“You have a brother?”

When I posted on Facebook I was going to write about my brother and it was no holds barred….I got an interesting response.  One of my friends said: “I didn’t even know you had a brother!  I thought there were just 3 girls in the family!”  Yeah, that’s the problem. There aren’t just 3 siblings, there are 4 of us.  It’s not a problem that there are 4 of us, it’s a problem that many of my friends think there are only 3 of us.

You know if one figures out how many relationships are in a family of 6…there are 25-5, not counting duplicates. (Okay, its Math…I often don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to Math – but stay with me on this please.)  I have 5 different relationships within the family I was born.  And there were 6 of us.  Of course my relationship with each of my parents is very different.  My relationship with each of my siblings is very different.  And the relationship with my brother, Matthew, was no exception.

Let me tell you a bit about Matthews and my relationship before I really get into anything, so you can better visualize and understand personalities. Matthew was the youngest. The youngest of all the siblings. He was born 3 years after my twin sister and I and of course he was a BOY.  Thank goodness.  I’m sure my parents were VERY happy to finally have a boy.  I even remember the day!  We were living on the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs when Matthew was born.  The hospital on the Air Force Academy had recently opened and Matthew was one of the first boys that was delivered at the hospital there.  He for sure was the first heaviest boy delivered there, according to my mother.  And you know, she would know.

My mother’s mother, Granny Latham, had come up from Monahans, Texas to stay with us while Mom had the baby and was in the hospital.  Back then you know, when someone had a baby they stayed in the hospital for a while.  Imagine that.  I remember going up to the hospital with Granny Latham to visit Mom but I couldn’t go in the room so I waited for Granny in the lobby waiting area while she was visiting her daughter.  Granny walked out so happy.  It was a snapshot in my mind when she walked out of the maternity ward.

That’s enough of the birth. Truthfully the things I remember about my brother as a young child were not any different from others I suppose.  So, as it normally is, my main memories of Matthew as a young boy were vivid only if a major event happened to him.  OR a major event that happened with me and him together.  If you are one of the ones that has been reading my blog for quite some time you may remember my blog “The Day I Tried to Kill My Brother“, it was a real and true day by the way and if you read the blog, the scar my brother has to this day is because of yours truly.  I never tried to kill anyone else after that day, even my twin sister, so it really was a pretty profound day in my life, let alone Matthews.

I also remember a MAJOR thing about Matthew that just really irked me every Christmas.  Every Christmas for several years until my parents got a hold of the situation; we would wake up on Christmas morning and find every single present under the tree, UNWRAPPED.  I was horrified and we knew who it was.  It was MATTHEW, because it certainly wasn’t Santa Claus. Santa Claus would never ruin a child’s Christmas like that.  I really don’t know what Mom and Dad did to stop the practice but thank goodness they did do something because Christmas was ruined for me for at least 3 years or so.

After we left the Air Force Academy and moved to Ohio and then England, I do have to say my relationship with Matthew was pretty normal for siblings.  We actually were pretty close and we were always civil to each other.  Matthew and I had the same temperament as each other and were more introverted than Bonnie and Cathy I think.  Matthew and I played together more and it was just a good relationship.  I was more of a tom boy and that helped our relationship too.

On Thames River - Matthew and Mom

Matthew and Mom, on the River Thames Early 70′s

After our 4 year stay in England, when I was just out of the 9th grade and Matthew must have been just out of the 6th grade, my Dad got stationed at the Air Force Academy again in Colorado so we were back in familiar territory.  Unfortunately, when we moved back our family and all of our relationship dynamics really started changing.  Of course all of us siblings were getting older and were slowly moving away from each other as far as our relationships because you know, friends…friends were it as it is to most young people our age.

NEXT WEEK: THE BOTTOM FALLS OUT FROM BENEATH US

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FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS – JUST A FEW

In the 1st and 2nd grade, my relationship with my twin sister, Cathy, was the one I remember the most.  I mean of course it would be, with us being twins.  We were compared often but not to the extent it would have been if we were identical.  That probably was a saving grace.  But, apart from not being in the same classes at school, we were together often mainly because of our activities and we also shared the same bedroom until we were about 10 or so.  I was Miss Introvert and Cathy was Miss Extrovert – at least that’s what I remember, Cathy may remember the opposite.  I kind of put myself into that box and it also felt comfortable at the time.  But, as siblings do, we fought allot.   I don’t remember “wining” very much because allot of the fights were physical and while I think I could have won a lot of them I gave in too quickly.

