Category Archives: family

Old Things & Holding On

Going through things and sorting is a never-ending task at the shop. Today I pull out a box of my old sewing supplies and decide it is time to purge and throw or give away that which I cannot use. Tucked away in this box is a tiny crocheted hat, about three inches in diameter.

 

“In my crown your thimble hide; in my felt your needle ride,”  reads the carefully typed note pinned to the brim.  In the crown is indeed a little golden thimble, and in the felt are two very tiny hand quilting needles (my eyes cannot begin to see the eye in this little needle). This little treasure was given to my Mammau, my father’s mother (who taught me to sew when I was 6 years old), as a remembrance from one of her friends in her sewing circle, and Mammau passed it down to me. These sewing women I met on occasion, and they were very sweet and thoughtful to one another. They cared for one another. They always welcomed me when my Mammau brought me with her to those gatherings. They taught me embroidery and hand-quilting.

il_570xN.1170832447_tm2bThese women all looked like Aunt Bee from the Andy Griffith Show. Hats and gloves were worn, but removed when they began sewing. Coffee was served in little demitasse cups, and always a sweet of some kind had me drooling.

I look at this little crocheted hat and think about the person that made it – the work and care they put into it – and I wonder where it will go from here. Who will care for it, protect it? I do not have the heart to part with it, although I will never use it because it is much too fragile. The next generation will make that decision for me.

What do you keep (or treasure, hoard or stash away!) even though you know you will never use it? Why do you keep holding on to it?

 

Gleaming White Paint Covers Neglect of the Past

This corner cabinet has been in my family for as long as I can remember. My father took it with us every time we moved. At one time it was built in, but somewhere along the way it was detached. Like anything this old, it carries stories. Not only family stories, but the stories of it’s life before my father claimed it.cabinet1
In my advance of years I’ve become somewhat of a hoarder when it comes to furniture and things that evoke memories. I don’t want to let go of them. But sometimes one must part with things that are meaningful. I am happy I did not part with this piece because it now has a new life in gleaming white paint. the amazing thing about paint is that it hides a multitude of sins. This cabinet was coated with some type of varnish that kept bleeding through the white enamel that I applied.  The only thing that covered that goo was spray enamel with built-in primer. After years of built-up grease and grime this piece is really a beautiful piece of furniture – after it’s covered with gleaming white paint. This little corner cabinet has a new home in the shop and holds colorful yarns. I’d love to see somethings you have re-done into something new. Send me a pic.
cabinet2  photo 2

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Time Out for Gratitude

c322b-mangerOn Dec. 23rd I left New Orleans around 4pm and entered a driving rainstorm on I-10, just as I got to the Huey Long Bridge. Cars were going about 25 mph because you could not see anything. The blackest clouds I’ve ever seen hovered above. I thought about turning back, but was caught in the line of traffic, so I drove on to I-55 up to Jackson MS to stay overnight with one of my daughters. I planned to go on to Memphis the next day and spend Christmas with my husband. Anyway, after 4.5 hours on the road in the rain and lightning (and I forgot to say I had a psychotic dog with me), I finally arrived at her house around 8:30pm. She had left the door unlocked for me and said she would be there in about an hour or so. I helped the dog, Abbey, from the back seat and grabbed my bag. The front door was indeed unlocked, so I walked through with my dog, dropped my bag on the chair, and let Abbey out into the back yard – after all, it was a long trip. She refused to go out in the rain so I had to force her out and go out with her. Suddenly the wind blew the back door shut. I reached for the doorknob in panic – yes, I was locked out. I am usually quite resourceful in times like these, so I looked for a way over the fence. I can knock on a neighbor’s door and ask them to call my daughter, I thought. No luck. The board fence was too high and I could not get a foothold on the narrow boards. I even dropped a table from the deck over the fence thinking I could drop over and land on the table. Well, I’m also 65 years old and the possibility of my breaking something is real. I had no idea where a gate was. It was on the other side of the yard, in a very dark corner. I fiddled with the gate latch and tried several times to open it. No luck there either. Lights were on in the backyard neighbor’s house. I grabbed a plastic paint lid, climbed on the narrow fence rail and peered over, then threw the lid so it hit the window of the family room in that house. Apparently no one was home because no one came to inspect the noise. Next I found a fire poker on the deck and pried off the screen of a window that looked unlocked. Trying hard as I could, I could not get the window up. I gave in to the fact that I was stuck outside in the rain and lightning with a panic-stricken dog. We hunkered down against the back door, getting soaked and cold. The dog shook with fear. I held her tight. I prayed. I thought. I wished and I cried with frustration. Temperature was dropping. About an hour and a half after I first arrived, my daughter and granddaughter came through the front door. At first they did not understand why I was outside knocking. When they opened the back door and saw Abbey and I wet and sad, they knew. My daughter made me hot tea while I took a comforting warm shower and put on dry clothes. I dried off Abbey and she flopped down on the carpet to sleep off the episode. Another day in the life of a fallible human, I thought.
I’m home in Memphis this Christmas Eve evening. We plan to go to the 11pm service at Saint John’s. While I was stuck outside last night I thought about the Christmas story. No room at the inn. A warm trough. I thought about my life over the past year. Living in two places. Taking a risk. Despite everything, I am grateful. Grateful for hot tea and warm clothes and a warm bed. Grateful for my family, my friends and my life.
What are you most grateful for?

Where I’m From

The Jacoby Store in Louisiana,
where my father grew up.

