The Great Sock Debacle

As a little girl, I used to love knee-high socks. I used to have them in every imaginable color. Now I don’t really know why I was so obsessed with knee-highs … perhaps it was because I had cold shins. I know that sounds weird but I can’t even begin to tell you how many pictures there are of me as a little girl – in the middle of summer, wearing breezy little dresses … yet still wearing wooly knee-highs.

One glorious fall season, my grandmother made me an adorable, forest green, corduroy jumper and I have to tell you, I was so excited to wear it to church for the first time! So excited that I set my clothes out the night before – carefully laying out my forest green jumper, my cream colored button-down shirt to wear underneath, my dark brown Mary Jane shoes … and my matching, forest green knee-high socks.

Except I couldn’t find my forest green socks.

And I HAD TO HAVE those forest green socks because they were key to the whole matching ensemble.

Turns out they were dirty … tossed away at the bottom of the laundry hamper.

So I decided to dig them out and wash them. I had no idea how you washed clothes but I had watched my mother do the laundry before so I assumed you just threw your clothes into the machine, pulled the little knob on top and voila! You miraculously had clean clothes a couple of hours later.

I had no idea you needed to put detergent in the washing machine OR that you had to remove your clothes – or in my case, a pair of socks – and put them into the dryer later on. I guess I thought they just magically transitioned from one machine to the next.

Imagine my surprise come Sunday morning when I rushed into the laundry room only to find my knee-high socks still soaking wet! And not exactly smelling that good either as I hadn’t put any detergent into the load.

But I HAD TO WEAR those forest green, knee-high socks!! I HAD TO!! They were key to the whole matching ensemble!!

So I decided to wear them anyway. And I guess this is as good a time as any to tell you that those Mary Jane shoes I had planned to wear … well, um … they were SUEDE.

And as I stretched those wet, forest green, knee-high socks on and sank my squishy feet into my brown suede, Mary Jane shoes only to immediately witness the darkening wet circle start to spread through both pairs … I briefly thought for a moment … “Maybe nobody will notice?”

But they did.

Everybody noticed.

Everybody in Bible Class kept asking me why my shoes and socks were so wet.

“Did you step in a big puddle?” they all questioned.

“Um, yes… yes I did,” I replied as I went squish-squish-squish down the church corridor, leaving little damp footprints in the hall.

It hadn’t rained in weeks.

Squish, squish, squish. Puddle, puddle, puddle.

Many decades later, I was visiting relatives in Tennessee when I ran into a woman that used to attend the same church where my father had once preached. I asked her if she remembered me. She paused for a moment, searching through her internal memory bank then suddenly declared, “Why yes! You’re the preacher’s daughter with the wet suede shoes!”

Yep.

That was me.

Did I also mention that particular Sunday was the day they were taking pictures for the church directory?

Yep. Me and my wet socks and suede shoes. Forever captured on film.

Squish. Squish. Squish.

The Looking Glass

Have you ever held an antique camera in your hand and thought about all the places that camera has been? Thought about all the pictures that camera has taken? What about a vintage book? Have you ever thumbed through its yellowed, dog-eared pages and thought about all the souls its passages have stirred?

I wonder. Antiques always make me wonder.

I have a vanity sitting beside my bed that I use as a nightstand. It was originally purchased by my paternal great-great grandmother as a gift to her daughter (my great-grandmother) when she got married. Then my great-grandmother handed it down to her daughter – my grandmother. Then my grandmother handed it down to her daughter – who is my aunt.

I  am named after my aunt and so now it resides beside my bed. I am the fifth generation to gaze into its mirror.

I know. That’s a lot of hand-me-downs. Bottom line: it is really REALLY OLD.

And I wonder. That antique mirror and vanity always makes me wonder.

I wonder what my paternal great-great grandmother was feeling the day she purchased it for her daughter who was about to get married. Was she joyful or was she anxious? And did my great-grandmother squeal with delight over the gift or did she reach for her handkerchief as she teared up?

And I wonder about my paternal grandmother after it was handed down to her. How many times she must have gazed into that mirror while my grandfather was storming the beaches of France during World War II, worried about his safety. Would he come back?

He did come back. Wounded. And he would never be the same.

