Friday, September 30, 2016

GECKO'S PRAYER



HAPPY FALL, Y’ALL!!

Much going on here, with birthdays and an unexpected, magical trip to Michigan last weekend, and takings-out and puttings-away of Summer and Fall things and outlooks on stuff.

Something about that air.  Something about the turning and the changing and the closing down of things that sends a message of slow down and settle in and even listen.

So, moiré non about the trip, but first, a tiny moment that made me smile my face off, and be glad the room was dark.

Sweetpea spent the night not long ago, and greeted her old friend Gecko the Chameleon, who had been left on her bed after her last visit, with a hug and effusive delight to see him again.

We turned out the lights and said our prayers, in which she usually concludes, “And Ganjin has something to say.”   This time it was Gecko who was to speak, and in the dimness I could see her hold his little sucky paws together.

 Then “he” spoke:


“Dear God, please don’t let there be any spiders in here, cause they eat all my bugs.   And just send all of THEM over here to me.  Amen.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

THE MYSTIC


My friend Val loves the serendipity of finding hearts, and she does---in clouds, in a salad, in a crumpled paper from a straw. She claims them as luck or fortune or just as her special talisman in life.

I just had a hankering this morning for some Van Morrison, and let the music just fill the house, as I went about my little doings on this superlative Cusp of Autumn day.  

Go fill your eyes with HEARTS, and your heart with the MYSTIC.



Sunday, September 18, 2016

SHAG DANCING


Image result for shagging on the pier charleston sc

I’ve just been rocking all morning, after reading Debbi’s post on Shagging on the Pier.   Still got the music going in the background while I’m writing---consider all typos a product of energy and rockin’ in my chair.

I just LOVE the idea of this---the night air, the energy, the music ringing out over the ocean, and all that fun and foot action.   I first heard of Shaggin’ on the Beach about twenty years ago, when Chris’ Sis and her new husband took Shag Dancing lessons and then went to gatherings all over NC.   It just seemed like the funnest thing, ever---going out with your partner, having such a wonderful talent in common, with the free-hearted steps and movements as effortless and easy together as breathing. 

I think of those long-ago, fun evenings often now, with a bit of gentle dolor, for that dear, young-hearted couple have since taken in and adopted FIVE of her daughter’s children, each as they were born, and and are now raising this second set of kiddos, ages eighteen to five, with all the attendant school and soccer and all the other joys and problems of parenthood---at OUR AGE, with grandchildren older than the younger ones.

They’re our Heroes, and they’re in my prayers and thoughts every day, with all this later-in-life burden and blessing they’ve taken on, embracing it with all of their dear kind hearts.  I like to think that they take a moment, now and then when a familiar song comes on, to lose themselves in a spin around the kitchen in that effortless, easy grace.


And I still think of them as dressed and shining, all that energy and rhythm and music filling the evening breeze in that happy gathering.   As they DANCE.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

RAINBOWS AND UNICORNS

We have been waiting for this lovely weather for a long, long Summer---it’s been HOT and it’s been rainy, but there were so few weekends with pleasant skies for celebrating outdoors..   So we celebrated Sweetpea’s birthday a week late, but it was a wonderful day.   She’d had a sleepover with friends and a dinner out with her other Mammaw and Pappaw the weekend before, plus several soccer games into the mix, so last Sunday was the perfect day.   It was just us five, plus our dear neighbor Honey, who has been a sweet part of her life since she was born.





Rainbows in a glass---I ordered these expandable beads online, because of a recommendation from my friend Tanya.   A couple of hours in water, and they grow to many times their little bb size, with their colours glowing in the sunshine.   When everyone arrived, we set up the little row of glasses and she so-carefully counted three beads into each one, in rainbow order (except for Indigo, so we went straight from blue to purple).   We watched them from time to time, and by the end of the day, they had swelled to jewelly slick marbles in the glass.

Lunch table---I ordered a little pack of rainbow/prancing steed  cloth,  napkins and plates on Amazon, along with a few charming little rubber-ducky unicorns and rainbow candles.   We used the colorful old fifties Melmac for eating and serving most of lunch, and the tee-ninecy “favor cups” hold the most beautiful pearly beads of pastel-coated chocolate, like Gucci M&M’s.   



