War is never pretty, and yet somehow, I had a picture in my head of the time my grandfather, George Byer spent in World War I that made it seem very benign. I never pictured him being in any danger. You see, my grandfather was a cook in the Army during the war, and somehow I pictured him working in a safe place where the war was a very distant reality, and not something to be faced or dealt with. The cooks in World War I didn’t even get a gun, so they must not be in danger…right? Wrong…very wrong!! The men on the front couldn’t drive home to the safety zone every night after work, like I had pictured in my head. The kitchen was very close to the front. In Grandpa’s case, that kitchen was a commandeered kitchen in the lowest floor of a French castle. As far as anyone knows, the residents of the castle still lived there, although I’m not sure how their meals were handled. Perhaps, their own cooks were allowed a little time in the kitchen, or maybe their meals were served along with the men in the Army. I don’t suppose we will know the full answer to that question in this lifetime.
For a very long time…until just a few months ago, in fact, I carried the impression in my head that Grandpa’s job was really uneventful, other than the pressure of getting the meals to a large group of hungry men on time. Then, I came across a picture that I had seen several times over the past five years, but this time I was also looking at the list my aunts had made about what the pictures were about. In that moment, my idea of my grandfather’s service was changed forever. On the list they had written, that the man on the right, or the man in uniform, was Grandpa. The second picture was tagged with, “Castle in France. Owner of castle died in Daddy’s kitchen” and “cooks, who worked under Daddy.” I was instantly intrigued. I spoke to my aunt, Sandy Pattan about it, and found out that indeed, the kitchen was commandeered for the Army’s use, and the owner had been wounded and ran into the kitchen for help. Grandpa tried to save him, but the wounds were too bad, and the owner died right there. The man’s injuries told me that the front was not far from the castle. I suppose you might think I was reaching a little on that thought, but you would be wrong, because as I talked with Aunt Sandy, she told me something else that really clarified the danger my grandfather lived with every day of his time in the service.
It was another day in the castle kitchen, the men were working on the next meal. Suddenly an American soldier ran in and told the cooks to run for the woods. It seemed strange to me that running would be the order they would receive, but remember that Aunt Sandy told me that the cooks had no guns. If they stayed in the castle, they would be sitting ducks, because cooks or not, they were in the American Army, and that made them enemies of the Germans. The reason the men were told to run for the woods…the Germans were coming and they couldn’t stop them. The soldier didn’t have to tell the cooks twice. They dropped everything and ran. One of the cooks, while running into the woods, stepped on a dead man. The man had been dead a few days, because the cook’s foot went right into the man’s chest. Aunt Sandy told me that the smell was so bad and so permanent that when they couldn’t get the smell out of the man’s clothes, they had to be burned. I had no idea of the things Grandpa saw, nor of the danger he faced. It gave me a whole new picture of Grandpa Byer’s time in World War I. And I came to clearly realize that no job in the service is less dangerous than another…and least not on the front. It’s no wonder that most men don’t want to talk about the war.
My husband, Bob doesn’t often give the past a lot of thought. He is one of those here and now types of people. It isn’t that he doesn’t remember the past, or even that he doesn’t think about it once in a while, but if he does, he doesn’t mention too many things that he is thinking about. Nevertheless, he made an exception while we were on our cruise.
As is the case with most cruises, you see a variety of people…many of them children. And, you get a variety of behaviors from these children. Obviously, you will see the well behaved children, and the misbehaving children…and everything in between. But, it was neither of these types of children that caught Bob’s eye, but rather a little blonde girl skipping along with her family on their way to breakfast.
After they passed us, Bob turned to me and said, “Did you see that little girl?” When I said that I didn’t, he told me that she reminded him of our Amy when she was little. Amy never walked anywhere. She either skipped, ran, or at home, it was far more often somersaulting down the hallway. I mean, why walk when you can somersault…right? Amy just couldn’t stand to waste a perfectly good hallway, or any other carpeted area, on simple walking. Carpets were much like a tumbling map, and that was all it took to get Amy tumbling merrily on her way from room to room. We always laughed about that, because it was so cute to see her rolling down the hallway and then getting up to go into her room and play.
