Killing Time by the Tanner Girls

This is how my kids spend the day after Thanksgiving while I pick out the Christmas tree!  Although you only see one in the video, I can assure you, all are involved.

We hope your holiday was grand!

The Tanner Family

One in the bed and the little one said…

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For me, there was one grandparent that stole my heart.  Oh, I loved them all.  One granddad took us to get a Slurpee every time we came to town – that was cool.  But this one, we called her Idee, was something else.  Her real name was Ivy but my brother couldn’t say that.  His inability to speak correctly stuck.  She was forever our Idee.

There is something about the grandparent who drops everything when you came to town, but the best part about Idee was she could relate to us.  I distinctly remember just lying on her bed while she got dressed.  She “put on her face” each morning while talking to me about life.  Who would have thought that a seventy-year-old woman could give a 12-year-old advice?  She could.  And I hung on her every word.

When I went to her house to spend the night as a kid, she would pile blankets on the living room floor and my brother and I, along with Idee and Papa, would sleep there.  Before midnight, she would ship my granddad back to the bedroom ’cause his snoring sounded like a freight train.  Come to think of it, perhaps that’s why she was so anxious to not stay the night in her bedroom.

When we arrived at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving last Wednesday, it dawned on me that the day beds in their playroom had four mattresses stored underneath.  For some reason, my holidays with Idee popped into my brain.

“Girls, we’re sleeping on the floor tonight!  Four in a row.”

“But dad, there are lots of beds in this house,” my maturing college sophomore explained to me.

“That, is not the point.”

We retired at around 11, but sleep did not come until much later.

We sang, “There were four in the bed and the little on said, ‘roll over, roll over,’ and one rolled over and one fell out when she hit the floor you could hear her shout.”  And as we rolled across the mattresses, one would hit the floor.

Michelle told us the story of Danny the Ogre.  He wouldn’t let his children drink sodas at restaurants.

We recanted songs that we sang at bedtime when they were young, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tired and true…”

We named my future grand kids (Obediah, Boaz, Sheamus, Isabella, Minnie), and I chose a granddad name.

We laughed til it hurt, gossiped about most folks we know, and learned the moves to Juju on that beat.

Several days later, I’m still tired.  Although, it was certainly worth it.

The Return of the DJ

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DJ in the house!

DJ has returned!  The eldest, the heir to the throne, is home.

A friend who has a son who is a junior in college told me to get ready.  He said his wife was recently walking around the house with a basket full of toilet paper rolls.

“What are you doing honey?”

“I’m hiding the toilet paper.”

“Why?”

“Douglas is coming home for Thanksgiving.”

“Yeah.  I’m aware of that.”

“You know what he does don’t you?”

“No.”

“Throughout the week he steals our toilet paper and puts it in his car so he doesn’t have to buy it when he returns to school.”

“Interesting.”

I was ready.  I counted my rolls.  I don’t think DJ is a Charmin swindler.  When she left we still had a nice stash.

She has, however, left every garment she brought back to the State of North Carolina in my den.  Shoes on the kitchen bar stools, coats, and there were several, on the floor by the back door, a bra in the bathroom.  Within 24 hours her bedroom looked like it had been hit by a category 4 storm.  Just like high school!

How does this child live in a 13’ x 13’ room with three other people?

On Tuesday she told me that I could expect my credit card bill to be a bit higher this month.

“Dad, have you noticed I really don’t use your credit card at school?  Just like you asked!”

“You have done a good job of keeping your expenses down.”

“Yea, and I have $290 left on my GW card to get me through the next three weeks.  Tons more than any of my other friends!”

“Live it up!”

“But since I’m back home, I figured you’d be OK with me charging my expenses this week.  I’ve sort of eaten out a couple of times with friends, purchased a few Christmas presents, oh, and I’m getting my nails done tomorrow – on you!  Thanks.”

We have eaten at her favorite restaurants, watched her favorite movies On Demand, cooked the meals she likes the best and shopped for clothes that she desperately has to have.

“Dad, I’m gonna need shoes for my winter formal.  You might as well buy them now.  These are on sale.”

Apparently the last four pairs I purchased for the four high school winter formals just won’t do even though her foot stopped growing in eighth grade.

Frankly, I don’t know how she has survived this long without the critical articles of clothing we purchased this week.  Bless her heart.

On Thanksgiving Day, it became grossly apparent to me how children fall back into their high school behaviors as my 78 year old parents worked their butts off in the kitchen while my brother sat in the den watching TV.  The gall.  Oh, and he wouldn’t even pass me the remote!

