Auntie Jo Dodges an Intervention

Auntie Jo strolled toward the mall, accompanied by her oldest, dearest friend. They’d just polished off a lovely luncheon at the DELIGHTFUL DOWNTOWN DINER. This week’s special was deep-fried Peanut Butter-Jelly Sandwiches with Curly-Fries and they’d enjoyed them along with a nicely chilled Pinot Grigio. Since they were both watching their weight, they’d skipped dessert and settled for a second glass of wine.

Now they strolled along, reminiscing about old times and giggling like school girls. Auntie Jo was so caught up in her story about Miss “Fish-Face” Foster, their 4th grade math teacher with her unfortunate resemblance to a flounder, that she almost walked past a vaguely familiar face.

Catching herself just in time, she exclaimed to her friend, “Why, it’s my new next door neighbor! You must meet her!” The new neighbor smiled rather timidly. She and Auntie Jo had chatted briefly at their mailboxes that very morning. At least Auntie Jo had chatted, pausing for breath every now and then, just long enough for the new neighbor to manage a quick smile and a nod.

“How nice to run into you,” cried Auntie Jo. “You must meet my friend, my dearest, oldest friend …“ There was a pause – “My dearest, oldest friend … “ Her mind went blank. She turned to her friend, stammering “And th-this is my new neighbor …” Once again her mind blanked out. She stood stock still, totally speechless. How dreadfully embarrassing! Auntie Jo was mortified. Fortunately the ladies were already clasping hands and smiling at one another. Auntie Jo could do nothing but stare at the sidewalk, wishing it would open up and swallow her, red face and all.

She glanced up just in time to see a taxi approaching. Ignoring the honking cars whizzing past, she hailed it, grabbed her friend’s hand, leaped out into the traffic and shoved both of them inside. She waved a hasty good-bye to her neighbor, who was left standing at the curb, gaping. Too rattled to remember her own address, she weakly flapped a hand at her friend who managed to give the befuddled driver the directions.

That evening Auntie Jo relived the humiliating scene over and over. What was happening to her? Why? Thinking back over recent weeks she realized she’d been getting more and more forgetful. Forgetting or misunderstanding appointments, showing up a day early or a day late for important events, misplacing items, mixing up the simplest things, where would it end?

Was it just yesterday that she had poured a healthy glug of vanilla into the pot of chili she had bubbling away on the stove? She’d meant to use red wine. And how puzzled her doctor had looked a few days ago when she began asking questions about a root canal, thinking she was at the dentist.

She was aware that words and phrases she’d been accustomed to using no longer came easily to mind, like referring to her computer as a confuser or the blue spruce tree in her yard as a BlueTooth. And she’d definitely not had her eyes defrosted, although she’d had them dilated any number of times. She’d laughed everything off, but not this, not her best friend’s name. Her many little slips no longer seemed funny at all.

Was it any wonder her children had begun darting little glances at her, raising their eyebrows to one another when they thought she wasn’t looking? How could she ever tell them what had happened to her this afternoon? HORRORS! What if they felt compelled to stage an intervention!!  What would happen to her? What would they decide to do?

The idea of an intervention was too frightening. However, not one to brood for long, Auntie Jo tried to think constructively. What to do? What to do? And she had it! A reverse intervention! She’d throw a big family party, every detail planned carefully. She’d show them all how capable she still was!  What could possibly go wrong?

A nasty little voice popped up in the back of her mind, reminding her sarcastically, “Probably Everything,” but she chose to ignore it, her mind firmly made up. She’d start making plans and lists the first thing in the morning. Intervention indeed! HAH!!

With that settled , she toddled off to bed. Now if she could only remember those names…really, her oldest, dearest friend, her next door neighbor, how ridiculous! Once again she began to fret. Finally, after hours of tossing and turning, she drifted off to sleep.

At 2:00 o’clock in the morning Auntie Jo’s eyes suddenly flew open and she popped straight up in bed.

