Betty's Attic
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Friday, August 18, 2017
The first time I saw an active volcano, it was in Hawaii. I don't remember which volcano it was, but I remember it was one of the most awesome things I'd ever seen in my life. We were on a family vacation to America's youngest state and Dad wanted us to see everything Hawaii had to offer, which was a lot.

He also taught us things about the newest American state. For example:
  • It's the only state with its own time zone.
  • No other state is made completely of islands.
  • If you measure it from east to west, it's the widest of the 50 states. 
  • Love that cup of Kona? It comes from Hawaii, the only state where coffee grows.
  • Iolani Palace (Honolulu) is the only royal palace in the country.
  • There are more observatories on Hawaii than any other place on earth.
  • Hawaii became a state on August 21, 1959. 
I don't think I'd ever seen my dad in shorts before. But every morning, he'd meet us downstairs in his Hawaiian shirt with his hairy legs showing, his guidebook full of Hawaii facts at the ready. He took us all over the islands, pointing at this landmark and that, and encouraging us to try every new food we could get our teeth on. I liked Poi, but I wasn't so crazy about Spam Musubi, which is Spam and rice wrapped in seaweed. After all, I could get Spam at home. And Dad never convinced me that seaweed was food.

Hawaii has no equal as a vacation spot. Not here in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world. You can explore the tallest mountains, peer into active volcanoes, hike through tropical forests, surf some of the world's most famous waves, and immerse yourself in one of the most diverse cultures in America. But one of my best memories of Hawaii still hangs among the family pictures in my hallway: a snapshot of Dad in a flowery shirt - and short pants!

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, August 11, 2017
It's been forty years since we lost the King of Rock & Roll. I admit it: I'm still all shook up over it. I'm not the only one. On the 40th anniversary of the King's death, thousands will visit Graceland. There will be enormous services and remembrances around the world. Millions will gather together to remember Elvis Presley.

My gathering will be somewhat smaller, but it's tradition and I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Every year my friends and I get together at my house on August 16th. We all bring out our old Elvis records - the first ones we ever owned. I go up to the attic and drag down the old suitcase record player we listened to in school. We pop popcorn and listen to Elvis all night long.

The records are scratched. Some are so worn down the needle glides right across the first or last part of the song. But we don't mind. We tell stories of first kisses, first dates, and first dances. We talk about playing J-13 on the coffee shop jukebox, which half of us think was "All Shook Up" and the other half think was "Teddy Bear".  (It was "All Shook Up".)

This year we'll be honoring the date with small 40th anniversary gifts for each other. I think one of the girls is making a banner. The records, the player, and we might be a little older and a bit more worn, but this year won't be that different than last. It won't even be that different from all those years ago in school. After all, we're still us. And the King...well, he's still the King.

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, August 4, 2017
My grandmother and I had a lot in common. We loved watching I Love Lucy reruns and John Wayne movies. We loved sharing a scalding hot pot of coffee from her old Corningware percolator with homemade cinnamon buns. And we shared a passion for road trips. "You and I have 'travelin' feet'," Gram use to say.

We loved to take off and drive the long, winding backroads of America. We didn't need a destination, just the open road. I was the driver and Gram was the navigator. We once made a 'pilgrimage' from one end of Route 66 to the other, stopping at every roadside attraction and diner for hot coffee and chicken fried steaks.

She was 86 at the time.

My kids didn't inherit a love for exploring highways and byways, which was puzzling at first. Then I realized my mother and her siblings never cared for road trips, either. It seems the 'travelin' feet' gene skips a generation. That means one of my grandkids will get the itch to take the wheel someday. When that happens, I'll take the navigator's seat then we'll just drive and drive and drive...
Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, July 28, 2017
When I was a little girl my dad and I made a deal: he'd come to my tea parties if I'd watch football with him on Sundays. (This was way before NFL games aired nearly every day of the week!)

Having tea with Dad was nothing short of hilarious. He'd sit in a tiny chair at my little table and use his thumb and forefinger to lift the toy teacup. He'd drink my pretend tea with his pinky finger sticking out and do his best royal English accent. He'd always say something like, "Oh dear! I've spilled my tea. Be a princess and ring for the upstairs maid will you dahhhling?" (Just writing about it still makes me laugh out loud.)

Once our tea party was finished, we'd head downstairs to catch the game. During the commercials Dad would pretend to run plays with me, which (I realize now) is how he taught me the rules. It's also how he taught me to love football.

