Reminiscing

You know one…that person who can keep a straight face while telling you a complete lie. No, I’m not talking about a malicious lie, but that joking thing, where they tell you some wild tale and by the time they are done, and their face hasn’t exploded into laughter, you find yourself actually believing them. Then you say something like…”Really!!” And the look on their face tells you that you were just caught…again.  In our family, that person is my son-in-law, Kevin. I can’t tell you how many times I have been caught in his trap, and then he proceeds to laugh and laugh. You can just see the delight dancing in his eyes.

Most people are more like me, I suppose. Sometimes they can keep a straight face, and sometimes it is impossible. My husband, Bob is pretty much the opposite of Kevin. If what he is saying isn’t true, he laughs every time. He would love to be able to keep a straight face, and make the joke work, but it just doesn’t happen. I suppose it is a matter of being able to control certain emotions, and if that is the case, then Bob must not be able to control his funny bone, because if it is remotely funny…even if the punch line hasn’t been given yet…Bob has to laugh about it.

I know that Bob wishes he could be more like Kevin in that way, because he would love to be able to put one over on people, and in a lot of ways I would love to be more like Kevin too, because I can only hold back sometimes…or for a little while. Then I can’t help but laugh. That’s how my girls are too. It isn’t a matter of self control exactly, but rather laugh control, and facial muscle control. Either you have that control or you don’t I guess. Kevin is one of those people who can hold it back until just the right moment, and then, when he’s got you…that’s when, he really gets a good laugh, and you simply have no choice but to laugh too, because, it’s never malicious…it hilarious!!

When I was a kid, we always enjoyed having my cousin, Denny and his wife, Sandy come over for visits. They were just fun people to be around, and while they were older than we were, they didn’t act as if my sisters and I were bothersome little kids who should just go play and leave the adults alone. That was something I always appreciated, and it made for a good relationship with them. As the years have gone by, and they moved to Oregon, we haven’t been in touch as much as as we used to be, but once again, Facebook has come to the rescue, and we are back in touch again. Being back in touch, has also brought back some memories for me, and I think my readers will find this one interesting. I wrote yesterday about the flinching game, so today, I will tell you about the hand slapping game.

One day, Denny and Sandy were at our house visiting, and Denny and I were playing the hand slapping game. You know the one, I held my hand over his hand, and he tried to quickly come over the top of my hand and slap it before I could move it out of the way. Needless to say, Denny was much better at that game than I was at that age, and my hands were often the ones slapped. It was all done in good clean fun, and never intended to hurt anyone, but sometimes things can happen, as we all know.

On this particular occasion, we were sitting there playing the game, and as usual, Denny was winning. It was his turn to try to slap my hands, and he was doing a real good job of it. I think he must have decided to try to give me a break, because when he swung his hand over to slap the top of mine, he lifted his hand really high so I would have a fighting chance. He knew that I would move my hand, so he started coming down really fast, and when I moved my hand, he couldn’t get his hand stopped in time. The problem was that my hand had been over his leg, and when he couldn’t stop in time, he slapped his own leg. He let out a little bit of a yelp, because I’m sure it hurt, but I really think it was more an expression of shock. While he knew I would move my hand, he just didn’t think of where his hand was going to land. In the end, we both laughed about it, because you have to admit, it was pretty funny.

For years, my son-in-law, Travis liked to play a game with his wife, my daughter Amy and their kids. They got pretty good at the game as well. I don’t really know how it got started, but I always seemed to be the sucker who fell for the whole thing. The way it is played is this. The person who randomly decides to play, simply makes the ok sign with their hand, and then says your name. When you look at the ok sign, it is as if you had flinched. At first Shai and Caalab weren’t very good at it, and they got the good ole double punch in the shoulder, but after a few of those, they decided to figure this thing out. I don’t know how often they managed to catch their dad on it, but my guess is that it wasn’t much…Travis is really good at it.

Their grandma…was another story. I think I must have been their best practice session provider. It wasn’t my fault really, because I mean…after all, your grandma is supposed to pay attention to you when you are talking, and look at the things you show her. I mean that is understood, isn’t it? Whether that is how it is supposed to go or not…that is how it went with me. Call me gullible if you want. They caught me 90% of the time…at least!! And I wasn’t trying to be nice and let them either, it’s just that when my grandchildren ask me to look at something, or even just call my name, I have a hard time thinking they have diabolical plans for me…again, call me gullible.

