well known in the South that we rely on our PEOPLE---our relatives, our
friends, our confidantes and closes and chums, and just the word encompasses
more than Streisand ever dreamt.
People are the ones who raise us, raise us up, shore us up, look after our
welfare til we’re up on our feet, tend and scold and feed and arrange and
hug. They're the ones we went to visit in our first high-top shoes, the names on tattered envelopes smelling of time and Toujours Moi, the first owners of the dresser scarves, the battered jelly strainer, the tiny lapel watch from nursing school, the Magical Teapot which still mystifies. They may be five-generations-back
and mere myths in the mist, but we know them by the stories and the memories,
the names on the back of crumbling photos, the pale spider-crabbed script in a
musty Bible, the faded-to-gray pictures in an equally worn album.We DO need our people---those hard-working,
far-back farmers and hunters and folks of field and plow; the men who logged
the woods and the women who met the noon train with their hot dinners to
my memories of our people mostly run to the female side—the Grandmothers and
Aunts who took a hand in our raisings, teaching us manners and math and cooking
and faith.They are the WE of me, thank
you dear Mrs. McCullers, and the long line of those stalwart, sensible, good-hearted,
laughing women with their snuff and garden hoes and way with crochet,
their black-skillet wisdom passed on with the skillets themselves---those are
mine, and I’m so thankful.
I happened to look in on Angela’s blog, with photos of her friend’s daughter’s
wedding, and was treated to such a charming Sepia Sentimental Journey of family
memories that I hope you’ll look in.A
SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY, indeed.
stone was still here beside me on the desk, just now as I sat down with my
first cup, and I gave it a fleeting fond glance before I tuned in to the
world.It’s on a white paper plate, for
just as I went out to retrieve it from the hosta bed yesterday, the sun went
scurrying behind a great bank of clouds, from which it has not peeked even a
ray from then til this.I brought the
small bit of concrete into the house, its white flat scrabble-tiles intact and
stuck tight, like a raft on an iceberg, and put it beneath the big sunny light
of the breakfast table, with all the white surround to reflect and enhance.
The color in
yesterday’s picture was chosen from about nine offered in a little
peacock-flash of color icon on my phone, and
I chose it because it was almost the perfect sepia of the pictures of that
time---didn’t a lot of us think as we looked at pictures of Grandmas and Aunts
and Uncles in their prime, looking out sternly from the black blotter-pages of
those wide scrapbooks and heavyweight small albums---didn’t we imagine that the
whole world of our forebears must have gone on, day after day, living and
dying, commerce and love and cooking and art---in those pale goldy-tan
That's my Mammaw, top right.
I returned from getting my second cup, I reached out a hand and laid it gently
on the cool tiles, still rock-solid these eighty-something years, and felt the unyielding
flat IS of it---that Mississippi
mosaic which has been just THERE for life and death and wars and unrest and
times of unspeakable heartache and joy. The flat little unassuming face of the tile,
with its two-faces-of-the-coin colors, and that pound ofgray concrete poured and laid by
long-stilled hands---that’s just something to think about.This piece, had Chris not found it, would
have still been there in that hot Delta sun season after season, amongst the
other rubble of the site, or brushed and shoveled into a pile of like shards,
tumbled back into the earth, with no meaning, no use, no history worth
remembering, and nobody to care.
been reading the Outlander series, about a woman in 1945 who was transported
back two centuries into warring Scotland,
merely by touching one of the historic Circle Stones she was visiting on
holiday.And as I held my hand today on
that cold flat bit of my own history, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the
doorway---that portal to 1957, with just a whiff of hamburgers frying, a burst
of loud laughter from a tableful of hard-working men echoing down that
kaleidoscope corridor, and the bright red and white of Miss Florrie’s Caffay,
set in a movie of Time and Place and music and colour and the innocence of our
It would be close in
that windowed space, the crowded booths
lively and loud, the air redolent of good coffee and burgers frying and the
whiffs of Woodhue and spray-net and Miss Florrie’s Toujours Moi.An underlying
note of winter-long woolens and barely-aired mothball-stored items, as well as
the Vitalis and Aqua Velva aura surrounding the leather-jacketed young men.Scent and colour is as vivid in the the scene
as the Rock ‘n’ Roll on the radio and the wasptail pepper-sauce in used Tabasco bottles on the
being in the place for an evening, a quiet supper with the family, the men with
their after-work hair slicked down, speaking across the aisles, and the Mamas
admiring a new baby two booths down, was a homey thing. My parents ordered The Special, and I the requisite hamburger---disappointed, somehow, that it came naked on a plate, without the crackly little wrapper to release that singular, tongue-curling mustard-pickle-and-onion scent when it was rustled open. There was no rush, no splendor to the evening,
just relaxing in a familiar place, plates pushed back and a cup of coffee
alongside a slice of Pearlene’s pie, and the world was as right as it was gonna
be for a while.
