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The Car Trip

 

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When we take family vacations, our criteria consists of having fabulous food, spacious accommodations and fun for everyone.  Flash back 50 plus years ago and things looked mighty different.  My daddy believed in vacations, that’s for sure, but the logistics were sometimes painful and always frugal!

My daddy was an Electrical Engineer and former Navy Captain.  This combination does not allow for errors or give room for spontaneity (unless it is planned)  Daddy was trim, 6’2” tall and could do anything and fix anything and he was always right.  Another important fact is that Daddy’s idea of fun was planned, purposed, budgeted and sometimes mandatory fun!

When I was growing up, my Dad would meticulously plan our summer vacations.  Our travel group included my dad, my brother, Grandma and Great Aunt Lena and of course myself.  On this particular trip we drove from Amarillo, Texas to Colorado to camp out in the mountains.  Picture the five of us and all of our supplies/luggage loaded into and onto our 1958 Mercury sedan.  You know,  the type of car where 3 can sit comfortably in the front seat.  I will never forget that car because later I burned a hole into the front seat with a cigarette lighter.  I just wanted to see if it would burn…and it did, but that’s a whole other Oprah.

We had 2 tents packed.  One for the girls, big enough to set up cots so my Grandma and Aunt didn’t have to get up and down too much.  And a pup tent for my brother and dad to share.  We had a Coleman stove packed, all of our food for the week, fishing poles and various other important items.  Between the US Navy and the Boy Scouts of America, we were prepared for every possible scenario.

To this day, I can remember the smell of the car.  My grandma packed our lunches.  There was always a thermos of coffee for the grownups and a Shasta soda for my brother and I to split.  There were always bananas, apples and grandma’s banana nut bread.. Ah…..preening down the highway in our loaded 58’ Mercury, singing songs and fighting over who got the window seat.  Everything was wonderful until someone had to stop for an unplanned bathroom break or something flew off the top of the car.  No luggage racks for us!  Our gear was tied down with my dad’s rope, sailor knots and strong will.  When we finally arrived, the grownups began the daunting task of setting up camp.  Daddy’s naval training and my brother’s boy scout knowledge gave them the inspiration to think their master plan would work.

My now wonderful big brother, was then a 12 year old know it all, girl hater, smart mouth big brother.  He was really only nice to me when someone was looking or it would serve his purposes in someway.  To this day, I do remember my part….as I would push him to his limits and then when he threatened to hit me or sit on my head and fart, I would scream,“ Daaaadddy, Jimmy’s bothering me.”  I’m not proud of it, but it was pretty effective for quite awhile.

Grandma did the cooking, of course.  I don’t remember what we ate, but I do know that my Grandma believed that sandwiches were not real food, so we had to have a “hot meal” everyday.  On the premise, of what goes in must come out, Grandma brought a large, white porcelain jar for our bathroom needs.  Honey pot, chamber pot…you get the visual, I’m sure.  It was mainly for us women folk, as the guys used the woods.

We spent the week fishing, hiking, and enjoying the fresh mountain air.  Moving on to one particular day.. It was the day we were to break camp and drive to Silverton.  We were going to ride the Narrow Gauge Railroad from Silverton to Durango.  There is probably a Murphy’s Law that says ‘what you packed cannot be repacked in quite the same way’.  I remember my Dad’s frustration in getting everything back into and onto the car.  I’m pretty sure I was not much help, but eventually we were loaded and started the drive.   That is, until we got stuck in the mud.  My brother, grandma and aunt all got out to push the car while my dad steered and I sat “quietly” in the back.  Finally, we were back on the road, although not as clean as when we started.  My dad drove like a bat out of hell as we raced to the station and ran to make the train on time.

I don’t know how to describe what happened next except to say Great Aunt Lena was afraid of heights.  She didn’t really want to sit by the window and with a tight grip on the seat, she began to pray aloud the whole way asking God to save us from plunging to our deaths!  Everyone was cranky and muddy (except me) from being prodded and rushed by my dad.  Suffice it to say that his words of,  “By golly, I paid for these tickets and we are going to enjoy this train ride if it kills us!” put us in check.  Chug a chug a choo choo….and off we went..

