controversies, nostalgia, slut shamers, social media

Partial repost: Let’s keep ’em closed (and covered up), people…

Today’s entry is a partial repost, some of which I originally composed on September 5, 2015. I am reposting part of my blog today, because I feel like being kind of funny, and I’m not in the mood to write about Kevin McCarthy’s ridiculous Speaker of the House vote. I also don’t follow football, so I can’t opine about Dahmer Hamlin. And I’m not quite done with Jamie Lynn’s book… so here goes.

Before I repost what I wrote in 2015, here’s a brief briefing. The repost was based on a 2013 era viral blog post that was written by an Austin, Texas based mom, Kim Hall, who complained about teenaged girls posting pictures of themselves in various stages of undress. It went viral, with many people sharing it, and quite a few people writing snarky rebuttals, about what they considered “slut shaming”. This morning, I’m struck by how innocent we were in 2013, when so many of us were up in arms about pictures of scantily clad girls on Facebook and Instagram. Kim Hall wanted teenaged girls to cover up their bodies if they were going to share photos and videos on social media that her sons might see. Little did she know that a few years later, people would want them to cover up their faces, too. She had no way of knowing about the challenges that teens would face when a novel virus came to town. It’s almost comical…

Anyway, below is my 2015 post. It’s relatively brief by my standards, and most of the links still work.

***Two years ago (in 2013), a woman’s blog post about “slutty” looking teenagers went viral.  The post was called “FYI– If you’re a teenage girl…”  Why am I remembering this?  Because I checked Facebook’s “On this day” app and noticed that I had posted a link to a blogger’s funny rebuttal (I highly recommend reading the snarky rebuttal, which is still up. It’s hilarious!).  The post that had spawned the rebuttal was removed, but not before it was viewed millions of times and shared all over the place.  Indeed, I even responded to the post myself– but my rebuttal is on the old blog… maybe I’ll repost my rebuttal. Why not? 

A couple of days ago, another blogger wrote a post about an entirely different teen related topic.  Her post obliquely referenced the FYI post that has now been deleted but still exists all over the Internet.  Christine Organ writes:

Don’t worry; this isn’t going to be one of those letters. You know the kind. Some well-intentioned and wise adult writes with a just-trying-to-be-helpful shrug about how you should stop doing this or change that. Usually it has something to do with your clothing choices or selfie-taking habits or flirting protocols. Believe me, I’m just as sick of those “letters” as you are.  

Two years later, I’m remembering that post and how it caused such a stir.  An Austin, Texas mom named Kim Hall wrote somewhat eloquently about how she was going to block girls who post inappropriate photos and YouTube videos from her sons’ Facebook pages, because she didn’t want her boys seeing girls in their pajamas without bras, or wrapped in just a towel.  She didn’t want her boys to be unable to “unsee” the sexy teens in their midst, and think of them in a sexual way.  I’ve never been a teenaged boy, but my guess is that it matters little how girls are dressed when boys are at a certain age.  A good stiff breeze can make them think of sex. (I remember Mrs. Hall got in some hot water, too, because her post was originally littered with pictures of her shirtless sons, flexing their muscles in their swimming trunks. People thought that was very hypocritical, and it was! She later reposted it with the boys in street clothes, did some creative editing and rephrasing, and then took the post down altogether.)    

For the record, I don’t necessarily disagree with all of Mrs. Hall’s points.  I don’t like looking at scantily clad girls, either.  However, I think it’s pretty hard (heh heh… I wrote “hard”) to prevent people from seeing those images.  Humans are naturally curious beings and they like to see the forbidden.  So even if Mom scours her sons’ Facebook pages every day, they will probably still see some stuff she doesn’t want them to see.  They may end up with hardened dicks, too.  Perish the thought.

What amazes me is that I had totally forgotten about this incident and was suddenly reminded of it due to another blogger’s oblique mention of it.  I don’t know if she wrote her post about teenaged girls at the swimming pool almost exactly two years later on purpose, but it does seem kind of strange.  

I also wonder if Kim Hall knew that her blog post would take off like it did.  I mean, when she wrote her “open letter” to girls two years ago, did she know that it would be the subject of so many blog rebuttals, Facebook arguments, videos, and online magazine articles?  I wonder why she took it down, too.  It made her kind of famous.  Her blog is still up and was recently updated.  My guess is that she got tired of the attention.  Taking the post down was kind of like closing the barn door after the horse has already gone… but hell, it probably made her feel better.

