Thursday, October 26, 2017


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All pictures from the Internet

Years ago when Chris and I were first married, we moved way over into Alabama to be nearer his teen-and-pre-teen children.   The little house we lived in was in a “mill town,” one of many which dotted the quiet shady streets; the older lady who had lived there all her married life had gone into a nursing home and left the house in the hands of a nice lady realtor, who showed us around and directed us toward churches and stores and the library.   It seemed as if the occupants had stepped out for a moment, leaving all their worldlies just as they’d like to find them when they arrived home.  

We slept in their beds, with their linens freshly-dried on the line right out the back door.  We used their dishes, their appliances, their roomy old claw-tub and their floppy wooden five-times-covered ironing board, clattering it out of the special narrow slot in the kitchen wall and shaking the unwieldy legs straight---I loved that clumsy old thing, and when we left, I asked to buy three things, and the realtor lady pressed all of them upon me, just for my asking.   We lived there for almost two years, attending the welcoming little church right down the block, and having a wonderful time amongst all the long-time residents of the neighborhood.   My next-door-neighbor, Miss Bobbie, told me many, many tales of the town’s history as we’d sit on her porch or mine, shelling peas from the tee-ninecy garden plot out back or just enjoying the afternoon at that lovely time of day when it’s too late to begin any real chores, and too early to start cooking supper.

She was a lovely older woman who had moved there as a young wife in the Forties, and had loved her neighbor very much---they were almost sisters, she said, as they’d both moved into those little houses when their husbands had “got on at the Mill,” right after they got back from WWII.  They’d seen each other through some tough times and helped each other with raising their  children, as well as all the assorted happy and sad of daily life in a small town.   And then each clung to the other in her widowhood, not too many years apart.

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I was mesmerized by all the simple happenings she related, and grew to know the former residents of our little home as if they’d been family and we’d inherited the place from a familiar Aunt and Uncle.    

One weekend when the children were all with us, the boys were outside, up trees with the neighbor kids while Chris chatted with the neighbors. Only Karrie and I were at home, and since on another visit,  we’d said we’d wait till a quiet moment to have a peek into an immense old black trunk beside the bed in the spare room, we decided that NOW was the time.   We spread a fresh-dried sheet over the beautiful Chenille counterpane, and gently laid item after item, doily and dresser set and calendar, every pen set and brooch and immense stack of ironed hankies, all the keepsakes and souvenirs and bronzed baby-shoes and diaries and khaki-crumbled report cards, out onto the bed.   
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I don’t know how to express the sunlight and the shine of that small moment, handling the precious things of a family’s past---we two shared such gentle regard for each item, as we took it from its place, admired or read or smiled, and laid it down softly in that room where it belonged.  We were like those white-gloved archivists and curators of precious things for those few hours, I think, giving each piece a moment of quiet respect, and then laying them all safely away in their resting place once again.

And one small leathery case--out of ALL, there was one small object which captured my heart so that I had no words.   I was so struck by a pang of dolor and love and wishing it had been different, that I was all teary over the discovery, and in a moment, so was she. 

   And Moire non in Chapter II. 

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Friday, October 20, 2017


Now that the weather is cooling a bit, with sunny skies beaming down onto the leafpiles (ours still merely an unaccustomed-for-this-time-in-October BROWN, like all the Autumns of my life, until we moved here twenty-seven years ago), we’re enjoying putting out a cozy thing or two---a soft throw across a chair back, the “cold-weather pillows” in burgundy and deep greens, with needlepointed teacups and other things comfy and warm.

And, with the ushering in of the cooler season, I’m remembering the HOT days of my Southern past, as well---especially those gosh-awful clear shrouds of heavy plastic made-to-fit for the “good” furniture in living room and den.  Remember those unspeakably uncomfortable, complain-when-you-moved, stick-to-your-bare-legs monstrosities which were the pride of every household with a “living room suit”?   Those lovingly-guarded, hard-won sets with the immaculate gold upholstery were more tenaciously defended with their prophylactical plastic than any furniture in history---even that in the never-used, daylight-forbidden parlors of Victorian households.   At least there, the distance between bee-hind and brocade was mere clothing, but that PLASTIC---oh, my.   What conniving, evil minds thought up THAT stuff? 

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Some of it was a little bit subdued---a translucent softer kind of plastic instead of that noisy stuff that gave the couch the gleam of a well-loved Camaro, but STILL.

