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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Guardian Angel on Overtime (part I)

I’m vividly aware of two separate times my life was spared when I was younger. I will write two posts about the memories I have of those events.

The first episode I want to blog about happened when I was seven years old. My parents, little brother, Jim, and I went to San Francisco, California to visit some friends and family.

We went on quite a few trips during my youth because my grandparents lived in Arizona and my Mom’s seven brothers lived across the U.S. The way my father traveled with the family never altered during my entire childhood. Even though we always had a car, we never drove the car; we took the pickup truck with a camper shell on the back which was my Dad’s work vehicle. All the luggage and the kids were tossed in the back where we had a bed (which normally served as a shelf for all my Dad’s tools) with a four-inch foam pad on it for the trip while Mom and Dad rode in the cab of the truck.

The good thing about traveling this way is the kids were with the ice chest--thus the food and drink. The bad thing about traveling this way is the kids had a difficult time conversing with the parents about their needs--to make a rest stop or help with resolving disputes (probably considered a good thing by the parents).

Jim and I had coloring books, modeling clay, storybooks and little toys to keep us occupied during all those hours and hours of driving. Over the years of traveling like this, every single coloring book we ever owned had “I need to use the bathroom” written on the inside cover. We would have to pound on the glass and gesture wildly to get their attention and then hold the message against the glass for them to read our request. Also written inside several of these coloring books were phrases like: “Jim is being mean!” and “Georgia won’t leave me alone.”

Anyway, on this particular trip to San Francisco we left during the winter and along with all the other stuff we brought, Dad put in our portable kerosene heater because the camper shell on the back of the truck got pretty cold. He would light it and warn us about making sure it stayed upright and that nothing touched it. The domed top of the heater would glow orange when it was hot and put out enough heat to keep us from freezing to death while we colored, read, played and fought with one another in the back of the truck.

Somehow under these conditions on this particular trip, I became extremely ill. I was so sick, in fact, that my parents had to take me to an emergency room. I don’t remember much about my stay in the hospital because I had such a high fever, but when I was finally released the most memorable thing for me is I was given a green helium balloon by a nurse. Before this time I had never even seen, let alone owned a helium balloon, so I was absolutely enthralled with a balloon that would float on its own accord and needed a string to keep it from getting away. My parents were worried enough about me that Mom rode in the back with me tucked into piles of blankets on the foam mattress, while Jim rode up front with Dad. My Mom fastened the string of my wonderful balloon onto something in the back of the truck so I could look at it from my ‘bed’. My Dad had refilled and fired up the heater so we would stay warm and then he started maneuvering through San Francisco traffic to get us to our destination. My Dad was not a patient man and did not like driving in traffic (probably the main reason we lived in Hinckley). A few miles from the hospital his driving became very erratic and a quick swerve caused the kerosene heater to tip over, spilling the propellant all across the plywood lining the bed of the truck. The flame from the heater instantly ignited the kerosene and we became a rolling fireball. My beautiful green balloon was the first casualty of the fire, it popped immediately! My Mother was shrieking, but of course two windows (the camper shell and the pickup truck) with a few inches of air between separated us from my Dad and he could not hear her screams. I remember my lungs burning for lack of air within seconds and her yelling for me to pound on the glass. I was pounding and screaming and Mom pulled one of the quilts off of me and was trying to beat out the flames, but my Dad just kept driving through the streets of San Francisco. Luckily, someone in another vehicle saw our plight and caught my Dad’s attention and he stopped. He yanked open the camper and the tailgate of the truck and quickly pulled out the flaming plywood to finish beating out the flames outside the truck.

Shortly after the flames were extinguished we realized the second casualty of the incident was the beautiful handmade butterfly quilt that had been covering me and was the weapon used against the flames. My Mother had spent countless hours lovingly piecing and quilting on this creation and now it was charred black in many places and burned completely through in others. Then the thought occurred to my parents that we could have all died in a fiery explosion considering how close the gas tank was to the roaring fire. Also, another couple of seconds and my Mom and I would have been completely asphyxiated in the small area with precious oxygen burning at such a rate.

While all of these thoughts were stirring in my parents’ minds, I was sobbing on the bed in the truck. Both of them scrambled up to be near me and see if I was hurt. I didn’t get burnt and I wasn’t even scared about the fire, I was upset about losing my green helium balloon. They tried to comfort me and finally calmed me down by promising to buy me another balloon.

It wasn’t until years later when I was telling this story to someone that I realized I had been spared a terrible death by fire. During the preceding years whenever I had thought about that occasion I always came back to the fact that my parents had never replaced that balloon.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Back on Track II

For the past week I've been watching the snow melt. It seems each spring there will be some new and exciting surprise under the snow which has been on the ground for months without end. Most people have only noticed the brown, matted grass and flattened bushes which have emerged, but two days ago I found the track at Weber High School is nearly cleared of snow! I visited the track three weeks ago and ended up walking the entire circuit in snow to my knees, but on Wednesday and Thursday of this week I was thrilled to see the surface is almost completely exposed. I could actually run three quarters of the way around with only the west end-zone portion still too icy to run on. Also going up and down the sidewalk approaching the field was treacherous with ice, forcing me to walk through the snow piled on the grass, but a few more days of warm weather should have it completely uncovered and I can get back to my morning routine. I miss my 5:00 a.m. runs from the end of November until the middle/end of February every year, but it makes me so grateful when I can finally get 'back on track'.