The kids had a great time with the flinching game, for a number of years, but as with any of these types of games, you outgrow them after a while…at least for now anyway. If I know my grandchildren, this particular game could be resurrected at any give point, if one of them decided that they could get away with putting one over on grandma again. To avoid these surprise attacks, I would need to be alert and vigilant. I would need to avoid being too trusting. Right…that’s gonna happen!!

My mom’s younger brother, Uncle Wayne has always been such a funny man. He loves to make the kids laugh. For as long as I can remember, Uncle Wayne had dentures, and he loved popping them in and out of his mouth when the kids were around. He could pop them part way out of his mouth and make them act like they were going to bite you…all with no hands. The first time we saw it, we screamed with delight, and then we begged him to do it again. When we were little enough not to understand what dentures were, we would try to pop our own teeth out too, a comical site for sure, as we pushed our lower jaw out , or pushed on our teeth with our tongue. Uncle Wayne’s eyes just danced  and beamed with delight as he watched us try, then he would show us how “easy” it was, if we just knew how. Every time we saw him we asked again and again, to pop out his teeth. If Uncle Wayne got tired of that, he never showed it. He would simply grin and pop out those teeth, and then sit back with a smile on his face and wait…for a second or two…until the kids started begging him to do it again.

Uncle Wayne’s funny side developed early in his life. He was the younger of my mom’s two brothers, and one of two boys in a family of nine children. You could look at that situation in a couple of ways. You could call him and his brother…out numbered, and you would be right. Or, you could say that the boys had lots of potential victims…for all of the antics boys are bound by their very nature to engage in. Since my mom was born right in between those two boys, and they were often her playmates, and she was either a prime victim or a partner in crime…depending on how she or they felt at the time. To be sure, my mom and her two brothers got into plenty of mischief together. What one didn’t come up with one of the others would, and when you put those three heads together…oh boy, look out!!

Today is my Uncle Wayne’s 75th birthday…which is a landmark by any standards. His life has been one filled with laughter, much of which was his own making…the best kind of life. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!!  Have a wonderful day!!  We love you very much!!

It’s strange to think about the amount of things you don’t know about your dad, or anyone else for that matter, but when I think about my parents, I expect that I should know most things about them. I guess there are stories that were never told, or little things that just didn’t seem important, and so were passed over. Such is the case with my dad’s time in World War II. I’m not talking about the major things that Dad couldn’t talk about in his letters home, but some of the smaller things. Today I was reading his letter dated August 1, 1944, in which he talks about having a little down time from flying missions. He and a friend went to the gym. In his letter, my dad mentioned punching a bag for a while, among other unnamed exercises.

I never knew that my dad had any interest in boxing, although I vividly remember playing a little boxing game with him every once in a while in the hallway at home. Of course, he never hit me, it was a game. Dad was very quick, and no matter how much I tried to defend my face, he always managed to get a tap in. Looking back, I think my dad taught me a lot about self defense in those little sparring matches, but it never occurred to me that he had any real interest in boxing. I just thought it was a natural ability he had.

Dad had a great time with those sparring matches, and I guess I must have been a bit of a Tomboy, because I did too. I managed to get in a few good taps during those years, but I promise you, it was very few. Talk about feeling uncoordinated!! Nevertheless, if I got one in, I knew it was real and it was an accomplishment, because he didn’t just let me get one in…which is something I was always grateful for. Letting a little kid win at a game once in a while is fine, but if you do it too often, they don’t learn to play well, nor do they learn sportsmanship. Dad’s laughing, fun way of teaching me self defense was something I will always remember fondly about him, and now I know a little bit more about what he was like back then.

Most of the time, when I think about the faces from my parents’ past, I think of ancestors, or school friends, or maybe even old flames. All of those people bring questions to mind, but most of them can be answered, and the relationship laid to rest, at least in the case of old friends or old flames, but some faces continue to run through my mind again and again. Such is the case with the men who served in the Army Air Force with my Dad at Great Ashfield Army Air Base, which is just North of Ipswich in Suffolk, England. I know these men were Dad’s good friends, because they were important enough to him to take their pictures to preserve their memory for the rest of his life, but for whatever reason, their names were not put on the pictures, so I don’t know who they were.