What goes around comes around.

Sunday Post 197: Four Walls and a Few Good Laughs

We went to the mountains on the Friday after Thanksgiving to cut down our Christmas tree.  It’s a Tanner family tradition.  After dinner, the girls and I were riding back to our sparse conference center hotel with the grandparents and Michelle blurted out, “I can’t wait for tonight!”

When we asked her why, she explained, “When Dad, DJ, Stephanie and I all sleep in one room, fun things always happen!”

I wasn’t exactly sure what she was talking about, but I did recall pleasant memories of the hotel giggles.

It was about 10:30 after showers and teeth brushing, and I suggested that we go to sleep early.  We’d been up late the night before and up at 7 that morning.  I was beat.

I turned off all the room lights but left the bathroom door cracked and the shower light on.

I lay down thinking I was through.

It took about 30 seconds for the hilarity to begin.

DJ jumped on me and Michelle and Stephanie followed.  The tickle fight began.

At one point I “went to the bathroom” but in reality crawled on hands and knees between the two beds.  When I thought they would least notice, I jumped up from the floor in my loudest scary scream.

All three jumped a foot in the air!

It’s so much fun to frighten the little ones.  I think it’s a dad thing.

Later DJ and I convinced Stephanie that Eric Rudolph, the bomber who had hidden in the woods of NC for five years, was still on the loose and could climb through the hotel window at any given time.  She didn’t like that and refused to sleep on the outside wall of the room.

I didn’t let it go on too long.  Just enough to rile her up a bit.

Of course there were a couple of Dutch ovens (if you don’t know, don’t ask), and photos taken to Snap Chat at a later time (it was difficult to get internet access in the room – yahoo!!!)

Occasionally our family has moments of brilliance like this.  No television needed, no computers or fancy games.  Just Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Doo and me, enjoying laughs with nothing but ourselves.

Oh, I finally got them calmed down at 12:30 AM, but I slept with one eye open.  Twice when the room was nearly silent, and I in that nearly comatosed state, DJ snuck out of bed and scared the puddin’ out of me!  I guess I deserved it.

Thanksgiving Jam Session

Uncle Jesse comes through with the Thanksgiving sing along.  It’s good to have an uncle who can play piano by ear, postpones the after Thanksgiving food coma by at least an hour…

Even Grandpa raised the roof!

Here’s a Christmas tune…

 

 

Sunday Post 146: Please Celebrate Me Home

It’s Thanksgiving, and I am thankful.  But I can’t say that there weren’t a handful of times this past weekend that I didn’t get that lump in my throat.  Some of you are familiar with it.  It’s directly connected to the wound – the one that pierced your heart a while back.

It’s pretty much in remission, but not 100%.

It hit when we first gathered around the table for the feast, a hard swallow kept it in.  Then again when I glanced at her picture, sort of on purpose, sort of not.

The Christmas music is playing on the radio now.  Cheesy Kenny Loggins say to celebrate him home.  I got no idea what that means but the girls and I belt it out like we do.  Problem is, home isn’t a place.  It’s not the nice painted brick house where we raised our girls.  Not the porch where I sit to enjoy a cup of coffee.  It’s not the dining room table where we gather for family meals.

It’s not even my parent’s house nor hers.

I guess she was sort of my home – my home base at least.

It feels a bit weird when you’re running hard and you realize that your destination no longer exists.

We’re all doing well.  We’ve recreated life.  We’ve done so in many wonderful ways.  But home?  I’m just not 100% sure where that is anymore.

Purchase Danny’s Book:  Laughter, Tears and Braids or at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh

Gobble, Gobble, Gobble

Turkey Innards

I had a slight panic attack today.  My parents are 77, and I’m not sure what we’re going to do when they stop cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  Yo – mom and dad, we’re gonna need a decade’s notice, I’m just saying.

I ain’t eating that important feast at an old folks home I’m telling you that.  Turkey should be sliced, not pureed.  And I’m extremely uncomfortable with my stuffing being served out of an ice cream scoop.

I’m not too worried about my side of the family.  That sister-in-law is fair in the kitchen and there are some nieces honing their skills.  My brother can deep fry a turkey – although it’s a fire hazard if the singeing of his eyebrows from illegal fireworks last Fourth of July is any indication.  I’ll just stay inside.