Cathy and I were good Brownies.

Cathy and I were good Brownies.

The fact that Cathy and I were twins turned out to be interesting not just for us, but for our teachers and our friends and probably others.  I remember that Mom put us in ballet class during our young elementary years. For our annual ballet recital that we had for our families, Cathy and I were put in front of the other girls because we were the twins.  I truthfully felt very uncomfortable about this.  I always thought Cathy was better than I was too and felt like they were just being nice to me because I was her twin.  Ah the life of twins.

My relationship with my Mom was good from what I could remember as a young child.  She was really busy being a mom to all of us and I just thought she was great, but always busy!  My mother was beautiful and I remember people telling my mother that she looked like “Jackie”.  I had no idea who this “Jackie” person was.  I was starting to realize that Jackie was one of the most famous women in America because she was the wife of the President of the United States.  Whoever he was.  But actually, my Mom did look like Jackie Kennedy.  They were both beautiful.  I saw pictures sometime of Jackie Kennedy on magazines and would look at my Mom and think they looked like sisters.

Classy Mom

Classy Mom

My Dad on the other hand was an enigma to me.  Of course, I never used that word when I was a little girl because I never knew it existed but looking back that’s what he was.  He would leave in the morning, Monday through Friday, and come back around 5 or 6.  I couldn’t WAIT until he got back.  He was always so happy to see us.  He would walk in with his blue Air Force uniform on and take off his jacket and smile his big big smile.   When he gave me a big hug he would always say “How is my Carolina in the Moon?”  I never really got why he would address me that way because I was never at or in the moon but I didn’t care, it always felt much like a term of endearment to me…kind of like saying, “Caroline, I love you!”

Another thing I loved about my Dad was his stubbly facial hair he would let grow out on the weekends.  I would love to rub my hand against it, or if I was sitting in my Dad’s lap or next to him I would ask him if I could rub my cheek on his cheek so I could feel his stubbly beard.  I know it sounds weird but to this day it is a great memory.  I remember when I hugged him often when he was an older man and if he hadn’t shaved that day I would put the palms of my hands against his face and feel the stubble.  He would smile and I would smile and that would always mean “I love you Dad.”  Nothing had to be said.

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Daddy goes to Vietnam – I go to Big Springs

Growing up with Dad in the military was just a natural thing for me and my siblings.  Even if Dad wasn’t stationed at the same place we lived.  That happened twice in my Dad’s career in the Air Force.  Once when I was young and the other time was when I had already grown up and moved to another town on my own, to go to college.  Right after I completed the 2nd grade in Colorado Springs, my Dad was sent overseas to be in the Vietnam War.  I was still too young to really understand the gravity of the year-long “sentence” for my Dad.  All I knew was my Dad wasn’t going to be with us for a year and we all had to go move somewhere, besides the Air Force Academy, while he was gone.  My parents decided that the family would go live in West Texas, where both of my parents grew up.  It was familiar territory and now, looking back…it would make it easier on my mother. 

Big Springs, Texas it was.  This was where my Dad grew up and it also had an Air Force Base (Webb) where we could take advantage of military prices and military health options and many other military benefits!  So, for the 3rd grade only, I went to school at Kentwood Elementary in Big Springs.  Living on Cindy Lane was pretty uneventful and 3rd grade was pretty uneventful too, apart from some guy in my class named Noel who had a crush on me and I thought he was just well…ugly…so I didn’t like him.  I look back now and think what a horrible person I must have been just to not like someone because they were ugly.

But it was nice to live in the same town as my Mamaw and Papaw Reaves.  I really got to know them much better and began appreciating what they had to offer me in my life.  Although this was the time Papaw was just hanging on with his life that had been full of smoking which had ruined his lungs.  But he was still alive and even though I was young, I knew it was near the end.  I learned allot from my Mamaw during this time too and began to really appreciate her fantastic cooking.  I will always remember the great games we played in the living room at Mamaw and Papaws’ house and the fantastic air conditioner that was in the living room where I would stand in front of and let it blow my hair forward while cooling me down after playing in the hot West Texas heat.

