Ode to Black Friday

As I wandered the Altamonte Mall on the day before Thanksgiving, I wondered if Black Friday was coming off life support. There were definite signs that customers were being wooed back to the brick-and-mortar shops. I even spotted this team stocking the stores with goodies to sustain the merchants through the “big day.”

When my children were young, I looked forward to shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. I didn’t even mind getting up pre-dawn to do so. I have wonderful memories of picking up my mom and heading out for the Black Friday Shopping Expedition. We would use the newspaper to map out our path. (By the way, that is my favorite type of mapping.) You would need two hands to hold that massive issue with its dozens of Black Friday ads.

There were always bargains to be found. JC Penney would give away ornaments like this one from 1996. There would be scratch-offs for prizes and discounts. The jewelry shops often gave away goodie bags with little “gold” charms inside them. Target and Home Depot gave great incentives for stopping in early. Early meant around 5 am. That was doable.

Eventually my mom lost interest in the adventure and my daughter was only too interested in stepping into this grown-up outing. We always hit the mall, especially Penney’s, and Target and Bealls. I do admit to going to Walmart a time or two, but for me, it just wasn’t worth the crazy.

Confession: Over the past five years I have been losing interest in Black Friday. Probably because as I have gotten older, and I’d rather not exhaust myself in the pursuit of bargains. My daughter, however, has not reached that point. I dedicate this post to her. She is in mourning over Black Friday, which by all accounts from the last two years has gone from life-support to flatlining.

She loved going out at midnight on Thanksgiving and staying out for 12 hours was not uncommon for her. I drew the line on that one, but I have joined her for a few hours during a more civilized time on that Friday. Mainly, I’d do this out of guilt. You know the power your adult children can wield – especially if they throw in the word tradition. It was a tradition, but like so many traditions, it changes through the years and generations.

Even though I was fairly certain of my Black Friday plans, I picked up the local Orlando Sentinel. It was so skinny! I also had sticker shock as it cost $5.35!

Bob and I have one all-important stop on Black Friday, and we don’t have to be there until 9 am. If you read me at all regularly, you can probably guess it’s Costco. Who can resist $8 off a pork loin or $10 off a Butterball turkey? Not me. And as of this year, not my daughter either. She sadly admitted to me over the phone that Costco had the best Black Friday deals. I couldn’t see her face, but I think there was a little catch in her voice. At least her family of six will be eating pork and turkey for the next few months.

We will tell our grandchildren of those days of old. The days when Black Friday meant something. The days of people being trampled in hot pursuit of a bargain. The days of people camping out in front of Best Buy to snag that new mega-TV or gaming system. The days before Black Friday became a joke that lasted all the way through November. Sigh. Those were the days. How did we get here? I’m putting a lot of the blame on COVID. I’m reminiscing about the song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” by Peter Seeger.

Here’s my rendition.

Ode to Black Friday

(Where Have all the Sales Gone)

Where have all the sale ads gone

Long time passing

Where have all the sale ads gone

Long time ago

Where have all the sale ads gone

COVID took them one by one

When will they please return?

Oh when will they, return?

Where have all the papers gone

Long time passing

Where have all the papers gone

Long time ago

Where have all the papers gone?

Gone to online every one.

Oh when will they return?

When will they ever return?

Where have all the shoppers gone

Long time passing

Where have all the shoppers gone

Long time ago

Where have all the shoppers gone

Buying on Amazon every one

They never leave their home

They never leave their home.

A classic for you – Joan Baez singing “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”

Bonus weird Thanksgiving product

The Pursuit of Happy Meals

What happens when the Happiest Place on Earth intersects with McDonald’s Happy Meals? For this writer, it revives a part of me that is a little embarrassing to tell you about – a part of me that I thought was dead and buried.

It was an ordinary September morning, a week before Bob and I left for his 50th High School Reunion. The morning news anchor reported on Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. She added that McDonald’s would be joining in the celebration with their Happy Meal toys. The celebration would include 50 – yes, you read that right – 50 different toys; and the promotion would begin on September 14, the very day we set to leave on our trip.

