I Think We Entered the Twilight Zone

Memories are a funny thing.

It’s not always the best, most pleasant occurrences that stick with us; that lodge themselves deep inside our brain. Often times it’s something shocking, absurd and downright frightening that we seem to latch onto forever.

We had one of those moments on our recent cross-country trip. Even though we experienced plenty of really cool, beautiful things this is the memory that I know will be engrained in our minds as one of the “highlights.”

We were driving down the highway mid afternoon somewhere in South Dakota. No houses were in sight and very little traffic. Every little bit we would see some grazing land with a few beef cattle roaming in the distance. Out of nowhere we noticed a sign in the distance stating there was a general store at the next exit selling buffalo jerky. My husband is a big fan of dried meat so we decided to pull off and visit the shop.

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The place was called Buffalo Ridge General Store. As we stepped out we noticed things weren’t exactly in pristine condition. The building was a bit dilapidated and there was no other vehicles in the parking lot. However, we forged on with our mission to get some buffalo jerky for my husband.

The front of the store

The front of the store

As we entered the store I was dumbstruck. It appeared as though we had exited the year 2013 and were catapulted into a time warp from 1978. The merchandise scattered here and there had a thick layer of dust on it. Everything was dirty including the floors and shelves. I really had to go to the bathroom but there was no way I was going to explore the facilities that were located right up front with the door half off it’s hinges and the words “Bathroom” painted on in crude handwriting.

There was even a pay phone in the store for their patrons use! Who still has a payphone??

There was even a pay phone in the store for their patrons use! Who still has a payphone??

Two men greeted us. One was fairly old and the other was middle-aged. I’m assuming they were father and son. They were very friendly and asked where we were from. When we told them Wisconsin, they wanted to talk football and we enjoyed some banter with them for a bit. On the counter in front of them sat a bin of packaged buffalo jerky. We inquired about it and they told us that they make it themselves and that it’s the best around. We purchased $20 worth. The men then motioned to another door and told us there was another room that the kiddos might enjoy.

Here is what we saw when we entered:

Well, isn't this special?

Well, isn’t this special?

It appears that it is just another room filled with more merchandise that they are trying to peddle. Tucked away though in various corners of the room were life-size animated figures behind cages. When you put a quarter in the slot the rooms would light up, the figures would move and a recorded commentary or music would come on.

Here is an old saloon set-up:

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There was also one with a man tanning buffalo hide:

Notice the layers of dust on this guy!

Notice the layers of dust on this guy!

I think Iris is saying, "I can't believe we paid a quarter to see this!"

I think Iris is saying, “I can’t believe we paid a quarter to see this!”

And then we found the icing on the cake:

This one played creepy music and the gorilla's eyes lit up red.

This one played creepy music and the gorilla’s eyes lit up red.

The gorilla guy is quite possibly one of the freakiest things I have ever seen. I also think he scarred my children for life. Notice the looks on their faces while they are watching him:

Cesar is thinking, "No 2 year old should be subjected to something this scary."

Cesar is thinking, “No 2 year old should be subjected to something this scary.”

Bency is saying, "I am going to have nightmares the rest of my life."

Bency is saying, “I am going to have nightmares the rest of my life.”

It’s safe to say that Buffalo Ridge General Store is like nothing I have ever experienced. It will be a memory I will carry with me until my dying day. It’s not just due to the bizarre, off the wall nature of the store itself either. It’s because 3 hours down the road, my husband asked me to crack open that bag of buffalo jerky I purchased so he could give it a try. As I began to search the car I realized I didn’t have it. I must have set it down to put a quarter in one of those crazy animated shows and forgot it. My husband will never let me live that one down.

The buffalo pasture adjacent to the store.

The buffalo pasture adjacent to the store.

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All of Their Belongings Fit Into a Volkswagen Beetle

Have you ever found yourself wondering how different expressions come about? Take for instance the phrase, “Bite the bullet.” People often use this expression when they are referring to taking a chance on something. This expression came about due to a dangerous army practice in the 1850’s. Prior to using their rifles, soldiers had to bite off the head of the cartridge to expose the explosive to the spark which would ignite it. This was extremely dangerous and needed courage and firmness to pull it off.

In our family we have many expressions. Many of them are originals. I owe this fact to a particular reason.

They came about because my mother and father have been together for a long time. They are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary today. They got married young, came from the same area and know all of the same people. They have many inside jokes.

For instance, when the house gets a little messy one of my parents will say, “It’s starting to look like the Coggins around here.”

