Let’s See You Match Me With This

We hardly ever watch network TV in our house, but we have been watching the Olympics since they have been on.  I guess the Olympic-watching crowd is mostly single because I have been overwhelmed by the number of match.com and eharmony.com commercials that come on.  Every time one of these commercials comes on, I think, “I’m so glad that I don’t have to date anymore.”

Matt tells me that I am the worst dater that he has ever met.  He says that he didn’t like me the first, second or third time that he met me.  On our first official date, I remembered that I had a prescription that I had to pick up before the pharmacy closed.  I thought that I was being extremely flexible when I told him that I had to go to the drugstore so we could (1) go together, (2) I could go and he could wait for me at the restaurant or (3) we could call the evening done and talk later.  Matt has said that it wasn’t being flexible, it was being the worst date ever.  (By the way, he opted to go with me to the drugstore.  I told him that I could have bought a bunch of yeast infection medicine and foot fungus treatment and then he could call it the worst date ever.)

My bad dating skills aren’t the worst around.  Recently, we had a girls’ weekend at my mom’s house with my mom, aunts and cousins.  During the course of the night, my Aunt Margo told the story about going on a double date with her ex-husband (her boyfriend at the time) and another couple back when they were all in high school.  I can’t remember the names of the other couple, and it really doesn’t matter, but the story goes that as they were driving through town the other girl yelled, “Stop the car!  I gotta shit!”

Even as I laughed, all I could do was think a couple of things.  First, I was surprised that the teenagers of what I’ve always thought of as my mom’s squeaky clean background would use the word “shit”.  Then I kept wondering why the girl (let’s call her Jane Doe), why Jane Doe would think that it would be okay to just yell out “I gotta shit”.  Did she grow up in one of those houses where talking about that was normal?  Like “I’m thirsty” or “I’m hungry”?  I’ve never been in a house like that, but surely they exist.  Or maybe she was trying to turn off her date?  I guess we’ll never know.

Then my Aunt Bobbie piped up and told us about one time when she was out on a double date.  My Aunt Bobbie worked at the hospital for 30+ years and was working there as a young woman during the time of the story.  She and her companions were out on their date when she realized that she needed to check on a patient that might be released.  She said to them, “We need to run by the hospital so I can check to see if I have a discharge.”

I laughed even harder at this story because this would So. Totally. Happen. to me.  I misunderstand people and they misunderstand me all the time.  Just word choice, I guess, and where your head is and their head is.  Like recently, I had to have a colonoscopy.  Which means drinking this nasty stuff called “movi-prep” the night before.  The next day before the procedure, the nurse asked, “Did you get clean from the movi-prep?”  And I said, “Yes, I took a shower this morning, so I don’t have any on me.”  She said, “No, are you cleaned out?”  Oh, yeah, that too.

And I just realized that my story and my Aunt Margo’s story both come back to poo.  Maybe I do know one of those households and it’s mine.

Happy Birthday to My Mother

Today is my mom’s birthday.  I called her tonight to wish her “Happy Birthday” and she was getting ready to have dinner with some friends.

Growing up, my sister, cousins and I used to have the best birthdays.  They weren’t huge parties and they didn’t involve huge cakes or mounds of presents, they just included small parties at my Mamaw and Papaw’s house.

Wendi, Matt, Birthday Girl JJ, Cristy & Ashleigh

On the Sunday closest to the birthday, after all the lunch dishes were washed and the kitchen table was cleared, the birthday cake was brought out and placed before the guest of honor.  The rest of us gathered around and sang “Happy Birthday”, while our aunts and Mamaw looked on, then we got down to eating cake and opening presents.

Ashleigh, Birthday Girl Cristy and Matt
Aunt Baby, gamely wearing her headdress

I don’t remember any of us having big parties where lots of people were invited, where school friends came, where venues were rented out to entertain all the attendees.  Instead, I remember these simple Sundays at Mamaw’s with just my family.

