Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Shadows of Epoch: 31-40

Updated: July 27, 2015

In his book, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens referred to memories as being "shadows of the past". Okay, so I've never read the book, but the movie uses these words. Thus, a new chapter of my blog. I will be listing 50 (probably more) random childhood memories from my life that may or may not have an significant role in whom I have become as an adult. These are memories that will most likely be short without much detail. It's more of a blog entry for selfish reasons, but hopefully you'll get some enjoyment out of reading them. I'm hoping the more memories I think and write about the more details of my life I will remember. Here's hoping this serves as a catalyst for one of my goals of writing my life story for my daughters and grandchildren. 

Keep checking back...

THIRTY-ONE: In the car with dad...

I spent a lot of time in the car with my dad: to games, work, church, family trips or just errands. There a few things that I'll always remember.

1) Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones. Dad loved both of these groups and when they came on the radio while he was driving he would lean forward and move his hand back and forth on the dashboard rattling his thumb along with the beat of the song.

2) The rest of the story. Often when heading to a softball game or some other place, Paul Harvey seemed to always be on. This was probably one of the first indications that I would become a writer. I loved stories. Especially Paul Harvey's. Each and every time I was curious whom the story was about because he never mentioned it until the end. What a great way to tell a story.

3) Big Bad John. Dad liked Johney Cash too. They seemed to play Big Bad John a lot while riding with dad. Again, it's a song that told a story that stirred my passion for storytelling. I remember not fully understanding what was happening in the story or maybe Dad told me what happened at the end before the song got there. Either way, I recall him telling me that it was a sad song because *SPOILER ALERT* Big Bad John dies at the end.

THIRTY-TWO: A bus ride and baseball...

This memory is a bit fuzzy. Jig-saw pieces really. It may have been my very first ride on a charter bus. I think, but am not sure that my dad got tickets through work...actually, I think a lot of employees at E.G. Stoltzfus had tickets to the Orioles game against the New York Yankees. I remember nothing of the game itself other than seeing the final score of 6 to 5 and that my brother Jason invited a friend, Matt, who won a hooded jacket. Not an Orioles one, but I think one from the company that sold supplies to E.G. It was bright orange, however. It was my only trip to Oriole Park, but it is cool to think that this may have taken place in 1983. Don Mattingly's rookie year.

THIRTY-THREE: Speaking of Don Mattingly...

There are some Christmas gifts that I remember getting from either Santa or my parents. Here are a few:

1) My Mongoose bike. I got this on a snowy Christmas and I had this big Orange flashlight that fit under the head-bar so I used to ride around the cul-de-sac at night using it as a headlight. I thought was pretty cool. I was right.

2) My mom gave me two bags filled with the original Star Wars figures. Need I say more.

3) A 1984 Don Mattingly rookie card. Too bad Topps destroyed the baseball card business.

4) In 1986 my youngest brother Ehren was born. He developed food allergies and couldn't keep food down and was losing weight. He was hospitalized, but made it home for Christmas!

5) Our piano keyboard is worth mentioning. It was from my grandparents...thirty years ago. My girls still play it.

6) He wasn't my gift, but rather my older brother's. But, Dutch was a family dog nonetheless. A beautiful mix of german shepherd, collie and husky. Love that dog.

7) Although not used too much, I do remember my Dirty Dunk.

8) As long as I can remember, my grandpa wore a calculator watch. One year he gave me my very own. And I wasn't beat up for wearing it either :)

9) One Christmas break I spent the whole time putting together my Lego castle. Looking back I can see how my dyslexia was starting to develop. Either that or I'm just really, really bad at putting things together. Most likely the latter. It was still fun.

THIRTY-FOUR: That's my number!

I probably wore #20 for awhile, but at some point 34 became my favorite number to have on my jersey. I credit one of the most amazing athletes of the 20th Century, Bo Jackson. (If you haven't watch his ESPN 30 on 30, I encourage you to do so.) I'm going to digress here for a moment. Awhile back I was listening to a presenter for a business and he mentioned Bo Jackson. Instead of saying how amazing he was he said that he was just average at both baseball and football. What?! Are you insane? Look at his stats for football - the average yards per carry etc. - and then look at games played. He only played about nine games each season because he played a full season with Royals. Now he wasn't as great at baseball, but he was certainly above average. You factor in his rocket arm and blazing speed and power, he would have had a solid career if it weren't for that darn tackle against the Bengals. Sorry, just had to get that off my chest. "Average"? Ha!

