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Off The Grid



Observations and personal opinions from an adventuresome Southern retired teacher who still finds life exciting.



Updated: 2018-01-01T06:43:47.185-05:00

 



The Telephone Call

2017-06-05T11:02:00.901-04:00

The time was the 1930s. My parents both worked nights, including Christmas Eve. I was too young for our small family to have formed any traditions at this time of the year. On this particular evening I was staying with my dad at his job. He was a telegrapher for the Postal Telegraph Union, later to be called  the Western Union. 

In those early days there weren't many  crayons and coloring books, so my responsibility while waiting for daddy's job to end at midnight was to stay quiet. People came and went sending their families a beautiful Christmas telegram.  Noise from electric machines was loud in the back of the room. Local messengers came in and out to grab local 'grams to deliver immediately.

1938 clipping
 

The office was one large room with a small area entered by the front door where a counter ran from one end of the room to the other. Here, patrons composed and finalized their  telegrams. More telegrams were sent in those days because many people didn't have telephones. To receive a telegram--strips of paper upon which a message had been typed then pasted onto a sheet of paper with a big banner at the top declaring: POSTAL TELEGRAM could be joy or sadness.

For a time I sat looking out the wide windows at the rushing people outdoors. In those days much purchasing occurred Christmas Eve.  When people became less, I'd get up and hop across the front of the room from one linoleum block to the other, counting the entire time. Never did the numbers change.

At one end of the counter for patrons was a telephone booth. The phone rang. I didn't move. I had never heard that phone ring. I continued to sit, the phone continued to ring. Finally, one of the workers in the back yelled, "Get that, Vivian, I think that's for you!" I didn't rush. Who called little girls? With a bit more effort from the man in the back, I opened the door, stood on the seat and picked up the small black receiver, leaned into the phone and said, "Hello?" 

"Ho, Ho, Ho, is this Miss Vivian?"

"Yessss, sir."

"Well, Miss Vivian, this is Santa calling you from the North Pole. I'm about to leave and wanted to be sure I have your list filled."

My heart pounded like a hammer on a nail.  Santa had called me! Nervously I recited my three requests: a pink dress with pockets, a Sonja Heini doll wearing ice skates, and a barrette for my hair.

"That's what I have on this list, too, little lady. When you get home, go right to sleep, and I'll be there before you know it! Bye now."

I dropped the receiver, ran through the swinging door separating the front from the back and jumped up and down like a toy clown, and yelled to the night workers, "I just talked to Santa Claus. " They hugged and danced and said, "What a lucky girl you are!"

After closing time Daddy and I hurriedly walked the six blocks home. I jumped into bed without any supper. I couldn't wait to wake up the next morning.

Many years passed before I asked my Dad who called that night. He admitted it was he; but I declared "it surely didn't sound like your voice." That story became a part of our celebrations every Christmas until I left home.



A Know-It-All Person

2017-05-06T10:36:22.852-04:00

You know people who'll insist they know a subject better than you. Oh, if you could sweep them under the carpet, wouldn't you feel better? Well, I'm one of those. I pride myself remembering many facts and I have a stern personality to back my decisions/opinions. My serious mien doesn't scare anyone.  But when I know something to be correct, I'm out to prove it.For instance, advising my daughter and her husband about the new plants they should put in the yard. I've been through so many plants and flowering bushes and discarded the same number through forty years that I know what is best for OUR yard.  Mind you, not anyone else's.Despite never having studied plant science, two summers visiting plant growers in New Jersey on the lookout for just-the-perfect greenery and blooms to sell in my son's Kudzu store in Barryville, NY., I gained a lot of expertise. Twice a month I'd journey fifty miles south where the soil is a gorgeous black and flowers and plants flourish.  At the end of one summer's discussion with nursery owners as I selected the best plants, I loaded up on the Latin names so I could repeat them to store customers.  I learned which plants liked sun, which felt good in the shade, which ones grew best in pots, which needed no special care.  Armed with this knowledge in one summer, I could have opened a nursery.  I visited some of the prettiest companies showing their best in acres of tilled fields.  I loved these trips and what I learned.When my daughter and her husband bought our house with the idea we parents would remain en situ, I tried to remain quiet about the changes made inside the house. When it came to hiring a landscaper, I sat on edge. These fifty-some year olds didn't ask me for advice, since I'd planted more shrubs and blooming plants in our yard than they..My choices often were not those of my husband's, who didn't like to dig in the soil.  I'd choose a plant, dig a hole and let it marinate for a year. Then my husband would play "Let's change shrubs" The more I planted the more he'd pull up because he didn't like the leaf shape or the blooms turning yellow, or the black spots that formed on leaves after a rain. You can tell we didn't see eye to eye about beauty.  The day the landscape plans arrived to discuss any changes, I sat down and googled all the plants to be sure I was correct about shade and sun.  I pointed out to son-in-law the shady areas of the front yard, stressing that the plans call for sunny plants, vice versa. He insisted "things have changed since you last planted anything in the yard.”A nice way to say “You don’t know anything, you’re too old.” When the workers came one morning with threatening clouds overhead, I watched as hostas found their place in the sun and small palms in the shade. I barked at the men, "You have to move these to there and those to here!" I had the authority of experience, didn't they know? With a hang-dog expression boss man looked at me and said, "I can't change anything on the plans." I stomped (well, almost) into the house and saw hosta food within easy reach of the ten deer I'd seen last week crossing the road.  Don't tell me there's this spray and that one that will drive the deer away!On one of my trips in New Jersey was a visit to a hosta farm.  These variegated green leafed plants originated in the Orient and brought to Europe in the 1700s.  Today there are over 2,500 cultivars  and I believe this farm has every variety planted under shady trees scattered over five acresMy first question to the grower was "How do you protect the leafy greens from deer mouths?"  His answer, "There's not anything except daily spraying and watchful eyes.” Their kids had the fun of watching out for deer and other small animals,, plentiful in the area.  Some precious hostas that cost tons of dollars had a fence enclosure. I became enamored with the varieties and realized our local nurserymen never sell any but a few of these varieties.  Some we[...]



