Because I didn’t send a card in time…..

When she awakes in the morning and reads this, as she does so faithfully everyday, it will be her birthday.  This is part of celebrating her birthday “all week long” as Mama learnt us to do all these years (It’s also because not only did I forget the peaches, I also forgot the card.   And Cooter deleted the picture of the flowers I took that I was going to send.  *sigh*)

My first memory of her

is reaching up to take her hand

as she takes me for a walk down that old dirt road

and she smiles

the smile that has not changed once

over all the years

The smile that gave me comfort

and filled me with love

still does today

as recently as a few hours ago

She shared with me her love of reading,

of books, of yarn, of General Foods International Coffee

Irish Mocha Mint

(I felt quite grown up and proper, you know)

and of all things English

It was her name on the paper

We would be hers if “anything” happened

A promise to them she took seriously

and still does–there is never a time she doesn’t answer

She tells me stories of my Daddy

how he let her curl up next to him on his bed

while he was reading

How he read to her

(I wonder if she knows how much her big brother’s face always lit up

when he mentioned her name)

How he took her to a book store and ignited her love for reading too

Just as she took me all those years ago

I spent $3.85 and fell in love with having books on my shelf

A love that has filled my heart and my home

thank you

She makes me laugh and listens well,

a gift beyond measure

I see him and others in her eyes

and her voice is home to me

She was Mama’s friend,

the first day of school celebration with “Jeremiah Johnson,”

was that every year, I wonder

She listened and weeped with Mama and laughed over the

antics and joys of having grands

And when the time came she stood around a bed, not once

but twice, she loved them too

so very much

While on this journey she has offered carrots, advice, corn, onions, help,

sweet potatoes, newspapers, new potatoes, squash, beans, hugs, flowers, tears, and

Love

And cupcake tins are okay to use without the liner, you know, and

puppies in heat, well, good luck with that *smile*

And bail money?  “I got it, do what you gotta do”

She has sat by my side and said, “It’s okay” when I just couldn’t anymore

And she has looked at me and said “You are your Mama’s daughter”

more than once

and those words that once would have made me cringe

thirty years ago or twenty or ten

Are the greatest of all gifts to me now

She has hugged me and held me

And crossed her fingers and talked to God for me

She has remembered with me and

Sat in the dark with me, showing up

when I needed her most, always

She is a Mama, a Grandmother, a sister, wife, friend, and daughter

But forever and always, she was my first true love,

the first person I remember loving outside of the people who gave me life

and still today, her name means LOVE to me

Grace personified, a beautiful soul

who knows me and calls me by name

who loves me and gives me hope and

who knows a lot about math–

we had the same teacher you know, years apart–

multiplying the joys and dividing the sorrows,

she’s really good at both

I’m afraid that I need to learn another language

to find the right words, enough words,

to express how full she makes my heart

She would probably want me to say here, at some point,

“she is not perfect”

and there it is for any who believe it

but what matters is

She is a gift that God gave the world,

to show us the peace and wonder and light

there is in the midst of all the brokenness

She is a reminder that we are loved

And that will do for a birthday Monday

Sometimes you’ll stumble – sometimes you’ll just lie down
    Sometimes you’ll get lonely – with all these people around
    You might shiver when the wind blows – and you might get blown away
    You might lose a little color – you might lose a little faith

      We are each other’s angels – we meet when it is time
      We keep each other going – and we show each other signs

Tonight I had the privilege of hearing David LaMotte play live at The Light at Bare Bulb Coffee.  Hearing him play was the only thing that tore me away from visiting with my  Aunt, who makes me laugh and hears me cry.  And hears me laugh and makes me cry.  (in a good way) I am glad I did.  It was while sitting, listening to him perform this song “We Are Each Other’s Angels,” that I thought about her and her birthday and who she is.   She is my Angel.  She is a blessing. And I love her.

Happy Birthday!  And as Mama would say, Happy Everyday!  Love you.

My Heart Overflows

This afternoon a dear friend told me I seemed happier than I had in a long time.  And that made me even happier.  I showed her pictures of where my day had taken me so far and she agreed–stuff worth being happy about.

Leroy, my big brother, invited my crew to come over to the new house and play today.  And he told me to go do “whatever.”  Whatever?  I thought through the possibilities and then picked up the phone to call my Aunt.  I asked if I could come and pick beans, as we’d been talking about this for a couple of weeks.  After questioning my thought processes that led me to decide to pick beans in my “time off,” she said well sure.  I guess it might seem an odd choice to some.  This is my first “free without plans or a doctor’s appointment” time in a very long, long time.  I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.  Picking beans without folks with me who might whine about the heat?  Bring it.

