Posted tagged ‘J.C. Penney’s’

Three Countries- One Day

May 13, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 10, 2019

                                 

I’ve progressed. As a long gone Kentucky uncle would have said to me, “You did done good, son!”

Two days ago my feet touched three different countries in the same day. That’s “COUNTRIES”, mind you! Not counties! Put the “r” in there to turn me from a local yocal to an international traveler!

France, Luxembourg, and Germany with the same two feet! I wasn’t sure what language I should have been speaking, things were changing so fast…so I resorted to middle school dialogue, throwing in a few “Dudes!” and other hip phrases that made people keep their distance from me. 

“That was crisp, dude!” I said to a white-haired gentleman, carrying his wife’s two suitcases and a backpack while smoking a cigar. He looked at me like I was trying to con him. Must have been from the East Coast, all suspicious and skeptical about life.

Three countries! I’ve come a long way, baby! 

You see, until I was 18 years old and a high school graduate I had never been outside of three states (Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio) and my family had lived in all three. Do the math! That means 3 states visited…over 3 states lived in…that equates to…0% as being the percent of states I visited that I had not been a resident of! 

As we used to say, I didn’t get out much! 

It’s amazing how our “world”, or understanding of it, changes as our boundaries change. In southern Ohio, where our town laid out nicely beside the Ohio River, my “world” was uncomplicated and “Mayberry-ish”! 

If my hair was about to land on the top of my ear Dad took men to see Mr. Morris at Morris’s Barber Shop. Back in those days a young guy’s hair touching his ears was a sign that he had jumped off the deep end from the safety of reason and was about to land in the chasm of radicalism. First…hair touching a kid’s ears and the next thing would probably be doing drugs and embracing the hippie movement, free love and then driving around in a VW wagon with a peace sign on the back window. In other words, a haircut seemed to make you more American and keep you grounded…so they told us!

Morris’s was right across the street from where my mom worked at the J.C. Penney’s. Penney’s was where I got outfitted…socks, tighty-whities, shoes, shirt, jeans. If Penney’s didn’t sell it I didn’t wear it. More accurately stated, if Penny’s didn’t sell it then it wasn’t essential to my existence. A young guy could always depend on Towncraft underwear and socks.

Our church, Ironton First Baptist Church, was a block and a half away. My youth group, Baptist Youth Fellowship (BYF), provided me with some of my closest friendships…and, as time would reveal, a few of my former girlfriends. Today, as we sail down the Moselle River in Germany, Carol and I are traveling with Dave and Robyn Hughes. Dave was a part of that BYF group, filled the role of Best Man for our wedding, and allowed me to conduct the wedding ceremony for his walk down the aisle.

There it was! My world could be described in those three simple places: a haircut for normalcy, Penney’s dress attire for uncomplicated reason, and our church for lifelong relationships.

47 years after I finally traveled, at the age of 18, into my fourth state (Tennessee), I journeyed into three different countries in less than 12 hours. My “world” has changed over the decades. I no longer think of Taco Bell as fine Mexican cuisine, or Maxwell House as a fine cup of coffee. My world is broader and more diversified, but the roots of my upbringing always cause me to long for what was home.

The Uncomfortableness of New Jeans

April 4, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W                                                          April 4, 2018

               

It happens, usually about twice a year! The back left pocket of my jeans blows a hole in it and I have to break down and buy a new pair. Some of my friends who look for those opportunities to razz me tell me that it’s all because of the massive amounts of cash that stretch my wallet so much that it creates too much pressure on the pocket for it to remain intact…kind of like a volcano blowing!

I disagree, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that I have to go to Penney’s, Old Navy, Target, and wherever in search of a new pair. I do not get all giddy over trying on new clothes. My wife can attest to that. I just retired a t-shirt that I’ve had since 1991. When the back of it began to resemble Swiss cheese I finally let go. Grief counseling was almost required!

New jeans are a bit difficult for me to find because my length, or shortness, is now a 29. Old Navy doesn’t stock that length size. Penney’s was void also. I finally found a pair at Kohl’s for some reason.

