Monday, April 14, 2008

Florida ....part one.....

Huh, i looked up this car model, and now it looks REALLY old LOL. AT the time however, it was fabulous, shiny and brand stinkin new. :)
So, anyway, we went on a trip once, a long time ago, the summer after Amy was born actually. Mom, Eric, Matt, Baby Amy, Aunt C, Kate, Chris and myself, all piled into a wagon much like this one, with leather seats and NO air conditioning, and headed down to Florida to visit out Grandpa Varnadore. (oh and it was August, with no AIr conditioning, but not that we knew we were missing it..... more on that later....)
So, a day or so or a few before we leave, one of the Dads is driving around with the car top carrier on, and a sudden gust of wind whipped up rte 12, along the river, and the top of the carrier flew off the car! Thankfully it didn't hit any other cars, however, it went for a swim, in the river, down the bank, it landed and floated away. FANtastic! Oh well, good thing Uncle CP is the Tarp king, we had to tarp and bungee the thing shut, and every stop, at every hotel, we undid it, took everything inside, and prayed it didn't rain. :)
It took us 3 days of driving down the eastern cost. We went through every state i think, we collected coloring books from each rest stop, i think we took pictures of us at every welcome sign or something like that. I don't remember alot about the driving itself, except that it was HOT, LOUD and leather seats were icky. I'm sure we did a fair shae of complaining, but someone commented that
"At least WE can open the windows! Look at that big car, they have to drive with the windows shut, imagine how hot they must be!"
It was then explained to us the wonder of Air conditioning.
The third row of seats sat backwards, so we all took turns sitting back there. That was the best place to sit! No baby, or annoying little Matt to bug you, it was harder for the Moms to see what we were doing, heeheheee, and you could throw paper airplanes out the window, and watch where they landed. Apeparently that's a little dangerous.
i remember at one stop Mom was changing the wee one's diaper on the front seat and mom turned away for a split second, and the little twerp rolled over, right out onto the pavement! Yeah, pretty sure she fell on her head ... explains alot huh? heeheehehee
I remember the Georgia welcome center, the big brick sign that had Cacti all around it. Mom Trying to take a picture of us all sitting on it, and then Mat falling backwards off of it, into the Native Shrubbery. OUCH!! That wasn't comfy with leather seats either :P I remember the Florida welcome center, and how they gave out OJ in little paper cups. I remember driving through Naples and stopping somewhere in toam, and seeing coconuts in palm trees towering over the cars parked along the street. Wondering if their car insurance covered falling coconuts.
I remember the feel of Grandpa's house. It was small, dark, a tad stuffy, low ceilings, and in the back yard, fruit trees. Limes, lemons, ornages, grapefruit, i think, lol all growing outside, pretty cool! it rained once every day, and after the rain, the newts and geckos came out to warm up and sun on the steps.
..... we had survived the three day trip, we were in Florida, and had many adventures ahead ....

to be continued........

Monday, February 25, 2008

Of Military Packing Habits

There is something intrinsically comforting about the smell of black shoe-polish, I have decided. When I was younger, dad was still in the National Guard, and while he never went overseas when I was around, there were still many long journeys to distant states for prolonged periods of time, for training, schooling, training others, and other things regarding the care, keeping and proper usage of large metal tanks. Dad became quite the expert on packing for these ventures, slight OCD and meticulous care serving him well in a military environment. He knew every trick for saving space, packing exactly what he needed, and had the whole process down to a flawless routine.

When I was quite small, I found this routine absolutely fascinating. I would watch as well-worn grey and white t-shirts got rolled up into neat rolls, everything that was in green camo flat and folded and packed neatly away. When dad brought out his shoe-shining kit, I’d be sure to have my little black mary-janes ready for him too, waiting alongside his big black combat boots. We’d usually had something on tv…Jeopardy, or Austin City Limits, depending on what night it was. And while country music played, I’d watch dad carefully shine his boots. When I was really little, I would pick out one of the rolled up t-shirts, and pretend it was a baby doll. When I was a little older, we’d try to see who could answer the most questions on Jeopardy. And the next day he’d be gone for a long time, and we’d all be a bit glum. But I always looked forward to the night before he left, and I always knew that no matter how long he was gone, he would still come home again.