Tribute to My Sister

2017-05-02T12:46:14.898-04:00

I remain at home a lot now. At my advanced age I find little entertainment to take me away. However, I feel the pressure to finish family genealogy and write more about my family.  I began family stories in earnest ten year ago. Mostly I write about my growing up front the 1930s until now.  Amazing I can remember my growing up years better than my today time.  I don't keep a journal.  Too much triviality is written there.  My sister faithfully kept her journal for over ten years. I have to read hundreds of pages to glean anything of any importance.  It is through her writings that I find the key.Sis died December 31 of last year. She passed away on my second son's birthday. How fitting. We'll never forget the date.  Sis was persistent in keeping a journal, even as she lay dying, she'd ask for her "notebook." Barely able to hold a pen she hen-scratched something, unable to follow the lines, weaving her words only she could understand. She and I had decided a year before to donate our bodies to the local University of Mississippi Donor Program.  We'd never been ones to visit our parents' burial places, change dry flowers to new, sweep off the leaves from their eternal beds. We didn't want our families to feel pressured to honor us by spending thousands of dollars that could help a grandchild finish college or pay for summer camp or  purchase new books to read.  Little did we know she'd be the first to leave.I gathered her writing books, not the journals, and planned to read her thoughts penned in moments of joy, of unhappiness, of contemplation. I was six years older than she and we never had much in common. I became her little mother, taking care to see she was dressed in the mornings as a child, then walk her to nursery school and later to elementary school. I reminded her of her duties, her responsibilities, and at the same time giving her permission.  I forgot and stayed her mother when she was grown.  Our mother worked full time. We were latch-key kids in the 1940s. Sis never forgot my rule over her. As an adult I gave her advice, wanted or not, about boyfriends( me, with little experience). I felt I was a good critic of guys. What I failed to realize in those early years was that regardless of what I preached, Sis followed her own heart. In her writings she poured her heart into the pages describing her unhappiness with what she had been dealt. She mentioned often my "meddling." I learned a lot about Sis from the words she poured onto three-holed notebook paper.We became close when we retired.  We made up for lost time in the 20 years left of her life. We traveled together to writers' conferences, to historical points in the South, to western US to see the national parks in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico.  I showed her places we as kids accompanied our parents when they took us "out west" in their new Ford Station wagon with "real wood sides," as the advertisements stated.  She was eight years old, I fourteen. I still had memories of the places we stopped and when we revisited these sites, she had no memory of them.  Through my oral travelogue I reminded her of our young lives. We laughed about how we fooled Daddy when we wanted to go to Sun Valley, Idaho, to see where Sonia Heine had made her movies. We let him sleep in the car, after having driven all night, and Mother took over and steered us to Sun Valley.  In those days before air conditioning, traveling in the cool of the night was preferable.She critiqued my writings and rejoiced when I won an award. She was always ready to go places. She volunteered one year at Ghost Ranch in Santa Fe (a Presbyterian conference center), and shared her experiences. She went on to Abiququi, NM to help out and she felt she was at the end of the world. She and I went hiking in Santa Fe with Elderhostel.  She proved a better hiker. I was there for support. If I didn't go with her to a destination, she went alone. She attended plays in Mont[...]



Remembering My Parents

2016-03-12T14:05:38.970-05:00

I'm in the middle of a biography of my parents. When my parents came to live with me the last five years of their existence, I made one request of them.  Write about your growing up. I handed them a bound note book I thought would entice them to write.  Daddy, hungrily took the book and went to his office, a separate building in the backyard where he repaired clocks. Mother, on the other hand, put her book in the bedroom saying, "I'll think about it."

In a few days Daddy handed in his book, completely filled with a note attached "Addendum 1 in the works."  Daddy not only had florid script, Palmer's best, but a way with words. Sis and I can claim our love of writing came from him.  Today those words ring more true to his identity than they did when he handed me the book and announced, "There, that's the beginning." I will  write his story  soon.

Mother took her time to write. I knew heart strokes erased much of her memory, as her writing covers her youth with her brothers. She dwells a bit about Daddy's family's unacceptance of her.  Her mind couldn't get out of her childhood. I knew direct questioning would be the best tact for her.

Time after time I'd sit with her and ask questions. She couldn't understand why I was surprised at her marrying Daddy after six weeks of dating.  I held back from then on to make light remarks at some of the experiences she enjoyed: early boyfriends, her poor school grades, life in the big city alone.

My first project was about Mother.  I felt I had a better understanding of her after the many talks. Too, she had diaries she kept  from time to time in her married life, the letters she wrote me, and notes of our small talks.  Together with old snapshots I created Mother's life. I felt good with what I'd accomplished.

I shared the fourteen pages with Sis. "That's not at all what I know of Mother! I'd never have written her life that way. You left out Daddy."  I explained I wanted to concentrate on each of them and then their marriage and family.  " I'll write about Daddy later," I explained. I wanted some tidbits she remembered about the woman who raised us, paid for our every need, taught us to be independent. We were early latch-key kids before the term originated.

True, we siblings have different views of our parents. Surely some events are shared more than others. Sis sums up her contribution with, "I wrote about Mother in an essay. Find it and use that. I don't remember like you did."

My trouble with Sis was my approach. I should have sat down and discussed each parent and taken notes.  I didn't. Don't make the mistake of waiting too long to get your sibs to contribute to family stories.  Writing who your parents were and their personalities are components to letting them live in your own children's hearts.

Note: having my parents write in their own handwriting is as precious as ever. In future generations their descendants will admire "the old way" people wrote.  Be sure to leave something in your own handwriting, whether it is a grocery list or a note to you.







MY FIRST AND LAST HIKE

2017-05-06T10:39:02.510-04:00

I don't count how many years ago Sis and I signed up for hiking around Santa Fe and Abiquiu, New Mexico. We walked three miles daily at the local park and I was about to increase time to three more. Sis made a suggestion one  March morning while the sun was warming us ,"Let's go with Elderhostel's hiking group to Santa Fe."  Hey, I walk daily, I can hit the trails with ease, so I thought. With doctor's approval of my good health we signed up.I had "the big head," an expression we used to use meaning being overconfident. I anticipated the week-long trip to be adventurous, full of new contacts, exploring the beauty of that part of New Mexico.  But I wasn't prepare for lay ahead.Being inexperienced kept me back from enjoying the treks, the beauty of reaching new heights, the feeling of accomplishment to make the climb. I made a few trails, some so narrow I refused to look down, some squeezing between rock formations older than I, some climbing over tricky rocks with no room to wiggle. I began one trek when I realized  how arduous the three-hour hike would be. I sat down at the lower end of the trail and waited. The group was composed of very experienced hikers who wondered what a cluck I was to make the trip. Sis did well. I whined the entire time due to my embarrassment over being inexperienced. I had a few hikers helping me with their pats of reassurance that I'd find something good about the trip. We spent two days in Santa Fe and three in the distant outpost of Abiquiu.  Our lodging was at Ghost Ranch properties in both places.  While in  Santa Fe we had evening activities to enjoy.The latter three days about the only activity we had was hiking. When Saturday arrived, we packed up our cars, hugged everyone and headed home. Before we headed for Mississippi, Sis and I toured four states along the border checking out the Indian sites. Despite being April, we had quite a lot of days of chilly weather.  We arrived home to begin our three mile walking on flat ground at the local park, memories of hiking pushed away in our brains. No more 6,000 ft elevations.Early Stage of HikeEntering the NarrowsClimbing Old Indian Ladder, [...]



