Monday, December 30, 2013

The Southern New Year Table...

You know it wasn't just yesterday that I discovered that I really love Southern cooking. I've known it ever since I was big enough to sit up at the table with a chicken leg in one hand and one of Mammy's biscuits in the other. No one can quite make biscuits like our grandmothers, can they, Belles? No matter how much I watched her with that bowl of flour, from step one to step oven, I could never match her for tenderness, flakiness, or just plain goodness. They always came out of the oven exactly the same golden brown every time, the steam rising off them carrying with it the faint sour smell of buttermilk. I was having a discussion with my neighbor, Joanne, about buttermilk. She likes to eat cornbread in buttermilk, just like Mac does (and he loves saltine crackers mixed up in it, too.) I don't like the taste of buttermilk in the raw. I like it in my pancakes or buckwheat cakes. I like it in my biscuits or as a dressing in my slaw...but I don't want a big icy glass of buttermilk with chunks of bread floating in it so you had to eat it with a spoon. No ma'am, I want to cook with it. Anyway, it's the Southern cook that gets the blame for high cholesterol and hardened arteries, for the most part. What made my grandmother's (we called her Mammy) biscuits so doggoned good, you ask? You didn't ask? Well I'm sure you intended to, so here's the answer. It was the lard. It was the soft wheat self rising flour. It was the buttermilk. And it was her hands. She always told me that I overworked the dough, that you just wanted to work it till it held together nicely when you "petted" it into a round. The imprint of her knuckles would always be in that finished product. I can't remember a time when we were children that she wasn't up with the roosters, making a pan of biscuits, frying side meat(fat back or streak a lean) a pot of grits on the back of the stove and those wonderful scrambled eggs, soft white swirls of -egg white like marbling throughout them. My sister Toni was the only one I know of that managed to learn her method of scrambling eggs. Now, here we are coming onto the New Year and we have a custom. We eat "Hoppin' John and Collard Greens...Hopping John is simply black eyed peas cooked till they're nicely soft and served over a big fluffy bed of rice, with the pot likker ( the water your food is cooking in.) Some folk like to serve a healthy dollop of chopped onions on top, too. I used to ask Mammy why they called it Hoppin' John and the only answer I ever got was because someone had kicked John in the shin. That was her way of saying she didn't have a clue. I have read about eight or nine theories as to how it got the name, but so far no one really seems to know. How Hoppin' John got it's name is still a mystery. Then there are Collard greens. They're much like cabbage, but not at all like cabbage. They're similar to turnips, but very dissimilar to mustard greens. They have body to them. They are really the only green leafy vegetable I know that requires chewing. And the heads aren't ready to pull till it's had one good frost on it. Freezing sweetens them. Now, the reason we especially eat them on New Years day is for wealth and prosperity. The tradition being that if you eat the Hoppin' john you'll have plenty of coins pass through your fingers, and if you eat collards you'll have folding money in your pocket all the time. It's a wonderful tradition in that if you have Hoppin' John and Collards on your table, you're richer than an awful lot of people who have nothing on their table. And so, once again we will be rich this year. The collards are in the freezer and a bag of dried black eyed peas is always in my cupboard. You never know when a little wealth will come in handy.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Memories

I am late putting up the tree this year. In fact I am still decorating and probably won't be finished with the tree until Christmas Eve. There will be tweaking and adjusting to do right up to the minute as I drag out the ornaments, some which go back forty years and more. Ever wonder how you manage to collect so many things and how you are able to keep them all looking as good as the day you brought them home? Each ornament holds a memory of a Christmas of another year. I have the wooden ornaments that we used when the boys were small, just big enough to fit into their tiny hands but not glass that would shatter and cut them. These are wooden cars and trains, tiny elfen drivers and engineers aboard the polished oak which we bought in Norfolk, Virginia. Brass bikes and sleds sit ready to spin around the curves of the Christmas tree much as they did when we first put them on in Fall River, Mass when Wallace was a baby. I can still see friends Doc and Barb's big poodle laying by his crib, both sets of eyes watching the brightly colored tree in wonder and joy. I gingerly handled the Christmas plate with Fathe r Christmas holding the Christmas star high above his head heralding the birth of our Savior. This plate was a gift from our dear friend Bubbles Loxley Green in Beaconsfield (Bucks) England. I have the snowmen from London and the Angels from Charleston. There are ornaments from our first tree after we were married and the ornaments from only a couple of years ago which found their way here as gifts from friends. Oh and here are the nutcracker soldiers from Harrods in London and Mr and Mrs Claus from Colts Neck, New Jersey. Each ornament is a warm memory of some Christmas in the mists of times gone by. That is why it is taking so long to get the ten foot tree decorated. Every ornament must be handled and exclaimed over as it comes out of its wrappings...here is Michael's favorite ornament, the brass unicycle. He always thought he should be able to ride a unicycle which is why I bought this. (Maybe I should let him take it home to put on his own tree and hope it survives another 35 years...). Here is the Angel topper I bought because it looked so much like Arianna. And the little Angel shelf sitter with the wild red curls like Anna's. Oh look, here are the lighted bells that are now over 45 years old and still play the Carols as well as they did when I put them on my first tree in 1968. Christmas...it is family , it is happiness...the Child is come to save the world...and hopefully for one day at least, we can have peace on earth...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

THE CHRISTMAS TREE PART DEUX

I have spent the days since Thanksgiving so sick that at times I was unable to sit up and take a sip of water. We went to Florida to spend the holiday with Mac's family. Some of the visitors came with a little something extra. While trying to combat the flu I came down with a particularly nasty case of pneumonia. I am feeling well enough to attempt a bit of decorating...the tree is first on my list... Oh my tree this year is going to be so beautiful. It's nonflammable, it's pre-lit...and it's white. No strings of lights to untangle is the absolute best thing ever. I remember in years past waiting for anyone to walk through the front door and untie me. There were always at least 50 strings of lights that someone (who shall remain nameless because I can't find anyone to take the blame) removed from the tree, did not disconnect one from the other,and just rolled them into a ball and threw them in a box. Know why? Because it is just too much trouble to take care of at the time, and I really don't want anyone to miss out on the ranting and raving that will follow the opening of "the box". Oh and the screams of "who put these lights in this box?" I think it may be time to come clean with myself. I know who it was that put the lights in the box. I'm the only one who decorates in here, and I'm also the only one who "undecorates", so why deny it? Undecorates. I think I may have just made up a word. I wonder if it'll work in Scrabble? But I digress. So the tree is in it's infancy...I started the decorating earlier this week and am adding things slowly so that it's all even and doesn't have the "stood back and threw the junk on it" look. While I may be a bit impatient removing the tree ornaments, I have the patience of Job when it comes to the actual decoration. Once I could let the sheer beauty of the live tree take the brunt of the disorganizational frenzy of frolic. But now, sigh, we have a fake tree. Or to put a better spin on it, we now have a Faux Tree. I got a white one to celebrate the fact that no one in the house smokes anymore, (a nicotine coloured tree is the most horrible sight to behold). I've always wanted a white tree, imitation snow...it's supposed to be in the 60's today so it's a bit of a stretch on the imagination, but if I turn the a/c on and get it to about 50 I can put on a sweater and stand in front of tree with a cup of coffee to help warm me up. That's after I finish decorating it. By the time that happens it may be in the forties outside and there will be no need of pretense. I will be done with the decorating as soon as I reach "critical mass". Not one limb left unadorned, not one light left unlit and the floor groans with the sheer weight of it all. Ah, Christmas...it's the most wonderful time of the year...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Live Vs Artificial