You know when you cleancleanclean a room, and have nine unrelated items left with nowhere to go, so you just stick them in a drawer?  Well, that’s how all our parties are---days and weeks of planning and ordering and making and preparation and arranging, then when it’s TIME---there’s always extra stuff in the pictures.  



Presents and games.



She made the Unicorn/Pegasus banner herself several weeks before, inking in each figure with shades of teal and blue, and she smiled in delight when she saw it hanging between the trees.



 She mostly chose the menu:  Ganner’s grilled ham, rolls,  bowties and cheese, low-cooked snap beans, and Watergate salad; we also had stuffed eggs, confetti bean salad and lots of green munchy vegetables.  All the photos were quick-snapped with phones, and the shade sorta dimmed the colours.




Rainbow cupcakes.   Strawberries, several-colour grapes, and hot fudge dip on the side.



Nine and Ninety.   This pair are the youngest of us all.


Monday, September 12, 2016

DADDY'S FIREHOUSE SALAD



Image result for Iceberg lettuce tomatoes radishes

Sis and I were texting about the “firehouse salad” Daddy used to make, and just talking about that old familiar rich tang sparked so many memories for me.  The local firemen used to have a big fish fry, or a barbecue, or just a big “feed” to raise funds or salute a retirement or for some charity event.   And Daddy made the salad for every one of them, for years.

The salad was always composed in little steps.   Oil first, to coat all the cut-up iceberg and radishes and onions and bell peppers and tomato and sometimes celery.  Daddy flatly refused to let me wash the lettuce for this, saying the oil wouldn’t adhere---I’d peel off four or five leaves, just to kinda get inside where maybe dirt and germs hadn’t got to.


 And you know---I’m not making this up, nor am I taking credit for something not mine, but I’m the one who made the first of these salads.  Just barely a teen, I was just prinking around in the kitchen, and we had sorta a bland supper going. 
I remember putting cut-up tomatoes in the bottom of that old salad bowl and giving them WAY more garlic salt than I should have.   Juices all started forming in the bowl, and I glugged in some of the vinegar and a bit of oil and tossed it, then tossed in all the other cut vegetables.  

It was mainly because Daddy’s friend Joe was there for supper, and he’d told stories many times, of being a POW in Germany, and they barely had anything to eat but dark bread and some kind of broth or beans.   They had a guard who would smuggle them in some salt in his handkerchief, and sometimes a whole head of garlic from home.  They would each take off a little toe-clove and hide it.



Image result for painting of garlic

(VERY STRONG VIVID MEMORY HERE):
Mr. Joe would pantomime how he’d eat that precious small bit of flavor, keeping that little toe going for DAYS.   He’d pull his lips way back from his front teeth and nibble the air like a tiny mouse, showing how he’d just have a teensy nip of the stuff to satisfy the craving for something bright.  (I think I told Sis that I think this would be too strong a visual for putting into the story).  I’ll leave that to you.

Anyway, he absolutely LOVED that salad with all the vegetables and sharp vinegary garlicky taste, and after we finished, he took slice after slice of “light bread” and ran it around in the juice and ate it folded over like Daddy liked a Mannaze sandwich with his meals.  


They all liked it, and Daddy made it that way as Firehouse Salad all the rest of his life.   


Friday, September 9, 2016

GREAT-GRANDPA'S LETTER

Image result for trials of the earth

I’m reading (and listening to on Audible, depending on what needs doing at the moment) a wonderful book called Trials of the Earth, set in the 1890s up to the 1930s, not too far from where I grew up. This woman---this real person who told her own, real story to a reporter in 1932,  does beat all for sheer grit and a spirit of the joy of survival that I’ve not seen in many fictional characters, let alone in the real world.   It’s certainly giving me a deeper appreciation for my own family’s struggles and labor and dedication to the land and hard work.   My family on both sides were mostly from that area, just one county apart, and I look back in amazement at the pure-D determination and keepin’ on Keepin’ on that just keeping a roof over your head must have taken. 
Quite a few men in the family fought in the Civil War, and one of my Great-Grandfathers has been a sort of family legend, for he survived ten devastating battles:
Gettysburg, Falling Water, Bristoe Station,  Battle of the Wilderness,  Spottsylvania, Hanover Junction, Cold Harbor, Ft. McCray, Fort Bratton, and he was taken POW at battle of Hatcher’s Run in April, 1865 and released after taking the Oath of Allegiance in Maryland in June, 1865. 

