Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

It’s a Girl!

I have always known I was adopted. My mom used to tell me how my very wealthy grandfather whisked his pregnant daughter out of Philadelphia and hid her at the Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers in Wheeling, West Virginia, until she had me. I was told the story of how some strange woman met my parents on a street corner and handed me over to them a few days after my birth. I was also told my birth mother was very young and had to love me very much when she had to decide to give me up for adoption so I may have the chance for a better life.

Well, two of those statements were true. I will find the Philadelphia story was untrue.

Before the “invention” of the internet, it was difficult to conduct a search for a birth parent. And I just didn’t care to know anything when I was a teenager. I even participated in a debate on WKKW in high school and was on the side of “Adoption Records Should Never Be Opened.”

But, my interest piqued a bit when I came home from college one weekend and a family member came to me with an interesting story. She went to a club and happened to see a girl my age who looked exactly like me and had similar mannerisms. After watching her for a while, she approached her and asked her if she was by any chance adopted.

She was taken aback, and then replied that, yes, she WAS adopted. She proceeded to tell  her birth date. It matched, along with the city, and the hospital. My family member was sure she was my twin and we just had to have been separated at birth.

So, it was arranged for us to meet, and I soon came face to face with Joyce, my possible twin. We brought our birth certificates,  talked for a while, comparing similarities, quirks, and medical conditions, and left with the promise we would get a blood test to make sure we were twins. I left the next day to go back to college, and along the way, lost her phone number and couldn’t remember her last name. All I knew and all I still know is that her name was Joyce and she was from Steubenville, Ohio. Well, that is, I believe her name was Joyce. It is funny how time has a way of making some memories foggy. For example, I have no idea where we met. Not a clue. I think we were at a kitchen table, but it could have been in a restaurant. I do not remember at all.

My brother, David, who is also adopted, made the trip to our state capital of Charleston, West Virginia, to search for our birth certificates. Imagine my surprise when he came back with two interesting pieces of information. The first was a birth certificate, but this one was different. This had the name of my birth mother, but her name was barely marked out.

 

I couldn’t believe it. I thought since adoption records were sealed, I would never know who my birth mother was. But, here was her name, staring at me. David also found out that Nancy, my birth mother, married and had two children in 1968. Their names were Mary Alice and Melissa Anne. So, she had another set of twins twelve years later?

I’m not going to go into detail about how David found all the Nancy Freelands who were born in 1939 and how my then-husband drove six hours into Ohio to meet one of them. That funny story will be saved for when I write my book.

Fast forward to 2017. After years of typing Nancy Jane Freeland into the google search bar and hunting for “Joyce Steubenville”  and “Melissa Mitchell,” on facebook, my daughter suggested I submit some saliva in a 23andme DNA kit.  I bought her a kit for Christmas and her results were interesting, but it was hard to decifer for sure who was on her father’s side and who was on my side. And I had just turned 60 and thought it was time to find my twin once and for all. I know what many of you may be thinking:

“Why did you wait so damn long?”

I guess I still feel that it is an intrusion.

But, I ordered the kit and was disappointed when I got the results. There was not one Freeland surname in any of my matches. My daughter, Alex, felt perhaps someone just happened to write down the false name, Nancy Jane Freeland, as other falsehoods prevailed. For example, my name at birth was Deborah Lee, but the director at the Crittenton Home answered a letter I wrote to her, stating that sometimes a nurse would name a baby so something would be written down before the adoption process concluded. So, maybe they did the same on a birth certificate, to again, hide the identity of the birth mother.  In that same letter, I also found out, the agency also lied to adoptive parents about the lives of the birth mothers. So, it was disappointing for a few days, until I got an email from a woman whom I matched with as a second cousin on 23andme.

She confirmed I was indeed Nancy Jane Freeland’s daughter, as our DNA matched. I was elated to have her name back in my mind as my birth mother. But, alas, my “twin” Joyce did not submit DNA to this company. So, I ordered a kit from Ancestry, hoping Joyce used this company. I wondered if she was even alive at this point. Surely she was hunting for me, too. Eyvonn, my newly found second cousin, did some research on my birth mother and told me my one half-sister, Mary Alice, had died when she was two days old. She couldn’t find any information on the other one, Melissa.

The day I spit in a vial and sent it off, I saw where people can make a free family tree at the Ancestry.com site. So, I gave my family tree a name and typed Nancy Jane Freeland in to start the process. A green leaf immediately appeared in the upper right hand corner of her information box. Curious, I clicked on it, and saw “hints” about my birth mother that are free to see without subscribing to their site. Among documents, I found a marriage certificate for a Nancy Jane Freeland Land. Well, that had to be a misprint….Freeland Land? Plus, I googled her name so much, it surely would have come up before if she remarried. But, I shrugged, and thought I might as well try it.

