oh September

time to bid you farewell
though it seems that you just walked across the grass wet with dew
a few short mornings ago
knocked on the door
satchel in tow, announcing your arrival

there you stood
dressed in your blue jumper
pants rolled up and barefooted from summer,
pockets filled with this and that
trinkets of days gone by
and as each day came you insisted
on sitting together, pulling them out
one by one,
rubbing each one over and over
in your weathered hands
with recognition and remembrance
until the sheen was nearly blinding

you have brought me some of my greatest treasures
and you have been the beginning of my saddest stories
you are like the evenings that come with you–
the impending darkness coming sooner and sooner
and the clouds above more ominous than before

the songs you sing make me smile
and fill my eyes with tears–
the little ones and old,
whose hands I held for the first time
and the last
will always come to mind when I see you
and I thank you for that

still I’m not entirely sad to see you go
what good would it do anyway?
time presses on, unbearably weighty
like the humid air you claim as your own,
sometimes making it hard to breathe,
and I have no choice to but to rise and welcome you,
sitting with you as you remember and remind me
and then just as we reach a companionable silence,
you leave

me alone

to face all the other days that follow,
days that insist on festivities, joy, and cheer

thank you for the grace you bring
this reprieve after the light, airy days of summer
demanding so little,
merely that I listen
and hear our stories
once again

tuck away your treasures
and mind you take care now,
mend that pocket so you don’t lose any of our precious memories

and don’t catch cold as you head out into the dark, damp night
there’s so much that can happen in a year
and I don’t think I can bear it all again without you

to the next chapter

A star in the dark is thy glorious past.....

A star in the dark is thy glorious past…..

 

her past is my past

we are all like threads interwoven into the story that is hers

each bringing our own color and beauty and gifts to the tapestry

of all that has gone before

 

we are us

the ones who came young and left younger,

not quite ready for what the world might hold

but eager to take that step and fly

only just realizing that to fly one must leave the nest and

forge ahead

 

tonight the star in the dark was shining brightly

as we returned to the nest,

the stories were told once again

with laughter and tears

and the hugs hello lasted so much longer than

those goodbye hugs of so many years ago

 

as I saw her smile

and heard her voice

I realized how much I had missed her

 

and that with her

the light was brighter

and the melody more beautiful

and my heart was full

 

I had forgotten what life was like

with her

and in the remembering,

the tears flowed

for the time apart

 

but as we listened and laughed and shared

with so many things that didn’t have to be said

because this one who knew me well

smiled

and I knew

our stories would always be bound

 

and we set out to write another chapter

together

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats

Today on our OutandAbouts, the littles and I were listening to 40’s radio.  Some of us more willingly than others.

Okay, it was me.  I am the one who LOVES 40’s music.  And if I’m driving your little wiggly selves here, there, and yonder for you to see a musical and have a picnic and play at the park, the least you can do is sit there and enjoy it, right?

Today as we were listening the song “Mairzy Doats” came on the air.  Have you heard this one before?

The main lyrics are:

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, Wouldn’t you?
If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”

And so on.

How cute is that?  I love this song.

So fun, a happy song that you can clap along to.

And then the year that it was recorded put all my mental toe-tapping to a screeching halt.

1944.

Do you realize what was going on in this country in 1944?

I’m not a great historical scholar, but I know that World War II for this country lasted from 1941-1945.

This happy, silly song landed on the scene smack dab in the middle of this hard time of rationing and sending our soldiers to war for long periods of time with no word as to how they were doing, if they were even alive.  There was no e-mailing or skyping.  The families back home sometimes just didn’t hear.

Let me reiterate–this was not a happy or silly time for our country and her people.

And yet–

the 40’s station is filled with songs like this one–songs that I simply cannot be sad or on my pity pot while listening to.

And many of them were on the air before the end of the war.

I can understand the light-heartedness of songs after the war ended, but as we listened today, after my I started paying attention to the years of the songs, I was amazed.

The spirit of the people during that era–

indomitable is the word that comes to mind.

They hadn’t buried their heads in the sand, dancing and singing, totally oblivious to what was going on.

