Silver Dollar City was proving to be rather deflating for my seven-year-old ego. It seemed everyone was out to make a fool of me and I wondered why the entire park, filled with adults dressed in faded attire from yesteryear, bothered to go to such great lengths to con little children. The whole city was a farce.
“It’s almost noon. Let’s head for Molly’s,” said Mom.
There was a line outside the restaurant and I could smell the fried chicken, making my mouth water for its crispy, greasy goodness.
“Over here!” yelled Dad who had already been seated.
We enjoyed Molly’s buffet, filled with southern fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, while listening to Corey relive the courageous tales of the swinging bridge.
“It hangs with just rope and you swing all over the place,” said Corey. “I thought I was going to puke…like this…blech!” he said as he leaned his head toward my plate.
“Corey, stop it! That’s disgusting,” said Mom, while Dad laughed at his antics.
We finished our meal and planned the rest of our day. Candle-making, wood-carving and glass-blowing were all on the agenda.
“I want to make a candle for Grandma!” I said. “Since my pottery didn’t turn out so well.”
We spent the next three hours in what I called Heaven. There were craft shops everywhere and we created all kinds of treasures from scratch. It definitely made the trip a success.
The candle-making was fascinating and held my attention the longest. Large pots of hot wax stood outside the tiny shop. A woman dressed in a long-sleeved floral dress, apron and bonnet guided me through the process.
“Now, be careful, Sugar,” she said. “The wax is really hot and could burn you.”
I dipped my flimsy string into the hot red wax time and again, until my candle reached about an inch in diameter. The entire process lasted for what seemed like 30 minutes – dipping, cooling, dipping again. My brother grew tired of the repetition and left his string with my mom to finish, while he and Dad explored Tom Sawyer’s Landing.
“Wow!” said Jacki. “Grandma is going to love that candle. You’re doing such a good job.”
“And I did it all by myself and didn’t even get burned,” I bragged as I watched the other less-skilled kids touch their candles too soon, causing clumps and valleys to form in them. Mine was near perfect. There was no doubt Grandma would be impressed.
Corey and Dad came back, carrying two plates of funnel cakes.
“Give me some!” I yelled.
We sat along a rock wall, eating our funnel cake while Dad marveled at my artwork.
“That is just magnificent,” said Dad. “Are you sure you didn’t have any help?”
“No,” I giggled. “I really did it on my own.”
Dad placed my candle carefully in the brown paper bag given to us by the shop owner.
“Are you kids about ready to head back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house?” Dad asked.
“Yeah, I’m tired,” I said.
The ride home was quiet. Jacki showed me the bag of rocks she had bought at the rock shop and even gave me one to keep. It was bright blue with white streaks swirling throughout.
“Thanks Jacki,” I said. “This will be my lucky rock.”
I laid my head on her leg for the duration of the trip.
“Grandma, Grandma, look what I made for you!” I yelled as I raced into her house, tripping over my ratty shoestrings.
“Well, what do we have here?” she asked as she tapped her spoon on the side of a frying pan and turned the burner to low heat.
“It’s a candle and I made it all by myself,” I beamed.
“My goodness! I believe it’s the most perfect candle I’ve ever laid eyes on,” she said as she held the candle close to inspect my handiwork. Grandma would know breath-taking candle-making when she saw it. She was accustomed to seeing failed attempts every day during her leisurely walks at Silver Dollar City.
“I’ve got just the place to put it,” she said as she reached above the stove and searched her collection of glassware for just the right holder. She pulled out a narrow red vase and placed the candle gently inside.
“Fits like a glove!” she said. “Now I’ll just put her right over here on my special shelf your grandpa made for me. It’ll be safe and everyone who visits can see it.” She placed the vase on the shelf next to a small cup and saucer.
“Perfect!” I said.
“Oh yes, Patti Duke, it sure is beautiful,” said Grandma. “I can’t wait to show Grandpa.
That evening my Aunt Lynn, who was Don’s ex-wife, and Jason ate dinner with us. Jason told us about his new puppy, Rags, who was likely the smartest dog in the state of Missouri.
“I taught her to go fetch and she did it on the very first try. I threw a piece of ham and she ran right to it,” he bragged. “And then I said, ‘Rags, jump!’ and she jumped all the way up to my hand and grabbed the entire piece of ham I was holding. She’s a smart one alright.”
“That doesn’t make your dog smart,” said Corey. “Anyone can get a dog to eat a piece of ham.”
“Does too make her smart!” yelled Jason. He thought for a minute, cooking up another wild story in his head and said, “Just yesterday I got hurt real bad. I saw my life flash before my eyes and Rags? Well, she saved me.”
“Yeah right,“ said Corey sarcastically. “What did she do? Save you from a burning building? Pull you out of a well?”
Jason contemplated his next move, then said, “I fell down in the road and she pulled me over to the grass all by herself. There was a car coming too and she barked at the car to slow down.”
Corey rolled his eyes.
“Is that true?” I asked.
“Of course it’s true! You calling me a liar?” Jason asked angrily.
“Okay you varmints,” Grandma interrupted. “I want you each to draw the best picture you can for me to put in my picture album.”
She placed three pieces of onion skin typing paper in front of us, along with hand-sharpened pencils.
“I’m going to draw Cubby!” Corey shouted.
“Oh, me too,” I said.
“Copy cat!” yelled Corey.