I know I wouldn’t want to retrace it.Not
for all the decades between, not for the do-overs or the remarkable Firsts or
the wonderful moments, the missed opportunities---nope, wouldn’t return.Not for any disappearing dreams of yesterday,
but it’s fun to imagine. Perhaps for a
Friday night or two, after a ball game, flushed with victory, and when the
energy and the reds and whites and voices were like fireworks under a roof, or
a quiet afternoon with girlfriends, our four sets of petticoats subdued beneath
the table, as we sipped Cokes and shared secrets. Ginger would lean close and whisper, "There's a baw-eh, and he
LIKES you,” and that firstlittle
heart-swell of romance would flutter into being.
there’s no returning, no re-take, no second spin of the wheel.There’s just so much a rock, no matter how embued
with nostalgic magic, can do.
post on my friend Jeanne’s blog on Saturday brought to mind an indelible
character from the past---a pink-cheeked flower container reminded me of
someone I used to know.Miss Florrie
had our town CAFFAY, up on Main
Street, and wore high heels and slim skirts and
pretty silky blouses, with her Miss Clairol RAVEN BLACK up-do and two perfectly
round circles of reddish rouge. I always think of her when I see doll cheeks or
clown cheeks with such perfect rounds of red.
caffay had several big store-type windows, with maybe six formica tables and
those paddy-back-and-seat-to-match chairs of the era, as well as a shining bar,
bigger than the one at the drugstore and not nearly as high, right at
sit-on-a-stool level to eat one of those incomparable hamburgers, or a quick
breakfast for the folks who worked in the stores and shops up and down the
floor is an indelible memory, of the tee-nineciest black and white tiles all
laid in, boot-tracked and oxford-scuffed despite the daily mopping, and was
known to have had quite a few dance steps spun across its small expanse, in and
around the chairs and tables, when a good song came on the radio.It was always fun to approach one of those
big windows from way across the railroad track, especially on a
getting-twilight evening, and see all the young folks gathered in those bright
squares of light---that blast of red-and-white from the tables and booths made
a triptych of colours and shapes, flexible and moving---as pretty as Dan Dailey
and Betty Grable in Technicolor at the Sunday matinee.
caffay offered a good old Southern noon dinner, from the hands of Mattie and
Pearlene, who had trod the boards of that kitchen from our parents’ days; those
two round laughing women with their shiny dark faces and white nylon dresses
could turn out some scrumptious fried chicken and peas and cornbread, serving
great ladlesful onto those divided plates, even though the crockery levees did
little to save the potato salad from the chicken gravy, or the cornbread from
the juice of those tongue-curling beet pickles.The plates came out of the kitchen, held level and straight, with Mary Olive
or Nancy trying hard to keep an errant thumb from the food, and were set down
on that shining red counter or table as gently as a noon-o’clock rush could
carb-and-grease meals, endless gallons of sweet tea, and loud laughter punctuated
the farm and politics discussions at most of the tables, as the store-clerks
and bank tellers and city hall workers had their own quiet lunches together---a simple bowl of beans and cornbread, or a Paminna Cheese sandwich, and silently returned
to work, their token dimes under each plate at the counter, perhaps a quarter from
a planter or lawyer at a table.
