When we were growing up on Lake Michigan (and I mean ON Lake Michigan) the winters could get pretty bodacious. Folks down here in the Carolinas look at me like I might be fibbing when I tell them that we used to ice skate on the roads to school. It was true. Up north they don’t scrape the roads down to bare concrete or asphalt like they do down south. They level it off and get the loose stuff off and you put chains or snow tires on and drive careful.
When the storms came in off the lake they came fast and furious, with nothing to stop them. Our Aunt Carol and Uncle Jim lived at the top of a very steep hill out in the country. Our parents and Carol and Jim used to spend a lot of time together when we were all kids. They had kids close in age to all of us. Our Cousin Billy was almost the same age as my older brother Steve. Steve is 1 1/2 years older than me. So we played together a lot . We were probably not older than 5-7 years old when this all happened.
It was in the winter and a wonderful storm had sneaked up on us. We kids loved it when this happened because it meant that maybe they “couldn’t get up the hill”. That phrase is woven throughout my childhood in relation to Aunt Carol and Uncle Jimmy. If they couldn’t get up the hill, they would spend the night and not go home until the next day! Oh we were so excited! Daddy and Uncle Jimmy drove out to the hill to see if they could get up it. Thinking back on it, I believe they just went for show. We all sat at the house, waiting for them to come back and tell us the news. The longer it took for them to come home, the more excited we got!
Sure enough, they crept back into the driveway and told us the good news! They couldn’t get up the hill! They would spend the night! Time for a celebration! We needed peanut butter crackers! Now, when we were kids, crackers came MUCH bigger than crackers are now. Crackers were the size of the whole box. Four of today’s cracker squares put together into one giant square. When you ate a cracker, you were really eating something!
So Steve, Billy, and I got crackers covered with peanut butter about an inch thick. And we went upstairs to play hide and go seek. The house we lived in had two stories and the upstairs had two rooms. Steve and I shared a room, the room the stairs opened into. Our parents had the other room. Our room was a huge square and the stairs opened dead in the middle of the room. Just to the left of the stairs, against the wall, was a huge armoire. Giant, tall, with two doors that opened out to hang your clothes in. Then around the room were the beds and dressers and such.
It was dark upstairs. But it was our house. And Billy was it. So Steve and I hid. Billy counts to 100 and comes looking, all the while we’re all eating our peanut butter crackers. Billy walks slowly around and around the upstairs looking, his voice getting more and more quivery. Billy was always a big scairdy cat. My legs are cramping. I’m beginning to think Billy’s not really trying when all of a sudden there is a HUGE CRASH, A BLOOD CURDLING SCREAM, FOLLOWED IMMEDIATELY BY ANOTHER BLOOD CURDLING SCREAM, FOLLOWED BY MANY MANY MORE BLOODCURDINGSCREAMSBANGINGPOUNDINGSCREAMING. I’m rooted to the spot. Mothers and Fathers come pounding up the stairs yelling, screaming, turning on lights, checking bodies, floors, heads for blood, gaping wounds, etc.
When it all calms down, it turns out that Steve got tired of waiting for Billy too, and decided it would be funny to jump out of the armoire and scare him. Boy, did that work out well! He screamed, Billy screamed, he screamed, Billy screamed, they both jumped, fell, screamed some more. It was major bedlam with no damage. Everyone calmed down and was standing there laughing and sighing with relief when Billy quietly asks, “Where’s my peanut butter cracker?”
Everyone stops, looks at each other, looks around on the floor, and like it was choreographed, as one we all looked up at the ceiling. And there, in all its four piece, one inch thick glory, sticks Billy’s peanut butter cracker! In slow motion it begins to peel off, as if it was only waiting to be noticed. It falls nicely down to the floor where Billy retrieves it, puts it in his mouth and walks downstairs to see what’s on TV.
*sigh* Good times. Good times.