Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Long and Winding Road


                Honeymoons are supposed to be a romantic time, right? A chance to get away and have fun before settling into the routine of married life. I guess we must have somehow missed that memo when we started out on ours. Of course it might have had something to do with being twenty years old and not really having a clue what we were getting into.

                It began 45 years ago, June 17, 1972, when the two twenty year olds headed north for that fabled few days of R&R. The first night we spent not in a honeymoon suite, but in a cabin in the woods, with no running hot water. It was the family cabin, and I’d been going there since I was 12 years old, but…..we got lost on the way, because I was sure I knew how to take the short cut. Ha ha. By the time we got there it was late and since we were in the middle of the Manistee National Forest, miles from the nearest restaurant, we made our own dinner, a packaged spaghetti dinner, courtesy of Chef-Boyardee. It was wonderful, or maybe by that time we were just starving.

                The second leg of our northern journey found us in Wilderness State Park, where summer had yet to begin. I remember struggling to set up our tent on the shores of Lake Michigan while the wind tried mightily to take it away. But we were seasoned, determined campers and we finally won out. The next day we set off on the ferry for Mackinac Island. Having never been there before, I was really excited, until the waves got the better of me. Saying the lake was rough that day is an understatement. I recall seeing kids, who had been on the upper level of the deck, coming inside soaking wet. Well, that took care of thinking maybe getting some air would alleviate my increasing nausea. It really helped a lot when my new spouse turned to me and said, “You do look a little green.” Lovely. On top of it, someone had parked their baby stroller in front of me, so even if I'd needed to make a mad dash to the railing, I would have had to climb over the baby block. Thanks goodness we reached the island before that became a necessity, but then I spent the entire day worrying about how I was going to get back to the mainland without going through the same ordeal.

                I will admit the island was beautiful, and in those days anyone could enter the Grand Hotel and look around the lobby and wander the long veranda without having to pay. Considering their dresscode, I’m amazed two young hippie-looking kids didn’t get kicked out, just based on their clothes. I don’t remember what else we did that day, besides eat fudge and think about the trip back. Thank goodness by the time we did board the return ferry, the wind had died down and the lake had calmed, and we were able to ride on the upper deck. It was such a relief.

                Driving across the Mackinac Bridge was another new experience for me, and it’s hard to imagine that bridge was only fifteen years old at the time. We camped in Newbury, where folks said to watch out for the bears. New husband assured me they would be no problem. I was certain I heard one sniffing outside the tent that night. While making dinner on the campstove (spaghetti again!) one bruin did run through the campground with an entire entourage of campers following with their cameras. I watched the parade shaking my head at their foolishness. Then the bear turned and stopped to sniff the air, undoubtedly he’d caught scent of my spaghetti sauce. Figuring my safety was more important than dinner, I made a quick leap into the car. After a few minutes, new husband stopped whatever he was doing to look around for me and seeing me in the car asked what the heck I was doing in there. I pointed to the bear who was still within sight. He shrugged. Okayyyyy, better he gets you than me. Needless to say, neither one of us was eaten by the bear.

                But I did get chewed up by something much smaller when one night the weather finally turned warmer and we left the flaps up on the tent windows. Much to the delight of the neighborhood no-seeums. Have you ever seen a no-seeum? Well, I hadn’t either and even when I woke up to find a rash of tiny little bugs floating in front of my face, I wasn’t sure I was really seeing them. But I felt them, that’s for sure, to the tune of probably a hundred tiny red bites all over my face and arms. Boy did they itch! A trip to a local drugstore garnered me an oily lotion that was supposed to help with the itch. It didn’t, but I dutifully smeared it on and then for most of the rest of the trip all I could say was, “Don’t touch me.”

Honeymoons are supposed to be trips to remember, and I guess mine was, too, but no wonder these are the things that stand out in my mind whenever I think about it. Maybe I could have titled this post, #thehoneymoonfromhell, but in reality it was the beginning of a long and winding road that has taken us down many different paths with many lessons learned.

This weekend, 45 years later, we are making another trip north, to Mackinaw City, but this time I’m opting for a hotel room where I hope to be safe from bugs and bears, and I’m going to try not to eat any spaghetti!


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Where Have All the Young Girls Gone?

          As a child of the fifties and sixties, I was a fan of folk music and I remember well the verse from Where Have All the Flowers Gone? that asked where have all the young girls gone? The answer then was they’d married soldiers, everyone. Today the answer very well might be, to the booksellers, everyone.  

