Pop Goes the Memory

I was young, maybe four- or five-years-old when my Papau first walked me over to the weeds growing along the creek bed in late summer. Little yellow flowers grew from the leafy green area in the shade, but we weren’t on a mission to sniff the flowers.


“These here are poppers, Wren.” He pointed one of his big, thick fingers at the small, green, pickle-shaped thing hanging underneath the leaves. I crouched low and looked at the oddly shaped plant piece.

“What’s it do, Papau?”

“It pops.”

Very carefully, he picked the pickle-shaped popper off way up at the tiny little stem attach it to the plant. Very carefully and very slowly, he laid it in the palm of his hand. “Now touch it, very softly, with your finger,” he instructed.

I did as he told me, and dang if that little sucker didn’t pop. The outsides popped out and rolled up and little pieces of inside flew in all directions. I laughed the laugh of a tiny little country girl who just learned a fabulous new trick.

“Want to know a secret, Wren?” He asked, the familiar mischievous grin in his eye.


“Your Grandma hates poppers. Every summer around this time, I walk over here to the creek and I pick her a few. You have to pick them carefully up by the stem. If you pick them too low down on their body, the heat of your hand makes them pop. I carry them by the stems and ask her to hold out her hand. She knows. Every time, she knows. She hates it, but she does it anyway. She squeals. I laugh. It’s one of our things.”

“Can we do it now, Papau?”

“Of course we can.”

He took the time to teach me how to pick the poppers, a few of them popping away before we had a chance to carefully carry them back to the house. I held our pickings behind my back, and he let me ask the question.

“Grandma, can you hold out your hand, please?”

The look that she shot my Papau is one I will never, ever forget. A fake-mad, but truly glee-filled look spread across her face, her own mischievous look sparking in her eye.

“Now why would I do such a thing,” she asked, playing along.

“I have a surprise for you!”

“A surprise! Well, okay then,” she exclaimed, holding out her hand, laughter already rolling from her body.

I gently placed the poppers in her hand and told her to touch them. She tried two or three times, her finger pulling back before the heat of her body could make them pop before she successfully exploded each of the green pods in her hand. The three of us laughed and laughed together. She faux-scolded me for faux-scaring her. She faux-scolded my Papau for teaching me such a thing. We pretended to be sorry.

For years and years, Papau and I took Grandma poppers in the late summer.

They’re gone now, spending their first summer together wherever it is they are in the afterlife since Grandpa passed in the winter of 2010. As I paused during a difficult run this evening, wheezing over ragweed or a late summer cold, I noticed a patch of poppers in the shade alongside the country road on which I run.

Picked a Popper

I smiled.

Careful Now

I carefully took a picture of one, and then I got the wise idea to take a video of one popping. The best poppers are big and fat; they pop almost immediately upon touching, and sometimes you can’t even rest them in the palm of your hand for the heat of your body sets them off right away. I found the perfect one. It was a beautiful green, big and fat, the perfect one; it would have made my Grandma howl with laughter.

I went to pick it off the plant, but my fingers were too low. Dang if that sucker didn’t explode right there in the air, sending the insides in every direction—including a piece that hit me right in the corner of my left eye.

All Popped

My Papau used to give me a kiss right on the corner of my left eye when I was leaving to go somewhere, anywhere.

They had a good laugh tonight, together. So did I, and it gave me the gumption to finish the last uphill section of my run.

These seasons without them, this first year of seasons without her, remind me of all we did together. I miss those moments, but I am so, so glad to have had so many moments with them, together.


Living Life Parenting

Maybe the Hokey Pokey Is What It’s All About

Our local roller skating rink burned in the middle of the night some hours after the end of my eighth grade sled riding party. Heartbroken doesn’t begin to describe the feeling that every middle schooler felt at the loss of the only local place available to us in which our parents dropped us off and left us alone with our friends for three hours every Friday night. No time and no place before and not again until I hit the magic age of 16 did I have such freedom. Freedom to slow skate, holding hands in the dim light under the disco ball. Freedom to order whatever junk food you felt like ordering with your whopping three dollars. Freedom to kiss in the coat room. Freedom to congregate in the bathroom with your girlfriends, handing tissues to whoever was crying that night that so-and-so skated with that Stupid Wench, how dare he/she/they!

The roller skating rink was our social scene, having no place else to go in Rural Western Pennsylvania.

So when the rink burned down, despite being located directly across the street from the volunteer fire department, I felt as though I lost my social scene. I definitely lost my skating place, as they never rebuilt.

Tonight I strapped on the same white skates with pink wheels and laces for the first time in 19 years. Evidence of the time span between my last skate and tonight took shape in the form of a pink shoelace, breaking off in my hand as I attempted to untie the knot I tied the skates together after a Friday skate, 19 years ago — not knowing it was my last skate.

Me & BB, Taking a Rest

Amanda hosted her oldest daughter’s birthday party at a roller skating rink local to their city. When I told the boys it was a skating party, BigBrother replied, “I don’t know how to skateboard!” I just looked at him. When I brought my roller skates up out of storage today, they looked at them with wide eyes. “What are those?” I felt like we had somehow failed them, like the time they admitted they didn’t know what the Olympics were.

It went well. Or, let me rephrase. It went much better than I thought it would go after they first put on their rented roller skates and FREAKED OUT. They eventually learned, with the help of a lovely older lady, how to shuffle down the floor, how to find and keep their balance, and how to get back up when you fall down.

I found that I still possess my skating legs, remembering my signature leg weave. I smiled during a lap of the floor on my own as the wooden floor felt smooth under my wheels. Helping my boys learn to skate brought back memories of the patient way my father first taught me to skate forward as a child, probably younger than even LittleBrother, and then later, skate backward. I told the boys stories of how their Papau would skate too fast, fall down, and slide on his knees. Memories washed over me.

And then I did something I never, ever did in my skating days of yore.

I joined my husband and sons in the middle of the floor and did the Hokey Pokey.


The Hokey Pokey.

I didn’t “allow” the Hokey Pokey at my wedding reception. Because it was so obviously beneath me. (Let’s not talk about how ridiculous that sounds.) But tonight, out in the middle of the skating rink floor, I watched the joy on my sons’ and husband’s faces as they put their right arms in and tried to figure out how to turn it all about. I put shook my leg and put my hip in and spun around in circles and put my hands in the air and smiled and laughed and felt young and free and silly and so deeply in love with my life, with my friends, with my family.

Maybe we all need to take some time and do the Hokey Pokey. Literally or figuratively. Maybe I needed to stop and breathe, turn in circles and feel. Maybe I needed to let my guard down in the middle of a dimly lit skating rink and just be silly, be real with my boys and my husband. Their laughter, as always, gets deep into my soul and pulls me out of whatever guarded place I tend to hide. Being their mom has allowed me to stop being so serious, all the time. There’s room for silly and goofy and funny and fart jokes and giggle fests and even the Hokey Pokey.

Skating After the Hokey Pokey

But maybe not the Chicken Dance…


I took my good camera to get some really cool shots, and left my memory card at home in the computer. Fail.