For day 4 of the challenge, I dive into the Letter D as I explore more memoir encyclopedia topics.
My dad and I have the same sense of humor. We regularly crack ourselves up, even when no one else is laughing. He told some corny jokes when I was a kid, and like every dad everywhere, he told the same ones over and over. One that was guaranteed to get a laugh from all my friends, and a cringe from me and Andrew, was the one where we’d be riding around town in our Suburban (I’m pretty sure we had at least four), when my dad would point out a road sign, the one with the capital P and the red circle with the slash through it, and ask my friend, “Do you know what that sign means?” They’d correctly reply, “No parking.” To which my dad would reply, “Nope, it means no peeing on the side of the road,” followed by fits of giggles by both him and said friend. I’ll admit, I laughed too, the first half dozen times he told it, but after that, it just wasn’t funny anymore.
Something my dad used to do that irritated the heck outta me was honk at me every time I walked in front of the car. I would jump, let out a yell, and give him the meanest glare I could muster. He, in turn, would lose it, doubled-over with uncontrollable laughter. Still, to this day, I flinch when I walk in front of his car when he’s in the driver’s seat. If I remember, I always walk behind the car.
When we were kids, my dad used to get our attention by whistling. He’s a really good whistler, and he is able to project his whistles for really long distances. Whereas most parents, my mom included, would yell out your name when they wanted your attention or needed you to come to another part of the house, my dad just whistled, and you had better come. I’d get so frustrated when he’d whistle and whistle, so I’d yell back, “I’m busy!” but he wouldn’t relent. Ugh! I’d stop whatever I was doing, go to see what he wanted, only to find him on the couch grinning up at me saying, “Do you wanna get me a cup of water?” Really!?!? You called me in here to get you a cup of water when I was busy and you have two perfectly good legs with which to do it, and the kitchen is 5 steps away from you?! He’d just smile and say, “So will you do it?”
My first experience with death that I can remember was when my Papa died when I was seven. The memory that sticks out the most was when mom and dad called us into their room one Saturday morning and told us our cousins were coming to visit. I can remember bouncing on the bed yelling, “Katy’s coming!!”, so excited I couldn’t stand it. That’s when my dad got choked up and told us Papa (his dad) had died and they were coming to the funeral. I’m pretty sure my mom had to finish telling us. Seven-year-old me was a mix of emotions- happy that my cousin and best friend was coming to visit and sad that Papa had died and that it had made my daddy so sad.
My Papa was a big man, tall and stocky, with a full head of white hair. To a little kid like me, he was exceptionally big! Despite his stature, he was gentle and loving. He had a great laugh. He never met a stranger, and he was so caring that no one had a single bad thing to say about him. Papa loved the Lord and would freely share his faith with others. He was madly in love with Meme, and she was devastated when he died. I’m not sure she ever fully recovered.
I’m glad I got to know him, even for a short time. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him in my dad’s and Uncle David’s face.
Growing up, we almost always ate dinner together, and I’m glad we did. Although most of my dinner memories were at restaurants since we ate most of our meals out during our 8-year home remodel (more on that one later).
When we did eat at home, we did so in the kitchen at the oval oak table with the wicker-backed chairs upholstered in a brown, yellow, and orange pattern from the late 70’s/early 80’s. Most of our meals at home consisted of a meat dish (steak, chicken, never pork), a starch (usually potatoes), a vegetable (most likely from a can), some sort of bread (usually rolls with butter), and iced tea. My parents eat much differently now, but back in the 80’s, this was pretty typical.
My friends loved sleeping over at my house or having dinner with us because their parents hardly ever took them out to eat. I liked eating at friends’ houses because their moms would cook. You always want what you don’t have, right?
We almost always ate dinner late and took forever to finish because my parents loved to sit and talk after they had eaten. We wouldn’t get home til close to 9pm some nights. Because I hated just sitting around waiting after I’d eaten, and my incessant whining that I wanted to leave didn’t work, I always had a book with me. My parents sometimes had to make me put it down so I’d talk with them about my day. My obsession with always having a book still prevails to this day.
I love diving, from the air and into the ocean. My first experience doing both was on my first trip to Australia in 2004. I had just finished up a stint as a nanny in Sydney, and decided to travel the country for a couple months. I flew to Cairns, on the Great Barrier Reef, and stayed on a live aboard boat for four days. During this time I went on a couple discovery dives, which is scuba diving, but you are non-certified and with a guide every step of the way. I wasn’t ready to commit the time or money it would take to get certified, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it. Turns out I didn’t like it…I loved it! I was pretty spoiled though with my first dive in the Great Barrier Reef. There isn’t much out there better than that. I only wish I had pictures of it, but at the time, the underwater cameras weren’t yet cost-effective. All I have are my memories.