“Me three!” said Jason.
Sketching Cubby was only for the most experienced artists. The teddy bear wore a derby hat and bow tie. Magazines featured Cubby drawings, inviting master artists to try their hands at drawing the friendly cub. My brother had perfected the skill, replicating Cubby practically identical to the illustration. Dad mailed one of Corey’s sketches to the magazine, but we had yet to hear from anyone. He figured it was only because Corey was too young to participate in the highly coveted schooling they offered.
I did my best rendering of Cubby, but his snout appeared long and disproportionate to the rest of his face, almost resembling a weasel. Jason’s version was even worse. If one didn’t know any better, you would think cubby was a mouse. As usual, Corey’s was perfect. He had drawn Cubby so many times, that it was likely his hand had developed muscle memory to create his masterpiece with his eyes closed.
“Now write your names and ages on those so I can put them in my book,” said Grandma.
Our drawings would serve as a sampling of our talents, frozen in time for family members to view for years to come.
“But, it’s not my best work,” I complained to Grandma.
“Oh, I just wish I could draw like that,” she said. “Now hand it over,” she teased as she formed a pistol gesture with her fingers and threatened to shoot.
“Okay, but make sure you tell everyone I can do better,” I said.
“Buzz, buzz,” the doorbell rang. Wanda let out a loud holler of excitement.
“That must be Cheri and Vicki” said Mom.
Within moments, the small house was filled with family members from back home. Cheri, Bruce, Holli and Ladell came in first, followed by Tinker, Vicki and Codi.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Why is everyone here?”
“Remember Patti? Grandma and Grandpa are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary tomorrow,” said Jacki.
“Oh,” I said. I didn’t know what an anniversary was, but I knew it was a big deal and that Mom and Vicki had recently spent a day in Columbia shopping for a gold cake topper.
The house was suddenly full of chaos.
“Ladell, quit pulling my hair!” screamed Holli. Grandma chased Ladell into a corner and smothered him with grandma kisses. He giggled and squealed, begging her to stop.
“You rotten little scoundrel! You give your Grandma a kiss!” she teased. Ladell finally succumbed to the torture and planted a kiss on Grandma’s cheek.
“Now, where’s my sweet little Holli girl?” asked Grandma.
Holli shrieked and raced into the family room, hiding behind a chair. “I’m gonna get you!” Grandma called.
“No! You can’t find me!” Holli teased. Within seconds Grandma was tickling Holli, causing her to beg for mercy too.
“I missed you Grandma!” Holli said.
“Oh, I’ve missed you pumpkin,” said Grandma.
“It’s Icky, Stinker and Toadie!” I yelled as Vicki and Tinker came into the room, holding baby Codi.
“Can I hold her? Can I hold her?” I asked Vicki.
“Just a minute,” she said. “She just ate and needs to let her food settle.”
“Hi Codi,” I said in my baby voice. “Hi Codi.”
Codi was six months old and had the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen. Her perfect pug nose sat at a 45 degree angle on her tiny face. She wore a tiny pink sundress and bloomers with a matching bow stuck to tiny sprigs of blonde hair.
“Codi, Codi, Codi,” I teased as I poked her belly. “Peek-a-boo!”
I continued vying for Codi’s attention and was eventually rewarded with a tiny smile.
“You’re a pretty baby, aren’t you?” I said. “Boo-biddy, boo-biddy, boo!”
Vicki tried to her best to avoid tripping over me as she held Codi on her hip. Grandma wiggled her way between us to welcome them, but I quickly took my place again, making funny faces at Codi and tickling her belly.
Then suddenly, “blech!’
“Aack!” I screamed and spit uncontrollably. “She spit up right into my mouth!”
The taste of chunky, spoiled baby formula consumed my taste buds and my eyes watered with humiliation.
“Get it out! Get it out!” I screamed, brushing my tongue with my fingers.
Laughter filled the kitchen as I rolled on the floor, gagging and spitting. Nobody would help. Tears flowed from their eyes as they absorbed every moment of my anguish, first chuckling, then howling uncontrollably.
“I told you she had just eaten!” said Vicki as she tried her best to wipe her tears. The laughter continued at my expense.
Finally Grandma appeared with a small cup of water to extinguish the putrid taste in my mouth.
“Oh Grandma, it tastes horrible!” I cried.
“I’m sure it does!” she laughed.
I ran to the tiny bathroom next to the kitchen and rummaged my suitcase for my Scooby-Doo toothbrush. I slathered it generously with toothpaste and scrubbed the baby formula taste from my mouth. When I returned, Grandma had organized all the kids around the table to play “Snowing in July.” She gave us each two pieces of paper to fold into tiny squares and cut holes to create snowflakes. We hung the snowflakes all around the kitchen. Holli and I made a sign that read, “Happy Anniversary Grandma and Grandpa!”
“My goodness!” exclaimed Grandma. “Is anyone else getting cold in here?”
We laughed at her silly joke and tossed scrap paper into the air. “It’s snowing!” Jason cried.
“Okay, you kids. It’s time for bed. We have a big day tomorrow,” said Grandma.
It took close to an hour to find bedding for all of the kids and another hour to get us all settled into our spots after another musing round of bedtime stories.
“Goodnight my little varmints!” called Grandma.
“Goodnight Grandma!” we chanted simultaneously, followed by more giggles and squeals.