I made a note on my calendar, not that I would forget this auspicious event. I seem to remember hearing Bob utter a sound like this:

I interpreted his groanings in two words – he knew. He knew he would have no reason not to pull through McDonald’s on our way up to the D.C. area. We typically start our trips with an egg McMuffin. That would be Opportunity #1. Of course, you can’t throw a dead squirrel without hitting a McDonald’s along I-95, so lunch would be Opportunity #2. There was also a good possibility that I would have to use the restroom whenever we passed a McDonald’s sign. Endless Opportunities! Poor Bob! He was doomed.

We arrived at our son, Joe’s, house in South Carolina on the 14th in time to pick up dinner for the four of us adults and stop at McDonald’s to get Happy Meals for our 6 and 2-year-old grandsons. I was excited to have someone be excited about happy meals with me. Sadly, when Bob and Joe returned home with the two meals for the boys, we opened them to discover Mickey Mouse on a train. It was the great switcheroo! That was a toy from last year! Oh, McDonald’s! Who do you think you’re dealing with here?

Lucky for them, it was Bob they were dealing with. Bob saw Mickey and fell right into their trap. The boys were happy enough, but I knew the truth.

Here’s a little backstory for you. When we were raising our four kids, Friday was lunch at McDonald’s day. I would get everyone, including me, a happy meal. I would strive to get complete sets and have one set that was never removed from the wrapper (MIB or NRFB, mint in box, or never removed from box). When I say strive, that’s what I mean. I would often pull up to the speaker, ask what toy was in the happy meal, and if we already had that one, it was on to the next McDonald’s. I look at this as perfectly reasonable behavior. My children, on the other hand, just wanted to eat.

This behavior got so bad, I mean interesting, that my oldest son, Jesse, wrote a completely fictional essay for a school assignment about me assaulting a cashier at McDonald’s because the Barbie happy meal toy had a scratch on her nose. Seriously – you don’t believe I’d do that, do you? I wouldn’t hurt a fly. Well, I did demand, I mean ask for, a flawless Barbie (and I got one). I mean, Barbie wouldn’t put up with that lack of perfection and neither would I. My children ate quietly in the corner. They were so well behaved!

Our next stop was at our daughter’s house in North Carolina, where I knew I would have one excited 9-year-old granddaughter who would join in this pursuit of happiness as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. Layna is always happy, and she was anxious to join in the search. After a few days, we were on the road again, and Layna had five Disney 50th Celebration Happy Meal Toys.

After returning to Florida, I kept adding to our collection. I wasn’t trying to get all 50 – honest I wasn’t. There were some I particularly wanted, and I found most of them, but it was becoming challenging to find new toys and, when we did find them, to eat yet another happy meal. Often, I would get lunch for my mom. I told her I’d buy (hey, big spender!), but the toy was mine. After about the third time, she strangely was no longer hungry at lunchtime.

My sister, Linda, also got the bug. I guess there’s no doubt we are related. She displayed her treasures in her office, and before long the entire office was on the look-out for additions to her collection. We made checklists to keep everything straight. I intend to send most of mine to Layna, but I couldn’t help but display Groot and Rocket (Guardians of the Galaxy). I’m a fan.

To fully understand how challenging collecting different toys is, I’ll share how I do it. I go inside the restaurant. Here’s how it would go down:

McDonald’s Employee: You need to order at the kiosk, please.

Me: Okay, but first could you tell me which toys you have in your happy meal?

This was met with different responses – from having a variety of toys laid out on the counter for me to see, to a curt, “We just have Daisy.” (Everybody had Daisy.)

Then I would take it from there. It’s really quite exhausting. If Bob was with me, he’d wait in the car. He loves me, but there are limits!

One night when we were having hamburgers from our grill for dinner, they looked so weird without a toy next to them. I think this was when Bob began to worry.

That’s better!

