Monday, March 24, 2014

The High Cost of Beauty

There's a beauty regimen that nearly every woman I know has to go through. Has to I tell you. There is no choice in the matter, even for those who were born beautiful, you have to work to keep that beauty up on your face and not hanging around your neck with myriad wrinkles and age spots. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this regimen needs to start at, oh I don't know, age ten? Shockingly enough I began my "Noxzema routine" at the late age of fifteen. I remember telling my mother that the soap (Camay, remember Camay?) made my skin feel tight and icky. My mother went out to the store the following day and bought me a cobalt blue jar of Noxzema skin cleanser. Thus began the routine that follows for the rest of my life. It was only the first step, but a major one. It was like I had joined some kind of tribe after I told my friends about the miracles of that astringently smelling white cream that I used at least twice a day, on weekends three. Where had I been, I was asked. One friend claimed to have started using it at age seven. I could only think she must have had some extremely oily skin...or extraordinarily dry skin, for this was one of those "one size fits all" products. There I am, a Noxzema addict, step one is now complete and step two was just around the corner. Lipstick. My first tube was purchased in the May Company. It was Rose. Not red Rose, barely pink rose, you know just a blush of color. My mother wore Fire Engine Red and I asked her why I couldn't wear red. She told me quite simply, "you don't have the maturity to pull it off. Wait until you're older." Of course when we got home, I had to go in her bathroom and try her lipstick. She was right. I looked like an escapee from Barnum and Bailey's Circus. So, at age 16 I could wear a little powder and a tiny bit of mascara. So now here we are, clean face, a little powder, some eye makeup and an almost there lipstick. By age twenty I refused to let anyone see me without my makeup on. Mac was the only exception, he saw a clean scrubbed face twice a day. When we were stationed in London, my friend Bubbles, (she was known professionally as Violet Loxley, the West End Actress) took me to her hairdresser. Every woman knows you have to have a hairdresser that you'd trust with your life. (Here I have my darling Miranda). But so far while in England, I had yet to find anyone with whom I was, well, content. Bubbles had no end of Service people ("Little Men" as she called them...her 6/2 195 pound window washer was "her little man" and the sentence always began with "I have this little man who may be able to help you out, hair wise.") She meant no disrespect, she was not rude, she was English. So, off I go to her "Little Man" who welcomes me warmly, clasping both my hands in his and standing back begins to nod his head, smiling widely. He sat me in the chair and considering me as a blank canvas began to "tch tch" and shake his head. I wondered if I had sprouted another head that didn't meet with as much approval as the one that first entered his shop. He looked at Bubbles and still shaking his head, said "lovely face, shame about the eyebrows." Bubbles came over to me and said very quietly, "he wants to give you a wax, dear. Are you game?" Now how could I tell this tiny sweet lady that the lioness, (which she often referred to me as) in her midst was not game? So Elliot (our little Man) came to stand over me with a sharp stick, globs of hot wax upon it and although I felt I might bolt and run, I simply grasped the arms of the chair as he began to paint molten hell on my eyebrows. Pretending it was not so bad, I began to relax, it only burned a little bit . He then rubbed strips of cloth over the wax, rubbing till I thought a bruise might appear. And then the maddened little man ripped them off quickly, no warning, just PAIN erupting from my forehead. I think I screamed. I don't know, because I think I may have lost consciousness there for a minute, too. When I came to myself Bubbles was patting my hand and saying things like "it's all over now dear, wait till you see". Well, once I dashed the tears from my eyes I could see what she meant. Wow. My eyebrows looked wonderful, making my eyes look larger...the brow no longer went from one side of my face to the other with no break in the middle. I no longer looked like a long lost relative of the Wolfman. The amazing Elliot spent the next hour on my hair and when I walked out of his shop, I had to admit that I felt wonderful and looked pretty darned good, too! So we're about to walk out and back to Marylebone Station when Bubbles takes a package from "her little man". Okay, so Elliot is indeed a diminutive soul, he being 5'4 and me being, well, tall. Off we go, catch the train and back to Beaconsfield we go. On the train she takes the package from her bag and tells me "you'll like this much better for your legs than a razor or that harsh cream." I opened the box and gazed upon a contraption that fit nicely in my hand. It had what appeared to be a coil of wire at the end. Bubbles explained that this was an Epilator, and that you just run the little contraption up and down your leg lightly and "voila" the hair was gone as if by magic. I tried it that night. Dogs from several blocks away responded to my howls of pain. Please, someone pass me the razor.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