Sir Charles also wore #34 - one of top 50 All-Time NBA Greats. It was most likely a combination of these players that opened my eyes to how awesome that number is.

THIRTY-FIVE: Dog says, "I'm going to take the boy for a walk."

Picture the boy as Evan and the dog as Dutch. Now picture Dutch running down a good part of Shady Hill (blacktop with a good bit of stones on it) while Evan is doing his best Indiana Jones impression. The only thing this picture doesn't depict is Evan's screams of utter terror and pain.

THIRTY-SIX: Bombardment. If you can dodge a wrench...                                                                                             I can't remember exactly. We either had youth group on Wednesdays after Junior Choir or Sunday nights. Either way, our youth group was led by Rev. Meier. Our sessions would always start with a game of bombardment. The basement was divided into two parts with one team standing on either side. I guess it was just like dodgeball where the objective was to throw your ball over the line in attempt to hit your opponent. If successful, they were out and had to wait their turn to get back in. If your opponent caught the ball, you were out and sent to the end of the line. This is where I realize this is three memories wrapped in one. The first being that we played this game. The second being that I used to get mad when I messed up. I remember kicking the curtains that divided the classrooms from our playing area - it's memories like this that make me despise my childhood sometimes. The last is the main reason I'm writing this memory down. I guess at some point we played with balls that weren't Nerf. I had thrown a ball at my friend Ali - not intending to hurt her by any means - and hit her square in the face. She of course was hurt and cried. But I think I cried just as much if not more. I didn't get trouble. I didn't get kicked out of the game. I simply cried because I hurt a friend. I wonder sometimes where that compassion has gone. I also remember sitting in Rev. Meier's office - where we had our lesson - trying to catch my breath and my friend Moon was trying to help to relax. So while I may kick myself sometimes for acting like a moron when I was younger, it is comforting to remember the friends you had and still have.

THIRTY-SEVEN: We needed a ski-lift.                                                                                                                Sledding at Shady Hill was awesome. Not only did we have Shady Hill itself (the actual road that led back into the woods to our home), but we also had what we called the strip.This was simply a stretch of grass past the cul-de-sac that sloped giving us another hill - a bonus round if you will - to sled on. Of course the only problem was that we had to walk up two hills to get back to our starting positions. It was worth it. Although a ski-lift would have been nice. We spent hours outside going down those hills. Sometimes we'd spend hours just making the track. With a deep snow it took several trips down before it was in Olympic-condition. We would make banks that would add only more thrills to the event as our plastic toboggan raced downward with falling flakes flying in our faces. Then the cinder truck came. With it's honkin' big plow. Our track destroyed. I remember one time meeting the truck at the top of the hill and handing him a note...well, I made Evan hand them the note. I think I hid in the woods. I'm not sure if the note worked. I think we convinced them or maybe it was my mom calling them and asking if they could only do half of the hill. Well, their half was more like three-quarters, but it was better than nothing. But I remember the heart-crushing feeling of having my personal sledding track destroyed by that yellow beast. You will rue the day, beast! I'm not sure how...just felt like it needed to be said.

Once done with sledding, we would shed our winter gear, lay them by the wood stove that my dad had cranked up and before too long they would be dry and off we'd go again blazing more trails through the snow - trying to avoid trees...which didn't always happen. You can ask my cousin Melissa about that. 

THIRTY-EIGHT: This may explain a few things...

My brother Evan suffered some injuries when he was a child. I can envision most of you already nodding your head thinking, "that explains a lot." I'm kidding of course. Evan is an intelligent person...he just happened to have an older brother that hurt him from time to time. Sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. The first incident that I remember involved me swinging a wooden bat and clocking him with it right across the forehead. The funny thing is, I don't even think he fell down. This could be due to his hard head or my weak swing. I think it's the former. Let's hope anyway. The other incident involves a family fun game that I miss playing, but can see why they took it off the market at one time. Jarts! Do you remember it? They're like enlarged darts that you toss into the air and try to get them to land in a circle. Sometimes they didn't land in the circle. Sometimes they didn't land in the yard. Sometimes they landed on your little brother's head.

To be honest, I just know he got hit in the head with one. I'm not quite certain it was me. Seriously, I don't remember.

THIRTY-NINE: First to the movies then to Don's for some baseball card shopping...

