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Delia Wilson, Writer Posts

Look Ma. I’m on Steroids!

The good news is the medical establishment has come up with some answers for me and my neck/shoulder problem. One of the answers – steroid injections. And, yes, I am, at least for the moment, relatively pain free. The bad news is – the steroid injections.

The steroid side effects are many and have made my life very exciting recently…

So you know you’re on steroids (and, therefore, no longer have use of your brain):

When physical labor for 12 hours straight is the only way to avoid a panic attack;

When that physical labor includes gardening without brains, gloves or skin protection (I don’t see any poison ivy, do you?);

When that gardening takes place BEFORE the poison ivy/oak leafs out;

When the resulting case of poison ivy ends up requiring more steroids (oral) to prevent a full body breakout;

When normal impatience with those #%&@ drivers leads to abnormal road rage;

When the mouth won’t stop running;

When one’s vocal level increases about 25%;

When you have a fight with your husband who you never fight with;

When the need to itch and the need to keep moving result in many weird, private gyrations;

When you are unable to focus long enough to get started on a task;

When writing columns requires more word and sentence formation than possible;

When any waiting at a retail store is too much, leading to leaving and never accomplishing anything;

When you become incredibly articulate;

When you become unable to talk;

When you fall (literally) into the Chamber of Commerce meeting as if you were drunk;

When you feel super human one day and helpless the next;

When your mouth offends people (is that new?);

When housekeeping sounds like fun;

When murder seems to be an acceptable answer to your problems;

When you get too much done and run out of stuff to keep you busy;

And when time spent with a 13 year old and a 3 year old is absolutely the most fun you’ve had in months.

Once I get back to normal in a couple of weeks or so, then maybe Oglethorpe County will find out who I really am. I mean, I will get back to normal, won’t I? Oh, dear, but what is the definition of normal any way?

I’m Home

The darnedest thing happened to me recently and I have just now sat down to make sense of it all. We moved. OK, now I have done this before—over 30 times in fact as an adult. This time, though, is different. After 4 years in Crawford we sold and then bought a house in Stephens. Actually, not in Stephens, but 2 miles out a dirt road between Maxeys and Stephens!

This city girl is now on a well, septic tank, no governmental trash pickup and no visible close neighbors. My husband thinks he’s in heaven with 2 acres in this quiet spot. I was just glad to start my next remodeling project in this 100-year-old folk Victorian farm house.

He made me promise that, barring some dramatic change in our lives, we would stay here. ACK! Our last two homes, one for 5 years and one for 4 years, were both aberrations for me–the former military dependent, the world traveler. And now we are going to stay here?

We started moving on Saturday–you know, the day before the ice storm. We moved on Saturday with the sleet, Sunday in the ice and Monday during the snow, and it went downhill from there. No power on Sunday, no candles or flashlights (packed somewhere), no heat, no water (oh, for city life!).

In my distress and discomfort, I insisted on a motel for Sunday night. Well, we and the three dogs stayed in a fine establishment in Athens that accepts pets (no, I didn’t volunteer how many pets we had). I could overlook the cigarette burns on the tub, the worn carpet and threadbare sheets, and even no towels (the motel hadn’t washed due to no power that day). It was warm!

The next day we met the Rayle Electric crews on our way home and made sure they knew where we lived. Everyone else had power back that we could see but not us. By 2 p.m. we had power. That night I sat in my recliner underneath the afghan trying to stay warm (the heat doesn’t work right). I was reading a bit when suddenly I heard a noise. I looked up to see sparks arcing from the water heater. I duly noted its death.

During the 2 weeks that followed we continued this streak of bad luck through various mishaps and problems. Now my shoulder is inflamed and I can’t do any of the work I moved here to do. By last Thursday I was depressed and frustrated and regretting ever moving.