Miss Florrie now, she was a character---nobody could remember how many husbands
she’d had (one twice), and we girls all wanted to watch sometime as she got her
makeup on.We could just visualize her
in her bedroom, sitting down in a black slip and mules to that three-fold
mirror on her dresser, reaching out with ease to the bottles of foundation, the
small round compact of rouge.A good
rub with the little puff-pad, a little shake to remove the extra, and then a
perfect circle, bright as an apple on each cheekbone, like the Kewpie dolls on the Punchboard at Aunt Lou's store.
A couple of us had dolls with such gaudy
countenances, and we always referred to them as Miss Flow-rie dolls, kinda
wishing and kinda shuddering away from the idea of being old enough to decorate
our own faces in such a manner.
We talked about her a
little bit, in young-girl fashion, wondering idly if she put on her Maybelline
like the teen girls in the bathroom at school---wetting that tee-ninecy red doll-toothbrush
under the faucet, or spitting onto the little ridge of black mascara in the
box.A scrub down the channel, then an
eyebrow-held-up with one finger, asthe
mascara was scooped on from beneath in that curvy lift that deposited the
sticky black onto lashes and skin.We
were mightily interested in the mechanics of the so-mysterious older privileges
accorded our elders, and I’m sure we
stared at Miss Florrie an inordinate amount, for I can remember that she was a
bit of a caricature, as well as an almighty presence, with her bright cheeks
and black-ringed blue eyes, and that impossibly black hair held up by all those
little bit like this, but a deep dark melted-and-poured coal black---a black
beyond the midnight dreams of Miss Clairol herself.Now imagine a little red clown circle high
on the cheek, and it’s CLOSE, even to the immaculate outfit.
always smelled nice---not a whiff of fried chicken or the scent of boiling
broth or chopped onion (all of which wafted from the pass-through to the
kitchen, but which somehow bypassed her magnificently pristine self), and she was
as immaculately dressed and wrinkle-free, with her lipstick and rouge as
smoothly red at closing time as at breakfast.
was an institution in our town, a character and a landmark (Meecha at MissFlorrie’s) and a congenial, welcoming presence in that small corner
caffay.I don’t know when she WASN’T
there, and don’t know when she closed or passed away or moved, for we were up
here by then.When we went back for my
class reunion several years ago, we found only a bit of rubble where the bright
fragrant old gathering-place had stood.
wandered for a moment, bent, and picked up something from the concrete
foundation.He came back and handed me
a heavy little souvenir:A four-inch
piece of that so-remembered floor, the tiny black and white tiles still
dignified and smooth---I like to think that the little scuff top right is maybe
from our Saddle Oxfords or one of the cool guys’ motorcycle boots.
there you have it---Full Circle
from a cheeky little flowerpot to bit of the past which has lain for years in
my own flowerbed.It’s nice having a memory
I can hold in my hand.
receiving the set of five new books a couple of weeks ago, there’s been a great
gray blur in my brain---I liken it to that hazy fingerprint thing they put on
the TV screen to obscure the faces of the innocent.Nothing to talk about, nothing to relate.We’ve had some wonderful times together,
some lovely gatherings for meals and little parties; there’s been a little “work
toward” some houseguests who have had to cancel (babies due to arrive in a few
days!!) and a tiny bit of muchmuch MUCH- needed Fall house-straightening for the
closing-in to come.
no words come, so I just ramble amongst little snips from my journals, of bits
and pieces I jotted down when the ideas and phrases came to me in a “Hey---I
can use that someday,” but which seem to fit into no rhyme nor reasonable prose.They’re just snips and snaps which don’t
relate, but seemed like a good idea when they came to me.
sometime in future I’ll have reason to use them; probably not.
in a box:Cardbordeaux---say it fast
enough and it sounds as if it would be in the same set of furniture as Cabernet
A vegetable stand under a tent.
Prostitality:Parties for the sole purpose of getting guests to buy stuff
. .as many lives as Dent-slain Agragag.
prone to acrobatic sentences.
could never be a critic of anything, though I can think of wildly witty and
scathing and apropos reviews of books, television shows, movies, people’s
behavior and fashion and words, usually five minutes or the day after the
proper time (if there COULD be a proper time to take it upon myself to offer an
unsolicited opinion).I chuckle over the dishpan at an unsaid bon
mot or barb, telling and true, and I’m glad for the missed moment of
opportunity which saved my manners once again.But writing down and putting out there such reviews and criticisms as I
read and hear, with no holds barred, no bridge unburnt, no prisoners taken---I’ll
never have heart nor mind for such verbal vivisection.