Apparently, a family that they both knew from their childhood days were not very good housekeepers. I have no idea who the Coggins are, but seeing that I have heard this expression over 5000 times in my life you better believe that when things are getting a little out of control in the upkeep of our household I say, “It’s staring to look like the Coggins around here.”

I am determined to keep this expression alive, along with many more.

My parents started from meager beginnings. They started out their life living above my grandparent’s general store. They soon moved into their own apartment with their new baby. My Dad went to college and worked full-time. My Mom worked as a nurse and took care of my sister. When my Dad graduated from college he received a job offer 3 hours away, working for the State of Wisconsin designing roads and bridges.

My parents say they moved themselves, my sister and all of their belongings across the state in a Volkswagen Beetle and that included a rubber tree plant.

My Dad always brings up this fact whenever my mom brings home a new piece of dilapidated furniture she recovered from the thrift store to refurbish. He then adds, “Now we would need two semi-trailers” which my mother likes to retort with, “Well, if we didn’t have that stupid treadmill in the basement collecting dust we would have more room.”

They’ve added more than just belongings in the past 50 years too. They added 2 more children, 10 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren with one more due any day. Plus many memories….many, many memories.

If you ask them how they managed to stay together so long their answer would be because they are best friends and they know that no one else would put up with them.

However, I do know one other key element that is part of the longevity of their marriage.

Whenever my Mom gets angry with my Dad and yells something along the lines of, “Gosh darn you (insert my Dad’s full name here), why on earth would leave grape jelly blobs on the counter? Why can’t you just wipe them up gosh darn it?”

My Dad busts out in a baritone version of Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” song.

Happy 50th Anniversary Mom & Dad!

I’m so glad you “bit the bullet” and got married and stuck it out all of these years!

Mom & Dad's Wedding Day

Mom & Dad’s Wedding Day

Memories, Like the Corners of my Mind

Memories,

Like the corners of my mind

Misty water-colored memories….

It has been brought to my attention by my mom that my memories and some of the things that I recount here on my blog aren’t always factual when it comes to my childhood.

Remember when I said that my older sister gave me a home perm when I was a kid? Well, it was actually my mom that gave me the perm. My mom has finally figured out how to comment on WordPress so now if I get some facts wrong she will kindly set the record straight. Also, my aunt pointed out the other day that my Grandma didn’t eavesdrop too much on the party line. My dad may have exaggerated a bit that it was often.

The point that I’m trying to make is that everyone’s memory of a situation is different…especially when it comes to a kid’s memory.

Someday, I want my children to read this blog and see all the wonderful and not so wonderful memories of their life and their family’s history.

So today I am writing this post for my 5 year old son Bency.

When Bency was 3 years old he tackled his then 5 year old sister, Iris, on the recliner in the living room. She immediately began screaming, “Get off of me, you’re hurting me! Get him off of me…he’s hurting me!”

I was sitting on the couch adjacent to the scene and my husband was sitting at the computer desk next to them. After we both asked Bency to get off of his sister and he made no motion to discontinue his jumping on his sister, my husband reached over and pulled Bency off of her.

We heard a pop.

Both my husband and I looked at each other with wide eyes and then Bency let out a blood curdling scream.

Bency began holding his elbow and continued to scream at the top of his lungs. We instantly knew that something was seriously wrong so without a second thought we scooped him up and we all raced to the doctor’s office 5 minutes away.

Once inside the clinic, they immediately ushered us back to the examining room and the doctor came in within minutes as Bency laid in my lap still crying softly. He briefly felt Bency’s arm and elbow and then looked at me and said, “This will only take a second but hold him tight and expect a pop and a scream.” The doctor quickly pushed and turned and within seconds we heard the pop and Bency let out a yelp. Bency cried for a few more seconds and then we asked him if his arm still hurt. He thought about it for a moment and then answered, “no” and proceeded to hop off of my lap and start jumping around.

The doctor then explained that this is a common occurrence in children between the ages of 1-3 years old and is often called nursemaid’s elbow. It happens because the ligaments in that area haven’t fully developed at that age. You have to be extremely careful not to pull a child by their elbow. There is however no permanent damage done and it just pops back into place.

We breathed a sigh of relief and after spending a mere 15 minutes at the doctor’s office we left with a happy boy.

Over the last few years we have brought the story up occasionally because it was slightly horrific at the time. Also, Iris was 5 years old and remembers it quite vividly so she has told her brother that his elbow popped out of his socket. Bency, however , obviously doesn’t remember the situation at all.

The reason I believe this is because last summer Bency said, “Mom, do you remember the time my elbow popped out of my socket and blood started spewing all over? There was blood flying everywhere and my bones were poking out and you were trying to get my bones back into my body?”