And then it happened. That darnedest thing. I suddenly had a feeling that I had come home. Not only did I not have to go anywhere, but, yes, we are here to stay! I don’t know exactly when it happened. I just realized it today—following a Saturday morning at the Commercial Bank. I talked with the president, Bill Cabiniss, (my friend!—I remember telling him 4 years ago that I wanted a personal relationship with my bank.) I spoke to Gradine and other bank employees; I was hailed by a coworker from Greater Georgia Printers; I ran into Donna Meyer Disque who bought my house in Crawford; and as Bill suggested, spoke with the ladies from the women’s club as I was leaving.

After I got home, I began thinking about Ralph Maxwell’s invitation to write for the paper, about how folks were getting to know me and about how they would be getting to know me as a writer. I began thinking about Rachel’s column and what I would like to write about…and here it is.

I’m home, Oglethorpe County.

Moving Catch 22

I remember in my youth when after a move I could put the house together within 48 hours. Of course, I owned less and was more practiced at moving. Yeah, well, those days long gone.

Nowadays, I find myself staring at walls and boxes. I’m still trying to unpack those boxes, 6 weeks or so after the move. Why you ask? Well, because. Because this wall has to be painted before the bookcase can rest there. Because the books that belong on this other bookcase are down at the bottom of a stack of boxes. Because this bookshelf has to be put together before I can start unpacking the 1000 or so science fiction books that have to be alphabetized on the shelf. Because if I paint this floor before I paint the ceiling, I will regret it….

Today I’ve been working on this hall where so many of the books will reside. But unpacking boxes of books that are presently sitting in the same 8-foot wide hall while trying to paint that hall…

So I move on to the bedroom. Well, I can’t hang those large pictures in the corner yet because the living room isn’t fully painted, so I can’t paint the bedroom. I can’t paint the living room because I don’t want to finish the walls and floor in there before I finish making messes in the hall that might get tracked onto the hardwood in the living room.

So what do I do? I am trying to finish each room before moving on to the next. My office has reached a certain level of completion. Now I just have to figure out where everything goes in here. Nope, I can’t cope with that, so I move back into the hall again and find myself looking out the storm door at the lovely weather.

So I take out the boxes that I have unpacked. I relish the budding trees and the warmth of the sun. Then I sniffle and remember my allergies and slowly return to the house. The house isn’t good for my allergies either, for it has enough dirt, sheet rock dust and dog hair to justify a haz mat team intervention, but I can’t clean very well until I finish unpacking those boxes and painting those walls…

Even sitting down at my computer is fraught with logistical problems. Yes, this one works, but the pieces to the new computer are lying about underfoot waiting for my decisions. (I dream of the day this new faster machine will allow me to surf and design my way to heaven!) See it’s even intruding on my work—I’m writing about all this!

Someone recently told me that she had tried to do this, too. She finally moved back out and paid a contractor to finish it up. Let’s see, now who do I know who would let me move in with 3 dogs, husband, both computer systems, etc?

The better solution today—on to my part-time work at Greater Georgia Printers and then the Maxeys City Council meeting. Maybe I’ll come home again after that. Maybe.

Father’s Day

Calling all Dads!

Father’s Day is a bittersweet occasion for me because my Dad died 11 years ago in the summer. This time of year I spend time remembering the man my father became, the man I miss.

My mission on Father’s Day is always the same: I don’t just won’t to tell you what a great father he was. No, I want to tell you who he really was and what he taught me.

My Dad was an alcoholic. He drank heavily, embarrassingly, from my preteen years until 6 years before his death—over 30 years of booze. My life with Dad was one of neglect and a perceived absence of love. He just was never all there, only bestowing upon me sloppy drunk hugs and other unwanted attentions.

In his sixties facing cataract surgery, he quit drinking. With no help from therapists, Al-Anon, or even us, he simply decided to quit and he did.

He died 6 years later on my honeymoon. When he said goodbye to my new husband and me two days before his death, he let me know I had chosen well this time and he said he was glad I found someone to share my life with. Daddy was not an articulate or educated man, so I was impressed with his words and all the unspoken things he was trying to convey. As it turned out, he knew that night that he wouldn’t see us again.

I miss him terribly. His 6 years of sobriety, coupled with his strong, obvious love for me, was an unexpected healing for me. It had never occurred to me that those 30+ years of absence could be virtually erased, that I could—long after the years of counseling—find what I had been looking for: my daddy.

