Thursday, January 31


We bashed it, we crashed it,

we loaded it with our snotty little brothers.
We pulled it, we pushed it,

we went shopping for our mothers.

We crepe-papered it for parades,
and towed it with our wares to sell:
“Fresh Lemonaide”
for thirsty clientèle.

We turned it over upside-down
for protection from the deadly rain
of war-path arrows
upon the wagon train.

We kicked it, we rolled it,
we tied it behind our bikes for a ride.
We scratched it, we thrashed it,
we couldn’t kill it if we tried!

It was kid-perfect for draggin’
whatsoever you coulda wanna . . .
we couldn’t know our little red wagon,
would symbolize Americana”.

*Oh, the endless possibilities presented with one little red wagon and a couple of kids! This single item was a legitimate and incredibly versatile vehicle for all kid pursuits, solo or en masse. The cargo-bearing capacity was unbelievable (my 200+ lb. dad rode in it once)! Summer garden harvests loaded it high with corn and squash, and we must have bagged hundreds of sticky sweet apricots to sell for a dollar a bag on the corner. Many a war game casualty was ceremoniously carted off the battle field, and even a chicken or two experienced a brief, forced joy ride.

Speed was an element not over-looked in the red wagon owner’s manual. Given the obliging gravity of the slightest downward slope – dangerous speeds were routinely and gloriously attained to our shrieking delight.

A solo ride by no means stunted good times; the kneeling driver simply pushed off with one leg and steered with the handle pulled back into a nearly gut-impaling position. Bone-jarring rocks, uneven sidewalks, cement curbs, deep puddles, homemade dirt and scrap wood ramps, mud, rutted and patchy asphalt or multiple dogs chasing our wheels were of little consequence to our fast-paced Radio Flyer sorties. Sand, on the other hand, killed us in our tracks with an insulting abruptness.

The inexperienced often found themselves dumped out in a spectacular side flip-over, which by the way was well worth the visual for spectators. Navigating turns was tricky, and not one of the wagon’s strong points. We understood this, and we forgave this one failing by adapting our routes to straight-a-ways as much as possible.

One year our little red wagon was cleaned up and kept indoors for an entirely serious purpose; my little brother had scarlet fever. The doctor ordered complete bed rest, but for a little guy about 4 years old that was an impossible order. Danny and I pulled Davey around the house as comfy as you please reclining on pillows in our wagon like a royal chariot. We didn’t understand his illness, nor the heart-murmur that had been discovered – but we imagined it was deadly – so we dedicated ourselves to saving his life.

This really was the universal American toy for generations. I can’t remember any house with children that didn’t have one. The wagon’s all steel body and rubber-rimmed wheel manufacture was down-right super-natural. There were miserably dented and warped ones, rusted and sorry paint-peeling ones – but I never saw a disabled one.

Pity the hopelessly unaware children today who are reared amid a steady milieu of hollow, cheesy colored sissy-safety-belted and wholly disappointing plastic. It’s just not the same. Not even close.

~ The Radio Flyer Red Wagon was developed by Italian immigrant Antonio Pasin. His first models in 1917 were crafted from wood. In 1923, inspired by the budding auto industry, he utilized a metal stamping technology to mass produce wagons for his new enterprise, The Liberty Coaster Company, in honor of the Statue of Liberty. By 1930 the company became Radio Steel and Manufacturing, dubbing its popular model #18 “The Radio Flyer”. Antonio chose the word ‘Radio’ for the new wireless invention, and ‘Flyer’ for the wonder of flight.

~ From 'Station Wagon Wars' ~ Growing up in the 60's by cTanner

Wednesday, January 30

Good News

News is not always news.

It took a while searching on the internet to find an important story only hinted at on the running ticker-tape at the bottom of the t.v. screen; an American aide worker and her Afghan driver were kidnapped in Kandahar last week. While no one has claimed responsibility, 500 Afghan women have taken to the streets (many with permission from their husbands) to protest the act, claiming it is both an assault on the true tenants of Islam and the dignity of women. What remarkable news!

