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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Moody and Me- No Ordinary TeePee

I opened the bedroom door to find that my three oldest grand children had taken the quilt and blanket off the bed and had it stretched out over the furniture. I said, "What in the WooRRRlllddd are you guys doing?" they answered, "We are building a fort Mama, come look". I get down on my hands and knees and peek through the small opening. They had all the pillows piled around, their army men and all of their 'weapons' laid out neat and tidy. The oldest one, Alison, says..."We can't get this side to stay closed"........ I smiled. "I'll be right back," I said. I went in the kitchen pulled out a drawer and grabbed a handful of clothes pins.... back to the bedroom and leaned down with a huge smile on my face and said... "I bet these would work"..........."AWESOME" they said, and nostalgia hit me hard......

1 Strong Clothes Line
+5 Quilts/Blankets (or 50 burlap sacks)
+100 Clothes Pins
= 1 Fine Tent

I am guessing that we, Moody and I, were about 11 or 12 years old. It was one of the many times that I was visiting with her for a week or so when we came up with the idea of how much fun it would be to 'camp out' in her back yard. You have to remember that this was back before the days of Walmart, Kmart, Target, TOYS R US etc. Back when life was simple, when kids made up their own games, and couldn't just run to a store and buy whatever they wanted....such as a tent. Back when parents never gave a second thought to letting their kids sleep outside on the ground in a home made tent. When kidnapping or child molestation was something you never heard of.

So Moody and I set out to build us a tent. My dear Aunt Bernice supplied us with everything necessary to put it together, even instructing us on how to lap the quilts over the clothesline and pin it together with clothespins. After a few times of it falling down on top of us, we finally perfected the construction of it and we could make it so tight that an ant could not have crawled in. We loved sleeping in our tent and for the next 5 years or so we spent very few 'summer' nights in her house. If we did, it was only because the weather wouldn't let us stay outside. We pretty much made that tent our summer home. It was the very first thing that we would do when I would get to her house. Grab the quilts, and build our tent.... The very last thing that we would do before I went home.....take the tent down and pile the quilts on the back porch.

I am thinking that my aunt might have got very tired of washing these quilts on a wringer washing machine and hanging them out on the clothesline to dry, just so that we could mess them up again in a week or so. Because this one summer she surprised us with the idea of making our own tent out of 'tow sacks'(burlap feed sacks). She took us out to the backyard and showed us how to unravel the chain stitch in order to lay the sacks out flat. We were given two very large darning needles, and a spool of twine thread..... I know that we had to have sewn at least 50 of these babies together.. the result was huge..and it took us all day to finish the project. But when we got done, we had ONE FINE TENT. We had all four walls and the floor in one big piece. We could just throw it over the clothesline and then clothespin up the sides.. A genius of an idea!! (I am quite sure that our Native ancestors would have been quite proud of us!!!) Now when it came time for me to go home, we would just fold the tent up, stuff it down into another tow sack, and hang it on a nail on the back porch... ready and waiting for the next visit.....

We would pile all of our possessions in our tent. Our purses, our barbie dolls, books, pillows, blankets even snack foods. Anything we thought we might need, would be in the tent with us. We would make cabinets and tables out of cardboard boxes... Yep, we had made ONE FINE TENT.

I can not begin to tell you how many times through the years I have reminisced over that tent. Attached to it are some of my most fondest childhood memories....It was our fort...our playhouse...our sanctuary...our summer home. The place where Moody and I would laugh and talk and stay up half of the night with only a flashlight, telling each other our deepest kept secrets. As I sit here writing this I can still smell the burlap sacks that enclosed us. The smell of the damp soybean field just 20 feet or so from where we lay. The grassy smell of the green carpet beneath us. A whiff of motor oil coming from my uncles garage...even the smell of the hogs down in the pasture back in the woods. I remember so distinctly laying there in the middle of the night smelling all of these smells mingled together.

I don't know if I ever told my dear aunt 'thank you' for putting up with me all of those summers as a kid. Don't know if I told her 'thank you' for helping us and showing us how to sew our tent. I hope that I did. I hope that she knew how much it all meant to me...

I can only pray that my grandchildren can make great memories together too, so that some day they too can look back and realize how bitter sweet it all was. Weather it be at their own houses or back yards or even if it is making a fort in Mama's bedroom floor........................Seems like only yesterday it was us... Moody and ME..........................................................

Friday, December 24, 2010

Moody and Me- California, Here We Come

I was in my own little 6 year old world, swinging, at my aunt and uncles house, when this chubby little blonde haired girl came up to me and said, "Hey! we are cousins." I had never seen this girl before in my life, that I could remember anyways, so I had to go ask my mom if this was true....with the little blonde following behind me. Sure enough, she was right and we were definitely cousins. She said to me, "My name is Moody, what's yours?" I replied with "Lainie" ( my nickname as a child, hailed from my middle name 'Elaine'.) She grabbed my hand and said "lets go play" friend for life!!!!!!

Moody and her family lived in Michigan at the time and had came home to our uncle's funeral, my dads' brother, her.. mothers' brother. I suppose that is why I didn't remember ever seeing her before since she lived so far away. A few weeks after the funeral her family moved back to Missouri and settled in a small town just 10 miles from where I lived, so our families visited quite often and Moody and I became the very best of friends. When we discovered that we were the same age, that just made our friendship stronger. After all she was only 6 weeks older than me. We went to different schools but every time we got a chance we would spend the night with each other. In the summer months we took turns spending weeks. She would come to my house for a week and I would go home with her for a week. This went on for the next 10 to 12 years.