I assured him that I had found a McDonald’s that would sell the toys without the meal. While he was relieved, we both knew the truth – this search unleashed the collector that I thought was dead.

Frankenstein Its Alive GIF - Frankenstein Its Alive GIFs

Now the promotion is over. I collected over 20 toys and will be sharing most of them with Layna. She and I facetimed over the last weeks and it was so much fun! (I did hear Dena, her mom/my daughter comment about how she was reliving her childhood!) Now it’s time to stop going to McDonald’s for a while, except for coffee. When I got coffee from there yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice that the next promotion is from the new Marvel movie. My granddaughter, Ella, loves Marvel. I think I’m in trouble.

One last thing – I’m still looking for Celebration Mickey and R2D2, if you can hook me up that would be great. They don’t even have to be NRFB!

Touché, Olympics

The sounds of the Olympics have been background music in our house since the opening ceremony. The chant, “Go, USA,” is heard every night. We love our athletes. We also love learning about the athletes, some of whom have overcome so much to compete. Being a certified non-athlete, I don’t truly understand what goes on in a person’s brain that has them putting it all on the line for a personal best or a medal. I mean, I’m very competitive, but I’ve never pushed through playing Scrabble while nursing a splinter in my eye or a broken finger or even a mild headache.

I also have never had a personal coach invest time and energy in my pursuit of excellence at pinochle or our latest board game craze, Azul Summer Pavilion. If I did have a coach and by some miracle I actually won a competition on any level, I hope he would go crazy with enthusiasm like Dean Boxall did when Ariarne Titmus won the women’s 400m freestyle, dethroning USA star and one of my personal favorites of this Olympics, Katie Ledecky. Even though he nearly scared this unfortunately placed young woman out of her mind with his near psychotic celebration, I have to say, this is one of my very favorite Olympic moments, which is something that this young woman and I likely do not have in common. My hat is off to her – I don’t know if I would have been able to keep my composure like she did. She deserves a medal.

Have you noticed that these sports are really a slice of summer life, albeit on a different scale? A lot of these same events take place in our own yards or communities. Of course, we never had cameras broadcasting pick-up basketball games in the driveway, badminton or volleyball in the backyard, bike riding, swimming and diving in the pool, boxing matches among our kids, a canoe ride down the Wekiva River, or the church softball league, but I do have some treasured photos of all of these activities. I even practiced archery in my backyard as a kid.

Just another boxing match between a couple of my kids many years ago.

My granddaughter rides horses, my grandsons play football. There are several golfers in the family. My sister practiced gymnastics in our living room constantly when we were kids. Bob wrestled in high school. My daughter-in-law went to college on a volleyball scholarship. Another daughter-in-law is an excellent tennis player. Table tennis – bring it on.

All of these sports make up our life in some fashion. They all make sense to me. Except for fencing. Even Taekwondo, Judo, and Karate have their place for fitness and self-defense. They could come in handy. Shooting – I get that. But fencing simply doesn’t play into everyday life. For instance, someone approaches you when you make the poor choice of walking alone in a dark alley. A judo chop or karate throw would deter them. But where am I going to hide my sword? Can I get that through TSA when traveling? Are there retractable ones available? Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi!

I see tennis courts all over the place, but where can I go to have a bout of fencing? I don’t think I could retally stab somebody. I’d more likely pull a hammy in the process and leave myself even more vulnerable. I don’t want to be touched, that’s for sure; but I would love to say, “foiled again,” while holding a sword. With my athletic prowess, I think I should stick with Wii Sports Resort. I’d say the only part of me that could be injured there would be my pride, but in a recent bowling game with my six-year-old grandson, I think I pulled a muscle. (Please don’t tell him.)

Youngest grandson sticks the landing in the toddler climbing event.

I’m So Embarrassed

As I told you in my last post, June was a big month for us. Bob retired and we did some traveling. Looking back on that post, I realized there was more to tell than our effort to have steamed crabs for dinner. In hindsight it seemed wrong that I didn’t mention how proud I was of Bob as I attended his retirement luncheon. (I was extremely proud.) The words “workhorse” and “finisher” were among the many accolades he received.

