Hey there everyone. Since this autobiography is a work in progress and I place my memories here as they come to me, I've had lots of people ask if I've added anything new...thus, I've decided to post the new stuff on my other blog: Mimi's Pixie Corner so it will be easier to see my additions. They will be added here chronologically still. I'll post the last few new additions over there now and start with brand new ones very soon! Thanks for all of your interest and please do let me know when you visit. I try to answer all of you...I love that you've taken the time to stop by and say hello!

My Normal? Life


The series of posts below and listed to the right are in chronological order of my life...the posts are not in order of when I posted them. If you think you've already read it all, you may not have. I keep adding more. So, pour yourself a cup of java (or tea if you are British or pretentious(like me)) and stay awhile...let me know you visited. I love hearing from new people as well as friends and family!!! God bless--oh, and try not to laugh at my life too hard. I'm quite sensitive, you know (and I can use an M16A1 rifle).


What's in a Name?

"I guess it doesn't matter what a person's name is as long as he behaves

"Well, I don't know...I read in a book once that a rose by any other name
would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't
believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk

~Anne of Green Gables~

~by L. M. Montgomery~

For most of my childhood, I did not know my name.

No, I wasn't adopted. I just had confused parents. If I had been a boy, there would have been no problem. I would have been named Harold John Szeker. My parents already had three girls and thought for sure God would not punish them again...they already used up the girl's names that they agreed on. But, much to the displeasure of the Szeker line, I was not a boy. Suddenly they had a problem. You see, my dad wanted to name me Miriam which means 'Dwelling in the Spirit' or 'Discerning One'. Mom wanted my name to be Marianne, meaning 'Graceful' or 'Harmony and Grace'. Dad, being the genius that he is (he really is a rocket-scientist; I jest not) said, "Okay, Syl. Why don't we name her Marianne but call her by the nick-name of Miriam: Mimi?" So, it was decided. Officially, my name was recorded as Marianne Christina Szeker...but I was known to all as Mimi. Mimi means 'Bitter'. Lovely. Am I graceful or bitter? Or can we say that since Mimi is really just short for Miriam, I am discerning? My sisters just thought of me as selfish: Me-me., big, fat, hairy deal you say? When I got to Kindergarten, yes, it became a huge deal. Not only were they not saying what I knew as my first name, they could not pronounce my last name to save their lives. No one could...unless they were Hungarian...but the Hungarian pronounciation of Szeker (Sa-care) was no longer being used by my family. You see, my great-grandfather came over from Hungary and planted himself in New York. New Yorkers could not say 'Sa-care' so they said 'Sucker'.

"Hey, Sucka! Come ovah here!"

Great-granddad did not like that one little bit; so he started pronouncing his name 'Zeeker'. Now, imagine, if you will, a little five year old thinking her name is Mimi 'Zeeker' all her life going into a classroom and waiting for her name to be called.

Roll call..."Do we have a Marianne Sazehker? No? How about a Mary Shaza...Sazee...Shnazaker? Marian Sazwehker? Hmmm. Who here has a name that begins with an 'M'?" Four tiny hands raised. By the process of elimination, I was selected. Of course I said, "My name is Mimi." She corrected me, "No, Dear, your name is Marianne." When I got home, I told my parents the story of the wicked teacher that lied to me. "Oh! No, Mimi, they are quite right! Your name is Marianne. Mimi is just a nickname."

"HUH? My name is not my name? Then why are you calling me, MIMI?"

For years I allowed myself to be two people. Marianne Sazekaeeer at school and Mimi Szeker at home. When I brought school friends home, they didn't know what to call me. Not until my senior year in High School did I finally correct a teacher. "Marianne Schazakerrrr?" I boldly and firmly said, "It is MIMI SZEKER" and that is how I was known until I got married.

