Showing posts with label Memories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Memories. Show all posts

Friday, January 01, 2021

Happy New Year!

Welcome 2021! At long last, 2020 is over.

Unfortunately, as years tend to do, this one so far looks like last year. It's raining, it's cold, and there is still a bad virus out in the world.

But now we move on. Beginning years of decades seem to not be the best ones. Maybe soon this will be the Roaring '20s of the 2000s. I hope so.

There are many rituals about the first of the year. The ones I am aware of have to do with what you eat and opening doors. I have never subscribed to any of them, so while I tried black-eyed peas one year, they were not on the menu today.

I did get up and open a door and shoo out the old year and then waved in the new. I didn't think it could hurt anything and fresh air is always nice.

Another superstition, maybe it's a local one, I don't know, is that good luck comes depending upon who enters the house first as a visitor - a man brings good luck, a woman brings bad luck. (Sexist much?)

This superstition has haunted me a long time. When I was seven, we went to my grandmother's house on New Year's Day. I was so excited to see my grandmother that I bounded into the house.

My grandmother immediately burst into tears. "She came in first. We'll have bad luck all year long," she wailed.

My grandfather, who had watched my father enter second, suggested that only held true for adult visitors and children didn't count, so my father was bringing good luck.

My grandmother was having none of it. I had ruined the entire year. I still remember her clutching at her chest and the tears in her eyes.

I was walking bad luck.

As one might imagine, this had quite an impact upon me at that particular age. I spent the entire year ducking anytime something bad happened, sure I would be blamed. My young uncles would tease me if something happened - a glass broke, I remember, - and remind me it was all my fault. 

I was bad luck.

This kind of thing can dampen the spirits of even the most resilient child. I, however, have always been prone to melancholy and moodiness. 

That year I was about as melancholy and moody as a little girl of seven could be. I had moved to a new school that year. I told my classmates to stay away from me - I was bad luck. I shied away from making friends.

I told my teacher I was bad luck. After about the third time of hearing this, Mrs. Wright sat me down and told me there was no such thing as good or bad luck. She asked me where I'd gotten the notion that I was bad luck.

"My grandmother said I was bad luck because I'd walked in the door first on New Year's," I explained.

I remember seeing Mrs. Wright inhale deeply and look off in the distance. Then she looked back at me.

"Now see here. There is no such thing as bad luck or good luck. That's all superstitious nonsense and you should not believe any of it," she said.

"But my grandmother dropped a glass," I said. "She said it was my fault."

"Everybody breaks things. In life, things happen. We have to accept that. But they do not happen because someone walked into a room. Sometimes things simply happen, and all we can do is accept them," she said.

This advice lightened my heart, but only a little. (To this day, I do not leave my house on New Year's Day. Nor do I go into anyone's house first, if I can help it.)

However, on this New Year's Day, I think back on Mrs. Wright's advice and realize that she was right. I also realize that this lesson - that sometimes things simply happen and we must accept that - is one lost on the majority of the population right now.

The virus happened. The election happened. People have car wrecks, lose their jobs, lose their families, and sometimes - maybe most of the time - it's through not fault of their own. Nor is it bad luck. Sometimes it is the result of a choice made a decade ago, one that a person may not remember ever having made. 

Sometimes things happen.

Occasionally, we break a glass.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

My Music Teacher

I learned that my elementary school music teacher passed away recently. Her name was Mrs. Tingler, and she taught music from the time I was at Breckinridge Elementary School until I left there in sixth grade.

She did not instill my love of music in me - that honor belongs to my father, who has always sang and played the guitar. But she did impress me with the variety of music available, and opened my eyes to many different types of instruments.

She would bring in drums, bongos, triangles, recorders, tambourines, and other such instruments and hand them out to students to play.

Some of my favorite songs we sang were Senor Don Gato, a song about a cat, and Goodbye, Old Paint, a song about an old pony. Sometimes I call my husband "Old Paint," and he always looks at me funny when I do that.

Once Mrs. Tingler took me and another student to other elementary schools to sing. I also played the flute during the songs. The only song I recall that we sang was Morning Has Broken, but I know there were others. It was a big deal to be pulled from class to go around to other schools, riding in Mrs. Tingler's car from place to place.

A while back, I connected with Mrs. Tingler on Facebook and was able to thank her for her influence in my life. I am glad I was able to do that.

I don't know if students still have music at the elementary school level, what with the focus on STEM learning and teaching to tests. But hearing the sounds of young folks playing instruments and lifting their voices in song has to be one of the greatest delights of life.

I hope every young student has a Mrs. Tingler in his or her life at some point.


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

I Miss School

I miss college. I miss the atmosphere, the ideas, the notion that there is a world where positive change is possible.

I hate living in this new world that evil has created, the one where everyone is angry, people are dying, and the life is being sucked out of everyone by a bully who thinks he can become the dictator of the USA.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of spending 45 minutes with one of my former professors in a webinar, along with many other Hollins students (most, I am sure, were former students of hers), and it was 45 minutes of bliss - the kind of relaxation I haven't felt in months (years?).

I felt at home. How nice to have a conversation about writing, about ideas, about creativity. A conversation that did not involve politics, stupid flags, police states, or the cost of pork and other meats. How beautiful to see the sparkle in my old professor's eye as she talked about her creative process, her work habits. How amazing to hear the solemn joy in her voice as she read one of her poems to us. How utterly decadent to spend 45 minutes doing something I loved, instead of the things I must do (like laundry).