OH, and beaten biscuits---I've made them. Once. Just as an
experiment on a lazy Saturday morning. They're like a cross amongst a Ritz
cracker and a dog biscuit and a Communion Wafer---the really hard, tough kind
found in Baptist churches, which, if they weren't tiny enough to get back there
and crunch between your back teeth, would do some serious dental damage. Or
hang out like a mint until they melt sometime between the grape juice and
"Just As I Am."
just sitting down “to write something,” without having an idea before the
start, feels like the typing equivalent of Ustinov’s Poirot in “Evil Under the Sun,”strutting hobble-footed across the beach
stones, puffed out and parading in that hideously magnificent bathing costume,
wetting toes, oar-stroking with his windmilling arms and emerging, wet-to-the-knees
with his invigorating pretense to exercise which had impressed no one save
have new books---five in all.One for
the first two-months-plus-one-year of LAWN TEA, (2008 and 2009), and one
for each complete year since.
first and longest, for in those days when I didn’t know how to post pictures,
the posts were all words, and wordy they were.This pink one with the Fleeing Fairy on the front must weigh five
long dreamt of having the pages all in one book, then perhaps it might take
two, and when I finally got it all keyed in and to the printer, there were
FIVE.They sent me tracking numbers,
and I suppose I thought that the final message might jump right to “Out for
delivery” on that very first day, for I signed in probably every twenty minutes
for hours and hours, just to check the progress.It was so silly, treating it like a baby due
and overdue, and so long awaited that I was nagging the clock to spin.
green one is a lot of Spring and Summer, with great excursions around blocks
and parks, and long lawn-sprinkles and flower-waterings, with a special small
yellow tub good for an afternoon’s play in the shade.
Three is a lovely purple, with the same butterfly-and-thistle header photo I’ve
had since Day One.Chris made it on Kit’s
birthday years ago, in a lovely park in Tennessee,
as we awaited their arrival to celebrate with us.The refreshments, oddly, were not Birthday
Cake, but watermelon—--a plump beauty which Chris had “iced down” in a huge
black garbage bag with ice from the hotel dispenser.We ate dripping hunks of the juicy red on a
big concrete picnic table, with whole eons of tiny plastic animals and reptiles
and dinosaurs surrounding us in the shade.
I have a picture of Kit running toward me as she got out of the car, and neither of her feet is touching the ground.
so they appeared at the door, those flat packages of mere cardboard and strap,
with a heft to them of slick paper and purpose and WORDS.I cannot imagine how many are IN there, and
who on Earth must have sprayed all those tidbits and tomes out into the
atmosphere.It’s Family and times and
travels, people and places, cooking and reading and gathering and just BEING,
with their own “Diary App” in the mix, to chronicle our days and doings, as
well as memories of other times.And so they’re here, and did not arrive
squalling, but as happy to see me as I was to hold them.
Four is the cheery yellow of a later Summer, another visit, when another birthday burgeoned
castles and Princesses and a Dragon.Which
swallowed one of the young Royals, who was miraculously saved by Gracie, whose
quick-thinking Heimlich burped Cinderella right out, to great cheers and
requests for “Do it AGAIN!”
Number Five, the last so far, is from this past year---smaller than the rest,
for I was most remiss in posting for a great long while.The picture was taken at our Christmas Tea in
December, when Sweetpea and her Ganner had been out for the evening to see “FROZEN,”
and returned just in time to help distribute all those dozens of cookies. They had burst down the stairs with a cheery “We’re HOME!” and a swirl of cool
air and rosy color.
a sample of the pages:
this smooth, bright-papered largesse was a Birthday Gift from Chris and Caro,
and is such a present as I never expected, never imagined to happen.But they’re here, and did not arrive
squalling, but as happy to see me as I was to hold them.It’s lovely to have them done at last, and
to share the Happy with all of you.