Home of Brownie troop mother

The Brownie meeting was in the living room of the troop mother

I’m not a joiner because joining things means you have to go to meetings. I hate meetings. I was in the third grade when I learned that about myself. One of my friends (I can’t remember her name — I’ll call her Suzie) invited me to her Brownie meeting. I thought it would be fun. I liked her brown uniform and hat. I called Mama at work for permission to go with her and off we went.

Let me say here that what I’m about to write is not meant to criticize the Brownies which I’m sure is a fine and rewarding organization for many girls. My sister had been a prize winning Brownie. Actually what I’m writing is not about the Brownies at all, but about me.

I don’t know what I expected. But what happened was a meeting. It was in the troop mother’s living room with 12 or so girls I didn’t know. The troop mother started the meeting with, “We have a new girl visiting today. Suzie, stand up and introduce your friend.” She stood up, all excited to have her own visitor. I had to stand too. I was not excited. I hated standing. My face burned. I didn’t know why I had to stand. They could all see me where I sat. I stood.“Welcome Ruthi. Now let’s start our meeting. We want to get finished because we’re going to make flowers with pipe cleaners and crepe paper. First, everybody stand up for the pledge.” They stood up. So did I – again — even though I didn’t know the pledge and didn’t know if I was supposed to stand since I wasn’t a member.

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.   (I didn’t remember it – I Googled)

The pledge done, we sat back down. The meeting seemed to go on forever. It was about some candy they had ordered, and when it would arrive, and how they would all go out and sell it to raise money for something worthy. The mother explained how worthy the worthy cause was. It was during this discussion that I became aware, for the first time, of the meeting suck-up, the person who sees a need to voice his or her (usually her) support for the speaker by uttering loud yesses, uh-huhs, and that’s rights throughout the talk. I hate those people.

The last item on the agenda was badges. “Some of our girls are getting pretty close winning another badge.” The mother’s voice dripped anticipation. They won their badges for worthy things.

 Then out came the pipe cleaner/crepe paper flowers — ordinary pipe cleaners and paper. And I learned yet another thing about myself — I didn’t like making flowers from paper and pipe cleaners – or doing any other activity that was of no value. Once made, what would I do with the flower? I wouldn’t display it in the living room. Mama had much better flowers – wax roses (10 cents a piece at Kress’s) in a pressed glass vase (also 10 cents).

Finally the mother called us into the kitchen where cookies (store bought cookies — Happy Jack’s cookies – the worst cookies ever) were set out along with Kool-Aid in Dixie cups. I’ve already risked offending international scouting so I won’t take on Kool-Aid too but… this was Coca Cola country.

The next week “Suzie” grabbed me after school — all excited. I could come as her visitor again! (Was there a badge at stake, I wondered.) I was never good at confrontation or at on-the-spot lying. I stammered and said I had to call my mother. Suzie trailed me to the school office so I had to actually make the call to Mama at work. I said, “I can’t go to the Brownie meeting again, can I?”
“Do you want to go?” Mama asked.
Suzie was listening. “Yes, I want to join – but you don’t want me to and I have to go straight home, don’t I?”
Mama was quick. “If you don’t want to go, tell her you have to go home. But go home, not anywhere else.” Mama didn’t believe in lying either.

I hung up and said to Suzie, “My Mama doesn’t want me to be a Brownie.”

That was the closest I came to joining any organization that had meetings for several years. Then my Mama’s sister, Aunt Esther, came to visit. She was all into the Masons. Her sons were in DeMolay. I just had to join Rainbow Girls. She would help me find a sponsor. She did – a girl who lived around the corner – one of the pretty girls who was never nice to me. But she agreed to sponsor me. I went to the preparatory meetings and learned the Rainbow Girl pledge (I’m not even Goggling that one). The girls talked about initiation as if it would be like a fraternity thing – with spiders and witches potion. It was titillating. I was scared. I was excited. Mama bought me a pink, chiffon, semi-formal, and totally unflattering dress for the occasion.

I went, my chubby, pre-teen body in layers of frothy chiffon, afraid and excited. Then

The Mason's hall where I attended my one meeting as a Rainbow Girl

The Mason's hall in Prichard where I attended my one meeting as a Rainbow Girl

disappointed and bored,

It was just a meeting! No spiders! No witches brew! No slimy things down our backs! Just a meeting and we had to sing.
(This one was worth a Google)
“M” is for the million things she gave me,
“O” means only that she’s growing old,
“T” is for the tears she shed to save me,
“H” is for her heart of purest gold;
“E” is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
“R” means right, and right she’ll always be,
Put them all together, they spell “MOTHER,”
A word that means the world to me.

