OLD SAYINGS SAY IT ALL

TEMPEST IN A TEAPOTHave you ever created a, “tempest in a teapot?” I have. This old saying describes a state I’ve put myself into I don’t know how many times.
Some minor problem comes up (minor means it doesn’t have any big effect on my life, my family, or my business) and I overreact. I fume and fuss and get myself all worked up to a lather. The only good thing about keeping your tempest in a teapot is you usually don’t involve anybody else in it.

 “That’s the last straw!” which is, of course, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” (Charles Dickens)

I’ve been intrigued by that image since I was a little girl. It’s incredible that it was just one straw that did it. Every single straw up to that one was fine. Then came that last, all-powerful straw — and bam!

CARTOON, CARTOON CAMEL, the straw that broke the camel’s back, CAMEL, FUNNY CAMEL

“Little pitchers have big ears.” When I was little, that’s what one of the grownups would invariableLITTLE PITCHERS have big ears say when they were going to talk about something they didn’t want me to hear. I’d always thought somebody in my family made it up. So I was surprised, and a little offended, to hear a stranger say it. “Little pitchers have big ears.”

But when the stranger said it I heard it in a different way. I reflected on the words and it occurred to me, pitchers don’t have anything that could be called ears. Some ancient amphorae had two handles that could be called ear-like, but they didn’t say amphorae. They clearly said pitchers.
Maybe pitchers wasn’t the right word. I suppose it could have been pictures – I’ve heard people pronounce the words the same way. But pictures don’t have ears either. So did they mean the people in little pictures had inordinately large ears. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be unkind to not only say it but turn it into a maxim?

“Root, hog, or die!”
Old saying, ROOT, HOG, OR DIE

“Root hog, or die.” Now there’s a great one. It gets right down to where we live. It’s about self-reliance, taking action, and standing on your own two feet. It proves another of my favorite quotes. “How you feel and what you have to do today have nothing to do with each other.” (author unknown)
I asked a few people about it. Thet’d never heard of it and didn’t get it. I told them I”d seen the hogs on Uncle Gus’s farm rooting around in the ground for food. I looked it up and thanks to Wikipedia learned it came from colonial times and has inspired several songs including one written in 1856 by G. W. H. Griffith
I’m right from old Virginny wid my pocket full ob news,
I’m worth twenty shillings right square in my shoes.
It doesn’t make a bit of difference to neither you nor I
Big pig or little pig, Root, hog, or die
And a folk song:
Sometimes it’s dreadful stormy and sometimes it’s pretty clear
You may work a month and you might work a year
But you can make a winning if you’ll come alive and try
For the whole world over, boys, it’s root hog or die.

IF YOU DON’T LOVE YOUR JOB AS MUCH AS THESE PEOPLE, QUIT! AND FIND ONE YOU WILL!

I had the most amazing experience today! My son took me to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. I’ve lived in DC for years and I’d never been there.

Collection after collection, it’s a rollicking trip through portraits of American leaders, heroes, cowboys and Native Americans, and two of my favorite Edward Hopper paintings, to the gilded age and a grand piano from the Teddy Roosevelt Whitehouse, and monumental Pac Man games. I saw my first, live and in person, Grandma Moses painting!

With all the wonders of the collection, what I can’t quit thinking about is not the art. It’s the people who work in the museum. I’ve rarely experienced anything like it. From the woman at the front desk, to the guards, to the clerk in the museum store, they all had something special and rare that is a lesson for everybody who has a job anywhere. They loved their jobs!! It showed in their enthusiastic answers. It showed in their curiosity! It showed in their pride.

I asked the woman at the front desk if there was a map. Such a pedestrian question, but she reacted as though this was her opportunity to share the wonders of the museum with me.

Later, we were looking at a display of Tiffany glass. A guard came over, not to tell us we were leaning too close, but to say, “Tell me. What’s with this glass? What’s so special?” He and my son went on to have a conversation about the delicacy, the colors… I moved on – too intellectual for me.

