Monday, December 26, 2011

Appreciation at Christmas

Christmas Day this year had a special meaning. Our grandson at age 15 months brought the wonderment of a child in the same way that Baby Jesus awed the shepherds and the Wise Men. Our lives alone were becoming meaningless until Henry came along. You who are grandparents already know and understand the meaning of a new generation with  your own grandchildren.

This year watching our child imbued with enthusiasm in the simple joy of smiling when he recognizes his family, or when he runs to one to be picked up and loved a quick minute, trying out his new shoes, learning new movements with a play slide, or holding up a new book to be read for a minute—all these actions of discovery is what every grandparent should experience.  We thank our son and his family for making our Christmas one of those we remember  fifty years ago when he was the same age.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Remember the Earthquake

Reuters has reported that Mexico has been hit by another earthquake, measuring 6.7 felt in the capital city of Mexico, D. F. and emanating from the Acapulco area. There several people were killed, but none in the capital.
The report stated that none have been reported since 1985. Then thousands were killed and parts of D. F. were damaged.

That same year of 1985 I was in the capital with two other adult women and 35 high school students of Spanish. Before we left for the educational trip, rumbles had been detected in the very area we'd be visiting, and I reviewed safety measures in case I needed them. Our second night at the Isabel Hotel near Chapultepec Park where we were staying we all went to bed before midnight (except most kids, of course). About 2 a.m. I began feeling an undulation in bed and hearing the tinkle of glass breaking in the bathroom. I had gone to bed with my clothes on that night in fear of a big rumble. Immediately I arose and went down the hall knocking on doors of the students and helping hurry down the narrow stairs those who were up and ready.

 We all gathered in the main lobby, occupying all seats and many on the floor, waiting for the aftershocks. One couple came hurrying down rather late and to our surprise were wrapped in bedsheets. We knew they'd been rumbling long before the actual rumble set in. Remarkedly, the hotel was spared of any serious damage. A plate glass window broke, and nothing more. By the time we returned to our rooms the clock read 4 a.m. By then I recognized we had only half of the student group with us. When we got up the next morning we teachers met the students and discovered those who were staying up all night in each other's rooms stayed right there. It was difficult to judge whether they chose the right decision. I envisioned the upstairs crumbling onto the lobby. But it didn't. I discovered I never became afraid; there were the students' welfare to think of.

The following day we roamed around town, tripping over concrete sidewalks that had broken and protruded upwards, as well as buildings that had moved forward towards the street some few feet. Workers who had managed to return that day were standing near the windows of those misshapen buildings, unaware that their weight could easily weaken further the old buildings.

Fortunately we were not headed further south to Cuernavaca and Acapulco, but remained in the capital for the remainder of five days. We were fortunate that when we were ready to return on the plane, air traffic and motor traffic had been reduced. We returned home but not before everyone in the Jackson, MS area had read the local papers. Twice as many relatives and friends greeted us upon arrival home. It was good to be home.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Youngsters Driving

Yikes! two kids driving cars and their parents put in jail. Down here in the South kids big enough to reach the pedals while sitting on a stack of magazines to gaze between the steering wheel have been driving for eons. My cousin from South Mississippi was driving by age nine and doing it quite well. Of course, these country kids didn't drive tractors or trailer-trucks, but their dads' 150's and 250's with aplomb. Who to disagree? They could maneuver through those dirt and gravel roads like race car drivers. Getting their licenses came about age 15 for sons of farmers; age 18 for the rest of us.

City folks like me used public transportation. The only drawback was dating with no car. Again girls met guys in town at the local movie, each riding separate buses to the locale. After a soda or malt near the movie theater, it was time to separate and go each's way on the bus. I recall in the eleventh grade how my boyfriend and I had to double date with an older guy and his date because he was 18 and eligible for a license. Many of you remember no kid owned a car in high school.

Seems the parents of the kids who drove to the gas station and to school could have used a bit of sense, found some back roads on a weekend and let the little guys drive to their hearts' content. Apparently that wouldn't have satisfied these kids--there'd be no one to see them behind the wheel.

The photo above is not what you think. Our daughter at age eight did not drive our VW. She felt like she was when she posed inside. A closer look and you'll see it was ready for the junk pile. Her dad had been hit by a van on his way to work. (He's still living) The front end and the windshield were goodby joe. This is the only photo we have of our dear ole' VW.