It also seemed wrong that I didn’t focus on our family being together for the first time in years. We witnessed our youngest grandson seeing the grandeur of the ocean for the first time and take those first tentative steps into the water. Our eight grandchildren totally enjoyed their cousin time, and our kids and kids-in-law were reunited over approximately 300 games. Yes, we are gamers, and yes, I tend to exaggerate. We only brought 30 games (and all but about 2 were played).

I also didn’t tell you about our trip to Stanardsville, Virginia, Williamsburg or Monticello, but there’s time for that later. By now you understand the power steamed crabs has over me. It’s a little embarrassing that they were the first thing I wrote about. In all fairness, though, they were really good, and we hadn’t polished off a table full of crabs in a coon’s age! Even now, a month after we got out the mallets and crab crackers, I can still close my eyes and smell Old Bay Seasoning. (I may need to talk to my doctor about that.)

Oops, there I go again. Back to the family – there were 18 of us gathered in Hilton Head. Our 8 grandchildren range from 2.5 to 18 years old. The power of family was on full display as these kids embraced each other. There is something special about cousins. Even with this wide range of ages, the interactions were sweet (and noisy). Watching the older cousins care for and play with the younger was a gift to me. How I wish we all lived close to each other! But how thankful I am that we can be together despite distance.

They are all pretty cute and amazing, so I’ve included a few pictures of them. Trust me, I could have really bogged down this post with pictures, but I want you to keep reading.

The Beach from crazy to serene

Being a mom to Bob’s and my four kids has been the joy of my life. When grandchildren were added, my cup literally ran over with happiness. One thing I have really missed since we all haven’t lived in the same locale, is having an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. My mom started doing those backyard hunts when my kids were young, and I have taken up the mantle, though sporadically now. When there are only two local grandkids and they’re both teenagers, a bit of the thrill of the hunt is missing. My two youngest grandkids had never participated in the hunt! I saw my opportunity for our June gathering. As Christians, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ every day, so why not do an egg hunt in June.

Who remembers The Unknown Comic from The Gong Show? I present, the Unknown Egg Hunters.

I have kept the plastic eggs over the years and had over a hundred of them. Even with the help of our kids and their spouses, it took a little while to hide them all. But at last, we lined up the grands and the hunt began. We released them by age to even the playing field. That Anderson competitive blood flows through their veins and they were off. Eggs and children were everywhere. At the end of the hunt, prizes were chosen.

We also did a jigsaw puzzle competition. Ella (our second grandchild) is a huge fan of Marvel, as am I. When I came across 48-piece puzzles in a tin with Marvel superheroes gracing the front, I made it my business to find 6 of them. It took four different stops to realize my goal, but I did it.

Our eldest grandson, Manning, and his mom came in first place

I am relatively sure I was much more excited about these puzzles and the whole competition to complete them than anyone else. Did they not realize that each puzzle came with an infinity stone? The older six grandchildren each chose an adult to team with them and the games began. When Layna (the youngest competitor) chose Bob, I felt like they were a shoo-in. Honestly, when it comes to puzzles, he is a ringer. But I hadn’t counted on them getting The Incredible Hulk, which is mostly a mass of green. At least they didn’t get angry when they came in last.

Jett enjoys finishing before Bob (Bumpa)

Games and puzzles and walks on the beach with our tribe are tucked away in my memory. I smile when I think of this group of people whom I love more than I can describe. I’m thankful that God made families and thankful that he gave us each one of ours.

Hilton Head sunset

Graduation

There comes a time in every kid’s life when their parents embarrass them. (Many times would be more accurate.) But there are also times when that kid is ready for it, craving it, even welcoming hearing their name shouted by those who love them. Graduations are at the top of those occasions.

Mia

There was a discussion as to how our family would respond when our granddaughter Mia crossed the stage to receive her high school diploma. Would we whoop and holler? Might that embarrass her; was that our goal? Would there be instructions to save applause until after the last graduate? Would we follow those instructions? (Absolutely not!)