TBT:The Great Egg Caper: A "The Good Old Feed Seed" Story

As you all know we lost a landmark in Chesterfield last week. People stood on the street slack jawed with shock as first the building went up, then the ammo inside went off (in protest, I believe). The good old Feed and Seed has stood there for over 75 years and all of us have stories about it, I am sure. I remember the smell of chicken scratch and the gentle peeping of the Easter chicks, dyed in bright colors of pinks and blues that every kid who walked through those big double doors wanted to clutch to them. The fertilizer smells and the old men sitting around the pot bellied stove because Easter might be just around the corner, but old Man Winter was still hanging around. I have a couple of good family memories that involved the good old Feed and Seed...but my favorite comes from their selling of cracked eggs...so gather round children and listen to the tale of the The Great Egg Caper: Long before the medical factions started warning us about things like eating too much meat, eating too little fish, using good old fat back grease for frying and cooking, and eating eggs with cracked shells, we were doing it all. By we, I mean our entire region. We're Southern. It goes without saying. My Grandfather, who was of Scottish descent, believed that a penny saved would keep him solvent. I'm not saying he was tight, but for heaven's sake, he was Scottish. He believed in land ownership, because, he said, they're not making it anymore. At his death he owned nearly 1000 acres which he left to my Grandmother, till her death, at which time it would be divided between the three daughters. My grandmother, who taught school, was a very kind woman who believed in helping her fellow man, even if that meant giving that penny saved, to the down trodden. She had generosity of heart. She and my Grandfather got along the way most married people do, they had their ups and downs and could carry on an argument for days and then suddenly, it was over. And like everyone else, the arguments usually were over money. Mammy (my grandmother) went grocery shopping on Saturdays. During the week (after retiring from teaching school) she farmed along side Daddy Dwight (my Grandfather). The days from Monday through Friday were long hard days, especially Friday night. Friday nights were the nights when Mammy made out the checks to the farm hands, caught up the ledger and prepared for another week beginning Mondays. Daddy Dwight , after inspecting the fields, made up the schedule for what needed doing to the tobacco fields...poisoning (for worms), watering, topping (taking the flower tops off the plants so that the growth would go to the leaves and not the flowers), decide when it was time to "put in tobacco" and hire the extra hands, get the fuel for the tobacco barns , check the barns and flues, just get ready for production, in general. It was not an easy job, for either of them. It was early one morning, a Saturday, and Mammy was getting ready to go grocery shopping at the Red and White. They always got their eggs at the Purina place, (the good old Feed and Seed) and bought them 8 dozen or so at a go. They always got the cracked cheaper eggs. Daddy Dwight was in charge of that. He took the pickup to town, and Mammy took the car. So, Saturday afternoon, I was sitting at the table, knees up and feet on the seat of the bench, reading a book. I even remember the book. It was "Lad: A Dog" by Albert Payson Terhune. Having spent the night with head under the covers and flashlight focused on the page, I only had about two chapters to go. The argument between my grandparents was like a buzzing mosquito in my ear...I wasn't really listening, but the voices were rising. Mammy had the patience of Job and really didn't lose her temper till she had taken as much as she could take and then boy howdy, everyone better stand back, because as in the words of the miners, "she's gonna blow!" Funny, but all her female progeny are just like that in every respect. So I hear Daddy Dwight fussing about Mammy throwing out some of the eggs. She tried to tell him that some were cracked a bit too much and she couldn't cook with them. He kept insisting that there was nothing wrong with them and how wasteful she was being. I saw her eyes narrow and lips thin to a straight line. I closed my book with a snap and just as I was getting up to leave the room, the house, maybe the yard, it happened. Mammy picked up one of the eggs that was severely cracked and said, "here Dwight, let me show you why I can't use this egg," and smooshed it on the top of his head. Then she rubbed it in. And the fight was on. The egg fight, which started in the kitchen, eased onto the screen porch and then on out into the yard. They were throwing eggs at each other like a pair of six years old. Neither of them were laughing, they were intent on coating each other with as much egg as they could. I had run down to my Aunt Margaret's and ratted them out and she and my Aunt Pat went up to the house to break up the war. Both were slightly out of breath, but we never knew what would have broken up the fight first, their anger dying out or running out of eggs. And remember, they had at the very least eight dozen of them. I don't remember how long it took them to start speaking to each other again...three days or three weeks. But I know it took the Aunts three days to cleanup the slippery, gooey mess of eggs dripping from the cabinets, the table, and the walls onto the kitchen floor. My cousin Crystal (Aunt Margaret's daughter) and I were talking about this "comedrama" this morning. We were laughing so hard we couldn't catch our breaths. I told Crystal that I thought I would write about the the great egg caper, that enough time had passed where it was funny. But Mammy and Daddy Dwight never laughed about it. It was not allowed to be brought up in their presence. So, if I get a visit from the other side tonight, I'm thinking I'll know why. I just hope they aren't carrying a box of eggs. v>

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Morgue Drawer...a RA Flare Rerun

A group of us girls got together last night, leaving husbands and significant others to fend for themselves where it came to scavenging for food, drink and entertainment. Waitress not included. It's been a while since we were all together swapping war stories from the line of duty. It felt good to be in the company of women. I'm sure men can appreciate this, it's not much different from their poker nights, only we have no cards or chips, we expend no money only laughter. We try to keep things light for the fun of it and occasionally dark for the thrill of it. We were doing hamburgers and Good Sister was doing her world famous slaw. I was amazed because she was actually making it in front of us so we could all steal the recipe if we were so inclined. I was. I did. I will. I told them about a house that had burned nearly to the ground on my way out to her house. It struck me as suspicious...but that's the cop blood, you see. Everything is suspicious. So GS told me that there had been a few suspicious fires in town, and that I could be right about the house. Everyone was moving around the kitchen, breaking up lettuce, slicing tomatoes, GS was now making chili so those of us so inclined could have a Carolina Classic hamburger...chili and slaw with a healthy slice of Vidalia onion. Turns out we were all so inclined. She cut the potatoes to fry, and looking around at our bounty, said "Wendy's doesn't have anything on us, girls!" Asking me if I wanted a soda, she directed me to her fridge. "I put some diet cokes in the freezer." I walked over to the fridge, pulled the freezer drawer out and grabbed a coke. I heard one of the girls say, "did you intend to put a morgue drawer in your kitchen or was it a happy accident?" Every one broke out laughing as GS shook her head and told us it had not even occurred to her until it was set in place. After that several of us begged her to tell us the story of the night she got pinned in the Morgue. The Morgue in the old hospital was more like a walk in closet with four odd looking drawers inset into the wall. It was old, having been an afterthought years ago when the hospital was first built. The only other people (other than the resident dead) that entered on any kind of frequent basis were the Medical Examiners and family members there to identify a loved one, or view a loved one who had passed in the hospital. One of the drawers, the bottom drawer on the left had long been in need of repair, but administration had done nothing about the repairs in the six months since the request had been made. There was now a trick to pull the "Resident of the drawer" out into the light for viewing. In the room was a tall metal trash can, you had to open the door out, pull out the drawer and quickly kick the trash can under the drawer to support it and keep the body on the tray of the drawer from tumbling onto the floor. The ME's had become so used to doing this that it was just second nature, open door, pull drawer, kick can, support tray. See? Easily done. So this one night when GS was the ME on call, she had to go down to the Morgue to do the paper work on a body that had just gone down from upstairs. The family would want to "view" her, she knew, and she needed to get all the paperwork in the system. For some reason, the "Residents" were always put in feet first, rather than head first which made it difficult to read the toe tags. You had to pull the body completely out to read the information. GS said she groaned when she saw which drawer her patient was in. She expected the worse. She got it. "I opened the door, " she told us, "and realized that the body within was well over three hundred pounds. At first the tray refused to move. I had one leg cocked to kick the trash can under the tray when it rolled out, but the tray still refused to move. Instead of looking to see what might be holding it, I just gave a hard jerk on it and suddenly it began to move. It picked up momentum and before I could kick the can under it to support it, it came off the track and pinned me to the back Morgue wall. I couldn't lift it. I couldn't move it. I began to wail hoping someone would hear me. After a bit, I gave that up and decided to save my voice for when I might hear someone coming down in the elevator. I figured that someone would miss me eventually, or the family would be escorted down to view the body and that I wouldn't be here long. I was in there for an hour before I heard the slightest sound other than my own breathing. I began to yell, "hello!!! hello!!!" at the top of my lungs. The young ME was now thankful for the sweater that she had pulled on before going down to the glorified closet. It was cold in here. Of course, it needed to be cold, but she was afraid she was going to freeze to death before anyone came to her rescue. It was the elevator she heard that sounded like an angel skidding to a stop. She heard a voice singing a gospel song and so she began to shout, "in here, help me please!" She saw the young man in the huge mirror that hung on the morgue wall and showed the outside hallway. He stopped, took an ear bud from his ipod out of his ear and stopped. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open in shock as though he had awakened and found himself in the midst of a horror movie. The ME, whose voice was now raw and wispy from shouting for over an hour, again called out, "Hello!!" She could hear the young man clearing his throat. He too seemed to have lost his voice. He turned all around trying to locate the voice. He began to stammer back, "hello, where are you?" He turned into the Morgue and seeing her there against the wall, ran over to try to help her. It took three men and a jack to free her from her chilly prison, but they finally managed to get the tray back on the tracks and into the drawer. "You know it was about a month before I felt warm again. And it was the impetus for building a new morgue. And high time, too!" And so that's the story of the Morgue Drawer...line of duty stories? I have a million of them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Thrill of the Read...winter rerun