*When someone asks for Marianne on the phone, I immediately say, "There is no one here that goes by that name..." and I hang up on them because I know it must be a telemarketer (or a bill collector!) ;-)


The Hostess Years

I was born on February 21, 1967 in Santa Clara, California to John and Sylvia Szeker. We lived in Los Gatos, California. My three older sisters loved me at once, of course. How could you not love a baby? They didn't know me yet! Anyway, their names from oldest to youngest are Margie, Kim, and Karen. Its kind of funny, Margie and I both have blonde hair and our names start with the letter 'M'...duh...but Kim and Karen have brown hair and gee, what do their names start with? I know, I looks like I have black hair and I did when I was born. Somehow it all grew in blonde.

All us girls, my poor dad...but he's okay now, we've all moved out. The teenage years were the trials anyway. Here we are all dressed up for Christmas pictures, looking all cute in our net stockings and mini-dresses...I'm the little stinker in the black velvet dress. Don't we look fine? But we really aren't all that prim and proper. Do you notice Karen...the pixie with the red stockings. Why does she smile so sweetly? Look at her left shoulder (your right) you see that white thing on it? Yeah, that thing with a pink tail? Yes, it is a rat...or a mouse, I can't remember which. Anyway, if you look at the picture to the left, what do you think happened between flashbulbs? Hmm, let's see...Margie looks like a little innocent smiling princess, Kim looks bored, I have either just picked my nose or my hand smells really good...and I've come up missing a leg somewhere. But Karen...she seems to have lost something else all together. I don't think she wanted Mom and Dad to know about the mouse...sure hope she found it before Mom did because, boy oh boy, my Mom has quite a set of lungs on her.

Trip to the Redwood Forest in Santa Cruz, California

Now, if you are a fan of my book already, you'd know all about the redwood trees that can grow somewheres to 350 feet tall. I wasn't kidding about that. Meet my muse for the Hamadryad, Sequoia Sempervirens. That is a real tree. I still remember visiting the Redwood National Forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains. We are standing inside of you suppose it has just ripped itself open to expose a tunnel to the underground realm of the F.A.I.R.I.E.S.? Would have been fun. Anyway, this tree stuck in my memory since I was 3 years old. I'm the tiny-tot there in the center of the picture. Did you know there used to be a tree with an opening so large that they paved a road under it? I'm told that it fell down since I last visited it. Too bad. It was a really cool tree. We had many adventures in Santa Cruz. One of which was camping. My dad and another family's dad decided it would be funny to tell us a scary Bigfoot story by the campfire one night. After we all went to bed, they pounded the ground and scraped at the tents pretending to be Bigfoot. Yeah, men never do grow up! We were scared out of our wits~the big goofs! Thus, when you enter the world of the fairies, you will encounter Bigfoot or Yeti, as they are commonly known around the world.

Elementary School

The first year of school...awe, excitement, and disappointment. The following is lovingly referred to as.......


Do you remember your first day of school? The nevous anticipation of the wonders and vast store of knowledge that you were about to become a part of? I wore my blue dress with big white diasies and carried my tin Pinocchio lunch box to Howes Elementary School. I really wanted to walk to school like a big kid...all my sisters got to walk to school. Mom had other ideas. We pulled up in the large brown Buick and I was so excited that I could hardly open the door. Will everyone like me? Will I meet the prince of my dreams? Will I step out, trip over the curb, fall flat on my face in front of my entire class and have my lunch box crash open and the contents spill on the ground as I watch my Ding-Dong roll into the parkinglot, my mom wave and drive off over my charished dessert? No to all but the last question. Man, I really loved Ding-Dongs (and still do--they used to be individually wrapped in foil; I miss that). Needless to say, my first experience of school was met with embarassment, disappointment, and cruelty to Hostess. It could only get better.


