Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Once upon a time, there was a president.

I am not a “camping” kind of a girl.

Campy? Yes.
Camping? Not so much.

But in the late ‘70’s I went camping. Kind of. With my Grandma and Grandpa.

My mom’s parents were big time motor home people. We would drive up to the Catskills to a campsite, park our house and hang out together for a few days.

There were aspects of camping with Grandma and Grandpa that I loved. We would play cards, wade in the creek and bust out my pocket fisherman once in a while. But what I really liked about camping of course, revolved around food. The toasted cheese sandwiches for lunch (thanks to the stove in the motor home), the hot dogs roasted over a camp fire on a stick and the s'mores for dessert.

But even more than the food, my very favorite part of camping with Grandma and Grandpa was bedtime.

Grandma and I shared the bed above the driver’s seat; we were up high, kind of like being in a bunk bed which was exciting. Every night we would climb up there together and Grandma would proceed to tell me the most amazing stories I had ever heard.

These were not your typical fairy tales. Oh no, no princess stories for me. No Cinderella, no Snow White. No stories about camping or being out in the wilderness. My grandma lulled me to sleep with stories of Jimmy Carter and his family.

Most of the stories didn’t focus too much on Jimmy (you know, the President of the United States) that didn’t interest me too much. They focused on the supporting players - his wife Rosalynn, his daughter Amy, and my favorite character, his brother Billy.

Now these stories had absolutely nothing to do with reality, it was more like a soap opera that Grandma created for me. There would be stories of Amy practicing her flute, Rosalynn making a nice meatloaf for the family dinner that evening, Jimmy eating his peanuts, and of course of Billy and his beer.

Billy was the comic relief of the stories, and in my eyes the real star of the show. He would come stumbling into the story with his Billy Beer, knock over something, trip and fall, or press a button under Jimmy’s desk that would make a bomb go off. The stories would end with me laughing until I cried at poor Billy’s Benny Hill like antics.

Grandma would go into great detail of the beautiful lavender dress and hat combination that Rosalynn chose to wear that day. She would put on a thick fake southern accent and say things like, “Jimm-eye, do you like this shade of purh-pull? Isn’t it luv-lee?” Rosalynn would get annoyed a lot because Jimmy was too focused on his work and not on her.

Amy was mostly about playing her flute. There must have been some story in the news or a photo or something that my grandmother had latched on to about Amy and her love of flute playing. In Grandma’s stories, Amy would play a beautiful after-dinner-tune for the family. She would also date, shop, and ride horses, all per my request.

And then there was Billy and his "Billy Beer". In the stories Billy would be making the beer, testing the beer, selling the beer, and interrupting family dinners and important presidential meetings trying to pitch his beer. Billy had thick black glasses and a hillbilly-style accent. He hiccuped a lot too.

Oh, and Jimmy was the dad and the president, he ran the country.

I have no idea where this obsession with The Carter Family came from but I’m so glad that it did. Today, whenever someone mentions that they are going camping, I think of Jimmy Carter.

Maybe that’s why I have zero interest in camping today. Who would be there to put me to sleep with stories of that wacky southern family? That and the fact that I like to put on mascara every day. And go to the bathroom on a toilet. And I don’t want to get eaten by a bear.

I will always cherish my memories of my time in the Catskills with Grandma, my Grandpa, and of Billy. And his beer.

We know Billy, you've tasted a lot.

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