If You Don't Laugh, You'll Cry - Laughing's Better!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Choosing Books

   So, how do you select a book to read? In my case, I believe there are word pictures or even just words that trigger a desire to read a certain book. I read for various reasons: pleasure, escape, a desire to learn interesting facts from the life of a famous person, or just to learn about a period in history, or even how to keep meringue from weeping. As I’ve got older, I catch myself reading about medical issues like why I now have hair on my chin but not my legs.

  To my way of thinking, book reviews are truly awful and I try not to read them. However, I slipped up this morning because it was BC [before coffee] and I was trying to remember if I’d read a certain book. When I discover the happiness of a “ new to me” author that I like, I usually read everything they have written.

Amazon posts reader reviews and they are no better or worse than professionally written ones. But one nutty, idiotic, bean brain, reviewed a mystery by saying “ I just could not believe this sweet, trembly, little tiny, old man, would murder his 6ft.3 in. loud mouthed wife by Duck taping her mouth shut an dragging her into a bakery that specialized in chocolate goodies and welding her handcuffs to a pipe. The cause of death was, drowned in drool.” The early clue that most authors who write mysteries manage to drop into the story, was that the tiny man was a retired weight lifter in a circus. Why on earth bother to read a book when you’ve been told “ who done it?!”

 Note: the above example was not a direct quote because Dee worries that I may be sued one day…. and we really need that money for tennis balls and teeny dog biscuits.

    As a young woman, book covers were, I suppose, a hook to catch readers. They had the opposite effect on me because I hated for anyone to know I read such trash. I am dead certain my dad would have had a spasm --- as would the book as it sailed into the garbage. Apparently, there were no flat-chested young ladies who lived during the years of historical romances. Wonder if it was something they ate? Whatever, they sure gave me an inferiority complex! The dresses had a lot in their favor though, one could have a bottom as big as a steamship and it wouldn’t be noticed under all those petticoats and hoops. And, oh, those swashbuckling, handsome young men who were strong enough to carry a damsel onto a ship while killing a dozen or so one eyed pirates! Obviously, a man with two good eyes could not be a pirate so should cover one with a black patch and look dirty and wear gold jewelry. Even now, I often see their grandsons hanging around the mall with their pants falling off. Makes me want to yell, FIRE, and see if they can run fast while grabbing their pants.
    Some years ago, a dear friend wrote a novel, well researched as to its time period, but treated as fiction. When I asked another friend his opinion of the book, he said it was not as bad as he’d  feared. How tacky! This man barely made it through high school and the book author had taught literature at UGA. The book was very readable but did not sell well because the writer refused to add lots more sex so the publisher didn’t really push it.

   When I was in public school, every English teacher demanded a book report, sometimes several. Every time I got a new teacher, I wrote my first report about the book Gone With The Wind. I read all the time but I could write this one in class with no notes. I could do it now except for the exact number of pages and the publisher. It is one of those books I read again from time to time. I mentioned some others in a blog a while back.

   Children should be read to on a regular basis .My husband used to hold the babies and read the Wall Street Journal aloud while I cooked dinner. That was one of their special times with Daddy and they loved it. Of course, he put a great deal of expression into the stock reports and if they got fidgety, he sang it. I believe Dee still has some of the books we read to them. Both my children are great readers and love books.

    For some reason, I am reminded of that old story about the lawyer, in court, telling the witness, “ I am going to ask you some questions and every answer must be oral. Now where were you last Monday at six o’clock?” Witness, brightly, ”Oral!”

   Have you noticed that many well known authors are writing with a lesser known writer? Why do I think that the 2nd writer is doing most of the scut work? James Patterson even shares his writing with several others. I think it is funny that at the end, Patterson has a photo and a nice paragraph about him. Writer #2 has maybe two sentences.

