Luggage Matters

Shannon Kernaghan Luggage-Matters-400 Luggage Matters Adventure Belongings Challenge Family Fun Humor Lifestyle Love Memoir Relationship Risk Travel

While touring Italy with my sister and a busload of keen tourists one spring, I noticed how small problems have the potential to hamper a trip. Take colds and flus. The moment I heard the first sneeze or hack of an ailing traveler, I became germ phobic, refusing to stand or sit near anyone who looked the slightest bit peaked.

I bathed myself with anti-bacterial hand cleaner at every opportunity.  Who had time to get sick and miss a moment of fabulous countryside,  famous art or delicious Italian cuisine?

As for other small problems, factor in a lost piece of luggage.

I thanked my non-superstitious stars when I saw my suitcase spit from the carousel within minutes of arriving in Rome.

To me, this was a veritable feat of engineering, considering I started my journey in Calgary, changed planes in Toronto, boarded another in Frankfurt and finally arrived at my Italian destination.

Despite the jitneys I rode and the terminals I changed in various airports, there it was – my beautiful suitcase – bumping its way along the conveyor belt. I breathed a sigh of relief. Who am I kidding, it was a gusty “Yoo hoo!” and a fist raised in victory.

On these package tours, guests are allowed to bring only one suitcase. In other words, my underwear, toiletries and comfy pillow were all riding on my bag’s prompt arrival. And since we stayed at six different hotels, it’d be no easy task for missing luggage to catch up to an owner.

I’m quick to steal titles from movies today, so call it The Incredible Journey because my loyal suitcase went the distance and met me on schedule, both of us unscathed.

No-show luggage tormented one passenger on the tour. Her partner’s luggage appeared, but her own suitcase stayed in the US, revolving aimlessly in a mystery carousel for several days. Speaking of mysteries,  it’s strange how her stylish green plaid case – one that matched her partner’s – could be left behind. Maybe the baggage handler didn’t like the color; maybe the bag was too stylish for its own good.

The other question is how it took me 20 hours to journey to Italy, but that green suitcase needed a whopping four days. Poor little luggage – it missed everything from Siena to Florence. It deserves a do-over.

If your luggage defines you, then I’m an inexpensive black number with Hello Kitty pink duct tape holding the works together.

There’s a reason I travel like a pauper with my Club Monde (perhaps a take-off on Club Monaco, to make it sound exotic). I read a warning that the more expensive your case, the greater the chance of having it stolen or pilfered. In other words, your Louis Vuitton bag undoubtedly contains a better haul than my nondescript scuffed and taped clunker.

Who’d waste their time ransacking my cheap case? If any thieves covet a $12 alarm clock or a travel pillow, then I’m their bag. But if they’re looking for pricey electronics or designer fashions, they’d be wise to  move along to the next suitcase, something with a better label.

If I learned anything from my Italian excursion, it’s that European travel separates the women from the girls. After all, multiple plane  changes  and an equal number of time zones is no picnic. Plus, schedules are guaranteed to include a mad dash for your plane in one airport  followed by a six-hour stopover in the next.

That said, the travel rewards are huge and the money well spent. Just leave your expensive luggage at home, where it’ll make a fashionable door stop.

Audio story music “Waterfall”
by
Aakask Ganghi

Milk-Bone in Your Pocket

Shannon Kernaghan Milk-Bone-in-Your-Pocket-500 Milk-Bone in Your Pocket Challenge Dating Family Fun Gifts Humor Lifestyle Love Relationship

Since I welcome any opportunity to tease my partner, Valentine’s Day provides yet another opportunity.

I’ll be gentle. I’ve been with the guy for half my life, which translates into a heaping helping of dog years. For that, he deserves a medal, not a hard time.

Speaking of dogs, if he were a canine he’d be a mixed breed: amorous like a Chihuahua, clever like a Border Collie, and regal as a Beagle. Those are his words, not mine. While reading an online personality profile, I asked Paul what three dogs he considered himself. And for the record, “amorous” isn’t the actual word he used but I’ve done a titch of editing.