Later when she and the boys needed lessons, we went to a large parking lot where they drove circles until dizzy. Our biggest problem was learning to change tires. One son read the directions, one got the tools out of the car, daughter cheered while I tried to loosen lugs. Ah those days are forgotten whenever they jump into the driver's seat.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I sat in the surgical lab waiting to give a blood sample. When the nurse handed me a vial upon which she affixed a label, she said, "Can you read that?" I thought she meant was it legible, and I answered,after reading the vital info, "Well, I sure can, but I wish you'd leave the age out. I feel 50 but the truth lies on that label." She began to quote a verse from Psalms (only in the South does this happen) about taking what you have and doing something with it. I told her my goal was to reach 140. She laughed, then said "That's possible. My grandmother died when she was 105, my father when he was 95, you just might get close." She rambled on. "I don't understand why retired people just sit around moaning they have nothing to do. They even die early out of boredom." I assured her I didn't let boredom enter my door.

The idea of dying creeps into my life occasionally, just a flit of a reminder of the number of folks who pass away in the seventies of their lives. I don't feel nor think I look "old".  Anyway, I've reminded my God that He can't take me until I've cleaned up the house and given away all the accumulation that  crowds my space.

Last year I embarked on the journey to contact all those friends I made from elementary to high school to thank them for being in my life. Unfortunately, so many had passed away or moved away and out of the phone books. I did find two teens of that time who shared the love of Civil Air Patrol. an Air Force auxiliary for teens. We spent two weeks at an encampment learning the fundamentals of army life. We girls wanted to be a part of the armed forces, but in our time that was not the pick of young women. We were born too early. Fortunately, the young woman in Ohio and I are still emailing. They young man I found in South Carolina, a happy changed person from the one I once knew. He reminded me of my mother's generosity in helping him once with lunch money while he was attending college. I had been corresponding with him during our college days. That phone call and subsequent emails brightened my time spent in locating them.

Next, I found in a high school scrapbook the newspaper article of an outstanding high school basketball player. I knew him to have joined the Navy and left Mississippi, only to return later in life. His picture was snapped at a community center for seniors. I called a number I hoped was his and found him at home. He was delighted to know I had the article highlighting his basketball days. Dropping that into the mail was the third move.

The last person I found lived on the Gulf Coast. I had a snapshot of him standing in front of a ten on maneuvers while in the Army. I mentioned in the phone call who I was (I remembered him quite clearly, but he wasn't sure of me) and said I had the snapshot. He was delighted, as several hurricanes had wiped out all his precious mementos. Sending that to him completed my fourth contact.

In each case I remembered something nice about the person and thanked them for coming into my life. Of course, I knew that many of them are still wondering who that woman was who called, but within myself I had started the ball rolling. Sadly, I've not found enough people to whom to show appreciation. I'm still working on that project.

I missed my teachers who have all passed away. I should switch my legs for waiting so long to tell them how much I appreciated the little things they did for students in their time. Perhaps one day they'll find out.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Searching Through the Past

I've sailed through past families in my journey through ancestry-land, but I've never been so stumped as I am with aspects of the Mitchell families of Louisiana and Mississippi. I've even encountered other "cousins" who send me information that still mystifies me. Why did these old folks make discovering their lives so difficult? Unlike the East and Southern states like Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, there was a time that family name meant something and their lineage was written down.

You can gag at the idea of families wanting to record their lineage for posterity, but it's greater than you think.  I am part of their posterity. But as many families journeyed southward to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee the importance of who they came from weakened. I recall my still-active aunt telling me that when she was attempting to write down her family's history the standard reply was, "We weren't important." Ah, but keeping the chain going is what 's important. They were thinking of the then--a time they weren't interested in knowing, not the now when one and two generations want to connect.

One of my Mitchell "cousins" is as mystified as I about the connections of this Mitchell with that Mitchell. Together we are trying to piece together other people's lines where dates and connections to people have taken a side road from ours. This is where we realize that we should have started this trip some 20 years ago, not wait until we retired and needed something to keep us busy as we age. No, we knew we could only scratch the surface, but a few generations back was better than none.

My plan was to find a few generations of relatives. I was pretty ignorant of family ties. I had in mind four families -- two from each of my and my husband's lineage. But those lines developed into additional lines--this person marrying into that family and having 15 kids (no fooling!) who bear the same surname as I and before I knew it the families were multiplying as fast as rabbits. There's no such thing as pulling out six people and their families. The number is more like  1,006 or 10,006.

One point about searching for your long, lost relative -- it is as exciting as a fox hunt. Only you as the hound is seeking anything hidden anywhere that verifies relationships.  the thousands of pieces of paper microfilmed of marriage and birth certificates, federal censuses, biographical listings, preserved family histories begun in the 1800's or earlier, DAR applications, countless lists of army enlistees of the various wars, to name a few. You have to know where to look.  What helps is finding photos, traipsing through old cemeteries to snap that particular headstone or the old home place and collecting from relatives their photos and sources like birth certificates to lend you for scanning. Then there are the endess number of people you meet who have seen your line and want to know if you have information about a similar relative 200 years back.