I think everyone knows by now that Mac was in the Navy for thirty years, which carried with it a lot of sea duty. Sea duty should have had the word "over" included, since the ship(s) mainly went far away...they didn't run out five or six miles and play war games then back in time for dinner. Even when they were in port, he often had "Duty" which meant he had to stay on the ship overnight at least once a week. He averaged six months at sea every year. Sometimes more. That's the thing so many people don't understand about Military families, it doesn't matter if there's a war going on or not, families are going to be separated. Well, the first Christmas that the ship was at sea at Christmastime, the boys were devastated. Not see Daddy at Christmas? You're kidding, right? Right? Well, sadly I was not kidding. No Daddy at Christmas, it was 1977 so no Internet...just snail mail that could sometimes take up to two weeks to arrive from port to home or home to port. We had always had a live tree and I was adamant that we would not have an artificial tree. Ever. My reasons were mainly that they didn't look real. I had other reasons, but that was the main one. So I've got the beautiful live cedar tree all decorated by December 15th, water in the basin of the tree holder, plop an aspirin in (don't ask me, Mama always did it, I figured she knew). Every few days, add water, add presents, feel needles...sing a carol. The ship was due in the end of December, so I figured the tree would still look pretty good by the time he got home. Christmas came and went, so did the new year, no ship, no Mac. January 12th and I add more water, more aspirin, no carol this time, but a prayer instead. "Dear God please don't let my tree die this week". As though it wasn't already as dead as the proverbial hammer. And dry. There's Mac's presents laid neatly beneath a quickly drying cedar tree and I'm imploring the boys "for heaven's sake, don't brush against the Christmas tree, the needles are getting dry." It's now February 1st, the ship has once more been delayed. The boys are standing in the living room with a couple of their friends and Craig (Wallace's friend) says "you've still got your Christmas tree up." That was all, just you've still got your Christmas tree up. Of course by this time it looked more like a Christmas stick. With lights. "We're waiting for the boys' daddy to get home" I explained. To a five year old. "Oh," was all he said. By this time of course, we no longer turned the lights on, I was afraid of fire. It was no longer even plugged in. When the word came down that the ship was now due on February 14th I was so relieved I was nearly sick. I had taken to sleeping on the sofa next to the tree to keep the cat out of it so that it might have a semblence of shape and a few needles when the big day finally arrived. Women go through an awful lot to make Christmas work for everyone. In my mind, it was still the Christmas season and no one could convince me otherwise. Wow, what a day February 14th was, what a wonderful Valentine's day it turned out to be as we drove to D&S piers (Norfolk. Va) to greet the ship and all I could think of was the pile of needles on the floor , the cat crouching in the middle of the tree, so by now I was certain what remained of the tree was now covering the packages that contained some lovely winter wear and here we were fast approaching spring...after arriving home, I quickly plugged in the tree for the brief time it would take to shove packages into Mac's hands. He opened them, oohed and ahh'ed and I jumped up, unplugged the lights and grabbed the tree and quickly dragged it out the front door and dumped it unceremoniously onto the front yard where it burst into flames before every one's amazed eyes. I swear I could smell the cedar firing up as we sat in the floor. I don't think I've ever moved quite so fast, in my life. As for my opinion of artificial trees, no longer a live cedar snob, I agree with all and sundry...don't they look natural

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Just Following the Road to Nowhere

Since we've retired to God's country (or at least our little section of it) we don't travel that much anymore, it seems. The longest trips we make are to the doctor's visits (too many) and my sons and daughters(in-law) in Florence and Columbia.  Where once we were world travelers, we are now rather sedate.
 
 Oddly enough, we both grew up in traveling families. I'm not sure how it went for Mac, but I can remember how it went at our house. Mama would start packing the suitcases two nights before we were to leave. The night before was reserved for preparing the driving directions and for that she needed her "navigator's bag" . In it were the pencils, sundry maps, a notepad , a pack of peanuts (?) and her sunglasses. She was always excited to get on the road. I especially remember when we lived in Cleveland and the summer trip was being planned.  Mama had the map stretched out on the table, her red pencil in hand and was trying to find the quickest route to Chesterfield, South Carolina. Now this was before there was an arterial spray of Interstate Highways crisscrossed across the paper. No MapQuest. No GPS systems to tell you when to make each and every turn .  We had Mama.
 
 We were all hanging onto the table watching with interest and chattering about our trip , the excitement like a bubble of water headed for the surface.  The chatter came to an abrupt end when Daddy came over to where she was studying the map Her lower lip caught between her teeth and that little scowl between her eyebrows her eyes were in serious study. Standing beside her, he suddenly allowed as to how she was making too much work out of it.  He took the red pencil from her grasp and locating Cleveland (or an approxcimity of where he thought Cleveland might be) and then finding Chesterfield (or somewhere in the vicinity of that one, too) he drew a straight line from one to the other in a broad red stroke. Mama looked at the map then looked up at him. We were all standing in a circle around her, our eyes glued to his face. "And just what is that supposed to be?" she asked him. "It's as the crow flies," Daddy said.  I have to hand it to him, he said it with a straight face. "Well, that would all be well and good if anyone had thought to build any roads there," was Mama's reply. Then she looked at us and with the utmost solemnity said, "and this," indicating her now desecrated map, "is why the Children of the Lord wandered in the desert for forty years. Moses drew the map."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Ghost Story from England

It's that time of year when I share a ghost story with my readers.  I look forward to Halloween almost as much as I look forward to Christmas.  We never had "store bought" costumes as children, we made our own.  Our imaginations went wild with the many ideas for disguises.  And we always ended the night with a good ghost story.  We still do.  I would love to regale you with a ghost story that is true in every regard.  It took place at our hotel, the Tudor Lodge in West Ruislip England .  The month was October, of course.  The year was 1978.
The Tudor Lodge is a lovely old hotel that started life as a manor house, then a hotel, became a Hospital during several wars, including WWI, then back to a hotel again. We knew we were not going to be put up in a 4 star hotel, but I've read some of the recent reviews of the Tudor Lodge and I hardly think it deserves some of the awful comments that were made about it.


The staff ,when we were there ,were always helpful and eager to tell us about the history of the place. That is what I found to be the most enjoyable, the history of the Tudor Lodge. We had a wing of the hotel to ourselves, with two rooms and a set of stairs leading down to the dining room. They only served breakfast, but what a plus that was for a young family getting kids off to school. They offered several selections of cereals, including Wetabix, which our older son, Wallace, really liked. They had Marmite, a bread spread that apparently is an acquired taste (which we never, any of us, acquired) and the best bacon in the world. The first time I asked for bacon and eggs and they brought out these lovely scrambled eggs and two slices of what looked like wide thin strips of ham, I wasn't sure they had understood my order. I was assured by the young lady who delivered the plates to the table that this was, indeed, bacon. The toast, made from Mother's Pride Bread, I believe, was also bigger than the slices of bread we're used to at home. So, the boys had a good breakfast before leaving for school every morning and we were quite happy with the hotel accommodations.
Every night, we would watch the news (hoping for good news on the hostage situation) then we'd watch the BBC. One of the first shows I found I enjoyed was Dad's Army. But Mac kept saying, "what did he say?" and I had to translate. I work with accents very well, I grew up with Ricky and Lucy on TV and at home...my dad is from Ecuador as most of you are aware and so his attempts at English pronunciation rivaled those of Ricky Ricardo's.  My mother was every bit as zany as Lucille Ball with a Southern Accent that needed a knife to cut through.

 So, I would translate and Mac, finding the line funny would laugh. The boys didn't have to hard a time picking up on the language, it was after all, basically the same as the language they already spoke. But more on that later. One morning after getting the boys up for school, Michael was telling me that I didn't have to check in on them in the middle of the night. I told him that I hadn't been and immediately came the description of the lady in the long white dress whose hair was put up funny (being no hair dresser, my hair was often "put up funny"). So, I told them maybe it was someone with the hotel.


