Posted in Relationships

Walker – Stalker

            The first time it happened, I was not prepared.  The sun was shining, and I had a spring in my step as I headed outside for my walk.  Two blocks down I heard, “Oh, howdy neighbor,” as I ran smack dab into John.

            On our first meeting I learned John was a retired college professor, married to a woman whose mother was ill, the mother lived in Poland, and he knew three languages.

            He was going home after his walk but decided to walk with me for a while, just to chat.

            “Won’t you be going the wrong way?” I smiled.

            “Oh, I don’t mind, I’ll walk with you at least to the next street.  What did you say your name was?”

            “Nancy,” I said.  “I live on the corner, there.”

            “I know,” he said, and we walked together to the next street.

            John, bless his heart, is in his late seventies.  He uses a cane to support his stooped frame but is surprisingly agile as he sprints across the street to see me.  Most days he has on a faded baseball cap, PBS t-shirt, and plaid pajama pants with tennis shoes.  He sports a dashing mustache and has twinkling blue eyes that light up when he smiles, and he’s always smiling.

            Because John often needs to stop and catch his breath, I slow down and just wait while he rests and entertains me with his steady stream of stories from the past.

            Lest you think I am sweet for listening, I have been known to look out my front door and scan the streets before starting to walk.  I selfishly want to be alone with my thoughts or Spotify favorites, and walk at a faster pace.  But, on many occasions when I thought the coast was clear, he will come out of nowhere and POOF, I’ll hear him calling my name.

            Once I left the house, calling to Boo, “I’m going to get the mail.  Be right back.”

It takes me fifteen minutes to walk up the street and back to our community mailboxes.  Forty-five minutes later when I returned; Boo was standing in the kitchen,

“John?”

            “John.”

            “He’s a walker stalker!” Boo laughed.

            John will start talking fifty feet before he gets to me, and ever the gentleman he says, “I see you’re going for your walk.  Do you mind if I join you?”

            Another time I lied, “Sorry, John, I’m trying to get a short walk in before I have to go to a doctor’s appointment.”   

But he said, “Me too, which doctor are you going to?  I’ll just walk with you to the next street.”

            John asks me questions about myself, too.  He now knows my husband’s name, how long I worked in education, how many children we have and how long we’ve lived in our house.

            Boo was mowing the front yard one day, when I suddenly heard the mower stop.  I figured he was emptying the clippings, but when the mower never started back up, I opened the door to check.  One foot out the door and I saw John, leaning on his cane, chatting up a storm with Boo.  I quickly and quietly shut the door and hid.  Some time later the mower sputtered back up and soon Boo came in calling, “John says hello.  Did you know he was a college professor?”

            Last year with the Pandemic and all, John would always stay a respectable distance while we walked, asking if I was comfortable about the six-foot rule.  But now I know John is vaccinated, his wife is visiting her mother, he married late in life at fifty-three, he has sciatica and he had lunch with two friends yesterday.  Things are getting back to normal.

When I’m walking with John, he smiles and greets everyone on our path.  He knows most of them by name and can tell me something interesting about each one.  He’s amazing.  His seventy-plus-year-old mind is as sharp as ever.  When I stop to think about it, John has been the highlight of my shelter in place, stay at home days.  He’s upbeat, never feels sorry for himself, and although he has to stop now and again to rest, he’s out there doing his thing. 

As much as I selfishly want to walk faster some days, I know there will come a time when I miss seeing John and hearing about his life.  Perhaps divine providence brought me John to slow me down and refine my patience.  He certainly has brought me company along my walks and a smile on those lonely COVID days.  It’s hard to believe that someday I may be out walking the neighborhood, looking for friendship and a listening ear.  I hope you’ll slow down and walk with me, at least to the next street.

Posted in Boo, Relationships

Boo’s Staycation

          I returned home Sunday, from a three-day girl’s weekend.  The four of us have been friends for many years and really treasure our time together to talk, laugh, eat good food and maybe drink a little wine.  As is my custom I usually call or text Boo when I am on my way home.  “Time to kick out the dancing girls and stack up the beer cans!” I joke. 

But, when I walked into the house on Sunday, I was immediately hit with the smell of Fabuloso (think Pine Sol with a big dose of lavender) and charred red meat.

          “Wow Babe, did you clean while I was gone?”  I asked.

