Tag: memories

Summertime Memories

As I sat in front of my air conditioner this past summer, trying to fend off yet another series of “Heat Advisory” sessions, I started daydreaming quite a bit about what my summers were like as a kid. 

Dealing with “feels like” temperatures over 100 degrees, I find myself asking, did we even feel heat as children? I do not remember summer ever being too hot for me to enjoy my day. Now, if it’s in the 90s or higher, my body feels as though it’s going to melt. Literally. I vaguely remember sweating as a kid.  

But I remember how good it felt to run through a spraying garden hose on a beautiful summer’s day. I remember well how good cold ice cream tasted on a summer’s night. The taste of a chilled Coke in the thick glass bottle was like no other drink in the world. Walking into a store that actually had air conditioning and thinking “WOW”! And to this day, the sound of a simple box fan will put me right to sleep. 

I remember well, sitting at the picnic table we had in our front yard, while Mama spread out newspapers so Daddy could slice up an ice-cold watermelon. We each had our own little saltshaker. It was such a treat!

I remember spending most of my summer days playing with my sister in either the cool dirt basement where Mama kept the many jars of home canned goodies, or in the thick woods that surrounded our home. Daddy would always have the woods cleared of weeds and especially poison oak or ivy, so our play time would be a joyous one. He even built us a playground one year beside his organic garden so he could keep an eye on us as he worked. Mama could also see us from her kitchen window as she washed dishes.

Probably my favorite summer memory would have to be when Daddy would take us to the public swimming pool. I can still remember the feel of the wet concrete under my bare feet as we walked through the front gate, and the sound that gate made closing. I knew instantly I was in for a day filled with pure joy and fun that only a child could understand. It didn’t matter that it was hot, or if I got sunburned. The smell of chlorine in the water, and the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion will forever be something I adore. In my mind, I can see Daddy sitting in his car, parked out front, waiting for us to come out when the pool was closing. I remember him asking if we had enjoyed our day and saying how he wished he could have spent the day in that cool water, too. This was the 1960s, when kids could be kids without fear of being abducted or harmed. What a blessing it was for every child at that swimming pool.

It wasn’t all fun and games during the Summer. There was work to be done as well. Helping Mama and Daddy in their sizeable gardens was of utmost importance. Daddy grew organically, and that meant he had to spend a lot of time in the garden. But he loved it and would reap a beautiful bounty. Mama home canned or froze all the vegetables and fruits she could, so it would stock us for the coming winter. Canning was a hot, messy, and exhausting job back then. Especially with no air conditioning in the house. We spent hours tending to the garden, picking the produce, and preparing it to either be canned or frozen. I look back now and realize how hard my parents worked. I wish now I would have strung more beans, shucked more corn, and shelled more peas. I didn’t look forward to the chore as a kid and can see now that I wasn’t much help. I feel bad for that because I sure enjoyed the fruits of Mama and Daddy’s labor!  

Daddy always kept our large yard mowed neatly. Oh, to walk barefoot in that cool grass again would be Heavenly. Or to take a nature walk with Mama into the woods. We searched for berries and mushrooms. Mama would dig up a fern from the ones that grew wild on the side of the mountain. She would take it home and plant it in her favorite McCoy pot. Of course, with her green thumb, it grew big and lush. 

Like with all good things, Summer would indeed end. But before it did, Mama would take me and my sister shopping for school clothes. We always caught the yearly going back to school sale at J. C. Penney’s. If Mama didn’t have the money to purchase what we needed that day, she would put all or some items on layaway. We would try on so many dresses that Mama would pick out. In the 60s, dresses would be the normal attire for an elementary school aged girl. I would get so excited about the new dresses. Having outgrown all the ones from last year, I couldn’t wait to see what new style Penney’s had for the new year.

Mama would pick out tights, anklets, and knee socks to match each dress she purchased. If we were really lucky, we would go shopping for new school shoes on the same day. I remember always begging for a new purse to match my school wardrobe. Usually, Mama would say no. But I would come home from school a few weeks later and she would surprise me with a new purse or two. My guess is, she caught them on mark down later. I was a blessed little girl.  