Discovering that my father loved me, had always loved me, started a set of chain reactions that continue to improve my life today, 11 years later.

By finally having a strong, recognizable male role model in my life, I found and married an emotionally stable, non-addictive, loving man who became my son’s best role model. This man took on the teenage responsibility abandoned by his biological father, just as my son has shouldered the responsibility for his stepdaughter abandoned by her dad.

Between my father’s love and my husband’s love and support, I have been able to provide my son with good parenting, grandparenting and “in-lawing”. I am constantly reminded by own experience that I can be a motivator, a supporter and a loving parent and continue to make a difference in my adult son’s life.

Dads, take it from someone who knows. It’s never too late to love your children; it’s never to late to repair the damage; it’s never too late to heal your children; it’s never too late.

Give the gift of yourself on Father’s Day; let your children know you love them; let your children love you because they do—no matter what you’ve done.

LOST!

I can’t believe I got lost! I have one handy talent that my husband doesn’t have. I always know where I am in relation to the world. This came in real handy during all my travels and during those years of newspaper delivery. Poor old Tommy is “spatially challenged”—he gets lost inside buildings just by turning a corner.

So he’s delighted that I have missed our street three times recently in the darkness. Now this kind of thing just doesn’t happen to me so I have had to dig deep into memory and knowledge base to figure out why in the world do I frequently have flashes of “where am I?” while driving home.

This is my third residence outside of Athens: commuting isn’t anything new to me. I well remember the long drive to Carlton—so well, in fact, that I could (and probably have) driven it in my sleep. I certainly had no trouble getting home while I lived in Crawford.

Out here we even have a security light marking the location of the Alltel substation shortly before our road. Tommy says he has no trouble finding our road because of that and what’s wrong with me.

I guess my zoned-out auto pilot is at fault. I’ve spent enough hours on the road that I automatically fall into a suspension trance—”I’ll be home soon, soon, soon…”. Leaving Athens I don’t have to be aware of where I am at all times—a quick glance can establish my location without any problem. I traveled the roads to Carlton and Crawford daily for years, but I haven’t done as much traveling out here.

The first time I missed my turn out here, I felt dumb. It was so unlike me that I figured it would never happen again. I did, however, find myself emerging from my trance abruptly during my ride home and anxiously reading the street signs. All of these intersections look the same in the dark; the only distinguishing trait is the street sign. I decided I just needed to be more vigilant for a while and it would fall into place. I would soon be automatically be turning into our lane, sleep-driving as usual.

Soon after that some inept or hostile driver knocked our street sign askew and a few days later an unknown party lifted the street sign. There was no reflective marker there and no lights at all. I missed the turn again.

I decided I needed assistance just like on a paper route. I would purchase some type of reflective marker and stick it on the side of the stop sign. I bought 2 rectangular markers placing them in the shape of an ‘L’ (get it? Lunsford, Lower Wirebridge Rd). This worked ok until last week someone ripped them off the sign. I missed my turn again.

Now I don’t know who took them off. Why, I can even suspect my gloating husband or a vicious vandal who hates me, but I realize the truth may be that county employees may have removed the unauthorized additions to the stop sign.

It was at this point that I decided I had to know the dynamics of this “lost” phenomenon. It just isn’t something I’m accustomed to though Tommy has described his thoughts and actions to me many times. After much reflection, I finally decided my new country lifestyle had struck again. For the first time in my life I no longer live just in the city limits of a town. There is no sign, no stores, no obvious residences, no street lights, no city out here. There’s just land, trees and an occasional Alltel substation…and me, lost in the countryside.

I decided to bring in the big guns: I placed a call to Robert Johnson at the commissioners’ office this morning. I don’t know if he or the roads department is even aware our street sign is gone. (I mean, after all, we are the last ones to get our electricity restored—we now make sure we touch base with Rayle EMC whenever the power goes out.) I expect it will probably take a certain space of time to get a replacement sign.

