Thursday, July 24, 2014


Tuesday morning’s greeting, 7:30 a.m.,

Six-year-old enthusiasm:

“I've got my RUBY SLIPPERS!”


“Wake up, Ganjin!!!  Do you know what DAY this is??”---punctuated by the two clunks which occur when small feet have successively kicked two hard little shoes into the air, to land beside the bed.  “It’s the day of our PARTY!!”  as she stepped up onto the step and crawled across that great expanse of bed to me.


A few more enthusiastic offers of coffee, a hand to help me up, a few words concerning lists and plans and look-at-my-dress-I-wore-a-dress!, and I was up.   She’d mentioned party the day before, just in a little passing conversation, and said that Mommy and Ganner needed a party because their birthdays were the first ones in the year.  I said, yes, they were in January, and were we having a party today?   Of course, she affirmed, “I’ve got it all planned.    We’ll make Cards and Decorations and Hang them and make Cupcakes and it will be their Birthday!”


I mentioned that indeed, we did, used to have Gracie a half-birthday in July, for she was a January girl as well, and the weather up here just was not conducive to a nice outdoor birthday party befitting a Southern girl.  Any handkerchief droppin' or Farmer-Dellin' would be in the SNOW.  And we were off.

The day began, with two sheets grabbed from inside the printer drawer, two pens from the cup, and perhaps four square inches in which to set my coffee, in the preparations and crayons and scissors and plans which were our morning.   She made HER list, which consisted of capital letters down the lefthand side:  A large C and a D and an H, with another C and several other notations.  And as we went, we checked them off.  

 We sat with crayons, stickers, markers, and made the cards.   We found a nice target online to print for Ganner’s card, and wrote an appropriate sentiment inside.  

Mommy’s had a flurry of birthday cakes and party hats and streamers inside and much love depicted in as many little sticky-things as would adhere.


At last, satisfied and a bit fluffed-up with her accomplishment, she ran for her apron, stringing mine along behind her as she returned.   “Time to make the cupcakes,” she announced, and went to the cake-mixes.  “Red Vel-vet” she read.  “Guh-er-man Chocolate,  D-arrrK Chocolate, Exterra mmma-oist Golden.   This is harrrd,” she said.  “None but the Red were in my sight-words.”

I insisted on clearing away all the craft supplies before setting down the mixing things (she reaches the mixer better at the table), we made a clean table and set up our mise as she read from the Dark Chocolate box:  “1 ¼  cups water.  ½ cup oil.  3 eggs.”  And she measured them, pouring water from a plastic glass into the measuring cup with a squat-down, judicious eye on the red line, then the oil, and   I was allowed to break the three eggs into the mixture.  “We don’t want any SHELL in there,” she echoed my voice from countless cakes.

“Wet into dry,” she said sagely.  “Make a well.”   And she did, stirring the stuff til not a bit of dry was visible, then manning that scary mixer with a mixture of caution and excitement at the grand accomplishment.    Papers in the pans, half the batter poured into the rinsed-and-dried-clean measuring cup, and she poured, ever so carefully, as I ran the spatula over the spout each time to stop the runover.


Into the oven, and a quick cleanup before our lunch, which was spent over peanut-butter-and-honey graham crackers for her and a cucumber sandwich for me, with as much gravitas and agenda-planning as any two Gucci Wedding Planners with power-point and spreadsheets.  We settled on the table d├ęcor, the wall hangings, the cupcake display, and that we would order takeout Chinese.  (sigh of relief from me).



Cupcakes frosted with a corner-snipped baggie, adorned with sprinkles and a cloud of pink crystal-sugar.   Extra layer and huge muffin (the first two pans I grabbed when there was WAY too much batter for 24 mini-cups) cooling on the rack.   They got slathered with the rest of the cream cheese frosting from the Betty-Crocker can, great snows of the pink sugar, and one big strawberry to crown the tiers.  