          “Oh, you know…I like to have everything looking good for my baby when she gets home.”

          Lest you think I am an ingrate; I know his little secrets.  Fifteen minutes before I walk in the door, he will Swiffer the entry hall, swish Fabuloso in the hall bathroom commode, open the blinds, fold the accent blanket on the couch and for a bonus effect he will start the dishwasher or a load of towels.  This is his “cleaning” routine for his ‘baby’.  It smells Fabuloso, but don’t look too closo.

          “Did you girls have a good time?”

          “Always!  We talked and laughed the whole time and made a charcuterie board with fresh shrimp on the side.

          “What kind of board?” 

          “Cheese, crackers, olives..just snacky stuff,” I said.

          “Hmmmm.”

          “Enough about me, what did you eat while I was gone?  Something meaty?”

          “Just the usual.  Meat Lovers Pizza Friday night then Saturday, I cooked Baby back ribs on the grill, sausage links, and a New York Strip.  I made salad and a fresh blueberry pie.”

          “Oh, and I opened a can of green beans.” (opened is the operative word.)

Boo’s idea of salad is either iceberg lettuce with croutons and lots of dressing or it is Suddenly Salad, which is not really salad.  Suddenly Salad is a macaroni, mayonnaise and secret packet concoction that has preservatives listed as the number one ingredient.

          “Wow!” I said.

          “I know,” he said with pride.    

          While I’m gone, I know he eats pretzels and M&M’s in bed and sleeps all night with the T.V. on, which is the opposite of the dark, quiet room I like.

          I know he lets the cat sleep with him, in fact she acts indignant when I get home.  She tries to get in on my side of the bed before I can and puts her little head on my pillow.

          I know that days before I go out of town, he is making a secret grocery list with all the essentials:  meat, meat, and more meat.

          I know he made a pie, but I also know there’s a new package of Twizzlers, Caramel de Lites Girl Scout cookies, and Tootsie Rolls open in the pantry.

          He watches the news and sports and an action movie on Netflix all at the same time, clicking back and forth.  Denzel Washington is probably killing someone or blowing something up in between Wolf Blitzer or Sean Hannity and all the while corn is popping in the microwave, with real melted butter. 

          Boo goes all out for his staycations.  I don’t begrudge him any of his fun and relaxation because he always lets me go and do whatever I want.  He encourages me to see my friends and he genuinely wants me to be happy, and if he happens to have a weekend to himself then it’s a win-win.  I applaud his self-sufficiency and creativity. 

Boo is a self-actualized man who knows how to take care of himself.  I would never have to leave him casseroles in the freezer for fear he would starve, and while we don’t always see eye-to-eye on nutrition or cleanliness, he’s capable and likes to think out of the box.  He’s the yin to my yang, the Snoop Dogg to my Martha Stewart.

I know Boo really likes his time alone at home, just to chill and do his thing and I’m glad it’s not with the dancing girls and cold beer!  So, if a few ribs, a little candy and 24/7 TV makes him happy who am I to spoil his fun?

          That Boo is fabuloso!

Posted in Contemplations, Relationships

Deep Thoughts by Ginger Keller Gannaway

   

My husband Gary wakes up with a head full of Gary. Like a toddler or teenager, he has perfected the art of self-absorption.

Gary

In the 1990s when our three sons were young and Gary and I both taught full-time, I woke up early to make little lunches and plot the day’s obligations:  get the boys to two different schools before getting to my own school and teaching five sections of seventh grade language arts;  remind Shane he had jazz band practice after school, Casey he had computer class at Boys and Girls Club, and Evan to do homework at his elementary’s Extend-a-Care program; stop by HEB for supper ingredients and swing by Terra Toys for a birthday party gift on Saturday before I picked up my sons. 

All day the kid details fought for control of my brain with lesson plans about teaching the difference between “your and you’re” or nuances of dramatic irony in Roald Dahl”s short story “Lamb to the Slaughter.”

Gary’s brain lived a different existence. It woke up an hour and a half later than mine, and after his mandatory two cups of coffee, it was awake enough to carefully fry three neat strips of bacon for his own breakfast. He did help with the dropping off and picking up of children if I wrote him detailed notes and reminded him during his lunch break and ten minutes after his school’s final bell.

