Kids make me smile

Children always add a smile to my day. Recently, Sam’s mom urged him, “You need to eat some fruit with your hamburger.”

Sam studied his hamburger and said, “Well this bun has seeds. Fruits have seeds. So I AM eating a fruit.”

He is a smart alec – as is my friend’s child. The friend simply asked, “What did you do in school today?”

I took a test.”

What did you take it on?”


I love kid chuckles. I also love watching pre-verbal children discover each other. For instance the newest babies in the family, four-month-old twin brothers, were each perched on a parent’s lap at a family gathering. Activity and conversations swirled around them. Those two little guys ignored all the big people, turned to each other and had a twin bonding moment as they studied each other. I grabbed a camera and captured that precious moment.

Later, my daughter-in-love Patti captured another baby bonding moment between Abby, 1, and Katie, 2. Abby, still a crawler at the time, sat on the floor. Katie saw her sitting there, walked over and sat in front of this other person who is just her size. I watched the two batting their hands back and forth at each other, checking out how the other responded. Patti videoed their discovery of someone “Just my size.”

Katie, who strings together words into sentences, eventually rose up and went toddling off to find someone a bit older and more talkative.

About a month after that video, Abby spotted a pen in her daddy’s hand, realized she had important papers to write, stood up and took her first steps across the room to get that pen.

Katie, who has walked for a year, still enjoys being the littlest kid at her house. Her mom, however, decided it was time to put the diapers of babyhood away. She pulled out the baby potty chair and showed it to Katie. Katie looked at her mom and ignored every suggestion she use it. She had no interest in that plastic chair in the bathroom. Every morning her mom asked, “Katie, do you want to be a big girl and wear panties today or be a baby in diapers?”

Diapers,” Katie answered quite satisfied with the status quo.

I decided this is going to take a while, so I bought the largest package of diapers I could find,” her mom said.

Of course, the next time she asked Katie, “diapers or panties?” Katie said, “panties.”

Thinking of a day of mishaps, Mommy rolled her eyes and then helped Katie pull on the panties, packed back-up supplies and warned the teacher at Mother’s Day Out about the day’s decision.

Katie surprised her mom. Within two weeks she woke up dry and made sure she stayed clean and dry all day long.

Now what do I do with all those diapers?” her mom wonders.

Katie does not care. She wore only her big girl panties the night she and her sisters watched the opening ceremonies for the Olympic games with their dad. He posted a photo on Facebook that he took after leaving and said, “I walked back into the room and see the girls ‘training for the Olympics!’”

His snapshot shows all three standing, watching the television as each lifts dumbbells. Caroline, 8, holds a couple four pounders. Daisy, 6, lifts a three pounder and petite Katie raises a one pound weight in each hand.

I missed the Olympic opening ceremonies, but I did see my future Olympians and that added a smile to my day.

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Wanda’s Blue Bowling Shirt

Wandering through the house and lawn at estate sales, buyers may peruse a super clean house with tidy shelves of dishes and ornaments attesting to good housekeeping. Or, they may find an overstuffed “Pickers Sale.” Clean or cluttered, customers hope something catches their eye such as the cornflower blue bowling shirt that caught my eye at a recent sale. Its boldly patterned cuffs and collar stood out among the more traditional shirts, blouses and jeans. It was not an octogenarian’s typical attire.

This bowling shirt belonged in that closet. “She bowled many, many years. She bowled when we were home and quit about 20 years ago,” her son Frank Smith said.

She put down the bowling ball but kept her mementos. For the estate sale, her bowling balls and bag were tagged and displayed. On the dresser, a tray offered all her bowling pins for a few dollars. Some pins recognized her skill, others spoke of her years as a tournament and league player.

With closer inspection, the King Louie bowling shirt revealed that Wanda (the name on the shirt) played for the Cupples Refrigeration Team. At the waist is a pocket where, long ago, Wanda stitched her hometown league’s badge with its picture of an oil derrick and a bowling ball. The WIBC (Women’s International Bowling Congress) triple score on her sleeve declares she made three strikes in a row. Other badges affirm her skill with awards for having scored 200.