How wonderful a campus is, where you can mention Rilke or Descartes, or talk about Sisyphus, and somebody knows what you're talking about. It's a place where ideas go to find their owners, because people on campus are creative learners, who want to learn, and they are seekers of truths and knowledge. They value knowledge and learning. They don't think that opinion is the same as fact; they understand the difference.

God, I miss college.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

The Orange Lamp

I've been watching Melissa Etheridge play live on Facebook (6 p.m. EST) for about 10 days now. She gives a four-song concert every evening. She talks about how she wrote the song, plays hot guitar licks, throws in a day on the piano, and talks about taking care of ourselves during this time of weirdness. She advises us to drink water, take walks, be kind and fill the universe with love.

Hey, that's a message that I can get into. It's like stepping into her secret room and learning a lot about her. How very kind of her to do this for her fans during these difficult days.

Her concerts are taped in what looks like a little shrine room, where she has a chair, her Grammy statue, things she's been given or whatever that has to do with her career.

Beside the chair, is a lamp. Its shade is orange and fringed.

Melissa's orange lamp.

From the first concert, I have stared at this lamp when I wasn't watching Melissa play on the guitar. I swear my mother bought a lamp just like this one when we went to California in 1976.

We were on a family adventure, complete with extended family that included my grandmother and two young uncles plus the four of us, taking a cross-country tour to California. We were in a big van of some kind; my mother said it drove like a bus.

Anyway, in San Jose, I think it was, there was a huge flea market. Stuff everywhere. My mother decided she had to have this lamp.

We had to sit with the lamp and nurse it all the way back to Virginia, trying desperately hard not to break it.

Having succeeded in getting it back home safely, my mother put the lamp in the formal living room.

I hadn't thought of it in years, but seeing it in Melissa's room has had me wondering what became of this lamp.

My brother told me in a text that it was destroyed in a house fire that occurred in my parents' home in 1989. I was married and out of the house by then, and my mother insisted that only she and the ServPro people could clean her stuff, so I have no real notion as to what was and wasn't destroyed when the roof of the house burned off following a lightning strike.

But I guess that is what happened to the orange lamp.

(I never did like it; orange is not my color.)

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Pictures of My Mother

At Thanksgiving, my aunt came to Virginia from Texas and brought with her the photos my grandmother had had of my mother. She thought I might like them.

Most of them I don't recall seeing. I scanned them, printed them out, and made an album of them and gave them to my brother for Christmas so he would have them, too. I have the originals but I wanted to put some of them here so they would be in my blog. I have my blog bound into a book every three or four months.

Mom hated to have her picture taken, so I doubt she would like to have these photos where everyone can see them, but she isn't around and I want them memorialized here.

So without further ado, photos of my mom:

Mom with her China doll that my grandfather gave her.

I am not sure, but I suspect Mom is pregnant in this picture.

My mother, my brother, my father, and me at the Grand Canyon in 1976.

My grandmother holding my mother when she was a baby.

Mom around age 6 or 7.

My grandfather holding his newborn daughter.

My mother in her Girl Scout uniform.

My mother and my father, taken in 1996, four years before my mother died.

Mom around age 10.

Mom in 1966, bringing home my brother.

Mom's high school photo.

As you can see, my mother had loads of freckles. She told me once that when she was young, someone told her that early morning dew could rid one of freckles. She spent a summer getting up very early, before everyone else, and going outside to rub her face in the grass in hopes of ridding herself of her freckles. Finally, my grandmother caught her and put a stop to it. As you can see, the folk remedy did not work, although the freckles became less apparent as my mother aged. She was very skilled with make-up.

Also, up until about 1993, my mother's hair was black. Then the gray started showing and she dyed it that burnt orange color you see in one photo. When I remember her, I always remember her with black hair.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Why Learning Matters

I was seven years old and the bus dropped me off at my babysitter's house. She lived a good walk from the trailer my parents and I (along with my brother) were living in at the time, on a dirt road. I wasn't supposed to walk on the road. I was supposed to go to the babysitter's house, though.

On this day, though, I found the front door to my babysitter's house locked. There was a note on the door - a note that did me no good.

The note was written in cursive. I had just started second grade and we hadn't learned cursive yet. I could make out a few things - by that time I could read extensively for a 7-year-old - but only print. I knew my mother's signature in cursive and that was about it.

I wandered around the back and found that door unlocked. I went in and called for my caregiver. The house echoed only my timid little voice as I first called out a name and then moved to a sobbing wail as I realized I was alone.

The phone lines were still party lines, and I had been told on multiple occasions not to touch the telephones, no matter what, not even to answer what was called "our ring." I did not dare call anyone because everything was long distance. The only number I knew was my grandmother's, anyway, and she lived 30 miles away.

My mother worked at a job near my grandmother (it was a long way off to a little child), and my father was a traveling salesman and I never knew when he would be home. It would be two hours at least before my mother came to fetch me.

Two hours is a mighty long time when you're a little girl. I made myself a jelly sandwich and tried not to make a mess - my babysitter hated messes - and sniffled myself quiet long enough to do whatever homework I had. Then I settled in to finish reading Bambi, by Felix Salten. This was the original novel, not the Disney version for kids, which tells you how progressed I was in my reading.

My mother finally turned up, followed not long after by my babysitter, who had left because she'd had an emergency with one of her own children.

