Hiking Down Memory Lane

As teenagers, my brother and I spent a lot of time playing in the woods.  We went hiking, fishing, and swimming in the creek.

We also built a makeshift fort and took some of my mom’s old lawn furniture down there.  Mom never did figure out what happened to her chairs.

We spray-painted graffiti under the bridge.  We wrote our names, the names of our dogs, and noted each year we were there.

Basically, the two of us ran wild through those woods and we were having a blast.

That was 26 years ago.  Aaron passed away three years ago and his birthday is on Monday.  I decided to take his daughter (Gwen) out there.  She heard various stories over the years, but never got a chance to see the area.  It seemed like a good way to honor Aaron’s memory.

I was surprised to see a lot of our graffiti is still there.  Each step I took, felt like I was going back in time.  Even though the terrain has changed some over the years, I could still recognize different sections and areas.  I still remembered my way around those woods.

Memories of those days flooded my mind.  It was a surreal feeling.  I could almost see us and our dogs running wild.  I was excited to see it all again.  However, I felt the grief of my brother’s death.

I was hiking down memory lane and my heart was overflowing with mixed emotions.

 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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I was drawn to this book by the title.  It sounded intreating, so I decided to buy it.

The narrator of the book is Death, as in a Grim Reaper type character.  The story is about a girl named Liesel.  She lives in Nazi Germany, with her foster parents.  Her brother died on the train ride to their foster home, which lead to her first act of book thievery.

Liesel struggled to adjust to her new family life and new school.  However, she had a scrappy attitude that won her the respect of the other kids in the neighborhood.

In spite of the hatred around them, she learns compassion and love from her foster parents.  She also learns about courage and how to survive during difficult times.

The book is a bit weird, but interesting.  I thought it was interesting and thought provoking.

Black Forrest Family Trip Disaster

Mom, Aaron , and I went to the Black Forrest in 1987.  It was just a family day trip, so we were riding on a tour bus.

This was our last day in Germany.  The next day we would board a plane and move back to America.  Mom was looking forward to this trip, since she probably would not get another chance to see the Black Forrest.

For some reason, my brother was an absolute tyrant that day.  He was rude, obnoxious, bratty, and defiant.  In all fairness to Aaron, he did not normally behave this way.  He was usually a good kid, but that day he was on a roll.

It started as soon as we boarded the bus.  Aaron decided to block the aisle and tried to charge people a toll fee to pass by him.  Mom was rather embarrassed, but the worst was yet to come.

We were walking around and admiring all the sites, then Aaron started crying about being thirsty.  He was winning and about ready to have a full on tantrum.  Mom stopped at one of the shops and bought us each a can of soda.

Aaron took the soda and stuffed them in his jacket.  He refused to give me one of the cans and said he was “holding them for ransom.”  I started yelling at Aaron and we were on the verge of a throwing punches, when Mom stepped in to put a stop to the whole thing.  She snatched the soda cans away from Aaron and give him a good scolding.

Later in the day, we stopped at a shop that made baskets.  In front of the store was a giant picnic basket for sale.  It was so huge, Aaron could have crawled inside of it.

Aaron wanted Mom to buy the giant basket, but she refused.  That set Aaron off again.  He started yelling and screaming about the basket.  Mom had reached her limit.  She got in Aaron’s face and yelled, “I’ve had with you!  I am changing my name.  It’s not Mom or Rita anymore and I am leaving you here.”

Mom spun around and started walking away from Aaron.  I was standing there in shock and wondering if she would come back for me.

Aaron tried calling out to her, but she didn’t respond.  Aaron bellowed out, “Hey lady with the brown coat and the grey streak in your hair!”

Mom’s face was about to turn scarlet red.  She was so angry, I expected to see smoke coming from her ears and nostrils.  She grabbed ahold of Aaron and started walking away with him, without saying a word.

In spite of everything that happened that day, Mom still loved her son.  The next day, Aaron was on the plane with us, instead of being left in the Black Forrest to be raised by wild animals.

 

Childhood Predictions for the Year 2000

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In 1980, I was seven years old and a student at Mannheim Elementary School in Mannheim, Germany.  My teacher assigned a creative writing project in which we would predict what life would be like in the year 2000.