Margie is the oldest. While we were growing up she was always getting into trouble and while Margie was in the hot seat, the rest of us could do pretty much whatever we wanted--since Mom and Dad's attention was centered on what consequences she had earned. Many a time Margie got away Scott-free, so I really don't feel too badly about the Ho-Ho's

The set up of our house let us kids have a good amount of privacy and the most amount of privacy was in the garage. My parents put a large carpet remnant on the middle of the cement floor and some old couches and chairs were placed in there. We had an old 45's record player and dozens of old mini-records in a box. There was also a freezer in the garage. Every Wednesday Mom would go shopping at the Hostess Outlet and stock up on Ding-Dongs, Ho-Ho's, Twinkees, cupcakes, various little pies, oh yeah--and bread. They were stored in the freezer. What would you do if you were chillin' in the garage playing the Partridge Family album and you were hungry...but dinner was not yet ready?

Remember, Margie hardly ever stayed home unless she was grounded...she usually hung out with whatever boyfriend she had that week (sorry Margie, I love you--but you know it is true! : P ) Kim liked to watch Marcus Welby M.D. so on almost every given weeknight it would be me and Karen lip-sincing to David Cassidy's 'You Can Hear My Heartbeat...' One night we were most hungry and a Ho-Ho's box called out our names. We ate not one, not two, but the entire box--and got away with it! A whole week went by and no one had noticed...or so we thought. The little garbage can had not yet been emptied. One night we heard the usual screams and thought that Margie had been caught again...then we started hearing words like "wrappers", "a whole box!", "Hostess thief!"...Karen and I just stared innocently as we came to dinner. Margie was mad. She got away with sneaking out the night before but was grounded for a week for something she didn't do. Mom and Dad decided to be fair and ask all of us to tell if they knew who ate the Ho-Ho's. Kim looked confused, Karen looked at me, I looked at Karen...we all looked at the outraged Margie...together Karen and I said, "Margie did it." And that was that.

BESIDES HOSTESS, Baseball--uh, I mean girl's softball-- ruled my elementary universe...

Ah, the good old days. Bobby Sox, or more commonly known as softball. 1976, I was 9 years old and full of spit and fire...too bad that fire never met the ball with the bat. Karen was blessed with the baseball gene. I did get better, especially when my all-star sister wasn't on the same team. Boy, she was good...and still is. (While I've gotten fat and lazy she is an aerobics instructor and on an adult softball team!) She could hit that ball over center-field's head! I should know, during practice it was my head she would almost take off. Yep, I was an outfielder...most of the young ones are and I was the youngest on the team that year...but as I said, I did get better. Dad was our coach and we won the league championship that year. I never won it again, but, hey...I still had fun.

The Good Samaritan

Have you ever had an experience with a Good Samaritan? Maybe an angel in disguise?

I did.

It was 1976; I was nine years old. The family had just pulled up to our camping spot at Trinity National Park in California. Funny how a name could mean something more now than it did then...Not until this moment did I realize that I had written 'Trinity' without meaning the Godhead. Hmmm...Something to ponder. Anyway, my parents started setting up camp and I really wanted to go on a bike ride. None of my sisters wanted to take me and my parents would not allow me to go alone. Thinking back, this was a good thing. At the time it seemed utterly unfair.

Margie made a deal with me. If I would brush her hair for half an hour then she would take me for a ride. I know that seems a bit mean but really, she didn't want to go and I liked making funny hair-dos in her hair.

Although I was not allowed to go 'alone', my parents did think I was old enough for a three speed bike. It was huge. I looked like one of the seven dwarves (Dopey) trying to balance on the thing. This was before helmets and pads for the kids...I was so stupid that I actually wore my leather Mexican flip-flops instead of sensible tennis shoes (sneakers...Running shoes or whatever you say for those things.) The ride started off great. Fresh mountain air, insects buzzing about, and birds tweeting merrily in the pine trees.

We didn't figure on the gravel or the steepness of the road.

Talk about head over heals! I flipped over the handle bars when I errantly hit a large piece of gravel. Gravel and face don't mix. Neither do teeth and rocks. I smashed my head into the dirty rocky mix and slid a few feet. I don't remember much after that...I blurrily recall Margie screaming for help. Next thing I knew, an old man was carrying me. My face, shirt and feet covered in blood. I had one sandal on. The other one must have stayed with my teeth on the pavement. The man's wife helped Margie and our bikes back to the campsite.