I can’t remember my first time in a garden.  I just remember always picking with my Daddy.  My Granddaddy planted quite the garden at Granny’s when I was small.  I can remember sitting on the edge of the bucket picking butterbeans, trying to be so careful not to pull up the whole plant.  Later when we moved to Blackberry Flats Daddy planted and we all picked and snapped and shelled and Mama canned.  I remember helping him plant as recently as just a few years ago.  Using the bricks with a string tied between to line up the row, and then dropping the seeds along every so often.  Oh I miss it.

So, time in a garden today?  Yes please.

My destination today

My destination today

My Uncle pulled corn, and he, my Aunt, and I sat and shucked and silked it under the shade of the trees in no time.  My heart was full.   So often I spend my time with my children trying to make a good moment that will become a precious memory.  Today was for me.  I will treasure the memory of how it felt, sitting there with them, shucking and visiting and smelling the smell of summer.  A treasure.

Summer sunshine growing on a stalk

Summer sunshine growing on a stalk

After we finished with the corn, my Aunt and I headed out to pick beans.  What a treat a pot of fresh beans and cornbread is for supper.  Throw some onion and a few new potatoes in the pot and it’s a veritable summer FEAST.  And now I have corn as a side dish.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

The beans that will be my supper tomorrow night

The beans that will be my supper tomorrow night

We picked a mess pretty quickly, sharing stories and visiting the whole while, which made it seem like it took no time at all.  After that it was time to take off my garden boots and head off for the next adventure.

I was rockin' the garden boots, right?

I was rockin’ the garden boots, right?

But first I wanted to say goodbye to this glorious place that turns water and light into food for the body and this land that was food for my soul.  There’s something about being outside that does that for me.  And being with family.  I was hot and had sweat running down my face, but oh boy, were my spirits lifted.

A beautiful day

A beautiful day

Next I picked up our Princess from Leroy’s and took her to an art class at our favorite coffeehouse.  It was a surprise for her.  She was a bit nervous because the last time she did this over a year ago, she didn’t think her picture turned out so well.  I hugged her and told her no matter how she thought it looked, I would love it.  I left her to her class, had a quick impromptu visit with friends at the coffeehouse, and then headed next door to the GW Boutique for a quick once-over.

When I returned our Princess had finished her painting, and it was FABULOUS.  She even used my favorite colors.

The puppy's name is Teresa, according to our Princess.....that's a "t" on her collar

The puppy’s name is Teresa, according to our Princess…..that’s a “t” on her collar

I loved that when we were helping clean up, she pointed out what was left where she’d been working her artistic magic.

What was left around where she created her work of art

What was left around where she created her work of art

It occurred to me that we should do that in whatever we do.  Be so enthusiastic and thorough that we overflow–with light, with love, with compassion, with grace. We shouldn’t be so cautious in any of those things that there isn’t overflow.  Makes me kind of wish I had kept that tablecloth.  Maybe my word for next year will be “overflow.”  It sure was my word for today–my heart overflowed.  So much so that my friend saw the joy in my face.

And on the way home, after the littles had their summer gymnastics class this evening (yes it was a VERY full day), when my spirits were sinking over something that happened late in the day and my heart felt very fragile, my littles pointed this out to me.

I kind of have the feeling this was my Mama's way of letting me know she's around

I kind of have the feeling this was my Mama’s way of letting me know she’s around

My Mama showed me the rainbows in the midst of the storms of life.  And tonight, when I felt like one was blowing in, this rainbow caught the eyes of my precious gifts who still get excited over rainbows and bugs and tadpoles and good stories.  When I saw it, my heart knew and I felt some peace.  I am pretty sure Mama was saying, “Don’t let anyone take the joy of this day from you.”

Tonight I am thankful for family who loves me despite all my craziness; for the generosity of my family with their time, their love, their listening, and their vegetables.  I am thankful for friends who pay attention and who know me and are happy when they see me happy.  And for the same friends who walk the path of brokenness and heartbreak with me.  I am thankful for a little girl who loves bright colors and tells everyone, “Mama couldn’t quit smiling when she saw my picture.”  I am thankful for loud cousins playing and growing up together and for their parents who make that possible.  I am thankful for the bounty of the sun and rain this summer and for my Aunt and Uncle who share it.  And I’m thankful for my Mama who hasn’t stopped talking to me just because we are separated by that thin veil.  I needed that rainbow tonight, to remember the joy of today, and not let it slip away. Joy.  Overflow.  Yes.