One birthday that stands out was either my cousin Matt’s or my cousin Wendi’s.  I know it was one of them because the mother of the birthday girl or boy was responsible for bringing the cake and on this birthday, the cake had had an accident.  My Aunt Mary June (Wendi & Matt’s mom) had put the cake on the roof of the car while packing the car, unlocking the door (back in the day of inserting a key into a door lock), etc. and she forgot it was on the roof.  She drove off and the cake fell off.

The damage was minimal.  We only had to pick a little bit of gravel out of the icing before we cut into the cake.  We kids thought that was hilarious.

Front:  Birthday Girl, JJ, and Cristy
Back:  Mamaw, Aunt Margo, Mom and Aunt Baby
(One of my FAVORITE pictures–love my Mamaw in a birthday hat)
Birthday Girl, Ashleigh

If it wasn’t our birthday, we didn’t expect to get any gifts.  Only the birthday boy or girl had presents to open, and the rest of us were okay with that.  But, the birthday guest of honor usually let the others play with his / her presents.

I hear about the parties that parents throw their kids these days and I’m a little astounded.  They seem like very complicated and expensive.  But I don’t have children, so this is a current mystery that I just cannot answer.

But I can say with complete confidence that these birthdays of my youth were wonderful days, full of laughter, happy expectations, and feelings of being special for the day.

I hope that my mom is having as wonderful day today as she provided for me all those many birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Mama!


In 1771, British essayist Joseph Addison wrote “Sunday clears away the rust of the whole week.” I have to respectfully disagree with J-Add. At this point in my life, Sunday is not one of my favorite days. I am afraid that I spend too much time fretting about Monday, the week to come, and the weekend past to “clear the rust” from the past week. Logically, I can admit that it is a waste to chew over the last 6 days while also worrying about the next 6, but I can’t seem to help myself. It’s an illness.
I haven’t always felt this way about Sundays. When I was younger, Sundays were great days. They followed a certain pattern, changed only by the weather, holidays or birthdays. My mom, sister and I went to church each Sunday morning, after which we headed to my grandparents house. The memories made at my grandparents’ home are some of the strongest ones of my childhood.
Sundays at Mamaw’s and Papaw’s meant many things: good food, playing with my cousins, listening to my aunt’s talk about how much we were all growing, visiting with my grandparents’ brothers and sisters, and hearing stories about the “good ‘ole days.” Mamaw was such a good cook — beans and biscuits, cabbage and corn, pintos and potatoes and all other kinds of good food. The table would be full of bowls of food, and yet it seemed that she just threw it all together, kinda nonchalantly.
Even though I saw most of my aunts every Sunday, my sister and I and my cousins went through a weekly “interrogation” — school, boyfriends / girlfriends, extracurricular activities. The older we got, the more intrusive some of the questions could become (i.e. “Are you kissing any boys? With tongue?”) And my aunts (and my mom with my cousins) were especially interested in how we girls were growing / developing, i.e. were we getting boobs? I don’t know if this interest was born of the fact that most of them were not well-endowed or what, but I’ve told people before that the first time that anyone ever “felt me up” was in my Mamaw’s kitchen when one of my aunts was checking to see how big my boobs were getting. To us, this behavior was normal (and I don’t think any of us have been scarred by it).
But the best part of Sundays was playing with my cousins. If it was warm outside, we would play in the yard, playing Red Rover, or climbing trees, or running as fast as we could. When my cousins, Wendi and JJ, and I became cheerleaders, we spent a lot of time cheering in the front yard. Sometimes we would just swing on the porch, telling each other secrets and stories.

If it were cold (which it often was in the mountains), we would sit in the living room, looking at old photo albums. Sometimes we would go into one of the back bedrooms and whisper and talk. Sometimes we would even cheer in the living room. Papaw would sit in his chair, reading his Bible or doing his crossword puzzle, and never say a word about how loud we were.

Sundays when I was a kid were days to create memories. I can remember like it was yesterday the sound of Mamaw and Papaw’s front door opening and closing. I can remember the sound of Papaw’s voice as he said the blessing before each Sunday lunch. I can remember the smell and the sounds and the events. And in this remembrance of the Sundays past I have finally been able to clear away my rust.