Mia’s was 33rd from the last name called on that sunny May morning. Having been an Anderson for over 45 years, I’ve grown accustomed to having our names called early, but our daughter Dena married a man that took her to the back of the alphabet. Talk about adjustments!

The “A” part of the alphabet was almost complete when the man in front of me jumped up and cheered. That sure looked like a proud papa! I patted him on the shoulder and congratulated him. Then I joked, “Are you going to duck out now?”

“Nope,” he replied. “That’s not my kid. I was just helping the couple in front of me.”

I didn’t even hear the couple in front of him.

Somewhere in the “J’s” he again cheered loudly. The lady and her son to our right gave a nice round of applause at the same time.

I asked, “Is that one yours?”

“Nope. Just adding support,” he said as he looked to my right.

“Who is yours?”

“Mine is Jenna in the “M” section. And I’m not her dad. I’m her uncle. I’ve been to all my nieces’ and nephews’ graduations.”

His sister looked at us and smiled. I’m not sure if she was prouder of Jenna or of her brother, who by now had a following of his own.

Jenna’s uncle

We joined them in shouting for Jenna M, and Jenna’s uncle helped us in our celebration as Mia crossed the stage. Mia heard us and there was no embarrassment, just a feeling of being loved and supported.

There was such a sense of community, mutual support, and hope as we sat on those bleachers watching the next generation. I am confident that Mia has a bright future in store for her with a lot of surprises along the way. She trusts in God, and that is the best way to walk into her future. We are so proud of her!

Bob and I with Mia – May 29, 2021

Seasons and Sneezins (or Issues with Tissues)

When Bob and I were first married back in 1975, our budget didn’t allow for frivolous items such as Kleenex or napkins. We bought toilet paper and paper towels, and they did double-duty, i.e. paper towels were used for napkins and toilet paper was used for Kleenex. Of course, never reused, especially after attending to the “duties” of life. (I thought I’d throw the word “duty” in there for my adult kids who still smile or chuckle when they hear the word. Confession: I do, too. Duty.)

Kleenex, like the word Xerox, is a brand name, which I was not aware of until I had to shop on my own and realized there was a generic version of tissues at a friendlier price. I have retrained myself to call them tissues out of respect to all the tissues who were miscalled Kleenex. That’s a lot to bear for a product. I’ve been called by my sisters’ names for my entire life, so I know how they feel.

Early on, I only bought tissues for “company.” Bob and I continued to unroll T.P. whenever our noses ran, but I would draw the line at getting a roll out for guests wearing short sleeves who happened to sneeze while they visited us. That, my friends, is what hospitality looks like.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

By the time we were raising our four children, I saw the wisdom of having real tissue boxes instead of the kids unrolling toilet paper every time they had colds. I was smart enough to dole them out as needed.

When I became a grandmother and the kids or grandkids got sick, I would send care packages consisting of Lysol, Gatorade and tissues, because I knew they would not own a box of tissues. They had to go through the toilet paper for Kleenex stage of their life like all of us do. By this season of my life I bought tissues from Costco, so I always had plenty.

Fast forward: Bob and I became empty nesters in 2015. We kept that title for about eight months before a parade of friends and family lived with us off and on culminating in my parents moving in back in 2017. Mom continues to live here.

We’ve been helping support our elderly parents for ten years, and we’ve learned a lot. One of the most important things is that you can never have enough tissues and it better be the good stuff. None of this sandpaper-rough one-ply garbage.

Mom told me she was running low on Kleenex (she doesn’t use the word tissues and that’s okay). I pulled the remaining three boxes from the linen closet and gave them to her. Before I handed them off, I said, “You can take the box from the kitchen if you want.”

She likes having a box there. That generation likes having a box everywhere. I’ve learned that this is part of their wisdom. They don’t move as quickly as we do, and a sneeze can surprise you. Nobody wants that.