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I can remember sliding off Aunt Lo’s clear-covered sofa (and glad to be free of it) after I’d wiggled and crinkled and made all sorts of effort to keep my velvet Christmas dress demurely down, and my abrupt descent beneath the coffee-table in a flurry of red petticoats was a story repeated every year by and to all the older generation.   And even when I was grown up and attending a shower or tea party, or even a morning “Coke party” with dainty tunafish sandwiches cut with Karla Kay’s Mama’s bridge-set cutters, and frilly crocheted panties on the icy Coke bottles---still we fidgeted in the Summer stillness and tried to keep decorum as we struggled to stay in one spot.

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Miss Joan Crawford, 1973.  Look at the shine on that chair and sofa, and imagine how many famous bottoms struggled to keep their balance, whilst balancing cocktail, conversation and cigarette.

The next one could be any one of my three Memphis Aunts, this anonymous woman of the Internet, sitting with one steadying foot on the floor in her pretty pink boucle, and making all sorts of creaks and crackles as she leans toward the ashtray.  I try to think back to who DIDN’T have these---we didn’t, but then there was that pesky brown naugahyde, which is a whole nother story.  And there we also those who, after putting a “slipcover” on the precious upholstery, would THEN cover the whole thing with Dupont’s finest, shielding the $3.95 rayon with the $14.95 plastic, and totally hiding the expensive brocade.  And By Golly Gosh---are those drapes and sheers covered in their own shower-curtain-liners as well?

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And this one---this is a doozy---where in the Blue Heck did they GET that thing, perfectly fitted and tailored, and are there immaculate little holes in just the right spots for those little spindles?   Didn’t you always wonder who they were saving them FOR?  

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Wish Y’all could come sit a  while on MY sofa so we could have a good long chat---some kinda contretemps betwixt Google and Blogger lets me sign IN enough to post a blog post, and recognizes me when I write a comment on YOUR blogs, but the words then just disappear when I hit POST and never show up.   I’m sorry to be incommunicado, but I’m still reading, still enjoying, though I can’t get through to say Hello.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


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The mention of that corned beef in yesterday’s blog post reminded me that I always tell Chris when a pot of corned-beef-and-cabbage is on the menu.  (I can never write that magical combination without thinking of the comic strip Maggie and Jiggs---she of the opera and caviar pretensions in their New York mansion, and he longing for the simple homely fare of his childhood).  Chris will “run by” whichever branch of SHAPIRO’S is in his line of travel for one of their still-warm, incomparable loaves of RYE BREAD.  That crust!  The damp, cushiony texture of those beige slices falling beneath the knife with a little scatter of crust-crumbs and plump caraway seeds!

I am a whitebread (actually cornbread, if truth be known) convert, Southern raised and deli-deprived. Though I don't remember any corned beef, any pastrami or lox, there was one close approximation, especially for that Deep South area. There was a little hole-in-the-wall "cafeteria" in an adjoining town, the town where “the” dress store was, for a special occasion which called for store-bought. The small "hot-line" could always be counted on for sauerkraut and some enormous juice-bursting sausages, two per order, with a dainty string-bow holding the little garlicky garland together. Another pan held slumpy stuffed peppers, the beef-and-more-garlic bread stuffing wafting its siren-call up and over the other fragrances in the display.
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Scalloped tomatoes, crisp latkes the size of thick saucers, their tiny frill-cups of applesauce and sour cream awaiting your choice, a deep pan of the yellowest noodles I'd ever seen, halves of shiny-brown baked chicken and their roasted potato-wedge accompaniments.

And the first and only "green" green beans of my experience, barely poached, then tossed with oil and onion and peppers. They were a far different breed from the low-cooked snap beans of our table, and had a "beany" tang to them that ours never had---perhaps the long cooking in our kitchen removed all 
trace of their former lives, imbuing them with the salt and hammy, porky goodness of their additions, making our beans merely the conveyor for all the rich tastes of Southern seasonings.

But way down on the end, after the deep-meringued desserts, the tapioca in little cut-glass dishes, the high-standing squares of kugel with its proud golden crust, stood THE LADY. The lady with the high-piled hair and the moustache to rival my Uncle Fate’s, the avert-my-eyes-so-as-not-to-stare-at lady, who took our measure, our unused-to-the-fare tenor with all of  our redneckness shining through, and asked, in a charmingly lilting accent, "RRRRRRRoll or conbraid?"