And what I found surprised me. About clicking on five or six links, the next one was titled, “Obituaries for Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009.”  I wasn’t going to click on it, as I was sure it was a dead end, but I did anyway.

“……She was born July 7, 1958, in Allegheny County, PA, a daughter of the late Nancy Jane Freeland Land.”

I thought for sure this Nancy Jane was not who I was looking for. First of all, my birth mother was from Moundsville. It never dawned on me she would ever move out of the area. That was not one of my brightest thoughts. Secondly, who was Barbara Jo Arbogast?  I was born in 1956. Surely, I would have found out if I had a half sister born two years later when my brother found the twins, who were born in 1968.

But, I continued to read because I like to finish what I start (That’s such a lie).

……She is survived by ……and 2 sisters, Amy Eli and her husband David, Clarksburg, and Melissa Mikulski, Youngsville, NC……”

Wait. What?

Melissa.

I sat stunned. Could this be the twin, Melissa, that was born in 1968?

I immediately went to facebook and typed Melissa’s full name in the search bar. And up came her picture. I’ll be damned. I remember that name from a few years before. She was from Shinnston and now lived in North Carolina. I dismissed her because, remember, my people stayed put in Moundsville. I just shook my head at my lack of common sense.

So, what the hell do I do now? I had three names….Melissa, Amy, and Barbara’s daughter, Brianna, to search on facebook. So, I basically stalked them and looked at a lot of their photos. I showed my co-workers photos of Amy, who I thought looked like me.

On a Thursday morning, I sat with my fingers on the keyboard and thought how to approach them. I needed to know if their mother was the same Nancy Jane Freeland who once lived in Moundsville.

I know how I am about friend requests on Facebook, and I know they might never see a private message unless were were facebook friends. I thought I would write each of them a message and see if anyone would reply.

So, on March 23, during my lunch at school, I wrote:

“Hi Amy! I’m not sure if you will receive this message or not. I also sent one to your sister, Melissa. I may be going down the wrong road, but I am trying to connect some dots with a genealogy study and was wondering if you are related to a Nancy Jane Freeland from Moundsville? Sept. 26, 1939? Thanks in advance. Vickie”

Ok, I liked that. It wasn’t an “in your face” admission that their mother might also be my mother. Again, I was still having intrusion issues.

My daughter squashed that thought.

“Mom. Tell them the truth.”  

No answer….Thursday or Friday.

By Saturday, I thought I would add a bit more. 7:15pm.-

I guess I should add that I am adopted (born in Wheeling in 1956) and Nancy Jane Freeland, age 17, is listed as my birth mother. I recently took a DNA test from 23andme and a second cousin on Harold Freeland’s mother’s side. (Ida Mae Koon) got in touch with me. I have had the information that Nancy Jane Freeland as my birth mother for years, (her name was lightly crossed out on my birth certificate) and I knew there was a possibility of being half-sisters to Melissa Mitchell, but didn’t want to intrude. I wasn’t aware of you or your sister Barbara until Ancestry.com showed Nancy Jane was then a Land. I googled that name the other day and found your sister’s obituary. I apologize for the intrusion now, but I would finally like to connect some dots after 60 years. Plus, I’d really like to know where my son’s red hair came from…lol I apologize if I cause any hurt in this process.”

and then added, “And I may be wrong.”

I friend requested Melissa and Brianna, but I thought I should write a public note on my facebook wall so they could see it. I know when I get friend requests, I go to that person’s facebook to see who the hell they are. So I wrote right on my facebook wall:

“So, a bit of news. When I sent in my DNA to Ancestry, it also let me create a family tree. When I did that, a “hint” came up for my birth mother. So, I clicked on it, and found a marriage certificate with an additional name at the end. So, I googled her with that name, and came across an obituary of a woman, born in 1958, two years after me. It gets better. She left behind two half sisters, one whom I was aware of (had her maiden name listed in obit), and the other lives in the Shinnston area. I have sent them messages and it looks if we aren’t friends they don’t receive the messages. If they do accept and they tell me their mother did indeed live in Moundsville, I will be certain I have 3 half-sisters (one who has passed), and not counting my twin, Joyce, who is still out there somewhere.
Pretty crazy, huh?”

Some more stalking. I saw where Amy was at Buffalo Wild Wings and she was commenting on her friend’s replies. She didn’t have a friend request button, so I decided to write in the comment bar. I started getting nervous.

at 7:57, I wrote:

“Hi, Amy. You don’t know me, but I sent you a message. You don’t have a friend request button…lol”

I’m such a goober.

