Posted in Children, Clueless, Eunice, Louisiana, Grandmother, Growing up

Stuck by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Stuck

When I was 5, I pushed my fat face through the stair railings at Grandma’s house. I was sitting on the 7th or 8th step that led up to the spooky attic door where grown-ups had told us “Egor lived.” My first cousin Gina was in the hallway below me (maybe I had hoped to scare or surprise her with my silly stunt).  Unfortunately, I only succeeded in getting my head stuck between the wooden slats and crying like a clueless puppy who nudged a snapping turtle. 

ANDREW on stairs
My nephew Andrew who is too wise to stick his whole head through Grandma’s stair railings!

I do not remember who rescued me from my trap, but I do recall the embarrassment more than I remember the pain of pulling my big head free from the railings. Gina’s giggles mixed with my brother Emile’s taunt, “Ha!Look what Ginger did!” And my younger sister Gayle pulled her thumb from her mouth and asked me the obvious, “Why you do that?”

Years later Gina would tease me with, “Remember when you stuck your big head thru Grandma’s stair rails?” as we both laughed and clinked our Miller Pony bottles.  Gina was right.  I was a chubby-cheeked, Charlie Brown-headed kid who rushed into silly situations.

Fat Face
My “Village of the Damned” stare, and why does a 4-year-old need a watch?

I still have memories of a few unfortunate messes I found myself stuck in:

Age 8: Deciding to help a wounded opossum take care of her newborn babies as she hissed at me.

Age 15: Talking my 2 younger sisters (ages 13 &11) into hanging out at the motel swimming pool to flirt with some young army recruits stationed at Fort Polk. The guys tried talking us into meeting them later at their motel rooms. My wiser, younger sisters convinced me sneaking out to visit them later that night was a bad idea.

Age 19: Mixing cocktails in my roommate’s Volkswagen as we drove across the river on a Sunday afternoon to a bar where we danced with guys in their 30’s who later that week called us to see if we were available as “dates” for their friends.

Age 35: Driving 6 young boys to Barton Springs for a summer swim and being told, “We don’t allow day cares to swim with only one chaperone.”

My curiosity or my ill-guided bravery often led me to make a few bumpy, rocky decisions.  However, my stupid choices did not usually keep me stuck for too long. Back when I was stuck on Grandma’s stairs my mom or Aunt Toni likely rescued me. I even later served as a “cautionary tale” for future young cousins.

“Remember: Don’t be like Ginger and get your head stuck in those stair railings. Egor might come from the attic to get you!”

Posted in Caring for others, Children, Growing up, Introspection, Love, Mothers, Parenting

Fragile by Ginger Keller Gannaway

I remember the nervousness of holding my baby Shane 30 years ago. He was a couple of days old and hooked up to monitors and tubes in an ICU unit in San Antonio.  Born with transposition of the greater vessels, Shane had undergone an emergency heart procedure about six hours after he was born.  Dr. Bloom, a pediatric cardiologist, reopened the flap between the chambers of my first child’s heart with a balloon catheter that changed Shane from being a “blue baby” to a greyish-tinted baby. Shane would not be a healthy-looking pink Caucasian baby until he was big and strong enough to survive open-heart surgery to get his ticker to pump the proper amount of oxygen to his lungs.

Baby shane and mama
My mom (MaMa Gerry) and Shane Thomas

The morning I first held my baby in the ICU my mind held a confusing mix of excitement and fear. The nurse had to unhook Shane from a few monitors to place him in my arms as I bottle-fed him my pumped breast milk.

A week later a different nurse gave me lessons in swaddling and bathing my son. Also, I was handed a list of the signs of heart failure. She reminded me that Shane was still sick, and he would need extra care until he weighed 20 pounds and could undergo a 5-hour surgery.  Her directions, “Don’t let him cry too much” haunted me and Gary for the next 7 months.

Shane seemed beyond fragile. Bathing him involved getting the bathroom sauna-room warm before we washed his squiggling, crying, slippery self.  Breast feeding was the one thing my newborn and I seemed to get right. Shane was satisfied with his meal, and I felt like my boy was perfectly safe for those round-the-clock connections we shared.