BRINGING BACK THE OLD

2015-09-29T14:59:59.228-04:00

My last entry was about my birthday plate (among other things.)  I'm busy writing stories remembering the time of growing up.  I feel ashamed, in one way, that I've spent so much time about myself, but I span 50 decades of changes in daily and world-wide operations. I want readers of the future to know what someone in the "dark ages" felt, thought, and acted. Today I want to share a common recipe with readers.  If you grew up in a rural area during the Depression or a time when money was less than usual, your mom/granny/auntie/ or that wonderful person who cared for you surely made HOE CAKES.  I put my sample photo on Instagram only to find some similar ones showing a hoe cake dressed up.  I made mine from cornmeal mix and made them thin as were the old-timey ones.                                                              The two best ways to eat these, warm or cold, is to have on hand old fashioned butter like the brand put out by the Amish.  Tastes like the kind my grandmother made when she churned.  She made a lot of these hoe cakes. She put them on top of the wood stove, which held heat, and any time of the day, family could grab one, slather it with cane syrup or use the home made butter.  For a memory lift I warmed two and poured local-produced cane syrup, dark and thick, over the cakes.  A treat that carried me back to age five.  This is easy to make with a mix.  However:Hoe cakes, according to dear Mother, were made with plain cornmeal and water.  Nothing added like baking powder results in a flatter cake. She related her job as a pre-schooler of taking lunch to her brothers and the field hands in a metal bucket.  Most ate with nothing added, as utensils weren't handy in the cotton field.  The field hands in the early 1900s had nothing more to eat than that for their evening meal.  At lunch they ate a slab of meat and a couple of hoe cakes and kept working throughout the afternoon.  When we kids were left to our own play, we stopped long enough in the afternoon to snatch a hoe cake, swat it across the butter still sitting on the dinner table, and run to finish our game.  Biscuits from breakfast were available until noon.  Biscuits were big enough for us to punch a hole with our forefinger and fill with syrup.  Umm, makes my mouth water.The next time you are in a restaurant and hoe cakes are on the menu, chances are the chef has dolled them to resemble a taste of corn bread smothered in seafood, roast beef, onions, and served it for a price that is ridiculous.  Try them yourselves, give them a topping, and show them off at your next meal.[...]



MY UPCOMING BIRTHDAY

2015-08-28T14:25:03.328-04:00




Someone asked me last week “How are you celebrating your birthday?” I said “No special way. No one notices my date except a few close friends, my Sis, and my adult children.”  As I reflected, I thought how important Mother made of Sis and my birthdays.  She even had “Happy Unbirthdays” to celebrate with us. She loved giving us gifts like a bracelet, a book, or a new dress.  She reminded us weekly, if not daily, how much she loved us. Throughout my growing years I wanted a cake baked by Mother to sit on the tiny footed cake plate she bought for me.  It had to be decorated in pink letters made of sugar that said, "Happy Birthday  Vivian."  That plate is still as colorful as when the first cake sat there eighty years ago.





I married a man who rarely remembers dates of any kind. The few times he has and has produced a gift, I’ve been surprised.  Early in our marriage I usually got a flower pot or something worth giving Goodwill. I decided I didn’t need any more flower pots so I insisted he not worry about my special date. Then he began taking me to dinner. That lasted three years.  Here’s a man who, with each of three children born, gave the hospital nurse three different dates for my birthday. We had been married five, six and ten years at the time. The fact that he’s still living and talking to me every day is gift enough.

Sunday I’m turning 83 and I don’t care about a present. I need a hug and a vocal “Happy Birthday, love you”.  I don’t mind if they add, “Old gal.”  I’m excited to be my age and in decent good health.  That is the best gift I could receive.



RECOLLECTIONS & REFLECTIONS

2015-08-23T11:30:09.245-04:00

   In the last years of my life I’ve had to make sacrifices. The material kind. Moving out precious memories in the forms of travel items, writing materials, cooking vessels — about anything I’ve accumulated in sixty years of marriage and eighty years of living   Today I spied a white box sitting in the living room.  I intended checking the contents and discarding any and all within. Inside were the best annuals I’d collected from my own school and college attendances. Also were a number of yearbooks from the various school in which I’d taught.  For the next hour I revisited those schools, remembering the students I either taught or  with those I came in daily contact. I mulled over each photo on every page.  I searched the faculty and could count most of them had passed.  Only a few like me were still functioning.    Yearbooks are memories we want to cling to.  High school was a remarkable experience. In her article “Why You Truly Never Leave High School,” published in New York Magazine (Jan. 20, 2013), Jennifer Senior makes these observations based on studies by sociologist, developmental neuroscientists and psychologists:   “Not everyone feels the sustained, melancholic presence of a high-school shadow self. There are some people who simply put in their four years, graduate, and that’s that. But for most of us adults,s the adolescent years occupy a privileged place in our memories, which, to some degree, is even quantifiable: Give a grown adult a series of random prompts and cues, and odds are he or she will recall a disproportionate number of memories from adolescence.”   Senior goes on to state the music sung and danced to as adolescents remains with us throughout life.  Oh,  I’m happy to know that music of the 1930s and 1940s I still enjoy listening to is okay.  I can sing almost every line of every song written and performed over the radio. I’m okay, the writer says, since neuroscience has proven this.   To round out my family stories I searched Google for a list of 100 songs of the 1940s and spent  time going through the list singing as many lines as possible.  I thought printing that to include with my memoirs would tickle the readers who take my place in this world.     Who writes songs with titles like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” Ac Cent Tchu Ate the Positive”, “Shoo, Shoo, Baby,” or “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy?”  These songs covered all aspects of living. Also during WWII love songs and patriotic songs kept our spirits high.   So it is with the yearbooks I’ve kept from 1949 until 1994.  They comprise pictures of life which swirled around me as I grew to became an adult.  They comfort me, more than reunions with people I don’t recognize but once taught or shared a classroom.  My hope is my descendants will hold onto these memories as a keepsake of what life was like in “the old days.”[...]



