Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Day

It is quiet here. No presents to wrap for grandkids, since we only have a grandcat. No reason for a tree, for getting into the attic with our arthritic backs seems too much trouble. So what do we do to feel the glow of the season? We buy lots of colored lights. String them across the front porch and around the living room walls. They are turned on all evening and we remember Christmases past...

Our first child, J, on his first Christmas had a shiny new fire engine and a package of Play Do sitting on the fender. On that morning, he ran to the engine, picked up the Play Do and never saw the fire engine. We left it where it was near the small tree until he noticed he had a second gift from Santa a week later.

In my growing up family we opened gifts Christmas Eve, and celebrated the Day preparing the big meal. In my own, only two of the three children wanted to open gifts the night before. So we made a practive of choosing one gift. As they grew we felt less inclined to provide innumerable gifts for the sake of gifting. We usually bought one gift that cost about $25 and a few small ones that were in the $2-$5 range. That was in the 1960's. We attended church Christmas Eve, followed by the opening of one gift.

The practice of a few gifts (because we couldn't afford buying more) gave us a way of teaching our kids that Christmas wasn't receiving as much as giving. We finished projects to give to special neighbors, friends, relatives. I don't know how many enjoyed receiving soap with pictures under wax, hand painted wooden ornaments, tuna cans wrapped in colored cord--but the idea of making and giving was the lesson.

Our middle son was affected the most by not receiving electronic equipment like the other kids in his class...we explained that sometimes the meaning of Christmas was lost on some families, or something like that. But S had so little to tell his classmates when January classes began. Later I found out that he created his gifts to appear "equal" to them.

One Christmas we gave him a watch that costs $25 and came from Sears (we had a standing account there for over 15 years). However, we picked one that had an interesting name other than "Sears". That, along with a few shirts and socks, was all we could give. We had two others to think about. When S returned to school his watch was the hit of the class--it was classy, according to S. We smiled. To this day, unless he reads this, he's never known the origin of his watch.

For several days of Christmas my husband's mother would spend the night and welcome Christmas Day with us. Once we wanted a family picture, so R showed Eliz how to hold the camera. "When I say 1-2-3 Smile, you push the button." He turned to us and said, "Now smile, everyone," and CLICK went the camera. "No, no, Mother, let me say 1-2-3 first, then SMILE before you push the button." Again he said softly to us in front of the tree, "Smile, everyone!" CLICK went the button. By then we were laughing so hard we didn't think a picture would ever be made! A few more tries with Daddy giving us hand signals did Eliz push the button, preserving that moment forever. This is one of our favorite grandmother events.

Funny about this grandmother. She always said she didn't believe in giving gifts. That's ok we said, you don't have to give anything, but accept what we give you. She just couldn't relax when she opened her gifts. Either the powder wasn't her fragrance, or the dish not useful. The key later, I discovered, was to say the gift was from her son, not from the family! When she did give her only grandchildren gifts they were:

chocolate covered cherries to the oldest grandson, her favorite
a bar of soap for the second grandson
a tube of toothpaste to the only granddaughter

You can imagine the reaction of these 8-12 year olds. But Mom and Dad fussed happily over the gifts, later explaining the meaning of receiving. As Grandmother explained, "I like to give useful gifts."

Her gifts continued in the same vein until she died. I have to say as they grew older, their thankfulness to her must have made her feel truly grateful for having selected "useful gifts."

Decorating the tree was a hassle. (Isn't it in any family?) Who did what last year? The oldest just wanted to put the Snoopy ornament on the tree while the sister was hefted up to place the star at the top, and the middle son put on the icicles...

Oldest son J was always the earliest riser Christmas mornings, quietly reviewing the packages and trying to figure out which were his. I wrapped each child's in a different figured paper and they didn't know which was theirs until we were gathered around the tree with our cups of hot apple cider.

Christmas morning breakfast was blueberry pancakes...the early (7 am) snack was our hand-me-down recipe of crackers topped by a slice of cheese with a marshmallow on top, broiled until the cheese melted; this still the ritual today when we gathered, no matter the season...

Those Christmases linger in our memories. Our oldest son lives nearby and continues a few tradtions for us. Daughter lives in Maine and middle son this year is celebrating his birthday and Christmas in Morocco. No grandkids yet...


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Missing But in Action

I've not added an entry in a month. Too many obstructions, like getting out seasonal cards, making a trip to VA, preparing for the BIG LUNCH on the 25th.

However, my trip to Virginia was a lesson many sons and daughters of aging parents need to heed.

I volunteered to drive my frail cousin to her new home near Leesburg. Her daughter, unable to fly to Mississippi every time her mom needed someone, found an apartment near her home in Vienna, and the dread of leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar was enough to keep my cousin delaying for 12 months.

M's problem is one faced by innumerable older people who have to leave their homes. She had lived in a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home chock-full of furnishings and accessories that took 3 days to pack into the largest van I've ever seen. In the apartment complex, as the men unpacked, M began to fret. Where to put this, that, that over there? What to keep, what to move to daughter's basement? For hours the moving men worked steadily, men with patience and compassion for this little lady, until a path was made from one room to the other.

My job was to help M unpack boxes and make some semblance of a home for her. Be her companion for a week. We talked about family history, rehashing old stories passed down from parent to child, asking and answering questions about each of our parents. Her mother was my dad's oldest sister in a family of seven. We cleared family rumors, recalled visits as children...all those things that cousins talk about.

Within a few days M realized that once I left she had no friends and only her daughter, busy with her own life, to call upon when she needed company. An overwhelming grief and aloneness hit. I promised to call her often, visit her yearly on our way to New York. She may never feel comfortable, and this apartment will serve as a way station, a resting place until she dies. That thought alone made her feel her life shortening, although the average family age for passing is some 10 years away. There, in a strange conglomeration of apartment buildings she felt OLD. Yet, she has been one of the busiest, feisty ladies I know. She could do more in one day than I could accomplish in several.

No son or daughter in his/her prime of life rarely understands that one's own life must be put on hold when parents age. Not wanting to but needing to lean heavily on the only people these elders know, their children, comes unexpectedly. The parent cries out for a companion, listener, cook, traveler, and driver. How difficult it is to recognize that one can no longer do simple tasks without supervision. The stove becomes as dangerous as a loaded pistol; preparing meals alone becomes crackers and cheese one day and soup the next; making up the bed too much trouble, all the while one or more television sets blare in every room to dull the silence. Time is the propeller for accepting this new role in life.

I'm aging now with no need to leave the familiar for the unfamiliar. I hope my own children will find time to be my friend and companion.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More About Rangle

Our newspaper today, this Sunday before Thanksgiving Day, is full of pro and con letters to the editor concerning CR's remarks about our state.

One of our weekly columnist and book author, a chef extrodinaire, wanted to remind this Democrat that despite NYC having a gaggle of chef-driven restaurants, some of the best Southern food can be found in our state. (Has he tried our shrimp and grits?)

Other letters invited CR to visit before ever criticizing a place; declared that his crude remark didn't convince any troubled(by his remarks) Mississippian to think that his beloved New York City was better when pollutants, crowded real estate, high taxes, impossible prices for living quarters plague citizens.

Perhaps our slow speech and laid-back life give a false impression of our abilities and education. Our governor, Haley Barbour, was recently named the nation's most outstanding governor in the November issue and a 2006 Public Official of the Year, by Governing magazine, an independent magazine focusing on coverage of state and local government. The magazine stated this honor was for "being straight about the utter devastation in the area but also for his own demeanor in public appearances that suggested the state would summon the will to rebuild."

The state is full of famous and successful writers, professional football players, actors, businessmen. Ask Morgan Freeman why he's living in Mississippi between movies. Ask Brett Favre why he yearly returns to his home state. Ask any literary buff why Eudora Welty remained in her home state after several awards from the French government and world-wide recognition. These and other greats have found the quiet life of our state far more enticing and inexpensive than any place in the East.

We have cleaner air, lower taxes, reasonable real estate prices, and we are hospitable. We don't constantly say "I hate Democrats(Republicans)!" Hate isn't a part of our disagreement vocabulary. We vote, and if the other party wins, we quietly go about working with that party. "We are brought up to be nice to people like him (CR)" stated one writer. "What he may not know is that we are the first to go anywhere in the world that we are needed."

And to that remark, our helping others, a young woman aiding Katrina victims on the Gulf Coast, related recently on local radio, that volunteers from New York City, which included firemen and policemen, complimented the locals for their willingness to help one another, despite having lost so much themselves. They thought our hospitality overcame any preconceived misgivings the volunteers had before arriving on the Coast.

Another writer from Staten Island, stated "It's absolutely true that New York City sends tons more hard-earned tax dollars to the federal government than it ever gets back, and Mississippians get more back than they pay." How does he come to this conclusion? Wages are high because living there takes a large chunk of earnings. There are probably far more have-nots in the City than in our state, and tax dollars are levied on those who have. True, our tax base isn't as high, but we, too, have a part of our population that doesn't work, depends on the government for existence, lives in poor housing, etc. Our taxes can't begin to help them when our public school education is drowning, populated by those same low economic class folks. We suffer from money problems as does the City, only to a lesser degree.

Everyone has carved a little heaven where (s)he lives and no one should blatantly criticize another's home without first-hand knowledge.