Finally we went to the bookstore. I asked the clerk if there was a book on the folk art collection. “There are two. This is the book on the current collection. I always tell people we have two and this one is my favorite, but come over here. This is an old one but it has the full collection, and it’s on sale — a great deal.” He stopped to tell another couple they could find a better book on artists of the blacklist in another room.

I bought both of the books he recommended and took them to his desk. He asked, “Did you see the Lichtenstein sculpture?” Alex asked if it was the cowboy in front?

“No. It’s out this door and around. Go see it. New York gave it to us! They gave it to us FOR FREE! And it’s a Lichtenstein. Go see it!”

There’s a question here: Do you love your job this much? If you don’t, quit, go find one you do. Not only will it change your life, but all those you encounter.

TOO MUCH TURKEY & DRESSING IS ENOUGH

 

GRANDMA, ALEX, AND JOE ARE READY FOR CHRISTMAS DINNER

Christmas was perfect with all of my family home once again — and once again I cooked too much food – too much turkey and way too much dressing. Too much turkey because of my Daddy’s blue-collar pride. “We may not have much, but nobody in my house ever goes hungry.” I took that lesson to the grocery store where I asked the man at the poultry counter how big a turkey I’d need to feed nine people. He told me. I bought one a little over twice that. Nobody at my house was going to go hungry.

I made too much dressing because I never cook anything the same

CHRISTMAS WITH MY BOYS AND LOTS OF GIFTS

My Boys Home For Christmas

way twice. It’s my heritage. I come from a long line of women who eschewed recipes in favor of the taste & feel method. You mix it, then taste it – however raw. If it doesn’t taste right, add stuff, and taste again, and again till it’s right. Then you cook it.

           So I started by gathering the ingredients: 2 5 x 5” squares of store-bought cornbread, a bag of cornbread stuffing mix left over from Thanksgiving, 2-3 boxes of chicken soup stock, 1 package chicken livers, 2 cups chopped onion, 2 cups chopped celery, 2-3 eggs, Tsp thyme, Tbsp salt, Tbsp pepper, a quarter pound of butter.

Once I’d cooked celery, onions, and a half stick of butter in chicken stock and the chicken livers and turkey liver, gizzard, and neck in water till done (you can add the heart but I don’t because I think it’s gross} and greased two 6” square baking pans with butter, I put all the ingredients (only 2/3 of the giblets – saved rest for gravy) into my biggest mixing bowl and stirred it all together. It didn’t feel wet enough so I added more chicken stock.

           Then came the important part. I tasted the mixture. Way too sweet! Then I remembered I’d made the same mistake last year. Store-bought cornbread is sweet. This tasted more like liver-flavored cake than stuffing. The answer was to add bread.

           I found 4 ½ hotdog buns in the bread bin along with 2 leftover biscuits. I mixed them in and added more chicken stock. Still too sweet. No time to go to the store. I broke up the loaf of French bread I’d planned to serve for brunch. We could eat Christmas candy for brunch. I tried scrapping some crust from a frozen quiche but gave up on it.

By then bowl was overflowing, so I poured the mixture into my turkey roasting pan, and added 3 more rolls I’d found in the bottom of the freezer. This much dressing needed another half stick of butter and more salt and pepper. I wet it down with more chicken stock. To heck with the spoon. A spoon was nothing against this ocean. I pushed back my sleeves, grabbed the mess with both hands and kneaded and mixed, frequently adding more stock, till it felt right.

Tasted it again. Added salt. Added sage. Tasted again. By the time it passed the taste-test I had enough dressing to fill six 6” pans. No worry, I told myself. It freezes.

Now it’s one day later. The freezer is full. I’ve decided I hate turkey and I hate dressing and I have enough to last a month. Dinner anyone?

Day three–There’s half a turkey left  —  I ordered Chinese!

 

REAL GRITS DON’T HAVE CHEESE

I’m  a little ashamed of this posting. It’s a confession. I ate grits that had cheese in them — and I loved them. It’s so wrong. Real grits don’t have cheese! I know that. I grew up with grits — not quick grits but grits you simmer forever and with no thyme, sun-dried tomatoes, or cheese — just salt and butter.

