"" Writer's Wanderings

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Do You Hug A Six Foot Teenager?

The date on this essay is 1986. The son I wrote about is now 40+ and is facing the beginning of the teenage years with his son. I smiled when I found this as I was cleaning out old files. My grandson is eyeball to eyeball with his mom and won't be long before dad probably finds himself there as well.


When did it happen? My nineteen-inch baby suddenly grew to seventy-two inches. Sixteen years doesn’t seem like such a long time now. I wonder. Will it take me another sixteen to get used to this new size?

I smile as I remember my 5’3” mother coping with a 6’1” teenager—my brother. We had three steps up to the kitchen from the side door entryway. When she needed to emphasize her authority as the parent, she would catch him before he got up the stairs, blocking his path in the narrow door until he understood the message.
I have no steps so I need to find other creative ways of dealing with our new size difference. I’m a little taller than my mother but I still get a crick in my neck standing next to my son while talking to him.
In his book, “How to Love Your Teen,” (Campbell?) emphasizes the importance of eye contact with your children. Establishing eye contact is probably the most important way of seeing the love. It shows in another’s eyes. I want to be sure he sees that love in mine so I try to find ways of being “eyeball to eyeball” whenever I can.
Touching is another important part of parenting. A loving touch expresses warmth and concern that words could never reveal. Head patting does tend to go out of style as they begin to stretch skyward, but a hand placed fondly on the arm adds the emphasis of concern and love and brings even greater attention to what you are saying.
Touching a teen can bring an unexpected response in a parent also. In a moment of pride for an idea my son expresses, I reached up to cup his face in my hands and tell him how wonderful I thought his idea was. As my hands touched his face, my words were lost in confusion. My hands were touching the face of an adult male with a “three o’clock” shadow not the baby soft skin I remembered.
A bumper sticker proclaiming “Give hugs, not drugs” made me realize that the taller my son was getting, the less I was hugging. But, then, how do you hug a six-foot teenager?
I started a hugging campaign. “Ron, I love you,” I said when he came home from school that afternoon reaching out to stop him for a hug. Awkwardly, he bent over to hug me and I felt myself going on tiptoes to reach his neck.
Next I tried the old “sit next to him on the couch” approach to sneak a hug. That seemed to work a little better. He didn’t have to bend over so far.
I found a one-arm technique around his middle worked pretty well. But, somehow, it didn’t seem to convey the kind of affection we once expressed when he was able to climb up on my lap, wrap his arms around my neck and put his head on my shoulder as I embraced him in a full bear hug.
The little boy is still there inside the body of the man he is becoming. I hope a part of him will always remain. I hope the man will never outgrow the need for hugs. I know his parents won’t.

How do you hug a six-foot teenager? I’m not sure. I just know you do.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Traveling Back In Time - WWII Nylon Stockings

I grew up wearing nylons. They were never silk stockings. By the time I was old enough for them, silk stockings were definitely a thing of the past and nylon stockings ruled. According to an article at American WWII.com, rayon was used as a substitute for a time but they didn't fit well and tended to sag and "form knees of their own."

A team of researchers at DuPont worked for a decade to find a suitable solution. One day Julian Hill pulled a rod out of a mixture of coal tar, water, and alcohol to find a filament stretched between the rod and the solution. Voila! Nylon!

The first nylon stockings hit the shelves in New York City in May, 1940. Of course once the war began, nylon went into use mostly for parachutes, ropes, and tires for the military.

The nylon stockings of the 40s and 50s had a seam running up the back of them that was always a challenge to keep straight. I remember in the early days of my teens, some girls just used an eyebrow pencil on the back of their legs to make it appear that they had stockings on. The "seams" stayed a lot straighter if you had a steady hand.

It wasn't long before garter belts (except for the fancy Victoria Secret type) were a thing of the past and, with the discovery of lycra, pantyhose became the popular norm.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Traveling Back In Time - WWII Margarine

Research for the historical novel, Ruby, I'm writing has been fun although it does slow me down. The little details are fascinating. I owe this discovery to a lady at our church who is just a few years older than I and remembered having to take what she called lard and mix it with a little yellow capsule of dye to make it look like butter.