Changing Gears

2015-07-21T18:05:43.248-04:00

Our house was built in 1968.  Today inside has numerous spots that need improving: painting here, plugging holes there, repairing this and screwing that.  To say our house is falling apart -- no. It's in need of a makeover.  R is too weak to worry; I'm too weak to worry.  What a spot we're in.When we built the house we had two sons and one daughter living with us. We arranged the rooms to give the kids their own space with two exits to the back yard.  Our area had none. We had to go into the living room, through the dining room to two exits.  Perfect set up.  We planned to live in this house forever --whatever that means.  We didn't take out nursing home insurance nor life insurance.  We planned our demise in this home with its now too large of a yard.  One weekend our daughter and son-in-law visited us and announced, "We want to buy your house." Like manna from heaven, those words seemed.We whipped out some plans. R and I had space to live in until we moved out.  No big changes would occur unless we all agreed.  A lawyer drew up the papers.  Our daughter began her plans to move into the area she and her brothers once inhabited: two bedrooms and a bath.  We'd have the same area we used: bath, study, bedroom. However, we had the responsibility to pare down our belongings. You've had to do that also, haven't you? Loads of clothes, books, souvenirs from previous travel, collections of dishes --all disappeared within weeks.  The most difficult goodbye was to dishes I'd collected from my mother's day, some she'd used. Nothing fancy.  She bought them at the grocery store. Yes, even in the 1940s grocery stores offered dishes a piece at a time.  Long before this time I had given away our orange juice glasses that once held jellies; my first set of dishes, picked out before our wedding; vases and pots picked up at some Indian post out west; all difficult to whisper  "goodbye."Several years ago I gave to oldest son the set of Lemoges china my parents bought directly from the factory in Paris on one of their last trips abroad. I was always afraid to use the pieces because if one broke there was no replacement, so I thought.  A few years ago in a shop in New Orleans I watched as the clerk in a china shop unpack a set of the same pattern of Lemoges I owned.  Their price for a set of six, with all serving dishes was $100.  I was anxious to buy the set.   I'd always have a replacement.  However, the wise old man with me put his foot down.I've not decided what to do with my crystal dishes.  They are beautiful.  They mostly are for serving.  There are some dessert cups and small plates.  Right now they are lined on every surface of my bedroom.  In fact, the bedroom has everything I've no other place to store.  We sleep surrounded by mountains of down comforters, precious books, high school and college yearbooks, boxes of snapshots taken over fifty years, and loads of memorabilia saved for genealogy.  In short, our bedroom is a MESS.  However, since we are asleep most of the time while there, we don't worry about moving anything --yet.Separating oneself from precious collections is no easy feat.  The easiest ones leave in boxes bound for Goodwill, the dearest ones sit quietly and unobserved until the pass-along fever hits. Not one to sit dripping from heat during a garage sale. In a few days I don't remember what I once owned.In fact, this situation happened when my parents no longer could take of themselves. They moved in with us and said farewell to those ugly lamps, a collection of salt and pepper shakers,  pots and pans, dishes, and Daddy's clock repair tools. Occasionally, one would say, "I can't find that book on the Civil War." and I'd remind that a it so[...]



The Perils of Growing Older

2015-04-14T01:24:46.857-04:00

For years I've related to friends, doctors, dentists, nurses --practically everybody I've conversed with - that I'm planning to live to be 140 years old. I didn't announce this because I was attempting to equal or compete with the oldest man in the Old Testament; no, I needed a goal.Yes, I saw those within my bragging circle grin  slyly when I announced the high number. I knew the age was unattainable, that no way in this world I'd reach that goal. I felt enthused, full of life, until that day arrived when I turned eighty years old.You don't look eighty, says the cashier at Walgreens, as she notices the anti-wrinkle cream I'm buying; Are you sixty? asked the movie ticket seller when I ask for the discount ticket; or former students from the 1970s and 1980s whose eyes turn the size of plates when we meet at a 60th reunion.  I acknowledge I take after my mother who remained young looking.through her eighties.The years following eighty seem to plow through my life like a runaway car with me in the back seat. There's this sniffle, that leg pain, this fatigue, that catch in my knee.  Why, I ask myself, why is this happening to me?I retired at age sixty. The first appointment I made was for an exam to understand  how good or bad my body was behaving. I entered the waiting room of a new doctor and what did I see? Everybody over the age of ninety -- or so it seemed.  I asked the Doc "Hey, I've never seen so many old bodies in one waiting room. What goes?"  I went on to say "I thought when we reached retirement age we had a yellow brick road to skip down."He smiled. "Every illness and pain you had as a child returns in your later life. Most of those folks out there can relate their troubles now to what a they suffered from as youths.  I'll bet after our visit here you'll agree."Later at home I dug deep into my mother's diary. Her words reminded me of the illnesses that plagued me since birth. Stomach problems heads the list.  No local doctor could tell her why my stomach ached so often. Mother found through a friend of an Indian doctor south of town who could "cure" anyone. So we traveled to Magee to see this doctor from India. He wore his turban, which to my four-year-old eyes made him interesting, not scary.  As I recall he turned off he lights in his exam room, sat opposite me on a stool. After a few questions he reached over and punched around on my stomach, saying "Does this hurt here? Here? Here?"  I shook my head no.As we drove home Mother said the Doc told her I had worms. Well, I did go barefoot often. I don't recall any medicine I had to take but to this day I know "worms" wasn't my problem. The term for my  problem was not found until I was thirty years old. And it was in a magazine advertisement.  Prior to that my internist of 20 years insisted I drink less milk. Milk was my favorite. drink, especially in milk shakes.  But the advertisement claimed a new over the counter pill would solve disgruntled stomachs. Lactose. I sent the coupon in for a free trial, used it after that for many many years. Voila! I had been lactose intolerant since birth. Beginning with  junior high school years I had aches in my joints. No MD seemed to know why. I'd never heard of arthritis in the 1940s, but a visit to an ophthalmologist one summer in NC where I was a camper, revealed his opinion that my weak eyes (I'd worn glasses since grade one) caused the aches. I took tons of pills which seem to ease the pain. The aches lasted through college and suddenly disappeared. At age 65 joint aches rejoined my seemingly healthy life.A point I want to make is that those of us who were born before medicine had a good foothold and prognoses depended on the Doc's education, most of us didn't know what we know what was w wrong with us unless i[...]