I guess I need to quit teasing my husband so unmercifully about his “disability”. I guess sleep driving isn’t such a good idea. Maybe I’ll get used to this type of home drive and then maybe not. Maybe I’ll buy some more reflectors like those stick-in-the-ground things. Maybe not.

Oh, dear, I guess I’ve just given my new (and old) friends another reason to tease me! Please, folks, take pity on me. I have been humbled. Be kind

Balancing Act

Having been shed of normal, full-time, one-employer type of employment since December, I find that I’ve had time to look at the scales of my life: how balanced am I?

I’ve spent so much of my life as so many have, working whatever jobs and whatever hours seem necessary at the time to make ends meet.

Last year while working for a post-secondary school, I found myself teaching and counseling on topics that I hadn’t looked at very closely in many a year. One of those topics was balance. As I stood in front of a class of students who most likely would never make much money even after their “education”, I realized that they may have to work unbalanced for most of, if not all of, their lives.

I frequently use myself as an example of what not to do and I told them my life wasn’t balanced. That I spent way more time devoting myself to paid employment and remodeling houses and too little time relaxing and socializing with family and friends. My daily “routine” was dictated by employers, financial goals and inner pressures. I was stressed, lonely, regretful and longing for things seemingly not possible.

Two layoffs and a lifestyle change later, I find myself trying to slide back into those habits. When we moved out here to the “boonies” even further away from Athens, I told Tommy, “No more commuting. If I have to live out a dirt road in the midst of such idyllic splendor, I won’t commute any longer.” Or words to that effect.

Problem number 1, how do I make money? I have proved that money making isn’t necessarily what I do when left to my own devices. Aha, I’ll turn my interest in web design into a concerted effort to obtain contract employment that way.

Problem number 2, how do I live in the meantime? Aha, I’ll use the money from the sale of the house to finance a trial period of at least a year.

Problem number 3, how do I keep from going crazy not ever seeing people? Aha, I’ll get a part-time job at Greater Georgia Printers to provide a little income and a little people contact.

Problem number 4, how do I keep from spending all my savings before I get established in self-employment? Aha, pick up a second part-time job with the Echo as a reporter.

Problem number 5, how do I make enough money to make me less uneasy and allow me to do what I want and need to do with this house? Aha, work more hours at both jobs.

Problem number 6, how in the world do I find time to work on learning and marketing the web design if I am working 2 jobs, remodeling a house, joining the Maxeys Woman’s Club, socializing with friends, spending time with son and family, my siblings, etc? Aha, let’s regroup.

Let’s see, I spent over 7 hours yesterday on the computer for Greater Georgia. This morning I am writing a column. I plan on painting the living room for a while today before I go back in the Greater Georgia. I’ll go by the library again (I usually read a book every day or every other day). I’ve talked with my daughter-in-law this morning and caught up on the news. I still have a small computer problem remaining that needs fixing and somewhere I have to find the time to work on my web site at deliasdesign.com.

Hey, you know what? That’s pretty balanced, very full, of course, but it’s definitely less stressful. Am I making enough money to ease my fears? Nope. Am I enjoying myself? Oh, yes. My blood pressure is lower; I’m slowly getting into shape; my weight is staying down; I see my husband on a regular basis for the first time in years; I read when I feel like it; I’m started to get into a routine that allows me to get the most important things done. Am I satisfied? Nope, never. If I could make more money, if I could finish unpacking, if I get another bookshelf built, if I could get the house cleaned, if I could just slow down a tad…

Dirt Roads

I’m a pretty typical transplant to Oglethorpe County; in fact, I thought at the time nearly five years ago that I was part of a coming thing out here. Now I’m sure I’m right about that. We didn’t just choose Oglethorpe County as our dream home; we were driven out of Clarke County and ended up here. Oglethorpe County is starting to grow—due to people like my husband and myself who are seeking more favorable habitation.

We came here to get away from the communication towers and crime in our Athens neighborhood. My biggest worry then and now was the lack of definitive zoning out here. I was terrified someone was going to build a convenience store across the street from us in Crawford or put up one of those towers I had escaped from.

Now my most immediate worry is my dirt road.

