Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Day Trips and Secrets from the Past


From first grade throughout high school I was in the Birdbirds, Camp Fire Girls and the Horizon Club which have since been expanded into five, renamed groups that now include boys as well as girls. What hasn’t changed---from what I can tell---is the motto and basic purpose of the Camp Fire franchise which is to give kids opportunities to “light the fire within.” I had no choice but to light my fire back in my youth because my mom was a leader. Heck, even my dad got into the act because he built six benches to go around a ping-pong table that our group used in our basement for many years. One of those benches is still in existence at the family cottage, painted red and used as a long coffee table on a screened-in porch. Can you believe it, I also still have my navy blue felt Camp Fire vest with all my colored beads sewn on, and all earned for completed projects. I wish I still had my Camp Fire Trails manual because I’d like to know exactly what I did to earn what looks like close to 200 beads.

What got me thinking about this topic was a day trip I went on this week through the senior hall. It was a restaurant hop in a tourist town on Lake Michigan. Before the bus dropped us off in the shopping district it took us up along the channel headed toward the beach, past the Pronto Pup shack that has been there since I was a kid, past a hillside collection of yard-less cottages where our Horizon Club stayed a week the last summer we were together, before many of us went off to college. The Pronto Pup shack is such an iconic landmark that when it opens early in the spring, it makes the local news where I live, forty miles away. One of my best memories of that week involves my best friend Nancy, me and a pack of candy cigarettes. We thought we were hot stuff as we walked past the Pronto Pup shack pretending we were smoking real cigarettes. Boys were driving by, honking their horns, prompting us to put a little more swing in our hips. We'd find a place to sit on the channel wall so I could sketch boats moving back and forth to the Big Lake and that’s where I discovered what a guy magnet it is to draw in public. 

As the senior hall bus took us past the house our Horizon Club rented that summer I had a flashback of my mom swinging a broom and another chaperon swinging a mop as they leaned out of an upstairs windows. They were trying to get a couple of guys off the porch roof. Some of the girls had invited them to come over but our chaperons had other ideas about what proper young ladies in 1960 should be doing with our evenings and that was spelled b-o-a-r-d-g-a-m-e-s, not bedroom games. One night that week Nancy and I pretended to get drunk as we drank glass after glass of chocolate milk and I guess we were pretty convincing because some of the girls actually believed we had spiked the bottle. I don’t think my mom was fooled, though. She’d seen the two of us being silly before, without any milk or alcohol involved. 

Now, I’m about to confess something I’ve never told a living (or dead) soul. One night at that cottage I pretended I was having a nightmare behind a locked bedroom door, waking up half the girls in the house. I could hear them talking through the thin walls, heard my mom calling me and finally one of the girls crawled over the wall to unlock the door so my mom could "wake me up." My older brother had a lot of nightmares growing up so I knew just how to act. My folks had taken him to a doctor about his nightmares and were told they were caused by him being too active before bedtime, which probably explains why my mom never questioned why I was having one out of the blue. Nancy, who was in the other bed in the same room, slept through the whole thing. I wonder if she still sleeps like a rock.

Back to 2016: The restaurant hops work like this: The bus drops us off at one end of the main drag of a tourist town and at appointed times we meet up three times, in three different restaurants along that street, broken up with shopping in between courses. We pick out our menu choices when we pay for our RSVPs so we don’t waste time ordering or paying but it’s more than enough time to soak up the ambiance of first class places. I had a Tai crunch salad with peanut sauce dressing in one place, a beer brew hamburger with bacon jam, a fried egg and haystack onions on it at another place and for the dessert round, I had an ice cream brownie sundae. (Michigan has gone micro beer crazy. We can even get ice cream with beer though mine, that day, was caramel infused.) I’m not a big fan of shopping so in between the entree and dessert I sat on a park bench soaking up sunshine, enjoying the clean breeze coming off Lake Michigan and remembering that week spent at the beach fifty-six years ago when I took my carefree and easy life for granted. But carefree and easy would not last forever. The turmoil of the '60s was a building drumbeat that would leave a dark and lasting stain on my life. ©

P.S. That's not my vest in the photo above but it's very much like mine. Mine is buried in a box and I'm too lazy to dig it out to photograph it.

20 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a great childhood. Lots of good memories. Apparently your day trip was filled with lots of good food. Sounds like a lot of fun.

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    1. I did have a good childhood and I don't think I fully appreciated everything my mom did to give me the experiences I had with Camp Fires, etc. until recently.

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  2. What a fun restaurant hop/shopping spree! Sure wish we had an adult center like that here. Fortunately, I have enough friends willing to try new restaurants in some of our tourist towns.

    I was Brownie and Girl Scout! Fond memories.

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    1. The restaurant hops are a good way to go to some up scale places without having to spend a lot of time with no driving and not a much walking.