Fleeting Invention Ideas

2015-01-13T12:12:03.786-05:00

We had the greatest idea. Our imaginations ran wild. We’d have tee shirts, buttons, flags with our logo. Logo. What could we use as an identifying reminder of our idea?The above conversation began after a birthday dinner in which the family sat in an upscale restaurant (for our area it was “upscale”.). The members turned to me and said, “Did you hear our conversations?” I replied “No, but I got the gist of it.” Son 2 said he knew then how difficult it was for me to hear (a) between walls (b ) in a crowded place (c) around corners (d) and everywhere in which no one was facing me. So began the process of helping me enjoy family get-togethers in the future with ideas flying left and right.After figuring out what the logo would be, Son 2 went to Google, “Just to be sure there’s not one already.” There was - - not just one but variations of the standard logo for impaired hearing. We were disappointed but happy. Disappointed we didn’t think of printing tees and buttons and signs and whatever forty years ago when my hearing problem was in its infancy; disappointed that we hadn’t learned the symbol wasn’t used more often in public; disappointed that I had lost so much enjoyment in the myriad of table conversations.We found a company that printed anything you want on tees and buttons. I ordered several buttons with nifty statements. From the logo alone to a few words. Each button makes clear the message I need to convey when the cashier babbles incoherently (I think) “Thatistwentythirtytwo.”  Maybe she’ll read on my lapel “Speak a little louder and more clearly.”I won't have to ask for a repeat several times.  What would you as a hearing-impaired person choose to wear?[...]



Making Choices

2015-01-11T15:53:56.371-05:00

Today's market of giving the customer his/her choice in whatever is offered, especially in restaurants, is becoming too much for an old lady who grew up taking what was offered. Take for example:

I drop by a sandwich shop for a quick pick-up . I order a tuna melt -- do  I want lettuce, tomato or not? wheat, rye or sourdough? I ask for iced tea -- do I want lemon or not? I add a cookie,-- do I want it in a bag or not? I pay for the order thinking that if I'd  shaken my head si or no, I'd leave with a headache.

However, if I were to buy a car, the scene would be about the same. Do I want a 4-door or a 2-door? Do I have a preference of make/model? Would I prefer a particular color? What about mileage? and the list goes on. The next time I purchase a car I'm going to hand the salesman a paper written with my preferences:

 white, specialty wheels, gas saver. soft top, white or black, leather seats, stick shift, automatic windows, compass, bright interior lights (did I leave out something important?)

A quick glance and if the salesman is a good one, can immediately inform me yes, no, or maybe. This time he makes the choice.

Of course, life isn't that easy. Next time you go somewhere, check yourself how many times in one trip you have to make choices. 



I Know I'm Getting Older

2017-05-09T19:34:55.380-04:00

On two occasions when my husband and I wanted an item from a store, no clerk seemed to know what we were talking about.

R ran out of cotton handkerchiefs. He went to a large store, WM, found a clerk and asked, "Where are men's handkerchiefs?" The clerk looked into the air, apparently searching for an answer, then said, "I think you can find them in the bedding section."

Had handkerchiefs gone out of existence?

I ran into our popular McAllister's for two sandwiches one evening. I gave R's order, a tuna on rye; then I said "Let's see (thumbing through my mind of what I can eat, ignoring that fact and ordering anyway), " I'll have a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on white." The youthful clerk wrinkled her brow and said, "I don't think we have those." The older clerk standing nearby said, "Hon, that's a BLT." "Oh," she smiled sheepishly and completed the order. I learned a lesson on keeping up on vocabulary changes.

R found his cotton handkerchiefs online. Six for $4. A steal. He didn't have to shop in person any more.

The kind of vocabulary I seem not to understand or use relates to the computer. After many hours spent with a tech online following instructions, I have to stop him and ask, "Now what is a router? Is it the big box connected to my screen?" or "Let me repeat your instruction so I understand: you want me to unplug the black cord from the big box and keep it off for 30 seconds. How fast can I count?"

I know I'm getting older.



Remembering One Friendship

2014-12-08T13:21:54.597-05:00

This time of the year I receive a call from my friend G who lives in Texas. The other day I thought, "I'll surprise G with a call from here." Then I remembered: G died from cancer in the summer. I knew I should make the call to check on her husband, B.  Their daughter answered to say that her dad had died a month after her mother of an aneurism. Gone, two special people.

I'd met G during classes in 1959 at Mexico City College in Mexico, D. F. There was a six-weeks session given in Spanish. She and I shared one grammar class and  ate together for lunch. This was the only time we could speak English. She'd tell of living with a Mexican family and I'd share my living experience in a motel-like setting with a huge dog who only understood Spanish.

At the time she was a college student and I was married and expecting my first child. The ages didn't seem to matter. We shared the fun of learning.

When we separated we stayed in touch via letters: her graduation, her marriage, her children. Then emailing developed and we kept in touch more easily. We both  continued to learn. We  planned to have a reunion 25 years later at Mexico City College, which had changed its name and moved south of Mexico City. I couldn't spare the six weeks, a disappointment for me. She went alone and kept me up-to-date on her experience.

I saw her after that reunion-that-didn't happen, when our family traveled to Dallas on our way west for vacation; she in turn with her husband visited us years later on their way home from a conference.  Then it was back to emails.

Her last contact with me was by telephone: "Vivian, I'm calling to let you know I'm dying. I don't have long to live. I want you to know how much I've appreciated your friendship."  I found few words to reply, but I did with, "Are you OK with this situation?" She said she was surprised that she was. She worried about her husband who wasn't well.

She entered hospice and died a month later. Her husband called and that was the last time I heard his voice.

Dying is difficult on those who remain alive.  I miss my dear friend.



Autumn Photos

2017-05-14T18:14:06.522-04:00


One of my Facebook friends lives in Maine. She often posts landscape photos to emphasize what all her friends and relatives are missing. I admit the windows looking onto the front of our house peer at a quiet street and a wooded lot across the street. In the fall there is no exciting display of color from the tree leaves that curl up, fold up and drop. Even the tree branches cast a wicked look on dreary days.  Here's one announcing fall:



Compare it with scenes of the season we spent in the Delaware area of New York.
.
Highway from Barryville to Narrowsburg
(image) Delaware River

I'll never forget the fall colors of this lovely area of the world where the Delaware Recreational Area beckons visitors from the city to its environs. Living in the woods brought a satisfaction never before experienced.






Lying Down on the Job

2017-05-09T19:36:13.958-04:00

We don't often have to buy necessities that have a 10-20 year warranty. Refrigerator, check; freezer, check; washing machine, check; dryer; microwave, check.  Mattress??

Husband decided we needed a new mattress. The last one we bought was hardly five years old. When R decides to change a necessity he goes forward with such enthusiasm,  then he fizzles within 24 hours.

He spends hours perusing a model, checking his copy of Consumer Digest, musing about the size, the ability to perform.  And that goes for mattresses, also.

