A Flying Update

About a month ago, in The Couple Next Door, I spoke about the widowed goose and her four goslings.

Well, I have a very happy update: the children have learned to fly! John, whose house backs up against the pond is also keeping an eye on them. And, early in the mornings the kids have been getting airborne. He sent me some photos to share.

Thanks, John, for the photos.

Thanks for your time.

Literally Awesome

As an English major and a semi-professional peddler of words, it’s kind of embarrassing.

Although I can be a tad judgmental concerning other’s use of the English language (please, for all that is holy, it’s new-clea-er, not new-cue-ler), I am not grammar perfect.

I’m fond of the occasional ‘ain’t’, I call the tv remote, the ‘clickety’, and Petey will be happy to inform you that I regularly pronounce po-ta-to, ba-tate-uh.  And because I am a garrulous woman whose enthusiasm is usually set somewhere north of 8 out of 10, I make liberal use of the verbal crutch.

I’m not completely insufferable.  I hardly ever use “like”, “literally”, or “OK”.  But the word ”awesome” crops up in my writing and conversation way more than it should, thereby cheapening the meaning. 

Dictionary.com defines the classic meaning of awesome as, “causing or inducing awe; inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear”.  Awesome’s not a coupon for a dollar off mayo, nor the fact that the shoe store has the pretty flats in size ten, nor is it the absence of a long line at the gas pumps at Costco.

So, this week, in order to pick up awesome and dust it off, I’ve decided to make a list of things that really do inspire me to awe and wonder.  This is just a partial list, because I am caught off guard and moved by many things, every day.

Animals both break my heart and teach me the meaning of nobility.  The absolute trust a dog shows and the faith it has in their people can only be described as an infinite burden of love.  There has never been a human who even came close to deserving the high opinion in which their pets hold them.

And when things go wrong, and they experience pain, they bear it with gentle, unlimited patience.  The power of their character almost brings to my knees.  Their loving generous spirit truly inspire wonder and awe.

The written word, and the way in which a book can pick me up and set me into another reality.  It’s just words.  You can find every one of them in a dictionary.  You use them to make a grocery list or write an email to your boss.  But arranged by the right person they can change one’s life.  They can inform and inspire.  They can cause you to tumble, headfirst into soul-searing grief.

Imagination.  Everything created by men and women was the fruit of creative thinking.  Everything from the art in museums, beautiful clothing and shoes, to tools, and technology all started in somebody’s noggin.  What is almost as awe inspiring is the fact that even after millennia, there is still original work being accomplished and thoughts being thunk.

Chocolate.  Yeah, I know, it’s not Shakespeare, or manned flight, or Lassie.  But think about it.  In the hands of creative humans, a plethora of delicious treats have been created.  If you have a broken heart, there’s ice cream.  It’s not a picnic without chocolate cake.  I have a stash that I keep in case vexation by humans goes beyond my tolerance.  And not much in this world says, “I was thinking of you” like a big stack of gooey, freshly baked brownies, studded with chocolate chips and topped with salted chocolate.

I wish I could promise you that I will hold awesome in higher regard and only use it in the classic, wonder-arousing sense, but I can’t.

I know the next time I’m as excited as a toddler jacked up on cotton candy and crack, and see or hear something that makes me happy, it’s gonna be awesome.

Thanks for your time.

Go With The Flow

There are many advantages to growing up an Army brat, like Petey, or a Coastie kid, like me.

It fostered an appreciation of the commitment and sacrifices that men and women are willing to give to this nation.  It’s humbling. 

It allowed us to see many different cultures around the country and world.  Seeing the various ways in which people live as a child means there is almost no judgement.  Kids are still learning how the world works, so don’t come from a position of cultural superiority.  It’s not better or worse, just endlessly fascinating.

We always knew that there was a huge population that had a vested interest in us and had our backs.  At times, it could be a little uncomfortable, when the entire United States Armed Forces and the Coast Guard are acting as in loco parentis.  But when the chips are down, and you need them, they’re right there. 

But, probably the best gift Petey and I received from our upbringings was the gift of resilience. 

