Friday, October 31, 2008

Moving to Victor Drive...

When I was about ten years old, my parents purchased a larger house about two miles away on Victor Drive. In addition to an extra bedroom, the house had a dining room which was paneled in warm knotty pine and had two built-in corner china cabinets. The sun filtered through the dining room windows and reflected against the pine, casting a warm glow on the large round antique dining table. That table was the scene for so many family meals and special times...(also the scene where Sharon and I would occasionally - well, okay, frequently - get sent from the table for uncontrollable giggling.)

Okay, no comments about my bangs! They sure weren't MY idea!

There was a large back yard with trees and plenty of room for Mama's vegetable garden. Mama and Daddy planted apple, peach and pear trees for a small orchard as well. Mama was an incredible Southern cook, and with the bounty from those trees made the most delicious jams and preserves I have ever tasted to this day. Those pear preserves on one of her homemade biscuits was truly a legend.

Our move to a new home had meant changing neighborhoods, friends, schools and churches. Thankfully, this school was only .31 tenths of a mile (map quest again) and a much shorter walk to school. The fact that we moved half-way through the fourth grade made it especially difficult. As I recall, I wasn't too happy at first, especially since the class was on a totally different subject in math - one I had not had. I had gone from being a straight A student, to having serious problems in math. One day, the teacher hit my hand very hard with a ruler because I didn't know the answer to a math problem. Mama, who was barely five feet tall and very soft-spoken, had a few well-chosen, but totally appropriate, things to say to my teacher. After that, the teacher took a little extra time and patience, and my good grades returned. Honestly though, I never was fond of that particular teacher after that. Unfortunately, I had her again for two more subjects in junior high!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

All too soon...

The seasons came and went on Mamie Road...and the years with them. My Dad had a good job at a manufacturing plant; but like everyone else in the fifties, there wasn't a great deal of money. My mother was a wonderful cook and there was always plenty of good food on the table. She had a big vegetable garden in the Spring and Summer and canned the abundant produce for the months to follow. An excellent seamstress, she made almost all of our clothes, except for my Dad's. As best I can remember the little jumper I'm wearing in the photo above left was a dark blue and green woolen plaid...amazing how far I'm having to reach to produce that memory.

The elementary school was .79 of a mile. I remembered that it was a long way for a small child to walk; but just in case I couldn't trust my memory, I used mapquest and confirmed the actual distance. Rain, sleet, snow or shine...we walked. There were little galoshes and raincoats for the wet days...warm coats, hats and mittens for winter...but we still walked.

One particular afternoon after school, I walked in the WRONG direction and got in big trouble for it! I must have been...maybe 8 years old...just the size of the little girl in the photo. A little friend of mine invited me to go home with her after school. She lived over the bridge (which crossed the large Veterans Cemetery) and down Bayliss Avenue. Altogether, about a mile in the OTHER direction. The days were growing shorter by then and it was getting darker. About the time we arrived at her house, I remember having some serious second thoughts. I called my Mama to brightly tell her where I was and what I had done. FIFTY-FOUR years and I can still hear her words: "you'd better get home right now and you're going to get it when you get here!" Sound familiar to anyone else?! It was almost dark by then, and, needless to say, I ran the whole way home. My grandparents, her parents, were visiting at the time, and she was particularly upset with me that I had done that with them there. I was rarely spanked, but I definitely got one that day.

The Wilson family lived in the house directly behind us. They were a young family with two daughters, Sandra and Katie, who were almost the exact same age as Sharon and me. Sharon and I were happy because now we had each other and two good friends. Mr. Wilson worked at a chemical company several miles away. From time to time, he would work the second shift, and when he did would give the four of us girls a ride to school. He was kind and gentle, and my child's instinct told me he was a very good man. One afternoon, we heard a loud explosion which literally shook the ground. Mama turned the radio on to hear the news. There had been a terrible explosion at the chemical company. She said, "I hope Mr. Wilson is alright"; but he wasn't. He died in that explosion. I was only a small child, but I remember being very sad...especially for Sandra and Katie.

Weekends during the fifties were much more relaxed than now. On Sundays after church and Sunday dinner, we'd go "visiting" OR someone would come visit us. There would be homemade pies or cakes, fresh hot coffee or iced tea for the adults and lemonade for the kids. In the Summertime, there would often be homemade ice cream...with the hand-turned crank. After a few hours, the news would have been exchanged...the memories relived...and we'd go home. Another Sunday afternoon destination was occasionally the Memorial Park Cemetery with its Crystal Shrine Grotto. It was a beautiful setting with a cave with amazing scenes carved out. Trees graced the entire setting and in the Autumn and Spring, it was breathtaking. The trees are magnificent now, much taller than in the photo above. Sadly, now though, it is also where my husband of thirty-nine years and the father of my three children is buried.

We are a composite of every experience we've ever had...every person who has significantly touched our lives...every decision we've ever made - each of us creating our own memories one day at the time. I'm reminded, once again, to enjoy each and every one of those days, because each one is over all too soon.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Summertime in Memphis 1950

If I could turn the clock back here, it would be Summertime in Memphis, 1950. We were living on Mamie Road...then a tree-lined road on the outskirts of Memphis with small homes, large yards with beautiful flowers and vegetable gardens, friendly neighbors and a haven of safety for small children who loved to play outdoors.