My Dad wrote on the back on this photo :  Christmas, 1965  Pleiku, Vietnam

My Dad wrote on the back on this photo : Christmas, 1965 Pleiku, Vietnam

When I was in the 3rd grade I also starting reading and writing fairly good, for a 3rd grader anyway.  I would write my Daddy letters and put them in an envelope and put that 5 cent stamp on the envelope and send them to him at the base where he lived in Pleiku, Vietnam.  Those were the first letters I wrote.  But the best part was receiving letters from Daddy.  My Dad had 4 kids and 1 wife and he would write letters individually to us throughout the year he was gone.  Getting a letter from him was so exciting.  He would personalize them and remember everything from other letters I had written to him.  I so wish I had realized the importance of those letters, because I must have just thrown them away after a while and today I wish I had every single one of them.  Love you Daddy!

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Me the Cheat – But Only Once

For some reason the events that happened to me in Ohio were all very significant to me and my life.  I have told you about two of them:  the handwriting incident with Ms. Bailey, the cigarette incident in the phone booth and now for the third incident.  Another incident that changed my life.   Ahh, the life of me. 

Even though my family and I lived in Ohio for only 2 years (when I was in the 4th  and 5th grade   ) we lived the first year on Wright Patterson AFB and then the 2nd year in a house off the base in Fairborn, Ohio.  I don’t know the reasoning behind the move.   The house at Fairborn was pretty nice.  Also what was pretty nice was the 5th grade teacher I had at my new school, Ms. Rue.  I really liked her and she was for sure much nicer than my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Bailey!  Ms. Rue treated a lot of her students, including me, nicely but with fair amount of appropriate sternness.

5th grade was a step of major growth for me in many ways.  The school I was in was fantastic and the 5th grade class was full of people who I liked.  But 5th grade was hard for me…the hard part being MATH.  I DID NOT LIKE MATH.   I didn’t think that way and I much preferred reading and geography and writing.  BUT NOT MATH OR even SCIENCE.   I had no faith in myself was really what it boiled down to.  I never had done well in Math in my younger grades and I knew it wasn’t going to change in 5th grade either.  My twin sister, Cathy, got the Math skills…not me.

I remember the several weeks we studied fractions.  UGGHH.  Fractions.  Ms. Rue spent a lot of time with us on fractions.  So many fractions on the chalk board (yes, it was chalk back then) I would dread Math time.  And it was always right after lunch when I wanted to take a nap.  So that didn’t help any.

I only got the basic fraction stuff, not the complicated fractions and subtracting them and all of that.  It was horrible.  The good thing was there were several people who sat around me that seemed to be getting the fraction thing.  Not all of them but some of them.  Especially this girl named Cindy.  She was SMART in Math and probably other things but Math was definitely her thing.  And Ms. Rue knew it and we all knew it.  Any time Ms. Rue was doing the Math lesson Cindy was one of the people who would raise her hand often if she knew the answer…and she always did seem to know the answer.  My mind just wasn’t made for fractions that was for sure but Cindy’s was.

printable-fraction-worksheets-equivalent-fractions-5

After a few weeks of fraction mania, it was time for our first BIG TEST on fractions.  I studied hard for it the night before.   I really did.  I really wanted to get some of the test right at least.  And Ms. Rue had told us that it was going to count for a fairly big portion of our Math grade.  I was already at C-, straddling D+ level in Math.  I had to get that grade up.

The day of the test was intense for me.  My seat was on the far left of the class in about the 5th row and there were only 6 rows.  One person behind me.  One person to the right of me.  One person in front of me and the window to my left.  If you can imagine.  Back then we did not have tables that 4 or 5 people sat at.  It was one desk per person.  We were actually packed in pretty good in that classroom.

We started our test, which was timed.  I don’t remember how much time we had but I remember thinking it wasn’t enough time for me to finish.  There were 30 math questions.   Or should I say fraction questions.  I panicked when I saw them all.  I didn’t know what I was going to do.  I took a deep breath and started and just went for it.  I don’t know how long it took me but before you know it I was done.  I looked up and took a deep breath again, thinking I would be one of the last people to complete the test.  But no, I wasn’t.  Everybody was still working on the test, including Cindy who was the person sitting right in front of me.  I was alarmed.  I must have done something wrong.  I was never the first person to finish.