The overwhelming message I got was that people should keep their legs closed… and their minds closed.  Because sex is bad.  Thinking about sex is bad.  And teenagers in towels are bad.  Especially on Facebook and Instagram.

My thoughts are a little scattered this morning.***

Now, on to my fresh post…

This morning, I noticed that someone in Alabama hit a post I wrote in late June 2020. It was about face masks and the totally nuts– over-the-top– reaction a lot of people on social media were having to COVID-19. At the time I wrote that post, I was feeling overwhelmed, depressed, and hopeless about the future. I was giving serious thought to getting rid of Facebook… a notion I’ve had a bunch of times over the years. It was mainly because I felt inundated with the prospect of a bleak, dystopian world, post COVID. I was tired of all of the annoying, sanctimonious preaching being done by all of the Google experts on social media. In 2020, COVID was very scary, but so was the public’s polarized reaction to it. I was genuinely feeling a bit crazed by it. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

In the post someone hit today, I noted that I expected face masks to be a temporary measure. Fortunately, my predictions and expectations regarding the pandemic have mostly come to pass. Even here in uptight, but stoic, Germany, people have calmed down a lot about COVID. I was afraid that we would all be forced back into masks this winter, but that hasn’t come to pass. Masks are still required on most buses and trains, although Bavaria– which had the strictest regulations for a long time– recently dispensed with them on local trains. The masks are no longer needed on flights. They are still required in any medical office, including veterinary offices. But, I suspect, they will eventually be phased out, even though COVID is still a problem and there are new mutations. Life has mostly gotten back to normal, and that is a really good thing. Thank GOD.

I guess the one message I take from reading my post about face masks, before reading about a mom who was concerned about her sons seeing girls in towels and braless in pajamas on social media, is that our battles have a way of changing. There was a time, not so long ago, that people were all upset about a woman admonishing girls about being too “sexy” online and asking them to cover their bodies. That was what a whole lot of people were thinking and talking about, blissfully unaware that they would soon be angry about people not wanting to cover their faces. And there was a time, not so long ago, when the topic of the day was face masks, and how we not only needed to cover our bodies, but we also needed to cover our faces… forever. How very depressing. I’m glad most of us have moved on from that idea, at least for now.

In 2015, Donald Trump was still just a very rich and famous guy talking about running for office. No one had ever heard of COVID-19. The idea of wearing a face mask in public was just for germ avoidant freaks. In 2023, we’re all older, wiser, and wearier. I’d say most of us lost some innocence.

Just for shits and giggles, I went to see if Kim Hall is still blogging. It looks like she still is. Her blog was updated within the past few months, anyway. It appears that she’s a dedicated conservative Christian, and lately, her posts seem to be about the evils of allowing transgender teenagers to access treatment that would allow them to transition. She writes about how devastating it is when some of these folks wind up “de-transitioning”. To be honest, I don’t know much about how many people decide to de-transition. It’s not a subject I spend a lot of time researching. Apparently, Kim Hall is upset about it. I see in the summer of 2020, she posted about the “hysteria” over COVID, and how God has “lovingly” numbered our days. So we all might as well simmer down… those were not her actual words, but I think it was kind of the attitude she imparted. I don’t think we were in disagreement about that, based on what I wrote in 2020, although my reasoning has a lot less to do with God’s plan and more to do with how extreme reactions often do more harm than good.

Anyway… Kim Hall is probably better at blogging than I am. She has a Facebook following of about 11,000, while I recently took down my Facebook page for this blog. So what do I know? 😉 Looks like her kids are pretty much grown now, too, so that means she doesn’t have to concern herself with what they see on Facebook anymore. See? Battles change all the time!

And, what the hell… I think I’ll repost my 2013 commentary about Kim Hall’s post. Stay tuned.

 

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Bill, marriage, memories, music

Repost: My husband hates the song “Dream Weaver”…

I have a touch of writer’s block today. I’m having trouble coming up with a good topic for the main blog, although I wrote one about our Thanksgiving for the travel blog. When this happens, I typically go to the original version of The Overeducated Housewife and mine for a repost. Sometimes doing that will spawn a fresh topic. And sometimes, I simply find another chestnut to share again… Today is one of the days I’m going to share an oldie. Word to the wise… this is a weird story and may be too TMI for some people. Proceed with caution. This was originally written on November 21, 2018.