I’d throw in a tough breed for Paul, such as a Bull Mastiff or Siberian Husky because my husband is no lap dog. Nor is he easily riled.

A perfect example was when I opened a letter from his doctor’s office, describing a simple test he’s scheduled to undergo. I read it aloud while we ate fajitas in a restaurant.

Although the letter referred to “minimal discomfort,” I changed the wording to “substantial discomfort.” Pause . . . no reaction. I decided to roll up my sleeves.

“If further tests are required,” the letter continued, “you may need a tiny wire placed through the skin, about the size of an immunization needle.” Of course I changed that phrase to “a two-inch incision, requiring several stitches.”

Again, no reaction. I bit my lip to keep from giggling and watched as he casually dipped into his salsa. “Honey, doesn’t that worry you? An incision? Stitches?”

He shook his head and shrugged. “Oh well, whatever.”

Like I said, he’s one tough Husky. I grow faint when tweezing my eyebrows. If I ever show up at your party with a uni-brow, you’ll know why.

People put a lot of pressure on Valentine’s Day, determined to exchange the perfect gift and sentimental card that expresses their love. Same goes for the scrutiny placed on marriage.

Marriage can be overrated, especially when people don’t respect the promises they jointly make. Actions speak louder than signatures on any old marriage certificate, no matter how much dust has built up over the years.
I’m a firm believer that love is demonstrated by how couples share their lives. It’s the day-to-day challenges they conquer and the effort they make to protect each other.

During an occasional trying moment, I hear Paul mutter: “I shoulda taken a wrong turn on the way to the church.”

“No way,” I quickly reply. “Who’d be here to brag about you, you big stud. Now go eat your kibble.”

Either I still love him, or I really need to get a dog. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.

Audio music “Blue Creek Trail”
by
Dan Lebowitz

Hormones & Horoscopes Don’t Control Me

Shannon Kernaghan Hormones-and-Horoscopes-450 Hormones & Horoscopes   Don't Control Me Adventure Challenge Culture Family Food Fun Humor Memories Risk Sex

I enjoy the wisdom that fortune cookies hold. You can’t drag me away from my restaurant chair until I’ve read mine and everyone else’s. No fortune should go undigested, even if all are computer generated and duplicated into the millions.

Sometimes the advice is clever: “Never wear a watch that has more buttons than one has fingers.”

The best fortunes I’ve ever had were from my sister. Linda gave my husband a box called Miss Fortune Cookies – Fortunes for the Real World. The first one I opened read: “You will soon spend time in a foreign jail.” How cheering. Another was: “You’re paranoid, but that doesn’t mean the CIA isn’t tracking you.”

I have as much faith in fortune cookie advice as I have with my daily horoscope. I smirk at the fiery love life my stars promise to deliver: “You’ll find yourself in a romantic clinch that really sizzles tonight.”

Or, is this insight intended for my husband, since we share the same sign?

If I believed in horoscopes, that last one might worry me because Paul’s working out of town tonight . . . better give him a call and tell him how much I adore him, just to be on the safe side.

Rather than dwell on dashed romance, I’ll share more of Miss Fortune’s insights: “No matter how hard you lobby, they will not put a TV in your prison cell.” (Miss Fortune must have done some hard time, with all her references to incarceration.)

And then there’s my fave: “Hats lined with newspaper offer some protection against falling debris.” These are logical fortunes that go well with my mood.

Speaking of mood, my newsfeeds suggest that women should plan their schedules around their hormonal cycles. The findings are great in theory, but as with fortune cookies and horoscopes, not everything has practical applications.

This hormonology recommends my actions during a 28-day cycle. From days one to 14, I’m going to be interested in sex; however, on days 22 and 23, I might as well re-caulk the tub. The fireworks aren’t going to be spectacular.

I’ve no idea how these experts coordinate their lives, but postponing events isn’t always feasible, or friendly.