All of this makes for an exciting day when the temperature is too hot or too cold or too miserable. Searching can occur when you are bored with television, tired of cleaning house, or have finished the dinner dishes. I've been known to follow a line as late as 3 p.m. when I couldn't let go of the keys because I'd discovered a relative.

There's no way life gets weary for a family researcher. Trust me. I know from experience.

Friday, September 16, 2011

We Have Maids Still

The big hoop-la about the movie and book The Help has created a hush-hush attitude about our hiring help for the home. True, all of the women in the book/film were wealthy and in some kind of need for a second hand --BUT they do not represent all of the Jackson and Mississippi women from the 1960's to present. I lived a few blocks from Brent's Drugs in an area we call Fondren and I had a maid. If the word those days had been "housekeeper" we would have used that word, but we had always called our help "maids".  My story is similar to many women who tried to understand and help the plight of the black maid.

I worked as well as  my husband and we had kids aged 7, 6 and 3. Edna was hired to take care of them, see the boys got to school and home safely, and take care of the youngest. She and the youngest were at home, so they ate lunch together, took walks and oftentimes waited at the school for the boys. She had her own two at home under the guidance of her sister. I think we paid her $25 a week then; that was just about what I made teaching school. We picked her up and took her home daily. She wore a uniform at her choice. She sat in the front seat with us when either of us drove her home. She used our bathroom.

When civil strife broke out we never thought to discuss it with her. Despite the Rabbi's home being bombed two blocks from us and despite the roaring headlines in the newspapers reviewing the actions of the previous day -- our lives with Edna went unspoiled. She didn't talk about the happenings nor did we. Mainly because we were only with her the 15 minutes' drive to her home.During those twice-travels we were either anxious to get to work or anxious to return home for supper. She had her weekends free.

One day shortly after she'd worked a few months, I asked Edna if she were on social security. She didn't know about it. I went to the SS office and picked up the papers, filled them out, explained to Edna what this was, and she signed the papers. 

Edna Gill was a huge woman, clean, and loveable. She was quiet and rarely conversed with us outside home matters. We respected her. We loved her and distressed to give her up after four years.We moved to another town and couldn't arrange transportation for her. I put an ad in the paper for" a good home for our maid." I interviewed three women who were looking for more than what Edna's responsibility had been with us. I balked and refused to give her up to them. A week or so after the ad had run its course, a woman called . She came to our home and we talked. She seemed genuine in understanding that she was to treat Edna fairly, provide her transportation, keep up her social security, and if for some reason she couldn't employ Edna in the future,  carefully select Edna's next boss. Edna worked for this woman about two years.

Several years later we visited Edna's house one weekend to see how she was doing, expecting her to still be working for our replacement. No, she stated, she was now working for the state. She was a caretaker for babies with health deficiencies, working nights. My replacement had found Edna a job with a retirement. We were overjoyed. She was "set for life".

One Christmas the family took holiday fixin's to Edna and her son, only to find Edna retired, living off her pension and social security. She was suffering from diabetes. In the course of conversation she thanked us and for her replacement. Together we had put her on the right track for retirement. She died five years later.

Our family is typical middle-class, among the many who hire a maid for various reasons. Right now in my subdivision I see maids picking up the mail, sweeping porches, and whatever they do inside is probably clean house. The few black women who advertise by handbills or advertisements now charge $50 an hour, some requiring at least two hours' work. These black maids now have competition from white women.  This has become a business, not a helter-skelter hiring and firing. We have 40% of our population black and many uneducated, disinterested in education (age, perhaps) and housecleaning is their only experience. I see maids driving older women to appointments, helping with grocery shopping, and many are hired by companies as companions to the elderly. Clearly we have plenty of black women who need work, unlike other sections of the country.

If you have difficulty understanding our use of help in the Deep South, think of the Latino or German or Swedish maids in your hotels and the myriad of workers in the restaurants where you eat, stores where you shop, parks that are kept clean --you'll find an equivalent of our black maids there, and then -- maybe, you'll understand.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Today is MY DAY. The sun is shining and the weatherman predicts 101 deg for the day. I can't complain. We've experienced harrowing hours watching Irene rip across states leaving death and destruction. My day has seen disasters and accidents in the past:  Katrina six years ago,the flooding of the Delaware River while we were in New York (one of several times in early 2000) and Diana's accident.  Death, destruction and happiness rolled into the last of August.

