Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Storyteller

My youngest son was born a few weeks before my grandfather passed away. My grandson Jack was born a few weeks before my dad passed away. Strange how history repeats. I hope my grandson waits a loooonnnnggg time to have kids. So here I am - JaxPop posting something about 'Dave's Pop'. (Dave would be me. What... you thought JaxPop was my real name???) Ahem...

The picture at the top of this post truly represents the beginning of my love for stories. It's an old watercolor from 1898 in a battered frame. I was just a wee lad when this was painted. Ahem... This picture hangs in a large closet in the master bedroom sitting room - where many of my books are shelved (hundreds). As much as I love this old painting, it ain't makin' it to the hallowed walls to mix with Debs 'tropicasual' decor.

It was given to me in 1980, just after 'Pop' was buried. When I was a kid, I stayed at my grandparent's house at least one weekend every month. This picture hung in his room (next to a cut out Santa that I 'colored' when I was about 3 - sentimental old codger he was). My grandparents had separate rooms - someday I'll post about that happy relationship. (Hint - it's funny.)

Pop was from a large family - 15 kids altogether & I think he was number 10 out of the brood. School wasn't a big priority in those days so at the tender age of 9 he went to work, in the coal mines no less, to help pay the bills &, I guess, to make it easier for great grandpa & grandma to continue adding to the population of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. The point is, even without the education, he was a magnificent storyteller.

It became a game. Whenever I visited, I would ask what the big guy was saying to the little chubby guy. Pop had the most twinkly blue eyes & he always started his tales with a squint. (Why do I remember that?) He never disappointed. His stories would go on for nearly an hour, & I didn't budge an inch. He loved it when I would hit him with questions because he could keep elaborating. In the end, I suppose, I've decided that the tall guy in the picture was & would forever be 'the boss'.

Years later, I started making up stories to tell my boys (I posted about this before) & a couple years ago, I started writing. A key chapter in my completed YA MS incorporates my grandfather as a character, making him the one ultimately responsible for acquiring a certain diary & map, both integral components to my tall tale based here in St Augustine. Thanks Pop - for the tales & the inspiration.

Hopefully my stories will do 'Dave'sPop' proud.

Kid Stuff

They don't make sliding boards like they used to. The new ones at least seem to offer a challenge.

Remember the good old days? Before video games & couch potato activities. When I was a kid, if you were hangin' out in the house, you were given chores to do. I'd sleep in my clothes so I could roll outta bed before my parents could think up somethin' for me to do.

We lived in a small town. There was no playgound or rec center but we had 'the woods'. The woods had a creek & part of it was deep enough to use for a swimmin' hole with vines close enough to swing & drop between the rocks that surrounded it. I missed a few times but if you acted like you were hurt, you'd be called a sissy & one of the bigger kids would beat you up to "give ya somethin' to cry about".

In the winter we skated on the swimmin' hole. Naturally, being the type to always push my luck, I ventured too far & fell through the ice one day. Dropped to the bottom like a rock, completely underwater. I don't remember climbing out but I managed. What I do remember is walking home (on skates) like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. My clothes were frozen so I couldn't bend my knees or arms. I caught the devil because I forgot to bring my shoes home. Such sympathy.

One fall during a visit to my beloved woods, some nitwit (not me) decided to build a fire next to our fort. It burned out of control so we got to meet the fire fighters up close & personal. Unfortunately for me, I was wearing a new coat, one with fake lambs wool lining which the pyro neighbor kid used to try to beat the fire out. That faux lambs wool melts fast. For my parents, a new coat was a big ticket item, so I caught the devil again. The initial punishment was bad enough, but I ended up having to wear that 'stinkin' coat for the fall/winter season. I was a 9 year old that smelled like he had a 3 pack a day habit.

It's too bad we didn't have a playground.