Thursday, June 30, 2016


I’d hoped to visit my dear darling cousin Maggie in Alabama in a couple of weeks, but plans have changed, and perhaps later.   In her e-mail today, she mentioned a visit from her sister, and how much fun they had:

Sis and I went to church tonight for Bingo and Barbecue.  A hooting, hollering night with all those folks shouting out BINGO and so excited about winning those little prizes.  I don’t believe I’ve played bingo since I was a child.

And my astonished reply:

I'm finding it hard to reconcile the sweet, spiritual vision of you and your church---My Country Baptist heart has lifelong envied Catholics and Episcopalians the ritualistic CALM, the recitations, the prayers said in unison, and above all, the QUIET reflective hands-clasped demurely head-bowedness of it.   Many times in letters, when you've just had to share the wonder of your morning in church, you've portrayed the sweet simplicity of the hallowed words from my childhood---"missal," and "Prayerbook" and how I longed to live where there was Eucharist and Liturgy.   And now YOU, Silly Girl, have Hooted AND Hollered at church.   Hear the obnoxious PTTTTTTTHHHHHKTTTTT of my punctured balloon escaping and flying rudely around the ceiling??

Ha.   Barbecue and Bingo.   That's my style of evening.   I love a good Bingo game, but not the money ones, at least not the money ones that are a BUSINESS.   Not the ones with snorty mean-lady regulars who KNOW you don't belong, and don't mind telling you so, or who razz winners like a buncha fraternity jerks on a new pledge.  AND NOT the smoky yelling frenetic ones with forty cards in front of you all ink-dobbed like a Pollock placemat.  

Just the little hometown, church or school or Ladies' Auxiliary ones with little prizes like doilies and a carwash and a dozen lily bulbs from Mrs. Pund's prize collection.   And especially if a school class is raising money for a new flagpole or a trip to a historic place---and YESSS if they've gone around town taking their bashful selves into store after store where they've shopped all their lives, receiving small tokens from the merchants like flashlights and coin purses and a set of those glasses that didn't sell.   Those are the ones I remember, where maybe the Choir director with the nice voice is the caller, and the numbers are drawn by gloving a hand into a discreet velvet bag and pulling out a wooden disc.  I just love those.

I remember once when Mayor VanDeventer was doing the calling, and somehow he fumbled the little disc and dropped it, with Miss Early, the Home-Ec teacher trying vainly to step on it and stop its headlong  roll.   She got two little wobbly stomps at it, and kicked it  smack-dab into the furnace grate, so we HAD TO WAIT to get the thing out.   I mean, it was IMPORTANT.   Not just to whoever mighta been cheated outa a good yell if they just drew another number, but somehow the whole heart would go out of the game, knowing that maybe 0-74 was down there in the chalk-dust and you needing it to win that lamp.

I remember the ones at our High School---it was always at Halloween Carnival, and all the parents skipped over Haunted House and Duck Pond and Curtain-with-Fishpole-Prizes, and went straight to the cafeteria, impatient for the calling to start.   Many an impatient beehind has polished those stainless steel stools to a high gloss before the evening was over.   I won a Sunbeam iron once, and once a string of pearls, and another time the Grand Prize:  the most gosh-awful LAMP---if there were a prize for unfortunate design, it was right up there with that Leg Lamp in the movie. 

 Image result for Leg lamp

   The stand part was pretty, a nice fifties turquoise, and at that time, I thought it simply the height of attractive DAYCOR, with its shade made of matching turquoise metal strips, each like the slat of a Venetian blind had been folded into squares of successive sizes, like an odd little Pagoda floating at the top.  It was clattery and weird, and I know it would violate the taste-strings of everybody whose taste ain’t all in their mouth,  but I kept it in my bedroom for YEARS, and wish I knew what happened to it.
 The shade but not the phone.
We DID go to a church bingo night once years ago, and Chris and I won the fifty/fifty---six hundred and something dollars!! 

Does anyone have just a little plain old hometown Bingo anymore?  

