The Liver Ball

One of our favorite things to do at Grandma’s, which was more of an indoor game, something we played in the basement, was the Liver Ball game! The Liver Ball was a big, beach ball-sized rubber ball with a Mickey Mouse face on it. The game basically consisted of trying not to get touched by the Liver Ball, kind of like dodgeball but no teams, just wild chaos of desperately trying not to let the Liver Ball touch you.

Why was it called the Liver Ball? Who knows? Maybe because back then (1980s/90s) it was much more common for people to still have liver and onions for supper every now and then and everyone knows this is a kids worst dinnertime nightmare. Once we asked the aunts/uncles/older cousins, why it was called the Liver Ball and I think the story we got was because one time Grandma was in the kitchen preparing supper and a piece of raw liver fell on the ball! Told to us in the most hideous, spookiest of voices to be sure. I’m sure it was just a tall tale but it was enough to satisfy our need for a sense of adventure and disgust! The most thrilling of times to play Liverball was when my older cousin Chad would play, he was the only boy amongst us cousins; he was older, bigger and merciless. He would whip that Liverball around and you had better all run. There was no escaping and there was plenty of gleeful shrieking as we all scattered!

When Grandma moved away from the farm, (Grandpa had been sick with Parkinson’s for a while and it was just time to move into town to be closer to where he could have full time care), we had a big fire in the back yard; there was always a “burn pile” for stuff that didn’t go in the compost. All the stuff that wasn’t going with Grandma to her house in town, stuff that couldn’t be sold or given away, went to the burn pile. I suppose the most likely thing is that the Liverball went to the burn pile, but nobody remembers throwing it in there, or at least they didn’t admit to it. And since nobody knew what had happened to it, some decided to keep the legend of the Liverball alive by telling the kids it was stored in the crawl space under Grandma’s new condo… It wasn’t, though, we decided to put that rumor to rest one day by actually opening up the crawl space. For now, it’s another wonderful memory of the awesome childhood I enjoyed at Grandma’s farm, one of the best places on Earth!

Summers at Grandma’s Farm

My summers at Grandma’s farm are some of my most cherished memories. I loved spending all day outside running around the yard with my sister and/or cousins.

I know memory is malleable so my memory of Grandma’s farm is always sunny. I suppose by law of averages it had to have been raining at least once or twice while I was there but I have no memory of that, just pure sunshine and happy days.

At Grandma’s farm there was a sandbox, which I don’t think we ever played in, but we used to walked around balancing on the narrow edges. There was a large, squeaky swing set that had one of those two-seater see-saw swings. My cousin called it the pee-pee squeezer because when you got going high enough the angle of the swinging poles met the metal of the seesaw poles and, if you were sitting close enough, well you can imagine!

My grandma had a very large garden that she would weed early in the mornings, she was always barefoot in the garden––I remember my her telling me about how she loved to run around barefoot, even though her father had spent good money to make sure all the kids had shoes, (she grew up in the Great Depression); I still remember the look on her face as she told me, I could tell she was reliving the joy of those barefoot moments while also appreciating the sacrifices her father had made to provide shoes. I mean, wow, it was a beautiful moment and I treasure that she shared it with me. She rarely spoke of her childhood or her past. She was very good at living in the moment.

There was also a long row of crab apple trees all along one side of the garden and my sister and/or cousins and I could spend all day outside, climbing those trees and eating as many apples as we wanted. We would pull kholrabi out of the garden and take it inside for Grandma to peel it for us so we could walk around eating it like a lollipop, holding it by the stem and chomping the crunchy turnip.

The big door to the garage was always open and inside the garage there was a freezer/fridge. The fridge was always full of Grandma’s cannings and yummy pickles, as well as spooky things like head cheese––I was going to say this is spooky for kids, but let’s face it, even for adults it’s spooky; some people love it though, weirdos! BUT… The best part of that freezer/fridge was the other side, the freezer side that was always fully stocked with Freezies, Revel-O’s and Drumstiks! There was no limit to how many we could eat. We could go back to that freezer again and again if we wanted to. Even though you’d think a kid would take advantage of that, I would say we still ate way more fresh carrots, kholrabis and apples, etc than we ever did freezies. I believe the wisdom of being connected to nature like that and eating fresh from the ground kept those nasty sugar cravings in check. Unfortunately, due to commercial farming and other unsustainable practices, I don’t think a lot of our food has the same nutritional content nowadays as it once did.

There were a couple of tricycles at Grandma’s farm, a big one and a small one, also a few of pairs of old roller-skates and skipping ropes; sometimes we would tie the skipping ropes to the pole supports in the basement and then whip around them on rollerskates. There was no shortage of things to do at Grandma’s farm, it was never boring. Actually, the phrase “I’m bored” probably only ever came out of my mouth once in my life, maybe twice; my mom always said “only boring people get bored.” It’s true.

When I imagine Heaven, it looks a lot like summers at Grandma’s farm.

He’s Having a Cornea

My 6th grade teacher had a heart attack right in front of us, in the middle of class. The thing is I had no idea at the time. I mean, I watched it happen, but the full weight of what was happening just did not connect.

He was talking and then he stopped. He put one hand on his chest and the other arm reached out, (did he grab a chair??) and he started to go down. Was it slow motion, or is it just my memory seeing it that way? I don’t know. He didn’t fall, he just ever so slowly started to bend his knees.

We had an open concept classroom at that school, thank God, so one of the other teachers saw what was happening, rushed over to help him before he could even go down and called, “He’s having a coronary!” to one of the other teachers. I had never heard that word before, but I knew that the cornea was part of the eye, so I was relieved to know that he just had something really serious in his eye. Did they dismiss us to recess? I honestly don’t remember. I don’t remember seeing the paramedics take him away. I don’t remember anything after seeing the other teacher rush to his aide and say what she said. And I basically put the whole thing out of my mind, and brushed it off because I figured he’d be ok once he got that thing out of his eye.

It wasn’t until many years later that I was talking with my mom about someone else having a heart attack or coronary that it clicked what had happened.

I was going to say that I don’t know whatever happened to him. Did he make it? Did he come back to school? But now as I am typing this, I think I vaguely remember that he did come back to teach after some time away, and I seem to remember that I was wondering why he didn’t have an eye patch––I mean, if you take that much time away for your eye, it’s gotta be serious, right? Like, serious enough to warrant an eye patch.

What impresses me was that they did a great job of shielding the kids from any trauma witnessing that may have caused––at least, I think so, I don’t keep in touch with anyone else who would have been in that class so I don’t know if they were affected at all. What amazes me, though, is how little I knew or understood about that and how much of that was that the teachers sheltered us well, and how much of it was my own unawareness? How much did the teachers/parents expect us to know and how much did they expect us not to know?

One thing I remember feeling often as a kid/youth is “Why doesn’t anyone just explain things to me?” I so often felt like no one was communicating with me. Not just about my teacher’s incident, but so many other things in life too. Why won’t anyone explain it to me? Would I have understood? Would I have listened?