A Gorilla on My Side

This would make a good gorilla chair.
This would make a good gorilla chair.

When I was a little girl, my parents didn’t have an abundance of money. I was very fortunate: I had a warm home, plenty of clothes on my back, and I never went hungry (unless I refused to eat that which was put before me—and not often even then). However, we lived on a budget administered by Mom. Mom was a tough CFO. Once a week my dad would bring home his paycheck. Mom would take it too the bank, deposit it and keep out just enough cash for that week’s expenses. She would buy groceries and give Dad his “running money” for the week. Mom bought groceries once a week. Period. If we ran out of something before the end of the week, we ran out of something. There were no second, third, fourth trips to the grocery store.

My Dad was a pressman at the Atlanta Newspapers. He worked the graveyard shift for more than 30 years. We would eat dinner and around 6:30 or 7:00 p.m., Dad would head off to work. He would come home at 3:00 a.m. or so the next morning. He slept during the day, and when he was up before dinner, he could usually be found in his machine shop, working to add to the family coffers. He basically had two jobs.

When I was really little, I remember the big comfortable chair in which he most often sat—the “Gorilla chair”.  Continue reading “A Gorilla on My Side”

An Apple a Day

Gala ApplesThis past weekend our family made our annual trek to a local apple orchard for hot apple cider, apple cider donuts, pony rides, and of course, apple picking.

It was so nice to be out, and even though the weather was overcast and a little “sprinklely” at times, we still had a lovely day. We saw a couple of tiny Copes Gray tree frogs braving the crowds on the farm, and we marveled at the huge workhorses pulling some of the wagons. Butterflies—monarchs, and skippers in whites and yellows—flitted in and out, over and under the branches of the apple trees as we walked the rows and picked apples. The pumpkin field across the way was adorned with huge yellow blossoms and large orange baubles, as the flowers reluctantly relinquished their territory to the ripening fruits.

A band with fiddle and harmonica added to the ambiance of red barns, goats, pigs, corn and pumpkins. The clippety clop of horses was punctuated by the random ringing of the large dinner bell outside one of the barns. All of the sights and sounds of the farm were accompanied by the background hum of people out enjoying the day, children laughing and expressing wonder, couples walking hand in hand.

The orchard was picking two varieties the day we visited, Gala or “party” apples, a family favorite for us, and Jonamac, a variety created by marrying the more well known Jonathan and MacIntosh apples. I had never before tasted a Jonamac apple, but this apple gives the popular Honey Crisp competition. The flesh of the apple is white and incredibly juicy. It is a sweet apple that has just a hint of some other flavor—the slightest sense of a tart berry, perhaps.

We make this journey every year. This year when we arrived, our daughter said, “I thought it was bigger last year.”

“No, it’s the same as it always has been. Perhaps you were just smaller.”

And, I think that was some of it. Because when she ran to the playground and I saw her surrounded by younger children, I suddenly realized that I am the mother of a “big girl” now. She’s growing up, and things that seemed larger than life to her only last year are already beginning to feel smaller.

But they needn’t lose their wonder.

Because even at my age, I learned something new on this year’s trip to the apple orchard. I discovered an apple I had never before tasted, and I loved it.

That there can always be new tastes in a fruit as old and “standard” as the apple is an amazing and glorious thing. That there can always be new things to see and experience in the world around us, if we will but look and allow ourselves to be awed, is glorious too.

So yes, sometimes when we look back, life may have seemed bigger, but maybe that is because we aren’t big enough yet to understand.

© 2014 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

For the Girl with Rocks in Her Head

Finds for two rock hounds.
Finds for two rock hounds.
When I was a little girl, my big brother gave me a beautiful book about rocks, minerals and gemstones. He inscribed the inside of the book: “For the girl with rocks in her head.”

At that time I had a large rock collection. When I was growing up, we lived along a dirt road. The road cut on each side was deep, and almost anywhere you looked along the road you could find outcroppings of quartz or rose quartz. I was constantly bringing home new rocks—beautiful ones, shiny ones, rocks that had neat shapes. I even had my own rock tumbler, which leaked out all over the living room carpet and generated an interesting response from my mom to my “scientific” pursuits.

Apparently the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

Our daughter has been captivated by a particular issue of National Geographic Kids magazine that featured gemstones. This has led to her adding a rock collection to her collection of precious pinecones. We have read the gemstone article in that magazine repeatedly.

For one of our day trips during Spring Break, we decided to explore Cave of the Mounds National Landmark. We took the tour through the cave and received many cave kisses along the way (water drips on our head from above)—we saw fossils, interesting cave formations, and underground rivers and ponds. Then we bought a bag of sand and stones and rinsed it in the sluice to see what gems we could recover. We found amethyst, pyrite, quartz, rose quartz and many other delights. After that we learned how to use a ratchet and cracked open a geode to reveal the crystals inside. We hiked the trails and saw some of the first flowers of spring, talked to one of the gardeners, and in general had an amazing time exploring and discovering all about the world around us.

I was reminded of a trip with my parents to a cave in Tennessee that had an underground lake—I have a vague recollection of lights on the lake and a boat trip on the underground lake.

The staff at Cave of the Mounds was terrific, spending time with the guests, doing a great job answering questions and helping people explore and learn. We have an amazing treasure in our backyard, and I highly recommend visiting.

Even on Easter my daughter was collecting pinecones and looking at rocks while on her Easter egg hunt—I think it’s wonderful that the natural world holds this kind of pull over candy for her.

I’m so glad that she has rocks in her head.

© 2014 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

Z…Z…Zoom!

Alfa_Romeo from Hot Wheels.com. Who wouldn't want to make this car go.
Alfa_Romeo from Hot Wheels.com. Who wouldn’t want to make this car go.

This weekend I pulled ten dollars out of my daughter’s piggy bank and told her we could go to the store where she could shop for something for herself. We walked up and down toy aisles repeatedly in search of the ten dollar miracle. My daughter quickly learned that ten dollars doesn’t go very far, and that if you want something special, you will need to save for it. However, saving wasn’t on the agenda, because the money was burning a hole in her pocket.

So she finally chose a 97-cent Hot Wheels car and a nine-dollar starter track. I had really expected something Monster High- or possibly Barbie-related, but she went for the Hot Wheels, and I am so glad. Because for the rest of the afternoon she spent her time sprawled out on the living room floor configuring and reconfiguring her track. Continue reading “Z…Z…Zoom!”