Then I had my three boys and I raised them in the north (Washington, D.C. is north to people from south Alabama) but I raised them right. That means I raised them on crab gumbo, fried chicken, and grits. 

Several years ago, I took my youngest son to NYC. We went to one of my favorite restaurants, Sarabeth’s Kitchen on Madison Avenue. Grits were on the menu. He ordered them. He stared at them. They weren’t grits. They were some concoction with cheese. He wished he’d ordered the pancakes.

I explained the rules of grits to him. Never order grits in the north – they’ll be dry and undercooked or they’ll have cheese — and real grits don’t have cheese.

Now I’ve betrayed generations of southern cooks and the southern way of life. I’ve eaten cheesy grits and asked for seconds. Guilt loves companyso I’m here to lead others astray. Here’s the recipe from my friend Dot at Silver Brook Farms near Leesburg, VA

2 l/4 cups low-salt  chicken broth
2 tablespoons (l/4 stick) butter
1 garlic clove, chopped
l/2 cup quick-cooking grits
3/4 cup whipping cream
l/2 cup diced drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup crumbled soft fresh goat cheese (about  4 oz)
Chopped fresh chives (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. 
Generously butter 8x8x2 inch baking dish.
Bring broth, 2 tablespoons butter, and garlic to boil in heavy medium saucepan.  Gradually whisk in grits and return mixture to boil, whisking occasionally. 
Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer until grits are thick and almost all broth is absorbed, whisking frequently, about 8 minutes.
Whisk in ½ cup cream and simmer 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.
Whisk in remaining l/4 cup cream and simmer until very thick, stirring often, about  5 minutes longer.
Stir in tomatoes, thyme and goat cheese.  ||Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour into prepared dish. 
Bake about 15  minutes.  Garnish with chives, if desired, and serve immediately.

 

WORLD TOILET DAY & THE 3-SEATER OUTDOOR TOILET

MY ATTEMPTS TO DRAW OUTDOOR - THREE-SEATER TOILET

IT TOOK SEVERAL TRIES BEFORE I GOT THE PICTURE RIGHT

November 19th was World Toilet Day. That gave me something to think about.

I imagined the announcement: “RuthiPostowStaffing will be closed Saturday, November 19, 2011 in honor of World Toilet Day.”

I went to the web and discovered World Toilet Day was set up for what seemed to be a good reason – to support better sanitation in third world countries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Toilet_Organization.

A Googledippity led me to discover there is also a World Toilet Paper Day in August. We the people surely do seem to be caught up in the subject. Toilets for everybody!

 But I found myself wondering if people the world over feel about toilets as we do. Is the number one priority for people in the third world is toilets (does anyone ever write about the first two worlds?). I talked to a Marine who had been part of a detail that built modern latrines in Iraq. Did the people there appreciate or want them? I don’t know for sure. But toilet seats were torn off and thrown away and the walls were covered in filth within a couple of weeks. U.S. toilets don’t seem to be on the list of their favorite things.

What this says to me is something I’ve always believed — toilets are personal – contrary to the new toilet paper commercials that take their message way too close to my personal stuff for comfort.

Even in the United States not all toilets are alike. Some people have toilets made of gold, or so I’ve heard. Some toilets are in bathrooms that open onto walled gardens – I saw one in House Beautiful. Where I grew up in Prichard, Alabama, every house had a toilet. My Aunt Annie’s had pink flamingo wall paper. Rich people in Mobile had two or three toilets, but on Petain Street there was just one per family and we all shared that one.

A lot of my kinfolks who lived in the country had outdoor toilets. They were in little wooden

SINGLE-SEATER OUTHOUSE

SINGLE-SEATER OUTHOUSE

houses several yards from the house. There was one at May Creek church where we went to homecoming every year. It smelled like the fumes from a paper mill—if you’ve ever smelled a paper mill. Some outdoor toilets were as clean as could be. Others – not so clean. Mama would stop at a gas station before she’d let me use the one at Aunt Lizzie’s house. But she wouldn’t let me eat there either. I guessed Aunt Lizzie didn’t wash her hands before she cooked.