Yesterday, one of my Facebook friends shared this video of the song “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright.

This song was made famous in 1976, when I was a wee lass of about 3 or 4 years old.

In 1976, my dad was the base engineer at Mildenhall Air Force Base in England.  This song was popular, along with a lot of other great songs from the 70s.  I’ve always liked it, although I was a small child when it was a hit.  It still sounds pretty good in 2018, at least to my ears.  I also like Wright’s other big song, “Love Is Alive.”

This video includes the version of “Dream Weaver” I know best.  It says this song comes from 1972, but that’s incorrect.  It was released in 1975 and was a hit the following year.

When Bill and I met, he told me there are a few songs he hates.  For instance, he doesn’t like the songs “Strong Enough” by Sheryl Crow or “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman” by Bryan Adams, mainly because his ex used to play them as a means of demonstrating to Bill what kind of man she thought he should be.  

If you know my husband (and a few readers do), you know that he is one of those people who bends over backwards to please others.  He’s got a really kind heart and does whatever he can to make other people happy.  To hear that his best efforts weren’t enough for his ex wife was shattering.  The fact that she used music to drive home that point was especially cruel.  She ruined some good music and a lot of children’s books that way.  She was also fond of using books by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein to make her points about Bill’s alleged shortcomings.

So, although I do like “Strong Enough”, I never play it when Bill is around, because I know it reminds him of dark times.  Fortunately, I don’t really like Bryan Adams’ love ode, so we have no problems, there.  For a long time, I avoided playing anything by The Muppets or Kenny Loggins’ wonderful children’s album around Bill because I knew they would make him sad.

Another song Bill hates is “Dream Weaver”, but that’s because of another person in his life– his first stepfather.  When Bill was about ten years old, his mother decided to remarry.  I think remarriage of a parent is hard enough for most youngsters, but it’s especially difficult when the new spouse turns out to be abusive.  The guy Bill’s mom married was a very handsome fellow and talented artist I’ll call B.J.  Actually, B.J. was the name he went by.  Come to think of it, it was probably an inspired nickname.

At least on the surface, B.J. had a lot going for him. He was tall, blond, athletic and very physically attractive, and he was legitimately and generously blessed with artistic gifts. Although I never met the man myself, I have seen a beautiful portrait he did of my mother-in-law. She kept the artwork, although the marriage was mercifully brief.

Bill and B.J. didn’t really hit it off very well. Evidently, B.J. used to do things like blow cigarette smoke in Bill’s face and tell him that he was “emotionally unavailable”. B.J. once said that talking to Bill was like talking to a brick wall. Bill really took that comment to heart, and it made him feel great shame. I don’t understand where B.J. got the idea that Bill wasn’t easy to talk to. I find him very easy to talk to… but then, B.J. was probably a bit resentful that Bill was around. Bill took away attention from his mother that B.J. probably thought should be directed solely to him.

B.J. was a big fan of Gary Wright’s music, and he especially liked the song “Dream Weaver”. He used to play that song a lot. B.J. also liked wearing women’s clothing and, in fact, was probably transgender. The whole reason B.J. wanted to be married was because he was hoping to learn how to be a woman. He thought maybe Bill’s mom could teach him that. This was not something B.J. had disclosed before he and my mother-in-law tied the knot. Once she found out what his agenda actually was, she made plans and eventually got a divorce. My mother-in-law and B.J. lost touch after that.

I try to be open-minded about most things. I don’t know anything about what it’s like to be transgender. I can only imagine that it’s extremely difficult even today, and was almost certainly much more so in the 1970s, when people had much less understanding and consideration for those who are different. I’m sure B.J. had some traumatic issues that caused him to be the way he was… not necessarily transgender, but mean and abusive. There was some reason B.J. found pleasure in being disrespectful to Bill and saying cruel things that he knew would upset him. Hurting people tend to be hurtful to others. It’s a vicious cycle. B.J.’s status as a transgender person is not what made him mean, although it’s possible that the treatment he received from others, possibly because he was so different, is what led to him being so abusive.