   Books are a Godsend for me, now, with my ailments but truly, they always have been. They are affordable or free, at the Library, and are portable. One can find large print or books on tape. There really is no excuse for being bored or lonely. I met some of my best friends at book groups, in Tennessee and Georgia. I organized an informal book group, in Augusta, and we had many happy hours together.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fonny Odds and Ends

The other night, I overheard Dee tell my granddaughter Alesia that she could try making Granny’s recipe for wetbacks, for dinner. That surely brought back happy memories. The recipe is one my sister in law, Jane Hasty, sent to me long years ago when both of us had teenagers at home. I always love a recipe that makes a big pot of food – and this one does that. Basically, it is just ground beef, tomatoes, and rice, seasoned well. Then it is served with Fritos, chopped veggies, grated cheese etc. That way, it can be as bland or spicy as one likes, plus it is a one dish meal.

My son Bruce was a student at East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee. We had built a home on Melton Hill Lake, between Knoxville and Oak Ridge, when he was in college. It was about a 2 hour drive away from ETSU. Bruce came in and out for various reasons – holidays, ROTC meetings, weddings, etc. Most often, he brought guys with him and we enjoyed having them. They could swim, fish, or water ski but usually had plans.

One of my meal standbys was wetbacks and I just doubled or tripled it according to the crowd. At graduation, as I was walking down the line, congratulating the young men I knew, one huge, hulking lad draped his arms around me for a big hug and whispered in my ear, “ Mrs. T, sometimes I wake up at night dreaming about those wetbacks!” That has made me smile for years. I must ask Bruce if he still hears from that fellow.

In 1998, Dee and I put together a family recipe book, Elva’s Blue Scallop Cookbook. She did all the work – I just talked! She wanted to preserve all my recipes for things like meatloaf and spaghetti sauce, etc. We decided “wetbacks” was not PC, so we changed the name to “Frito Tacos.”

When Dee began her junior year at UGA, we let her rent a small efficiency apartment at the Lyons Apartments, on Lumpkin Street in Athens. The first time we visited her there, she prepared a delicious dinner and later stacked the dirty dishes in the sink, and went to take her shower. I, of course, went ahead and washed the dishes. When she came out, she was absolutely horrified! “ Mom, you don’t know how to wash dishes. They may not be clean. Show me exactly how you did it!” She had no memory of our not having a dishwasher. She couldn’t believe that I and even her Dad had washed all our dishes until way after she was born. Guess it would have really blown her mind if I’d told her I’d ironed all her little dresses until she was a fairly big girl, before permanent press. The maid of an older friend had to teach me how to iron those sweet puffed sleeves on Polly Flinders dresses.

I am not a fast moving person, so for me to iron something beautifully, lots of time was required. Dishtowels and pillowcases got ironed at my house, plus always five starched, long sleeved dress shirts for Tony - often six or seven if we went out on weekends. I used to rather enjoy ironing but it was very tiring.

One summer, when my children were small, maybe 1 and 3, we stayed in a beach cottage on Jekyll Island, whose room arrangement I liked a lot. I thought if I ever built another house I would pattern it after the cottage. I remember that the kids were so young because one cloudy, gray day when my SIL took 3 year old Bruce to walk on the beach, they found some rather large and vulgar looking sea cucumbers, on the sand. Bruce became very excited and shouted to his aunt, “Look, I’ve found Superman’s doodoo!” She said his remark pretty much made several adults nearby split their sides laughing.

Anyway, years later, we did build a house on Melton Hill Lake (really the Clinch River} in TN. I remembered that cottage and did pattern our house somewhat like it. The main difference was that I wanted all bedrooms and the great room to have a good lake view and they did. Dee was about a junior or senior in high school and Bruce was in college. I asked them to select their own colors, carpets, etc. and of course, they did a super job. As we planned, we retired in that house and planned to stay there.

Dee sang and acted in lots of stage productions around Knoxville, as well as the Westside Dinner Theatre. Tony and I, and Bruce when he was in town, almost always attended and enjoyed them except for the operas, which Tony just couldn’t bring himself to enjoy. Dee sang in the small professional Knoxville Opera chorus and always was given two comp tickets. Having done some opera work myself, I had fun, and tried talking and explaining the stories to Tony. Alas, it was to no avail as one day, I overheard Tony ask Dee what she was paid for each performance. When she said, one hundred dollars, he said, “ I’ll pay you one hundred dollars to NOT sing!” And he did, and she skipped being in that show!