I came into the world to two hard-working people who lived in Jackson, Mississippi.. Mother was 19 and Daddy 21. They had been married 13  months. I'm not sure my appearance was a good omen or not, because I remember nothing of my childhood but their struggles and their attempts to keep me happy while shielding me from the poverty of the Depression years. From the moment I was able to talk about birthday,  they asked me what I wanted for my gift. I replied, "A pink dress with two pockets." I didn't get that dress until I was10 years old. It was probably on lay-away for  months. Thanks Mom and Dad for rearing me in hard times.

 Happy Birthday to me. Thank you family and friends for remembering an aging creature who appreciates her life.

Above is me at aged 7 or 8 in a flowered dress made by Mother,carrying a purse with a Kleenex inside.
 I felt so grown up that day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Plea in the Dark

Some time in the past three years an inventor heard my impassioned plea. I had begun to dread cleaning up the house. The very idea that to clean floors I had to take the cotton mop, dip it in soapy water, scrub the floors, then rinse, finally with two weakened hands, wring out the water--a waste of my dying strength. So I ignored the floors. I began to ignore everything in the house. I felt like an old woman who made her way through stacks of newspapers and magazines from one room to another, except in my case, it was dodging fluff balls and ignoring the collection of detritus lining the floors in the corners. Sounds terrible, doesn't it? But R said we had too many "things" in our house to have a housekeeper, so the "things" were the only items that didn't collect over time.

That's when someone understood my anguish and invented the Swiffer. Hubby thought owning one was showing how lazy he was. Who could have been  lazier than we? So we waited a year until R's patience blew to the ends of the earth. He went out and bought one version of the Swiffer. Now he loves cleaning the floors.

I suppose one has to get fed up with old ways to suddenly see above your head a  floating suggestion to solve problems.As  new owners we hesitated to tell anyone we had  one for fear we would be seen as slackers. Then the day came when we heard rumblings about cutting down on housework from neighbors and friends and we perked up and told our story. Before too many weeks passed, we discovered the Swiffer was popular in most homes. We didn't stand alone.

Combined with our dish washer and coffee maker, we are now a happy household.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

No Fig Preserves This Year

As early as last fall  I set a goal to preserve some figs that would pop out mid July of this year. I had done this several years ago, but I feared I failed to boil properly and  kept the jars  in the fridge. A quick canning course at Viking gave me the confidence to try this year. In late June I put up some strawberry preserves and blueberry jam. The previous preserves probably will have to be attacked with a surgical steel knife, as I "think" I cooked them on the stove a tad too long. I was pleased with the results. Then I tried some pickled onions,  using the purple onions as stated in my guide. I believe they cooked  too long, also, but I have a few jars I'll taste later. All this while I waited for the figs to burst onto the scene.

July 4 brought a few surprises, but they were small. The heat had been relentless and I feared the little rain would produce undersized fruit. However, I gathered a few each morning that disappeared before I could serve breakfast. July 8 I came down with what I thought was intestinal flu (later diagnosed as a chronic attack of IBS) and in my bed, through my fever-laden body that refused to move I had to weakly hark to R."Pick the figs, please." Think of a little old lady trying to get the salesman's attention and and you'll  know how I sounded. Since R didn't care for figs, he didn't rush out in early morning to beat the birds. However, I keep repeating the mantra and he was forced to please me at least once. My illness lasted during fig season. Too late to do anything but plan to go to the farmers' market and buy their preserves put up by a gentleman 25 miles away.

Our fig tree was  planted about 30  years ago in a sheltered  spot in the back  corner of our yard clear of trees. We failed to take into account the surrounded bushes would be trees in a few years competing for the sun with our fig tree. Yep, that's what happened. The limbs have reached into the yard seeking the sun now for several  years, Some  limbs are tied to the ground from  lying so  low over time. R threatens to cut it down, but I convinced him that was the 8th sin.. Too late to set out another tree--the perils of aging.

Monday, June 20, 2011


With a new baby in our family, that of our oldest son J's, we are bombarded with photos and videos as though H is a  new rock star. His every move is followed by anxious parents who desire to preserve these precious moments, when, in thirty years or less, they can review and laugh and cry and remember.

A remark by daughter J over the phone after laughing about H's latest tricks, "I still love photo albums. I hope you haven't discarded those we've had all these years." This made me realize that all media is acceptable in this world. There will always be a need for the old fashioned photo album.

