Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Mothers of Invention

I read a guest post at Terry Odell's blog the other day about the Jersey Devil. I's a very interesting read. But I already knew about that particular nasty creature.

Growing up outside of Philadelphia, heading to the Jersey shore was a summer institution. My best friend in elementary school would invite me to her family's shore house for weekends all the time. (Back in this day, a family shore house was a conservative two to three bedroom home, not the gargantuan beach houses you think of today.) We would drive down Friday night, after her mom got home from work. It would be about an hour and a half to two hour drive, depending on how many others beach lovers had the same idea.

We'd jump on the highway and head through the Pine Barrens of New Jersey - the alleged birth place and frightening haunt of the Jersey Devil. Now we were excited eight and nine year old girls in the back seat of a sedan, giggling and squealing and making an all around ruckus. Every time.

Well, Mrs. Buckwalter finally got wise and started telling us the legend of the Jersey Devil. As soon as we hit those Pine Barrens, our eyes would be peeled and our noses pressed to the glass of opposite windows, keeping silent vigil for the Devil so we could alert the driver to enact evasive maneuvers should he decide to jump on our car.

The woman was a genius.

My sister-in-law tells the story of The Turtle Game. This is another car trick. Whenever her mother would drive her sister and her to Pittsburgh to visit their grandmother, there would be blankets in the back seat of the car. If her mother spied someplace she didn't want her daughters to see, like an amusement park, she would enact the turtle game. "Okay girls! Let's play The Turtle Game!" The daughters would then grab the blankets, drop to the foot wells and cover themselves with the blankets to pretend that they were turtles. Once the distraction was out of sight, she would let them come out of their shells.

My own mother is a wonderful, frugal woman. We wouldn't go to the car wash very often, but when we did, my brother and I thought we were getting a real treat. She called it the fun house. When we'd hear the call, "Who wants to go to the fun house?", my brother and I would scramble to the door. We'd go through the automatic washer oohing and ahhhing over the spinning bristle brushes of doom and the long waving hair going over the windshield. What might pop up from the depths of that sea of flopping canvas? The thrills and chills were almost endless.

She also ended our squabbling over the mail by decreeing that I would be Occupant and my brother would be Resident for the rest of our days. (Click here for the full explanation.)

I even got into the act. The family went to Hershey Park this summer and stayed far too long. As we headed to the gates before they closed and locked us in, there was much pleading by the eldest urchin for one more ride. As we approached the exit, I saw the bathroom and got inspired. Turning to my oldest I announced there was one more ride. The Restroom Ride!! There's water, there's swirling, there's bubbles! All the excitement of the water park miniaturized into one room! She didn't buy it, but she did get behind it and laughed, making it sound like a commercial as she "rode the ride". I'm not as wily as the other seasoned veterans, but I'm on my way.

So what about you? Any stories of the devious and ingenious workings of a mother's (or father's) mind? Or is it just me surrounded by shady oddballs?


Susan Kelley said...

I grew up on a family dairy farm. When my brother and I were too little to help, my mother would drive the pickup truck out to the fields and put us in the back. We weren't allowed to get out and the truck was parked in sight of either my mother or father while they baled hay. It might have been boring for some kids, but to my brother and me it was the greatest pirate hunting ship in the US navy. We never got tired of playing in our ship. We had no toys with us, only sticks for swords and the imaginary pirates attacking us relentlessly. We also had tans like sailors after all those hours in the sun. Good times.

Ava Quinn said...

That does sound like good times, Sue.

And I never knew you grew up on a dairy farm. That's so interesting!

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