We thought we were settled in to East Tennessee permanently, but life has a way of changing one’s plans. After taking early retirement because of a bank merger, my Tony was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. We moved back to Augusta, Georgia, where we had started out, and a few miles from where Tony had grown up in Hephzibah, Georgia. Tony took over a bank’s Trust Dept. that he had built up years before.

At that point, Dee had finished her graduate work, at UT, and was working in Knoxville. Bruce was married, an Army Captain, and just home from Germany.

The day we moved into our lovely home in Augusta, the temperature was close to 100 degrees….. a little different from Tennessee. As soon as the movers were out of our hair, we grabbed swimsuits and hit our new, rather large pool. I was afraid that our Doberman, Bassett, and Bruce’s Black Lab would get into trouble in a cement pond. They were used to living on the lake where they could just walk out any place. Bruce dropped each dog into the deep end and we called and teased them to swim to the other end where they could exit by the steps. They grew to love the pool, and I didn’t panic that they wouldn’t know how to get out.

We’d come full circle and I’ve always felt that our Lord knew we needed to come back to be near family and old friends. We moved back in 1991 and Tony died from bone cancer in 1996. I lived there alone for 9 years before Dee and I moved in together here in Atlanta, a happy move for all.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Growing Up

Since I was born on the last day of 1933, I believe people were probably still depressed and money was hard to come by. My parents and grandparents had been financially well off, but I’ve been told that had changed by the time I came along. There are about 3 years difference between each of us and our cousin, Frank, is about 18 months older than I, between Don and me. Bobby was the oldest. My parents came from very large families and we had tons of cousins, but Frank’s dad and my dad were close, as brothers often are, and our mothers had been close friends since before our parents married.

Family fun was different when I was growing up. We were taken to the big Barnum & Bailey Circus one time when I was about 6 and I remember it vividly. As always for me, the animals were what I could not look away from. I doubt it was my first time to see most of the animals, as we had been to the Atlanta Zoo, many times. In 1889, a traveling animal show ran out of money, and a Mr. Gress bought the animals and donated them to Atlanta, to be housed at Grant Park. Then, in the early 1930’s, Asa Candler, Jr. donated his extensive collection of wild animals to the zoo with the provision that they have adequate housing etc. I think that was around 1935. It was all so different back then. I remember as late as my high school years, standing close to the elephants, feeding them hay and peanuts and rubbing their trunks.

In lots later years, my dad took my children to the zoo when they were still infants. He’d just start them in one area and increase their encounters as they got older. He said the monkey house was best for the little ones. I think he liked it best, too.

My parents and, apparently, most of their siblings loved picnics.  They were experts at packing up food and transporting it. They had never heard of Saran Wrap, foil, and plastic containers. But they were exquisitely aware of keeping cold foods cold and un- contaminated. I never heard of any one getting food poisoning from our picnics.. For planned outings with a group, the ladies usually talked over what to bring, a minimum. Then they added what appealed to them or what they had on hand or in their garden. My dad loved his special tea, which was about half fruit juice, so refreshing on a hot day. He always had a big gallon thermos jug. My mother made the best fried chicken on earth; someone would bring a ham or even cold meatloaf. Several would bring deviled eggs, potato salad, fresh homegrown tomatoes [peeled and sliced] etc. I suppose the closest thing to fast food would be a can of sliced pineapple from my Aunt Hazel. Usually there was a cake, sometimes pies. Sometimes there were paper plates and cups but other times we just brought glass plates. We had some tin cups that we sometimes used but they leaked. These were not once a year occasions, more like once every 3 or 4 weeks when the weather was nice – which was about 7 or 8 months out of the year, in Atlanta.

The crowd was not always the same. It varied with whoever was available. Also, the locations varied. Most often we met at North Fulton Park, now Chastain Park, or Piedmont Park. Both had covered picnic tables. The older folks just talked and visited while the young ones played games and walked or watched pickup baseball games etc. Both of these parks had swimming pools but we were only allowed to swim at the Woman’s Club Pool. Those were the years when people were terrified of Polio. Warm weather birthdays and holidays were the only excuses needed. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Easter etc meant the get-togethers were usually in someone’s home.