I never found out the names of the couple but will always remember their kindness.

My face was a mess. I lost three permanent teeth on my bottom row and had somehow created a mouse-hole shape in my two front teeth. The teeth had exited my mouth through my upper lip which was dangling open. Sorry, I know. It wasn't a pretty picture.

The nearest hospital/doctor was an hour away. My sisters and mom tore down camp as my dad tried to wash me off and stop the bleeding.

I ended up with a bunch of stitches, some false teeth (they were my permanent ones that I lost), and a good patch up job on the mouse-hole. For a long time I kept my torn and bloody sandal; the only souvenir I had from the trip that wasn't attached or lost from my body.

I thank God that Margie was there.

I also have some hugs for those two souls that helped me when I was in need.

1977 was great...

I had my best friend, Carolyn, on the team that year. My good friend and neighbor, Connie, also played. Carolyn's mom and my mom were coaches; Dad moved up with Karen and Kim played on that team too. I also was a bit more coordinated and started playing catcher.

1978 brought many changes.

I enjoyed the summer of softball playing both catcher and pitcher. When school began, my mom got a job as a teacher at Saint Mary's Catholic School in Gilroy, California. Ah, Gilroy...the garlic capitol of the world. Every year they throw a Garlic Festival. The town actually smells delicious. I decided that it would be 'neat' to attend the school my mother taught at, so for the beginning of my sixth grade, I went to Catholic school. Wearing a blue plaid mini-skirt with a white dress shirt and a button-up blue sweater for a uniform really wasn't so bad. After all, I didn't have to worry about looking cool...we all looked like dorks.

For some inane reason, I decided to go out for cheerleader.

Only one sixth grader was allowed on the squad. (The school was K-Ninth grade.) Try-outs were in the gym in front of the entire school. I don't know what made me do it. I'm a shy person by nature. Perhaps the fact that Karen was a cheerleader at her Junior-High School? Whatever the motive, I found myself on stage doing some bizarre cheers like "Big 'G' little 'O', Go, Go!" but I had the talent that gets many girls the coveted position of cheerleader...I could do the splits. With my legs sticking in opposite directions and my hands up in a victory stance, the crowd cheered and I became the eighth cheerleader. Oops, did I forget to mention that they had to have a sixth grader and I was the only girl brave (or stupid) enough to try-out? Minor detail. Also, I should mention that I knew nothing about cheerleading...if I had known that I was required to watch and know the sport of basketball, I never would have volunteered. I have nothing against basketball, mind you, but I had no clue about the game. I was supposed to know when to cheer for our team and when to encourage them. More than once I was foolish enough to shout and yell happily as the other team scored. Oh well, I tried.

Sister Mary Something

(Name Changed to Protect the Guilty)

We were in prison. Before the end of the first semester my mom had grown quite unhappy with the school's principal, Sister Mary Something. Sister Mary Something was a very 'un-nice' person and seemed to have it in for Mom. For those not experienced with the Catholic religion: not all nuns are good. I'm not saying she was like Voldermort or anything, but she was a hatchet faced woman with the personality of a snake. My mom may not be the easiest person to get along with but she is a great teacher (retired now, teaching Sunday school). My mom also used to be a really good Catholic. It seemed a sin that we should not revere this 'Bride of Jesus' but I think we both really had trouble not imagining her as anything but the Wicked Witch of the West. Needless to say, Mom quit her job and that meant I must also quit the school...she was my ride. My last day of school there was a hoot. I never leaned toward the naughty side; but that day, I earned some coals in my stocking. Before P.E. all the sixth grade girls had to have a special lecture from Sister Mary Something. Somehow I had come across some illegal bubble gum and decided, 'What the hay! What are they going to do? Expell me?' So, I chewed and snapped and blew huge bubbles in total disregard of 'the Hatchet's' glares. I'm not sure if I scared her or the prospect of having to talk to my mother ever again made her think twice, but for once, she made no attempt to remove my pleasure. My best friend at the time, Angelina (pictured right) felt I was working up a stay in purgatory. At the end of the day, Angelina and I were waiting for Mom to collect all her classroom stuff and we were hanging out at the playground. We saw Sister Mary Something come across the yard, catch a glimpse of me, and make an about face. I don't know why I did it, but I flipped her off. Shocked, Angelina told me I was going to hell for sure. But she stayed my friend. Bless her.