“Wilma!” she cried. “Wanda!”

But which one was which?


Ode to October

Autumn has arrived,  heralded by a brilliant Harvest Moon. That fat orange orb sometimes appears in late September, usually in early October,  and we see it again in November as we offer up thanks for our many blessings.  October is my favorite  of all the Fall months,  the mellowest of months when our busy lives slow down after an active summer.  We welcome an opportunity to rest and gather ourselves together for the holidays and the demanding winter to come.

The Harvest Moon reminds us of October fun;  hayrides, corn mazes and heaps of leaves raked up, just to be jumped into.  And do you remember bonfires, what fun they were, and how they always filled the air with such great smells?  The Harvest Moon  inspired one of the good old songs too, a standard at every Sing-a-long since.  “Shine On, Shine On”

Our landscape rapidly turns from rich greens to glowing yellows, oranges, reds and gentle  brown.  The chrysanthemums wear their October colors. As the days shorten, the farmers reap the last of their harvest,  and the fields, lawns and bulbs rest until Spring.  The kiddies are happy to be back in school, at least most of them are,  and we adults can grab a little extra snooze in the mornings and  enjoy the cozy evenings with popcorn in front of the fireplaces.

Everything smells and tastes like pumpkin,  spice , and every variety of apples,  fresh fragrant apples that crackle when you bite into them .  We’re ready for hearty soups, stews and chili.  Iced tea has given way to freshly pressed cider and hot chocolate.  Fall squashes appear on our tables, along with other seasonal favorites.

The BBQ tools and  camping gear,  the air conditioner,  the pool and all the summer toys have been stored and the lawn mower is parked next to the snow blower, each waiting for it’s season.  The skis and skates haven’t been brought out yet and the sleds still hang on the garage wall.  Sunburns have long since peeled and faded,  sandals have been traded for shoes and boots, and swimsuits for sweaters.

The vacationing relatives  have all returned home, not to be seen again until the holidays when they’ll descend again like locusts , ready for another round of  “just dropping by”  for weeks at a time.

And on the very last day of October ,this mellow month has one final gift for us … Hallowe’en … that rowdy, semi-spooky celebration beloved by children and the young at heart.  We love the costumes, the garish decorations and the cries of  “Trick or Treat” echoing throughout he neighborhood as darkness settles.

Hallowe’en is believed to be based on the ancient pagan holiday of SAMFHAIN, the Celtic New Year.  This was a harvest festival dating from the 700s A.D. , rife with superstitions  meant to ward off ghosts  and welcome the darkness of the coming season

But right now  it’s party time,  launching us into the busy weeks ahead. Let’s grab our masks and go Trick-or-Treating!

The Happiest Love Songs

“Love, Love, Hooray For Love,  Who Was Ever Too Blase For Love?”

Love songs should all be happy.  You want to belt them out with so much energy and enthusiasm  that everyone  joins in. They  never get old.

Thinking back to the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s,  who could ever forget a song like “Hooray For Love?”  The  lyrics were written by the great Harold Arlen, who also wrote a little something called “Over The Rainbow.”  The second line in “Hooray For Love,”   “Who Was Ever Too Blase For Love?”  has to be one of the most delightful lines in popular music. The imagination that wrote the word “blase”  into a love song and made it work is what made Arlen such a great songwriter.

There were so many other talented  songwriters of that era . We can all recall  Cole Porter,  George Gershwin,  Irving Berlin,  Jerome Kern,  Rodgers and Hart, and Oscar Hammerstein,  and the list goes on.  They turned out one unforgettable song after another.

Maybe it was the times,  the Great Depression followed by  World War Two,  that gave us such an appreciation for simple, joyous music. The promise of sunshine and silver linings ahead kept us going through a lot of very dark days.  Whatever the reason, those songwriters knew how to cheer up an entire nation with their words and music.  Funny, isn’t it,  how the spirit of an era could be lifted by a few happy songs.