So I started looking at my test again.  What did I do wrong?  Ummm….looks okay to me but it can’t be.  All the smart ones in the class were still working on theirs!  I looked over Cindy’s shoulder since she was in front of me and she soon looked like she was just about done as she was looking over her answers.  I could see her paper fairly clearly.  She was pretty close to me.  The biggest thing I noticed was that she had the same answers as me but with a negative sign next to almost all of them!  WHAT?  GOSH, I immediately thought that I was just so stupid.  Of course the answer was a negative fraction and not a positive.

I didn’t see her whole paper but what I did see was at least the top paper and realized I better put a negative sign next to my fractions, especially if Cindy put a negative sign next to her fractions!  I realized also that this must be a trick that Ms. Rue pulled on us.  Most of the answers would be negative fractions and not positive.  So, even though it looked as though Cindy and I had the same numbers as the result, Cindy had the negative sign next to the answers so I decided to put a negative sign next to my numbers.  I was so very careful as Ms. Rue would occasionally walk up and down the aisles so I made sure she was nowhere near me when I looked at Cindy’s paper.

I then felt much better and proceeded to take my test up front, as we were instructed to do, and put them face down on the corner of the teachers’ desk.  I couldn’t have felt more positive about a math test in ages.  With Cindy’s “help” I knew my grade would go up in Math!

About 2 or 3 days later Ms. Rue indicated that it was time to hand back the Fraction Math test we had taken a few days earlier.  I was so excited.  I bet Ms. Rue was proud of me!  I couldn’t wait to get the test back.  But before Ms. Rue began handing back the test she turned VERY serious and looked at all of us and said, “No one got an A on this test…not a one of you.”   She seemed very disappointed and I began to be perplexed.

Then Ms. Rue said: “There would have been at least one A in the class if this person had not looked at another person’s paper though.   I am not going to tell any of you who it is, but the person that it is knows that I am talking about them.”   Many eyes got very big and started looking around.  But I am sure that not only did my eyes get very big but my cheeks I am sure got VERY red.  I was absolutely horrified.  Even though no one knew it was me, I knew it was me and Ms. Rue knew that I had cheated.

Ms. Rue began handing out the papers, walking up and down the aisles giving each of us our paper.  When she got to me she put my paper down on my desk, tapped on the paper where the red grade was at the top and tapped again.  I could not look up at her.  It was humiliating.  I had never been so close to hell in my life.  Ms. Rue must have seen me cheat and also must have knows the specifics of what I had done.

Ms Rue wrote on the 2nd page of my paper that if I had not put negative signs next to the numbers, I would have got an A.  But since I did, I got a D.  I only had just a few correct.  More words were said to me later by Ms. Rue…but at least not in front of the other students.

I never cheated in school again.   Never.

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Lit By Fire

The experience with Mrs. Bailey and the handwriting fiasco really took its toll on me.  Looking back at it now I realize it almost drove me to create a horrible habit that I could have had the rest of my life.   Thank goodness the habit did not manifest itself in any way….and it was quite by accident that the habit did not maintain.

It was during my time in Ohio that I really realized that smoking was cool.  I mean, my Dad smoked and even my Mom smoked at parties my parents would have.  I think she smoked just because and I maybe saw her smoke 5 or 6 times so it never was a serious issue with her.  But, she did smoke and I thought it was pretty cool that both of my parents smoked.  The thing is, I was going to try it.  I did know enough to realize that I was too young to try it and my parents would probably be upset if I did, so I had to create a plan with a friend of mine from school.  She wanted to try it too…so we thought it would be safe to try it together.  Away from the prying eyes and talkative mouths of others.

Our plan was simple.  Or so we thought.   I would take a cigarette packet from my Dad’s dresser, or wherever I could find one because they did seem to be prolific around our house so surely Dad wouldn’t notice.  And if I did take it he certainly wouldn’t think it was me!  On the day we decided to be cool and smoke I grabbed a cigarette packet and ran out the door to meet my friend.   We decided to go down to our local Piggly Wiggly store and stay out in the parking lot to try our first cigarette.  My friend had brought the lighter that had belonged to her Dad so we could light the cigarettes.