Well, Charlie apologized, but only after pressure was exerted. He will be under scrutiny until he can prove he's a better leader than an extemporaneous speaker.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Forgive You, Charlie

You probably have never been south of Philadelphia, PA; never eaten soul food; never were interested in American History; never knew the exact location of the state of Mississippi. Well, Charlie, folks like you should never make public a ridiculous remark as you did.("...who'd want to LIVE in Mississippi!")

I forgive your senseless remark. It was made in the heat of the moment. Made without forethought. Made in the ecstasy of your win.

How would you have reacted if at your door a few days later you found a dozen roses, a box of home made fudge, balloons attached to a box of home made cookies, a frozen container of turnip greens with cornbread, a lovely coconut cake made from scratch???

Well, we folks should have killed you with kindness in that manner; however, we dismissed you with a wave of our hand. Perhaps later next year we'll understand your importance in the government. Perhaps you'll have to make a trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to be sure the money being spent there is done wisely. Perhaps you'll discover by talking to our local folk that we are very friendly, show interest in your visit, and perhaps you'll be invited to eat dinner. You'll discover how independent we are, that we know how to pull ourselves up by our bootstrings, rarely complain about what the government isn't giving, yes, GIVING, to us. We don't feel entitled to let the government help us until we've helped ourselves.

One bit of advice, Charlie Boy: Think before you speak. Smile. Speak softly.

Maybe we'll respect you before the next year wanes.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A n Out-of-Town Visit

Today I visited Philadelphis, MS with my sister. She was gathering notes for an upcoming article on the town for Mississippi Magazine. I'm her critic, editor, and sounding board.

What made this trip worthwhile for me was to see how the town has progressed from the days of the Civil Rights era. There was definitely a vibrancy around the town square. Gone were the hokey stores that once faced the town square. In their places were an up-to-date coffee shop serving just about any kind of coffee we're used to having at a local Starbucks; jewelry stores, antique corners, dress shops. An active theatre group uses the old downtown theatre.

Our job was to talk to local folks, including the shopkeepers, and get a sense of their continued interest in Philadelphis. The first person interviewed was eating at our table at Peggy's, a family-owned luncheonette in an old home two blocks from Main Street. Tony is about 40 years old and when he answered our question about his living there, he embarked on the story of how he moved from larger cities to this small town to raise his daughter. He felt safe, he said, to let his daughter wander around town on any given day without fear, how pleased he was of the school system, how comfortable it was to have withing the town square all the stores one could ask for, without going to any chains.

Next, we visited a store whose main attraction was hand-painted tees. A smiling owner warned us about tripping over the holiday boxes of garland and ornaments currently being used on the interior trees. She told us of her 6 year enjoyment of her store, which arose from the hand-painted signs she had created for years for owners of cabins of the Neshoba County Fair. The tee designs were most unusual, despite being the usual Santa and his reindeer.

We strolled to the coffee shop and was surprised to see how cozy the interior was. As most coffee enterprises, there were bags of flavored coffee beans, individual cookies, and any coffee, tea, cider, or chocolate milk drink available. We remarked on the stage area and were told they were for visiting bands. But the fact that the downtown area closes for the day at five p.m., it was difficult to have bands play to near empty seats.

Finishing our lattes we jumped into the car and made our way outside the area to where the Choctaw Indian compound was. This includes a school, museum, tribal council headquarters, Headstart, and a multiple of Indian businesses were located. The Choctaws today are the descendants of the approximately 1100 Indians who refused to move to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears. From that humble beginning and the leadership of Chief Martin, a multibillion dollar campus was created giving the Indians jobs. Two casinos and an outstanding golf course lures out of staters as well as Mississippians to this area.

Just down the road is the famous Williams store, which sells under one roof clothes, shoes, groceries, bacon and hoop cheese slice as you please. I failed to pick up sweet potatoes at thirty-nine cents a pound. This store has occupied the same spot sine the early 1920's. They like to boast that Archie Manning used to work there summers. Sister and I know that Archie didn't meet Olivia Williams until Ole' Miss days, but we didn't let on to anybody. I taught school with Archie's mother in Drew, a small Delta town. At that time Archie was perhaps elementary school age. Around her any and every one has an Archie story.

By 3:30 Sis and I were content that we had felt the tone of the town and hoped that after our generation had passed on, that the stigma of Philadelphia's past would
have faded and the town grown beyond expectation. We drove to the interstate on a two-lane road, watching beautiful rolling fields pass by, glad to know that this town was getting back on its feet.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig!

Two questions were posed to me last weekend: How long will it take you to acclimate to "regular" life in Mississippi? What will you do there?

Last year upon returning to the South after our first stint living off the grid, I was confused to locations of favorite stores, unable to find specific auto keys, ID cards to the fitness center and the library, and remembering names of people I've known forever.

My first day back in water aerobics class while the ladies asked about my experiences, a dense fog settled in my head and into my eyes. A tiny motor began racing around the crooks and turns of my brain searching for the names of those standing near me. I finally admitted my memory lapse and asked their names. One friend looked at me quizzically and said, "I know yours, why don't you know mine?" I admitted everything Southern had been on the back burner for five months, replaced by a new set of names and places eastern. That problem was solved this year by making a list of my friends' names here and there and reviewing the list enroute.

What will I do at home? this New Jersey lady asked me. I raced through my list: use the computer more to keep up with all the tidbits of world life I've missed; write frequently on my blog page and catch up on what my blogger mates have been ruminating all summer; exercise three times a week in the water; work on improving my jewelry techniques (although, I must admit I may never improve, but persistence is still my strong suit).

Mostly, I want to spend more time with my sister who graduated from chemotherapy classes in September. We love plays and good movies. We'll see "Hairspray" in Nov and travel to Montgomery AL to the Shakespeare Theatre. We grew up planning to tap dance and sing our way onto the Broadway stage.

One practice I keep while in Mississippi is twice a month take a different friend to lunch. Keeping in touch wth my women friends from college, church associations,past neighborhoods, and Friends of the Library remains a part of my daily life. We age together and share our full lives.

Husband R and son J will get their share of time. After the summer months visiting our daughter and son in the East, this will be J's time to share with us. After starving for television's golf games, R asked that I not assign him any tasks for the rest of the week so he can watch TV. With J we'll find new restaurants , talk about our computers, and listen to his adventures while we were gone.

We have an interesting life. Many opportunities abound in this age not to take advantage of them. I think participation keeps us young in thought and behavior, and keeps us in reasonably good health. What more could we ask of our time on Earth?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Numbers Game

I avoided college math and opted for foreign language many years ago. Now I'm paying for being numbers weak. I have to apologize frequently for miscounting my change and trying to correct the cashier, writing down my bank account instead of my social security, thinking I've a bargain purchase when after careful check I don't...

Wednesday I called to pay my telephone bill and arrange for disconnection here in New York. Again numbers played a game with me:

--Ma'm, what is your account number?
--Umm, 0000.
--No, that's your pin number.
--Umm, I guess I don't have one.
--Ma'm, it's 00000 000.
--Oh, that sounds familiar.
--Now, Ma'm, what are the last four numbers of your social security?
--Oh, that's 0000.
--No,ma'm, that's not what we have on file.
--Try 0000, my husband's number.
--No, ma'm, that's not the number. Can you tell me your birday date?
--That, I can do. August 30,0000.
--Fine, ma'm. Now can you recite your full social security number?
--Uh, 000-00, not that's not it; 000-00-0000.
--Well, that's not what we have here.
--Now,listen, I've had that number for upteen years; either someone there took down the wrong numbers or....look, I'm just an old lady who can't remember numbers...(my standard excuse).
--Ma'm, think again.
--Ok, 000-00-0000. That's it! I do get the last number mixed up with another one.
Whew! I have to say that combo several times before the right set of numbers click.
--Ok, ma'm, what is the nature of your business?

I needed a cold drink after that strenuous conversation...however, it doesn't compare with the Dell switchboard that moves me from one telephone no. to another, then having to haggle with someone in Timbuctu whose English needs ironing.

Now the Educators That Be are realizing that schools should return to the old math via rote. I was a product of the old math. I only stumbled with 8's in multiplication; per centage was a mire; division, easy if I wrote it out and then figured the answer. I loved high school algebra, failed geometry. So when I hit college I assumed any advanced math couldn't improve what I knew about addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

But I've paid the price many times since. Would I have been a better math student if I'd followed the college track?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Food, Glorious Food

The above words are misleading, as I'm going to talk about ONE of my favorite dishes.

Our trip recently to Milford, PA, to get a car adjustment put us there at 7:30 in the morning, an unusual hour for retired folks. After the procedure was completed, we headed into town, a short mile away, and entered the best diner in the area. Searching the large menu for something besides French toast, we spied the word GRITS. Feeling a bit reckless, we order this Southern dish to test the mentality of the chef.

A single portion was enough for two, and just looking at the white lump told us to suspect real hominy-style grits. Butter on the side, no less. (Southern diners bathed their grits in butter!) Ah, what a delight! You'd thought we were in gourmet heaven! Despite the fact that we prefer sour cream with our grits (a taste sensation bar none)we rolled the mixture across our tongues in bliss. We congratulated the owner in having a chef who knew his grits.