There are several stories that involved the two of us that I plan on sharing......she was so very much a part of my childhood... We shared many many laughs together. When you are a kid seems like everything you say or do is funny. We don't get to see each other very often anymore, mostly at funerals .... I hope that she remembers those days together as fondly as I do....for they will always be in my heart. So come ride along with us as Moody and me journey to California!!!................


Moody had moved to a small farm outside of Advance. I loved going to her house..There was so many fun things to do there. I lived in town and so going to the farm was a real treat for me. She lived in a big old two story house and we would play upstairs for hours. She and her sister had bicycles,which I didn't have at home and although I didn't know how to ride one at first, (That will be another story) I finally did learn. She had real Barbie dolls, and a little toy piano, the best climbing tree in the whole world. Then there were the cars.....

Her dad was an auto mechanic and had lots of old cars parked everywhere.. I guess they had been wrecked or just needed repaired. Some of them he just used as 'parts'. So on the times when I got to go to her house for a few days we would plan our trip to California...She would grab a favorite doll or two and so would I, we would pack a little overnight case filled with our babies clothes and anything else we thought we might need on our trip and go out to the 'car lot' and pick out our favorite car. Sometimes we would drive separate cars, but most of the time we would ride together, and take turns driving. Our husbands would be with us of course, and this would be whoever we might have a crush on at the time. Subject to change at any given moment.

As I sit behind that stirring wheel and 'drive' us, we pretend that we see all sorts of things. We cross over the mountains and over long bridges, sometimes we change our minds mid trip and decide to go to New york, or drive to Hawaii or maybe England. We are in the middle of a storm so we have to turn the wipers on. We honk the horn ( which doesn't work) to just say 'Hi' to someone we pass, or to tell someone to get out of our way......Sometimes we would stop at a 'store' or 'restaurant' and have to go in and get a snack or something cold to drink.. we never tarried long, we would always be in a big hurry to get back on the road. We would see the sights of the whole world through the dirty, dust covered, broken windshields........there were times when my uncle would sell one of our favorites, and we would be sad as we would stand and watch someone hook on to it and pull it off. But we would just look around and pick out another one that we liked.

Yes, we traveled at least a million miles during those summer months, never leaving her back yard...For a couple years, that was our favorite thing to do, from daylight to dark, was ride and drive those old cars, to nowhere, and everywhere....

I have thought about those old cars often in my adult life and the fun that we had as kids. In our own innocent world, believing that we owned it. Young and carefree, pretending that we were all grown up and all the while not realizing that at the time we were making precious memories that we would be thinking about 50 years later.....

I never made it to California for real...don't know if she did or not...I hope so...Maybe I should put that on my bucket list...when I get around to making one. We never know what tomorrow brings, maybe someday......but I think I will fly when I do go..just so I don't get side tracked and end up in England or somewhere else...................................

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Dad..........March 2, 1911 - Dec.5th, 1974

December 7th, 2010

Today has been a sad day for me, as this calendar day has been for the last 36 years. Dec.7th, not only is it Pearl Harbor Day, but it marks the day that my dad was laid to rest, in a very small cemetery, on top of a hill, in the town where I grew up in. Near the place where he was born and raised his family. Seems impossible that it has been that long ago.

I was almost 21 years old. I had been married for nearly 3 years, and had a 10 month old baby girl. My life absolutely revolved around my husband and daughter. When looking back, I can't help but think how young and naive I truly was, and so very selfish. I did not realize the finality of death. That when one takes that last breath, it is over, the end of life as we know it, gone. I have so often wished that I had been older and more mature, before he passed from us. I wished that I had talked to him. I mean really talked to him. I wish that I would have known his thoughts and wishes. Where he was 'coming from'. I wish I had asked him more about his life as a young man. I wish that I had realized that mom needed help in caring for him. Many wishes, many thoughts, many regrets.

I always said that Raymond Finney was ONE STRANGE BIRD.  Don says that "'he was what he was." But truthfully, he had some very strange ways. For instance, he thought boys and girls lived by two totally separate set of rules. There are 5 of us kids. 3 girls and 2 boys. The boys were just expected to drink, smoke, cuss, and stay out late (after they got older of course.) I have heard him say more than once that, "boys will be boys." For us girls, it was a whole different story. I have to say that I had it better than my two older sisters, even though he still had some strict rules, lucky for me, times changed and so did he. He had a dress code that the older girls lived by, and wearing shorts was NOT in it. So playing sports in school was not an option for them. Fifteen years later when I was in high school he had mellowed out some and  I got to play volleyball, and I wore shorts. You could forget about being a cheerleader. His thought was "you are NOT going to get out there and turn flips for those boys and show your underwear." Period.

 He did not attend any of our weddings. He said that he had only been to one wedding in his life and that is all he intended on going to. When Don and I got married, he chose to sit over on the "liars bench" in front of the cafe/pool hall until the wedding was over . He did however come in time to share the wedding cake with us, and enjoyed being with all of the people. Again, One Strange Bird!!
He had many other ways and thoughts that at the time I just took for granted, but as an adult, I indeed think they were strange.

I can only speak for myself here....

I was almost like an only child. There are 8 years between me and my brother closest to me in age, so by the time I got to be 10 or 12 years old, the other 4 were married and having kids of their own. So a lot of time was spent with just dad, mom, and me in the house.  The sad part of that is that I feel like I never really knew him. To me he was an authoritative figure, that simply ruled the house, and I do mean ruled. Always telling me "you are not going there" or "you are not doing that" or "you are not running around with that girl" "you are not going out with that boy" etc. We never really had any conversations at all, and I remember thinking that my life would be so much better if he wasn't in it. Again, so young, naive, and selfish I was.