Every few years, usually at the end of the summer, we’d pack up and move our entire lives to a whole new world.  But, by the time Halloween was on the horizon, we’d be home.  What was once strange and new became both familiar and comfortable.

And this week’s recipe is a culinary example of resilience.  The vegetables are the only constant.  The seasoning and the dressing itself are incredibly malleable. 


Za’atar is a middle Eastern spice which contains thyme, toasted sesame seeds, and sumac.  It can be found in Asian and Middle Eastern markets.  Sumac is a dried ground flower.  It has a bright, lemony flavor.  

Although not one of the most common spices in the kitchen, you can buy sumac in most grocery stores.


If you would like the flavor of za’atar for the dressing, you can make something very close by mixing one 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and ½ teaspoon each, toasted sesame seeds and dried thyme.

Roasted Cauliflower Summer Salad

6 slices thick cut bacon

On a parchment-covered, rimmed baking sheet, cook the bacon at 350 degrees until completely browned and crispy (18-24 minutes), turning once.  Remove bacon to paper towel covered plate, reserving rendered bacon fat.

1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 cup white corn kernels, either from frozen, or roasted fresh

2 scallions, sliced very thinly on the bias

1 small head of Boston bib or butter lettuce

Turn oven up to 450.  Once the bacon is removed from the pan, replace with the cauliflower on one single layer and drizzle on two tablespoons of bacon grease and season with salt and pepper.  Roast the veg for 20 minutes, stirring once.  When cooked, remove from sheet pan and set aside.

Dressing #1:

¾ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon za’atar or 2 teaspoons of homemade za’atar

2 tablespoons bacon grease

Salt and pepper

Whisk together all ingredients and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Dressing #2:

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons bacon grease

1 teaspoon za’atar or 2 teaspoons of homemade za’atar

Salt and pepper

Whisk together ingredients and refrigerate for at least one hour.


Place cauliflower, corn, and green onions in bowl.  Fold in dressing of your choice, a bit of a time until lightly coated—don’t overdress.  Serve on a bed of torn, bite-sized pieces of lettuce, and top with shards of crispy bacon.

This salad works as a side dish at Sunday dinner, a cookout, or for a unique addition to a bagged lunch.  Like the recipe itself, it’s infinitely adaptable.

Thanks for your time.

Can You Spot The Difference?

I have a few words of wisdom that have served me well, Gentle Reader.

1.) Don’t buy the Costco sample the first time you try it no matter how much you like it.  If you’re still thinking about it on the next visit, go for it.

2.) If a corporation says that everything will stay the same when it buys a company, everything, and I mean Every.Single.Thing., will change.

3.) If someone tells you they’re a kid at heart, or a big kid, they almost always are not.  It’s the same type of weird narcissism as giving yourself a nickname. 

That guy’s not childlike.  They are almost certainly childish.  One trait is delightful and endearing, the other is arrogant and exhausting with a barely concealed mean streak.

A childlike person makes a wish list for birthdays and Christmas.  But they only offer it if asked.  And if they receive a gift from the list, they are honestly surprised and delighted.  A childish person posts their list to all social media accounts and emails it to their entire contact list.  Upon receiving a gift; if it’s not from their list, they have no problem venting their disappointment to the giver.

If childlike messes up, it shatters them.  Their hearts are worn flung around them like an oversized cloak.  The guilt that they have made a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings is overwhelming because like an actual child, feelings come hard, fast, and one at a time.

Childish is never to blame.  It’s not their fault and they have a whole encyclopedia of excuses and people to blame.  In fact, they are the victim and they deserve sympathy. 

Childlike is a butterfly.  Their attention span may be short, but everything is embraced with passion and enthusiasm.  Entrenched is a concept that doesn’t even occur to them.

Childish acts impulsively and without much thought to consequences.  But when the chips start falling and questions are asked, Childish embodies stubborn.  Backing off a position, or even listening to reason is not an option. 

Childlike might try to lie on occasion, but they are so open and transparent, they’re terrible at it.  And, they know it themselves.  So, lies are neither frequent nor successful, but usually hilarious.