After leaving Cairns by bus, I traveled south along the eastern coast of Oz. At one stop, Mooloolaba (I just love the sound of it!), I decided to stay a few days and ended up sky diving. It was a pretty big decision because I didn’t have much money and it was 800 Aussie dollars, but more importantly, it was the one thing I promised my dad I wouldn’t do on my trip.
Seriously, he sat me down and said, “Promise me you won’t go sky diving while you’re there. I don’t want you coming home in a box.”
“No, promise me.”
Rolling my eyes, I said, “OK, dad, I promise I won’t sky dive.”
I take my promises seriously and I hated disappointing him, but it was sky diving!! I was not nervous about the actual jumping out of a plane part, but having to tell my dad was terrifying. I finally decided it was worth it.
I paid for the most expensive package where you get another skydiver to jump out right before you do and film your jump. I mean, if I was going to do it, I wanted proof to show my parents when I got home.
My tandem diver was a spunky, older man who’d been on some 900 odd jumps. I felt pretty good about that. If you’ve never done it before, let me fill you in. You and your tandem diver, strapped together, pile into a tiny plane with about 4 or 5 other pairs of sky divers. You sit on the floor of the plane, lined up in order of jumpers. On the ground, my guy said, “Wanna go first?” Without thinking too much about it, I replied, “Sure, why not?”, surprising even myself.
Once you’re inside the plane, you’ll probably be shocked to know there’s no door. Being first meant I was sitting nearest the opening where the door should have been. It was an amazing view going up, but boy was it windy and noisy! It’s a wonder we didn’t get sucked out!
I jumped from 14,000 feet, and once we were at the correct altitude, my guy tapped my shoulder, my signal to scoot on my booty toward the ‘door.’ At the opening, staring down at the ocean below, I was mesmerized, taken aback by the beauty of it all, but I wasn’t once scared. I was eerily calm. The videographer jumped out first, and then it was our turn. Expecting to scream and be scared, I was surprised that I didn’t and wasn’t. We were free-falling for about 45 seconds. That was the most exhilarating 45 seconds ever…pure joy. It’s like time slowed down.
After he pulled the parachute, and we shot backwards into the air with a quick jolt, we drifted slowly back down to earth. For those few minutes of floating, I took it all in. The cerulean blue of the ocean below, the surfers catching white waves, the tiny dots of people sunbathing on the beach, the way the sand slowly turned into ocean, the city just beyond the beach, with it’s tall trees and buildings. It was magic.
We landed on the beach, lifting our knees so our butts skidded across the sand. Once I stood up, the videographer asked, “How was it!?!”
“It was cool…I loved it,” I beamed into the camera.
Once I was safely back in Texas a month later, my family was asking me all about my trip. “I have something to show you,” I said, as I pulled out the VHS. Popping it into the VCR, my dad asked me if I went sky diving, to which I sheepishly replied, “Let me show you.”
He was tickled pink! He couldn’t stop smiling, the pride written across his face. For months afterward, he’d tell anyone who’d listen that his daughter had lived in Australia and went sky diving, even when he’d told her not to. I guess I was worried for nothing.
I was definitely a baby doll kinda girl. Barbies didn’t do it for me. I had more dolls than I could count, but most of them were of the Cabbage Patch variety. I loved the way their heads smelled like baby powder. I’m not sure how they did it, because years and years later, they still had the smell.
I loved to play house, and would wrangle my brother or any of my friends to play with me. Even if I didn’t have anyone to play with, I was content to play house by myself. My favorite places to play house were in the playhouse my grandaddy built me that sat behind our house or the make-shift playhouse in the country behind Mamaw and Grandaddy’s house that was essentially a big stack of cinder blocks with some smaller bricks on top that I would arrange to become a baby bed, a stove, a kitchen table, etc. I could spend hours upon hours playing with my dolls, dressing them up, feeding them, tending to their every need, just like they were real babies.
When my baby brother was born, I was a few months shy of four years old, and I was suddenly no longer the baby and center of attention. In an effort to avoid me feeling left out, my Mamaw bought me my own baby boy doll that I was given as a gift the day my brother was born. It looked like a real baby, and was about the same size. I don’t remember what I named him, but I do remember taking care of him when my mom was taking care of Andrew. From what I’ve been told, I didn’t do so well with the transition, but I do think the baby doll helped.
My Mamaw started giving my China dolls when I was young, and I began to amass a collection. The thing was, I wasn’t allowed to play with them. They were for show only. I remember wanting to touch their beautiful hair, set in ringlets on their head, or touch their ornate and beautiful clothing, but they were too delicate, I was told. Most of those China dolls are still on display at my mom and dad’s house in the bedroom with all of my niece and nephew’s toys.
I finally grew out of playing with dolls toward the end of elementary school, when I was beginning to be too cool for such childish things, but once I’m around little girls or boys who are holding a baby doll and ask me to play, I’m right back there in that playhouse.