Remember  “Get Happy,”  “Old Black Magic,”  “Million Dollar Baby In The Five And Ten Cent Store,”  “You’re The Tops,” or  “ It’s Delightful, It’s Delovely?”   and how about  “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” ” You Are My Lucky Star,”  and  “Fit As A Fiddle And Ready For Love?”

The smiles just kept coming.  Who could forget  “ Oh, Mama, It’s The Butcher Boy For Me,”   “A Bushel And A Peck,”  or  “Buttons And Bows?”  Some of the most memorable songs came out of World War Two,  such as  “Jeepers Creepers,”  and  “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree.”

And what about the  happiest, most exuberant  love song of them all?  Written in 1929 and made famous in 1952 with lyrics by Arthur Freed and music by Nacio Herb Brown,  it made every one of us want to run out,  splash in rain puddles and swing around lampposts.  As danced and sung by the one and only Gene Kelly,  “Singin’ In The Rain”  had to be the most unforgettable, inspirational, lighthearted love song of  all time.

If  “Singin’ In The Rain”  doesn’t cheer you up,  nothing will!!

“What A Wonderful Feeling To Be Happy Again!”

Wedding in the Wilds (from my memoirs)

As small family weddings in remote places go, it was absolutely perfect. Picture a beautiful June day, a lovely little chapel in a scenic valley next to a rushing river, and a blushing bride with her nervous groom, ready to step into their future. Our oldest daughter, Mimi, and her husband-to-be, Howard, were the leading characters.

To complete the scene there was a misty eyed mom (that would be me), a beaming dad (my husband Lynn), a fluttery sister and a fluttery best friend as bridesmaid and maid of honor, and a proud young brother and brother-in-law-to-be in their roles as usher and best man. A very likeable family of new in-laws, a pair of pleased grandparents, mischievous uncles to decorate the getaway car and doting aunts with helping hands filled in the picture. All these plus a bubbly 7 month old baby girl added to the fun. A pleasant young minister with a sense of humor was the final touch.

Yes, the wedding was a delight. The preliminaries and the aftermath, not so much.

The happy bride-to-be, our oldest daughter Mimi, was 800 miles away that spring, too busy being engaged, graduating from college and nailing that all important first job to worry about wedding plans. Once she and her equally busy guy settled on a date, the rest was turned over to me.

“It’s all good, Mom. Whatever you want to do is fine with us. Just keep it simple.”

That was all this old do-it-yourselfer needed to hear and I leaped into action. Lists first of all, lots of lists. Living as we did in eastern Idaho, 54 miles from everywhere, planning was all important. Invitations, the DRESS, the rest of the attire, the food, the flowers, the cake, photos, just some of the dozens of details to be worked out. The venue was simple, the lovely little chapel was just down the road from us and was quickly reserved. A treasured piece of creamy white raw silk brought back from the Orient on one of Lynn’s trips was just waiting to become a wedding dress. I sent off a sample invitation, a snippet of the silk and a dress design  for the bride’s approval. Her answer came back, “Sure, Mom, all fine.”

Invitations went out.  24 acceptances came back. Looking around our modest little 3 bedroom home, we shook our heads. The first and oldest motel in history may have been in Central California, but surely the 2nd oldest was just down the road, right there in Swan Valley, with maybe a total of 6 or 8 rooms, all shabby. We sent our expected guests lists of accommodations in Jackson, Wyoming, 50 miles east and in Idaho Falls, Idaho, 54 miles west, the best we could do. They came anyway.

The weeks flew by. I sewed, I shopped, I cooked, filling the cupboards and my new copper colored freezer-fridge with everything I could think of. I sewed some more, I shopped some more, I cooked a whole lot more. Soon 4 new dresses and 3 headpieces were hanging, ready for the event. Thanking my lucky stars for the A-line dresses then in style, I guessed at approximate sizes. With daughter Kerry at hand, I knew she and I would fit into our finery, and last minute alterations could be done on the other 2 dresses if necessary. Miraculously they were perfect fits.