MY AUNT'S THREE-SEATER OUTSOUSE

MY AUNT'S THREE-SEATER OUTSOUSE

The best outdoor toilet ever was at Mama’s Aunt Charity farm! It was a three seater! A spotlessly clean and neat-as-a-pin little house that had wooden pegs to hold plenty of toilet paper, a rack for books or magazines — and an oak bench, sanded smooth as porcelain, into which three holes were cut. It was the cutting edge of outdoor toiletry. Three people could go at once and in pristine comfort. I didn’t want to go with two other people, but my aunt was as proud as punch (Google the expression) of that toilet. I think she would have shot any Marines who came there with the intention of bulldozing her toilet to build some prefab metal one on her land – and my Aunt Charity had a shotgun and knew how to use it!

But as elegant as Aunt Charity’s toilet was, the bathroom is one place I don’t want to share. My ideal toilet would be a one-seater. And it would be set in the middle of a complete library. “If it weren’t for toilets there would be no books.” (George Costanza on Seinfeld) and it would have a bathtub as big as a swimming pool.

But I’ve wandered off topic as I so often do. This is about World Toilet Day. The topic is close to all of us. The holiday could take hold. Someday we might celebrate the day with huge family reunions and turkey dinners. Maybe there will even be a parade.

DECENT JOBS – DECENT PEOPLE

A little over a year ago on October 13, 2010, a DC sanitation worker, Larry Hutchins, was going to get onto his truck so he could come pick up our garbage – yours and mine – when he was shot and killed at the public works site. Last week I saw the first news about him in a year, and it was because the dead man’s widow is suing the city. It’s the first news I’ve seen about him since the day after it happened.

When I first heard about it, I searched the news and the web for information about the shooting, about the men, maybe about a collection being taken for his family. There was little and then, nothing. I Googled and searched. Nothing. That couldn’t be, I thought.

When a worker in a Starbucks was shot, it was all over the news. Why was there so little attention paid to Mr. Hutchins? Was it because we care less about a man who picks up our garbage? This is Washington, D.C. where we just dedicated the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Dr. King was about equality of opportunity. What about equality of respect for people in honest professions? This is not a criticism of the city, the police department, or the media. I think we get the media we deserve because we decide our values.

I own RuthiPostowStaffing and I’ve spent my career in the business of putting people in jobs. The shooting and its media coverage brought to my mind an experience I had early in my career. I was a kid, but even then, it troubled me. A young woman came into the agency responding to an ad for a secretarial job – back then the jobs for women were secretary, typist, or clerk. But she wasn’t qualified. She didn’t even have the basic reading/writing skills to fill out our application, let alone the typing speed of 45 wpm employers demanded for even our most basic clerical positions.

Before coming to Washington, I’d been a teacher in a sharecropper town in Georgia. I’d seen people, particularly women, imprisoned by their lack of education. I wanted to help her. I told her I didn’t have a job she qualified for, but I’d heard GEICO (which had its headquarters in Chevy Chase at that time) was looking for file clerks – even though I wasn’t certain she would have the necessary qualifications.

The girl got hysterical. “I don’t want no filing job. I want a decent job!”

Who taught that girl filing wasn’t decent? Who decided any honest work wasn’t decent? I was incensed then and the feeling has stayed with me all these years. I can’t stand the suggestion that any job is indecent or that some workers are less valuable because of the jobs they do.

With all the injustices in the world, I’ve wondered what made this one affect me so. Because it’s insulting and what I’ve realized is I take it personally.

I grew up in Prichard, Alabama, a paper mill town, raised by blue collar people who were strong and proud and decent. Mama was head cashier of a grocery store. She was the definition of a professional. Daddy was a tugboat captain, then air compressor operator at Brookley Field AFB. They’re the reason I’m here, that I’m educated, that I own a company, and I can write this. What they did was 100% decent work! Once when I was a child I saw the men picking up the garbage on Petain Street, and asked Daddy who would take a job picking up garbage. He said, “A man who’s doing the best he can to make a living.”