Everyone last Saturday who were shopping in the mattress department at a local store were serious enough to spend a lot of time lying down. One lady we met scrunched on a king-sizer, said she had been in the store every weekend lying on this and that mattress. She was determined to make a decision that afternoon. Every time we looked around she was splayed on another mattress. She had fibromyralgia, and it was important to her to get the right "feel" for her muscles. She was so educated on the type we were interested in, her testimony was as good as any salesman. This type was the all foam modeled after those developed by NASA.

Then R lay down on the first mattress guided by the sales clerk. He lay this way and that way, on his stomach, on his back. I lay down on my back and declared, "Not for me!" I was giving him the prerogative to choose which softness or firmness was best. I figured I could adjust with a board under my side. After several hours and the impending store closure, we left without a decision.

As I waited for R to decide, I glanced around the mattress area to fill my time. Sure enough, there were many couples and families lying around. I thought I'd snap their pictures and put a few on this blog. You'll notice how they choose to lie.

This is the lady who spent weeks resting on this mattress to be sure her money and body would benefit her choice.


This couple spent only awhile resting without coming to a decision






Birthdays Come and Go Without Fanfare

2014-09-16T12:30:51.844-04:00

You don't see many photographs in the newspaper these days of the celebration of a birthday, unless the celebrated one is 100 years old. We can't imagine ourselves getting to that point in life where someone else takes care of us and all we do is sit and watch TV. Too weak and weary. Enjoying fewer interests. Sitting and sleeping.

I have reminded my dentist, doctor, and opthlamologist that I plan to live to be 140 years old. They will have to resist retiring because I don't want new doctors at my age. I turned over the birthday leaves 82 times now. Do I want to be weak and weary, enjoying few interests, sit and watch TV all day? Absolutely not. I have chosen 140 as a far-reaching goal in which to keep myself healthy, learning, participating, and keeping in touch with my friends.  I refuse to say "I'm ready for the Lord to take me."

My birthdays are spent being remembered by a few close friends who continue to send cards I cherish and my children finding something hand-made or a book to read.  I now own a lovely hand-made frame holding a relaxed family in our front yard.  No perfume, no night out on the town, no elaborate gifts of any sort.

Because I was reared in a frugal  household, Mother always saw my sister and I had a new dress, or shoes, or socks. We didn't ask for expensive items. However, Mother's job as backstage manager for Merrill, Lynch Stockbrokers allowed her to earn a good salary when we were teens, She gave us small gifts we called "happies." When the Disney movie was shown in the theaters, one of the songs had a line, "We wish you a very happy unbirthday, to you, to you". And we began to call those happies, our unbirthday gifts.

I don't want to be 110 before I pass on. I won't be able to accomplish what I'm doing now. I'll find some reason to sit in a comfy chair and read or watch a movie on some new-fangled electronics, which I will try to understand the mechanics. No one will call me because I'll be so deaf I'll have to have a chalk board hanging around my neck for communication. I won't be able to eat out with friends because I'll be drinking only Ensure. The kids won't be able to stay around me long.

I've painted a dark side of my later life. There will be no dark side. I have too many friends and sweet-loving kids to help me avoid being nothing but bright.



End of Summer Thoughts

2014-08-12T19:19:38.415-04:00

I wasted, so I thought, the summer with little advancement in my writing. For years I've had stored in the computer two creative nonfiction stories written multiple times, attempting to find the best lede. Opening the story with an illustrious picture of words seemed to escape me.  During the early summer I read of a contest in Alabama. Figuring few readers or judges had ever heard of the topic of my CNF, I took one more look at the first paragraph of one story and decided this was the last time I would rewrite it. Sitting only a few minutes I remembered  the words of Rick Bragg  a few years ago .  "Make your opening so your reader wants to keep reading." Of course, many other writers have said the same thing, but I've not heard their words.Typing as fast as I could with the words jumping around in my head I got the opening lines finished. Printed the 1500 word story and mailed in a recollection of my six-month stay at a state preventorium. What is a preventorium? A place like an orphanage or a boarding school especially for children who may or may not have TB.  I was sooooo skinny with little appetite, always a sickly brat, the utlimate place, my parents thought, was a stay with other kids who needed special attention. I returned home six months later before my eighth birthday. No one in the family talked about my time there and I pushed the experience into the recesses of my mind.  Only after I was married did I reveal what I thought was a terrible experience.However, to view the time spent there with my today's mind, I realize I had a little paradise. I couldn't appreciate it because I wanted to be home with my parents and new sister. Eight years ago I began to write what I remembered. Then a  FaceBook site appeared  and I read about other little patients and how they coped with the loneliness.  The height of this early summer was to be reunited with some of these patients. They are grown men and women who felt as I had,  the necessity of keeping the "P" a secret. By exchanging memories I realized how different my recollection was from theirs. I was at the preventorium in 1940; they arrived anywhere from 1950-1960.  We cruised the grounds, saw some similarities of the now buildings to the then ones.Thoughts came tumbling.My entry into the contest didn't include a lot of what I learned about others' memories, but I received the support I needed to let the public, however large or small it be, know there had been a place in central Mississippi, as well as many around the United States helping kids..A creative nonfiction is taking facts and surrounding them with your story.  I explained how TB was detected in 1940, the purpose of the sanitorium for adults and the preventorium for children, the daily routine developed for us kids, and the attention the workers gave to us. We lived on a large campus and were supplied with all we needed.My story entitled, "A Secret Place" will be published in the Alabama Writers Conclave emagazine AlaLit sometime next year.  I'm proud not only of winning first place (a certificate and $100) but of having the opportunity to get the story in print so others can learn of the scourge of tuberculosis and how the state played a part in stamping out the disease.Oddly, I read online the information from the Mississippi Department of Health that not a single child living in the Preventorium were ever found to have tuberculosis. [...]



A Brief Moment from Writing

2014-07-30T21:27:25.912-04:00

As most writers know, there is a lull in writing when nothing comes from the brain to the fingers. Some call it "writer's block." I call it, "being tired".  I had about lost the incentive to stick with my family story writing for posterity. Posterity in my family means a "possible look into that green book Mother left for us." Most writers, as most parents know, when children become adults they aren't the least interested in what you're doing. You can say, "Look at this picture I painted." They'll glance and say, "Uh huh." When I tell them I'm collecting stories about my life I hear, "Uh, huh."

I've spent the last few months collecting facts and stories about the Newkirk clan, the ancestors of my husband. A tough job that began as a Christmas gift to my three adult children.  One morning reading through my mail, I spied a writing contest to be held by the Alabama Writers Conclave and I entered the creative nonfiction section. Creative nonfiction is the act of building a story around facts. I had been writing  two stories many times over (the editing process) working to get the words just right. Finally, I felt I was ready for story #1 to go to the contest.  It is about the creation of the Preventorium for children located at Magee MS in the 1930s and 1940s(closed in early 1960) I was a patient there because I was undernourished. Looking at old pictures we kids all had the same knotty knees and skinny frames. None of us had TB, as adult patients had at the Sanatorium located nearby. It is an interesting story, one I didn't mention for many years. Still today, few people I mention the story to have ever known the excellent job the Mississippi State Health Dept did for us kids.The story will appear later in the emagazine ,AlaLit, magazine of the Writers Conclave.