She went everywhere with bowling,” her son said. A fistful of badges inside her pocket track the height of her active years in bowling and her skills in the game. Before she retired from bowling in her late 60s Wanda Smith traveled the country to national tournaments and was the league champion from 1976 to 1980.

Her badges for state bowling tournaments took her to Springdale, Fayetteville, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Little Rock, Texarkana and the Arkansas State WBA (Women’s Bowling Association) in Fort Smith. Oh, the places she carried her bowling ball wearing that blue bowling shirt. In time, the shirt only had enough room for the Championship tournaments she played across the nation in St. Louis, Las Vegas, Tucson, Miami, Memphis, Seattle, Denver and Baltimore.

For many, many years, Wanda bowled with the league one night a week. She played the year of our nation’s Bicentennial and wore a red, white and blue badge depicting a bowling pin and ball with 200 on it and another patch for the Bicentennial of the United States of America.

For years, one night a week after work, Wanda came home, replaced her work clothes with bowling shirts, slacks and shoes, grabbed the ever – ready bowling bag and left for an evening of fun with the team. On bowling night, Wanda Smith spun the ball down the alley, tallied the pins her ball knocked down and celebrated with competitions around the country. Wanda made time for bowling and bowling made an athlete in her.

Then something changed. First, she quit collecting badges from other states. Then collecting Arkansas badges. The last one dates 1996, about the year Wanda hung up her shirt and tucked the bowling bag and balls deep in her closet. The nights of crashing pins ended, but still she kept the memories alive with her collection of badges, pins and shirt.

No family can keep absolutely everything from their loved one’s estate. The shirt, badges, pins and balls sold. Her son kept the pictures of the smiling, victorious bowler and her team mates to insure that future family members know that Grandma made history at the bowling alley.

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Time to buy a car

Buying a car involves serious consideration. My husband spends hours researching costs, mileage, durability and resale value.
I don’t do that.
In fact I barely notice when he trades in vehicles. If it gets us from point A to point B safely, without any problems, I’m satisfied.
I had an opinion once, many moons ago when our family had grown too large for a sedan. I saw a great price on a red station wagon from one of hubby’s least favorite companies.
He bought it and drove it everywhere. We only had one car back then. Every time it needed a maintenance, he groused about the unreliability of that brand. I saw doom looming when I read that if a person does not like a car, the chances of having an accident increase significantly. About that time he validated the study, slid on a snowy road and walked away from a crunched up car. It still worked. It just looked awful. He chose a brand new car. Before we traded it in, the salesman said, “don’t fix the car, it will sell better that way.”
Sounded good to us, we had better ways to spend our time. The replacement was a factory fresh car from hubby’s favorite company.
He asked, “What color do you want?”
I said, “gray” with some other details. He came home with gray and not the other details.
The car lasted a dozen years. The primary driver liked that car. He replaced it with a van which also lasted a bunch of years.
The first time I bought a car by myself, I spent about 10 minutes looking across the street at a used car for sale. I walked in, wrote a check and drove it until my guy, who did not favor that particular brand, ran it into a deer. We will skip the couple of clunkers he bought for me to drive to replace it. I will note however that I never crashed them.
The next time I looked across the street and saw a car for sale, I walked over, wrote another check and drove that car for a decade. Recently that ancient car dragged us to the shop too often for repairs. All were fixable and far less than the price of another car or even a car payment. Then it overheated and could not hold its water anymore. Time to buy a car.
The guy who cares about cars began shopping. He asked me questions. He told me what we needed. Barely glanced up from my book, mumbled “Um-hum,” and rolled my eyes every time he said, “Let’s go car shopping.”
He went alone and came home with a couple of suggestions.
He insisted, “You have to test a drive a car before we buy it.”
“All right!,” I said, slammed my book shut and slumped out to go car shopping. It just wasn’t the same as looking across the street and seeing a car in my price range.
I did not like the car. Not wanting an accident, we decided to wait. One phone call ended the wait. “Come get me. The van just stopped,” my husband said.
The mechanic said, “It’ll take two weeks.”
We had one unreliable vehicle. Driving it one day, I looked across the street and saw two cars that looked interesting. I bought the first one I drove.
I wrote the check, tossed my coat in the backseat and drove away. Until his vehicle is fixed, hubby is driving the unreliable clunker, and I am driving the third car which took me 15 minutes to choose.