They felt okay when I tried them on at the store, so I bought them. Last night I wore them for the first time as I ran a couple of errands. After a couple of hours I gave them a rest! My legs needed room to breathe.

New jeans are like teaching your teenager how to drive. You can only handle so much at a time to begin with. Gradually you’ll feel a bit more at ease…and then at about that time you’ll find out how much your auto insurance is going up because of Junior! Well…okay, I guess the car insurance thing doesn’t apply to the jeans.

Life is filled with the uncomfortableness of new experiences, whether it’s wearing jeans, a new pair of shoes, or meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time…awkward!

On Monday I started a new position as a track coach at the middle coach where I’ve been coaching football and basketball for years and years. Even though I had volunteered the last two years to help with track, this year is different. I’m getting paid! And with the pay comes new responsibilities, new things to learn, new expectations. When it’s 25 degrees outside I won’t have a choice about whether I’ll go to practice that day or not.

In mid-May I’ll be attending the Estes Park Christian Writer’s Conference. It’s the first time I’ve done something like that. I’ll have appointments with a few literary agents, attend different seminars, get some critiques, and try to find some interest in publishing the two novels I’ve written that one of my friends says is actually about a four book series. It will be like trying on my new jeans and feeling like I’m a human smothered burrito.

With new experiences there’s always the fear of doing something stupid. I have a similar fear right now with these new jeans. Even though it probably won’t happen (I hope!), I worry about bending over and ripping the seat out of them. The tight fit gives me that unfounded anxiety. At the writer’s conference I’ll deal with the fears of saying something stupid or using the English language in a way that would embarrass my ancestors.

With my new jeans there is still the whispers as I pull them on that question my purchase decision: “What were you thinking? You got the wrong size! You aren’t this small any more!” At the writer’s conference there will be the whispers: “What are you thinking? You aren’t a writer! You can barely construct a grammatically correct sentence!”

And then in the midst of the uncomfortableness there will suddenly be an encouraging comment, an affirmation of the content. It will be like wearing those new jeans and suddenly finding a certain sitting position where they feel comfortable.

Life is a series of worn out jeans that need to be replaced with the new. I’m sure that some of those who are reading this are now asking the question: What about the jeans that now purposely have holes in them, the ones that are made that way?

I have no answer for what I don’t understand, but I’m considering taking my old pair and strategically putting a few additional holes in them and selling them on eBay!

Senior Place

June 24, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               June 24, 2017

                                              

Back in the 60’s there was a TV series that attracted a large following. Peyton Place, for that time period, sizzled with drama. At it’s hey day ABC was airing three episodes a week. It was a soap opera aired in the evening. Some good Baptists had to face the dilemma of watching a TV show with questionable morals versus their belief in leading the pure life. As a result curtains got pulled shut to hide their giving into the temptation. Peyton Place was a diversion to those of us who lived lives with minimal drama, ate macaroni and cheese at least once a week, and didn’t wear anything that hadn’t been bought at J.C. Penney’s (where my mom worked!).

In this age of reality TV shows that I cringe at involving teenage moms, wayward Amish, dance moms, and “You’ve got to be kidding me!” wives, I think there’s a place for Senior Place. It might not have the steamy sex of the 60’s hit TV series, but a large part of our population could identify with the issues, crises, and life situations.

My dad’s senior complex, a nicely situated thirty resident building called Wyngate, located on the banks of the Ohio River, could host the show.

Here’s a few of the episode elements that would become evident.

Meal complaints- It’s just about impossible to satisfy thirty elderly people who have been accustomed to eating what they want. One of the main complainers is an over-the-top gentlemen who is loud and demanding. At a recent residents’ meeting he was quick to point out that there were a couple of things in their contract that weren’t being fulfilled in regards to meals. Of course, I had noticed that he had been bringing his dog to breakfast with him and giving him a feast of bacon every morning. That probably wasn’t a part of the contract either. His dog was showing the effects of too much bacon consumption. His nickname could have been “Porky!”