Next, our daughter said, "Mom, I hope you are scanning all those pictures we took on vacations. I want the originals." What a mass of responsibility she laid on my shoulders!  Thanks to my interest in genealogy and my subscription to, I have scanned everything I could find, noting online the important information as I remember. But the snapshots I failed to identify. I know, I should have listened all those years back about ID'ing the pictures. I said to myself then, "No one will forget the time and place!" That's a young mind thinking.

I'm reminded of the time I shuffled through very old albums belonging to my mother and mother-in-law. Both albums were created in the 1920's and 1930's. The pages frayed, no identification existed on any snapshot taken with the old Kodaks of the day. A glance and today we wonder who were those people with her? Is this taken in Havana when E visited there in the 1920's? Where was this taken? Is this Granmother's house? Questions that will  never be answered.

A recent email entry by concerns  preservation of photos and photo albums. The first photographic album was patented by F. R. Grumel of Geneva, Switzerland in 1861. The United States went crazy over these albums a year later when the Morning Oregonian of 1862 declared, "Everybody, now-a-days, must have a Photograph Album, to be in fashion." From then on just about everyone who owned a camera of snapshots possessed an album. Early albums with their black, rough but fragile papers have to be preserved, as well as the photos, to prevent further deterioration.

Unfortunately, to scan many of my mother and mother-in-law's photos, I tore apart the pages from their albums. No way could I detach the photos as the glue (probably flour and water) was strong enough to hold a battleship together. The albums themselves were non-descript, furthering my interest in dismantling them. My adult children will no doubt be disappointed at my actions.

There was a time when two of our three kids searched yard sales for old photo albums. They felt someone needed to preserve these treasures so blatantly discarded by hand-me-down owners. They enjoyed musing over the scenes taken during happy times. I began to realize how valuable was everyone's life history set in pictures, even to strangers. Saving these albums was like preserving antiquity.

My big problem now is what do I do with all those loose snapshots I dropped in Ziplock bags unidentified? Someone will need to know the circumstances for the camera shots. Let's see, a check of my calendar says I can start . . .

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Hot Summer Days Less Productive

I've hit a snag in my daily life. All of a sudden I don't want to spend any more time than an hour at the computer. I don't want to get outside, except for grocery shopping or  water exercising. The hot and humid days seep my energy. All I want to do is sleep and sit. No television. No jewelry work. No stories to type up. I feel I'm more in the throes of deadbeat days. The weather was in the upper 90's for a couple of weeks. However, this week a tiny bit of rain and cool-down dropped the temp to 82 and 88 degrees. What a relief.

I open my email to Discovery online and read this: "
"The hottest summer day you remember from childhood could be the norm in a few decades; in fact it looks like the heat has already been cranked up.
When scientists talk about global warming causing more heat waves, people often ask if that means that the hottest temperatures will become 'the new normal,'" said Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at Stanford," as reported by Tim Wall for Discovery News. Maybe that gives me carte blanche to be lazy.

To make the statements above I should be ashamed. I'm unable to volunteer to help those families involved in the floods and tornadoes.In my quiet time my mind skims along the shores of the Mississippi River where families struggle to clean debris from their flooded homes, assess the damage, clarify their future, with far less clothing and food than they once had. Fighting putrid water, slapping at mosquitos, peering around for dangerous snakes and crocs while they work can't be the most fun, but it is the biggest reality show on earth at this time. Keep these folks in your thoughts and prayers. Donate where you can.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Every year the Alabama Shakespeare theatre in Montgomery, AL hosts a two-day festival of new play readings and celebration of new playwrights. I enjoy the readings better than the actual performances. We audience  use our imagination "seeing" the movements, costuming, lighting. Reading is done by the young professional troupe serving a period of time performing through a play season. Young people with some professional experience, interns just learning the ropes, and older, more experienced Actor's Equity performers who yearly return until the audience recognizes them and revel in their ability to "become" a different character.

The playwrights were John Logenbaugh who wrote "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol" a winner to see alternately every Christmas with "A Christmas Carol." Edward Morgan adapted a short story of William Faulkner's apropos to the trouble with the Mississippi River, "Twenty Seven". Action taking place during the flood of 1927 in Mississippi was dark but excellent. John Walch, who wrote "Double Time" the life a black producer who pioneered the Harlem Renaissance of plays in the late 1920's was backed  with music and lyrics by Nils Rogers who with Walch came to Montgomery for a run through. The actors in this song and dance review had only a few weeks to  prepare and carried off with superb skill and talent.

The evening productions by the Acting Company were Julius Caesar and  Moonlight and Magnolias, the latter a farce based on actuality (with a little exaggeration here and there) of the making of Gone With the Wind film.