After the train ride, we settled back into our assigned seats and began the trek home.  Yes, my Daddy loved a trip, loved to plan it and most of all control it.  I remember the stress, the tension and calamities, but I also remember his face.  Occasionally, when things were going smoothly, the work was done and he was casting his line into the stream…he would smile.  Truly smile.  He had pulled it off, we were on vacation, enjoying our little family and creating memories, and that we did!

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Water’s Edge (at the Keller Kamp)

Water’s Edge

by Ginger Keller Gannaway   (Me, Momma, Jessica & Ryan Keller in Calcasieu River,1981)

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The Cajun Kellers from Eunice, Louisiana have  always loved going to the water’s edge for vacation.  Grandma Regina had her camp near the Calcasieu River in Indian Village, and she welcomed her six children and 25 grandchildren to enjoy visits there.  Several times a year (and most of the summer), she, her boarder/ best friend, Stella Parrott, her hired help, Jane, who slept on the camp’s back porch, and whichever grandkids were available spent a few days at her Keller Kamp.   The camp was an un-air-conditioned place with a huge screened-in front porch, a side sandbox, a huge middle room with 4 double beds, one baby bed, and a loud attic fan; a side-porch bedroom ; a long kitchen with a long wooden dining table and an extra-deep sink for bathing toddlers and babies in. Also,  off the kitchen was a rustic, dark bathroom with a rickety shower whose wooden splash board banged down every time I tried lifting my kid feet over it to get into the dimly-lit shower stall. 

The camp, like its water, had a hard, tinny feel.  With almost everyone sleeping in one room, an 8-inch black-and-white t.v.  that sometimes got one channel mounted near the attic fan, and no a/c, this wasn’t a luxury vacation.  However, as a 7-year-old, I was in vacation heaven at the Keller Kamp.

On rainy afternoons we kids colored or played cards on the front porch’s picnic tables. Early mornings and late afternoons we’d dig deep into soft brown sand or take turns on the two swings that swung over the sand box that was once a covered garage.  Our hands and fingernails would turn black from digging tunnels and building castles in that sand.  Also, we were next to the river’s bay where mostly men and boys fished from the shore or took small row boats out into the river’s special spots where perch, catfish, and sac-au-lait were biting.

However, the camp’s main attraction was the Sand Bar, a magical  “beach” on the Calcasieu that we reached by walking about half a mile through a wooded area (only when accompanied by an adult). The Sand Bar was a quiet piece of sand on the banks of that beautiful brown river.  We marched there down a well-worn dirt path hauling our towels and drinks and snacks and a couple of folding chairs for the grown-ups.  That walk built-up our anticipation for swimming in our special hidden spot.  Once we arrived and set our towels out in shady nooks, no child dared even get her toes wet until the adult in charge (usually my 6’ 4” Daddy) tested the water’s depth.  Daddy would wade into the moving water until he reached a spot he thought was just deep enough for us kids.  On rare, magical occasions the river was so low Dad could walk completely across “to the other sand bar” with the water only reaching his lower thigh.  Then our exploring and chasing and running and splashing had grand new possibilities.  But most days we stayed on one side of the river and obeyed Dad’s, “Don’t go past this here stick or you get a spanking!”

Alright with me.  The water was cool, the sand was soft and malleable and my siblings and cousins and I had endless types of games to play: chase, freeze-tag, Marco Polo, hide-and-seek, or original dramas we created based on our favorite tv shows at the time, Lost in Space and Gilligan’s Island.  Other times I stayed to myself and created sandcastles or lay on my towel to read Archie comics.  In addition to enjoying the pure joy of swimming at our “private” beach, there was the thrill of the river’s current.  I would kneel in the water to get in deeper and feel the strong tug of the water pushing me and almost tipping me over when I was chin-deep.  People had drowned in that river!  And that  touch of danger and uncertainty added to my thrill in the river.  The cool water, the  sorta muddy sand oozing between my toes, the river’s power,  the shouts and laughter from the other kids, the sun shyly shining through abundant tree branches, the peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on Evangeline Maid bread all blended beautifully to make every Sand Bar visit a memory of vacation perfection.