I was sitting in the dining room enjoying my coffee and the Daily Mail after getting the boys on the bus. One of the Hotel managers came over and asked how everything was going, if we were enjoying our stay and what had I planned for the day. I was gracious in my compliments because frankly, they were gracious hosts and I was enjoying my stay quite a lot. I happened to mention that Michael had seen some lady checking in on him and the lady's face went absolutely white. She told me that there were stories about a Nurse who haunted that wing of the hotel (remember, the hotel had been a hospital in several wars) but she had never actually seen her, just heard the stories. I wondered if she was concerned that we might think someone was sneaking in the room at night for some nefarious reason, but that really wasn't the case at all. I knew that everyone who worked in the hotel knew that we would be there for several weeks and really did think it was just an employee checking on the children. (This was, of course, before the disappearance of children became an everyday event to scare every parent world wide.) But later on, I found that the other employees were eager to talk of the "Lady in White" with someone who didn't appear to think it was a laughing matter. A couple of the ladies had actually seen her in the room the boys slept in and were never frightened by her. She always seemed to be bending over the beds as though adjusting blankets, according to them. So I decided I was right all along, someone was checking on the children, making sure they were alright. I can remember standing in the middle of the room and looking around, hoping I would see her. I told her thank you, though...you can never have too many eyes checking on the welfare of your children.  I'm pretty sure  she heard me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Because a Bet's a Bet

I love Baseball.  I have always loved Baseball and once kept scrapbooks with lineups of the Yankees and the Cubs and oh yes, my beloved Tigers.  Until my cousin Buck was born when I was 14, I was my granddad's only grand son.  I was a tomboy extraordinaire who climbed trees and fought boys and played ball.  I sat at his feet on Saturday mornings while we watched the game and listened to Dizzy Dean explain the plays.  I hated the Umps as much as Daddy Dwight (unless they called the play in our team's favor).  I pulled for the damn Yankees with a passion and still do.  I love the Cubbies because they are underdogs and deserve my concern.  But back to the Tigers...in 1958 Billy Martin was my favorite...perhaps I was influenced by my Grandfather's roaring his name.  Perhaps.  And then there was Sparky Anderson, one of the best managers in baseball in my opinion.  But I'm not here to sing the praises of the Tigers...no, I bow to the fates of the field and give all honor to the Red Sox. 

Just so we all are clear here, my buddy Suldog presented me with a wager.  If the Tigers won to advance to the series he would post about it, if the Sox won, well the job fell to me.  I have never rooted for the Red Sox.  I am also a Yankees fan.  It galls me to admit that the Tigers fell to the Sox but there you have it...they played better.  If they hadn't played better, then you would be reading Suldog's post about the Tigers.  And mind you, I got up off my sick bed (I have the flu) to uphold my end of the bargain.   So this post is for http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com/  because he is a pal and I made a promise.  Homage to you Red Sox...and I'm not gagging because I said your name.  I have the FLU for cripes sake.  Now get out there and show them Cards how the game is played!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Once Upon a Time

I have been having a love affair with books since before I can remember.  The printed page has called to me even in my dreams.  I have read books that I couldn't wait to finish and books that I wished would never end.  I read mysteries and thrillers, comedy and historical, why I even read westerns.  When I was a little girl we were not allowed to watch a lot of TV.  Of course with only three networks there wasn't a lot to watch.  (My friends would argue that there isn't a lot to watch now, even with 375 channels.  They could be right.)  I still have a book my grandmother gave me when I was twelve years old.  She loved Kipling's work and had come across this book at an original flea market in Morven NC called Lina's...of course we pronounced it Liners.  It was a Sunday afternoon outing that involved the Aunts Pat and Margaret and the cousins.  We all enjoyed the excursion that was akin to dumpster diving.  Huge  eighteen wheelers with the logo of Brooklyn New York on the sides would haul in goods that had been discarded from the far away and magical Brooklyn.  There was furniture and clothing (Mammy replenished her rag bag and button can from this wealth of raw material) but most importantly of all there were books.  So Mammy found this little red book in remarkably good condition called "Thy Servant a Dog".  She put it in her little treasure bag of "I'll take this" items.  I always came home with books of course and can still hear Daddy Dwight's voice saying "that youngun's got her nose in a book again".  I can remember him running a finger down my nose and saying "checking for ink."
So on this one Sunday Mammy has this little red book in her reticule and I am eyeing it , crazy with want.  I had read Mr Kipling's Jungle Books (1 and 2) the tale of Gunga Din which transported me to India and all her glory and his poems were always magical.  I am feeling the pull of this little book til I can concentrate on nothing else.  Our summertime visit will soon come to an end and we will be going home with Mama and Daddy to Cleveland, Ohio.  Our time is short and I know that before I go I must read this book.  So we get to Mammy and Daddy Dwight's house this particular Sunday and the little red book goes into hiding.  I know that Mammy is reading it and I began to monitor her progress.  I judged how far into it she was by the Bible Tract about the man with no feet she used as a book mark.   It was now two days away from our departure.  I knew that if she were to finish it today, I could sit up all night and read it.  I asked her if she had finished it and she said, not quite.
Our bags were packed and ready to load into the trunk for the long trip home.  I had written down the title of the book so that I could see if the library had it.  The book had by now become an obsession.  I knew that when we came back to Chesterfield in the following summer that the book would be on Mammy's long bookshelf and that it would be available to read then.  But the burning longing to know the story of the little dog in the book was undeniable. The trunk was loaded, we all stood in the side yard hugging goodbye, Mama had big tears in her eyes, Daddy was saying "hurry up, hurry up!" and Mammy pressed a little package into my hands.  I looked down and red bindings stained my hands and hot tears poured.  I hugged her and thanked her and she whispered in my ear "it made me cry, too."  I held that little book in my hands for first two hundred miles, turning it over and examining the bindings and the the title, the little black dog imprinted upon the cover and then I punished myself by not opening it to read the title page.  I wanted to savour the moment without the blur of travel and annoyance of voices.  I wanted to be in the privacy of my own room, tucked up in bed, flashlight in hand if necessary, to enjoy the intimacy of the greatest gift my Grandmother ever gave me.  It was worth the wait to finally know his name.  "Please may I come in?  My name is Boots"

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When horror takes control...

Yesterday was filled with stress and horror.  I was going to say that another sick individual had taken hold of the news, refusing to release us from the hold of his grotesque grip until someone forcefully removed him.  Yet even then we were not released.  And I have come to the conclusion that these people are not sick at all, they are simply mean in every definition of the word.  Mean hearted and mean spirited.  I think we let them off easy when we put labels like "psychotic" and "mentally unbalanced".  No, they are simply mean and because they can not stand to see anyone happy they go out in the world to spread their darkness of spirit.  Unfortunately for the world, sometimes this darkness spreads to other like minded individuals who decide to try to go someone one better.  The world holds its' collective breath waiting in anticipation for the other shoe to drop.

I tried to change the channel. go outside to work in the yard, walk the dogs...anything to break the hold of the horror that this person had on my mind and heart.  I always came back in and turned the channel back to Fox to get the latest update, to find out if it was over.  And then it was.  You would think that it would be anticlimactic but no.  There was even more news about the shootings.... now we needed to know everything about this man (whose name I refuse to utter here after he held me hostage to a news channel all day yesterday September 16th 2013.  Why give him even that little bit of honor?)  We needed to know where he was born, what he did for a living who his parents were.  Now the FBI wants anyone who knew him to contact them.  Yeah, right...if I had known him I would not claim such.  To have anyone such as he in our lives is not something to be proud of.

So last night as we watched yet more news about this person, the phone rang.  When I answered I heard the sweetest voice saying "hi Grandma, what are you doing?"  Suddenly the abysmal cloud of distress that had overpowered me for most of the day lifted and like magic was gone.  Sometimes it takes the pure love of a child to make you see the world for what it is...a shifting shadow always fluid never stopping to consider your wants and wishes...all in all there is nothing to be gained by wailing that you have no control over your world.  All of us need to take a deep breath and be thankful for what control we have over our own lives and let the devil take the hindmost...the hindmost being the mean and heartless among us.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tobacco Stick Cowgirls

 
I heard on the news the other day that there is a new Rehab program for those out there who are addicted to the Internet. Really? It makes me long for the good old days when our parents made us play outside till dark and the last game was Ain't No Mad Dogs Out Tonight. Of course there were only three channels on the tv, and like now, you couldn't always find something of interest to watch so we went out happily. Now 500 channels and nothings on, so the kids (and adults) spend too much time in front of the computer. I have noticed over the past few years that there are a lot of remakes of movies, quite a few tv shows are "borrowing" plot lines from shows in the 60's and 70's and it raises the question of "has everyone lost their imagination?" I worry that our kids are spending so much time in front of a computer screen that they may be losing the ability to think for themselves and make up games to play, complete with storylines.