I immediately sat Bency down and told him the whole story and assured him there was no blood involved and no bones were poking out of his body. I went over it a few times to make sure he fully understood. I was certain I had set the record straight.

A month ago at the dinner table Bency said, “Remember the time my elbow came out of my arm and all of my skin started melting off of me and all of my fingernails fell off? It was so terrible. The skin was literally just peeling off of me. And bones just started falling out of my body and blood was just dripping everywhere.”

I let out an exasperated sigh and once again found myself telling Bency the whole story all over again. Step by step. Every detail. I once again reiterated that there was no blood involved. No skin peeling or melting off. No bones protruding or falling out. Not one fingernail fell off.

So Bency, this one is for you. This is the real story. Please don’t tell people “your version”!!

Can you believe my bones were falling out and blood was everywhere and my skin was melting off??

Can you believe my bones were falling out and blood was everywhere and my skin was melting off??

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My Own Little Pieces of Art History

This past Monday found me organizing all of my art supplies. I just got rid of the non-working 1940’s refrigerator that I used to store it all in and replaced it with some shelving. It was no longer functioning as storage for me because it couldn’t hold everything I had and everything was spilling out onto the floor in several cardboard boxes. I spent more time looking for the things I needed than I was actually spending creating art.

I am still not done organizing not only because it is a huge, overwhelming job but also because I started losing myself in all of the stacks and stacks of artwork I have done over the years. A lot of the pieces really tell my story so much better than a photo album can.

Take for instance this little number I doodled during some high school class on a piece of notebook paper. My mind was always wandering and I could never pay attention…

A ink drawing I did while doodling during a high school class

A ink drawing I did while doodling during a high school class

I have always been fascinated by babies and eyes. This is a picture of one of my nephews that I drew 20 years ago. I remember he was sitting on someone’s lap and I just sat and drew him. It doesn’t surprise me that I never finished it. I have so many unfinished drawings in my stack of artwork…

A drawing of one of my nephews

A drawing of one of my nephews

I was so happy when I had kids of my own so that I could draw them. I have lots of artwork I did of these little people. Here is the first one I did when Iris was 2 1/2 and Bency was just a little baby.

watercolor painting from 2007

watercolor painting from 2007

Here are a few more that I came across that I have done throughout the years. It’s amazing to sit back and remember sitting down and making these. When I look at them it brings me right back to those moments.

flowers

My husband's favorite restaurant

My husband’s favorite restaurant

Another restaurant in our town

Another restaurant in our town

A shop down the street from us

A shop down the street from us

 

 

 

 

 

I Wonder if My Great Grandma Knew What She Was Making

I come from a long line of amazingly creative women. From Great-Grandmas down to my Mom.

My Great-Grandma Palma, on my father’s side was only in my life for a short time. I believe she passed away when I was 7 and I only got to meet her a few times. Those few visits though inspired me greatly and were wonderful memories. She had a huge collection of salt and pepper shakers and other beautiful things that I loved to look at and made me want to start collecting antiques. She gave me quite a few of her salt and pepper sets that I still display in my home. She also gave me a very old miniature cast iron stove to use with my Barbies that my daughter now uses with her dolls. She crocheted doll dresses for me that my daughter also still uses.

My most loved gift from her though was my crocheted collars. She made me about 10 in all different colors. I wore them all of the time in elementary school. I thought they were the most extraordinary things! I began putting them on my own daughter when she was in Kindergarten and she thinks they are equally as cool as I do!

I wonder if my Great Grandma knew as she crocheted those little collars for me and gave me those little gifts that they would be with me forever and that I would pass them down to my own daughter. I wonder if she knew that she was making me more than a crocheted collar….she was making a piece of herself, a gift of love, that I can hold on to forever and spread her love to many more.

Iris wearing one of the crocheted collars to school today.

Iris wearing one of the crocheted collars to school today.

A close up of the collar

A close up of the collar

 

 

Just Buy Them the Cotton Candy

I’ve never been to the circus. My Mom swears I was. She thinks I was about 1 years old when we went as a family. My brother told me he hasn’t been to the circus since he was 5 years old and my sister was 9. Since they are 8 and 12 years older than me that confirms the fact that I have never been there. There’s been a lot of things that I said I never did and my Mom assures me that I did do them because I was in her belly or I was a baby. Good try Mom!

So when I heard the circus was coming to town this past weekend my husband and I gathered up the kids and announced we were headed to the “Greatest Show on Earth.” I was equally as excited as the kids to see what all the hype was about that I have only ever read in story books.