Sunday, June 26, 2016


Jemima Murphree

I’ve been spending some time delving into the Ancestry site---Sis and DBIL have done a lot of research, and have gone to Salt Lake City for the archives there, as well as a trip to Ireland and an upcoming trip back to Ireland and Scotland.   It’s amazing to look back and back, like down a hall of mirrors of your own past, selves and souls captured in a panoply of all the grays that there are.   Names and places I knew or simply heard, and great staircases of names and times stretching way into the WE of me are like shining presents to open and enjoy.

Romelia Best Newman
 My Mammaw's Mother, ca 1901

Learning about all those ancestors, seeing them stiffly caught in those depths of gray, squinting into the afternoon sun in their best mothballed silk, or standing gravely before a fern-painted backdrop in their Sunday best---that’s a gift of technology which I’m enjoying immensely.

Henry P Newman
Her Father, same photo

  I see these six tall, rawboned brothers, paling in the picture as their memories fade---three sitting and three standing in their unaccustomed suit-coats and decades of collar styles, with their hair slicked down or still fluffed from a last-minute hat-removal, and all those earnest, solemn sepia faces showing the tell-tale “farmer’s halo" of the final two inches of white covered by a hat in the relentless Mississippi sun.

Berry Ozro Best and brothers

Mammaw's Grandfather and his brothers

And the Census Pages!  What a treasure-trove of puzzles and tidbits to solve, with the heedless scrawl of the tired census-taker translating the names into mangled forms, further confused by a later-day transcriptionist who can make “Floyd” out of “Hugh” and the some several over the decades who changed my Grandmother’s name to a different starts-with-a-J every time.

But there’s one page---the one I discovered late yesterday and marveled and reminisced and laughed and dreamed over---it’s the 1930 Census, it’s like a time capsule to my Mother’s teens, with all the people up and down the street from Mammaw’s house---Mother’s childhood girlfriends and the ones she double-dated with in high school; the sixteen-year-old-self of the humble, gentle fortyish woman who lived with her married sister and came to “borry some ice” one sweltering noonday in my childhood, and unassumingly sat and ate herself some dinner, right from my Grandpa’s already-used place setting, refusing all offers of fresh with “No’m---thiss’ll be jes’ fine.”

There, on the same page, are at least five ladies, listed as “wife” beneath men designated as “Head,”---those ladies are the ones up and down the street whose hair Mother rolled later in the Thirties for a dime every Saturday morning, right there on Mammaw’s front porch.   They would arrive at their “time,” drippy-headed from the shampoo pan, or towel-wrapped, and she’d do all manner of rollings to suit them, on papers and bobby pins, or rag curls, or a “fingerwave” with some sort of viscous liquid you applied with a comb, and held your hand tight to the back of the shingled hair til the wave began to set.

There’s Mrs. Nelson, whose great cheery laugh could be heard all up and down the street, and whose “colours” I’ll never forget---she arrived one day with great drips of dye-stain on her towel, and to Mother’s concerned inquiry, said “I’m tryin’ this out---I don’t care if it turns it Piss-Munkum Brown.”  Not to be confused with a dress she referred to as “Piss-Ellum Green.”

And the Postmistress, right out the back door, who had the odd quirk of rolling a straight pin back and forth between her lips at all times, and whose lack of amenities at work occasioned her being seen several times by Mammaw out the kitchen window, doing a little business of her own right out in the shadow of the garden shed. 

I had a stunning thought last night in the wee, should-be-in-bed-but-I-can’t-leave-this hours:  I may be the only living person who remembers all these people, or at least knows their names and the memories that Mammaw related to me in the “swang.”   Their relatives today are probably looking up their own folks, and finding kin, but little knowing the lives and days that passed there amongst all that little group of folks thrown together by a small matter of real estate.   There’s just something about that little street that so impressed upon me, that I knew every soul, up and down and around the blocks, from Mammaw’s days and years of sharing in their lives.

My own microcosm, right there on the 1930 Census page, WAY before I winked into the world.  It feels like a responsibility, somehow, the keeping of this list, kinda like the Readers must have felt in Fahrenheit 451.   I guess having a nine-G's-back ancestor named Zealous Zeal will do that for you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016



We’ve been humming the song all day, and it’s just now made me think of all the times we sang it as children, especially at the movies.   Singing was greatly encouraged during any movie, and one of the “features” was a short somewhere betwixt cartoon, newsreel, previews, Saturday serial, and the movie itself, where you could sing along with the song, with the words on the screen, and an accent on each syllable as you went along.