Let’s compare sex to camping. Some days I don’t feel like camping. Perhaps I’d rather lounge with a book and a glass of wine.

But there’s my husband to consider. He’s already packed the truck and is eager to hit the road. What am I supposed to say, “Sorry fella, my hormonal chart isn’t in your court today”?

Instead, I pull on my hiking boots and bring the marshmallows. The campfire is quickly lit and . . . whatya know? Once we toast our marshmallows, we both end up having fun. Spectacular fun.

For me, a tailor-made approach works best, not a one-size-fits-all, whether we’re talking cycles or stars.

The only certainty is that retailers aren’t behind this cyclical wisdom when your horoscope or hormonology reads: “Don’t make any major purchases today.” And imagine those poor credit card companies, but that’s the way the (fortune) cookie crumbles.

Miss Fortune will have the last word: “Get under a sturdy piece of furniture or door frame and hold on.” Now that’s advice I can wrap my head around.

Audio story music
“Fancy”
by Saidbysed

I’m Sorry, I’m Canadian

Shannon Kernaghan cartoon-beaver-colored-400 I'm Sorry, I'm Canadian Adventure Challenge Culture Family Humor Lifestyle Relationship

Canadians must be a sorry lot because they’re always saying they’re sorry. When I bumped into a woman at the grocery store, she was the first to apologize even though it was my fault. No contest, we’re all sorry.

I’ve said “sorry” after someone walks in front and cuts me off, and after banging my knapsack against a street sign or hitting my knee on the coffee table. I’ve heard myself apologize to a cashier after being overcharged, as if I did something wrong. I’ve gone beyond sorry; I’m flirting with pathetic.

I want to act more like my hero, Judge Judy. I watched back-to-back episodes of her courtroom TV for the first time. This woman is amazing. And lucky. Not only does she get paid Hollywood big bucks to wave her legal wand over a teenager suing an ex-boyfriend for throwing a bagel, but Judge Judy gets far greater license — she’s allowed to yell at people.

Judy doesn’t need to burn off frustration through Tai Bo classes or therapy sessions. All she has to do is go to work. If I could yell at people in my courtroom, I’d be pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. And I’d almost feel guilty about cashing those hefty pay checks. I said almost.

“Want justice? Call Judge Judy.” Are you kidding? What sane plaintiff and defendant would voluntarily go before this Queen of Scream when there’s a 99% chance of public humiliation, broadcast to millions of viewers. Not only is the guilty party raked over Judy’s fiery coals, but the innocent person can be thrashed as well. Apparently no one should waste Judy’s time with ridiculous law suits.

You have a good excuse for throwing your son’s computer through the window? Don’t bother explaining as Judy doesn’t care. No witnesses, pictures and receipts to support your claim or defense? Go tell it to the mountain – Judy refuses hearsay.

“Real cases, real people, real justice” is announced for the show’s introduction. The producers should include a medley of her famous lines: “Do you think I’m stupid! Grow up! Pay attention! I’m not talking to you! Put your hand down! You live like a pig!” Ths woman knows how to wield an exclamation point.

Judge Judy is anything but gender-biased. She’s cranky clear across the board, whether you’re a deadbeat dad or a bar-hopping mom. Young and old alike are (mis)treated equally.

I have to respect a woman who writes a book entitled, Don’t Pee On My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining. Judge Judy, you rock.

Obviously I can’t turn into Judge Judy overnight. Maybe I’ll start the process by replacing “sorry” with “excuse me.” Except when I walk into a street sign. For that I’ll always say “sorry” because those “No Stopping” signs can have attitude.

Speaking of street signs, Canadians need a new one that reads:
                                              NO APOLOGIZING.

Audio story music
“Book Bag “
by E.Jammy Jams

A Wooden Leg Does Not a Pirate Make

Shannon Kernaghan wooden-leg-400 A Wooden Leg Does Not a Pirate Make Challenge Challenges Childhood Family Farming Humor Lifestyle Memoir Pirates

In 1978 President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday in September after Labor Day as National Grandparents’ Day. The idea originated from a woman in West Virginia whose motivation was to persuade grandchildren to listen and learn from the wisdom of their grandparents.