Out of curiosity, I thought I’d take inventory of our boxes that are in use. Now I, too, have had my eyes opened to the wisdom of having tissues around. Not only for sneezes, but sad movies and books, bad news on the phone, watching the nightly news – all of these can have me reaching for a tissue.

Counting the boxes was one of those moments of self-assessment and contemplation. I have lived through so many different tissue seasons in my life. I’ve gone from zero boxes, to one or two, and now to ten open boxes of tissues. Ten!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

What has happened to me, I asked myself. I must be either a hoarder or we’re a family of perpetually runny-nosed people. There is a box in each of our three bathrooms. (Since COVID, I don’t want people using our precious toilet paper for anything except its designated use.) Basically, any place where someone can sit or lie down in our house has a trusty box of tissues right there.

Is this the person I have become? A hoarder or one who lives in fear of runny noses or errant sneezes and panics over the thought of unpreparedness?

Or perhaps there is a third option. Maybe I’ve simply entered into a new tissue season – one that could involve having tissues up my sleeve at the ready for whatever the day may bring.

Nay. I refuse to go there. I will never be that woman. I may be what Southerners call a “seasoned” citizen and I am a magician’s daughter, but you will not find me pulling anything out of my sleeve no matter what the future may bring.

I don’t mind getting older, but thinking that I could be on the precipice of that time of my life where tissues have such elevated importance is enough to make me cry, but no worries, I have tissues right here beside me.

Joy in the Little Things

There was joy in Target this week as I ventured there to make a quick purchase, which of course I could not find. No big deal though as I strolled down the cereal aisle and found this!

It takes me back to raising my kids when anything Star Wars was an extra treat. I believe the force was with me, guiding me to find the only remaining Mandalorian Cereal in Central Florida!

I had to go through an asteroid field to get to the cash register, but I assure you that no people were injured during the purchase of this cereal. To me, that was a little Christmas present.

I was also super excited earlier this month when I found Elf Cereal. I snatched up two boxes – one for each set of grandkids that I’d see in December. I’m not sure who gets more excited about it, them or me. Honestly, it’s probably me, and that’s just fine. It truly is the little things.

With that in mind, I present:

An Ode to Cereal

Twas the week of Christmas; I was in my car

Shopping for presents, both close-by and far;

I stopped in a Target and there on the shelf –

Mandalorian Cereal – so proud of myself.

The grandkids are coming much to my delight;

But only one box might just trigger a fight.

No worries, they’ll share. It’ll all be just fine,

With Santa Claus coming they wouldn’t dare whine.

Besides there are other breakfast treats, it’s true.

Like this pretty green box of Elf Cereal. Whew!

These are two of the small things that bring me great joy.

To me they’re better than a fancy big toy.

The grandkids may protest and might make a face,

So we bought them other presents, just in case.

Target wasn’t the only joy filled store for me this week. I waited at the check-out in Publix as the store manager bagged my groceries. One of the employees came up to him:

“There’s no soap in the ladies room. I mean no soap. Like somebody took the soap dispenser.”

“That’s a new one,” he replied. “I think we have a spare. Who does that kind of thing?”

I replied, “I’m not sure who did it, but one thing’s for sure. You’ll never find them because they got away clean.”

Merry Christmas!

The Old Family Recipe

The year was 1975, I was a newlywed and would be spending my first Thanksgiving with my in-laws and away from my family. What would the holiday be like without my mom’s stuffing, not to mention without my mom and dad? I’m not one to be dramatic, but it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving.

Bob never really cared about stuffing. This was one of the many ways we differed. To me, the stuffing was of more importance than the turkey, which simply served as an elaborate, weird, stuffing cooking device. I never thought about how disgusting it was for people to prepare food to be inserted into a turkey cavity, only to be scooped out of said cavity and served in a fancy china bowl to their loved ones. Pretty gross, but I digress

By mid-October 1975, I was contemplating making my own stuffing, but alas that was among the many, many things that I was clueless as to how to cook. I waited until a Sunday afternoon to call my mom for help. (This was way before cell phones, and long-distance calls were cheaper on Sundays.) In those days, we corresponded via letter through the Post Office, so she said she’d send me the recipe.