Our main hangout while growing up was the cabin, but Dustin and I always liked to do things together while not seeking our rite of passage down on the farm. Sometimes I forget how long he and I have been friends. He's a second-cousin so we saw a lot of each other at church and family picnics and I enjoy reminiscing of those summer days gone by. The fact the he was two years older and more mature than I was makes me realize how fortunate I was to have him want to spend time with me at all. But I credit his friendship as a significant part - a meaningful part - of my childhood. The importance of his friendship hasn't changed...actually it's even more important now.

I didn't go to the movie theater too much before my preteen and teen years, but a several movies that I did see during that span were with Dustin. The Back to the Future sequels and Ghostbusters 2 are just a couple, but I specifically remember going to see Batman - the biggest movie of 1989. We all remember it. It was dark and cool and we couldn't imagine a better movie about the Dark Knight. Thank goodness Christopher Nolan came along. He put the previous franchise to shame, but at soon-to-be thirteen in the summer of '89, nothing was better. We paid our $5 tickets and probably enjoyed some popcorn (actually, he worked at the theater so maybe he got us in for free) and afterwards we'd conclude our day with a trip to Don's. Don's was a baseball card shop in the center of the town of Strasburg. It was really the only one nearby and we loved going in there looking at all the cool collectibles and we'd walk out with a new box of baseball cards that we'd split. There's nothing like spending your hard-earned money on the best thing you could possibly spend money on. I'd have to ask him, but sometimes I think we may have gone back to my house or maybe to his house - where we'd pick on his sister. 

Another memory about Don's: One year for Christmas my mom got me a set of Star Wars cards. Being the good shopper that she was, she made sure all the cards were in the case before purchasing them. Sure enough, several were missing. Don's wife was not happy about this. Not because she felt bad some were missing, but because she was caught being dishonest. She huffed and grumbled at my mom for making her find the "missing" cards.

FORTY: They say if you can't stand the heat then get out of the kitchen. Some of us should just stay away from that particular room of those house altogether.

  • My first memory is unfortunately just a memory my mom shares from time to time. But how I wish I remembered it. I was pretty young, probably 4 or younger, and had discovered a large container of Crisco. What's a boy to do? I'll tell you what this boy did...I greased every one of my mom's pots and pans. Imagine her smile (or I should I say look of terror) upon entering the kitchen. That's the day I discovered I was a visual (and tactile) learner. The way I see it, it's my mom's fault. I only knew how to grease a pan by watching her.
  • One time in Kinzers my mom was out leaving the boys at home with dad. No big deal, right? It wasn't except that mom was out during lunch time which meant dad was in charge of food preparations. What was on the menu? Chicken-noodle soup. No problem. Should be easy enough for a man that built a tree-house. The only problem was that my dad was absent the day they taught how to cook noodles at noodle school. It smelled good. It just felt like you were biting into road-gravel topped with limestone. I never...ever, let him forget about that.
  • My dad the Chinese-chicken guy. We had a small TV in the kitchen at our Shady Hill home. I remember my dad watching this Chinese chef on TV. He was talking about how to prepare chicken a certain way and then with a little too much gusto, a little too much energy for a cooking show, the Chinese chef picked up his chicken and placed it in the oven saying, (imagine a very thick Chinese accent) "Then you cook the chicken for two ow-wah." Dad enjoyed imitating and quoting that line. It always made us laugh.
  • Not so long ago (so this is not a childhood memory) I had my own debacle in the kitchen - and, no, this is not the time not so long ago where trying to clean a grease drip in the oven door ended up with every single piece of that oven-door being scattered all over the floor. A few years ago we had neighbors that would go to the Carolinas for summer vacation. In return for watching their gecko while they were gone they would bring back the most scrumptious peaches. I'm not a kitchen person. If it's not a midnight raid I just don't do cooking (or baking). Well I guess I have an ounce of my mother and grandmother in me when it comes to cooking and baking (no more than that I assure you). All of the sudden I had an immense desire to make peach crisp. It was already after dinner when I started, but once I get something in my head I have to do it (but I'm not stubborn at all). I peeled all the peaches and followed all the directions (or at least I thought I did) and put it in the oven. By now it was pretty late and would be pushing midnight by the time the cobbler was ready. When it was, I was salivating. I was proud of myself for taking on the task of baking. The joy would quickly disappear. Turns out that I didn't follow the directions as closely as I thought. After the first bite I realized what I had done. Rather than use a teaspoon of salt, I used a tablespoon. I tried my best to eat it since I had worked hard on preparing, but all was lost. I have not baked anything since.

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