Saturday, September 30, 2017

WHERE YESTERDAY LIVED






Don’t we all wonder, as we pass by, what history is writ in the sagging shutters, the peeling paint, the windows with their sightless panes neither lit from within nor turned to the sun---don’t we wish we knew that story?   Don’t we muse and speculate, as we measure out past days in our minds, what family must have blinked into the day and settled into sleep for countless years between those walls?  All the What Ifs and What Mights, sifted though our own memories and filtered through our own lenses of Time---I can see and hear and feel those days and childhood shouts and breathless runs through the grass, those white-hot kitchen days of canning and cooking, those evenings on the porch as the night drew on.     

I’ve just been privileged to read and enjoy just such a story about a deserted old house, for my friend Debbi of her own FRONT PORCH has brought its days and occupants and occupations to brilliant light, just from her imagination and photos of the languish of its planks and roof, seeing into its past through the veil of droops and weeds and rust.   I hope you’ll go and have a look---that girl knows her way around Charleston, and her words and images bring it shining to the page.





Friday, September 29, 2017

READING IS OUR THING!





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We just celebrated Caro’s birthday this week, and I’m remembering that back in my very younger days, before she was born, we inherited a wonderful old worn wooden rocking-chair which had been in the family for years.   The boys were 1 ½ and 2 ½ at the time, and we’d sit together many times of the day to read a story.   It happened that the Saturday Evening Post had published Fox in Sox in its bright, colourful entirety, and I would sit in that big old chair, one little boy on each side of my lap and Caro-to-be in the middle, and that wide magazine spread before us.   I’ll bet I read that story more than a hundred times.   We can all just launch into the rhyme on any verse, rocking wherever we are, sitting or standing, and continue on til the rollicking end. 

We will love Dr. Seuss forever.  I’d say more about that, but it’s been said most eloquently already:

READ ACROSS AMERICA DAY, 2016 BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  A PROCLAMATION:

The moment we persuade a child to pick up a book for the first time we change their lives forever for the better, and on Read Across America Day, we recommit to getting literary works into our young peoples’ hands early and often. March 2 is also the birthday of one of America’s revered wordsmiths. Theodor Seuss Geisel — or Dr. Seuss — used his incredible talent to instill in his most impressionable readers universal values we all hold dear. Through a prolific collection of stories, he made children see that reading is fun, and in the process, he emphasized respect for all; pushed us to accept ourselves for who we are; challenged preconceived notions and encouraged trying new things; and by example, taught us that we are limited by nothing but the range of our aspirations and the vibrancy of our imaginations. And for older lovers of literature, he reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously, creating wacky and wild characters and envisioning creative and colorful places.

 Today, and every day, let us celebrate the power of reading by promoting literacy and supporting new opportunities for students to plunge into the pages of a book. As Dr. Seuss noted, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 

Together, we can help all children go plenty of places along their unending journey for knowledge and ensure everyone can find joy and satisfaction in the wonders of the written word.


NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 2, 2016, as Read Across America Day. I call upon children, families, educators, librarians, public officials, and all the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities. BARACK OBAMA


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Monday, September 25, 2017

MA'S BISCUITS



Our cans were all silver in colour, but Bryan has been a popular brand all my life.
We’ve been mentioning biscuits-for-breakfast as the weather cools once more into the Cozy-up, Gathering-in season of Fall. 
I do think I must have been born under the sign of the lard can, for we had one in both of the houses of my childhood, and their twin resided under the kitchen cabinet of Ma, who was my first Mother-In-Law, and Grandmother of my three children.   They were called Maw and Paw by the GRANDS, then all of us, but signed cards and letters "Ma and Pa."  That woman was just an angel on this Earth.   
We lived right there on the yard with  them on the farm home-place, and she had the exact silver can under her own kitchen counter, right down to the big circled “HF” imprinted in the lid. She had a bowl and sifter in hers, as well, and contrary to my Mother’s fastidious spooning and measuring and stirring, Ma made biscuits BY hand and WITH her hand. She, too, put twice-too-much flour into the bowl, made the crater by banking it against the sides with her fingers, and then three-fingered a clop of Crisco out of the three-pound can.