Today is was much easier to find news about a Spears pregnancy, suppositions on Gwen Stefanie’s 2nd gestation, and 150 animal rights activists who stripped naked to lay themselves on freezing Barcelona cathedral steps splattered with red paint to protest the wearing of fur. Ew.

I saw videos of a tearful Glenn Beck offer a touching tribute to Gordon B. Hinckley and some clip about a giant 22,000 lb. pencil that can be seen from space. Each of these news items have managed to emerge from around the "only" news: the ever-present and nauseatingly non-stop coverage of the Florida primary and the resultant jockeying for position towards the next endorsement as candidates begin aborting ship.

Here's news: a brown hen in a Mexican village is laying green eggs. She and her feathered fellows eat the same cracked corn and tortillas, yet she is the only one producing eggs of a different color. The last word on the piece was an acknowledgment that the chickens were obtained from a government self-sufficiency program. (Now that really is good news.)

I know something about chickens. Rabanita may be of mixed pedigree. South American Araucana chickens do lay blue eggs. However, the North American standard requires the tail-less, ear-tufted version currently identified as markers of the breed. We may have more of an Ameraucana in the pecking-order. (Ameraucana hen next to White Leghorn) Another blue egg-bearer has the most appropriate name, Easter-Egger. Their standard is non-existent, or in other words, “variable”. Each of the breeds mentioned are on the small side, they are hardy, resistant to disease and enthusiastic layers – all excellent reasons why their DNA is probably related to Polynesian stock considered the historical “parent” stock of most of the small breed abundantly egg-laying chickens.

The magical reception this news is receiving in a humble place like Cuautitlan is the real news. The family is considered "blessed". The specific nature of their divine recognition is not really qualified, but they are basking in it nonetheless. It seems a general aura of good fortune is upon this household, and their neighbors feel genuinely happy for them. Rabanita will undoubtedly live a Queenly existence for her share in this curious omen.

Most of our day to day living is not big news. Even world-wide events do very little to actually change what happens to us in our day with grocery lists, utility bills and kid's school schedules. Rhetoric and current media frenzy aside, it really won't matter all that much who lands in the White House - no matter the cooperation from Congress, a change at the helm is not likely to influence our ordinary day in a significant fashion. Childbirth may or may not change celebrity girls and women. Theatrical nudity probably won't derail the fashion industry, and ginormous good for nothing satellite attracting pencils simply will not make a difference in life. It shouldn't be news.

How we see life does make a difference. Perhaps we make our own news. I love to spot the lone hummingbird almost the instant he calls out in his little squeaking voice. My eye knows to look for the highest leaf-bereft branch in a low profile tree - and there he is. I may not see a hummingbird every single day, but when I do, I count myself very fortunate. When I have been with other people and try to point out the hummer - they cannot see him readily. Finally when they do, it is not that big a deal. Maybe something else in their day is that little thing that reminds them of their blessings.

A full moon is always a personal message to me, deep and full of a quiet, glowing reassurance. The crescent moon is likewise a sign, but for a different reason. All of my children can recite a little Langston Hughes poem with me whenever we see a crescent moon:

Winter Moon
How thin and sharp is the moon tonight,
how thin and sharp and ghostly white is the slim,
curved, crook of the moon tonight.

Rachel recently discovered the oh so beautiful good news of Debussy's "Clair De Lune". She got a piano classics CD and plays it over and over. It means something different to her 13 year old self than it does to me. That's great. And it's another blessing; I want my children to feel life. They laugh at my puny observations that I usually identify with larger things. I guess that's OK, too. I have always been this way, and am glad for it.

Maybe real news is the simple fact that God speaks to us every day.

If poor villagers see His hand in a hen's colored eggs, if a softly intoned "thank you" escapes from Asia's lips for something I did for her, if music speaks to my heart quickly and profoundly no matter what distractions have robbed me of my peace, if towering Arizona clouds are edged with fiery sunlight and if we are lucky enough to see 2 hawks spiraling over the tangle of downtown Phoenix ~

If we can remember to be kind to one another because we know we really want to be, and pause in our day to pray for a kidnapped woman who left modern comforts only to serve others, if David smiles at me ~ if my little Jack will one day really call me "Mimi" as his mother intends ~ all these things are beautiful news, good news, real news . . . to me.

