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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Memories

BULL PUPS AND BABY JACKETS were the teams that used to play a Thanksgiving Day football game to benefit the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital, sponsored by the Shriners. The slogan coined by Ralph McGill to the effect that,”Strong legs run so that weak legs can walk” surely remained in our memory. The Shriners provided part of the wonderful halftime shows that were so popular. These games, always held at Ga.Tech’s Grant Field, began about 1933 and continued about six decades until the rules changed. When freshmen began to be allowed to play on the Varsity teams, the Bullpups’ games lost a lot of spirit, often playing lesser teams than the Baby Jackets.

Most often, November weather, in Atlanta is just about right for football. I don’t remember how many of the Thanksgiving games I attended but often went with a group consisting of my brother Don and his dates, various cousins, and whoever I was dating at the time. To us, it was the more, the merrier. Trying to find parking near the stadium was out of the question so we walked. Remember, this was before people wore or even owned high quality tennis or running shoes. I wore little thin soled flats and stockings and dresses. Our home was on 9th street, so we walked about six or seven blocks up to Peachtree Street, then about nine blocks back to North Ave, then several blocks down to the Tech stadium, quite a little trot! Of course, climbing up into the stands required more energy.

My mother and dad always got up quite early on turkey cooking days in order to get the bird into the oven. It took both of them because the bird was heavy and my mother was small. Dad did the heavy lifting and, in the kitchen, Mother was boss. They worked well together. He always said she messed up every pot and pan in the kitchen when she cooked a big meal. So he stood at the sink and scrubbed them, trying to keep ahead of her. He thought it was funny and he loved her cooking so never complained. I’m sure she had prepared as much as possible the day before, such as a jello salad, big pan of cornbread, precooked the green beans, and possibly made pies etc. She most often cooked a hen a day or two before so she could use the broth to make her big pan of dressing. She never stuffed the bird because they felt there was a danger of food poisoning from improper cooking. She had majored in Home Economics at Bessie Tift College.

My job was to set the table and do some kind of very simple centerpiece, often just veggies and pretty leaves. Mother had beautiful china, silver etc and we always used cloth napkins and a tablecloth. Our table seated twelve easily and other tables could be set up if needed. Now, I am amazed that all that work got done, meal served, and young folks helped clear – and then we walked all that way to the game. When my mother finished eating, she did not return to the kitchen unless she made herself a turkey sandwich, in the evening. Dishes were done by others.

One Thanksgiving, when I was a junior in college, we went to Jacksonville to be with Mother’s sister. A boyfriend came up from Gainesville and had dinner with us. Later, he took me dancing. Then, on Saturday, he came and took me to Gainesville for the University of Florida game. I think they were playing Alabama. The half time show was so great. He finished his MBA that year and moved to Atlanta.

When I think of it, seems kind of strange that we went to so many football games. My dad despised football; never watched a game; refused to even talk about it. When I was very young, some friends of my parents lost their wonderful son because he was injured playing high school football. I think right then, they must have decided their boys would not play. Also, Dad would tell young men that if they had any desire to play baseball, to avoid football - they could too easily injure their knees etc in football. One of my very loved cousins did just that and had knee trouble for years. I remember Dad saying, “They just go out there and try to kill and injure each other. What kind of sportsmanship is that?” It is possible that the game was rougher back then. I surely don’t know.

One especially happy holiday, when my kids were 7 and 10, our entire family went to Slidell, La. to spend Thanksgiving with brother Don, his wife Jane, and their family. I don’t know how in the world they managed to sleep and feed eight adults and seven kids (brother Bobby and his family came too) - but they did, and comfortably too. They had a lovely home, on a golf course, and the weather was nice for the kids to get outside. Slidell is across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans so it was exciting to go sightseeing there, for me, with all the people I loved. I’ve been back to New Orleans several times since then, but have the sweetest memories of that trip.

You know, after all the terrible things that happened during and after the hurricane, my desire to revisit New Orleans has pretty much waned and it is not about the streets and buildings, it is the people. Yes, I know and have met some perfectly lovely folks who lived there but just doubt I’ll go back. Once when I was in a New Orleans cab, because of the rain, there was talk of flooding. I asked the driver if he was afraid and he said, no, he just hated all the snakes that get washed up. UGH! I remembered that during the storm but that was small potatoes in comparison to the way people behaved.

On another Thanksgiving, our family went to Amicolola Falls, in the north Georgia mountains. I believe my brother Bob got that trip organized…. Or it could have been my parents, not sure. At any rate, it was another really happy Thanksgiving. We had a big cabin but I think the kids slept on the great room floor. My mother, sisters in law, and I, and maybe the girls, drove over to Helen, Ga. and to a wonderful old country store, one day.

