The NC Coast

Aniver and Annie

I did manage to bury two teenagers last week!

We went to the beach last week.  I wasn’t able to stay for the entire time – I had to commute to work a day or two.  Those drives gave me ample time to reflect on trips of years gone by.

When I was a kid, a member of my dad’s church allowed us to use their beach house in North Litchfield, SC, for a week each summer.  Man – were those some great trips.

I remember my parent’s had a sedan, not nearly enough room for them, my brother, me, and two friends.  For years we took the Mozena boys on our annual vacation.  Greg was Chad’s age and Steven was mine.  We traded cars with their parents.  Sid and Jerry drove a massive blue station wagon.  Jerry had built a huge wooden blue box that sat on the top of the car strapped onto the roof rack.  There was a seat in the back that faced the opposite direction.  My brother and I fought over who got to sit there.  I don’t remember who won – if I know my mom, she determined the exact mileage for the trip and made a stop precisely at mid-point to switch riders.  The woman is FAIR.

One year we took several other families with us for the week.  This house had a massive picnic table in the kitchen with two long, wooden benches on either side.  The group convened for a card game called Spoons which required you to sometimes dive for the utensil once someone put together a winning hand.  For some reason, my young teenage self showed up for the game in a bathrobe.  Just a bathrobe.  When I dove across the table to grab my spoon for the win, the robe flew up, and I presented my entire lower being to not only my family but also to Mr. and Mrs. Benner and their teenage daughter.  Thankfully I was successful at nabbing the spoon else my exhibitionism would have been in vain.

I have long passed the days of required sandcastle building and burying children in the sand.  I watched my brother and sister-in-laws work their asses off this week entertaining on the strand.  I drank beer and read having the occasional grown up conversation with Michelle and her friend.  I sort of miss the digging.  For years, my carved out living rooms with dug out sofas were quite the place to chill on Topsail Island.

One of my favorite memories is the night my entire family went on an evening walk to catch sand crabs.  We used buckets and nets as well as frisbees to capture the critters.  As we walked down the dark beach, I picked up wet sticks and made it a point to sneak up behind my mom and tickle her ankles.  She would jump a mile EVERY SINGLE TIME I touched her.

It just never gets old to scare grandma!

This year was quiet.  Only Michelle was able to come for the full week.  DJ dropped in for about 24 hours and Stephanie couldn’t leave her job at Camp Seafarer.

I hope that one day we can all reconvene to begin to form new traditions and memories.  I wouldn’t trade anything for that time with the family.

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George Washington’s Coming Hoooome…

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This past weekend we went to DC to see DJ. I am glad she is there and not in Bunnlevel, NC. It is a very nice place to visit.

On Saturday, we went to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. I actually learned some things while there.

Did you know that Martha Washington was a young widow with two children when George came into the picture? I had forgotten that fact. He had no biological kids. Interesting.

I think Mount Vernon was a really cool place to live. It sits on the Potomac River with a great view of the water. There is a huge porch and a huge lawn that leads down to the sandy bank. There is also more goose poop in his yard than you could ever imagine. I didn’t see one goose, but I ABSOLUTELY know they live nearby. Must have been out dining at El Rodeo (or El Runnio as one of my family members refers to it) for lunch when we were there. Something is stirring up their gastric systems.

The tour guides said that ahh, can’t remember exactly, but about half of the stuff in the house was original, the other half period pieces they had just collected.

The banister leading to the second floor was installed by Washington – and I touched it. Got his DNA all over my right hand.

They showed a replica of a wagon that was similar to one he owned. Well, maybe not a wagon. It was like a hard dining room chair glued onto a piece of plywood and attached to large wheels. A horse then pulled the apparatus which may have been how he got back and forth to DC. There wasn’t even a seatbelt. My ass would have been on the ground. Head all bashed up on a rock and smeared with goose poo no doubt.

I like cars.