That was a wonderful part of the movies of “our day,” and I forgot to mention it in a post about our own little small town PICTURE SHOW.

Something about the moment, the shadowy dark, the anticipation of all that afternoon’s delights to come on that magical screen---what a delicious memory.   It never mattered if you didn’t know the song---you had the words right there, and the melody was playing, and everyone singing, with even a handy little pointer to show you which word and beat you were on.

I think maybe Pixels have replaced the old fashioned bouncing ball, but here's a bit of SUMMERTIME nostalgia.  

 Don't miss Baby Liza strolling in the park.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


Photos from Internet

On this gentle Cusp of Summer, with the day and night in unison, each chiming in right on cue like a well-rehearsed choir, I’m thinking back to a Solstice thirteen years in the past, when we “celebrated’ the date at Stonehenge.   I say celebrated, but we were mere spectators, much like bystanders marooned on rocks around which the great tide of participants flowed, like a great colourful sea.  I imagine the great tide of people is there, right now, awaiting the sunrise in their garb and grime, their costumes and coolers, their ceremony or curiosity.  

From my Travel Journal, June of 2003:

This is “FIRST DAY OF SUMMER” and I don’t think it’s celebrated very widely in the South. We don't do much to actively COURT the heat, so to speak, nor do we honor the inferno days. We don't even speak well of it, except to say that the sun is good for the crops. 

  We'd been were sadly informed by our tour guide that we would not be able to take the promised trip to Stonehenge, because the roads had been shut down. (He DID mention that if you were a practicing Druid, you would be given admittance, but he could assure neither our safety, our virtue, nor a return of the bus to pick us up on the morrow).

We took a LONG and winding way around the site, and as he and the driver (who lived just there, and took one night off to go home to his family) mapped out a little-known route, and we took it. It led us deeper and deeper (in the literal sense---the roadsides grew higher and higher, as we rode through a narrow by-way which had been carved into a miles-of-trench by countless centuries of carts and wagons, with no forethought to modern vehicles, and looking out the windows put you face-to-face with dirt. One turn was hair-pin and hair-raising, as I looked down from my far-back-seat perch, with the archaelogy-dig strata going past the windows on both sides of my three-directions view, and then the  other vehicle inches from my face as they skillfully negotiated the passage.

When we came back out of that deep road, the fields stretched for miles, and they were absolutely teeming with people, though an entire alien race could have landed in Salisbury plain right then, and would have easily blended right in. It was like the crowds converging on the Superbowl---long lines in the lanes and paths, costumes and characters from Yoda to Spock to Frodo and friends. Everyone seemed to be carrying a cooler or a bedroll or a musical instrument, and a whole flock of bongo players, drums shouldered and keeping up a steady rhythm, passed us as we crept along like an aquarium-on-wheels amongst the walking crowd.

The investment in black fabric alone must have swelled the coffers of quite a few merchants, and the makeup and the music---it was like a specially-arranged performance, and we not only had ringside seats, we moved along, and caught forty more rings of that many-ring circus. We passed through a small village, and apparently none of our group was looking out as we crossed one of a duo of bridges. When the guide spoke over the microphone: “A pair of Naiads bathing to your right,” the stampede back down the aisle rocked the bus and landed two gentlemen almost in my lap. And indeed, there had been two ladies, beautiful young ones, both absolutely naked, pouring water from the little stream over each other.

I think the guide and I were the only ones who caught a glimpse---everyone else was either running to get a look or dodging elbows and flying feet.

And then, from far, far away---the golden shapes in the sunlight emerged, swimming into view almost through a haze; we took pictures through the windows, as the lime-vested gentlemen waved us to keep going and the foot-dust like the Flight from Egypt filled the air.

Photo from Internet
I think I’ll remember that most because we didn’t get to stop and get out and look closely; the far remove keeps that mystical, magical place ever as a mirage, a picture in a Baedeker, a cover silhouette on the journal I carried to record the days of my trip. And the mystique has probably grown in the remembering, to even greater size and import than it would have had we stood and looked at it a while, like tourists gazing on a church.