Another Thanksgiving, everyone came to our house, in Augusta, and I loved having them. I don’t remember much about the food except that I decided to make a three layer cake with chocolate icing. I was so tickled because the guys whittled on it til they’d eaten the entire, huge cake. I’d made pecan and pumpkin pies too. That was the trip, I think, where Don recorded Dad reading to us, some Robert Service poems or Kipling.maybe.

Dee was just saying, last night, that she might read SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON to her kids .. My dad read it to her … and to us when we were young. I thought it was so sweet when she said it just doesn’t sound as good when I read it (talking about herself). Dee is a trained actress and when she reads, she does all the different character in distinct voices and it is fun to hear her read .but, of course, it is not her Papa. He also read Bible stories and Bobsy Twins and I don’t know what all else.

Another family activity that I loved and miss, was Mother playing the piano for Jane, Don and me to sing. Of course, anyone else was welcome to join in. Mostly, we sang hymns if we were singing harmony. Jane has a lovely, high voice, and Don sings tenor. Every once in a while, I’d date a guy who could also sing along but if that was all they were good for, I’d let them go???!!!! My Tony had a really good singing voice but he didn’t know one note from another ---- and he was kinda loud :0).. His favorite song was Tom T.Hall’s, OLD DOGS AND CHILDREN AND WATERMELON WINE. Now it makes me want to cry when I hear it.

Well, I’m surely full of memories, tonight……. And they are good ones too. I just hope my children and grands will build up memories to enjoy when they get to the winter of their lives.

I do need to add one note. I am so tremendously grateful that my son is back in the good ol’ USA, this Thanksgiving. We need to remember the other mothers’ children who are not home, in our prayers.

This was made Thanksgiving 2007, in Myrtle Beach. Little Michael is next to Bobby's grandson, who we now have to call Big Michael at family get-togethers, and Bobby's granddaughter Lana, Robin's daughter. We decided to skip cooking that year and went to a restaurant, which was a lot easier! It was still a fun time for everyone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Blue Christmas

Thanksgiving 2006, with Myrtle and Bob.

As hard as I am trying, I just have a dull pain in my heart that threatens to overwhelm me. I am a Christmas person - I love everything about it - the reason for the season, of course, but also the music, cards, smells, present buying, wrapping, cooking, and especially the tree, the bigger-the better!

In the last years, we have had an artificial tree, starting when my husband felt unable to manage hauling a real one in the house. The only part I miss is the smell. Haven’t been able to duplicate that so far. What I have done is to bring into the house whatever fresh greenery I can find for the mantel, dining room table etc. I believe my grandson enjoys a tree as much as I do and it’s fun to have a tree pal.

No, the pain, this year is because my oldest brother, Bob, and his wife, Myrtle, both died within two hours of each other last December 23rd. The terrible shock of waking up to an early morning phone call, on Christmas Eve, remains with me.

We were already trying to keep cheerful because my son was in Iraq and we were constantly praying for his safe return, we knew not when. I did not expect him to try to call home because we all felt the young troops with small children, especially, should have the use of any available phone lines.

We did not try to go to Myrtle Beach for the funeral the day after Christmas but maybe it would have been better for some sort of closure.

I continue to miss Bob terribly and my almost weekly phone visits with him and Myrtle. Sometimes they were five minutes in length and other times an hour or more. There are so many things I need to tell him. He always wanted to know exactly what my children were doing and later, my grandkids. I kept up with his too. He found a brand of canned peaches he thought were unusually good and called to tell me where to buy them. We didn’t try to solve all the world’s problems, mostly just shared everyday happenings. When my son was in Iraq, the first words out of Bob’s mouth when he called were always, what have you heard from the Major?

Many years ago, we were in Myrtle Beach, visiting them, and Myrtle had decorated their huge tree with dainty, white, lace angels and small, red velvet bows. She had asked a friend to make them for her. I collect angels and love them, as well as believe in them. You can imagine my great joy when Myrt brought out a white box of angels she had saved for me. They are old now but we still hang them on our tree.

My husband’s uncle, Uncle Jake, almost always spent part of the holidays with us. He was the brother of Tony’s mother, Cordelia. When my children were growing up, Jake always untangled all the tree lights with great patience and supervised their placement, from his rocking chair. He loved Oyster Stew, so that was always supper on tree decorating day. When I was newly married, we had Cordelia and Uncle Jake with us Christmas morning, along with my parents. I had bought and filled Xmas stockings for all four of them and we all got a kick out of the silly little gifts. That was the last year we had Cordelia with us, and I’m so glad it was a tad special.

I have another brother, Don, who is actually closer to me in age than Bob was. The difference, or one of them at least, is that Don always depends on his wife to write the e- mails or make the phone calls. I haven’t heard his voice in months - don’t even remember when, to tell the truth. She said he spends lots of time on the computer but guess it must be business type stuff.