Dad never talked much about the war, something that, while common among people who have fought in such battles, I nevertheless find strange. I always knew that he was a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 Bomber during World War II, but much of that information came from my mom. I guess she didn’t really know why Dad wouldn’t tell his daughters about something that made her and us so very proud of him either. I guess it just wasn’t his style, or maybe the memories of what he had to do there were just too hard to talk much about. Dad has always been such a gentleman, and had such a gentle spirit, that I’m quite certain that killing, even from a plane with a bomb, and not having to look at the faces of those who died, was something that was hard to live with, even though it was necessary, and even though he felt strongly about the purpose for which he was fighting.

In his letters home to his mom and family, he mentioned some names of friends from home, or people he trained with, but they were so restricted on what they could write about during their time in England, and the people they were with, that few names were mentioned. It was only after Dad had passed away, and we were going through pictures from his past for his slide show, that we found these pictures of his friends from his military days…those faces from Dad’s past, that I wonder about now. It was too late to ask Dad who they were then, and I have always been sorry about that. My niece, Michelle asked him about some of his military days for a report she was doing, but she didn’t know about these pictures then, or she might have asked.

I will probably never know who these men were, or if they were members of Dad’s crew on the B-17 he assigned to, and I am sorry about that. I have been trying to find out more about his military days and the men he served with, and these pictures could have been a great source of valuable information. Sadly, I will probably always wonder about the faces from Dad’s past, and the impact they had on his life.

Sometimes, I really wish all my babies could have stayed babies. Not just my girls, but my grandbabies too. Ok, I know that sounds silly, but when I look at pictures, taken when they were babies, and I see those sweet little faces, I just can’t help myself. I know that if my girls hadn’t grown up, I wouldn’t have the grandchildren I have, but I still miss their little baby faces too. I wish I could go back in time for a little while every so often, so I could visit the babies they used to be. That would be so cool!! To be able to re-connect with the babies they used to be would be such a wonderful gift.

Each of my daughters have given me the most precious gifts of two grandchildren. The first two are just one day apart.  Oh, the times we had with those two were so amazing. What one of them didn’t think of, the other one did. They had such different personalities. When one was crying, the other was laughing…hmmm, I wonder if there was a reason for that. The pictures we took of them were so varied. Because Amy babysat her nephew, Christopher, the babies were together a lot, so there were a lot of pictures of them together. And you never knew if they would be fighting or playing. Nevertheless, we were able to get some pictures of them that, to this day, make me wish I could go visit the babies they used to be…if only for just a little while.

My youngest two grandsons are 15 months apart, and their relationship has often been one of vying for superiority. Being the youngest two and each having a, possibly bossy older sibling, they didn’t appreciate having this other little kid trying to boss them too. When they were together, it was sometimes a war zone. Nevertheless, they could produce some of the sweetest smiles I have ever seen. There is nothing like those little baby smiles. The same child smiling as an adolescent, doesn’t look the same as that innocent little baby smile, babies can produce, because only a baby can smile that way. Once babyhood is gone, so is that innocence, and that is why I would like to be able to go back in time now and then, to visit the babies they used to be.

My niece, Toni has always been a woman of quiet grace. I don’t know any other way to express that really. She is beautiful and yet, she doesn’t think so. Her beautiful face almost always wears a soft smile. She never pushes herself on people, but her sweet spirit seems to draw them to her anyway. I never think of Toni that I don’t think of her looking just like this picture of her, because that is so often exactly how she looks. Sweet and content with life.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, Toni has a funny side too. She can goof of with the best of them, and when she does, she is very funny. Through the years I can remember so many funny times with her. Of course, some of them she might not consider very funny, but then that is normal for any of us. I remember a time when she was about two years old, and I had gone up to visit her family in upstate New York. Her mom, my sister, Cheryl had made milk shakes for dinner, and as they sat on the table between drinks, the top froze a little bit. We didn’t have straws, and poor little two year old Toni was about to find out just how big a problem that can be. She lifted her glass to take a drink, and when the shake didn’t move down the glass to her lips, she lifted it straight upside down…well, you get the picture. Miss Toni Had a face full of chocolate shake, and it was cold!! She took it like a little trooper, but I will never forget the shock it produced in the rest of us. I felt so bad for her. We all have our moments, for sure, and all you can do is shrug it off and move forward…which is what Toni did. Before you knew it, she was laughing and playing again, like nothing ever happened. Toni has always liked being a bit on the goofy side, and most of her antics bring a big laugh, and she is such a good sport about it. You just never know what she might do next.

