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Category Archives: Humor

Rules of the Road

I wrote this some time back for a possible upstart app and online magazine; however, it seems things never really got moving with that and I forgot about this article until I became active in running and cycling again and became annoyed with the many near misses I have been in and seen due to negligence of the laws. It is likely these rules and laws are applicable, at least to some extent, where you live, but this was written specifically for Flagler County, Florida as I live in Palm Coast:

miyagi squish like grape

Rules of the Road

There I was, running along the road in my quiet neighborhood, watching the teenager on his bike swerving towards me from a distance. The problem was he wasn’t watching me; he was texting while riding. As a result, I had to take a leap onto someone’s well-manicured lawn, dogs barking at me for trespassing, as the cyclist flew past me, never even knowing I had been there.

Then more recently, I was driving down Belle Terre Parkway when I spotted a young woman jogging while pushing her sporty baby stroller. There are sidewalks; however, she had decided to run with traffic just next to the median. Immediately, I was reminded of the mostly sage advice given by Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi in the original The Karate Kid: “Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture] get squish just like grape.”

I remember learning road safety for bicycles and pedestrians back in elementary school. Do they not teach this anymore? In today’s society maybe we just need an app for that.

Cyclists

A cyclist (or anyone on wheels that are propelled by human power) must obey the same rules as a motorist, except they are actually allowed to drive on sidewalks as long as local ordinances allow. We’ll get to that later though. According to the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide I located from 2005, “Riding as a driver makes a cyclist visible and predictable.”

As found in chapter 316 of the 2014 Florida Statutes of the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law, the following are some of the basics in bicycle regulations to help keep you and others out of harm’s way:

How should a cyclist accessorize? Fashion is all up to you, but your bicycle needs a front lamp of white light which can be seen 500 feet away and a red reflector and a red lamp visible up to 600 feet from your bike’s tail end [316.2065(7)]. “About 60 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Florida occur during non-daylight hours,” says the Florida Bicycle Law Enforcement Guide. A helmet may not look chic, but it is the law for anyone under 16 [316.2065(3)(d)]. Leave any sort of headset at home. Your ears should be clear from distractions [316.304].

Where should you ride? Just as in driving a motor vehicle, we are not in England and should always ride on the right side of the road [316.081].  This is what most motorists expect and are looking for, so the predictability is best for the rider, whom otherwise might not be seen. Cyclists must follow all traffic signals and devices, as well as follow the same patterns of yielding and passing as when driving a car. If there is no bike lane, ride as far to the right as safely possible, especially if unable to obtain and maintain the same speed as the flow of motor traffic [316.2065(5)].

Since bicycles do not come equipped with turn signals, a cyclist must use the proper hand gestures during the last 100 feet before the turn [316.155(2)(3) & 316.157(1)] as follows: left turn, extend the left arm horizontally; right turn, extend the right hand horizontally or upward; to stop, extend the left arm down.

And finally, cyclists may ride on sidewalks, as long as there is no local ordinance prohibiting such use. In my research, I could find no such ordinances for Flagler County. However, a cyclist has the “rights and duties of a pedestrian” while on a sidewalk [316.2065(9)] and must also yield right-of-way to all pedestrians, as well as give audible warnings to pedestrians if planning to pass them (I have had many a bell jingled at me while I was out running) [316.2064(10)].

All of this information can be found online, but I was also able to request a couple pamphlets from PC Bikes. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0300-0399/0316/Sections/0316.2065.html

Pedestrians

Of course, walking, running, skipping, or hopping should not be done in the middle of the road, but Mr. Miyagi was incorrect that either side is safe. Only if there is no pedestrian sidewalk, a pedestrian must be facing oncoming traffic and remain on the left shoulder [316.130(3)(4)]. Pedestrians and motorists can then have better visibility of one another.

Pedestrians should follow appropriate signals at intersections, but what about when there are no signals to follow? A basic rule is that pedestrians always have the right-of-way over motorists as long as they are within a crosswalk and made sure not to enter the roadway without allowing a vehicle time to safely stop [316.130 (7)(a)(b)(c)]. This does not mean all motorists are aware of this law, so be wary. Also, if you intend to cross a road in an area without crosswalks, you must yield to motorists [316.130(10)]. Don’t get cocky out there. The chicken may have crossed the road to get to the other side, but do not play chicken with oncoming vehicles. Another small note about crosswalks: travel on the right side within one to keep a regular flow of movement [316.130(13)].