Years and years later, when Grandma had sold the camp and we kids bemoaned its departure from our lives, I asked Daddy about how much he had loved his time at the Sand Bar.  He smiled slightly and drily said, “All I ever did was count heads the whole time we were there.”  So the water’s edge meant different things to different Kellers, yet we all hold lots of memories about our  wonderful Keller Kamp.

(Ginger, Emile, Kelly, and Gayle Keller at Keller Kamp sand box,1964)

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Evan, the Forever Artist by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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I remember voices coming from my then 3-year-old son’s room when I knew he was playing alone.  Who is he talking to?  The conversation was animated and varied, moving from voices of nervous urgency to calm reassurance.  I walked to the edge of his room and saw Evan dramatically playing with his Ninja turtles and action figures from the Alien movies.  His story included explosive sound effects as the mutant and alien worlds collided.  So early on, my then thumb-sucking boy created his own realities.  At age 4, a crayon helped him explore new forms of creativity.  As he sketched more and more, he mostly mimicked the Pokemon and superhero figures he and his brother loved.  His skill improved, and by 5, as a childhood friend put it, “You say ‘dragon’ to Evan and then BAM! there’s a dragon on the page.”

As soon as our son mastered holding a pencil, he experimented with putting images on paper.  He seemed to claim his future profession in elementary school, forever drawing at the dinner table, on the sofa, in the car, with his friends, or by himself. Often on Friday nights we went out to eat, and Evan invariably scrounged through my purse for scraps of paper or a pen or pencil.

When he matured to double-digits, he learned to have his own drawing supplies. Also, he learned from art teachers, like Ms. Webb at Travis Heights and Mr. Landon at Fulmore Middle School.    He won recognition at school and even once won an online contest to design a playing card for the Xiolin Showdown game.  In high school he experimented with photography and 3-D art, but he disliked the deadlines and restrictions of AP Art class.  In college he expanded his art exploration and surprised me when he majored in art education.  Evan used to encourage family members to draw because like Picasso said, “Everyone is an artist.”  So now he could spread that belief to young students.

Last summer Evan took an ACC pottery class and got up-close and personal with clay.  After college graduation he returned home, pulled out his leftover clay and fashioned these emotive heads: from goblins with menacing grins to elderly faces with pensive poses.  He began revisiting all his old art works, taking pictures, and organizing them.  (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)

Now my third-born son emerges before me as a guy with several guises.  He’s still the sensitive soul who carefully captures household spiders and geckos to release them in our backyard.  He’s still the consistent environmentalist who once did laundry in his bathtub at college and  abhors styrofoam and tells us half a paper towel is all you need.  He’s still the simple guy who needs little and wants less.

He’s the forever artist who sees an agile monster with a green grin cradling a bowl of fruit on a blank canvas or a sassy dragon contemplating its toes on an empty piece of paper or a focused ogre with huge lobster hands inside a lump of clay.

I marvel how my super-silly Evanator dancing in a Mardi Gras getup made of toilet paper at age 7 has become a focused, skilled, contemplative artist at age 23 who is ready to show the future that “Everyone is an artist.”

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The Dragonfly by Nancy Malcolm

010Photographs by Nancy Malcolm

I love dragonflies.  I love to photograph them and I find great pleasure and challenge in capturing their beauty while they flit through life, pausing only seconds before taking off again.  The dragonfly symbolizes change and change in the perspective of self realization.  In other words; the dragonfly symbolizes growing up, maturing and becoming oneself.  Doing everything you said you wouldn’t and not doing what you said you would…growing up!

The dragonfly can actually move in six directions:  hover like a helicopter, fly backwards like a hummingbird, fly straight up, down and on either side.   All of these moves are easily accomplished at an amazing 45 mph speed.  In my life, as in the dragonfly world, I am learning that life requires some pretty clever moves.  Two steps forward, one step back, dodge a financial blow, sidestep a bad relationship…above all else, keep moving!   Hover above the storm.   Although  occasionally, the backwards move is necessary to get out of a situation that just doesn’t feel right.  