All kidding aside though, Toni is never happier than when she is with the two men in her life. They are the most important…always. When she is with Dave and James, her face shows the way her spirit feels…peace. Life is good and all is well. Toni recently married Dave, who is the love of her life, and I felt so much joy and happiness for her…for them. They are so good together, and I love how blessed she is. God has been so good to her. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! We love you very much!!

With her marriage to Prince William, almost 2 years ago, Kate Middleton added another facet to my family’s connection to the British Monarchy. I had always known that I was related to Diana Spencer, who became the Princess Diana that we all know of and loved, and later I found out that my husbands family also has ties to Princess Diana. Now, I find that my son-in-law has ties to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, or Kate as we all know her, even if the Queen hates it. Kevin’s grandmother’s maiden name was Hettie Middleton, and Kevin asked me if he might be related to Kate, when she and Prince William became engaged.

Now, we all quickly found out that Kate and William were actually distant cousins, as I have now also found out Bob and I are, and that tied her to my family and to Bob’s, but not to Kevin’s. I began researching Hettie Middleton’s background, and after a couple of hours, I had my answer. Indeed, Kevin is related to Kate Middleton, on his grandmother’s side, thereby adding another facet to the connection.

I know there are many people in the United States, who are related to the British Monarchy, and may be even more closely related than my family is, but having known about my British connections to the Monarchy and to Winston Spencer Churchill, has made me very aware of them throughout my life. I have always loved being related to them, but never more than with Princess Diana, who was so very special, and with William, Kate, and Harry, all of whom I consider wonderful people. William and Harry, and now Kate have managed to be so much more in touch with the people of England. The British Monarchy, like many monarchies, have always been known for a great degree of stuffiness. I have to credit that to their mother, Princess Diana who did her very best to teach them about the real world and those that they would someday be ruling over. I think she got that across quite well, in that they and Kate are much more comfortable talking to and being around the people of England, than any of the others.

Today Kate celebrates her 31st birthday, and this summer, she will give birth to the future King or Queen of England, and that will add yet another person to the connection that my family has to the British Monarchy. I am very excited for them, and I add my birthday wishes to Kate, as I’m sure many others around the world, do as well. Happy birthday Kate!! Have a wonderful day!!

Remember when life was simple. You were a kid with no responsibilities. You went to school and then you went outside and played with your friends. Sometimes, when life gets to be too much and my stress levels are through the roof, I really wish that I could go back there again, but then I suppose many people do. Life wasn’t always so complicated. Back in the old west, people didn’t have so many places to go. Families spent time together. Kids seldom went to play at someone else’s house, and spending the night was something saved for trips back East to visit family that you had not seen for many years.

The kids in a family had really two places the went…school and church. Other than those places, they were at home, helping out around the place or doing their homework. With no television or radio, there was no big news story to occupy their minds. They used their imaginations to pass the time. Kids might pretend to have families, or they might pretend they were on a train to visit famiy, or maybe even fighting Indians, although I seriously doubt that many girls played that game.

Today, the kids get bored if they don’t have a video game to play, or the MP3 player playing their favorite tunes, or television coming up with newer and more exciting ways to entertain them. Reading books is almost a thing of the past, and I don’t mean because of the Kindle, which I consider to be a form of reading a book, but because they would rather watch a show on television than read about it. Their imaginations don’t seem to be able to take them into the book like we used to be able to do. It’s all about what action is put in front of their eyes, not about turning words into pictures in your imagination.

Now, life is so hectic. Most people have several places to be right after work, and they can’t go home for an hour or more after they get off work. Dinner is often late, or picked up at a fast food joint along the way. There is just no time for a home cooked meal, unless maybe it is on the weekend or in a crock pot. No wonder TV Dinners became so popular…and the microwave, of course. I mean who has time to cook stuff in the oven either.  No one!! Life was so simple then…what happened?

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