Childish is the center of the universe.  If the truth is in the way, it is sacrificed to the altar of expediency.  That lies fly so fast and furiously means that Childish is good at them.  In fact, sometimes even when the truth is known it’s doubted because Childish appears to completely believe every pant-burning word that falls from their lips.

Childlike loves positive attention like the puppies they are.  They also adore celebrating the specialness of the people around them.  Negative attention toward themselves breaks them.  Negative attention toward others brings out the fighting spirit of a loyal defender.

Childish needs attention like plants need sunshine.  Positive attention reinforces their pathologically elevated opinion of themselves.  But negative attention is not unwelcome.  It brings out the rabid attack dog that does not stop until the enemy has been vanquished and ground into the dust, never to rise again.

We all have both childlike and childish inside us.  The struggle is to nurture childlike but not so much that we turn into a charmless Forest Gump.

The childish should be acknowledged for a fuller understanding of ourselves, but kept muzzled.

On the television show King of the Hill there was a character named Connie Souphanousinphone who summed up this perfectly when talking to a friend, “We all have those feelings, Bobby. But, we never act on them

Thanks for your time.

The Key to Flavor City

Maxie was mortified.

I’ve been friends with Maxie for forty years.  We met when we started tenth grade at Northeastern High School, in Elizabeth City.  I was a loud fat girl, and he was a very quiet, studious young man, and one of the kindest, gentlest people I’ve ever known.  A few years after graduating, we moved separately to the Triangle.  Unfortunately, after a few more years, we lost touch.

During a class reunion, we reconnected.  I wasn’t fat, but I’m still loud, and Maxie, although remaining quiet and sweet, had turned into a hunk.  This time though, we didn’t lose touch and since then try to see other for lunch every month or so and are as close as we’ve ever been.

A couple years ago, I was honored and thrilled to be a part of his wedding.  Maxie married Mark, whose heart is as big as his booming voice, and who is happy to take charge, make a fuss, or order another round, whatever’s needed at the moment.  He’s also a darn good cook who loves to experiment and try new things in the kitchen.  We bonded over our mutual love of tacos and astonishment at Maxie’s almost total taco indifference.  

The last Tuesday of every month, their church has a potluck/community dinner.  Everyone’s welcome for a meal, regardless of church membership and ability to bring a dish.  It’s a pretty awesome tradition. 

For June’s dinner, Mark had organized a dessert competition.  They invited me to join Maxie as a celebrity judge, using the very loosest definition of the word, “celebrity”.

I made up a batch of my horseradish potato salad with peas and carrots, and Petey and I went to a potluck. 

Petey was ecstatic, because there was fried chicken.  I was pretty happy to find I had to sample ten desserts.  There was a gluten-free peach cobbler, a brownie pie, two sweet potato pies (including the best sweet potato pie I’ve ever eaten—working on the recipe for it), along with some other treats, some great, some…interesting.

The winner was a light, citrusy, very unusual key lime pie Bundt cake.

Mark’s Key Lime Pie Bundt Cake

(originally from the website, Chef-in-training.com)


1 white cake mix, dry not prepared

1 small box instant vanilla pudding, dry not prepared

4 eggs

½ cup sour cream

½ cup sugar

¾ cup oil

¾ cup key lime juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 drops green food color if desired


12 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

Zest of key limes for garnish

*Debbie here: to up the whole key lime pie vibe, add 2-3 crushed graham crackers to lime zest for garnish (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour a Bundt pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, sour cream, sugar, oil, key lime juice and vanilla. Beat for three minutes. Add green food color if you desire.

Pour into a Bundt pan that has been greased and floured.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes.

Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes. Then remove from pan and cool completely.


Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat on high until smooth. Spoon frosting into a piping bag and pipe the frosting over the top.

Sprinkle top with lime zest and graham cracker crumbs if desired.

So, why was Maxie mortified?

Because Mark made the winning cake.

And even though Maxie hadn’t been home when Mark baked the cake, and it was a blind taste test, my friend was convinced that people would think that the fix was in.  