We were both so excited about our adventure we could hardly take it.  Neither of us ever did anything as bold as this so this definitely was an important day for us!  Smoking was so cool and since up to this time, my friend and I were not in the cool zone at school…this would for sure put us there if people knew we smoked!  But we had to try it first to make sure we could pass for a normal smoker!

It was our choice that I would go first but we soon realized that it would be too dangerous to smoke out in the middle of the parking lot at Piggly Wiggly.  Our only option was to go in to the phone booth in pretty much the middle of the parking lot if I remember correctly.  I was to go first while my friend stood outside the phone booth to be the overlook to make sure nobody was suspecting us and doing something we weren’t supposed to do.  As I made my way into the phone booth my stomach was so nervous I thought I was going to throw up.  My heart was racing as I had never done anything as alarming as this, up to this point in my life.

Camel-Cigarettes

But I forged ahead through my mind and pulled out the pack of unfiltered Camels (of course at the time I had no idea what unfiltered meant) and all the sudden felt cool as I put a cigarette in my mouth and tried to think how Dad looked when he had a cigarette in his mouth.  I lit the lighter quickly and put it up to the cigarette and really pretty easily lit the cigarette.  Fantastic.  While the cigarette was still in my mouth I tried to remember what the next step might be so I continued to think of what my Dad did once he lit the cigarette.  Oh yeah, he sucked in hard and made a funny face when he did…so I did the same thing.  I sucked in hard and made a funny face…and BOY DID THAT WORK.

I immediately realized that I was dying.  My sucking in caused me to inhale something…like smoke or something and my esophagus and lungs lit on FIRE…I mean FIRE.  I remember specifically looking at my friend that was standing outside the phone booth looking at me smiling like she was proud of me for taking this major first step in my life.  If she only knew.  And quickly she did.  I was looking at her when I realized that I might just be taking the last breath of my life and she knew something was WRONG.  She must have seen my burning eyes get bigger and bigger and scarier and scarier.

It was so bad and the burning was so so bad inside my chest I came pouring out the phone booth screaming.  “I’m…I’m dying!”  It must have really scared my friend but I was dying and I knew that if I was going to survive this moment I was never going to smoke again.  Talk about a day that really changed my life forever, that day in the phone booth with the cigarette and lighter was IT!

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Handwriting – My Curse of Life

I had an experience in the 4th grade, in Ohio, that I can say changed me and a certain aspect of my life for the rest of my life.  It was pretty devastating to me at the time and really should have never happened.  As most of us grow up, we learned how to handwrite (cursive) in the 3rd and 4th grade.  For me, it was mostly in the 4th grade.  I remember doing hand writing drills in class and learning specifically how to join the letters together so it would all flow so to speak.  I truly was very proud of myself.  To learn how to write in cursive was a major step for any young child I should think.  Well, one day we were having a handwriting test in class, my teacher, Mrs. Bailey directed us as to how the test would work and told us when to start.  I started writing in cursive and decided I was going to write as best as I could but write it as fast as I could too.  Mrs. Bailey was walking around the room, as she was prone to do, while we all were writing our writing samples for our test.  It was oh so quiet in the room as it usually was during a test.

All of the sudden I feel Mrs. Bailey standing next to me, looking down at my test and making an interesting noise that only I could hear.  All of the sudden she said something that the whole class could hear:  “Caroline Reaves – your handwriting is terrible!”  I looked at her in her candy stripe looking dress and I’m sure my mouth fell open.  I was just devastated but more than anything I was embarrassed.  All the people in the class looked at me.  Some were stunned, some were smiling, and some were just nonplussed and continued their work.  I do have to say that that was one of the first days in a classroom that really changed my life and my perception of me and my capabilities.  To this day my handwriting is terrible and I really feel that I have been fulfilling my teacher’s thoughts and declaration because it was and is the way it is.

I look back at this event in my life and learned a few life lessons for sure.  Of course, I know and you know that it was just an unacceptable comment for a teacher to make out loud to a young child in front of so many others.  But what came from this negative comment to me by a teacher that never should have been said, came a positive thing.  I learned how devastating a negative comment can hurt a child so I was bound and determined to speak to young children in a positive way as much as possible.  And not just speak to young children, young people or young adults positively but also try to say something positive often to people…and mean it.  Mean what you say and look them in the eye when you do it.  Build up people, don’t break them down.