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National Sew Day in Union County

“Sew Day is next Saturday,” the email announced.

A day of sewing!? I wanted to go. My husband didn’t. He said he had other things to do. I made sure he had enough leftovers in the refrigerator, packed up my sewing supplies and the quiche I had prepared. People who sew all day need plenty of nourishment to keep up their strength.

Others agreed. By the time I arrived, food covered two tables and the counter. Three pots of soup, a green salad with fixings, chips, dips, crackers, spread, brownies, bread pudding, fruit compote, cake, ice cream, cookies, an apple cobbler, plus an assortment of beverages. We had adequate food for the day of sewing.

I looked around for a table to hold my sewing machine. Not the first table, the Featherweight Brigade had taken it over. Each had arrived carrying a small black suitcase. The four women swung those black boxes up on the table, snapped open the locks and lifted out the cutest little black Singer sewing machines. The 11 pounds of cast aluminum make these vintage sewing machines coveted by quilters for Sew Days.

The first time I saw the FW Brigade, I knew I wanted to join them. With my affinity for buying sewing machines at yard sale, I unknowingly purchased one. At home, I discovered I had snagged The Machine and joined the FW Brigade.

I swung my FW onto a table across from an impressive modern white machine with many sewing options. Unlike the FW which can only sew a straight seam, my sewing partner could choose from an array of fancy stitches. She sewed straight seams. Using my Featherweight I sewed straight seams and stitched together blocks for a disappearing nine-patch. After an hour of sewing, I needed more blocks to assemble and a beverage. I returned nibbling a cracker and sipping coffee. I sat down to assemble blocks.

My friend who does not sew arrived and offered to iron blocks for me. We checked out the food for lunch and agreed on the superb quality of the chip and dip. We chatted. She ironed. I sewed.

Another friend who also does not sew arrived carrying a cardboard box. “I bought this sewing machine 20 years ago to learn how to sew, and I have never used it,” she announced. A proficient seamstress smiled and guided her to an empty table, “time to take the machine out of the box and learn. Let me show you how to thread it, then you try,” the expert said with her congenial smile.

Threading conquered, the teacher gathered up pre-cut quilt blocks. “you can sew these together to make a four-patch block. Pin and sew them together like this.”

The newby sewed together a handful of blocks, stood up, checked out the snacks and roamed the room to see what others were sewing. A couple were making pillowcases to hold the Quilts of Valor that other seamstresses were assembling. Others worked on community quilts.

We all took time to inspect each other’s machines as we ambled over to the snack table. I chatted with the women grouping fabric by colors and inspected the hand sewing of four women finishing the binding of a quilt.

I only stopped at the snack table twice that time. I started to reach for more until I heard, “Lunch time. Let’s pray.”

Leaving their sewing tables, old and young gathered at empty tables to chat and eat. Sure we came to sew but sewing was just the excuse we used to get to enjoy the guarantee of food and fellowship.

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Turpentine and sugar, tonic or toxic

Every time the now retired brothers get together they commiserate about their childhood’s annual spring purge for pin worms. Sitting around the table they shake their heads over the teaspoon of turpentine and sugar each had to swallow.

It was a tablespoon of turpentine,” one insisted.

The others scoffed, “It was a teaspoon.”

They all agree it was the most awful thing that their mother made them take. Thankfully, the annual spring purge ended once the family attained indoor plumbing.

Still the memory lingers and one wonders, “How did she ever come up with that idea?”

She didn’t come up with the idea on her own. Turpentine and sugar have a long history as a traditional home remedy for worms. Just type “turpentine and sugar” into Google and the search engine quickly pulls up hundreds of websites.