But nobody questioned Mark’s win.  Because it’s a ridiculously delicious cake.

Thanks for your time.

I Need To See The Manager

run birdsAlmost a hundred times a day I tell Petey, and anybody else who’s not quick enough to run away that I am not at all pleased with the way summers go around here.  I have threatened for years to file a complaint.

I decided to put up or shut up.

Dear Mother Nature,mother nature smallI am writing today to express my dissatisfaction with the summers you and your association have recently been distributing to humans.  In the next seven days, the high temperatures for North Carolina range from 90 to well over 100 degrees.  Today in Kuwait it was over 120 degrees.  This week in France the mercury has risen to over 110 degrees.

How, in any sane world, is this acceptable?

beach boys

Waxed and ready to go, but they all have to share one board.

In both song and story, we have been sold a meteorological pig in a poke.  The Beach Boys in late spring are waxin’ down their surfboards, they can’t wait for June.  Bryan Adams proclaims that given a choice, he’d be back in the summer of ’69; the best days of his life.  George Gershwin assured us all that in summertime the living is easy.

I would beg to differ.sweatyThe heat is relentless.  It seems as if there is a personal, malevolent component to make everyone miserable and grumpy.  Morning, noon, or late at night, being outside for more than ten minutes results in flushing, sweating, and frizzy hair.  Everything and everyone is limp and lacks energy and enthusiasm.friends-eating-ice-cream-in-a-swimming-pool-20s-1080p-slow-motion_s2hejqvk__F0000The result is no one wants to do anything except hang out in swimming pools eating ice cream.  But people have obligations they must attend to, only a small population has access to pools, and a diet solely consisting of ice cream would quickly have a deleterious effect upon one’s health.

To resolve this problem, I have a few sincere requests.  I would appreciate your prompt attention to rectify this situation.summernicTemperature: From May until late September the average high temperature should be no more than 80 degrees with most days being a comfortable 74-77 degrees.

Humidity: A range between 35 and 50% humidity, with an inverse correlation between the temp and moisture in the air.summer rainRain: We need it, so I’ll leave it in your experienced hands, but the heat that causes soupy steam to rise from paved surfaces is completely unacceptable.  I’m a North Carolinian so I understand that hurricanes are a fact of life, but tornadoes are unnecessary and just seem mean-spirited.

Wind: A nice refreshing breeze is always welcome.hot flashesOn a personal note; as one woman of a certain age to another I am sure you can understand the discomfort I have been experiencing and the poor humor which then results.  I unfortunately do not have the power to strike with lightening the most aggravating with whom I must contend.early fall 1I look forward to your reply concerning these horrible summers that humanity has been enduring.  I understand that you are a busy woman with a large territory under your purview which could make a timely and satisfactory conclusion problematic.  Because of this I feel a fair resolution concerning this untenable weather should be achievable within ninety days.

Thank you for your time and attention,

debbie matthewsswingWell, I feel better anyway.

OMG You Guys! I Love Chili!

old school photogI had a plan.  I was going to get really pretty pictures of this brand-new pasta salad I’d invented.  Petey had shown me a few camera tricks and I was going to wow the world with this gorgeous summer dish.

There was only one problem.

I forgot.amnesiaI’ve had a life-long culinary handicap.  I’ve talked about it many times, and in various ways: baby tongue, delicate palate, wimpy mouth.  No matter the moniker, they all mean the same thing.  I have a very low tolerance for heat/spice.

My upper limit is in the poblano neighborhood.  This pecadillo isn’t a choice, I’d love to be able to order willy-nilly, from any Mexican menu, or eat Thai or Indian food, or order a Chinese dish that has a red pepper symbol on the menu without begging the proprietor to leave off the spice, and worry until I take the first bite that they’ve either ignored me or forgotten.too spicyIt literally causes me pain (and definitely not in a good way), and I can’t eat it.  But, it would be a perfect weight loss strategy—if I didn’t have a problem with wasting any food, fiery or not.