Mom’s letter outlined the intricacies of her prized stuffing. I wish I could tell you that I made it and it turned out great, but I chickened (or maybe turkeyed) out. In hindsight it was probably a good thing that I didn’t try to compete with my Home Economics mom-in-law’s cornbread stuffing. What woman wants her cocky new daughter-in-law to bring in a superior stuffing as a holiday icebreaker? And in my hands, who was to say it would have been superior, or even edible? But when I tasted hers that Thanksgiving afternoon, I understood why Bob wasn’t wild about it, and shed a little tear as I thought about what used to be.

Forty-five years later, I still have that letter. It is precious to me. Every year I get it out and read it. I love hearing how my nephew, their first grandchild, walked for the first time. It’s a sweet walk down memory lane. I have often thought I should frame it and hang it on my wall.

Since that time, I have made this stuffing dozens of times, and Bob loves it. I’ve tweaked the recipe a little, but it’s basically the same. My sister, Chris, and my daughter Dena both continue with this same recipe. It’s a cherished family tradition.

This Thanksgiving my mom sat at our kitchen table and watched me chopping celery and onions and making bread cubes. We chatted and I read her the letter. “This recipe is from Aunt Audrey, isn’t it?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” Mom replied. “I think I got it out of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.”

“No, no, no. It’s from Aunt Audrey – not Betty Crocker. It’s a family recipe! I think I remember you telling me that,” I pleaded.

“I’m pretty sure it’s from Betty Crocker,” she said.

I was crestfallen. Betty Crocker! I’d been living a lie my entire married life! I spiraled into an identity crisis wondering if this woman sitting here was really my mom. Could Betty Crocker be my mother? Did she abandon me at birth and present me to my “parents” along with a recipe for turkey stuffing?

I pulled my own Betty Crocker Cookbook from the shelf. It was a wedding present and taught me a lot, but I didn’t want to give Betty credit for the family recipe. I wanted that to be from Mom or at least Aunt Audrey. But there it was on page 281 of my tattered cookbook.

I read from the book and then read from Mom’s letter. I had to admit they were the same. “…Turn into deep bowl. Add remaining ingredients…”

I looked at my mother, who was unphased by the unearthing of the largest plagiarism plot I had ever been exposed to, and said, “Why didn’t you just tell me it was on page 281?”

I guess we’ll never know. Please, don’t tell my sister and Dena. Sometimes it’s better to live with a wonderful illusion.

Veterans Day 2020

On this Veterans Day 2020, a fitting commentary to this year was provided by our American flag. It typically flies proudly from the roof in our front yard, but yesterday I found it on the sidewalk, slightly worn and tattered. It looks like it was pulled off its bracket by winds no doubt related to Tropical Storm/Hurricane Eta, which is traveling up the west coast of Florida. (I should add that it is late in this busiest-on-record hurricane season. We’ve used up the alphabet and moved into Greek. I’m not even surprised, 2020, but I digress.)

It’s been a rough year for our flag, which sadly will no longer see the light of day. But I still love it and all for which it stands. Flags can be replaced – they are just symbols, after all. But today I am thinking about people whom I love who fought for what that flag represents. Specifically, I’m reminiscing about my dad, Arthur L. Manning, Jr., and my uncle, Luther C. Cox.

My dad was a gunner in a B-29 in the Pacific campaign. During part of his tour, a war correspondent, Richard Tregaskis from the Saturday Evening Post, flew with his crew. My dad’s face is one of the young men surrounding Tregaskis in a featured picture in the series of articles entitled Road to Tokyo.