I didn’t know B.J., although I’ve heard some stories about him over the years.  He wasn’t Bill’s stepfather for very long, which is a good thing.  However, even though B.J. was Bill’s stepfather for only a few years, he did leave a lingering calling card, besides that beautiful portrait of Bill’s mother.  Now, whenever the song “Dream Weaver” plays, Bill is reminded of that guy– a man he hasn’t seen in well over forty years.  And although I never knew the man myself, when I hear it, now I’m reminded of the stories I’ve heard about him.

It’s amazing how the most innocuous things can leave a lasting impression.  It might be a piece of music or art.  It might be certain foods or smells.  I have written a few times about how much I hate mushrooms.  I have always hated them.  When I was a child, I was literally phobic of them.  I’m still a bit phobic of mushrooms, though not nearly like I was when I was a young child in England.  In those days, whenever I saw a mushroom growing in the yard, I would freeze and start screaming hysterically.  Today, I still kind of cringe when I see them, but I don’t scream anymore.

My sisters were kind of mean spirited teenagers at that time. In our English backyard, there were a lot of toadstools that grew wild. Sometimes, my sisters would pick them and chase me with them, all the while laughing hysterically at me as I screamed and ran away. One of my sisters went as far as reinforcing the phobia by drawing mean faces and shark teeth on any mushrooms in my coloring books. To this day, when someone posts a picture of a dish with mushrooms on social media or I smell them cooking, I’m reminded of that time when I was a child. It still makes me cringe, even though it’s been years since anyone chased me with a mushroom (one of my cousins did years later, to the same effect). Those experiences are imprinted on my brain, much like certain songs are imprinted on Bill’s.

I thought I was alone in my hatred of mushrooms until one day, I was watching Montel Williams’ talk show, and the topic was phobias. Montel had a guest who was phobic of mushrooms. I watched in amazement as she reacted the very same way I used to when I was very young. To be honest, if someone tried to force me to eat a mushroom or touch one, I’d probably react the same way I did when I was a child. I wrote an article about mycophobia on Associated Content. It generated a lot of hits and was even noticed by the woman who was on Montel Williams. She sent me an email about her experience on the show. Although Montel did get her to touch one and, in fact, kissed her with one between his lips (that would not have worked for me), she said she’s still a bit phobic.

I once entertained the idea of becoming a chef, but abandoned that notion when I realized I couldn’t be a chef and have a mushroom phobia.  Maybe I could have been a pastry chef, but even then, I’d probably still have problems.  And then I worked at a restaurant for awhile and realized that lifestyle wasn’t one I wanted for the rest of my life.  It’s too stressful.

I understand why Bill hates the song “Dream Weaver”, although I like it and probably always will.  He understands why I hate mushrooms, although he loves them and truffles and always will.  He respects my idiosyncrasies and I respect his.  When Bill is around, our house is a Gary Wright free zone.  And when we go out to dinner or eat at someone’s house, Bill is supportive when I have to explain why mushrooms are verboten.  I’m sure more than a couple of waiters have filed away memorable stories about me telling them about my irrational fears.  I guess these things make us more interesting people.

Below are the comments that were left on the original post…

AlexisAR

November 23, 2018 at 11:15 PM

BJ sounds like a real douche. being transgender is surely a difficult way to live, but that obviously doesn’t give him a valid excuse to mistreat anyone. I know I’m preaching to the choir here.

knotty

November 24, 2018 at 5:36 AM

Oh yeah. Both Bill and his mom are such nice people that they attract abusive narcissists. Both have gotten better about telling those people to fuck off, but it never comes without a price.  

I think B.J. is probably dead. My MIL said one time he called her for help after they split up. He was in actual physical danger when he called. I think he was dressed as a woman and about to be beat up or something. So she helped him and then asked him never to contact her again.

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love, marriage, music, musings, nostalgia

“The secret o’ life is enjoying the passage of time…”

Yesterday afternoon, I was feeling kind of inspired, so I decided to record a song in honor of our 20th wedding anniversary, which happens tomorrow. I spent some time looking through the songs I had available and tried a few before I noticed an old chestnut by James Taylor. Back in 1977, James released his album, JT. He was still married to Carly Simon at the time, and they had two young children– three year old Sarah Maria, “Sally”, and newborn Ben. James was transitioning to a new record label, moving on from Warner to Columbia Records. Just a few years after JT was released, James and Carly divorced. However, that album has some really nice songs on it. For the longest time, one of my favorites from that particular release is a song called “Terra Nova”, which includes beautiful vocals from Carly. Years later, Ben and Sally would sing the coda from “Terra Nova” on one of Ben’s songs.