I have discovered that I can eat a pretty intense level of horseradish.  It’s a different type of heat, more nasal and “less mouth scorching-ly why God why?”  Eating it makes me feel like a big girl.


Can I take your order?

But a couple years ago I discovered chili and lime.  It’s a combination made in flavor heaven.  It’s the savory equivalent of Holmes and Watson, or Kenan and Kell.

The Kid and I love to shop at Trader Joes.  One reason is that they’re constantly coming up with products that are so good they make one wonder, why weren’t these always a thing?  Just in the spice aisle alone, the have an umami seasoning, and a jar of everything bagel sprinkle which my child adores.chili limeBut my new favorite is the chili-lime seasoning.  It’s perfectly balanced and goes great on meat, avocados, and fruit.  The other day I made pasta salad, and got crazy with it.

And that’s the dish that we devoured before I remembered to take a photo.  So, here’s the recipe:

Summer Red & Green Pasta Saladmex pasta salad½ lb. rotelle or other small extruded pasta, like shells or cavatappi, cooked according to directions and drained

 ½ rotisserie chicken, skinned, pulled, and cut into bite-size pieces

1 cup mixed grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 cup thawed frozen peas

Place all salad components into large bowl and toss.

Dressingmex dressing1 cup mayonnaise

juice from 1 lime

1 teaspoon chili lime seasoning (more or less according to taste)

salt & pepper

1/4 green onions, sliced thinly

smoked salt (optional)

gel from the bottom of the rotisserie container (optional)

Whisk together dressing ingredients and add enough very hot tap water to get it to the consistency of thick pancake batter.

Garnishmex garnishbaby spinach

chopped avocado, seasoned and dressed with a tablespoon of lime juice

Gently fold in enough dressing to make the salad a little wetter than you want the finished product, as some will absorb into the pasta.  Cover and let sit at room temp for thirty minutes.

When ready to serve, lay a pile of spinach, spoon on some salad, and top with avocado.mex saladServes 6-8.

This salad would be perfect for a barbecue.  But, it’s also a terrific cold dinner all by itself.  Or, if you’ve got company, serve it with some crusty bread, and some Mexican street corn, elote (roasted corn on the cob painted with mayo and dusted with chili lime and the crumbly Mexican cheese cotija).

And since I’m a big, grown-up, chili-eating girl, I’m having mine with Sangria.sangriaThanks for your time.

My Life As An E-Ticket

disney ticketsUntil 1982, Disneyland issued ticket books to visitors.  Each ticket was lettered A-E.  The “A” tickets were for easy, sedate rides like the merry-go-round.  The “E” ticket was good for a go on scarier rides like Matterhorn and Pirates of the Caribbean.

My life is mostly “A” tickets, with a few B’s and C’s sprinkled in.  But this week it was one long “E”.Quotefancy-4363312-3840x2160Monday night, on returning from visiting my parents, we discovered our phone and internet had gone out.  We hoped it would be back up in the morning.

Tuesday morning, the cable had gone out along with phone and internet.  Awesome.

waiting room

The wait at the cable office wasn’t too long…

We’ve chosen not to have cell phones, so had to visit the cable office in person to request service.  Since it’s across the street from Costco, we decided to run in for a bite of lunch.  Petey got a hotdog, and I got a bowl of acai sorbet covered with strawberries, blueberries, and granola. toothI was digging in, when I felt something hard in my mouth.  I had bitten down on a piece of the granola and broken a big chunk off one of my molars.  Awesome.

Our internet and phone were still out, so we ran to the library to look up my dentist’s number online and call for an appointment.  Later that afternoon our cable services were repaired.


For $1500, that crown should look something like these.

Wednesday morning my dentist informed me that the broken tooth required a crown, I could have it done on Friday, and it would be in the neighborhood of $1500.  Awesome.

Thursday, all services went down again, but I was able to call for repairs. While waiting, I decided to mow the lawn.  I finished and cleaned up the mower.  Right before I put it back in the shed, I removed my earbuds.  Mere feet from the shed, I heard loud buzzing and felt a bug smash into my ear.  Awesome.Before I could react, it crawled deep inside and we both started freaking out.  The invader flapped and fluttered, and I danced around like an electrocuted ballerina going, “Oooooh Nooooo! Oooooh Jeeeeeez! Oooooh colorful-but-unprintable-interjection!”