So, no more cheerleader...*NOTE* I did not shed any tears about it. Also, our family had moved during this time to San Jose. More specifically, the Almaden Valley. Now, see? I am officially a Valley Girl. Yes, I even began speaking the valleyspeak. Like, I'm so sure, like, you don't know about the val-ley? Oh my God...that is like so bogus. Totally and most non-triumphantly heinous.

Thus ended my sixth grade: in the midst of blonde vs. blonder and surfer vs.

I'm like totally sure, dude.


The Wonder Years

Seventh Grade 1979

Bret Harte Junior High
Ah, the big leagues...lockers, changing classrooms, showering after gym class with people you did not know that well...leg warmers, koala bear clip-ons, mood rings, curling irons, Farrah Fawcett do's, braces, make-up, nylons and most scary of them all...Shakespeare.

It all started with Taming of the Shrew.
Mrs. Saint-Martin's class. I liked her, not everyone did. I heard that later down the road she blew up like the volcano that her name sounds like and threw a desk/chair (they were connected) across the classroom. She very soon thereafter 'retired'. But that was after I graduated college.

Now, I wasn't a reader back then. Never picked up a book for pleasure...I mean, come on! We had television! How could I miss Wednesday nights with Charlie's Angels, or Friday nights with the Love Boat and Fantasy Island? Why did I need to read when I could get adventure with Gilligan's Island, fantasy with I Dream of Jeannie, romance with Room 22 and Love American Style, comedy with Saturday Night Live, family life with The Flintstones, mystery with the Hardy Boys, futurism with The Jetson's, Sci-fi with Star Trek, alien invasion with Mork and Mindy, western life with Bonanza, and history with Little House on the Prairie? I did not even know that Little House on the Prairie was based on a real book and person! (I've neglected drama; that was Kim's department...she would probably say Marcus Welby M.D. again.) My parents were not big readers and I never understood the need for a bookstore let alone a Library... I only picked up comic books because of the drawings and you could get them at Dick's grocery store or 7-11.

So, here I was with an assignment to read Shakespeare. Of course my first reaction was 'Uh, is this even in English?' But as I've said, Mrs. Saint Martin was a good teacher. At least I thought so until she made us act out parts of the play and I had to be Bianca. But, ya know what? I really started to understand the stuff and dare I say it? like the stuff. This was a blessing in disguise for how was I to know that for the rest of my Junior High and Senior High life I would be immersed in it?

Mrs. Saint Martin also taught me mythology. Sure, I'd seen Jason and the Argonauts on T.V. but I had no idea that there was more to mythology than some buff guys sailing away on a ship they named the Argo. **This is where I must, absolutely must, introduce you to Tami.

Tami, the smartest air-head you will ever meet...

(and the bestest best friend anyone could ever have!)

I'm not sure where or how I first met Tami. We were in a lot of classes together and I always thought she was one of the cool, pretty, popular kids who wouldn't pay any notice to me. Funny how you judge people without getting to know them first. Anyway, I just remember liking her and wishing she would be my friend. One day in History class, a really cute guy was, for some crazy reason, talking about herpes. I don't know if he just got out of Health class or what--who knows with seventh grade boys? Somehow the question got placed into Tami's lap. 'You do know about herpes right?' Tami rolled her eyes and said, 'Of course I know about Herpes! He was a Greek god, DUH!'

It was then that I knew I must become friends with this chick no matter what. (She is now a nurse--go figure.)

**Back to Mrs. Saint Martin's English class...

We were assigned to present a skit for the class about one story of our choosing in mythology. Partners or teams were fine, but the skit must cover most of the class period. Tami and I decided to do The Quest for the Golden Fleece story but in a 'fun, contemporary way'...we titled it: All My Gods.