Five hours is a long trip for three aging, female, play-lovers. Next year we're considering hiring a handsome young man who will drive us there and back. Any suggestions?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Preparing for a Tornado (or Other Disasters)

When a "Watch" has been issued in our area, I run around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off and gather the items I want to have with me. We sit in a deep closet on stools. In a large bag I gather our check books and extra checks, at least a gallon of water, crackers and peanut butter, a plastic knife, a container of Wipes, toothbrushes and paste, tinted moisturizer, comb/brush, and basic jewelry that means something to me (not necessarily expensive) and my computer discs. I subscribe to Carbonite, so I don't worry about my computer files.

The latest online issue of This Old House  adds the following: fishing line(for tying back doors to stay open), a solar fan, heavy gloves, vinyl tablecloths (cheaper and more useful in their sizes). These can already be packaged and in your favorite hidey hole.These items come in handy whether or not you have a house standing.

The rising of the Mississippi River reminds me of the time the Delaware River rose and we were unaware of this when we returned from Maine at night into Milford, Pennsylvania  to return to Barryville, NY on the other side of the Delaware. There are more bridges in the area than one realizes. We got as far as the last bridge on the PA side and were met with policemen directing us to an elementary school for the night.

I recall the cafeteria workers on duty baking cookies and making sandwiches for all of us stranded folk. We had little to do to while away the hours. Then the Red Cross brought in cots that had been stored since World War II by the smell of them, but we lay down and snuggled under those thin, wool blankets that reminded us of being a soldier in a war. Terribly uncomfortable, warm. Just as we fell  asleep we  were awakened stating  the roads were clear of high water. The time was 2 A. M.

Returning to the same bridge only a few miles away we were again rerouted on roads that at night time made our short trip a long one. We had to travel north some 25 miles and circle through state and county roads to arrive a familiar roadway running south that took us into Barryville. By then it was nearing 5 P. M. We had left Maine at noon, driving seven hours. The length of travel imprinted on our minds was not the difficulty, but what happens when flooding affects an area and the tremendous help given those stranded.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Visiting the Old Neighborhoods

Sis and I had motored through the old neighborhoods some 15 years ago, but on this occasion we had along with us a former neighbor and childhood friend, Sara, who had lived in a duplex adjacent to our apartment when she and Sis were six years old and I was 13. Sara was in town from Delaware to attend her high school reunion at Provine. After a light lunch I suggested Sis and I show her how Jackson had changed by touring our old neighborhoods where each of our families had lived periodically.

Not an easy task to wander through narrow streets we once thought were wide; past  houses where we remembered this person and that lived; where once stately houses stood; and finally to the street, Fourth Avenue, where we had begun our lives knowing each other. At first finding the block was difficult. Some houses were torn down, others in states unfit to live in but were, and many boarded up. However, the little duplex with the front porch that wound to the side with a half bricked wall, we knew was our old home place. How small the yard is, we exclaimed. The porch, I'd recognize the porch anywhere, we added. We sat in our  stopped automobile in the middle of Fourth Avenue while memories flooded.My suggestion that we knock on the door and ask to see the interior drew no yes's. None of us could remember if there had been a driveway, as there was now. Sara remembered a back yard and a garden. We each  brought to mind something the other had forgotten.

We rode slowly down the block, turned into the wide Grand Avenue, which suddenly was narrower, looking at houses and trying to place certain houses that once held friends. We came upon a faded white stone house with a turret in much decay. We pulled out of our minds the fact we'd called this the "haunted house". It's beauty was hidden by layers of mold slathered across the turret's exterior, tree branches resting on the decaying roof. Overgrown yard.What a shame allowing such a lovely home sit in that condition. Sis suggested we find out its owner and buy it, recondition it and move into it. Silly dreams. We couldn't buy a door, much less the entire house. And the neighborhood would be too iffy for us to reside.

Another spin around the neighborhood brought more oohs and aahs. We had forgotten about the small church that had been only a block away. The large Lovelace home was now no longer standing,a new subdivision laid out in its place.Turning back onto Robinson Street we passed our old elementary school, Poindexter, and still sitting in its place. The large yard as we remembered with our small  eyes had diminished. But the wording across the top of the school was as bold as we recall. Then a pass by our junior high school, Enochs, across from Poindexter Park brought memories of some of our happiest school days. The park  now denuded of all the swings and sand boxes and benches is a grassy lawn. No reason to enjoy the outdoors as we three once did on those silver gliding swings. A quick run down Central Street where Sis and I had lived was another disappointment. We found our aunt's home, but the tiny grocery so convenient was missing. Familiarity was disappearing from this area. We may a well have been in another town in another state.