With time growing short, our neighbors all took an intense interest in the proceedings. We were living in a small government camp of 24 houses at the time so our situation was quite a diversion. A friend’s mother came out from the city to visit her. Being employed at a bakery in town, she gave me a very welcome lesson in making icing roses. I soon had a tray full of creamy roses tucked into the freezer for the finishing touches on the cake layers I had wrapped and waiting.

There were a few glitches. Snow filled the cups of the spring tulips 3 days before the wedding. Not to worry, this was Idaho, weather changes fast. And it did; the tulips weren’t even damaged. The day before the wedding Lynn and I had to make a last minute run into Idaho Falls to pick up the flowers, fresh grocery items and such, leaving all 24 guests plus the baby to do some sightseeing, which they seemed happy to do. We provided local maps and directions, and eastern Idaho at an elevation of 6,000 feet provided the scenery.

Lynn pulled a hilarious faux pas that started the festivities off in the right mood when the car loaded with our bride, groom and her best friend pulled into our driveway. In the general excitement Lynn rushed out, clasped Howard’s hand and welcomed  “Harold” to our home. HOWARD never let him forget that greeting.

A few days earlier Lynn had talked me into taking a short ride up the mountain just behind our camp. He had a new little mountain bike of some sort and convinced me I needed a relaxing getaway from all the preparations. Against my better judgement I hopped on behind him and we putt-putted away up the trail.

I wasn’t exactly relaxed but I was trying to be when Lynn suddenly spotted a side trail that needed exploring. A sharp turn to the right and I slid off the seat, hands and knees  down in the gravel. I shrieked out a few bad words, my mouth being all I could move for a few minutes. Just then faint voices were heard from the camp below. My friends and neighbors were clustered in the road, hollering up at me, “Joan, Joan, are you alright?” Pride came to my rescue. I leaped up, shook myself and shouted back through gritted, gritty teeth, “I’m just fine, thanks.”

I had no way to get down off that dratted mountain except to climb back on the devil machine and ride back down, muttering imprecations all the way.

My Mother-Of-The-Bride dress was knee length, just right to display my scraped and abraded shins in all their glory. Fortunately my raw silk dress was a soft dusky rose that matched my scarred, scabbed legs perfectly as I hobbled into the chapel on my son Kirk’s arm.  With his assistance,I sat down very carefully.

And at last, the wedding! The entire day turned out to be everything we wanted it to be, a beautiful, memorable experience for all of us.

So afterwards?  Well, things could have gone better afterwards.

Somewhere along the line, in the midst of the whirlwind wedding preparations, Lynn and I had made a fast trip to Yakima, Washington. Realizing Idaho was a bit too rustic for us with two high school students still at home, we drove over to check out his new job offer. Liking everything we saw, we quickly rented a house and arranged for a moving van to show up two days after the wedding.

As we stood on the curb the morning after the wedding, waving good-bye to the last of the guests, we looked around and watched in shock as our moving van came barrelling down the street a full day early. The driver had a good story. He had inherited some money back east and, being very anxious to collect, he thought we just might be able to get away a little ahead of time. He’d help us with whatever needed doing just to get under way. A quick sidewalk conference was held  with our kids and our sister-in-law June, who was staying over an extra day, and we all decided “Why Not?”

Never was a household packed up and transported in less time. June spent the entire day packing the kitchen, the kids took care of their rooms, the driver willingly took on every job we gave him, and Lynn and I worked like dogs. For those who might wonder why nothing had been done ahead of time, we’d had 24 wedding guests and a baby to entertain and everything we owned had been in use.

The crack of dawn the next morning found us loading up “Snowball,” our old blue-eyed white cat, along with a cooler full of leftover wedding goodies. We gave the van driver our new Yakima address, dropped June off with her son in Pocatello and headed west.