As I “mature”, I’m realizing that no matter how my life started, no matter what I have been through, right now I know that I’ve had a charmed life.  Like the dragonfly, I’ve skimmed across water and glancing at my reflection, I see not only what’s on the surface, but the deeper life…what really counts.  The dragonfly’s agile flight exudes a sense of power and poise, something that comes only with age and maturity.  In my mind, the dragonfly knows that even if his wing tips low, or a gale force wind blows, it’s his heart and soul that propels him onward.  He simply must be what God created him to be.

The adult dragonfly is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings and an elongated body.  These huge eyes give them incredible vision in almost every direction except directly behind them.  Isn’t that the truth in life?  Hindsight is always 20-20…  I would like to think that the eyes really are the window to the soul.  What am I looking at and for how long?  Am I looking to the good and loving qualities of others or am I spending too much time looking for the bad?  Am I looking to the past for my future?  These large powerful eyes remind me to look beyond my limitations, beyond the doubt into the realm of possibilities.

The dragonfly lives most of its life as a nymph and his adult life lasts only a few months.  Not a very long life span, but definitely a billboard for living one day at a time.  It seems true for me as well.  I spent a lot of my life in immaturity, wanting to be a grown up and yet not knowing how.  And then suddenly waking up at 63 and wondering when did I mature, or did I?

I think it’s a slow process, sometimes painful, sometimes exhilarating and always an adventure.  Dragonflies are comfortable on water, land and in the air, they are adaptable and make the most of their time on this earth.  That’s what I want to do.

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Best of Times, Worst of Times by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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Best of Times, Worst of Times (while making a movie) by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Tammy Wynette advised me to “Stand by Your Man” and I did my best to follow those words last month.  But, girl!, you know it ain’t always easy!  You see, my man (at age 70) wanted to produce his own meta/horror/comedy movie (Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains).  He had written the script, won an award, found an eager Brazilian director, raised some funds, connected with a co-producer, and began the journey.  I had naively offered “to help” feed the folks involved, and during the whirlwind of pre-production I became the entire catering & craft services department.  When the cast and crew ballooned into 28 people, the wind became a tornado of planning, shopping, cooking, serving,cleaning, planning,shopping, cooking… for a 15 (but really 18) day shoot made up of 12 hour work days!

I had seen movies about making movies.  I knew the process was chaotic and confusing and full of unforeseen problems caused by forces not-to-be-controlled.  Yet reality can be a harsh and ungrateful bitch.  Even though my husband’s dream movie was low,low budget and those involved were working hard for small paychecks, I did not understand the movie business hierarchy / pecking order on set.  The director was revered by the actors; the assistant director really ran the show and had the crew’s respect; the director of photography was held in high esteem by both cast & crew.  Next in line came the actors  (even if they mostly sat or slept around and waited for their moments to shine) because their faces were the ones up on the big screen.  Then came the crew “bosses”: the gaffer or head G&E person, the sound engineer, the set designer, the assistant cameraman , the make-up and special effects people.  Behind these folks were their team members and the script supervisor and then the wardrobe person.  The various producers moved around acting important and they could move up or down the level of command.  Sometimes the owner or manager of a location merited some respect. 

BUT the lowest one, the person all of the above people looked down on or bossed around was Food Services.  “Is this all you have for breakfast?”  “There’s nothing here I can eat?”  “Are these muffins gluten-free?”  “What you got for us to drink?”  “This is lunch?!”

Having to feed cast and crew two meals each day (usually breakfast and lunch with plenty of snacks and drinks in between meals with coffee all day long caused constant stress constantly.  Will I have enough food?  Will I get through traffic fast enough to arrive on location on time?  Don’t forget GF girl.  Does today’s location have access to electricity for my crockpots?  Get more ice.  How to I convince them to recycle?  To pick up their own trash?  To not waste so much?  To not be hoggish?  Or impatient? Or SO PICKY?  These were the “Worst of Times.”