There were times when one of my parents, usually my dad, would say, let’s take a ride, today. Since Mother usually had her Sunday dinner prepared or nearly so, they packed it up and brought it along. I can remember how good pot roast, carrots, onions, and potatoes  in gravy, tasted at some remote spot  in the Smokies or Blue Ridge mountains. It would have been cooked in a black iron Dutch Oven , wrapped heavily in newspapers, and placed in a box. It might not be piping hot but was always still warm. In the mountains, in those days, there were small areas with maybe 1 or 2 picnic tables and a trashcan. By starting fairly early, we could drive up through the mountains and still get home before bedtime.

One Thanksgiving, we left early and drove through the mountains to a lovely old hotel and had our dinner there. Coming home, Daddy and the boys cut a Christmas tree and tied it to the top of the car to get it home. Though I was small, I still remember that as being the most happy Thanksgiving ..

When each of us turned 6 years old, Mother had our big birthday party. For Don, she had a circus party outdoors with big brother Bobby dressed as a clown and leading a baby pig on a leash. For my 6th I had a doll party with all the little girls “dressed up” , bringing their favorite dolls. I’m sure if weather came into consideration, but I’d much rather have had a baby pig!

Music was always part of our lives. Mother had a pretty voice and had studied voice in college. She also played the piano, mostly for us to stand around and sing. I started taking piano lessons when I was 5 and played in my first recital when I was 6. No one told Mother I was too young. I do not play well, by note, and refuse to play for other people with the exception of Tony and my kids. I pretty much play anything I want to play by ear, including some classical music. My dad also played the fiddle by ear.

I must have been about 5 yrs. Old, and that would have made Don about 9, a day or two before Xmas one year. Carol singers came by our house to collect Bobby and Don and our cousin Jack, who was living with us at the time, to go Christmas caroling. I wanted to go but was told I was too young, so I cried myself to sleep. Sometime later, I woke with Don in bed with me, saying, I’m going to sing all the pretty songs for you. So I went back to sleep that night with my sweet, big brother singing the beautiful carols to me. I love the Christmas music, especially the old songs.

My dad did not approve of small children going to movies so Swiss Family Robinson was the only one I saw until I was maybe 12 or so. He did enjoy reading to us, and both he and Mother played games with us a lot. All in all, a wonderful childhood  - with the only electronic device being the one radio in the house.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Italian Reverie

I was remembering a terrific trip Tony and I took some years ago, and Dee said it would make a great blog post, so here’s my effort!

I’m thinking maybe this trip was in the fall of 1987 - would need to check with son Bruce - but the year is not really that important. We arrived in Frankfurt just before our son’s birthday, which is in early October.

On this trip, we planned to travel to Italy so I had spent previous months trying to learn at least a few basic Italian words. I’d sung in Italian and been coached by my Italian voice teacher for years. I figured that if nothing else I could at least sing for them - you know, stand on a street corner and sing an aria or two. From out of the clouds, violins would begin playing and soon a full orchestra would join in. Perhaps, a chorus of, say, garbage collectors and policemen would be my back up singers… [Note from Dee: Mom, did you bump your head earlier today?!]

We traveled to Florence by train and shared a compartment with a recently retired American couple who were taking their dream trip. They’d saved for years and planned and now, by cracky, they were actually doing it! They bought Eurail passes and began traveling south from Holland and planned to travel all the way to the bottom of the continent. They each had a London Fog Raincoat with liner, a carry-on bag, her purse, and his camera. They had no reservations and only stayed at the hotels within walking distance to the train station that were listed in their travel book. If no rooms were available they planned to just take a train anywhere and sleep there but so far, they’d been lucky. Their trip became our dream trip but alas, we never got to have a similar adventure.