At least as far back as the 1800s, sugar with a small teaspoon of turpentine received high regard as the best home remedy to purge out any bad elements in the body. It still does if one listens to the advice of one Internet doctor of questionable qualifications. Even that doctor, while praising the mixture emphasizes only one teaspoon and adds a cautionary note that it does not take much to do serious harm to a child. Obviously the doctor read the side of the turpentine bottle, “Poison, do not drink. If consumed call the poison control center.”

For those who believe all the hype about detoxing their body, another website details a five week detox featuring lots of fluids every day and a sprinkle of turpentine over three sugar cubes five days a week. The stomach churns just thinking about it.

Still many consider turpentine good for what ails you; or as is quoted on “My grandma used to say ‘if ya cain’t be cured with turpentine, ya probly ain’t worth curin’.” and goes on to say, ”Turpentine and sugar was a sure cure for strep throat and tonsillitis.”

Home remedies follow one rule, “If it’s awful, it must be good medicine.”

During the 1918 influenza plague home remedies included: herbs, groundhog grease, onion poultices, mustard packs, turpentine fumes, smoke from burning straw, orange peel, chamomile tea and zinc painted on the inside of the nose. You took the medicine and then prayed, according to Sandra Opdycke’s book, “The Flu Epidemic of 1918: America’s Experience in the Global Health Crisis”

The brothers thought they suffered alone with their mother’s turpentine cure. They didn’t. It was just one concoction and experience recorded by Charles Bannister on the website: “we took catnip tea and sassafras tea. Turpentine and sugar was given for worms and sometimes people dosed straight with turpentine, as in the case of my brother who died of diphtheria. It was the doctor who doped him, and he gave him too much.”

Evidently that doctor never read the information reported in the Yankee New England’s Magazine, “Professionals and laymen caring for persons – found the whiskey functioned as a pain-killing tranquilizer. Its effects were certainly more reliable than many of the homemade cures such as inhaling turpentine fumes, sniffing camphorated vaseline, or lying beneath poultices of garlic and onions. Whiskey was more effective even than the various vaccines that were widely distributed by doctors to cities and military hospitals.”

For the brothers, it didn’t kill them and maybe it cured them. For the rest of us, read the side of the bottle of turpentine, the part that says, “Poison, harmful or fatal if swallowed. Keep out of the reach of children. If ingested … call the Poison Control Center immediately.”

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Test driving for research

Wanna go for a spin in that fancy car and earn some cash?

Some people collect stamps, my son Mert and his wife Sheila collect experiences as research subjects in the greater Detroit area: the original automotive development arena for the country. Car designers have to test their cars, first in the lab and in contained testing grounds and then on the street.

Years ago, Sheila test drove a car with a camera that showed traffic behind the car. She had to tell the researchers riding in the back which side of the car she saw traffic. Round and round a loop of freeway she drove as the researchers turned the camera off and on, varied its angle and perspective to assess the best view.

The initial anxiety of working with a new driver was followed with the monotony of the minutiae of testing. So tedious. One of the researchers fell asleep. With few cars on the road at the time and experiencing the bravado of a young driver, Sheila’s foot pressed further and further down.

The now wide awake researcher gasped as the speedometer hit 90. He begged her, “Please slow down a bit.” He still paid her around $100 for her time.

Driving too fast never was not an issue when Mert agreed to test drive the $100,000 Volvo of the future on the company’s testing ground. He wasn’t in control. The car was. The developer explained how to program the self-driving car’s distance to the car in front of him and advised Mert, “You have to touch the steering wheel every 10 seconds.”

Then for $25 per hour Mert “drove.”

“It was rather fun to drive a $100,000 car without the use of hands or feet when turning a corner on the highway. I just had to set my distance, let go. … and touch the steering wheel intermittently,” he said. The car set the speed, decided when it needed change lanes to avoid tailgaters and kept a safe distance from any cars in front of it.