If you've seen the Disney movie The Kid, you'll remember the scene when Bruce Willis (who has the once-in-a-lifetime, and only in Hollywood, chance of meeting himself as a kid and sees what his life was like as a child - great movie by the way) is standing with his new young friend (himself as a child) beside the playground slide which used to terrify him. He says "I remember it being bigger".

I'm sure if I could see this house today, I would also say "I remember it being bigger". If I had to guess, I'd say it was at most a thousand square feet...maybe less. It had a small living room, dining room, kitchen, two large bedrooms and one bath. There were six of us living there: myself, my parents, my sister Eunice who was still in high school, my oldest sister Dot and my almost 3 year old niece Sharon (Dot's husband had tragically died in a ship explosion when Sharon was a baby). I was an "Aunt" when I was only 2 and 1/2 years old and I loved it. Sharon was, of course, more like a baby sister. As you can see in the photo at left she was, and still is, beautiful. The four of us girls (Dot, Eunice, Sharon and me) shared one of the large bedrooms. I don't remember it being crowded...I just remember it being fun. Sharon and I would usually get in trouble for giggling long after lights out.

So many stories for Mamie Road...all twirling around in my head...

Once, about three years after the photo above was made, my mother sent Sharon and me down to the small local grocery store. It wasn't far and was safe enough "back then". It was early summertime and Mama was getting ready to plant her garden. She wanted us to buy ONE package of LONG cucumber seeds. Unfortunately, they didn't have LONG cucumber seeds. So, Sharon and I reasoned that you could put two SHORT seeds together and make ONE long cucumber! Remember, they're the ones who took me away from the farm when I was only two years old! How was I supposed to know?! It made perfectly logical sense to me. She sent it into the newspaper for the column "When Our Children Make Us Smile". After that, I was teased mercilessly by all my aunts, uncles and cousins who had been privileged enough to stay on the farm! Years later, I was to find out through sophisticated testing, that I'm pretty much divided down the middle: half analytical and half artistic, but I STILL don't have an excuse for the cucumbers...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Delta blues and cornbread sticks...

Perhaps it's significant that I was born in the Delta of Mississippi, where the blues can be heard from the cotton fields to the Mississippi River. Music has always been such a part of my heart and soul. Granted, I'm thoughtful enough not to sing within anyone's earshot, but when I'm alone, I can belt out a tune with the best of them and have more rhythm than one person should be entitled to. Along with a history of producing its share of the best blues artists in the world, the Delta has some of the richest, most fertile soil in the entire world; and - like the rest of the South - some of the most gracious people.

I was born in Clarksdale, the youngest of four daughters, to the most gentle, kind parents in the world. It was a poor time in the South as well as much of the rest of the country, but not long after my birth, my parents bought a small farm in the little nearby Delta town of Rena Lara. There, they had a variety of farm animals, a large vegetable garden and a cash crop of cotton. I truly wish I could actually remember that time, but I've heard the stories for so many years that, in my mind's eye, I can picture it.

Evidently, the toddler in the photo of the post below (me) loved the farm and was fearless. My sisters tell me that I would march into the barn insisting that the chickens "shoo"! I'd wander across the little country cove lane to a neighbor's farm. Mrs. Hoke was famous for her cornbread sticks and I would ask for TWO of them (no wonder I had such chipmunk cheeks). As the stories go, I gave everyone a scare the day I wandered much too far from home...and they found me up to my ankles in the mud at a nearby farm. I had to laughingly ask them: wasn't anyone watching me?! I believe, after that, my sisters were assigned the task of pulling me on top of the cotton sack as they were picking cotton! That's probably where my freckles began...

Before I was three years of age, they had sold the farm and moved to Memphis. Somehow, there's still a farmgirl deep inside of who longs to have a big red barn, lots of farm animals and a yellow lab who never lets me out of her sight. (see My Southern Heart for more about my longing for a puppy!)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Southern Heart...Memories

We each have them living deep within the recesses of our hearts and minds ~ memories that have been made one event at the time. I have 62 years worth. Well, okay, maybe I can't remember THAT far back. Just like most of you, some of the memories I think I have are maybe just stories that I've heard so often that I just think I can remember them.

Memories are precious things. They allow people, places and events that have happened in our lives to go on living in our hearts and minds. You already know that I'm a Southern girl. Now, you know that I'm maybe just a wee bit sentimental. Family is very important to me...just as, most likely, it is to you. Our families have helped to shape us into the individuals we are today...given us our sense of deep worth, our values as well as our brown eyes and freckles. I'll try not to bore you in the coming days and months or however long it takes me to sort out the stories of my well as share a lot of creations with you.

I confess I'm happiest when: I'm outdoors and the sun is shining (remember it rains 6 months of the year here!), everyone is well and happy, I can visit or at least see/talk with my children & grandchildren by phone or Skype, as well as the rest of my family and friends who are far away from me, and when I'm in the midst of creating SOMETHING!

I will look forward to sharing those memories and stories with you, as well as the creations... whether it's a sewing project, story, quilt, lame attempt at knitting, culinary creation or a very lifelike artist baby doll.

Please, take a moment to leave a comment and let me know you've tuned in...I'd love to hear from you!

Blessings to you,