But the other side of the family is really going to struggle.  That sister-in-law is really good at injecting monkeys with infectious diseases but give her a pot and she’s dumbfounded.  And then there’s Uncle Jesse – you can’t buy Thanksgiving dinner from the Steak and Shake.

Oh, I got an idea!  I hear Martha Stewart is on Match.com!  Maybe I should sign up and woo her.  I got a lot to offer – work for a nonprofit, three teen daughters, skinny but with slight love handles – how could she pass on that?  I know, she’s a little older than me, but she would certainly bring something to the table, literally.  And Stephanie has a rip in one of her sheets, I bet she could get us a deal to replace that at the K-Mart.

Boy would that be a change.  The one time Lisa and I were responsible for Thanksgiving dinner, she told me to get the stuff from between the turkey’s legs.  I reached my hand in – “Oh my Lord Lisa!  This bird has an erection!”

“What?”

“I swear.  I felt it.  Go ahead, touch it!”

“I am NOT touching that fowl’s foul.  Get it out!  We aren’t serving a turkey’s penis for Thanksgiving!”

“Some people must like it or they wouldn’t leave it in there.”

“I bet the factory workers just refuse to remove them.”

Later my mom told me it was the bird’s neck.  He sure must have been flexible.

I know!  I’ll just give the girls cooking lessons for their Christmas present this year.  They’ll love it!

In the meantime, I’m gonna get my dad to have my niece remove the turkey innards on Thursday – the old one who rudely froze all my underwear at the beach this summer.  I can’t wait!

Memories Sweet Memories

Although I do enjoy Christmas, I think Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. I, better than anyone, like a great gift on December 25.  I’m even buying myself a few things this year since Lisa isn’t here to spoil me. But to some extent, the presents have become a detractor to me. I’m getting to the age that simple time with family and friends is the only gift I care much about.

When I was a boy, we always drove to Florence, SC, for Thanksgiving. Both sets of grandparents lived down there.

A perfect Day started at Grandmamma and Granddaddy Ham’s house. The woman was the best cook south of the Mason Dixon line.

She would shuck ears of white corn and cut the kernels off the cob. She’d add butter, salt and who knows what else. When you put the stuff in your mouth, it was like tasting heaven.

Her hand cut slaw had onions that would make the hair on your arms stand up straight – I get gas just thinking about it. Boy was it tasty.

My other grandmother, we called her Idee, never saw a vegetable that didn’t come from a can; but she was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

One Thanksgiving afternoon she talked Spurgeon, my grandfather, into driving my brother and me back into the 100 acres of woods behind their house. There was a dirt road that led to a pond on the land which had been in their family for decades.

After a twenty-minute drive and a few stops to move branches, we arrived at our destination – picture a scene from the Andy Griffith show. As we got out of the car and headed to the small basin, my brother yelled out: “Snake!!”

It was not a snake at all – it was a frickin’ anaconda. At least six feet long, this diamond back rattler was meandering along the shore line. Two senior citizens and a couple of grade school kids weren’t going to interrupt his Thanksgiving stroll.

Papa ran to the car, opened the trunk and grabbed a shovel. Yeah, this 70 something year old man was going to whack this beast in the head with a garden tool. It was like fighting a dragon with a frying pan.

As the serpent saw him nearing, he coiled up and began shaking his tail. It sounded like a Cuban maraca band.

I immediately ran my behind to the car and locked the doors in the event my family was eaten and the slimy varmint decided my skinny brother didn’t fill ’em up. My grandfather was not deterred by my departure.

“Spurgeon, you are not going after that snake with a shovel,” my grandma yelled.

“Oh Ivy,” I’d heard that response before on many occasions. It meant, Don’t spoil my fun again lady.

“Spurgeon, you’ll get killed! Chad, so something.”

As Papa, who was a bit clumsy to say the least, charged toward Sir Hiss, my sixth grade older brother knelt in front of him causing him to stumble and fall to the ground.

My grandmother grabbed the shovel, “If anything gets beaten to death today, it’ll be you old man.”

He sheepishly stood up, a bit rattled but alive. Both the snake and my grandfather survived. Although Spurgeon had to go home with Idee, which for a few days must have seemed worse than a little venom in his blood stream.

Not all of my Thanksgivings have a memory so vivid. But some of the warmest internal feelings I own are of sitting at two formica tables in Florence, SC – one tan on the top with a black ring around the side, the other white speckled with chrome legs and uncomfortable chairs.

We drank a lot of coffee in those two kitchens, and I learned a lot about being a man.

Boy what I’d give to go back for just one more Thursday.

