Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Castle Christmas

The king of all Renae and I's kidhood Christmases was 1982 (Renae, correct me if I am wrong in the year). It was the one we talked about for years after, the yard-stick Christmas by which we measured all the following Christmases. It was also the year that Mom and Dad were just about the poorest they ever were, what with Olin having laid Dad off for a large portion of that year.

No, we didn't have one of those wierd "no gifts, just focus on the true meaning" Christmases... maybe that works for some people but it just sounds bad to me.*

We were 9 and 7, I think. We didn't know, and I still don't exactly know how poor we were, but we knew there was alot of stress at the adult level in the house. Looking back, I am sure that there was not much money available for presents. We were blessed, however, with a creative and upbeat Mom. Christmas morning we woke up to find the living room transformed into something like a mideval village. Castles, Towers, and even a peasants hut filled the living room.

Our mom had gotten a hold of half a dozen cardboard appliance boxes, and with some paint, a box knife or two and some skills from her art major days, she turned these boxes into castles. They were big enough for me and Renae to stand up in, walk around in, sit down in. Standing up we could just see over the battlements of the castles- just like in a real castle!

We were jazzed! They were the coolest presents we had ever had!

Hidden inside the castles, hut and towers were our other presents. I got a telescope- a real one- I was into astronomy at the time, and so was my dad. And I got a book- The Forbidden Castle- a choose your own adventure- and a few other odds and ends that I don't remember.

I remember every day during that Christmas break dragging one of my castles (they were open to the floor on the bottom, open to the sky on the top) to surround one of the heater vents and sit down inside my castle to read "The Forbidden Castle". The castle would get all kinds of toasty on the inside. It was pure comfort!

Later that year, we wound up using the castles as props/set for a play that our cubscout den put on. We were the envy of all the other dens.

We had an awesome childhood. We got lucky when we were born. I wish every kid could grow up poor, but with a clever mom. 1982 ended, Dad's job unlaid him off, money got a little better- and evantually alot better- but for shear Christmas morning ZOowwieeeeee! the no other Christmas ever passed up the Castle Christmas.
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*(after all, Isaiah 9:3 - just three verses before the more famous Christmassy "and his name shall be called Wonderful..." reads: " Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil." Christmas should include dividing some spoil.)

Dennis the Menace

That's what our next door neighbor, Diana used to call Todd (our younger brother) when he was a little tyke. He not only looked somewhat like him, with his blond hair, but he acted a bit like him too. Even though Todd was 2 or 3 years younger than Diana's twins, Missy and Mindy (who I babysat for at least once or twice a week for years), Diana was constantly calling me on the phone to tell me to go and make Todd stop terrorizing them.

I remember one particular phone call very well. Diana was having a little party in her backyard for her grown-up friends. Todd was in our backyard, and apparently thought that our neighbors needed some excitement. He got the hose out and started spraying Diana and her guests. She wasn't too happy. It was soon after that that Diana put up a partial privacy fence.

He pulled the hose prank on Mom once. As usual, we were running late for church. Todd was playing out in the front yard. Mom came out in her nice dress, with her make-up on and her hair all fixed up. The idea was just to bring Todd in, get him dressed, and rush off. However, it was not to be so easy. Todd mercilessly hosed her down, ruining hair, make-up and dress.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Me and My Hair

My son, Mark said something to the effect that he couldn't understand how it was possible for gum to get stuck in your hair when you were sleeping. "Wouldn't it just fall down to your belly?" he asked. I think he must have been thinking of how gravity works when you are standing up. I assured him that I had plenty of experience with gum stuck in my hair. Here's my best gum in my hair story:

I was about Jr. High age at the time. I fell asleep with the world's largest wad of Hubba-Bubba bubble gum in my mouth. For some reason, there were either no sheets on my bed that night, or they had just come undone at the top of my bed. I must have rolled around and got the stuff glued to every single follicle of hair or something, because when I woke up, my head was absolutely stuck tight to my mattress. I could not get out of bed, no matter how hard I tried. I remember laying there in bed for literally about a half an hour hollering for my mom, whose bedroom was a floor down from mine, and who was evidently still asleep. I don't remember precisely how long it took her to get me unstuck. Then we had to get that huge mess out of my hair. I was having nothing to do with scissors. We must have used a whole tub of shortening on my head. I was very late to school that day. I wonder what I told the secretary when I went in for a late pass. Did I tell her the truth? I don't remember, but I bet I made up a dumb lie. I was probably too embarrassed, plus she might not have believed the truth.