What about safety accessories for pedestrians? I have run in overnight races when I was required to wear a reflective vest, a headlamp, and a blinking red light on my rear, but I was unable to find anything in the Florida Statutes requiring any of these for pedestrians. The definition of pedestrians is not broken down between early morning runners on a rural road or those taking leisurely strolls along a sidewalk in the middle of a city, thus, regulations of this sort are not as clear. In this case, I suggest considering your environment, the safety in numbers factor, and good, old-fashioned common sense to make a decision on your precautions.

Riding or running along a road is always a bit more risky since we must factor in motor vehicles. Fortunately, Flagler County offers bike and pedestrian paths galore. It is important to remember though, that many of these rules should still apply to give consideration to others recreating along said paths. Always keep to the right, as you would if you were in a car on the road, and always give audible signals when passing, which should be done on the left.

While cyclists should not wear any sort of headsets, headphones, or listening devices, other than a hearing aid, while riding [316.304], there does not yet appear to be any rule on texting while riding (or jogging, for that matter), though I would personally classify it as an equally, or more distracting activity and safety violation. Perhaps a petition will be created to add this to a campaign against texting and driving.

Also, remember to continue to use caution and care. You may now know the laws set for your safety, but unfortunately, not all motorists or other pedestrians or cyclists do. Always use common sense above all else.

The following are some other resources to check out:

Bike Florida www.bikeflorida.org

Florida Bicycle Association http://floridabicycle.org/

State Safety Office Florida Department of Transportation www.dot.state.fl.us/safety

Terri Klaes Harper, October 2014

 

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A Year of Laughs

Monday was the anniversary of having our little girl come live with us. What a wild ride this last year has been. Since we were unaccustomed to being around kids much, we didn’t realize at first that the things she said were funny even in comparison to other kids her age. We thought we were just extra fascinated due to our lack of experience. When we posted many of her “Linneaisms” on Facebook, our friends assured us her wit really does exceed most kids of her age, even though she originally told me she only wanted to be pretty, not funny. Even she has come to embrace it as part of her personality. I told her she doesn’t have to choose between pretty and funny, and that being both is like bringing balance to the Force.

first day

Here are some of the “Linneaisms” I’ve been saving for her. Sometimes the humor is more in the delivery, but they’re still pretty funny and cute.

8/12/14

Linnea: *Exaggerated sigh and hand to face* I can’t be a princess anymore. It’s too hard.

Me: Which part makes it so hard?

Linnea: Not picking princess noses. I don’t think I can take it anymore.

Me: Hmm. Do you need a tissue?

Linnea: I don’t know. *followed up by another sigh*

Later that day, while talking about starting VPK…

Linnea: I will tell my teacher every day that I already know about Darth Vader.

9/3/14

“We’re having a laughing good morning!”

Later that day, at lunch…

“Excuse me, Aunt Terri. Look at my macaronis. I have three. The big one is Uncle Robert. This medium one is Aunt Terri, which is you, and this little one is me, which is me.”

At our house everything comes in three sizes to represent us, and we eat three little bears style, in that we have different, appropriate sized bowls and cups to eat and drink out of. She insists.

9/10/14

While Linnea was eating oatmeal (dinosaur eggs) and drinking chocolate milk out of her Darth Vader cup, she began talking to the cup.

Linnea: Oh, Darth Vader, would you like some oatmeal?

Linnea as Vader: *voice changed* No thank you, because it is not black.

9/18/14

“My farts all came out in a line. But the last two forgot to get in line.”

10/17/14

“There aren’t any dinosaurs in town anymore.” I think this one is so funny because we live in a town that got it’s start as a retirement community.

10/18/14

Linnea: What does a wish mean?

Robert: Something that you really want but don’t have.

Me: What do you wish for, Linnea?