The other day I came across a Harlan Coben book I hadn't read. I was surprised, because I thought I had drained the well. I found this one at the flea market and since the books were only a dime (even the hard backs) I knew I couldn't go wrong. I figured if by some chance I had already read it , it would be easy to pass on to a neighbor or my son...if it's a book, some deals are just to hard to let pass. So, the other night after going through the books I had purchased (and when I tell you that every room in my house has a book shelf of some sort, you can take it to the bank) I picked up "Tell No One". You know, even the title gave me a bit of a chill. I felt it work across my shoulders and then slither doen my spine as it pushed a rod of cold straight down. I was reading the "biopsy" of the book. "For Dr. David Beck, the loss of his wife was shattering. And everyday for the past 8 years he has relived the horror of that happening." Hmm...see what I mean? Now do you think I could wait to turn to page one? Even though dinner was on the stove, the table needed setting, and company due to walk in the door any second, I sat on the edge of the sofa and read the first three pages. I was enthralled immediately. I love a mystery. I love the ones that make you look over your shoulder. The ones that ensure that you get up out of a warm bed, breaking off the doze you were slipping into, to make sure that you locked the doors. And the windows...and checked the showers, pulling the curtains back to reveal...nothing. I love Stephen King, but Mr. Coben holds my mystery loving heart. What have I learned from Mr. Coben? Well, I have learned that just because someone tells a character who they are, usually that is a lie. Especially if the person is supposed to be someone in authority. Look again...nothing and no one is what or whom they seem. If in the story a character walks into a room and feels plastic sheeting under their feet, you can bet your bottom dollar that there is no painting going on...this is minimum cleanup of what is hardest to clean up in a crime scene...blood. No matter how hard you scrub, there's always that minuscule drop of blood that worked it's way down into a floor board or behind a piece of paneling. You can bet on it. Hence the large rubber sheeting on the floor, the spill catcher. If someone is supposed to be dead, keep reading...because chances are they are going to pop up at some inconvenient moment and scare the beejeebers out of you. Ah, Mr. Coben, you enthrall me no end. And you tie the ends up so cleverly. You never kill a really bad guy off till you've used him in a couple, maybe three books. Eric Wu is the scariest bad guy I've ever encountered via Mr Coben. Even the description of him is soul shattering. And what he can do to the unsuspecting victim makes you want to skip ahead to the part where the victim is finally, hopefully mercifully dead...because you really can't take anymore of their terror. Or the torture that ensues. Mr. Coben's books are almost painful to read. It's like the old horror movies where you find yourself sitting in the theatre talking to the girl up on the screen, she of the white raincoat and high heels. You're begging her "don't go in the house" and when she does and encounters the monster, you begin begging her to kick off those damned shoes so she can get some traction to run the hell out of that house. Of course, she never does. Mr. Coben is not known for his happy endings. You may want to think so, but even as you're coming up to the last page, Eric Wu has beaten you there...and he's most likely waiting for you.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

