Friday, November 11, 2011

So, this is the second half of a post I wrote almost a two years ago exactly ........ Now i have time to finish, hopefully the memory too. :)

So, we made it down south, in the hot car, with no AC and probably too many kids is what my mom and at were thinking by the time we got there. The house was small, not the best of accommodations, but we really didn't notice, what we did notice was the nature around us. The geckos that were everywhere, the odd fact that it rained EVERY day, just a little in the morning. The GIGANTIC waves, we had never seen such surf. Our idea of "the beach" is a very New England one. Cold wet sand, a chance of sun, IF you go in August, IF your lucky, and maybe even water almost warm enough to enjoy swimming in. Oh my friends the awe! A beach, with white sand, and gigantic blue waves, that were WARM! Sun, bright, hot sun all day long, every day .... oh, and SUNBURN! Yeah, another New England mis-fire. We are not used to getting enough sun to actually worry about burning much. Well, we learned THAT lesson quick, and had to miss a couple days swimming because of it. Oh well!
We went to the Everglades national park, where we walked to boardwalk all over the swamps, looking for alligators and lizards, pelicans and all manner of wild plant life. It was absolutely fascinating to us.
One day we took a tour of the Everglades on Airboats, pictured above. Giant flat bottom boats with huge fans on the back of them, one of the best and fastses way to glide across the endless miles of swamp. The guy who took us out was "cousin Butch" I don't know his real relation to us, or do I officially know why in the world the guy own a homestead of types on an island in the middle of swamp no-where, but I do know, that on that day, after it had started raining, and we were soaked, and cold, and ready for comfort, that hut in the middle of who knows where, with warmth, and KFC brought with us, we like heaven. The first time I had KFC, I shall never forget the feeling of being so very far away from normal, and feeling so very comfy. Of course there were snakes too, one of which decided to travel in the cargo hold of a boat. Too bad the small Matt, (who Uncle Butch was afraid of loosing from a fast turn, and him flying off the boat) he had to travel in the cargo hold too, good thing we didn't know about the snake till we got back. :P
I remember eating catfish and hush-puppies. I remember Aunt Pearl, she was a sweetheart, she would rock baby amy to sleep on hot muggy nights, out on the screened in porch, singing southern Lullabies in her ear. I remember my some distant cousin of mine, being loud, and remembering one line each from dozens of songs, cause he would watch the record ads on TV and that's all he knew. He would walk around singing .... "Please help me I'm Faaalliiing!"
I remember being tired, and thinking that Mom and Aunty must be about "tuckered out from this VERY long trip and were not looking forward to the three days of return trip.
I remember a restaurant we stopped at on the way home called "Lizard's Thicket". It was done in Southwestern decor, and there were lizards everywhere, not real ones, stone ones, carved on the pottery, the walls, everywhere. The food was distinctly southern, and yummy, and it was the first time I ate Apple jelly, from a little packet on the table, it felt like Rich livin'. :) When we left, My grandpa gave us a gift. Tickets to go to Epcot Center! That was most certainly a highlight of our trip. It don't remember alot of the visit, a few rides, like the boat that went through all different cities, some space ride, seeing all the different countries, and of course the gift shop, where we got all kinds of mementos, mostly with rainbows on them, it WAS the 90's after all. :)
One of the hotels we stayed in, think the last one before home, was a REAL hotel. We had been staying in motels, the little one story things with sketchy pools, and no free anything, cheap and easy. The last one however, was a big Holiday inn, with food, and an elevator, and an INDOOR pool! It was the high life, it really was. :)
Yeah so that's our super exciting long trip down to Florida. It was our biggest adventure so far. When I think about it now, I am in awe, of our Mom's taking on this trip. I don't know that I would do it, with just my two kids. They did a great job, making it fun, managing to let us do so much stuff, with a baby, and sunburn, and family stress, to us, it was just one big fun trip. Job well done Mom! :D

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Varnadore/Lewis Cookouts

It's an old saying, but true, that life in the 50's moved at a slower rate. Tradition was huge and certainly our family, Varnadore and Lewis, had theirs. I wish you had known what it was like to be a part of the cook outs this bunch of folks could throw.

My maternal grandmother, Ida Mae Johnson, grew up in a large family. Three daughters married three Lewis boys, also of a large family. From this framework, two of those couples raised their children in Milford, CT. It produced many aunts, uncles and cousins for me and my sister. So we became very close to Ida and James Lewis' children --my mom Eula, her brother Jim (Uncle Dubby) to me, and my Aunt Judy, who for a time, also lived close. From this produced my cousins, Jimmy, Linda, Cindy, Jeffrey, Cathie and Debbie. Not to mention all the other cousins from the other 2 brothers who married the Lewis girls. To say our Family Cookouts were full of people is an understatement!

Most of these cookouts, for whatever occasion, were held at my house on Coe Lane in Ansonia, or at Uncle Otha's in Milford CT. Both houses at that time , afforded lots of woods for the kids to explore while the adults visited.

The day would begin with the trip to the ice house with my grandfather to get a big chunk of ice for the sodas. Then to my grandfather's hot dog stand to pick up the wooden cases of soda for the event. Some time there was a parade to go to or be in at the start of the day. My Dad would go in the back yard to be sure the grass was cut and the horseshoe pits were clean and in good shape. Then down into the cellar to pull out the badminton set. Lastly, the ping pong table would have to be set up. I would dream that maybe maybe THIS day I would beat my Uncle Dubby at ping pong. But he was brutal and that never happened! At any rate, I knew later in the evening maybe I could beat him or Dad at Chinese Checkers. My phone number, which I still remember, 203-735-3566 was the number for the one black phone in the kitchen from which all calls were made for a very long time. There were no cell phones, video games, DVRs , CD players etc to distract our carrying out of this event.

The sodas were in glass bottles and gleamed as they sat under the mulberry tree, chilling. Pepsi of course for my Uncle Dubby , orange, grape, root beer, Coke. The grill we used at our house was unique, in that my Dad who had been a welder for awhile, had made it. It was made of sold steel and weighed a ton. The side dishes that were laid out by this group of southern women, was to die for.
But what I remember the most was how much the adults were happy and joking, playing games with kids and adults alike.Invariably, as the day wore on, songs were sung, maybe a banjo would come out or a harmonica. Someone would yodel! "Poor ole" Kaw-liga" would be sung in southern tradition. The adults would visit to long into the evening and the kids would go outside to play hide and seek in the dark and catch fireflies. There was time for everyone that day and not one had a clock to watch.
One other very fond memory I have is when we took these cook outs to the public park in Bridgeport CT ,where multiple baseball games were going on by the men, as the women cooked on the grassy areas surrounding the games and the kids crossed the street to take a dip in the ocean. Such wonderful wonderful times to grow up in. I feel very blessed to have been a part of that time in the 50's. So wish you had known those times with me....