Monday, January 28


1910 ~ 2008

Saturday, January 26

How To Have FUN

A Saturday church women's seminar is one thing. Getting young girls to attend willingly wasn't as difficult as you would think. They were invited to sing, and felt honored. Asia even signed-up to bring a salad to the luncheon. It was what happened before and after the women's seminar that was tricky, especially since young girls are always concerned about having "FUN".

Two 13 year olds were supposed to sleep over to rehearse their song with Rachel (making a total of three 13 year olds but not until one of them finished her Girl Scout meeting), and Asia still needed to shop for salad ingredients but she was gone with friends and incognito. While waiting for our Girl Scout, I felt slightly mean to ask Rachel and Casey to help me organize the Ward Choir folders. It was a huge job, and it took the 3 of us a solid 40 minutes to pull and sort Christmas music, reload with new music, sharpen pencils and replace some name tags. So far the sleep-over was feeling more like a work camp on a hunger strike.

The pizza we ordered was a bust. 45 minutes after placing the order, Pizza Hut phoned to finally let us know they had run out of dough and would not be filling our order. (On a Friday night!) Our Girl Scout was an hour over-due and we were waiting to eat with her; Domino's saved the day and Mel arrived just in time to get the last garlic bread stick. Once the girls tried to sing to their CD, they weren't in the mood. I couldn't blame them, it was 11 o'clock and not a lot of "FUN" had happened yet. They groaned when I told them we would have to be ready by 9 AM the next morning.

Waking them up at 8 was a miracle: they popped right up. Our 2 little guests promised to take quick showers, and they did! Rachel started a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon on the griddle. I set the table and watched the bacon while they all finished their hair. We loaded our salads and ourselves into the car with plenty of time for a sound-check, and one final rehearsal a-cappella under Asia's excellent tutelage.

After a very long, very adult-themed seminar and thankfully 2 very exceptional musical numbers (you beautiful girls were fantastic!) and country club style salad luncheon, we were finally done with wearing skirts and being at Church on a Saturday. I proposed breaking-out Asia's Christmas Badminton set as a "reward" for the girls' hard work. We asked Roxanne to join us.

Doesn't that sound FUN? My first call to come out and play was met with "Why?" and "Do we have to?" They seemed to prefer the "FUN" of being crammed together in a messy bedroom listening to music and playing with their hair. Once the choice of rackets presented themselves, things were looking up - until one team realized they were facing the sun. In averting FUN disaster, my costume closet proved essential. Finally, may I present the result ~

How To Have FUN:

Dressing for FUN is a must. Powder Pink beads dramatically accent a sporting event every time.

2) Appropriate eye wear is essential to maximum FUN, and clearly not species exclusive.

Coordinating gangster headbands add a quirky element of FUN, and serve to intimidate your opponent in passive-aggressive show of "colors".

Skater hoodies and snowboots definitely complete your very FUN, game-face attitude.

Laughing is an excellent strategy when the competition is fierce. Actually hitting the "birdie" is only incidental...besides being deadly FUN.

A killer serving arm not only hones your craft, but is loads of FUN.

Apparently it can also be exhausting, but in a totally FUN way, of course.

Identifying the birdie is probably helpful to truly having FUN. This is not the birdie.

This is the birdie, but it is not FUN.

The remedy to un-FUN.

FUN is all about style, form and symmetry, gracefully exhibited here:

Note the ultimate paradox to Having FUN:

it seems no matter HOW MUCH FUN you are having, it can never be enough if you are not also attached to your cell phone prepared to receive every pressing and highly important call on a Saturday afternoon, outside, with birds tweeting and a gentle breeze wafting through the fresh, sun-dappled air.

Friday, January 18

Summer Feet

School’s out:

it’s finally all about SUMMER

and flyin’ kites or sailin’on bikes

the longest sissy-bar types

peddle like crazy to coast forever

‘cause it’s really wicked weather

in the blistering heat of mid-day.