The following is from a letter written by him in 1915; one of the researchers of our “tree” says that his memory of the order of things is a little off, but I got the above list from his military records.   Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity may recognize the rambly sentences and unrelated tangents which so pepper my own prose---must be a family trait.   I have also seen a copy of the letter, but have not held it in my hands.  I cannot imagine the honor of holding and reading those hand-written pages.

 "I was born in Franklin County, Tenn., the 3rd of April 1838. My father moved to this county the next winter before I was one year old on a place now belonging to Mr. A P Hudson, joining land with Mr. Ruben Cox. He was there when we moved there and was the only man that lived near us. My father then bought a place 9 miles east of Coffeeville on the Pontotoc road where he died when I was about 15 or 16 years old.

"The Indians were in this country when we moved here, also some bears, wolves, turkeys and squirrels were plentiful. Times were altogether different then to what they are now. No railroads were here, then people took their cotton to Memphis on wagons and sold it and brought back their supplies they needed for the coming year. If you needed a little money in the fall, your neighbor had it for you.

"Coffeeville at that time was all on the hill, there was only two business houses there at that time. Messrs. Newburger and Raybourn owned those stores.
"John Murry was sheriff, John Ramsey was his deputy sheriff. Mr. Ramsey was raised in less that one-half mile from where our present sheriff was born and raised. He went to see his best girl one day late in the fall. Her father had killed a hog the day before. The people in those days did not bob the hog's tails like they do now. While the old man was returning thanks Ramsey took his fork and lifted the tail on his plate and said he would have that piece sure. 


Monument to Davis' Brigade of Heth's Division of Hill's 3rd Corps in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia


"The Civil War came on. I volunteered May the 2nd, 1862, and got back home June 15th, 1865. I joined Captain John Powell's company at Coffeeville, went to Grenada and stayed a few days, then to Oxford and stayed a few days, back to Grenada and joined the regiment.   J. R. Miller was our colonel.  


"We went from Grenada to Richmond, Virginia. There we joined Joe Davis' brigade the second, eleventh and forty-second Mississippi regiments and two North Carolina regiments constituted the brigade. We joined Heth's division, A.P. Hill's corps. We guarded prisoners and did picket duty the most of 1863. The battle of the Wilderness was the first big fight we were in.
"The next fight we had was near Spotsvalina (sic) court house. The next was Gettysburg.   I had seven holes shot in my clothing, but I never had the skin broke all during the war.
State of Mississippi Monument at Gettysburg

"I had lived in Yalobusha County ever since I was one year old, except during the civil war. I am now living on a place I moved on in 1867 in two miles of the place my father settled on when he first moved to this county, joining land with the place he died on. I will soon be 78 years old. I never paid any fine of any kind and never have been arrested. I know no man who has been in Yalobusha County as long as I have been. 

"Hoping I will be the oldest resident,
I am, 
Yours truly,"


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

GUEST POST: BEACH GYPSY




Ya’ll, sometimes the comments are better than the blog.   I think that should be embroidered on a pillow or plaque, for the sweet and thoughtful and vivid comments that Y’all leave here are a wonderful part of my life.   Just to know that a few words I throw out there sometimes evoke memories of your own, of other times and people and places which have meant so much in your lives---that’s a lovely thing to contemplate.

Today, I was absolutely mesmerized reading a comment from my friend BEACH GYPSY, whose forebears worked HARD to make their way  and tend their families.   Such memories deserve WAY more than a little snip on the back page, and should be UP FRONT, not even a click away.

Her Words:


I come from a long line of "working men". Hard labor, building bridges and dams, farming, factory workers, working in the hard weather and hard terrain mountains. Tending to cows and chickens and pigs and huge gardens and building fences and barns and working on telephone lines and providing for their families and making sure the kids were fed and clothed and the houses were kept warm in the winter with backbreaking loads of sparkly black coal and making sure my grandmothers and great grandmothers and great-greats had a washing machine down in the "wash-house" to keep the clothes clean and a back porch to sit the work worn and daily dirty boots on at the end of the day.