That was twenty years into the future, which seemed like an eternity to me.  I thought about it for a few minutes and then I began writing.

The first thing I said was that I would probably be dead of old age by then.  I also wrote about people having personal robots to do all the housework and having their own spaceships to travel to other planets for vacation.

Well, I am glad to say that I did not die of old age by the year 2000.  However, I would like to have a personal robot and a spaceship.

 

Watching, Thinking, Feeling

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While I was watching Gwen’s graduation ceremony last night, I was thinking and feeling so many different things.  My mind and my emotions were in a terminal.

I was thinking about the day Gwen was born.  She was 3 months premature and only weighed 2 pounds 2 ounces.  She spent the first three months of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  Her tiny body was covered in tubes, IV’s, and even a respirator.

In spite of all that, Gwen thrived.  That’s when I knew Gwen has the heart of a fighter.

I thought about her favorite book as a child, “A Fish Out of Water.”  Gwen would laugh every time I read the story to her and never seemed to get tired of it.  We must have read that book a thousand times.

I thought about her favorite cartoon, “The Legend of Grimace Island.”  She would watch the cartoon and immediately after it was finished, she wanted to rewind the tape and watch it all over again.

I tried to sneak in other cartoons, but Gwen was not having it.  She only wanted to watch that one cartoon and made sure everyone knew it.  She stood her ground on that issue.  After all, she is a Thaler and we are one stubborn bunch.

Memories of Gwen riding a bicycle with training wheels and eventually learning how to ride without those training wheels flashed in my mind.

As a small child, Gwen was reluctant to try new foods.  I helped her overcome that reluctance by giving each new food a creative name.  Curley fries became slinky fries and chow mein became Chinese spaghetti.

Flash forward several years and that little girl is all grown up now.  She has a driver’s license and a high school diploma.  She is not a child anymore.  She is now entering the adult world.

I am proud of Gwen for her accomplishment.  I am excited to see what she will do next with her life and how she will begin to impact the world around her.

I am apprehensive about her entering college and getting a job.  She will have to learn to fend for herself in this world.  I will not be able to protect her in the same way and that scares me.

I am also sad, because that little girl is only a memory.  I miss those years of innocence, playfulness, and the wonder in her eyes as she discovered the world around her.

Last night, so many memories and feelings ran through my mind.  I am sure I experienced every emotion known to man all in one hour.

 

The Fire of 1987

In 1987, on Halloween, our house was destroyed by a fire.

I was 14 years old at the time.  My brother and I spent the day, just like every other day.  We goofed around and played games.  We talked about what we were going to do that night.  It was Halloween, so we had plans for some fun activities.

We just moved into the house a week prior and nobody knew about the electrical problems in the attic.  That afternoon, two hot wires touched and set off a spark.  That spark turned into a fire.  Since there were no smoke detectors in the attic, the fire went unnoticed by me and my family.

The neighbor saw smoke and flames coming from the roof, so he ran over to our house and was frantically banging on the door.  He was yelling for us to get out of the house, because it was on fire.

All of us ran out as quickly as possible.  The fire department was called and they responded in a matter of minutes.  My brother and I sat in the front yard and watched as the firefighters battled the blaze.

I remember feeling like it was a dream.  I wasn’t upset about the situation at that time, so I guess I was just in a state of shock.

The fire destroyed most of the house.  The roof over the living room and dining room area had caved in and there was a good bit of water damage to areas that were still standing.

We stayed with relatives for a few days and then moved into a rental house.  Luckily, my parents had purchased homeowners insurance, so the house was rebuilt and a couple months later we were able to move back into our home.

I always think about that fire on Halloween.  I think about how lucky we were, since nobody was hurt.  I think about how it felt to watch our home being destroyed by a fire and not being able to do anything about it.  I think about the firefighters that battled the blaze.   I think about the people that helped us salvage some of our belongings, allowed us to use their garage to store those items, gave us a place to sleep until we could move into the retail home, and even cooked a meal for us to eat that night.

A lot of people helped us during that time.  Some of them were friends and family, but some of those people were strangers.  I appreciate what everyone did for us.  It meant a lot to me and my family.