Middle Child: I'm the Reason We Had Rules!

June is a big month for celebrating in my family. My parents were married 66 years ago in June, Father's Day is in June, and we have numerous additional family birthdays (including my husband's) in June. I don't get to visit my family as often as I would like, but on this day, I did! I got to visit and everyone was there!

The celebration turned out to be a surprise cookout potluck at my parents' house. My little sister and my sister-in-law did much of the arranging and the logistics and the cooking on the grill. The rest of us all brought something. My parents were indeed surprised (and delighted) to see us all. It was the first time we have all been together since Christmas.

We had cheeseburgers and hot dogs and numerous salads (I brought potato salad) and desserts such as pineapple upside down cake. My oldest sister tried her hand at cole slaw, and you know how fussy I am about cole slaw. I was almost afraid to taste it, but I did, and it was delicious!

My oldest sister had bought all six of us kids some amusing t-shirts for Christmas. They have statements on the front about our birth order and rules. The thing is, she forgot to bring them along on the day we all were present at Christmas, so we didn't get a full group photo then.

And we didn't actually get a full group shot on this day either, as two of the middle children didn't have their shirts with them and are missing from the photo. But I think you get the idea. Big thanks to my husband, by the way, for snapping this shot for me!

We are posed in this picture starting with the oldest on the left (she is the one who was featured in my recent beach shot), then second-oldest, then second-youngest (me, with my mouth wide open, laughing), then youngest on the right. It turns out that as a middle child, I'm apparently the reason we had rules! (Those who are interested may view a full family photo here.)

The family visit wasn't the only fun part of this day. We weren't expected until supper time, so my husband and I stopped before our visit at Hairy John's picnic area for a little sit and relaxation, and we dipped our bare feet in the icy cold spring-fed water.  We traveled via route 45 out the big green farm valleys and rolling hills, as there is still plenty of road construction on our usual route, 322 down through the Seven Mountains.

I've shown you how lovely the light can be through the trees at Hairy John, and also the reflections of autumn on its waters. This time, our big treat was the amphibians. Several big bullfrogs were barrumping all around the little pond. Sometimes their calls sounded more like the plucking of a banjo string.

I went in hot but stealthy pursuit of the huge bullfrog that hangs out on the far corner of the water's edge. I looked and looked but did not see it; took another step; and looked again, just in time to see it lift itself up and land LOUDLY - KERSPLOOSH! - in the water. Darn it, missed the shot AGAIN!

And when motorcycles rumbled loudly past on route 45, we heard an unusual sound, almost like a little reverberation - a harmonic complementary tune - as though some creature were trying to join its song with theirs. And we looked to see where it was coming from.

The source of the music turned out to be a large American toad, which eventually clambered onto leaves atop the water to continue its tunes. Have you ever heard a toad sing? I have. If you want to too, here's a little clip that features both audio and video. You may also view the songful amphibian in the extras.

And then another interesting thing happened: a motorcycling stranger stopped along the road and walked down to the little pond to wash his face and hands in the cold spring water.  And so he came around our edge of the pond, and we began to chat.

He told us about how he remembered coming to the picnic area in the 1940s, and how there had once been a keystone rock in the center above the spring, with the date 1926 inscribed (the date the picnic area was made). This was back in the day of picnic groves, where anyone and everyone would pack a picnic lunch and simply GO!

The keystone rock was eventually stolen, and no longer appears there. Nobody knows where it went. (Come on, people, who would steal a ROCK?) He told us about working for the steel mill, and for the railroad. He talked about the five-acre property he owns along route 192 with two trout streams and a swimming hole, which sounded pretty sweet.

He seemed to have many more stories in him. About hunting birds with his brother as a child, and how he wishes now he hadn't shot all those birds. And how he liked catching blacksnakes and bringing them home because they are good for keeping the rodent populations down. We chatted a while, and then we had to take our leave of him, for we needed to get going to be at my parents' house on time.

"Well, I have to go pick up my lady friend," the man finally said, and he grinned a great big grin, showing two missing front teeth; "I'm taking her out for a banana split." It was a grin that seemed to hint at more, and I suspected that a banana split might not be ALL that was on his list of hopes and dreams for this summer day. And so we parted company, and went our separate ways. We never even exchanged names.

Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you about the fawn! While we were driving out the beautiful farmland, heading east on route 45 on our way down to visit, I looked to my left and saw a startling sight: deer in the fields! It was about 2 in the afternoon, so I had no idea why they were out and about.

But there they were: a doe and two very small fawns in the farmer's field, and the first fawn was running as fast as its little legs could carry it, straight toward the road! I have never in my life seen a fawn run so fast! I pointed it out to my husband and we both marveled.

The mama wasn't sure what to do to stop it, but I saw her take off after the fawn, and she seemed to be overtaking it as we went by. I could not know what happened next, but I said a little prayer for their safety: please, let those who drive here be slow and careful, may their eyes be watchful, may their reflexes be quick, may they spare the wildlife. (And I remembered to look, and checked for bodies on the way back, and saw none, thank goodness.)

I know I am telling this story all out of order, and I'm sorry for that; somebody blame Faulkner for misleading me. But I wanted to save for last some comments about the drive home, for it was beautiful.

It was a hot, hot day, with temperatures into the mid-80s F, and I am a person who doesn't tolerate the heat as well as some. Get me above 80 degrees and I start to wilt. I must stick by the cold water and douse myself; better yet, climb in.

So it was quite hot out, as summer is. But the mountains were shady and green and deep and dark, and full of promise and mystery, and the roads we drove home were cool and the breezes refreshing. It made me remember how in the past (and even now), people in the cities would make an exodus in the summer, if they could, and go somewhere airy and green; they would escape to the country.

And after a day full of interesting travels, and family fun, and a full-tilt fawn, and amphibian song, my backroads central Pennsylvania world seemed like just about a perfect place. As we drove along the backroads, it felt like a paradise to me. It is all I ever wished for, all I ever dreamed: I am home.

And now there must be a song to go along with all of this. And I am looking at the word RULES on all those shirts and thinking of just one tune. The song is Love Rules, by Don Henley, from the soundtrack to that 80s classic flick, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

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