Friday, February 28, 2014


Here’s a BRIGHT for this GONNA-BE-SNOW-AGAIN weekend---for everybody who loves strings, marvels at the sheer mastery of an instrument, and delights in the contagion of joyful young energy.  And for all of us with Rock‘n’Roll Hearts.

I shook hands with Itzak Perlman once, and it was magical.   I'll bet these fingers would throw an electrical spark. 

Just don’t get too comfortable in your stays and spindly chair.



Wednesday, February 26, 2014


The six teachers who resided at  Mrs. Wood’s Boarding House back when every-town-had-a-school were a homogeneous group, like sisters or cheerful nuns who had lived long together in such an estrogenic universe that they melded like wax.  They ranged in age and tenure by several decades, from gray upsweeps to waist-length curls, from bouncing salt-and-pepper page-boys to one silky-white permanent renewed at the Chat-n-Curl every six months.  They taught math, English-and-Latin-combined, Speech and Home Ec, as well as all-the-Rs-plus- H-and-G in the lower grades. 


  The two elementary teachers were oddly disparate---one sturdy and solidly planted, her plain-spoken character and her sense of command quite suited to the rowdy fourth-graders, most on that cusp between  innocence and naughty entendre, and needing a firm hand and incisive voice. 
Miss Omar strode into the classroom in a gabardine suit---shoes solidly laced, setting down her purse and taking up the day in both hands.  She had no need for call-to-order after about the first week, for a majority of her pupils had heard from older siblings that she was a tough old bird, and proved by stern example in those first few mornings. 

   When she woke up, she was AWAKE, and could not understand those who needed the brace of coffee and a bit of quiet to get going in the morning, though she matched them cup for cup at the percolators.   And she’d never set an alarm clock in her life---she just KNEW what time it was, never missing an appointment, knowing without turning her head that the Jenkins boy and Claude Ray Burns were setting their brogans for escape at seven-til-three, instead of waiting for one-minute-before like everyone else watching the clock.   And until she went off to college, she’d believed that everyone else could tell time like that, startling onlookers occasionally with “It’s four-fifty-two---I’d better get home,” with no clock in sight.  

rubylane photo
Miss Haynes’s waist-length curls were the envy of every girl in the entire school, and the Toni counter at Leon’s Drugstore would have grown dusty had it not been for Miss Hazel’s assiduous attention with the turkey-feathers, for it lacked for customers as all the girls began to let their hair grow out about the third week of school.  Then succeeded a run on the soft-curler rack and the TAME aisle, once word leaked as to how she kept her elegant coiffure.   She was thin and fine-boned in  her pale shirtwaist dresses and silky blouses tucked into somber skirts.  Her manner was quiet and soft-spoken to her class of first-graders, calling them “ladies” and “gentlemen” when she called them to order.  
The effect her calm, orderly person had on those brand-new scholars bursting in, fresh and still drunk with Summer in the first days, was a wonder of the school, for the grubby barefoot boys soon attained an almost neat aspect, with clean faces and fingernails, and the chattery, chirpy little girls stilled and ceased at the first soft words.
And after her very first note-sent-home, introducing herself and asking that each child bring a pencil, a tablet, and a handkerchief every day, there was a cloth in every pocket, though some were obviously cut from an old sheet or dishrag, unhemmed and ravelly, but folded into the small pocket every morning along with Barlows and aggies and chunkin’ rocks and yesterday’s night-hardened nugget of gum.   They knew better than to chew in school, though Miss Haynes was still new to the game, holding out a scrap of torn paper for the miscreants to spit the gum into, rather than the seldom-needed, sternly-proffered bare hand of Miss Omar, who had become inured to all sorts of grime and goo over the years, and who kept a tiny bottle of McKesson’s in the top drawer with the Jergens, for anointing her hands now and then.
Miss O had lived at Mrs. Wood’s for some seventeen years; Miss H was the baby-of-the-bunch in her second year of teaching, and they both fit in like family.   



Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Six teachers lived at Mrs. Wood’s---always phrased with an apostrophe, as was shopping at Kroger’s---one still in residence after twenty-one years, and the latest, for two.   Mrs. Wood was a widowed lady whose husband’s family had been “well off” in early days, and had built a house to fit their own six children and flurry of social activities.

Mr. Wood, having lived on with Mama and Daddy until their deaths when he was in his forties, inherited that big house, by dint of long custom and residence.  He made his living at the Railroad Depot, tapping out the mysterious messages in Morse, retrieving and hanging the bulging mail-bags which hung from the long gallows-arm like heavy fruit until magically grabbed-on-the-fly by the rattle-roar of the passing train.  He had gained a mantle of magic to the town children, as well, as the man who could talk across the wire with his fingers, coupled with a mystical aura of one who appeased the roaring beast twice a day.

He had gently courted the pretty young Miss Ruth when his parents were living, escorting her to church and singing programs and the Senior Play for several years, with an occasional date to the picture show or to his Lions’ Club Dance.

Mrs. Wood had been a teacher herself for some few years and was just-past-forty  when they married, so she did not return to teaching after her husband passed away.

Having Margaret and her son Royal “right there” living in the servant house out back, and tending to everything around the place, and herself being well acquainted with the demeanour, personal lives and character of her fellow teachers, she offered room and board to a chosen few, and was gladly accepted.   The original six had been diminished only by marriage or retirement during the succeeding years, and by one Miss Ratcliff’s further education in four years of Summer School up at NWJC, after which she moved and became a member of the faculty there. 

And there was ALWAYS a waiting list---with the new residents chosen with an eye to compatability and good nature.   The house was welcoming, the cooking was excellent, and the company agreeable, with breakfast at seven, supper-right-after-John Cameron Swayze, and lunch on weekends and every day in Summer.   Mrs. Wood set a good table, having two freezers out on the screen-porch ---one just for the beef and pork “spoken for” from Mr. Neighbors, one for vegetables and fruit shelled and peeled and put up by Margaret and some of the ladies themselves in Summertime, and an extra refrigerator in the butler’s pantry  so each of her residents could have a space for whatever extra treats or refreshments she cared to bring in herself. 

And another draw and convenience was that Mrs. Wood had the distinction of having not one but TWO water heaters installed out there with the freezers.

Miss Edith Mae Jones was one of the long-time residents at the “Teacherage” as Mrs. Wood’s home was called by the old-time residents of the town, and had secured a nice reputation for herself as an orator and actress and performer at little local events.   Her room in the top east corner smelled of Woodhue and lemon drops and an ever-so-faint wisp of the Vicks salve she kept to ease her throat, and her shelves were arranged with volumes of poetry and Shakespeare and many of the slim, flexible little books of readings from Shaw and Longfellow and Service and Millay, most of which she "knew by heart."

And moiré non, of these quiet ladies of the past, and their gentle ripples toward the future.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Couldn't you just DWELL HERE?  We’ve been plotting and planning and measuring for the new kitchen---just a tiny affair downstairs, one little wall-counter maybe 8’, with a corner turn into 4’ with the old black stove off on another wall, big and independent, sitting there like a huge squat frog with little round red handles to break the stern black-and-steel  of her face.

I want solid white, sturdy cabinets, like the metal ones above, with a pale top, perhaps Corian, but what I’d LOVE is one of those concrete counter-tops, pale pearly gray and forever, with the faint marks of the maker’s touch. We haven’t arranged for anyone to do it yet, and the times make me long for dear old Truman Burke---man of all work, who “did for” everybody I knew of.

Daddy did all our building and re-modeling, as he was a master with wood and cabinetry, but Mr. Truman---he was an artist of his own kind.

Truman Burke---that's a Mississippi name, a Southern name, a name for a solid citizen who IS who he is and does what he does and everyone thanks him for it.

“Cars actin’ up. Better call Truman.”

“Truman, would you take a look under there? She’s makin’ that zzzzzwhoo sound again.”

“How’s Marlee n’ em, Truman?”

“How much I owe you, Truman?”