As Roy Blount, Jr. said in "One Fell Soup":

When my mind's unsettled, when I don't feel spruce,
When my nerves get frazzled, when my flesh gets loose--

What knits
Me back together's grits.......

Now let's sing your own tune to these final words of his:

True Grits
More grits,
Fish, grits, and collards,
Life is good where grits are swallered.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why Do You Blog?

I began last year because so many of my friends and relatives wanted me to write them of our first year off the grid. My husband and I were venturing into an area none of them would dare ("Leave my tv? No way!"). I strangled at the thought of writing an email stuffed with information and it not be published. Also, I needed to satisfy my desire to write for myself only. Since 1992 I've attended writing classes and discovered that (1) I could write a scene (2) I could write magazine articles but(3) NOT a novel. I did get a few short stories on paper, but no one who supposedly knows what makes a writer thought them good enough for me to proceed with other stories. Blog was a word bantered about on TV, referred to on radio, but I wasn't sure anyone could participate in this unknown world of words. I didn't want to add my two cents about political and religious thoughts. But, once introduced to "Compose", this blank page dared me to pour out the words. Later I discovered that blogs were forever!. I can imagine my gggggggggdtr (who may be a writer herself) finding me online one cold winter day of boredom and laughing at the simplistic manner in which I pen my words.

A few weekends ago NPR had an interview with the creator of I was driving and jotting notes at the same time, so if some of my facts are off, please correct me, if you heard the same program.

Mr. Technorati mentioned:

1. There are over 500,000 bloggers, two new ones every scond!
2. Growth since 2002 has occurred every 5-7 months.
3. Blogs by non-English writers have risen tremendously, many wanting to "have their say" about world events. (Probably, this is the only medium where self-expression is uncensored!)
4. The most popular blogger is an actress from China who writes daily and includes photos she takes on her phone of what is happening behind the scenes of her films.
5. Most bloggers write because of the power it gives them.
6 And, last note, Mr. T. believes this need to express oneself about world events will reinvigorate civics. (This is a notable point.)

His website is jammed with good reading, and when I have nothing to do, or I can't sleep between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., I'll read the happenings in the blogging world.

Power--I don't think of this as the basis of my writing. I appreciate that each of us writes words of encouragement to those whose entries we read. We've become cheerleaders. A wonderful sense of goodness emanates from these. Breaths of fresh air lure us away from the daily headlines and give us the sense of connection... why do you write?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Daily Parade

No matter how often we see it, nor the number of times a day, the parade of turkeys evokes from us the same thrill of discovery. The family crossing the road, little spots on the tarmac dutifully following mom, suddenly become a family of teenagers wobbling faster as their legs grow stronger.

Then there are the six toms who faithfully cross the road, walking towards our yard, seemingly aimlessly, until we watch the now familiar path they take each evening, pulling at the blueberries as they go. Up the hill to the back of the cabin where they find their nesting trees. We watch this parade daily--this marvel of nature.

Deer don't parade. We do have a doe who seems lost from her family. She nibbles and cavorts through the trees. Just last week a 4 point buck stood not 20 feet away from us, interested only in the delicious leaves of the mountain laurel. He pays no attention as we whisper, point our camera, snap a few times. We twist our fingers hoping he doesn't see our new flower garden.

Interesting, isn't it, how little we notice creatures of nature when we live in the city? I'm waiting for the parade of bears to cross our yard one evening. Now's the time for their migration. Wouldn't that be a magnificent sight?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Return to the Woods

Acclimation to the quiet, no electricity, no modern appliances, no water well--as easy as putting on clean socks. We just cleaned out the kitchen and remade the bed and we were ready for several months of wonderful outside living. The weather greeted us with nights of 50-55 degrees, a wonderful relief from the South's 70 degrees night life.

We brought our cat, Bobbisox, who loves the new woods that contain a myriad of bugs, turkeys, deer and a host of other exciting things of nature she has refused to reveal. She's been a great companion. She unfortunately didn't accompany us to Maine where we celebrated our wedding anniversary with our grown kids, as she wouldn't have wanted to travel that far. We've discovered that she hates riding in the car!

For the third time that we've visited Maine from our NY digs, the Delaware River has flooded! I'm afraid to let anyone know the next time we leave. We've always returned when the waters have subsided, so we have no mental picture of water, water, everywhere.

We think we've got this living in the woods down to a fine routine. We use 6 gallons of water every other day, fill our cooler with 3 bags of ice every three days, and enjoy the other times when we don't have to travel 15 miles to the laundrette or 5 miles to the library, or 20 miles to Home Depot! I have a workshop close by and I'm learning to cook something about every three days. The downsize of this life is leaving high-speed internet to dial-up, which can cause consternation waiting for the connection, only to be interrupted numerous times in a short period. Thank goodness for the library's computers! Other than this stab of pain.... is beautiful.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Joyful Reunion

To anyone passing the room, one glance at the occupants would make one think "two old hens clacking away." In reality, it was two old ladies, former college roommates reuniting after five years.

In order for my Wyoming friend and I from Mississippi to have this short time together, I met her in Harrisburg, PA, a 2 1/2 hour drive where she arrived from the Wild West. She dedicated a day and two nights to our visit before heading out to a wedding in York, PA.

No man would have been able to remain in the room hearing our whirling tongues. But careful attention to the conversation would have revealed two women still feeling like they'd just returned to the dorm after a weekend at home catching up on news. Somehow the years peeled away and we were again the carefree, independent young singles studying with goals in mind and having fun dating the campus guys.

In the span of 27 hours, we rediscovered why our friendship has remained so tight for over 50 years: we still thought alike, had the same beliefs, philosophy, goals and had experienced similar struggles of being wives and mothers. We compared the changes in our health and the new shape of our bodies, all the time being reminded of having been naive young girls of yesteryear.

Untold stories of our rearing and of our parents' desires to see their daughters achieve something better in life than they, as well a remembering lost loves, deceased friends, and endearing teachers.This took time. We both had chosen teaching as a career and wondered aloud if anyone we had taught would remember us and our zeal to impart some knowledge of life to them.

We departed the second morning stronger than ever that our friendship would remain endless. We assured ourselves that we each were a True Friend.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Prepping for the Big Move

Time is running out
...packing clothes, cleaning house, running those last-minute errands...stress has hog tied my body! One more cousin to visit who won't be around when I return in November...where are my sweaters? rain gear? groceries? Clean out the fridges... Must buy some of those precooked bacon packages...yikes, I don't remember seeing them last time in the grocery store! Income tax forms (now that my jewelry hobby is a bona fide business, I must file quarterly)...back up computer programs, download some music, but, hey, I need to read the directions first...well, figure it out in the car......notify the neighbors... I'm breathless.

The trip is three days and nights from Mississippi to New York. I've memorized every marker, every town, every welcome center. Excitement grows as we enter Pennsylvania, for then it's a few hours from Harrisburg to Barryville. The map above shows the area in relation to other states. We are outside the village of YULAN and nestled inside a 50 acre property. Our second son is anxiously waiting for us to share the summer with him. We are fortunate to have three adult kids (is there another term for them?) who enjoy our presence. This summer will be less construction and more enjoyment of kicking back.....oh, I forgot,there'll be a welcome wagon of no-see-ums and mosquitos. Now, where did we put those mosquito net hats??

Phone calls to friends in NY have started excitement rushing through my body. I'm ready to leave traffic for quiet roads and silence. I no longer worry about our cat Bobbisox adjusting to the wildlife. I read online this morning of a tabby cat scaring a bear up a tabby should be just as forceful.

The next entry will be after July 1 when we've visited our daughter and with her and the boys we'll celebrate a late 50th wedding anniversary (ours, not theirs, of course). What better company could we have?

By Friday we'll be looking at the scene below in front of our cabin.
Why doncha'cum an' visit awhile, huh? (Just to remind you I'm Southern.)

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Parting

The papers were signed on Wednesday. Four hours to separate belongings. I had dreaded this moment for three years. The inevitable had been too difficult to face. We had to divorce.

Our love affair began ten years ago. This handsome specimen was sleek, fast, comfortable to be with. Together we explored the beauty of the West, the intrigues of big cities of the East. Then our lives changed tracks and my companion and I had to part. Despite my declaration that this would be a life-long love, it couldn't be. I had to touch his body once more, whisper tender phrases in his ear, say farewell.

Our Airstream van motorhome went to live with a couple just starting their lives in travel. I was glad to see my dear companion find someone who'd take utmost care in his behalf. We parted outside town and L and M returned to Louisiana happy with their purchase.

Friday, June 02, 2006

My Origin

I'm a mix of country girl and telegrapher, Cherokee and British heritage, dusty, gravel roads and boiling city sidewalks, a room here, a duplex there, always transient.

I'm from the wafting fragrance of gardenias, the stalwart gladiola,
rose bushes smiling through the window, lightning bugs in the evening, four-leaf clovers.

I'm from switches on skinny legs, birthday cake on a tiny pedestal plate, swings in Poindexter Park, ice cream cones from Seale-Lily, tiny eyeglasses, porch swing after supper, wartime rations, tin can collections, war bonds.

From pink dresses with pockets, a cherished bike, telegrams on special days, nightly hair rolling, evening strolls after supper, polio scare and shots, tap dance lessons.