This special day reminds me to appreciate my own family tree. Take my grandfather, a hard-working and good-natured farmer. He had a wooden leg, the result of a war injury. As a farmer, dealing with a missing limb must have been a daily challenge although my mother says she never heard him complain.

Today, prosthetics are made of lightweight polymer and flexible titanium capable of increasing agility and mobility. None of that innovation was available for my grandfather’s leg: his was a heavy and unwieldy contraption held in place by a bulky harness and shoulder strap. Although it had a knee hinge, the mechanism didn’t always work unless my grandpa gave it a couple of hard thumps. He told my mom that the knocks were to show it who was boss. Grandpa also swore this leg had a mind of its own.

Correction: Mom said he did complain one day when he started to limp and couldn’t put any weight on the prosthetic. Climbing in and out of his tractor produced a stabbing pain at the place his thigh joined with the artificial leg.

Sitting on the side of his bed at night, he told my grandma that he was glad the day was over, that he’d have to see a doctor about his sore leg . . . until he unstrapped the harness. Lodged in the leg’s socket was a ring of keys.

“Hey, I’ve been looking for these all day!” and he started to laugh. His pain was from several jabbing keys! It never occurred to him to take off his prosthesis and check. “Too busy,” he told Grandma, caught up in his laughter.

One of the advantages of a wooden leg, he bragged, was that it would save his life if he ever fell into deep water. His theory was tested while canoeing with a friend. When the boat capsized, the leg floated but it didn’t help my grandfather – he was trapped below the water’s surface while the leg bobbed above! The true lifesaver was his friend who dragged him to shore. Since that day, the leg became known as “Troublemaker.”

Even after Grandpa passed away, the artificial leg continued to cause trouble. My mom was enlisted to bring it home from the hospital. But what was she supposed to do with it? She decided to phone the Salvation Army and the charity agreed to pick it up. An entire week went by.

While waiting, nobody wanted Troublemaker in their bedroom (I was scared of it!) so Mom propped it inside the front hall closet behind our coats. When Grandma phoned to say she was driving in from the country for a visit, Mom called the Salvation Army again and explained the situation.

“Please,” I overheard her imploring conversation, “I don’t want my mother to see his leg, it’ll be too painful for her!” Still no truck.

An hour before my grandma arrived, a driver picked up the leg and my mom could relax.

Her relief was short-lived, however, when days later someone from The War Amps phoned to inquire about the prosthesis. He wasn’t happy to hear that she’d given it away and informed Mom that it had been “on loan” for all those years.

“You want it back?”

“If it’s not returned by the end of the month,” he said, “you’ll be charged its full price.” That leg might have been low-tech and well-used, but it was still expensive.

With a quavering voice, Mom called the Salvation Army and explained that now she needed the leg back. She had to make more inquiry calls the following week and explain the story each time. Finally, a woman answered and said, “Oh, YOU’RE the leg woman. We got it, we found your leg!”

The same driver returned to our door and plopped the limb, now missing its sock and shoe, onto our WELCOME mat.

“Hey lady,” he said. “Tell the owner to make up his mind about his body parts!” and he turned on his heel.

My grandfather would have laughed if he knew about the commotion caused by his wooden leg. “See? he’d say. “I told you Troublemaker had a mind of its own!”

Audio story backing track
“Papa Hammond”
by Urban Pastiche from Sony Sound Series

Dad Wins ‘Best in Show’

Shannon Kernaghan Leon-boat-photo-e1548017023153 Dad Wins 'Best in Show' Childhood Family Memories parents Relationship

It’s that time again, the third Sunday in June when we tip our ball caps to the good fathers in our lives. I treat this day with plenty of respect, which is easy to do because I had a great dad.