From there we entered West Capitol Street past the Methodist Church and headed towards the rail road tracks and the new buildings of the train station. Sara hadn't seen the newly-furbished King Edward Hotel, sitting majestically  among the ruins of once thriving buildings we so fondly recalled. Abandoned, boarded up facades once watched us prance down the street unafraid to be alone or with a friend as we made our way to the State Theater or further uptown to the Paramount or the Lamar Theaters. Sara remarked how much we walked from our homes to anything in town without a thought of distance, choosing that over the city buses. I  pointed to the modern structures that had replaced Woolworth's, several clothing and retail shops,  pointing to Sara, "That's where Walgreen's used to be". Through our eyes we saw the safe streets we had walked from our homes in West Jackson to the busy downtown of Jackson circa 1940-1960. Our wonderful West Jackson was a  memory.

We failed to drive by Hawkins Field, the Jackson Zoo, Livingston Park, down Robinson Street where our churches were located.  So much still to find. That awaits for Sara's next trip to the state.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shoes, Wonderful Shoes

A recent advertisement for a shoe company in town brought back memories. As you can see in the photo the wedge is popular now.  The style is similar to ones I wore in 1954 when I began teaching in a very small community near Oxford, MS.

Newly married, I had moved with R to the student housing, not the best at that time but cheap. I had a job teaching in an unincorporated school district. To offset the few students I was assigned to, the principal asked me tobe the librarian. I had to enroll in two three-hour courses in June to be able to hold such a “responsible” job.

Already I had  two years of experience behind me in the Delta  in small communities, but this one near the University of Mississippi was a pitiful example of how necessary this district needed to incorporate with larger ones. This particular school began in July and released the students in the fall for one month so kids could help with crops.  I wore my coolest clothing, as those days didn’t see air conditioners in school buildings. Topping my outfits were my lightest shoes, straw wedges.  I wore them every day because they were easy to slip on and off.  My job as librarian rarely saw me out of a chair, hence, removal of my shoes when no one was looking.

In the six short weeks I was employed, the local teachers let me know that I was too dressed up. The students had never seen shoes like mine;” citified” was barking loudly around me.  I ignored their remarks, not understanding how anyone thought I was citified. I did speak better English—was that it, really?

Those shoes lasted the rest of the warm fall and the following spring when I was teaching in Jackson, Mississippi, where I transferred . Now, 57 years later this style is popular again. You can bet I’ll have another pair like the ones above, not to celebrate my teaching in the country, but to remember an early time in my life.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Week of Cold, A Day of Pure Warmth

You all know that putting away seasonal clothing isn't today's method. With the weather playing hop-scotch across the map, we need a closet for warm clothing and a closet for heavy outerwear. No longer in the South can we expect our winters to be mild. We had our worst winter this year in a decade, yet by eastern standards it was a breeze. Today, Saturday the sun is shining and the air is a warm 78 degrees. Tomorrow is expected to be cold again with the usual thunderstorms and tornadoes we have around March and April. Nothing new, is it?

Regardless of the weather, warm or cold, I am tied to the computer. After spending $$$ for a desk-type, I now long for a laptop so I can sit outdoors and pen the words rushing though my head. It has been said that writers are loners. Like jugglers, we attempt to balance family life with our desire to pound on the keyboard, hating to leave our seat to satisfy a son or daughter who wants us to join the rest of the family for dinner. Then we become robots in conversation, while  holding a thought, a scene, an idea inside, and anxious to skip after-dinner coffee and dessert for a quick trip home. Or when I have to stop to hear my husband expound on  what he's read, I give the impression that I'm  not interested. Not so. With so little time in my life left to do what I've always wanted to accomplish, I feel rushed to write everything that comes to mind.

New words, new ideas flow like a thawing faucet and the fingers go into action. I'm not a many-published writer, but I write because I have stories to tell, created from my romantic instinct that runs constantly across my brain, becoming real in my whispered enactments -- someone would say I'm losing my mind. The openings of stories are just that -- openings. They sit in my Document file under "Unfinished Writings." Occasionally I pull up one and reread what has been typed, then add a few paragraphs. Are they worthwhile to keep? Maybe so,  maybe  not. But seeing the words flow across the screen gives me a personal satisfaction, like the feeling you receive from that first cup of coffee.  One day some of the ideas will jell into one good story.