Swimming Lessons and Such

My mountain home was calling my name, as well as the fact that Matt and I received an invitation to join some friends at their mountain cabin for a float down the river and some ribs on the grill. As a result, we had a quick trip to the mountains this weekend, including an exciting trip down the New River in the middle of a thunderstorm and some of the best ribs that we’ve ever had.

The canoe trip wasn’t what everyone expected it to be, though I believe that we all still had a lot of fun. It had been many years since I had spent any time on the New River, but I was glad to see that it was as bucolic as ever. Only our hosts were master canoeists, so there were many trips into the river by the rest of us. Luckily, the river was low, so no swimming experience was necessary to save one’s self from the “mighty waters”.

If someone had needed water rescue, however, then they were lucky that I was there. Thanks to years of swimming lessons when I was growing up, I’m sure that I could have provided some aid. My dad was and is a strong swimmer, acting as a life guard during summer breaks. My mama’s family, on the other hand, was not a family of strong swimmers. Swimming was just not a pastime that they pursued while growing up in the mountains. Mama says that she and all her sisters were warned constantly to stay away from water, that they would surely drown if they went any where near it. The threats worked since I don’t believe that any of my maternal aunts can swim. When they started having children of their own, they determined that they wanted their children (me and my cousins) to be raised without fear of water and with the ability to swim.

Thank goodness for my Aunt Mary June, also known as Aunt Mur (or Mur). Aunt Mur worked for the school system, so in the summers, she became the taxi driver for us. Years before anyone had ever coined the phrase “soccer mom” and years before the release of the minivan, Aunt Mur was showing soccer moms and their vans how to do it. She drove the original minivan, the station wagon, a wonderful car that had seats in the rear that faced backward, so you could see where you had been! (This was also before I suffered from car sickness.)

When my sister and I, plus my cousins Wendi and Matt (Aunt Mur’s kids) and Tina had swimming lessons, we would pile in Aunt Mur’s station wagon, and she would burn up the road to get us there (we were usually running a little late). The station wagon also had an 8-track tape player and a Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits 8-track, and we sang “The Gambler”, “Lucille”, “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” and “Coward of the County”. Even now, 25 years later, I think of Aunt Mur whenever I hear Kenny Rogers.

Those two weeks of swimming lessons every summer were always so much fun. Mary June would laugh with us kids as we told each other silly jokes and we girls giggled over boys, she sang with us in the car, and she would often stop by the Dairy House after our lessons and let us get some ice cream (and extra special treat!). Driving us to a hot swimming pool to sit for 2 or 3 hours every day for two weeks never seemed like a chore for her but the best part of her summer, as well.

Because of her I learned how to do the side-stroke, how to sing the lyrics to “She Believes in Me”, and how to give with a cheerful heart. Next time I’m home, I think I’ll take my Aunt Murto get some ice cream and see if we can find some Kenny on the radio.

"….Aunts…are back in fashion because they are necessary."

I had a great night last night. I visited my sister and her family, including my two nieces and my nephew. They are beautiful, healthy and happy children, and I have loved them since they drew their first breaths. I love being their Aunt Cristy!
Being with them last night reminded me of how lucky I have been in the aunt department. My mother is one of seven daughters, and my dad had one sister, blessing me with 7 aunts in my life. As a result, I have spent my life surrounded by women. Aunts, a sister, my mother, female cousins. It creates a rhythm, routines, it helps to shape your sense of humor, your expectations of who you’re going to be when you grow up, who you’re going to marry, even what you will do on Sundays.

While my aunts shared similar qualities (least of which was that they loved all their nieces and nephews as much as I love mine), they also each had their own special qualities that made them unique and remarkable. I received some special gift from each of them — a love of reading and books, a distinctive laugh, a sarcastic sense of humor. Aunts were never out of fashion with me, but have always been necessary. All hail our Aunts! Lexi, Brady & Cali — your Aunt Cristy loves you!