No, they were quite aware.

And still they sang.

This is the generation of my Granny.  And my Great Aunt. Strong people who knew what had to be done and did it.  Who lived with the reality of war and death and fear each and every day.

I’m not sure I could have gotten up out of the bed every morning, y’all.

But not my Granny.  Not the men and women of the 1940’s.  They got it.  And still the band played on.

Giving them an outlet.  Something to smile about.  To take heart in.

And we take to our beds with season after season of our favorite shows on Netflix over the dog eating our shoes.  Or our favorite restaurant being closed on Sundays.   (both of these *ahem* may or may not have actually happened–not naming names, of course)

I’m not putting down my generation, because each generation has their own set of problems and challenges to face and overcome.

But those men and women of the 40’s–my hat is off to them. I love the spirit exuded in their music.  Much more so than the spirit of the music of some other decades I could mention but won’t.

Tonight I’m thankful for the people who stood strong in the midst of doubt and hardship and heartache.  They set the bar high for facing brokenness and still keeping one’s wits and spirits up.  I have the utmost respect for the composers, conductors, and performers of that decade.  They were serving their country in the best way they could with their gifts and talents and here, seventy years later, it has made a huge impact on me.  They didn’t give up.  They didn’t crawl in a hole and wait for the world to end.

Sort of puts all my “stuff” into perspective.

If you have a moment, listen to a song or two from the 40’s.  And remember.  And carry some of that indomitable spirit in your heart too.  We are standing on the shoulders of giants.  Who had great hearts and spirits, and whom we just might have inherited our own bit of indomitability from.

 

Love to all.

 

 

Just to get you started, here’s another favorite of mine.  (It’s pre-war. Sad to think that a long winter was coming for this country when this song was on the air.)

 

Jesus on the Roof

“There’s a house…..on that street over near the DQ on the way home, you know?  Well, they had Jesus up on the roof!  I could scarce believe my eyes…..up on the roof–JESUS!”

“Jesus on the roof, huh?  That’s different.”

“But it’s for Christmas!  I think it’s kind of cool…..definitely different.  He wasn’t all lit up when I passed by this morning, but early this evening, there he was, lights all shining!  I’m betting airplanes could see him from the sky!”

“Airplanes?  Must not have been baby Jesus–they had a grown-up Jesus, up on the roof?  For Christmas?”  The disbelief in the tone of the questions made me realize we weren’t on the same wavelength.  And I laughed.

“Nooooo.  Jesus is on the roof.  J. E. S. U. S.  In LIGHTS.  For all the world to see.  Isn’t that awesome?”

“Well, it’s definitely different…..”

A conversation that took place many years ago came to mind today as I traveled down an old road from the past.  As I turned beside the Dairy Queen, I remembered that house.  And those lights on the roof.  And I wondered if I would remember which house it had been that kept the lights up there all year long, but only turned them on around Christmas.

As I rounded the corner…..was it that one, no, the slant on the roof was wrong, it was just a little further, and then…..

there it was.

J. E. S. U. S.

J. E. S. U. S.

AND THERE JESUS WAS.

Still up there.

For the love.

The leaves from the fading trees helped outline the letters.  I could just make out the letters against the brown roof.

And I smiled SO big.

That right there brought me so much joy.

Something that hadn’t changed after all those many, many  years.

Years of heartbreak and pain and loss and tears and joys and love and light.

Something that hadn’t changed one little bit…..

and looka there–

it’s JESUS.

Still the same.

Right where he’s always been.

Up high for all to see.

Shedding light.

Tonight I’m thankful for the things and people who are constant in my life.  Changes are a part of life, but the people and places and Lights who don’t change bring me joy and peace and also bring back happy memories.

And Jesus on the roof?  I think that’s pretty awesome.  Someone showed a lot of love and skill and Christmas spirit about twenty years ago, and it is still bringing me joy.

May we all do something today that will bring joy to others for years to come…..

Love to all.