We all want our children to do and be all they can be. I’ll bet Mr. Hutchins wanted different careers for his children too. That’s not the point. The point is respect – respect for all workers who show up and do their jobs well.

Mr. Hutchins rode on dirty trucks and picked up refuse so our city would be livable. If you look at results, at making a difference in the community, what job could be more decent and what worker could have more dignity?

I’M THANKFUL

In this time of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for so many things

I’m thankful for Mr. Magoo

Mr.Magoo makes friends

Mr.Magoo with friend

 

 

 

 

And dogs in general                                  

A FACE TO BE THANKFUL FOR

BONES: A FACE TO BE THANKFUL FOR

Dogs meeting

Mr. Magoo, soft-coated Wheaten terrier, and friend

And beautiful sons

Who swear I love the dog more than them

 

 

 

 

Beautiful daughter-in-law Katia, with my son, Eric, Captain, USMC

Beautiful daughter-in-law Katia, with my son, Eric, Captain, USMC

And more beautiful daughter-in-law

 

 

 

 

 

extendd family

Extended family

And extended families that can’t be divorced

 

 

 

 

The strong women who came before me

The strong women who came before me

And I’m thankful for the women who came before me and made me strong

Mama

Mama

  And for a wonderful career in an exciting city

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.

And for all the people my career brought into my life

And all their stories that made my career interesting

And for my business partner who completes me and makes it happen

And the success that let us support causes we care about
And for my heroes, the people who work for people who can’t defend themselves

The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itx6xlguJBA NAEHCY

Second Chance Employment Services that helps victims of spousal abuse 
Second chances

And the people at Courtney’s House who help the victims of domestic sex trafficking

 And I’m so thankful for the man who doesn’t ask to be thanked
Because he brings calm into storms

EDUCATION, A PRIVILEGE TO BE PRIZED

Daddy

Daddy, Norvelle Guytan Simmons - This scholarship is for him.

My company announced today the awarding of the fifth annual RuthiPostowStaffing Scholarship. This year it goes to The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. I’m proud of our scholarship. Education is special to me. There was a time when education was a privilege, and in that time people prized it. For homeless children that is still true. It is not assured and they prize it.

My Daddy was 12 years old when he finished the sixth grade and his last year of school.

He was the oldest of four children of Willie and Mandy Simmons, my Grandmama and Papa. They lived near Brewton, Alabama where Papa worked with logging crews. If you’ve ever driven through the region, maybe you noticed it’s all pine, the legacy of my Papa’s crews that cut down the hundreds of years old hardwood trees and loaded them onto trucks that took them to the ships in Apalachicola.

Then as now, a hard life created people with limited horizons. My family was lucky enough to be literate, but once you could read and write and do figures, you had what you needed. You could read the Bible, write letters to kinfolks, and make sure you weren’t cheated at the feed store.

Papa and Grandmama were schooled according to the textbook of the day, the Blue-backed Speller. Asked how far he got in school, Papa would tell you, “I got through horseback, but Mandy got to Constantinople!”

Grandma and Papa

Grandma and Papa

When Daddy was 12, Papa said he had all the education he needed and told him it was time he went to work and helped put food on the table. Daddy lived to be 90. He raised three children all of whom he was proud to have graduate from college. He bought a second hand set of Compton’s Encyclopedias that he read cover to cover. He practiced grammar, “the mark of an educated man.” He never forgave Papa for stopping his schooling.

Five years ago, just after my company’s fifth birthday, Jenni O’Toole my business partner and I sat back to appreciate how far we had come since those early, often scary, days when we were new and struggling. Then we made one of our best decisions ever. We decided to earmark money for a scholarship. Great years or not so great, we would help young people get an education.

As women business owners, our first idea was a scholarship to support young women who were looking to use their education to launch careers in business. We approached a number of colleges and were told to, “just make a donation.” It’s amazing how hard it is to give money away if you care where it’s going.