He had his own blacksmith shop on the grounds. How cool is that? Need a horseshoe? No problem. Need an iron poker? Comin’ up. There was actually a dude there cooking up a spoke for a fence while we stood there watching. Unbelievable.  I need a blacksmith shop in my backyard.

They had a fake Martha Washington there. Well, actually she was real, a real person; she just wasn’t the original Martha. She was in a room all dressed up with big white hair talking like she was actually living in the 18th Century. She had a bottle of cologne that she let us smell. She said it was the kind that George wore. It was nice. Probably came in handy since his bathroom was up the street from the house.

Oh, and they had a dung hut, but we didn’t go see it. I’m not 100% sure what a dung hut is, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to work, live or sleep in one.

All in all it was a lovely day. I highly encourage a visit. You may learn something, and you’ll get to see the bed that old George died on. A bit morbid but really kinda fascinating.

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

ALICE

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I first met Alice when I was about 10 years old.  She’s a South Carolina ghost, and the stories of her left me many sleepless nights.

She lived in the mid 1800s at her family’s seaside home at Murrell’s Inlet.  While on vacation in the 1970s, my family happened on her home place, the Hermitage, and an older gentleman, a family descendent, invited us in for a tour and shared her story.  Apparently Alice fell in love with a dude that her brother disapproved of.  She left home for school and married the outsider.  When she returned to the Hermitage, she wore her wedding ring around her neck to conceal her disobedience.  When she became sick with scarlet fever, the ring was discovered.  Her angry brother grabbed the ring and tossed it into the marsh surrounding their home.  She died shortly after.  Her family was so mad that the only thing they put on her gravestone was her first name:  ALICE.

The story I remember is that if you run around her grave 14 times backwards, lie down, and truly believe, she will appear.

So being in the area for Labor Day, I felt obligated to take Stephanie and Michelle to see her.  We were so busy throughout the day that we didn’t get the chance to visit her until Sunday night.

We pulled up to the cemetery at 10:30.  PM.  The wrought ironed gate had a sign that said OPEN FROM 8 AM TIL DARK.  It was dark, so I interpreted that we were within the rules.

As I walked toward the back of the graveyard, Stephanie pulled on my left arm while Michelle pulled on the right both leaning toward the parking lot with full force.  I felt like a mule pulling a wagon.  My body leaned forward dragging them toward our destination.  Although their body language said otherwise, I could tell they wanted to be there.  I had not physically put them in the car.  They came on their own accord.

As we passed the small stone church, a huge spotlight shone in my eyes.

I’ll have to admit it startled me.  I thought someone was standing there with a lantern.    Regaining my composure, I broke away from the girls long enough to figure out where Alice lay.  I called them over when I found her.

There were rings and some money on the slab of marble that defined her resting spot.  Others had been there to pay their respects.

I was hopeful.  I believed.  I ran around, backwards, fourteen times.  I settled on my back hopeful she’d make an appearance.  The girls huddled nearby expecting my next move.

I worked hard to be still long enough to build up a decent level of anticipation.  And then, with the energy of a five-year old, I leapt up, arms high in the air, screaming like a little girl, “There she is!!  On the fence!  Run!  Run!”

My long legs passed them before we got to the gate.  I bolted across the two lane road to the car, jumped in and locked the doors.

As they beat on the car windows I regained my composure, in short time opening the doors.  I assured them I had not intentionally locked them out.  “I just got worked up.”  Wise, they did not buy my story; any of it.

As we drove home I finished the tale.

“Alice follows those who visit.  When all are asleep, she pulls on the fingers of all the girls looking for her wedding band.

Whew.  Tonight I’m very thankful that I’m a boy.”

The Sandspurs

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This coming Saturday is a busy day for the Tanners.

At around 4 AM, I drop DJ off at the Raleigh-Durham airport.  She’s going to Durbin, South Africa, with her aunt.  A once in a lifetime experience that she will experience… at age 19.