In my opinion the football field at Weber High School is the most beautiful setting of any high school track and field in the world. It sits nestled into a foothill of Ben Lomond Peak, the 'home' bleachers are naturally set into this hill, while the 'visitor' bleachers loom above the roof of the school to the south. To the west of the field is a large expanse of lawns and trees sharply sloping down to the school below and the baseball field to the south-west. There is a gorgeous view of the entire valley as you look off over the school; you can see the Great Salt Lake, Willard Bay, and all of Ogden laid out below. Of course Ben Lomond towers above to the north and to the east is another range of mountains including Lewis Peak. I've seen beautiful moon sets, glorious sun rises and meteor showers with stars shooting in every direction. I've had the company of deer, owls, toads, mice and an occasional skunk on some of my runs. People tell me that running in a circle is too boring and they can't understand why I continue to go to the track each morning, but if they tried it once, they'd want to run there every day too; I should keep it my little secret so I can have my own private track at 5:00 a.m...shhhh.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ice Skating

While watching the pair figure skaters this evening, I've been revisiting memories of skating on the Gunison Bend Reservoir as a child. For those who grew up in Millard County, do you remember how the reservoir would freeze completely solid? I vividly remember going out there with my skates and having to jump over the rough 'wavy' edge, but once you were on the middle surface it was smooth as glass--beautiful sea-green glass. It seemed you could see to the sandy bottom of the 'rez' even hundreds of feet out. How exhilarating it was to be able to skate all the way across to the opposite wavy edges.

This past summer, Cami and I drove out to the reservoir on the 24th of July and watched the boaters and water skiers. It was hard to imagine all that water could have been solid a few months earlier and would be again in the winter.

The figure skating tonight has been incredible to watch. Like millions around the world, I once imagined myself as graceful and talented as an Olympian while I stumbled and slid across the ice on a frozen reservoir of my childhood.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy 1st Birthday

Dear The Georgia Pages @ Blogspot,

Happy, happy birthday!

One year ago today I wrote my very first blog post. That means it has been just over one year since I was release as Relief Society President and I had to try to figure out what to do with my life.

When we were driving home from Idle Isle last night with our dear friends, the Marsdens, Margie asked me how I felt about being release from that calling. Even a year later, I am not completely sure how I feel. I know I'm relieved at not having all the responsibility for the health and well-being of every sister in the ward; but I truly miss the relationship of my presidency, the confidence I felt bestowed upon me by the Lord, His miraculous blessings I enjoyed every day of those three and and half years of service, the home visits with the women of my area and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost I felt inspiring and uplifting me.

Life moves on and some years move faster than others...this one has gone by quickly.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Candy Counter

Today I received a birthday card from my best friend in elementary school. Thinking kind thoughts of Julie brought back memories of fun things we did together in Hinckley many years ago.

Julie and I lived across town from each other so we would meet at the half-way point which was "Damron's Deep", an irrigation canel. The Damron kids had dug it deeper and wider to make a swimming hole. It was the best swimming spot in Hinckley with a huge headgate you could dive/jump off of and a rope tied in a tree you could swing out over the water and drop off. Damron's Deep was the agreed-upon half-way place between our houses and we would meet there to walk or ride our bikes anywhere else we were going. Julie always beat me there. I'm not sure if it was becase it was actually closer to her house or because my Dad always questioned me any time I left the house, but Julie would always wait patiently for me to arrive.

Our favorite place to go together was Morris Mercentile. (I've mentioned Morris Merc in a previous post.) The Merc was one of only two businesses in town. The second one was a gas station at the corner of Main and the Highway. (Referred to as the Hinckley Second Ward due to the large number of men and boys who would congregate there on Sundays to drink pop and visit during church.)

The Merc was amazing! My Mom would send me to the store for a pound of baloney or a box of crackers or whatever she needed for dinner and I would say, "Put it on my account." Mr. or Mrs. Morris would write it up in a little receipt book and I would sign it. Then they would put one of the copies of the receipt in a paper bag along with the groceries. I always felt so grown up doing the marketing at the Merc.

But even more incredible was the selection of candy Mr. Morris stocked in his tiny store. He had a big glass case about five feet wide and four feet high with different shelves, levels and sections completely stocked with the best candy of our generation. On the top shelf was the penny candy including Smarties, Pixie Sticks, Swedish Fish, Black Licorice Sticks, Tootsie Rolls and Hubba-Bubba Bubble Gum. The next level down had the nickle candy which were things like Pop Rocks, Lemon Heads, Boston Baked Beans and Alexander the Grape. Ten cent candies were next; things like Necos, Chicken Sticks, long Licorice Whips, Lic 'O Mades, Mike and Ike, Good and Plenty and Giant Pixi Sticks. The bottom of the counter had the quarter candy bars. Candy bars in those days were bigger than they make them now and Mr. Morris had every kind of candy bar made at that time.

The clerk was always having to tell us kids, "Don't lean on the glass." When I was small there were a few little cracks in the glass front of the case from children pushing their heads against the glass to get a better look at all those sweets. As I got older, those cracks became longer and more numerous and when I was a teenager, Mr. Morris had to tape the cracks with clear packing tape to keep the glass front together.

What a treat it was to take a quarter into Morris Merc and come out with a small paper bag filled with penny and nickel candies. Julie and I would take our sacks and go to the school playground to eat, swing and talk.

It is no wonder that the one and only dentist in town was also the richest man in the county. He must have made so much money filling all the cavities in the teeth of Hinckley children. I wonder if he invested in the Morris Merc's candy business?