As Shane grew and learned to sit up and crawl, we developed a small amount of parental confidence (until he had his first earache, busted lip, bumped head, or gagging incident).  Later Shane survived his open-heart surgery ordeal, and we worried less when he soon walked and talked his way into toddlerhood. Then in 1990  Casey was born followed by Evan in 1993. I let go of many parental fears since I saw my 3 boys as rough and tumble puppies who were more unbreakable than fragile.  (Like in Truffaut’s “Small Change” when a toddler falls out an apt. window and bounces his way to safety on the lawn).

However, when my boys became teenagers my fears about their fragility returned, and I felt sure about nothing. From the first broken-heart moment to the first traffic violation or the middle-of-the night call for help, I realized that a teen’s belief in his own infallibility only makes him more likely to get in trouble or hurt.

Now my boys are ages 30, 27, 24 and to me they are still fragile. Years before Shane was born, my dad told me that a parent never stops worrying about their children. I hate to admit that Dad was right-on with that observation. These days I aim for balance between fear and confidence when I think about my three sons. I know all of them have strong, loving hearts and minds that will serve them well when Life hurls danger at their fragile parts.

my 3 sons
Evan, Casey, Shane in 2006
Posted in fathers and daughters, Growing up, Memories, movies, picture show

Movie Memory: Cat Ballou by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Cat BallouSince my grandmother owned the movie theaters in my hometown,  I saw almost every movie that came to Eunice, Louisiana from 1960 to 1975.  Movies were surrogate parents that gave my young head magical stories full of adventure, comedy, and music.

Cat Ballou remains one of my fondest movie memories.  Jane Fonda’s big-eyed bright blue innocence mixed with Lee Marvin’s slapstick drunkenness to create a revenge story full of heart and humor. I had a 9-year-old-girl crush on Michael Callan when he surprised and made advances on the naive school teacher, Catherine Ballou.  Then the teacher teamed up with outlaws, both inexperienced and over-the hill, to find the villain who murdered her dad. And tying the whole comic western together were Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye as the banjo-playing Greek chorus. (I still love the rhythmic sounds of “Wolf City, Wyoming…Wolf City, Wyoming.”)

I saw Cat Ballou 4 times in one week, and as I chomped on a full-sized Tootsie Roll, I thought Lee Marvin’s “Happy Birthday to You” mistake at Cat’s father’s funeral was the funniest thing in cinema in 1965.

Later my eyes got misty when Nat King Cole’s velvet voice crooned “They Can’t Make Her Cry” as Cat and her gang of guys slowly rode their horses toward their train robbery revenge plan.

At the end came the (Spoiler Alert) rousing rescue scene when Cat stands on the gallows in her virginal white dress and gives the sheriff “Let’s get on with it” as her final words. Next her merry band jumps into action with Kid Shelleen  simultaneously threatening to fall off his saddle and shoot an escape path for the group.

That year Cat Ballou was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and Lee Marvin beat out Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Rod Steiger, and Oskar Werner for the Best Actor award! At 9, I was clueless about the status of the Oscars; however, I was aware that a movie could take me back to 1894 when a dedicated daughter could become a train robber and gun down the owner of Wolf City Development who ordered her father’s death.  And a drunken, has-been gunfighter could sober up, clean up, and dress up in time to shoot his evil brother. Finally, the daughter, her young beau, and the other outlaws would still ride into the sunset to the jangly tune of “The Legend of Cat Ballou.”

Happy Oscars Day!! 

What are your favorite childhood movie memories? 

Posted in Children, Fathers, fathers and daughters, Friendship, Growing up, Memories, Outdoors

Bangberry Ride by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Bangberry* Ride (*Banbury Cross)

Bangberry ride1
Dad/ Papa with Grandson Ryan on the Bangberry Tree

There was an oak tree with a long, low limb. A 6’4” dad would put a girl on his shoulders and let her scramble into the crook of the tree’s limb where she could hold on to small branches and settle into the oak’s saddle. The tall dad would then grab the limb’s end and pull it down, down to the ground. Anticipation made the girl’s grip tighten. The dad would go down and up, down and up to the tune of an old nursery rhyme:

“Here we go down to Banbury Cross

To see a fine lady ride on a white horse.

With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes

She will have music where ever she goes.”

Then the dad added an “Ole!” as he released the limb to make the girl spring up high as the tree was free to boing, boing, boing back into place.