A mainstay of this great nation, a real person who does what he does, raises up from his hunker over your carburetor, wipes his hands on an oily rag, leans into the window and asks about the family. And when the voice from under the hood says, “Try ‘er now,” you know you’re on your way, your day lightened and your way eased by that noblest of Americans---the small-town mechanic/carpenter/ handyman/plumber who everybody relies on and everybody knows by name, though it’s not there on an oval over his heart. A man who cleans up nice and shakes your hand in church and will stop anywhere, anytime, to help a stranded motorist/puzzled map-reader/kid hunting his dog.

He’s a man with a calling, perhaps not from On High, but from the earth---the gravel of the first roads, the concrete and the asphalt and Firestone tires and Valvoline and Quaker State and maybe I got a part to fit that.

Truman does his part to lift the flag and keep this country on the move. God Bless all the Trumans---I hope you know one.


Thursday, February 20, 2014


Once upon a time, some forty-something years ago, we sat in our living rooms, watching Mayberry on our black-and-white TVs.  The episode featured a visit from Thelma Lou’s rather awkward, rather plain cousin Mary Grace, and since it was already arranged that Thelma Lou and Barney and Andy and Miss Helen were double-dating to the big Spring Dance, Thelma Lou asked Barney to find a date for Mary Grace.


Barney sumpn sumpn and Andy Hmmm Hmmm and Thelma Lou SUMPN SUMPN!! And Barney shoulders-hunched hmmmhummm, so he and Andy ask Gomer to take her, using the Kiss Of Death regarding Blind Dates: 
 “She’s Nice.   She’s REAL NICE.”


Date arranged, night of dance arrives, three ladies wait in Thelma Lou’s living room.   Three guys arrive, come in, and as soon as Gomer and Mary Grace are introduced, he dashes back out the door.


Mumblemumble, sorrysorry, A&MH & B&TL leave for dance, leaving Mary Grace at home.  


Knock on door, she answers, Gomer says, “Sorry it took me so long. I noticed the other girls had flowers and you didn’t. I had to go two different places to find something with a little bit a pink in it.”  

She asks if THAT was the reason he ran off, and he says that “it wouldn’t be right for you to go the dance unadorned.” 

Noting that they now have no way to get to the dance three miles away, they both say they’d rather just stay home with each other. 


More hmmmhmmm and GrrrrGrrr at the door of the dance, Thelma Lou fumefume won’t get out of the car, they all go home.   As they all reach the front door, they can hear lively MUSIC inside.

R. I. P Mary Grace Canfield
You make me smile, every time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


This past weekend was the occasion of the Annual Boone’s Tavern Tea Party, attended by about seventy-five guests. 


It was a splendid occasion, with a welcoming atmosphere, delightful and delicious tea fare, and superb service.   My friend Linda Jennings at Friendship Tea coordinated the event, and did a magnificent job.


I wish I could have been there, and I’m invited to a lovely gathering of tea-bloggers in March, so I’m really looking forward to that.


Meanwhile, DO have a look at the enticing afternoon:  TEA PARTY.

Friday, February 14, 2014


An entire pink room greeted me as I emerged from our room this morning.  Chris had turned on a whole carnival of lights, draped up and above the dining table, over onto the bookcases, spanning the doors of the china cabinet, and swagged over the curtain like a New Year’s skyline.


The heart has been glowing on the table for weeks, now---it’s like one of those projects we used to make long ago, with starch-dipped string wrapped around a balloon, the whole thing given a thorough coat of Faultless spray to absolute stiffness, and then the balloon deflated.  


The table itself had quite a few holiday decorations and representations left over, with the Christmas dishes and holly goblets and a few red paper napkins and two square vases in red and silver.

One little votive-cup, with a never-ending supply of tea-lights, for no particular occasion at all, or any we’d like.

There's a sweeping little light-up angel-in-a-cube, some pink candy canes and a pearly-pinky-tan Santa standing in Sweetpea’s Christmas tumbler.

A tiny set of Easter Egg salt-and-peppers, awaiting the pastels of that table-to-come. 


My favorite cup, with some hot-pink paper napkins, chosen over turkeys and harvest-fruit for the Thanksgiving table, because “these will go.”  And they kinda DID, because we used the Burgundy Plates.  In the chair, there’s even a glimpse of the gaudy sandwich “platter” from our Un-Super Bowl party.