We spent days on the assignment...going to each others house, taping sound effects from the T.V., getting props. Four other girls joined our play. Tami and I would be the narrators because, 'Hey! We wrote the darned thing!' We knew it would be great. We knew it would get us all A+'s for the year. We knew that the class would laugh, cry, and cheer.

Did you know that Socrates says that 'Knowing you know nothing is the beginning of wisdom'?

If you feel the overwhelming need to read our pathetic attempt to be Junior High Playwrights then click here ...but I would just skip it if I were you.

Our audience had dumbfounded expressions the entire time and when we said our last witty lines, silence and a cough were all that applauded.

Tami and I did not become best friends until High School...but this wonderous play started a friendship that has lasted all our lives.

Do you remember the first time you cut school? Funny, I'm not sure if I ever did it again...but I remember that day and the friends I was with. Tiffany, Me, Kris, and Tobi. Yes, we are all wearing cowboy hats, and yes, we planned it, and yes, we look rather silly, but no, none of us ever owned a horse. It is strange that by the end of our Junior year in High School, I was no longer good friends with any of these girls. One because our interests changed very quickly, the other because of popularity or lack there of, and the last? Well, I'll get to that a bit later. Even so, this day we were friends, sisters. We cut school to go to my house...went the back way through a ditch and everything. It really wasn't all that wrong, it was the last day of school and everyone was just signing yearbooks anyway. Even though I never cut again, it felt kinda good being just a little wicked once.


His name was Doc. Doctor Waggletail Szeker to be precise...a mallard full of spunk. My cat, Bootsie, was actually pretty spectacular too...but Doc was a wonder. He loved me, played with me, trusted me, and protected me. I raised him from a chick and he knew I was mommy...he also knew that my sisters weren't mommy; nor were they daddy. They were beings that needed to be put into place when mommy was near. Heck, even when mommy wasn't near. He really liked ankles did not want to go barefoot when Doc was by your toes. Many a time my sisters would come shrieking into the house with blood blisters forming on their lovely heels.

Yep. I had Doc pretty well trained.

I would dive into our pool and he would jump in and dive right after me. His trust of me was so great that I could lull him into laying on his back in the swimming pool. Yes, even on a raft.

Back then I was even stupider than I am now. I, and my sisters, lived to 'lay out'...mind you, this was before we had any knowledge of skin cancer. We would laugh at sunblock. No, we wanted the baby oil for the skin and the lemons for the hair thank you very much. We had these metal lounge chairs with rubber band thingies for padding where you could bend the heads and feet areas to go up and down according to how you wished to bake yourself. I could float on the raft because Doc would just play with me...but my sisters had to use the chairs. If they felt really brave they would bend the feet to hang over the water. Doc would quack and swim around me until he saw that my sisters were comfortable and feeling safe...then he would attack. He'd do this low soft quaking like he was talking to his spy network..."mmrrrmrrr mrr mrr? mrrrrmmmmr..." Then it would get loud and fast..."MRR! MRRR MRR! MAMERRRR!!!" And he would slide his beak up a non-suspecting fool of a foot and spray water all over the relaxed leg. It never failed. A scream would issue from the being on the chair followed by something like, "Mimi! Control your duck!" or "I hate him! I absolutely HATE HIM!" Doc would chuckle to himself, "Mawmarrr! MA MA MA MA MRRRR!" and whichever one of my sisters that was attacked (usually Karen, oddly enough) would raise their chair leg back up or go inside the house. Job completed, Doc would then swim around me or dive under me and swim around the pool to resurface with a flap flap of the wings and a great waggle of the tail.

God, how I loved that duck.

Growing up is difficult. The kids you used to watch cartoons with and eat chocolate chip cookie dough with change. Sometimes, faster than you do. My best friend in seventh grade was Tobi. We did everything together. I'm not exactly sure when it happened but by the end of the summer of 1980, she had a boyfriend and I was still watching Scooby-Doo. Fortunately for me, I still like to watch cartoons and my husband is okay with that. On the right you see that Karen is still a cute softball player, Tobi was over to chat, and I must have been going somewhere special because I never dressed up unless I had to. Things haven't changed that much for me at least.