As our boys grew up and needed more rides to more places, Gary became a trusted driver as long as my directions were specific and did not impose on his weekend jogs and his Thursday “pint night” at the Dog and Duck Pub.

Casey, Evan, Shane

Now our boys are men and living their own lives. Gary and I have been navigating the pandemic and aging as best we can. We walk our dog each morning as a team – he’s on lookout duty for other dogs on leashes and for free-range cats. He also scans the sidewalks and grassy areas for discarded scraps of food or other potential dog distractions. Millie pulls on her leash as I follow, and Gary calls out helpful warnings like “Big brown dog at twelve o’clock” or “Broken beer bottle on my right.” Sometimes, however, his head fills up with his own thoughts, and he misses telling me about a stray fried chicken bone or a big turd dropped in the middle of the sidewalk.  We have brief spats and he may say, “Don’t you have two good eyes as well?” 

Millie walking Me

Gary has admitted to not being a noticer. And he’s not talkative when he gets in his “me zone.” Also, now that he’s lost hearing in his right ear, I take no offense when he sometimes does not respond to my insightful comments during our dog walks. Did I remember to direct my voice to his left side? Or is his mind too preoccupied with more important things like his latest film script or the current Amazon rental sales of the horror/comedy movie he wrote and self-produced in 2013: Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains

Gary is a natural at self-promotion. He raised thousands of dollars on Indiegogo to realize his dream of being a film producer! He will tell our condo neighbors or grocery cashiers or anyone who comments on his Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains t-shirt, “I wrote and produced this movie! Available on Amazon! Very meta; not a porno!” I envy his confidence and bravery.

Am I any less self-obsessed with writing blog essays and linking them to my FB and Twitter accounts? What is the line between “Look at me!” and “Give me your money”? 

Most mornings my head fills up with thoughts of my family and friends.  I worry about their health, their happiness, and what I can do to help them with either one. 

Momma, aka MaMa Gerry, making biscuits

I blame my momma. She took care of my dad, my brother, my sisters, and me like the strong Cajun force she was. She cooked and cleaned nonstop and insisted we spend all our time with her because she did not want to miss a bouree card game, a trip to the drive-through Daiquiri Shack, or hanging out on the front porch. At the end of our holiday visits, she hated telling us good-bye. 

“Oh, oh, I don’t want y’all to go,” she’d say and give me the biggest hugs her 5’2” ninety-nine pound frame could produce. She’d lock her arms around my waist and give me three short but intense hugs. “Humph! Humph! Humph!” My body would tense waiting for those squeezes of love. She cared and worried about those she loved. However, she also realized that not everyone needed looking after.

Movie Producer and Screenwriter Gary

Every Christmas holiday, Gary spent a night in Baton Rouge with his best friend Richard. One time I was concerned about saving enough turkey gumbo for my husband when he returned to Eunice. Momma focused her bright blue eyes at me and said, “Don’t you worry about Gary. Gary will always take care of Gary.”

My momma knew some big truths! 

My husband may think about himself a lot. He may need a little guidance with remembering others’ needs sometimes. But self-reliance is a very positive attribute. Emerson said, “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” As I follow Gary on our dog walks, and he clasps his hands loosely behind his back and strolls a half block ahead and he tilts his head to look at tree branches dancing in the wind, I will recognize a man comfortable with himself and at peace with his own thoughts.

Posted in Boo, Relationships

Vegetables, Granny Style

Scott eating

Most Sundays after Church, before the Pandemic, we would go to Luby’s, a Texas traditional cafeteria.  And almost every Sunday I would marvel at the colors and textures on Boo’s plate.

Strangely, chicken fried steak, cream gravy, fried okra, mashed potatoes, and a roll are all in the same color family…beige.  Of course, okra is green, but the outside is fried and therefore a brownish beige color, too. There is no pop of color, nothing with a stalk and no variety unless macaroni and cheese or corn is swapped for the usuals.  But, the colors are the same: beige, brown and blah.

I used to lament about his choices, calling him out for choosing nothing green.  I’ve lectured on the health benefits of vegetables and I have prepared every root, tuber, flower, bulb, seed, leaf and stem known to man.  “You need your greens!” I preach.

Granny used to cut up my vegetables so fine she could hide them in my mashed potatoes and gravy,”  he said.

“Really?”

Laughing, Boo said, “No, not really!  Granny never made me eat vegetables. She loved me.”

