Surprise Balls!


Surprise balls! and they weren’t always round!

Life with my family and cousins in the mountains was like unraveling a surprise ball, new colors, new surprises, every moment…memories never to be rolled back together in exactly the same way! And believe me, I’ve tried over the years! In the summer we’d travel as a family up the windy mountain road through Sparta and Elkin, past the little porch holding up a shack on the side of the road, and a man sitting there who had the longest beard I’d ever seen! We were convinced he must have been very old and had started his beard when he was a newborn. Even the mountain roads themselves now seemed like the beginning of unraveling those amazing surprise balls.
Up at the Inn at Roaring Gap, there was a tiny little gift shop full of unusual things. Off in one corner, close enough for short people like me to reach was a basket and a shelf full of these amazing Surprise Balls in a variety of shapes… Swans, Ducks, Fairies, and Such! Each was about the size of a big softball! Granny would let us choose one, and if we ever could get past that first step, the second of letting ourselves unravel such beautiful creatures was even harder. Imagine a beautiful swan with a long graceful neck and majestic wing feathers, endearing eyes, and a bright orange beak! It was so tempting to take it home, name it, and build it a beautiful little forever nest. And it was equally as tempting to defeather and unravel her to uncover even more magic deep in the heart of the Swan.
I remember carefully pulling off each feather and sorting them to piles of shapes and sizes. Then I’d carefully unravel the thin strip of white crepe paper, trying to guess what the color was I’d see underneath that would be coming next. When one color of crepe paper would end and new was about to begin, there would be a tiny surprise that would fall into my lap from unraveling. Then a pale pink crepe color would take over my unwinding process. Eagerly I’d unwind the pink, trying to guess the next color to emerge, and magic momentum would build as I anticipated a new little surprise dropping in my lap. The surprise were so fun: a miniature harmonica, a little man strapped to a parachute, a shrunken sponge, a special ring, a tiny maze puzzle, and on and on! The changes of crepe colors were enough of a surprise, and half the fun for me was in trying to rewind my surprise ball, and ending with a similar shape as what was in the beginning. Sometimes the swan would transform into a less beautiful bird, but I would never classify it as the ugly duckling.
These surprise creatures were embedded in my memory forever and many a time I would try my hand at materializing that memory. Probably my best attempt was when I made a Pregnant Surprise Ball for a Baby Shower. It took me forever, first of all to collect appropriate little baby items that would fit in tiny spaces and easily be wrapped cozily with crepe paper…pacifier, diaper pins, tiny board books, and on an on…In the end ‘she’ (the surprise ball) was ‘surprisingly quite pregnant’ by the time I finished her! I’m amazed I made it to the shower before the baby came!

My plan had been to make it into the studio tonight to make a surprise ball, but that will need to be another day!

Meanwhile, I’ll unravel surprise plans in my dreams! Sleep well!

The Fairie of the Shoe

I am the Fairie of the Shoe.Shoes

I left some magic here for you.

Though it seems quite plain,

Please look again…

For you will make it new!

The Shoe Fairie has been a visitor to our family since way before my lifetime. Of course that’s when she began for me! As a little girl, growing up on the same street as most all of my cousins, we shared many family traditions. If any of us had a sleepover to each others’ house, the shoe fairie seemed to know we were there! Leaving out ONE shoe was truly part of our bedtime routine, especially when we spent the night at Grannie’s house at the top of Scuffle Hill! We knew from the start that she didn’t like a greedy child and would only visit in the night under two conditions: 1. that we went to bed early enough, 2. that we left out only one shoe…for we must share her resources and time with other children.

Somehow the shoe fairie always knew what meant ‘magic’ to each child. For one it might be a special kind of ball, to another a shiny new pair of shoe strings, to another a very perfect acorn and cap… Some of the best for me were buckeyes for good luck, and any tiny little perfume bottles, empty or full!

Tonight is one of those nights when the shoe fairy will come…for family is here and it’s a special night.The challenge for the shoe fairy is often a chronic one…that of having enough energy to stay awake and complete her job. For everyone must take off their shoes and leave one out, and then get in bed in time for her to come! We’ll see how she handles these late nighters!
The Shoe Fairie also performs a kind service for the house. She often rummages through the drawers where extra stuff is stuffed. When things are cluttered in a drawer, they lose their magic. That part of them only comes to life when they are given away so that they can renew their meaning in someone’s life. Such is the way of the Shoe Fairie…to help ordinary things long forgotten been seen in new, extraordinary ways!