Finally we forged a successful partnership with the University of Richmond and worked with them for two years. But we realized the young women we supported were going to get their education with or without us. We went in search of people who needed us.

The third year we chose Second Chance Employment for Women, which worked to educate and train women who were the victims of spousal abuse so they could afford to escape their abusers. That was a cause I could believe in. I could imagine myself tearing the face off of any man who hit me. When I asked my favorite minister what she would do if a husband tried to beat her, she said, “I’d be the finest minister in the prison system.”

In 2010, the scholarship went to a young woman who had been the victim of human trafficking, sold into prostitution by her grandmother when she was 12.

This year one of my clients told me about an organization that helps homeless children get educated. Homeless children? I tried to imagine the life of a homeless child. Where does she sleep? What does she eat. How does she stay clean and healthy? What hope does she have? The pictures I imagined were heartbreaking and I’m certain the reality is worse.

As I thought about it, I saw a circle closing — connecting my 12 year old Daddy who craved an education but had no hope of getting one to children who not only have no hope of an education but have no promise of the ability to keep a roof over their heads.

I talked with a representative of NAEHCY who told me some of their success stories, children finishing high school, college, getting advanced degrees. The people at NAEHCY give these children hope. They look at homeless children and see future educators, doctors, and lawyers. Most important they see children who will have the power to ensure they need never be homeless again.

For Daddy, whatever the question, education was the answer. Education was a privilege he didn’t have. This year’s scholarship is for him.  http://www.naehcy.org/

CHRISTMAS TREES, RECYCLING, PATRIOTISM & MY AUNT PAULINE

Christmas tree made more beautiful by icicles

ICICLES REALLY DO MAKE THE TREE

Halloween is nearly here. Can Christmas be far behind? As I walked Mr. Magoo last week everywhere I turned there were ghosts, witches and Frankenstein monsters amidst bales of hay.  As a country we are into decorating, but most of our opportunities to decorate are lumped into just three months of the year. For the first three quarters our occasions are scant. We’ve got bunnies and

For Easter at 13 E. Petain Street, there were baskets and eggs.

Easter at 13 E. Petain Street meant baskets and colored eggs.

eggs at Easter, and little flags sprout here and there around the summer holidays, but it’s just not enough to satisfy our ornamental yearnings.

Halloween house

Halloween house

So come fall we’re in hog (or decorating) heaven. October first begins a month long pageant which now includes orange lights on trees dripping with fluorescent spider webs. Then, even before Thanksgiving, turkeys and pumpkins are all but pushed aside by the tinsel, snowflakes and Santa

Clauses getting a jump on Christmas.

Back on Petain Street we saved up all of our decorating efforts for Christmas time. Lights were strung in Prichard and in Bienville Square in Mobile and the windows of Gayfers were filled with Santa Clauses, reindeer, and children eyeing sugarplums. A few people in the rich part of town had lights outside their houses. Mama, Daddy and I took an annual outing to see their lights.

But the centerpiece of Christmas was in our own living rooms, the Christmas tree — which brings me to how patriotism, recycling, Christmas trees & Aunt Pauline connect.

 My Aunt Pauline was all about what was pretty and stylish. You could hear it when she talked and see it in everything she did — her hair, her home, even the things she cooked. Nobody disputed my Mama’s cakes and cookies were the best, but Aunt Pauline’s had zing. And no plain blue, pink, and yellow Easter eggs for her. In her hands the same PAAS dyes we all used to make plain one-color eggs turned out eggs that were stripped, speckled, and polka-dotted, and her Christmas trees were masterpieces.

I remember the year I was finally big enough for Aunt Pauline to let me help decorate the Christmas tree in her living room. She had the lights on already. She let me hang glass balls on the limbs I could reach.

THE COUSINS GATHERED AROUND AUNT PAULINE'S CHRISTMAS TREE

THE COUSINS GATHERED AROUND AUNT PAULINE'S CHRISTMAS TREE

Then we were ready for the silver icicles [tinsel]. “Icicles are what makes the tree!” she said as she brought out a big magazine, Look or Life, I think. Between its pages the long silver strands were preserved, just a few to a page.