When the Family Gets Together

That's not something you see very often!

That’s not something you see very often

In my travels up and down 247 back and forth to Macon a few months back, I saw this sign.  That is not something you see very often, is it?

But once upon a time…..

Some of my fondest summer memories are of time spent with my cousins.  Mama and my Aunt loaded all seven and then eight of us up in the Chevy II Nova (way back in the days before mandatory car seats and seat belt laws), and we headed up to Macon.  The Museum of Arts and Sciences hosted movie mornings in the summer. I think it was every Tuesday and Thursday, but I can’t be sure now.  On the planetarium walls I saw many of the old Disney classics–Cannonball Express, The Ugly Dachshund, Candleshoe, and Escape to Witch Mountain, among many others.  Oh I loved the cool air and the comfortable seats in the planetarium.  When we left the cool darkness, the bright sunlight and steamy, sweltering heat made us blink and immediately enveloped us on the short walk back to the car.

After the movie, we often (okay my perspective, may not have been THAT often) went by the Krystal’s drive-thru and picked up burgers on the way home.  Back then 25 cent Krystals were not so unusual.  I can remember a head count being done–how many can you eat? was asked of the older ones and extras were added for the younger ones.  I wonder what those folks thought when Mama and my Aunt ordered 35 or 40 Krystals at a time.  With coupons.  Good times.

So many fun times spent together, especially in the summers.  Pots of chili or spaghetti spooned out in numerous bowls.  Playing Colored Ribbons or Cowboys and Indians in their yard or ours.  The Barbie Wedding.  Easter Egg Hunts and now Turkey Egg Hunts too.  Movie marathons on the Video Disc Players.  Remember those?  The thing holding the movie was shaped like a record album.  Remember those? Oh. Never mind.  Suffice to say, great times then.  Piled up in my Aunt and Uncle’s living room.  Star Wars–the original movies.  The Man From Snowy River.  The room was so dark and the picture on their color tv was so bright.  Almost like our own mini movie theater.

I am thinking of my cousins tonight as one of the best cousins ever has her birthday today.  And in the past week my own children have spent lots of fun times with some of their cousins.  And it’s also my niece’s birthday.  Yeah, I’ve got cousins on the brain.  And family.  And Krystal’s.  But that’s another story.

I am lucky to have a close family, where second and third generations out, we gather and love each other, share laughter and tears, and have each other’s backs.  If I am in a bind, I know who to call.

Tonight I am thankful for my cousins, who know me and oddly enough, seem to love me anyway.  I am thankful for my children’s cousins, and second cousins, and third, who brighten their lives and mine–with their creativity, imaginations, sweet spirits, and downright fun outlooks on life.  I give thanks for Mama and Daddy and all my aunts and uncles who made family a priority and made sure we had these great memories to turn back to on days like today.  And I’m grateful to Rody Davenport Jr. and J. Glenn Sherrill.  Oh, they’re the folks who invented and founded Krystal’s.  I don’t eat their burgers as often as I used to, but I still love them and the memories they carry with them.

A Hallmark card I got years ago--yep, this is how we roll.....

A Hallmark card I got years ago–yep, this is how we roll…..

Some fun Krystal facts: (from Wikipedia)

The first customer, French Jenkins, ordered a cup of coffee and six Krystals–for 35 cents

The focus for the restaurant from the beginning was cleanliness.  Mrs. Davenport suggested the name based on a crystal ball lawn ornament she saw–thinking of crystal clear and clean together, with a K for a twist

It first opened in 1932–it is the oldest hamburger chain in the South

Brenda Webb took her name from the chain after her sister Loretta Lynn suggested it–to Crystal Gayle

The current world record for eating Krystal burgers is 103 burgers consumed in 8 minutes by Joey Chestnut, set on October 28, 2007.

Love Ya, Dear

She was regal and elegant and loved the Dukes of Hazzard.

She was regal and elegant and loved the Dukes of Hazzard.

It was three years ago this morning that I got a call from Mama.  “She’s gone,” was all she could choke out before she broke into sobs.

Mama would call my great Aunt Eloise, lovingly called “Aunt Wease,” every morning and every evening to check on her.  Mama traveled the hour and fifteen minute trip down to see her and stock her pill caddy with all her medicines at least once a week.  When Daddy went to Emory for those many weeks, and when Mama couldn’t leave him, my crew and I went down.  I am not happy about the reason, but I am thankful for those visits.

