me too.  But it’s worth it, isn’t it…

We grew up  with an artificial tree (probably a six-footer) with big round colored lights that had “ice crystals” on them (remember those from the 70’s?).  Had that set-up for years.  Then eventually my parents decided to go the “real tree” route.  Talk about a learning curve.  Between the tree sucking up all of the tree juice (if you’ve had a real tree before, you know the stuff I’m talking about) and finding dried up pine needles in the carpeting 6 months later (and by “finding” I mean that a pine needle is embedded in your foot because you stepped on it), it was downright hard at times to keep it looking lush and green and alive until Christmas.

If you aren’t familiar with the “real tree” experience, part of that project is cutting a couple of inches off of the trunk of the tree before you put the tree in the treestand.  That cut needs to be even–for a reason.  One of the first “real tree” seasons for us found us wrapping up our decorating of the tree one night.  We’re all standing around the tree, admiring our work.  As we’re looking at it, the tree appears to be leaning to the right.  And leaning more.  And it’s not stopping.  That’s right, it’s not leaning–it’s falling.  We all saw it at the same time and leaped for the tree trunk to grab it before it totally fell over.  We caught it just in time and only had a few glass bulbs fall off.  Once we righted the tree, we found that it wouldn’t stay–probably due to an uneven cut at the base of it–and so, our MacGyver solution was to pound a nail into the trim around the windows on each side of the tree and tie a piece of sewing string from one nail, wrap it around the trunk a few times and tie it off on the other nail.  Believe it or not, it worked for the whole season!

So let’s fast-forward to my first Christmas season on my own in my own house.  I had recently moved into this house and was looking forward to my first Christmas tree being a real tree!  And not just any real tree–I wanted a white pine (remember my story about white pines?).  So I drove out to a “real tree” farm where you cut the tree down yourself.  I saw a group of three or four trees together and saw the smallest one.  All the while trying to picture the small sitting room in my house that the tree was going to go in.  That “small” tree that I saw next to the other ones was looking just perfect!

So I cut it down and brought it home.  I couldn’t wait to get it in the sitting room and get it all decorated!  I got the room all cleaned out and ready for the tree….I got the trunk cut off nice and even….I got the door open and ready for the tree….and found that I could hardly get the tree into the house.  By the time I got the tree into the sitting room and had it set up in the treestand, it came close to filling up half of the room.  But nonetheless, it was beautiful when I was done!  It sure made my Dad laugh, though.  It dwarfed the room and made for a very memorable Christmas season…..

Hanging The Lights

It was somewhere around my middle-school years that I came up with what I thought was an astounding idea for a holiday project.  I mused over it for a few days and then proposed the idea to my parents.  I offered my labor in putting up Christmas lights on the house, garage and front bushes if Mom and Dad would foot the bill for the lights and other stuff I would have to buy if this was to happen.

I was given free reign!  I had a blast buying everything “we” needed for the project:  new lights for the roof and garage, plenty of extension cords and then, for the six to seven bushes at the front of the house, plenty of lights to cover them with little twinkling  sparkles of colored goodness–all in the hopes that they would be seen through an inch or two of fresh snow some time that season (there’s nothing like seeing the subtle glow of Christmas lights through a fresh blanket of snow!).

But then my inexperience kicked in.  Me being the virgin Christmas-lights-putter-upper, I had all of the lights on the bushes plugged together with a single outdoor extension cord supplying the power.  That resulted in the constant blowing out of single lights here and there, with the occasional blowing of a whole strand.  I would come home from school and plug the lights in at dusk only to find another strand of lights wasn’t working (usually due to one nefarious blown-out bulb that refused to identify itself).  And back then, you didn’t have the “one-light-out-and-the -strand-stays-lit” light sets that are out there today.  No sir.  It was either throwing the whole stinkin’ light strand away just so I wouldn’t have to mess with it or going through each light to see if it worked or not.  So inevitably I would be found outside with a flashlight in one hand and a new bulb in the other, following the circles of darkened lights draped upon any one of the many bushes out front.  With snotcicles forming under my nose, I would try to pry with my cold numb fingers (because–of course–you can’t perform that task with gloves on) each tiny bulb from its peaceful nest within the strand without breaking it–only to find that as soon as I did find the nasty culprit and replace it, a totally different strand would blow shortly afterwards.

Well, many years have come and gone since then–with every Christmas season seeing me outside and up on the roof getting the lights situated on the house and surrounding landscape.  It went from the lights at my parents’ house up through my mid-twenties to my own house for a few years to the house my wife and I have been in since we got married fourteen years ago.  The concern of having too many strands of lights plugged in together and blowing bulbs or fuses is no longer an issue.  Now, instead of having four or five strands plugged in together and blowing lightbulbs, I have LED lights that actually tell you not to plug more than thirty strands of lights together at one time.

And now I find myself instilling the same tradition in my boys.  We just finished getting the lights up for this Christmas season on Thanksgiving morning.  My boys are soon-to-be 11 and just-over 12 and they both already have plenty of memories of helping me up on the roof with Christmas lights.  (Granted, the first few years of them being old enough saw them only coming up on the roof for a picture or to “help me” by just sitting in one spot and not moving.  But now they can actually help!)

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Their help this time cut what has taken 7 to 8 hours of time in past attempts at hanging the lights down to 3 1/2 hours.  I was very happy!  And they look wonderful.  I don’t have a recent picture, but here’s one that is very similar to what we just did:

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They’ve been bugging my wife all week about “getting the lights up”.  And all morning while we were up on the roof, I heard both of them talk about how much they love putting up the Christmas lights and that they can’t wait to be doing this with their kids.