I don't have a lot of tea parties these days but I never miss an NFL game. The pre-season starts on Aug. 3 with a match-up between the Cowboys and the Cardinals. I'll be right there in front of my TV doing what Dad taught me to do: looking for the newest star players, predicting which team will make the playoffs, and maybe even running a few mock plays with my kids. They don't love football yet but I'm working on it. I think of it as a generational passing game - I pass down what my dad taught me and my kids catch my football bug. That way I'll always have someone to watch with - no matter what day or night the games are played.

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, July 21, 2017
I've collected model planes, vintage aviator goggles and helmets, and shirts and pajamas with flight themes since I was five. I even begged my parents for a bed shaped like a jet (I didn't get it). All because of Emilia Earhart. To girls like me, she was a bona-fide hero. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She founded the Ninety-Nines for female pilots. She was one of the first advocates for women's rights. She was strong, independent, and, after her disappearance in July 1937, completely mysterious. 

I still have piles of books about her in my attic. Well...they were in my attic. Now they're spread all over my kitchen table - a mess I blame on the History Channel's special "Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidenceā€. The show claimed to have solved the 80-year-old mystery of her disappearance: Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were taken captive by the Japanese military after crash landing near the Marshall Islands. The central piece of supporting evidence was a photo of Earhart sitting on a dock with her back to the camera with Noonan standing in the foreground.

Her capture by the Japanese seemed to fit with the idea that Earhart might have been working for the U.S. government. Though she had no official military record, one conspiracy theory still holds a firm grip on the American imagination: Amelia was a spy. The photo seemed to lend credence to the theory, which was exciting to say the least. But two days after the show aired the photo - directly from U.S Naval Intelligence files - was debunked by Ric Gillespie. A lifetime Earhart researcher, Gillespie noticed that the caption had been doctored and went looking for the original. He found it in a tour book in the National Library of Japan - the photo was taken two years before Earhart and Noonan set out to circle the world.

Amelia Earhart Day is celebrated on her birthday (July 24) every year. I thought we'd finally have the answers this year, but as the holiday approaches the truth remains hidden. But maybe that's okay. After all these years, maybe having the mystery is better than solving it.

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, July 14, 2017
When it's hot, my family will go to any lengths to keep the house cool (while making sure the AC bill doesn't break the bank!) We keep the shades drawn against the heat of the day. We leave the lights off until it gets so dark that we start bumping into things. All heat generating appliances are banned, including blowdryers and curling irons - everyone has to wear their "summer hair".

So turning on the oven or stovetop? No way. Not going to happen.

Since I can remember, the backyard grill has been our summer stove. My grandfather taught us how to grill steaks, burgers, hotdogs, and chicken, of course, but he also showed us how to make yummy potatoes, vegetables, and even fruits on the grill. Fish is trickier, but once you get the hang of it - use a grill basket and don't leave it on too long - a freshly caught trout makes a quick, easy, and healthy dinner.

The men in my family have always fancied themselves Master Grillers, which makes summer cooking their domain. That doesn't bother us one bit. Just like generations of women before us, we're perfectly happy to sip wine and chat while the men sweat it out over an open flame. After all, it's family tradition!
Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
Friday, July 7, 2017
When the Beatles first crashed onto the American music scene, a reporter asked the seemingly innocent question, "How do you find America?" To which drummer Ringo Starr replied, "Turn left at Greenland." The reporter was, of course, asking how the Fab Four liked America but, always the jokester, Starr delivered the first of many tongue-in-cheek Ringo-isms that Americans would come to know and love him for. His sense of humor has always been one of his most adorable traits - to me anyway.

"America," Ringo said, "it's like Britain, but with buttons." He also said, "I am a big Beatles fan. And, you know, unbeknownst to anyone, I used to be one." Perhaps his most famous quote is the one he gave shortly after being greeted by throngs of screaming fans on his first visit in 1964. "So this is America," he said. "They must be out of their minds."

Ringo must have 'found' that he liked America. He stayed here and kept on playing, becoming one of the top ten drummers in the world. He's played drums for former bandmates George Harrison and John Lennon (Yoko too) and dozens of other American and British rock bands. Today he tours with his group Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, which features some of the most iconic rock & roll players of our time. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice - once for his work with the Beatles (1988) and again for his solo career (2013).

"First and foremost I am a drummer. After that, I'm other things" Ringo said once. "But I didn't play drums to make money." At age 77, Ringo Starr is the richest drummer of all time. He's still "bashing" at those drums and still not doing it for the money. For Ringo, it's always been about the music.

Posted by: Betty | 8:00 AM | permalink
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