WHAT IT WAS WAS FOOTBALL


Here we are a week into February and once again that doggoned Groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil has brought bad news! In fact his prediction was this: "A Super Bowl winner I will not predict, But my weather forecast, you cannot contradict, That's not a football lying beside me It's my shadow you see So, six more weeks of winter it shall be!" For Broncos fans it was a double whammy. First the bad news about winter's non-demise, then their team avoids being skunked by one play. It was a sad day for some, I guess. Nearly a repeat of the "Heidi" fiascco of 1968. I wonder how many of you remember the Heidi Bowl? The Heidi Game or Heidi Bowl was an American football game played on November 17, 1968. The home team, the Oakland Raiders, defeated the New York Jets, 43–32. The game is remembered for its exciting finish, as Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32–29 New York lead. It came to be known as the Heidi Game because the NBC Television Network controversially broke away from the game, the Jets still winning, to air the 1968 television film Heidi at 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone Mac and I had been married for four weeks. The ship had left for Reftay training in Norfolk on 4th of Novembder and so some of the other wives and I had gotten together to take a trip from Charleston to Norfolk in time for the Super Bowl. It was Sue O'Shilelds, Doc's wife Patty and I. I drove our Mustang and off we went. We were driving up 52 North and had just entered Coward, SC when I passed the Greyhound bus. I suppose that should have been my first clue that I was traveling too fast. We girls were all chatting happily and listening to good old country tunes on the radio when I saw it. "It" was a blue and red revolving bubble gum light atop a police car. I glanced down at the speedometer and it read 75 mph. I knew in that moment that the revolving lights were for me. I pulled over to the side of the road and got my drivers license and registration out to hand to the Officer when he approached the drivers side window. I watched him adjust his hat, pat the holster where his gun rested and look in through the back window (to count the occupants I now know). I put the window down and he leaned in and said " flying a bit low tonight aren't we? May I see your pilots license?" Now we all love a smart *ss cop, right? But as Patty later told the tale when we arrived in Norfolk, at least he had a sense of humor. I regaled him with the tale of a wedding just 3 weeks prior, and ship pulling out to sea a week later and a trip of Navy Wives meeting up with husbands to watch the Super Bowl. He shook his head and said "and don't you think your husbands might like you to get there in one piece? Keep the speed somewhere around the legal limit and don't let me catch you flying through here next week." We arrived in Norfolk "in one piece" and called the ship to pick our guys up. We were going to be going back to Charleston on Monday. But that Sunday was the Super Bowl. We all gathered on the Base at one of the clubs to watch it. I seem to remember the Jets were ahead and then the unthinkable happened. NBC broke away from the game to show a new version of the old movie Heidi. The groans were ear shattering. The names the poor NBC folk and Heidi were called can not be published in a family paper...needless to say, the fans were a mite upset. Whenever Super Bowl Sunday comes around, I always remember that one and have never watched a complete game since. I flip back and forth to check the scores and leave it at that. It ruined the game for Mac, and since I learned the rules of the game from Andy Griffin (What it was was Football) I wasn't missing all that much anyway. Frankly I'd rather be reading.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

When In Doubt, Blame the Cat

I'm not sure what is going on in the world of television these days, but it seems a lot of the commercials are funnier than the actual show they host. I've been known to lay in wait for my favorites. Do you remember the one about the dog, who on seeing the sandwich his Master had prepared, sitting beside it a bottle of soda (Pepsi, coke one of those) eats the sandwich, drinks the drink, then taking the cat by the scruff of the neck, sits him next to the empty plate, bottle by...this teaches us what? When in doubt, blame the cat. The cat is good for all kinds of blame. I've seen Mac look Sonny directly in his blue eyes and say "did you do that?" I can guarantee you that if he had done "that" (which usually involves a foul odor moving in my direction) he would proudly own up to it by doing a mad run around the house, climbing up woodwork and sliding into the kitchen sideways on the rag rug. My usual response to this is "now that's mature. Blame a poor defenseless cat." Having grown up in a household of girls, I had to learn the "pull my finger" game from Mac. And he couldn't wait to teach it to his sons. My mother tried to warn me that boys were disgusting, but would I listen? So anyway, the cat and the sandwich is my favorite of all time. Then some ads are so irresponsible that it makes me want to look for a lawyer. These are of course from the Auto Industry. We spend our lives instructing our children on the proper way to drive, to insure that they get home safe and sound, and these bozos are out there talking about "vroom vroom". VROOM VROOM? I do not want my children to go from 0 to 60 in 7 seconds. I don't really want them going 60 at all, since the speed limit for most places is 55. The double nickel. Of course, when my boys first got out there driving they had lots of eyes on them, my brother and sister officers told all. My younger son, Michael, was nicknamed "the Road Warrior" by one of the Highway Patrol officers. Eventually, he realized that he was in a no win situation and slowed down. But the Auto Industry has so much to answer for. Speeding down a highway is only one of the ads that get me hyped up. There is another one that is much worse, in fact borders on Child Endangerment...Dad is out in the back yard building Junior a tree house. It's a warm day. Dad is sweating. He goes over to the family van, and pulling back the sliding door (it's closed!) tells his son the tree house is ready. Now, this is a "tear that little butt out of the frame" moment. The kid looks at his father and wants to know if the tree house has a television. NO? Well, does it have leather seats? NO? Then I'll just stay in here with my little friend. I'LL JUST STAY INSIDE THIS OVEN THAT CAN GO FROM 78 TO 140 (NOT IN 7 SECONDS BUT CLOSE) AND KILL ME. That is irresponsible advertising, no redeeming features in this one at all. I actually wrote to a couple of networks to complain about the ad content, and I encourage anyone who sees it (it still runs, though the brat is probably in high school giving his teachers a hard time, now) to do the same. I'm afraid it may take a disaster to get this one off the air. I can't even put words to the disaster, it chills me. And not to let the Auto Industry off the hot seat to quickly, lord knows they need their feet held to the fire as long as possible (till they develop crispy toes at the very least) but I really don't know any women who put their makeup on in the car mirror. I know, there are a few...I just don't know nor have ever known, any. Not even a passenger who has ever ridden with me has done that. What do I feel? I feel they, the Auto Industry (dimwits) are poking fun at the wrong thing. I have a new commercial in mind...man or woman, riding down the highway...cell phone to their ear, mind on the conversation when suddenly they are wearing the road they were just driving on. Cut to scene at the hospital. Driver/patient is lying on a gurney when suddenly a phone begins to ring. The ring is coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the driver/patient's butt. Because that's where it is well and truly wedged. I may be the last person in the world to not own a cell. When I go shopping, if I want company I take a friend with me. I don't want my phone ringing and interrupting my shopping high. I don't even like to answer the phone at home, so why is answering the one in your purse or that ridiculous little head set stuck in your ear so exciting? When I'm driving I like to listen to the radio or the cd player. I don't want to talk. When I'm driving, I don't talk all that much to my passenger. I'm keeping my mind on more important things. Like my life and the life of the others on the road with me at the time. So, no cell phone. I have an emergency 911 phone for the truck, but I've found that 911 Dispatchers don't have a lot of time to chat. They're sort of busy. Usually sending an ambulance to the scene of a 10-50 (cop speak for wreck) and a surgical team to remove the cell phone from the driver's behind. But then, it was probably a deer that ran out in front of them...yeah, either that or a cat. Probably sonny. He'll take the blame for almost anything

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

M I C K E Y...MOU SE...BAH HUMBUG!