Both were surprised to find me alone in the house.

I had not followed directions. I was supposed to walk up the road in the opposite direction of my home to the trailer up the hill, where an adult was waiting to take me in hand (why the adult never came for me, I do not know). I remember being yelled at, and my mother giving me a swat on the behind for not doing what I was told and for leaving crumbs on the kitchen table.

After they all finished yelling at me, I tearfully explained that I couldn't read the message. "You can read!" my mother exploded.

"Not that kind of writing," I cried.

It was then my mother saw the note and realized it was in cursive. I could not read cursive at that time, though I made it a priority after this incident. (I remember going to my second-grade teacher and begging her to teach me cursive, bursting into tears while I asked, and so without question she took me aside during the daily quiet time when the other children were napping, and taught me to read cursive writing, which wasn't taught until third grade. Bless her.)

I don't recall an apology from the babysitter or my mother, but I generally don't in most of my memories. Adults in my youth were not known for apologizing when they screwed up. Unlike Andy Taylor in the Andy Griffith Show, big people in my life were not good at recognizing the need to sit tiny little me on a knee and kiss me on the head and say, "I'm sorry." That's too bad, really, because it would have gone a long way toward making childhood more bearable. (It helps in adulthood too, if people say they are sorry, but I no longer expect apologies from anyone. I just hand out "I'm sorry" like candy, myself, knowing it is somehow my fault that I was too young to read cursive (with said incident serving as a nice metaphor of everything I cannot do or do not do right).

It wasn't long thereafter that I had a new babysitter, though I don't recall if the incidents were related or if it was because the babysitter was going to have a seventh child. Oddly, I don't know who kept me after school after that; certainly someone did for a time. After my brother started school I know where we stayed but there is a gap there for me in that I don't know where I went after school for the remainder of the second grade and none of the third grade. Maybe I just went home and stayed alone, although that doesn't sound right. I'll have to ask my brother if he remembers.

This odd memory came roaring back this morning, totally unbidden, while I was in the shower. It is neither a bad memory nor a good one; it's more a tale of how life was when I was growing up.

Perhaps a recent article I read about how certain states are bringing cursive writing back into the curriculum brought this incident to mind. Supposedly cursive has always been taught here where I live, but my 24-year-old nephew, who went through the same school system I did, only 25 years later, cannot read it. Two years ago when my brother sent him a recipe in my mother's handwriting, he couldn't understand the words because they were written in my mother's beautiful cursive.

When I go to the county courthouse, all of the old records are handwritten. Court orders, civil verdicts, birth and death certificates - all written in longhand, all illegible to thousands of people who cannot read cursive and apparently have no desire to do so.

Many primary sources that pre-date the 1900s are handwritten. The original U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are written in the cursive of the time. Can you read them?


My cursive handwriting is awful; I turned to print a long time ago. I still remember how to write it, though.

And I certainly now know how to read it.

Friday, August 31, 2018


We buy watermelon frequently during the summer, and think nothing of it. After all, we have a nice variety to choose from - seedless, little ones, big ones, pre-cut ones.

But they don't taste quite like I remember those watermelons from my childhood.

Once upon a time, having watermelon was a big deal. It was a wait-for-it big deal.

Daddy would bring home a watermelon and slip it down into the spring house in the water, leaving it to cool. He would have bought it off the back of some truck some place. I don't think many of them came from a grocery store, anyway.

We knew that watermelon was down there. We knew that in a day or so we'd have watermelon to eat, and seeds to spit at one another. My brother and I would talk about it, thinking about that watermelon as it grew colder by the minute.

Maybe there'd be company, too. Having watermelon often meant we were having a picnic or a meal of some kind. Maybe Grandma and Grandpa and my uncles would be visiting.

Whatever was going on, there was anticipation. Anticipation for what was to come.

Watermelon then tasted so scrumptiously sweet you'd almost think it was candy. And it came with seeds that you could send flying between the hole where you'd lost your front tooth a few weeks before.

What could be better?

After we ate the watermelon, hot dogs and whatever else there was to go with whatever we were celebrating - surely we were celebrating something, and not simply eating watermelon - we'd take the rinds down to the creek and float them.

The watermelon turned into a fleet of ships, crashing into each other until we tired of that play. Then we sent them sailing on down Rocky Branch to the sea, or so we imagined. Sometimes we'd follow the rinds as far as we could, watching them until they floated out of sight.

Today? Today watermelon is simply something else to eat, a little treat after dinner, maybe. They are too easy to obtain, too tasteless to be remarkable.

Does anticipation disappear with age? Or did it disappear with availability and change, as watermelons became seedless, tasteless, and part of a healthy diet?

I don't know. But I do remember those days when watermelons grinned at you when you split them open, those seeds looking like black teeth. Watermelons don't do that anymore.

I remember the taste, too, and that anticipation. I remember cheering when Daddy brought the melon up from the springhouse, because it would be good and cold. Delicious.

Oh, for those days.

Monday, July 02, 2018

That Time I Had a Cat

I do not have indoor pets. When I was young we had indoor dogs sometimes (mostly poodles), and I stayed sick and we never equated it with the dog, but it was the dog.

We never had cats, though. My father did not like cats.

I am not especially fond of them, mostly because I haven't been around them and because they make me sneeze. They also seem to know I don't want them near me - if I enter a house with a cat it makes a beeline for me, wanting to purr all over me and get hair on my pants.