Linnea: I just wish I could have a magillion shoes! *arms stretched wide*

10/21/14

“Aunt Terri, your hair is turning white. You could be Anna.” (from Frozen, in case you aren’t familiar with the movie)

11/6/14

“I’m so colorful that Uncle Robert, I mean Darth Vader, is going to cry like kooh-kaah when he sees me. Oh gosh! Oh gosh! I can’t even stop being adorable!”

11/9/14

Robert: You’re such a ham.

Linnea: No, actually I am a yogurt.

12/23/14

A child’s art of distraction

Me: Are you sleepy?

Linnea: No, I’m just thinking.

Me: Oh, do you think with your eyes closed?

Linnea: I’m just thinking that I love you.

12/23/14

“No matter what I get for Christmas, I just want you and Uncle Robert, and the Wookiees [what she calls our dogs], and Truffles. But I don’t think they’ll fit in our stockings though.”

2/21/15

Robert: Aunt Terri and I were kind of surprised that you didn’t come out of your room when you knew we were up.

Linnea: I was trying to make room in my belly so I’d be hungry for bregdest [breakfast], so I was doing exercises in my bed.

2/28/15

She knows how to tease with intrigue.

“I can’t show you this, but it’s very exciting to watch.”

3/26/15

Linnea walks up to me wearing a mask.

Linnea: Aunt Terri, I’m a superhero.

Me: Oh, what is your name and what power do you have?

Linnea: Princess Superhero [well, duh!], and my power is pink.

6/17/15

“Farts come from the Dark Side.”

6/21/15

Linnea: Is that part of your bathing suit?

Me: No, it’s just a tank top to wear over it.

Linnea: Oh, so nobody tickles your belly button?

Me: Exactly.

6/23/15

“Fish have summer school.”

My Buddy (Kid Sister Sold Separately)

Our dogs follow us everywhere and are very much a part of our lives, so much so that I hardly even think about the awkward contortions I put my body through just to navigate the kitchen, walk down the hallway, or sleep.

better bed buddy

Any ’80s kids out there? Who remembers these lyrics? “My buddy. My buddy. Wherever I go he goes.” So that is why we started calling Sir Dylan buddy from time to time. And then we got him a little sister, and since she also sticks to us, and her older brother like velcro, she is Kid Sister.

Now for an ode to my dogs in pictures.

dogs holding hands

They are inseparable (Dylan left, MJ right)

My bed is not the only one they take over.

My bed is not the only one they take over.

They really don't even let me go to the bathroom alone.

They really don’t even let me go to the bathroom alone.

Dylan is my 55lb lap dog.

Dylan is my 55 lb lap dog.

Now if you have a dog, give him or her a big hug for the unconditional love you get. If you have an old My Buddy or Kid Sister…I don’t know, but that’s pretty cool.

Have a Rockin’ Summer: Adding Yearbooks to the Endangered Species List

My twenty year high school reunion is in the works.

I am getting old.

Also, I am not going to the reunion. Basically, I know what’s up because I am on Facebook, and I do not want to relive twenty years ago, unless I am torturing myself with distant memories to make fun of as Drew in Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl. It’s not that high school was really all that horrible (no more than for anyone else, I’m sure), but I prefer to leave the past in the past.

Unless it involves looking through my old yearbooks.

These are my high school yearbooks from WCHS

These are my high school yearbooks from WCHS

Seeing reunion posts on Facebook reminded me that I found my yearbooks a few months back when we reorganized and remodeled our home office. Those yearbooks are especially special to me because I was part of creating it from my sophomore through my senior year. From headlines to deadlines, to awkward picture caption writing and slow Macintosh computers using Pagemaker, I did it, and edited it.

Having recently taught at the high school level, I sadly realized that yearbooks just don’t have the same importance and emotional attachment (I used to use mine as reference books) that they used to. In my day (see- I told you I’m getting old), for at least a week after yearbooks came out, they were academic distractions. Often teachers, if they were cool, just gave up and let us have time for part of a class period to look at them and trade to sign them. For some reason people who hardly spoke to each other suddenly felt the need to have each other write silly things like “K.I.T.” (keep in touch) and share their phone numbers so they could “have a blast together over the summer, just like in science class,” or wish each other to “have a totally rockin’ summer, dude!” We would reserve special blank pages for our close friends where we would have space to write super meaningful notes to each other, and even draw pictures, and possibly use ten different colors of ink without the pressure of writing around someone else’s work of art. I think technology has killed some of what made yearbooks so special. Social media chronicles our lives for us now, so we don’t have to wait all year to see the highlights.