As we thought about the little girl he had just seen, it was easy to imagine that she was a girl who was excited about life, and just couldn’t stand to simply walk. That was exactly what Amy was like as a little girl. If she wasn’t swinging on the table like only a tiny girl could, then she was somersaulting down the hall, or swinging from the bars on the swing set. She could easily have been Tarzan’s baby…swinging from the trees. Or you might just as likely find her up on the bumper of Bob’s truck, helping her daddy. Amy was always excited about the next thing coming her way.
Amy and her family recently took a cruise too, and she was so excited about going. I know she is a grown woman now, but I have a feeling that it was all she could do not to go skipping along on the deck of the ship heading to breakfast with her family, or anywhere else that she went for that matter. Those old habits die hard, and when you are a skipper, you find that it’s really hard to contain all that excitement…just like that little girl Bob had seen.
Kids have always been…well, a little more open and free with their thoughts on things like the need to wear clothes. With summer upon us, people begin to think about things like the lake, the town pool, or for the little kids, the wading pool. If the kids are little enough, they can get away with swimming in just their underwear, and nobody cares. Of course, later on, things are a bit different…at least for the girls. The boys could practically swim in the underwear most of them wear today, because boxers look a lot like swim trunks.
To little kids, however, I’m not so sure that it is just swimming that makes them think that clothes are strictly optional. It seems to me that just about every kid decides that the moments after a bath are the perfect moment for them to become a little streaker. Back in the seventies, when I was in high school, some of the students even tried their hand a streaking. Of course, most of us either didn’t dare, or weren’t so inclined to running around naked. Little kids, however, have no such inhibitions…in fact, being in the buff is pretty much their favorite thing. I can’t say that I would like to be so free again, but little kids do have a great time trying to get away with as little clothing as possible.
I have known several parents who have talked about their own little streakers, and it would seem that at some point, every parent finds themselves with one of these little rebels. It’s hard not to laugh at them, even as you are trying to catch them. One of the funniest things though, is when your little streaker decides that the best time to make a run for it, is when you have company at the house. Even though many of these parents have been in the same position, they still can’t help but laugh when it is someone else in that position.
Of course, as they get older, most kids stop the full streak habit, but for many of them, it is real easy to stay in the partial streak mode…especially the men. I mean really, and be honest here, how many men still love to sit around the house in their underwear? More of them than will want to admit it, I’m sure. I guess the truth be told, there is a little bit of the Streak in all of us, but some of us just don’t ever outgrow it.
I am often amazed at how big my grandson, Josh has grown. Especially when I think about the early start he got. Josh was born 5 weeks early. His weight wasn’t too bad at 5 pounds 6.5 ounces, but his lungs were underdeveloped, so he went to Denver for 2 weeks to get stronger. Once he came home, he decided to catch up on his lost time. Josh began eating like a horse, and before long, his weight was up to normal, or even a little chunky for his age.
That didn’t last very long, because as soon as he started to grow, he was a little bean pole…so much so that his mom said he had bird legs. And hungry! That boy was always hungry, especially for treats!! You would expect him to be fat, but he wasn’t and at 14, still isn’t.
As to those underdeveloped lungs…well, I think they are just fine. Josh likes track meets, and last year he took first in the 400 meter race, finishing in just 1.07 minutes. And he wasn’t even badly out of breath. He ran so fast that second place was about a fourth of the track length behind him. It was an amazing race.
Josh continues to amaze us with everything he does, but lately I have been especially surprised by his height. It looks like he might be the tallest of my 4 grandchildren, and I expected him to be more like the shortest of the boys…until he was 3, that is, when his height indicated that he would be taller.
With him being as talk as he is and the youngest grandchild, I find myself a little sad. Those grandbaby years are over, as they are almost adults. It just doesn’t seem possible. They should all still be little.
As a little girl, my mom was always on the go. She had long slender legs that she though were too skinny at the time. Don’t most of us wish we had such a problem these days. Of course, most kids, especially back then were in pretty good shape. Kids didn’t sit in front of the television set…probably because they didn’t have one, but even if they had, they probably wouldn’t have watched it much. It just wasn’t what kids did back then.
Mom didn’t really change very much over the years. She was still slender even after having 5 children. I have looked at pictures of her over the years, and I always notice her tiny shoulders…which are so unlike my own, not huge, but square shoulders. She looked like a little kid in our family pictures while I was in high school. I just couldn’t believe just how tiny she was. She didn’t look like she could possibly be the mom.