I long for the days of road building for the toy trucks which my grandfather, Dwight Douglas gave us as children. He wanted grandsons so badly but settled for his tomboy grand daughters. We learned to build roads, make dams,and build little villages out of sticks and stones as we played happily in the long dirt drive in front of his house. At the end of tobacco season there were glorious games of cowboys and indians...I guess in these days of political correctness, those games are relegated to the distant past. My grandmother would go into the rag bag and get out some of Daddy Dwights threadbare socks, give us buttons and other scraps and we would lovingly create our horses heads. We would stuff them with cotton batting and tie them onto tobacco sticks that had been deemed to used for tobacco hanging anymore. This was long before Build a Bear you understand. We would sew matching (sometimes) button eyes and two little (again sometimes) buttons for snorting nostrils, a few buttons for a mouth (sometimes smiling, sometimes snearing) and if we were lucky add a bit of fringe for his mane. They had names like Sassafrass, Buddy or even Silver if you were lucky enough to be The Lone Ranger (of course we said The Long Ranger, even then we didn't listen well). We whipped around that old farm house with the smoke house as our Saloon, the woods as our hideout and the dirt road up to the barns as our raceway from the bank holdup. Listen, I told you we were tomboys...Becky, Kay, Patsy and Cathy, Teressa and Crystal. Toni and me (sorry Alice you were to little to enjoy our games) we were the Wild Bunch. Yes. those were the days, the wonderous days before Internet Rehab and Legal Marijuana....the great brain drain. In my heart we will always be the Tobacco Stick Cowgirls...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Happy 21st Birthday Alex Bush...

This is a rerun in honor of my nephew...something happened when we were not looking...he grew up.  He turned 21 today and I have vivid memories of this wonderful young man, though this post indicates otherwise...So, here we have Trouble in Paradise, Redux

It has been a long time I have cohabited with an 8 year old boy. Even when I did my boys did not talk to me all that much. Figuring that this was why they had friends, there was only parental communication between us. You know the drill, I gave orders they patently ignored. I would find myself giving the same order over a short period of time until it was ultimately obeyed. It was a war of wills between us, a war I usually won.


My sister Toni and brother in law Tim had a business meeting to attend in Boone. NC this particular weekend (or at least that was what I was told) and they figured my father would benefit from the company of his grandson for several days. He arrived on Saturday. It is now Monday and he is not with his grandfather, he is with us. My father, who likes the pleasant buzz of familial activity, likes it from behind his closed bedroom door. He was worried that Alex would fall in the pool and drown, that one of the dogs would bite him in his over exuberance or that he could not escape the endless chatter of said child. It turns out he didn't need to be the one worrying about any of those things. He simply took to his bed and called for back up.

So here I am with a very precocious 8 year old boy whose favorite activity is talking. He talks very well. If I could find one thing in common with a small boy this would be an outstanding situation. I like to talk, too. But as I have mentioned, my boys did not do much talking to me. I had no interest in Batman then and I find I have even less interest in him now. I am perfectly content on my day off to play in my garden until it gets to hot and then move my playtime to the computer. I have enough competition for computer time with Mac, and now I find this little person staying with us also likes the computer.


I also learned this little person is a picky eater. He doesn't much like vegetables of any color. He explained to me that his parental units were teaching him to eat vegetables, a lesson he should have learned in infancy, but he is a slow starter in that area. (I have to remember to tell the parental units they may have procrastinated to long on this one.) I found that the one vegetable he will eat is corn and then only on the cob or creamed. He likes chicken. I of course fixed Roast beef. He likes yellow rice, not white. Two guesses what color the rice was and the first one doesn't count. He will eat tomatoes if they're in spaghetti.

I had them sliced. Raw. When he saw the okra he very politely turned up his nose. This was after he had very cleverly asked what that green slimy stuff I was slicing was and if it was a vegetable. I should have told him it was a fruit and maybe he would have at least tried it.


Supper being a dismal failure, he continued his pursuit of the cat children. They, being of sound mind and good sense, hid from him. Duffy had long since pleaded guilty to a charge of child endangerment and was sentenced to the back yard.


The phone rang while I was cooking. Joyce wanted to know if I wanted to come in and work third shift for an officer who had called in sick. The answer was a resounding yes...I did want to but I simply could not. Mac, who had had even less experience with 8 year old boys than I have, would never have understood. I feared he would run off to Daddy's and lock himself in with him.


Toni called a little bit ago. She asked how it was going. I lied. I told her all was going well...great in fact. I told her if I was a bit sharp it was because I was in pain. My shoulder and neck had been been giving me a fit for about three days. I told her it wasn't that I didn't want to talk to Alex, I didn't want to talk to Mac either. In fact I wished that everyone would leave me to my own devices and let me suffer in peace. Alex came to speak with his mother and wanted to know when they were coming to pick him up. He said he thought he was making Aunt Sandi nervous. I suspect Toni now knows all is not well in paradise.

And  now our Alex has reached his majority...he is now 21...a college student with a bright future in Communications in front of him because he loves to talk... now I wonder which side of the family he gets that from...Happy Birthday darling boy...we love you...
Aunt Sandi and Uncle Mac

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Smoking...I almost left the quitting to late...

