Posted in Family

Up on the Roof by Ginger Keller Gannaway

View of our backyard in 1970s

Daddy could think like a kid. He sought out new experiences and made games out of mundane experiences. He’d invent silly activities a child could get excited about and a momma would fuss about.

“Reginald! Stop working the kids up! Tete dure!” was a go-to complaint from Momma.

One of Daddy’s kid ideas was putting us on his high, broad shoulders so we could climb onto our home’s roof and run around and be eye-level with the birds.

Maybe the activity originated from Emile’s football getting thrown up there by accident or Gayle throwing Kelly’s favorite stuffed animal up there on purpose. But it became a thing to do on slow afternoons.

No matter how the idea originated, Daddy understood the thrill of doing something unusual and with a dash of danger. I remember my hesitancy on the sloping asphalt-like roof tiles as we chased each other from the area above our den, down the long hall of bedrooms, toward the big living room, dining room, and above Momma’s kitchen. The experience could be scary, but I felt invincible and wild to be so near those long live oak branches as if I were a bold bluejay. We never stayed on the roof long. After a few whoops and hesitant games of tag, we’d hear the shrill call from the kitchen below us.

“Reginald! Mon Dieu! Get those kids off the roof! Tete dure!”

Momma had spoken. Her feisty anger was the voice of reason to Dad’s love of adventure.

Also, he gave us cool vacations every summer: from countless Florida beach trips to a drive up to visit cousin Ozman in Michigan with a stop in Chicago to see cousin Lucille. We all learned to appreciate the joy of  travel.

One year Dad got us a pony from his close friend Coach Cormier. We learned to ride Red bareback in our yard and in the rice fields that surrounded our property. Dad made us jump into the deep end of the swimming pool before we knew how to swim. He’d tread water in the ten-foot deep water and grab us when we bobbed to the surface. He invented the Bangberry Ride where we took “rides” on a long tree branch, and he fixed us a tire swing on a giant rope that hung from a branch twenty feet above our heads. After the tire fell off, he tied the rope into a massive knot so kids could swing out of the tree’s tall fork like Tarzan. He once scared a living room full of slumber party girls by coming out of the wood box next to our fireplace on his knees with Momma’s stocking over his face. He loved to surprise us!

Dad and Momma in Gubbio, Italy

When we became adults, he organized and paid for trips to Italy (one in Tuscany, another in Umbria). Dad never moved out of Eunice (until age 89) and ended up living in the home he grew up in: however, he and Mom traveled the globe when he worked for Southwestern Life: Hawaii, Japan, France, Germany, Greece, Bermuda. 

He loved to go, go, go as much as he loved creating unexpected adventures. Driving home from a Carlsbad Cavern vacation, he stopped the car in west Texas on an empty stretch of highway and said, “Let’s climb that mountain!” Coming from the flat, flat south Louisiana area, the rocky hill of about 200 feet did seem mountainous. Emile, Gayle, Kelly and I followed Dad’s lead and scrambled up the rough terrain full of cacti, sticky shrubs, and sliding rocks. Only Emile made it to the top, and even he got nervous after someone pointed out a large snake between some rocks. Momma stayed at the car with Kelly who was too young to climb very far. With the snake alert Momma let out a terrified, “Oh! Merde!” grabbed Kelly and got inside the car despite the hot summer temperature. On our way down the hill Gayle jumped atop a huge flat rock and pronounced herself “King of the hill!” 

Daddy took an immediate liking to that rock and said, “Let’s take this rock home! A souvenir!” We kids helped him dig around the base until he and Emile could free it and drag it back towards the car.

Forgetting the snake, Momma jumped out of the car to declare, “Reginald, what in the world are you doing?” 

Emile and Dad were struggling to get a 140-pound rock into our trunk. Gayle and I had moved a suitcase and Mom’s vanity case to the backseat to give the rock room. 

Tete dure! We do not need that!” Mom said as we all ignored her.

That small boulder then lived in our backyard where we found lots of uses for it: a makeshift table for tea parties, a home base for hide-and-seek games, a cool resting spot for cats and dogs during summer, a place to sit and dig mud off the sides of your shoes, and a low pedestal for young imaginary royalty.

Dad’s spontaneous and fearless ideas often clashed with Momma’s anxious and reasonable thoughts. He could be short-tempered and loud and bossy, yet he never lost that spark of kid-like fun. He played tennis until his mid 80’s and he went to the casino past the age of 90. Always up for a game of cards, a new restaurant, or a road trip!

Easter Fun

As parents, we do our best to give our kids as many good times as we can manage. Dad gave us vacations every summer: beaches, national parks, Six Flags, and Disney World. But my fondest memories are of playing in our own backyard. We were barefoot most of the time and always had a dog and some cats around. If a cousin came to visit, it felt cool to impress her with a unique form of fun. “Wanna get up on the roof?” 

Then after Dad’s nap, if he was in a good mood, I’d tell him, “Gina wants to get on the roof, Daddy.”

And he’d stretch his long arms and look toward the kitchen where Mom was cleaning or cooking. He’d give us a conspiratorial wink and head toward the back yard. First, Dad would bend low to the ground and help me climb onto his shoulders with my legs dangling around his neck. Then he’d take my right hand and I’d put my right foot on his shoulder. Next he’d hold my weak left hand tightly and give me time to put my left foot on his shoulder. I clung to his extra-large hands with bated breath as he walked my shaking torso right next to the lowest spot of our roof. My more agile brother and sisters had already shimmied up the metal T.V. antenna pole right next to our wooden garage. Gayle lay flat on the roof and grabbed both of my arms as Dad put one huge palm under my butt and got all of me up on the roof. Gayle then smiled at our cousin’s big blue eyes as Gina considered the risks involved in our game.