Now fast-forward about five or six years. I had just finished my first year of college, and was working in an office. I had hair halfway down my back. My parents had left for a couple of weeks to visit family in Utah. I was the only person left at home, and relishing my independence. Unfortunately, that would be just the time I chose to accidentally lock my keys in my car. No one was home to bail me out, and my house was also locked. I eventually got that sorted out and headed off for work an hour late. After I'd been there for an hour or two, I was getting ready to send a fax somewhere. I was bending over the table next to the fax machine, writing out a cover letter. Unbeknownst to me, my hair had fallen into the fax's tray. Thinking my hair was a piece of paper, the machine self activated and started rolling my hair up inside it. It was like in the movies where the guy gets his tie stuck in something, only it was my hair. Down I went, as the machine kept on rolling my hair up. I couldn't get it to stop; I got sucked in to my ear. My co-workers thought I was just joking around at first, and laughed. They ended up having to unplug the machine and open it up to get my hair out. At the height of all the excitement, our boss came in the room. He nearly had kittens! I don't think I was his favorite employee that day.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Teasing a Little Girl

Back when we were 20 somethings, before we had so many children that we out grew it, Bruce and I lived in a cute, little, blue, 2 bedroom house. Those were good days! Ah, memories of my early motherhood. Dang I'm going to be such a mess when my children really do grow up and move away. They're only 10, 8, 6, 2 and 3 months, but I just can't seem to get enough of my older kids these days. It's hurry up, go to school, hurry up get your homework done, hurry up to this and that. I'm missing them like crazy. Makes me want to home school, just so I could hang out with them more. I just don't know if I'd be any good at that. Okay, now I'm a big bawlly mess. This is NOT where I was going with this post!

ANYWAY! There was a girl named Chelsea who lived next door to us, in our little blue house. She was a sweet little girl, but she always seemed to be in our front yard. You peep your nose out the front door, and there was Chelsea, "Hey! How are you? Whacha doin?...Guess what I did today? Did you just flush the toilet?" etc.

You go somewhere, and you practically kick her out of your car, just so you can get down the road. You roll the car window up on her nose. She chases you down the street. "Where are you going? When are you going to be back? My mom shaves her back." (No, she never said that, and I'm sure her mother doesn't need to shave her back. It's just the type of thing she would say.)

You come home, and there's Chelsea sitting on your porch. "Where did you go? Did you go to the grocery store? Are you going inside?" She really was a nice little girl, just always there.

Anyway, one day we went to Six Flags, and John came with us. (Chelsea loved John. She would ask me about my "crazy brother" from time to time. She thought he was hilarious!) I'm going to guess that Chelsea would have been about 7ish, at the time. As we were loading up the car, there was Chelsea bouncing around with her usual questions, trying to help put the cooler in the trunk, etc. When we were getting ready to drive away, she came up to John's door and was in the act of shutting it for him, when John said "Don't do that. We always drive with the door open!"

"You do not!" said Chelsea

"Yes we do! That way we can jump out quickly if we get into a wreck." replied John.

"Nu-uh!"

"Yes, it's true."

"No it isn't!"

So it went. We drove away with the door wide open until we were out of sight. Chelsea was laughing and screaming after us. It was funny.

Another time, when Chelsea was probably 10ish, she came over and had me buy something for a school fundraiser or something. She asked me how I spelled my name, so that she could write it down on the form. I spelled it something like this (as she was writing it down):

"Remorqnzlobjhmprenl...." Until she caught on and said "No it isn't!"

So I started again: "Renlreqzj..."

We carried on like that with her writing and erasing over and over again for several minutes. (She thought it was funny too, so I wasn't just being mean.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Maverick

Our parents are probably the best at penny pinching of anyone I ever met. I've seriously known my dad to cut open a tube of toothpaste in order to spoon out the last little bit. His motto is "Waste Not, Want Not." I must have heard him say that a google of times growing up. Along with this penny pinching mania, they also don't seem to care what-so-ever how they look to others. Doesn't matter how dorky others might find them, if they like what ever it is that they are doing / wearing, it's all good. My dad is famous for wearing bib overalls that are just a bit too short. I have even known him to fasten them with diaper pins when the buckle falls off. When his socks get holes in them, does he dream of throwing them out? Heck no! He'll sit there and spend an evening darning his socks with green thread, even though he has a drawer full of unopened packages of socks. "Waste not, want not!" That's my dad. We could all do with a bit more of this attitude, could we not? Anyway, you get the point.

