Engagement Day – My Mom Realized I’d Grown Up

In an earlier post (Engagement Day) I shared a slice of the story of the day I proposed to my wife. That evening we drove around town breaking the news to family and friends. Her parents were first to know, mine were next. We drove the eight miles out of town to their home and went inside.

The house was filled with people playing live music. I can’t name the instruments now just like I couldn’t back then. Some looked homemade. Others were unusual shapes. They were playing something like mountain music and having a good time. That kind of activity was not the norm when I had lived at home. I’d been in the US Navy for three years at this point and things at home had changed.

We pulled my mother off to the side and showed her my future bride’s ring. Mom glanced at it, said “That’s nice.” and turned back to the music. We were a bit disappointed at the reaction but absorbed the conflicting social activity in stride. We quickly left to share the news with friends. I would be back for the night anyway.

It was past midnight when I quietly entered the kitchen. My mother was sitting on a bench waiting for me. The rest of the house was dark and quiet except for the sound of the washing machine at the far end of the house. I was a bit surprised to see my mother awake at this hour. She normally went to bed by 10 pm.

“Mom, are you okay? Why are you still up?” I asked.

“I was doing laundry while waiting for you.” she replied. “I wanted to talk to you tonight.”

“It’s fine, mom. It could have waited until the morning.” I answered.

“No. You need to hear what I have to say.” she stated firmly.

I sat down and she proceeded to tell me the story of her own brief romance, engagement, and eloping to get married. The timing of my parent’s rapid courtship paralleled my own and I realized I had never heard the full story before now. We knew our parents had run off to get married, but I didn’t know the timescale leading up to that event.

We talked for almost two hours that night. Somewhere late in the conversation my mother stopped me cold with a question, “When did you grow up? I missed it. It seems like yesterday you were learning to ride a bike. Now, here you are about to get married.”

“No rush, Mom. We’re going to have a church wedding. Probably some time next year. Plenty of time to prepare yourself.” I soothed.

When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?

There’s No Going Back

This blog started in August 2014. My first post was a family story based upon real events from my childhood. Today marks my 107th post since then.

The day the hay wagon tipped over (Hayride Gone Wrong) is a famous tale in our family lore. Several of us have written the story from our own perspectives. At reunions the storytelling inevitably includes one or more renditions.

One long-term impact to me is the complete lack of interest in harvest hayrides at pumpkin patches. There is simply no comparison worth noting. They pull you in a safety-conscious wagon complete with padded railings and a chain across the opening. The benches and floor may be sprinkled with straw but it’s mostly for decoration.

Compare that to riding on top of a swaying stack of bundled bales so high that we had to duck under the power lines as we entered the driveway. No harnesses. No safety lines. We climbed up there for the half mile drive across the field and down the road back to the barn.

The load was supported with the sidewalls of the wagon. These wooden slats and posts survived years of exposure and bleaching in the sun. Occasionally, one or more pieces needed replacement and got it. The urgency was offset by other workload priorities and a broken slat may remain for a few weeks if it did not affect loads.

What kind of adults would allow their children to ride in such an unsafe manner? Ours. There are probably many more examples of dangerous activities we performed and survived. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Now that you’ve got some blogging experience under your belt, re-write your very first post.

6 Months to Cool Off

(as presented in Love Creates Beauty)

Tim asked her after the movie, “Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“What?” he said, “Are you serious?”

“Are you?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered more confidently.

“Me too,” she declared.

STOP! Did he just ask this girl to marry him? With that cheesy line? And she said “Yes”? What was he doing?!!?!!!

Cool your jets, boy! Slow down a little bit. Okay, a little more kissing is fine now, but you’ve got to think about what you just did. You just asked another human being to be your friend and live with you for the rest of your lives.

STOP KISSING, I can’t think! Yes, it is nice and you have been apart for almost five months now but that is no excuse. You have some serious thinking to do. Details matter. When are you going to get married? Where will you live? Do you know this person well enough to make such a commitment?

Kiss “I love you…I love you too…I love you…I love you too…”


Time to say good night and go back to your own home, boy. Get another night’s sleep to regroup. You’ll see her again tomorrow. One more day and then you’ll deploy for six months.

Actually, that’s a good thing. You need to cool off and think rationally. Six months apart should allow for some clear-headed thinking time for both of you. You’re both young, there’s so much time ahead of you.