Maybe James and Carly’s marriage didn’t work out, but they sure sounded nice together.

That album also included an actual song for Carly… a love song James wrote called, “There We Are”. Maybe I could have done this one, but I don’t think it has quite the same ageless quality. Also, ultimately, James and Carly didn’t stay married. And I would have had to do it in the original key, which probably would have been hard.

What a sweet song. The sentiment is lovely, but the marriage didn’t survive.

I remember when I first bought JT on compact disc, back around 1991 or so, and listened to the whole thing. I realized that my sister, Becky, had this album on tape and played it when we were living in England. I heard the deep cut, “If I Keep My Heart Out of Sight” as a five year old in 1977, and remembered James’s lyric, “All I can say is I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.” I remember hearing this when I was about 18 or 19 and being kind of shocked by the deep memory. It had been so long since I’d heard the song, and I didn’t realize what a good song it was. The early 90s are when I really got into James’s music, and he helped me get through some very tough times.

A song that was buried in my consciousness for many years.

But one song I never really liked, at least when I first heard it, was “Secret O’ Life”. I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I think maybe when I was 19, I thought it was boring… the lyrics are pleasant, but at least at the time, they seemed kind of banal. It wasn’t until I heard James sing it live that I realized what a good song it is. I still never thought I would have sung it myself, and yet yesterday, that is precisely what I did, after dropping the pitch three steps. And even funnier… this time, I actually videoed myself as I was singing, which I don’t do very often. I can’t be arsed to put on makeup or a bra… and as you can see, I didn’t do that yesterday, either.

That thumbnail is horrifying! I usually make that face in the throes of ecstasy.

Here are the lyrics, written by James Taylor:

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down, we might as well enjoy the ride.

The secret of love is in opening up your heart.
It’s okay to feel afraid, but don’t let that stand in your way.
Cause anyone knows that love is the only road.
And since we’re only here for a while, might as well show some style. Give us a smile.

Isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.

Now the thing about time is that time isn’t really real.
It’s just your point of view, how does it feel for you?
Einstein said he could never understand it all.
Planets spinning through space, the smile upon your face, welcome to the human race.

Some kind of lovely ride. I’ll be sliding down, I’ll be gliding down.
Try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.

Isn’t it a lovely ride? Sliding down, gliding down,
try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.

Maybe it’s not obviously a love song… or an anniversary song. It just seemed perfect, for some reason. After 20 years, Bill and I are very comfortable with each other. And I feel like we’ve had a “lovely ride”, for the most part… and we’ve definitely done some things in style, even if we don’t usually dress in style.

I also thought this was a good song for us this year, because it looks like James might be able to do his concert in Frankfurt, after all. As I write this, James is in Stockholm, preparing for tonight’s show. He shared a video that I think he took himself, as he walked through downtown Stockholm. I heard the trace of a cough and he seemed a little tired, but that’s to be expected. COVID has that effect on people. I’ve never been to downtown Stockholm. I’ve only been to the dock.

It looks like we’ll see him this weekend. Or, I still maintain hope… especially since this might be the last time we get to see him. Or, maybe it won’t be. I know James loves to perform and will probably keep doing it until he physically can’t do it anymore, but things are getting weirder and weirder, and none of us are getting any younger. So, I’m glad I had a chance to try “Secret O’ Life”, and enjoy the passage of time with Bill. May we have twenty or more years together!

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animals, videos, YouTube

Leon the Lobster moves to Georgia…

I wasn’t going to blog today because I’m having one of those “not so fresh” days, and it was kind of foggy and chilly this morning. I thought maybe I might binge watch season five of Cobra Kai on Netflix, and finally make use of my subscription. But three or four episodes in, I got really drowsy and thought I might fall asleep. So I tried to take a nap, but then I had to keep getting up to go to the bathroom, and the sun came out and made it a beautiful day.