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Sandi and I am a reformed smoker. (Hello Sandi). When I say I'm a reformed smoker you can take that to the bank. I do not sneak around in the bathroom or on the porch or in the yard hiding to feed my nicotine habit. Oh, I used to smoke all right. Like a chimney. I would put out one cigarette while reaching for another. I would stop on my way home from work and buy a pack of cigarettes even if I had a half pack in my coat pocket. Yes, that's right, coat pocket. No time to be fumbling around in the suitcase I call a purse looking for that life giving nicotine. I had to be able to put my fingers on one at a second's notice. I had to have a lighter that would not fail to flame at the first turn of the wheel. I had stock in the Marlboro Company and single handedly supported entire families of workers for the Zippo Lighter Company. My fingers and teeth were yellow, my white walls at home were yellow. Not a pretty daffodil yellow, an ugly nicotine yellow. Oh yes, I was a smoker. I tried every thing known to man to put down the filthy habit, I used a patch (sometimes two) I chewed the gum, I tried cold turkey. I would announce to the world "This is my last cigarette" as I balled up the half empty pack and tossed it carelessly into the nearest trash container. I always had good intentions. But like the road to hell, my good intentions had filters on each and every turn. If I was lucky enough to have made the now infamous "I have quit smoking" speech at home, I could crawl out of the bed (hoping not to awaken Mac) and into the kitchen and root around in the trash like the crazed addict I had become until I found a piece of broken cigarette large enough to smoke. I wouldn't even make it out of the kitchen, just sitting propped up against the wall, a lighter in one hand and a badly damaged cigarette in the other. Now, Mac had quit smoking in 1999. He made no announcements, called no press conferences, he simply put the last one out and it was over. It is the closest I have ever come to hating him. I remember the day I quit smoking like it was yesterday. It was several days before Christmas, 2002. The week before I had been taken to the hospital with a breathing condition. The condition was, I couldn't. Breathe that is. They gave me breathing treatments, kept me overnight (after announcing that a surgeon would be in to draw fluid from around my lungs...luckily he was a no show) then sent me home. Yep, they sent me home and I was breathing just fine and woohoo, I needed me a cigarette like no body has ever needed a cigarette in their life. Two days later I awakened in a panic, I could not breathe in such a way that I thought perhaps this time I had finally been successful in killing myself. I had hoped that after I retired the stresses I had felt at work would mean that I wouldn't want to smoke quite so much. Luck would be a fine thing. I was on the phone to my cousin (also in Law Enforcement, also a smoker, and on breathing treatments at home!) I begged her to bring her nebulizer kit over ,that I thought I might die. I knew then and there that one way or another I was never going to light a cigarette again as long as I lived. Even the breathing treatment didn't work for long, as at 7 am I awakened Mac and told him I might need to go to the hospital. He took one look at me and bundled me into the car and off we headed to Carolina Pines. They gave me a successful breathing treatment but wouldn't let me go home. I had test after test. The Doctors kept asking if anyone had ever told me that I had had a heart attack. No, no one. They scheduled a stress test an Echo and an EKG. They kept asking that question. Finally, I just told them I suspected I must have because that same question kept coming up. Yes, they said, we believe you have had two events. Uh huh. Two of them. Well, I had the third event while I was on a treadmill the next morning taking a stress test. I remember them helping me onto a gurney, I remember them giving me something to help me relax (can I get a sixpack of that to go?) I remember they were ordering a helicopter to fly me to Providence Hospital in Columbia. I don't remember much after that. When I came too there was a Nurse leaning over me telling me I couldn't move my leg for the next four hours and here's something to help you relax (ok, maybe not a sixpack of this one, but hows about one for the road?) Turns out the weather had been to bad to fly, so the siren I kept hearing in my narcotic haze was the ambulance. I learned that women's symptoms of a heart attack are pretty dissimilar to a man's. I learned that I really should have quit smoking the first time I had made the announcement fifteen years earlier. I learned that the only thing worse than a reformed whore is a reformed smoker. I don't smoke, I don't allow anyone to smoke in my home. I nag every smoker I come across, even though I know in my heart that all the time I'm preaching they want to shoot, stab and disembowel me while they're lighting up that smoke for a nice long drag. But people, I tell you this. The inability to draw breath, then find yourself with your chest cracked open while they cut a vein out of your leg to attach to your heart is a mighty strong incentive to stop smoking. Do I want a drag? No. I don't even want to be in the vicinity of a puff. I wish all of you smokers out there the guts to put them down before they put you under.
 
In the words to an old song:
 
smoke smoke SMOKE that cigarette
 
smoke smoke smoke until you smoke yourself to death
 
tell Saint Peter at the Golden Gate that you hate to make him wait
 
but you just gotta have another cigarette!
 
 

 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Rains Came


I think I may have told you that we  purchased nearly 5 acres of land that adjoins us a few months ago.  At the time it was one of those things that I was for and upon which Mac dragged his feet.  I had already made an offer a year ago on one parcel and was turned down.  Then the land didn't sell and didn't sell and the owners came back with an offer on both parcels that I felt we couldn't or shouldn't turn down.  Still Mac looked over the acreage and only saw grass that would need cutting.  Since the bushhog had been through it, it didn't look all that bad to me.  So I began to harangue and cajole and plead.  He of course had a different name for what I was doing and after we bought both parcels, he began calling it my hissy fit land.  Therefore, it is now Hissy Fit Acres.  At the time, as I mentioned, the bushhog had been through and the place looked pretty good.  We immediately began caring for the plum trees and peach trees, hired a young man to clear out the trash and pure garbage that the renters had left and prepared for a proper mowing.

 

And then the rains came.  They came for days.  They came for weeks.  Our one mower could not keep up with mowing nearly 6 acres of grass.  I thanked God for the three acres in woods.  We didn't need to mow that.  As soon as we had two dry days forecast, we would begin mowing.  Or should I say Mac began mowing.  Our big mower would absolutely not start with me perched atop the seat.  Not even if I bounced up and down to try to trigger it, it just refused.  Mac got on and off it went.  So we had (yes we, not just me) this brilliant idea to buy a bigger mower.  We found a 52 inch cut Cub Cadet and had it delivered to the house.  While the rain that lasted six days was going on, Mac read the handbook for the lawn tractor.  It even has cruise control.  Now, Mac will not use cruise control on the truck so I have no reason to believe he will use it on the Cub.  Finally able to actually mow grass with it (it stopped raining for a few minutes) off he set.  He got more than half of the highway frontage land mowed but back where we are at the house...well  those three acres of grass continued to grow as it  didn't get a look in before the rain started again.  Now we had time to read the instructions for the tripple bag grass catcher that we had bought for the machine.   What fresh hell was this?

 

So Mac has the book on the bagging system in hand and off he goes.  After about an hour I hadn't heard anything out of him and went to check on him.  He was sitting on the ground with the instruction manual in hand and a look of exasperation on his face.  They don't send instructions for these things in Greek...it just seems like Greek   I went to Catholic schools most of my life until we moved to Ruby, and had taken over  two years of Latin.  The instructions for putting this thing onto the mower was every bit as difficult as trying to take a second year Latin exam with only two weeks of classroom exposure.  The pictures of the parts and where they go looked as though they had been drawn by a not terribly bright five year old, and slots a b and c was not part of the equation.   We have been working on it for over a week.  We are nearly there.  I figure that as long as it doesn't rain for a bit we may have the thing assembled and put on the back of the mower by the end of the month...all we have to do now is get the mower deck back on.  And perhaps salute it with a stiff drink.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

First Days



I received a call from our grand daughter last evening that I was not really expecting.  She had just completed her first day of High School and was calling to tell me all about her class schedule, the friends she had not seen for awhile, her teachers.  I was pleased to learn that her first impression of her teachers was all thumbs up.  We spoke for about fifteen minutes then she asked to speak to her grand father.  What?  Knowing how he hates to talk on the phone, I told her to hold on and went in search of himself.  I told him that Arianna had asked to speak to him.  So she regaled him with first day High School Hi jinx  (as though in my dotage I might leave out a detail).  Then he was speaking to Michael, 2nd son, and laughing at something he was telling.  Mac says, here's you mom, tell her about that, and he thrust the phone in my direction.  So, Michael tells me how they dropped her off at the bus stop then drove around the block to sit just out of her sight to wait for her to board her school bus.  Michael told me that he was telling Anna (daughter-in-love) about how he felt the first time Arianna asked to go into school all alone, no Mommy or Daddy trailing behind to make sure she got into the right classroom.  She was in first grade.  As he was talking to Anna, he had a melt down.  When they eventually arrived at work, one of his work friends asked about the red swollen eyes...and he told him "just having a bad morning".  But eventually he had to tell them how this sudden feeling of losing his baby girl had affected him.  And as he related it to me, I had to laugh as I recalled my own meltdown episodes in my sons' lives.

 

My major meltdown did not come with Wallace's first day in Kindergarten in Norfolk, Virginia.  I still had a baby at home after all, and the nest might be feeling a tad roomier, but it was not really empty.  Both of us waited at the bus stop that first afternoon to welcome the young fledgling back in.  He showed us the pictures he had drawn (even then his drawings were better than mine had ever been), about his teacher and about nap time.  Yes, nap time.  I think he was glad of nap time.  Then  that year flew by and the following year it was Michael's turn to be initiated into the great school time experience.  I watched him go into his first class room, went to the car and cried as though my heart were broken.  Mac, who was at Sea a good deal of the time, never got to go through these traumatic times.  The Navy owes him so much for all he missed.  But anyway, I cried for two days.  Then my good friend Patricia Roney, took me by the shoulders and shook me.  It was like a scene out of Moonstruck as she yelled, "snap out of it!  They will both be back at 2:30!"  It was like having cold water dashed in my face.  Of course they would.  Then she proceeded to talk of shopping without beggars (oh come on, you know what I mean...."I want"  is always the first things out of their mouths when you hit a store.)  And off we went, shopping till nearly time for the school bus to arrive home.

