It’s Fun to be Who You Aren’t

by Joan Houghton

The weekly calendar at the Retirement Community said, “Don your golf duds and come to the wine social”.  Quite enthused, she soon delved into her closet and came up  with an old golf sweater.   She wondered whether she could still wear it—yes, it was the old style of being designed for comfort rather than the modern cling-y fashion.

Next, she found a visor in a drawer and it almost matched the sweater.  Now, with her old (only) pair of pedal pushers and adding sunglasses to the get-up, she would be all set.  Oh, come to think of it—a golf glove used to be a necessity.  Sure enough, there was a light-colored regular glove to tuck in her back pocket a la Tiger Woods.

All the old golfing memories came rushing back: the cool fresh air and sunshine; the good times with the girls on the course; the laughter and camaraderie when they could occasionally get away from family responsibilities….especially remembered were the times they enjoyed doughnuts and iced tea on the fifth tee (if there was no one waiting behind them).

Then there were the delightful times golfing with another couple,  not only fighting the whiffs, water,  and sand traps, but the highway hazard and darkness.  Dinner afterwards at a restaurant usually followed, making for a very special night out.

Actually, the memories were clear and terrific.  It didn’t matter that they were not especially gifted golfers.  Ah, those were the days!

Now, it was time to go to the social hour.  Thud!!  Where were the other golfers?  In fact, where were ANY golfers?  Did she have the wrong day?  Did she dream up the guidelines?  Was she the only one in golf attire???

The answer?  Yes, she was, except for one other with a golf t-shirt on.  Oh dear—embarrassing!  One by one, the sunglasses disappeared, then the visor, and then the memory vision abruptly left her.  She questioned if she was just an old woman  re-living her childish “dress-up” days.

The next day some of her friends confessed that they had decided (because of the sunglasses and visor), she was having eye trouble. Oh Mortification!!!

Thoughts occurred: was she TOO fond of thinking or “living in the past”?”

No, the simple LESSON is: For the next event, ask around to see if ANYONE ELSE IS PLAYING DRESS-UP.  Maybe, they, too, would discover that IT IS FUN TO BE WHO YOU AREN’T (even for a short time).



by Joan Houghton

It’s tough to lose a dear friend, especially when it happens so fast  with a seeming urgency that took over.  A strange, rare brain disease swooped in and she was gone in six days.   How could that happen in this modern medicine day?

She was my next-door welcoming neighbor when I moved into the retirement center.  She wasted no time in greeting me and within two seconds out came her little teasing comments, “Well, I suppose the corridor had better get used to some wild noisy partying now that you have moved in.”  Luckily, I chuckled and did not take offense and we were off to a neat  and delightful friendship.  

Over the months the teasing continued in different modes, but there was time for many more serious conversations too.   We each encountered various minor health challenges  involving  brief acquaintances with canes and walkers; and  we encouraged each other along the way.  It was fun, also, to keep tabs  on the various activities  available, and always a reason for a good laugh or two.

One could not help but notice the strong devotion she had toward her family of four  grown children who were very attentive and livened many an event.

She was also devoted to her church (being the chief money counter on Monday mornings),  and to the local library which she had helped start  many years ago with door–to-door petitions.

She had  just enough quirkiness to be really unique and fun.

One of my favorites was her habit of lining umpteen sweaters up in her closet and then wearing the nearest one to the door each day (no matter the weather).  Her system was simply to rotate their position.  Then she was never one to stand in her closet and wonder what to wear that day.  What a wonderful way to save time (and thought)!

Then  there was the item of the padlocks.  Each Melrose resident had a storage unit in the basement and they all had padlocks on the outside; but not Sandy.  She put a pen in the closure instead.  It was such a simple solution:  so quick, so practical, so easy, so trusting, no fuss,  and so ENDEARING .

The idea keeps recurring: It is the DAILY missing of someone who becomes engrained in your daily routine.  I shall miss my every-day call to deliver her mail  when she was recovering from hip replacement.  I would open her door and say “Mail Call” and she would beckon me to come in and we would  have a brief re-hash of the day’s events.

Then there would be the DAILY report to each other to say we would miss dinner that night because of a social or family obligation….so not to worry.

What a good heart and soul and delight!  Yes, I shall miss the DAILY-NESS of it all.