Being a test driver hardly fits Mert’s usual transportation profile. He rides city buses and drives a company car on a special assignments. Another driving experience tested the capacity of cars to deal with tailgaters. “It was kind of weird (for a driving test,) I was cautioned to leave my hands off the wheel lest it hurt my hands,” he recalled. So he rode/drove along watching the car slowing down and leaving one lane for another in order to let a tailgater go ahead.”

Perhaps his low driving time influenced his experience during a simulated study inside a Honda. “I experienced nausea from speeding along a virtual highway that never ended,” he said with a grimace. In spite of the side effect he says he came away from that research time having learned a technique for dealing with tailgaters when he does drive.

Paid to learn, paid to test drive prototypes of high end cars, not bad for some serious pocket change. Plus, shades of the futuristic car, KITT, in the old TV show “The Knight Rider,” he has also dealt with intelligent bossy cars.

“I have driven a car that could detect traffic lights that were about to change and the car told me to speed up or slow down in order to get through the intersection. Or the car would tell me to stop to avoid arrest.” Not that that was ever an issue. As he explained, “I didn’t have to worry about the police; it was a test track.”

Beyond their collective experiences in automotive research, the two have participated in medical and psychological studies. More about those another time.

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Barbie collection off the shelf into reality

Collector Barbies become real at Christmas

` The yard sale sign screamed, “Stop!” We stopped. I spotted three bins of Barbie dolls in their original boxes from the 1980s and 1990s.

“How cute, this one’s dressed like Little Debbie. And here’s one in a petite pink suit ready to sell Avon.” I lifted each to examine.

The woman seated at the cash box said, “I used to sell Avon. I bought all the Avon Barbies.”

“And kept them very well,” I observed. None of the boxes had any dust, creases or wear. None had been opened. Threads securely held the accessories for Coca Cola Barbie.

I wanted one. I wanted all of them. I did not need any. I bought enough to give one to each of my granddaughters including the ones in high school, college and married with children. And, maybe I bought the Silhouette Barbie just for me. With her swept-up hair and the black accents on pink of the skirt of her strapless evening gown, she would command attention at any ball.

Back home, I placed the dolls in the spare bedroom and looked at them only when I cleaned. A couple granddaughters came to visit and sorted through the dolls carefully kept in their original boxes for 20 years or more.

They sighed over the boxes. “Would you like one?” I asked.

Two curly topped heads nodded. I picked up half a dozen dressed to go shopping or to the beach and let them choose one. Then I helped them release the dolls from their 20 year prison of plastic and paper.

I did not offer Barbies in formals. No way would I let Barbie’s magic night at the ball end with a pumpkin. At least not until Christmas when I reconsidered, took a deep breath and decided it was time to give them to granddaughters young enough to play with dolls.

At the Christmas reunion, I announced, “okay, take turns and choose a doll.” They did and carried boxed dolls back to their parents. The two year old tugged on her Little Miss Debbie doll. She yanked off the hat. Her mother took the box and began loosening the wires and threads of decades.

Across the room I heard, “Don’t you want to keep it in the box?”

The nine-year-old shook her head “No.” She wanted to play with the doll.

The oldest of the oldest doll aged granddaughters got to choose two dolls. “I want this one as a girlfriend for my brother’s GI Joe action figure Brad,” she said picking up a doll wearing dressy casual attire. Her brother grinned. Brad needed a date.

For her second choice, she picked up Silhouette Barbie. I crossed my fingers. At nearly 10, surely she would keep the regal doll intact.

She sat down, opened the flap covering the sheet of plastic keeping the doll dust free and began pulling on the cardboard. “Can you help?” she asked. And the last of the dolls, became real after 25 years. Around the room, little people took off the doll’s shoes, tugged at the dresses or outfits, combed synthetic hair and began losing accessories.

I watched and chanted to myself, “Dolls are designed for play, not display.”

Holding their dolls, the girls gathered at the coffee table and played. “Let’s pretend that …”

Accompanied by GI Joe Brad’s new girlfriend, Silhouette Barbie also arrived at the play party. She arrived without shoes, her hair tousled by a hurricane and her gown askew.

The Avon lady will never know that her dolls escaped the cycle of collection, and I will cherish the memory forever.