Bottomless patience. That was one attribute that made him wonderful. While other dads shouted at their kids for denting cars or coming home late, my pop rarely lost his temper.

Take the time he bought a boat so we could cruise the river or enjoy a dozen rides on the lake during our weeks at a rental cottage.

Once, while my dad was tying our boat to the pier after one of those excursions, my brother dropped his glasses into the water. They quickly disappeared through the murk.

Some fathers would have yelled at their son’s carelessness. Not my dad. He donned a pair of goggles and dove once, twice, five times through gasoline rainbows until he found Randall’s horned rims on the lake bottom. That’s how Dad took care of business, without finger pointing or threatening words, and without expecting big thanks.

On another occasion it was my turn to test his endurance. I entered our teacup Chihuahua, Mini, in a local dog show. When Dad and I rolled into the parking lot, there were no cars, only a notice on the building’s door: DOG SHOW MOVED. The new address was a 45-minute drive.

On his day off – only one each week – Dad could have said, “Oh well, try again next time.” But he didn’t. We sped across town through pouring rain and hurried inside with Mini, who wasn’t overly excited about imminent fame, fortune or Best in Show.

Unfortunately, we were too late and I missed my turn in the ring. Tears streamed down my face as I stood in a crowd of milling people and their pooches. Again, my dad could have been annoyed for wasting his afternoon. All he said was, “Let’s get a hot dog from the canteen before we leave. They look like good ones.”

And that was it, all part of being a father and spending time with his children, supporting their dreams.

Remember to cherish your own dad, whether he’s near or far. To all the patient dads on Father’s Day, I raise my hot dog to you.

And for the record, Mini could have won that Best in Show trophy. At least that’s what I’ve told myself since age thirteen.

*Note* music backing track is Airport Lounge by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Turkey Buzzard Trumps Light Sleeper

Shannon Kernaghan Turkey-Buzzard-4 Turkey Buzzard Trumps Light Sleeper Adventure Bikini Drinking Family Recreation Travel Tropical

I’m a big liar. Not true, I’m a liar of medium build. As recently as yesterday I told my neighbor a mistruth: ”Me? I’m a light sleeper. One creak and I’m wide awake.”

Turns out I’m not such a light sleeper. Instead, I’m a typical one with a husband who can snooze while garbage and recycling trucks rumble next to our open window. His ability to slumber through jack hammering and thunderstorms means I have no one to gauge my sleep patterns.

That changed when I took a trip to Cuba with my sister and we shared a hotel room. Days into our vacation, she awakened at dawn to grunts and flapping wings. From her bed she watched a turkey buzzard hop through our open balcony door. It was probably attracted to the bowl of over-ripe fruit we’d forgotten on our balcony table.

She rushed towards the window and chased it away, yelling “Shoo! Shoo!” which in any language means, “Leave, large buzzard, before you encounter my wrath!” The bird must have understood because it vamoosed.

She couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard either the noisy bird or her – I slept through the adventure.

That’s one.

The next afternoon I needed a quick booster nap before dinner. Two hours later I awoke to Linda – dressed and ready for the evening – standing next to my bed and repeating my name. She said her next plan was to check for a pulse.

Okay, that siesta I can blame on plenty of snorkeling and a strong rum-based drink during the afternoon.

That’s two.

For a third bit of non-clinical proof, Linda awoke another night to hear someone yelling “Raul, Raul,” half a dozen times and then whistling through his fingers. The man might have been standing under our balcony, based on his volume. I must take my sister’s word for this tale because I didn’t hear a thing.

“Come on!” she said. ”How could you sleep through all that noise?”

Now she’s worried about me. “What if your home smoke alarm goes off, will you even hear it?”

Apparently my dozing is not so delicate. Maybe I awaken in the night for different reasons, like weird dreams triggered by eating shrimp and spicy cocktail sauce before going to bed. Maybe my own snuffling or bladder disturbs me. Perhaps it’s my inside world I should be blaming, not the outside.

