When summers seemed endless

I was thinking the other day as the temperature outside soared close to ninety degrees, that summertime has finally arrived. It seems like it was just yesterday when the first daffodils of spring were blooming.

My Mama always said that the older you get the faster time goes and now I know exactly what she meant. However, in my childhood years, summer stretched out like it would never end.

In our small home my younger sisters, Beth and Bobbie and I shared one bedroom crowded with three twin beds and Mama and Daddy had the other one. One bathroom, a living room and kitchen completed the house except for a small utility room.

There was a coal furnace, an ash bucket and shovel, and my Mama’s pride and joy, a second hand wringer washer. It was on wheels so you could move it to the kitchen sink to hook up the hoses. Clothes were hung outside on clotheslines and I can still remember the smell of sunshine and fresh air as we folded our laundry.

Our home was located in a low cost area of Baltimore City. By today’s standards we would be considered poor but we didn’t know it back then. Our little house did not have air conditioning, but the windows had screens and a fan set on exhaust would bring a breeze into the kitchen.

My father was an upholsterer by trade so our furniture always had new coverings and Mama always kept our house spic and span. In the summer we would change the oilcloth blinds to darker ones so when they were pulled down it kept out the heat of the afternoon sun. We had a small blow up pool in the backyard (just big enough to sit toe to toe and shoulder to shoulder with about one foot of water) a swing set and hopscotch painted on the sidewalk.

My best friend, Linda Jean who was eight-years-old to my seven was a little mysterious. She lived with her grandmother next door and her real mother only came to visit every few weeks. She never spoke of her father or if she had siblings.

She was everything I wanted to be. She had golden blond hair that was curly and very long and sky-blue mischievous eyes. She was fearless and attempted things I had never even thought about. Linda Jean had a way of making everything fun and exciting. I adored her.

It was her idea to use her grandmother’s fresh baked bread to feed the birds. She made up a game of us walking backwards which was fun until we fell into a rose bush and had to have my Mama pull out thorns from our clothes.

That seemingly endless summer was filled with front porch picnics, looking for four leaf clovers and laying in the grass to see what we could find etched in the clouds. We would sit on the swings and giggle over anything. We caught and released butterflies, played house with our Tiny Tears dolls and at dusk we would wish on the first star.

We said that we would be best friends always even though we would be going to different schools. Our lives seemed perfect that endless summer.

It was a hot day in August when my mother called me into the backyard. We sat together in the shade of our old apple tree and she told me that Linda Jean had been sick and had died at the hospital. I looked at her stunned. A world of hurt hit me for the first time in my life. “Mama, we just played together yesterday morning, she wasn’t sick.” Mama tried to explain about a disease called diabetes and how Linda Jean had it for a long time and no one knew.

I remember the heat of that next day, the whirl of the exhaust fan and Mama braiding my hair. I wore my white Mary Janes and my first communion dress. Linda Jean had loved it and we had made plans to sneak it to her house so she could try it on.

I remember the cold air conditioning at the funeral parlor and how her grandmother clutched me to her and walked me over to say goodbye to my friend.

She was so beautiful. Her golden blond hair curled over her shoulders and satin ballet slippers with ribbons and bows were on her feet. She looked as though she was just asleep and she almost had a smile on her face. I thought it was because she was wearing a dress just like mine. She finally had one of her own.

It was at that moment that my endless summer ended!

Nunsense: Hilarious nonsense

— Going to Toby’s Dinner Theater is a wonderful way to spend an evening or an afternoon. You are so warmly welcomed that you feel as though you are visiting a friend’s home.

Toby’s is synonymous with great service and is very well known for its fabulous buffet offering a large variety of main courses along with a full salad bar, fruit, an ice cream station and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic). There is something to suit everyone’s tastes.

The main event, of course, is great theater productions. Playing now through July 14, 2013 is “Nunsense.” It is the tale of a group of nuns who through a series of crazy circumstances become The Order of the Little Sisters of Dundalk. While doing missionary work one of the nuns accidentally poisons fifty-two of the Sisters and the remaining ones need to raise money for burial funds by putting on a revue in the school auditorium.

The Sisters who have all come from different backgrounds also had dreams before becoming nuns that are presented during their dance or song routines.