The first night in our new home found everyone almost too exhausted to sleep. Poor Snowball kept falling off the end of our bed and I was just too tired to pick him up. Somehow he’d manage to get back on the bed, only to fall off again. This went on all night and I just couldn’t wake up enough to help him.

We never did hear if the van driver got back to Maine to pick up his inheritance but we certainly did our part.

Looking back over the years, we all remember that wedding in the wilds as a lovely, calm interlude between some really hectic experiences.

Oh yes, moving day also happened to be my birthday, a totally forgettable detail under the circumstances.

Jeepers Creepers!! The Jitterbug! …

… How 1940s Hep-cats Learned To Cut A Rug.

Was there ever a dance more aptly named than the Jitterbug? The dance craze inspired by Cab Calloway in the mid 1930s swept through the 1940s like a …well …like a jittery bug. It kept everyone hopping, leaping, dipping and throwing themselves and their partners around for the next few years. Just reminiscing about it decades later can give me a flashback sciatic attack complete with spasms.

The original version of the Jitterbug was a sexy, seductive glide with both partners snuggled tightly together. I have an idea it was a far cry from the jerky, acrobatic version my high school friends and I, all about 16 years old, were attempting to learn in 1942 at “The SURF,” our local ballroom.

After a week of school, with my afternoons spent working from 2:00 to 5:30 at the local Kresge’s dime store, Saturdays were a mad rush. I’d put in a long day at work from 9:00 to 9:00 with 2 half hour lunch breaks. As soon as the store closed and we got checked out, I was off to the “SURF” to meet my friends. Admission was nominal for those times, with maybe a few coins left over for a couple of sodas during the evening. Our  anticipation ran high as we burst into the noisy, dimly lit ballroom, music already pulsing away. We were ready to jump in.

Both Swing and Jazz music were hugely popular at that time, and both were perfect for the dance we loved, the Jitterbug. Songs like “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,”  and “Jeepers, Creepers” would have us on our feet in no time, bouncing around like jumping beans.

None of us were very good dancers, but I was especially clumsy and inept, all bony elbows and knobby knees. Add to that a certain amount of shyness and timidity and I was not the most sought after partner by any means. The below-the-knee dresses and rubber soled saddle shoes we girls wore didn’t help much either but I was enthusiastic and determined.

Some of my partners were strapping farm boys, used to tossing bales of hay and corralling stubborn animals. Timid as I was, I lived in fear that one of them might decide to throw me over his shoulder or slide me down between his feet. What if his hands were as sweaty as mine were, too slippery to hang on?  What if he threw me out so far I couldn’t swing back? What if he dropped me? Or worst of all, what if he lifted me so high my skirt fell down around my ears, exposing my sensible cotton undies to the whole world? All too terrifying to contemplate!.

Fortunately the guys were usually as inexperienced as we girls  were, but what we lacked in skills we made up for in enthusiasm. We ended up with kind of a spastic combination hop, skip and jump. Whatever we were doing, we thought it was great fun as we puffed and panted, our ears rang and we perspired rivers of sweat. We rarely sat down between sets, eager for the downbeat and the next song. We thought we were really cutting a rug!

Our evenings always ended at 1:00 a.m  with one slow dance to a dreamy version of “Sentimental Journey,” “Deep Purple” or “Begin The Beguine.”  A quiet ride home and off to a bed that never felt so good as it did in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. I’d fall into it, ears still ringing as I Jitterbugged off to sleep, already looking forward to the next Saturday night.

Time passed, we finished growing up, graduated and moved off toward our futures. Before I knew it we were into the 1950s and something called Rock and Roll burst on the scene, eagerly embraced by a younger crowd of energetic kids. It quickly replaced the Jitterbug everywhere except in my memories.

Jeepers Creepers, what a groovy dance that was!

Ashes to Dust

The service is over, the last eulogy read, the last organ notes fading away. All the cucumber horseradish sandwiches have been eaten or dumped into a potted plant, and the last tearful guest has been hugged and sent off.

