Stringing the Hose

water hose

Our house was built in 1903, I think. I’m quite lazy right now as I write this so I’m not going to give in to my inner voice that says I need to look up the actual year and be exact. I’m guessing you’ll let that minor detail go.

I love our house, for the most part. I love that it is old. I love that it is brick. I love it’s in a neighborhood that still has a bit of character to it– although that is arguable with the scrapes and monstrosities being built everywhere you look.

Just two houses down is a new build that towers above the little bungalows still left on our street. The couple that lives there has two small children, two dogs, a nanny (maybe two?) and well, a big house. Their yard is smaller than ours though, so there. You might think you know where this is going; that I’m comparing our humble house to theirs. Pitying myself that I can’t keep up with the Jones’. It’s not that. Maybe it is, but you didn’t hear me say it.

This morning I thought of my late father as I was stringing our one single water hose in the front yard. The hose is old and kinks a lot, which drives me bonkers. After placing the hose in what I deem to be the proper spot to target the ugly dry spot, I  walk back to the house and turn it on, only to find that the water doesn’t come out. So I swear a bit and find the kink and then watch as the water forcefully fountains up out of the sprinkler full blast. I look around me each time this happens, to my left and right, hoping that the neighbor next door doesn’t see as her car gets all spotted up due to my poor sprinkler skills. I’d be pissed if I were her. The neighbor likely does notice this and probably swears a bit too, but will never confront me. At least she hasn’t  yet. 

If she did, what would she say? “Why the hell don’t you learn how to turn on your water so it doesn’t spray on my car?” “Who the F$*# taught you how to string a hose?” Maybe I need to prepare myself with a response.

Back to Dad.

Dad had a yard on Quail Road that was probably fifteen times the size of ours. Every summer, he meticulously and carefully strung what was probably eight to ten hoses in the yard to water. He didn’t just have to spot water, like we do, but he had to water his entire yard-stringing the hoses like perfect swimming lanes in a pool. Just when we settled into a television program like The Dukes of Hazard or Dallas or started to doze off on the couch, Dad would pipe up and say “let’s go move the hoses.” It was like a part-time job with no pay. That just seems crazy in this day and age-to string hoses to water an entire yard- but I think of it every time I curse our old sprinkler system because it doesn’t cover all the grass and we are left to string one measly hose to get to the dry spots.

You’d think we’d just go buy a new hose. But that would require admitting (again) that we are still many years away from updating our sprinkler system. So we pull the shameful piece of rubber around for another summer of spot watering and silently do the walk of shame to and fro the water spigot on the side of the house.

The couple two houses down-the new build couple- just smile when they see one of us out in the yard fiddling with the hose. I imagine they clap and their sprinkler system comes on or they have it set up with Alexa. “Alexa, turn on our sprinklers when you see our neighbor outside fighting with his hose.”

Sometimes I’ll be outside setting the hose and Rick will turn on the water inside the house or flush a toilet just to pick on me. I’ll be standing back and admiring how I’d set the sprinkler to hit every little piece of dryness and down the water pressure goes. When it comes back up again, it never seems to be as perfect as I had it before he played that little game.

I wonder what Dad must think from up above. I imagine he probably watches these antics in our small little yard and shakes his head. I imagine there is a number of things he would say to advise us around this, and many other problems. “All’s a fella’s gotta do is…”

I think I’ll hop on Netflix now and see if there are some Dukes of Hazard reruns to watch.

It’s about time to string the hose again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eyeglasses and Giggles

Kindergarteners find the joy in the minutiae of everyday life–which is a good reminder for all of us, I think.

Today I met up with some of my former students and their families to have a mid-summertime hello and to choose some new books for more summer reading. Thankfully, the sun was cooperating and the picnic tables were conveniently staged under a huge shade tree!

One of my students, I’ll refer to her as ‘B’, walked up with her family,  bursting with something to tell me. I could see her smile had something to tell– even though she needed to let some of the “it’s-been-a-month-since-I’ve-seen-you” shyness fade away.

We looked at some books together and I made some suggestions of ones I thought she may like. ‘B’ found the blank journals I had brought and quickly chose one along with a few books that she was excited about. I could sense by her smile and her steady stare that she was ready to tell me something, but knowing ‘B’, she would surely talk when she was ready!

And then it finally came out:

“Take your glasses off again. You look so funny.”

Here’s the backstory:

When school was in session, ‘B’ watched me like a hawk. Every move I made, every word I spoke, she hung on to like a leaf clinging to it’s tree in a fierce autumn wind. She noticed everything. If I stumbled on a word in a read aloud, ‘B” said: “you’re crazy, Mr. Garvert.” If I took a drink from my water bottle, ‘B’ asked why I was always so thirsty. She would even cajole her classmates into her antics of teacher-watching.

I was usually unaware of how intently ‘B’ was watching me until her laughter spilled out in buckets and buckets of non-stop giggles.