Before we left, I gave the kids strict rules not to ask for anything because would not be purchasing any of the overpriced food at the circus, but not to fear because I had stocked my purse full of Raisinets, Goobers and applesauce packets. Besides, I had a little surprise up my sleeve.

When we arrived they had all kinds of things set up for the kids to do. I knew about this ahead of time and had heard there would be elephant rides. I excitedly told the kids that the surprise I had in store was that we were going to pay for them to ride the elephants! They looked at me like I had completely lost my mind. They had no interest in riding an elephant. What?? Who wouldn’t want to ride an elephant?

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Seeing as my kids were party poopers and saved us $30 and I kept seeing them staring longingly at the cotton candy carts, I had my husband sneak over and buy them some of the fluffy pink and blue clouds of sugar. Now that was a surprise for them!

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Iris eating her cotton candy

Iris eating her cotton candy

Bency eating his cotton candy

Bency eating his cotton candy

 

The circus was pretty great and it was nice to see the look of excitement on the kid’s faces.

When it was all over and done with I asked the kids what their favorite parts were.

Iris (7 years old): When they played the song “Who Let the Dogs Out.” I asked if she meant when all the dogs came out and performed their cute little tricks. No, she just really likes that song.

Bency (5 years old): Cotton Candy

Cesar (2 years old): Elephants. He may have said elephants but clearly watching him rock his chair and try to get himself collapsed in the fold up chair looked like that was his most enjoyment during the show.

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My favorite part was when Cesar started puking later that night from clearly eating too much candy.

All in all it was a fun time. I don’t know if we’ll ever go back. I’ve experienced it now. My kids have experienced it. And if my 2 year old grows up and says he doesn’t remember ever going to the circus well…..I have pictures to prove it!

See Cesar...You were at the circus!!!

See Cesar…You were at the circus!!!

A Gumball for You and You and You

My children often ask for some change so they can get a gumball out of the candy machines at the exits of stores.

I rarely have any money on me as I am accustomed to paying for everything with a debit or credit card.

The other day when we were exiting the grocery store they asked if they could get a gumball. I quick answered “no” because as per usual I knew I didn’t have any quarters in my purse. I then stopped and remembered I had a dollar bill in my wallet. I walked across the length of the store over to the customer service desk. I waited in line. I asked the lady behind the counter for 4 quarters in exchange for my dollar. She gave them to me and then the kids and I walked back across the store to the gumball machine.

I did this because I remember.

I remember being a little kid and going to The White Store with my mom. It was a clothing store in our town. It was kind of a fancy store.  The smell of new hit you when you walked in. The floors were carpeted in a plush dark green. The walls were papered with gold and cream stripes. All of the clothes hung perfectly organized and straight on their racks. The mannequins wore perfectly assembled outfits fit for a glamorous girl ready to go to work or out for the evening. In the middle of the store was an elaborate glass showcase filled with beautiful jewelry. The store clerks were always eager to show you a tray of rings or help you find the perfect bracelet.

I hated this store. It was so boring to me to have to walk around and look at clothes. It was torture to have to be quiet and not run around. Admittedly, we did not shop there too often. It was only when they were running sales or someone in the family needed something for a special occasion.

In my eyes there was only one good thing about an outing to The White Store. I always knew on the way out my mom would let me get a gumball from the little red machine sitting in the entrance way. I remember the gumballs had the word FORD printed on them in white. I always wondered why. I remember always hoping I didn’t get black and more times than not I ended up with black. It tasted like black licorice. I would have rather had the purple one with the grape flavor but I never complained. I was just happy I got to turn the crank and hold my hand out waiting for the gumball to roll down the tunnel.

So that is why I walked across the store to retrieve some quarters for my kids. I hope someday they remember the times their mom gave them each a quarter so they could turn the crank and watch the gumball travel down the chute and then place a gumball so huge in their mouth that they could barely close their lips around it. I hope they remember they got the good ones; the purple with grape flavor.

1984 My Dad and I all set to go to the Father/Daughter dance. I'm wearing a dress from The White Store

1984 My Dad and I all set to go to the Father/Daughter dance. I’m wearing a dress from The White Store

She Was Thinking About Him

Last week, my 7 year old daughter, Iris came home from school and said she had a sad day.

This was the first time she has ever come home and made this statement so I was very alarmed and immediately asked why.

She said, “I couldn’t stop thinking about Papa Bency (my husband’s Dad). I miss him so much. I was thinking about him all day at school and didn’t even feel like playing at recess.”

My husband walked into the room and asked what we were talking about. When I told him, his jaw dropped. He said he too had been thinking about him all day as well and had not been able to shake it.

