Star-Spangled… Me?

When I was young, I spent lots of time at Granny’s house.  She was a career public school music teacher and, after retirement, taught voice and piano privately. Even had a “musical kindergarten” called Rhythm Band. In her small town, everyone knew her as the spunky, creative… and slightly nutty…  lady who brought joy and beautiful music – and a bit of the unexpected – to nearly every holiday gathering in town.

Aside from Christmas… and Halloween… and Valentine’s Day… well, hell, she loved every holiday, who am I kidding? It seemed that July 4, 1976, was a challenge for her.  She went nuts, decorating EVERYTHING in sight with red, white, and blue, and honing up on her piano versions of all things patriotic.  It was insane but really amusing to watch.

Tonight, thumbing through a box of old photos, I came across one that truly represented just how geared up she was for our 200th birthday celebration. Okay, so let’s build a giant birthday cake out of boxes, wipe out the local dollar store of its miniature flags, stick the thing in the back yard, and get the oldest grandkid to dress up like Uncle Sam to pose for pictures.

Geez, the other two grandkids were BOYS, for crap’s sake!  At least she didn’t make me wear a beard. Well, they were only about four and two at the time… they weren’t tall enough to peer over the top layer yet.

Me 1976

Yep, that’s me.  Nine years old.  The curse of being the oldest was always serving as “guinea pig” for photo shoots like this. I think she secretly enjoyed this – thank goodness she never showed it to any of my friends. Ugh.

Truth is, this year, I would have given my left, er, ovary, to have climbed up on that damn cake, listening to her direct with more finesse than a Hollywood producer, “Now, wave the flags and smile, Leigh,” as she snapped the photo.  I would have sung every patriotic song I knew, if it would have meant a little more time with her.

Well, except for that awful “God Bless the USA” song.  Forgive me — if you were subjected to that song as often as I was as a kid, you’d feel the same way.  Seriously, you would. (Sorry, Granny.)

July 4, or any holiday for that matter, doesn’t quite have the same sparkle as it did when she was in charge of making them fabulous.

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Stating the Obvious… Someone PLEASE Smack Him!

flash guy with response

The Writer Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree…

Tonight was one of those nights where I needed a little “perking up” and some inspiration for writing, so while rummaging through the boxes of old photographs acquired over the years (and yet to be properly archived), I came across something so very unexpected – a “confirmation” of sorts.  It was a little booklet that my aunt had made and shared with the family shortly after Granny (my mother’s mother) had passed in 2004.  It contained poems she had written in 1937, when she was 22 years old and not yet married to Pa-Paw.  Even more exciting was the fact that a poem written by my great-grandmother in 1940 was included. She was 62 years old when she wrote it.

Not only was this a wonderful surprise, I also found it quite interesting that my great-grandmother’s poem was about a bird – now, the mystery of my strange attraction to them may have finally been explained.  Apparently, bird lovers run in the family.

Apparently, so does the love of writing as well.  Not only did Great Grandma Archy enjoy writing the occasional poem, I learned from my aunt that she also wrote for the Charlotte Observer sometime in the 1920s and 1930s under the pen name, “Ichabod.”  During that time, I suppose women weren’t strongly encouraged to write for the paper, so she found a way to get around that barrier.  (Way to go, Great-Grandma!) I am currently in the process of contacting the archives division in Charlotte to see if they can help me find more information…and hopefully some of her articles.

At the back of the booklet were some loose pages.  Brown and ragged at the edges – I discovered they were the original handwritten poems.  There was something about holding those pieces of paper in my hand and lightly running fingers across the words that made me feel as if, for a moment, I was right there when they were being crafted over 70 years ago.

Gr Grandma Archy's Poem 1940
Granny's Poem 1937

Digging deeper into the box, two yellowed envelopes also appeared.  They were typewritten – addressed to my Granny from my Momma.  They had been returned to me after her death, and I never realized exactly what they contained – until opening and reading them tonight.