Evan in tree
Evan in Bangberry Tree, 2005

Head and hair surrounded by branches and leaves, the girl felt equal to the free-flying birds.That 4-second thrill was a perfect balance of joy and fear.  She looked down on her siblings from her queenly perch  as they did the “Me next!” dance and she gave the mere mortals a slight smile before she accepted the dad’s huge hand that helped her dismount her tree throne.

Besides the wooden roller coaster at the beach, the “Bangberry Ride” was the girl’s favorite ride. With a rhyming song, a heavenly seat, a touch of danger, a parent’s attention, her sisters’ envy, and her stomach’s tickle, the ride was a moment of childhood perfection.

trees in Eunice
Oak trees around my childhood home
Posted in Christmas, Entertainment, Grandchildren, Grandmother, Growing up, movie theater, movies, picture show

Big Jim by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Big Jim

Liberty 1927
Liberty Theater, 1927

My siblings and I in a way grew up in a movie theater.   Grandma Keller owned our hometown’s two movie theaters, and she let her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren get in free.  My brother and sisters and I saw every movie that came to town. That lasted until 1968 when the ratings system began (G, M, R, and X). My parents viewed the Liberty Theater and Queen Cinema as free “babysitters.” We sometimes were dropped off at the show with paper bags holding hamburgers from Ruby’s Cafe if Momma and Dad’s night out began early. I remember strolling past a line of movie customers and waving at Miss Pearl (the ticket seller) as we made our way inside. A new ticket taker would get, “Our grandma is Mrs. Keller,” if he tried to stop our jaunty picture show entrance. Continue reading “Big Jim by Ginger Keller Gannaway”

Posted in First Car, Friendship, Growing up

A Fine Ride

Impala

 

I haven’t always been a rule follower…in fact when I was 14 years old, I started to drive. This urge to drive took over my common sense like a speeding dart heading for the bullseye!  Not having a driver’s license did not seem to bother me and I was even able to convince my best friend that I could teach her to drive, as well.

 

At the time, my Dad drove a white, ‘63 Chevy Impala, so logically that was my car, too.  It was perfect!  I could get three people in the front and four or five in the back.  What could be better than taking your friends for a spin?

 

On this one particular day, my Dad had taken his ‘company car’ to work, leaving the Impala parked carefully in the garage.  As soon as he left, I found the keys to the Imala and began making my plans.  I’m not proud of this now, you understand, but for some reason, at that time I had no remorse.

 

My friend, Nitia,  walked over to my house and we took the ole Chevy out for the day.  Long, LONG ago, 50 cents would buy a lot of gas, so we came prepared to fill it back up if necessary.    I can’t remember where we went, but I’m sure it involved ‘seeing and being seen.’  There was probably a boy or two and maybe a trip to the mall incorporated into our plan.

 

After our joy ride, I was making the turn leading back to my house.  Unfortunately, it also went right by Nitia’s house.  This would have been ok except her dad was outside watering the yard.  When we noticed him, it was too late to turn around, and I instinctively yelled, “Duck!”  For some reason, I thought that was a good idea, and I ducked too.  It must have been a subliminal message or sheer ignorance, but surprisingly we crept safely by her house, ducked down in the front seat.  When we made it to my house, we parked back into the garage and congratulated ourselves on having a great day and dodging her dad.

 

Later that night at dinner, Nitia’s dad turned to her and said, “The weirdest thing happened today.  I saw Nancy’s Dad’s car drive by and no one was in it.”  Of course, she acted like she didn’t know what he was talking about and miraculously, her parents never called mine, but that was a very close call.

 

All during my 9th and 10th-grade years, I sporadically took that grand ‘63 Chevy Impala out for a drive.  I learned to drive in that car and finally got my driver’s license in that car.  It was my signature ride until I went to college and had to leave it behind.

 

If that ole Chevy could talk, it would keep us entertained for days with stories of friends, secrets, near misses and more fun than should be allowed.  I eventually told my Dad about some of my car adventures.  He was shocked, to say the least, but managed to chuckle since it obviously was past the statute of limitations for being grounded.  

 

There might be another story or two about that ole Chevy, but for now, just revel in its sleek, thoroughbred beauty, and imagine yourself at the wheel!  It was a fine ride, yes indeed!