Tag Archives: Getting older

#Reminscences: Dairy Queen

I was talking with colleagues the other night about night-time rituals as a youngster.

We were sweltering in the heat at Carondelet Park, and we were watching the children (two aged 6 years, one 4 years) run and play and overheat and not worry about it.

Then came the stories of our own childhoods.

Hannibal, Missouri.  I was 7 or 8 years old.  After supper, we’d go back outside to play; our house had no air-conditioning, so outdoors was at least as cool as indoors.  Sometime around dusk the mosquito control truck, belching fog to kill the varmints, would be spotted down College Avenue, heading our direction.  We pack up and go indoors quickly.

I would take a bath in the upstairs bathroom.  My sisters shared a bath in the downstairs bathroom.  We’d crawl into pajamas.  And then we’d bundle into the car for a trip to Dairy Queen, almost every night.

Imagine — freshly bathed children, in pajamas, just waiting to get sticky Dairy Queen goodness all over us.

My order was a Mr. Misty, cherry flavored.  Brain cramps would ensue.  Karen would order a Dilly Bar.  And youngest sister Beth, not yet fluent in English, would order “a ‘poon with a dish.”  (Translation: a dish of ice cream with a spoon.) And we’d sit there at Dairy Queen and have our treats, or sometimes drive up the main road to the riverfront and watch the Mississippi go by.

We followed the same tradition in Lee’s Summit, as I recall.  Living in a subdivision with constant construction made for ample opportunities for me to get dirty.  And of course a ten-year-old on a bike can always get sweaty too, especially in summer-in-Missouri heat.  The Lee’s Summit house only had one bathtub, though, so I have no idea how we all got cleaned up and ready to hop in the car, clad in pajamas, for the trip across Langsford Road and then 3rd Street to the Dairy Queen on Douglas.

I’ve not had a Mr. Misty in years.  I think I shall have one this week.


For reference, this is what my sisters and I looked like in 1970, at Eastertide in Adrian, Missouri:

Grandma Carter

From my files, two photos of a visit to see Grandma Carter in De Soto, Missouri in 1994.

With Flora Carter and my doggie Sam.

With my paternal great-uncle Bob Carter, his wife Maxine, and my Grandma Carter. I am doing a Liberace impression, it appears.

Ancestors

My heritage . . . how I got be here . . . my ancestors . . . the tree that rooted from immigrants and produced this one bow . . . this has all been on my mind the last few weeks.

I really don’t know why.

After my sister Beth decided that our family meal this last week (I spent 24 hours in Lee’s Summit) would be a re-creation of a Blocher family Sunday meal, I knew that we’d spend some time reminiscing too.

That led to an all-out few hours of genealogy conversations.

The meal?  I made brisket.  Karen brought green rice (broccoli/rice casserole) and a peach pie.  Beth made funeral potatoes and opened a can of Le Sueur peas, just like Mom and G-ma used to do.  I contributed the lime pickles.

And the genealogy.  Beth had asked me some questions the other day about who people were in various photos, as she continues to sort through my father’s belongings.  (We are now down to century-old photos, but of both sides of the family.)  Karen has the Ancestry.com family tree, and I had much of it in mind myself.

I’m the only one of us three old enough to remember the great-grandparents.  My mother’s paternal grandfather was alive when I was born, and I met him, but he died less then nine months after my birth.  I do remember Gram Blocher (Edna Stolp Blocher), my maternal grandfather’s mother; and Alvin Carter and James Slade, my paternal great-grandfathers, both of whom died when I was five or six.

Gram Blocher (d. 1964), my sister Karen on my mother’s arm. I’m standing. This would have been not many months before Gram Blocher died.

James and Belle Slade at their 50th anniversary celebration. I have the vaguest recollection of Belle, and only slightly more of James.