You could tell time by that strawberry; at one o’clock, it stood straight and proud atop that rounded, slippery muffin.  By three it had slid a bit toward the precipice, and at five-thirty, when Mommy arrived, we’d been holding our breaths and contemplating spearing a skewer down through the whole thing before the huge pout of the icing-lip spilled it down the side.   All was well, and we did have to remove the strawberry to cut the layers, so no avalanche. .


She spent the intervening hours with a Tinkerbell movie and a couple of bowls, her scissors and assorted cuttable papers and materials—--a long strip of rainbow wallpaper edging, several colorful big drinking straws, chopped bits of a too-small pink-foam medieval-lady’s pointy hat, with the wisp of netting from the top added in as “cotton candy ice cream,” making a lovely confetti “soup” for our delectation.   Mainly, I think, because she’d made a simpler version the night before, and as she had handed round our portions in doll-dishes, Ganner had snuck his handful of dry soup into his pocket, upended his empty bowl into his mouth, and “eaten” the entire serving in one satisfied gulp, to much preening and astonishment from the cook, who took that as a great compliment.  After all, it WAS a PARTY---we couldn’t serve ordinary cootie-feet and Legos.

Then we worked on wardrobe, going through drawers and pretty boxes of this and that, an old jewelry box, which yielded shiny things, a big sparkly brooch for the cleavage of my black “dress”—an extra-long T-shirt with pretty gathering at the yoke---and the appropriate gloves and handkerchief for each outfit.  A little string of pearls, which she gladly accepted UNTIL she saw a big string of dangly rhinestones, and that was HERS.   We made ribboned pony-tails, wore our ruby slippers, and had the table and ourselves all decorated when the two surprised honorees came home.


The arrangement which looks a bit like a slipshod parlor lampshade is a worse-for-wear little umbrella thing which is meant to keep a picnic pie free of whatever critters might fly by.  The Whoville yellow blossom is on its last stems, rescued from a two-weeks-ago bouquet we’d had on the table, and the purple statice, ditto, dried to a crisp and stuck in a quart milk- jug from the recycle bin. 


The cupcake stand has a history of its own---I’d found it at Goodwill years ago, and painted it white for her Mommy and Daddy’s wedding, where it bravely held melting, running red candles on the buffet til they spilled over onto the immense white Battenburg cloth in rivulets like Frodo and Sam at Mount Doom.  The display was her idea, and a nice one, I think. 

We had a lovely time over dinner and dessert and presents, and the hostess was MOST pleased.   I don’t think even that chattery girl has talked that much in one day in her life.   Her Mama texted that she was still exclaiming over it way after bedtime, as she recounted the party to all her stuffed toys on her bed.


She knows how to throw a party, that one (literally---note that the "plate" is a snuck-onto-the-table Frisbee).   Just look at these fabulous party favors.  

Or maybe soup. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

1005---PAXTON PEOPLE: AINT PELL, part I of 3


Carlisle Emerson’s Aint Pell didn’t have a grace note to her name.   She was a short, squared-off woman, with a little gnome-woman face; her pinkish square teeth protruded in a sort of circle, as if she still took a passy to bed every night, and there was a slim gold wire around an eyetooth, to hold her bridge in place.


She always “spoke her mind” and “said her piece,” no matter whose feelings got hurt.   She was definitely a chips-fall- where-they-may sort, with no scruples about inquiring into other folks’ business. She’d make a big brag about her daughter that was married to a chiropractor, and had a son that played for State, and then cut her eyes sly to the side to ask about Mrs. Strong’s youngest, who she knew good and well was in the pen over in Louisiana.


 Family gatherings were egg-walking occasions, with everybody leaving as much space as possible between them and her.   Wherever she entered, whole rooms of folks funneled out doors like water down a craggy hillside, leaving only a purse on a chair, a wet ring or two from the grabbed-up drinks, and the mingled scents of Emeraude and Old Spice wafting in their wake.


Only the ones nearest her entry-spot were trapped, and even the first moment was enough for her to let fly with a quick opinion of a niece’s hair, an offhand snark regarding her Sister-in-Law’s waistline, and several pointed questions to the host concerning the cost and provenance of the new love seat in the living room. 


