Sunday, March 17, 2013

Ghost Busters We're Not

“You put us in a hotel that is HAUNTED?”
Thirty minutes after booking the room for our overnighter in Sedalia, I discovered that the hotel of my choice, the glorious Hotel Bothwell in downtown Sedalia, had been featured on one of those hauntedhotel shows. Kelly and I decided not to tell the girls, but I wondered if maybe that’s why a small suite at the Bothwell cost no more than a standard room at the Best Western.
They found out when their cheerleader friends at the fairgrounds asked where they were sleeping that night. “We can’t stay there, we can’t stay there, we're hungry, we can't stay there” they shouted all the way across town. “Look,” I said in my best now-girls-let’s-be-reasonable voice, “all the so-called paranormal activity only happens on the third floor. There are seven floors, so the chances of us getting a room on the third floor are slim.”


Kelly and the girls checked in while I got the rest of our luggage, and I heard familiar screams and nervous laughter as I walked in. Kelly held up our room key, clearly marked 320. “We’re doomed,” one of the girls moaned.
It was a tense ride up the elevator. The girls didn’t notice the fabulous lobby, with the crystal chandelier, the brilliant polished wood and the gleaming brass, the lovely fabrics on the chairs and walls. It was stunning.

They jumped at every step, every shadowy doorway, every corner. They balked entering the room, holding each other and screeching. They went to the bathroom with the door open.
It took hours for them to settle down as their imaginations took hold of them. Of course, Kelly and I didn’t help, scratching on their door, turning out lights, making sudden “what’s that” sounds and “buwawhahaaaa” laughs.

It was actually a lot of fun, for at least two of us. Apparently the ghosts are accused of stealing small trinkets during the night, so Kelly and I tempted them with her cheer pin. It was still there when we awoke, so perhaps the spirits had the weekend off.

Haunted or not, I love these old grand hotels with their aging luxury. They are like scenes from movies, romantic old movies. They are packed with history, and the Bothwell, built in 1927, is no exception. Like all these old places, famous people visited often, including Harry Truman and Scott Joplin. And now, our girls.

We are going back again, but next time, sans children. The ghosts will have to decide for themselves. The girls won't be there to scare them off....

Sunday, February 24, 2013

And Aubrey Is Their Names

Like me, Aubrey has two middle names. Anne, from her mother, and Everly from, of course, the Everly Brothers. Her last name comes from me, at least until she marries. She knows all of that. What she doesn’t know is how her first name was chosen.
Partly, it is from the Bread song, as she thinks, but mostly it comes from this guy. His name is Aubrey, and I really liked his name.

When I was playing basketball, Aubrey was one of the guys who used to come. He was an excellent and generous basketball player, not afraid to take the shot, but unlike most of the guys, he wasn’t afraid to pass or to set a pick or to play defense. That always made him fun to play with, but mostly I liked him because he was a genuinely nice guy. A nice enough guy that I named a child after him.
Nearly 15 years later, I bumped in to Aubrey the other night at the store. I knew I recognized him, but couldn’t place him. Work somewhere? One of the colleges? Oh, I know. Basketball. I introduced myself, and he remembered right away. He was taken aback when I told him about his namesake, visibly moved. “Well, that is a real honor,” he said.
If he knew my Aubrey, he would know exactly how true that is.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Turns Out Cheer Season And Duck Season Aren't As Similar As One Might Think


Libby is in the thick of cheer season, with basketball games at school and regional competitions with her competitive squad nearly every weekend.
You would not believe the people who go to these things. They are all, um, enthusiastic, and involved, and LOUD and there are a LOT of them. They participate, man, and cheer for their cheerleaders.
My views on cheerleaders at sporting events are pretty well known, at least among the half dozen people who read this blog, but I’m all for these competitive teams. The girls – mostly girls, there are some boys – are in pretty good shape and do some impressive stunts.

For example, look at how high these flyers are. The ugly backdrop makes it hard to see them, but they are way up there.

Libby is very good and getting better. I’m proud of her. She doesn’t know it, but with her hair done up for cheer, with the big bows, I think she looks like Julie Newmar.

