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!