Meal conversations often focus on something that was served in the past. “Do you remember those lima beans we had last week?”  “Weren’t those mashed potatoes a little lumpy last night?” And yet, the chef of Wyngate comes out and talks to them, fixes salt-free entrees for people like  my dad, and converses with them like she is one of their daughters. The women who help in the dining room- Robin, Gail, and Valerie- are incredible and caring. The food simply becomes a conversation piece in the midst of their community living.

History Lessons- I’m a history buff, and I was always amazed at the history shared at meal tables. My dad was in the Navy, and two other men who live at Wyngate were stationed in Norfolk, Virginia where he was stationed. A story that one of them tells usually resulted in two other stories that the other thought of as the first one is being told. Some stories get told numerous times because although they remember fascinating accounts of the past they seem to forget that they’ve already told it so often that the listeners know it even better than the Pledge of Allegiance. They are the Appalachian version of Prairie Home Companion! Stories are punctuated with knee-slapping laughter.

Drama Because of Hearing Problems- Half of the residents can’t hear the fire alarm when it goes off…thus necessitating the flashing lights! Conversations are interrupted with the question “What was that?” every twenty words or so. Something said at a dinner table on one side of the room can frequently be heard by those…who can hear…on the other side of the room because of the limited hearing of someone at the table where it is spoken! I’m positive there has been Peyton Place drama created by miscommunications because of the elements of deafness and misplaced hearing aids.

Companionship- The heartwarming element of concern for others is the over-riding feature of Senior Place at Wyngate. The residents watch out for one another. They care about one another. When my dad was in the hospital recently a man named Chuck came to visit him. Chuck can’t hear diddly, which made the visit a little bit awkward, but he cared enough about my father to check in on him. That’s the part of Wyngate that my dad loves the most. When you’re 89 you could care less about things like a hot tub, exercise room, and cook-to-order omelettes, but if you know that there’s a group of people on the same journey of “getting older” with you it makes the final years a bit more tolerable!

Coming To Grips With My Quirkiness

July 4, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 July 4, 2016

                                      

I was sitting at Starbucks this morning doing some writing. There was a man sitting in my seat! I had to sit in a different seat and try to write. The words weren’t coming in spite of the coffee. Then the man left…and I moved like a 5:00 A.M. Black Friday shopper at the doors of Best Buy as it opens.

And it hits me that I’m quirky!

“Quirky” is defined as “characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.” Rushing to get a specific seat at Starbucks- the one at the end of the counter that faces out towards Pike’s Peak- is a little quirky.

There are preferences and there are quirks. Quirks are those things that are a little bizarre that we try to convince ourselves are simply preferences. I prefer to use a certain pillow to sleep with. That’s a preference. The “blankie” I prefer, that is becoming a little threadbare, is quirky. When a 62 year old takes his blanket with him on road trips…that’s quirky! Call me Linus!

I reuse my dental floss. That’s quirky! However, my wife disagrees. She says it is simply disgusting…so I hide it from her. That’s quirkiness spiced with deception!

There are certain brands of clothing that I wear, and no other. I buy my underwear and socks at J.C. Penney’s because…because that’s where my mom would buy them when I was a kid. She worked there! One time I got some underwear from a different store. It was suppose to be more manly. Instead, it kept pinching the twins! Soon after that Goodwill got a package of items that were almost new!

If I go to a rummage sale that happens to have jigsaw puzzles, watch out! Even though I have about thirty of them already that I haven’t put together, when I see another it’s like I see gold! I’m a borderline hoarder. I grieved the recent loss of my carrying case of cassette tapes, even though we no longer have a cassette player.

I’ve got my quirks!

We all do! Churches are the quirkiest of all! Most churches have to have a Sunday bulletin with the order of worship in it, even though the worship order hasn’t changed since the Day of Pentecost…the original Day of Pentecost!

Eighty percent of regular Sunday worship attenders sit in the same seat each Sunday. My Starbuck’s seat preference would seem to be normal behavior!