I don't dislike cats, really, but I don't pick them up and pet them, either.

But for a little while, I had a cat. Or the cat had me.

We had been married around three months and were living in a cold four-room house when the little kitty showed up at our doorstep. My husband said, "Don't feed it," and of course I did. How could I not? I don't recall what I named her, but she was white with black on her.

My memories of her are few. Once, she helped my husband kill a snake he was trying to pull out from beneath the house we were renting. She bit the snake in the back. The snake immediately relaxed so my husband was able to pull the snake on out of its hole.

The other memory of her is that she had kittens. This surprised me because I didn't think she was old enough to have kittens, but there they were all the same. Unfortunately, she had them in the cellar way up under the house where I couldn't reach them. I heard them, though, the morning they were born, just before I left for work.

I assumed all would be well, but apparently this little mother had no milk, or else was too young to know how to nurse them. She tried to feed them by killing a bird and dragging it to the little mewling babies (at least, I know they were mewling there for a time because I heard them), but of course they couldn't eat a bird. Over the course of a day, the babies were born and they died and I was at work and didn't figure it all out until I came home and went to check on them.

I cried when I saw the dead bird and the little dead kittens.

My husband, of course, was at the fire station for the evening, so I called my brother and asked him to come by and help me with the dead animals under my house.

I am not sure what happened to the cat. We moved and we took the cat with us, but she ran off, never to be seen again.

And that's my only experience with cats.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Ernest Pig Robertson Fishing Rodeo

One of the things my father did with my brother and me when we were children was to take us fishing.

Specifically, he would take us to the Ernest "Pig" Robertson Fishing Rodeo in Salem. The event is now in its 67th year.

I don't remember my mother being at these things, but I am sure she was there somewhere. Maybe she sat over in the grass preparing a picnic. All of the excitement centered around several hundred youngsters sticking fishing poles with bobbers on them into the water, hoping to catch a trout. I think the ponds were stocked the day before the event.

One year I won a prize of a bag of a potato chips because I caught a catfish.

My brother won a prize for catching a large trout one year. Somewhere I have seen a news clipping with his picture.

I learned to bait my hook and I learned to fish at this event, for the most part. I remember it as being very crowded. I have a very vivid memory of my father leaning over my brother to help him and saying, very loudly, that my brother's line was caught on some asshole's hook, and it turned out to belong to the child beside him. The kid's father glared at my dad, who said, "Sorry buddy," and turned his attention back to us. I don't know why I remember that.

As the eldest child I was expected to pretty much take care of myself while my father helped my brother fish. That was okay with me. I remember catching fish, so I must have figured it out.

Linking up with the April challenge from Kwizgiver. April 23 done!

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

First Love Memory

I don't recall having a "first love" nor do I recall my first kiss. I remember my first kiss with my husband but by then I was 18 and had already been kissed. One might call him my true love and thus I was then the recipient of my first true-love kiss.

Anyway, the question of the day is best first kiss or first love memory. Since I don't have one, I will just go with my oldest memory that has to do with liking boys.

I was in the second grade in Mrs. Wright's class. Jerry, whose last name eludes me, sent me a note. Back then we didn't text or anything, so we passed notes along. I don't remember exactly what the note said, maybe something along the lines of "I like you do you like me? Check Yes or No." We were seven years old. What else would it have said?

In any event, my response to his note was intercepted by Mrs. Wright, who proceeded to take it to the front of the class and read it aloud, while I sunk down in my seat, put my hands over my face, and sobbed my humiliation into my palms.

She then pinned the note to the blackboard and made every single student, including me and my "boyfriend," parade up in a row to look over said note and read it aloud.

And that is what I remember about "first love."

This is the April challenge from Kwizgiver. I'll going to give it a go. Because, you know, I don't have enough to do. April 3 done!

Monday, April 02, 2018

An Early Memory

I don't know if it is my earliest memory, but it is one of my earlier memories.

The sandbox was located at our house on Upland Drive and I lived there until I was 5, so this happened before I left there.

What happened was this: I was playing with a neighbor boy from down the street - Brucie Lucado - and in the course of being kids, sand went into my eyes.

Gosh, it burned.

My goodness, it hurt.

I remember screaming bloody murder and running around the sandbox half-blind. "Help me! Help me!" I yelled. My mother came out to see what was wrong and tried to catch me, but I was racing around like a wild thing and it took her a while. "Call Grandma!" I cried. "Call the fire department!"

Neither Grandma nor the fire department came to my rescue. Instead, my mother took me inside and washed my eyes out with water and then some Visine drops. Or at least, I presume that is what happened. I really don't remember much beyond "Call Grandma" and "Call the fire department," screeches that amuse me as an adult but which, I am sure, were perfectly serious at the time.

Another early memory from the same time period involves being outside and being dared - again by Brucie - to eat a wild onion growing in the yard.

What a nasty, foul taste that was.

Boy, did it burn my tongue.

Do I eat onions to this day? Not much. I can handle a Vidalia but that's about it.

Ah, the lessons of childhood.

This is the April challenge from Kwizgiver. I'll going to give it a go. Because, you know, I don't have enough to do. April 2 done!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thursday Thirteen #505

Summer without video games/apps and computers -

1. Spittin' watermelon seeds as far as you can. Especially effective if you've lost a tooth and have a hole in the front. (I suppose there is an entire generation who doesn't realize watermelons have - or once had - seeds.) Also, pulling a watermelon out of the springhouse, where it stayed cold.