 

Parades, Tears, and Songs at the Sink

This morning the crew and I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.  As I finished prepping the food to take to Blackberry Flats where we would join Mess Cat, Leroy, Shaker, and some of Leroy’s family for dinner, I was able to watch the parade off and on, listening always.  Favorite performances found me pausing in my prep, with a dishtowel in my hands and a little flour on my “Gobble ’til you wobble” shirt.

Those Rockettes though.

Those are some seriously strong women.  I never cease to be amazed by their skill and synchronization.

And the musical performances–we really enjoy hearing the artists we know.  The bands, the floats, those balloons (I’m looking at you Snoopy), they all set the stage for fun and excitement and anticipation.

And so I wept.

Since we read Melissa Sweet’s book Balloons Over Broadway about Tony Sarg, the puppeteer who was tapped by Macy’s to put together the first parade in 1924 to lift the spirits of the folks who were missing the traditions of their homeland, the whole story has been on my heart.  I watched with new eyes today.  The joie de vivre, the spirit of the crowd–it was infectious.  And in my mind’s eye, I saw the people of the first few parades, mapping out what would become a part of our story.

All of us together.  Watching or walking or celebrating.  Together.

The book about Sarah Hale writing politicians and Presidents for 38 years in the effort to make Thanksgiving Day a national holiday has been on my mind too.  President Lincoln was the President who finally said yes, we need this, all of us together, and the holiday came into being.

Together.

People from all different backgrounds, celebrating with dancing and costumes–in the words of Shana Corey in Milly and the Macy’s Parade, “And that’s how Milly and Mr. Macy started a new holiday tradition.  It looked a little like the old country, a little like America, and a little like something entirely new.”

Yes.

A sharing of all that is in each of us.  To make something entirely new.

And quite awesomely wonderful.

Doggone that Macy’s parade.  Making me sloppy cry so early in the day.

Tonight I’m thankful for plentiful bounty.  Food, family, love, home.

I’m thankful that for the first time in six years family gathered together for this day in the kitchen of the house where we grew up, and once again, it was filled with laughter and the sounds of folks filling their bodies and souls with nourishment.  And I’m thankful for the sweet voice of one aged and wise, “That was the best meal I’ve ever eaten, and I’m not kidding.”  Bless her.  That made every. single. minute. on my feet and cooking absolutely worthwhile.  For the chance to wash dishes looking out the same kitchen window as I did all those years, I give thanks.  What once was a chore has become a privilege.  As I rinsed the plates, I thought about how Mama would say she loved to wash the dishes because the hot water eased the discomfort from the arthritis in her hands.  From that window, I watched the children playing outside, making memories where we who are supposedly grown once played.

Today was a little like it used to be, a little like it should be, and a little something entirely new.

And it was beautiful.

Just like that parade.

Yeah, I cried again.

In the end, I think the best stories our children will share will be how folks who were different and who carried with them different traditions and beliefs and raisings came together.   They will tell how folks built something from the old ways, something from the new ways, and made something brand new and entirely different and filled with love and respect.

And I think that is truly something to give thanks for.

Today at the sink in that rare quiet moment, this song started playing in my head.  Not a Christmas or Thanksgiving song, but a living life song.  “I Won’t Give Up” written by Jason Mraz and Michael Natter.  The words sing to me a love song about loving each other and not giving up for any reason, even if, especially if, we’re so very different.  And God knowing we’re worth it.

Yes.  I’m not giving up on this world or the people in it.  God knows we’re worth it.

When I look into your eyes
It’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise
Well, there’s so much they hold
And just like them old stars
I see that you’ve come so far
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?

Well, I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up

And when you’re needing your space
To do some navigating
I’ll be here patiently waiting
To see what you find

‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it
No, I won’t give up
I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got, yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not, and who I am
I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up, still looking up.Well, I won’t give up on us (no I’m not giving up)
God knows I’m tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)
We’ve got a lot to learn (we’re alive, we are loved)
God knows we’re worth it (and we’re worth it)I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up

–Jason Mraz and Michael Natter

We can do this.  Come together as a people, whole again, still honoring our stories and traditions from the past while respecting where we are now.  Together.

I won’t give up on us.  I’m still looking up.  And out a window.  Old.  And New.  Together.