The Carter side great-grandparents were named Carter and Slade and Fields and Ratliff.  That’s a pretty British bunch.  And the Blocher side greats were Blocher and Stolp and Gutshall (anglicized from Gotschalk) and Ficklin.  Only that later name is British.  The rest are German.  From what I can tell from the lineage, these folks tended to marry within similar countries of family origin, and within similar faith groups.  One of my great-great-great-great-grandfathers was an elder in the Dutch Reformed Church in New York.  Many of the ancestors were Methodist or Baptist.  And of course I am the child of two Baptist missionaries whose parents were instrumental in their own faith journey.

Alvin Carter with two of his grandsons. My father, Richard, is at right. This would be 1953 or so.

From my journal this last week:

Visiting the cemetery yesterday, I prayed for the repose of my parents’ souls, and gave thanks for their example.  Some day they will be but a memory only to us three children.  Mom is warmly but hazily remembered by Blayne and Kristen [Karen’s two children, now adults and parents themselves].  All will be gone, and I for one want them to live a while longer in my own memory.  Mom is not quite sainted for us, but she’s on the short list in spite of her foibles and all-too-apparent humanity.  Their memories are sacred to us, though — as parents, as exemplars, as guides to how we might live and die, even as we learn from their clay feet too.

As we examined photos and unraveled genealogy, my mind filled over and over with memories.  I remember visiting Gram Blocher at her small house south of G-Ma’s, and her funeral — how fascinated I was by the accordion device that held the casket.  Of course, that device was at my eye level!

I remember visiting James Slade in his upstairs apartment on Jefferson, and in the nursing home.  And I remember that we were farmed out to Harold/Shirley Ward on the day of his funeral.

My paternal great-grandfather visited the Clayton house in Columbia.  That’s my only recollection of Alvin Carter.

Beth told me a story last evening that I never heard, of my first Christmas and a blizzard and Mom peeing into one of my cloth diapers and me drinking cold milk since we were stuck in the blizzard.  She heard this from Mom or G-Ma.

Last evening, lineage tracing back to Staffordshire, England on the Ficklin side, and to Germany for Gutshall and Stolp.  I’m a seventh-generation American on the Stolp side; sixth-gen on the Blocher side; and seventh-gen on the Ficklin side.  I have maternal ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary (Johannes Peiters Stolp) and Civil Wars, and one who was listed on the first USA census in 1790.  Jacob Blocher’s house was used at Gettysburg as a hospital.

OUCH!!

Getting older is hard.

Dealing with an older house is hard.

Woe is me.


Seriously, this has been a double-whammy week.

I’ve been feeling some overly-sensitive sensations in one of my molars for the last couple of months, and a dentist visit this week confirmed what I had surmised: a teenage-years amalgam filling is finally giving way.  The tooth needs a crown.  Even with insurance, this is expensive.

And then . . . for several years I’ve been aware that my back-porch addition flat roof needed replacing.  Calls to several roofers have gone unheeded; they just don’t show up to even bid on a job!  And these are people that have been recommended to me.

Well, my neighbors hired Miguel and his son Brandon to work on their roofing needs, and they are very happy.  And I watched these guys work over the last couple of weeks.  So I asked them for a bid.

Miguel showed me photos of the shoddy workmanship — no flashing, no sealing around the AC lines as they enter the house — and the cracked roofing material on my porch roof.  Here goes a quick grand….  But it needs to be done, and there’s no time like the present.

And as I update this post before publishing, the roof is now complete.  Rarely have been happier to spend $1000 than I am right now.  These guys were just super!

50 years

I’ll leave it to those more eloquent than me to write paeans about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

And I’ll link an article later.

On this day 50 years ago, I had just turned eight years old.  Space launches were a big deal in the late 1960s, and I remember watching almost every lift-off . . . the thrill of the countdown, the excitement of all that smoke from the launch pad, and then the amazement of seeing that Saturn rocket take men toward outer space.

July 20, 1969 was a Sunday.  I don’t have any recollection of the afternoon, of the live broadcast on all three channels (imagine that!) of a simulation of the moon landing.