We moved out of Crawford to this quiet spot in the countryside to get away from the noise of the “city”. I knew that someone would come along eventually and decide to pave our road and I was afraid it would be sooner than later. Three months later representatives of the Oconee Baptist Church are requesting “improvements” to our road.

Our first couple of weeks out here post ice storm were treacherous. The continual freezing and thawing kept the road in a nasty condition. Since then we have been amazed at how well the road has been maintained. We also have had three tires repairs in these three months.

BUT…we don’t want the road paved. I’ve spoken with a few other neighbors near me and further out the road and not one has said they want the road paved now. I’m sorry that the church goers feel this road presents them with a “hardship”. This road is well maintained (even better than we expected) and is rarely a problem. I live here. I know.

This lesser problem of road paving is a symptom, however, of what is already happening here. Growth. Oconee County is no longer the idyllic, close to the city, almost rural haven it was ten years ago when we actually considered moving there. Now it’s getting crowded; land prices and taxes are rising; schools are bursting at the scenes. This growth has reached a stage that presents their residents with new problems that sound like the old ones they moved away from before. Now they are leaving Oconee and heading here.

Jackson County and Barrow County are seeing the same thing with the sprawling Atlanta growth. Folks have only one way to go and, friends, it is our direction.

Barbara Cabiniss recently told me that the school system has 30 new students monthly. The traffic in Crawford has reached difficult proportions. A bypass is being planned that may change the face of Oglethorpe County forever.

I originally moved to Athens in 1968. I have had the opportunity to watch the growth over the last 30 years. I have had the opportunity to personally experience the problems that growth and the lack of planning for that growth have brought. In the end, that is exactly why I live in Oglethorpe County. That is exactly why Oglethorpe County is growing.

You can’t stop the growth; you can’t stop “progress”. I am strongly aware that someday someone will pave my dirt road.

BUT…hear me—it’s now time to lay plans, study what has been done wrong in other places, make decisions about how this growth is going to be managed.

I know that zoning is being worked on here. This is a crucial step to controlling our lifestyle. Fortunately, we don’t have to do this from scratch. For example, Gwen O’Looney told me after the tower fiasco in Athens that they would be glad to share their rewritten tower ordinance. If you haven’t lived in the shadow of one or two or, in our case, three of those towers, you cannot imagine what it’s like. Let’s be sure to look at this carefully.

Growth brings solutions to problems as well as problems. Let’s concentrate on improving services such as our fire departments. This affects everyone’s pocketbook as well as safety. Please lower my insurance costs and help me to feel safer in my 100 year old home.

Let’s upgrade our sheriff’s department. Increase my taxes and pay the officers better and hire more officers. Go ahead, Crawford, start a city police department. If it can pay for itself and make the streets safer up there, I’m all for it.

We have to build more schools. Let’s lay good plans for that now. Let’s start building before our kids are attending schools in those trailer classrooms. Let’s not wait ‘til the buildings are busting out at the seams.

Let’s start planning for growth in our city water systems, our city roads, city water treatment systems. These will cost money.

All this growth will cost money. We have to make financial decisions about the future and paving roads is part of that. Robert Johnson says we got less LARP (Local Assess Road Program) funds this years. We can’t pave as much in the county as before.

Let’s look at priorities. On my want list, paving roads is at the bottom and then paving county roads outside city limits is lower than that. The county has to decide where to rank the roads. At $200,000 per mile, paving dirt roads just doesn’t seem important.

Please let’s not let the coming growth ruin the very reasons for that growth. Please, let me and many of our new neighbors stay here for a long time and enjoy what Oglethorpe County offers now. That happens to include our dirt road.

The Okinawan Detour

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Just recently I remarked to a newcomer that the jam-up American traffic jam does not occur here on Okinawa. I went on to say that traffic moves slowly at times, but I had never seen it come to a total halt. I had an adventure this week which led me to revise my thinking on Okinawan traffic. It’s called the “Okinawan detour.”