I think of Mrs. Bailey at least 4 or 5 times a year still because of that comment she made to me in front of so many of my friends.  And I think of her in a negative way.  I don’t want people thinking of me in a negative way.  I want them to think of me in a positive way.  So, I guess I do have Mrs. Bailey to thank for something anyway!  My handwriting may not be beautiful and perfect, but so many other aspects of my life are beautiful that it far outweighs my lack of perfect handwriting!

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Day One – My First Day that is!

Never really thought and do think that anyone would need or want to read the story of my life.  Or what I remember about my life anyway.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that I want to write more about my life.  It will be good for me…not because I need to get over anything.  But because I think I have had a fantastic life for the most part.  And I do want to share many more aspects.  Who knows, you might find that you are reading about yourself (if you know me) in one of my blogs I’ll be writing this year.  Let’s see what happens.

It wasn’t just me that came out on that day in South Ruislip, England at the hospital. Someone else came out right after me.  Cathy.  My twin sister.  We both affected our lives dearly as any twin or multiple birth sibling can probably attest too.  We affected our lives in good ways and not so good ways, but that is normal too.  Before Cathy and I were born, the Doctor had apparently told my parents that three of us were in my Mom’s tummy.  The Doctor decided since that was the case and that many of the younger doctors in training hadn’t witnessed a triplet birth, he invited several of them to the birth.  So, while I don’t remember this of course, apparently several people were in the operating room during the birth of my sister and me and then no one else came out.   They were disappointed I’m sure but I’ve never really heard one way or the other.  I’ve seen a few pictures of my Mom when she was very far along during the pregnancy and I would have guessed there were 3 babies in her tummy too!  Here is a short writing my mother wrote just last month about our birth:

It was a time that fireplace coal burning was still allowed so the air was thick, black fog on the frigid night of December 6th. Driving to the American Hospital in South Ruislip US Air Force Base in the London suburbs was indeed a death defying event. In addition to the fear of the road ahead disappearing in the fog the pains were getting harder and more frequent.

The doctor and nurses were waiting and they lost no time in ushering me and Don to the delivery room.To our surprise there was a small crowd waiting in anticipation for me. They had been told that It was likely that I would be delivering triplets! 

What I did deliver was two healthy baby girls…Catherine and Caroline. Cathy weighed 6 lbs. 9 oz. and Caroline weighed 5 lbs. 4 oz. The crowd had dispersed by that time thankfully. 

Mom and Bonnie

My mother Wanda, when she was pregnant, late in the game, with my twin sister and I

Another interesting fact about my sister and my birth is that Cathy was just minutes away from being born on another day.  I was born at 11:42 p.m. on December 6th and Cathy was born 8 minutes later.  I thought for a long time it would have been pretty cool to have my very own birthday without sharing it with anybody but now it is not a big deal at all.

Yeah, it’s pretty cool that we were born in England.  Especially because I have been a dual citizen of the US and the UK ever since and always will be.  Some special privileges come with that I’m sure will come out later in the story.  It’s quite nice though.   My father was in the military and was stationed in the UK, just north of London for 3 or 4 years and as a result, my first 1 ½  years were spent in England.  I sure wish I could remember it but I only know it by stories told by others.  That’s okay because fortunately I was able to live in England twice in my life again…and plenty stories abound from those times.

A first faint memory actually occurred when I was about 2 1/2 years old.  We had already moved back to the states (a term often used by military families) and we moved to Texas.  College Station, Texas to be exact.  My father had decided to go back to his college alma mater, Texas A&M University and work on his Masters.   I think we lived there for about 2 years before we moved again.  But it was in the backyard of a house that we lived in on Thomas Street, near the University, where that memory occurred.  It is not super clear as far as events go but it was clear as to what dress I was wearing in the back yard.  It was a dress that looked JUST like the dress my twin sister was wearing.  It was the first time I realized that my sister and I always seemed to be wearing the same thing.  For a 3 year old it was just …well…normal.  Everybody dressed the same I thought.  But then I turned my head and saw my older sister, Bonnie, who wasn’t wearing a dress.  Hmmm.

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