I didn’t have a good topic in mind for today, either. I have been reading a book and I suspect it will lead to an interesting review when I’m finished, but I’m not quite halfway through it at this point. I could write about US politics, but I am not in the mood for that, and everyone’s writing about politics, anyway. So I went to YouTube for inspiration, and found that Brady Brandwood had uploaded another video about his pet lobster, Leon.

Leon’s journey has been fascinating!

Brady says Leon has now lived with him in South Carolina for a year. But he and his girlfriend split their time between South Carolina and Georgia, and actually spend more time in Georgia. So Brady bought Leon a new, much larger aquarium, and assembled it in the Georgia house. He decided to move Leon from South Carolina to Georgia, where he can enjoy the much larger digs and get to know Brady’s eight cats.

For those who don’t know, Brady famously rescued Leon from a grocery store and made videos about his progress in captivity. I’ve been watching Leon’s saga the whole time, finding it to be strangely fascinating… and now, I feel guilty about loving to eat lobster as much as I do. I’m also very impressed with Brady’s knowledge about how to take care of creatures of the sea. As I found out in watching this video, there’s a lot that goes into moving a lobster from an aquarium in South Carolina to a new one in Georgia. Brady also seems like a really nice guy. I enjoy his slightly southern accent, too. It reminds me of home.

Speaking of home… Bill and I used to live in Georgia ourselves, courtesy of his Army career, so the footage of driving on the Interstate– looks like it might be I-85– made me a little homesick. I’ve passed the water tower for Gaffney, South Carolina many times. It’s easy to spot, because it’s a giant peach, that always reminds me of a well spanked ass. Sorry, I’m a little kinky sometimes. 😉 I also used to live in South Carolina. I was there for the three years I was in graduate school at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. But I don’t think I ever drove past Gaffney when I lived in South Carolina. I do remember driving through there on my way from Georgia to Virginia and back.

Brady also includes some shots of the Atlantic beaches in South Carolina, which also remind me of home. I grew up about an hour’s drive from Virginia Beach. And some shots from North Georgia and his wooded home in South Carolina also make me homesick, a little. My dad’s side of the family is from Natural Bridge, Virginia, which looks a lot like North Georgia, and our homes in Georgia and in North Carolina were on wooded lots where there was a lot of wildlife. I love Germany, but I miss living in a secluded house with lots of trees around.

Our Georgia house was especially nice, with lots of deer in the woods, including a mama deer who was almost tame. However, I wouldn’t want to be living there now, as energy prices are soaring. It was a huge house and badly needed renovation. But it had an enormous kitchen and deck, which overlooked lots of trees and a creek in the back. Our house in North Carolina was smaller, and didn’t have the great kitchen, but it did have a view of a disused irrigation pond, where wildlife such as turtles and wild ducks lived. I loved watching them. It also had some fish in it. Sometimes, the neighbor would go out there and try to catch one. Those were the idyllic days of the Obama era, when political leaders seemed to have more sense.

Even though I’m totally freaked out by how polarized and violent the United States looks from over here, I do miss home sometimes. I would like to see some of my family members. And I miss American supermarkets, too. But I’m not quite ready to get on a plane for eight hours, even though it’s been eight years since I last set foot in my homeland. Also, I know that once I got back to the States, it would be no time before I’d be ready to leave again. I’m still glad people like Brady are posting content on video that teach new things and make me realize that not everyone in the United States is freaked out about the elections.

Anyway… I hope some of you might watch Leon’s videos. I think they’re fascinating, and I’ve learned a lot about lobsters, and how to keep them, from Brady. I won’t be adopting one anytime soon, but I sure have enjoyed watching Brady take care of Leon. It reminds me of my friend who used to have me “turtle sit” for her, when she took trips. I never realized how much fun turtles can be. The one she had– a red slider whose name was “Little Chicken” (named by her then young daughter, who won him at a fair)– acted kind of like a dog when it was mealtime. He’d see me coming and crawl alongside of the aquarium. He couldn’t wait to eat his turtle food. She told me they eventually set him free in the Potomac River, which makes me think he probably didn’t live much longer… Apparently, he got too big to keep.