By the time we went back to school, I think we were all ready for Summer to end and a new season to arrive. I loved school back then and couldn’t wait to ride the school bus again and to see my friends. Of course, by the next Spring, we would all be champing at the bit for another summer vacation. And we would do all our favorite things all over again. 

What wonderful memories we made. 

That One in A Lifetime

For as long as I can remember, I have not made friends easily. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m an introvert by nature. But the few friends that I made in my lifetime have been good ones. I consider myself blessed to remain friends with girls whom I went to elementary school. There were five of us and we all met in first grade. Memories of our little gang huddled up at recess, gossiping about the cutest boy in class, or comparing our newest outfits, remain cherished in my heart. To this day, I stay in touch with each of them through social media. If there is one good thing that has come from Facebook, it is finding old friends to reminisce about the good old days. 

Many people will walk through our lives. Few will make a lasting impression, even fewer will become a loyal friend. But even more rare is someone who will be the friend that changes your life forever. I believe most of us never find someone so unique. I can proudly say that I did, and her name was Kathy Sue.

An older cousin of mine introduced me to his friend Kathy when I was around 15, and she was 19. We instantly hit it off as friends. She was intrigued about my life in another state, and I was in awe of her for many reasons. Kathy stood a mere 4’10” and was pretty as a doll with crystal blue eyes and long brown hair. Every guy would turn his head when she entered a room. She had a dazzling smile and the personality to match. She was also very intelligent, attended college, and had a good job.  She was everything that I hoped to be someday.  The maturity difference between us seemed invisible.  We got along great and had a lot of fun together.

As I got older, we became closer.  Our maturity levels eventually matched up and we were the best of friends.  I lived in Virginia, and she in Tennessee.  I visited TN several times a year, as that was where I spent my childhood.  Kathy would drop everything, take vacation days from work, and spend every moment with me when I visited.  She would make me feel like I was having a red carpet rolled out for me.  Everything we did, she would let it be my choice because I was her guest.  I never had a family member treat me so well, much less a friend.  She was the definition of a true friend.  

Years went by and I got married and had children.  Kathy had bad luck in relationships and remained single.  But no matter when I visited Tennessee, she would be there, rolling out that red carpet, now for me and my kids.  She never wavered in her friendship, showing love and support to me and my family no matter how different our life paths had become.  We still had so much fun when we were together.  

Over the years, I nicknamed Kathy Sue “my little angel”. No matter where my life took me, she was always waiting in the wings with a smile and positive attitude, always there to listen, and offer loving words of advice. She had the patience of a saint and a heart of pure gold. She is the only person I have ever known in my 58 years, that never made me feel a negative emotion. Not once!

Mother’s Day 1999, I took a trip to TN and spent most of my long weekend with Kathy. We celebrated my upcoming birthday and had a wonderful time. We laughed, had long talks catching up on each other’s lives, stayed out till way past our bedtimes, and soaked in as much friendship as we could. The last night we visited, I remember Kathy saying to me she didn’t want to say goodbye. That she didn’t want me to leave, and that it would be too long before she could see me again. I too felt sad and wished that I could take my precious friend back to Virginia with me. We promised to write each other letters, as we had been doing for over 20 years. Little did I realize, that would be the last time I would see my angelic friend.

Two weeks later, after running errands all day, I returned home and found my oldest daughter Robin waiting for me. She had a strange look on her face and I immediately knew something was wrong. She told me to call her dad, that it was very important. She also said, don’t listen to the answering machine. What in the world was going on? She wouldn’t tell me, just kept saying “call dad”. When I called my husband at work, he told me to sit down. He began explaining that someone had left a message on our home answering machine and my friend Kathy was killed that morning in a head on collision on her way to work (the same route she had taken every morning for over 10 years).

It couldn’t be true. I kept asking him, are you sure it’s “My Kathy”? Unfortunately, there was no mistake.

I will always be grateful for that last trip to visit my dear Kathy. I remember her often with great fondness and gratitude. When I think of Kathy Sue, I can’t help but think of how special it was that God picked me to be her friend. She was a priceless gem, and it was an honor to have known her.  

It’s been 21 years since my friend Kathy left this earth.  I still think of her often, as she was a once in a lifetime kind of friend.  I know I will never find another friend like her.  They are much too rare.  I believe the two of us will be reunited some day and the thought of that makes me smile.