Margie, now 20 or so and on her own, decided to get engaged. Life changes so quickly. You blink and suddenly you're in the middle of it all without remembering the beginning. We were four sisters living together, playing softball, arguing over television shows and suddenly we are checking out bride's maid gowns. It really was a neat celebration though. For the very first time that I know of, both my mom and dad's mothers were visiting together. Grandma Brown, Mom's mom, lived in Arizona and Grandma Szeker (and Grandpa Szeker) lived in New York.

*To be continued...'same bat time, same bat channel'


Our first Christmas without my sister Margie was spent in Arizona. My maternal grandmother lived there with her youngest son, my Uncle Kevin. Many vacations were spent in Phoenix, Arizona and we always traveled by car. This visit we were one less but it was still a cramped, long, bickering voyage. If you ever traveled from San Jose, California to Phoenix, Arizona you will understand this well. If you haven't, I will endeavor to illustrate it for you...

Imagine, if you will, a brown Buick. Mother and Father are in the seats up front. Three girls ages 13, 15, and 17 in the back and you are the 13 year old. Stuck. In the middle. This is before walkmans. This is also before you've discovered how great books are. Your parents have an eight track playing old country tunes that you've been programed to actually like.

There is a long stretch of desert as far as the eye can see (sorry, it's cliche but true.) In the middle of the desert is a road that looks and feels as if it was paved over a rolling ocean. Your family has dubbed these waves dippity-do's. As this is an annual trip, you are expecting the waves and as soon as the first one approaches, the entire family starts to sing:

Dippity do da, dippity ay!
My, oh my, what a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine headed my way.
Dippity do da. Dippity ay!

Yes. It is corney, but it is what you do. Suddenly Mom yells, "TURTLE!"

All the girls groan. Dad blows out a long breath of air.

"John! Stop the car! I saw a turtle!"

"Syl...You said that, what 10 miles back. You thought you saw a turtle..."

"This time it really is a turtle. Stop the car!"

Your mother has always had some strange obsession with finding a turtle on the road. You have not the slightest idea why. Dad knows that Mom will never, ever, stop talking, moaning, nagging if he does not pull over and check for the turtle.

We pull over. Immediately you are hot. Yes, it is Christmas time but you are HOT! And your two sisters have decided to sprawl all over 'their' sides of the car leaving the tiny mid-section for you to sweat in. Since Dad had taken his time hashing it out in his mind whether it was worth the nagging to not pull over or not, he has a much longer walk than he anticipated.

Bicker, bicker: "You're on my side!"..."You stink!"..."Don't you EVER brush your teeth?"..."I hate you!"...

Mom has had enough. Now it is time to pull the age old threat: "If you girls don't shut-up, I will spank you with a cactus!"

This used to work. In fact, we all have had nightmares of picking cactus needles out of our butts. But now we are teenagers. And now we have a common enemy. Our bickering is solved! Now we can rag on Mom!

"As if!"..."I'd like to see you try!"..."Do you actually think we'd fall for that one?"..."Where are your gloves, huh?"

Mom now regrets pulling over for her long sought turtle. We all watch for Dad. FINALLY we see his itsy bitsy figure coming from the dippity-do's. He is carrying something! It is dark and looks a little heavy. Mom gets so excited that she forgives us all and promises that at the next gas station we will all get an ice-cream bar.

Dad's figure gets bigger. Yes. He is definately carrying something.

He arrives and presents Mom with her prize. "Here you go, Syl. Here is your turtle."

A black rubber piece of tire is placed in her lap and we resume our trip.

*A special note*

In the last two years since Mom and Dad have moved to North Carolina, Mom has fulfilled her life's ambition. She has found not one, but THREE real turtles on the road.

They live in a glass aquarium in her kitchen.