When I reach the point of being screen-weary, I stop, turn to genealogy or fulfill a jewelry order. By the time I return to the computer, I'm fresh with new ideas, born during family research and the fulfillment of  creating something spiritual for an unknown customer. But I return to my stories and I'm happy, whether it is raining or sunny outdoors.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Two Material Items I'm Thankful For

Living off the grid for five summers, three to six months at a time, taught me how simplified life should be. I'd return home and not desire anything new around the house to make me more lazy than I am. But since 2010 that has changed. I now own a dishwasher and a Kuerig Coffee Maker.

My  husband objected to dish washer for using so much water and electricity when I could clean dishes faster, but not as clean as he desired. For instance, if I left a bit of smudge on a fork and he found it in the silverware drawer, he made a big deal out of it. I'd say "Just clean it and you'll be fine." That failed to satisfy him. Or if a bit of grease so tiny stayed on a dinner plate, he'd find it and fuss, fuss, fuss. Finally he took over the dishwashing job and within a year or so decided We Need a Dishwasher. I should have left more grease spots than I did years ago. Now our Bosch is like our child. We love doing dishes; we fight over who'll load and unload.

A coffee drinker, meaning one who drinks one or more cups daily, I am  not. The first time I discovered that coffee wasn't only Maxwell House and Folger's (my aplogies to those who still use these products) was the visit to Boston in the mid 1980's when our daughter took us to a little cafe to sample  the kind of coffee they serve there.  What a surprise taste my palate enjoyed! This was so delicious I couldn't drink enough. This was long before internet ordering had begun.

Then came the websites and Gevalia. R loves Gevalia, but it never tastes "quite right". If I needed desperately to drink a cup of java because I needed to stay awake, I'd force a few sips in the A. M. We began making our coffee the Melitta way, because of our strength differences. However, I Never Could Make A Good Cup of Coffee.(Here I must apologize to all who've downed my Bad Java when visiting!) My thinking changed when I visited V2 on the Gulf Coast and she served me the most delicious cup since Boston. She had a Kuerig coffee maker. I returned home toying with the idea that I'd give us this maker for a holiday gift. But the "off the grid" mentality hit me. I didn't need another electrical appliance, I argued to myself. So what if coffee is now deemed safe, if not healthy, I still  could continue to make it through my little coffee filter/holder. A chance remark to my sister who took that statement about the new coffee makers to heart.  Christmas we opened her package and my life has been one-cup-a-day-happier.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January 15, 2011

Remember how we used to count hours, days, weeks, and months until that special day arrived? Each month since September I've been aware of the 15th. In September on a Sunday of that time in the month R and I received a wonderful gift--our first grandchild. Now to all of you who have grandchildren already running around may forget the first one; you probably were fortunate to have them early. But to R and me, we're in our mid 70's and having a grandson for the first time has revealed mixed emotions. January 15th will mark HB's fourth month to be in our world.  He is adorable, the son of beautiful parents and loving grandparents. Now, R and I know we have to make the most of our time (and I'm not worried, as I'm living until 140!) profitable in experience for this little tyke.

As we think of the ensuing years we hope to make an impression with him so he'll remember us. Will we see him graduate? Marry? Have a family of his own? Probably not; however, we'll make each time with him the best we can contribute.

If you're a grandmom or g'pop, give me some good ideas how we can preserve our time with him so in future years he'll remember his other grandparents. 

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Lifting My Spirits

It took a beautiful wedding in a nearby Catholic church to lift my holiday spirits. Not wanting at first to go out the eve of the dawning of a new year, but the weather turned quite warm. Of course the warmth was preceded by storms of great magnitude and tornadoes sweeping in and around our home, but at 7:30 p.m. when I was to leave, calm prevailed. Some would say the Heavens declared the union with its own brand of trumpets and roll of drums, but others would counter with "Ah, that's Mississippi for ya."

A road trip to the delta area of our state with my sister to gather info for an article gave us the wonderful opportunity to visit a small town, Rolling Fork. Nearby is the community of Onward where Teddy Roosevelt visited to kill his bears. The Rolling Fork community has a growing interest in revitalization. The subject of our trip, Mount Helena, an 1899 home built as a second home for Helen Johnstone and her second husband, an Episcopal priest, to serve as a summer place.
Traveling north along Highway 61 this home sits on the only raised area and is quite noticeable. The house was constructed on top of an Indian ceremonial mound. fronted by flat planting land. Time and destruction has caught this home in their  grip. Today  it's history on a hill. Reconstruction is underway and annually a play is presented in the downstairs living area that retells the house and family history.

The enthusiasm of the families who maintain the house's heritage is catching. One is reminded that delta families still cling to their ancestors' contribution to the area. It was refreshing to visit this home on a sunny January day  and meet the families who are working to keep Rolling Fork, MS alive .