House Full of Beds!

There’s an old card trick I remember as a child, called something like The Royal Hotel. There’s a hotel with only four rooms.  Each room has four beds. One day, four Jacks walk into the lobby and each ask the Innkeeper for a room for the night. The Innkeeper gladly obliges by giving each of the Jacks a room of his own. “Of course, you know,” he said, “I’m obliged tRoyal Hotelo offer the other beds if any other travelers come through for the night.” The Jacks agreed to oblige, never thinking anyone else would be traveling on such a dark night. Lo and behold, the Innkeeper hears 4 knocks on the door. In walk 4 lovely queens. Now queens are of such royalty, he could not turn them away, especially on such a dark dark night. So he put one Queen in each of the four rooms. After they were all settled and had gotten over the surprise of sharing a room with a Jack, there were four more knocks at the Innkeeper’s door. In walked four stately Kings! The Innkeeper shrugged his shoulders, bowed to the Kings and gave them each a bed in each of the four rooms. The Innkeeper was beginning to be quite worried, for these members of royalty were not even of the same kingdoms! And what would he do if the highest of the land were to discover what he had done? As do such things happen…there again are four knocks to the Innkeeper’s door. And in walk the Highest in the Land, Four Aces! The Innkeeper becomes faced with quite a dilemma. If he were to put the Aces in the last bed in each room, Bedlam itself would occur. Shrewd and wise as the Innkeeper was, he came up with a plan. He said to the Aces, “I’m so relieved you have come to set straight a terrible problem that has occurred in my Inn. For some reason, in the dark of the night, the royal families have all become quite scrambled! I must assign each of you to one of my four rooms and get you to call them all into the Central Lobby for an important meeting. Perhaps then, by candlelight we can help them find their right rooms! So each Ace went to each room. Then they gathered each group and met in the Central Lobby. While the lights were off, the Innkeeper mysteriously solved the Royal Mixup simply by dividing and conquering 3 times!

This cardtrick was always a mystery to me as a child!  I LOVED it, and just now I’m beginning to remember why. I grew up in a family where people were always visiting and staying the night. My mother loved that sort of bedlam. We’d juggle rooms around to fit the crew, to accomodate babies or a toddler or two.I loved waking up and running down the hall to greet our visitors. It added new experiences and adventures to our lives. The larger the mix, the more the merriment! And having any people sleep over for the night was as magical as my favorite lithograph done by my wonderful cousin, Dillard!

Princess & PeaSeems like I’m forever tweaking rooms in this house to create sleeping spaces! Interesting concept since there are only two humans here, me and Alex, and two dogs. Yet as everyone knows, there’s nothing like having family come  ‘to live’ even if it’s only for one night and even if everyone comes at once! Well, this weekend for one night our Motley Motel will be full almost to the brim! I remember for my Mom, such bedlam was bliss to her! Likewise, it is for me!

So tweaking away, here’s the set up for this weekend’s marvelous crew:

My brother and his wife in the Bird Nest Room, Hannah/Landon/Baby Oliver in the LadyBug Room. Oliver gets the cozy closet. Alex and I, and Lovely Little Lucy Dog have the BunkBeds in the Laundry Sunflower Suite (it’s in high demand, must make reservations early!), Jay and April luck out and get the Aciu Studio Apartment, and Daniel gets a choice between an antique bed in the front Music Room or our Circus Sofa in the Sunny Room with a View! He will be lulled to sleep by snores of Lacy, Francklin and Iris, the three biggest dogs!

We still have one more sleeping option if only I felt well enough to fix it up. I call it The Sleeping House. It’s ‘the little house’ and is only big enough for one double bed. Guess I’ll get that one ready for the next time ‘the relatives come’! Just needs a little heat and insulation and it’s ready to go!

The only hard part for me to adjust to is not having the energy I used to have for such gatherings. Seems I give out easier and need more recuperation time. Yet to be together with people I love, to sit up at night chatting and laughing, to play games, to wake up and share ‘morning faces’ over a cup of coffee or whatever is someone’s ‘wake up’ routine are gifted moments I wouldn’t want to miss!

So bring it on! and y’all come!