All of this penny pinching, and non-caring for what the rest of the world thinks lead my parents to drive the worlds most ugly, beat up Maverick ever. The thing ran like a champ (except for it's habit of dieing at red lights.) This was the family car from before I was born, until after I was in junior high. I don't ever remember it not looking like a total piece of junk. Once I got to be about 9 or 10 years old, and I realized that we had the ugliest, most beat up car of anyone I knew, I became more and more mortified to ride around in the thing. My mother reupholstered the seats several times. I remember riding around with no seats when she was in the process. The ceiling was made of some kind of cloth that was ripped in about a million places, and sewn back up with green and orange thread. I used to hide my face behind the pieces that were hanging down, so as not to be recognized in that hideous car. Once I was angry with my parents, and I kicked the car in a rust spot. My foot went all the way through to the trunk. I thought I'd be in big trouble, but no one ever even noticed.

One time when I was about 10 years old, my mom took me shopping at the mall. It was super hot outside that day. While we were in the mall, the heat melted the connections inside the steering wheel or something, and the horn wires got stuck together. I remember the sheer humiliation I felt as we drove the 20 minutes home with the horn blaring non-stop all the way home. As if riding in the car without the added attention being drawn to us wasn't embarrassing enough.

This reminds me of all the trips we used to make to Utah, to visit family, when I was a kid. I remember an uncle saying "So, you've come in the faith-mobile again?" They always seemed surprised that anyone would dare a 3 day drive in that car. I loathed that drive, long before I became embarrassed of our car. This was long before the days of TV in a car. John and I had to find ways to amuse ourselves for three days of driving through endless miles of corn fields.

Mom would take us shopping a couple of days before the trip to buy toys for the "cooperation game." She would keep the toys in a bag. If we were well behaved for a given amount of time, we would earn a cooperation coin. Once we earned enough, we could buy the toys from her. I remember one trip when I had picked out a wonderful kiddie make-up kit to earn. That was the one thing I coveted more than anything else. John must have realized how much I wanted the thing, because he kept whispering in my ear that he was going to buy it first. He'd tell me all about the plans he had for the different kinds of make-up. He was going to use my finger nail polish to paint a boat or something. This, of course upset me terribly, so I think I threw a fit, which caused me to lose the coins. John, undetected would keep on earning them. A fact that he flaunted to me. "I'm ahead, so I'll be able to buy it first." O the torture.

Then there was the time we were driving next to a church bus. We'd been keeping pace with them for some time. John and I, out of boredom took to making fun of the kids on the bus. We'd thump pretend bibles, and preach sermons at them. We must have been really annoying, because when we finally pulled level with the driver (the only adult on the church bus), to our great astonishment, he flipped us the bird.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Sister Excersly: Staple Bacon to Your Face!

While I was in highschool I was required to go to church every Tuesday for "Seminary". This was just a church class for teenagers. I liked going cause all my friends were there, and while it was supposed to be like a real highschool class where you got a grade and all, there didn't seem to be any real consequences to getting a failing grade so that's what I got. I tried to do the homework once or twice but it was sooooo mind bogglingly cheesy. Stuff along the lines of:

Chose one:
Jesus is
a) good
b) bad
c) neutral

...only with more rhetoric. It was really boring (the homework, I mean) and not even remotely challenging so I never did any. The homework was in this slick workbook that came from Church HQ in Salt Lake. It was green, and illustrated, and had 20 or so blank sheets in the back to record your "spiritual thoughts" on. I used the blank sheets to record my ideas for my Dungeons and Dragons campaign on. I liked the way my D+D stuff looked on the fancy-ish, green, semi-parchment.

But as dumb as the homework was, I liked going to class because, like I said, all my friends were there. Sister Excersly was our techer's name and she was pretty nice. I could tell she genuinely liked me. She cried during the lessons sometimes, I think more out of caring about us and the subject matter than from our poor behavior. I never listened in class, except for listening for chances to make a joke out of the lesson. For the most part, I thought the lessons were boring , except when we started talking about things like the nature of demons, witchcraft and if there really are ghosts. I had lots of questions then, but the teachers always changed the subject pretty quickly and they didn't really seem to know much about those subjects anyway. I was also interested in how God got to be God in the first place, and whether there were shortcuts.

Sister E never really yelled at me much, she just asked me to quiet down in a niceish way. Smart of her.