Love to all.

Knowing Who Your People Are

Cooter and I were out and about on Tuesday afternoon, just the two of us.  It’s a rare occurrence that we’re alone together, and when it happens, he is full of stories and questions and thoughts to share.

Full.

I was driving from one place to another, and that precious voice I will never tire of (though he tests that sometimes) piped up from the very back of the vehicle.

“Mama, what are ancestors?”

“Folks who lived before us, whom we’re related to. Like grandparents and their grandparents…..and so on.”

“Folks who lived a long time ago?”

“Sure buddy, and not so long ago too.”

“Mama, is George Washington our ancestor?”

Oh bless him.

“No, bud, I’m sorry.  I don’t think he’s on our family tree.”

“What about Abraham Lincoln?”

“Nope, not that I know of.  Sorry again.”

He thought for a minute.

Then with a voice full of hope and awe, he asked, “Mama, what about George Lucas?”

Ah, he’s pulling out ALL of his heroes now.

After telling him I didn’t think George Lucas or Mark Hamill or no–sorry buddy–not Harrison Ford either were on our family tree, his interest waned like the sunlight across the sky.  As it grew darker and the street lights came on, he moved on to another topic–a battle story about the time that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had troops fighting each other.

And I think light sabers were involved.

I love my little guy, and I love that he’s already thinking about the folks from our past–where he comes from.  Knowing who your people are and where you come from helps you understand why certain parts of your story are so important.  Like why education is of the utmost importance as is truth-telling and taking care of others.  Especially in this family.

I’m also happy about his choice of heroes.  Even the whole George Lucas thing.  I get it.  You don’t get much cooler than the guy who created a whole storyline that reads like a history book and is apparently way more interesting.

Tonight I’m thankful for him remembering that there are folks who came before us, because one day it will be his job to tell his children and grandchildren about all of us who were here before them.  What we believed, what we laughed about, how we loved, and what we stood firm about…..and our hopes and dreams for the future.  It seems to me that a lot of mighty good things came from our ancestors who had hopes and dreams.  Like a new country and freedom for all, to name a couple.  Oh yeah, and “Luke, I am your father.”  That was pretty awesome too.

Wishing you all a moment to remember and honor those whose dreams and hopes you are standing on right now.

Love to all.

 

Just My Type

Today something lovely joined the area of my house that is fast becoming my haven, my spot, my place to be…..and nothing more.  I lie back there and daydream while watching the clouds float across the sky as if I don’t have anything at all to do.  I sit in the midst of things from “home” and I feel like I am home.  All.  Very.  Necessary.  Things.  Tanning my soul.

But I digress.

IMG_4737

I found this little treasure on a local yard sale site.   A very dear lady was selling this because she and her husband need to downsize.  I fell in love with her (the typewriter, and well, actually, her owner too) from the moment I first saw her picture.  She is a 1941 manual typewriter.  Can you imagine the stories she’s seen?  The ones she’s helped to write?  And the best news of all…..she still works.  I just have to change out her ribbon.

Well, the littles are thrilled to say the least.

When we were little, my parents had an old manual typewriter.  It was beautiful and awesome and had a lovely dusty blue case.  And they let us play with it.  We thought we had hit the jackpot.  We loved it.  You really had to pound the keys to make it type, as one does with manual typewriters.  It blew our minds that Mama had typed on it regularly.  That woman must have had almost as much strength in her fingers as she had in her spirit.

Years ago I had been reading “Wolves of Willoughby Chase” and its sequels by Joan Aiken.  I loved the story.  It has been a long, long time since I last read it, but I guess there is something in it that inspired us all (at my suggestion *ahem*) to play orphanage with all of our stuffed animals.  We created a roll sheet, typing each one’s name, one finger and letter at a time.  I can remember whole weekends when Mama and Daddy indulged us and let us take over the living room with our critters and our adventures.  The typewriter was used for everything from creating menus to listing rules of order.  We kept them all paper-clipped together quite efficiently.

I wish I were that organized as an adult.