They dug wells so there was clean fresh water to drink and they kept bees for the sweet delicious honey. They hunted and brought home food and they knew how to build and to use a smokehouse for ham and bacon etc. My Grandmothers knew what to do with a wild turkey on thanksgiving and how to sew a quilt for a newly married couple. My Grandpas knew how to shoot a rattlesnake and my Grandmas knew how to MAKE sweet butter in a churn and delicious blueberry, blackberry, and apple jellies.

 Yep, I come from a long line of "working men" and women. Hands dirty with grease, oil, paint, or garden soil as well as feminine hands busy with sewing and kneading doughs for bread and pie crusts. Your post brought to mind so many memories....



Thank you, Gypsy---beautifully remembered and beautifully expressed.


Monday, September 5, 2016

HAPPY LABOR DAY!!




Thank you to EVERYBODY who does something for anybody else, in any helping capacity---Work, Pray, Teach, Make, Heal, Tend, Feed, Clothe, Extend a Hand, Hold a Hand, Fill a Hand, Intervene, Interpret, Listen, Neighbor, Carry, Lift, Protect, Serve, or anywise Look Out For.

THANK YOU ALL.


A salute from Randy ‘n’ ‘em.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

SSSIGHTS AND SSSOUNDS


Image result for zinnia bed in old yard

I have such a love for the sssss of September’s beginning, as with all words which go so gently into the air like dandelion fluff.  September.   Susurrus.  Sigh.  Season.   South.  Silver.  Sibilant.   Soothe.

And the beginning of the month itself, long such a beacon to me through the heat and humidity of those Southern Summers, is something of a calendar day to a lot of folks, I’m learning.   I’ve seen blogs of special  dinners and garden parties and teas, in these just-past two days, all celebrating the closing of the Summer season, and the belling-in of the coming parade of holidays in swift array.  But the joys of Summer---somehow snapped and zipped shut in so many places by this Labor Day weekend---closed down and boarded up by the calendar, as if mere Time controls weather and mood---that’s always seemed strange to me, like trying to tell a toddler he’s sleepy just because it’s eight o’clock.

 We’ll celebrate this weekend with a birthday or two, a lunch on the freshly-furbished and scrubbed patio, with rainbows and unicorns and the scent of Ganner’s incomparable ham rising from the grill.  The weather IS, indeed, magically changed by wand of wind which blew in these perfect blue skies and seventies breezes, after such a hot and wet season as we’ve not seen in a long time.  

But somewhere, here and there and around, the sights and sounds and scents of Summer linger like that last ray of sunset, reluctant to dip away and fade out.   And the ones I remember most are the ones of long ago, still vibrant and beautiful, in my dreams:  


 A barefoot-stomped yard with the patch of zinnias against the shed---Big Ole Bubba-Flowers, zinnias, in their stiff, Raleigh-ruffed gaudy colours and a hardiness to the petals and wiry stems that will outlive many a graceful foxglove and tissue-curled snapdragon.

Chickachickachick of an old rotary mower as the rusty silver blades cut a path through the ankle-high grass; the Summer skrish of yard-broom sweeping the grass to the ends of the rows. 

Image result for vintage rotary lawnmower

The sound of the big old pecan trees in our yard, way up high in the hot, dusty boughs, as I hid from Mother to read through a lot of those long Summer days.   The scrunch of separation as two small grubby hands divided a Popsicle, the sharing and the inevitable drip offset by the deep draw of eager lips.  The whitening of the ice as the dyed juice was sucked away, like the fading shine of sand when the tide withdraws.  



Image result for red popsicles


The coppernickel tang on your hands, the smells and sounds of slingshots and marbles and BBs and all the other tools of a child’s happy trade.  Snap of slingshot, hiss of ball bearings or rocks through the air.  Satisfying smick or thunck, depending on target.  Click of marble on marble.  Deeper toned THUNK of throwin-knife into a target or post.  Smack of ball into glove and crack of bat-meets-ball.