But I won’t be sad about it; after all, my senior quote in my yearbook is, “Hakuna matata!”

My Valentine to You…an excerpt

Ah, Valentine’s Day, a dreaded holiday for many, indeed. Drew is no exception. The following is the Valentine’s Day chapter from Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year.

Your True Colors

I guess it didn’t really matter what day of the week Valentine’s Day fell on.  Even if it had been a weekend, the SGA would have found a way to force us to celebrate it.  All week long during lunches people could buy various colored anonymous hearts for their friends, crushes, girl or boyfriends, which in turn would be delivered during classes that Friday, the official V-day.  Every delivery held the classroom occupants captive, everyone secretly hoping it was for them, but trying to be nonchalant about it, while those who were recipients would feign embarrassment. I had contemplated faking sickness myself that morning just so I could miss this torturous routine, but I could only miss four more days for the year in order to be exempt from any of my exams (I would also have to have an A or B average in the classes), so I decided to soldier on.

White meant someone thought you were cute.  Red was love, of course.  Pink was a crush, and yellow was for friends.  It was sweet that my friends didn’t let me down, but a white or a pink would have been nice, you know, for variety and all.  But, alas, only yellow came my way that day, and I had to watch so many others loaded down in pinks, reds, and whites.  Anne was so adorably happy in chorus with her red hearts from Shane that I didn’t vent to her at all. Yet I was so frustrated with Mona flaunting her twenty-nine pink hearts, and I wanted to get out of that class as fast as I could, that I completely forgot to stop at my locker before photography.  When I entered the room and didn’t see Adrienne, I unhappily remembered that she left early for a dentist appointment.  Lucky!

Mrs. Ansel kept us busy that day, but Dustin kept sneaking glances and smiling at me.  It was weird, even for him. In the last five minutes of class, three last minute heart deliveries were made, and somehow I received a white one.  Someone thought I was cute. It was my turn to act like I didn’t care, but I was actually thrilled to be cute to somebody, even though these hearts were sent in secret and I didn’t know who it was.  And then I remembered I would have to stop at my locker, the opposite direction from the bus.  When the bell rang, I bolted.  Without Adrienne, I would miss the bus on my own, and mom would be less than thrilled.  Make-out girl, with more pink and white hearts than I had seen on any one person all day, and a huge teddy bear with several balloons, was lip-locked with yet another guy when I got to my locker.  It took a while to nudge them out of the way, and all my belongings I had been hurriedly stuffing in there all year came tumbling out.  As I scooped it all up, pulling aside what I needed and cramming the rest back into the locker, Dustin showed up beside me.

“You need some help?”

“Yes, please.  I’ve still got to catch my bus.”

“Uh, they just pulled out.”

I closed my eyes and threw my head back in annoyed disbelief. “No!” I cried out to the ceiling.

“That’s pretty dramatic, Drew.”

“Not really.  My mom is not going to be happy with me for missing the bus. “We practically live in another country and she likes to plan trips into town like they did back in pioneer days.”

“There’s a guy down my street who owes me.  He gets home at about 5:15. We can give you a ride home then.”

“Ok.  I still need to call her though.”

“Sure.  I got a quarter,” he said, offering up the coin and gesturing towards a payphone at the end of the hall, close to the gym.

When I called my mom, she was unsure about a stranger giving me a ride home, but I told her Dustin would be there and I think her not wanting to drive into town won out. “Ok.  Be careful.”

“Of course, Mom, always,” I replied. As I hung up the phone, Dustin grew a smile.  “So, what are we going to do?”

“It’s actually a kinda nice day.  A little warm for February.  Let’s walk.”

“Ok.  Where to?” I asked.

“Wherever.  We’ll just go and see where we end up.”  Flawless strategy.  So we walked the opposite way from Dustin’s house and ended up under the bridge and by the river.

Along the way, I asked, “So, no plans with Alyssa today?”

“Nah, you were right about her.  She’s with Jonathan.  I’m trying not to get mixed up in all that anymore.  She just makes me feel bad, you know?”