Don’t misunderstand, I love my sister in law. It’s just that I miss my brother. Recently, I worried that his health may be worse than I knew but she sent me his schedule, so I guess he just stays busy. Dee had offered to take me to see them this fall when the kids had a day off from school but they said it was not convenient. We’d probably just have been there on a Saturday so had hoped it might be a free time. They suggested we set it up for the same holiday next year, but we simply can’t plan a year in advance.

I have a wonderful first cousin, Frank, who is also like a brother to me and we do email most every day. I am very fond of his wife, Karen, and we also stay in close touch. They have a beautiful home, in Brunswick, Ga. We had a nice visit with them last summer and will go back when we can.

Another sister in law died this last year, Evalyn, the wife of Tony’s oldest brother. That makes, of the three Thompson brothers and wives, just Diddy and me left.

Of the couples who were our friends, in Augusta, two husbands died this last year. I had learned as a widow that lots of couples stopped including a woman alone. These two were so thoughtful and fun and surely helped me through some tough times. I miss them a lot.

Another dear friend, a retired Navy doctor, died this past year also. He had been a friend of Tony’s as well as mine. He was another person I talked to always at least once a week, often more.

Five dear friends have died in the last few years; Angel, Anne, Maryanne, Mary, and Pat plus all their husbands. We’d all been friends for years, Pat and I since 6th grade. Knowing there is nothing I can do for them, I decided to do what I wish someone would do for me when I die. I pray for all their children and their families. No, I surely don’t know all their needs but the Lord does.

Well, hate to sound morbid but I do miss the people I loved. I know they are just fine. I also am sure my brother would not have wanted to live without his wife nor she him. But that doesn’t mean we can’t miss them.

I never for a moment forget to be thankful for my wonderful son and daughter. No mother could ask for any better children. Sometimes, they have their hands full with me – but turn about is fair play?! Obviously, I have perfect grandchildren and will be happy to take an hour or two to tell you all about them!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grateful for Many Things

I am quite thankful for all the basics of a good life, and for many other things. Yes, for God, family, children, music, health, America, friends, books, and the list surely goes on and on.

But there is more that I’m grateful for. So that’s what I am thinking about at this time of year. Lots of little bits and pieces make up beautiful mosaics, if you will.

Just think about D-I-R-T. Once, I asked my very young son what he was most thankful for, sure he would say his beautiful Mama. He said, DIRT! He picked up on my puzzlement and said, “I really like dirt. I play in the sand box and build roads, and mix it with water, then paint myself with it and become an Indian, and walk on it, and we plant stuff in it.” Ok, gotcha.

My husband would have said he would always be grateful for Ma’s [my mother’s] fried chicken and green beans! I could second that. No one else on the planet made it taste like hers and I really tried!

Though I don’t swim anymore, only because my arthritis makes getting out of the pool difficult, there used to be the most peaceful, happy feeling when I got into a swimming pool. I love the smell of chlorine and the weightlessness of floating around in water, not on a float. I can just lie down on water and float all day.

Other than her children, I am betting my beautiful daughter would say she is grateful for CHOCOLATE! But she can write her own list :-) Correction: after checking with her she says she is most thankful for her computer and I surely go along with that!

Dishwashers! Oh, man! I’ve washed at least two million dishes. Clothes washers and dryers were total luxuries for the first part of my life, and still seem that way to me.

I am eternally grateful for automatic gear shifts. The house we lived in, when I was learning to drive, is on a very steep hill. So many times I killed the motor and let the car roll back. We had a big old Buick and I couldn’t see over the top to park. Dad finally put those little wire feelers on the tires so I wouldn’t ruin them. I am thankful for those too.

Some years ago, my sister-in-law gave me a recipe for Lewis Grizzard’s Cornbread. He said that if you had that recipe, you’d never need another. He was entirely correct and I’ve tried to share the recipe with others. I used to make corn muffins to sell at our Women of the Church Bazaar and they always sold out quickly! (Note: real cornbread does not include sugar, not in the south anyway.)

Aren’t flashlights wonderful! I have one in every room, including the baths, and in my car. I don’t see well in the dark, never have, so I have all shapes and sizes. I have the nice big Maglight, plus lots of smaller lights. Now, one can buy lights that don’t require batteries and are supposed to last up to two years but mine have lasted longer. They cost about three or four dollars, at CVS, cheaper than batteries. I give them for little presents too.

When I was a little kid, I got to help Mother wrap Xmas presents. She mostly had to use plain tissue paper, which tore if you looked at it. Then, to make it stay put along with cord or ribbon, we used stickers. My job was to stick out my tongue so she could swipe the sticker across it, while holding the paper closed. I can still taste that glue but the stickers were pretty to a child. My favorite was the Santa that looked like the Coca Cola Santa. I still like that one best. However, Scotch Tape has made life so much easier in many ways!