Churches put quirky things on their outdoor signs, like “All Are Welcome!” What other business or public place puts “All Are Welcome” on their sign? For some reason, however, churches seem to have to state it. Of course, sometimes some people discover a little later on that all aren’t welcome, but that’s another issue entirely.

Churches are quirky about change. “If it was good enough for Jesus…” Sometimes it is almost like entering into a time warp. One church did not allow any translation of the Bible except the King James Version. All other versions were seen as being tainted and worldly. “If it was good for Jesus…” It couldn’t even be the New King James, because the New King James did not talk in Jesus’ language, using “Thy’s” and “Thou’s”, and other verbiage that sounded extra spiritual.

Churches are quirky!

It is what it is! In my act of looking normal I am shadowed by my quirkiness. Sometimes, however, quirkiness is a good thing. For example, if someone had been sitting in my seat at Starbucks I would never have been able to write this blog.

Mother’s Day Without Mom

May 11, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                May 11, 2014

 

                                    “Mother’s Day Without Mom”

 

     This is the first Mother’s Day I’ve ever experienced without a mom on this side of Glory. Mom passed to the other side last September, the day after Labor Day. So today I’m in a new place just as she is. I’m walking through it with a mixture of grief and gratitude, a strange mixture…kind of like putting ketchup on top of your peanut butter, you’re not sure if it’s good or bad!

The last two Mother’s Day with Mom were grief in process. Her health had declined to the point that she wasn’t able to carry on a conversation. Calling here on the phone was a painful experience with me being in Colorado and her in Ohio. Her health difficulties had reduced her verbal capabilities to a bare minimum…and my mom was always one to be vocal!

I would send her flowers for Mother’s Day. It was the best I could do for her. She loved the floral arrangements and foliage plants that FTD would deliver…once they were able to find the house! That’s another story for another day!

I remember my mom for who she was before her afflictions took her health away. On this Mother’s Day I remember with a grateful heart the stories, the influence, and even “the look!”

“The look” could stop a freight train. It was convicting! I remember that look one afternoon when I was about ten. Mom had told me that I could go to the park in Williamstown, West Virginia where we lived, but that I could not cross the main street in town to go to the little grocery store. Back in those days before aluminum soda cans a kid could find empty pop bottles and return them to the store for three cents a piece. Two pop bottles could net me a Pay Day or Mallo Cup. But on this day my mom had explicitly forbidden me to cross that main street.

“No problem!”, I thought! What she doesn’t know won’t hurt…me! I made the journey and was munching on my Pay Day on the way back across the street when in the distance I saw a car coming that looked like our family car. I sprinted back into the park and hid behind a trash can until I was sure she had passed. Finally I raised up…and there she was…sitting there, and giving me “the look!” I was toast!

Besides the look, however, my mom would care for us. My brother and I always got new underwear for Christmas, just in case we were in an accident and they had to cut away our blue jeans. It was important to have intact pairs of “Towncraft tighty whities” on.

She could cook! And the thing is, she would cook dinner each night after working a full day at J.C. Penney’s. Not packaged meals, mind you! Home-cooked masterpieces…skillet cornbread… green beans that I didn’t appreciate back then, but now miss greatly…fried chicken…squash casserole…need I go on?

My mom had a certain scent. It’s hard to explain that, but it stayed in the nostrils of your memory. Recently I traveled back to Ohio to help my dad get some things taken care of in preparation for his move to a new senior adult independent living complex he’s moving into. Going from his three bedroom house to a one bedroom apartment has made these past few months a time of sorting for him. What will he take? What will he leave behind? What will he give away? My oldest daughter, Kecia, asked me to bring back a few specific items that she remembers about my parents’ house. A couple of the things she requested were some of MaMaw Wolfe’s dish towels and hot pads. Why? Because they have MaMaw’s scent that is special. When we would travel home to see my parents “the scent” would be a comfort, a welcoming, almost like entering a room with bread baking in the oven.

I’m grateful for “the look”, “the caring”, “the smells”, and “the scent.” Although Mom is gone, those things will stay with me…and on this different kind of Mother’s Day they make me happy!