That morning Mama had tried to call and had not gotten an answer.  She had to drive Daddy to an appointment up in Macon for his MRI, so she waited and tried again when she got to their office.  When she still didn’t get an answer, she called Aunt Wease’s sweet neighbor, who basically had to break in and found her.  Bless her, she had passed on in her sleep.  Peacefully.  We were heartbroken.  And thankful.  She was at the point of having to make some hard decisions about moving out of a home she knew better than the back of her hand.

I told Mama I would pick Daddy up so she could make the long and lonely drive down.  I picked him up and spent the day with him at their house.  A day that was very long for Mama.  Making calls.  Planning.  Answering questions.  Making decisions one is not equipped to make in that state.  A regimen I now know all too well.  Bless her.

She asked me that evening if I wanted to speak at the service.  At first I said no.  But as I thought about it, I could not let her only be remembered by the pastor who had maybe met her once.   So I sat at the keyboard and poured out my memories and my heart.  I gave the eulogy that first Saturday in May looking out at my Daddy who was fighting his own battle with death, and my Mama, sitting holding the hand of my baby girl.  My Mama lost the woman who was a mother to her, and we had lost our grandmother.

It was after this service that Daddy teased me and asked me if I would give his eulogy.  I said yes, praying it would be a long, long time.  It was a way too soon eighteen months later.  

She was a wonderful contradiction of pearls, never wear white before Easter or after Labor Day, color coordinated everything, ending a phone call or visit with “love ya dear,” and loving those Duke Boys or taking us fishing.  What follows is what I shared that day about a beautiful woman who loved me as a granddaughter and helped shape who I am becoming–

May 1, 2010

Eloise Holder McQueen was many things before I came to know her—a daughter, a sister, a friend, a hard worker, and a wife. When I came to know her, she was just Aunt Wease, and yet she was so much more. From her jelly jar glasses to her love of easy listening music and the Dukes of Hazzard, she was a fascinating woman. She made me feel special—she never failed to make me feel beautiful, from when I was little, playing dressup in her clothes, until the last time I saw her. She taught me about beauty—“The sooner you wear makeup, the sooner you’ll need it.”

In the true essence of “it’s all better at Grandma’s” I can still taste the PET milk she
had—the best in the world, nothing like what Mama had. She made me feel grownup. She took me to her ladies’ meeting and she let me drink coffee (which was mostly the aforementioned PET milk!). She shared her wisdom—“If you hold your nose when you go under water, you’ll make your nose pointy.” She was a wonderful cook (or so I thought)—I thought it was a true sign of class to put almonds in casseroles like Aunt Wease always did. She was a classy and beautiful lady. When she loved you, she loved you fiercely and she loved you too much to let you slide. Recently during a visit, she pointed to my younger daughter and said, “She has beautiful hair.” I murmured a thank you, to have her promptly say, “It would be really beautiful if you’d run a brush through it.” (She was right!)

I also recently learned that she was not the cook that I remembered—she told me stories, laughing, about how she really didn’t like to cook. She had a great sense of humor. Over the years, Uncle Ray encouraged me to tease her constantly, asking her when she was going to get her hair fixed, though she had just been to the beauty shop the day before. This is something she and I have continued over the years. We still shared a love of Tweety Bird that Uncle Ray started years ago. Mostly she gave me the gift of time—we played Go Fish, she took me for ice cream, she took me fishing, we talked, and we laughed.

I have been blessed to know many strong women in my life—my Granny, my friends, my aunts, my sisters, and my Mama. Just as much a blessing are the strong men who love them and encourage them to be strong. Aunt Wease was just such a spunky woman, blessed by just such a man, Uncle Ray. They were best friends, travel companions, and so very, very dear to me. My favorite memory of them, and there are many, is when my friends showed up to go to our high school graduation together, and they told me there was a couple stopped on the side of the road about a mile from our house, putting signs on their car. It was Aunt Wease and Uncle Ray—putting on “Tara is Tops” and other such made up stuff to celebrate with me. Such silly fun.

God blessed me with Aunt Wease, and Aunt Wease gave me three great gifts—
She loved me fiercely.
She adored and loved on my children and not only allowed, but encouraged them to do things I was never allowed to do in her beautiful home!
She raised my Mama with love and kindness to be a strong woman too. Her legacy lives on through us today. Love fiercely, travel with laughter, give great hugs, be strong, and always say goodbye with “Love ya, dear!”

Aunt Wease and my Mama.....love ya dears!

Aunt Wease and my Mama…..love ya dears!