I was initiated. I was done. (Masons, if you have all the satanic power cable TV claims, forgive me)

I never even considered joining anything else till I went to the University of Georgia. Sororities sounded exciting. The first round of sorority rush was a series of ice water teas. I went. They felt like meetings. I didn’t go back.

But mandatory meetings are part of life. So how did I handle them?

Teacher’s meetings: I shook my keys, rolled my eyes, and muttered, “Oh, Please!” whenever a teacher brought up such topics as copier machine etiquette (but, copier etiquette? OH, PLEASE!).

Methodist Church Board (it was supposed to be an honor to be asked): After a shouting match between minister and Lay Leader, I said, “I can go to church with you people, or sit here and listen to you fight, but I can’t do both.”

Company meeting to introduce new insurance plan: There is always one person who asks those stupid should-go-without-asking questions. eye rolls again and,“Oh, please. Read the brochure!”

The good news is anybody who knows me at all would NEVER want me on any committee, club, Board, or organization with which she or he is even remotely involved.

But if anybody does ask me, I know what I’ll say. “My Mama doesn’t want me to be a Brownie.”

Wall To Wall Carpets – One Of Life’s Ponderables

 My Aunt Pauline was something! She had red hair and a red head’s personality – flair and joie de vivre (she’d have loved that description) – everything a red-head should have.



She greeted her world and every experience with relish, and she had a way of speaking that made me feel whatever she said was new, different, and exciting. She could make taking Grandmama to visit Papa’s grave sound exciting.
I loved going to her house which was right around the corner, so I was able to go on my own to visit her from the time I was seven or so. She had things nobody else had – she had a waffle iron!!

Aunt Pauline was all about what was pretty, what was stylish, what was new, and what nobody else ever talked about.

There wasn’t anybody else on Petain Street like her. Of course she didn’t actually live on Petain Street but around the corner on Craft Highway which was pretty much the same except it was paved with cement instead of red clay.

Christmas time, when I was six or seven, the whole family gathered at Aunt Pauline’s house where Mama or one of the uncles gathered us for a group picture. I came across it a few days ago and it’s probably why I woke up thinking about her.
I was in front, then were my favorite cousins Carolyn, Margaret, and Mary Gayle. On the next row

The cousins gathered at Aunt Pauline's house for Christmas Eve

The cousins gathered at Aunt Pauline's house for Christmas Eve

were Patty and Polly. I stood in the front because I was the youngest in the family, except for Johnny, and he lived way away in Brewton so I didn’t count him – I was the baby. Everybody else was dressed between Christmas-y and casual.

All dressed up for Christmas with rollers in my hair

All dressed up for Christmas with rollers in my hair

I was all dressed up in a ruffled Christmas dress — except for some reason I don’t know I had rubber rollers in my hair.

After the photo, my cousins dispersed leaving me to play with my dolls while the adults talked. I wasn’t paying attention until Aunt Pauline made a declaration I found so remarkable, so unexpected, so far removed from my world that it captured my full concentration. I stopped playing and pondered the words I would never forget.

“Nobody has carpets that are wall-to-wall anymore. It’s not the style. All the magazines show carpets stopping at least two feet away from the walls — as an accent.”

I was mesmerized, unaware of any other voices, or any discussion there may have been about this trend in home decorating – just Aunt Pauline’s.

I’d had never known a single house in Prichard to have the now unstylish wall-to-wall carpet, or an accent carpet either. Even if we could afford carpets, Petain Street was paved with Alabama’s famous red clay and the clay dust got ground into every piece of furniture and every curtain.

The old wood floors in our houses, if they were covered at all, were covered with linoleum. It came from the store in big roles that were printed to look like carpet, with blue, red, purple, and green flowers. But the colors quickly dulled as the clay and sandy soil of land nearly at sea level were ground into it by our shoes.

Even before the linoleum dulled, jagged lines of cracks appeared in it. Nobody would ever think of paying extra to have the linoleum laid and glued down by men from the store. “What? Waste all that money on something we can do for ourselves?” So the linoleum buckled even while it was being laid and it cracked with the first footstep.