 I have often thought about Reba McEntyre's song, "The Greatest Man I Never New". Some of the song fits so perfectly with the way I felt during those young days.  I always new that dad loved us kids, even though he never said the words, at least not to me. There were never any "I love you's",  kisses, or hugs from him. He just didn't know how to show any affection or emotion. Although as I said previously, I knew that he did. Maybe this is why I always tell my girls that I love them when I am leaving them or hanging up the phone from talking with them... I want them to KNOW that I love them.  I never want them to doubt it or question it.

The letters...........

I suppose work was hard to find in the days before I was born, and afterward, because sometimes during the winter months dad would go to my uncle's houses in New York, or Florida, and work and send the money back home to mom. It was his way of keeping food on the table and trying to provide for us.....  After my mom passed away I was going through an old suitcase filled with some old memorabilia of their lives together and I found some old letters that dad had written to her while on these work trips. Which shocked me to the core.  First of all, I really didn't think dad could read or write much, other than to write his name. He always had mom do that kind of stuff. I was mystified to see he could actually write pretty intelligently.

As I held these letters in my hand and read the words for the first time in my life, tears flowed down my cheeks. It was so sad that 30 plus years after he was dead and gone, I saw a glimpse of a man I never knew existed.  He spoke of how much he missed mom and us kids. He would say things like "Now you have the boys help you get the wood in" one point I guess one of my sisters was gone with someone for a few days because one letter said something like..."I want Gerry home as soon as possible, I don't like her being away from home, " With the later letters he would always end it by saying.."Give that little ole baby girl a kiss for me"...Which meant me....As I sat there reading these letters I literally saw a side of him that I had never seen in the 21 years that I knew him, and it tore me up inside. I will cherish those letters until the day I am laid to rest.

Dad found out he had lung cancer on Sept 5th, 1974. He lived exactly 4 months to the day from when he found out. After he got sick, he became a Christian, and got baptized. He laid on his death bed with his arms straight up in the air. Praying. He told someone that he wasn't afraid to die, he knew he was going to a better place. The only thing that bothered him was that he didn't want to leave his kids and grand kids in this world, the way that it was. Wonder what he would think if he could see it now!!

So, this is the story. I know that it may seem like a sad story to some, and maybe it is. I harbor no ill feelings toward him at all, for as Don said "He was what he was". I know that he loved us, he just wasn't good with words. Sometimes, I find myself in that same situation. I am just not good with words, but I love deeply and wholeheartedly. I look forward to someday being able to sit down with him and 'really' talk to him. There is so much I want to say and so many questions I want to ask... Until then, every once in a while, I will dig out the old letters and read the scribbled words, and ponder the bitter sweetness of knowing that even
even though he never spoke the words out loud to us, that down deep in his heart... He loved us all......................

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"SHUT UP BABY, I'M TRYING TO SANG" title taken from Ray Stevens- Gitarzan

I know that I have said this before, but I will tell you again that the older I get, the more nostalgic I become. I don't know if it is the fact of knowing that I am no doubt NOT going to live as long as I have already, or just the all consuming wish that I could go back to being young again just so that I could live it one more time. Never-the-less, this morning I found myself back there again, another time, another place in my life, where everything was simple, and it didn't take much to be entertained.

I have this part time job of cleaning the offices where I work. I usually do this early on Saturday morning.  So, here I was early this morning, before dawn, cleaning. There is a radio in the break room, so I thought, "what the heck". When I first turned it on, there was this 'rap' music on, which I don't particularly care for. So, I just hit the scan button and then......OH MY GOODNESS!!! what came on, you will never guess! What a Blessing this was! It was a gospel station and evidently on Saturday mornings they play nothing but Southern Gospel! YES! (You don't hear much of that here in the city) They were playing some very good oldie, but goodies..... I was ecstatic..... blaring from the box was the old quartet, The Inspirations, and they were singing "Touring that City"........well, you know me.. here I went back in time.....................

It was the year of about 1975-ish and Don and I was going to the Assembly of God Church on a regular basis. The pastor there, Bro. Sidney Razor, always played the guitar and sang in church with his wife. Don was so fascinated by this. I don't think he had ever seen anyone play the guitar in church before, at least not much. He announced to me one day that he had decided that he wanted to learn to play the guitar too! He had gotten a real desire to want to  play in church like Bro Razor. Knowing that he was serious about learning, I had a brilliant idea! Since it was close to Christmas..I would buy him a guitar for his gift.This was going to be so good! So a few months later, here I go to the music store!  Well...... I had no idea that guitars were so expensive!  Right away I knew that my $50.00 wasn't going to buy anything but a string or two! I was beyond shocked.  So, I went back home with a broken heart for thinking he would not be getting his guitar for Christmas that year..... He did get one however, but he had to go pick it out himself and use what little money we had saved to pay for it. After a couple months of being woke up at 2:00 a.m. to the tunes of  'Clementine' and 'Long, Long, Ago', and 'She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain', I was wishing that I had never laid my eyes on stupid guitar.... SERIOUSLY?

Our good friend, Billie, was going to church with us about this same era in time that Don was learning to play his guitar. She decided that if Don could learn how to play one then so could she. I can not explain to you the hilarity of these two trying to learn to play together. Fingers so sore they would nearly bleed, aggravation would be an understatement, and a whole lot of frustration! But however, I have to give credit where credit is due, they both persevered until they actually got to the place that they could play very well. They finally became good enough to change the chords easily enough and we all started singing to the tune. Before we knew it........we were headed for the big times. (Yeah right)  We then discovered that my sister in law, Dorothy, wasn't a bad singer either, so..... Well, we decided that we would just make us up a quartet!  We sang and sang and practiced many many hours until we got pretty good, so WE thought!