We can do anything we want to, mister,

ain’t nobody to say not to

just play all day long if we want to...

we can pant like dogs in the shade

and plan espionage games

and pick killing teams, A and B.

Then mama gives a holler

to take us a dollar to Bert’s Market

on the corner

and buy an ice-cold orange Nehi

or a drumstick cone,

a pocket-full of 2 cent bubble gum

and a Captain America for my brother.

The black asphalt is tacky and hot

it’s gonna be at least a six minute walk -

that’s “boss”, man!

You better hope the lights are all green.

You gotta take a whole lotta heat

to run across the street

in Summer bare-feet.

* One of the first summer rituals after the final school bell was the abandonment of shoes and socks, cold-turkey. Our pink, tender “sissy” feet must be brutalized immediately to withstand our many anticipated outdoor exploits. Tortuous puncture weeds, slivers, fox-tails, rocks and the occasional shard of glass would be repelled by our tough, treasured “summer feet” once we got them conditioned properly. Plucking out a crippling, 3-pronged puncture weed sticker with a shrug or effortlessly scaling a 6 foot chain-link fence was only possible with truly seasoned feet and toes.

Finally, the ultimate test of nerves and crusty, blackened soles were the formidable stretches of sizzling asphalt between us and ice-cold soda pop at tiny little 3 parking space Bert’s Market. Popping the metal lids off on the bottle-opener posted on the wall outside the front door was a kid version of the old time barbershop where you could say “hey”and compare Bazooka Bubble Gum comics with guys from somewhere other than our street.

We were outside all day long. We could have been miles away by 10 AM and mama never would have been the wiser. Thankfully for her sake, kids are rather territorial, so we rarely ventured too far beyond Jellico Avenue.

The whole world, it seemed, and everything we could ever want or need was right in our own back yards, the resourceful vacant lot on the corner, or good ol’ Bert’s with the green ‘Time for a Refreshing 7-Up’ sign on the wooden framed screen door. Getting there on hand-me-down bikes or leather-tough bare feet under-scored our giddy Summer freedom.

~ From 'Station Wagon Wars' ~ growing up in the 60's by cTanner

Tuesday, January 15

2 Views on a Theme

One of the “smart” kids, Stephanie Kim

seemed to always be first at everything.

Long-division, spelling or basketball;

she was also first to get a pimply-face,

and was the very first girl in the entire 5th grade

to wear a real, live bra.

One day, when Billy was being especially dumb,

(pulling his eyes like this with both his thumbs) -

he chanted, “My mother is Chinese,

my father is Japanese,

and look what happened to me!”

Stephanie, hardly giving him the time of day,

said without emotion, “Hey, stupid,

I’m Korean, O.K.?”

We considered it pretty amusing

how she shut him down that way.

But then, when the boys began to tease

and slither around

making comments from the sides of their mouths,

so totally fascinated with her chest -

every last one of us seemed powerless

to help poor Stephanie out.

At long last, maybe three weeks or so,

she just broke-down

and cried and cried and cried ~ alone.

* Though not readily broached in public conversation as adults, ask anyone directly - man or woman, and they will all have something to say about the growing-up ‘changes’ undeniably evident beginning about 5th and 6th grade. As natural biology was happening to little girls, little boys (though mostly uninvited) were automatically a vital part of that incredibly important and often traumatic brief moment in time when the whole world seemed to focus on the introduction of new underwear.

How we survived it all is truly a golden question.

Mr. Aycock

frightened us with the dark brown scar

exactly below his right eye

(a bullet wound from the war).

His classroom discipline not far

from military ethics it seemed,

as we kept score

of his many offenses against us:

the quick temper,

the moral speeches ~

as we listened, unblinking,

willing breezes to drift mercifully

over the window sash

and save us

from the heat of his passion.

Until one day, he did something good.

