Memory Lane: The Piano Movers

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy moving the piano across the rope bridge in  Swiss Miss | Laurel and hardy, Piano, Swiss miss

When my folks acquired Aunt Florence’s piano, my father hired me and two of my friends to help him collect it. We were high school kids! We could do anything! Gary was on the wrestling team, Ronnie was in vo-tech learning to be a plumber, and I was in judo–I played many matches against grown men and did just fine. But there’s a big, big difference between a successful foot sweep and moving a piano.

It was like it was nailed to the floor. We couldn’t budge it, couldn’t left it an inch. Then Uncle Jimmy came home, and he and my father picked up the piano like it was an empty cardboard box, carried it out of the house, and loaded it into the U-Haul in a matter of minutes.

What a humbling experience that was! These men weren’t Olympic weight lifters. Just two ordinary, healthy, grown-up men. Either one of them was stronger than the three of us. Oh, the embarrassment. As you can see, I’ve never forgotten it.

I think we learned a lesson.

A Valiant Little Fish

When I was ten years old I did most of my fishing in Tommy’s Pond, and most of the fish I caught were these little pumpkinseeds.

But don’t sell them short just because they’re small. After the female lays the eggs, the male guards them. Come close to those eggs and he will go for you, never mind that you’re a hundred times his size.

These are very colorful little fish. I tried to keep small pumpkinseeds in the aquarium with my goldfish, but they picked on the goldfish (who didn’t deserve it) and kept jumping out of the tank. They couldn’t jump back in.

Memory Lane: Devoe Paints

Large Devoe Paint 2 Sided Porcelain Sign

This memory goes way back, back to when my father converted our attic into upstairs bedrooms. I must’ve been, oh, three years old.

He painted the rooms a bright flamingo reddish-pink; and he used Devoe paints.

When I first read of the Devonian Period, just maybe three or four years later (I got fascinated by prehistoric life very early), it amazed me to think they’d named it after my daddy’s favorite Devoe Paints. He used them all the time. My brother and I had Devoe painters’ hats. Actually they named it after Devon, in England; but I only learned that much later.

The hand-made wooden box that contains my collection of toy animals and dinosaurs was painted with the same gorgeous flamingo color that made our bedroom look so nice (my sister’s room was light blue; so, eventually, was ours).

I’m happy to say they still make Devoe paints. In case I ever need to repaint my animal box.

Memory Lane: ‘The Addams Family’

Addams Family Photo: Addams Family | Addams family tv show, Family tv, Old  tv shows

This show was a big hit when I was a kid in middle school: The Addams Family, based on Charles Addams’ weird cartoons.

The gags come hot and heavy, but always from the same root: what’s normal for the Addams family is bizarre to us; and what’s normal to us seems bizarre to them. The writers and the cast made it work.

But I’ll tell you what really made it work; and it’s not what you might think.

They loved each other.

Every member of the family, even the servants, received affection and respect from all the others. Leave It to Beaver gets mocked for idealizing family life. The Addams family had the Cleaver family beat by miles, but never got mocked because they were all so out to lunch. The critics didn’t understand what made the show tick.

The other night I watched an Addams Family episode on YouTube. I enjoyed it every bit as much as I did in seventh grade. Sure, the jokes are easily predictable. That’s what made them so funny! But even more than that, the family feeling shines over the whole thing like the sun.

TV and movies seldom achieve so much.

The Ol’ DDT Truck

DDT Is Good For Me-e-e!” - Sociological Images

Eldermike made a comment that awakened in me a long-repressed childhood memory.

We lived on a dead-end street that was once a dirt road, then a gravel road, with a school and playground right next door. And a nice big woods, too.

And every now and then the truck would come by to spray the whole neighborhood with DDT. It was supposed to kill off the mosquitoes. And a lot of us kids ran behind the truck, basking in the cloud of pesticide.

Today this seems an exceedingly bizarre scenario. But back then, who knew? DDT was a good thing. Even if it didn’t work. We had the DDT, we had screens on all the doors and windows–and the mosquitoes still got into your bedroom every night.

In all likelihood this DDT exposure was bad for us. But I’m not aware of any ill effects on my health. If so… well, sometimes God protects us from the fruits of our follies.

Memory Lane: Jesus’ Back Yard

35 Modern Small Garden Ideas for Backyard Design - | Small  backyard gardens, Simple garden designs, Small backyard landscaping

I grew up in a neighborhood where children freely wandered into neighbors’ yards, and even played games there. Nobody seemed to mind–except for my friend’s mother, next door. She took about 25 years to warm up to me.