“I do.  Have you ever been here before?” I asked, certain he must have been at some point since it was close to his house. It was a stupid question, but a distraction from the Alyssa topic.

“Yeah, but not in a while.  This tends to be a redneck hangout. I’m surprised there’s nobody here now.”

“I discovered the rednecks last time I was here.  Let’s hope they don’t show up again,” I said as I sat on a boulder.  Dustin took a seat on another nearby rock. “It is nice out here though,” I said.

“You going to keep wearing those hearts?” he asked.

“Oh, I actually forgot about them.  I guess I must have gotten one from Adrienne, Nadine, Anne, and Carmen.”

“And the white one?”

“It’s a mystery.”

He laughed at me.  “Not anymore.  That one’s from me.”

“So, let me get this straight. You think I’m cute or pretty or whatever, and you know I like you.  You have to. So why don’t you want to go out with me?  I feel like there’s something wrong with me.”

“Yeah.  You’re too good.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’m not good, and I don’t really want to be good either, and I don’t want to corrupt you.  I’ve thought about it,” he said, eying me up and down with his left eye, “but I,” a pause, “respect you too much.  You know.  You’re sweet and innocent, and I want you to stay that way.”

“Dustin, that’s a load of crap!”

“No, it really isn’t,” he said as he threw his hands up in defense. “I’m a typical teenage guy and there are certain things I want out of a girl, and I’d love that with you, but it’d be wrong ‘cause you’re not one of those girls.  And don’t tell me that’s crap again because it’s hard to do the right thing with this, but you really do mean a lot to me.  You’re the kind of girl I’d want when I’m done being a jerk, but I don’t have that kind of self-control right now.

“All those girls with all the hearts today are more or less targets,” he continued.  “You know, the ones who put out. Once they’ve all been used up, guys will want a challenge, so be careful, ‘cause they’ll move on to girls like you. But you’re better than that. You’re special, and I need you to be my friend and keep me in my place.” His eye did not stray from mine through any of that, so I knew he was being genuine, even if the intensity of it made me uncomfortable.

“Yeah, I’m always a friend, never a girlfriend.”

“You don’t need all that anyway.  You’ve got talent and a big heart.  Hold onto your values and be careful. Trust me, more guys are going to start noticing you soon.” What was with the guys I liked being so full of wisdom?

“So, you’re going to hang out with easy girls like Alyssa, and I have to just be good, even though you might like me.”

“Yes.”

“That’s a double-standard.”

“Sure it is, but that’s how it works, because guys are driven by pretty much one thing, so they do stupid stuff.  I don’t want to be stupid with you…well, I do,” he said with a twisted smirk, “but I know I shouldn’t.”

“You are really confusing me, Dustin,” I said, annoyed. “You always confuse me.  I even wrote a poem about it.”

“Really?  About me? Can I read it?”

“Well, it’s kinda stupid.” Why did I bring it up?  It just slipped out.

“Nah, I doubt it.  Do you have it with you?”

“Well, yeah.  We got our journals back today,” I said as I dug through my backpack, sifting through all the crumpled papers floating around in it. I opened my decorated spiral notebook to a specific page and handed it over reluctantly.”

“You’re not going to recite it to me?” he asked.

“If you don’t want to read it…” I said, grabbing for it.

“No, I’m just kidding.  I can read it to myself.” And so he did, and I sat uncomfortably waiting for his reaction, and feeling like it was stupid to let him read it in the first place, especially after our conversation, but I couldn’t very well time travel, so I had to just sit and wait and avoid eye contact.

 

When Will Your Sun Rise?

When it is bright and sunny out,

What is it like inside your heart?

When everyone around you smiles,

Do you insist to wear a frown?

When all the world hears music playing,

Why do you keep the sound out?

When you are asked to join in something,

Is that when you run and hide?

When everything is over,

Why don’t you let it be?

When you hear the birds above,

Do they seem to turn to vultures?

When the day grows pale and dim,

What is it like inside your heart?

Tell me now about your life.

When will your sun ever rise?

 

“Wow,” came Dustin’s reaction.  “Sure this isn’t about you?”