2. Playing in the creek, catching crawfish and chasing minnows.

3. Riding bicycles around the block (or up and down the dirt road) or through the little "forest" of pine trees near the Forest Service office.

4. A blue snow cone from Brooks Byrd Pharmacy.

5. Helping Grandpa mow the yard for a quarter.

6. Taking the quarter to the Orange Market for a soda, a candy bar, and a comic book. (Yes, all three for twenty-five cents.)

7. Buying those put-together balsam airplanes and throwing them around the yard. The ones with the rubber band propeller never worked and they all broke within a day, but we always bought them.

8. Attaching a string to a June bug's leg and flying it around like a trained circus animal (different world in the late 1960s - early 1970s).

9. Hunting for four-leaf clovers.

10. Making a necklace out of clover flowers, or trying to make the "longest clover flower chain in the world."

11. Catching lightning bugs and putting them in a jar to light up the room at night.

12. Helping Grandma hang the laundry on the clothesline.

13. Being told every day not to stick your hand in the handmade electric black fan that had no cover guard over the front of it. (The engine was made from a refrigerator motor, I think.)

My summers, until I was about 13, were spent at my grandmother's as my mother worked. She lived in Salem, about 30 minutes away, but was within walking distance of my mother's office.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 505th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.

Monday, May 01, 2017

My Dog

I grew up with dogs. I know, I know. With my allergies, how could that be? Well, I mostly stayed sick and no one realized it was the dogs, I think. Or the Christmas tree. Or any of the million other things that are on a farm that a child with bronchial issues shouldn't be near. It was a different time and such things weren't given much thought.

We had inside dogs and outside dogs. We had Dalmatians, poodles, collie mixes, and mutts. I think there was a German Shepherd in there somewhere.

After I married, I quickly found out that I was going to be alone a great deal. I worked so the 8-6 hours weren't so bad, but the nights were deadly. At the time we lived right on the Blacksburg Road and the cement trucks constantly rumbled down the two lanes of asphalt, their brakes grinding as they began descending the small incline that started near the house we rented.

About this time of year in 1984, I went to the flea market. A friend of my husband's sat with a litter of pups, mixed mutts she was giving away. Part Eskimo Spitz and part Terrier, she said, the result of an clandestine and unwanted affair between her dog and a neighbor's pet. They were about 12 weeks old. She had several left, and I picked up the solid black one.

She came home with me. I put her in a box in the basement with an alarm clock to keep her company. She was tiny then, but quickly grew, though I don't think she ever weighed more than 30 pounds. I could always pick her up.

About the time I adopted Ginger, I visited an allergist and was told the dog needed to be outside. Ginger actually preferred to be outside,  I think. Once we built her a pen and a dog house, she seldom attempted to come inside even when I tried to coax her in. I hated to put her in a pen but with the traffic on Blacksburg Road we couldn't leave her to run free while we lived so close to the road.

After we built our house and moved in 1987, we had a difficult time keeping her here. We let her run loose because we are about 1/4 mile from the road. However, she would find her way back to our old house, which was on the other side of the farm. I had to fetch her many times before she finally figured out home was not there anymore.

Ginger (left) facing down a raccoon while the neighbor's dog watched.

Her biggest and wildest chase occurred in the middle of the night the second summer we were in our new home. I was alone and asleep. She woke me with her frantic barking. I climbed out of the bed and turned on the exterior lights to find a skunk on the front porch, spraying the cedar wood siding, the dog, and everything in between. The smell was atrocious and choking. It really should be used as sprays for police use. That is some strong stuff.

Anyway, I went out the back door with a handkerchief over my face to keep from gagging. No amount of calling would bring Ginger from her prey. The air was so heavy with skunk odor that you couldn't breathe. Finally, in desperation, I called my husband at the firehouse and woke him at 2 a.m. to ask him what I was supposed to do. I couldn't shoot the skunk because I'd be aiming at the house. What if I missed?

He said he would come home, but by the time he arrived I'd figured out that I needed to turn the water hose on the dog to get her away from the skunk. He pulled in the driveway in time to see the skunk race down the hill in the front yard and into the field while I grabbed a soaking wet and stinking dog.

The dog reeked for a month despite numerous baths, and for years, even with  repeated washings with Dawn, Mr. Clean, tomato juice and anything else we could think of, the front porch smelled like skunk when it rained. I lost a pair of tennis shoes and clothing in that incident - they smelled too bad to save.

This is her pen from when we were renting. She ran free
after we built our house.

She seemed to like snow. I think it was the Eskimo Spitz influence.

Still, she stayed outside. Even when the temperatures dropped below freezing I had a difficult time coaxing her into the garage. She wasn't house trained and I always put out newspapers when I brought her out of the bad weather, but she seemed to know she wasn't supposed to "go" in the house regardless. Until she aged, she managed to hold it and then race outside when I opened the door. After she turned 10 or so, she looked forlornly at me if she made a mess, even though I didn't scold. It wasn't like we'd trained her to be an inside dog, after all.

She also had a way of letting us know we had annoyed her, especially when we went on trips and left her in the care of my in-laws. She would ignore me for days upon our return, and then finally I would be forgiven. I had to give her a great deal of attention to get back into her good graces, though.