I don’t know what else I’m going to do today. We really should go out and do something, but unfortunately, I need easy access to the bathroom today. Maybe I’ll watch some more bodycam footage… or work on my latest jigsaw puzzle, which is 2000 pieces. Or maybe I’ll read more of my book, so I can move on to the next one. I might even be tempted to dream about our next trip, after we go to France for our anniversary. That trip will be to a place we’ve been several times, but not since January 2020. We’re going there because we know the apartment we’re renting; it’s pet friendly; and it will still be a change of scenery. We love going to Alsace, because it’s a beautiful part of France, but since Arran is having chemo, we don’t want to board him. Besides, it’s time Noyzi got to go on a trip with us.

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memories, nostalgia, tragedies, Virginia

German road signs that make me fall down rabbit holes…

A few days ago, when Bill and I were heading home from our trip to the Black Forest, I looked up and noticed a road sign for a town called Hirschberg. Google tells me that Hirschberg is a town in the northwestern part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg (as well as a place in Thuringia). I’ve never been there, and before Monday, I had never noticed that sign. But seeing the name of that town brought back some very old memories from my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia.

This is something I’ve noticed in Europe and the United Kingdom. A lot of the place names here, and in my home state of Virginia, come from surnames. A lot of places in Virginia, especially, are named after places in older establishments. Take, for instance, the town of Kilmarnock, Virginia. It shares that name with a place in Scotland. I guess people from Scotland settled the town in Virginia and named it after their original hometown across the pond. I have to agree, having been to both places, the landscapes are kind of similar.

In any case, when I saw the name Hirschberg, I was immediately reminded of a tragic story from my childhood, over 40 years ago. The date was March 23, 1981. I was eight years old, and a third grader at Botetourt Elementary School. In March 1981, I had only lived in Gloucester for about nine months. My parents bought their business, The Corner Cottage, in the spring of 1980 and we moved to Gloucester on June 21st of that year, the day after my 8th birthday. I experienced quite a culture shock in Gloucester, because we had come from Fairfax, Virginia, which is a MUCH more populated place. And we’d only been in Fairfax for two years; prior to that, we lived on Mildenhall Air Force Base in Suffolk, England. In 1981, I still felt kind of like a foreigner in the United States, having spent three of my conscious years abroad. I wasn’t fitting in very well in Gloucester and, truth be told, I hated it there.

My next sister, Sarah, was sixteen years old on March 23, 1981. She was soon going to be 17 years old, and she attended eleventh grade at Gloucester High School. I would graduate from there myself in 1990. In 1981, 1990 seemed like a million years away. And in 2022, 1990 seems like it was yesterday.

In 1981, the principal at GHS was Mr. Donald W. Hirschberg. I didn’t know anything at all about him, but I do remember Sarah talking about her life at GHS. She probably mentioned the principal, too. She seemed so grown up to me at that time. I remember she was studying French and was even allowed to come to Botetourt to “teach” French to some of the gifted kids. At the time, one of my friends was one of Sarah’s “pupils”.

I don’t think Sarah was at Botetourt on Monday, March 23, 1981, though. That was a day that is still remembered by a lot of my peers because it was the day that Mr. Hirschberg’s wife, Nancy, and their twelve year old daughter, Julie, would die in a horrific car accident. I’m not absolutely certain, but I think another child also died in that crash. I make that assumption because I found a Facebook post about the accident that mentioned another girl who died. Strangely, I don’t remember hearing as much about her.

I was still very new to Gloucester in 1981, so I never had the pleasure of meeting Julie. She was three years older than me, and went to what was then called Gloucester Middle School and later became an elementary school (after I had finished GMS myself). I do remember the accident, though. It happened at a time when Gloucester had very few traffic lights. I know it’s a cliche, but in 1981, that county was still very much covered in farmland. We had a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut that served the whole county. Gloucester Courthouse, which is about a mile or two from where I lived, had really disgusting water that tasted like sulfur. Our house had well water, which was only marginally better. I remember turning on the taps and seeing rusty water.

I’m not totally sure where the fatal intersection was, but I know I drove past it many times. Route 17 runs from north to south through Gloucester. It’s the main artery through the county, and it’s virtually impossible to avoid driving on it if you’re traveling through Gloucester. I actually think the intersection was one very close to my home. For years, there was nothing but a stop sign there, where people would wait as traffic coming down Route 17 barreled down the highway. Since 1981, the farmland has been turned into a huge Walmart complex. People probably don’t zoom past that intersection anymore, because it’s now heavily moderated by traffic lights. If that wasn’t the intersection, then it was one not far from there, and I would have passed it many times over the 19 years Gloucester was my actual home.