There was this one class once when she must have told me pretty firmly to shut up, because I did. Then I had nothing to do. The lesson was not about anything I cared about (like can the priesthood be used as an offensive weapon or is it for defense only?) and I didn't have any D+D ideas that day, so I fell to doodling in my workbook. Wierd Al had just come out with his Even Worse album, and I had the song "You Make Me" stuck in my head. This great song includes the lines:

You make me wanna break the laws of time and space
You make me wanna eat pork
You make me wanna staple bacon to my face
Then remove 'em with a pitchfork!
There's really something kinda strange about you, baby, but I can't exactly put my finger on it!

So after drawing horns, blackeyes, missing teeth, tails - the normal junk- on everyone in my illustated book, I sketched some bacon stapled to the face of one of the Bible guys in one of the pictures. Then, to make it clear, I added the caption : "Staple Bacon to Your Face!". We had to turn these workbooks in to be graded, but I didn't care if I failed. (I did fail BTW- I never graduated seminary, despite attending most of my highschool years. Instead, I got 4 F's)

Next week Sister Excersly cornered me after class with my workbook. She got me off alone and opened to the "Staple Bacon to your Face!" picture.

"John," She said in a very kind, caring manner, that let me know that she liked me, period, buuuuut... "John... this is a picture of Our Savior"

Well, I hadn't noticed at the time I was doodling. Just another fella in a robe. I felt bad, but only cause Sis E, who I liked alot, was upset for some reason. I acted somewhat contrite to get her to smile at me, but I didn't really see what the big deal was.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ashley Messes with the Psychiatrists

John and I were talking about this one about a week ago. It needs to be added, I think! I've since asked her and Mom about it, to make sure I had all of my facts straight.

Our younger sister, Ashley had to undergo brain surgery when she was about 12 years old. She has epilepsy, due to a huge hunk of brain-lining material that grew in between the folds of her brain. They removed a piece of this lining stuff that was about the size of an egg. It was quite the ordeal, at the time, but we did manage, and still do manage to have some fun about it. John made her a tee-shirt a couple of years back (which she loves and wears frequently) that says, in large print, on the front: "I had part of my brain surgically removed..." On the back is says (somewhat smaller) "...just to make it fair!" She has recently made herself a tee-shirt that says "Don't mess with me..." on the front, the back says "...or else I'll give you a piece of my mind!"

When she was in the hospital for pre-surgery monitoring, (They opened up her skull, attached about 200 electrodes to her brain, stitched her back up with 200 or so wires blossoming out of her head, and monitored her brain activity via the electrodes and video of her hospital room for about a week.) Anyway, while she was in the hospital being monitored, the whole family nearly got kicked out one night. We were visiting, and having a good time being silly, and making her laugh, and seeing what we could make the brain-waves on the overhead screen do. It was very interesting, to see what made the lines jump. Anyway, apparently we were being too rowdy, and the nurses had to come in and threaten us.

Back to my original story, at some point while she was in the hospital, for pre-surgery testing, they had her do a whole battery of psychiatric / psychological testing. This was to find out what kinds of things they might potentially mess up during surgery basically. Anyway, she spent two days being questioned by this psychologist (who Mom agreed with Ashley was extremely annoying). She cooperated for about a day and a half. By the second day, she was getting extremely bored / annoyed with the whole process, and she started answering every single question with "Nase boren." (Pardon me if I didn't spell it right. "Nase boren" is German for "Nose picking.") After a while of this, the psychiatrist lady came out and started asking Mom about it (she wasn't allowed in the room for these tests). Mom started giggling. The doctor was seriously going to report her strange behavior, and have her declared as a bit mentally unstable, and possibly medicate her. Mom had to complain rigorously, and threaten legal action, to get it off her record. Oh man, funny stuff!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Trent and Me-Blockbuster

Then there was the time when Trent was about 12, so I would have been about 29, and he and I wound up going to Blockbuster one night (-to pick up movies, obviously). Naturally I went out of my way to embarrass him at every opportunity. First thing in the door, I shouted:

"OK OK, Trent Sever, I promise we will get Barney for you if they have it!!!"

And so it went from there. Before long, Trent took off running and hid from me.

I took some time to browse the new releases, but I kept one eye out for Trent as well. Pretty soon I spotted him, predictably in the video game section, absorbed in reading the back of some game or other. He was still just short enough that he was almost hidden by the height of the shelves at this particular Blockbuster, so I figured he thought he was completely invisible. Very quietly, crouching all the while, I ninja-ed up on him. I got to where I knew I was within three feet of him. All I had to do was jump out from behind the aisle I was hiding in and yell something humiliating. So I did.