Ginger seldom stayed still, and when my vehicle came up the driveway she would dance around the yard. Even when she was 17 (yes, 17!) and near the end of her life, she stood up and wandered over to the driveway when she heard the car.

She was hard to photograph.

Her dog house behind her. We put cedar in it.

I was glad when we didn't have to pen her anymore.

The only time she was sick was when she about 10 years old. I came home from work and she didn't greet me. I immediately began looking for her, and found her whimpering near the fence in the woods. She was alive but obviously something was wrong. I couldn't find any bites on her, and it was after 5 p.m. and I feared I wouldn't be able to get help for her. I carried her to the house and laid her on a rug, then raced to the phone (no cellphones back then) and called the vet. Fortunately he was still working and said he would wait for me to bring her in. He kept her for two days but we never did know what was wrong with her. He suspected some kind of snake bite but could not find puncture wounds. Antibiotics helped whatever it was.

After I began working from home, many times during the day I would go to the back door and talk to her. All I had to do was peck on the glass and she'd suddenly be there. I still miss that.

She died in May 2001, about seven months after I'd lost my mother. She'd been my dog for a very long time, so long that I forgot she was 119 in dog years. We must have done a fairly decent job of caring for her, since she lived so long.

We did not get another dog after she passed away. I'd had her for so long I couldn't bear to replace her. I think it took me a year to stop looking for her, dancing her doggy dance of delight in the yard when my car pulled in.

Taking a rest during one of our walks.

She liked the creeks, too. Looks like we might have
been feeding her a bit too much in this photo!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Sporting Memory

I am into sports about as much as a potato might be, so when I saw a friend asking, "What's your favorite sports memory?" on Facebook, I skipped the question and moved on.

However, I started thinking about it. I actually have two athletic memories that mean something to me.

One took place in the fourth grade. Back then (you know, the Dark Ages), the schools tested students every half year or so. Teachers made you run the 500-yard dash, climb a rope, and perform athletic feats that generally were beyond me. If I was going to get a "B" in anything, it was gym. (I always received points for trying; I am persistent that way.) I stayed sick (no one knew I had asthma back then), and running was not easy for me.

In the fourth grade, though, Donna and I were to race the 500-yard dash together. Donna was my friend and I didn't want to disappoint her. Being one of those kids who tended to have to walk at least the last quarter of the run, that was a possibility.

When Mrs. Lanning blew the whistle so we could start the run, Donna was beside me, and she set a nice steady pace. I matched it. Together we ran the 500-yard dash, the whole thing, and we did it in one minute and 58 seconds. I remember the time specifically because I was never able to repeat it and the two-minute mark eluded me ever after.

What a joy that was, to actually run the entire way and do it in an acceptable time.

My other athletic memory involves baseball. I suppose it was really softball. I think this was in the fifth grade. The class had split into two groups for a ball game - I, of course, was always one of the last picked - and I was sent to the far outfield. I'm afraid I was one of those girls who would cover her head if the ball came in her direction and turn around for fear it was going to hit me in the nose. Should that happen, then I would be Marsha Brady with a busted nose all over again.

Usually I did not have a glove, but for some reason I managed to grab a glove when I went out to the field. I recall a beautiful spring day, like the one we have today, perhaps, with the sky azure and an occasional cloud drifting by. A light breeze blew the dandelions.

The pop fly came toward me out of nowhere. I could hear the groans from my teammates as they saw where the ball was headed. Bases were loaded and I was going to drop the thing and we were going to lose.

From somewhere deep inside me, the courage sprang into my throat. I took two steps forward and the ball went "plop" right into my glove. I felt the sting in my right hand and I covered the ball with my left to be sure I didn't drop it.

The thing I remember most was the admiration of the boys on the perfect catch. I didn't shy away and I caught it beautifully; it was the third out and we won the game. I was the heroine of the afternoon, queen for the moment. I never shone again in a team sport, but for one glorious afternoon, life was good.

I ran the race and I caught the ball.

What more could a little girl want?

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Ten Years Ago

So what were you doing 10 years ago?

Curious,  I wondered what I had been up to in September 2006.

Looking back at this blog and my journal, it appears I was a busy girl, working my way through my 40s (as I would have been 43 years old then).

My work at the newspaper was as close to full-time as a stringer's work could be - I was writing about 30 stories a month. I was covering all kinds of governmental meetings. I was frustrated because people weren't reading the paper and were uninformed about things going on.

"And then there are people who read NOTHING," I wrote. "This is a major dumbing-down of America, and we're all paying for it. We're paying for it with a "peak oil" crisis, with water issues, with overcrowding of neighborhoods, with sprawl, with loss of farmland, with pollution, with loss of timberland, with loss of life. Not knowing affects each and every one of us each and every day. We are all being killed by what we don't know."

Alas, none of this has changed. We are still struggling to find our footing with energy issues and water has become even more of a problem with the drought in California. This was before mass shootings became almost an everyday occurrence, so that is a change. Otherwise I would have listed them as something we needed to worry about and fret over, though perhaps I was referencing it in the "loss of life" line.

What else happened? I spent time in the emergency room being checked for chest pains and a possible heart attack. It wasn't a heart attack, and I determined myself that it was most likely an asthma attack, but it would be another five years before doctors would finally begin to treat me for asthma with anything other than a rescue inhaler. In the meantime, I tried to keep things under control myself by staying away from known allergens, just as I do today.