M I C--K E Y...M O U S E... In 1955 we lived in Tampa, Florida and I attended Vila Madonna Dela Neve Parochial (Catholic) School. Mama drove us to school and picked us up. Homework was done after supper and bedtime was 8:30. On Television that year Walt Disney introduced The Mickey Mouse Club. I was a fan...devoted and true. My goal in life was to have a pair of ears like Annettes. Doesn't seem like much of a goal, but considering I didn't attain my ears until Christmas of 2013, it sort of puts things into perspective. If pressed I can still name most of the Mouseketeers...including Jimmy Dodd and Roy (the Big Mouseketeer). I was grown before I knew that Uncle Walt started the show in order to pay for Disneyland. I wasn't shocked by this news, it went along with all I knew of the Commercial world of Want vs Need. But all I really knew was where once I merely needed those Mouse Ears now at the age of forty (1988) I simply wanted them...w a nte d them!!! While we traveled and lived all over the East Coast and the United Kingdom, I was no closer to getting my ears. I know I could have ordered them from some catalog but I wanted my ears to come from Disney (Land or World, it made not a whit of difference). Now, onto the point of my missive. Jobs. Our nation is in some trouble. Our people need work while our supurb work ethic is still intact. ABC and Good Morning America started a trend in 2012 called "Made In America". They encouraged us to go through our homes and chuck out anything not made in America. We found that in most cases we would have to completely refurnish our homes from the rugs that covered our floors (and sometimes the floors) to the lighting that was above our heads...out goes the furniture all bedding the silverware and kitchen items .! But in the meantime if you try to observe "Buy American", according to ABC and GMA you can bring serious jobs back to the good old USA simply by buying all you can that is actually made here and not overseas or north and south of the border. You rock ABC! Now, did you know that Disney owns ABC? Yes, they do. So that made me proud of Disney, that they were pushing the Made In America theme much as WalMart did in the 80's. Now back to the Ears. My son Wallace and daughter(inlaw) Sara spent their first anniversary in Disneyworld. For Christmas I was presented with my mouse ears. My name was embroidered on the black felt and the ears were upright, the Disney emblem proudly stitched on the front. I held them lovingly in my hands. They were finally mine. Later on, after the excitement of Christmas and getting my ears had calmed, I happened to look at the label inside my Mouse Ears...after the copyright jargon, there it was. Made in Thailand. My heart froze...inside my head I was screaming NOOOOO! Tell me it isn't so. Shame on you Disney. Shame shame shame. I looked at my ears, felt the betrayal and placed the ears in my closet...yes, I hung up my ears . For shame Disney...both Land and World...thy name is Anathema. Look it up.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Southern New Year Table...

You know it wasn't just yesterday that I discovered that I really love Southern cooking. I've known it ever since I was big enough to sit up at the table with a chicken leg in one hand and one of Mammy's biscuits in the other. No one can quite make biscuits like our grandmothers, can they, Belles? No matter how much I watched her with that bowl of flour, from step one to step oven, I could never match her for tenderness, flakiness, or just plain goodness. They always came out of the oven exactly the same golden brown every time, the steam rising off them carrying with it the faint sour smell of buttermilk. I was having a discussion with my neighbor, Joanne, about buttermilk. She likes to eat cornbread in buttermilk, just like Mac does (and he loves saltine crackers mixed up in it, too.) I don't like the taste of buttermilk in the raw. I like it in my pancakes or buckwheat cakes. I like it in my biscuits or as a dressing in my slaw...but I don't want a big icy glass of buttermilk with chunks of bread floating in it so you had to eat it with a spoon. No ma'am, I want to cook with it. Anyway, it's the Southern cook that gets the blame for high cholesterol and hardened arteries, for the most part. What made my grandmother's (we called her Mammy) biscuits so doggoned good, you ask? You didn't ask? Well I'm sure you intended to, so here's the answer. It was the lard. It was the soft wheat self rising flour. It was the buttermilk. And it was her hands. She always told me that I overworked the dough, that you just wanted to work it till it held together nicely when you "petted" it into a round. The imprint of her knuckles would always be in that finished product. I can't remember a time when we were children that she wasn't up with the roosters, making a pan of biscuits, frying side meat(fat back or streak a lean) a pot of grits on the back of the stove and those wonderful scrambled eggs, soft white swirls of -egg white like marbling throughout them. My sister Toni was the only one I know of that managed to learn her method of scrambling eggs. Now, here we are coming onto the New Year and we have a custom. We eat "Hoppin' John and Collard Greens...Hopping John is simply black eyed peas cooked till they're nicely soft and served over a big fluffy bed of rice, with the pot likker ( the water your food is cooking in.) Some folk like to serve a healthy dollop of chopped onions on top, too. I used to ask Mammy why they called it Hoppin' John and the only answer I ever got was because someone had kicked John in the shin. That was her way of saying she didn't have a clue. I have read about eight or nine theories as to how it got the name, but so far no one really seems to know. How Hoppin' John got it's name is still a mystery. Then there are Collard greens. They're much like cabbage, but not at all like cabbage. They're similar to turnips, but very dissimilar to mustard greens. They have body to them. They are really the only green leafy vegetable I know that requires chewing. And the heads aren't ready to pull till it's had one good frost on it. Freezing sweetens them. Now, the reason we especially eat them on New Years day is for wealth and prosperity. The tradition being that if you eat the Hoppin' john you'll have plenty of coins pass through your fingers, and if you eat collards you'll have folding money in your pocket all the time. It's a wonderful tradition in that if you have Hoppin' John and Collards on your table, you're richer than an awful lot of people who have nothing on their table. And so, once again we will be rich this year. The collards are in the freezer and a bag of dried black eyed peas is always in my cupboard. You never know when a little wealth will come in handy.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Memories