One day, no one else around to play with, I went into my friend’s back yard to play in their sandbox. His mother came out and told me to get lost. “Don’t you understand that this is my yard, not yours?”

I think I was only four years old at the time. And my answer was, “It’s Jesus’ yard!”

What made me say that? I don’t know. All I do know is that Jesus Christ was as real to me as this neighbor. His picture hung in my house, as it did in the homes of all my family members. We sang “Jesus Loves Me” in Sunday nursery school. We said our prayers at night. And special prayers for special needs, like when you were scared of something.

I wasn’t propounding a theological argument. Of course it was Jesus’ yard. They were all Jesus’ yards. I was merely stating a fact. I wish I could remember how Mrs. G reacted to it. I don’t think she yelled at me.

Sometimes children are wiser than they ever know.

Memory Lane: ‘Jambalaya’

I remember my father whistling this, and sometimes singing it, while he cut our hair.

Hank Williams scored a hit with Jambalaya in 1952, and it must have remained popular throughout the Fifties or I wouldn’t have remembered it. Every now and then someone else would record it: the Carpenters spring to mind.

Singing about “big fun on the bayou”–I wonder what would happen if anybody came out with a song like that today? Would we suddenly remember that “blameless” and “wholesome” are good things, after all? Or would the wokies shut it down because it’s cis-intersectional or something?

I am so glad I grew up then, and not now.

Memory Lane: My Mother and the Lizards

A green iguana eats lunch at the Tropiquarium of Servion on November...  News Photo - Getty Images

(Note: I watched Mr. Bean this afternoon and am all the better for it.)

I don’t know why, but today I got to reminiscing how my mother fell under the spell of my lizards. Not that she would ever touch one! Heavens no. You would’ve heard the scream…

But that didn’t stop her from walking up and down our florabunda rose hedge with a jar in her hand, catching bugs for my anoles (which they greatly appreciated). And when it came to feeding my iguana, she took pains to prepare really nice salads for him. The lizard in the picture looks a lot like mine, and that lovely salad looks just like the ones she used to make. “Just like Mama used to make” probably doesn’t conjure up visions of happy iguanas chowing down; but to me it does.

Oh, Ma, you were good to my little pets. You would’ve loved those baby fence lizards that we hatched from eggs (with helpful advice from the Staten Island Zoo). Not enough to handle them–but that didn’t really matter, did it?

And no, she didn’t care at all for the thousand tiny praying mantises we hatched out of what we thought was a butterfly cocoon.

Saving Praying Mantises | The Meadowlands Nature Blog

A bridge too far

Memory Lane: Sewing Machines

Sewing machine clipart Images, Stock Photos & Vectors | Shutterstock

When I was a boy, I didn’t know a household that didn’t have a sewing machine, nor did I know anybody’s mother who didn’t sew.

I remember sitting on Grandma’s lap as she tried to teach me how to sew. I’m afraid I never quite caught on, but it was fascinating to watch. I especially liked all the nice sock puppets she made for me and my siblings and my cousins.

What happened to all those sewing machines? Do people still have them? I don’t think my mother kept her sewing machine after she’d moved several times.

It was a nice, cozy sound, though, that humming of the sewing machine. I wish I’d been able to learn how to use one.

Memory Lane: Aunt Betty and the Mammoth

261 Woolly Mammoth Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

Aunt Betty, the eldest of my mother’s five sisters, was a nun. She lived and worked in some exotic place called “Pennsylvania,” and every now and then came up for a visit. As a very young child, I found her old-fashioned  black habit… well, it used to scare me.

But Betty was determined to win me over, and that she did. I don’t know where this notion came from, but I believed “Pennsylvania” still had mammoths and that my aunt could somehow get one for me. And she made the mistake of saying she’d see what she could do.

Naturally I expected her to come up with a real, live mammoth all my own. I pestered Grandma about it. And one day Aunt Betty showed up with a mammoth–just for me.

I was disappointed. It was just a little mammoth shape cut from someone’s old fur coat. But what I wouldn’t give to have it now! And once I understood that this little cut-out was the best that she could do, I became very attached to her.

What a mind she had! She knew all the classics, in English and in Latin, and had a gift for talking to you as if you were all grown up already. We grew closer as the years went by. I could listen to her for hours. But she has since gone to her reward, and our next family dinner will be laid out for us in Christ’s Kingdom.

I wonder if she’ll like my books.