Category Archives: Nostalgia

NEVER ONCE

I cut my teeth on the back of a pew in a small country church. My siblings did the same. I can take you to the church and show you the teeth marks.

In that church I learned that motives count. Not only should I give, but also I should want to give. I learned that honoring my parents meant more than being good in their presence. I learned the meaning of words I never encountered anywhere else: sanctification, regeneration, propitiation.

I knew from day one I was imperfect but God loved me and Jesus wanted to save me.

Qualities taught to me at home were reinforced inside that little church. Qualities like integrity, patience, and kindness.

God poured His grace down upon me, the little girl who wanted so passionately to be good but knew she would never be perfect.

My mind often wandered during church services. Sometimes I silently reviewed the memory verse I would be asked to recite in Bible class. I looked at pictures in my Bible of blind Samson breaking the pillars of the temple and Moses talking to God in the burning bush.

I studied my fingernails, picked at my cuticles, and passed an occasional note to my sister. I thought about what I would be doing that afternoon. I listened to my grandma singing alto in the pew behind me and tried to copy her.

I fanned myself with a paper fan provided by the Leland Carter Funeral Home. I watched mud daubers whizzing outside the window. I heard baby cousins fussing just a few rows back.

I watched my mother tend to my young siblings. I struggled not to laugh the Sunday my brother held chewing gum in his hand and eventually created a sticky, pink spider web between his fingers.

I tried to pay attention if the preacher wrote things on the chalkboard. I tried to focus as he pointed to places on one of the big Bible maps that stood on an easel near the podium.

Once, in a sermon about the tabernacle the Israelites built on their journey from Egypt to Canaan, the preacher flipped the map pages to one that showed the route they took. And right there, right in the middle of the map’s desert, a mud dauber had built a brown, crusty nest.

The preacher chuckled and said, “Well, there’s the tabernacle right there!” and everyone laughed.

I thought about going to college. I dreamed about someday driving a car, being a teacher, and having babies. I wondered if I was pretty.

I pondered unanswerable questions about whether or not Adam had a belly button and if God could make a box so tiny he couldn’t get into it. I contemplated trying to use faith to move a mountain.

I checked often to make sure my slip strap was not showing. I looked down and reaffirmed that I hated my old black, patent leather shoes.

Sometimes in church, I listened and learned. But, truth be told, much of the time I daydreamed and wondered and contemplated and planned and pondered and imagined and questioned and resolved.

But never once in all those Sundays did I worry that a lunatic with a gun might walk in and blow away my entire family and me.

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Household Hints

Just before Dan and I married in 1973, my college roommates gave me a copy of the book, Heloise’s Housekeeping Hints (Pocket Books, 1972). This paperback reference manual is filled with ideas for making one’s home function more smoothly.

Many of Heloise’s suggestions begin with the words how to: how to remove stains from clothes, how to organize your kitchen cabinets, how to make windows sparkle.

When I was a young bride, I consulted this book fairly often. Now I hold on to it only for sentimental reasons. The cover is faded and creased, and every time I open the book, pages fall out.

I read some of those dried and discolored pages today and found a few suggestions that made me laugh out loud. I will share them with you.

WAX YOUR PETTICOATS (page 91)

I have found the answer to the nylon and cotton petticoats that go limp after washing. Since they have to be ironed anyway, I place waxed paper over the petticoat and press. The wax from the paper transfers to the garment and it looks new again. This is especially good in damp weather when everything goes limp.

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TRIM YOUR LIPSTICK, GIRLS (pages 119-120)

If you use a razor blade to slice off the end of your lipstick tube diagonally, it will give you a very sharp outline when applied. It seems to fill out those minute wrinkles and cracks around your lips. Put the discarded lipstick ends in a small jar and use them with your lipstick brush.

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QUICK TRICKS (page 124)

When hanging nylons or leotards outdoors to dry, slip a teaspoon into each toe. This prevents the hose from wrapping around the clothesline and getting snagged.

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I am no Heloise, but in my 44 years of homemaking, I have discovered some excellent tips that I will now share with you.

VINYL GLOVES

Buy and keep in your kitchen a box of disposable, vinyl gloves. I use these gloves whenever I handle raw meat. I am especially glad to have them at Thanksgiving when I am forced to get up close and personal with a tom turkey. I also wear them when I cut up pickles and other smelly foods in order to keep their odors off my hands.

I wear them when I mix meatloaf with my hands and whenever I handle food coloring, such as at Easter when I dye eggs with my grandkids. As an additional bonus, these gloves can be turned into balloons for the grandkids to decorate.

FROZEN CHOPPED ONIONS

Buy and keep in your freezer several bags of frozen chopped or diced onions. I hate chopping onions and have often rejected recipes that directed me to do that. Now I simply take a bag out of the freezer, use as many of the onions as I need, and return the bag to the freezer.

My husband has been heard to say on multiple occasions, “There’s not a thing in this house to eat for lunch but thank goodness we have five bags of onions in the freezer!”

 

DECORATIVE BOXES

Prepare and stash in several rooms of your house small, decorative boxes containing household items that you reach for daily. These include paper clips, scissors, Scotch tape, sticky notes, a nail file and clippers, a small stapler, a reliable ink pen, a sharp pencil with a good eraser, and a highlighter. Throw in a few Hershey Kisses if you are so inclined.

Now I have those things at hand wherever I am in the house. Before I did this, I often had to get up out of a chair or out of bed to retrieve an item kept in only one room of the house. I have these boxes in my living room near my recliner, in my kitchen, and on two bedside tables.