If Aunt Ossie’s little house had been a boat, it would have listed violently several times each holiday, from all the people fleeing and clustering in any part of the house that Aint Pell wasn’t.   

But occasionally, they’d find themselves caught, captured by those steel-blue eyes like a rabbit by a snake, and since she was a little dumpy woman, their own eyes were drawn sorta hypnotically to her scalp, because it was almost always stained a rusty brown from the henna she used on her thin crisp hair.  You could see clear through her sparse pate, like looking through a cornfield from one end, and you could just about read the Press Scimitar out the other side.   She always seemed to be surrounded by rich colors---royal blue or royal purple---always with stress on the "raw-yul" part, or burgundy or mustardy gold knit or linen or shantung dresses and two-piece suits, and there were always stray wisps of sumpn-nother on her shoulders, with a drift of Coty Natural Shade down her impressive bosom.   Her discolored old chunky gold jewelry just summed her up---squarish and hard and sharp-cornered and way tarnished in places. 


Her voice was a smokey purple, too, and it always pronounced or pointedly inquired, leaving folks with hurt feelings and anger and tears, and fuming from the probing questions and even sharper uninvited opinions.   Carlisle could never for the life of her understand why they just kept INVITING her to stuff.


Unca Bunch-who-was-married-to-her-sister-Maude told a big crowd of men at a funeral one time that at any gathering, Aint Pell couldn’t be satisfied unless she could be the bride or the corpse, one.
And the questions remain:   Do we all know one of these people, and why do we tolerate them?

Moire non: Part II---A Wedding and a Peabody Brunch


Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Pink is my very favourite colour of all, I think.  I inherited this from my Mammaw, I’m sure, though perhaps it’s more my time of life and gentle taste, in the pinks and florals and pale pastels I love to surround us with in our home.

My Mammaw loved pink more than anyone I’ve ever seen---she planned their house for years before they tore down the old one and built the new one in its place, and had been gathering paint samples like baseball cards.

She and I would sit in the “swang” on that old weathered porch, our feet on boards which had been hewn back before the last century turned, when beadboard walls were always painted white, yellowing with time to a speckly umbrish shade with only the shapes beneath the pictures still harboring any imprint of the original paint.   We’d discuss the merits of salmon or shrimp or carnation, or baby and blush (though we’d none of us heard of “bashful” at that time), and we’d go in and stick a strip of pink squares onto a wall with a thumbtack, til the old house bore little strips of various shades dangling all over walls-not-long-for-this-world, just so we could see them in the light from all sides.     We both liked the idea of “shocking” in maybe pillows or edging on drapes, and we’d spend countless hours going back and forth over how they might look in the morning, or under a ceiling light in the evening.   

The new house, built in 1958, had pink asbestos siding, and the paint on the big concrete porch was almost the same hue.  

The living room and dining room were painted a rosy shade, to go with all the overblown roses on the linoleum, and the bathroom was a true pink, with pink ball-fringe on the curtains and dark-rose- sprayed-wicker shelves.  

A trio of those pompous little plaster wall-fish blew separate small pearly bubbles all up the wall above the tub.  I want to think that all the fixtures were that sort of ashes-of-roses shade, but neither Sis nor I  can remember, and think that my apt rose-colored-glasses remembrance of those times may be steering me too far.   It DID take  Mother several times to convince Mammaw how very tacky it would be to plaster flamingo decals around the edge of the tub and across the two mirrors.

A border of pink with little cooking  scenes ran around the kitchen ceiling, and there were lots of pink dishcloths and a set of glorious pink Melmac dishes.  I cannot imagine having such riches today---those rosy cups and plates and bowls with cheeks like pink satin.   I do believe that if I had such a set now, I’d be a much better homekeeper and counter-keeper and sink-tender, with those rosily lustrous dishes to spur me on to the next little chore, simply by their beauty and charm.   The remembering of them has been romanced onto a par with coveted doll-dishes and a pink scratchy dress for Easter---so glamoured over time that any food served on such pretty dishes would become ambrosia, and any drink, nectar from Fairy Stores.