He just canceled arithmetic

and spoke to us point-blank

(this bachelor fifth-grade teacher),

in simple words we all understood

he explained the beauty of nature

creating great changes within

making us so different

from girls to women,

and boys to men ~

eloquently conquering at last

the relentless enemy sniping

of young boys who saw

that Aviva Lee

wore a bra.

* Only six years after the introduction of the birth control pill and two years after The Beatles' shocking debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, 1966 supposedly found us in the early convulsions of the American sexual revolution. About three years later one of my cousins would join a hippie commune and my brother would be longing to experience the music at Woodstock. Social mores were changing radically; old taboos were tossed aside as quickly as television sets suddenly became affordable to the average family and media became associated unavoidably with the prefix “mass”. American women, having tasted financial independence during World War II factory and civil works jobs, were expanding their sights and flexing for the yet to come emergence of the Feminist Movement. Who knew?

Oblivious to the technical details of aggressive cultural change, we kids were up to our necks in the daily dance of growing-up. Reserved and dutiful conformists within the classroom (subversive “pencil-drops” were still a few years away); we struggled to both assert and protect ourselves outside on the playground. The battle of the sexes was an old and sacred theme; boys vs. girls contests from spelling bees to foot races to playing cigarette tag were a relished and necessary practice in the constant attempt to keep everyone in their place.

Puberty interrupted all of that. It was especially confusing when the “early-bloomers” among our feminine ranks began to exhibit – however unwillingly – the most disturbing social change of all. We girls who were not as yet so affected were as uncomfortable with the prospect as the boys were, except their focus was decidedly of a much baser nature. We loathed them for it, but at the same time we seemed incapable of defending one of our own. It was a shameful reality in the ultimate disruption to a childhood on the brink of extinction. We were afraid.

About 30 years later, I encountered the Aycock name again on a patient chart at the Phoenix dental practice where I was working. It was his great-nephew. I finally had the opportunity to thank him vicariously for that time-stopping afternoon at Lorne Street School in the asphalt shingled bungalow nearest the bike racks, when the unspoken pain of growing up was presented to us as an ageless and ennobling distinction of our future selves.

**class pictures are representative only
* from 'Station Wagon Wars' ~ growing up in the 60's by cTanner

Monday, January 14


The milk bottles were all cold

and sweaty

nested in their wire basket

outside the front door.

Funny, how it seemed perfectly


that milk appeared without asking

whenever I wanted more.

*Danny and I used to try and get treats like chocolate milk and fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt added to the weekly milk delivery by leaving our milkman notes in our mom’s forged handwriting. I had no thought in my head that we were paying for his services. It just seemed awfully nice of him to get up so early in the morning before anyone else was awake and make his rounds in his refrigerated white milk truck and crisp white uniform.

When mama got the bill - that was the end of ‘specialty’ orders.

~ from 'Station Wagon Wars' ~ growing up in the 60's by cTanner

Thursday, January 10


The toxic vapors sear my nose

and blacken my tongue,

and having my lungs squeeze closed

is so very fun.

Not to mention my other sad,

defenseless things,

that are twisting and churning

and bursting their seams!

It’s just a matter of time,

of course,

before I’m turned into

a liquefied corpse.

I can feel my liver wither

inside my quivering skin,

my spleen is now rotting

as it begins

to drip down my neck

and happily right into my ear -

(is it done, yet?)

I can still hear her sigh,

“Sit still, don’t squirm!”

while the sadist patiently applies

my Toni home perm.

* Creating a long-lasting curl has been a universal quest for women possibly since the Garden of Eden. Once hair treatment chemicals were formulated to be safe enough for home use in the 50’s, Toni dominated the home permanent market. Regardless of how beautiful and smooth the luscious locks of beauties smiling confidently from the Toni box, actual results were often tragically less.

It became a classic ordeal of growing up a little girl in America to endure the agonies of the home permanent, traditionally perpetrated by mothers everywhere about a week before school pictures.

Sunday, January 6

Nancy Zamora

Nancy Zamora was a tough girl.

She was one of the first to get fish-nets,

and wear white kid go-go boots

with a mandarin collar dress,

and was really rough at socco.