The years from 2004 to 2009 were probably among the best five years of my life, heart attack scares notwithstanding. I was writing for the local newspaper (The Fincastle Herald) and I absolutely loved the work. I did it well, and it was fun. I enjoyed the community, the people I was working for and with, and the individuals I had to deal with on a weekly if not daily basis. Even though I spent more than 10 years writing for a local paper in a neighboring county, I much preferred my work at The Herald because it was close to home and it involved me personally, because this is the county I live in. Plus I didn't have a 35 minute drive just to attend a 30 minute meeting.

By this time I had a better grip on things from my past, a good idea of what I wanted from my future (which included writing for the newspaper into my 70s, something that, I am afraid, derailed not long after I'd figured that out), and my health was, if not great, at least workable.

In 2009, though, the newspaper went bankrupt and I lost my work there (though the paper continued and continues to this day). I spent two years trying to freelance for various local publications and found that I didn't like writing for the medical magazine, nor did I like having to wait for months for my payment from other local publications.

I also went back to school and finished up my masters degree, which was the best thing I could have done. I graduated from Hollins once again in 2012, MA in hand, and decided to give teaching at the community college level a try.

That worked out ok until my gallbladder went kerplunk in June 2013, leaving me with chronic pain and exacerbating other health issues to the point where my doctor now writes me prescriptions that say, "Do not work. No stress."

Such an edict is stressful in and of itself. What are you supposed to do with your time when you can't lift or run the vacuum, and you're not a shopping queen? It has taken me some time to come up with a schedule I can deal with - and even now, all it takes is one change to throw me off and I am a long time figuring it out again.

No, I do better with the deadline of a newspaper, that weekly have-it-done-by-Monday order as opposed to this endless ocean of time that sweeps out wide and far, turning me into a dot in a vast sea of sharks.

My new goal is to work on my health - doctor's orders - and to try to make my house as wonderful as I can. I am not a decorator and I also lean toward piles of books and papers, which can make "wonderful" a little difficult, but I am giving it a go. Slowly, ever so slowly, a few things are going away from here, things I don't use, want or need.

Downsizing, as it were.

In another decade I will look back and see that this is where I was at the age of 53 - fighting a chronic health issue, seeing lots of doctors, and trying to make my house into a home because I have to spend a lot more time here now.

I hope when I am 63, I will have achieved something else wonderful, like my masters degree, too.

Who knows, maybe I will one day write that damn book.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Seed Spittin'

A very long time ago, a hundred years now by my reckoning, aging ancient woman that I am, watermelons had seeds.

No kidding. They harbored big black huge seeds, and lots of them.

When an adult split the melon in half, the seeds were everywhere. Melons were bigger back then, too. They were long and too heavy for a kid of 12 to lift, at least not without a lot of grunting.

After the first cut, the melon would be sliced into smiles. The fruit would grin at you with huge black teeth, those seeds just waiting for you to take a bite.

I remember my father would bring one home and he'd haul it down to the springhouse to let it get cold. It was much too large for the refrigerator. And we'd think about that melon for a day or two, waiting for dad to bring it up and take the big knife to it.

Sometimes on a hot summer afternoon, usually a Sunday, I'd sit on the back porch at my grandmother's house where we'd chow down on some glistening red melon. It tasted sweet and the coldness against the heat was like an iceberg making its way through your stomach.

And the seeds? Oh, we spat them out. At each other. Sissy girls like me would wave our hands and squeal if the mood struck, but mostly I spit back. Sometimes we'd put a can in the yard and see who could spit seeds into it. Or see who could spit those seeds the farthest.

But mostly we spit them at one another. Sometimes you'd gather up a great number in your mouth and then try to send them out rapid-fire like, taking your target by surprise. This took some finesse and tongue work, but it was manageable if you did it right.

If you had a front tooth out, then you'd try to spit the seed through the gap. Sometimes that was hard, especially if the seeds were large.

Occasionally you'd end up with a watermelon with soft little white seeds. While the fruit tasted good, the seeds were a disappointment. Not much spitting went on when you ended up with one of those bad melons.

Nowadays, those bad melons - seedless watermelons, they call them - are about all one can purchase in the store. I haven't seen a regular ol' big oblong fat seeded watermelon in years. Whole generations of children have grown up without spittin' a seed at a sibling and watching it stick to his or her cheek.

They don't know what they've missed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Storm

One of my favorite memories of my maternal grandfather involves the weather.

A storm blew up; it was probably a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, because he would have been at work otherwise.

He and I sat on the back stoop, looking out over the trim yard and at the fence and house beyond. The wind blew my strawberry-blond hair around my face, and made his cigarette smoke race away from us like a train chugging down a lengthy track.

Grandpa did not often sit with me, or spend time with us grandchildren, really. He worked hard at his job and he made money on the side as a TV repairman. He could be rather gruff and stern. I was partially afraid of him and partially in awe of him.

But this day he sat companionably with me as the storm came. The wind brought the scent of rain. Lightning began its play in the sky. We watched in silence, each of us looking at the clouds and listening for the thunder. It was then he taught me to count the seconds between the thunder clap and the lightning. "That's how far away the lightning is," he said.

A forked blast of lightning sticks in my memory. It was an unusual twist, different enough to bring a remark from my grandfather. He took my hand, then. Big fat rain drops began to fall, and he led me inside.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Dolly on the Stove

When I was about four years old, I had a huge stuffed cloth doll that I carried around with me. I don't remember her name or even really what she looked like, now. I recall only that the doll's leg had stripes and the hair was yellow.