And I wonder about my aunt, after whom I am named. Did she ever gaze into that mirror and wish for a daughter? Has she ever been disappointed in me – her namesake?

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. And it is such an other-worldly experience to gaze in to a mirror and know that your ancestors sat on that exact bench and stared into that exact mirror and that the reflection currently staring back at you used to be theirs. As I gaze at my own face, stare curiously into my own eyes, I imagine looking deeper … looking beyond … seeing into a past now forgotten … gazing into THEIR eyes and into THEIR souls.

And I swear … sometimes I catch a wink and a smile that does not come from me.

But then again, I am a Southerner.

And we Southerners are known to exaggerate.

My Collection Addiction

I was born with an overly enthusiastic “collecting gene.” I have repeatedly implored my doctor to remove such from my DNA but apparently it is rather difficult to pinpoint.

Over the years I have collected everything from books and Barbie dolls to Coca-Cola memorabilia and antique cameras. Now don’t go calling me a hoarder because I’m not. Hoarders tend to buy anything and everything – that they absolutely DO NOT NEED – and then proceed to unceremoniously dump such wherever they can find a square inch of space in an overly crowded and ghastly unorganized room.

And me – well I ABSOLUTELY NEED 537 books, 72 Barbie dolls, 142 pieces of Coca-Cola memorabilia and 56 antique cameras.

Or at least I did at the time I was collecting such.

And – lest you still not be convinced that I am not a hoarder – let me add that I have gone to great lengths to organize and display such over the years. Many a shelf, hutch and curio cabinet has been employed in my home.

But those displays come and go; I buy … enjoy for awhile … and then I sell. Mostly on eBay. Or at least I used to sell on eBay. Nowadays I’m too lazy to list and ship so I tend to just give stuff away. Not nearly as cost effective.

My current obsession – other than my closets stuffed full with holiday décor – is Rae Dunn pottery. I just can not get enough of those adorable coffee mugs with cute little sayings on them. Mugs that say “THINK” or “CREATE” or “EXPLORE.” Or mugs that say “GOAL DIGGER” or “BEE KIND.”

That’s just inspirational AND cute. And who doesn’t need more of that?

Which led me to also collecting the dinnerware … the canisters … the bath ware … the baskets.

Good Lord, I need to stop.

Except that I can’t. I just came across a gourd shaped coffee mug with the words “OH MY GOURD” on it.

Click. Add to cart.

Wake-Up Call

Back when I was in high school, I had a huge crush on a football player. A crush which had no basis in reality, mind you, for I didn’t really know him at all. We didn’t have any classes together nor did we have any of the same friends, so my crush was simply based on how sweet and funny and smart my mind imagined him to be.

Not that it would have mattered if he had indeed known that I even existed for my parents would have never allowed me to go out with him anyway.

Why?

Because he was black.

I distinctly remember asking my mother one day if I would ever be allowed to date a black guy. Her reply started off with a, “not that we’re racist … but …”.

You can rest assured that anytime anybody ever says anything that hinges on a “but,” that whatever statement they just made can be completely erased.

“Oh sweetie, not that I don’t like your new hairstyle … but …”

“Oh darling, not that those jeans make your hips look wide … but …”

“Now I’m not saying your bourbon chicken wasn’t good … but …”

“Not that we’re racist … but … we just don’t think it’s appropriate for a white girl to date a black boy.”

For years I tried to figure out a way to confront the racism exhibited by my parents without also being disrespectful to my parents. It’s a difficult journey to navigate – you know, what with the whole “let he who is without fault cast the first stone” bit drilled into my head.

And then one Christmas – several years post graduation and marriage and children – my own thirteen year old son did the trick. My mother offered him a certain chocolate-covered, cream-centered candy that a lot of my family had always simply referred to as “ni**er toes.”

My son’s reaction – with a disgusted, intense stare – was like an arrow straight to her heart:  “Nana. I. Am. So. Disappointed. In. You.” Each word singularly punctuated to further lodge the blade.

To my knowledge, she has never used that word since. And thus was the beginning of a long, complicated journey of coming to terms with and trying to remove herself from the prejudice history from which she came.

My father comes from a very similar history with his own mother having a penchant for the very same candy. She even referred to said candy by the exact same name.