 

Of course we all want to wear clean clothes and have a tidy house, but those things are not of highest importance. What is much more important is maintaining loving relationships with the people who share your house with you.

 

Dan and me, housemates since 1973

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adolescence

From the moment I heard Glen Campbell’s Gentle on my Mind play on Little Rock’s KAAY 1090 AM station in 1967, I was in love. Seriously in love. I was 14 at the time and knew I had seen my future, all wrapped up in the person of Glen Campbell.

I decorated all of my notebooks, my textbooks, and my clipboard with beautifully flowing script lettering: Mrs. Glen Campbell, Mrs. Debbie Campbell, Mrs. Debra Campbell, all written inside hearts.

I don’t remember, but very likely I went around singing: Glen and Debbie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

That memory makes me laugh. But I wasn’t laughing much in 1967. I was young, naïve, and eager to grow up and enter the adult world, though I had no clue how to go about it.

In fact, I didn’t have a clue about most things. Why was I still stick-thin and shapeless when my girlfriends had developed curves? Would I ever pass a driver’s test? What possessed me to sign up for geometry? Would my complexion ever clear up?

Though I was a mostly-A student, I felt ignorant. I suspected that everyone else knew things I didn’t know and they weren’t about to tell me. My clothes were wrong, my hair was wrong, and I didn’t know how to apply makeup. I was plagued with a constant fear that my period would sneak up on me and make its appearance on the back of my skirt.

Nobody understood me. I couldn’t blame them since I didn’t understand me either. Why did there have to be this middle part of life, this being no longer a child but not yet an adult?

My babyhood dream of growing into a beautiful princess dissolved the instant I looked into the mirror. No Prince Charming would claim this spotted-faced girl, even if the glass slipper fit perfectly.

Was I meant to be doing something specific, something significant that would launch me into the grown-up world? If so, I wished someone would tell me what it was.

I survived my adolescent years the same way most people do. I stumbled my way through and got to the other side by the skin of my teeth.

I look at young teens today and wonder if they feel as awkward and unprepared for adulthood as I was.

The kids I see appear comfortable in the skin they are wearing. They go so far as to take selfies in order to preserve memories, for crying out loud! They do not seem self-conscious or fearful of making fools of themselves. In fact, they seem to be enjoying life.

Did people think the same thing about me when I was a teen? Did they assume I was a happy-go-lucky, glad-to-be-me girl enjoying the last of her free-wheeling years before entering adulthood? If they did, they were sorely wrong.

Adolescence was a graceless, humiliating time of life that I thought would never end. It was characterized by embarrassment, uncertainty, and the constant fear of failure.

In fact, I might not have survived adolescence at all had I not held on to one sure and certain fact: I was going to marry Glen Campbell.

 

Glen Travis Campbell (April 22, 1936–August 8, 2017)

What’s the Difference?

Older people like me enjoy talking about when we were kids. We reminisce about playing outside until after dark and paying a nickel for a candy bar. Then often the conversation segues into a lamentation about how those days were better than these days.

Were those days better and if so, why were they better?

I have tried to compare my life as a child of America in the 1950s and ‘60s to the lives of children today. The comparison is not based on any documented research but rather on what I remember to be the facts of then and what I observe to be the facts of now.

I grew up in a rural setting, the oldest of four children, with a mostly stay-at-home mom, and a dad who went to work five or six days a week. We kids went to school just as kids today do, and we went to church three times a week. We rode bikes and played hopscotch, but rarely alone. We played with whatever kids showed up to play.

We had everything we needed and many of the things we wanted.

We had grandparents and aunts and uncles nearby, and any one of them was free to discipline us. We knew personally practically every person who crossed our paths on any given day. We also knew our boundaries and when we were expected home for meals and bedtime.

We watched television on Saturday mornings and on some evenings when it was too dark or too cold to play outside. We also read books, played card games, put together puzzles, and did some household chores.

We got new shoes and coats when we needed them. Clothes were passed around between siblings and cousins, and we thought nothing of it.

When it came to buying or giving us things, our parents’ motto was “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

With the exception of breakfast, which was staggered based on differing schedules, we ate 99% of our meals at home together at the table. We almost never ate at a restaurant.

We were unfamiliar with the term “fast food” and the drive-through window idea had not yet been conceived. The only “drive through” experience we were familiar with was when our Aunt Linda, when learning to drive, drove through our front yard fence.

We had one or at most two vehicles. When we went to church or anywhere else, all six of us rode in the same vehicle. I never had my own car.

In summer, the first thing our mother said after we were dressed and fed in the morning was, “Go outside and play.”

She did not say:

  1. “No electronic devices until after supper.” We had no electronic devices.
  2. “No lying around the house channel surfing.” We had two television channels.
  3. “No hanging out at the mall.” We didn’t know what a mall was.
  4. “No conversations with strangers.” Who was a stranger?
  5. “No spending your money on junk.” We had no money, and the general store sold nothing much except hog feed, groceries, and gas.

Without making any judgments, here are some differences between my world as a child and the world of the typical school-age child today as I perceive it.

  1. Most children do not have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins living nearby.
  2. Most children cannot safely play outside unsupervised.
  3. Most children have moms and dads who both work or parents who are separated or divorced.
  4. Most children are surrounded by strangers much of the time.
  5. Most children have many electronic toys designed to be played with alone.
  6. Most children have spending money.
  7. Most children don’t go to church. Those who do probably go once a week or less.

Are any of these differences important?

You tell me.