Our first night in Florence, we decided to just eat dinner in the hotel dining room. It was not a very big room, by U.S. standards, but we had a blast. Our waiter thought my Italian was the funniest thing he’d ever heard and so he invited the other waiters to come talk to me and they brought us all kinds of food tidbits, sometimes sitting down at the table with us. A handsome, lone American came and sat with us too, saying he wanted to join the fun. He spoke well enough to translate and we shared our dinners and wine. It was nearly midnight when we finished. New friend insisted we walk with him to the Piazza Duomo for our very first taste of the soft light of the evening , in Florence. I’ll never forget it. People were moving around as if it was perhaps 7 or 8 o’clock. We had no strange sense of feeling uneasy at walking around a strange city, in a strange country, well past midnight.

Earlier, in the hotel dining room, the desk clerk appeared and told Tony we had a phone call, so Tony went out to the lobby. I was not worried because I had a pretty good idea who was calling. When we traveled in the US, we seldom had reservations unless it was a business trip, but Dee Thompson always located us. We’d check into a new motel; the phone would ring, and this little voice would say, what are y’all doing? Only, this time it was Bruce calling us. He said that since we were on his side of the planet, he’d be checking on us. He pretty much always knew where we were. I can sincerely say it is very comforting to be so loved!

The young man who had befriended us told me he’d made the trip, trying to ease his terrible grief at the death of his beloved partner who had just died from AIDS. When he left us at the Piazza, he hugged me and thanked me for the pleasant evening, saying it was his first time to actually laugh in a long time. We never saw him again tho’ I invited him to join us the next day.

I next fell in love with the tiny, old man elevator operator .I was constantly trying to improve my Italian by talking with him. He was really not very busy, as most people seemed to use the stairs. We were only on the second or third floor. On our last day, he followed us out to the cab, holding my hand and patting me. He’d learned some English words, apparently from a phrase book, to honor me. i.e. hello, good by, thank you …..

I need to explain that, for this trip, Tony had insisted to our German travel agent, we should stay in hotels used by locals--- not tourists. Often, we were the only English speaking people in the building except maybe the desk clerks. Thank heaven, I am pretty good at pantomime. Also, moo, oink , cluck, etc. are pretty well understood by everyone - especially with an ol’ first grade teacher’s body movements but I could never do that without giggling and pretty soon everyone was laughing. My antics never bothered Tony at all.

I loved Venice and planned to go back but not alone. Our hotel room there was, again, quite small. We had a tiny refrigerator. It contained 2 ice cube trays about 4x6 but they were empty. We called down to the desk for ice and they sent up a teenaged busboy. He brought no ice but carefully removed an ice tray; motioned us to follow him; filled it with water from the bathroom; and carefully placed it back in the tiny fridge; then gave us a big smile. Oh! Finally - ice about midnight ! When we requested ice in Florence, the little elevator man brought 3 cubes in a tea cup. I gave my cube to Tony. Hate seeing a grown man cry!

Dee had tried to teach Tony the Italian word for ice – “rompighiaccio” – but he could never say it. (She studied Italian for two years in college.)

One night we went to a small restaurant on the plaza, near our hotel. The weather was beautiful and the entrance was just a screened door, kind of like at home. The waiter insisted that we order the special, which was Bluefish for Two. Well, I was hungry for spaghetti, which they served in most places as a starter. I’ve never mastered twirling the pasta around the fork so I just cut it. Our waiter was horrified! He whispered in my ear and grumped, “You know better than that!” So I went back to twirling. Tony had ordered a vodka-tonic which he complained had no vodka in it. Next thing we knew, the waiter slapped a vodka bottle on our table and said, here, pour your own! By then, we were all kidding each other and admiring our elegant bluefish.

Sadly, our fun ended when an American couple was seated at our table. As was customary, tables were often shared. I’m sure the staff thought we’d enjoy each other but we didn’t. The couple were truly ugly Americans - sharp nasal voices, holier than thou types.., from the northeast. We stopped kidding around; finished our dinner; and I lit a cigarette. That did it .The woman carried on like she was going to have some kind of attack, in spite of the fact that most everyone else in the place was smoking. I walked out and stood just outside the door while Tony settled the bill. The nutty woman saw me and gave me a sweety sweet little finger wave. When I was sure she was looking at me, I just gave her “the finger”! So satisfying though I’d never done that before!!! When I told Tony what I’d done, he got so tickled that we had to sit on the bench outside and laugh awhile. I don’t smoke any more.