Somehow the word got out in the area that we were 'singers' and so we were invited down to this local church to sing at one of their special services. Neither Don nor Billie were confident enough yet with their playing to bring their guitars out in front of a crowd of people, so we asked Bro Razor to help us out along with another preacher friend that we knew... aka...Jerry Coleman... Oh, yes, and nothing do, but we had to have dresses alike. ALL of the gospel singers in those days dressed alike or at least their clothing matched, and we HAD to look the part! So I volunteered to take on the job of making us the dresses. Looking back, they were the most hideous looking things I have ever seen. You know how in the movie 'Gone With The Wind' Scarlet yanks the curtains down off of the windows and makes herself a dress out of it????? Well, let me tell you, Katy Scarlett O'Hara had nothing over on us! Our dresses were floor length, bright yellow with BIG BLUE flowers all over and a big tie bow in the back....Don in his light blue leisure suit, we girls in our big blue flower dresses, Yep, WE LOOKED GOOD!!!  Don't remember the song we tried to sing, although I am sure that one of the other three could probably tell you, but needless to say... it was a disaster! Bro Razor, and Bro Jerry's guitars weren't tuned together. I ask you, have you ever tried to sing when the music was out of tune? IT AIN"T PRETTY! We couldn't even get started on our song..Our guitar players weren't together with each other, and neither one of them was in tune with us.... We finally just all gave up, the guitars stopped playing and we sang the song acappella. No telling how many shades of red our faces turned before that fiasco was over with. (Thinking I'm embarrassed just telling the story!) We swore we would never sing in public again.

Looking back on it, it is one of the most memorable times in my life. Yes, we did sing again many many times after that... They both learned to play guitar very well and we spent many, many nights, sitting up late, singing songs that were popular at the time. We would sing songs out of the old church hymn books, we found ourselves writing a few songs and singing those too, and then songs like " Touring that City".

Yes, I miss those days, I miss the pure innocence of those days... I miss my kids being small and falling asleep in the floor, while we four sang our hearts out. I miss the laughter, of... "I can't reach that key," and  "lets just skip that E chord",  and "Why can't I do that?"

As I cleaned the break room and these old gospel classics were being played on the radio, I thought to myself, "How did I get here? What happened to me? Where did I go?" and "Where did we go?" "Where did time go?" That was only yesterday........................

This story was written a few years ago. Yesterday morning we received news that our dear friend, our partner, our confidant, our alto singer, closed her eyes for the last time here on this earth.  She is no doubt in that place that we so often sang about, the one she wrote about, in that Land of Sweet Retreat....Here is a song written sometime in the late 1970's by none other than Billie Day Lee...entitled..."Land of Sweet Retreat"

I'm traveling through this troublesome world,
singing as I go
Something's about to happen,
I can feel it in my soul.
According to the scriptures,
a rapture there will be.
I'm crossing over Jordan,
to a Land of Sweet Retreat.

I'll be crossing any day now,
my redemption's drawing nigh
I'll keep my eyes upon the Lord,
toward the eastern sky.
For that sky is gonna burst wide open,
and all the glory there will be ,
beyond the clouds of Heaven,
to a Land of Sweet Retreat.

I'm going to be walking those green pastures,
and trodding those streets of gold,
Join with all the other saints,
marching around God's throne.
I'll smile the sweetest smile,
and live in perfect peace,
I'm crossing over Jordan,
to the Land of Sweet Retreat......

Yes, I'm crossing over Jordan
to that Land of Sweet Retreat....Sweet Retreat!!!!!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Goob Gets New Teeth!!

This story is one that I have pondered over in my mind for a couple of months now. I believe that it is one of those stories that possibly you would just had to have been there to get the real hilarity of it. I will try my best to do justice to the incident. As in most of my stories thus for, I have to tell a story or two in order to get down to the story that I actually want to tell, so please be patient in your reading, there is a story here....

Anyone near or around Bell City and knew my dad, knows that he liked his drink. Beer was his drink of choice, although he did usually keep a pint of peach brandy in his top dresser drawer (and that will be another story some day).

I wouldn't go as for as to say he was an alcoholic, he was a road grader man for the township and worked every day that the weather permitted, but about every couple of weeks he would get up on Saturday morning and go get a 'hair cut'. Which in short meant that he was going to Vanduser or Hilltop or to 'the beer joint' as mom used to call it.

He would usually stay all day and when he came home late in the evening he would be rather 'soused'. He never was mean to us kids or mom when he drank, rather the contrary. When I was sixteen and just got my drivers licence, I would wake up on Saturday morning and pray that dad would go drinking, because when he came home he would pitch me the car keys and $10.00 or $20.00. I have felt very guilty over the years when I remember this, not so much at taking the car as much as taking the money, I know that mom probably cringed when I would grab the money and run, because looking back, I know that it was money that they desperately needed.

Now, when dad would go spend all day we all knew what was coming when he arrived home. Mom was waiting on him! He would sit down at the kitchen table and drink his coffee, and mom would fuss, and fuss, and fuss at him. Mostly because he had spent money that we needed. He would just sit there, and listen, and not say anything at all back to her. After a while of drinking coffee and listening. he would all of a sudden just get up and say 'I have heard about all of this I want to hear' and go to bed. That would make mom madder than ever. I think if she could have gotten a gun she probably would have shot him right there.