If you happen to have a friend as special to you as my Kathy was to me, my hopes are you appreciate them and never take them for granted.  Let them know often how important they are to you.  It really is true that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. . . . JoAnn 

It’s All About The Memories

It’s All About The Memories

Last night, I celebrated my granddaughter’s 15th birthday, along with her siblings and her mother (my oldest daughter).  It was a humble little get together with no special decorations or other guests.  Just something we usually do as a family on our birthdays, separate from the parties with friends and more family to be given on another day.  These simple and laid-back times are my personal favorite.  

I enjoyed the night so much!  Per the birthday girl’s request, her mother made a delicious homemade meal consisting of her favorites; meatloaf, mashed potatoes, country style green beans, corn on the cob, and rolls.  It was wonderful.  Sitting around the kitchen table, enjoying the good food, and laughing as much as we were chewing.  That is usually how it always goes when I eat with my grands.  We do more laughing than eating!  I love that and I hope they do too.  I used to get them into trouble when they were little and their parents were trying to teach them table manners.  They probably don’t realize it now, but some day these times will be wonderful memories they can look back on and bring a smile to their face and hearts.  

The week preceding Memorial Day; I had the pleasure of going on vacation with the same daughter, son-in-law, and grands to the Great Smokey Mountain.  It was a much-needed vacation for all of us.  It was a spur-of-the-moment thing and I think that made it all the more fun.   We didn’t know what to expect as nothing in particular had been planned.  We even took along their brand-new Great Dane puppy.  We had no clue how that would go either!  But it really could not have gone better.  We all kept a relaxed attitude and just took each day as it came.  And what fun we had!  I stayed back in the cabin they had rented and puppy sat, as my daughter and son-in-law took the kids on special outings.  Too hot for me, not to mention too much walking for my ailing legs. 

I enjoyed every minute I spent with my “big” grand pup and had absolutely no regrets of staying behind with him.  Our cabin was perched on a mountain top, so the view was gorgeous.  He and I spent much time on the deck, taking in that view and breathing in the healing fresh air.  At night, I did venture out to The Island in Pigeon Forge and do some sightseeing.  We ate at the Paula Deen Restaurant and sat at a table with the stunning view of the Ferris Wheel all lit up in its splendor.  We had a wonderful meal……except for the meatloaf.  We are still laughing about how we need to show Paula how to make a true Southern meatloaf!  I think that will be a running joke in our family for years to come, as our family meatloaf has always gotten rave reviews!  Sorry Paula……but your cheddar biscuits are worth the trip girl!!!

While in the mountains of East Tennessee, my daughter took a chance and asked her aunt (my only sister) and family if we could all meet up somewhere close by.  She was so excited at the thought of seeing her cousins and aunt and uncle again, after many years.   We were so blessed to arrange a meeting on our last day there.  We met with her handsome cousin first, for lunch. 

My nephew stands at least 6’8″, and his heart seems as big as his size.  I was so impressed by the man he has grown into and was so happy to be able to tell him in person how proud I am of him.  It was about a 2 ½ hour visit, but full of quality time that will be in our memories forever. 

That night, we met up with my sister, brother-in-law, their daughter-in-law, and their first grandchild at a local Cracker Barrel.  How wonderful it was to see my big sister, give her a huge hug, and hear her laughter in person!  We ate, laughed, tried to catch up on the years gone by, and laughed some more.  We went outside after dinner and took full advantage of the line of rocking chairs placed out front.  We continued to catch up and laughed till we were in tears at times.  It was a glorious, impromptu family reunion!  We ended up visiting for about 4 hours, but it felt like much longer.  We left feeling as though we had just spent days with our loved ones and like no time had passed at all.  We had just picked up where we had left off.  What a wonderful feeling! 

So far, this summer has been reminding me of the importance of good memories.  It’s not things that took a lot of money to do, but the simple, everyday things that we do together.  The laughter!  Oh, the laughs, how important are the laughs.  It reminds me of a quote by Maya Angelou that really stuck with me, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Here’s hoping your summer is filled with beautiful memories.  

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