“I’ll miss you until tomorrow.” he said.

“Me too,” she replied.

“Good night.”

FINALLY! Now go home and sleep. Think about what you did. Take the full six months if you have to in order to be sure.

“I’m so glad we’re going to get married,” he said idiotically.

Have you ever managed to paint yourself into the proverbial corner because of your words? What did you do while waiting for them “to dry”?

The Mystery Box

It’s 3:30 a.m. Christmas morning and presents are under the tree waiting for the grown children of the house to awaken. The house is dark. I thought I heard a noise down the hall. Did somebody get up to use the bathroom? No. There are no follow-up noises that would support that guess.

The chinchillas are not running on their exercise wheels downstairs. The rabbit is not moving around in his cage. The guinea pig is quiet. All is calm. This is unusual for my house.

I get up to investigate the silence. Leaving the lights off, I start moving towards the bedroom door and collide with something heavy and hard on the floor. I stub my toe on a wooden box. Stifling a rude outburst at the sudden pain and shock, I catch my balance by grabbing the bed post. My wife stirs in her sleep a moment then settles again. Her regular breathing continues.

I backtrack to the bedside table and feel around for my camping headlamp. My wife laughs at me each time she catches me reading in bed with it, but I find it very useful. I don’t care if it is stylish or not. I prefer function over form. I slip it on my head and cup my hand over the bulbs and cycle the settings until the red lamps are on to minimize interference with my wife’s sleep.

The red glow reveals stenciled markings on the lid and a metal hasp that is fastened but unlocked. The markings appear military but their meaning is unclear. No words are present only letters and numbers in a two-row sequence.

I nudge the box to estimate the effort needed to move it out of the walkway and find it will not move. Something this heavy must be compacting the bedroom carpet. That random thought pops in my mind and I quickly dismiss it. Who could have put this box here?

My wife and daughter stayed up later than I did tonight stuffing stockings and arranging presents under the tree. The box must have been placed here between midnight and now. If it was one of those two, there’s no way they could have lifted it here.

I unlatch the hasp and cautiously lift the lid. The red glow of my headlamp softly illuminates a shiny surface inside. A wrapped present. Gold paper. Gold ribbon. A tiny tag with writing on it. I can’t make it out in the red light so I switch over to white. My wife rolls over, moves her arm across her face, and begins gently snoring. I open the box fully and reach for the tag.

“V53h Gm*2$ xp^w9” it says. No help at all. Completely unintelligible like the outer markings.

I decide to open the package. I reach in and prepare to lift the heavy object and am caught off guard by how light it is. I was ready to heave and wrestle it out but it rose easily and almost flew out of my hands. I kept a firm grip on it and set it down.

The paper crinkled as I prepared to tear it when I noticed a light inside the wooden box. I stopped opening the present and peered back inside the box. The light came from what seemed far below the level of my floor. Impossible. I put my head inside the box and spotted more writing on the inside. “Gallifrey Package Service – Lighter on the Inside”

“Uh-oh. This can’t be good.” I think. I’ve seen many Dr. Who episodes and know that messing with Time Lord technology is dangerous. I toss the wrapped package back inside the wooden box and am fastening the latch when I hear the sound of the TARDIS on my front lawn. It seems I’ve awoken in the BBC’s Christmas episode.

You wake up one morning to find a beautifully wrapped package next to your bed. Attached to it is a note: “Open me, if you dare.” What’s inside the mystery box? Do you open it?

One Week Left On 2014 Resolutions

There’s still time to gain a measure of success on this year’s resolutions. Nine more days remain to improve myself. What did I plan to do?

  1. Lose weight? Nah! That wasn’t it. Too common.
  2. Learn a foreign language? Nope. I barely leave my home area.
  3. Complete several home projects? Not planned, but we did hire out for a few improvements this year. Partial credit for that?
  4. Get a new hobby? Sure. That sounds like me. I took up blogging in August. Hit my 100th post this month. That’s a win.

Now, what was that really important item on the list?
I can’t remember it.
I know it was vital.
It had something to do with family harmony and our overall happiness.

“Honey, can you be a bit more quiet with those chinchillas? I’m trying to blog.” I say.

“You could get off your butt and help clean the cages. I shouldn’t have to do them all by myself.” she responds.