Riding along a busy four lane recently, I spotted flashing signs and vigorously waving people ahead of me. As there was a barricade across the road, I correctly jumped to the conclusion that I was to detour to the left. I immediately and al­most automatically followed the two cars in front of me. As they turned right, I turned-onto an itty-bitty paved road. I hesitated a little and then said, “Oh, but of course, they know where they’re going!”

Catching sight of the leader’s license plates a few minutes later, I gulped and moaned, “Oops, he’s American, too! Oh, well, big deal, I’ve got time. Let’s see where he’s going.” Bare seconds later, the lead car stopped, looking over an incline. (“That should take us right back to the same road we were on, shouldn’t it?.”) His hesitation became understandable when I reached the edge. No more paved road, no more smooth road. Would you believe a road divided in two by a ravine!?

Keep reading. If you believe that, there’s more to come!

The lead car decided to use one half the road and the ravine. I giggled hysterically watching him ride down a near 60 degree angle. The second car (an Okinawan – why in the world he followed the American, I’ll never figure out.) straddled the ravine and inched his way down.

Intelligent me, I say, “Hey that looks better!” forgetting the narrow width of my minicar. That ravine kept getting wider and wider and just as I thought I was going to lose my whole car in that ravine, the road leveled out.

“Whew! Oh, no, where’s the road?” I don’t know when that “road” was last traveled certainly not since the last flood anyway. The lead car mired down in some red mud (I thought I had left Georgia) and I said no more! Making a full reverse and turn, I proceeded back up into the ravine, when, around the bend, four more cars were coming down! Another fast reverse and subsequent turn and wham, seven cars parked at four different angles.

Now I call that a traffic jam!

Chuckling, I shut off my motor and waited. A heave ho loosened the lead car and he bounced out of sight. Two cars and a van did their turns jumping over the water and rock bed.  The pickup now in front goes leap and lands beautifully, spinning tires, in a hole.

My helpful nature demands the offer of muscles, but he only muttered in Japanese and set to work on his stuck tire.

More cars behind me an American crawls out of his car, “what in the world? what kind of detour is this?” We both survey the terrain making comments as to problem holes, routes, etc. I busy myself placing chunks of cement in a water hole.

Three Okinawan men race up just as the pickup truck owner raises his sunken tire by way of his jack. (What is this fellow doing, I wonder) while he’s filling his hole with rocks, the other Okinawans are moving in circles making the identical comments my friend and I have just finished with (only in Japanese) . The youngest came to the same decision as I, and picked up this enormous cement block and dumps it in my hole! it only stands 5 Inches above the “roadway”! “Oh, grief,” I mutter. The pickup on his new road of rocks spurts ahead with the owner returning to check his road building talents, adding a rock here and a rock there.

This story ends here for I gaily bounced through our makeshift road back onto the road we had detoured off. We were some 100 yards beyond that detour barricade!  I kept laughing as then I could see there was no reason for the detour in the first place.

No traffic jams, no normal detours, Mama, just adventure around every turn!

Sayonara from the land of improvised roads and high tropical adventure.

deedee

Driving

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Every so often I get to comparing driving a car here on Okinawa to what I was used to back in the States. The usual car is rather small compared to our average American car. My son, in fact, calls them “race cars” and he has a point. Quite often I feel like I’m in the Indy 500.

I’m not saying we drive fast here, Mama, actually compared to 1-75 back home it’s quite slow. It’s just that when you’re driving down a street wide enough for two pedestrians and one car, and then you meet up with a trash truck, well… The feeling is akin to claustrophobia (so what if the trash truck is small too!). acrophobia (looking over the road side down a three foot drop—into the storm ditch) and pure panic (reverse, where’s the reverse?!).

We feel like our driving talents have increased since our arrival. Hubby keeps saying, “I’ll get a Caddy and drive it through Atlanta traffic on two wheels – you’ll see!” Trust and defensive driving are the keys to staying alive here, however, trusting the fellow next to you to do something (like u-turns, turning left from the through lane, etc) that you aren’t expecting.

Therefore, one drives defensively with eyes wide open. Defensive driving is trying to close your mouth when the taxi driver decides he needs your lane and there’s only three feet of space there; laughing when the man in front does a double u-turn and ends up behind you; waiting to see if anyone will let you through the left hand lane from the right so you can make the street that was hiding behind the bus a moment before.