And then it got crazy. I will elaborate in my book, which I feel like I am writing right now (sorry this is so long), but let’s just say it was fast and furious, and yes, Nancy Jane Freeland Land lived in Moundsville.

I found my birth mother and her family and they lived only about 15 minutes from me all this time. Nancy passed away in 1976.

Facebook is great and many posts and texts on the phone have followed our initial conversation.

Amy and I met at a nearby restaurant on April 6.

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Amy is on the left. I’m 13 years older

Matching hair styles, glasses, and our black and white ensembles for the evening. We text almost daily. I just love her and can’t wait to meet Melissa sometime this summer.

Part Deux: My Birth Father

Yep. Who would have thought? So, I just got my results from ancestry.com back on Tuesday, May 2 just as I was logging off of the computer for the night. So, at 11:00pm, I found out my “twin” didn’t  submit DNA here either, but I did find I had a first cousin. It had to be on my birth father’s side. What? I never dreamed I would find anything about him.

So, I messaged her on Ancestry the very next morning:

“Hi! I have just received my results tonight and see we are first cousins. I was adopted at birth in 1956 in Wheeling, WV, and recently found my birth family on my mother’s side. Very curious to see how we may be related. I do have a twin (separated at birth), but only remember her first name is Joyce. Any information would be appreciated to help me connect some dots.”
Vickie

Erin wrote back and in communication over the past few days,  suggested her uncle, who passed away some time ago, was most likely my birth father.  But, over time this week, she noticed our “centimorgans” were very high for just being first cousins. Her father, who is still alive, told Erin he had been with my birth mother one time and was never told he was the father.

That was last night. I spent most of the night feeling like I wanted to throw up. I just felt that it served no real purpose to tell him that the DNA put him as my biological father. I felt this was extremely intrusive of me when all I wanted to do was find my twin. I am feeling a bit better this morning as my new family is so very welcoming.

So, adopted 60 years and 6 months ago and today I can say I have three half sisters and 1 half brother, and a birth father who is probably in a state of shock.

I still need to find Joyce.

To be continued…….

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Pill Compartment Thingy

When people turn 40, 50, or 60, they usually get gag  gifts from friends who want to rub it in their faces that they are getting up there in the age category,  Black balloons add a festive touch to the marked occasion. And when the fun is over, the balloons burst and the gag gifts are put in a closet and forgotten about until they can be re-gifted when their next broken down friend reaches the golden age of creakiness.

I’m all about re-gifting goofy presents to the next birthday boy or girl, but wait a minute. What if you can actually use a gag gift? I think I can.

When I turned 50, I received some strange gifts to mark my creaky, decrepit, broken down, sapless body.  Some people receive prune juice, arthritis rub, or Depends undergarments. I was presented, among other treasures, a magnifying glass, a saggy boob bra, and a pill compartment thingy.

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It’s actually pretty big, you know, for all my medicine. I laughed when I opened this one, but after the party was over, I walked my rickety legs over to closet and shoved it somewhere to sit forever beside the rest of the gag gifts. I did later re-gift the bra to the friend who bought it for me since she was just a year behind me.

One day, a year or two after the wonderful birthday party, I couldn’t remember if I took my blood pressure pill or not. Strange. I mean, what the hell? Did I take it or didn’t I? Well, shit, this was frustrating. I didn’t want to take another one because maybe it would kill me or put me in a coma.

Hey, where is that pill compartment thingy my dear friend Debbie bought for me? I could actually use the thing.

And I have for several years now. Every Sunday morning I put a new week of blood pressure pills, calcium pills, and multi-vitamins in each little container so I won’t forget to take my medicine. Good grief, I am old!

When I travel, I really don’t have the room in my purse or bag for this giant pill reminder, so I carry pill compartment junior when I hit the road.

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Pretty sad, aren’t I?  I’m using my gag gift and purchasing more for my benefit. Yes, I am an old fogey now. But, I need to remember to take my medicine since I have little brain cells left.

But, take a look at the photo….

Yes, that’s right. You can barely see some activity going on in compartment M (which means Monday 🙂 Today is Saturday and on Tuesday I realized I missed my Monday medicine.

I obviously need a 24 hour nurse.

Etched in Tree

When my daughter graduated from NYU in May, I was hoping to squeeze in a visit to Central Park after all the activities.  We did and as usual, it didn’t disappoint. Spring had sprung and people, wildlife, and flowers were all around us.  I took pictures of turtles,

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my daughter watching ducks

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and just took in the beauty of the park.