Some culinary experiments go over better than others.  Cauliflower rice, broccoli slaw, and butternut squash was a big thumbs down.  Creamed spinach, creamed corn or green bean casserole was a thumbs up. If I ask which vegetable he wants with dinner, it’s always the same answer, “Just open a can of green beans.”  At dinner, he will proudly count out 4-6 green beans and smile, “See? I like green vegetables.”

“Remember last time we went to Costco, and I insisted we get the twelve can box of green beans?  I’m practically veterinarian,” he said.

“Boo, it’s vegetarian, and no you’re not,”  I countered. 

“Don’t be snippy,” he said and added, “I like broccoli rice casserole. It’s chocked full of broccoli and healthy stuff.” 

 Of course he does.  BRC is chocked full of cream of mushroom soup and cheese, and not even real cheese at that… Cheese Whiz!   Boo’s list of vegetables all includes words like creamed, au gratin or cheese sauce. He tries to say fried zucchini and french fries are true vegetables.  He insists guacamole is a superfood and when he gets black olives on his meat-lovers pizza he is boastful for days.

“A man your age should eat vegetables without having to hide them in his mashed potatoes,” I say.

I felt him roll his eyes.   

“You’re trying to kill me,” he said.  “Remember the time you brought home grapefruit and tried to make me eat it at breakfast?  You know it doesn’t mix with my meds.”

“That was an accident.  I didn’t mean to. I just want you to eat more fruits and vegetables so you can live a long and healthy life.  I love you, Boo.”

“Promise me you’ll try to eat more greens?”  I asked. “You know, greens without a fried outer covering or smothered in cheese sauce?”

  “OK, but you’re asking a lot,”  and as he walked away I heard,

“I wish Granny was here.”

Granny
Posted in Grandmother, Relationships

Martha Margaretha

Valentine Queen

Growing up, everything I knew about beauty I learned from Grandma.  She was my source of information on becoming a woman, wife and mother.  Because my mother was deceased, I had no one to teach me the basics except Grandma and sometimes my dad, which as you might expect, was not always on point.

Grandma was raised on a dirt farm in Kansas.  They were so poor that her parents sent the last two siblings to live with another family because they could not feed them all.  She was only able to complete the 3rd grade because everyone was needed on the farm.  Grandma told me once that she did not remember laughing as a child.  “There was nothing to laugh about,” she said.  “We worked from sunup to sun down.”  And so my grandma, Martha Margaretha, was a serious, no nonsense kind of gal most of the time, but there was a little girl inside who longed to have fun and feel carefree.

Grandma was a wonderfully accomplished seamstress and made all of her clothes, even slips, bathrobes and nightgowns.  She also made all of my clothes until I was old enough to sew for myself.  She made my Barbies the most fabulous ensembles!  I distinctly remember Barbie having a dress out of the same fabric as Grandmas, and even a fully lined coat, complete with bound buttonholes.  Barbie never lacked for functional yet stylish outfits and neither did I.  Grandma had an eye for pattern, texture, design and she could easily visualize how our dresses would turn out, while working tirelessly to make it come together.

Martha had two main rules on beauty:  Always wear lipstick and always wear earbobs or ear screws, as she called them.  In Grandma’s bedroom, on her dresser, was a tray that held her cherished personal items.  There was a comb, brush and mirror set that I always remember her using.  She wore Lady Esther loose face powder, and kept the box front and center.  If I close my eyes I can smell the sweet fragrance and remember the way Grandma’s face felt so soft when I hugged and kissed her.  She always smelled of this face powder and I think to this day I would know it, if I were lucky enough to breathe in that precious scent.  The fluffy, round puff sat on top of this all important powder and next to it was her lipstick.

The dresser top was balanced with a simple jewelry box.  The kind that opened up and the top folded back revealing a bottom section.  Grandma had a large collection of earbobs, necklaces and brooches, most of which came from us, for Christmas or birthdays.  She also had a small little cameo that she pinned on for special occasions.  I would always ask to look through her jewelry box and try on these simple, yet glamorous pieces.  Grandma truly believed in accessories, and although coming from humble beginnings, she wanted to look her best.  It was very important to her.