You’re left standing there holding a surprisingly heavy receptacle, all that’s left of dear old Grandad or Susie or your husband of 37 years. Now what do you do? What’s next?

Grandad, Susie or hubby had chosen to be cremated upon their passing.  All well and good, the problem being now what to do with the cremains, as we respectfully refer to the container filled with the ashes. Where to put it? Where does it belong? It’s not exactly the sort of thing everyone has sitting around the living room or the family room.

You’re holding a beautifully decorated urn or vase or cloisonne box covered with silver and gilt, a real treasure chest. It probably cost as much as an ebony casket with handles of gold. Suddenly it looks to you like just one more thing that will need a whole lot of dusting. The more ornate, the more dusting. You hate dusting.

Maybe a centerpiece for the dining room table?  No, no one could possibly enjoy a meal with Grandad, Susie or hubby looking on. If you had a fireplace, the mantle would be perfect; unfortunately, your fireplace is a modernistic cone from the 1970s with nowhere to set a thing.

A friend of mine kept the cremains of her first husband, her second husband, her second husband’s first wife and her beloved Labradoodle, SNOOKUMS, all on the top shelf of the closet in her guest bedroom, having no idea where else to put them. Fine, as long as her guests didn’t get too nosy about all those jars full of sand stuck up there. At least the jars never needed much dusting, hidden as they were.

Me, I wouldn’t want to spend eternity on a shelf in a dark closet. Put me out on the coffee table where I can keep an eye on any of my replacements who might be trying to move in. I’d like to be in a lovely alabaster jar, tightly sealed, of course. I don’t want any celery sticks or potato chips dipping in, stirring me up. I’m afraid the taste would be  a bit gritty. Another drawback, I’d  need to be dusted several times a week or so. Or on the other hand, that might be a good job for the would-be replacements, the hussies.

Funeral urns and vases come in a large variety of imaginative shapes and materials nowadays. Some even cater to  hobbies or interests the deceased has enjoyed. My brother and sister-in-law actually saw one shaped like a duck decoy. Gives new meaning to the expression “dead duck.”

Think of the possibilities; an elaborately enameled largemouth bass with silver scales for the fisherman. An oversized golf ball, flat on the bottom, of course, otherwise the grandchildren would be rolling it up and down the hallway, keeping Grandad even more rattled than he had been in his final years. Maybe an old fashioned Bakelite telephone. That could be quite a conversation piece if it was rigged to ring once in awhile. “Oh, that’s just my mom, reminding me to dust her oftener.”

A new custom seems to be developing in our culture, sharing the ashes among those of the bereaved who were especially close. A beautiful, loving thought indeed; however, I can think of several drawbacks, splitting prsonalities being one of them.

How could you divide Aunt Susie among all the doting nephews and nieces?  A dab here and a dab there, but what if you ran out? You’d never get by with substituting Bisquick. And who would get the gold teeth?

I understand there are now pieces of jewelry such as necklaces and bangles with tasteful little containers that hold a tiny bit of the dear one’s ashes. Imagine walking around with a constant reminder of your nagging spouse hanging around your neck? It would certainly cut into any desire to ever have a good time again.

Or what if you put a teaspoonful of Uncle George’s ashes in an envelope and mailed it off across the country? The envelope splits and the next thing you know the F.B.I. has surrounded your house with drawn guns.

I’m afraid this is all much too complicated for me. I’ll go for a plain pine box in miniature for dear old whatsisname. I’ll set it right next to the refrigerator as a reminder that he ended up in the box because of his morbid obesity, a condition not to be taken lightly. If I remember, I’ll dust it off once in awhile as I’m reaching into the freezer for seconds on the “Chocolate Chunky Monkey.”

May he rest in peace, dusted or not.

Contadora Island (from my memoirs)

I’ve been known to remark that the great old sport of sailing, especially in a small boat, leaves one either scared to death or bored to death. I have to admit that’s somewhat of an exaggeration. I’ve spent many, many hours sailing with my husband and our children, all of whom love the sport, and we’ve enjoyed ourselves enormously, only rarely either scared or bored.