And so it lives on!

Matchbooks

When I was growing up, my Dad would occasionally smoke a pipe.  It usually happened when he was really beginning to relax–so my brother and I didn’t see him smoke it that often.  When he did, though, he used tobacco that he got from a pipe shop downtown called Campbell’s Smoke Shop.  I loved going in there with him and taking in the smell of all kinds of scented tobaccos!  But there was also the slight aroma of wooden matches wafting through the air in that place.  Put it all together and it made for a very fond memory.

That was the start of my matchbook collecting.  Not your normal collecting of matchbook covers though; that never interested me.  It’s always been full, complete and unused matchbooks that have been in my collection.  So it progressed from a handful of matchbooks from Austin’s as a 12 year-old kid to matchbooks from other local businesses as I got older.  Once into my high school years, I really started to get my hands on some matchbooks from other states, due to my parents having some friends who did a lot of traveling.  And that got me thinking…

What would be a really unique way to collect these?  And it came to me in a vision, an angel with a trumpet proclaiming from the mountaintops:  “Thou shalt obtain from hither and yon a matchbook from every state in the United States of America!”  What, you don’t think that happened?  Ok.  Not really.  But that was the idea that came to mind.  So I ran with it.  And then forgot all about it once I reached my mid-twenties.

It re-sparked a few years ago, and I realized that I really needed to focus on getting this goal accomplished.  Now, thanks to a variety of people who have traveled here and there–and especially to a few Facebook friends who also collect–it is complete!!  Not only do I have at least one full, complete and unused matchbook from every state in the U.S., but I also have matchbooks from numerous countries as well as unique types of matchbooks from different places.

Matchbook Display
Matchbook Display

It has been a project-in-the-making for well over 30 years.  Not to mention how much more difficult it has been to come by matchbooks since all of the changes regarding smoking in public places has taken place.  But what a monumental achievement!  To start with matches and memories from Campbell’s to displaying a prized collection of full and unused matchbooks from every state….God is good!

The Ride Home

I believe you could say that this is where it all started….

If you haven’t been to northern Michigan, you really must make the effort to get up there!  Not only do you have the Big Lakes to enjoy (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron are the Big Three that surround the State as a whole), but you also have countless smaller lakes that just beg for a relaxing swim.  Add to that the beauty of the Pine,  Maple and Birch trees that are so plentiful up there, and you are simply surrounded by Nature’s expression of God’s smile.

The Mackinac Bridge (the spelling is French–it’s pronounced “Mackinaw”) connects the upper and lower peninsulas of the State.  It is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the western hemisphere, connecting St. Ignace on the north side of the bridge and Mackinaw City on the south side.

About seven miles south of Mackinaw City is a lake with two names.  Its original name is Carp Lake.  I have heard that the lake got this name from the man who first settled on it.  He thought it was so beautiful there that he figured a name like “Carp Lake” would help keep tourists away (there aren’t even any carp in this lake–but you can find bass, walleye, perch, sunfish and even northern pike).  With that said, if you look on a Michigan map you’ll see that the lake is also referred to as Paradise Lake.  This is due to the efforts of a construction company from Cadillac, MI, who got the name legally changed back in the early- to mid-1900s to bring up more people from down-state.  Nice idea until they tried to change the township name from “Carp Lake” proper to “Paradise” proper only to find that there was already a Paradise, MI in the upper peninsula.  Oops…..

My great-grandfather on my Dad’s side discovered this beautiful place and had a cabin built on it in 1928.  Our family has been coming up to this cabin ever since!  So I grew up with family trips in the summer (at least once, sometimes twice) where we would leave around 3:00 in the morning to get up to the cabin about 4 hours later.  I’ve got memories of my Dad carrying me from bed out to our big Chevy van where he would lay me and my brother down in the back.  The lull of the street lights passing overhead and the hum of the tires on the road put the two of us back to sleep in no time.  Then we’d wake up a few hours later and my Mom would have donuts and milk for us to have in the van.  Then, the inevitable would happen:  Kids need rest areas like fleas need dogs–something my Dad hated to stop for (you know why:  all the cars that have been passed will all get in front again).  But that all counts towards fond memories….

One memory in particular stands out.  There is a place on I-75 (somewhere between mile marker 333 and 334) where you come around a bend in the highway and you can see the top of the Mackinac Bridge over the treetops.  For a kid that loves to be “up north”, that thrills a kid’s heart to no end!  It is also the worst place to be for the trip home.  At that same point heading south, you see the top of the bridge disappear behind the pine trees–it’s like saying goodbye to an old friend that you don’t know when you’ll see again.

It was on one of these trips home that I was watching the bridge out of the back of the van.  I was somewhere between the ages of 10-12 at the time.  I distinctly remember that as I watched the bridge disappear over the treetops, I began to cry.  It wasn’t the usual “I don’t want to leave” tears that happen at the end of a vacation.  It felt deeper than that…more than just some reaction.  I remember thinking, Some day I’m going to live up here so I never have to leave.  And you know something?  I remember hearing these words in my spirit, “Say it out loud”.  (I know now that this was the Holy Spirit prompting me.)   So I did…I said it as I watched the bridge disappear from view.  And I remember feeling like something significant had just happened.

Interesting….