With her beautiful silver gray hair, smart clothing, ear screws and lipstick, Martha always looked ‘put together’.  No matter how poor you are, you can be clean and neat...a Martha mantra for sure.  Everywhere she went, she would be complimented on her neat appearance, even winning Valentine Queen at her nursing home.  Grandma lived well into her 101st year on this earth.  I remember once, while visiting her in ‘the home’,  one of the caregivers gave her a compliment, which made her proud, yet shy.  After the worker left, Grandma turned to me and said, “It’s almost a curse to be so beautiful”, then she laughed and patted my hand.

 My dad made sure she was always taken care of and able to live comfortably, and so the former Valentine Queen was content and loved.  I know even now, as she sits playing Canasta in heaven, she’s looking all done up…lipstick, ear screws and that wonderful face powder.  We would expect nothing less from Martha Margaretha.

As CoCo Chanel once said, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”

I think Grandma knew that too.

Grandma’s 100th Birthday
Posted in Friendship, Relationships

When Sidewalks Talk

When Sidewalks Talk by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Even while we isolate and avoid close contact, some people send messages in nontraditional ways. Whether it’s scratched on wet cement or drawn with colored chalk, people express themselves.

During my neighborhood walks, I started noticing the sidewalks. First, I saw the writing in the scratched initials or names that said, “I was here.”

Sometimes the message was angry.

I loved one section of a child’s footprints. Was this accidental or intentional? I imagined a mischievous kid being told by a harried mother, “Get up in your car seat.” The three-year-old makes a wild dash down the wet cement while his mom deals with her fussy eight-month-old. The kid gets in a two yard run before, “I said ‘Get in!’” pulls him back to the car.

We are allowed to change our minds, even on cement.

During the spring of the pandemic, chalk artists shared their whimsical renditions of Disney characters, and they did not mind that a short rain would wash it all away. 

Now more than ever we need to look for life’s artistic touches in unexpected places. It’s proof of the creativity and goodness among us. Sidewalk messages feel like hope to me. They communicate feelings and ideas even during a pandemic. I search for these symbols etched in concrete. I feel connected to others, even if I never see who sent the message.

Posted in Boo, Relationships

Talking Up A Storm

“Hi Babe, how was the fishing?”

“Good.”  (1)

“Did you catch anything?”

“Three bass and a catfish.” (5)

“Did y’all have fun?  What else did you do?”

“Yep.  Just fished.” (3)

Wait time……

“Got a burger coming home.” (5)

Or here’s another scenario:

Me:  “What did the doctor say?

Boo:  “Not much.  I’m good.”  (4)

And another…

“What all did your brother have to say?”  I asked Boo this after a twenty minute animated conversation on his phone.

“They’re good.” (2)

Wait time….

“It rained.”  (2)

I get that in some cases it is my fault for asking questions that could be answered with a yes or no.  Sometimes, I try adding  “what else?”  or “tell me more.”

Me.  “The kids want to know what you want for your birthday.”

Boo.  “Underwear or socks.”  (3)

Me.  “They can’t all get you underwear and socks.  Isn’t there anything else you need or just want?”

Boo. “Gift card?” (2)

Me.  “To where?”

Boo.  “Anywhere is fine.” (3)

Me.  “Really?”

Boo.  “No.” (1)

Wait time….

Boo.  “Home Depot or Academy.” (4)

*(I could have answered that question myself, but I was hoping maybe he would branch out on ideas, although sometimes he does say Red Lobster.)

It’s not always like this.  Sometimes I can ask a simple question and he will go on and on with elaboration, facial expressions and hand jesters.  It just depends on the topic, time of day or whether CNN is on.

Boo is the strong, silent type until he’s ready to share.  He’s really a deep thinker, but he rarely expresses his thoughts unless the spirit moves him, and when it does, I see a whole different side of Boo.  He’ll talk up a storm, and I’ll get a glimpse into that steel-trap mind and heart of gold.   Any newsworthy topic, discussion of grandchildren or sports will have him chatting for minutes at a time.  He’s practically loquacious.

  But until then…we’ll share our peaceful silence.

That’s just Boo. (3)

Posted in Boo, Family, Relationships

Boo’s 20/20

Boo’s 20/20 by: Nancy Malcolm

“Your driving scares me!”  I said.  “Did you see that car?”  And I threw my arm across his chest in a move I used when the kids were little.

“My eyes are perfect,”  Boo declared.  “It’s you I worry about.”