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I then walked by and noticed a beautiful tree littered with initials carved into its base. I kept walking, but then smiled and turned around. It needed to have its picture taken and I immediately thought “blog post idea.” I’m just now getting around to writing about the  tree with the initial tattoo (ala The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

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This tree had initials carved on it on all sides. I am terrible at estimating how old the tree is, but I am sure many of the initials were from long ago. I thought about the people who carved the initials. Long ago men carried pocket knifes. I don’t know if this is still the case, but I imagined people strolling along the path in the park, holding hands when they decide to mark that specific moment in time by carving their symbolic love in the tree, a permanent reminder of their love.

This custom has been around for centuries. I know one instance of tree carving, but decided to google and see what else came up on the subject.

Well, I’ll be damned. There is even a name for tree carving: arborglyphs.

The lifespan of an arborglyph ( I feel smart writing that) is of course limited to that of the tree. If a tree in the forest dies, so does its etchings…eventually. So, archeologists are confined to perhaps a few hundred years with the tree carvings, unlike petroglyphs, which may date back thousands of years.

Too bad trees don’t last forever. What a story that could be told!

Which brings me to a lesson I teach every year about the lost colony of Roanoke and a famous tree carving.

 

On May 8, 1587, a group of 117 men, women and children left England to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.  The colonist,s under the command of John White, headed for a destination on the Chesapeake Bay, but landed further south.

This colony on Roanoke Island was the first English settlement in the New World.  White, then governor of the colony–left the settlement and returned to England to get more supplies. Because of England’s war with Spain, there were no ships to spare. Three years passed before John White could return to Roanoke Island with the supplies. When he finally returned to the colony in 1590, he found the island deserted. The only trace left by the colonists was a mysterious ‘cro‘ carved in a tree, and ‘croatoan‘ carved in a fence post. Croatoan was the name of the nearby island and a local tribe of Native Americans.

It is possible that some of the survivors of the Lost Colony of Roanoke may have joined the Croatans. Roanoke Island was not originally the planned location for the colony and the idea of moving elsewhere had been discussed.

In this case of tree carving, it was done for the purpose of relaying a message. There was no heart with an arrow through this one. But, in the end, it was etched in a tree and made the fourth grade history book ever since.

So, the next time you want to  show your love by etching the big plus symbol between your name and the one you love, remember that  announcement  will  last a couple of hundred years.

So, be sure of it.

Our Disappearing Roadside Rest Areas

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

Years ago, there were no interstates. We had two lane roads and that’s about it. Sometime during the summer we would hop into our family car and travel around West Virginia. My dad was a realtor and land developer and said he could not be away from the business for too long at a time. I’m thinking that he just didn’t want to be cooped up in a car with my mom, who was so much more than a co-pilot; she was a drill sergeant  driving instructor and a callous wife. That combination was not fun if you were sitting in the front seat…which I was not.

No, I was sitting in the backseat…with a bucket between my feet and my face out the window. The hairpin turns on these West Virginia roads did not make me a happy traveler. My dad would also make us get out at almost every scenic vista to pose for a picture. He had one of those huge press cameras, and also took home movies. So, it took us a while to travel 60 miles through the mountains.

The great thing about traveling on a two lane road back then was the fact that there were numerous places to pull over and take a break. You could tell  because there was a place to pull over and the three main requirements:

1) shade

2) a great view

3) a picnic table right by the road.

Many people would pack a lunch before their little jaunts as  restaurants and gas stations were just here and there. Nowadays, there are interstate rest stops along the way where you can buy food and drink out of vending machines. Just writing this makes me feel sorry for the youth in 2013, as this way of traveling in the 50’s and 60’s was ideal now that I think about it. Well, except for the fact that most of the pull-off picnic rest areas did not have a bathroom. But, for the most part, they were a welcome break from traveling with three fighting young children in the back seat and one continuously perturbed woman in the passenger seat. My dad would always say the same thing:

“Look at this beautiful view. We need to get a picture.” We would then get out of the car and strike a pose.

If you lived in West Virginia back then, there were certain places your family would travel.  I will never forget stopping by the smallest church in the lower 48 states.   Right alongside Route 219 in Thomas sits Our Lady of the Pines. My dad even let me sign our name in the guest book located right inside. This cute 24×12 foot church has only six pews and seats twelve people. Peter Milkint, a Lithuanian immigrant, built Our Lady of the Pines in 1938. You know, I’m thinking that since Hawaii and Alaska did not join the United States until 1959,  perhaps Peter billed the church the smallest before those states had their statehood. I may have stepped into the smallest church in all the 50 states.