  I am so glad she didn't remind me of the other firsts that would eventually bring me to tears...first day of High School, first day of college, first move away from home forever as they took wives...and the first born grand child who even now was breaking my heart as she grew up and away from us.  Too soon grown, too soon gone.  Happy first day of school you children of Chesterfield County.  Don't forget to tell your family all about it, it is a memory they will hold in their hearts forever.
 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Tree

I was on my way to my Dad's house yesterday afternoon, the top down the wind blowing my hair all over creation (and me not caring) when I got behind a slow moving log truck ,filled with freshly cut pine trees.  The aroma that drifted back to me was overwhelming.  It was my childhood unraveling like ribbons and wrapping themselves around my heart. I could see us, the cousins, pinching off little balls of amber and chewing them like gum. The amber colored blood of the pine would have been hardened in a century or more to make fine jewelry, but for then, it was a tasty treat...yes, I did say tasty. It was as though we were living in a primeval forest and scrounging for sustenance at any source.  You will forgive us, we were children.  We also chewed Indian Pepper and drank from Honeysuckle flowers. 

But the memory that was so strong that it brought tears to my eyes was of Daddy Dwight's tree.  It was a very tall long leaf pine that stood at the crest of a hill above Mammy and Daddy Dwight's big old farmhouse.  You traveled up a steeply graded dirt road went past the gas pumps on the left that serviced the farm equipment, past the big old barn on the right, and around the curve and there he stood.  Too tall and straight to climb or to see the top without craning your neck painfully. Now, the pines surrounded us on three sides but this one old tree stood sentinel all on his on. He stood near the highway (145) and could be seen for miles.  This pine tree was not for cutting, it was for viewing.    And we could view him from five miles away atop a fast dropping highway hill as we traveled to our grandparents from some far away state we lived in.  Every summer of our young lives was spent with them, and we eagerly watched for the first sighting of his lofty branches which signaled that our arrival would be soon.

That tree stood for so long that we thought he was indestructible.  And that Daddy Dwight, though bed ridden when I was in my mid twenties, was destined to be with us forever.  I will never forget that he held my first born son in his arms as lovingly as that big old tree of his held the birds nests in his gnarly boughs.  That when my boys were two and three, although he couldn't sit up anymore, he motioned for them to come to him and stroked their little heads with love shining in his eyes amidst the tears. 
Daddy Dwight passed away a year or so later.  On the night he died,the big old Pine breathed his last and fell across the dirt road adjacent to the highway, humbled and brought low.  After Daddy Dwight's funeral, someone had the foresight to cut slices from the big old tree, and mark them as Daddy Dwight's tree and each grandchild received one in memory of both Daddy Dwight and his tree.

So there I was, traveling down Angelus Road and this load of pines had me weepy. It was like receiving a hug from my grandfather, those memories evoked by a log truck traveling slowly through the forest of the Sand Hills.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Laying the Garden By


It is, unbelievably, August.  Where did our summer go ,I keep
asking myself.  It has been uncharacteristically cool and wet,
everything we planted has made well. I have made enough jellies and jams to
keep us in sweets for the next three years.



The tomatoes in the raised beds have furnished us with over 70 quarts of canned tomatoes, and I am in fact about to can twelve more quarts.  I find myself astounded that as often as I have offered free tomatoes to my face book friends, enough for them to can their own, I have had no takers.  Earlier in the summer I offered free Iris rhizomes and water plants for ornamental ponds.  I had one taker (thank you Carol for taking them off my hands).  In fact,I still have water plants looking for another tub or pond to call home.  But I refuse to go on Face Book and offer a darned thing again.  You read it here, if you want to start a water tub or ornamental pond and need plants, look my phone number up in the book and give me a call.  If not, well I have a number of tubs I can "borrow" from Mac to divide them out.  
 
But, as I was saying before I went off on a tangent, it is August
and time to start planting the Cole crops, the cabbage, collards,
broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.  I am getting anxious
now to pull up the tomatoes and retill the beds adding nutrients to
the soil to make them grow healthy enough for canning.  I have found
that I love canning and love my pressure canner.  I often cuss it
when the lid doesn't want to go on lickety split, but eventually I
sweet talk it on so the pressure can build and the time begin
counting down.  Last week I made vegetable soup. I called my aunt,
Margaret Kneece, and asked her if Mammy and Mama put the cabbage in
the soup to can or added it when they opened the soup to eat.  She
assured me that the cabbage went in with all the other veggies.  So
the soup has butter beans, okra, tomatoes (of course) carrots,
cabbage and potatoes.  I made my father pint jars that he can fix
as single servings.  I intend to make more next week. 

I made a new friend in the canning aisle at WalMart.  She thought I
had called her name (Cathy) and turned to speak.  Well, I can
hardly not speak when someone looks at me expectantly so we had a
long conversation about fig canning (I start that tomorrow) and
before I knew it we were exchanging phone numbers.  She makes
Mozzarella cheese, from goats milk.  I intend to get a bit from her
for my Eggplant Parm.  I used to think we grew it all.  Never
thought about growing cheese!  Now what better place to make a new
friend but in the canning aisle at WalMart when you are laying the
garden by?  I'll bet I can talk HER into taking some water plants! 
Well, the jars are hot and ready to fill with luscious seed free
tomatoes, so I'll get to it...Little Susie Homemaker cans again!  Tomorrow? Fig preserves!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The life of a box

Our grand daughter celebrated her 14th birthday this past Sunday, but her party was held on Saturday, the 27th.  We happily drove to Coward (SC) with the large box containing her present from us.  She is turning into a girly girl and is changing her room decor to a beach theme.  We found the perfect comforter set for the new look she is trying for and knew she'd be happy with what we had chosen.  She is our only grandchild thus far, so nothing is too good for our Princess.  I gladly tell everyone that she is a child of her own age, she was 13 going on 14, not 13 going on 30.  She doesn't wear a ton of make up, dresses like a young teen should, jeans and tees...just what an anxious grandparent would want, you know? So we have this large box and all the way down we talked about how when she was little (wasn't it just yesterday?) the toys often got tossed to the side and the fun would take place within the deep recesses of the boxes. We talked about how we would miss those days from now on, that she would enjoy getting clothes for birthdays and Christmas, she was growing up, a baby no more.
We drove up to their house and there were half a dozen teens on the front lawn chasing and kicking a ball and a good time was being had by all.  Arianna ran over to us, gave us our hugs and kisses then ran back to rejoin the play that was ongoing on the front lawn.  Michael (our younger son and father to the Princess) took the large box from the truck and I swear the box was smiling. It was happy to be a part of the frolic, I tell you.  As we went inside, the smile slipped a bit from box's flat face.  There in the middle of the floor were two babies, a boy and a girl.  One was maybe a year old. the other one was two.  They had their toys scattered around them and spared not a glance at boxy. He sat in the corner of the room awaiting his opening so he could spill his contents out onto the floor for Arianna's perusal.  After all the food was devoured, happy birthdays sung, candles blown out and cake and ice cream served came present time.  Boxy sat swollen with pride that he was the biggest box there and couldn't wait for the ripping and tearing to begin.  And so it did.  Arianna grabbed her loot and took it to her room to lay on her bed till she could give it the proper attention, but the four girls ohhed and ahhed over how great it was going to look.  The boys there could have cared less and were busy sitting on the floor kicking a balloon around, yelling "don't let it touch the floor".  The girls came back to the front room and joined in.  Even the adults got involved in the play.  Someone had taken all the paper and plastic from within Boxy and he sat waiting for someone to pay him attention. The babies could have cared less.  They were more interested in naps than play.  Then Arianna's eyes found him...boxy grinned as she quickly crawled over and like a flash was inside and laughing.  The other kids noticed the fun and the game was on.  As soon as one long legged teen vacated boxy's depths, another took its place.  Boxy, once crisp and bright and new, was losing it's shape and shiny glow.  Wrinkles now appeared on its once flawless face and little rips appeared where the box once closed itself off at the bottom.  Arianna now had boxy back and wore him like a coat.  From across the room we heard her father say "who do you think you are, SpongeAriannaSquarepants?"  The room erupted in laughter as she replied "that's who I want to be for Halloween" and he replied with "careful what you wish for, when we lived in England your grandmother dressed me in a box for Halloween!"  Laughing, I said, "yes, but you won for best costume...a calculator".
The party went on for a while longer, till boxy lay flat on the floor, worn out from all the fun that had been had at its expense.  As I looked over at the flat little pile of fun, I was so glad that Arianna was not as grown up as she would have us believe. Maybe we had another year or two before she would be too cool to get down on the floor and play with a box.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Fond farewell to a grand Old Man