“Maybe you need your eyes checked.  When was the last time you had an eye exam?”

“5th grade, by the school nurse.  I aced it!”  Holding one hand over his left eye. 

“I’m sure your school nurse was a lovely person and took her job seriously, but you have not had your eyes checked since elementary school?”

“I don’t need to.  I can see perfectly.”

Needless to say, I did not trust Boo’s last eye ‘exam’ as the current state of his eyesight.  As with most of Boo’s health care, I felt the need to lecture (that’s a harsh word) on the value of healthy eyes as we age.  You know, cataracts, glaucoma, and basic vision.  An eye exam can also warn of diabetes, high cholesterol, or other problems.

“Don’t worry about me, my eyes are x-ray vision!” he said. “Like Superman.”

“Well, if you don’t believe me, ask your doctor at next week’s annual exam.  See what he says.”  I was feeling smug that his doctor would agree with me and send him right away for an eye exam but sometimes I don’t trust Boo to ask his doctor the right questions.

When it came time for Boo to go, I handed him a slip of paper with three concerns to ask his doctor, just to ease my mind.

Do I need a flu shot and a pneumonia shot?

Check the mole behind ear that looks funny

Eye exam

According to Boo, his doctor, too, was a little surprised he had never had a real eye exam.

“So what did the doctor say?”  I asked.

“He asked me if I was having any problems.” 

 “What did you say?” I prodded.

“I said no. Then he asked me if  anything was blurry far away or close up?”

“And?”

“I said no.  Then he asked me why I wanted my eyes checked, and I said my wife thinks I need to.”

“What did he say then?”  I asked.

“Oh.  Ok.”

The next week, Boo got his eyes examined, dilated and checked by a trained ophthalmologist, not a school nurse, and he came out with flying colors.

“You seem disappointed that I am truly perfect in every way.”

Maybe I was, just a little.  With Boo, I do worry about his health.  I’m glad to know he is now up to date on his flu shot, eye exam, colonoscopy and dental cleanings.  I’m still working on his nutrition, though.  His stash of candy and treats rival the grocery store check-out line, and his addiction to licorice is worthy of a 12-step program.

But, one thing at a time.  I’m proud of him for all he’s done and for now I will stay quiet and stop being Nurse Nancy.  

First the eyes….next the Twizzlers.

Posted in Nature, Relationships

COVID Connections

COVID Connections by Ginger Keller Gannaway

In March I started 7:20 a.m. walks through my eclectic neighborhood. 

Early mornings I pass subsidized apartments, an elderly elementary school, a head shop, a short strip mall that includes a convenience store with an impressive mural of Ice Cube on its side wall, a local take-out pizza joint, a Mexican restaurant, and a hair salon. A mental health hospital is a few blocks away, and a very unpopular Sonic is across the street from us.

I begin my walks down a sidewalk-less street with mostly trailer homes. I turn onto a shady street of duplexes and small houses. Later I follow a busy street towards a tiny park with lots of trees and a few backless stone benches. I pass a Korean Catholic Church before I head back home down a wide street with bike lanes on both sides. After I pass the elementary school, I turn onto my own street of apartments where people work on their cars and hang out after work. I hear music and conversations more often in Spanish than English. 

A Lounge of Cats

Lots of cats roam my street, and one cat gives me the willies; I call it the opossum cat because of its weird white face and its pointed nose and menacing stare. A black dog with huge balls and stubby legs appears some times. He wears a frayed grey collar without tags that was once blue. He’s a curious guy without menace. His walk is brisk and reminds me of Tramp from the early Disney movie; he’s resourceful and scrappy and free.

After I’d been walking for several weeks at the same time each morning, I began connecting with some people. Brisk Walking Woman was my first connection. She lives close by, makes fast laps around the streets, and wears a wide-brimmed orange floppy hat. 

Near the park I pass Scraggly-bearded Man in a motorized wheelchair with a small white dog on a leash. He is often barefoot, and I once helped him untangle the dog leash from his wheels while the dog sat in his lap and barked at me. The man and I both wore face masks; I was equally fearful of his dog biting me as I was of catching the virus. 

In July after I’d said hello to Young Gardener tending her raised bed of flowers and vegetables, she offered me fresh tomatoes! Score!! I later gave her blueberry muffins, and after swapping names, we now swap fresh produce and baked goods. 