She wore a big silver crucifix

and already had pierced ears

before they were popular

with her peers.

One day,

on the big kid’s playground

I got knocked-out

in dodge ball.

All I remember

after hearing myself hit the ground

in the dark,

was Nancy’s voice far away

as she yelled, “Cindy, wake up!

Wake up!” and she shook me,

while everyone else

stood around with nothing to say

and their mouths open.

She was the only one

to do something.

* Public school is a dynamic social stew for awkward experimentation in status, ethnic and gender boundaries – though most of these important “rules” kept changing or (thankfully) were abandoned entirely once the doors flung open for recess.

Nancy was not my friend. I think I was a little afraid of her. She didn’t really have a group she hung out with, and didn’t seem bothered about it either. Admirably independent, her keen fashion sense was a little riskier than even the ‘popular’ girls, and her fierce playground skills were a competitive asset when it came down to picking teams. She played hard like a boy; I never saw her run to the nurse no matter how badly she’d skinned a knee or elbow. Nearly invisible during class time, Nancy was aggressive and sure of herself outside.

She was pretty, with long dark, straight hair parted in the middle so classic to 1968, and expertly applied coal black eyeliner. Her pierced ears were a bold statement in a time when most white, middle class parents strongly disapproved. “Putting holes in your ears is only for Catholic girls,” my dad always said with a growl. Other girls defied this cultural divide by getting together for homemade ear-piercing slumber parties. They used ice cubes to numb the spot, and a brave girlfriend wielded the needle and thread. I thought it was nothing less than barbaric, especially the bloody-thread after math on display the next day at school. But secretly, and while carefully guarding my pinch-on earring collection that always seemed to be missing more and more matched sets – I longed for pierced ears and self-confidence, like Nancy.

*from 'Station Wagon Wars' ~ growing up in the 60's by cTanner

Saturday, January 5


She was lying in the street

at the foot of the Siddon’s driveway

frozen in my young memory


exactly this way.

Her little puppy eyes were shut

and a plastic bag with her blood on it

still in her mouth;


from her early morning escape.

I never looked at that stupid gate

the same again ~

I didn’t know

puppies could squeeze themselves

so thin,

just to run away

in search of


* Part of the beauty of allowing children the richness of owning a pet are the resultant natural lessons learned in cause and effect. Being responsible about feeding and care is one thing, and experiencing loss is an inevitable heartbreak some people, (usually adults) can’t seem to deal with. I have even encountered those who lied to their children about the untimely demise of “Fluffy” or “Tweetie”, feeling the truth was far too painful. I know that when a creature snuggles into your heart, all the things that define that one relationship are valuable exactly as they are, even if it is less than ideal. Some things hurt so sweetly you never want to forget.

Dixie” was a little black and white puppy, who, along with her brown brother “Wags” got out from our back yard via the gap between the house and the chain link gate. They were our first dogs that I can remember, and we didn’t have them very long before this incident. The funny thing is, Jellico Avenue was hardly a busy street. Most of our traffic seemed exclusive to people from the neighborhood. I have always wondered who the ‘outsider’ was that carelessly ran over a little dog one morning on their way to work.

We never saw Wags again.

*from 'Station Wagon Wars-growing up in the 60's' by cTanner

Tuesday, January 1

Sweet Dreams

Deep in the dead of night

rocking the house

from ceiling to floor,

boogie men all take flight -

when Papa begins to snore.

*I have never understood people who complain about their partner snoring. To think - some unappreciated individuals actually submit to uncomfortable nose strips, gagging oral appliances or endure surgery in an attempt to “correct” a God-given gift! For a little kid who was afraid of tree branches scratching up against my bedroom window at night and the proverbial monster under the bed - nothing in the world was more comforting than to hear that familiar, rhythmic rumble from my parent’s bedroom to confirm in a powerful way that papa was home ~ and we were safe.

Somehow the fact that he was obviously sound asleep never occurred to me as a drawback in matters of self-defense.

*from 'Station Wagon Wars' ~ growing up in the '60's by cTanner