“Nobody is putting in carpets that go wall-to-wall anymore. It’s not the style. All the magazines show carpets stopping at least two feet away from the walls — as an accent.”

What more is there to say? It’s a riddle and I still don’t have an answer. I suppose carpet’s the punch line of this posting. More about Aunt Pauline later.


at UGA

At UGA where I got to meet some famous and wonderful people

 I just read that Glen Campbell has Alzheimer’s disease. I’m sad about that because Glen Campbell is one of my heroes and has been since I was 19 years old.

What heroic thing did he do? It was such a little thing and it seemed such a natural act for him that I’m certain it was not his intention to impress me and he no idea of his impact. But his was the act that defined heroic for me. Since my encounter with Mr. Campbell, I’ve been on the alert for other heroes and I’ve learned some things about them. This is one thing I’ve learned — the transformation from human to hero takes 27 seconds (I made that up but it sounds right) and probably uses up no more than 20-30 calories.

Glen Campbell’s transformation from entertainer to hero happened in Athens, Georgia when he appeared with Bobbie Gentry at a university concert. I got to go backstage and meet such stars as Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry,  Johnny Rivers andJerry Butler (The IceMan) because I was dating a disc jockey at the only top-40 radio station in town and number one with university students – the two other stations were easy listening [for old people] and all news which explains it.

That evening Johnny [later to be John Holliman of CNN] and I got there early and spent almost an hour with Bobbie Gentry in her dressing room. She was beautiful and real and open. Actually most all of the performers were down-to-earth.

Bobbie Gentry was hot. She had just hit the top of the charts with Ode to Billie Joe. And for those who remember the question, Bobbie Gentry did tell us the answer — the answer to what she and Billie Joe were, “throwing … off the Tallahatchie Bridge. ”I’ve never told anyone. 

We got out front just in time to see Glen Campbell’s performance. Wow! It still ranks as one of the two or three best performances I’ve ever seen. He had charisma. He had humor. The highlight for me was his imitation of Elvis — when Elvis ws still alive. I was awestruck.

After the concert we all went back to the WDOL studios where Glen Campbell cut promos with the disc jockeys. [I’ve often wondered what happened to the other disc jockeys at WDOL. They were some of the most creative and talented people I’ve ever met: Charlie Jordan, Mr. Jack, and the most talented of all, Bob Boyd]

By this time I’d met a lot of performers, and I knew they were working, tired and wanting to get on with business, so I stayed in the background, which was in this case, behind a glass wall that separated the studios from the offices. No. That’s just part it. The other part is I couldn’t imagine why they would want to meet me. Anyway I hadn’t met Glen Campbell.

They finished the promos and Mr. Campbell went out the door and down the stairs to the street with his crew. I was picking up my things and getting ready to leave when the door opened again. It was Glen Campbell, alone. I sat back on the desk thinking he had forgotten something. But he didn’t go into the studio.

He turned and came through the glass door into the office, and to me. Smiling, his hand out, he said, “I’m Glen Campbell. I don’t believe we met.” We shook hands. That’s all. He just shook my hand. Then he left, transformed into my hero.

Here is my first and only fan letter ever.

Dear Mr. Campbell,

I’m your devoted fan and have been for over 30 years. It started when you did something little [to you], something unexpected, kind – and remembered. I’ve thought about you over the years. Your every success thrilled me as though you were part of my family. Now you’re sick. You will forget many things.  I’m praying your triumphs and your sweet gestures will be the things you remember — that the good times stay with you as your longest lasting memories, and only the sad times disappear.






Football season begins tomorrow but Mr. Magoo, my soft-coated Wheaten Terrier won’t be in the lineup. He plays football and he’s been much sought after by the pros.  But I think it’s too rough a sport.

Still he loves the game and plays till he drops. Last night I got up in the dark and stumbled over him. He didn’t move — just lay by my bed on his back, front paws dangling over his chest, exhausted from the afternoon’s game.

"Mack" Magoo exhausted football player

"Mack" Magoo exhausted football player

Mack (a nickname more fitting a football player) started his football career when he found an old ball left behind when my son moved out. He knew instinctively what to do with it. Our front courtyard became his football field. Now every evening after dinner he takes me out to scrimmage. I throw the ball, he gets it, hangs onto it, and drives it home to blast it into the end zone, time after time, with no excuses or show of fatigue. For his size and considering he has no hands, he is a remarkably agile running back with a far better record than any player I’ve seen in recent years.