I'm from Vacation Bible Schools, Bible-thumping preachers under tents, Sunday funny papers, Hit Parade and radio dramas on Saturday nights, Saturday matinees.

I'm from freshly-baked biscuits smothered with syrup, Blue Ribbon milk, home made cakes and Christmas divinity, summer vegetables, hot corn bread, Sunday morning pancakes, 5 cent Krystals, and hot tamales from the corner vendor.

From Reader's Digest issues, Saturday rides to the public library, games of Monopoly and Go Fishing, walks to and from school, vinyl records.

I'm from Daddy's silly poems, Mother's weekly notes, Sister's dance recitals, summers at Camp Montreat, NC., wonderful times when we loved and shared love.

Woodstock is Alive Again, Sort of

Bethel, NY, is located about 25 miles from my summer neck of the woods. It may not be a familiar name to those outside the New York area, but once I say it is the town most famous for the Woodstock Festival of the Sixties, you reply, "Ah, yessss". Today it is known as Bethel Woods.

An article from the June 1, 2006 issue of the River Reporter, Narrowsburg, NY, gives the following facts about the new Bethel Woods:

*The original Woodstock field will be a "festival" field that can hold up to 30,000 concertgoers. Pavilions and buildings in stone, wood, and copper have been planned and the performing arts facility, which will house 4800 seats will feature top rated performers and orchestras.
*A parking facility will be available for 10,000 vehicles.
*Next year an outdoor amphitheater,a museum, and an interpretive center will be opened.
*For comfort of the artists a private back-stage outdoor patio will be available. Room for three tractor-trailers will be available at the rear of the stage.

A native of nearby Liberty, NY, Alan Gerry purchased the original Woodstock site and 1700 acres with the plan to transform the site for top-rated performances. The cost of the project is $70 million.

July 1 opened with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Other July performers include Ashlee Simpson and the Veronicas, Phil Lesh and Friends, and Brad Paisley.
July 22-23 will be Jazz Fest Weekend featuring George Benson, Wynton Marsalis, Chris Botti, and John Pizzarelli, among others.
In August Crosby, Stills, and Nash and the Boston Pops will entertain.

How lucky can a Mississippian get, with such outstanding performances available just down the road? That beautiful field mussed up by hippies of Woodstock fame will now be available for those bringing their own lawn chairs and paying a wee bit less for tickets. This area will attract many people from neighboring states.


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Readying for Traveling East

A peek at the calendar tells me how few days are remaining before heading to our cabin in the lower Catskills. I'm nervous. How to finish my jewelry order, make new pieces to replace what has been purchased, decide how much/how little to pack--these questions plague me when I'm unable to sleep nights.

Today we talked with J about how much Madison has grown within its little city limits. She's horrified that her small town has burgeoned into a bedroom community chock full of new restaurants and strip malls. Why we don't object is due to the excellent planning by our mayor and her architectural guidelines. Those strip malls are well-placed, there're no streets with auto sales or fast food services approaching the city; Wal Mart spent four years adjusting building plans to meet the guidelines. I appreciate my little city despite its tremendous growth.

However, life in the quiet mountains is a dessert we seek in the summers. This is a time of reflection, of getting centered and quiet inside. A time to discover what we don't have time to observe during a busy life: the shape of limbs, the color of leaves in the fall, the distant call of turkeys, the sudden appearance of a family of deer grazing in the bit of grass we've planted, the sound of rain on our metal roof or the crunch of hooves at night on our patio or the breeze whistling through the trees.

Life there, too, is a training ground for living simply. If suddenly chaos should hit, at it did on the Gulf Coast, we know how to pick up the pieces and live on emergency status without sweat. In the deep woods our bodies automatically kick the Sandman into action when daylight fades, curl our eyelids open when the early morning light peeks over the mountains. We know the secret of living with only the basics. Time is fast approaching....I've got a lot to do...did I just say that?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Another Friend Moves On

I don't like to think of anyone dying, his bones resting in the earth. My myth(not my belief) is that all go to another plane to contemplate their earthly life and decide the importance of advancing to another level. Some early Indians of North America believed in levels of Heaven: the highest was occupied by soldiers, the lowest by slaves. In between were levels for babies who died young, and for mothers. I've lost a childhood friend whose battle with cancer was hard-fought. If he were Aztec, he'd be sitting on the highest plane.

I visited B in San Antonio last November. Our conversations were about high school and college days, forgotten loves, hated routines, teen struggles and inner feelings. I updated him on the who's and where's of our high school friends. B and I recalled our unsuccessful tryout for high school cheerleaders, Civil Air Patrol outings, fellowship at church events, Saturday night Youth for Christ, and finding time to ride around town on Saturday afternoons.

B came into my life when my aunt married a second time and her new husband had a son, a sixth grader at the time. Fate gave us each a sibling. My sister was too young to share my life and B fit the bill exactly. He and I were each other's dates when we wanted to impress or make jealous someone else, companions on air flights with CAP hunting imaginary downed airplanes, or just sitting in the park talking. He confessed he hadn't been the best kid in town in those days and a lousy dad later. I reminded him that parent guides weren't handed out at the hospital; we had to fly by the seat of our pants. He said he flew a plane better than that.

Marriage and family life separated us. For over 30 years we had little connection, his living overseas most of that time. He went on to become a caring chaplain in the U.S. Army and retiring after 27 years. During his time in Vietnam, he was the subject of a Mississippi newspaper article about a local soldier nurturing others on the battlefield. When he retired we began to get news of each other.

After the death of his dad, we exchanged email addresses. I didn't write for several years. When I made the time, his wife D responded. His cancer regime had begun and rocked back and forth over seven years. In the meantime, D, died of cancer. B had support from son R and wife S to ease the numerous low times. He was so proud that he and D had built a Sunday School class in his church from four members to a whopping 200 who supported him throughout. They, in turn, had a magnificent teacher. Perhaps deep down he felt his work for the Lord offset failure as a dad to his other adult children.

May 18 at 5 p.m. B died in his sleep. Goodby for now, B, we had fun times, sad times, loving times. I thank you for being yourself, for staying alive long enough to discover that I loved and appreciated you as a brother. Give a hug to D, you dad, and your stepmom for me.

"Honor your father and your mother,that the days may be long in the land, which the Lord your God gives you." (Exodus 20:12)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Abiqui, NM and Georgia O'Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe is in town. Well, not her exactly, since she's busy painting Heaven with flowers right now.

Our Mississippi Arts Museum has had her works hanging for over a month now. We visited the second week of opening. No crowd, room to stand in front of our favorite scene for as long as we chose, minds wandering to the area of Abiqui we once visited. Understanding in a small way how she could search the dry hills and find beauty in white bones of animals long gone. Yet, the canvasses of these bones and the explanation of the character she found in them, alerted us to the workings of her mind.

O'Keeffe painted the most spectacular flowers--like looking through a magnifying glass examining minute cavities made by the petals. She began her flower painting in New York City because she felt the people there never had time to view flowers: "...they rush around so, they have not time to look...I want them to see whether they want to or not."

She didn't limit herself to flowers. She painted buildings in NYC from her upper floor apartment...tree trunks on Lake George...dry bones found on her property all creating beauty in ways one ordinary person would not view otherwise. Her means of expression enlightens the viewer, how one can observe nature differently.

Abiqui is an interesting town. Perhaps not much larger than in O'Keeffe's day. Magical. Who'd want to live in such a vast desert with scrub trees, dry gullies that could drown a person or animal when the rains poured, and hot, hot sun? My daughter did.

In one of her many journeys to discover what she wanted in life, where she wanted to live, she chose Abiqui. So Dad and I fired up the RV, headed to New Mexico to see the land she'd found. Everything was just as we had expected. Dry dirt everywhere, making it impossible to keep our feet clean. The property she wanted to buy was on a mesa with gulleys dug by previous rains, and an unfinished hay bale house. We shared the experience with our daughter, knowing full well that getting a loan for this property was impossible, but not wanting to tell her ourselves. We hired an appraiser, checked out the possibility of a well, admired the vastness seen from the unfinished house. We coached her on an interview with the banker, with a caution that she may be turned down for several reasons, then let her go alone to the interview.

She was disappointed, her dream shattered. But a lesson learned. You don't try to buy a piece of property without a decent paying job and history of working. We rode around the area, talked to owners of small shops who'd moved to the area. Visited one woman who'd bought a beautiful little adobe home sitting on the crest of a hill, heard her story of movie stars having hidden homes just down the road, how she came to be in the area, how she was making a living. She was happy being in this desert, just as O'Keiffe had been. Yes, it's a magical place.

The magic lies in the way the light sets on the surrounding hills in the early mornings and evenings, creating a potpourri of colors so vivid that one couldn't believe them without actually witnessing them. This play of color is enchanting...why New Mexico is called The Land of Enchantment. Despite the loneliness of the area, something beckons the harried, those living in concrete jungles. The area is peopled with Indians from numerous tribes whose casinos and trading posts lie along the route from Albuquerque to Taos. Abiqui's location along this route is rich in history.

Besides two small restaurants, one motel, two artisan shops, and a gas station, there was a large complex built just outside town which houses a religious sect. Although we saw no representatives of this group during our visit, locals assured us they were present. Mostly they stayed within their campus with all they needed in the enclosure.