Now this one particular Saturday, dad got up and made the announcement that it was time to get his hair cut..... yep, he was going to the tavern. He of course stayed all day and when he came home late that afternoon, low and behold he 'tried' to announce to all of us that he had came upon some new teeth. He and mom had both had their teeth pulled a few years before, and they always said that they were going to get them some false teeth whenever they could. But when he came home he had this pair of false teeth that was way to big for his mouth, and every time he tried to talk, these teeth would go side ways, and nearly fall out. I thought I was going to die I was laughing so hard at him. When asked where in the world he got these teeth he proudly announced that 'Hank let him try them to see if he liked them'. OH YES!! he had someone else's teeth in his mouth!!! Mom was furious with him for being gone all day anyway, much less coming home with someone else's teeth. She would fuss at him a minute or so and then turn her back and laugh, fuss a little, laugh a little. Every time he opened his mouth these teeth would nearly fall out. He would say 'damn things won't stay in'. OH MY GOD, I was nearly on the floor laughing so hard at him. The story has been told, that the next day he got up early and went up to the 'pool hall' to have his morning coffee, as was his habit as long as I can remember. Hank comes in the cafe and sits down by him on a stool. Hank says, "damm,Goob! I don't know what happened yesterday, but I lost my false teeth." Dad starts laughing and reaches in his shirt pocket and says "well Hank, I think I found them."

Needless to say these two friends never lived this story down as long as they both lived. Dad left this world in 1974 still toothless. Before he died, he made his peace with the Lord, and even after the Dr.s told him that it would help his kidneys if he would drink a beer a day, he would not touch one. I remember thinking, how ironic, he has drank his whole life, and now that he is on his death bed and it might actually help him, he would not have any part of it. Hank, or Henry, used to come in the cafe when Don and I owned it in the 90's and he still would laugh about the day when he and dad shared a pair of false teeth. Henry has been gone several years too.

Although, I think this sharing of the teeth was about the most gross thing I have ever witnessed, it was also the most hilarious moment of my childhood. I think about it quite often when I think about my dad. I will always remember that proud look on his face as he showed us his new teeth and also the despair on my mom's face. As mad as she was at him she couldn't keep a straight face either...........

As I said at the beginning of the story, I am sure the total hilarity can not be written down on paper, I am positive that you had to witness the sight in order to really appreciate it. It is a sight that I will never, ever forget........

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


You know how it feels when you are so thirsty for a cold drink of water? Nothing else but water? No soda, no juice, just plain cold water. I found myself with this kind of thirst today at work. I don't know what brings on a thirst like this. Dehydration? Eating something salty? Or just the 85 degree weather that we have had the last couple of days. Never the less, I made my thirst known to my co workers. I noticed that one of the girls, 'Lora' left out of the room for a minute and when she came back in, she had this huge jug of ice cold water with her. She had filled it up that morning and put it in the refrigerator. She brought it in and flopped it down in front of me. AAAAHHHHH!!!! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!! I picked the jug up and drank directly from the mouth of it. So very cold, and oh soooo good. The water trickled out of the side of my mouth and down my chin and dripped on the table. I was immediately taken back in time, to another way of life, a very young age..........

My mother had several of glass gallon jugs that had these silvery looking screw on lids. I would call these jugs multi=purpose, for they were used for everything around the house. In the summer months she would make a gallon of tea every day in one of these jugs. Not this instant stir with a spoon stuff. She had this little metal tea bag that she would fill with loose tea, boil it in a pan of water on the stove top, then pour that in the gallon jug with a half a bag of sugar (joking) and then fill it up with water. The first thing that my dad would ask for when he got home from work on those hot sweltering summer days, was a glass of ice tea. By the time supper was over and time for bed the gallon of tea would be about gone, so the next day she would get up and make another gallon.

These jugs also had domestic uses too. I remember that she had one that was filled with buttons. Every kind of button you could think of. See, back in those hard times, you didn't throw things like buttons away. When a piece of clothing was totally outgrown by all the kids, and was no longer mendable, mom would cut the buttons off of the garment and rip out the zipper, if it had one. These were precious items that could be reused many times o'er. She would throw all of these buttons in a jug, when a button was needed for a shirt or dress, then WA-LAH!! She had just the button to fit the hole.

Another use for these jugs was to store garden seed. I remember packs or envelopes of tiny little seeds that she had savored from the plants themselves I suppose. I know that she bought some seeds from the local hardware store too. She would have this gallon jug of seeds sitting in a corner of the kitchen waiting until spring and time to put them in the ground. Seems like there was always a jug of seeds sitting there summer and winter.

The memory that my cold drink of water triggered the most though takes me back to when I was about 4 or 5 years old. This would be somewhere around 1957-1958'ish. From then, and until I was in about the 3rd grade or so, school was closed every fall for a few weeks for 'cotton picking vacation'. (The younger ones that read this will think this is crazy, but the people my age and older will totally relate.) This was a time before the modern machinery of cotton pickers and combines or whatever these farmers use these days. The cotton that was picked back then was done with 2 arms and 10 fingers. You had to pull a sack that was 6 to 8 feet long. It had a strap that draped over one shoulder and you pulled it behind you as you actually picked cotton off the stalk and threw it in the sack. It was just a given that most kids helped their parents work in the fields during this time. I remember that you got paid by the pound. However many pound of cotton that you picked in a days time you got so much money at the end of the day. Not only was this money used by the kids to buy school clothes and supplies, lots of times it was used to put food on the table and to stock up on dry good items, i.e. sugar, flour, lard, for the winter months. You could drive by a field of cotton and see maybe 20 or 30 people working in the field.