The only other American we encountered was in our hotel breakfast room where we went each morning to drink weak coffee, pink flavored water, and munch a stale bun. This was a lone, middle age woman who complained constantly. The first morning she came into the room asking if anyone spoke English? We looked down and acted like we hadn’t understood her. I was not about to scold anyone for her but I’m sure she was puzzled by the merriment of the other guests who knew we had to be American. We looked foreign to them but the woman had no clue.

October was a grand time to be in Italy. The weather was perfect and there were almost no crowds, nor tourists.

Bruce met our train when we returned to Bavaria, where he lived. He had reservations for the 4 of us to leave for Paris, then the D Day beaches, starting the next evening. He was taking some leave time so we washed clothes and began another adventure.

My two typing fingers are starting to get numb, so I will call it a night. Stay tuned for more European memories…

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Luxury of Breathing

The older I get, the less I want to “dress up”! Yes, I do like to be covered, but not tightly, for heaven’s sake. Wearing a system of harnesses and pulleys somehow takes all the fun out of the long trot out to the kitchen. Besides that, any place I pull something in and tie it down, it scoots out over the top and rolls out the sides. Few people have paper towel rolls just under their collarbones and just above their knees.

Knit clothing is my new best friend ------- and elastic waistbands have allowed me, once again, to breathe deeply. Skirts are more comfortable for me than pants and I really did learn, long ago, to keep my knees together. Remember the advice: the best form of birth control is to take one aspirin---- and hold it between your knees? For several reasons, birth control is truly not a problem for me, these days and I understand it is a whole new ballgame, anyway. Naw, they don’t mail it in--------- do they??

I vividly remember my first pair of grown up stockings. They had seams down the back that were supposed to be kept straight. I was given a pair of elastic garters, just circles kind of like rubber bands, but prettier. These were too loose I later learned. The trick was to pull up the stocking then kind of roll it over the garter, above the knee. I’d seen my mother do that and it looked easy. I was wrong. We were spending Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle, in Jacksonville, but had gone down to St. Augustine to sight see, one of our favorite past times. I wore my new little 1inch heels and my stockings and a dress, so sophisticated, I thought. Walking and climbing all over the fort and town, those seams curled around to my knees and then the entire mess slithered down to my ankles, over and over. I fought back tears cause I didn’t want my big brothers to see me cry. Guess I was about 13 or 14.

Garter belts came next - as soon as the devil’s wife invented them. They still slithered, just down over the tummy, being kept from the ankles by a pair of good tight panties. So, when panty hose came along, I was thrilled beyond reason! Then I realized - THEY DID NOT FIT! As long as I wore them, they never fit. I had to stop wearing sleeveless dresses because the tops of my panty hose came up under my arms. Someone banged on my stall in the ladies room, at the country club, once, and asked why I was sobbing. I had to confess that I’d caught the top of my panty hose in my necklace. One may correctly assume from this that I have long legs and a short body. We’ll talk about trying to see out over the steering wheel at some other time.

Going bare legged makes me appreciate living in the south. These days, even old ladies do it, even for church! Well, this old lady, anyway. I adore long skirts – and sandals—and bright red toenails! Jesus and I have an agreement. He ignores my bare legs and I keep quiet about his long hair.

Sometime in the early 50s, I got really upset about the scales telling me I’d reached 122 lbs. What’s worse, I decided I jiggled when I walked. There was a product, new to me, called THE PLAYTEX RUBBER GIRDLE. I saved my money and bought one. There were two styles: the longleg panty girdle, and - I’m not making this up - the Open Bottom girdle. I chose the panty! One could sprinkle baby powder on the inside of the panty and kind of work it up over the, ahem, south end…. It was a pull and tug struggle! To make matters worse, it actually squeaked! My senior year in college, my two roomies yelled and complained about my noisy dressing but what did they know? They both were tall, skinny beanpoles who looked like fashion models. I don’t remember exactly when I tossed the rubber torture horror but it was none too soon!