When I was a young person, HAIR SPRAY was nonexistent. I seem to remember my mother talking about something she’d seen used at the beauty parlor, called lacquer. She did not approve because she said it looked stiff, like paint and was probably unhealthy. I believe she really thought that only “fast” women used it.

This time of year, the children come in from the mailbox with a stack of catalogues. Why, I can order everything from English Muffins to sex toys! What fun to peruse all those little pages from all over the world, then, decide there is nothing I want. Actually, shopping in stores is no fun for me, now, so I can order what I want to give for gifts and they are delivered right to my front door.

Some years ago, just before Christmas, I believe, word got out that a mistake had been made in one of the big catalogues. It could have been Sears’ but I am not sure. Anyway, a photo of a young man modeling men’s underwear showed his Mr. Happy. I checked it out but could not tell for sure! Just a case of a fellow being too big for his britches, I guess. (I may still have that photo somewhere…)

Well, my land, I could list about a thousand more reasons to be thankful but maybe I should just add that I’m grateful anyone would read my little non-essays!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happiness Is...

These days, toward the latter part of my life, I’ve given some thought to a few of the people, situations, and things that make me happy or, to say it differently, give me a feeling of peace. Some are quite small, some not.

My children, Bruce and Dee, are the lights of my life that make it worth living. I am extraordinarily proud of them as good, caring human beings. They are nice people and there is no one else I’d rather spend time with because they are interesting- and funny – and fun. I like to talk with them and get their views on different subjects and, quite often, their advice.

Music is part of me, in my heart and soul. I just LUV to hear myself sing ---- and often do when there is no one else around! But I enjoy singing for other folks too, one or a thousand, makes no difference. As I’ve got older, I’ve enjoyed the old hymns I learned as a young person. What could be more beautiful than FAIREST LORD JESUS or WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS or IN THE GARDEN? The Spirituals touch me deeply but I don’t care for the way some are modernized, with a harsh, clashing sound. After all, why try to improve on, LET US BREAK BREAD TOGETHER and BALM IN GILEAD and DEEP RIVER…

There are several pieces of Classical music that I sometimes listen to over and over and they also give me peace.

I have a blue, heavy, cotton quilted spread on my double bed. Actually, it is quite a nice one but it is also sturdy, I have learned. If that spread could talk, it could tell tales of tears, happiness, who said what, advice given and taken, and a little gentle rough housing with a ten pound dog. Coming out of my bath, last night, I found two teenagers and the dog on top of my bed, waiting to visit and kiss me good night. Recently, hearing my granddaughter come in from a date, I waited and, sure enough, in she came to tell me all about it, while removing her shoes and piling up the pillows under her head. Sometimes, Coco gets sleepy before I do so she makes her little nest with her baby blankie and goes to sleep on top of the blue spread. She is sweet about moving over when I go to bed.

I love fall, when the weather is cool enough for a wrap. To walk outside and smell smoke from someone’s wood fire makes me breathe deeply and feel happy.

All the sounds and smell of the marsh and the ocean cause me to relax and feel I’ve come home. As our Mike said the first time we showed him the ocean, “ How cute!” He was just beginning to learn to speak English, at that time.

Answering the phone and hearing, “This is your son” is music to my ears. I love to hear his voice but after he got grown, his voice and his dads became so much alike, I sometimes had to try to figure out which one it was. Not the best idea to ask your husband who’s calling!

Of course, Dee is my only daughter and few days go by that we don’t talk even though she may have just left for work. Sometimes she calls me from the car and we catch up, because the kids keep her so busy at home.

Sometimes Dee sings when she is cooking. Dee sings like an angel and hearing her is such a joy for me.

You know, a good cup of strong, black, hot coffee is one of my life’s pleasures. And if one were not so fat, one might add a half dozen Krispy Kreme Glazed to that. :0)

Today, I had a pedicure .Now there’s a joy! It is just amazing how good that feels, with a warm water soak and all kinds of creams. Then you get to admire your own toes! I see lots of men getting them too, minus the pretty polish, obviously.

Dogs have brought great happiness to my life, even since I was a small child. The first dog I loved was named Judy and there was a steady stream of loves from then on. One special Staffordshire Terrier [pit bull] was Pete. The current tiny one is Coco and she has been so good for my grands, who had only known mongrels, some of whom were less than friendly. Mike, especially, was a little cautious but he has grown to adore Coco and she him.

The last thing I’m going to mention in this blog is my computer. Oh my, what fun, an absolutely perfect toy for an old person. I get such a kick out of looking up all kinds of places and things and people! I’ve even made contact with old and dear friends that I’d not heard from in a while. Much sunshine for this old lady [woman ?]!