On the right, a frosted-glass lampshade, one of five bought with good intentions, but which did not fit the little chandelier.  We use those outdoors mostly, on the patio in Summer.


And way down right front, my Mother’s wavy fruit-bowl, used for special occasions all the time I was growing up.  It was used many a time for crudite' at parties, way back when they were still just a “vegetable tray,” and mostly consisted of sticks---carrot, celery and cucumber, because that’s what we HAD, when snow peas and jicama were still as unheard of as Sri Lanka.


The stack of pages is print-outs of my Paxton People, just to hold them in my hands. 

 Once, on a decorating show, I saw a beautiful young woman show pictures of the "before" of her home, before she was married, with roses and pinks and lacy pretties, and then the stark leather and steel and glass of the "after," because her husband (an NFL player, if I remember correctly), felt like such frou-frou was just "girl stuff."  I remember her wistful voice, "I had to give up my roses."
   I asked Chris if he were comfortable with all our pastels and pillows and pretties, and he said, in his sweet, rambling way:  "I don't care if you string Kewpie dolls around the walls, just so YOU'RE here."

I hope YOUR Valentine's Day is ROSY as well!



Linking today to Beverly’s Pink Saturday.


Sunday, February 9, 2014


Journal Jottings of things to think about:
"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." ~ Marcel Proust  


"Somehow, taking tea together encourages an atmosphere of intimacy when you slip off the timepiece in your mind and cast your fate to a delight of tasty tea, tiny foods, and thoughtful conversation." Greco

They're sort of clenched teeth amicable.   Leilah at EH

Reacher, when he had to buy a suit: 
The whole ensemble looked exactly like a hundred dollars grudgingly spent at the outlet mall ahead of a sister-in-law’s second wedding.  

“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come when the courage of men fails. But it is not this day! A day may come when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this 
day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand! Men of the West!” 
      JRRT via Aragorn at Morannon


The real truth is...when we are tested and we still hang on for dear life, we know everything will be alright. Sometimes we need the love from others to keep us going but the hope is there. Most important of all is the love that we have to give to those whose very smiles we adore. It is what makes our world go round and life so worth living.    JEANNE AT BACKYARD NEIGHBOR

Firefly - whatever suit cancelled that series needs to be plopped down in the middle of Comic-Con with a sign.  BarensMom

"Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae."   KURT VONNEGUT, JR.

 Honestly, it was like a harmonic convergence of halfwits …  Mrs. G, Derfwad Manor

Live Intentionally   Faith, Hope and Cherrytea 
And such words. Like the popcorn strand on the tree, each word may not stand out, but strung together, with just enough of the eye-catching cranberry words for 'pop, you make lovely strands.   Koign Aman   Christmas 2010


This is what I need to say: Even through you can't dance with me anymore, I still miss you holding my hand close to your heart and your other hand behind my back so that I would not fall. You are the worn out boots that carried me home from the lower pasture when I could not walk on my own, you are the flannel shirt that keeps me warm when the wind blows, you sing me back home when the other words drown out the song in my heart. You are not the wind beneath my wings, but the two by four that holds the roof up over my head.   The Other Kate in a comment on Derfwad Manor


Thursday, February 6, 2014



Miss Edith Mae Jones loved beaded earrings, big old clunky clip-ons which weighed heavy on her ears before the day was over.   She was fond of great clumps of plastic or glass or pearl, all twirled round into little rose or clustery broccoli or cabbage shapes, clipped onto her ears beneath the sway of her hair.  They leaned more to the blue or green shades, alternating between the days-of-the-week when she wore one of her three suits---the deep blue shantung with the pale blue piping, the bottle-fly green serge with the peplum, and the nice black gabardine one, mostly reserved for special occasions like funerals and teachers’ meetings in Greenwood  or Clarksdale, and the several up-the-ladder progressions to the yearly Speech Contest in Jackson, for all the state’s novice speakers and declarers and debaters. 