Oh yeah. Now I remember.  Do whatever it takes to keep her happy.

We’re entering the final days of 2014 — how did you do on your New Year’s resolutions these past 11.75 months? Is there any leftover item to be carried over to 2015?

Love and Fights

“Do you want to go out for breakfast?” she asked.

“You haven’t been nice to me. I don’t know if I want to be with you in public.” he angrily replied.

“What’s the matter with you?” she demanded.

“I’m writing my blog and the pingbacks aren’t working again today. No one will see it.” he snipped.

“What are you writing?” she inquired softly.

“I’m telling the story of how much we were in love and how I asked you to marry me. It seems to be in direct opposition to our current mood.” he snapped. “Just like when we get into an argument on the way to church.”

“Remember that service we went to and had that amazing experience in prayer time? How powerfully we felt God’s presence right then and there? I seem to recall we had a horrible argument before leaving the house that day.” she said.

“Yeah. I remember telling you to drive yourself or get out and walk the rest of the way. It was bad. Do you remember what the argument was about?” I responded.

“No. It doesn’t matter anyway. God stepped in and got our attention that day.” she replied.

“Seems to always be that way.” he stated.

You can singlehandedly create a causal relation between two things that are currently unconnected — a word and an emotion, a song and an extreme weather event, wearing a certain color and winning the lottery. What cause would you link to what effect, and why?

Engagement Day

December is a busy month for marriage proposals. I am one of those statistics. 28 years later it still seems fresh and exciting.

We met on New Year’s Day that same year. She was the younger sister of my older brother’s girlfriend. (See Love Creates Beauty) Our letters and phone calls helped our relationship grow without the pressing distraction of physical love. To be sure, we wanted contact, but exercised restraint during the brief days we had in person. We would wait until we got married.

I had proposed to her before leaving on a six-month deployment. No ring at first, only a promise to keep writing and a commitment to each other in this relationship.

Six months away had been difficult. The Navy helped by keeping me busy and granting extended time at sea. Port visits seemed limited in frequency and duration. For me, these brief stops were spent shopping. Perfume oils, rugs, hand crafted items, and jewelry were the sought for items. I was fortunate to have few bills and a steady paycheck. This allowed maximum purchasing power in each port. I acquired special diamond rings for our engagement and even had our wedding rings made to order from 22 carat yellow gold.

Back in Connecticut, we had taken the day to visit my grandparents. It was the first time I had taken her to meet them and we spent a pleasant afternoon with them. My grandfather later wrote me a letter affirming my chosen love. He said, “In the sand pebble beach of life, you found a treasured gem.”

We drove home listening to Barry Manilow’s “London” on the radio and stupidly driving on the opposite side of the country road during it.

It had been a while since we ate and I decided to take us to dinner. The engagement ring was in my pocket at all times this visit. I chose an Italian restaurant with checkered tablecloths, a candle on the table, and the setting sun glowing through the windows as the right place and time.

She seemed a bit concerned as I fumbled to get the ring box out of my pocket. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yes. Fine.” I replied and slid the box across the table. “Will you marry me?”

Tears welled up in her eyes as she opened the box and saw the glittering treasure inside. “Yes. Of course.” she responded.

She took the ring and slid it on her finger. “It’s beautiful.”

Our server approached with our meal. “Thank you for choosing Pizza Hut. Here’s your order. Is there anything else I can get for you?”

My future bride couldn’t eat. Her excitement was too great. I didn’t share her difficulty. After carrying the stress of when and how to present the ring and ask the big question, I was relieved and hungry. I ate my share and we took the rest to her home in a box.

Her parents were making adjustments to their Christmas tree. We entered the living room and her mother turned to greet us. Her daughter showed her the ring on her hand and smiled. Her mother quickly put down the cracked ornament on the nearby bookcase and rushed over to inspect the treasure. Smiles, hugs, and handshakes were exchanged before we exited to drive to my parent’s house to share the news.

For our final trio prompt of the year, write about any topic you wish, but make sure your post features a bookcase, something cracked, and a song you love.

Another Holiday? Whatever

We’re tired. The calendar seems to have more holidays in it each year.

Another month is grinding past with more events and potential obligations to fulfill. Somebody is going to be disappointed, maybe even a lot of somebodies.