One aspect of Abiqui that I didn't like, and I found this on a map in an artisan shop, was the proximity to Los Alamos Proving Grounds. The map, which I studied intently while the family talked to the leather artist, showed the effects of the toxic clouds that formed from bomb testing. Abiqui was right there. I knew our daughter didn't need to live there. As we looked around the store we saw paintings of the hills and desert in different lights by area artists. Each landscape had a black dot on the painting. When we inquired, we were told, unabashedly, "that scene is in a toxic area." I wondered how long these folks would live without cancer attacking them.

A sign along the highway going out of Abiqui pointed the way to Ghost Ranch, O'Keeffe's home. Thinking it was private we didn't inquire whether or not we could drive through. Later I discovered retreats are held there for writers and photographers, as well as varied other activites. If I return to Abiqui, it'll be to Ghost Ranch--mainly for the privilege of walking the hills, seeing the beauty that still remains.

Visit for her bio and photos of her works.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Miss Eudora Welty, At Home

Visiting the homes of writers has been a pleasure for me. Although I've only walked through a few, each has been a spiritual journey into the life and times of great imaginations. I've seen where Nathanial Hawthorn looked upon the sea from his writing desk, Mark Twain penned his stories in his spacious attic, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's frequent room at the Wayside Inn, where he wrote his Tales. But the visit to Miss Eudora's home was the one that moved me the most.

Her two-story Tudor home was built in 1925 is now a National Historic Landmark. The garden in the back remains the same as when Miss Eudora lived 76 years of her life. The home has been restored to its mid-1980's appearance, the period in which Miss Eudora was actively writing. Sis and I and friend Sue, all of us connected to writing and reading, waited on an overcast day to be among the first visitors.

The home is fully furnished with its original contents. It is considered one of the most intact literary houses in the nation. Everything we'd ever heard of this demure lady was evident in our passage through the house. We were reminded of the spot in the dinette where Miss Eudora drank her coffee, admiring the garden her mother had laid out in earlier years; we saw her work room, at the front of the house on the second floor, where she could wave at the neighbors (and later the curious)while continuing to peck on her manual typewriter. We were reminded that she laid out her stories, cut into slips of paragraphs, which she rearranged before adjusting placement with the typewriter.

Absence were the most of the 5,000 volumes of books she had accumulated. One guide told us that the rooms were full of books standing in columns along the floor, piled on tables and chairs, in every corner. We saw only a fraction of that number, but got the feeling that books were her companion. Many had been given by other writers, many she'd obtained herself, but nevertheless, she didn't discard any. The secretary holding all of Miss Eudora's first editions which she gave to her mother as each were published, was still in its original place. We saw in the kitchen the old flue where the wood-burning stove once ate up the only copy of Petrified Man . This discard was Miss Eudora's reaction when the book was rejected for publication. However, a short time later, the publisher changed his mind and Miss Eudora sat down at her typewriter and punched out the story from memory--a year later.

Because Miss Eudora was grateful to the editors and writers who helped her in her early career, she always had a genuine interest in helping new and aspiring writers who ask for advice. She had a longtime group of friends who congregated often to discuss books and authors and everyday subjects dear to them.

She lived among her family's furnishings alone after her loving parents died. She was content to wander through the house full of happy memories, with the idea that one day she'd bequeathe this home as a literary house in honor of her parents, who instilled a life-long interest in reading.

Equally interesting was the garden, laid out by her mother and carefully tended by daughter until her death in 2001. As Miss Welty once said of this garden full of original plants, her mother wanted a "learning experience, a living picture, always changing." It was this beautiful space that inspired Miss Eudora to include references to gardening in her writings. The "distinctive characteristics of camellas, dahlias, dafodils, and a host of other flowers and plants provided powerful images and metaphors for her fiction"(from the folder "The Garden of The Eudora Welty House"). We walked past a bed of beautiful roses, Mrs. Welty's favorite; around 30 varieties of camelias, past a perennial border of bearded irises, daylillies, sweetpeas, usually yellow or orange in color;a cutting garden of hollyhocks,larkspur, and ragged robins with changes of blooms each season. This area, too, was spiritual, knowing how often Miss Eudora could sit away from the busy street and enjoy the fragrances that surrounded her. It seemed that life stood still for Miss Eudora to capture the senses that she set on paper.

Miss Eudora, for those who are unfamiliar, received the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the French Legion of Honor, two Guggenheim Fellowships, the William Dean Howells Gold Medal for Fiction, the National Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts, and memberships in the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

And she lived a hop and a skip away from my home.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Memories of Miss Eudora

Having lived near the capital city of Jackson, Mississippi, I had the privilege of enountering Miss Eudora Welty on several occasions: sitting behind her at local plays; spotting her at a muffler shop patiently waiting for a ride; dining near her table in a local restaurant; browsing books in a popular bookstore; or shopping for groceries at then-famous Jitney 14, to name a few. Stories passed around in readers' circles of where they had encountered this author at the most unexpected moments. She led her life as any other Jacksonian--with no pretensions.

There had always been an unwritten rule among book lovers that one didn't call Miss Eudora on the telephone or stop her on the street to engage her in conversation, unless you were a good friend. A brief greeting to this lovely person was as far as anyone dared.

Once, I was searching in a new bookstore for a copy of her biography to gift my dad. The store was gaining a reputation for stocking Mississippi authors (of which there are many). As I thumbed through several editions, I heard her familiar deep, Southern drawl.

Turning my head in that direction to confirm my suspicions, I saw her standing several feet away. How to speak to her and not feel flustered? I picked my selection, all the while trying to think up something appropriate. I proceeded to the cashier, arriving at the same time as she. Flustered to think she would consider this move planned, my speech faltered as I said to her, "Wha-what a nice surprise to see you here. I'm giving my dad a copy of One Writer's Beginnings for his birthday." She smiled, a brief moment passed, and then she said, "Well, would you like for me to autograph it for your father?" She did.

As a teacher of senior English during the mid 70's, I discovered the students had never read any of the classics, so their book reports centered on authors I knew were important to prepare them for college English. The school library had very few copies of the books I required, so off to the second-hand bookstores in several towns. Also with help from friends and a raid of my personal collection, there were enough paperbacks to pass around.

During that year Miss Eudora was presented an award from the French Embassy at our capitol building on a schoolday. Students from the three classes loaded into cars and headed for the ceremony. She appeared before the crowd, a tiny figure, while the ambassador reminded us the reason this author was so popular in France: her description of people and places in a rural setting appeared familiar to that of the French countryside. French readers loved her stories. The students discovered this famous-under-their-noses author quiet and unassuming, not at all fitting the looking-like-an-author mold they had created in their minds.

The next year the Jackson library expanded into a new building and was named the Eudora Welty Library. A grand presentation and reception was held. The next year's students were invited to this event. Introduced by another author and a dear friend, Jim Lehrer, the lady of the hour, to the students' surprise, was surrounded by dignitaries from Washington, New York, and Europe. Still, the fact that they were in dignified company failed to capture their interest.

Miss Eudora died in 2001 at the age of 92. She had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. I hope a few of my students, now adults leading their own lives, stopped for a moment to remember her. Maybe by then they even had read some of her stories.

A few years later when our daughter graduated from Leslie College, Cambridge, MA, the family celebrated the event by attending. The next evening we went to a local club to hear a band popular with our kids. As usual, the young people had to present their identification at the door. When I got to the front of the line, I blithely asked, "Do I need to show you mine?" hoping he'd think I was younger than I looked. A joke, really. But not to our kids. Mom had outdone herself in embarrassing them.

Several hours later my husband and I left the group and headed towards the door. The ID checker to whom I'd spoken upon entering, walked up to us and said, "Did I hear from your voice that you're from the South?" We said yes, and he began peppering us with questions about his two favorite authors, William Faulkner and Eudora Welty. "Well," I reminded him, "I can tell you a bit about Faulkner, and a whole lot about Welty." For the next two freezing hours or so outside the club I related everything I ever knew about both of them, his mind cataloging the facts. He told us he had majored in literature in college, had traveled around the world, but had never visited the towns where these famous authors lived.

His next question was, "Now, is Mississippi near Texas?" I smirked and said, sort of and gave him the general locations of the home towns, Oxford and Jackson. Finally, the February cold of this eastern city became unbearable to remain outside, and we bade goodby to our avid listener. His parting words were "I'm going to Oxford and Jackson on my next vacation." I felt warmed that I had entertained the mind of a stranger with my Welty/Faulkner knowledge.

Miss Eudora left her home and its furnishings to the state of Mississippi in 1986 while she was still living there. This weekend for two days visitors will be able to see this National Historic Landmark where her parents instilled in her a life-long interest in reading. It is a literary house, not a museum, fully furnished just as Miss Eudora left it. I'm going to be first in line Saturday morning.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Morning Quiet

Mornings are my favorite time of the day. I like to wander about the house silently, or grab my keys for a drive into Madison. Few cars pass me. I glide along the strip malls whose storefronts are dark,lonely. No signs outdoors glittering, beckoning. I take the backroads where few houses stand and marvel at the sun as it streaks through the trees with its yellow fingers caressing the leaves.