I am late putting up the tree this year. In fact I am still decorating and probably won't be finished with the tree until Christmas Eve. There will be tweaking and adjusting to do right up to the minute as I drag out the ornaments, some which go back forty years and more. Ever wonder how you manage to collect so many things and how you are able to keep them all looking as good as the day you brought them home? Each ornament holds a memory of a Christmas of another year. I have the wooden ornaments that we used when the boys were small, just big enough to fit into their tiny hands but not glass that would shatter and cut them. These are wooden cars and trains, tiny elfen drivers and engineers aboard the polished oak which we bought in Norfolk, Virginia. Brass bikes and sleds sit ready to spin around the curves of the Christmas tree much as they did when we first put them on in Fall River, Mass when Wallace was a baby. I can still see friends Doc and Barb's big poodle laying by his crib, both sets of eyes watching the brightly colored tree in wonder and joy. I gingerly handled the Christmas plate with Fathe r Christmas holding the Christmas star high above his head heralding the birth of our Savior. This plate was a gift from our dear friend Bubbles Loxley Green in Beaconsfield (Bucks) England. I have the snowmen from London and the Angels from Charleston. There are ornaments from our first tree after we were married and the ornaments from only a couple of years ago which found their way here as gifts from friends. Oh and here are the nutcracker soldiers from Harrods in London and Mr and Mrs Claus from Colts Neck, New Jersey. Each ornament is a warm memory of some Christmas in the mists of times gone by. That is why it is taking so long to get the ten foot tree decorated. Every ornament must be handled and exclaimed over as it comes out of its wrappings...here is Michael's favorite ornament, the brass unicycle. He always thought he should be able to ride a unicycle which is why I bought this. (Maybe I should let him take it home to put on his own tree and hope it survives another 35 years...). Here is the Angel topper I bought because it looked so much like Arianna. And the little Angel shelf sitter with the wild red curls like Anna's. Oh look, here are the lighted bells that are now over 45 years old and still play the Carols as well as they did when I put them on my first tree in 1968. Christmas...it is family , it is happiness...the Child is come to save the world...and hopefully for one day at least, we can have peace on earth...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

THE CHRISTMAS TREE PART DEUX

I have spent the days since Thanksgiving so sick that at times I was unable to sit up and take a sip of water. We went to Florida to spend the holiday with Mac's family. Some of the visitors came with a little something extra. While trying to combat the flu I came down with a particularly nasty case of pneumonia. I am feeling well enough to attempt a bit of decorating...the tree is first on my list... Oh my tree this year is going to be so beautiful. It's nonflammable, it's pre-lit...and it's white. No strings of lights to untangle is the absolute best thing ever. I remember in years past waiting for anyone to walk through the front door and untie me. There were always at least 50 strings of lights that someone (who shall remain nameless because I can't find anyone to take the blame) removed from the tree, did not disconnect one from the other,and just rolled them into a ball and threw them in a box. Know why? Because it is just too much trouble to take care of at the time, and I really don't want anyone to miss out on the ranting and raving that will follow the opening of "the box". Oh and the screams of "who put these lights in this box?" I think it may be time to come clean with myself. I know who it was that put the lights in the box. I'm the only one who decorates in here, and I'm also the only one who "undecorates", so why deny it? Undecorates. I think I may have just made up a word. I wonder if it'll work in Scrabble? But I digress. So the tree is in it's infancy...I started the decorating earlier this week and am adding things slowly so that it's all even and doesn't have the "stood back and threw the junk on it" look. While I may be a bit impatient removing the tree ornaments, I have the patience of Job when it comes to the actual decoration. Once I could let the sheer beauty of the live tree take the brunt of the disorganizational frenzy of frolic. But now, sigh, we have a fake tree. Or to put a better spin on it, we now have a Faux Tree. I got a white one to celebrate the fact that no one in the house smokes anymore, (a nicotine coloured tree is the most horrible sight to behold). I've always wanted a white tree, imitation snow...it's supposed to be in the 60's today so it's a bit of a stretch on the imagination, but if I turn the a/c on and get it to about 50 I can put on a sweater and stand in front of tree with a cup of coffee to help warm me up. That's after I finish decorating it. By the time that happens it may be in the forties outside and there will be no need of pretense. I will be done with the decorating as soon as I reach "critical mass". Not one limb left unadorned, not one light left unlit and the floor groans with the sheer weight of it all. Ah, Christmas...it's the most wonderful time of the year...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Live Vs Artificial

I think everyone knows by now that Mac was in the Navy for thirty years, which carried with it a lot of sea duty. Sea duty should have had the word "over" included, since the ship(s) mainly went far away...they didn't run out five or six miles and play war games then back in time for dinner. Even when they were in port, he often had "Duty" which meant he had to stay on the ship overnight at least once a week. He averaged six months at sea every year. Sometimes more. That's the thing so many people don't understand about Military families, it doesn't matter if there's a war going on or not, families are going to be separated. Well, the first Christmas that the ship was at sea at Christmastime, the boys were devastated. Not see Daddy at Christmas? You're kidding, right? Right? Well, sadly I was not kidding. No Daddy at Christmas, it was 1977 so no Internet...just snail mail that could sometimes take up to two weeks to arrive from port to home or home to port. We had always had a live tree and I was adamant that we would not have an artificial tree. Ever. My reasons were mainly that they didn't look real. I had other reasons, but that was the main one. So I've got the beautiful live cedar tree all decorated by December 15th, water in the basin of the tree holder, plop an aspirin in (don't ask me, Mama always did it, I figured she knew). Every few days, add water, add presents, feel needles...sing a carol. The ship was due in the end of December, so I figured the tree would still look pretty good by the time he got home. Christmas came and went, so did the new year, no ship, no Mac. January 12th and I add more water, more aspirin, no carol this time, but a prayer instead. "Dear God please don't let my tree die this week". As though it wasn't already as dead as the proverbial hammer. And dry. There's Mac's presents laid neatly beneath a quickly drying cedar tree and I'm imploring the boys "for heaven's sake, don't brush against the Christmas tree, the needles are getting dry." It's now February 1st, the ship has once more been delayed. The boys are standing in the living room with a couple of their friends and Craig (Wallace's friend) says "you've still got your Christmas tree up." That was all, just you've still got your Christmas tree up. Of course by this time it looked more like a Christmas stick. With lights. "We're waiting for the boys' daddy to get home" I explained. To a five year old. "Oh," was all he said. By this time of course, we no longer turned the lights on, I was afraid of fire. It was no longer even plugged in. When the word came down that the ship was now due on February 14th I was so relieved I was nearly sick. I had taken to sleeping on the sofa next to the tree to keep the cat out of it so that it might have a semblence of shape and a few needles when the big day finally arrived. Women go through an awful lot to make Christmas work for everyone. In my mind, it was still the Christmas season and no one could convince me otherwise. Wow, what a day February 14th was, what a wonderful Valentine's day it turned out to be as we drove to D&S piers (Norfolk. Va) to greet the ship and all I could think of was the pile of needles on the floor , the cat crouching in the middle of the tree, so by now I was certain what remained of the tree was now covering the packages that contained some lovely winter wear and here we were fast approaching spring...after arriving home, I quickly plugged in the tree for the brief time it would take to shove packages into Mac's hands. He opened them, oohed and ahh'ed and I jumped up, unplugged the lights and grabbed the tree and quickly dragged it out the front door and dumped it unceremoniously onto the front yard where it burst into flames before every one's amazed eyes. I swear I could smell the cedar firing up as we sat in the floor. I don't think I've ever moved quite so fast, in my life. As for my opinion of artificial trees, no longer a live cedar snob, I agree with all and sundry...don't they look natural