Now I got really lucky here. I was the 'baby' of the family and so I didn't see a whole lot of these cotton picking days like my older brothers and sisters did. I mostly remember laying on my mom's sack with my baby doll, after she got it about half full, and having her drag me down the field one little drag at a time, like I was the Queen of Sheeba or something. Every once in a while I would rise from my throne and pick a couple of 'wads' of cotton and throw them in her sack. Sometimes I would take a nap while the others worked. My main interest was what was waiting at the end of the cotton row. And yes, you guessed it. It was the gallon jug of water. Mom would always pre-plan what row of cotton that we were going to be in on the way back. You see, when picking cotton, you go down one row, all the way to the end, and sometimes that could be a quarter of a mile or so, and then back up another row before you ever got to that blessed drink of water. Mom would put that jug of water under neath a big leafy cotton stalk to keep the sun off of it. That would keep it as cool as was possible on a warm day without ice. When we would reach the end that held that water jug, we would all run and line up to get our drink. Who cared about being sanitary, just give me a drink. Water would run out of our mouths, down our chins, down our elbows and a dirty little splat of mud would hit the ground. Sometimes the boys would get in trouble for 'wasting' the water, because who could have a whole big jug of water in their hands on a very warm fall day without a little bit of a water fight. Of course, mom knew if the water ran out before the day ended then we were in trouble. Funny that thought never crossed our minds!! At the end of the day when the 'weighing' was done, all of the cotton sacks rolled up, and our lunch box all gathered, mom would say ' one of you kids get the water jug'. Most of the time it was an argument over who was going to carry it to the car.

Now, I am not saying that I miss those times in life, although they do make for good memories. I am thankful that life is much easier now. I wish that I had one of mom's old gallon jugs,I don't know what ever happened to them. Maybe they got broken through the years. Maybe she gave them away. If I had one maybe I would make tea in it. Maybe I would have a button collection. Maybe I would just have me a nice cold drink of water from it. But I am thinking that it doesn't really matter, that when you are hot and tired and you have an unquenchable thirst, whether it comes from a bottle from a grocery store, a faucet from a sink, or an old gallon jug, its the cool clear refreshing drink of only the water itself that satisfies the thirst......

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Something about Spring just lifts ones spirits. When the temperature starts to rise and the sun is shining, the first thing that I want to do is clean house. Open those doors and windows and let the breeze blow away the winter smog, so to speak. Get out that old feather duster, and the pledge and start to work. That is where I found myself a few days ago. The temp was quite nice outside close to 70 degrees, and since Spring fever usually hits me pretty hard just about this same time every year, I was ready to begin my spring cleaning.

One of my favorite things, when I clean house is to move furniture. So, you never know when you walk in my front door which direction you are going to be facing on that day. I rearranged the living room a couple of times until I got things just the way I wanted it. When I was finally done with the furniture, then I started on the accessories. All went well, until I got down to Sally. I could not find the right spot for her. She just didn't look right no matter where I put her and I tried every available empty spot in my living room. I knew that she needed some sun and I knew that the most logical place was in front of the big window. Plus, a nice warm spring breeze would do wonders for her, I was sure. For you see Sally is a house plant. Some kind of Ivy vine that I am quite attached to. After much deliberation, a good drink of water, and some tweaking of brown leaves, I finally found Sally a spot in front of the sliding glass door in our living room. She looks really happy there.

Why would you name a plant? you asked?... Well, you see, I have to go to another story in order to tell this one. So here we go..........

My mothers name was Pauline, all of us kids and grand kids called her 'granny' after she got up in her older years. She ended up being 'granny' to the whole town I think. But I can remember growing up and being a kid, I thought her name was Sally. I can still here my dad yelling from the front porch "Sally would you bring me a glass of tea". Or he would say "Sally you better get these knick-knacks put up high before the grand kids get here, I'm not gonna listen to you yelling at the grand kids if they get broke". So, being a kid myself I just thought her name was Sally. Now granted, after I got older, I realize that 'Sally' was just a nick name that my dad had chosen for her, but by then it just kind of 'stuck'. So, as the years went by, if we didn't call her 'granny' then we called her 'Sally'.

Sally was like a precious green gem. She was strong, endured a lot of storms through her long life. She went through some droughts in life I am sure. When the winter would hit us hard, she would brace herself against the cold and try to keep us all warm and fed. By the time the cold months were over she would be withered and tired looking, but when spring came she would flourish with new life, plant her garden, and home can any fruit or vegetable that she could 'will ' to come up out of the ground. By summers end she would have hundreds of mason jars filled to the brim with the results of her hard labor. She would mend our clothes, the old winter quilts, and our socks. If there was a need for her to work in the fields, then she would fit that in with her daily tasks also. Yes, she was a gem.

So, I found it only appropriate to name my ivy vine after her, for my sweet ivy vine has endured some hardships also in her short life. In July of 2005, Don and my house caught fire, and we lost a lot of precious belongings that will and can never be replaced. The house didn't burn all the way down but the inside was gutted really bad and was totalled by the insurance company. A few days later, we went back in to access the damage and salvage what we could. While fumbling through the nasty black char and rubble I stumbled back to the bedroom, and there turned upside down in the middle of the floor was my favorite house plant. The pot was cracked, and the paint was bubbled up from the heat of the fire, and dirt was all over the floor, and even though it looked a little bewildered and pale it was still green and trying its best to keep on living. I picked it up and held it in my hand and promised it that I would keep it forever. This particular plant was always special to me. Some kind soul had bought this nice Ivy vine and sent it to my mom's funeral. After the funeral all of us kids picked out the ones we wanted and so I picked out this one. Ever since the day I found it almost at deaths door, right there in that charred, blackened bedroom I knew that no other name would suit her but Sally. When the weather gets a little warmer out, I will buy my Sally a new and bigger pot to live in so she can continue to grow and flourish. She is strong like her name sake. She endured the hardship of life, and even though she has moved and had several different homes since her near death experience, she has survived. I have to say that she now looks very hardy and healthy. I really don't know how long house plants can live, but when she gets to the point that she looks like she is ready to give up on life, I am going to clip a piece of her off and put it in water and start a whole new generation of little grand children vines for my Sally. Hopefully, there will be a part of Sally around for years to come. I am confident that she or a part of her will live a long, healthy life and flourish and give a bit of happiness, if, to no one but me, for she will always be my Sally, or at least my Sally's grandchildren....................