“Maybe we’re a bit alike, but I was thinking of you when I wrote it,” I said quietly to my feet as he handed back my notebook. “Like I said, you’re confusing. I never know where I stand with you.  Well, I didn’t before anyway.  And you’re always at least partly sad, like there’s so much going on, but you keep it all inside.”

“Not all of it.  I meant it when I said you were special.  I guess you’re really my best friend.  I mean, I’ve told you stuff I don’t talk about, and when I was feeling so down at Christmas, I was thinking of some bad stuff, man.  I was in a dark place.  Knowing you were there helped me not…kill myself,” his voice quietly trailed off at the end of the sentence.  “I wanted to talk to you about it the night we all went to Joey’s, but that douche Danny was there, so I didn’t get a chance.  And actually I’m sure he’s a nicer guy than I am, but I just didn’t like him liking you.”

“Well, if you don’t want to go out with me, you can’t hate everyone who comes along and might like me.  And he went home, and we talked and are also just friends.  Apparently that’s what I’m good at.  But I’m glad if it kept you from hurting yourself,” I added.

Dustin checked his watch.  “It did, and now we should head over to my neighbor’s.”  He stood and extended his hand to help me up, and then he gave me a big, yet short hug. “You’re more amazing than you realize.  Thanks. And can I get a copy of that poem?  I’m a big fan.”

“Uh, sure.”

So I had endured another satisfying yet confusing heart to heart conversation with a guy I liked, who needed to keep me at a platonic distance.  I was cursed as a nice girl.  I cannot even go into the details of the romantic gestures that came all the way across the country to Angela from Ryan that day.  It makes me ill just to remember. And, yeah, she rubbed it in.

 

Copyright 2014 Terri Klaes Harper

 

 

I’m a Writer, Not a Conversationalist

Confession: I am an introvert, as I imagine the majority of writers must be. This makes the tasks of self-promoting, public speaking, and the ever-dreaded networking nearly insurmountable for me. While an extrovert views a room full of strangers as a room full of potential friends, I use the spy skills I’ve acquired from watching Alias and all the Jason Bourne movies to scope out all the escape routes. Alas, I am not as agile and quick to escape as Sydney and Jason; thus, I usually find myself stuck in awkward small-talk. I despise small-talk. It’s so…small… and insignificant. I only want to exchange verbal words that have meaning. And don’t get me started on having to talk about myself to strangers.

All of this is to express to my readers the fear and anxiety I felt going into the huge book signing and author event I was part of on Saturday. There were around fifty authors and random people coming into the Veterans Memorial Library in St. Cloud, Florida that day. I felt like part of an assembly line, or worse, part of a speed-dating event. Authors were lined up at tables with our books, business cards, and shining smiles on display. Potential readers journeyed from table to table, judging our books by their covers, occasionally asking us questions about ourselves and our books. Whenever I had the chance to talk, I felt like I was vomiting incoherent strings of words.

Yet, I felt a value in all of the torture.  It was a chance to be seen, to tell about Drew, my dear protagonist/me, and to see what other authors do. We all had a chance to learn from each other, spanning across the genres. Yes, this was a valuable experience, even if it made me feel as out of place as an adult at a Justin Bieber concert.

I also just gained access to my interview from the event. 

Memoirs Christmas Excerpt- All I Want for Christmas

This week, I have posted three Christmastime excerpts from my second book, Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year. I am skipping an important Christmas chapter, so if you want to read it, follow the link above to my books on Amazon. In the meantime, enjoy this, the last chapter about Christmas in Drew’s freshman life experience.

All I Want for Christmas

Without Angela, and being snowed in, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were quiet and fairly uneventful, which I was totally ok with. I spent most of Christmas Eve holed up in my room, alternating between reading and writing.  My mom and I made some cookies together and then it was time to open presents.  Yeah, we did the early present thing and got stockings in the morning.  I suppose this contributed to my not believing in Santa as a young child.

I’m sure I received some great presents, like sweaters, perfume, and maybe a music box, but much like the desire of Ralphie to get a Red Ryder BB Gun, I longed for a keyboard.  Adrienne and I were going to form a band, and though I planned to be lead vocals, I wanted a talent to back it up, even if keyboards were losing their luster in the early ‘90s.  I had dabbled a bit, and badly, with an old acoustic guitar, but we had given it away when we moved, and I had been teaching myself to play the family’s organ.