          I began to notice the proliferation of the word girl in the titles of books a few years ago. It might have started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and then went on to Gone Girl and the immensely popular book and movie, Girl on a Train. Now, in a recent search on Amazon, I came up with a long list of books with the word girl on the cover. Here are just a few:  The Girl Who Lied; Girl on a Wire; Girl in Disguise; Girl in the Glass; The House Girl; The Girl Before; The Girl in the Ice; The Girl in the Garden; Bond Girl; Geek Girls Unite; Girl Undone; Girl Unbroken. Hardly a day goes by that the emails I receive informing me of new releases or books on sale doesn’t have at least one title with Girl-something in it. It makes you wonder, are authors purposely writing books that can easily use girl in the title?

          Having also grown up in the era of the women’s liberation movement, I remember when the moniker girl was frowned upon and even considered a sexist way of referring to someone of the female gender. No one wanted to be called a girl! It was I am woman, hear me roar, or it was nothing. So when did girl once again become acceptable? Maybe when women figured out it was okay to say the word girlfriend? Because who wanted to say “my lady or my women friends” when that made us sound…hmmm… older?

          The truth is most of us don’t mind another female calling us girls, but it can still be considered a putdown when a man refers to “the girls in the office,” or “all the girls I’ve known before.” How girl became popular in book titles is a mystery, except that I’m sure it has something to do with another familiar word, especially in the publishing world, Marketing. Because if one book with girl in the title sold, why wouldn’t 25? It’s an interesting concept, writing a book around a title, and I wonder how many bestsellers actually started out as just a title? Did Margaret Mitchell think of Gone with the Wind and then write the book? (Actually, I think I remember reading that she wanted to call it Tomorrow is Another Day.) If it were published today, maybe it would be called Girl of Atlanta or Scarlet Girl. And just how many titles can they continue to come up with that include girl? I guess as many as will continue to sell. There is even an HBO TV series called simply Girls that has a big following.

          In a way, it’s kind of nice that girl has been elevated to book title status and is no longer thought of as derogatory or even an outright dirty word. Nice that more main characters in books and leading roles in movies  and TV are female. Because, seriously, the older you get you start not to mind being called a girl.  



Friday, January 13, 2017

Confessions of a Christmas Movie Junkie

While I meant to post this a few weeks ago, I don’t think it’s too much past the holiday season to put it out there now. Because I just took my Christmas tree and decorations down this week, and I see a tree still up in my neighbor’s window across the street. So it’s not so far out of our radar just yet.

They’re all done now. Gone back into the vault until about the end of October when they’ll be trotted out again for our viewing pleasure. Some people love them, some hate them (like my other half), but they have become a regular on TV in the last waning days of the year. I’m talking about the deluge of Christmas themed movies that emerge and monopolize certain channels before we’ve even eaten the first bite of Thanksgiving turkey. I have to admit, I’m a bit of junkie when it comes to watching them.

People who can’t abide watching all these Christmas movies complain 1) there are too many; 2) they’re all alike; 3) the characters are all too squeaky clean. While the haters may be right on all three accounts, it’s for those very reasons that I watch as many as possible in those weeks before the holidays. They are my go-to movies when I can’t abide reality TV or the news anymore. This season especially they were a comfortable place to fall when a lot of other things in life seemed determined to drive me nuts.

I have to wonder if the people who hate Christmas movies the most have even given them a chance. Because when you really get into watching them, you will find they 1) aren’t all that much alike, and 2) they usually involve people who are dealing with some very real problems. A few of the movies I watched included single moms who needed a place to stay with their kids; a family dealing with the loss of a son in the military; a corporate person sent to deal a blow to a struggling family business; a woman left with amnesia after an accident, who is taken in by a local widower and his family and the town. Okay, so maybe that last one stretched the imagination a little bit, but I was able to suspend disbelief, and it was a cute story. The best part is, they all had happy endings. Someone once asked me, why do you write stories that don’t reflect real life? I beg to differ that they do reflect real life, but my reply was, there is enough real life in real life. Let us have a few books and movies that give us what we all want—a happy ending. In today’s world, we all can use a little of that.

So I was sad to see those feel-good movies go, but then come to think of it we won’t have to wait till next fall to see them again, because there is always Christmas in July! I guess there is nothing like watching the snow fall on TV while turning up the air-conditioning in your house.