At 9, I pick Michelle up from Camp Kanata, an overnight camp where she will have spent the week with one of her best friends.  She was stoked when I dropped her off last Sunday.

At 3, I drop Stephanie off for four weeks at Camp Seafarer on the coast of North Carolina where she will be a Camper in Leadership Training.

It’s good to be my kids.

When I was younger, often the highlight of a summer day was earning a nickel when my brother bet me I wouldn’t stick my tongue in the sand hole in our backyard.  You could rake that dirt off with about three scrapes from your Incisors.  Well worth it when the ice cream truck came musically down Berkshire Road.

My backyard could be Africa, if I wanted it to.  It could also be sleep away camp or a spaceship or a battlefield.  All we needed was a hole, which my dad dug for us in the back corner of the back yard.  Six of seven of us could fit into it at once.

The principal’s kid lived behind us on the other side of the fence from our fort.  We didn’t like the principal.  We didn’t like his kid either.  My mother, the preacher’s wife, encouraged us to be nice to him, to include him in our group.  We didn’t much listen to her suggestion.  I’m certain it was my brother’s fault.

Today, kids don’t have to pretend.  They’re doing the real stuff!

They don’t even have to deal with sandspurs.  Where did those boogers go?  If you would have pulled all the sandspurs out of my dad’s yard when I was a kid, you’d have been left with a really nice rock collection.  That’s all there was.  Dirt, rock and sandspurs.  They hurt like hell May to mid-June, but come Summer Solstice, our feet were so tough, we could have walked to Africa, barefoot.

We didn’t go to overnight camp.  We didn’t sail or canoe or shoot archery.  Well, we did have a bow with arrows that had a rubber end.  We shot them at each other’s butts.  They seldom stuck, but boy was it exciting when they did.

I’m sure there were camps back when I was a kid.  I saw the movie Meatballs.  Maybe I didn’t go because I wouldn’t leave my mother’s side.  I didn’t want to go to half-day bible school without her and my dad was the minister at the church.  I wasn’t really homesick; she was just a really good mom.

I’m glad my kids are able to do some really cool stuff in the summer.  I’m glad they are having experiences I didn’t have at their age.  I just doesn’t seem fair that I’m at home, working, while they are gallivanting around the world!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Naked

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Of course, I’ve been in many locker rooms in my life.  Some with separate showers, some “gang” style.  In middle school, I went through the typical 12 year old “mooning” stage, a male, pre-teen rite of passage where you bare your bottom in an effort to garner outrage from girls of a similar age.  I have no qualms going to the bathroom outside on a camping trip – seems like a natural, comfortable thing to do.  But this past weekend, I was shocked at the troublesome feelings conjured up while in a Smithfield’s Bar-B-Q restaurant off I-85 in Henderson, NC.

We were on our way to Lake Gaston with friends for the Memorial Day weekend.  Although I like North Carolina Bar-B-Q, I always feel a bit grease laden after visiting Smithfield’s.  Perhaps it is the fast food nature of their establishment or the fact that the nearest thing to a vegetable I see on the menu is a French fry.

After ordering, another adult on the trip decided to wash her hands prior to partaking in the meal.  Considering all I had touched since my last scrub, I followed her lead.  Instead of walking all the way to the bathroom, my friend stopped at a wall right beside the ordering counter.  As she rolled up her sleeves, I noticed there was a sink, like the one in your bathroom, attached to the wall… in the middle of the dining area.  Catherine pumped the soap dispenser and commented that it was weird to scrub with others around.  When she finished, I stepped up.  As I turned on the water, I immediately had the sense that I was doing something extremely inappropriate.

I reasoned with myself, Danny, you’re just washing your hands, there is absolutely nothing wrong with what you’re doing.  And yet, I felt as if I was exposed.  Naked.  Visually sharing a private piece of me that no one else should see.

The water ran over my palms.  I glanced around.  I swear a burly dude with a huge eagle tattoo on his forearm was eyeballing me.  I’d been looked at that way before – by a big cleavaged woman in Vegas.  She was looking for dollars.  I’m not sure what he wanted.