Living in the former Panama Canal Zone for nearly twelve years, we had nearly perfect sailing conditions for a mode of transportation that was never intended for speed. Panama Bay stretched for about fifty miles in any direction, calm and serene, full of islands to be explored, with winds that rarely reached anything over twenty knots. True, we did have our moments when things got a little frantic and frightening but they were few and far between.

“Boredom” can also mean “relaxing and restful” So what if it took us eight or ten hours to reach our favorite island forty miles out in the bay. So be it. Plenty of time to unwind, read a book or just ponder the sky and the sea.

Lounging in the shade of the sail one quiet afternoon as we ghosted along in a calm sea, I happened to glance over the rail just in time to see a tiny sea-horse, bright orange against the deep blue of the water. It was wriggling along so earnestly I’ve often wondered where it could possibly have been going in that vast body of water. Truly, that sight was a glimpse of Mother Nature at her most benign.

We had a glimpse of her raw power the time we glided into our favorite anchorage at our favorite island, Contadora, and found the entire cove filled with giant rays. They looked huge and black against the shallow, sandy bottom and there seemed to be dozens of them although we actually only counted eight or ten. Nobody swam ashore on that trip. We all used our dinghies. Even that was risky; one flip of those giant wings could have sent us into the water with them.

Contadora Island was the largest of a group of islands in Panama Bay known as “Las Perlas” or “The Pearls,” totally undeveloped and uninhabited. Often our friends and we would take several boats down for a few days of swimming, picnicking and relaxation. We always had the place to ourselves with a shallow anchorage and a beautiful broad, sandy beach. No one but our fellow yacht club members ever used Contadora. Our children loved it, as we all did.

Our trips weren’t always family affairs, depending on school schedules and other obligations. If our good friend Pepe Ehrmann was along he could be counted on to provide “lunch,” liberal glasses of his secret recipe for Jungle Juice. Pepe’s idea of lunch definitely was not for children. Whatever he put in it called for long, long siestas afterwards, everyone searching for the shadiest spots on deck. The tropical sun and a few glugs of Jungle Juice and we were conked out for the afternoon.

We always anchored out in the cove, there being no docks or moorings. Barbecuing on the beach after dark was part of our routine. Sunset comes early and fast in the tropics and we liked to have a good bonfire going before it got dark.

There were always uninvited guests. The no-see-ems welcomed us and our bare arms and legs with sharpened teeth or whatever instruments of torture they used. We swatted and slapped and sprayed repellant which the no-see-ems seemed to thrive on, their own version of Jungle Juice, I guess. The only thing that really worked was a fire big enough to smoke them out, sending us into coughing fits, wondering which was worse, death by bug bites or by suffocation. Still, we loved being there.

At one time the government of Panama was offering to sell the island of Contadora at a cost of $6,000 Balboas or American dollars, both currencies being equal. Talk about coulda, shoulda, didna, $6,000 dollars for that bit of paradise! We blew that one!

We left the country in 1965 and by the early 1970s some enterprising group bought the island, made electricity and fresh water available and developed an enormous luxury resort right above “our” beach!  Contadora quickly became the “in” place for the world’s wealthiest. Even the deposed Shah of Iran, his family and entourage arrived in 1979 or 1980, having been granted asylum by the American and Panamanian governments.

The island quickly built up around the resort with enormous vacation homes, inns, B and Bs and other accommodations springing up. The resort itself flourished for only a few years before it lost its charm and fell out of favor. Nothing is left today, sadly, but acres of elegant ruins. Contadora has remained a vacation spot for the less affluent, but no longer has the glitz and glamour.

Contadora had one more fling with the big time. The television show “Survivor” was filmed there for one season. We had never watched the show but of course had to watch “our” island for the entire season. From what I could see, the no-see-ums were the ultimate “Survivors.”