As of today, I promise to stop the denial. “My name is Shannon and I have a reality problem. I’m not the light sleeper I’ve been telling everyone,” will be the beginning of my 12-step program.

After all, traveling sisters and turkey buzzards never lie.

WHAT DISTURBS YOUR SLEEP?

*Note* Music backing track in audio version Et Voila by Chris Haugen

My GPS has PMS

Shannon Kernaghan Stoopid-ass-GPS-600 My GPS has PMS Adventure Challenge Family Relationship Risk Travel

I need more direction in life. I’m not talking about spiritual, relationship or career guidance but actual direction, as in navigating from point A to B. My problem is I lack a sense of direction many are born with and take for granted.

Me: “Excuse me, where’s the nearest restaurant?”

Helpful bystander: “Go north for three blocks, take the west entrance blah blah, veer south blah blah . . . ” After I hear any mention of compass points, my logical brain goes into hibernation. This free time allows me to wonder what the guy slopped to produce such vivid blue stains on his shirt and if he’s had hair plugs, considering his questionable hairline. All good things to ponder although I’m no closer to my lunch time Cobb salad.

I envy people who can look up at the sun or stars and immediately have their bearing. These directional shamans border on magical. I require something more concrete, like a peaked mountain or expanse of ocean. Read the north-facing lichen on a tree when lost in the woods? I’ve been in those woods. My only discovery is that all sides of the tree look mossy. And now I have to find a bathroom.

Follow a road map? That’s doable, providing I don’t lose my place or spill hot coffee on the map. Sure, I can find highway exit signs, if they’re large enough to read while speeding past and if there’s enough time to make the necessary lane change.

“More help is on the way,” my gismo-lovin’ man announced with our first GPS that provided glorious turn-by-turn directions, all with female voice prompts.

I think Paul’s disappointed, missing my shrieks and my “How many miles of notice do you need?” clever questions. Gone are my bouts of silence when he used to blame lost time on my confusing directions. Gone are his insinuations that it must be somebody’s time of the month.

It’s now happy travels, with updates of when to expect road construction and how to maneuver through detours. Wherever we go, we travel with that woman’s melodious voice telling my husband he’s driven too far, here’s how he can backtrack and I really like your truck, handsome, drive here often?

I’m keeping an eye on those two. With all the help from global positioning, I’m afraid my job in the passenger seat will become obsolete.

“Honey? Feel like pulling into that truck stop?” I plan to ask. “I’ll grab us some coffee.”

Let’s see how Ms. GPS can handle spilled coffee down her microprocessor. Now I won’t be the only one in the vehicle to suffer from directional PMS.

Backing music track in the audio story is
“Urchins” by The Rondo Brothers
from YouTube Music Library

Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins

Shannon Kernaghan Stop-Confusing-Your-Pumpkin-451 Stop Confusing Your Pumpkins Childhood Culture Family Food Friendship Humor Parties Risk

I can’t understand the rationale behind applying special Halloween make-up and then dunking your head in a tub of communal water, all for the prize of grabbing an apple. I need more incentive.

When I was a kid, apples were not my friend on Halloween. People who handed out chocolate bars? Now those were folks forever etched in my heart. The larger the bar, the more respect they wielded in the neighborhood.

Besides apples shunned by us sugar-loving kids, pumpkins are also given a bad rap on October 31. Sure, they’re respected over Thanksgiving when they sacrifice their lives for our pumpkin pies, but come Halloween we develop short memories. Instead of revering them, we cut, scoop and hack away, defacing pumpkins into leering jack-o’-lanterns. Then, we let them shrivel to unrecognizable pulps before tossing them into a compost bin or the next trash pick-up. Talk about ‘dissing an innocent gourd.

Know who else gets a bad rap? Teenagers. The rumor that floated through school at Halloween was the same every year: “Look out for those AWFUL teenagers! As soon as they spot you walking with a full bag, they’ll steal your candy!”