These days, happiness is a loose muumuu and a pair of crocs………… and we are breathing just fine!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Early Days Teaching

When I started college, my parents strongly suggested I major in Education, as women should be able to support themselves. At the time, I planned to continue my music education so I went along with their advice, knowing that voice coaches etc. were quite expensive. I did have some scholarships offered but they don’t pay very much, unlike sports. At any rate, the cheapest of the good schools was where I went. I can say in all truth that I loved UGA and do have happy memories of Athens.

One year, I had 45 first graders. They all learned to read and write and passed the state’s guidelines, so one can imagine my amusement at the young teachers who complain about 20 students, especially when they have aides and all kinds of help. The children I taught had not been to kindergarten or nursery schools and, for the most part, did not have college or even high school educated parents. A couple of the little girls [routinely] wet their pants so I rinsed off the child and washed the little panties and dried them on the radiators in the teachers’ restroom.

Five and six year olds feel they absolutely must tell you the truth about yourself. I had a black skirt and sweater which I wore every so often, and some little one always came up before school started to tell me how ugly the outfit was. They wanted me to wear what they thought of as pretty colors and it taught me a lesson. Back then, female teachers never wore pants , always skirts or dresses and stockings, not pantyhose. Since then, I’ve often thought how much easier my life would have been in flat heel shoes and long pants. I always sat in one of their little wooden chairs, especially during the five reading groups. Actually, I was lots smaller on the south end, in those days! I sang with and for the kids and that, at least, was a happy, relaxing time when we could giggle a bit.

These children knew nothing about cheating – or not cheating--- and trying to give them the required standardized tests was a hoot. I had no way to really separate them because we were so crowded. They thought nothing of walking around looking on other kids’ test papers. I truly doubt that there was an accurate score in the entire group. However, by about January I pretty much knew each child’s abilities and weaknesses, and dealt with it. I’d just had my 22nd birthday, in December.

The next year, I taught 4th grade in an inner city school, in downtown Atlanta. The parents did all kinds of interesting jobs. I was told, when I started that lots of the kids had many many “uncles” - and so they did. Of course those mothers were prostitutes. But, those parents truly wanted their children to have better lives, so were my best helpers and encouragers. The State Guide for Teachers urged us to make home visits and try to finish before Thanksgiving break. I had to borrow my mother’s car and was only about half through my list the Wednesday before the holiday. That morning, I went in early to apologize to the principal. When I tried to explain, she grabbed her heart; called in some of the older teachers, and screamed that they’d failed “this child.” I was still 22 and very grown up, I thought.

Well, she had me list all the homes I had visited and then she called the police. The secretary took my class and I spent the morning telling the cops everything I remembered about each home. It seems there had been a prison break and they suspected the men were visiting my “working” mothers. And they were and they had been very cordial to their children’s teacher. They must have known I was harmless but I was told by my new cop friends to never even drive through that neighborhood again.. You can bet, I didn’t.

I need to add, here, that those children came to school on time. They were clean, and had nearly always done their homework. Their mothers wanted them to better themselves.

The following February, I got married at the huge, downtown First Baptist Church. As well as I remember, it seated about 2000 people. Knowing there would be a tremendous number of vacant seats, I invited all my school children plus any family who wanted to come. I couldn’t afford to include them in the reception but they would have been embarrassed to attend anyway. A group of mothers came to see me, in my schoolroom, one afternoon, because they wanted to be sure it would be OK if they came. Most of them had never been to a formal, real wedding and they were excited.

After the wedding, I moved to Augusta, where Tony lived and worked.

On the night of the 8 o’clock wedding, I entered the roomy vestibule in preparation for taking the arm of my Dad to walk down the very long aisle. My entire class was waiting for me to give me hugs, walking all over the borrowed too long skirt and train. I cried, knowing I’d never see them again but I’ve never forgotten them either.