We’re all still on that long, complicated journey. We. Are. ALL. Still. On. It. I may not use derogatory terms and I have no problem with my daughter dating guys who aren’t white but there are still times when I catch myself … judging.

Judging things I don’t understand. Judging culture that is not mine. And it is then that I remind myself – different is different – but it’s not better or worse.

If only we all accepted each other for who we are, regardless of skin color or sexual orientation or religious affiliations or political leanings. It’s a lesson we all need to learn.

Even when that wake-up call comes from a thirteen year old boy.

Water Is My Nemesis

Confession: I have never learned how to swim. I realize that such a confession must sound really strange coming from a woman in her fifties that lives in a state that is surrounded by water on three sides, and who lives a mere five minute drive to the beach but there is a good reason why I have never learned.

Mostly because the water didn’t want me to.

Let me explain …

When I was just a little girl, my family and I lived in a house in Georgia that had a huge pool in the backyard. Not one of those beautifully shaped, curvy pools with brick pavers or imported tile skirting the edges with a waterfall feature and palm trees like you see nowadays. No, this was back in the seventies and our pool was just a really long, really wide, really deep, rectangular concrete hole in the ground.

And back around that time, the Nestea company started airing a TV commercial that featured people falling backwards into a pool of water, supposedly because they felt so refreshed after drinking a glass of Nestea! Thus the Nestea plunge was born.

And well, as a little girl I loved doing the Nestea plunge – but normally only when my dad was standing there in the pool, right about the midway point before the bottom drastically began its slope downwards towards the ten foot deep end. I would do a dramatic countdown, scream “Nestea plunge” with the giggly delight of a carefree little girl, and then allow myself to fall backwards into the pool, always trusting that my dad would be there to safely catch me.

And that’s swimming, right? At least in my little girl brain it was. Or at least it was close. I mean how hard could swimming be? I watched my dad and my siblings swim all the time.

So one day I decided to do the Nestea plunge all by myself. Even though nobody else was around. Even though there was nobody there to catch me. I was a big girl; I could handle it; I could swim!

Except that I couldn’t.

I did my dramatic countdown, screamed “Nestea plunge” and then fell backwards into the pool. For a split second, I thought “Yes! I can swim!” as I splashed and grabbed at the water around me. Then I had the terrifying realization of “No, I can’t!” as I began to sink down, down, down.

Almost instantly I felt a wet, furry back slip underneath me and I grabbed on, riding back up to the surface. Our German Shepherd, Misty, had jumped in to save me and she allowed me to ride on her back, just like my dad had done many times, as she paddled me back to the shallow end of the pool.

That dog saved my life – which is one of the many reasons why German Shepherds are my favorite breed and one of the reasons why I have had three German Shepherds in my adult life. Shhh … don’t tell the Bassett Hound and the King Charles Spaniel that are the current four-legged members of our family! It might give them an inferiority complex!

But I digress … now where was I? Oh yeah, explaining how the water doesn’t want me to learn how to swim.

Fast forward a couple of months later and I had worked up the courage to once again jump into the deep end, both literally and figuratively. I was over at a friend’s house, who also had a pool, and after much cajoling I decided to join in the fun. But this time I was going to be smart about it. I was going to wear a life jacket!

I carefully put the child-sized jacket on, carefully adjusting the straps, extremely mindful of the fit. I was going to be cautious! I was going to be smart! But I was going to be bold! I was going to jump into the deep end! No countdown. No Nestea plunge. I just ran and … jumped!

And down, down, down I went. My friend’s older brother immediately jumped in to save me, dragging my choking, spitting self to the shallow end and helping me back up and onto the pool deck.

Apparently my life jacket was faulty. Or apparently the water just didn’t want me around. Or maybe it was both. I think it was both.

So after my second near drowning in as many months I made the decision that I no longer wanted to learn how to swim. I no longer cared for the water. Not pools, not ponds, not lakes. And definitely not the ocean. The ocean is just way too big and has way too many critters and there is just way too many things that can go wrong.

So now – as a middle aged adult living in Florida – I just sit on the beach and wriggle my toes in the sand. The waves may seem beckoning to some … but not to me. The waves may call your name but they definitely do not call mine. I have never learned how to swim.

Because the water didn’t want me to.