Sister Mary Robert Anne (Heather Marie Beck) came from a poor background in Brooklyn and is more than a little street smart but under that tough exterior she wants to be a star. Sister Mary Amnesia (Beth Rayca) who lost her memory wants only to remember who she really is and Sister Mary Hubert (Celia Blitzer) the Mistress of Novices but now has only one novice, Sister Leo (Maura Hogan) who tells the Mother Superior, Sister Mary Regina (Jane C. Boyle), that she will only take her vows if she is allowed to take part in the production.

Many memories of Catholic School days will resurface as the cast interacts with the audience causing bursts of laughter as participants answer quiz questions, but you don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy the jokes and awesome music.

If you are ready for a night full of fun, good food and great talent do not miss seeing this production of “Nunsense.”

The Toby’s at O’Donnell Street has not announced the upcoming show yet, but the next play to be offered at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia is “Les Miserables,” which will run from July 26 until November 10, 2013.

For additional information or tickets, call the Columbia location at 410-730-8311 or the O’Donnell location at 410-649-1660 or visit the website: www.tobysdinnertheatre.com.

Niagara Falls: A great summer getaway

When my church first posted a flier announcing a five-day trip to Niagara Falls, I immediately thought of couples holding hands, getting married or celebrating anniversaries. Just the name, Niagara Falls conjures thoughts of romance so I didn’t think it would be the trip for me.

I took the time to speak to the trip leader and I am so glad I did. She said the tour bus run by White Star Tours would be filled with many of our church members with a cross section of ages— both singles and couples. The best news was that the bus would leave directly from our church grounds.

The trip did seem to take quite a while, but we arrived at the Canadian border at four o’clock. With passports in our hands we left the bus and went through the security checkpoint. The bus was also checked not only by customs officials but also by dogs. It seemed a little tense but very necessary in the times in which we live.

A short time later we pulled up to the Travelodge Hotel by the Falls and were welcomed by an efficient and friendly representative from White Star Tours. Joanna would be our guide during our stay and had quite a full itinerary lined up. She passed out our room numbers and keys while our driver Milton unloaded the luggage, which arrived to our rooms promptly.

Sightseeing stops on our first full day included The Floral Clock, a working mechanism with the clock’s face made up of multicolored shrubs, Table Rock for or first view of the falls which was beautiful and of course a visit to a gift shop. Take my word for it, if you see something you want there don’t hesitate to get it. You are not likely to find it anywhere else.

Next on the itinerary was a boat-ride on The Maid of the Mist, for a close up look at the falls. While waiting in line some of us noticed an antique cable car ride. It is suspended 250 feet above the racing water of the falls, which was a great way to observe the water and we had an exciting ride. Hurrying back, we put on the rain-gear that was provided. Even with extra protection we were soaking wet when we disembarked, but it was totally worth it. The falls are extraordinary!

After dinner at a casual restaurant, we were able to explore on our own. We walked to the Clifton Hill area. It is an easy walk down but all uphill on the way back. If walking is a problem there are taxis and a bus system, which runs frequently and a day pass is only seven dollars and is well worth it.

Close your eyes just for a moment and imagine a miniature Times Square, or Las Vegas or Atlantic City’s boardwalk set on a hill. Lots of neon flashing signs extolling the services or goods displayed inside. Tattoos, sand art, your name on a grain of rice, portrait drawings, paintings for sale, souvenirs and so much more. There are many cafes, ice cream parlors and entertainment venues. Some include Ripley’s Believe It or Not, The Upside Down House, The House of Frankenstein and The Great Canadian Midway. Wow! You could literally walk Clifton Hill for a week before doing all that is offered.

My favorite ride and more age appropriate for me, was the Skywheel. It is Canada’s largest observation wheel and towers at one hundred and seventy-five feet. It features fully enclosed gondolas each equipped with music and air-conditioning. The ride duration varies from eight to twelve minutes and affords a dazzling view of the illuminated falls and the surrounding skyline. It is a breathtaking experience.

The next day we headed to Toronto with stops at Harborfront, Chinatown and Casa Loma, a 98 room castle once owned by an eccentric millionaire. I opted for a movie tour and documentary instead of walking three flights of steps. I later enjoyed the lovely gardens and patio areas.

Our final day took us to the Welland Canal. We watched as an ocean going vessel was moved along with the opening, filling and closing of the locks. Then onto the family owned FX Chocolate Factory. We finished our tour with a leisurely walk through the small town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, which was the first capital of Upper Canada in 1792. It has many beautiful, historic homes and upscale shops and galleries.

I will say that although Canada has much to offer, I was very happy to come back to our beautiful country— there really is no place like home!