I grabbed for a handful. “No, you have to put them on one or two at a time so you fill all the branches and make the tree beautiful. Some people throw them on. That leaves them in clumps. Hang them long and even.” She let me take the precious strands, just a few at a time, and hang them on the branches.

As we worked, I wondered why she had them in a magazine. Grandmama bought ours in a box.  

MR. MAGOO AND ICYCLES

MR. MAGOO AND ICICLES

“They’re in the magazine to save them. You can use the same icicles year after year if you’re careful.”  Recycling. We never said it. It was just something everybody did then for practical reasons. Nobody had money to waste buying new and throwing out perfectly good things. Outgrown and worn dresses were cut down to fit the younger children or cut up for quilts (my junior highschool wardrobe came from my pretty cousin Mary Gayle’s closet). Broken things were fixed – televisions, toasters, radios, and frying pans (That’s a career field that no longer exists today – the repairman). Christmas decorations were passed down the generations.

Mr. Magoo's CHRISTMAS CARD

Mr. Magoo wishes you a very merry christmas!

Aunt Pauline chatted as she carefully placed the icicles.  “I always had the prettiest trees – even during the war (WWII). You couldn’t get icicles then – and you shouldn’t have if you could, because aluminum was precious and they needed it for the war effort. (Being patriotic was important to people who’d just fought the big war and weren’t yet fed up with the ongoing fights for democracy.) The people who’d thrown theirs away had to do without. I had saved mine so everybody said I had the most beautiful tree in town.” She stood back and appraised the tree. “Icicles are what makes the tree,” she said again.

 

ICICLES AND LIGHTS

MERRY CHRISTMAS

The tree finished, we sat on her kidney bean shaped love seat and had cocoa and red and green Christmas cookies with little silver candy balls on top, and looked at the tree. That’s the picture in my head every year when I pull out my magazine filled with icicles — Aunt Pauline and me, sitting on that loveseat ———-  Icicles really do make the tree.

THE ROMANCE OF GRANDMAMA AND PAPA

I must have been 11 or so when I discovered romance. Elvis had just made the movie GI Blues. Mama liked Elvis, so even though she believe in going to movies, she bought the album for me. I played it over and over on the little record player I’d had since I was six and fell in love with love.

I longed for love stories, and there weren’t many on Petain Street as far as I could tell. Mrs. Gates and most of the other ladies were

Grandma

Amanda Delida Thomas Simmons

too old. Mrs. Stokley was a widow and a saint who I was certain would never have sex. Mama and Daddy had their own bedrooms and I never saw them kiss on the mouth (There’s a story here but I wouldn’t know it for a few more years).

I asked Grandmama to tell me about her courtship with Papa. “Tell me about how you met Papa.”

GRANDMAMA AND PAPA 1950 ISH 001

GRANDMAMA AND PAPA

“Well, let me think. It was at a picnic at the church – homecoming I think. Anyway I went with

Papa, Grandmama, Daddy, Uncle Stanley, Aunt Pauline & Aunt Hazel

Papa, Grandmama, Daddy, Uncle Stanley, Aunt Pauline & Aunt Hazel

Mama and Daddy. I made a pie. Papa wasn’t from around there, but he came with a friend. He liked my pie and asked to walk me home. We sat on the porch for a spell, then he said he thought we should get married. I told him I wasn’t ready, and he asked when I’d be ready. I said I thought it would be about another year. He said, “All right, then, I’ll be back in a year.”

I waited for more, for romance, for Elvis, but no. What happened?

She looked up from the button she was sewing on to a shirt. “It was just about a year to the day, I was sitting on the porch shelling peas, when he walked up and said, “’It’s been a year. I’m here to

GRANDMAMA AND PAPA

GRANDMAMA, PAPA & THEIR CHILDREN

marry you.’”

“What happened then?”

“We got married.”

I was let down. I’d wanted more. Now I’m rethinking it. He showed up.