The Mirror Ball

Posted by Danny

On Friday we headed to the mountains to cut a fresh Frazier Fir Christmas tree, an annual Tanner family tradition.  Last year Jesse went with us and the two mountain men running the tree farm clearly thought we were a gay couple.  I suppose that’s understandable, although he’s much too young for me.  This year it was the girls, my in-laws and me.

We made reservations in a small motel near Elkin, NC.  When we opened the door to our room, it sort of felt like the set of a seedy 1960’s movie; the brown paneling identical to our family basement on Berkshire Road where we played spin the bottle as kids – a game I’m sure my older brother introduced to the neighborhood gang.  It certainly wasn’t me.

Stephanie immediately headed to the bathroom and within seconds an outlandish screech erupted from her gut, “Ewwww!!!  A bug daddy!  It’s enormous.”

“I swear.  Where is he?”

“In the tub!  Dad, get him.”

Why am I always the default exterminator? 

As I headed toward the speckled blue tiled floor, Michelle smartly informed me that she wasn’t taking a shower until we got back home.

“I don’t see him Steph.”

“He’s in the tub!”

I was ready for a fight, pulling my boot off to squash him…but he was already dead.  “Stephanie, I can’t believe you screamed like that, he’s not even alive.”

Is this worth a deafening scream?

After bug fest, I returned to the room.  The television was on top of the dresser and had a brown wooden frame.  There was actually a round dial to control the volume.  Michelle asked, “Is that a microwave?” 

Old TV or motel microwave?

“No honey.  That is a TV similar to the one I had as a child.”  She looked troubled. 

When you turned the channel, the current picture sort of rolled up the screen while the next channel bounced into place underneath – kind of like a slot machine.  I was surprised not to find Greg and Marsha Brady on channel 5; after all, it was Friday night at 8 pm.

There was a rusty heater that didn’t work, built into the bathroom wall.  “Is that an ash tray dad?”

“No.  But we had those too when I was a kid.”

The curtains were held together with a hair clip.  I told the girls they were welcome to use it to get gussied up for our tree expedition on Saturday; none took me up on the offer.

For me, the peak of the evening came at dinner.  We ate at the restaurant in the front parking lot of the motel and the food was actually pretty good.  There were three families dining and one left shortly after we arrived.  Near the dance floor in the corner, a weathered fifty year old man belted out Clapton and Dylan while strumming his acoustic guitar.  His tip jar eager for some action.

I remembered my occasional apprehension about dancing when Lisa was alive – I felt so conspicuous on a barren dance floor.  When she died and I realized I  could no longer hold her to music, I promised I would never pass up that opportunity again. 

“Stephanie, you want to two-step?” I asked.

“I don’t think I know how.”

“That’s why I’m here.”

So Nana and Pops, the girls and I took advantage of the mirror ball.  And when we finished, the other couple in the restaurant applauded.  And I think Lisa did too.

Sunday Post 45: Finding Thanksgiving

Posted by Danny

Thanksgiving – sometimes it’s hard to see.

There are a couple of times throughout the year that I sort of conduct an informal assessment of my life. I always go running on my birthday. In part to prove that I still can; in part to think. I do the same sort of thinking at Thanksgiving.

This year, on my drive to my parent’s house, I began mulling over all that I had – and my mind began to wander. I started thinking about others – not something I do often enough.

I thought of folks who are in fierce battles with cancer right now. There are others who have lost spouses and even their children. I think about some of the tough living conditions of children who attend some of our Y programs. And I know of so many who just seem lonely.

I, on the other hand, in many regards, have it all.

I just spent 20 minutes putting Michelle to bed. It’s seldom a quick process. I have to scratch each of her limbs. We say a prayer and talk about the people we pray for. Sometimes we talk in languages we make up – and laugh at what we think the other might be saying. And that same special time is repeated with Stephanie and DJ – almost every night. Talk about a blessing.

I’ve got Jesse and my best bud Brad – these are really good dudes to have in your corner.

I have parents and in-laws that I love and get along with – not everyone can claim that. The girls and I just spent the night in the mountains with Lisa’s parents cutting down our Christmas tree, a long-standing family tradition.

And, I love the people I work with on a daily basis.

It’s difficult to mope; it takes a great deal of self centeredness not to see the good in all that I have.

Maybe a fresh heaping helping of perspective is what we all need this season – changing the focus from what we don’t have to all we do have.

When we make that switch, it’s pretty easy to see our blessings. I hope you did this past week.