I am thrilled about the addition to our family.  She has already begun the sharing of the stories, as I heard a few good ones as she was handed over from her former owner to me.  That was a delightful part of my day actually, meeting a new friend and hearing her stories.  She admitted that she has written more than one on this very typewriter.

I am humbled.  And inspired.

And while my stories might not get written on this lovely instrument, as she sits there watching me write, I know she has a high standard for me, and I intend to live up to it.  I shall do my best to think and remember and share great stories and edit and spell check and always, ALWAYS put two spaces after a period.  It’s just the right thing to do, you know?

She thinks so too.

 

May you find something today that brings you happy memories, and may you find yourself challenged to be the best you can be….

 

Love to all.

 

 

Hootenannies, Turkey Eggs, and Treasures from the Past

Today was our Annual Fall Family Hootenanny.  My Daddy’s side of the family has been doing this for many years.  In the spring we have an Easter Egg Hunt and Wiener Roast.  In the fall it’s soup and Brunswick stew and barbecue.  And desserts at both.  Lots of desserts.  Our people can straight cook, y’all.

I don’t remember how many years ago it was, but my Aunt Bea–my Aunt’s older sister–who hosts the fall gathering decided to add an egg hunt.  A turkey egg hunt.  Yes, it’s a real thing, people.  The eggs are bigger, and there are not as many, but turkeys lay eggs.  And we hide them.

It was a delicious day.  The weather was fall perfect.  In Georgia that means highs in the low 70’s–we started off in jackets and eventually shed ourselves of them.  There were all kinds of foods–the Brunswick stew and the soup were two of my favorites.  The broccoli salad was also delicious, and I think it was new this year.  (Never did find out who made it, but if you’re reading this and you did, can you please send me the recipe?)

The dessert table overflowed.  So many good things, that Cooter said never mind about the stuff in the kitchen, he’d just start with the dessert.  I know what he meant. There was a genuine fear of getting too full to be able to sample all the goodies.  What I love so much are the things that show up at every gathering.  Traditions.  Like the mint chocolate chip cookies, the muffins, the lemon lavender cookies, the rice krispie treats, and the beet chocolate cake.  Y’all have no idea.  When I found out my Baking Cousin was bringing the beet cake, I immediately started craving it.  And that slice I had today was very good.  So good that I’m going to have to pull out that recipe this week and a can of beets (sorry girl) and try my hand at it again.  That sweet girl also offered to make the rice krispie treats–those were Mama’s things and bless my Cousin’s heart.  She also made the lemon lavender cookies just because my Aub shared on her blog how much she loved them.  That’s love right there, y’all, and we have it full to bustin’.  And if you could have seen the youngest great-grand of my Granny’s running around with a mint chocolate chip cookie his Mama made, he was just too cute.  That chocolate around his mouth let you know how good it was.

The "Katie cabinet" from my Granny's--oh the memories of reaching in there and getting out the Honeycomb cereal!

The “Katie cabinet” from my Granny’s–oh the memories of reaching in there and getting out the Honeycomb cereal!

When I first went up to the house and walked in the kitchen, this surprised me.  Granted it’s been a while since I was at my Aunt Bea’s house, but it wasn’t there the last time I was.  I asked about it, and as she began to tell me about what she’d done, the color went from black to yellow in my mind and I was back in my Granny’s kitchen.  This was the cabinet that Granny kept the cereal in, inside of those big plastic cereal containers that you could pour from.  I seem to remember Honeycombs a lot, but maybe there were other ones too.  I loved the Honeycomb cereal at Granny’s.  Eating it from the glass bowls with the daisies around the border.  That was happiness in a nutshell back then my friends.  As she told me about painting it, my aunt mentioned that it had always been called the Katie cabinet because it had come from my Great Aunt Katie’s.  She’s the one who cut our hair when we were little.  How one piece of furniture can trigger so many memories and so much history, I don’t know, but it did.

After the meal had wrapped up and we were outside visiting and watching the young’uns run around and play, my Aunt Bea called me inside.  She stood close beside me in the kitchen and showed me a true treasure.

My Granny's recipes for Brunswick stew--the real one AND the fake one.....but both are real good!