Which-a-which of the old tall-necked copper lawn sprinkler, peeping up through the grass like a preying mantis as the water-drops fly.  


Image result for sprinkler in grass

The steady, solemn hum of fan-blades suspended in a white-raftered church; the unobtrusive wielding of wide-hipped funeral-parlor fans as the sermon rises in tempo and tone, and the competent, officious rush of white-clad, no-nonsense Lady-Ushers to the side of the faithful, too-overfilled with the Spirit and fainting from a combination of heat and zeal.  How I loved those purpose-in-life, take-charge women, with their calm caring and their confident air.  
Image result for church usher board  in white

The sweetest thunkch as a shade-cooled watermelon falls under the knife, giving up its heart on a battered picnic table.   Splashes and happy shrieks as children frolic through sprinklers and run heedless through another Summer afternoon.  

And the open-windows sleep-sounds of a million peep-frogs, as a faraway train wends its way through the night.

There's one more sound, such an important, wonderful, promising, cheerful Essence of Summer one, and a part of it has been stilled in an unimaginably senseless manner.  

 Today I'm mourning the Bees.



Friday, September 2, 2016

SOUTHERN SALADS

Image result for Blueberry pie filling congealed salad


Sis just e-mailed for Mother’s Pretzel Salad recipe, and I confessed that I never had made it, and had never even had the hankerin’ to.  And then I had to remind her of the dreaded Blueberry Thing which made the rounds of Garden Club luncheons and Rehearsal Dinners in the early eighties, appearing on everything from treasured Royal Daulton salad plates to the almost-ethereal styroform saucers so beloved of church kitchen suppliers and school lunchrooms.

I still think of it as THE DREADED BLUEBERRY THING, though it was usually billed as Blueberry/Black Cherry Salad, and though it gives me a bit of a quease to speak of the stuff, if weird salad HAS to have a place, it's probably HERE, in my ramblings about little Southern quirks and curiosities.   I know the stuff COULDN’T have been as bad as I remember it---too many nice people made too much of it---gallons and bowls--- and there was probably no Pyrex 9x13 in nine counties that hadn’t cuddled a clumpy thick black sheet of the stuff.

Church Suppers were rampant with it, for a while there---one Second Saturday I counted SEVEN of the glass oblongs on the table, each set down with a flourish and a JUST SO nudge to the angle, so as to appear better and more beautiful than the next. Mission Impossible. And that was out of a total attendance of perhaps forty---had it not been for Miss Bessie Kiihnl and her always-anticipated BIG pot of Chicken and Dumplin’s and Mrs. Kilgore’s huge Magnalite of Spaghetti and Meatballs---well, there woulda been many a stop at the Arby’s drive-through THAT night.

And quite a few Feed-the-Young-Folks-Before-BTU evenings in Fellowship Halls featured little rounds of Styrofoam cushioning a leaf of iceberg with a square of the quivering blackish grue set neatly to the side of the dinner plate. You could tell the kids whose Mamas Had Raised Them Right by their merely pushing the block with a tentative poke, then hiding the furtive wipe-of-the-fork on their napkins. The truly unmannered let their EWWWWWs be heard, and a couple with No Raisin’ a-Tall actually uttered, “Not AGAINNN!” for all to hear.

The unfathomable-to-me conglomeration was a mixture of Black Cherry Jello and CANNED Blueberry Pie Fillin’---despite the proliferation of gorgeous blueberry patches and the bounty of the fresh ripe fruit, the recipe CALLED FOR CANNED Lucky Leaf, and the lemming cooks plopped that gluey blue-black clump of sparsely-fruited thickening right into the mix as confidently as Miz Paula with butter. The whole thing assumed the look and demeanor of the Oil Slick That Ate Tasha Yar.

Time and therapy have dimmed whatever other ingredients went into the dish, but the colors and the texture remain---the flavor kinda between the tang of an old penny and a mouthful of wasp-bitten persimmon ferment, embedded with the too-earthy uuumph of old beets, is forever embedded in memory---a testament to follow-the-leader cookery which has led so many otherwise wonderful cooks astray.

Do not try this at home.