Life Matters

Bottoms up

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Many years ago, my family and I enjoyed a luscious church picnic. In addition to the hamburgers cooked on the grill and the regular side dishes such as macaroni salad, some people brought questionable, but delectable, side dishes. Who knew that there were such combinations as Parmesan Herb Bubble Bread, Frito Pie, Fried Pickles and Spam Salami? They were thoughtful enough to also bring those huge, manly sized, cardboard plates so I didn’t have to go up more than once to fill it with food.

The day was designed for a picnic. It was an enjoyable 75 degrees with the sun shining brightly down, nary a cloud in sight. Scattered shadows dotted the lawn as the sunbeams filtered through the branches of the trees. Although the weather was great, the companionship was even greater. Everyone was in a party mood. Families and singles mingled and new friends were made in the mix of socializing. I never knew that Mary, a shy woman who quietly attended church and usually sat near the back, had been a school principal “in her days”, and I enjoyed coaxing stories of school adventures out of her. Dave, another older man to whom I had never talked, regaled us with stories of his adventures as a fire fighter, making the profession sound as taught with escapades as one sees on television. The environment encouraged sharing of stories so that those I barely knew soon became friends with real, interesting lives of their own. I, too, shared the exciting and harrowing stories of my own children (which would soon be turned into my book The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities).After the lively conversations, people turned that energy into game playing mode. Soon, laughing potato sack racers covered the field, hip hopping here and there, sometimes sideways and sometimes to the ground. (It is a miracle that none of the elderly players broke a hip!) Using a large beach ball, an animated game of volley ball followed. Even the youngest children could participate. If they weren’t coordinated enough to actually hit the ball, it would at least bounce off their little heads and propel itself towards a larger player who could lob it over to the other side. Although they tried to keep track of the score, the laughter soon made it impossible to remember who had what.

Long before the concern of shared germs, the traditional apple-bobbing event was held. Using a large, tin bucket, smallish red apples bobbled up and down in the water. One by one, each child tried this almost impossible task. Spurting and bubbling in the water, they soon learned the easiest way to grab an apple was by the stem, except for that one unlucky child whose stem broke off mid grab. After the apple adventure, watermelon was served. A tarp had been laid out for the watermelon seed spitting contest, but it was immediately apparent after cutting into the watermelon that the purchaser had inadvertently selected a seedless watermelon!

The end of the picnic came too soon. In remembrance of this happy event, I had arranged for a photographer to come to take a group picture. Lining up so many people was quite a chore, and I tried to have the children sit on the ground, elderly sit in chairs behind them, and then layered participants behind them. The group was still too large to fit into the shot, with a few out layers standing among the tree branches. Needing a larger field of shot, I started backing up to try to get everyone in the picture. Slowly I walked backwards, paying attention to the scene in front of me rather than what was behind me. Step by step, inch-by-inch…until I fell backwards over a large log, feet in the air, dress gathered at my waist, and underwear seeing the light of day. Unable to get up daintily, and feeling like a turtle on its back, I awkwardly put my legs on the ground, pulled my dress down, and rolled over onto my stomach. I was laughing so hard that tears ran down my cheeks. At first, people were mortified, but my laughter invited others to laugh, and soon my mishap turned into the final entertainment of the day. Bottoms up! The perfect way to end the day!

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