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Her busy little soft hands were quick as lightning, working that flour into the handful, fingertips busily rubbing, til the “peas” stage. I don’t think she measured the buttermilk, either, but just poured from the BIG crockery pitcher, lifting it with a big sigh, and then I’d clean the white clotty handprint off the handle with a wet dishrag before replacing it in the refrigerator. She also made the buttermilk in a big crock, which somehow took up most of the left side of the refrigerator, possibly a gallon’s worth. Dried milk, water, a cup of last week’s making, overnight on the kitchen counter with a neat tea-towel cover, and voila!! Good as a fresh-churned batch.

I loved to watch her hand squish that biscuit dough; at first the buttermilk shot through her quick fingers like soapsuds, then as the flour absorbed some of it, the dough became a heavy, pliable mass, with the flour worked in from the sides til it was to her liking---a quite wet dough which would seek to escape from her two hands when she lifted it from the bed of flour like a limp cat.







Onto a flourcloth it went, the cloth homemade from newbought Curity diapers, each sewn double for strength, and covered in a thick layer of flour. Several lifts of the four cloth edges in turn, to even up the dough and give it a thorough coating, then pinches quickly rolled through floury palms, placed gently into a Crisco-rubbed skillet, with a final two-knuckled salute to the top, making twin dimples to hold the pools of brushed-on melted butter. The cloth also went back into the bin after use, its dusty weight settling into the dark to await its next needing.





All our biscuits were different, all good, all crusty and golden and steamy-soft within. Ma’s had a crispy bottom crust, beloved by Pa, who would separate several biscuits with a quick twist, butter them BEFORE we said the blessing, then sometimes distribute the dripping top halves to the little ones, while he applied a liberal dousing of sorghum or pear preserves to the cookie-crisp, butter-saturated bottoms. For Pa, life was simple: gravy went on the soft, spongy top halves, syrup on the bottoms.   

 Ohhhh, that all our paths could be so easily chosen.






Friday, September 15, 2017

GIMME SOME SUGAR!!

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Sweetpea stays with us when her Mama goes on business trips, sleeping upstairs in her room, and being trundled back and forth to school and activies.   Night before last, her reader featured a new version of the old Kissing-a-Frog tale, with a Princess enchanted this time by an angry witch, and doomed to live as a frogess until a Prince should kiss her.     The story featured quite a few words in Spanish, so as we read in turn, each taking several voices and parts, I would translate and teach her to pronounce the unfamiliar words.  

The tale was of a Viceroy’s family (short explanation of King, in Spain, and you know how we have a Vice President?---who is second in command?---well, Roy is the word for King, and so Viceroys were in command in Mexico because they were the King’s Second people, etc. representing him there.  So that  part was well-received and remembered.

Then came the losing of the Viceroy’s son’s golden arrow down the well, with the promise for its return, etc., as “You will let me eat from your plato, 
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and sleep beside you in your cama, 


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and (most important), give me a beso in the morning.”

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And so, with the several repetitions of this promise, and her excellent memory and inflection on the words---Man, we were moving right along.  And so to sleep.

Yesterday, at breakfast, I said, “Tell Ganner the story of the PRINCE and the Frog,” and away she went---Viceroy explanation included, and arrow in the well, and promise.  Now, that promise was smooth sailing the night before, and she launched into eating from the plato, and sleeping in the cama with flying colors.  Then, somehow, her new-found knowledge and the similarity of the words conflued to hatch an innocent joke that we’d have had to hide to laugh.


She finished her tale with a grandiose accent and a flourish: “And he promised to give her a PESO in the morning!”

And if you do laugh, how do you explain THAT one?

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SOUTHEND-ON-SEA

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I love reading the far-flung home-places of the people who drop in here to read, by Google, by machine, or by accident, but I seldom just come right out and say Hello.   I’ve lately been intrigued by the recurring glimpse of a Union Jack and the words “Southend, Southend-on-Sea,” often on my sidebar, and hope that it’s someone who is coming on purpose, so to speak, from that faraway land I love so much.   The very name is charming, bespeaking a cozy seaside stroll, or vast stretches of rocky shore, or sandy hills to the water’s edge. 

I’d love to have you comment, if you’re ever so inclined, but in the mean-time---Welcome, and Thank You.  It’s a nice compliment to see you, day after day.