Petey attempted to facilitate the critter’s eviction.  Turns out, removing a bug from an ear is hard.  And, fun fact: flushing someone’s ear with cold water will give them a severe, temporary case of drunken-like vertigo. stumbleI needed to visit a medical professional, but the cable guy was coming.  Alone, I headed off to urgent care while Petey waited at home.  Awesome.

Friday morning, I sat in a dentist’s chair for 2 ½ hours while the broken molar was ground down so a temporary crown could be fitted over it (I go back in ten days for the permanent version).  Back at home while preparing to lay down, I felt something loose in my mouth; I was sure the crown had fallen off.  Awesome.dino toothI put the object in a bag, and Petey rushed me back to the dentist.  Once there, we discovered the crown in place, but my tech had no idea what the object was.  She went to get the dentist for his opinion.

While waiting for him, it hit me.  At home after the procedure, I’d pre-gamed with some Motrin to help when the anesthetic wore off.  But at that point, my mouth was still numb.  So unbeknownst to me, instead of swallowing both pills, one became lodged between my cheek and gum.  Which had eventually slipped from its hiding place.As I sheepishly left with my laughing spouse, I could hear the dental office in the midst of similar side-splitting merriment.


Gosh I hope I’m finally out of “E’s”.sleep babyThanks for your time.

Surprising Foods that are Always in My Pantry

dentistI was visiting my dentist the other day.  As in almost any situation I’m in, we were talking about food.

Jan, the dental assistant, knows I write a food column and asked me if I was a chef.  She’s not the first person to ask me that question.

Christmas from the Matthews

My slightly odd Kid.

Nope.  I’m an endlessly curious home cook with very generous teachers; friends, family, food folk I meet in the course of my writing, kind strangers, and of course, my culinary school-educated child, The Kid.

I thought for a long time that culinary school and working in a professional kitchen was the road for me.  But it’s crazy hard work—and I’m old.

line cooks

The Kid says this is like being chased for eight hours by someone holding a knife that’s on fire…it’s a fair description.

So, I am less wannabe and more dilletante.  But an extremely grateful dilletante.

One great thing about not being a chef, is that I have nothing to prove and no one to impress with the contents of my pantry.  Some of those items might be embarrassing. And some are a little out of the norm.pantry game

Here’s a tiny glimpse.  And no matter what, I have no shame in my pantry game.

goober grapeGoober Grape.  It’s that striped peanut butter and jelly product from kindergarten.  I don’t think I’ve ever had it on bread.  It is my martini, my cigarette, and my valium.  A spoon of this stuff is just what I need after a bad day.  The first scoop from a brand-new unsullied jar probably brings me way more joy than it should.porridge sesame seedsToasted sesame seeds.  I buy them at the Asian market where they’re cheaper, and because of high turnover, much fresher.  I put it in tuna, sprinkle it on my oatmeal, add it to breading.  It adds flavor, texture, vitamins and minerals.chix and starsCampbell’s chicken and stars soup.  I haven’t bought or used a can of cream soup since the (First) Bush administration.  But when you have a cold and sore throat, or are just feeling sorry for yourself, nothing goes down easier, or makes you feel so loved.  But there’s so much sodium in it, the next day I blow up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade float.

tomato paste

Most grocers carry them these days; at all kinds of price points.

A tube of tomato paste.  Many dishes I make need tomato paste.  But almost none need an entire can of it.  With a tube I can use a squidge, cap it, and next time I need some, I won’t have a dried out, furry part of a can.  It’ll be fresh and ready to go.ka espresso powderEspresso powder.  I use a bit of this whenever I cook with chocolate.  A little just enhances the cocoa flavor.  Some more gives you a mocha taste.  And there’s nothing wrong with coffee with a slight choco-kick.  You can also stir it into things like peanut butter, mascarpone, and whipped cream.  The espresso is ground super fine so there’s no grit.kraft macAnd for the last item: Kraft macaroni and cheese.  In thirty-five years of marriage I have never not had this in my pantry.  The are many nights that without Kraft dinner, as the Canadians call it, I may not have made it to morning (Honestly, it has gotten me through some very tough, very dark places).  But I use cream instead of milk; it’s comfort food, Gentle Reader, you might as well go all in.mac in a bowlIf there are any foods in my pantry you’ve never tried, give it a whirl.