She was mine and I loved on her and played with her frequently.

What I do remember is that one day the neighbor's dog attacked my dolly and tore up her leg. Apparently the dog mistook the doll for a chew toy. My mother took the doll and sat her on the kitchen counter, saying she would fix her later. Then she left the room.

In my mind's eye I have a vision of watching in fascination as my little brother, who would have been about one and probably not long in walking, began pushing a chair over to the stove. With great effort, he managed to climb up on the chair. His goal was to retrieve the doll, which he could not reach.

Somehow he turned on the oven eye, and the doll's leg was near the oven eye . . . and I'm sure you can see where this is going.

The doll's leg flamed up, and I screamed for my mother, who ran into the kitchen and threw the doll into the sink and extinguished the blaze.

My brother was chastised for turning on the oven and told not to ever go near the thing again (maybe this is why he is now a wonderful chef, as we've always had a tendency to do the very thing we shouldn't, he and I), while I sobbed about my now-dead dolly.

I doubt the dolly was repairable after all of that, the poor dear. To be first eaten on by a dog and then set aflame does not bode well for a long life. Even if my mother did fix the doll, I doubt I ever  played with her again. As far as I was concerned, that dolly was dead.

After that, as you may imagine, I did not play too much with stuffed dolls.

Monday, March 09, 2015

It's Not Revitalization

In the local paper today there is a story about the City of Salem's efforts to generate a more vivid downtown.

Community leaders decline to call it "revitalization" but instead call it "the downtown plan."

This made me smile. As news reporter with 30 years under my belt, I've covered more "revitalization" plans that I care to remember. None ever turn out like their initial schemes, but I don't recall that any actually made a situation worse.

I don't go to Salem much anymore. I visit downtown Salem maybe once a year. The last time I was there, I went into Ridenhour Music to see about a guitar, but they were all upstairs and I wasn't able to climb the steps to see what they had to offer.

Before I had difficulty walking, I made a stop in Salem every year at the holidays. They have a couple of nifty stores that offer unique items.

When I was child, I spent a lot of time in Salem. It was quite different, then. My grandmother, who lived along the Roanoke River, kept my brother and me every summer. We saved up our pennies and quarters, and my grandmother would walk with us to downtown Salem. I think the walk was about 1.5 miles, one way. Grandma would have been in her late 40s or early 50s, so it was a trudge for her. After we reached the age of 10 or so, we went by ourselves - even rode our bikes uptown. I suppose today that would be considered child abuse given the current climate, but we came to no harm.

We would go to Newberry's, which was a dime store, where we were filled with the wonder of model cars, paddle balls, and those glider airplanes you could put together and then throw for 10 feet or so. The paddle balls lasted until the rubber string broke, which as I recall was usually pretty quickly. I also bought a set of jacks there, coloring books and crayons, and other things that a child in 1970 would enjoy.

With our purchases in hand, we'd trudge down the street to Brooks Byrd Pharmacy, dimes in our pocket, so we could have a snow cone. I always purchased the blue one.

Sometimes on the way back to my grandmother's house, we'd stop off at Aunt Pearl's house for a Coke. Aunt Pearl was my great-great aunt, and she lived to be 106 years old. Grandma and Aunt Pearl would talk about all kinds of things while Grandma rested and we played with our new toys. Then we'd finally go back home, and our purchases kept us occupied and out of Grandma's hair for a few days.

That is the Salem I remember. I don't think any "downtown plan" can look backwards because times have changed. Retail is out, internet shopping is in. While I prefer to look at the things I purchase, feel material, handle items and make sure they aren't broken or scratched, many people don't seem to mind looking at a picture and hitting "buy now." That's the reality of the world we live in. Shopping and purchasing has changed.

I don't know what Salem, or any other place, for that matter, could do to draw folks into its community. I will be watching their plan with interest.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Appreciating Teachers

I understand it is National Teacher Appreciate Week. I have always appreciated my teachers. Most were mentors, and I was an unabashed teacher's pet in some of my classes. You know the kind: straight As, quiet, seldom caused trouble. That was me. I had a few teachers who went above and beyond in looking out for me as a person.

Last week I just happened to see two of those special high school teachers.

I had lunch with THE WORLD'S GREATEST MATH TEACHER on Friday.

Tina taught me math for three years. I had her for Algebra I, II, and Trig. I can't remember anything except how to add and subtract, but that's not her fault. At the time I knew how to do it. She was a tough teacher but I loved that about her class. We have stayed in touch for all of these years, and it is wonderful to have such a vibrant and strong woman in my corner.

On Saturday, I bumped into THE WORLD'S GREATEST ENGLISH TEACHER at the Farmer's Market.

Dee taught me sophomore English. I thought she was wonderful even if she did laugh long and hard with me and the rest of class when I once misread the Leaning Tower of Piza as the Leaning Tower of Pizza (it was close to lunch). In my junior and senior years, I would often drop in on her before school or at lunch time simply to say hello and have a chat about whatever was going on. Dee has always been encouraging about my writing, even when I was young and it was crap. I have always appreciated her support.

Here they are from my junior yearbook (that would be 1980).

They really haven't changed much, have they?
Thank you, great teachers, for being wonderful mentors, strong supporters, and beautiful friends.