Monday, September 11, 2017

MAGICAL SATSUMAS REDUX


Sometimes you get a hankerin’ for the tastes of long ago---from LAWN TEA, January 2009:

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There are still a couple of Glad-Boxes of Christmas leftovers in the fridges; we bought WAY too many groceries for the expected crowd---still languishing are the two artichokes, planned for DD's enjoyment with blender Hollandaise; the bag of forgotten cherries, Gracie's favorite, left to grow saggish in the dark, whilst we ate fat grapes and slices of cold, crisp apple with our sausage balls on Christmas morning.

The "green" stuff needs using quickly, and in the cold room are still snapped-tight Tupperwares of all kinds of fudge and cookies and chocolate-dipped things.

I just encountered the small square box of Clementines, an at-least-once-a-year treat gone neglected, slid sidewise down between stacks of other stuff, the heavy little fruits held from dumping by the green net of their covering. Discovering a pile of THOSE a month later, following your nose to the bittersour tang of dead orange in the air and the velvety-blue of their moldy skins dusting the floor---not fun, and I'm glad I noticed.

I ate two for breakfast just now, and the sweet little nuggets of flavor, so near to orange, so breathy of tangerine---the taste reminded me of Christmas flavors all over again. But the prevalent memory is of the Satsumas we encountered one Summer long ago.



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Looo-siana Satsumas!!!! It's a remembering that comes often, many years since the actual event, and it should be commemorated with choirs, harps, and a flock of little pink hearts---pale pink hearts, fraught with longing.

One day at my workplace, everyone had gone to lunch but me---I'm talking DEEP South here, so colloquialisms apply. A lady came into the office with both arms dragging low, from the weight of two of those orange-net bags into which fruit is sewn for transport. She gave two mighty swings, and plumped each upon the counter in turn. She said, "I've got Looo-siana Satsumas and Grapefruit---any of y'all wanna buy some?"

I took a look at the fruit, quite plump and heavy with juice, but the moldy-green of the surface was a bit aback-taking, to say the least. It was not the green of unripe; it was the green that floated on the FARRRR end of the drainage ditch which served the kitchen plumbing of our very rural home. The grapefruit was not quite so algae-ish, so I hefted the bag, realized it was FAR more than the ten pounds she allowed that it was, and said I'd take that one.

She sighed a regretful sigh and reached for the bridesmaid bag. Now, I can turn down anyone who gives an eyeroll sigh, an angry sigh, a who-do-you-think-you-are hummmmph, but her sad tote-that-barge resignation at having to lug that thing BACK out into that Mississippi heat and peddle it elsewhere---THAT was my undoing.

I said I'd take that one as well. Whole kingdoms and bits of history have hinged on less import than that one sentence. I lugged them out to the car after work, counter-threw them myself when I arrived home. After school, the children came in, took one look, and all gave an EWWWWW-flavored, "What is 
THAT?"

Fruit, I said, mentioning that I'd give it a good wash before we peeled it. I cut the Satsuma bag, dumped a few into the sink-bowl, ran cold water, brush-scrubbed. No swan emerged from the dirty-ducklings, just a fainter nasty green tingeing the peel, but we took life and ptomaine in hand and peeled one. The rind fell away easily, revealing contents that Faberge would have gladly displayed in any egg. The fruit was spectacular---a glorious golden orange with a luminous quality, almost like being lit from within, that I'm sure has been enhanced by time and longing.

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The segments were sweet, with the orangey orange flavor that all oranges aspire to be, with great clusters of the tiny juice-sacs gleaming after the bite. I cannot describe the texture or the flavor or the color of those bits of happenstance---it was the best fruit we'd ever eaten, and for seconds, we all peeled one of ou
r own, then another. Somehow, the five of us consumed half the bag between then and bedtime, finishing off the fruit in the next couple of days.

We still speak of it as the Miracle Satsumas, and will ever wander towards Goblin Market, hoping to find more. All the years since, any Satsumas in any market are greeted with a little lift of hopeful anticipation---wishing to find, hoping to taste just one more time.

I wonder if ANY could ever be as good. And still we hope.

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oil on canvas by Linda Killinger


Friday, September 8, 2017

REMEMBER CAFTANS?

Somewhere in my closet are a couple of caftans---those long or longish creations which sort of skim your body and float gently as you walk.  They’re especially nice for relaxing on the patio after a fragrant Summer shower with lovely soaps and lotions.   They’re my own version of the storied “hostess gowns” which so captivated my very-young, very limited fashion imagination, especially in relation to the “Sunday Night Suppers” of cookbook and soap opera legend in those Mary Tyler Moore years.   I love wearing them in a comfortable setting with close friends, or put on just BECAUSE, with my wet hair up in a turban and cream on my face. 