That last example is purely American. I darn near lost my cool while trying to turn left one day recently. I waited and waited and waited until the five cars behind me started honking. With traffic coming in both directions, I realized they meant for me to move out into the street to force the oncoming cars to stop. Well, even though I automatically swing into the right lane nowadays to avoid stopping behind a left-turner (no matter whether there’s traffic or not), I still lack the courage, brazenness and/or heart to just move into traffic like they do here.

That kind of courage or knowledge of self seems to be taught here from a young age. Not long after our arrival we took a drive towards south Okinawa. On a flat, straight section of road we spotted five youngsters ahead. One stout fellow raised his hand to stop us and proceeded across the road with his friend.

We quickly realized there were no cars in front of us and none for miles behind. As we turned to watch them after we passed, those two boys with the three girls from the other side raced giggling and laughing back across the road – back across to await their next victims!

Sayonara from the land of confident Okinawa drivers and minature Coca-Cola trucks.

Love,

deedee

The Circus

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A couple of weeks ago I foolishly told my son about the circus with the elephants, lions, clowns, the smell of popcorn, hot dogs and cotton candy. He was excited about the idea, (so was I!) and I promised him we would go.

The first objective was to buy ticket – a nerve racking experience. The Thursday before, I attempted to buy them at the USO on base. “Sorry, all gone,” said the girl, and I just stared at her. With the child psychologist warning, “never break a promise” screaming in my head, I gasped, “Oh no, my son will kill me!” (Can a three year old be tried for murder?)

The attendant behind the counter, sensing the emergency, immediately called another USO and tracked down some available tickets. My thoughts on how to run away from home on Okinawa kept being interrupted by a small voice saying “Mommy, go circus now?” until later the next day when I finally was able to get those tickets.

The day before the circus we rode by the area by chance and noted the absence of tethered elephants and circus tents. I supposed (in my infinite American wisdom) that they hadn’t gotten here yet, and, throwing a prayer towards heaven, continued on.

“Circus day” arrived. We found a minor Okinawan traffic jam at the stadium with six cops directing traffic, one of whom directed us into the wrong lane while the rest ignored our plight. Literally hundreds of people standing out­side should have forewarned us. That gymnasium was packed. Every seat was al­ready taken. The crush of people forced us onto the floor of the gym. Suddenly, on our right, arose a 5’3″ figure of authority, shouting “Shoes, Shoes!” He pointed to the paper-taped floor. “Shoes!” A passing American breathed in my ear, “Put them in the plastic bags” and he promptly faded away. Baggies for shoes? You bet, partner! Let me tell you about the pair of large cowboy boots I was wearing-they really didn’t fit into that Okinawan-sized bag!

We bagged the shoes and gained squatters rights on the floor. The lights dimmed and I heard a whisper, “Mommy, go bathroom!” I stood up but all I saw were squatting and kneeling people. Slowly, carrying my very impatient son, I picked my way through the crowd. The crowd didn’t thin out even in the rest-room. Many mothers with equally impatient children stood waiting. Next door, meanwhile, was a nearly empty men’s room. After a few moments of indecision (will he come back if I let him go in?), a man generously escorted my son inside.

Returning with our apples (yes, apples, forget the popcorn, hotdogs, and cotton candy), I realized, plowing through that mass of people again, that we, of course, had chosen the longest way over, through, between and by fifty or so circus watchers. At least I believe there was a circus. Those who stood up could occasionally catch a glimpse of clowns and even dogs. (No, ma, no elephants. I think we would have spotted them.)

With my husband holding my son aloft, I sat cross-legged on the floor meditatively crunching on my apple, the smell of recently unsneakered feet rising to my nose. Yes, they tell me there was a circus performance that night. I had been reassuring myself that at least my son got to see part of it, when earlier today, he looked up at me and asked those fateful words, “When’s the circus, Mommy?”!

Sayonara from the land of “you never know what you’re getting into,”

Love,

deedee