Where most people enjoy the night lights of favorite cities of their travels, I like the mornings after. I remember seeing the twinkling night lights of Venice, New Orleans, Paris, Madrid, whose carnivals of music, laughter, and foreign tongues stir the pot of nightlife and continue into the early morning until revelers stumble to their beds.

In these same cities I wander the streets near the hotel and, with the exception of water gushing from hoses, brooms swish-swishing, and silverware clanking inside open doors, I am alone. These scenes lay bare the awakening of cities whose inhabitants stagger up for another work day while the late-nighters sleep until noon. Sometimes I encounter an early riser sipping his coffee on an upstairs balcony or leaning inside the downstairs entrance. Unexpectedly, a lone dog follows me, hoping for some bit of food; a parrot in his cage fluffs his feathers in the cool air; a housemaid shakes into the air sheets of a touseled bed. The sounds increase when bikers tinkle their bells, trucks clank open their back doors, and men appearing with loads on their dollies, begin to unload. Morning has begun. One deep breath announces the scents of baked goods and coffee. I sit outside the first open cafe and enjoy breakfast like a native.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Don't Poems Rhyme Anymore?

I've never been one to truly enjoy poetry other than that from children's books and English Lit texts, with their specific rhythms and rhyming words...I'm not one whose parents read poems to me; I read my own,favoring those by Ogden Nash. Reading to my three kids, I had fun pronouncing Dr. Seuss' words and rhymes. Recently sharing her writing with me, my friend DJ is showing me how to appreciate poetry that sings but doesn't rhyme.

At the Jackson, MS, rally for breast cancer held recently, sponsored by the Susan Koman Foundation, DJ received permission to read the following to an enthusiastic and receptive audience. This is dedicated to all women who are having or have had chemotherapy:

One of my most vulnerable moments of my mother's experience with cancer occurred when I went outside to "help" her brush out her hair. My hair-removal efforts were minimal at best, because I really didn't want my mother's hair to come out. Mom, however, brushed quite vigorously--she was on a 'mission'. She wanted her hair to fall outdoors because she didn't want to add hair-clogged drains to my father's concerns that day. She cheerfully told me that she thought the birds could use the extra nesting material. Even after she voiced these positive points, I still struggled. Writing this poem provided needed resolution for me as I moved beyond the world's view of beauty, symbolized below by the gilded mirror, to a fuller appreciation of her spiritual beauty and strength, represented by the looking glass. My mother has asked that I share this poem, "A Reflection on Two Mirrors," with other women going through cancer in hopes that it might be a blessing to them as well. My own prayers go with it.


A woman's crowning glory, her hair,
Unwillingly relinquished and surrendered,
Drifts and falls gently about her feet:
A necessary casualty of the battle.

But she does not let the loss take her spirit
Down into the depths, for at this very moment
Is the victory as the crowning glory of this world
Yields to a far more glorious crown.

And yet the world's gilded mirror, while resplendent,
In confusion furrows its brow and frowns
Because it cannot understand and
Capture the spirit's radiant countenance.

The looking glass, albeit with body and soul laid bare,
Emerges triumphant through the tempering;
And it alone reveals there is no greater beauty
Than the human spirit tested and shown true.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Spring Surrounds My Yard

Azaleas of all shades of pink have burst into bloom. Although the bush has an early season flower,it heralds that warm weather is here to stay. The azaleas in our yard were planted over 30 years ago and get an occasional trim after blooming. But despite the neglect we give them, they return to please us year after year.

Photinas were planted across our back yard, its leaves turning red on their tips, hence the name "Red Tip Photina." Slow to grow in heighth and breadth, a few years passed before they were providing shade on our yard. Being unfamiliar novice gardners, we were surprised to find one spring tiny bunches of flowerlets with a sweet fragrance. They deserve their own photo.

My dad raised a beautiful Grandfather's Greybeard from seeds. When he presented us with an envelope of six seeds, he expected us to plant them in our yard. We kept them for several years indecisive about waiting for their slow growth. Finally, we decided to buy three small trees to plant. The seeds had dried out and were discarded. Each spring the trees surprise us with light green leaves and tiny fingers of white flowers pushing out from underneath to droop gracefully.

As I drive away from my home and tour the small, bustling city of Madison, I am pleased with the care in which neighbors, citizens, and city officials have worked to make yards and corners of every street and roadway a surprise of myriad colorful blooms. The downtown area has Bradford Pear trees lining it, and spring is a special sight when passing through.

The East has its beautiful fall foliage, the West, its majestic mountains, and the South, its spring parade of flowering beauty. Everyone should see the natural beauty of our country before a burgeoning population destroys it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Success Story

Nineteen years ago I was the teacher, he the student. Last night we reversed roles.

He was the chef demonstrating a dinner menu at the local kitchen shop, completely in his element,charming eager adults with his wit and delightful expressions while revealing his secrets of good cooking. Upon being introduced and being asked to tell something of how he came to the Jackson, MS area, he first saluted my husband and me for being the ones supporting him those early years. He's never forgotten the hours we spent completing course assignments, providing lunch money, and being friends to him and his family when they had few. He has taught me more than how to make artichoke dip. He is a constant reminder of our knowing a gracious family who, despite adversity, never lost their smiles, their determination to assimilate into this country without government help.

I met Danny when he enrolled as a tenth grader fresh from Colombia, SA. He spoke no English. I took the opportunity to guide him through the process of acclimating into student life. He spent the first year isolated from friendships, so stayed with me in my classroom mornings before school, activity periods, lunch times, and after school while he waited for a ride home.

However, in three years he gained respect of his fellow classmates with his infectious smile and participation in every activity with the enthusiasm of a third grader. He willingly spent hours after school organizing a dance troupe from our school's Spanish classes. With infinite patience he had football players with oversized feet shuffling and snapping to the rhythms of the Latin music. They and their female partners went on to win first place three years in a row in the performance of Latin American dances. He gave so much of himself to these students that they in turn learned to appreciate his true character. By the twelfth grade he had been accepted.

Danny didn't go to college. He went to work to help his sister Lucy pay for expenses. For over 12 years he worked whatever job in various restaurants to hone his cooking skills. His mother, he insists, is the greatest cook ever.

With $20,000 borrowed, Danny, Lucy and husband formulated plans for their own restaurant with Danny as chef. A few days before opening for fine dining, my husband and I were asked to visit and sample his menu. From that day on he's welcomed us heartily when we've entered his business, always reminding us of his gratitude. He instructs our waiter to give us special attention. When I remarked once how giving he was to bring family members to Mississippi, giving them jobs in the restaurant and helping them economically, he said he'd learned from the best. I blushed.

Last night I proudly watched him mix, stir, and bake a delicious meal. This time he was comfortable among strangers. In his chatter about his life and his philosophy of cooking, he stressed that one can achieve anything if he's willing to work. His audience applauded him and left with admiration for his spirit.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

My Dad the Telegrapher

Recently in the local newspaper an article was printed from an interview Sis and I had with a reporter, seeking information about Western Union. The company known for telegraphing messages and money would officially close that facet this year. The article summarized my dad's life with first Postal Telegraph and Cable Co. and then Western Union which bought out PTCC. During the interview I was thinking how good Dad would feel to know he'd received recognition for his tireless work during WWI and WWII as the single-most accomplished telegrapher in the state. But when I read the article I realized I had dictated a bit of history that few people today would know, and fewer still would only faintly remember.

The telephone rang all morning of the day the article appeared. Fortunately, one of WU workers who had been in Dad's office called to tell me "his story." Mr. P jolted my memory of the many times he and Dad had to leave the comfort of their home on a Saturday to telegraph sports events, repair WU non-working clocks on tall buildings, in the Governor's Mansion, at the State Capitol. On several occasions when disaster hit, Dad would rush in the middle of the night to set up his telegraph key and send news of the event to New Orleans or Memphis because the local area had no means of communications. Mr. P's story underscored the work of men behind the scenes in a profession that few now remember.

I realized from one reader's call that I needed to continue writing this history, as there's no one else to do it in this state. Only old-timers remember the importance of telegrams. There were those sent celebrating happy occasions, announcing the arrival of a military general or a new baby, congratulating a new job, and during those war years, informing families of the death of their son, brother, uncle, cousin killed in the line of duty. Dad took all the messages, sometimes coming home after calling by telephone to announce in advance the arrival of the sad news. That's the only part of being a telegrapher he didn't like. He often said it was difficult not to choke up when reading the sad news.

Dad served his country by manning the telegraph key sending Morse Coded messages. I understand that the telegraphers were so adept at using Morse Code they could "talk" to the telegrapher at the other end and translate the coded message being sent at the same time. His fingers tapped faster than the proverbial speeding bullet. He continued to tap messages as he grew older, only the messages were absorbed into the wooden arm of the chair in which he sat. Once he contacted an old telegrapher in Georgia and suggested they tape messages to each other to keep their code knowledge fresh. What enjoyment these 70-somethings had! Living in the past when the present had forgotten them and their contributions.

Today I have the very telegraph key and sounder that he used in the 1930's and 1940's. Also there is a photograph showing the simple office of Postal Telegraph, with the entire team of five employees at their places. Despite the fact that I witnessed the events of their work from age three to six, I still have a fresh recollection of the way messages were sent and received in those days.

