Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why I Hate Picnics

As a kid I loved picnics. It was a chance
to run free and no worries about getting
dirty because in this one instance, it was
alright with mom.

My family loved picnics. At least that's what I grew up thinking because we had so many of them. Sometimes it was just our little family headed off to Carlton Lake or Nearstrand Woods, both within spitting distance of the rural Minnesota community where I grew up. Many times it was a combined family function, what with mom's three sisters and all their offspring--plus gram and gramps--crowded around the many tables set on the grassy lawn just outside the back door of Aunt Aimee's big white farmhouse. There were other times, too, when my folks took we three girls off to visit a distant relative and rather than eating at a restaurant along the way, we'd stop at a park and mom pulled all manner of good things to eat out of our car's trunk.

Our small Methodist church had a lot
of picnics, usually right after church. I thought
nothing of picnicking in my Sunday clothes. I'm the
tallest of the two kids.
Picnics were fun. They were filled with the sights of sounds of nature. They often included our abundant cousins who were like brothers and sisters to us because we saw one another so often. The picnics were casual and easy because all we three girls had to do was sit on the proffered chair, bench, or blanket, eat ourselves into oblivion and then play tag or go for a swim or anything else we could think to do before it was time to pack up and head home.

Hubby is reclining on the grass; all
others are either immediate family or
And then I grew up. And got married. And it didn't help that my husband came from the biggest picnicking family I've ever known. Every single weekend, off to a local park, sit on the grass, converse with extended family, and do the same things everyone does at a picnic--gab and eat.

It was during those first married years that the awful truth hit me. Someone had to do all the planning, the cooking, then pack the food as well as dishes, utensils, blanket, napkins, drinks, and make sure there was ice for the cooler. That someone was always me. I was in my early twenties when I realized that picnics were fun only for kids and men--because they had to do nothing but eat and laze around a horseshoe pit or the playground while all the ladies scraped leftovers into a garbage bag, repacked the dishes, now dirty, and hauled all of that, plus the leftovers, home so they could be either washed or put away.

Odd that I despise picnics yet
absolutely adore camping. To me
they are not on the same plane.

I had grown to hate picnics. Before I'd been married many years, I'd flatly refused to go on them. I didn't mind the family getting together in a park or the beach or even some lovely wooded area,  just as long as food wasn't involved. And even though my much-loved hubby still thought picnics were great fun, I readily agreed to attend them only as long as he did every bit of shopping, prepping, cooking, cleaning up, etc. Do I have to tell you that family picnics quickly disappeared from our life?

I thought that was a good thing. I still do.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Wearin O The Green

When I was in the 6th grade, I dyed my hair green. Now try to envision a small grade school in rural Minnesota where each class consisted of so few kids that we could actually get around to talking to everyone in our class during the lunch hour. So it was that a few days before St. Patrick's Day, we girls decided it would be fun to have green hair. That way, if there was nothing else green on our bodies, at least we wouldn't get pinched.

Now I don't know where that "pinching" if you didn't wear green began, but the kids in my class took it seriously and were only too glad to carry out the "rules." Not only that, but I got pinched hard--by nearly everyone who remembered to wear green. Funny thing was, we were a mix of Swedes, Norwegians, and Germans. We were ignorant where Irish rules came into play. And while many did remember to wear green, I was never one of them.

Thus it was that the night before the "pinching" day, I got the bottle of food color out of the kitchen cupboard and set about dying my blond locks green. I wasn't sure how much to use but I'd seen mom add just a drop or two to the things she cooked up, so I figured if I wanted to color a whole head of hair, I'd need quite a bit. So it was that I filled my hand with shampoo and then drizzled the green color all over it. The other girls in the class had informed me that it would wash right out so I wasn't concerned about using too much. They'd also informed me it wouldn't actually turn green, just sort of green. I  can now dispose of that lie. When you are blond, your hair turns vivid green. Worse yet, it stays green for weeks and weeks. Suffice it to say, I never did it again.

But that wasn't the worse part of the story. The next day I went to school expecting to see a whole lot of green hair amongst my classroom friends. Not so. There were only four of us with green hair. The other girls had mistakenly asked their mother's permission and been refused. Considering that I believed it would wash right out, I didn't ask permission. I just did it. To this day I'm still amazed that my parents didn't restrict me to the house. I guess they thought letting me go to school looking like something out of a horror movie would be a good lesson.

It was.

Now try to envision a natural blond with stick-straight, thick hair. That was me. And after the dye job it was still stick-straight, still thick, and stuck out all over the place--sort of like a spiky green halo around my face. Except that nothing about it looked angelic. I walked to school knowing the rest of the girls would look just like me so I figured I'd have company in the wearin 'o the green department and even better, this would be the year I wouldn't get pinched. Not once. I will admit that we got attention. Our teacher questioned us and then sent us to the Principal's Office. But we didn't get kicked out of school. I guess green hair wasn't a big enough offense.

I washed my hair four times that night. Still green. I continued washing my thick mop every night, multiple times. Still green. Oh, the deep color did fade, but it didn't go away. Not for a long time. That food coloring dye is powerful stuff. More powerful than the genuine hair dye I used later in my life. If they made food color in natural blond, I would have used it because it lasted almost forever--far longer than the "real" hair dye stuff.

After two weeks of green hair, mom finally took pity on me and sent me to the beauty shop. The operator looked at my hair and asked what happened. She laughed when I relayed my story. Because my hair was so thick, she had to thin it first, then cut it into a really short bob. That took care of most of the leftover green. The rest slowly faded away, but it took a long time.

Now that I think about it, I ought to drop the food color people a note, telling them how long lasting their colors are. Especially the green. But then I'd have to tell them how I know and it's not a story I feel like telling again.

So this month I'm wishing you an early Happy St. Patrick's Day-- from someone who isn't the slightest bit Irish but wants to make sure there's no "pinching" on March 17th.