Mom's Letter 1974

Before me was three generations of writing – and I couldn’t help but see a similarity in my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s style.  But what touched me the most was the letter from Momma to my Granny – 40 years ago, just after Pa-Paw had suffered a heart attack.  Momma had graduated from a business college and worked for a while as a secretary for J.P. Stevens Company in Greensboro when I was young.  I vaguely remember us having a typewriter, and I also think I remember her allowing me to use some of her onion skin typing paper and “practice” now and then.

But I digress.  Momma’s letter was dated 1974 – less than four years before she died.  As the years go by, it’s growing more and more difficult to remember little things about her.  But this letter brought all the memories flooding back when I saw how her writing reflected the deeply caring nature I still remembered and how she expressed specific concern over making sure that a close eye was kept on Pa-Paw because “he was used to doing what he wants to.” She mentioned me in the letter and that I was excited about going to see Elvis (yes, I saw him!) and that she regretted not buying a ticket for herself.  When I read that sentence, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of deep regret also – had she bought another ticket to the concert and joined my neighborhood friend, his mother, and me, that would have made for just one more fond memory to add to the small handful I was able to gather in her short time here with me on this earth.

Great Grandmother Archy’s poem was written about a Mockingbird, but it reflected a mother’s sense of loss after her last child left the “nest.” She needed to “keep on singing” after her children left home, as did the Mockingbird, despite losing her own “nestlings.”

Granny’s poem was an ode to her mother – the one who was her best friend and her “lighthouse.”

Momma’s letter to her mother was one of deep caring, compassion, and encouragement in a time of difficulty — and a precious, unexpected and much-needed gift of memories for her daughter 40 years later.

Three generations of mothers expressing themselves through writing – and confirmation to me that what they say about apples… well…

 To My Mockingbirdby Archy Harris Morrison (1940)

Oh, little bird, come sing your sweet song;
With your notes full of cheer the whole day long.
You sit on your bough and sing to me;
As if you are happy, as happy can be.

And, oh, mockingbird, sing on your sweet song;
Put pep in my step and cheer up the throng.
Who chance to pass and hear your sweet song;
Sing your sweet song, sing on, sing on.

Sometimes the cruel cat your nestlings take;
And you are left to mourn your sad fate.
But you sing your song from early morn;
Oh, who could guess you were left so forlorn.

May the sweet melody that you make;
Cause us some joy and courage to take.
That when our home ties are broken may we;
Still scatter sunshine where ’ere we be.

 

Mother – by Willie Morrison Taylor (1937)

You, mother are the dearest
Of all my friends to me.
You’ve been the inspiration
Of all my childest glee.

Tho’ all the years have passed
Since I was but a child
You have been my lighthouse –
Even your bright smile.

You’ve cheered me when I’m lonely
And helped me when I’m blue,
You’ve made the burdens lighter
And skies of brighter hue.

I hope when life is over
And our days here are done
You’ll have a crown victorious
With every battle won.

 

Edna, the Menopausal “Gangsta”

Edna and Her Herbs Photo

Irma, the Great Menopausal Philosopher

Flash Therefore Fan

Come on out… the air’s just fine…

A story I wrote has been accepted for publication in the book, I Am Subject: Sharing Our Truths to Reclaim Our Selves.

I’m extremely excited about this. I believe there are over 70 stories from women – all over the world – that will be included in this anthology. It’s amazing and quite humbling to know that my story has been heard… and acknowledged.

I-AM-Subject-cover_Capture_15Nov2013-199x300

And it couldn’t have come at a better time in my life — a time when “the change” has my body going haywire, the mind following suit most of the time, and my spirit jumping up and down, waving its hand in the air, frantically screaming, “Hey!  Remember me?  Can I please come out and play now?”

Through this project, the box lid on my comfortable, safe, secure little world has been ripped open and exposed to the elements, and I’m finding that the air outside is safe to breathe. Actually, it’s quite refreshing.

 

So go on, spirit. Climb out now. Inhale deeply… and play ’til your heart’s content.

For more information on Diane DeBella and her wonderful project, visit her website: http://www.iamsubject.com/