When I received notice I had won one of four prizes in my category, I told my family ( who for once sat up at attention and stayed alert until Sat night the 12 of July.) The family told me to text what place as soon as I could.  I did manage to their delight.

The announcement surprised me and gave me hope that I could keep plugging away.  When my name was called I halfway raised from my seat (I was on the front row with other winners) and raised my arms as if to say "Praise the Lord!" I won $100. I've been writing for 20 years. However, I've had other stories published in the Quarterly of the Gulf Coast Writers group.

I have been collecting family stories of my relatives and ancestors. What a job. I have a list of projects to complete before dying, and I wonder if I can make it through the points.

In the last week I've reworked a short story to enter and another creative nonfiction I hope will make it to the Honorable Mention. I only know how to write true stories, so the fiction may be a bit silly.

I apologize to my few readers for my absence.  Below you see my sister and I celebrating after the win.






Traditions I Ignore

2014-02-22T16:54:28.272-05:00

Two traditions I dislike attending: funerals and marriages.  They are cookie-cutter ceremonies. The worst part of funerals is listening to a minister who probably has more attendees standing in the hot sun or hovering together to keep warm or huddling under the tent or personal umbrellas. No matter the raw circumstances the attendees face, the minister sees the group, and decides to preach the sermon of his life. Not only has he already said enough inside the church or home, but also he feels he has to continue under the tent as we look at a box hovering above an abyss.How can one be sympathetic/empathetic for the family of a lost one when tradition overshadows the life of the deceased? If you think about the whole situation, more emphasis is given to a few remarks given by friends and family (some truly informative and funny) a few sad hymns, and then marching out of the sanctuary, getting into your car and forming a line to the cemetery. The bill for the casket and funeral that comes later in the mail takes the family's breath away. Or a quickly written check that could feed a few homeless men is given with smiles.Or, if there are cremains or a closed casket, guests are ushered into a community room to feast on something simple like coffee or punch and a brownie. Someone later remarks on the frugality of such simple fare. If the group is large, you walk into a room filled with six or more tables laden with food that easily will feed more than the thousands Jesus did when he broke a loaf of bread.And feast the attendees do. You'd think they skipped a meal and planned to save buying lunch or dinner.They load their small plates overflowing. Try eating from a small paper plate lying in one hand, drinking punch or wine with the other that also holds a fork or a large chip and you're bound to have a few disasters. These attendees go home talking about the variety of food -- the deceased is given a "poor soul" remark on the way home.Marriage ceremonies are similar. Why does nearly every woman want the "dress of her dreams" that cost Daddy a bundle, plus all the ornamentation that goes with the ceremony and the entertainment and food that a family feels it must display for the attendees to prove their financial status. You know families like this. Have a funeral or a wedding the way others have in order to "keep up with the Joneses" or to prove something deeper. I admire the couple you read about in the paper who had a simple wedding whose family and friends know the couple is as married as another couple who left the country club an hour before. I understand  personal weddings and funerals are being introduced these days. Hurrah!I'm sick of the television series "Say Yes to the Dress". To pay thousands of dollars for the "perfect" dress worn once  that  previously the act of choosing caused tears and anger among family members who supposedly were to support the bride-to-be, then the bride has to choose all the ornaments and food and china and crystal and flowers, etc. Marriage takes four people and a minister.          Then there is the process of burying a loved one in the finest mahogany casket lined in satin that sets the families back thousands of dollars they may have to take out a bank loan to repay--all the time knowing that time under dirt will disintegrate the box and its contents. How this reveals a lack of sense, a refusal to think outside the box in order to avoid ridicule and stress figuring which casket will honor a dead person who doesn't care one flip what [...]



A Few Weeks Have Passed

2014-01-07T15:49:14.696-05:00

since I ranted and raved about celebrating holidays. Regardless of how I felt, the celebration continued. I'm not one to avoid celebrating the time to remember why this is set aside, but the pressure of a lot of activity in the house at my advancing age is a bit much.


Thank you for the comment "dkzody" for agreeing with me.  You mentioning "curmudgeon" gave me a moment to reflect. I always associated that term with professors who couldn't keep up with their students. However, I did feel it a proper description for me.


I have a lot of projects in the works as a writer. I'm editing manuscripts of two friends, attempting to write stories about my past experiences, and a short account about my maternal grandmother whom I knew a short time. Perhaps the need to do that pushed me over the edge. I'm one of those people who has to be busy, knows when its time to stop and read a good book, work Scrabble on Kindle, or see the latest movie. I'm like my dad. I declared he'd die behind the lawn mower one summer day. He didn't. I figure I'll pass away in front of the computer trying to finish something.


I don't make resolutions any more. I make "reminders". They are usually posted on the wall near the computer and stay there until the stickiness disappears. A quick check to see if I've accomplished something mentioned and then into the trash can.


Another project in the works is a blog of my family stories. My free library class in "Mining your Memories--Writing Family Stories" has gone well. I've a notebook full of experiences of the past and present that my adult kids (tell me there's a better term) might take a minute to read. Also it is a means of letting my class know that although I'm not a perfect writer, I'm recording in the most interesting way the funny and the serious of my years on earth. I'm anxious for everyone to write stories, not so much from beginning to present, but little experiences of several lines to several pages to leave for your descendants. Progress has already warned us that what we do, say, believe, enjoy, hate will change drastically in the next 20 years and we should record stories for someone in our family to enjoy.


May the coming days and months bring blessings/goodwill to all of you.