Competitions are long and exhausting for parents, but rewarding. The music is awful. And loud.

As Kelly says, “the bigger the cheer bow, the better the cheer mom.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Oh Brothers! Six Boys, A Dad And One Tired Mother

My mom asked that her six sons get together. She didn’t say, no one said, you know, one last time, or before it’s too late. She just asked that we come because she wanted to see us, so we made a plan. Some flew in, some drove in, some already live there, but the six of us spent parts of four days together for the first time in a long time. Someone said it had been eight years, someone said it had been longer, but that’s just the kind of thing some people say.
My children were worried that something was wrong with grandpa, and I’m not sure I convinced them otherwise. That thought crossed my mind, too, but actually dad seemed healthier, stronger, more alert than he’s been in years. That’s due to how well my mother takes care of him.
I have a photo from the last time the six of us were together. We look about the same, I guess. There’s just less hair and about 200 pounds more of us. There’s been some divorces and some marriages, some children and some grandchildren. There have been several moves, many career changes, and a lot of ups and downs in all the ways life can change. The one thing that remains, though, the one constant, is that we still make each other laugh.
The highlight of our time together was all the stories. Jeff called them lies, and there was some exaggeration, sure, but mostly it was a lot of “remember that time….” And we do remember the time. We don’t all remember it the same ways, but remember it we do: the time Doodle broke my teeth, the time I stabbed the knife into Gary Jo's foot, the time Jeff cracked Gary Jo upside the head with a baseball bat, the games and fights with neighbors, all the stuff kids do.

My brothers still love TV sports, so there was lots of football and hockey and a little golf. I don’t follow sports anymore, and found the broadcasts dull and uninspired, but it was nice just sitting with them. Of course, we watched on big screen TVs with those recorders that let you skip commercials. When we were boys, if the football Cardinals were at home, we had to go outside and physically turn the antennae, pointing it in the general direction of Cape Girardeau. If it was overcast, the reception was poor, but it improved when one of us actually touched the antennae pole. So we took turns standing out there in the cold, so the others could get the snowy images of our favorite team. What a difference.

I stayed with my brother Jeff and his new wife, Bridget, who took excellent care of us and fed us well. At Gary Jo’s, he showed us his baseball Cardinals room, stuffed with hundreds and hundreds of St. Louis souvenirs from the past 50 years. His basement is wall-to-wall Beatles stuff, everything you can imagine, from dolls to lunch boxes to pins to posters, again, hundreds and hundreds of really cool and rare things.

Doodle is still everyone’s favorite, wherever we went, and if you look at the photos on Facebook, most of the comments are for or about Doodle. I knew I should have learned to tap dance.
We said we would all get together a couple summers from now, and I hope we do.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

And Baby Makes Half A Dozen, So Far....

Our daughter Carrie had a healthy little boy this morning, our sixth grandchild, but the first boy born into the family in 30 years. My second child, Brad, has been surrounded by girls for those three decades, but seems to have thrived on it.

As for me, having grown up the second oldest of six brothers, with no sisters, it has been a wonderful adventure having so many daughters and granddaughters, but we are all excited about this baby boy. His name is Nico.

Here are some photos I’ve received this week of the other grandchildren, six and counting. Am I lucky or what?

Our little Sadie, just turned 2.

Brianne, Aspen and Callie, three wonderful little girls

Our Lucy, getting so big.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Is Kelly Lucky Or What (Especially At Christmas)

We were married on New Year’s Day, a Monday, a new beginning in many ways. Since then, I’ve described myself as the luckiest man on earth, and that remains true.
I am lucky to have Kelly, but here’s a modest reminder of how lucky she is to have me, a man who likes having someone to do things for.