We once fed a Siamese cat we called Ring Tail when we lived on Jackson Road.  I have always loved Siamese cats from when I first saw the movie "Bell Book and Candle".  I say we fed him because we definitely did not own him.  When we approached him he would snarl and growl, hiss and spit.  So I would set the plate down in from of him and talk softly, encouraging him to be friends.  But no go.  He continued to snarl, though the hissing and spitting seemed to recede in both frequency and intensity. There were not many cats around at that time because of the frequent sacrifices to the Highway gods.  I worried about him, but couldn't control his goings and comings.  I couldn't get close enough to him to be much of anything but his food provider.  One day as I sat by the Koi pond having a cup of coffee he jumped into my lap and I wondered what would kill me first, the heart attack or him.  But he was purring loudly and rubbed his head on my face as though to claim me, so I relaxed.  I hesitantly stroked his ears and then his head as he settled down in my lap. Mac looked as though he may go into shock, so I reassured him that it was fine. I couldn't tell you what brought about this change, for I simply did not know.  After about a year of his being mine (or me being his) he disappeared as mysteriously as he had shown up.  I was crushed.
  
He was wild and beautiful and he had a part ownership of my heart from the first second I saw him.  Mac had spotted the Siamese kitten a week or so before I laid eyes on him.  It was a few weeks after Ring Tail had left, in late June of 1993.  He seemed to be about 6 weeks old and we had no idea where he had come from, either.  Our only outdoor cat, Jane Wayne, had never had a litter, but seemed to be taking care of him.  Gizmo, our little Moggie who lived inside, would entice him to the front door and play games with him through the storm door.  I knew that I would eventually capture him and I named him Pyewackit.  I would set out special little delicacies to get him on the porch then wait quietly for his approach.  Mama had taught me the secret to taming a feral kitten.  Simply get him wrapped in a soft blanket and carry him for hours.  Don't let those little claws out to do the damage his instincts tell him he can do.  One morning as he came up to snatch the piece of chicken I had left on his saucer, I threw the flannel plaid over him and scooped him up into my arms.  He fought like hell but I held on.  I was still walking around with him clutched to my chest when Mac got home from work. "What are you doing," he asked (shocked, that's what he was)"that kitten will do you an injury."  "We're bonding," I said calmly. "The time for injury was over about three hours ago."  I explained how I had taken him into the bathroom for litter pan use, closing the door behind me, then after he had completed his toilet, had quickly wrapped him in the flannel (which now had a few holes in the weave) and we had been walking and rocking since.  That night, I released him to his own devices and Gizmo took over from there.  The next morning, he crawled into my side of the bed and lay purring next to me till I got up for coffee.  That was twenty years ago.  Twenty years of playing and bossing, twenty years of devotion and love.  He was pal Jacqui's (Evil Sister to my readers) "Boyfriend", Grand Daughter Arianna's "Uncle Pye" and a fur son to me. He loved boiled peanuts so much that Mac said we should have named him Goober.  But he also had a love for shrimp, and at his size we could hardly call him that. We noticed a few weeks ago that he had really stopped eating.  We tempted him with all his favorites, I boiled up a pot of goobers and when that didn't work boiled him some shrimp.  Nothing helped.  The vet said consider his age.  I did.  I was not ready to let him go so we came home to await the inevitable. On Friday night, we noticed he had not moved for a long while.  Then Saturday dawned rainy and rumbly, and I held him in my lap, stroking him and talking to him.  Mac and I discussed our options and we decided that if he were still with us on Monday morning a trip to the vets for the final ride was in order.  He did not seem to be in pain, he was not vocal at all, but I couldn't bear to watch him just lying there.  Mac had already dug the spot out back where he would rest and I had faced the truth of it. Late Sunday afternoon I was holding him and he took a long deep breath and was gone.  I lay him back in his bed and went to find Mac.  He knew from the tears pouring down my face what the news was.  I wrapped him in his flannel for the last time and we carried him outside.  I talked to him the entire time, telling him again how much we had loved him. How honored I was to be holding him at the end.  On June 23rd we said farewell to a grand old man.  The house seems odd without him, empty in some way, but when I lay down at night it seems that I can feel him pressed close to me, purring.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

the origin of a Catperson

As we all are aware, I am a cat person. We have two old cats, 2 middle aged cats and then there is Hound.  Hound was bottle raised from the age of about one week.  We had to do for her everything that a mama cat would do for her baby.  I was amazed by the article in the Cheraw Chronicle 2 weeks ago featuring Lisa Sisk and The Pawmetto Lifeline.  I am in awe of her and the group she volunteers for.  I was also amazed that we HAD done everything right for our precious bundle.  We even had sitters for her for when we had Doctor appointments. We named her Hound for her antics and puppy like enjoyment of life.  When she was a wee bit of a thing, this Savannah type cat would hear me in the kitchen and come pounding down the hall to run up my legs and back to sit on my shoulder and look to see what I was doing.  It was so cute then, we just laughed and laughed.  Okay so now she weighs 14 pounds, is taller than as our Pekingese and when I hear her running down the hall, I quickly exit, stage left.  I haven't been quick enough once or twice and believe me, it is painful.  She sits even now at my side and would like to join me on the computer.  She is quite the little author.  Lets hear from Hound. I need a coffee refill!

My Daddy named me Hound...but Mommy calls me Precious in my ear, and I like that.  I am an oddity, you see.  There are not many of my kind who speak both human and ca'at.  Yes, I am bilingual.  Mommy is playing "Somewhere Out There" on her music machine and I am attuned to it.   I will pass on many secrets to you because I like the music that is playing.  I love my Mommy and Daddy but they keep insisting that Batgirl and the rest are my sisters and brothers, but really Wallace and Michael and Anna and now Sara are my brothers and sisters.  The others are ca'ats...I speak ca'at so well because the others have been jabbering in my ears since I'm a baby...Because I am the favorite I get the treats that my human brothers and sisters don't get, great stuff like sardines and jackmack and if I'm a good girl something Mommy calls nip...the other day after I had nip I just touched her lightly and she yelped like mad and got up and went into the little closet in the hall with the water pipes and the big water bowl and came back with the sharpies in her hand.  So I was Hound getting a manicure, not Precious sitting and purring in her lap...Mommy says I'm a good girl living in two worlds.  Daddy says I'm crazy.  Well, everyone says I'm crazy but Mommy...she knows better.  So, I am Hound to the world but Precious to my Mommy...and She Who Opens Cupboard Doors is the one who matters.  She who can use the special whirring thing that makes cans of great stuff more available to my tummy is Queen of the world...at least the Queen of mine...Daddy is a lucky Consort...ooh...Daddy is eating Angel Food Cake...my favorite...gotta run!  Ohoh, Mommy is mad, she struck my beauty and she says dam blogger won't let her put it in...never mind, she'll keep trying...
 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Building the Classic Tomato Sandwich


I'm sure that all of you have noticed that we have been blessed with rain for the past two and a half weeks.  At first we were all afraid to utter the dire "rain rain go away" for fear that it would, and not come back all summer.  Now as I get up each morning to check for gills and webbed toes, even this morning I found myself casting an incautious accusing eye to the sky as the clouds built up to an explosive burst of rain. I figured shaking my fist at the sky would be going to far, so kept my arm by my side. And why does all this rain bother me so much?  It is because of what some may call the lowly sandwich, but what is actually the King of the Summer, the Tomato Sandwish...yes, I said SANDWISH!
As soon as the first warm day of March hits, I start dreaming about that first tomato sandwich of summer.  Mac has already planted the seeds of my dreams in small pots in a little greenhouse we call  "heaven" since that is from where all good things come.  We Southerners dream of that tomato sandwich made with that tomato that comes from our own or a relatives garden.  The bright red skin, the glistening of the juices, the sparkle of salt and the haze of pepper as it rests on a Duke's Mayonnaise slathered slice of bread and a similar slice lying along side, the mayo thick and tempting.  I know, that is the queen of the run on sentence, but how can you not run on about the Tomato Sandwich?
            