But my bigger point is to celebrate what makes you and your pantry unique.  If you have a jar of pig’s feet pickled in Kool-aid, or ranch dressing soda, or even Pop Tarts, you do you.pop tartsHoney, you let that food-stained freak flag fly.freak flagThanks for your time.


Successful Escapees from the Past

“That is so weird.”

That is the response I got when I told The Kid that they used to sell warm cashews in the ladies’ lingerie department in stores.nut and sackAre you old enough to remember that?  Every time I went to Belk Tyler’s and JC Penney’s with my mom, she’d get a small bag of cashews.  They were kept in a small, lightbulb-warmed, glass-fronted case that sat on the wrap desk.  The nuts were scooped into little lined paper sacks that made a delicious, anticipatory crinkly sound when the sales lady filled them.plastic bags babiesLooking back, when I was a kid there was a lot of stuff that went on that didn’t make a lick of sense.  But at the time, those things seemed perfectly reasonable to everyone.

Since I was a kid, most of the oddness I took note of had to do with kids and the lives we led back then.  Honestly, the fact that most of us made it with hearing, sight, limbs, fingers and toes all accounted for is nothing short of a miracle.back window carI was in junior high before our family car had seatbelts.  The only baby seats were the laps of adults.  I and every kid I knew regularly napped in that shelf between the back seat and back window.  In the mid-seventies, our family owned a VW bug, and when there were more people than seats, I sat in the tiny space behind the back seat.  If we’d ever been rear ended, they would have had to use tweezers to gather me together.

Leaving us at home to play was no guarantee of safety.lawn dartI’m not sure if we had toys or potential exhibits at the manslaughter trial.  Lawn darts: sure kids, here are some metal darts with tips sharper and more lethal than the arrows headhunters use.  So make sure you throw them into the ground and not at your little brother.slip & slideSlip & slide?  More like slip and call the insurance company and see what our deductible is for personal injury.  Older children with a scientific bent were given chemistry sets—basically child-sized meth kits.underdogOur Halloween costumes came in boxes; cover-alls that tied at the neck and plastic face masks that stayed on by a thin elastic thread.  If we behaved while trick-or-treating and Mom was in a good mood, we’d get to wear them to bed.  We had choices like Barbie, GI Joe, and Underdog.  But these suits were so flammable it was like we were running around the neighborhood wearing shiny, colorful explosives.

oxygen tent

As an asthmatic with croup, Mom said I spent many nights clad only in a diaper, sleeping on a bed of ice–not unlike shrimp cocktail.  Only without the tomato/horseradish dipping sauce.

And when we did get hurt or sick, the medicine and treatments we were given would be the basis of a social services investigation these days. drugstoreUpset tummy?  Every home medicine cabinet had a bottle of Paregoric, which settled even the worst stomachaches.  The reason was it was chock full of morphine, which effectively paralyzed our innards.  A cold with a cough was treated with a heaping spoonful of medicine full of codeine.  A scraped knee could give you a touch of brain damage when the antiseptic dabbed on it was Mercurochrome, a mercury-laden wonder drug.bubble boyThinking about the vast difference between my childhood and kids of today makes me think.  I wonder if, in thirty years, parents will be shocked and appalled that when they were little, they were actually allowed to walk in the scary, dangerous outdoors on their own two feet, they used their teeth to chew potentially harmful solid food, and they hadn’t even invented bubble wrap suits yet.

old fashion plates

Now that’s my kind of crazy.  I’d love to be as fierce as these amazing women.

And I’ll be in my rocking chair at the home, laughing my mercury-addled head off.

Thanks for your time.