The New Wrinkle

by Joan Houghton

This morning something new appeared.  I wasn’t expecting it nor looking for it.  But suddenly and silently there it was….a brand new wrinkle, and I do not mean the kind that is a constructive new thought.   No, there it is:  a NEW WRINKLE.

The discovery came during the  morning “brushing teeth” routine.  It has nestled into its own position, among its numerous relatives, residing deep and comfortably on the cheek.

One can wonder what each one represents.  Does this one record the time Johnny broke his arm or Susie had the emergency appendectomy?

How about those pesky teacher conferences?

Remember the time you chased the bats out of the attic?

Then there were umpteen times worrying about the late-stay outings of the teen-agers.

Of course, forgetting your lines in the class play is enough to bring a hundred lines to your face.

Even facing your child’s piano recital performance is tough enough.

There were worries about relatives, too, and their illnesses.

Then your friends and their ailments became  uppermost in your mind.

Global concerns  of all  kinds as well as local ones are all-consuming.

Before you know it, the same concerns and worries begin  all over again about your grandchildren and great- grandchildren.

The good part is perhaps many of our wrinkles are over such happy memories too: weddings, vacations, camaraderie with friends, parties, travels, and sometimes because of such overwhelming joy that you can hardly stand it.  One of the best kind is  one that comes from laughing.

So, overall, I will cherish each wrinkle as a mark of living through the tough times and loving the best times.   In fact, maybe they are there to provide a base for the dimples and freckles of life.

The Very Best Gift

by Joan Houghton

In  our younger days,  we wanted  a Patsyette  or Shirley Temple doll  or a cowboy outfit  or electric train.

A few years later,  we longed for a shiny pair of  roller skates.

Then  the desire grew for  a  croquet set or a new bicycle.

Next came make-up with hairdo’s and tickets to a baseball game.

Following were a glamorous flowing prom gown  and a used car to drive.

Next was a wedding with all the trimmings.

A decent job, a better model car and a night out for dinner were desired.

A small house would do with occasional tickets to shows.

There were wishes for a sailboat or camping trailer.

Then a  baby  with a larger house and a television,  and all of the required  household goods considered necessities.

Travel was big with exotic vacations  in demand.

Then the MATERIAL AGE began with all its gadgets, computers, ipods, ipads, and booknooks,

(One would think we were no longer capable of learning  or communicating without  a technical gadget in our hands.)

Recently, there have been desires for “over-the-top” children’s “theme” birthday parties, destination weddings,  preceded  by elaborate bridal showers at elegant spas, or bachelor weekends at Las Vegas.

…………Much later in our personal lives, we appreciate a box of candy or a flowering plant, or note paper—but guess what is the VERY best gift to us oldsters———This top-notch gift has really ALWAYS been the best gift of all from anyone,  your mother or father, sister or brother, children, or friend.  It takes a long time to learn that this is the VERY BEST GIFT OF ALL THAT YOU CAN GIVE FOR ANY AGE.

It is so simple, so inexpensive,  and yet… so difficult.


TIME—-a personal visit, a ten-minute telephone call, or even  a ride in your car.

Music From the 1940s

by Joan Houghton

What is it about music from the Big Band Era that is so special?  Is it rhythm,  messages, melodies, or just the “Big Band Sound”?

I find myself feeling sorry for the young generation today.  Can they possibly understand the feelings of dancing romantically to such old meaningful songs?   Or will they have their OWN tender memories  and remember the words and feelings 60 years later?  I hope they will, but it just seems as though the words are so lost in the clanging noise of today’s music.  Today’s  country singers do impart more clear messages and stories.

There was a  strong thread of sadness lingering in many of those past numbers; many brought on by the separations of World War 2.  Each song had a story to tell.  Many were about separation, homesickness and loneliness:  such as, THE LAST DANCE , NIGHT AND DAY, (you were the one) STAR DUST and  AT LAST (my love has come along), THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT,  ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL, (when I hear that)   SERENADE IN BLUE (and I’m all alone with you).

There were I’LL BE SEEING YOU ( tear-jerker when saying good-by to a  serviceman as  he boards the train  in a snowstorm for overseas ) , SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY (recalling   a special journey to visit a returned veteran).

Possibly, the saddest of all was WHITE CHRISTMAS  (heard by soldiers and sailors away from home.)