There are just certain things you shouldn’t do in front of others and not only the obvious.  You should not iron in front of those unrelated to you.  It is personal.  You should not pluck your eyebrows in public.  Cutting toenails is private, although I did that once in an airport on an unexpected flip flop day.

And apparently, washing hands is a no-no outside the comforts of a small enclosed restroom.  If I were Catholic, I would confess.  I just feel like I did something wrong.

Tinkle Twins at Disney World

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All three girls, my parents and I went to the bathroom at approximately 11:15 AM on January 1 before we pulled out of the driveway for our eight hour junket to Florida.  Before noon, we had stopped once for a bathroom break.  DJ had a sick stomach, and the man I had admired for years for the size of his bladder had taken this opportunity, “just in case.”  Not only did we stop for him in the Tar Heel state, we also visited rest stops in the Palmetto State, the Peach State and the Sunshine State.

I had embarked on a five day journey where the focus of our trip would not be on which attractions we would see at Walt Disney World, but on where we could find the closest bathroom.

My mother’s bladder is the size of a garden pea.  They say I have my father’s nose and jaw line.  I have my mom’s eyes and urological functions.

For years on vacation my mother and I would plead for stops while my older brother and father would roll their eyes, with bladders the size of camels’ humps.  My, my, how the tables have turned.

It did not matter who in the family needed to relieve themselves, my dad joined right in.  I suggested he owed my mother and me an apology for years of urination ridicule.  He blamed old age and refused to atone for the past.

When we booked the trip, I expected my mother to go…and go…and go.  That was no surprise.  What I’d forgotten is the length of time each visit would take.  My daughters explained that when their grandmother approaches an unfamiliar potty, she meticulously wipes it down.  She then wraps the seat, double ply, with toilet paper to ensure that her epidermis does not touch the unknown surface.

Because she is cold natured, she wears a sweater in July mid-day on the beach, imagine the layers of clothing that had to be removed in January in order to proceed with elimination.

I’m not sure what she was wearing on the bottom, but on the top she had a camisole, a t-shirt, a shirt, a sweater, a vest and a white Pillsbury Dough Boyish puffy coat.  Children approached her at the Magic Kingdom asking for her autograph.  They thought she was a character.

To enter Disney World, you hold your Magic Band, a Fit-Bit type bracelet, up to a monitor and then scan your fingerprint to gain admittance into the park.  Time and again, my mother’s Magic Band would work, but the monitor could not detect her fingerprint.  My dad said it is because she washed them off.  The final ritual of her bathroom experience is a full scrub down of any potentially exposed areas of her body.  I have never seen it, but I think she washes her hands, legs and sometimes her hair (depending upon the overall cleanliness of the stall) after each visit.  If you washed your hands 27 times a day, 432,525 days in a row, you would be devoid fingerprints too.

It actually worked fine because the girls and I could wait in line AND ride the more adventurous attractions in about the same amount of time it took her to go to the restroom.

We actually had a lovely vacation, and, we visited bathrooms from around the world.

Lights, Camera, Action

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I guess that other families do this too but perhaps we are an anomaly.  If they don’t, perhaps they should.

The smallest, stupidest, things can bring our simple minds so much joy.

Last week when visiting DJ in DC, we discovered that our reading light, when turned the right way, was equivalent to a Broadway Show spotlight.  A Tanner just can’t resist the limelight, even if there is but an audience of three!

This is our rudimentary work.  We call it A Night at the Hamilton, the name of our hotel.

 

 

Priorities, Priorities

Waiting on a ride!

Waiting on a ride!

I’d made the decision.  It was a good one.  I passed it by a number of people.

It’s Capon Springs time.  Our family’s third week in August trek to West Virginia to hang with family and dear friends.  I’ve been every year since I proposed to a Katsopolis child in 1993.  It’s the dowry that keeps on giving.