“Come on, Gina! If I can do it, you know you can!” I said.

Soon five squealing kids were running like monkeys just let loose from a cage. My siblings were fearless and kept their hands in the air as they padded along the hot roof tiles, but I preferred the Mowgli walk. Gina took her time getting her “roof legs” screaming as she figured out if the game with no rules was worth the risk. As our bare feet got used to the rough surface, we all moved faster and squealed louder. The five pairs of small feet made padding noises with uneven rhythms because we all made short runs and sudden stops. Our heads told us we were as powerful and brave as eagles, but suddenly we’d hear a strident shout from the kitchen area below us.

“RE-GI-NALD!! Get those kids off the roof! MAINTENANT!”

Merci beaucoup, Daddy! For being an exciting instigator and a wonderful partner-in-crime!

Posted in Friendship, Travel

Top 10 Vacations by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Top 10 Favorite Vacations

I love, love,love to travel with family and friends.   Here go my favorites using the “Six Word Memoir” approach.

  1. Pensacola Beach:  Waves of sun and seafood smilesBEACH2

2. Big Bend: Desolate hikes intrigue 4 adventurous boys.

3.Yosemite: Heavenly balance connects green with gray.yosemite1

4. Gubbio, Italy: Pasta, gelato, wine paint our walks.GUBBIO

5.New York City: Stage lights amid millions of stories.nyc

6. Granada, Spain: Palace of mystery joins summer souls.SPAIN

7. New Orleans: Jazzy bursts of decadently spicy timesnola

8. Hawaii: Sun-shaded eyes sip umbrella-clad cocktails.

9.Haciendas Las Trancas, Mexico: Free-time, fiesta, food fireworks for friends!mexico.jpg

10. Neal’s Cabins on Frio River: Kids share frigid splashes of drama!neals

Laignappe:  Keller Camp at Indian Village: Diggin’ sand bar Good Times, Cha!

THE CAMP

What are your favorite vacation spots??

 

Posted in Friendship

How I Put The ‘Me’ in RetireMEnt!

 

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After 36 years in education, I decided to retire.  That was six years ago and I have not looked back!  Not once.  Nada.  Zilch.  Never.  Really.

 

I remember how I labored over the decision to retire.  Will we be able to live on retirement funds?  What will I do to entertain myself?  How will I fill my days?  I remember thinking that I was too young to retire…too young to embrace my golden years…too young to be a ‘Golden Girl’.

 

As a high school administrator, I sometimes dealt with some pretty challenging students.  But, one day a student I was sending home for fighting yelled at me, calling me “a skinny white ass bitch.”  This wouldn’t be so bad except it was the 2nd time that week a student had referred to me in an unflattering light.  All of a sudden… I snapped!  I mean ‘it clicked’.  I’m ready to retire!  I’m outta here!

 

It’s amazing how free I felt once I made the decision and scheduled my appointment at TRS.  I was taking my skinny white ass to retirement!  

 

At first, I tried to make a plan for what to do in my golden years.  I signed up for training to be a substitute principal.  I took training to be a volunteer.  I said ‘yes’ to friends’ invitations for book clubs, at home parties, babysitting grandkids…I had my day scheduled from 8-5.  A few months into my ‘golden years’, I broke down in tears.  “I’m overwhelmed”,  I whined.  “I’m tired!!  This isn’t at all like I thought it would be!”  My husband, (comfy in his recliner) nonchalantly said, “Your problem is, you just don’t know how to relax.”  And he was right!

 

Well, I did some changing.  I started saying no to things that I really didn’t want to do and yes to my new and improved life.  Yes to cruises, ski trips, vacations to the Florida Keys, yes to volunteering, yes to writing workshops, yes to exercising every day!  I’ve made a vow to never go to HEB on weekends or in the evening.  I’ve decided that playing with my grandchildren will keep me young forever.  I’ve concluded that it’s OK to drink wine and eat chocolate on a school night.

 
Yes, I’ve taken to retirement like a duck to water or should I say, a cruise ship to the ocean?  I’ve decided “me” time is anytime.  I’ve made a commitment to enjoy every day I have left on this earth and so far… I think I’m doing a bang up job!

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Posted in Friendship

Ride Like The Wind

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“The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets…”  Christopher Morley

 

I’ve always loved to ride my bike.  I’m a professional amateur.  I have all the bells and whistles, yet I just cruise the neighborhood.

My husband bought me my first adult bike fifteen years ago.  I love that old, green bike!  We’ve taken it to the beach and almost everyone in our family has ridden it at least once.  However,  time, stress and a few mishaps have taken its toll, not to mention that it needs new brakes.

Last year I purchased a fancy, light-weight, thin-tired, sleek-seated, lightening-fast, silver bike.  Then, my husband said I must have the padded biker shorts and loud printed shirt to go with.  Next, gloves were added  because these arthritic hands need the extra padding!

Truthfully, the padded shorts and gloves feel great, but when I get all decked out, I feel a little foolish, especially riding the one mile to our mailboxes.  Oh sure, we’ve taken longer rides and occasionally I ride to the HEB for a few lightweight items (sans the outfit), but still I am an amateur in professional clothing.

I do feel conspicuous in my gear, but what I really feel is exhilarated!  As I pedal through the neighborhood, I may look like a senior citizen in biker gear, pumping the brakes and weaving a bit; but inside, I’m riding like the wind!  I’m blazing new trails and I’m a good twenty-five years younger!
As you pass me by on the streets, don’t honk, just give me the “nod”.  That’s what we bikers do…we’re cool like that.

Life is like riding a bicycle..in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.  Albert Einstein

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