I went to bed tired from hauling all my catering crap home, cleaning my dishes, finding space in my wreck of a kitchen for leftovers, and fixing the coffee pot for tomorrow.  I slept fitfully with endless grocery lists, ice chests, and finicky eaters running amok in my head.  I awoke at 2 a.m. and remembered I had forgotten to order tacos for breakfast the next day, but then I realized the next day’s call was at 2 p.m. so I’d have time to place the order OR I suddenly remembered the next day was actually  a glorious Saturday and we were not filming on weekends.  So I got into the routine of this three and a half week tornado, and it sorta/kinda got better.  I figured out a lot of stuff, and I panicked a lot less.

Overall,  it was basically better because I connected with some of the people; I learned some of their stories. Actors Evan and Zeke were excited and optimistic about their first feature film roles.  Veteran actor Gary shared various tales about doing wild stunts and meeting Hollywood legends. Sound engineer Nick explained how he got involved in movies and gave me ideas for feeding vegetarians.  I heard  many crazy movie tales mixed in with reasons why our cast and crew members chose the film world’s  “road less travelled” despite other people’s judgements. Our movie team started to connect like a weird and wonderful film family, and I even experienced some magical movie moments.

During one of the overnight shoots (we had breakfast at 5 p.m. and lunch at 11 p.m.) a thunderstorm rears its angry head around 3 a.m.while they are shooting chase scenes across the mosquito-infested backyard at the Bloorhouse in Manor. As the storm screams and pushes its way into our movie world, the crew hurriedly hauls sensitive lights and cameras and cables and sound equipment onto the back porch.   I try to move drinks & snacks into the kitchen when the wind blows the rain sideways and onto my food service/ back porch domain.  Soon everyone is wet and regrouping in the dining room and living room as  SX guru Shelly starts to prepare  actor Larry Jack for his final scene: “getting electrocuted on the security fence.”  My mind is like “WHAT??  Why is he getting all blackened-up? They can’t shoot outside anymore.”  But 1st camera guy Jake goes on the  front porch to smoke and he’s watching the crazy lightning show and he takes a camera out  into the front yard when the rain lets up some and he calls to Matt, the DP, that the Bloorhouse “looks amazing” in the lightning, and so Matt checks it out and soon Matt is running around in the storm towards the backyard exclaiming, “I love the rain, man!”  Then the director Paulo and Matt are on the back porch saying, “We’re gonna do this!”  And someone finds some boards and a piece of chicken wire and they’re constructing an “electric fence” on the back porch!  Some naysayers are complaining about “their” equipment and suggesting that Matt and Paulo and Jake and others are crazy, but the crazies don’t even hear. They continue to move furniture and build the electric fence.  Then  burned-up-face Larry Jack comes up to me and asks, “You got any Alka Seltzer?  I could bite it when I get electrocuted and foam at the mouth.”  Next Rebecca, owner of the Bloorhouse, tells us, “I might have some in back of  the medicine cabinet.”  And the bravest of the crew continue to madly set the scene on the porch.  They have make-shift lighting with flashlights and such and some sound effects folks with pieces of tin and wood stand  to one side and soon even the negative types are coming on board and the atmosphere is really full of electric energy and soon Paulo calls for Larry Jack and Rebecca hands him an expired Alka Seltzer and Matt and Jake have cameras ready to roll and assistant director Robin is ready to yell, “Quiet on the set!”  Several are huddled around the monitors, and I’m sitting at the dining room table off to one side, and even though I can’t see the action on the porch, I hear Paulo’s “Action” and lights are flashing and sounds are crackling.  “More!  Shake more! More!!”   commands Paulo and Larry Jack is getting electrocuted at 4:47 a.m. on a front porch with light rain falling in the yard.  And the chickens are close to getting up when everyone breaks into applause for the scene they just created out of chaos.  And a rooster crows for the coming morn AND for Larry Jack’s final scene.  And I smile and think “best of times” in the making of a movie.electrifying times