My Granny’s recipes for Brunswick stew–the real one AND the fake one…..but both are real good!

The recipe for Brunswick Stew.  Handwritten by my Granny.  At the top was the original recipe.  It began with “1 hog head (clean)” and “4 feet (clean).”  I think I remember this being cooked way back when I was little, and that is why I wouldn’t eat Brunswick stew for many, many years.  But my Aunt Bea’s Brunswick stew recipe came from the one written below, also in Granny’s handwriting.  It’s labeled “good” but also “fake.”  That made me laugh.  Granny knew what was real and what wasn’t.  But she’s right about another thing–it is GOOD.  I wanted to eat some of my Aunt’s soup, which was really good, but I also wanted to have seconds of the Brunswick stew.  Decisions, decisions.  These recipes were hand-written in a cookbook that had been Granny’s.  That is a real treasure to see.  I am so thankful that my Aunt Bea shared that with me today.  I look forward to wandering through the cookbook again.

Yesterday was All Saint’s Day.  Last night at our supper table, we lit a candle to remember Mama and Daddy and so many more who aren’t with us physically anymore.  Today was about remembering in a different way.  It is a celebration of my Granny and all of our people who have passed every time we get together.  I love it because we laugh and share stories and spend time just listening and being together.  It makes me sad because of the ones who are no longer with us–Mama and Daddy among many others.  Too many others. I found myself standing back and just watching and listening and soaking it all in.  It’s all just to precious and dear.

On the ride home I figured out why I write.  Finally, right?  These are the stories I would share with Mama during our phone calls.  Or with Daddy as I sat with him in the living room, as he told me the goings on of folks as they drove past his window.  I miss sharing my stories with them.  Daddy loved hearing about the great grands’ antics and Mama loved getting hugs more than anything in this world.  They would have loved being there today.  My guess is they probably did.

When I tried the broccoli salad today, I could hear Mama asking me as she would, “Did you try this?  Isn’t it wondah-ful?”  And when my Uncle, Daddy’s older brother, spoke, his voice had the same intonations as my Daddy’s, and it broke my heart.  In a good way.  Sometimes our hearts need a crack or two so the light can get in there.  And mine has been in darkness for a long, long time.

These family friends I was with today have surrounded me in love for my whole life.  They are the ones who say my name better than anyone else in the world.  There’s no explaining how to pronounce it to them, nor is there any apologizing for why I am the way I am.  They just know.  And love.  Oh, how they love.

What a surprise it was to see the Katie cabinet and Granny’s recipe and remember the dear person who raised my Daddy and let me sit and talk with her for hours, the one who would ask me before I left her house, “Do you want a pie?” or “How ’bout a jar of pickled peaches?”  Then she’d go on the back porch and pull a sweet potato pie out of the freezer or a jar of pickled peaches off the shelf.  It was a joy to remember her today.

Tomorrow I will gather with another group of people who loved my Mama, as we light a candle and remember her.  It will be an honor to remember the dear, sweet woman who gave me life this very weekend all those many years ago (yes, she was already in labor on November 1–she let me know that OFTEN).  And isn’t it funny that it falls on the same day this year?  I can’t think of a better thing to do in celebration of all she and Daddy went through to get me here.  Take time to remember and maybe this time, I’ll say “thank you.”  Because I’m pretty sure that I didn’t tell her that. Ever.  When she’d tease me about a weekend of labor, I’d always say, “And wasn’t I worth every bit of it?”  And my Mama, being my dear sweet and sassy Mama, would say, “Well I reckon so.”  Then she’d peer over her glasses at me.  “Most days.”

There have been years I was all about the celebrating, but this year I think remembering will suit me just fine.  And the candles that are lit will linger a little longer before they are blown out. They will be for remembering this year.  Remembering all the lights in my life that were blown out way too soon.  I miss them all so much.

Love to all.

My Cocoa Apple Cake this year.....recipe from my Baking Cousin's Best Cookbook Ever.  Just out of the oven.

My Cocoa Apple Cake this year…..recipe from my Baking Cousin’s Best Cookbook Ever. Just out of the oven.