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Some work while others play

The winds of winter whipped around our car one Christmas decades ago as we traveled to visit family. The gas gauge edged toward empty. We saw one darkened station after another. Silent anxiety filled the car until a well lit station welcomed us. Gratefully, we pulled up to a pump. Since this happened before self service gas stations, an attendant strolled up to the window and asked, “Ethel or regular? How much? Do you need your oil checked?”

“Fill it up with regular,” my husband said.

We could have stayed warm and dry in the car, except all the kids needed a break. As the gas flowed, my husband chatted with the woman washing the windshield, “We thought we would run out of gas before we saw your lights. Everyone else is closed for Christmas. Why aren’t you? Don’t you want to be home with your family?”

She reached across the car to swipe the road grime off the windshield before she answered, “Home with the family? My whole family is here today. This is how we are spending Christmas.”

We thanked her for the gift of time on the one day when most want to stay home.

That was then, this is now and still Somebody has to work during the holidays while friends and family feast, open presents and attend parties. To all those Somebodies out there: Thank You. Your time of service made this year’s holiday possible.

First, a thanks to all the first responders: the hard working men and women we never want to see and especially so from Christmas to New Years. While others party, police officers and county sheriffs clock in hoping to spend a boring shift just cruising the streets. At the Emergency Room, EMTS check their supplies and pray that no one desperately needs their services. While kids pull out the fire crackers and sparklers, firemen check their equipment, clean the truck and remind folks to remember the safety rules.

Second, a thanks for those whose company or institution must be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In other words places such as hospitals and nursing homes where disease, disability or the symptoms of age require supervision and assistance through the night and day. Or a factory that needs a crew to keep them running without stopping.

Before I retired as a newspaper reporter, more than one holiday I unlocked the empty office to sit in a stone quiet office and write a story, download a picture to the computer or lay out pages. While others prepared to party, I heard the printing crew enter the press room to prepare the press to print. A skeleton crew suffices for some departments at the newspaper, but not for deliveries. Every carrier must come every night, pick up their papers and drive through the county delivering papers before the sun rises even if it is a holiday break for their customers.

Third, a huge note of appreciation to the retail workers of the past six weeks: the clerks and stockers who dealt with a welcome increase of customers looking for the perfect gift or sought favorite holiday foods. Hundreds of department store and grocery store employees have kept the shelves stocked, the shopping cars corralled, the aisles tidy and the cash registers open. As shoppers, we contend with the crowds and can leave as soon as we finish or get tired. The store employees must return each day for a month-long marathon of holiday shoppers.

To all of these, and many others unmentioned, thank you for making our holiday bright.

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Santa Claus stories from the past

“We knew Santa had come when we could smell the apples and oranges,” all the retirees agreed at a holiday gathering. Then, as now, children believed in Santa – for a while.

“I believed in Santa for a long time. Then I got a hint he might not be real, so I looked around for presents. I found them hidden way back under the bed. I found a large doll. I knew it would be mine. When my friend came over I asked her, ‘do you want to see my doll?’ Of course she did. We crawled under the bed, pulled out the doll and looked at it before returning it to its hiding place.”

It was a great secret to share with a best friend until the friend told Beth’s mother, “Beth showed me her doll.”

“My mother was so angry, she gave her a spanking for getting into the presents. I never did like that girl so very much after she told on me to my mother,” Beth said.

Peggy said, “My mother and sisters and I would drive down to my grandparents in Louisiana for Christmas. My mother would pack the presents in the trunk of the car and then pack in our suitcases so the gifts were out of sight. One year I was still trying to act as if I believed in Santa. Well, in the middle of the woods we got a flat tire. My mom said ‘Peggy you take your sisters up the road to the woods for a while.’”

Peggy did not exactly understand, but she took her sisters for a walk in the woods.

“I had to take them way ahead to the woods so that my mother could unload the presents and get the tire. No one came to help my mother. Evidently she managed to unpack the trunk, haul out the tire and change it, then repack everything before we went on our way.” Her little sisters never knew everything done to sustain the myth of Santa for another year.