  • If they’re waiting for cards and letters from us, prepare to be disappointed.
  • If they’re expecting extravagant gifts, prepare to be disappointed.
  • If they’re anticipating thoughtful hand made items, prepare to be disappointed.

We had a family discussion at Thanksgiving about how much to decorate the house and where to set up the fake, pre-lit tree. We decided not to bother with it at the time. That changed when I purchased a window poster of a Christmas tree on Amazon.

My daughter was upset that I would attempt to hang a plastic poster in a window instead of rearranging the living room furniture and moving the indoor rabbit cage to create a space for the tree. She recruited her brother and they accomplished it all on a recent Saturday.

The fake tree is up. A few other decorations are out. The rabbit cage is at my elbow next to the computer desk.
My new poster went to my day job office window for appreciation.

The holiday season: can’t get enough of it, or can’t wait for it all to be over already? Has your attitude toward the end-of-year holidays changed over the years?

Daily Prompt pingbacks working? Back to the daily action…

My day job has many deadline events. Whatever. That just pays the bills so I can blog on my own time.

With the pingbacks not working or sporadic for the past two weeks, it began to feel like a vacation. Responding to a prompt in the comments field lacks the interaction and rapid browsing of other blogger’s offerings. I missed it.

My own site views dropped dramatically and visitors were from a faithful few followers. Thanks friends!

For all those casual browsers out there, here’s a summary of what I’ve been doing without the visibility of the daily prompt arena. Most are family stories inspired by true events and brought to mind during a recent visit with my parents and some siblings.

Dec 6: Kicked Down Stairs

Dec 7: Boys, Rocks, and Hornets

Dec 9: No Money Boundaries

Dec 11: Not Inspiring Confidence

Dec 13: Lights in the Corn Field

Dec 14: The Outdoor Christmas Tree

Dec 15: Little Green Apples (100th Post)

Today’s deadline assignment for me is to provide this catch-up post and get back out there to read your delightful writings as well.

What’s your next, most pressing deadline? Are you excited, stressed, or ambivalent about it? What’s the first thing you’d like to do once you’re done with it?

Little Green Apples (100th Post)

Apples are great. Whether eaten fresh and raw or baked in one of many delicious ways, they satisfy like no other fruit. With just a little garnish of butter, cinnamon, and sugar they burst with flavor in your pie, cobbler, or tart. Apple fritters, pancakes, applesauce, apple butter, apple jelly are all welcome at my breakfast table.

Early fruit that falls from the tree also makes excellent ammunition among brothers. Little green apples and bored farm boys make for an exciting combination. I seem to remember one fine summer day when…

The brothers took turns helping with the evening milking and related barn chores. With a barn population of almost 80 cows, calves, and steers there was plenty to do. One of the tasks was to scrape the walkway outside the barnyard entrance. This concrete extension of the barn foundation provided a transition from the dirt, mud, and muck of the barnyard into the barn. Each evening the returning herd tracked goop onto the concrete on their way inside. At almost 40 feet long and 10 feet wide, it took several passes with the bladed scraper to clear the muck off.

This day, our eldest brother had the chores. The warm summer day had encouraged him to remove his shirt. He labored in boots and jeans only. We others had gathered loads of little green apples and brought them to the fence at the far side of the barnyard. The distance was about 120 feet and the target was a moving one.

We started slowly, taking turns with our throws. At first we deliberately missed. The intent was to scare him into a reaction, not cause injury. After several near misses we refined our tactics and aimed to bracket him in front and back as he moved. He ducked and arched his back to dodge our missiles. They shattered against the red-painted boards of the barn near him.

He tried to sprint with the scraper, stubbornly determined to finish his assigned chore before retreating inside the barn. The friction against the concrete and the growing pile of muck hindered his progress. He turned and ran to the left end of the platform. Once there, he started another pass and we began another volley.

He moved in spurts attempting to confuse our timing. It backfired on him. One apple intended to pass behind him grazed his back as he suddenly stopped in place. He lunged forward and the next apple, already thrown, smacked him hard in the rib cage.

The impact could be heard across the barnyard. We froze as he dropped the scraper handle on the walk. He pressed his hand hard on the injury and looked at us in rage. He ran straight across the muddy barnyard at us. We scattered by instinct, but he was locked onto the one who threw the offending apple.

No matter how much I dodged and ran, he lurched at me with a single purpose, to share the pain.
Game over.