Sunday, June 7, 2009


About 10 years ago in the summer I got an email from Nancy Veenis (teacher friend) saying that she could not wait for me to meet one of my students at the start of school. I was puzzled. When school started that August she brought me this so called student. It was a huge teal colored stuffed gorilla with lots of personality. She & other friends had found him at a garage sale for $.50 and they named him Gregory and gave him to me. I immediately fell in love with him.

He was in my classroom every single day after I received him. No that was a lie--he was absent for about 2 days. He got kidnapped. There was a ransom note on my desk. I had to leave food in order to get him back. I thought about calling the police but was not sure how to describe him. He had so many facial expressions because one could change his eyes in different ways. Anyway, I did as the ransom note asked and he reappeared. Oh yeah, he disappeared one other time only to be found in someone's car in the back seat. He was scolded.

He would hold the "welcome back" sign at the beginning of school. He would hold the "have a great summer" at the end of the year. He was dressed up during spirit week and held a big foam #1 finger. I pulled him in a wagon in the homecoming parade. He made a big hit.

He was on my roster and like I said before he did not miss many days at all. I think about 5 years in a row he had perfect attendance. His seat was on top of the file cabinets and if he was gone from there (sometimes he would be in the child development room) the students would immediately miss him and ask about him. Some days I would see him perched up there looking bored, other days--silly, sometimes looking the other way. His big eyes were changeable and he was able to portray these different expressions.

I loved him. He had a special place in my heart.

When I retired I almost took him with me but decided that he needs to stay in school. He did attend my last after conference get together at a Mexican restaurant where we always went for awhat we called "debriefing"." I have pictures of him at the head of the table with a big Mexican hat on and a margarita in his hand. He was sooo cute.

When I left I gave him an extra pat and told him how much I enjoyed having him. The few times I have gone back I always made it a point to go in and see him. I made the teachers in my department promise not to get rid of him.

Well, the dreaded day has come. Email came from Nancy saying that the fire marshalls came through school with a vegeance and stuffed animals need to go. She asked me what to do with him. I struggled with the decision to take him but remembering my New Year's resolution about simplifying and he is big and where would I put him. But then again--he would look cute riding on the patty wagon with me at times. Decision was made. I emailed Nancy back and told her that it was with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes to find him another home. In my thoughts he will be with someone who will love him and he will have another life with them. I am not going to think the unthinkable about him ending up on a trash pile. Nope--not going there.

So I quietly said goodbye to my friend who only cost $.50, was low maintenance (he had to be Febreezed once in awhile), and brightened up my classroom in more ways than one.

Friday, June 5, 2009

LRAFB Reunion Weekend - May 29-June 1, 2009

Little Rock Air Force Base Reunion took place in Chicago. These were with people that we were stationed with 1965-1967. I am going to try to recap some of the highlights but I know it will not capture the whole picture of the events or situations. Also, it would take too many details to be able to do that.

  • Arrived on Thursday and went right to Jack & Mary's (Pudge's oldest brother & wife.) Had a great visit and of course, Mary put out a big spread of delicious food. Pudge enjoyed whipping his brother's butt 3 times in cribbage
  • Stayed at Quality Inn in Schiller Park. It proved to be a great place--very accommodating, convenient to air port and John's house, nice rooms, decent breakfast and very reasonable.
  • Fran & Jim came from Milwaukee, Diane & Ed & Pat & Frank came from Little Rock, Cappie from New York, Catrotti from Arizona and John from Chicago. Pudge made several trips to airport for pickup.
  • Lots of catching up to do which started immediately.
  • Memories were talked about and so much laughter that my face got numb & sore.
  • Went to a hot dog place where there was no seating. Not because it was full that is just the way the place is. So it was out to the parking lot where I opened the back of the van where some sat and I also spread a blanket on the parking lot and some sat there. Of course, we giggled and laughed while eating our world renowned Chicago hot dogs.
  • In the evening went to the Moose Lodge. John is a member there. He introduced all of us to many friends. This was (what I would describe) a very blue collar, folksy place. Everybody was so friendly and nice. John ordered pizza for everybody that night.
  • Back to sit around the pool and reminisce some more until the wee hours of the morning.
  • Saturday ventured into Chicago via the el. It turned out to be an adventure and it was so much fun to be with people who thought about it that way.
  • Trolley to Navy Pier where we had lunch and took pictures of the skyline.
  • Trolley to Magnificent Mile and we walked quite a bit of it. Diane and I checked out the new American Girl place. Others got ice cream and people watched.
  • Getting late and it was quite a hike back to get shuttle to el. I am used to walking but by this time some of the others were struggling with sore feet, knees, exhaustion, etc.
  • Went to a very nice restaurant for dinner.
  • Back to pool to talk some more. It just so happened that the flight pattern for O'Hare was right over us that night. It was a thrill to have the planes come right over us and they were low. That was fun.
  • Next morning it was breakfast and packing up. Slideshow in Jim & Fran's room from when we got together in Little Rock in 1973, Oh my gosh!! Was that funny!!
  • We said good bye to our friends about 11:30 am. We all agreed that the weekend could not have been any better.

Now as I read over this it doesn't sound like it was all that awesome but, people, I'm here to tell you it was one of the greatest weekends I have had. Like I said in the beginning there would be no way to capture the experiences with words and even if I did it probably would not be funny or amusing to you. It is like the saying goes, "you had to be there." It is one weekend I will never forget.