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Just Following the Road to Nowhere

Since we've retired to God's country (or at least our little section of it) we don't travel that much anymore, it seems. The longest trips we make are to the doctor's visits (too many) and my sons and daughters(in-law) in Florence and Columbia.  Where once we were world travelers, we are now rather sedate.
 
 Oddly enough, we both grew up in traveling families. I'm not sure how it went for Mac, but I can remember how it went at our house. Mama would start packing the suitcases two nights before we were to leave. The night before was reserved for preparing the driving directions and for that she needed her "navigator's bag" . In it were the pencils, sundry maps, a notepad , a pack of peanuts (?) and her sunglasses. She was always excited to get on the road. I especially remember when we lived in Cleveland and the summer trip was being planned.  Mama had the map stretched out on the table, her red pencil in hand and was trying to find the quickest route to Chesterfield, South Carolina. Now this was before there was an arterial spray of Interstate Highways crisscrossed across the paper. No MapQuest. No GPS systems to tell you when to make each and every turn .  We had Mama.
 
 We were all hanging onto the table watching with interest and chattering about our trip , the excitement like a bubble of water headed for the surface.  The chatter came to an abrupt end when Daddy came over to where she was studying the map Her lower lip caught between her teeth and that little scowl between her eyebrows her eyes were in serious study. Standing beside her, he suddenly allowed as to how she was making too much work out of it.  He took the red pencil from her grasp and locating Cleveland (or an approxcimity of where he thought Cleveland might be) and then finding Chesterfield (or somewhere in the vicinity of that one, too) he drew a straight line from one to the other in a broad red stroke. Mama looked at the map then looked up at him. We were all standing in a circle around her, our eyes glued to his face. "And just what is that supposed to be?" she asked him. "It's as the crow flies," Daddy said.  I have to hand it to him, he said it with a straight face. "Well, that would all be well and good if anyone had thought to build any roads there," was Mama's reply. Then she looked at us and with the utmost solemnity said, "and this," indicating her now desecrated map, "is why the Children of the Lord wandered in the desert for forty years. Moses drew the map."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Ghost Story from England

It's that time of year when I share a ghost story with my readers.  I look forward to Halloween almost as much as I look forward to Christmas.  We never had "store bought" costumes as children, we made our own.  Our imaginations went wild with the many ideas for disguises.  And we always ended the night with a good ghost story.  We still do.  I would love to regale you with a ghost story that is true in every regard.  It took place at our hotel, the Tudor Lodge in West Ruislip England .  The month was October, of course.  The year was 1978.
The Tudor Lodge is a lovely old hotel that started life as a manor house, then a hotel, became a Hospital during several wars, including WWI, then back to a hotel again. We knew we were not going to be put up in a 4 star hotel, but I've read some of the recent reviews of the Tudor Lodge and I hardly think it deserves some of the awful comments that were made about it.


The staff ,when we were there ,were always helpful and eager to tell us about the history of the place. That is what I found to be the most enjoyable, the history of the Tudor Lodge. We had a wing of the hotel to ourselves, with two rooms and a set of stairs leading down to the dining room. They only served breakfast, but what a plus that was for a young family getting kids off to school. They offered several selections of cereals, including Wetabix, which our older son, Wallace, really liked. They had Marmite, a bread spread that apparently is an acquired taste (which we never, any of us, acquired) and the best bacon in the world. The first time I asked for bacon and eggs and they brought out these lovely scrambled eggs and two slices of what looked like wide thin strips of ham, I wasn't sure they had understood my order. I was assured by the young lady who delivered the plates to the table that this was, indeed, bacon. The toast, made from Mother's Pride Bread, I believe, was also bigger than the slices of bread we're used to at home. So, the boys had a good breakfast before leaving for school every morning and we were quite happy with the hotel accommodations.
Every night, we would watch the news (hoping for good news on the hostage situation) then we'd watch the BBC. One of the first shows I found I enjoyed was Dad's Army. But Mac kept saying, "what did he say?" and I had to translate. I work with accents very well, I grew up with Ricky and Lucy on TV and at home...my dad is from Ecuador as most of you are aware and so his attempts at English pronunciation rivaled those of Ricky Ricardo's.  My mother was every bit as zany as Lucille Ball with a Southern Accent that needed a knife to cut through.

 So, I would translate and Mac, finding the line funny would laugh. The boys didn't have to hard a time picking up on the language, it was after all, basically the same as the language they already spoke. But more on that later. One morning after getting the boys up for school, Michael was telling me that I didn't have to check in on them in the middle of the night. I told him that I hadn't been and immediately came the description of the lady in the long white dress whose hair was put up funny (being no hair dresser, my hair was often "put up funny"). So, I told them maybe it was someone with the hotel.