No box existed beneath our tree that looked quite big enough, but the last box was the right shape and big enough if the keyboard was smallish.  My parents handed the neatly wrapped box to me with Cheshire grins.  By the feel, there was no way this was a keyboard, but I was optimistic it would somehow work out anyway.  Maybe I just wasn’t a good judge of boxes.  I peeled back the paper to reveal a longer, more slender, naked cardboard box.  I needed a sharp object to cut through the mailing tape my mom had used to secure it shut, so my dad handed me a key.  Inside the box was a literal wooden board, wrapped in tissue paper, and adorned with pencil traced keys, much like the one my father had handed to me to open the box. The word “KEYBOARD” had even been neatly scrawled along the top, centered and everything.  I’d been had.  “Very funny!” I whined.  “Just take my dreams and smash them, why don’t you? Hmmpphhh!”

They laughed, and my mom snuck over to a hidden corner of our large basement living room and pulled out a much larger box.  “Maybe this will make up for it,” she said, offering this new gift, which obviously was a keyboard.  I hugged both of my parents tightly and tested out all the settings and voices on my new treasure.  There were 100 effects in all and it was glorious. I got my Red Ryder BB Gun.

On Christmas morning I found candy, toiletries, and more Christmas socks in my stocking.  We spent a good portion of the day watching some holiday classics, which even my mom was able to join in on since she only had to cook a small Christmas dinner for three.

We each spoke with Angela on the phone.  She missed us and cried a little again, but Ryan had bought her some expensive perfume, so that helped, though his parents had bought her a cookbook, something she did not take kindly to.

That evening, Belle called to wish me a Merry Christmas.  We couldn’t talk long, but it was good to hear each others’ voices.  Our conversation was cut a little shorter than planned when Milton started barking and running in circles by the front door.  Somebody was trying to open the door.  “Dag nabbit!” came a muffled voice from the outside.  My dad cautiously opened the door to reveal the Phillips’ grandma, the one whose sweaters matched her dog’s. She wore an expression of bewilderment.  “But…you’re not Phillip.”

“No.  Can I help you?”

“Oh, dear.  I can’t find my house.”  I didn’t know if either of my parents had ever seen this woman before, so I didn’t think they knew where to direct her, and I stepped in.

“Uh, actually, you live down the road there,” I said, indicating the Phillips’ home down the hill, all lit up, with a Christmas tree in every visible window, and one on the roof for good measure.

“Are you sure?  It’s kinda tacky.”

I suppressed my laughter as best as I could.  “Yes, ma’am.  I’ve seen you with the family before.”

“Oh, my.  It’s a bit slippery out here.  I don’t suppose one of you could help me and Lester out?  I don’t want another hip replacement.” I assumed Lester was the name of her dog.

“Sure.  I’ll walk you home,” I found myself saying before I knew what I was doing.  “That’s ok, right?” I asked Mom and Dad as I laced up my snow boots.

“Sure Drew, but you be careful too,” my mom replied.

As we took the short hike down the hill I learned that Lester’s owner’s name was Wilma, “like from the Flintstones,” and she had moved in with the Phillips a few months after they moved in.  She didn’t like her son or grandson, but her daughter-in-law was nice.  When we arrived at the brightly lit front door, I rang the doorbell because it was locked.

Junior answered.  He just stared at us for a bit, long enough for me to catch a glimpse of several Christmas trees, which smelled awesome, but having so many was still weird, like a forest in their house.  “Looks like Grandma didn’t get run over by a reindeer after all!” he shouted over his shoulder towards what I assumed was their dining room area.  Filipia came running, but an indifferent middle-aged man, Mr. Phillips, just glowered from a distance.

“Oh, Wilma, I was so worried about you,” she said as she gently took the old lady’s hand.  “Thank you so much for returning her to us,” Filipia directed toward me.

“Yes, thank you, Deary,” Wilma said as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a quarter.  “Here you go and Merry Christmas,” she said, placing the coin into my hand.

“Oh, well thank you, and Merry Christmas to you all,” I said as I reversed directions and walked as quickly as I could back to my own, normal home, twenty-five whole cents richer.

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