One day in particular, at the beginning of the school year, ‘B’ burst out in a giggle-fit like none I had ever seen before. I had absolutely no idea what I had done this time to cause such a ruckus—until she calmed down and said…

“You look so funny without your glasses. Take them off again!”

I had slipped off my glasses to give them a quick cleaning with my shirt—just an everyday thing, right?- and little Miss ‘B’ was watching (of course!) and found it to be the best thing–maybe only comparable to cupcakes with three inches of rainbow frosting on top.

It made me happy on this summer day when I saw ‘B’, took my glasses off just for her, and heard the giggles swirl around in the warm breeze.

It’s the little things.

And we need more of them.

Mom Made A Pie

Mom made her famous pie.

And she was happy.

So she went to the kitchen table

and took a seat.

She sat there alone

and borrowed a big sigh.

Soon the kids would come inside,

Dad would finish his evening chores,

and the weekend Saturday sunlight

would soak through the kitchen curtains

across the tired table.

Then it would be time.

And she wasn’t quite ready.

But there she sat

SATISFIED.

She’d made her pie,

Betty’s famous apple pie

with bits of cinnamon

and the crust just so.

Sigh.

In not too long

the kids would be fighting for the last servings

of her buttery biscuits and stew

all the while Dad

be thinking about

-the pie-

-the pie-

And all her hard work,

all her labor of love,

-her magic-

would be eaten,

devoured,

-gone-

at that tired table

with 7 pairs of hands

and sleepy eyes.

Everyone wondering

when the next pie

would tempt them all

to come inside.

Dad always said

there were only two kinds of pie:

warm and cold.

La Cocina

There it was: that smell.

As I scurried quietly about my business, like a thief in the night, my nose twitched.

Tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe. Her door was half cracked and I snuck a peek inside.  Sleeping beauty was home, and it was my turn to get the Saturday laundry started; it couldn’t wait any longer.

My sister Karla was notorious for shedding her clothes like a peeled banana. She left them in piles on her bedroom floor after returning dead-dog tired from her waitressing gig at the local Mexican restaurant: La Cocina.  If you needed to know how many shifts Karla worked in a given week, all you had to do was count the piles.

As I picked up each pile and tossed it into the laundry basket, I made a game out of it to “guess the nightly Mexican food special” by the smell of her clothes.

Monday: taco night.  Spicy and messy. Little bits of taco shells fell from her apron.

Wednesday:  enchiladas supreme.  Red sauce on the sleeves.

Thursday: combo plates.  I could almost see the steam still rising from this pile.

Friday: chimichangas.  The worse kind of deep fried smell, mixed with cigarette smoke.

Karla slept on as the full menu of smells left her room and made their way to the wash.

These were Saturday mornings with my sister.

 

**As I took a trip down memory lane with this slice, I’ll treasure many memories of writing every day this month in the Slice of Life Challenge.  This is my second year slicing my way through March and it’s been great meeting lots of writers from around the world. Thank you to all who took time to read my writing and send encouragement along the way through your comments. I’ve developed many “writing crushes” on fellow writers in this challenge!  A big thank you to all at Two Writing Teachers who continue to build a community of teacher writers around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today in Pencil History

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I find it fascinating to read little blurbs written about “what happened on (insert day) back in (insert year).”  Today’s blurb in the New York Times caught my eye.

On March 30, 1858, Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia patented the pencil-and-eraser. Although his first name raises some eyebrows, Hymen created some controversy for other reasons.

Evidently, there was some debate back then about this being a true invention. Hymen’s invention was all about putting an eraser on top of the pencil. He was en-route to make a lot of money, but the Supreme Court declared the patent invalid 17 years later.  The reason: the pencil and eraser had already been around–and it wasn’t considered an “invention” to marry the two together.

Another pencil-related and interesting tidbit: before erasers were used, starting in 1770, soft bread was the way to rid papers of those silly mistakes.  Soft bread!  I wonder today if the bread would erase better if it’s gluten-free.

I’m still a big fan of the pencil.  There is nothing quite like the smell and feel of a freshly sharpened pencil.  Thanks, Hymen.  I count it as a cool invention in my book.

sol

 

 

 

 

 

A Strip Mall Surprise

Our basement smoke and carbon monoxide detector beeped and blurted in the early Sunday morning hours. As the loud digital woman’s voice warned of FIRE. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE., we nervously fumbled to remove her from the wall. We pulled out her batteries, took relief in some silence, and scurried to find some new double AAs lying around the house. To my surprise, we had a fresh pack and gave those a try. Still she blurted, belched and beeped her warning cries.  We reread the owner’s manual that we had kept tacked up on the wall by her side-feeling proud of ourselves for the forethought years ago to keep it handy- and went through the suggested troubleshooting tips. Nothing. Reset. Nothing. Still she blurted and beeped in her obnoxious tones.  It was becoming clear:  we needed a new one. How does a smoke and carbon monoxide detector die?   And how much time should one invest in trying to repair it when the said detector loudly bemoans her troubles in your face while trying to bring her back to life? We gave it about 40 minutes before we made the dreadful decision to go buy a new one and laid her to rest in the trash can, on top of the dryer lint. Rest in peace.