I don’t remember hearing much about the war when I was a kid. Perhaps it was because memories can be painful, or more likely it was because I was a kid and didn’t ask. In Dad’s golden years, though, he’d talk freely. He kept up with his crew or their widows until he was the only one left. So much so that their names were familiar to me. I am sure he was the last of them because he was the one who kept them together in each other’s hearts and minds all those decades after the war. Dad died three years ago at the age of 94. In the last years of my memories of him, he’s always wearing his hat. He was a proud veteran and loved his country fiercely.

Uncle Luther was a navigator of a B-24 bomber in World War II. He survived the crash of the “Double Trouble” when he was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea on a cold January day in 1943. For the next two years and three months, he would be a guest of the Fuhrer; but he survived that, too. He retired an Air Force lieutenant-colonel and went on to teach ROTC at Orlando’s Oak Ridge High School. Also surviving his internment was his journal, which was featured in the Florida magazine of The Orlando Sentinel on June 24, 1984. He published a book, Always Fighting the Enemy, a World War II Chronicle, which includes writings and drawings from his journal along with stories he kept in his heart.

Uncle Luther in Italy

I spent a lot more time with my uncle after I was married because we lived in the same state. He was ten years to the day older than my mom, and we celebrated their birthdays together. He was kind of a legend to me. I was and still am in awe of his surviving being shot down and all that time in POW camps. There is so much about him to admire. He and his wife adopted two children from Europe and brought them home to the states. I have many fond memories with Mark and Dee, and even though we live in opposite corners of the country, we visit with Dee and her husband about once a year. Thanks, Uncle Luther!

On October 31, Bob and I went to the Lockheed Martin Space and Air Show here in Sanford with our son and his family. I was pumped to see the Thunderbirds, but I had no idea that the entire program was going to thrill my heart and stir up so many patriotic juices. At the beginning of the show, several new Air Force recruits were sworn in, which moved me to tears.

Following is a little glimpse of the air show. Enjoy; and God, bless America!

It was a little loud for our grandsons.

The Importance of Knowing What’s Important

There’s been a lot of important stuff going on this past week. So many special days to celebrate! National Daughter Day. National Son Day. Drink a Beer Day. Coffee Day. Whew, it’s been busy.

I’m not sure who started this national craze, but now that the train has left the station, there is no telling how many national days lie ahead.

I do know that the first Thursday of May celebrates a National Day of Prayer. The way 2020 is going, I think we should extend that into a National Year of Prayer.

I’ve done my research so you can be prepared to celebrate the daylights out of October. Get ready. Today is National Black Dog Day, National Hair Day, Fire Pup Day, and National Homemade Cookies Day (at last something I can sink my teeth into).

The list for the month is extensive and you can find it if you click here.

Some of my favorites are:

  • National Produce Misting Day, Oct 2 (Is once a year enough?)
  • World Smile Day, Oct 4 (challenging due to COVID)
  • National Get Funky Day, Oct 5 (necessary due to COVID – Spread a little sunshine.)
  • National Greasy Food Day, Oct 25 (Do we need a day for this?)
  • National Hermit Day, Oct 29 (simple due to COVID)
  • National Candy Corn Day, Oct 30 (I don’t get this one. Why waste my sugar calories on candy corn when M&Ms are available?)

This is lots of fun, but the trouble with all these national days is, in my humble opinion, if everything is important then perhaps nothing is. Do I need a day to celebrate my sons and daughters? We used to call that their birthdays. Am I less of a mom because I didn’t pen a fitting tribute to these wonderful people? I’m going with a big NO. I will tell you, though, just for the record, God has blessed me with the most wonderful children and now children-in-law and grandchildren. I think they know that’s how I feel even if I don’t participate in National Days of tribute to them. (To quote Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”)

What’s most important to me is remembering how important the truly important is. That would include The Four F’s:

  1. Faith in God
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Fellow man

Whatever we can do to celebrate these is okay with me.

And while we’re adding in National Days, perhaps we could make this day the “National Day to Share Bonnie’s Blog Day.” While that’s not truly important, I could celebrate that!

My parents in front of the church where they were married,

which is the church we attended when I was a baby.

Photo taken 2007