Her blouses ran mostly to those silky-neck-bow things, which she thought hid the gentle folds beneath her chin, and to big pearl-ball-buttons on the cuffs.   She was a tallish slim woman, with bouncing salt-and-pepper hair which she dampened and rolled under onto a Kotex at night to preserve her page-boy, before pinning it into one of her pretty pastel hairnets.

Miss Edith Mae was distinguished from Miss ARDYTH MAE, (the piano teacher who was married and widowed  with several children grown during the years she “taught music”) by being an unmarried lady, one of the several privileged few who “lived at Mrs. Wood's.”  AT as opposed to WITH, for AT pre-supposed a set fee for room and perhaps board (which was generously provided), for you could live WITH someone, in your own house or theirs, from girlfriend to boyfriend to understandin’ to shackin’ to you know how it is to still at your Mama’s, without being on your own two feet. 

But “living at” was reserved for folks making a living---paying boarders and roomers and the frequently-passing-through railroad men keeping a few things in a locker at Miss Florene’s Ho-tel and Caffay between stays.


Miss Edith Mae was the Paxton High School English-and-Speech teacher, with long and numerous orations and poems committed to memory, and a popularity for being on call as entertainment at Civic Club and Lions’ Club and Shriners, as well as knowing by heart quite a few gentle, earnest pieces suitable for the tender ears of the WMU and Missionary Society ladies.   No THE HIGHWAYMAN for them, no BLESSED DAMOZEL, no Ophelia, but mostly Helen Steiner Rice, whom she could quote for any occasion. And of course, she could whiz right through the hymnbook, gesturing and declaring every verse of the good old songs as if they were Dickinson or Donne, and surprising those ladies with those never-sung verses usually buried in the Broadman/Cokesbury third-verse wasteland. 


She was also liable to launch right into The Cremation of Sam McGee or Wonderful One-Horse Shay when the company felt right. And she’d even been featured in Mr. Lydel Sims column for her great way with elocution and poetry.  In Spring, Miss Edith was in great demand every year to help choose and rehearse the speeches given by Valedictorians and Salutatorians all over the county.  She was a smart, well-read medium frog in that tee-ninecy pond, and all her students adored her.


And once, when she was invited to “do a piece” for the Fourth of July, she chose to recite the entire four verses of The Star Spangled Banner.   


When she began the Oh, Say Can You See, and everybody recognized the words, a rustle began, as they straggled to their feet all over the campground.   And stayed standing, each probably wondering when or if they could sit down, or if they should, or was that only if there was music, or what?    As she strode the platform with the aplomb of Webster and Clay and Holmes, gestured aloft, mimed banner-waving, pressed fervent hand to heart, they stood respectfully in that July sun, with pride in their hearts along with a wonder that there were so many verses. 

When she finished with a triumphant flourish of her right hand to Heaven, she got the only standing ovation in the town’s history which STARTED OUT standing up.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014




The GATHER blog today featured the picture of a perfect, yellow banana lying in a snow-bank.  It reminded me instantly of an ago, an even farther-back-in-time ago, and of a just-now thing which sorta tied the whole thing together.


Chris Dad liked a GOOD RIPE banana.  I don’t remember a time in their house that there wasn’t a big bunch of them draped into one of those BIG clear glass bowls---you know, the pressed-glass ones, nearly punchbowl size, that came with the set you got a piece of every week with a 25.00 purchase at Kroger?  

Every house in five counties had at least some of that stuff---the pattern so recognizable as what it IS, that it seems to be the emblem of every seventies dining room in the South.
rubylane photos

There were goblets to start---getting everybody hooked on a set of something you had to get at least eight of, and the smaller goblets, and then the sherbets and sandwich plates and other footed bowls leading up to the great big ole baby-bath size that cost another five dollars on top of the minimum.

Chris’ Mom had every piece ever offered in her china cabinet, and in the kitchen/den, the big old bookcase divider was always topped with that bowl of bananas.   And his Dad liked them RIPE.   Ripe on over into the stage that they grew limp---too far gone even for Banana Bread---and smelled like nail-polish remover, drawing clouds of Alabama gnats like the crowds on Game Day at the Tide.