If you wish to read the article, you can find it at:

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tidying Up Impossible

Tidying up my workspace is a never-ending responsibility. Here you see where I bead. I at least have bins for various beads, but the space where I actually work is always crowded. If I dare move a piece to another spot, I spend hours trying to remember where I put it! So when I've finished a portion of a project, everything stays where it last lay. Only when I begin another project do I straighten up the piles of rejected beads, scraps of thread, and search the carpet for stray bits of wire and tiny beads.

But this workshop is my heaven. I do more dreaming in that space than actual work. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to make available to prospective customers (wherever you are) a choice of making a necklace by combining strings of beads ready to be hooked to a chain or cord. I'll share one with you soon.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

It's Daffodil Time!

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay;
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company;
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me has brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
---William Wordsworth

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

March Has Arrived

Mississippi is abloom with color...and I still don't have my computer working. However, the warm, sunny days have made me forget that my writing hours have shortened.

Bobbisox, our wonderful Tabby, loves for us to walk in the yard with her. Her enthusiasm leads us out of the house to discover what Mom Nature is doing in our subdivision.

We've a new yard look, what HGTV calls "Curb Appeal." A desert garden with low maintenance plants for two lazy yard people. Beautiful.

The Ides of March...beware!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Umteenth Telephone Call

Miss Dell returned from the hospital after I spent a horrendous few hours of discovering from the telephone company and Miss Dell's relatives that she needed a motherboard. Expecting six weeks without my companion, I resigned myself to using Sis' computer and gave myself a moratorium from research and answering emails.

To my surprise, Miss Dell left for Memphis for her operation on Thursday, returning the following Monday! Looked fit as a fiddle. I hugged her as I took her out of her cozy box, hooked her up to all the wires required by DSL--making her look like a real patient--and turned on the power.

She didn't blink, wink, or sniffle. Her eyes were dark. I could hear a faint heartbeat when the power button was pressed. SHE'S ALIVE! But her breathing was shallow.

Another phone call to her parents. They weren't home, but their maid-- called a tech supporter-- on call somewhere on the globe, speaking in broken English I barely could decipher, was ready to help me. Time: 2:30 p.m.

--Tell me your problem.
--Well, I sent Miss Dell to the hospital because I couldn't connect her to DSL. She's home and won't even look me in the eye!
--I see. You say she doesn't look at you?
--That's right. She is as dark as night. Like, you know, like she's dead.
--Let's perform a few tests. Hit the power button and tell me what happens.
--OK, I have turned on the power but the little light at the bottom edge flickers.
--What about the second light?
--Oh, it's flickering--oops, it's now off.
--Turn off the power and look at the back of the notebook.
--OK, I'm looking
--See the large latch? Push it and pull out the battery.
--Oh, that was easy. So that's what the battery lookss like.
--Find the rectangular compartment on the left hand side.
--I don't see an opening that shape here.
--Do you see where drive dee is?
--The what?
--The seedee drive,where you put your seedees.
--Oh, yes, the CD drive.
--Take out the screw of the door near the ceedee drive.
--Gosh, I don't have a screw driver that small! Why didn't Dell send me one with the computer?
--Just take out the screw.
--Ok, ok, I'll go look for a screw driver. What if I don't find one?
--Don't worry, we'll do just fine.
(I remembered the small set I bought at the grocery store to repair eyeglasses. However, this Phillips screwdriver is a shaft only. I find a small pair of pliers, hoping to get a good hold on the shaft.)
--Ok, I've got a screwdriver. I'm loosening the screw. Hey, it won't come loose! Should I turn left or right to loosen?
--Just relax. You will do just fine. (Obviously, she doesn't understand my English!)
--What if I can't get it loose? Can we continue?
--I told you not to worry. Let's look at the other side for now. Do you see a screw near oh?
--Where is oh? OH, I see, you mean the letter O. I see it.
--Now, loosen the screw and remove the door.
--Look, I couldn't loosen the last screw; Why do you think I can get this one loose? Hmmm, this isn't as difficult as the other one...I think I've got it...YES,I'VE GOT IT LOOSE!! Now, what's next.
--Take out the memory cards.
--The what? I've never done this before. There're no cards in here.
--The little green memory cards. There are white latches on the side. Lift them out.
--Look, I've never taken apart a computer before. Are you sure you'll stay with me to the end?
--Have confidence. I'll stay with you. Lift the green cards at a 45 degree angle.
--Is it ok to put my fingers on them?
--Sure, no bother. Take them out and put them aside.
--Do you see the small black arrow? Push it towards the right and when you do, take out the ceedee drive.
--You mean I don't have to remove the screw?
--This is another way to get the ceedee drive out. Now, turn over the notebook and power it on.
--Hit the effentee.
--Uh, please repeat that...
--The effentee.
--Sorry, I don't know what that is.
--F as in Frank, N as in Nancy, tee.
--Ohhh, the FN key. Ok, I'm hitting it.
--Does the light turn on?
--OK, turn over the notebook and return the memory cards,the ceedee drive and the battery.
--Don't leave me, just in case I forget where everything goes.
--Just don't worry.

Time: 4:30 p.m. Final diagnosis for Miss Dell: her el eee dees were out. A minor short? The tech said I'd receive new ell ee dees on Friday and she'd call and tell me how to put them in.

Gosh, another few hours to look forward to on the darn telephone. I'm ready for an Apple.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day Past and Present

In our family treasure trove of famous experiences we recall one Valentine's Day that daughter JE insisted on giving all her second graders a card. She waited until six o'clock the 13th to make this decision.Off to the local drugstore where a package of 50 was reduced to $1.00. Closing the door to her room, she refused let any of us see what she was writing on each of the 24 cards.

The following day her teacher sat down with me at lunch at the school where I and the three kids went daily. She asked, "Did you read your daughter's words on the cards she gave her classmates?" I gazed at her a millisecond wondering if this question meant JE showed cleverness or stupidity. I shook my head no and she continued, "She wished them a 'happy VD day'," and burst out laughing. I had to smile.

I've always admired my husband's ability to deliver two-liner rhymes. This year I decided to extend my writing ability to poetry. I began by finishing his rhymes daily (something we do when driving in the car long distances). I became brave enough to send rhyming birthday greetings to my friends. After all, these verses were original and funny. In a pinch I'd have to ask R for help. After a month of producing verses I was exhausted. Today, I woke up, stumbled to the kitchen where I found written:

Ode to My Valentine

Hip hip hooray for Valentine's Day
A time to love a time to play.
A chance to express my love for you
In a very, very special way.
So here it is, for what it's worth,
A V'day gift in an obtuse verse--
(That may suffice for candy and spice).
Again I say, hip hip hooray
For a wonderful, loving Valentine's Day.

Well, I couldn't refuse to pen my own words:

To R on This Day

Ho, ho, ho, hey, hey, hey,
Finally today is Valentine's Day
Thanks for always being here
Delivering your daily dose of cheer;
Luv ya', luv ya', luv ya', Dear.

Crazy poetry can be the spice of life!

Friday, February 10, 2006


The Strawberry Man has arrived. This vendor has been selling this fruit at the same spot in north Jackson for years. He has a loyal following of folks who depend on this Louisiana fruit. We usually don't see these berries until March. The only ones available are from California and Florida. Most folks around here know that California strawberries shipped in to the local grocery store aren't sweet--just sort of red. Florida berries are ok sweet, but there's a difference in the taste of those from Louisiana. UMMM. Sweet, red, ready to mash and pour over pound cake or shortcake or angel food cake. Dopple a bit of whipped cream on top and you have a delightful dessert. Anyone eating berries locally grown have the delightful advantage over eating those shipped long distances.

The reason for the early sale of the berries is, according to the LSU Agriculture Extention news, farmers in Louisiana have been using new methods to keep the soil warm. Row coverings of plastic mulch and cloth-type mulch. The old method was to spray water on top of the plants and as the water froze, heat was released to protect the budding plants. No longer do farmers have to flood their fields and risk disease problems. The new methods allow the farmers to produce berries as early as December.

Prices here are $2 per pint or $24 flat of 12. Florida strawberries are selling for $2.50 in local grocery stores. Rarely have I seen Louisiana berries sold in chain grocery markets. Vendors like the one above set up their trucks and vans at specific points around the metro Jackson area.

There's a bowl of mashed strawberries mulling on the kitchen counter with a bit of sugar (to hasten breakdown and give some juice). I'll be ready for my "afternoon delight" about 3:00 p.m. Then in the morning I'll have strawberries on my granola after that, there'll be pickings all day long for a berry or two to pop into my mouth, until this flat is gone. I've most of the month to enjoy this year's crop. Sorry you won't be around this afternoon for a sample.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Winter Feast of Theatre

Every year in February the Alabama Shakespeare Festival holds Southern Writers' Project Festival of New Plays. This year was the third visit for Sis and me to Montgomery to listen to new playwrights. This theatre has a repertory group and MFA students from UA. They read the parts of a new play with gusto, bringing life to the written word. The purpose of public readings of the new plays is to give the audience a chance to critique what they've heard. What is the theme of the play, was it clear? Did the characters grow during the play? Some six questions give us direction of criticism. Two plays were in their second phase of reading. These were composed of African-American actors in familiar situations. One was based on the story of four little girls killed in a school bombing(Four Saints) and the other was a story of a black church in conflict(Santified). All readers were excellent actors and singers. The former was a drama and the latter a showcase of the actors' virtuosity of acting and singing. Both written by new black playwrights.