There’s also Wonderful Woman who carries a cane for protection and has a sunny smile to match her bright disposition and bold colored wardrobe. 

I also wave to Tie-dyed Lady who wears her dog leash around her waist and Tall & Handsome Guy who walks a hyper black and white puppy that gives my hand puppy-nips when I pet him.  

Recently I encountered Tiny Woman who has grey and black curls and walks her dachshund near the elementary school and waves at me across the street.

Waving to my walking friends reminds me of a Dan Hertzfeldt’s cartoon: “Billy’s Balloon.” In the cartoon, a stick figure kid gets lifted into the sky by his red balloon, and while he’s floating into the clouds, he sees another kid being carried upward by a yellow balloon. They wave at each other from across the distance. They smile. Then an airplane ploughs right through the kid with the yellow balloon.

My walks connect me to others, and when we wave hello and make mundane comments about the high humidity or the welcome breeze, life seems almost normal. Yet underneath the brief bits of friendliness lie the uncertainty and fear that never fully go away. 

My face mask hangs from my left ear when my sidewalk is empty for blocks ahead. About fifty percent of early walkers I see have masks.

Last week Wonderful Woman was on my side of  the street, and after I said, “Feels like fall,” when I passed her, she pulled down her mask and said, “ What? I can’t understand you.” 

So standing a few feet from her, I pulled down my own mask and we had a one minute conversation as I shoved worry and fear into a back room of my mind next to paranoia and uncertainty.  I feel the need to connect to others as much as I feel the desire to stay safe. May we handle our connections with equal amounts of compassion and safety.

Posted in Boo, Relationships

Zoom Zoom

Last week Boo had to attend substitute training in preparation for the start of school.  This man worked thirty years in the classroom and as an administrator guiding thousands of high school kids toward graduation.  Now, he substitutes as an elementary P.E. teacher (when he feels like it) doing hula hoop games and Kidz Bop dance-a-thons.

This year, being what it is, his training was on Zoom.  Boo has never been on Zoom and didn’t really know where it was.  This is a true story.  Most of us recognize the little blue square with a camera symbol, but Boo was a novice.

“I need your help,” he said.  “Where do I go for my Zoom meeting?”

“What do you mean?  Like the computer room???”

“I mean, where is it?”

We sat side by side and I showed him the icon, talked about the meeting number and passcode etc.  I agreed to be with him and help him “get on” his meeting.

Their first instructions said to turn off the camera and mic.

“But, I put on a nice shirt and everything,”  he said.  “How will they know I’m here?”

“It might be too distracting to have such a handsome guy on camera.” I smiled.

However, two folks did not follow directions and their faces were beside the presenter.  I became terribly engrossed watching them get up for water and coffee, primp in the camera and one even picked his nose.

Meanwhile, Boo, sitting straight in his chair said, “Can they see me?”

“No, I turned off your camera.”

“But, those guys are on…”

“They shouldn’t be.”

“I wish I was.”

“Maybe another day,”  I said.

The professional development progressed, but Boo was losing attention, staring out the window and checking his fingernails.  

Suddenly, we heard, “Type your response in the chat box, now.”  Wide eyed, he let out a few choice words and said, “Where is this chat room?”

“Ah, it’s a box, and you click on the word chat then type in your response.

By the time he completed his answer, the speaker was on a new topic…”You will be receiving a virtual backpack with information pertinent to your daily check in at school. Download now.”

I leaned over and downloaded the folders.

“What did you just do?”

“I got your backpack.”

His eyebrows shot up.

“It’s a virtual backpack, Boo.  I downloaded the information for you.”

“But, where is it?”

“It’s in our download file.”

“With the backpack?  Remember last year we got a coffee mug and the year before a grocery bag with AISD on it?  I’m excited about a backpack.”

“Honey, you really won’t get an actual backpack.  It’s virtual.”

“Oh.”

One and a half hours later, an accidental disconnect, much cussing and a virtual break-out session, it was over.

“Maybe, I should work at Home Depot,” he said.

“Don’t be discouraged, Boo.  This was just your first Zoom.  It will get better.  I think you did a great job!”

He sighed and with his sad looking baby blues, he looked at me to ask, “I wonder what color backpack I’ll get?”

Oh, Boo.