Mammaw was persuaded to paint the one spare bedroom in a soft yellow, to go with the beautiful pale green curtains and chenille spread, but even that scheme backfired, when one of the vendors who’d supplied Grandpa’s shop for forty years brought them a gorgeous yellow-and-PINK striped blanket as a Housewarming present.

She lived on for twenty years or so in that charming pink house, content in the rosy shades of her life, and perhaps that’s why I’m so enamoured of pink---any shade, anywhere. 

Linking today to Beverly's PINK SATURDAY.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

1003---FROM MIKE

Y’all know I have to share stuff---little happenings and small discoveries and pretty things and wonders that strike my fancy.   Today’s one of those days, just going along with a long time out under the eaves marveling at the rain, with a damp little girl giddy with the unusual moment.   Then in an instant---a burst of brilliant sunshine which brought out every glint and glimmer of the dripping trees and bushes, gilding the grapevines, turning the whole world into a shining wonder of refreshment and cool.


A long splash-time up and down the puddles in the driveway, in for dry clothes and cocoa and breakfast, and then---then-capital-THEN, was the moment that I happened upon an old friend.   I know him as a kind, smart---uncannily smart---funny friend, with SUCH a way with words, you’ll be there, walking those paths of ago, right with him.


Today, he wrote a reminiscence of Going Home, in the sense that he passed his childhood house, and was flooded with memories of all the moments and days which were his boyhood.  And it's GOOD.  It's so well told that you'll want to go wash your muddy feet and scratch those chigger bites you got in the blackberry bramble. 


Get a big glass of iced tea, or some coffee---or better yet, like I did, a paminna cheese sandwich---and settle into this story.   You’ll be captivated and charmed, and live every bit right along with him.


From my friend MIKE:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


A REAL railroad caboose, a hatful of homegrown tomatoes, tiny strawberries peeping from between their lacy leaves, and their enormous full-ripe cousins on a pretty dish.  Proud lipstick, a flirty silk slip, a cheery kitchen counter, roses and ribbons and Valentine hearts.  Fire trucks and flags and majorette’s uniforms; a faraway balloon drifting in the sun, a stiff, petticoated dress on a tiny girl in white slippers, a sailboat far away on the sound, swimsuits drying over a porch rail.


Oceans and skies reflecting each other in endless colour, like mirrors marching the hall at Versailles.  Indigo is a luxury blue, a wrung-in-dyed-hands fabric, billowed and smooth in the drying.   It’s the deepest of sea-shades, with the purple depths of a thousand Mediterranean days.

Dragonfly blue is the shade of shining wings, iridescent panes of colour which flash like stained-glass windows as they sit, and become a blur of glass as they fly.

Small, unassuming flowers with the scent of Summer afternoons and the smooth faces of children uplooked in bright anticipation.  A wee bouquet in Grandmother's lapel vial, against a Sunday coat, and the clutch-wilted ones plucked by tiny fingers are the most beautiful of all. 

Luscious peaches and tangerines and cantaloupes, the daintily-cut sections of fruit scattered onto crisp romaine, all the mingles of a sunset, an Autumn aspect of lush fiery leaves and great knobs of pumpkins dotting a field beneath a Hunters' Moon...
YELLOW is a rolling schoolbus, a cartwheel, a field of jonquils nodding in the sun, a #2 Ticonderoga just whirled through the sharpener and smelling of pine, ready for all the letters and words you want to write.
GREEN is a lush spread of ivy, the scratchy sound and smell of an ear of corn rent from the stalk, the hundred shades of afternoon lawn shadows, that last quiet calm ray as the sun sets over the sea, the honest, shining eyes of a four-year-old gazing at you with trust entire.
PINK is a softness and a whisper of powdery scent, the pale roses and candles on a little girl’s birthday cake, a thin, gauzy dress for a Summer day.  Pink is a feeling, I think, as much as a shade---it’s a cuddly hug, a laughing baby, a cold flute of champagne, a shimmer of flamingoes as they bend and delve in a pond, or take flight against the sky.