New plays read included Gee's Bend by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder and Love and Other Strange Phenomena by Peter Hicks. The young writers contributed The Last Dance by Caitlin Bach, The Party Pie of the Year by Laura Bradick and Conscience: A Story of the Inner Psyche by Samantha Pace.

This year we saw two fully-produced on stage plays, The Bird Sanctuary by Frank McGuinness and Pure Confidence by Carlyle Brown. The highlight of Sanctuary was the appearance of Hayley Mills, well-known actress of movies and British plays. The other actors were from New York stage: Elizabeth Franz,Diane Ciesla, Martin Rayner, and Westley Whitehead. This play was originally produced by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. This was a confusing play of a disfunctional family of three adult children arguing over selling the family home, which would leave the single sister homeless. It should have remained in Dublin, in my opinion.

Confidence was a typical Southern story of a black jockey and a white man whose horse the jockey rode. Written by a black playwright, this is a tender story of one white family who truly loved the jockey but were restrained from helping him achieve freedom due to the slavery laws of that day.

Besides hearing new plays and their themes, our attendance give us opportunity to discuss the plays with the playwrights, record our impression of the play that will help the author hone his writing skills. We become better audience members by this means and by listening to media critics and theatre directors explore issues and ideas of the theatre of today and where its heading.

The Shakespeare Festival is committed to the Classics and Repertory Theatre and feature a variety of plays throughout the year. Sis and I go for a weekend of plays a few times a year. This is our fix, our substitute for being unable to attend plays in NYC. However, in Montgomery, actors and directors from that great theatre city come to us. Few people we know take advantage of this opportunity. Maybe it's the 5 hour drive...maybe it's the lack of interest in theatre...maybe the unfamiliarity of this jewel in Alabama...

NPR's All Things Considered calls the Alabama Shakespeare Festival "a theatre junkie's nirvana." Want to join us? See

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Thinking of You, Dad

Today marks the eighth year I've not sat in Dad's room talking with or listening to him talk. Our best conversations came when we walked around the block or were riding to an appointment.

When he and Mother closed their home and moved in with my husband and me in 1992, adjustments had to be made. There was no guidebook on how to deal with the elderly, so we created our own. Mother was the most adaptable of the two parents.

Dad challenged us in many ways. Tempermental and impatient to anyone but his kids and grandkids, he was a voracious reader, a sports enthusiast, an inveterate worker. He was a junk food addict, a repairer par excellance of antique clocks, a consistent church attendee, a devoted letter writer.

A lover of birds, he once cared for blue jays that had fallen from their nest. The enclosed porch became a large bird house to keep them warm until their feathers grew. When they were ready to fly, he released them and enjoyed their frequent return. He was a gardener who encouraged birds to visit him often by planting bird-friendly flowers.

Having only an eighth grade education, he had a flourishing handwriting, an inquisitive mind, and a knowledge of good grammar and spelling. His work as a telegrapher with Postal Telegraph (which later became Western Union) required him to use correct English. He abhorred the idea that anyone would mispronounce words, write incoherent sentences, or misuse commas and apostrophes. He was valued as a telegrapher and worked during WWII to relay messages by Morse Code between Memphis and New Orleans. He never lost the ability to tap out letters, but was too deaf to hear the code played at the end of each week's episode of the television series NYPD Blue.

I have wonderful memories of my dad: his pushing me in a swing at Poindexter Park; teaching me to ride a bike on a brick sidewalk; washing my hair in the kitchen on Saturday nights; washing the family car on Saturday afternoons; the funny remarks he'd leave attached to the notes my sister and I left pinned on the front door; modeling his first "leisure" suit ...a real Dapper Dan. Even as a young man as you see above, he loved to dress well.

He was the only dad of all our friends who helped with housework and shared in taking care of his daughters. He had a sense of humor that to us sometimes was misused, other times embarrassing(whenever we were expecting a call from a young man, he'd answer the phone with "Insane Asylum" or "City Jail" sending us into dire embarrassment). Basically, his humor got us through a lot of difficult times, made experiences unforgetable.

When we had dates, if the young man didn't have polished shoes, Dad discourage us from a second date, emphasizing that the care of one's clothes and shoes was paramount. Dad, himself, never failed to polish his shoes to perfection weekly.

Every month when the Readers Digest arrived in our mailbox, the assignment at the dinner table was to review the "How to Increase Your Word Power." He made a game of teaching us the meanings of new words every evening.

One of Dad's proud moments was to receive a "commendation" from a poetry group(whose advertisement was always in magazines)indicating he was a First Rate Poet, or some such title. We never told him that probably every person who sent in a poem received the same printed paper. His poetry rhymed in a lackadaisical way, but he celebrated any and all special occasions with a ditty. At the insistence of many church friends, he'd pen a poem about that person for a birthday gift.

He had the ability to express himself with the written word. He wooed our mother with the sweetness of honey in telegrams he sent her in the early 1930's. A regular Romeo, he was. Later when each of his daughters were born or when some special occasion occurred, Dad penned a telegram. When fax machines became the staple of Western Union's messages, those telegrams stopped. Those sent to our family are yellowed with age and a prize of the family.

Despite Dad's faults and narrow focus of world changes, despite the fact that he didn't know how to express his love with "I love you" verbally, he expressed his feelings in other ways. He was generous and sensitive, using humor to hide his disappointments.

When I began to understand and appreciate my dad more, his life had run its course. He died at home in the loving comfort of his four "girls"(wife, 2 daughters, and only gran'daughter).

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Movie Theaters Yesterday and Today

Just when one thinks movie houses are suffocating from the competition of downloaded movies on all sorts of electronics, my humble city is about to open its arms to a fancy new theater. The local headlines in a recent edition of our newspaper declared, "Movie night is going upscale."

Opening February 17 is "a $14 million movie house with stadium seating, state-of-the-art digital sound, expanded concessions, an arcade, party rooms and internet cafe." Ticket holders will enter into an "Italian-style lobby, complete with fountain" in an atmosphere of a five-star-hotel! One side of the lobby will have tables surrounding a fireplace for snacking while up to 3300 folks will watch on 10 screens holding 100-150 people each. The best part of this theatre is that not just major releases will be shown, but a fair share of art and foreign films will be available.

This sounds great for one who still loves the big screen, but will I have to put on formal wear? Well, the Madison city officials are talking about a dress code! Tickets will range from $6 to $8 and no telling how easily the cost of popcorn and sodas will drain our pockets.

I remember the first time a "state-of-the-art" theater opened in Jackson. I was in the tenth grade and The Lamar Theater was supposed to upgrade the old Paramount Theater. Ahh, lush carpets (homes still sported hardwood floors) cushioned our feet. Beautiful lighting, comfortable seats, handsome rest rooms. Dressing up for a date to the movies was natural for us then.

A year ago an old school chum wrote to remind me that our first date was the opening of the Lamar. I dared not tell him I didn't remember. But I recall going to the Lamar with the guy who is now my husband. Saturday nights at the movie house was THE BIG DATE for us bebopping kids.

Two years ago in the local laundrette in Narrowsburg,NY I met a little lady who was waiting for her clothes to wash and dry. We struck up a conversation because I asked her if her Florida tag on her parked car outside indicated she was a true Southerner or a transplanted New Yorker. She was the latter. In our conversation she told me she used to be a dancer at the famed New York City Roxie Theater. She had begun there as a sixteen year old and later transferred to a more sumptious theater in Berlin. For the next two months while our clothes swirled and tumbled, I listened to my new friend's adventures on stage from the late 1920's to early 1930's. I researched online the Roxie so I could ask her questions. The Roxy had been a premier palace of its time.

Built in 1927 it was dubbed by its creator the "Cathedral of the Motion Picture". Cavernous it was. 5,290 patrons purchased tickets, walked through a huge lobby with a foyer rotunda five stories high, a massive chandelier hanging above them. The main theater had three balconies as well as the main floor. Abundant statues and carved pillers adorned the walls, and before the movie began a full orchestra played or a carillion chimed as patrons took their seats.

Between movies were the matinees, with clowns and jugglers sharing stage with dancers who tapped and toed through routines in magnificent, colorful costumes. My friend Terey said she and her fellow dancers learned to stand on huge balls and do gymnastics as part of their dancing. Triple stage elevators topped with a turntable allowed the entertainers to be shown in full cyclorama. The four-track sound system boomed as patrons looked at the movie on the gigantic screen. For interesting photos of this theater, cut and paste this address:

Several years later as I sat in the Lamar Theatre in Jackson with my cardboard 3D glasses perched on my nose, the Roxy was reaching its decline. Fortunately, its magnificence has been duplicated in Sydney Australia, at the State Theatre Sydney, which has many of the magnificent features of the Roxy: foyer rotunda, art galleries, marble lights and statues. It's still active and is a main attraction there.

I'm readying to experience the excitement of the opening of the Lamar and a bit of the magnificence of the Roxy when the new theatre in Madison opens next month.