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rolling on the Floor

Since Cardinal Baseball is almost upon us again, I thought that I would share my very most favorite Cardinal story with you.

Being from the small town that I grew up in and lived for 40 plus years, I never witnessed the electricity of living in a baseball town until we moved to the St. Louis area. Oh, there were always baseball fans and every once in a while, in the cafe there would be a minor disagreement on who was the best pitcher or hitter. There was always a game board made up during the world series, where you could buy a square for a dollar or so and pick the winning numbers. I even won it one time. I just happened to pick the right numbers, and at the time thought that it was a pretty easy $100.00. I myself, really don't care one way or the other. I suppose of all the professional sports out there, baseball would be the one I would have to choose, so I choose the Cardinals. But actually, the Cardinals have always been a part of my life.

My Cardinal baseball experiences started when I was a kid. I remember going to bed at night with the radio blaring!! Dad had that old box radio sitting close to his bed and turned up as loud as it would go. I would hear names like Bob Gibson, Ken Boyer..... and of course Harry Karry(sp)? Ever once in a while, he and mom would yell out something like "go, go, go" or may even an "ugly" word. Listening to the radio in the summer months was just life around our house.

I think I was somewhere around 10 or 11 years old in 1964 when the Cardinals went to the world series. I don't really know why I was not in school on this particular day, being that the world series always takes place in the fall of the year, but for some reason I was home with mom. During this time we were lucky enough to have an old television. Such a rare thing for us to have one, matter of fact I can remember NOT having one much more than I can remember having one. Now, being a kid at the time, I can't remember all the details that led up to this game, but I am thinking that the Cardinals were playing the Yankees. I am not sure, so forgive me if I am wrong here. Being the absolute Cardinal fan that mom was, she insisted that we watch the last game of the series on this old half worn on t.v.

Now you have to get a mental picture going. Women back in the 1960's wore dresses all the time. You never saw a woman in jeans or long pants unless they were headed out to the barn, or to a cotton field. Along with the dress comes the underskirt that goes underneath, better know as a 'slip.' The slip usually had (and still does) some kind of lace or ribbon on the bottom of it.

Well, here we were, mom and me, with me laying on the couch and her pacing the floor glued to the snowy, fuzzy, gray screen of the t.v. . Things must have not been going the way she wanted it to in the game, for every once in a while she would yell out something or other. I wasn't really paying a whole lot of attention to her until all of a sudden she let out a scream like a Banji Indian, and started jumping up and down, up and down, up and down and  twirling around. Scared me to death.  I finally realized that her 'team' had just won the World Series!  Weeeelllllllll, during all of this excitement and her jumping and twirling, the heel of her shoe got caught in the lace on her slip. She ripped that baby down her legs and unto the floor. Still jumping up and down.and twirling.. her feet got tangled in the wad of underskirt now laying on the floor, torn in shreds, and the next thing I know ... "BAM" she hits the floor. By this time, I was FALLING off the couch laughing. That had to be the funniest thing on God's green earth that I had ever seen. By now, she, being ecstatic over the Cardinals winning the series, realized what had just happened and she just laid there rolling around on the floor laughing We both laughed until we were in tears. When she finally calmed down enough to pick that underskirt up, we started laughing all over again. As much as she always mended and patched everything we wore, there was no 'fixing' that slip. She had done one fine number on it. She just took it and threw it in the trash.
As the years went by she and I had many laughs over her tearing her slip off of herself over the Cardinal ballgame. Not realizing it at the time, it made one of the most fondest memories that I have of her. She has been gone now for over 6 years. But I can still see that laugh on her face. It is burned in my heart and will forever stay there. And I know that if she were alive today, that anytime we thought of a Cardinal baseball game we would remember the day that we both were literally ROLLING ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING.....................

Saturday, February 27, 2010

I Remember the Day I Was Born!!!

Well, that title got your attention didn't it?

It was a very cold, blustery December night way back in 1953. The old house we lived in was not what one would call 'energy efficient' by today's standards. I have been told there were cracks in the walls and a few holes in the floor. Wood was piled high by the front door, and the old stove crackled, sparked, and was red from the heat. Dad, mom, and their four children were huddled around it trying to stay as warm as possible. As those home fires were burning high, you would know, that I would choose the coldest, nastiest  day of the year to make my presence known. Nervous, anxious anticipation, and yes, even fear were just a few of the emotions that were running rapid in that little country shack as time was drawing near.

Dad threw his coat on and hurried out to warm the old car, but of course this would be the day when it would not start. Christmas Eve, no less, just when I was giving my mother so much pain and agony. The time had come, I was ready to get on with life, so there was nothing else that could be done but for dad to run up the old dirt road to see if the neighbor could take mom to the clinic in Advance Missouri, or to see if he could borrow their car. Either way, he finally did get her to the clinic in time.

My brother next to me, AKA 'Pete" was 8 years old when I decided to come into this world and being the baby for 8 years and then being booted, just doesn't set to well. He was not at all pleased to have a baby in the family, especially if said baby was a girl.  A few hours later when mom arrived home, and I was proudly presented to my new family, wrapped, red, and rosy cheeked,  the first words out of Pete's mouth was, and I quote "Let's just take her to the pond and drowned her".  Needless to say, jealousy to the max had just set in.  We all know that if those words were to be spoken in this day, he surely would be taken off to juvy hall or somewhere that the experts could watch him and diagnose him with anger issues.