One thing I will never forget about my mom is how fast she could walk. When she was working at Kmart, she was over a huge department. When we would go over to take her breaks with her, she was really hard to keep up with. She was walking, but we practically had to run to keep up with her. Talk about power walking, my mom was an expert at it. If we showed up for her break and she was getting something for a customer, or to stock the shelves…well, good luck trying to catch her.. She was a woman on a mission, and you were going to have to run to let her know you were there.
Of course, time, knee problems, and age have take their toll now, and mom can no longer walk so fast. She still gets around pretty well, but the days of the power walk are over for her. It’s funny that in our minds we still think we could do it…at least for a while, but in reality, we don’t realize the ability is gone until it is long gone, and then we can only look back sadly, and wish we could get those days back…somehow.
Today is the first track meet of the year for my grandson, Josh. He is the only one of my grandkids that really likes track. The others have done it a time or two, but Josh loves to run, and so the track part of the meet totally suits him. He has really been training for the track meets all of his life…even before he knew what a track meet was.
Josh and his big brother, Chris used to come to my house in the mornings and when it was time to go to school, they would walk the half block to their elementary school. I say that they walked, but that was rarely the case. Mostly they had a race to see who could get there first, and except for reminding them to look both ways for cars, I simply enjoyed watching the race to see who would win today.
When these races first started, Josh was pretty little…a Kindergarten, grade school newcomer. At that age, his strategy was…outsmart the big brother. So, he tried to distract his big brother so he could get the upper hand. They were supposed to go out to the sidewalk and start the race at the same time, but Josh always managed to figure out a way to get a head start. I know that he figured it was his only way to win, since his brother, Chris is 2 1/2 years older than he is. And at in those early years, Josh was probably right.
Then as Josh grew, things began to change. Josh worked so hard at beating his brother, that he grew stronger and quicker. He started winning a race or two…which was surprising to his brother. We had to start making Josh was until I said, “On your mark! Get set! Go!” Otherwise the races were no longer fair to Chris. Still, even with the new fair starts, Josh was winning more and more. Not always, but winning fair and square.
Those early races were not to practice for future track meets, but they did stimulate a love for running and racing that has carried Josh into this sport. He has tried the field events, but they don’t give him the excitement of the run, the wind in his face, and the thrill of the victory that racing gives. Running is where he shines, and I, for one, love to watch the race. Go get ’em Champ!!
As a little boy, just learning to walk, my grandson, Caalab reminded me so much of his mom. Amy took those first teetering steps…about two of them, and from that point on, she ran. She didn’t have time to walk…she had places to go. Caalab was just like that, with one small exception. When Amy started walking/running, I found that getting those cute pictures of the baby plopping down on the ground because they couldn’t balance very well yet, were next to impossible. Amy just didn’t fall.
Caalab on the other hand was a fall waiting to happen. It wasn’t because his balance was off or anything, but rather because he simply got ahead of himself…or should I say, ahead of his own feet. When Caalab wanted to get from point A to point B, he always felt that doing so as fast as possible was the way to go, and in his mind it seemed like a good plan. But, as is often the way with plans…they just don’t work out quite like we saw them in our heads.
When Caalab would start across the room, his upper body was always way ahead of his feet. So much so, in fact, that it wasn’t that it was so far to fall that concerned us, but rather what was going to hit first. As you might have guessed, it was usually his head that hit first, and with uncanny accuracy, as if he was aiming for the sharpest corner in the room, or the decorative handle that might do the most damage.
It wasn’t that Caalab was clumsy, because he definitely isn’t, and really never was. Caalab was just in a hurry. He wanted to see everything, go everywhere, and do everything…now!! He would get so excited, and even though he had run into things head first before, he would still take off at break neck speed, and the next thing you knew, there he was…sporting a new bruise or cut…usually on his forehead. These little boo boo’s were the direct result of head meeting stationary object…always followed by very loud screaming and crying from little boy. Every time there was a new boo boo, I could almost feel the pain, but once his little boo boo was bandaged and/or kissed, Caalab was all better, and off again.
Thankfully those early walking years gave way to the years of far fewer bruises. Caalab learned how to keep his feet caught up with his head. He is still in a hurry a lot of the time, but we don’t have to consider a full time football helmet for him anymore.