We caught glimpses, we saw outlines, we saw the glow of sun on the spires, and we saw the great procession of those faithful to something older than memory, older than time. That’s an unforgettable impression, and seeing it only through glass left the thought that perhaps it was a mirage or our imaginations, or visible only for a moment, like Brigadoon.

Monday, June 6, 2016


Summer HEAT has a way of smothering AND enhancing a lot of the glories of the season, like watching those tiny green tomatoes swell just from sunrise to sunset, gaining in girth and juice and promise, and of course:   Home Grown Tomatoes---totally a Reason for a Season.

SWimming is good, and ice cream, and coldcold watermelon, and dancing in the sprinklers, as well as sleeping with not much on but a fan.  Popsicles, bike rides, A/C, cold wet washrags just wrung out of the ice chest and slapped on the back of your neck at the lake.

 Wide-hipped funeral parlor fans and a big old umbrella at a ball game.  Little kids giggling as THEY race in and out of the sprinklers, the hose, the front door nekkid, with those joyously-scared, gleeful screeches. 

A big gray weathered picnic table in the shade, home of cookout suppers, watermelon cuttings and fish fries for three generations---all spread up with the usual Summertime fare of whatever each family is partial to, potato-salad being the closest-guarded secret in the bunch.

That dusty corn patch with the brand-newest ears and the crackly-smitttch of the husks as you peel them back to expose the rows of milky pearls.   The eager hunt when little children find out the secret hiding places of radishes and carrots, spotting the tiny gleams of colour beneath the flourish of stem, and unearthing them with the fervor of an Easter Egg Hunt.  We’ve had so many standing in glasses and jars of water in the fridge we didn’t have room for the milk and eggs.  

 Driving along country roads with the windows down, feeling that unmistakable shift in coolth when you pass a grove of trees between you and the sun.   You can just feel the trees breathe their coolest breath onto you from those untraveled havens.     Flowin' wells with the coldest, clearest water on earth, and even if you don't want a drink, you sure want to take off your shoes and let it gush over your feet. 

A big old hand-crank freezer out in the shade on a Sunday afternoon, when the city cousins come out from town, ready to look down on your country raisin' and remote location, and leave wishing THEY lived near a swimming hole, good climbing-trees and all those watermelons, right there to choose from.

The tiny translucent golden thumb-plums and the huge musky purple ones swelling with a surfeit of Summer juices, and the blackberries and dewberries plumping in the bramble, enough to make braving the thorns a lesser thing than leaving all that sweet temptation for the birds.

The look of Southern shade on a Summer afternoon, as the shadows across the lawn grow longer and more ancient, somehow---something about the dying of the day brings shadows totally different from morning shade, with the sun-slants and more lazy colours---we'd know what time it was anywhere. 

 The scent of a backyard grill or a real barbecue pit, sending up the scent of smoky pork like incense to Heaven.  I've never done it, but I'll bet sitting up all night in a rattly aluminum-and-weave  foldin' chair beside that big brick pit or fancifully-shaped-and-painted rig, as a whole pig relaxes in the heat and becomes succulent and tender, falling apart like shattered roses---I'll bet that experience, with the attendant cooler of beer, the Vy-eenies and crackers and hoop cheese and the tales told again and again, to the same dear folks as last time---doesn't that seem a thing for a Bucket List? 

And a little PS to today's post, to add some from a TEXAS blogger---bj at Sweet Nothings.

You've just described my childhood...I would throw in lightening bugs, caught, stuck on our skin, never realizing it was their "insides" holding them on ....all the neighborhood kids playing in the water when the city was cleaning out fire hydrants..
throwing down an olden quilt on a patch of grass and watching the clouds change from minute to minute...sidewalk skates and the famous key on a ribbon around your neck...
sitting on quilts atop the ice cream freezer while a cousin turned the crank...swinging on the front porch swing...watching Daddy as he made us tire swings..picking blackberries with Mama warning us to watch for snakes..going out to the garden, sitting down in the dirt and eating strawberries right off the plant, never thinking of washing them....the list goes on and on......and on.