At least one families had a very different tradition, according to Joe who told about his friend’s family. “That family lived in a house with a dog trot (an open hallway between the two sets of rooms). Every year when they heard Santa, they would go to the end of the dog trot and try to shoot him down.”

“There would be a noise on the roof and the sound of a gunshot. Every year all that fell was Santa’s bag of presents for the children in the house. The gifts would fall at the end of the dog trot. The parents kept up the image and made sure the kids would see a trail of footprints running away from the house and over the border fence with packages spilled along the way.”

One year Joe’s friend told him, “I am going to stay awake and wait for Santa.”

The friend’s dad said he would wait up with him. Before bed, the dad set up a fish line from the bed to the dogtrot where he tied to pots and pan to let them know when Santa arrived.

The friend told Joe that after dark he heard the noise. Son and father ran to the end of the dogtrot to shoot down Santa. Joe shook his head, “They just weren’t right in that home.”

Right or not, they enjoyed the toys dropped at the end of the dogtrot.

Whether you welcome Santa or not, have oranges and apples or not, may your Christmas be merry.

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Sam and GI Joe

The following story came to me from St. Louis where seven-year-old Sam lives.

“I woke up at the bottom of a pile of discards. The touch of a woman’s hand woke me when she grabbed and hauled me to a rescue cart. I would survive. I may have lost contact with my buddies from the past, but that day I had hope for the future.

“She took my picture and searched the Internet for someone with my name. Captain Brad Armbruster, Ace GI Joe. She read information regarding the scar on my face which I would never have told her. I don’t like to talk about my past battles.”

“A charming child leaned over her shoulder, looked at me and touched my buzz haircut. ‘It’s fuzzy. He looks really old.’

“’He does?’ the lady said looking at me thoughtfully. She tucked me into her car, took me home and forgot about me. For a couple weeks, I drifted in and out of awareness until she lifted me, ‘It’s time you met Sam. He will know what you need.’

“Sam. A good solid, name for a fellow warrior. Dressed for combat in my black boots, olive green jump suit and dog tags, I settled back to meet Sam. The moment that woman handed me to Sam, I felt life flowing through me. Sam had plans for me.

“First, he assessed me, ‘He has burns. He needs a shower.’ He pulled off my boots, stripped off my jump suit and found my dog tags. ‘What are these, Grandma?’ he asked the woman.

“’Dog tags. Soldiers have to wear them all the time in case they are injured or killed so the people who find them know who the person is. They have his name and rank on it.’

“’Oh,’ he bent over and studied the tags. ‘It says his name is Brad. He’s a Captain.’

“’He looked at my jump suit.’

“’What does Ace mean?’

“’The best, the top of the line.’

“’He’s the best? Ace,’ he smiled proudly. ‘And he has abs,’ he announced as proud of them as I was.

That Sam, he kept me busy all day. He said because of my burns, I needed to take a shower. I went in and out of the shower all day. He took my clothes off and pulled them on maybe a dozen times that first day. He studied the holes in my feet and covered them up with my boots.

“’He needs a breathing mask,’ Sam repeatedly told his grandmother.

“’Yes, he does,’ she agreed, but she didn’t do anything. Not one thing. Sam did it all. He went over to his supply drawer, pulled out brown pipe cleaners and created the breathing mask I needed for when I flew high in a plane.

“’He is supposed to have a knife in this pocket,’ he said pointing to the loop on the cuff of my jumpsuit.

“’Yes, that’s for a knife,’ she agreed.

Sam went to the supply cupboard. He knew I could not go into combat without a knife. He pulled out grey and white pipe cleaners, twisted the white into a point and wrapped a bit of gray pipe cleaner to form a handle. He knew that my hands itched to hold a weapon. He found a sword and a small GI Joe Jeep he knew must be mine. It bore my name.

“The lady rescued me from the discards but Sam gave me a renewed purpose with showers, weapons and a breathing mask. With his imagination, that boy made me real again. Thank you, Sam. You’re the best.”

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