I guess looking back on the situation, I didn't choose the most opportune time to make my arrival.  It was Christmas Eve, after all,  but I thought I would make a grand Christmas present! The other kids, however, just really didn't think so. Matter of fact, I don't think they were too impressed with me at all. This little fat bouncing ball of joy! I mean heck, I couldn't ride a bike or play ball, or anything. All I could do was eat, sleep, and well you the fact that I was the only present they got that year other than a couple bags of candy that was brought to them by a local church . (Or so I have heard "stupid candy".)  I've been told that mom was so busy making my gowns, bibs, and booties that she didn't have time nor money to even make the other kids any hand made items. So there is no wonder they were not happy to see me..... But at least I wasn't naked!!!

Now you are asking how I remember all this so vividly since I was just an infant. But the story is so real to me, for you see, every year at Christmas, when it is my birthday, my brothers especially, do not cease to remind me that I was the only thing they got for Christmas that year. Yes, I have heard this same story for 63 years, same ole same ole, so after many times of hearing it, I just know that I remember it all happening. I think over the years they have decided to accept the fact that what is done is done, and  I am here to stay. But I also know that deep down in their hearts they wouldn't have it any other way. I was truly the baby of the family and they all let me know it. If I could go back in time, I might try and choose a different day to be born, because looking through the eyes of a child, I am sure they thought they had been cheated out of a present.  After all "what" are you going to do with a real live baby girl??? (joking of course, I realize I had no control over my birth day.)

Now we are all grown with kids and grand kids of our own. I know that we all enjoy watching our families open their gifts, but every Christmas that comes is a vibrant memory of a day gone by. When times were back breakingly hard, meager, yet simple. Where the only excitement on a cold Christmas day was hearing the cries of a newborn baby. Yet in the midst of it all they survived. We survived, and it brought all of us to where we are today.

I do believe as long as my brothers and sisters are living that I will always remind them of those hard times, especially at Christmas. Hopefully there is a fond memory or two mixed in somewhere. I know for certain that for years to come they will still remind me every year of the Christmas when me and a bag of candy was all they got. This I know for sure also,  that if God chooses to leave me here when they are all gone I will forever and lovingly remember 'The Day I Was Born'.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oh Beautiful Star . . . Shine On

This past Thanksgiving weekend, my husband and I went back to Southeast Missouri to visit family for a few days. We left on Thanksgiving afternoon, stayed for 3 days, coming back home on Sunday. Got up Friday morning and made our 'rounds'. Went to Dexter first to take a look at our house and see what kind of shape it was in and went to the little cafe there. Saw a few good friends that I hadn't seen in a while. Leaving Dexter, we then went to my brother's house in Bloomfield and visited for a few hours and ended up going on to our old home town of Bell City. Very 'large' community of about 400 people. Visited with my brother and x sister=in-law, and by the time we left it was already getting dusky dark. As we were getting ready to leave, walking out to the truck, my eye caught a glimpse of something bright and shiny up in the northern sky. It couldn't be...... but yes, it was. There on the top of what is known as 'Tyree Brown's Hill' was the Christmas Star. My heart fluttered. So many memories attached to that star. I remember as a child when you saw that star shining you knew that Christmas was near. Excitement would began to fill the air in that small town. Tyree's dad always put the star up the day after Thanksgiving. And didn't take it down till around the middle of January. I think later in years, Tyree himself but the star up. I am supposing that now Tyree's son or grand son puts it up..... who knows.

As a kid, we lived at the foot of that hill, in an old shackled brown sided house. My bedroom faced the hill with a window looking out. I would lay there in my bed with covers piled on so deep I could hardly move, and would go to sleep wishing on that star. So many things that I wished for, a real barbie doll, (which I never got) a shiny new bicycle (which I never got) lots of pretty clothes and shoes, and the list goes on and on.

Christmas for our family was always very sparse. We usually got 'a' present, but that was about it. Most of the time that would be something in the clothing line that we really needed... but I always knew that Christmas meant fun and family. I had one uncle that lived in New York and one that lived in Chicago. They always came to my Granny's house over Christmas and there was always a lot of food, lots of kids to play with, and a lot of laughter. My Uncle Hut brought me a fake Barbie doll one time for Christmas, named Genevieve. I didn't care that she wasn't a real barbie, she was good enough for me. I thought she was beautiful. Sometime during the next year my mom hand made me a whole bunch of doll clothes out of scraps of fabric that she had left from sewing quilts or our clothes. I was in heaven. I think I wore that doll out.

I loved that time with all of my cousins. Funny, I don't remember any fussing or arguing going on either. We didn't get to see each other very often and I think we probably savored each moment we got to spend together. Wonder where they all are now???? Wonder if they remember those days as fondly as I do?

As we got in the truck and began to leave, I took one last good long look at that star. 'Wonder how many kids in this town have wished on that star through the years? Wonder how many wishes have come true? Wonder if the kids that live here now even think about that star? Wonder if they notice it at all? Wonder if they even know what that star represents?? Wonder if they wish upon it as I did?? Wonder if the Brown family knows what kind of blessing that star has been to the residents of that small town?? There use to be an excitement among the town folk when the star went up. Wonder if there still is??

Leaving town I was thinking of the church song, 'Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, Shine On'. Tears came to my eyes, for not far from where that star shines on that same hill, is a small cemetery, where my mom and dad, my granny, a couple of nieces and some other distant family lies. I could not help but start to hum the tune of that glorious song. I felt sadness and joy at the same time. Hopefully that star will continue to shine for years to come. It truly was and is a blessing to know that it is still there.....Oh Beautiful Star............. Shine On......................................