Of course, we had our goofy ones too:  FUDI RAK A SACKI SEAFOOD MAMA,  MAIRZY DOATS, COW COW BOOGIE.  We had audience participation when we shouted out  that telephone number:  PENN-SYL-VA-NIA  6-5-0-0-0.

There were some truthful ones like, THEY’RE EITHER TOO YOUNG OR TOO OLD,  DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANY MORE;  advice for loved ones at home, DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE WITH ANYONE ELSE BUT ME.


The Big Bands were traveling the country and also appearing at special shows for overseas servicemen.   Remember Bob Hope and his years of performances all over the world.  Famous band-leaders included: Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey—all top-notch.

Then  there was Glenn Miller who lost  his life in that effort.    Who from the 1940’s can forget his theme song , MOONLIGHT SERENADE, which always meant, sadly,  the evening was over.

I hope that teen-agers of today  will have  memories just as sweet.

Why Not to Go to Church and Why I’m Glad I Did

by Joan Houghton

It was Sunday Morning and

I had overslept.

The humidity and outdoor temperature were very high.

A storm with hail was threatening just northwest of us.

I   felt very tired.

One weak leg had been misbehaving.

Parking is always a questionable problem.

But off I went, carrying some cans  of food for the Church/Crisis Center Drive.

All went well:  I found a good parking place and arrived on time.  The church was cool and comfortable.  It felt good to join in on familiar songs.  The bins for cans were overflowing.  There was good attendance.  People made excellent suggestions for  prayers of celebration and those for concerns.

The sermon was upbeat: reminding us that even though we have been discouraged, or were ever judged to be inadequate; in fact, no good;  God can take us with our imperfections and  guide us for GOOD in the world.

Soon after, when we arose for singing,  I became aware of a young man standing 3 rows ahead of me.  He was tall, wearing a white shirt and holding  a  3-year-old little boy whose head was nestled in his shoulder and facing me.

A row ahead of him, there was another young man, wearing a red shirt, and holding a 2-year-old little girl  also facing my direction.

I hope I shall never forget the look on the faces of those two children—-sheer joy and  sublime contentment, and  complete comfort, and safety as they snuggled in the arms of their fathers.    I wish the scene could have been preserved somehow;  but I guess it will have to  be only in my mind’s eye.

The service concluded with a  beautiful breathtaking Bach rendition  played on the organ.

Driving home, the radio reported that the storm warning had been lifted.  I continued  my drive home with a light and happy and inspired heart.

Question, why did I ever pause to consider whether to go to church today, when I have this golden opportunity of freedom of choice,  and freedom of religion, and freedom to make such decisions!

What a blessing indeed!

Proposals Old and New

by Joan Houghton

These days proposals of marriage seem so involved; planned months ahead by the Proposer, and eagerly awaited by the Proposee.

Mine was very different.

He had recently returned from World War 2.   I had just finished at the University.  We were both going to leave our homes soon for far-flung places to begin our careers.  After several months I marched up to his house  one morning and posed the question: “Are we serious or not?”   His answer was “Well, I thought we would go to Omaha next  week and choose a ring.”  We did and married soon after.  It was all  so simple and to the point.

In contrast, my grandson arranged for a private showing in a movie theater repeating their original first movie date.  Then his picture came suddenly on the screen with, “Will you marry me, Michelle” while he knelt on the floor beside her in the tight spot between aisles.

There have been proposals on RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa)  because they had met on that ride.

They have occurred as a couple parachutes  together down  to earth from a helicopter.

It could happen in a romantic spot especially remembered by the couple, like the Grand Canyon or on the Zip-Line in Las Vegas.

Some brave young men decide to pop the question in front of her family.  One would assume he is pretty confident of the answer.

Others have chosen to hide “the ring” in a martini or in Angel Food Cake.  When the ring appears, he drops to his knees immediately and turns on the charm and the question.

Perhaps he would choose  to create the scene on  shipboard or even deep in the ocean while diving together.

Or maybe there was a special mountain hiking trail that was appealing.

Possibly, the prospective groom would  softly whisper words in the Proposee’s ear as they glided around the dance floor, while their “special song” was playing.

These days on the  unreal Bachelor or Bachelorette television programs,  they frolic in a fancy, extremely artificial courting period which takes place in glamorous places, such as Bali, or Samoa or Hawaii.

Won’t it be interesting to see what ingenious ideas the next generation  of Proposers will provide!

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