So there I was on Monday, October 3, 2022, speeding down the Autobahn, suddenly remembering Gloucester in the early 80s. I saw that sign for the town of Hirschberg in Germany, and it made me think of twelve year old Julie… a girl I never knew, but heard a lot about when I was growing up. Knowing how Gloucester was in the 80s, I feel very sure we would have probably met at some point. Back then, Gloucester was the kind of place where most people knew each other. I don’t think it’s like that anymore, though. I do still know a lot of people who live there, as a number of my classmates either never left or have returned with their own families.

I got curious about Mr. Hirschberg, too. So I looked him up, and discovered that he died in 1998. He had moved to Poquoson, a city not far from Gloucester, and remarried a woman with the same first name as his late first wife’s. Mr. Hirschberg, at age 61, wasn’t that old when he passed. I wonder if he never got over the grief of that terrible accident. People on Facebook were still discussing it as recently as 2011, with some saying they would never forget that night. A few said it was the first tragedy of their lives, and the first funeral they ever attended. Some said that they still think of Julie and the other girl who died every time they go through that intersection.

I think about the fact that Julie was just three years older than me, and it appears that she was a very popular girl with a lot of promise. She was involved in many community activities and probably would have gone on to live a very productive life. It amazes me that her life ended the way it did– so suddenly, tragically, and randomly, it seems. It could have been any one of us who met that fate. I wonder what she would think about me– someone who never met her, but was one of her contemporaries– thinking and writing about her 41 years after her death, reading about her on the Internet, which didn’t even really exist for regular people back in 1981. I wonder what she would think about people in the “You grew up in Gloucester” Facebook group, still remembering her in 2011 and posting about that dreadful day in March 1981. Julie never experienced Facebook, but I bet she’d know it well if she had lived to see adulthood. I never knew Julie, but I knew a lot of her friends, and they still miss her so many years later. That amazes me.

I haven’t been to Gloucester since 2010, when my mom finally sold the house I grew up in. I was astonished by how different Gloucester was then. It was weird to walk through the house and see things I hadn’t seen since we moved in back in 1980. Our house was old, and kind of weird, so there was a big plumbing pipe coming up through the floor in the tiny room that had served as my bedroom in the early 80s. It had been covered by my twin sized bed for many years. Now it was laid bare, looking as strange as it did in 1980. Even our house is very different now than it was in 1980. My parents doubled its size in 1984, when they added on a new kitchen and a knitting and needlepoint “shop” for my mom to run. My dad had a new custom picture framing “shop” built in 1997, knocking down the weird building that was erected there some decades before. Now, it’s owned by the lady my dad hired in 1989 to help him frame pictures.

Isn’t it funny how the most random things can cause a person to fall down a rabbit hole of memories? Or, at least that’s how it happens for me. I used to wish I was born in 1968, so I could be closer in age to my sisters and have more of a relationship with them. But now I’m glad I was born when I was. I think it was the right time. I don’t know why my mind takes me on these tangential rides, but I have a feeling someone else out there still remembers Julie. I’ll probably be “visited” here by people from Gloucester, who can recall the spring of 1981, too. I am not a Gloucester native, but I know a lot of people are, and they have long memories.

I was pretty fortunate to grow up in Gloucester, even though I hated it in the 80s. My sisters were all Air Force brats, so they were moved constantly. I don’t know if they really feel like they have a “hometown” like I do. They’ve settled in different places, but their childhoods were nomadic. I used to be envious of them, but then I became an Army wife and experienced that lifestyle myself. I think it would have been hard for me as a child. It’s hard as an adult. It’s nice to know that there is a place where people remember me, even if no one in my family lives there anymore. I’m glad to have some roots… although I doubt I’ll be moving back there. I don’t think I fit there anymore. It’s like the old Neil Diamond song, “I Am… I Said”, when he sings:

Well I’m New York City born and raised
But nowadays
I’m lost between two shores
L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home
New York’s home
But it ain’t mine no more

Yeah. I can relate to that.

Just because it’s a great song that still works in 2022.
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