Margarine actually got its start in France in the late 1860s in response to a challenge posed by Napoleon for a cheaper spread than butter that could be used in the military. Hippolyte Mege-Mouries responded with a combination of animal fats and a few other things. He named it margarine.

Later it was found that vegetable oils were even cheaper and hydrogenation made them into a solid. The new margarine was introduced into the United States in the 1870s. When the new margarine became an even less expensive alternative to butter, the dairy association protested and brought laws into effect that prohibited the use of yellow dye in its production to distinguish it even more from the butter product. The work-around was to package a capsule or wafer of yellow dye with the margarine and let the consumer add it to the margarine. Of course the job usually fell to the children of the home which is why my friend remembered it so well.

When butter was rationed during WWII, margarine became the alternative and was popularized even more in 1941 by the National Nutrition Council who declared it to be healthier. Lots of people objected to the flavor of the margarine however and I'm sure my dad had to be one of them. When the flavor was improved he still objected to not having "real butter" in the house. My mother insisted that she only used it for cooking when he found it in the refrigerator and then quickly unwrapped the stick and put it on a butter dish so he wouldn't know he was using the margarine. I'm not sure if he gave in or truly didn't know. I'm thinking he gave in. Dad grew up on a farm and while not in Wisconsin (who didn't lift the ban on yellow coloring until 1967), he still would have know the difference, I'm sure.

Friday, August 15, 2014

This Venetian Island Wasn't On Our Tour

We've only been to Venice once and fell in love with its charm. We visited the islands of Murano and Burano to see the glassblowing and the lace making but no one told us about another island only a ten minute water taxi ride from St. Mark's Square. It's called Poveglia and has been labeled the most haunted place in the world. It recently went up for sale but I didn't hear if there were any takers.

Poveglia was home to a mental hospital for many years said to have housed a doctor who did weird experiments. Across the island from the hospital is what is called the plague pit. It is where they brought those who fell victim to the Bubonic plague.

Legends and tales abound about the island and of course the usual ghost sightings reported by the locals. One intrepid traveler, Robin Saikai, ventured onto the island with a photographer to do a story about it. She reports it here at her blog and includes a video taken from a boat as she traversed the island on the channel that cuts it in two.

Striding Peter, an amputee ghost, Laughing Man, and Staring Anna are a few of the ghosts mentioned in Saikai's report. It sounds like a real life haunted house that isn't just for Halloween. So who'll offer the first bid? Going, going. . . .

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Airlines. What's Your Favorite?

How do you choose a favorite airline? We flew Continental for quite a few years mainly because Cleveland was a hub and it was convenient. Once in a while we deviated to US Airways (now American Air) to fly to Grand Cayman because the flights were convenient and cheaper. Southwest was an adventure a time or two but mostly we stuck with Continental which became United--and left Cleveland behind, no longer a hub.

We found ourselves floundering a bit but enter Frontier Airlines to the rescue. Our most recent trip to Florida was by Frontier not only because we wanted to try them out but also because they offered a non-stop at a great price even though we had to pay for all the extras: luggage, food and drinks. Bob bought the classic ticket which got us a great seat in the exit row with lots of leg room and the extra cost included a checked bag.

Check-in was done by computer at home and boarding passes printed out. When we arrived at the airport, all we needed to do was show our passes and our baggage tags were handed to us by an attendant who had them all printed out before hand. Slick! We were checked in and baggage checked in less than five minutes.

What impressed me most both going and coming was the friendliness of all those connected with Frontier. We were served up smiles, polite conversation, and lots of humor (especially from a Denver native hostessing our flight home). Soft drinks were $1.99 each but refills of coffee and tea were free. Other than that they had the usual fare for snacks that other lines do. Our classic ticket however included our drinks and as always when we need to eat in flight, we brought food on board.

Our return trip was delayed two hours due to mechanical problems but lo and behold, a few days after our return, Bob got an email and a $30 voucher for a future flight with the airlines apology. Frontier will definitely be a number one consideration in the future.

Oh, and luggage arrived with us as well. Always a plus!

Recently there was a newsletter from Smart Travel.com that talked about several other new airlines starting up. Frontier wasn't one. I guess Frontier is considered old already. I wonder, would you consider a brand new airline to travel with? How would you choose? Do you have a favorite?
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