Seizing a game at random, I lunged around the corner, shoved the game in his face and said very loudly : "Here's your Teletubbies!!"

That was when I noticed that it wasn't Trent, just some other random preteen about Trent's height and hair color. He gave me a very weird look. I don't remember exactly what I did next.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bomb Threat

When we (meaning me and Brad Carter) were in about 4th grade cordless telephones were just barely getting to be affordable for general use. I don't mean those primitive cell phones that you had to lug around in a box. I just mean land line telephones that lived in your house but were not physically attached to the base with a long curly leash. (that makes me sound old)(how cool) My parents did not buy one for at least a decade, literally, I am sure. The reasoning behind that went something like : "How would you like to have to look all over the house for the phone every time you needed to use it?" (Mom and Dad also did not own a microwave until I was 15 or so, they drove the same car for the first 14 years of my life, they did not own a TV until I was 24, and as I write, they are thinking maybe someday they might look into having the internet in their home.)

Brad's parents, on the other hand, were the first people I ever heard to own a cordless phone. It was a big deal.

Brad and I lived on the same block. The elementary school we went to was the next block over diagonally. (its been knocked down since- victory at last). Brad's house was a house and a parking lot away from the street corner we shared with the school.

Each classroom had a small typed (yes TYPED- probably mimeographed too) notice posted by the door. It contained mostly gibberishy information and was intended only for adults and teachers. We only noticed this notice (ahem) because when recess time came the teacher always made us line up by the door before we could leave. So while we waited for the rest of the kids to form ranks, we had nothing to do but read whatever happened to be taped up by the door.

There was only one thing interesting on the notice and it went something like this:

"In the event of Fire, Earthquake, Tornado, Extreme cold, Snow, Natural Disaster or Bomb threat, all classes will be Cancelled". (emphasis added)

Brad realized that we had the power to create at least two of the items on the list. Also, he needed to test the potential of his parents new cordless phone.

One day he wore a jacket to school, weather not withstanding. In the inner pocket of that jacket, he revealed to me at recess, he had smuggled in the new phone. His plan was to go to the corner of the playground nearest to his house and see if how good the range of this phone was. If it worked out we could spend our recess time making prank calls. We could even prank the school from school. The irony seemed thick at the time. But Brad also thought it would be a good idea to use the phone to make a bomb threat and see if we got out of class for the day.

We hunkered down in the corner of the playground. Brad hunched his jacket up over his head so no one could see him talking on the phone. He dialed the principal's office. The reception was terrible, but he did raise the secretary.

I guess we didn't know much about how these things are supposed to be done. What he said was something along the lines of : " Uh, yes, "(in his best, deep, adult voice) "Yes, hello, I'm calling to make a bomb threat."

And then either the connection cut out, or he hung up in fear, or my excitement level spiked so hard that it wiped out my memory. I don't think we got any further with the call than that.

Anticlimactically, nothing happened. It'd be different today of course, but either the secretary didn't understand us through the static, or else nobody took the idea of a 9 year old with a bomb all that seriously back then.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Freshman Algebra

Got an itch to tell a story on myself from my freshman year of high school.

We moved when I turned 14, so I started high school as a new kid. I weighed 103 lbs and still did not like combing my hair. That summer I would put on 40 lbs and start taking martial arts, and my outlook on life would change, but at the time keeping a low profile was an important survival skill for me.

First period at 8am was Algebra. Now let me just say that there are people out there better at mathematics than me, somewhere. None of them were in that algebra class of course. The teacher was nice plump white haired old maid. I had one friend in that class, a stoner kid who always wore a jacket, probably to hide the fact that he only owned two or three t-shirts. He and I were equally unpopular. His prime obsessions were girls, sex and (i think)pot. He and I were hardly birds of a feather, but I didn't feel I could afford to be picky about my friends. He never wanted to cheat off me... it may have been that nobody besides the teacher knew that I was smart. Like I said, a low profile was what I was trying for.

But if my mouth was shut, my ears where open and I was falling for algebra. Some of the ancient Greeks built religions around mathematics. There have been mathematicians who fought duels with other mathematicians because each had insulted the other's math skills. Hilarious I know, but at age 14 I was starting to understand that sort of fanatical ... reverence for math. There is a type a beauty in math and I was digging my first hour algebra class.

But I kept a low profile.