I would draw up my shoulders, nodding knowingly and cloaking myself in all the worldly air assumable by my ten-year-old clunky little self, and say, "Rye, please."

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She'd smile conspiratorially in approval, reach beneath the counter, and bring forth two slices------inch-thick grayish-tan, soft, pillowy caraway-studded slices, crusted in gold. Onto a tiny plate they went, slid across the silvery counter to my waiting hand.

I LOVED that bread. It was Dorothy's door after a lifetime of black-and-white Wonderbread movies. It was always freshly made, sometimes still warm, with a lovely silky crumb, a stretch-and-chew to the crust, and a little ping of sour-sharp surprise when you crunched one of the seeds.

I remember that little twelve-foot counter as one of the brightest memories of my restaurant past. And now, when we enter the sanctity of the fluorescent brightness of Shapiro's, with its tantalizing scents and tastes and tables to seat two hundred, I still take up that little plate of rye and bear it to my table with the same child's anticipation.

And it never fails to live up to the memory.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Two of the FL GRANDS at last year's paint-party.   Too far away now, but we're just so grateful that they made it through all the winds and waters.

October gave a party,
The leaves by hundreds came;
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.

The Sunshine spread a carpet
And everything was grand;
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
-----------------George Cooper

I’ve always thought that the year should start in October instead of January. January just grabs ahold of you in an icy grip, keeping you befuddled with the aftermaths of the holidays and all that work and cooking and traveling and celebrating. January is a Pipsissewah of a month, a cold-in-the-head, car-won’t-start time of year, with grumpy people with their heads down struggling against wind and umbrella and ice, the mere feat of standing erect on skiddish streets a burden and a task.

But OCTOBER, now---October is just the best time of year there is, with the golden days and the whish of leaves and the turnings, turnings. The leaves turn and the birds turn South and the time turns from shorts and sandals to comfortable sweats and that favorite old sweater, taken out for the first time in two seasons, snugged on in a cool twilight, as the savory scent of something-in-the-oven wafts out in welcome.

Just walking around outside is a marvel---the air feels silky on your skin and the sun lights gently upon your hair, with a different scent, a different FEEL to everything---better and better as the season progresses. The sight of the harvesting, the change in the produce of the markets, the farmstands offering the crisp fruits and the cider and the huge orange bulk of pumpkns and gourds---we just went to one today, picking out two more cushion-mums, a loaf of wheat bread, six apples, and a watermelon-green-striped gourd like a bashful goose.

Somewhere a long time ago, I read a quote something like, “If I have but one month left to live, let it be October.” I would echo that---it’s always been my favorite time of year, with the air and the light and the rustle of leaves and just the OCTOBERNESS of it. Not because it’s cooler after the summer heat (which is important), not because it ushers in the Holiday Season (also a good thing), and not because of anything in particular which happens or has happened then (though we DO like Halloween).

That’s not it. The month has a personality of its own; it stands on its own, unlike any other time, and I’d know it with my eyes closed. There’s a huge daily enjoyment to the month, with all the sheer exuberance of the color and the brightness---you can just BE in the moments of it, and just enjoy. A simple walk around the neighborhood takes on a different slant---swishing your feet through the leaves, or seeing the swirls of leaves as they drift down like snow, or admiring the Autumn blooms and decorations on the neighbors’ houses and lawns.

Things to do the first few days of October:

Paint Halloween Houses with Sweetpea, her Mama and Caro. (check.  This past Sunday afternoon)

Visit the famous HORTON’S in Tipton to enjoy all their Fall regalia.

Bake a Bundt cake---a beautiful golden-yellow one, fragrant with vanilla and cinnamon.

Decorate for FALL.  (Does three velvet pumpkins on a windowsill count?)

Simmer this beautiful Corned Beef for several hours in its tangy brine, then add in carrots, baby potatoes and wedges of tender cabbage---serve just at twilight on a cool night. It would be enough just to enjoy aura and the scent all day---there’s a satisfaction and a contemplation to having something savory going for supper, and knowing that it will take time and that things are progressing as they should.

There are lots more, and I'd LOVE to hear yours!

Monday, October 2, 2017


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           Today we are all Las Vegans.