I was sitting in the dining room enjoying my coffee and the Daily Mail after getting the boys on the bus. One of the Hotel managers came over and asked how everything was going, if we were enjoying our stay and what had I planned for the day. I was gracious in my compliments because frankly, they were gracious hosts and I was enjoying my stay quite a lot. I happened to mention that Michael had seen some lady checking in on him and the lady's face went absolutely white. She told me that there were stories about a Nurse who haunted that wing of the hotel (remember, the hotel had been a hospital in several wars) but she had never actually seen her, just heard the stories. I wondered if she was concerned that we might think someone was sneaking in the room at night for some nefarious reason, but that really wasn't the case at all. I knew that everyone who worked in the hotel knew that we would be there for several weeks and really did think it was just an employee checking on the children. (This was, of course, before the disappearance of children became an everyday event to scare every parent world wide.) But later on, I found that the other employees were eager to talk of the "Lady in White" with someone who didn't appear to think it was a laughing matter. A couple of the ladies had actually seen her in the room the boys slept in and were never frightened by her. She always seemed to be bending over the beds as though adjusting blankets, according to them. So I decided I was right all along, someone was checking on the children, making sure they were alright. I can remember standing in the middle of the room and looking around, hoping I would see her. I told her thank you, though...you can never have too many eyes checking on the welfare of your children.  I'm pretty sure  she heard me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Because a Bet's a Bet

I love Baseball.  I have always loved Baseball and once kept scrapbooks with lineups of the Yankees and the Cubs and oh yes, my beloved Tigers.  Until my cousin Buck was born when I was 14, I was my granddad's only grand son.  I was a tomboy extraordinaire who climbed trees and fought boys and played ball.  I sat at his feet on Saturday mornings while we watched the game and listened to Dizzy Dean explain the plays.  I hated the Umps as much as Daddy Dwight (unless they called the play in our team's favor).  I pulled for the damn Yankees with a passion and still do.  I love the Cubbies because they are underdogs and deserve my concern.  But back to the Tigers...in 1958 Billy Martin was my favorite...perhaps I was influenced by my Grandfather's roaring his name.  Perhaps.  And then there was Sparky Anderson, one of the best managers in baseball in my opinion.  But I'm not here to sing the praises of the Tigers...no, I bow to the fates of the field and give all honor to the Red Sox. 

Just so we all are clear here, my buddy Suldog presented me with a wager.  If the Tigers won to advance to the series he would post about it, if the Sox won, well the job fell to me.  I have never rooted for the Red Sox.  I am also a Yankees fan.  It galls me to admit that the Tigers fell to the Sox but there you have it...they played better.  If they hadn't played better, then you would be reading Suldog's post about the Tigers.  And mind you, I got up off my sick bed (I have the flu) to uphold my end of the bargain.   So this post is for http://jimsuldog.blogspot.com/  because he is a pal and I made a promise.  Homage to you Red Sox...and I'm not gagging because I said your name.  I have the FLU for cripes sake.  Now get out there and show them Cards how the game is played!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Once Upon a Time

I have been having a love affair with books since before I can remember.  The printed page has called to me even in my dreams.  I have read books that I couldn't wait to finish and books that I wished would never end.  I read mysteries and thrillers, comedy and historical, why I even read westerns.  When I was a little girl we were not allowed to watch a lot of TV.  Of course with only three networks there wasn't a lot to watch.  (My friends would argue that there isn't a lot to watch now, even with 375 channels.  They could be right.)  I still have a book my grandmother gave me when I was twelve years old.  She loved Kipling's work and had come across this book at an original flea market in Morven NC called Lina's...of course we pronounced it Liners.  It was a Sunday afternoon outing that involved the Aunts Pat and Margaret and the cousins.  We all enjoyed the excursion that was akin to dumpster diving.  Huge  eighteen wheelers with the logo of Brooklyn New York on the sides would haul in goods that had been discarded from the far away and magical Brooklyn.  There was furniture and clothing (Mammy replenished her rag bag and button can from this wealth of raw material) but most importantly of all there were books.  So Mammy found this little red book in remarkably good condition called "Thy Servant a Dog".  She put it in her little treasure bag of "I'll take this" items.  I always came home with books of course and can still hear Daddy Dwight's voice saying "that youngun's got her nose in a book again".  I can remember him running a finger down my nose and saying "checking for ink."
So on this one Sunday Mammy has this little red book in her reticule and I am eyeing it , crazy with want.  I had read Mr Kipling's Jungle Books (1 and 2) the tale of Gunga Din which transported me to India and all her glory and his poems were always magical.  I am feeling the pull of this little book til I can concentrate on nothing else.  Our summertime visit will soon come to an end and we will be going home with Mama and Daddy to Cleveland, Ohio.  Our time is short and I know that before I go I must read this book.  So we get to Mammy and Daddy Dwight's house this particular Sunday and the little red book goes into hiding.  I know that Mammy is reading it and I began to monitor her progress.  I judged how far into it she was by the Bible Tract about the man with no feet she used as a book mark.   It was now two days away from our departure.  I knew that if she were to finish it today, I could sit up all night and read it.  I asked her if she had finished it and she said, not quite.
Our bags were packed and ready to load into the trunk for the long trip home.  I had written down the title of the book so that I could see if the library had it.  The book had by now become an obsession.  I knew that when we came back to Chesterfield in the following summer that the book would be on Mammy's long bookshelf and that it would be available to read then.  But the burning longing to know the story of the little dog in the book was undeniable. The trunk was loaded, we all stood in the side yard hugging goodbye, Mama had big tears in her eyes, Daddy was saying "hurry up, hurry up!" and Mammy pressed a little package into my hands.  I looked down and red bindings stained my hands and hot tears poured.  I hugged her and thanked her and she whispered in my ear "it made me cry, too."  I held that little book in my hands for first two hundred miles, turning it over and examining the bindings and the the title, the little black dog imprinted upon the cover and then I punished myself by not opening it to read the title page.  I wanted to savour the moment without the blur of travel and annoyance of voices.  I wanted to be in the privacy of my own room, tucked up in bed, flashlight in hand if necessary, to enjoy the intimacy of the greatest gift my Grandmother ever gave me.  It was worth the wait to finally know his name.  "Please may I come in?  My name is Boots"