One day we had a substitute teacher. She was another old white haired woman, but she had no math skills whatsoever. She got up in front of the class and started talking and everything she taught was wrong, start to finish, and I was the only one on the class who knew the difference. I was appalled. She seriously had no idea what she was doing. She was math illiterate. But the thing that got to me was she was soo cocky. Not only did she know nothing, she didn't even know that she didn't know.

Something snapped in me and I started calling her out. Every line of equation she butchered on he overheard projector, I shoved my fist in the air and argued with her. She, however, would not admit her mistakes and that reaaaaally pissed me off. The only thing that I remember saying specifically to her was : "Isn't this like burning your house down to boil an egg?"

The rest of the class did not know what to do. First off, nobody had ever heard me say so much. Second, every single thing I said sounded like the worst kind of smarting off. And although the teacher couldn't admit that she was wrong, (cause she really didn't understand anything I was telling her anyway), I was still making her lose her cool in a big way. I imagine she was glad when first hour was over.

Next day we had our regular teacher back, and I went back to my low profile.

"How did it go yesterday?" I remember her asking the class.

"John argued with the teacher the whole hour!" shouted several girls.

"Oh Really?" Our regular teacher raised her eyebrows in surprise and gave me a quizzical look. I smiled a bit, shrugged and looked down at my text book.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Few Random Silly Things That I Enjoyed

The Dumpster
When we were grade-school aged, we lived next door to our grandpa Sever's grocery store / meat market. They had a dumpster where all of the store trash was kept on the side of our house. It sounds disgusting now (think of all of the meat scraps that must have been in there), but we used to love to get inside of that thing to play. We'd hunker down, with the lid closed (it smelled aweful!) and pop up and yell at passersby. That was great! I've always loved popping out of nowhere at people and surprising them. I still do it in the store very occasionally, when I'm feeling particularly silly.

Alarm Clocks
When we were a bit older, we moved not too far from a WalMart. I used to go to the clock section, and just for fun, I'd set all of the alarm clocks to go off at the same time.

In Front of a Fancy Restraunt
When I was in college, a large group of us went to a fancy restraunt together. We had to wait for about an hour to be seated. They had us waiting outside, next to a large window where we could see people eating. I faced the window and started doing my crazy arm swinging thing. Another guy in our group had a similiar arm flailing thing that he did that was really funny too, so he started in. I actually saw a woman, in the restraunt spit out her food because she was laughing at us.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Kooky Trent

Did you know that Trent has yet to wear long pants to school this year? It is now February, he walks almost a mile home from school everyday, and we've had single diget weather! Come to think of it, the only times I've seen him in long pants in the past couple of years was at church. Weirdo!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dad reading

Liz's mom gave me Huckleberry Finn on CD for christmas this year (very good choice). Got me remembering all the nights when me, Renae, Mom and Dad all sat (i remember laying more) in the living room while Dad read to us. Mark Twain is what I remember him reading most to us. That and poetry. He was always reading more adult level books outloud to Mom, but that was always in the kitchen. In the living room he read stuff for us all. Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, A Conneticut Yankee in King Authur's Court. We loved it, or at least I did. He did all the voices and dialects. If you have ever read Huck Finn you know the whole book is written in at least 4 distinct types of slang and reading the book out loud forces you to do the voices- but even so Dad is a voices kinda guy. (if you haven't read Huck Finn see me, I'll make you.) A standing joke was that if the phone ran while Dad was in full swing, he would get up and answer it in Nigger Jim's voice: "Wah hello dah! How is you dis fahn ev nin?". Got some good reactions. Dad also read Uncle Remus to us alot, and we always liked that.

It's getting less and less PC to answer the phone that way, but my Dad doesn't know it yet.

The Ghost of Windy Hill was another book he read to us. It's a kids ghost story, but Dad one night couldn't keep himself from reading the whole thing in this Lon Chaney Dracula accent, where everything was drastic and scary and doom filled. It was driving us all crazy, Mom included but he just couldn't stop (except to laugh at himself and at us). Finally Mom suddenly jumped up and said something to the effect of John pleeeeeeease cut it out we are all going mad here! and then, striking this deranged hunchback pose she screeched out a line from the book that we had just passed- a very bland line: "I ate the cookies."- but she used this amazing utterly indiscribable gothic monster voice and it came out:

"IIIIII..... AAAAATE..... THE COOOKIEEES!"

It doesn't come out in print right, but it seemed like about the funniest thing I had ever heard in my life and the 4 of us had this amazing laugh attack for seriously it seemed like half an hour. Fot years after we could convulse each other by reminding each other of that line and the way Mom delivered it.