This tiny sanctuary receives about 30,000 visitors a year.

There were other places we would venture on our yearly 2-3 day “jaunts” around West Virginia and stopping by the roadside rest areas were always part of the plan. We would visit Senaca Rocks, Smoke Hole Caverns, Spruce Knob, and come to think about it, we never went anywhere else except for the Monongahela State Forest area. Naturally, they had many pull over rest areas with added concrete fireplaces. But,the  one place I remember most vividly, and that was Cool Springs Park.

Cool Springs was not a destination, but a stop along the journey. It was what our interstate rest stops are today, minus the animals and rusty tractors. It was such a surprise the first time we came down a 3 mile hill and saw this great rest stop/souvenir shop/petting zoo and I was thrilled to death. Kids love souvenirs and this place had everything. This was roadside kitsch galore.

I’m pretty sure my brother bought a tomahawk and I liked the penny in a small bottle with the words Cool Springs Park written across the front. Parents are more than obliged to purchase these souvenirs because it may mean some quiet time once the kids climb back into the car. Well, not when there is a tomahawk involved. But, regardless, it was a vacation pressed in my memory and I decided last week to travel to Cool Springs once again on my way to nowhere in particular.

Now, this isn’t my first trip back to Cool Springs since I was little and was continually tomahawked in the back seat of the car. No, we traveled along Route 50 when I had my own children. But, it had changed since the early 60’s. In the early 90’s, it was, well, more rusty. The owners of cool springs had many displays of train cabooses and other mechanical devices showcased around the acreage beside the gas station/ souvenir shop.  You could walk through the park like grounds over bridges and see the large water wheel in action. But, the tractors had a lot of rust on them and I didn’t want my children to touch anything. The animals weren’t around that day, but there were a couple of peacocks walking around.

Inside, the kids picked out a souvenir or two. The tomahawks were still there. Thank goodness my kids walked right by those. I smiled when I saw the penny in a jar and I believe I had a thimble to add to my printer’s tray.

Cool Springs was the ultimate roadside park. So, fast forward to 2013, and I decided to stop there once again, this time with camera in tow. Earlier in the morning I decided to do something spontaneous and hurriedly packed an overnight bag and I was on my way. The only certain plan I had was to travel east on Route 50. I was going to get to visit Cool Springs again.

Since I was looking out for photo opportunities on my drive, I noticed numerous abandoned buildings along the way. Once an interstate is built, a lot of restaurants, motels, and small businesses had to close due to a decrease in people stopping. Roadside parks had decreased also. People weren’t really stopping to stretch their legs or check out their map. Afterall, that’s what a GPS is for. Coolers are kept in a car for longer jaunts, and people wanted to stretch their legs where ever there were also restroom facilities. But, Cool Springs Park was still open, after all these years.

Ah,nostalgia.

The sign was still the same.

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I smiled as I got out of my car and decided to walk left through the park and save the store and restaurant for later.

I immediately noticed the neglect of the once magnificent park.

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The collection box was quite rusted. I think they quit checking for donations years ago 

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There was a very pretty covered bridge, but what you didn’t see is that it was jammed with old pieces of machinery and cars so there is no way anyone could cross the bridge any more.

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I’m thinking this is where all the old steam engines and mechanical devices go to die.

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There were a couple of birds in a very muddy pen. With the amount of rain the area had earlier, the whole park looked as if the creek bed washed up over its banks and covered the whole park. It was a very muddy walk.

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The more I walked around, the more I realized that this park will probably not be here in twenty years. Fences were down, the water wheel was no longer working, and the shelters had fallen down.

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I remember climbing into this caboose when I was little.

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The water wheel is no longer working. It was such a wonderful thing to see.

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I have no idea why this wishing well is enclosed by a chain link fence and is now full of water. I stared at this for a while, trying to figure it out. I should have asked someone.

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Sit at your own risk.

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And then I walked into a swarm of about 25,000 gnats. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but they went up my nose, in my eyes and ears and all through my hair. There were so many shallow pockets of water throughout the park, I immediately thought that this could be a prime breeding ground for the West Nile virus as the bugs and mosquitoes were plentiful. Since there were a couple confirmed cases of West Nile Virus elsewhere in West Virginia, don’t think that wasn’t on my mind.

I was miserable. It is not fun having bugs up your nose or in the corner of your eyeballs. And then I stepped in donkey poop.

Yes, I didn’t see them, but I knew there were two donkeys on the property. And there was donkey poop everywhere.

So, now I was just a mess. I decided to make my way into the store so I could clean the donkey poop from my sandals and splash water on my face, you know, to drown the gnats.