A week ago, I found myself at the commissary again, buying those ever-familiar grey PT t-shirts, only now they said NAVY across the chest instead of ARMY (“I can’t fold over the R to make my name anymore!” “…What?” “Long story…”) . Whites and new running sneakers and many socks followed. A can of Kiwi black shoe polish was tossed into our cart. Ah, old friend, how I’ve missed you. That evening, I sat cross-legged on the floor of our apartment, helping Rick pack up his sea-bag. A.F.I was playing on the laptop and we were quizzing each other on obscure movie knowledge, as he polished his work boots, and I rolled up t-shirts. At one point, his friend James came by to pick something up, and saw me folding. “Wow, you’re good at that.” To which I responded, “I learned from the Master.”

That night the Husbot set out everything he would need for the next day, work uniform, watch, freshly polished shoes, socks, all in order where he would remember them. The next day he would be gone for a long time, and I’d be more than a bit glum. But I am comforted in a manner most familiar. I know that no matter how long he is gone, there will always be a meticulous shoe-polisher coming home to me.

~ Amy

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Grandpa George

I wish you all had known my Grandfather Atkins. Actually, I wish I had known my Grandfather Atkins. He died when my father was still a young boy in 1938. I was named after my grandfather, George Clyde Atkins. George, I can handle, but the middle name of Clyde never did give me a “warm fuzzy.” I always thought of myself as a camel, from a popular song back in the sixties. I guess I resented being the kid that had to carry on the name for family’s sake. However, as I grew older, my opinion started to change.

The family, uncles & aunts, would visit and tell stories about my grandfather that would interest me. Such as examples of his honesty, or perhaps his work ethic which was certainly worthy of admiration. The stories that would interest me most were about the way he provided entertainment for the small community in which he lived and worked. He worked as a foreman on a modest but successful farm in rural Virginia. In the evenings families visited their neighbors more frequently than they do now. There were no TVs, or Stereos. Most families in the area were too poor to afford movies or dinning out. Even if they could afford it, such places weren’t available around Porter’s Crossroads, VA.

When families would visit my grandparents they would always ask my Grandfather George to tell them about the latest novel he was reading. From what I understand he had an appetite for reading the frontier novels of Zane Grey that was never satisfied. So he would tell the story. “Riders of the Purple Sage,” “The Last Trail,” and many others were always told with an intensity that kept listeners on the edge of their seats, even if they had heard his telling of the story before. Folks would listen for hours I’m told. One night he provided a special treat, according to my Uncle Jack,as he had just finished the novel “Tarzan.”

I came across some information about my Grandfather from an unexpected source one day. I’m sure it is the most precious bit of knowledge I will remember. I was seventeen years old at the time and very much into myself. The year was 1968. Integration in the Public Schools in Virginia was still something new that both Black and White kids were trying to get used to. I do think the kids were doing better at it than their parents, but that still remains to be seen even today. Anyway.

I was hitchhiking to football practice one day in the summer prior to the school year starting, when an elderly African-American couple stopped to give me a ride. I got into the back seat beside a young lad my same age who just happened to be member of the school basketball team, as well as a friend of mine. It turns out that the couple was his grandparents, so introductions were made.

The elderly gentlemen then asked me, “You must be the grandson of Mister George Atkins, correct?” I told him that I was, but that I never knew my Grandfather. He said, “I knew your grandpa, you should have known him, he was a good man.” He told me how his father and family would buy livestock in Wytheville. It was about a sixteen mile trip over a mountain trail. They would herd their horses and mules and drive them over the trail. He said, “We would always make sure to see that Mister George could go with us. Mister George would tell us all the stories that he could remember and we all laughed and had lots of fun. The trip always seemed too short. But the real reason that my daddy wanted Mister George with us was because he knew them White Traders weren’t going to try and cheat us with Mister George there.”

Nowadays I sit around and read Louis L’Amour or, perhaps, study my drama script. I think of how nice it would have been to have known and shared my Grandfather with my own family. But then sometimes I wonder; maybe my name isn’t all that I got from my Grandfather. I no longer despise my middle name, I’m thankful for it. I pray that God will let me live up to it.

Written by George Atkins 1-17-2008