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Long-ago memories of my favourite caftan, all floaty silk and gently bat-winged, in yards of soft taupes and tans and smouldery gold swirls of acanthus leaves with the sun peeking through. 

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My, I felt elegant in that one, with my heavy Sarah Coventry necklace and gold toe-sandals, and had no qualms about wearing it over and over.




The perfect seventies accessory---My, didn't EYE feel soignee!


I can't imagine where that beautiful garment is now---probably mouldered in a tip, for the last time I saw it was many years ago, slung over the shoulder of a poor young woman who had spied it hanging in the back of my office, dry-cleaner-bag-and-all, and practically cried over the beauty of it. And when her slow, Southern drawl went on to say, "I'd wrap myself in it on my mattress every night---I ain't got no sheets, ye know,"---my heart overflowed and I pressed it into her hands. 

And I've no doubt it cuddled her dreams for a long time.


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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IN OTHERS' WORDS


Cousin Maggie's porch in the treetops

It’s comin’ a EARLY CHANGE, I think, as Mammaw would haave put it.   Very cool this morning, and for several days, and just the wind in THE TREE is whispering a different song.   Few words of my own, so I’ve delved into one of my many journals lined up on the shelf, and brought out those of other folks I’ve jotted down over the years:


The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first grey hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many.  Oliver Wendell Holmes


"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there."                                         
                  L.P. Hartley

On grandparents telling their children how to raise the GRANDS:
Unless they go deep into the woods, hold their hands or hold your peace.  Carolyn Hax

Good Ole Boy planning a prank:  Make it look convincible

Sometimes I put fun labels on food at parties:

Red Kool-Aid for a Halloween party:  Sucker Punch.    Of course, the green is Skeleton Key Lime.


IF YOU CALL IT PEE-CAN PIE, YOU DON’T DESERVE ANY  anon. 


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Re: not being the favorite child:

 My husband and I are firstborns. Yeah, not invariably true that you always love the first the most.  We don’t want to be loved MOST, but a little less LEAST would be nice, just occasionally.  



Re:  choosing to be alone on holidays:    

I have no doubt they all pictured me sitting around my house, probably in the dark, clutching a carton of eggnog and weeping all over the cat.

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I have misplaced the rhythms of Morpheus.  I am sentenced to pace the passages.  My nights are punctuated by a bell that does not call me.   Sister Monica  CTM 

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“. . .if you don’t do anything to your face and you get old and you can stand up and you can remember your lines, the work is there.”                                     
                  Judy Parfitt

I do desire we may be better strangers.   To Dogberry  MAAN



On being expected to buy an extravagant wedding gift to “cover your plate” at the reception:
“It isn't the treat; it's the stupidity."

Responses to a someone’s asking if they can have your stuff when you die: 

“You know, we never have a visit that you don’t ask me about getting my things when I die.   I find that so absolutely distasteful and rude and ghoulish that I had Hoke make me up a new will and YOU’RE NOT IN IT!”   Miz Youngblood of Paxton, to her niece

Or Miz Hitchcock’s:  “Well, why WAIT!!   Jes’ back the truck up right NOW!”

Marty Kittrell photo--Mississippi River

Home is not simply a mark upon a map any more than a river’s just water.
It is the place at the centre of the compass from which every arrow radiates,
and where the heart is fixed.
It is a force that forever draws us back or lures us on.
For where the home is, there lies hope.
And a future waits.
And everything is possible.       Call the Midwife


DEEP PEACE OF THE RUNNING WAVE TO YOU.
DEEP PEACE OF THE QUIET EARTH TO YOU.
DEEP PEACE OF THE FLOWING AIR TO YOU
DEEP PEACE OF THE SHINING STAR TO YOU.
                    Celtic Blessing

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And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.           ROALD DAHL


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

DD, XXX

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The Thirtieth Anniversary!  Has it been THAT many years since Baby escaped from that corner?  Time, etc.

It’s odd the things which cling and keep on keepin’ on, but ANYTHING with Swayze, Orbach, Bishop and Honi Coles---that’s a keeper, in any decade.


For all the DD fans, who will catch every nuance, and for all my GRANDS who like some STRANGE things!!