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Once inside, a flower arrangement sits in one of the sinks in the bathroom that no longer works.

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A souvenir store on one side and a restaurant/hardware store on the other. I could not find a penny in a bottle.

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Darn, a blurry picture and I only took one of the crowd that was sitting for lunch. The place was crowded with tourists wanting a tomahawk, locals, and those just stopping for gas. There were three people in front of me at the cash register, so I knew this was still a hit with those passing by.

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As I left to continue on my trip on the scenic byways of West Virginia, I pulled over to take one last photo of Cool Springs Park. I then just sat and looked over the whole place. I remember such a manicured place with a water wheel and people sitting under shelters eating food they brought in their cars. This is the ultimate roadside park. And unless something is done, the shelters will be on the ground, the fences that are still up will have fallen, and the rusty tractors and train engines will be a further rusty mess. There’s no going back unless the decay is stopped.

I would so prefer driving the back roads. Interstates are rushed, impersonal, and agitating. Back roads offer scenery, a meandering pace, and a greeting from a roadside picnic table for stretching your legs and taking in the beauty that surrounds you.

I hope Cool Springs Park survives for future generations of tomahawk buying children. It was a West Virginia treasure, and still is, despite being so very rough around the edges. Luckily, it is a major route for those enjoying a ride on their motorcycles and short cuts across our state.

I hope you stop if you are ever in the area.

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S’mores

I have always loved picnics. Since I was the pickiest child on the planet, it was hard for my mom to find something I liked. No problem at a summer picnic, because there was a lot of food for me to put on my thin, wiggly paper plate. I would eat corn on the cob and watermelon. Ta-da. Ok, there were other foods I would eat. I wouldn’t touch the potato salad because whoever heard of putting chopped up potatoes in a whitish mixture ? I could also see little bits and pieces of unidentified food that I knew would take me forever to dig out. But, there was no way I was going to eat potatoes and white stuff in the first place and then call the damn thing a salad. Made no sense to me…potato salad. Give me a break. I saw no lettuce.  There was no way I was going to try that…ever. They did the same thing with macaroni noodles and called it macaroni salad. Macaroni is supposed to be with cheese or with beefaroni (which we called slop in my family.) Sometimes these ladies at the picnics brought the weirdest food.

I liked hamburgers with ketchup, but I would give the guy at the grill a dirty look if he tried to scoot a cheeseburger onto my bun. Um, Mr. Barbecue man, did I say cheese? No…who would ever put cheese on top of a piece of beef? That had to taste terrible. I would eat sliced Velveeta cheese at home and got pretty good with that cheese slicer thingy, but I would never put a slice of that on top of a hamburger. You just can’t mix things like that. So, sometimes I would just skip the hamburger and grab a fresh hot dog bun and put ketchup on it. I loved ketchup sandwiches! And in the end, I didn’t starve and picnics were great.

When our family would stay late at a picnic, usually a campfire would be involved. The adults whittled sticks and would place a hot dog in one hand and slide shove the stick through the middle of the hot dog halfway and would hand them to the kids. The first time I saw this happen, I didn’t know what the hell was going on.  What is this for, exactly? Everyone would then move close to the fire to get their hot dog nice and cooked.  Well, ok, but why not just throw them into a pot of  boiling water and be done with it? I didn’t much care for hot dogs on a grill because some of them had black pieces on them. The blackened burned spots would peel off like a scab, but again, it was too much work. And now someone was trying to get me to stick my hot dog in a blazing fire.

The whole problem with a hot dog impaled on a whittle stick was the fact that what if there was a sliver of wood that came off in the hot dog? I would put my hot dog near the flame, just enough to get it warm, and then take the hot dog and stick over to my mom and ask her to take a look at the inside of the hot dog to make sure I wouldn’t get a splinter in my throat. You know that could happen, right? My mom would shoo me away because I guess I already bothered her for most of the day, so I would take a plastic knife and dissect that damn hot dog to see if it was ok to eat. Again, though, this just took too much work, so I would just eye the hot dog bun and put some ketchup on it.

So, this whole  picky Vickie story leads up to the whole problem with s’mores.

S’mores. The word even makes me cringe. I don’t think I saw them until I was in junior high. I was still picky in junior high, but I wanted  to be cool, so I had to pretend I was all about s’mores and not complain like I did when I was at a campfire with my family. The first part of the whole s’more experience was getting that damn marshmallow warmed up and gooey. First of all, I wasn’t a fan of getting gooey fingers. Not going to happen. Oh, sure, I would impale my marshmallow down on the stick after slyly checking the stick for errant splinters. I would hover my marshmallow over the flame for a second and while everyone else was watching their own marshmallow, I took mine off and would eat it. I hated warm marshmallows. I hated melted marshmallows. But, I wanted to fit in with the other kids and if I told them I hated s’mores, then, well, they would hate me and maybe call me “Picky Sticky Vickie” or something.