A model of my fathers old red truck.
Walthall Elementary School, Hattiesburg
(I alway likened it to the Alamo)
,

I’m from Mamaw Bass and Papa James,
the piney woods and Gore Springs,
butter beans and blackeyed peas,
Mason jars and bumble bees.

I’m from Aunt Emma, Alvin, Helen and Jacoby,
Walthall School and the Seale-Lily.
I’m from wire clotheslines and wooden washboards,
Swings on porches and torn screen doors.

I’m from tree houses in sweet gum trees,

The Beverly Drive-in Theater
burned this past year.

the sweet aroma of burning leaves,
shrimp gumbo and the Atchafalaya River,
from Cajun music and a guitar picker.

I’m from Edwards Street and the Dairy Dream,
red eye gravy and turnip greens,
rabbits in cages and more chicken please,
hot water poured over Luzianne tea.

I’m from Hattiesburg and a wooden boat
Antoine, Pierre and a billy goat,
playing under the house, the Beverly Drive-In Theater,
From diabetes and congestive heart failure.

I’m from cane poles and mule skinners,
all you can eat buffets and catfish dinners
buttermilk cornbread, coffee and chicory,
barbequed ribs smoked with hickory.

I’m from South Carolina and Louisiana,
Anjou pears and the Bouie River,
a big old house with an old red roof,
and ceilings that were never waterproof.

I’m from a faded red truck with a running board,
from wanting things we couldn’t afford,
from a fig tree and a hand-me-down,
Hattiesburg, Laurel and the Mississippi Sound.

I’m from Lake Shelby and Kamper Park,
kids catching fireflies after dark,
from the Golden Rule and love thy neighbor,
and burning crosses and Vernon Dahmer.

From sit-ins and a cow-pulled wagon,
Woodstock and a Beretta hand gun,
fig trees, rabbits and home-grown tomatoes,
catsup poured over French fried potatoes.

I’m from fried corn and cracklin bread,
the Sunday paper in Mama’s bed,
Moonshine and hurricane Camille,
From don’t let mama behind the wheel.

I’m from a petticoat and an undershirt,
digging to China and playing in the dirt,
from the (cedar) Christmas Tree that Daddy’d provide
To playing I Spy, and a country ride.

I’m from space heaters and fire halls,
wooden steps and popcorn balls,
old wooden radios with glass tubes,
and clumsy metal trays for ice cubes.

I’m from Bayou Lafourche and the Natchez Trace,
from roller skates and playing chase,
from a Catholic, a Methodist and a Baptist,
from a bigot, a blowhard, and an absurdist.

I’m all these things inside of me,
as exciting and embarrassing as they may be.
Using this formula as a rule of thumb,
Now, can you tell me, where are you from?

Name. It’s all about the name.

My daughter is about to give birth to a girl in a few short weeks. They’ve chosen the name Lola Frances. A family name. I know they put a lot of thought into this choice.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about names. Parents begin to think about names as soon as the fact is known that a baby is on the way. And then there are all those baby naming books – Amazon has almost 1500 titles of books on choosing your baby’s name. A child’s name is extremely important.

My Great Aunt Emma was a nurse during World War II. After the war she became head nurse at the VA hospital in Gulfport MS. In my childhood I spent a week with her during a few summers when she would take me to the seawall and watch the waves roll in, and we threw bread out for the seagulls to snatch up. All through elementary school, I was the only Emma. When anyone was singled out because of bad behavior, such as talking, and it was someone named Emma, it was certainly me. I wanted so to be a Kathy, or a Patty, or a Debbie. I felt I did not fit in and the only reason was that I had this old-fashioned name. Nothing against Aunt Emma, whom I was named after, but back in the 60s it just was not a common name. When I was in 7th grade, I was the only Emma still. My middle name was Maria, so I decided to be known as Maria. My report cards and school records were changed. The first time I brought home my report card for my parents to sign, my father was apalled. Who in the world is Maria? he asked. When I explained that I didn’t like the name Emma and had decided to henceforth go my the name Maria, he and I had a sit-down. He explained to me the importance of the name Emma – that it was an old family name, and I should be proud to carry this name. He told the the story of how he and my mother had decided on naming me after his Aunt Emma because of how brave and tenacious she was. Aunt Emma had died a few years before that, so his feelings for her were still tender. I decided to go back to being Emma. Now I am glad I did. It’s the 2nd most common name for baby girls these days. What happened to the Debbies and the Kathys?

Over the past few years, I studied a bit about the act of naming. When the ancient civilizations “named” something, it became their own. In biblical terms, naming was extremely important because it gave a person dominion over that which was named. Most every religious denomination has a ritual around the naming of the child. In the Episcopal Church, we say at Baptism, “Name this child.”

In my fiction writing, I struggle with the names of my characters, because a name can tell the reader a lot about the person they read about. Sometimes the name comes right to me as soon as I begin a story. Other times I have to use Joe or Sue until the character reveals himself or herself to me through the writing. Then Joe or Sue might become a unique character whose name I have never even seen or heard before. One of my protagonists is named Goodlord Fenney. I never heard of anyone by this name and have no idea where it came from. But it fits the person I have pictured in my mind’s eye.

What is the origin of your own name?

Go back to your own birth. Think about how things were then. What does your name say about you? Or, try the opposite writing prompt: You are given a different name. Whose idea is this? What is the name’s origin? How will your life be different?