When I was a kid, we had summer.  Months and months of summer.  Nowadays, summer is short and teacher workdays are plentiful.

Since Stephanie’s school began on Monday, and since she is taking AP Bio and four honors classes, it was her year to fly to Capon a few days late.  I’d checked the school schedule and although Monday seemed to be more of an introductory day, Tuesday – Friday were full on academics.  She’d get two days behind her and fly into Dulles late Wednesday night where I’d meet her and transport her to her favorite spot on earth.

I don’t think that everyone understands my children’s love for this place.  Yesterday Michelle asked me if I would rather give up our house or give up our week at Capon Springs.  I choose to keep the house.  She was undecided but leaning toward the family reunion.  I mean I love this place, but we’re here 7 days a year.  The other 348 we are in our house.

Michelle, DJ and I left at 11 AM on Sunday after dropping Stephanie off at school for orientation.  At 1:45, 30 miles north of Richmond, we received the text.

Dad, I could have flown out early on Wednesday.  Classes end at noon.  Same on Tuesday.  Afternoons are meetings about time management and stuff.

I recalled that in early August when I received the school schedule, I was told it was tentative, but I had to commit to the flight.

I couldn’t believe I’d made the choice to leave my kid out of this critically important slice of her life for two half days of class.

I pulled over and texted my parents who were in charge of Stephanie for the first half of the week.

You in the mood for a Sunday afternoon drive?

 Sure.  Why?

We’re coming to get her.

 While they packed the car and headed north, Lisa’s dad left the Capon golf course to pick up DJ and Michelle.  They threatened to kill me if I made them ride all the way back to North Carolina.

I dropped them off with Pops an hour north in Warrenton, Virginia, and turned my car around.

Heavy traffic, a major detour, a nearly empty tank of gas and a lower back that hurt like hell could not deter.  I’d messed up.  I’d made a short sighted decision.  I had to consider priorities.

When I pulled up to the Main House Sunday night and began unpacking our bags at 11:30 PM, twelve and a half hours after I’d left Raleigh,  one of Michelle’s friends asked why I went back home.

“I forgot something.”

“What’d you forget, Mr. Tanner?”

“My middle child.”

Top Ten Things I Learned on Sp

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Number 10:  Don’t make spring break plans with a 17-year-old.

So, DJ had spring break plans well in advance of spring break.  But then they feel apart, or they seemingly fell apart.  So she reluctantly agreed to go with her sisters and me to Miami.  And then the day AFTER I booked the plane tickets, three weeks before spring break, her plans resolitified.  Errr.  Naturally, she worked it out so she could do both as she is the master of not missing anything.  Especially things that are free for her.

Number 9:  There’s lots of fanny in the City of Miami.  (How do you try that little booger on at the store?  Do you just buy it and hope it fits?  Or do you actually put it on and return it to the rack if it isn’t flattering? By the way, it isn’t flattering.)

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Number 8:  All three of my daughters can change into a bikini without ever being naked.  It’s like Houdini.

Number 7:  Sometimes it’s the kids who tell the parent to turn off the TV.  We didn’t turn it on once on the trip, and we put our phones in the middle of the table when eating out; both suggestions from my children.

Number 6:  It is conceivable to go broke buying virgin daiquiris.

Number 5:  A nice Jacuzzi in a hotel room is a lot more fun with your wife than your kids.

Number 4:  Some people put their bathing suits through their paper shredder.  I’m not sure why.

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Number 3:  When you have a family text message, watch out what you write, especially if Michelle is in your family.

Text from dad while riding in the front seat of a taxi to his daughters in the backseat:

This cab driver has the coolest name I’ve ever heard, Axel Bucheaux.

Loudly from Michelle:  “Who the heck is Ax-L Boo-shocks?”

Number 2:  Some Speedos should not be worn by some men.

Number 1:  Three days away with your kids is INCREDIBLE!