By the time some of the other kids got their marshmallow off their sticks, I was already by the picnic table grabbing two graham crackers. Thank god I liked graham crackers, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to share them with melted white goo and a hunk of chocolate.  I decided whoever mixed these three food items together for the very first time must have had rocks in their head.

So, it was like this every summer at every picnic I went to. I had to work hard and perfected my s’mores avoidance technique: Put the marshmallow on a stick for like 5 seconds, take it off, pretend it is gooey, go to the table and on the way eat the marshmallow. One time I thought I was being watched, so I made the whole damn thing and then….oops, dropped it on the ground. There is no 3 second rule in the woods or any place with me.  There was no way I was picking it up.

It wasn’t until college  when I was invited to a picnic and offered a stick, that I realized a lie didn’t take much work at all.

“I’m allergic to marshmallows, and you can’t make a s’more without marshmallows.”  Damn, why didn’t I lie earlier. I lied about everything else.

In the past twenty years it has been easier to pass on the s’mores.

“Oh, hell no.”

The Time Change and Church

For those of you who follow my blog, you know tomorrow is my least favorite day of the year. I’ve surely written enough about Daylight Savings Time and how it turns me into a zombie for a few weeks after the time change.

Daylight Savings Time Ends….Again

 Spring Forward into the River

Hello Circadian Dysrhythmia

Go Fly a Kite, Benjamin Franklin

So, how many times can I beat this dead horse? Apparently, at least five times. I guess I just need to really get my opinion out there. Daylight Savings Time just sucks the life out of me…….and millions of other people too.

But, I have to admit, the whole time change did have one perk: church. Now, don’t judge, but I just did not care to attend church when I was younger. My dad was a Sunday school teacher, so we had to get up every Sunday morning and drive downtown to church. And, I’m sorry, but I just didn’t like it. I had a problem with the whole Noah’s Ark story when I went to that private hell of a Catholic school from first through third grade, and was tired of arguing about it with Sister Maria and then at Sunday school. I just didn’t buy it. I was mad at God for drowning animals. Taking only two of a kind was really mean, and when I was little, I held a grudge for a tremendously long time.  So, I just thought the whole church thing was a big ole fat lie to get money in a collection plate.

So, there was one Sunday each year that I didn’t have to go to Sunday school, and that was when it was Daylight Savings Time. Oh, I remember my parents talking while sitting on the couch about how they had to remember to turn the clocks ahead before they went to bed. I always wanted to try to sneak into my parent’s room and change the Big Ben alarm clock my dad kept by his bed, but after getting caught the first time, I decided I was doomed and would have to go listen about multiplying fishes and walking on water. None of the Bible lessons were believable to me. People can’t get that old. I told my mom Caspar the Friendly Ghost cartoon was more real than church. I remember my dad looking at me like I needed an exorcism. His Bible was all marked up and his handwriting in the margins. He was clearly into it, but his  nine year old heathen daughter wasn’t buying any of it.

I know  my dad would change the kitchen clock above our lovely gold refrigerator that Saturday night before he went to bed. He would change the time on his wrist watch. He would change the time on his Big Ben alarm clock and set the alarm to get up for church. But, every Daylight Savings Time Sunday morning we would always miss Sunday school. We slept it! My mom would yell first.

“Elwood, wake up! We’ve missed church!” I would wake up and smile. But, then, my mom would march into my room and ask why I pushed down the alarm clock so it wouldn’t go off.

The problem with all of this is that I was a great liar and lied every chance I got. So, when I really told the truth and tried to explain that I didn’t do it, no one believed me. I would be just like me to sneak into my parent’s room and push in the alarm buzzer thingy.

For years I thought my sister was the culprit because she would laugh at me for getting yelled at for turning it off. She wanted to go to church because she liked wearing her white patent leather shoes. She would deliberately put on a pair of white anklets that had a hole in the big toe so she could entertain while sitting in the pew at church. But, you know, I never ever pushed down the alarm button to keep us from waking up on time. I mean, I wouldn’t wait until Daylight Savings Time to do that. I’d do it every damn Sunday.

Years later, when I had my own children and complained how my husband wanted to go to church the next day when it was Daylight Savings Time, I would always try to balk. “Oh, come on. We are losing an hour. Let’s just sleep in.”  My mom was visiting during one of those time changing moments and just smiled when I was complaining about being blamed for turning off the alarm.