Of course with things like these, one can’t put it off.  With the death of such an important fixture in your home, if you do delay, for even just one day, surely that will be the night your home catches on fire and to everyone’s dismay the morning headline will read:

HOME FIRE TAKES THE LIVES OF TWO ADULT MALES AND THEIR PET FAMILY. FIREFIGHTERS FOUND THE HOME HAD NO SMOKE DETECTOR AND CALL THIS AN UNFORTUNATE REMINDER FOR ALL TO INSTALL AND MAINTAIN THEIR DETECTORS. DETECTORS SAVE LIVES.

We headed to Ace Hardware later that day to pick up a new lady friend.

As we left the hardware store, which is located in a strip mall, we noticed a new business a couple doors down. A cremation business. In a strip mall.  We had to have a good laugh. After having spent some moments of our day with a morbid digital woman reminding us to avert possible perishable situations, we delighted in some morbid humor ourselves. “Hey, let’s stop in there to get Grandpa taken care of after we pick up a new rake. How convenient. You run in there, and I’ll go pick up dry cleaning. Meet you back here in ten.” It’s not really funny, on a normal day, to think of these things, I know.  But it is, kind of. And if that makes me that much closer to the burning fires of hell, well, then I know where to go to get there faster.

Thankfully, our new detector is hanging up and showing us she’s working with her little green flashing light.  No more blurting–and a bit of peace will help us rest through the nights.

We’re safe for now.  But in the event that something should happen to one of us, it’s a blessing to know that cremation is right around the corner.

 

 

Kickback to Kickball (And Other Catholic School Memories)

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St. John’s Catholic School. Not much has changed except some cosmetic updates.

Having attended a Catholic school from kindergarten through sixth grade, I have many fond memories of life and learning in an old brick schoolhouse.  After recently running into my first grade teacher and reminiscing about the good ol’ days, I’ve been having many thoughts come and go about how those elementary years influenced who I am today. I think about how school was then compared to how it is now, private schools compared to public schools, teaching then vs. teaching now, etc.  It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come, and in some instances, how far we have yet to go. 

When I close my eyes and focus in that “memory box” of  elementary years, vivid images come kicking back up: clapping the chalkboard erasers outside to clear them of  dust, little school desks with pencil grooves carved into their wooden tops, uniforms, strict Sisters, and rulers tapped on student desks as reminders to pay attention. I remember principals that spanked (never me, of course), and the classic reading, writing and arithmetic lessons.  I remember spelling bees, math workbooks, and Martha, my fifth grade teacher (who I was always a bit scared of- even though she was pretty nice).  I remember jumping off the wooden stage in the gymnasium, families that knew each other’s gossipy stories, having the same kids in my class grade after grade, and walking back and forth from the school to the church across the black asphalt parking lot. Within each  of these memories lives a story, but one that kicks up today, probably due to the beautiful weather outside, is of warm spring days and pickup games of kickball after lunch.

Every day when it was time for lunch, our classes trotted across the parking lot from the school building to the church, where we headed down to the basement cafeteria. Lots of stories and vivid images live in the cafeteria, too. The old melon-green plastic trays with little compartments for your food choices, pan-baked cheese sandwiches, and lunch ladies in hair nets. Big pots of chili cooking on massive stoves and days when you wish you had home lunch because the cafeteria cooking wasn’t as good as Mom’s. I remember walking through lunch lines that snaked through the kitchen and then finding myself a seat on sometimes filthy folding tables amongst all the children and their chatter.  It was always a race to finish and get outside to play.

After lunch, I’d race up the stairs to the outside playground, which really was the church’s parking lot.  Most of the time, cars were not permitted to park in the lot during the school day so that the kids could play various games and congregate. There was a fenced sanded area for swings, slides, monkey bars and merry-go-rounds.  Often times the sand from that play area stuck to the soles of kids’ shoes and was dragged onto the hot asphalt, making running, rope-skipping and kickball a slippery feat.

Kickball. I can still see skinned elbows and knees as bell-bottomed pants flapped in the wind while kids ran from base to base. The feeling of a home run kick that soared over electric lines to the cheers and jubilee of teammates. I remember how kickers lined up against the warm brick wall of the church as they waited their turn listening to the screams and yells of the outfielders. I remember the red bouncy kickball coming at high speeds when it was my turn to kick and the sting of the rubber on tender skin when a stray ball caught me by surprise. I remember knee holes that wore through my blue corduroy pants and patches sewn on the inside until I was due for a new pair. I remember the sweat and stickiness after the game came to an abrupt end as we were summoned to line up from the teachers’ piercing whistles; the girls in their checkered dresses and the boys in their bellbottoms running wild to be the first in line. I remember the kickball, abandoned mid-air, and how it bounced, bounced, and bounced away to find a resting place for the next group ready for their recess kickball game.

With my heart racing  back in class, I daydreamed of being the next day’s Catholic school kickball king.

sol