One night, after a long day of shopping the flea markets, she set up this lovely display of her plates on our bedroom wall. She was unhappy to leave “a hole” where one more plate should go, but she was nearly falling over for want of sleep. I’ve lived with her long enough to know that once she gets to that point, she is useless for anything but sleep. As I tucked her in, she whispered, “If you loved me you would put up one more plate….” And then she was out.
I figured it couldn’t be that hard. Kelly had put up 11 plates already, and only broke two, so I could probably manage. But she was out of plates, and out of the wire racks to hang one with. So I did the next best thing, what any man in love would do to prove his devotion. I went downstairs to the cupboard and found the exactly right shaped and patterned paper plate to fill in for the time being, until we could make another trip to the thrift stores.

When Kelly awoke the next morning, she noticed the plate first thing, and showered me with affection. She was so excited, so pleased, that she took photos to share with her friends in Blogland. She is still so happy with my act of kindness, these many months later, that she refuses my offer to put up a real plate in place of the paper one. She's sentimental that way.

While installing Christmas decorations a few weeks ago, we found a small pink tree that our daughter Carrie left behind. With her permission, I set it up for Kelly in our sitting room, because I know she loves pink Christmas trees and I know how much she loves the twinkle lights. Few things bring Kelly as much joy as sock monkeys, so I thought “what better for this little tree than her favorite sock monkey,” this pink little guy with the big smile. Kelly came in and saw the tree, then saw the toy on top, and she squealed with delight. More kisses came my way, I’ll tell you that.

Kelly’s new favorite place to sit is right under this tree, with the monkey man watching. While there has been talk of having to take down all the trees and decorations in the rest of the house here in a couple of days, she has not mentioned taking down the pink tree. It just means too much to her. She's sentimental that way.

On the porch, we have a white tree, another flea market find, which Kelly says she has always wanted. The ornaments are all pretty, but they are plastic, because they are exposed to the sun and wind and rain. The topper on this tree, a colorful keepsake from one of our many trips to Wendy’s, a family favorite, has become a tradition for us, and a reminder of what really matters.
This disposable display is highlighted by a used paper cup. The neighbors might call it trash, but to us it represents the true meaning of holiday celebrations. Ultimately, everything we have is disposable, and all the gifts and foods and trappings of Christmas mean little. Some people may have a perfect Martha Stewart magazine-cover Christmas, but neglect each other. What matters, what really lasts, is our family, each person, each individual. The love and kindness that we share, the bonds we form that will never be broken, that is what Christmas really means, and the humble little tree on our humble little porch helps us to never forget.

Here, Aubrey shows that she has learned the lesson, too. Awwww….

So I ask you. Is Kelly lucky or what?

Enough Already With The Ancient Christmas Carols


One drudgery of Christmas season – which, as you know, is much, much too long, starting in mid-October – is the tired old Christmas carols the stores insist on playing. Perhaps they assume it makes people more, what, festive, to hear those sleigh bells in the snow, but mostly it just annoys people.

We need some new Christmas music, not just more tedious remakes by whatever singers happen to be popular today.

Every year I try to buy one or two Christmas CDs, or downloads the past two years, hopeful that the new recordings will make a difference, but generally they do not. This year was an exception, as I came across some pretty good music, and added two songs to my favorites list.

First was Christmas Cello by Steven Sharp Nelson, aka one of The Piano Guys. The entire set is wonderful, perfect for decorating the tree, as we did (at least one of our trees), or for just having as background while reading, or talking, or doing dishes. My favorite is Simple Gifts, which is simply beautiful.

Next was Christmas Island by the one and only LeonRedbone. The title track is excellent, but my favorite, barely beating out That Old Christmas Moon, is Christmas Ball Blues. Great for dancing in the kitchen with the one you love, and if you ender up under the mistletoe, even better.
So here’s my updated list of Five Favorite Christmas Songs, with a tie for the bottom spot:

  1. Merry Christmas Baby, Elvis Presley (another great one for dancing in the kitchen, when the kids aren’t home)
  2. Baby, It’s Cold Outside, Brian Setzer and Ann-Margret (although the Ann-Margret Al Hirt version is much more sensual)
  3. Christmas Ball Blues, Leon Redbone
  4. Christmas Wish, She & Him
    Simple Gifts, Steven Sharp Nelson
What are your favorites?
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