The strange thing about this is the fact that Papa Bency passed away 12 years ago and my daughter Iris had never had a chance to meet him.

Papa Bency comes up in conversation occasionally but it had been awhile since we talked about him so there was no real reason he should have been on her mind that day and she herself couldn’t explain what caused her to think about him.

Papa Bency

Papa Bency

My husband who was still in awe that he and his daughter had been having parallel thoughts that day called his mother to tell her.

His mom was surprised too because earlier in the day, one of my husband’s sisters had been talking about how much she missed her Dad and another granddaughter who is also too young to have ever met him expressed her sadness about Grandpa Bency as well the very same day.

Is this all a huge coincidence? I have no idea. No one can know for sure.

In the past week, I have tried to wrap my mind around why four people were all thinking about the same person on the same day. Of course, I couldn’t come up with a concrete answer as to how this occurred.

I realized I didn’t need to know why it happened either.

What I did realize though is that this is a comfort to me.

Whether or not Papa Bency whispered into my daughter’s ear that day and held her hand, I do not know. I don’t know if Papa Bency guided one of his family members out of harm’s way. I don’t know if he helped them understand a problem they were struggling with. It would be nice to think this happened and that there is someone looking out for us and our loved ones.

What I am most comforted by is the fact that our loved ones can live on in our memories and be shared through our stories. That the ones we have lost or never met can always be remembered.

(when Iris was 2 1/2 she also had an experience with Papa Bency that I have posted about before and you can read here.)

You Have A Piece of My Heart

In my 2nd grade daughter, Iris’s school the word “friend” is not a part of children’s vocabulary. Everyone is referred to by BFF (Best Friends Forever). Iris calls about 20 kids her BFFs (both boys and girls). This term of endearment started in 1st grade but it wasn’t until this past summer that Iris actually learned what it stood for. She came home excitedly from a friend’s house one day and asked if I knew what BFF stood for. Before I could answer, she yammered out the answer for me and stated how unbelievable it was that she had so many people in her life that were going to be her friends FOREVER! Up until that point she just thought she had best friends.

Dear Iris,Thank you so much for being my BFF! I remember the first time we met the first day of first grade. You are the best friend I could ever have.

Dear Iris,
Thank you so much for being my BFF! I remember the first time we met the first day of first grade. You are the best friend I could ever have.

The other day, Iris came home from school and said one of her BFFs had downgraded her to a BF (best friend). She wasn’t terribly upset about this because there had not been a fight or drama. The girl just merely dropped a “F.” Iris couldn’t understand how once you make a promise of “forever” how you can just go back on this eternal promise. “Forever is forever. It never ends.” is how Iris put it. If being downgraded to a BF wasn’t bad enough, the same girl dropped Iris down to an “F” (friend) later in the afternoon because Iris put a snowball down her 5 year old brother, Bency’s coat. All of Iris’s friends have taken a shining to Bency and are all mother hens around him.

As we sat at the dining room table discussing how it’s possible to go from being a BFF in the morning to only an F in the afternoon I found myself reflecting on my own childhood friendships. I remember the excitement of exchanging gold heart necklaces with my best friend. My half of the heart read “B FR” and her half read “EST IENDS.” When you put them together it spelled BEST FRIENDS. I remember sitting perched on top of the monkey bars together and making promises to grow up and live next door to each other.

I explained to Iris that as lovely as forever sounds that it really isn’t the reality of how many relationships will be in her life. As we grow and change so do our friendships. Not necessarily because of fights or that we don’t like each other but because our interests or outlooks change. Childhood is the time to learn how to be a “good” friend and how to receive friendships too. It’s a process that takes practice and reflection like anything else. It’s wonderful to have a lot of people we call friends and if some of them stick around forever, what a truly great blessing that is.

I haven’t seen that girl that I exchanged heart necklaces with in many years. Life got in the way and we ventured down different paths and created families that keep us busy. I’m certain though that if we ran into each other we would laugh and reminisce about our childhood days. The countless sleepovers and the sledding in my backyard that always inevitably got me stuck under the chain link fence and she would have to help me get out. The sledding in her woods; which made us pros at weaving in and out of trees and stopping just before we would land in the creek at the bottom of the hill. The year she received the BB gun when she was 8 years old and how we would go and shoot squirrels in her backyard with it. And the hours upon hours we spent building forts out of tree limbs; never bothering to go in for lunch because we were having too much fun. And of course I would bring up the necklace. I still have it in my jewelry box.

Friendships have a way of making an imprint on your heart. A memory that is forever. No matter if it is a BFF, BF or an F.

My half of the heart

My half of the heart