"Mack" Magoo never fumbles

"Mack" Magoo never fumbles

Of course the sport’s too dangerous to let him go pro as I’ve made clear to all of the scouts who’ve come around.

But some of them just don’t give up. I’ve seen Dan Snyder’s agents, nay spies, creeping past my front courtyard, eyeing my Mack, whispering to each other, as he holds the ball, zigzagging to avoid my tackles, determined to reach the end zone. I see it in their eyes. They’re thinking Clinton Portis, John Riggins, Larry Brown. And they know Mr. Mack Magoo is a name that could be up there with the greatest of them. They ache to sign him. No more 6 and 10’s for the Skins! No more fumbles.

"Mack" Magoo in the end zone

"Mack" Magoo in the end zone

Their offers are pretty tempting – not just the money, but all those sweatshirts with his picture, a Nike line of Magoo Shoes, and the Super Bowl ring which, of course, I’d have to wear — since Mack doesn’t have fingers.


Every thunderstorm reminds me of the night when the troubles that keep me awake didn’t wait till three A.M. They started at four in the afternoon when, on a day the thermometer hit 100 degrees and kept rising, my electricity went off. It stayed off for 12 hours.

I’ve known electricity is important to me. My whole life is plugged into some wall socket or another. The food I eat is plugged into an outlet behind the freezer that’s filled with Lean Cuisine dinners and meat. The meat, raw beef, bison, and venison, is for Mr. Magoo and costs about the same as caviar. It’s not insured. Its loss could mean I’d need a second mortgage.

Do I Iook happy?

Do I Iook happy? No! It's hot in here.

My entertainment runs on electricity. My laptop had just enough battery power to give me YouTube for an hour. Reading wasn’t an option because when I lit enough candles to read they smoked up my contact lenses. Sleep was my only choice. But I’m a night showerer and I can’t fall asleep without it. The water was frigid because the instant hot water heater I normally love for its unlimited hot water, needs electricity. How could water be so cold in a heat wave? Forget washing my hair. Without a blow dryer I was better off with dirty hair than hair that slumped down to ends frizzed as though they’d been electrocuted.


Finally Mr. Magoo and I looked for the coolest place to try to sleep.


Do something!

He found his on the ceramic tile floor under the kitchen table. I considered it, but my back wouldn’t let me, so I chanced opening the freezer long enough to grab a cold pack to cool my neck and took the couch in the living room.

It was a rough night but there was a larger problem. The thought that sent bile to my throat the minute the lights went off was not the loss of TV and web, or the fear of food spoiling, or even sweltering in the steam bath that was my house. The worst thing was the dread of knowing I would have to reset clocks and reprogram things. There it is. I suffer from chronic fear-of-programming.



Like so many phobias, I can date mine back to a traumatic experience. It happened my first day of junior high school. Starting a new school, changing classes, and having different teachers every period were all intimidating enough, but something worse was to come – I had to learn to open a combination lock.

The experience taught me two important things:

First, when people say, “Please feel free to ask all the questions you want,” they don’t mean it. And when they say, “It’s simple. Just follow the instructions,” they mean they are going to judge you based on your mastery of the “simple” task.

At first, I was excited at the idea of having a locker. I accepted the lock with its accordion-folded instructions with enthusiasm. Then I unfolded the tiny paper and began to read it.

#1. Turn the dial to the left for two complete rotations and stop at four. I had a question already: “Should I start it at four to be sure the rotations were truly complete? And if I have to start at four, should I spin it twice first?” She made me repeat the question twice. Then she said, “Just spin it.”

#2. Turn the dial two times to the right and stop at seven. I raised my hand again. “If I started at four and turned it two times to the right, I wouldn’t be at seven. I’d have to make two and a half turns to get to seven, or should I stop at the seven that’s just one and a half …”

The teacher grabbed the paper out of my hand and pulled me to my locker where she made me do it over and over again, even after the bell rang for first period and kids flooded into the hall. For the rest of the year I was sure whenever my name came up I was sure the kids laughed and said, “You know who she is – the one who couldn’t do her locker.”

Eventually my electricity came back on. I had lights again. I cooled down. No food was lost. But until I can get someone in to reset them, my televisions allow access to all million or so available channels, including the porno channels. And as for the clocks on the stove and coffee maker, no happy ending either. The time is still blinking 0:00.