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  3. What a great day you had and nice memories, not too nostalgic and sad. I do love going back to places where I spent time as a child or teenager. When I'm there, the memories are so fresh, like it happened just yesterday. Ah-hh, the 60's. I often wondered what I might have missed by not being in college at that time. I was so busy being married and having babies every other year. I was probably better off with the life I had. I might have gotten into trouble. :-)

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    1. Surprisingly many of the places of my youth have not changed all that much and it's fun once in a while to visit memories I hadn't thought about in decades.

      I'm really glad I didn't get married right out of high school or in the year or two afterward. None of the guys I dated back then would have made good husbands. Judy, I know your history. You DID get in trouble, just a different kind of trouble and delayed a little later in life than being a college student in the '60s would have brought. LOL

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  4. +1 to Linda and AW's positive comments above.

    Your last sentence intrigued so I googled the 60s: decade of hope, cynicism and turmoil, and understood. ~ Libby

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    1. I'm glad you mentioned the last sentence. One day I may write about my coming to age, so to speak.

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  5. All it took was glimpse to know exactly what that photo represents. One of my great regrets is that I let my Bluebird and Campfire vests get away. I loved those beads! It was such fun to design the patterns for them, and sew them on.

    The one I remember for certain is the patriotism/civic involvement bead. It had three sides: red, white, and blue. Oh, they were such fun. Actually, I loved it all: the meetings, the camping, the group trips. Thanks for bringing back those memories.

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  6. Wikipedia has a chart of what the different colored beads were given out for:

    Red – Sports, Games & Science – Trail to the Future (formerly Sports & Games)
    Brown – Outdoors & Environment – Trail to Environment (formerly Outdoors)
    Green – Creativity – Trail to Creativity (formerly Creative Arts)
    Yellow – Business & Home – Trail to Family and Community (formerly Business)
    Royal Blue – Citizenship (discontinued in 2003)
    Red, White & Blue – (formerly Citizenship, discontinued in 2003 and replaced with Royal Blue)
    Orange – (formerly Home Craft, discontinued in 2003)
    Turquoise – (formerly Science, – Trail to Knowing Me)
    Lime Green – (added in 2003) Discovery level[26]
    Purple – (small beads) Special Projects (formerly large purple beads were awarded with the completion of each Torch Bearer received)

    I remember going horse back riding once and getting a bead which must have been brown. I kind of wish life was still bead worthy and we still got them for doing/learning special things.

    Do you remember giving yourself a Camp Fire Girls name, a tradition they borrowed from the Native Indian culture? From what I read it was a tradition back from the beginning in 1910 but don't know if they stopped by the time I was in it or I just forgot mine.

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    1. I don't remember that. I remember Wo-He-Lo, and a lot of the camp songs. And I've learned that those beads sell for a pretty penny on ebay and etsy. There seem to be a lot of people who want them, either for the sake of nostalgia, or for craft projects.

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    2. In addition to the beads on my vest I have a box of about 100 of them. Don't remember where they came from but I can't seem to part with them.

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  7. What good times you evoke. I can picture the 6 benches round the ping pong table, and one of them reincarnated as a red coffee table. And very clearly I picture your Mom and another chaperone sweeping those young fellas off the porch roof. So funny! I'd never heard of those groups you belonged to; we had the Girl Scouts, of course, the Rainbow Girls, the Junior league. I was a girl scout, and concentrated quite well on my art projects!

    You have a few years on me, coming of age before the turmoil of the sixties. I notice my older sister, who learned her P's and Q's when you did, is the happiest and most well-grounded of our family. Can't wait to hear pf your coming of age in the sixties. Now that I know you were a little rascal, I expect my jaw will drop with some of your tales.

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    1. I think different parts of the country had Girls Scouts and Camp Fire Girls. Growing up around here, there were no Girl Scouts.

      My Coming of Age stories aren't the fun type...more along the lines of dark and soul growing.

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  8. I laughed all the way through the paragraph about your dream. We do the craziest things when we're young. In 1966, I went on a chaperoned trip to the Outerbanks with a group if girls. What a blast we had. I'm not sure ou chaperones had so much fun, though.

    Your meal sounds tasty. I adore ice cream brownie sundaes.

    I don't think any of us appreciated our carefree youths.

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    1. As I was writing this I felt so bad that I didn't really appreciate how much time my mom put into the Camp Fire Girls. Maybe if I had been a mother myself I would have gotten around to telling her I understood what it took to raise me and my brother.

      I love the Outerbanks though I've only been there once. It was the place I'd run away from home to (in my head) when I was sharing care of my dad...very stressful years.

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  9. I love your vest. And I learned something new: why guys were never interested in me when I was in high school -- I can't draw! ;-). -Jean

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    1. I didn't discover this until AFTER high school graduation, but it helped in college.

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  10. So descriptive and evocative of the past and present. Lovely piece of writing.

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    1. Thank you. It's so nice to see you on the net again!

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