So we have been watching the tomato plants for weeks now and the rain keeps falling.  I hate the thought of rain damaged fruits out there but finally spied the first wonderful tomato just before the 4th of July.  I carried it in reverently, gently eased it into a pot of boiling water, removing it quickly.  I slipped the skin off and stood looking at the awesomeness.  My eyes teared up.  Then I quickly shook off that "in the presence of greatness" moment and got out the bread, the mayo and the salt and pepper. I cut one thick slice then stood back and admired my handiwork.  Thinking what a great photo op this was, I grabbed my camera and took the shot.  Then I devoured that little gift from heaven in thirty seconds.
That photo was so beautiful that I posted it on Face book with the caption Gone In Thirty Seconds.  The remarks were so blatantly envious I had to laugh.  That was one big tomato slice after all, and this was one glorious Sink Sandwich...you know, so juicy and messy you have to stand over the sink to eat it.  One remark puzzled me greatly.  My pal Lee asked this question, "is there wine vinegar in there?"  In caps I answered her: NO THERE IS DUKES MAYO BUNNY BREAD SALT AND PEPPER AND NOTHING ELSE CAUSE ITS A TOMATO SANDWICH NOT A DANGED SALAD!  She later asked me if I could rethink the caps, because it sounded like I was shouting at her.  Forgive her, she's a Texan.  She should absolutely KNOW I WAS shouting at her.  I would fight for my tomato sandwich...wouldn't you?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How I fell into the Koi Pond and the fall out that is sure to follow


     I was introduced to the love of Koi by my mother.  She had a large ornamental pond on the left hand side of their patio that was built by my sister Nikki and brother Michael.  They actually ordered the first koi from a pond and pet magazine. The first three became a dozen before too long.  I admired and loved the koi pond and longed for one of my own.   For our 30th anniversary Mama ordered us the full set up, pond liner,pump and water conditioner. I was so excited to get started on it but Mac said that being October was full on us, we would wait till the weather was more conducive to  fish ponds and fish.  So we waited out the winter. When early April came, I began to campaign for the pond construction to begin (read nag for campaign).  He continually put me off for one reason or another.  I just could not get him to show any interest in the koi pond at all. 
     It was mid May and I decided to take matters into my own hands.  Going into the garage, I dragged out the cumbersome box of pond doings and walked about the front yard of our house on Jackson Road in Chesterfield.  I found the perfect spot with a bit of shade from the pecan tree, dragged the hose over and formed a bean shape about 14 feet long and 8 feet wide.  All the while, Mac was watching me, never offering  to help  or even to ask what my intentions were. I worked on, got a spray can of white paint and painted the outline of the pond I wanted onto the ground. I dragged out the rotor tiller and worked on getting it cranked.  Finally Mac walked over to ask what in the Lord's name I thought I might be doing. 
     "Why, I'm putting in my koi pond...it's going to be too late if we wait much longer."  He gave me that "move over and let me show you how this is going to go" look.  \
     "This where you want it to go, you're sure?"  he asked.
     Very innocently, I nodded yes, this is where we needed it to be.  He started the tiller and after about two hours, the hole that would accommodate the pond liner was done.  I helped him smooth in the liner, we filled it with water, added the conditioner and Bob's your Uncle, except for fish, we had a fish pond installed.  He never suspected he had been tricked, and I have never told him.  But I suspect he knew from what followed several years later.
     When we bought the house here in Jefferson, we were not going to have time to do anything with our koi, whom I had learned to love. We ended up selling them (and contrary to opinion I did not run criminal histories on the applicants).  This was in September, and once again came the argument of weather conditions and fish ponds.  So in April of 2005, I got out the paint can, the hose and the tiller and Mac, taking one look at the paraphenalia, said "oh no, we're not going through this charade again.  We'll do the pond later, there's too much yard work to catch up on first."  By dark, the fish pond was in. 
    We had a bad storm last night and when I went out to feed the cats and the fish I saw the pond with only enough water left in it to keep the fish alive.  I ran as fast as I could down to the well, connected the hose, praying that my koi would support this insult to their habitat. The frog spitter had been shifted severely by the wind and the water had sprayed out onto the surrounding ground.  After filling up the pond and seeing the koi happily gathering for their breakfast, I watched them feed.  I saw something on the edge of the water and reached down to  pluck it from the water when suddenly I found myself IN the pond, my feet unable to get purchase on the slippery bottom.  I was yelling for Mac and got no response.  Finally dragging myself from the water, I shook myself like a dog and went into the house and confronted Mac. He burst out laughing, asking "What on earth happened to you?"
     "Well", I responded, "I am certainly glad that a serial killer or a coyote didn't have me, I would be out of luck!  I fell into the pond!"  He was still laughing when I stomped off to go find dry clothes.   I'm not sure what my revenge will be,but I hear it is best served cold.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wind Work and Blackberry Winters


    It's after ten p.m. and I'm thinking about going to bed. My son tells me that he prepares to go to bed by thinking about sleeping and how good the bed is going to feel and just in general gets his head around the act of sleeping before actually getting into the bed. He is, he says, asleep as his head hits the pillow. I'm not sure if his father prepares himself the same way, I just know that by the time I am ready to start thinking about going to bed, he is already way ahead of me, sound asleep. While I am lying cocooned with my blankets and pillows, I do wind work. That is what my grandmother, Ms. Nancy Douglas, known by us as Mammy, called it. Wind work. Wind, as in that unseen entity (only seen if it contains leaves, sands or fluttering birds in its thrall). Work, the thing our hands and minds do when they can't be still. Why I've built patios and retaining walls with my wind work as I lie abed, waiting on the quieting of my spirit to allow me to sleep. I've designed gardens and planted bulbs, I've outlined complete areas ready for planting and envisioned the pruning of the trees.  I have written the Great American Novel, revised it, spell checked it and retitled it.  This is wind work.  Pretty soon I am relaxed enough to allow my body to slip into that healing coma of sleep and prepare me for another day of joy in the garden.

     Last April I had some pretty serious surgery on my left foot called a Pantalar Fusion.  I had to keep my foot  and leg elevated by laying flat on my back for the first three months.  No weight was allowed on it til October.  It was a miserable summer.  With Mac having to wait on me hand and foot (pun intended) he had no time for my flower beds.  He did work that garden pretty though.  So this spring finds me reclaiming my flower beds, clearing the patio and planting...and this is not wind work,this is back breaking manual labor.  I am loving every second of it, though.  The Iris are blooming, thanks to my weeding and loosening of the soil around them.  They were nearly to deep to bloom until I pulled a lot of the surrounding soil from around the tubar.
.  The beautiful sweet faced pansy has always been a favorite of mine and I plant them with the ever fierce Snapdragon.  They complement each other so well.  Our friends Billy Eddins and Letha Moore were over a couple of Saturday's ago and Billy mentioned that we were having a Blackberry winter.  I remember hearing this as a child...it means a cold snap while the blackberries are blooming...and are they ever blooming!  The temperature that morning was a brisk 41 degrees.  In other words, cold!  The roses have enjoyed the longer than usual Spring...as have I.  


     Well, I think I might be ready to go to bed now.  Wind work is calling...lets see what visions I can call up.