Sure, teenagers are notorious for egging windows and trimming trees with toilet tissue, but not all of them are evil. During one childhood Halloween, I almost made it home after a fruitful trick-or-treating mission. After saying goodbye to my friends, I looked over my shoulder for those awful teenagers. I was a mere six doors from home when the unthinkable happened: my bag of treats – weighed down by apples – tore and spilled my candy onto the street! Horrified, I ran home crying.

Before I could explain the tear-choked tragedy to my mother, our doorbell rang.

“Gee, that’s a grown-up looking trick-or-treater,” Mom said after peering through the window. She opened the door to one of those awful teenagers. He’d taken off his jacket and gathered my candy. Since he watched me run home, he followed.

My mom whispered that I should give him a reward for his kindness, so I surrendered several of my most-coveted chocolate bars.

From then, I wasn’t frightened by teenagers on Halloween. Instead, I’ve developed a fear of dentists because in addition to collecting candy, I garnered a few cavities that year.

If you’re still brave enough (read: crazy) to bob for apples at your Halloween party, insist on going first. The last contestants in line have a tough time breaking through the oil slick of grease paint on the water’s surface. And don’t invite me unless you plan to bob for something good, like diamonds or a plane ticket to Honolulu. For that I’ll smudge my make-up.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN to teenagers everywhere. I’m thrilled if you’re reading my post. That means you’re not out egging our car.

Audio backing track
“Old Salooner Blues”
by Midnite North

When Wooden Vultures Rule

Shannon Kernaghan Birthday-cake-400 When Wooden Vultures Rule Childhood Family Humor Memories Parties

Summer is a time to enjoy Farmer’s Markets, water sports and local festivals. It’s also a chance to celebrate an activity synonymous with fun – setting up your lawn ornaments.

While walking past a yard recently, I stopped and stared at wooden tulips, Little Bow Peep (her sheep hadn’t yet gone AWOL) and a menagerie of metal and stone critters:  a rooster, seagull, butterfly, cat, gopher and vulture. That’s right, a vulture. There was no mistaking that bald head and hunched neck. Who knew that carrion-eating birds are considered decorative? Perhaps it’s there to control the wooden gopher population.

The yard was cute and colorful, although I didn’t linger in case I was confused with a burglar casing the joint. I was in no mood to run from the plaster-cast hounds, had they been released.

Why my interest? I’m not from a family who owned garden gnomes enacting scenes of bucolic tranquility. Perhaps my mom saw steel rod construction as too much of a physical threat to her children. Even without obstacles, I managed to snap my collarbone, sprain an ankle and land on a board after climbing our fence. Luckily my nose broke that fall.

For summer threats, we already had plenty with an aboveground pool and rows of deadly raspberry bushes. Not deadly in the eating, but deadly in the thorns when you crashed your bike into them.

And there were the croquet hoops, the few always missed when packing up the game. One step through those nearly invisible wires and you found yourself close up and personal with the ground.

These are only a dusting of the hazards within the property line; I haven’t touched on our TV antenna anchored next to the house. Mom, did you know there’s a clear view of the entire city from the top of that tower?

I’m sure my mom figured there were easier ways for her kids to face injury. No need to sabotage them with majestic plaster deer and concrete toadstools when she could pull out the “big guns” once a year.

Her secret weapon? The birthday cake baked with coins and buttons. Back then, only the most devoted mothers bothered with this festive touch. Today, expect a visit from  Social Services if you empty the hardware drawer into your child’s cake mix. Oh . . . so THAT’S why I chew my food slowly.

As for celebrating your garden gnomes this coming winter, I’m sure there’s no law against it. But why bother? No one will see them under the snowdrifts. Wait a second . . . there’s always plastic Santa and his reindeer to pull down from the garage rafters.

Turns out lawn ornaments are fun year-round. Bring it on, Jack Frost . . . but don’t rush. I’m not ready to say good-bye to the wooden vulture.

Audio backing track
“Holy Tension Batman”
by Spazz Cardigan