Bye, Bye Holidays

2013-12-24T19:36:08.273-05:00

This year was hectic. Illness prevailed.  Gifts purchased with little thought. The “real looking” tree remained in its box.   And, to confess to all, there’s no desire to celebrate holidays. Two out of four weekends in the month of each year my family of husband, daughter and two sons, one grandson, a daughter-in-law, and a mother-in-law have eaten together or gathered in one room to visit. Now it’s time to celebrate “together” again. Wasn’t it last week we ate pasta together?Can’t I have Christmas my way?  With Son 2 here this year, the evening  of the 24thbegins the magic: sitting in front of fire drinking hot apple cider, nibbling cheese on fancy crackers, and snuggling with pets Ace, Deuce, and Scratch.  Laughing at the funny events of Christmases past. Reviewing old snapshots, laughing at the hair styles.  As the night wanes we’re relaxed. Then to bed to arising Christmas morning at our own time, teasing with the few gifts remaining under the tree, finishing off the cider, selecting a rum muffin, a boiled egg and returning to the fireplace. The afternoon is spent having friends and family share a glass or cup and catch up on each of our lives. Son 1 and his family live nearby and have their customs.  We shared their customs for several years. Who can say which side of the family has better celebrations? They wish to include us gathering on Christmas Eve for a great meal, watching the grandson open his gifts early the next morning, having a light breakfast, leaving around noon to return to a family house a few hours later for a festive meal is eye-appealing and too much to digest.How often we’ve reminded Son 1  with his family he has his customs, we have ours. He wants both but has to make a choice. How many other sons and daughters have wrestled with where to go on Christmas? I don’t want to be a part of that decision.Blame this on age. Younger folks do not understand how aging begins to rob us of the ordinary. We must refocus on new conditions that we can handle.Age has lessened the excitement of riding around the neighborhood looking at the holiday lighted decorations. Age has tired me of p & b sandwiches. Age has frozen my need to create a meal.  Age has eliminated the act of rising before six a.m.  Worst of all, age has interfered with my typing. My fingers like to wander to other keys than the ones I prefer to tap.I didn’t know age would insist I nap more frequently, have an empty pantry of hostess delectibles,  take away my social life, suck energy from my body, or  allow me to ignore the messy living room that could never be on the cover of Architectual Digest. Traditions and obligations have become stressful with age.  How difficult  it is to maintain an outward appearance of enjoyment with a pain pulling here and there.After 30 years of meeting work schedules, husband R and I want to live each day the way we choose: sleep late, eat when and what we enjoy, and wear our robes all day, if we so desire.[...]



A Zoo in My Backyard

2013-12-06T14:27:54.971-05:00

I recall when we spent summers in the Delaware Recreational area  how often we saw wild animals. Bears, coyote calls nightly, eagles, wild turkeys, and deer to name a few.  Becoming conscious of where we walked on the hillsides, guarding our garbage from bear intrusions, mysterious crunch-crunch outside our shed nights. . . all so mysterious to us town folk.

Since returning to our subdivision in Mississippi surrounded by loads of forested areas and a small bit of the historical Natchez Trace crossing our land, so far we had to watch out for alligators living in our lakes. Our house sits on a rise, away from the lake, so an alligator may have to be truly interested in meeting us to travel the distance.

We get emails occasionally about an animal showing up nearby. The latest came yesterday. It read something like this:" Those living on Mescalero, Kiowa, and Arapaho and Village Drive be careful that all pets must remain inside due to coyotes traveling in pairs seen on these streets. For them to be  traveling must mean they are hungry. Don't leave anything out and drive safely nights down these streets."

Lordy me! Those homes sitting near the lakes have had such trouble with the huge alligators until they were caught. Now we have coyotes. It isn't unusual that deer are seen on Village Drive, which is one of the entering and exits of the Village. My neighbor artist who often is up early likes to let me know how many deer have traipsed up our driveway. I informed him we give free breakfast if they'll eat and then leave.

We don't have to travel far to see a collection in a zoo. Visit our Village and you'll have fun finding them,



 




Am I Getting Too Old?

2013-11-24T13:41:01.500-05:00

I no longer feel excitement when holidays roll around. The need to give gifts to others whom I admire seem insignificant now. When the holiday arrives, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, Valentine's Day or whatever, I think of it as another day. Another time to sit at home doing what I enjoy: reading, writing, watching a movie.

My daughter reminds me I've had my time with necessities and if I want to do nothing on those days I should feel no qualms. But I do. I feel I'm hurting someone's feelings if I don't accept a lunch or dinner invitation, or a gathering to watch popular football teams play.

What I dislike is the strain of conversation. So few I know like to speak about the latest book, a headline from the newspaper, or world affairs. No, they talk about their kids, gran'kids, next door neighbor, the latest Bunko group, or their latest surgery. Forced conversation with people who have nothing in common with me creates a tired brain. I check my watch  slyly. I give a nod to my husband that says "For goodness sake, let's get out of here!" I'd even play a game of Scrabble if offered rather than sit and listen to oohs and ahhs about the latest baby present.

Oh, I do remember those who aren't able to celebrate. I've friends who live too far away for me to spend time with. I'm not wooden headed about other people, it's the forced manner of celebrating the same way we've done for the last 50 years. Nothing surprises me much anymore.





It's Nut Time Again

2013-10-08T13:13:30.022-04:00

Fall is giving Mississippi a preview of coming events. Cool mornings and evenings, a welcome relief from the humid temperatures.

Received my first catalog from Sunnyland Farms in Georgia. Again I turn each page hungrily anxious for my first autumn taste of pecans.

We enjoy the ride to nearby Raymond, Mississippi to a retail pecan grove  bursting with ripe nuts. Human pickers and machines gather pecans, sort them and place them in large bins inside the store. Inside the small frame building, the nuts are divided into the types of pecans and displayed. First time I visited I recall how confused I was with the differences in pecans. Wasn't there just a good pecan?  

 Each variety has a distinct taste and chew. Luckily, you can take a sample, crack it, and try it for the kind of taste sensation you prefer. Some of the kinds I recall from my last visit were Stuart, Cape Fear, Desirable, Forkert, and Excel.  Every year a new type appears.  If you can go to a grove in your area, choosing your favorite pecan taste is an education in itself.

Just as most everything else in the food world, Indians ate pecans. The word is Algonquin meaning " hard to crack, needing a stone to open" Maybe those early ones were hard to crack, but today, some, like the paper-shell type, can be cracked in the hand.  I think of the hickory nuts Mother loved. She used a hammer, put the nut on the sidewalk or a large stone, and hit several times. The result was a constant picking out of the meat which didn't want to give up its warm bed. Too much work for the rest of the family who stuck with pecans.

We've always ordered pecans in the shell and had them cracked there at the store. There's such pleasure to sit in front of the television set with a bowl of cracked pecans in your lap, picking off the shell. The act of working for the meat is satisfying. You're not eating them too fast, tasting slowly with delight. Not the same satisfaction as reaching for a handful of  shelled meats sitting ready in its tin.  Try it.

One occasion we sent cousins in Virginia 10 lbs of pecans, cracked. When they received the package they were horrified that the package had been through some melee to have broken the pecans. They almost complained to UPS before they called to verify the condition.

We in the South say pee Kahn', not Pee' kans.   Check the dictionary.