I'd handed Chris a banana the other morning as he went out the door, just in case he needed a quick snack, and then yesterday he brought it back in, all browned and bruised and voluptuously dying from the outside in from its freezing two-days-and-nights in the car.


It was still firm and heavy in its skin, and remembering back to the days of frozen ones, removed from Miss Avis' freezer at the Milk Bar---yes Milk Bar---our small town was too provincial for a Dairy Bar, I guess---I gave it a try.


She'd take out one of those banana-sicles on a stick, dip the whole thing into some sort of chocolate stuff that froze instantly into a hazy crisp coat, and hand it over for a dime.   Bliss.

Anyway, yesterday, I peeled the one he'd brought back in, and marveled at the creamy cold absolute BANANA-ness of it, its own perfect moment captured inside that elderly exterior.   It was like the banana ice cream from decades of Summers, or a pudding that needs no spoon. 

Do try one, but start with a fresh.   It has to get really ugly on the outside from the freezing, kinda like the time you spilled the Bottle of Bonne Bell 10-0-6 on your brown suede loafers.   Then peel and find your own bliss.  Chocolate optional. 

Hope you're all well and warm!



Monday, February 3, 2014


Sorta snowed in again yesterday, with the drive un-blown and the back walk showing only the meandering chains of FuzzyPup’s paw-prints, and we had our Second Annual Un-Super Bowl Party, just us three in the house.   We had no proverbial “DOG IN THE FIGHT,” but we did have a nice guy—in fact one of the nicest, kindest, GENTLEMEN ever to grace the sport.    He’s still well remembered here, still thought of as one of ours---you can still see people all over town wearing the Colts 18 jerseys on season Sundays.


Caro cooked upstairs, making the meatballs, sizzling the marinated chunks of chicken in the wok, making the seafood dip and the old fashioned Lipton onion dip and the sandwiches and brownies.   I just rummaged through storage places and cabinets, pulling out anything orange or blue.  Here and there an orange dish, a blue bowl, a nifty new orange-and-blue cutting board, not yet used---it would span the sink, with a neat hole for peelings to fall through, and a cunning little orange foldy-basket colander, along with a sturdy sliding silent-butler sort of pan for gathering up the mincings and dicings.   And it matched, as well, in my quest for the colours---not that we’re fans of any team, but it just seemed right to at least represent Peyton’s team, even if we WERE watching a movie during the event.

Even last Fall’s art tablecloth---folded inside out and upside down, got into the scheme, and there we were.


The table, in all its gaudy bits and pieces glory. 


The sandwiches---two with ham and Provolone, and the other with piles of the tenderest rare roast beef.  Horseradish cream to go with.   I think we cut those into thirds, and Chris and I each had a slice for lunch today, as well.

Caro’s Asian Chicken Meatballs, with a spicy sweet chili sauce.

The satay---marinated in soy and garlic, patted dry and quick-sizzled in the wok.


The old standby Rotel Dip---that little pot must have a one-inch-thick base, and stays hot for a LONG time.


Crudite, egg salad and Ritz, and a just-cut pineapple with some little orange frou-frou picks just because.

Some from-the-freezer little round potato crispies, with fresh-grated Parm and bacon.  They’re calling them TOT-Chos on Pinterest, I see.



Guacamole by Sis’ recipe, with lime and minced onion and tomato. 


Egg and Olive Spread.

Caro made the S’Mores Brownies, with a chocolate-chip-cookie crust with Graham crackers and squares of little Hershey bars laid on.  The marshmallows were the oddest things---I swear they look as if they were created by CG in a movie, with those shining contours and the etereal curves.  It was as if we'd served ghosts of marshmallows in the pan---their selves were just gone, leaving beautiful shattery shells.  

I have no idea how they were cooked, but they were solid and crisp as a thin-thin cookie, hollow as air, with the unmistakable deep-sweet toasted scent.   That burnt-sugar/vanilla flavor was irresistible, as we picked the solid little shells from the top and crunched them one by one, tasting childhood Summers in every bite. 

It was a lovely party, and we enjoyed being together.


And Peyton is just the definition of CLASS.   All the way.