“Mom, I really wasn’t the one who would push in the alarm so we could sleep in after losing an hour.”

“I know.” I looked at her and she was wearing a shit-eating grin on her face.”

“God dammit, Mom! …….You were the one?…….and then you came in and blamed me?” She smiled and nodded.

Well, there was only one thing I could do….

I stood up and clapped.

“I needed that hour,” she said with a shrug.

So, in the end, the heathen’s mother threw her own daughter under the proverbial bus in order to garner a lost hour of sleep once a year.

Well, played, Mom, well played.

Happy Badger/Groundhog/Hedgehog Day!

 

Several men dressed like Abe Lincoln will gather on a knoll tomorrow morning, proclamation in hand, and will proceed to yank a fat squirrel out of its heated den. Crowds who have gathered on this cold cold February morning will wait with bated or alcoholic breath, whichever comes first. Will Phil see his shadow?  We must know.

Another Groundhog Day, another prediction. Will we have another six weeks of winter or will spring be right around the corner?  According to Wikipedia, ” if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks”.   The Weather Channel is already telling us we are going to have six weeks of winter. So, why all the brouhaha over a sleepy chubby squirrel?

Ok, a groundhog is not a fat squirrel. I apologize. A groundhog is a member of the squirrel family, but much larger than the ones I see eating out of the bird feeder.  Putting that aside, I’d still like to know how  the people in a small Pennsylvania town decided years ago they have a weather prognostigator?

“Hey, look at that groundhog! I can see his shadow. Do you think that means something?” I mean, how did this weird ritual start?

And it is weird. Think about it. People drive from miles around to gather in the cold to watch the town leaders grab a sleeping groundhog from its luxury living quarters, hold it up, and then proclaim to the masses if there will be six more weeks of winter. The crowd will clap and yell “hoorah” or moan and go home…or back to the bar. When did we start believing a groundhog? Why not a raccoon? They are smart enough to take the lid off of a garbage can. Surely they too, can predict the weather?

Ok, I know we don’t really believe a groundhog, but how did the people of Pennsylvania believe in it enough over the years to create such a tribute to weather forecasting? I just had to know.

I have written several times about the little varmint  Ground Beaver Day   Groundhog Day  Groundhog Day and a Haiku or Two in the past, but really never took a look at how this event started. I actually have this on my bucket list. Sure, why not drive up there one year just to say I did it?

Well, it looks like Groundhog day  began as a German custom in the 18th century in this country. When German settlers arrived in the 1700s, they brought a custom known as Candlemas Day.  Supposedly, a custom in ancient European weather lore used a badger or a hedgehog as the prognosticator.  Seeing  there aren’t too many badgers or hedgehogs in Pennsylvania, I guess the groundhog was the next best thing. It has been celebrated in Punxsutawney since 1886 or so. In Europe, it was the tradition on Candlemas Day for the church official to bless candles and hand them out to the people in the middle point of winter.It also has something to do with Mary and Jesus, but I didn’t want to go in that direction, so I ignored the religious meanings of the day. So, If the sun came out February 2, the mid point of the season, it meant six more weeks of winter. Tomorrow will be Punxsutawney Phil’s 127th prognostication.

Shouldn’t he be dead?

So, when you turn on the Weather Channel in the morning, you will undoubtedly witness the faux Abe Lincolns pulling a fat squirrel out of a den on Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It’s a big deal. And maybe the ground hog will be alive, celebrating its 127th year of forecasting or maybe he is an imposter for the real Phil, who no longer sees his shadow. Regardless, it is a tradition in our country that is here to stay. In fact, there are many “Phil’s” in different parts of the country. Afterall, the weather in Florida is different than Pennsylvania. It is known as “The Sunshine State.” Of course Phil would see his shadow down there. And that surely wouldn’t mean six more weeks of winter in Florida. That means, “Hey, I saw my shadow because I am in freaking sunny Florida.”

Here are some of the other “Phil’s” that will be called upon this February 2:

French Creek Freddie – My home state of West Virginia.

 A pissed off French Creek Freddie

North Carolina has five prognosticating groundhogs- Grady, Nibbles, Queen Charlotte, Sir Walter Wally, and Mortimer. ( I fancy the Sir Walter Wally moniker)

Tennessee- Chattanooga Chuck

Georgia- General Beauregard Lee

Canada- Wiarton Willy

New York- Staten Island Chuck

Ohio- Buckeye Chuck

I could go on and on. There are many famous fat squirrels that will be pulled out of their dens tomorrow.

Happy Groundhog Day! (Whatever the hell that means)

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