Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Aw, Shoot! (Guns and Cameras)

It’s weird the way I remember things. Some days, I can’t remember my sister’s grandbaby’s name, but I can remember the first picture I ever took . . . when I was about three years old.

I’ve always been amazed by things that shoot–both guns and cameras. 😛 Mom and Dad had a box camera when I was little. It looked a little bit like this–

Box_CameraFor some reason, I was amazed by it. On the Fourth of July, Dad’s family got together and went to the Sand Springs Lake. There were concrete picnic tables, and we (naturally) piled all the food and anything else we wanted to set where it couldn’t easily be kicked.

So when no one was paying attention, I scraped my knees on the rough bench and reached for the camera.

I didn’t pick it up or move it. All I did was reach over and push the little lever, and I heard a great sound.


Later, when they had the film developed, Mom showed me the picture I’d taken. It focused on a six-pack of Pepsis in a metal carton. (Anyone remember these?)

2527_1LThat’s all it took. I was hooked! I even learned how to use that box camera. You looked through that little glass square and couldn’t have any dark showing in the picture. And you had to keep your finger out of the way. (I’ve had a lot of finger close ups in my life.)

For my ninth birthday, I asked for a camera of my own and got a red plastic one from Sears. The pictures it took were small and square and for some reason, rarely clear. What I didn’t realize when I asked for that gift is that film cost $$ and developing cost $$. I didn’t have a lot of $$ and I didn’t know I could have charged it at the drug store. (Smart parents didn’t share that bit of info with me.)

😦 I didn’t take a lot of pictures.

The next year, I asked for a BB gun for my birthday. BBs were much cheaper than film and developing. And, to be very honest, I’m naturally a pretty good shot with a gun.

Cameras, I found, are a little harder.

001 I’m still learning.



Christmas Play

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the things I miss most about Christmases Past is Christmas programs. Not the actual program itself, so much, but getting ready for it. Practicing parts, trying on costumes, deciding what kind of makeup will be worn are all part of the excitement that makes the experience so wonderful.

Because my kids are pretty much grown, I don’t get to work with them for programs anymore. I enjoyed that almost as much as I liked being in programs myself.

One year I was a ballerina doll, left by Santa under the tree. Smart teacher. She had me dance, but not talk. LOL! 

One of my favorite years was way back in the dark ages when I was in 6th grade (it was grade school then, not middle school). Back when we still read the Bible and prayed in school.

Our music teacher’s name was Miss Thelma. She said she’d started teaching at such a young age, she couldn’t bear to be called Miss Allen, so she had permission from the principal to be called Miss Thelma, and it stuck. We thought she was about 302 years old with her gray hair, no makeup and a glass eye. (Really a glass eye?I don’t know, but that’s what all the kids whispered.)

Anyway, that year we presented the Christmas Story. The reason for Christmas Christmas Story, not the movie on where the kid gets the BB gun. (I like the Red-Ryder-BB-gun-with-a-compass-in-the-stock-and-this-thing-which-tells-time one, too, but it’s not the one I’m talking about. We’ll talk about it another day.)

Back in the day you could depict the birth of Christ in public school without anyone even thinking about complaining.  

So we were getting ready to do the play, and I was hoping for a “big” part. Mary, maybe, since that and angels were the only parts for girls. (Unless you count the animals, and I don’t think Miss Thelma asked any of us to be sheep.)

I didn’t get to  be Mary or the angel. (I don’t remember ever being either one.) I was asked to be the narrator. Okay, I wasn’t asked. I was told I’d be the narrator, and that I’d have to memorize Luke 2.

I was so excited, and scared to death. What if I couldn’t memorize twenty whole verses? I didn’t want everyone laughing at me, so I worked hard that night and memorized–

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

I stood in the corner of the stage, putting some emotion into those twenty verses, talking and pausing as the other kids acted out the story like a silent movie.

Marsha Williams, a beautiful girl with dark hair and dark eyes, got to be Mary. She walked in slowly with Joseph, and sat holding a doll wrapped in swaddling clothes. 

Mary Fox, a pretty blond with long, smooth hair, was the head angel in charge. She stepped onto the stage, wearing sparkling wings and shining with glory to hold up one hand at the shepherds. Then all the angels came on stage and sang–

♪ ♫ While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, the angels of the Lord came down and glory showed around. And Glory showed around.♪♫

We had three wise men (I’m not sure they’re mentioned in this passage, but we sang to them anyway.) ♫♪ We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we travelers afar.♫♪

It was the normal Christmas stuff, but I loved it. I think the other kids did, too.

Two of my sisters were in a Christmas musical when they were in first and third grade. #3 and #4 sang and danced and entertained the audience with a beautiful show! I didn’t get to see it, but I heard about it for months. (Or it might have been years. LOL)

I wish I had a picture of them that I could share with you. (I’ll see if I can find one.)

My own kids were in several Christmas plays. I loved helping them memorize their parts!

This is my oldest son in a play called, “Oh, My Stars, It’s Christmas!” (I always thought the title sounded like a mom with amnesia who suddenly came to on Dec. 25th, but that really wasn’t what it was about.)

 I sent him this picture and asked if he remembered it. He said he must have blocked the memory for some reason.

Funny thing is, I don’t remember much about it, either. It might have been the year his younger brother, Matt, was born. I’d had two miscarriages and got pregnant with Matt (#2 son) in a year. Matt was born the next October.

If I’m remembering it right, my mother took care of getting Danny to the practices, making his costume and etc. No matter what else was going on, she wanted to be sure he got to participate in the program.

As an adult, Christmas programs are usually cantatas. I’m usually invited to sing with the choir, but this year I didn’t make it. I’m so disappointed in myself that I didn’t join, because the benefit is always mine.

Did you like being in Christmas programs when you were a kid? What was your favorite part?