Monday, August 23, 2010

School Shoes

My spouse and I served two years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua.  In so many ways that experience has impacted how we live our lives today.  We went to Nicaragua as a twenty something married couple and we came home a family, forever changed by our experiences.  Our daughter, Sarah, was born while we were there.

We lived in a dusty little town in the north, El Jicaro.  The spouse worked for El Banco National de Nicaragua and I taught English at the local middle school.  Our first week in our new home we met Pedro, a skinny, barefoot kid who lived across the road.  He and his even smaller, skinnier little brother hung around our house hoping to do chores and earn some money.  We usually had something for Pedro to do.  He knew where to buy the best tortillas, or when a cow would be slaughtered, or who had fresh eggs for sale.  Soon his mother was doing our laundry and Pedro was our regular errand boy.  One day we asked him what he was going to do with his money.

"I'm saving up to buy rolters" he told us.

We frantically searched through our Spanish-English dictionary for "rolter."

"What are rolters?" we asked him.

"They are the best," he said "the best shoes. I want shoes for school."

Several weeks later he showed up at our door with a big grin, wearing his usual short pants with the ragged hem and a thread-bare T-shirt, but this time his outfit was accessorized with new shiny black leather-like oxfords.

"Look," he said "look at my Rolters." 

We complemented him excessively on his Rolters.  We had never seen a finer pair of shoes, we told him.  From then on we rarely saw Pedro without his Rolters.  They were his first ever pair of shoes.

I was reminded of Pedro this week when I took my granddaughter to buy shoes.  We went from store to store fighting the crowds of back-to-school shoppers until we found shoes that were the perfect fit.  She wore them out of the store, a big grin on her face, dancing happily.  They are her first ever pair of school shoes; she starts kindergarten tomorrow.

I remembered Pedro and his Rolters and am grateful that my granddaughter will be wearing new shoes to kindergarten.  It's a big step for a little girl.

The pink Chuck Taylors were too big!

But the black strappy ones were just right!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Today my granddaughter turns five.  Five!  It seems like just yesterday we were changing diapers and rocking her to sleep.  She is my first grandchild.  I became Nana when she was born.  I thought that nothing could compare to the love I felt for my two children...and then Megan was born and my heart expanded once again. 

Being Megan's Nana transformed my life.  My vacations shifted from exotic locations to Arkansas and Texas.  (Actually,  for a liberal Oregonian, those states provided plenty of cross-cultural experiences.)  I lived in Oregon, Megan in Arkansas and then Texas.  I managed to visit her every couple of months.  But, she was in my thoughts constantly.  I over-compensated by shopping for her.  I was a regular at Baby Depot, Baby Gap, and any retailer who had a baby department.  I moved from the mystery/thriller section of Barnes and Noble to kid lit.  When I visited I read to her from her extensive library and dressed her in all those cute little outfits that I had sent her.

Megan introduced me to the new generation of cartoons.  (Please don't stone me.  Yes, she watches cartoons)  I never would have learned the words to the Wonder Pets theme song if I wasn't Megan's Nana.

Megan is five today!  In a few weeks she will start school.  As much as I want her to be educated, I'm not ready for her to be in school.  School means that I no longer have 24-7 access to her when I visit.  Her world is expanding and I hate to admit that I'm not ready.  I haven't had enough of the little girl whose family, including  her Nana, was the center of her world.  I'd like to rock her for a little longer, and go on 'ventures during school hours, and sing "Wonder Pets, Wonder Pets we're on our way to help a baby animal and save the day!"  I'm not ready to move on.

I went shopping for things for Megan's birthday package.  This time I looked for school clothes.  She's growing up.  She has outgrown the baby departments.  I miss those little frilly dresses, but thank goodness Macy's has a selection of bedazzled, Hello Kitty fashions.  Nana  is learning to move on.

The future is bright for Megan.  We have much to look forward to.  But when she walks off to school, my arms will still be aching to rock the baby that made me Nana.

Happy birthday Meggie.  Nana loves you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The fly population has exploded in Hermiston this past week.  It can mean only one thing, it is fair week in Umatilla County.  It's a big event in a little town.  There was a parade last Saturday that shut down all major roads including Hwy 395 for over an hour.  Our fairgrounds are located in the center of town, right next to the post office, police and fire departments and the high school.  Anyone trying to use any of these facilities is hard pressed to find parking within a half a mile.

For the Lions Club, the fair is our major fund raising activity.  For years the Lions have had a food booth that sells burgers, fries, corn dogs, and breakfast wraps.  You can recognize a Hermiston Lion by the grease burns; we all have them. 

Today there is a light drizzle and the temperature has dropped considerably.  We are used to working in the booth in 100 degree temperatures...we usually sell a lot of drinks.  We'll be more comfortable in the booth today, but our profits will probably be down as many people will wait for clear weather to come to the fair and those who do come won't be as thirsty.

The Lions built the food booth at the fairgrounds years and years ago.  We limp along with our original equipment, struggling to keep our grill cooking for another year.  This year we store huge chunks of ice in our commercial size refrigerator to help keep the temperature at safe levels.  We all were relieved when we passed the Health Department inspection.  We resist putting money into equipment for the booth because it reduces what we have available for community services.

Proceeds from our fair booth go directly into our club budget for community services.  I am the chair for the Hermiston Lions Sight and Hearing.  We provide assistance to low income residents with vision problems.  We help pay for eye exams and glasses and sight saving surgeries.  Several months ago we ran out of money.  The downturn in our economy has hit our rural area hard.  We've had a dramatic increase in the number of applications for assistance with eye glasses.  We now have a list of qualified people waiting for us to have funds to assist them in purchasing glasses.  Making money at the fair is even more important this year because of the number of people who are counting on us to help them.

Although toiling in the grease and heat of our booth at the fair is unpleasant, we all know that we are working for an important cause.  At some point during fair week just about everyone in town will make a visit to the fair.  It is a summer tradition to come to the fair and catch up with everyone that you haven't seen since the previous year.  It is common knowledge that any fried food consumed at the fair, and there is a wide selection to choose from, does not count in your cholesterol total for the week.

Fair gives us a glimpse of America in a simpler time...neighbors showing off the bounty from their gardens, children running wild among the displays and carnival rides, and service clubs raising money to support their projects.  Amid the heat and grease, life really is good.
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