But I do remember being ready for bed after church that evening — we attended Fifth Street Baptist Church in Hannibal, and Sunday included two services — but my parents wisely telling me to stay up and watch the telly.  “You will want to remember this, to tell this story some day,” they said.

So I’m telling the story.

Thus it was that on this day, 50 years ago, my eight-year-old self watched Neil Armstrong take a step onto the moon.  And heard those immortal words:  “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

I don’t recall how long I stayed up that evening.  But I do bless my parents for requiring me to stay awake to see this world-changing moment.  As I age, the memory of this moment, now distilled through 50 years and sentimentalism and my own tendency to revere life-changing moments, reduces me to tears. As it does right now, as I write.

I was dimly aware of the turmoil of the last three years of the 1960’s.  I remember asking my parents about Viet Nam and death counts on the news, about Bobby Kennedy, about who they were voting for in the 1968 election (they wouldn’t tell me, but Mom said “I think our votes will cancel each other’s” and I’ve always assumed Mom voted for Humphrey while Pop voted for Nixon), about why students were killed at Kent State.  I was a precocious kid.

And easily moved, too.  The Olympics opening ceremony made me cry.  So did “My old Kentucky home” at the Kentucky Derby.  Still does. Still do.

So the memory of the moon landing and what happened 50 years ago today is emblazoned in my formation.  Thanks be to God.

Notes on a birthday

I have spent many of my recent birthdays out of the country — last year in Vienna, three years ago in Exeter, four years ago in Prague, six years ago in Bristol, seven years ago at Interlochen (not out of the country, but in the different land of Michigan).

This year I wanted nothing more than to be home and be happy. I received a note yesterday, from the Dean at Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in Saint Louis.  Part of that note said “I pray that the anniversary of your birth will bring reflections of care, love, and hope.”

And that’s exactly what July 17, 2019 brought me.

Crepe myrtle makes me happy. This is from the Saint Louis Zoo on my birthday.

I spent part of the totally July day (intense heat and humidity) at Saint Louis Zoo, wandering around with three surrogate nephews.  I call them my ‘circus nephews.’    (Zoo photos follow tomorrow.)

My niece Anna works at the zoo, and I stopped by to say ‘hi’ to her.

Then after dropping the boys at their home, I stopped by Sugarfire to purchase an entire Key lime pie, something I’d been craving for a few days.

I dealt with birthday greetings from far and near on Facebook, having heard from people in Morocco, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Italy, Sweden, and the USA.  And as I take stock of those greetings, I find Shirley Ward, who has known me since I was six years old; college roommate Steve Davis; boyhood friend and now stepbrother Greg Herriman; Linda Hodges, sometime surrogate mom who with whose children I grew up and who was with us as my father was dying; and current and former students, people with whom I’ve made and lived theatre; people with whom I’ve sang; colleagues, friends, chums, classmates, acquaintances from around the world.  This is a rich tapestry indeed!

I ran some errands and tidied my life a bit by returning things and dealing with gardening recycling.

And I cooked, which for me is spiritual and physical sustenance.  The dinner menu, shared with my dear friend D., was lamb kebabs (broiled after the storm came through and squelched my charcoal plans) and homemade tzatziki, garden salad with mango dressing, and Key lime pie.

And then we sat out doors in the temperate weather and talked for an hour.

[The ground lamb, by the way, was flavored with ginger, garlic, shallot, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon, as well as salt and pepper.  This is one of my favorite grilling dishes!]

Evening Prayer from The Book of Common Prayer closed out my day.  Then some Downton Abbey.

Surrounded by love, reminded of love from afar, with a growing sense of newfound centeredness and qi that is positive and healthy, with new determination to right some physical and emotional listlessness . . . “care, love and hope” indeed.

A psalm

A psalm for this birthday.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
    and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you have healed me.
Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
    restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
    his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
    “I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
    you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
    I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cried,
    and to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my death,
    if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
    Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
    you have taken off my sackcloth
    and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.