Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Left, Right, or Confused

The first time my father took my mother home to meet my Granny and Aunt Kat, they had stopped by my Aunty (Fode) and Make's house first (which did not sit well with my Granny once she found out). While they were visiting with Aunty and Make they had several glasses of their "notorious" scupunon wine. Finally they made it to my father's home.

Mama said that she felt fine until she entered my Granny's house. First, meeting my Granny, who was very prim and proper, after having two glasses of scupunon wine with Aunty, and realizing they were sisters was something just short of entering the "Twilight Zone".

But the coup de grace came later that evening. Mama said in the dining room they found the table set for supper with all the fine china, crystal, silver, and linens. After all, it had to be proper for my father's girlfriend. Mama was seated to the left of my Granny. As dinner was served and they started eating, Mama said things just did not seem right, they were a little "off kilter". All she could figure was that the wine had gotten to her.

Later that evening, she confessed to my father that she felt "tipsy" at dinner and hoped his mother and sister did not notice. "Why did you feel that way?" "Well, through out dinner, things just seemed off, a little off balance." My father just laughed,"Maybe that was because they are all left handed." "What difference would that make?" "Well, when Mama and Sister set the table they set everything backwards." "Backwards?" "Yeah, because they are left handed they place the forks on the right and knives and spoons on the left with the glass on the left and bread plate on the right." Then he laughed, "Yours was on the only place they set 'correctly'. They knew you were right handed and wanted you to feel comfortable"

"But you're right handed and they set your plate to the left." "Well, that's because I grew up that way. That's all I've known."

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Great Revisionist

While we were on vacation Mama had gotten in touch with an old friend of hers and made arrangements for us to go visit her one afternoon. I remember this friend and always liked her. Her husband had retired and they had moved back to his old home place, which just happened to one of the antebellum plantations on the island. My mother was "a twitter" with excitement. Not just about catching up with her old friend, but about showing me her home.

All week I had to hear about the fight between her friend's husband and his brother. Seems (according to my mother, a well know revisionist source) the friend's husband had inherited the home as the oldest son. However, his younger brother, who had worked with his father on the farm for years, thought of his older brother as the prodigal son, returning home to claim his spoils. He resented his older brother moving back home and into the "Big House" on the farm. Mother went on to tell about how, to keep peace in the family, her friend's husband had given his younger brother the "Big House" and he and his wife (Mama's friend) had moved into the guest cottage in the back.

Oh, how my Mama felt for her friend, watching her sister-in-law live in the family mansion while she was relegated to simple guest house, knowing all the while that was not how the parents had intended it to be. In my mind, I could picture Twelve Oaks from Gone With The Wind, and Mama's friend living in the overseer's cottage in the edge of the field. Given her description, I wondered if they even had electricity.

The day arrived for our visit and we drove out to their place. As I turned off the main road and drove down a lane of moss covered trees (not a grand lane of oaks, but beautiful none the less) my Mother started with the story again. After a mile or so, we arrived at a wrought iron gate. Just beyond it, we could see the "Big House" as it sat surrounded by moss laden oak trees over looking the marsh and the river. As I punched in the security code to open the gate, my mother said in a sarcastic voice, "There's where the brother lives." "So it would seem."

I turned to the right and followed the road around the edge of the stately home, over a dike beside the marsh and from under a grouping of old large moss draped oak trees, stood the "guest cottage" - all four thousand square feet of it. It was a beautiful old two story structure that blended into the scenery. As my mother's friend came out of the door and all the greetings were exchanged, I told her how lovely her place was. "Well, let me give you a tour. Your Mama has already seen it."

Seems the "guest cottage" was actually one of the original buildings on the place that had such fond memories for the family that they had decided to enlarge it. They had purchased another historic home, floated it down the river, attached it to the current structure, jacked both up, and built additional bedrooms and baths below. Meanwhile the upstairs provided grand views of the river, marshes, and the farm from the large rooms through the old glass windows. The floors were the original old wide plank wood. Her large antique furniture was the final touch to this marvelous place. When I complimented her on it, her comment was, "It is great for the grandchildren. We don't have worry about them messing anything up. We can just be 'us'. This truly is our dream home."

The visit went nicely. I was able to keep Mama's stories in check so that neither my brother nor I were credited with a Nobel prize or some post graduate degree that we were unaware of. At the end, everyone promised to keep in touch more often. As we drove back across the dike and by the "Big House", Mama said."I always knew she was happy that she didn't have to live in that big old plantation house. You know when they first moved back, there was some issue about who was going to have live to there. But her husband put his foot down and said he was not going to take on that burden. They had always planned on redoing that other house."

Well, I'm glad that's settled . . . for now. Stay tuned, as the world turns.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Beach Week - Final Tally

Mama's Beach Vacation

Jigsaw Puzzles: 4 Completed (4 Aborted)

Ice: 14 bags

Shrimp Consumed: 10 Pounds (Jumbo size)

Andouie Sausage: 5 pounds

Sweet Corn: 20 ears

Frogmore Stew: 10 gallons

Local Low Country Tomatoes Consumed: Dozens

Trips to the Local Produce Stand: At least once a day

Fresh Water (from the well at the fire station): 10 gallons

Average Trips to Beach: 2 a day

Kites: 2 constructed, 1 flown, 1 still in the box

Board Games: 3

Lap Tops: 5

Cell Phones: 11 (only 8 turned on - 3 folks were sane)

Electronic Items Charging at One Time: 10

Ratio of Cars to Guests: 12 - 7

Adult Beverages: Not disclosed

Surviving a Family Vacation: Priceless

There is something to be said about spending a week with your family at the beach in the low country - the fresh produce cannot be matched anywhere and when you want fresh seafood, just go to docks and buy as it comes off the boat. (Operative word here: "A" week.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Update from the Beach

Update from Mama's Beach Week

Day Three

Surprise of the Day: (But not really - if you know Will) My nephew wants to be a God when he grows up. As far as I'm concerned, Game, Set, Match. That's the best answer to that question yet!

Crisis of the Day: The water in the pot of boiled peanuts bubbled over the top onto the stove. After the mess was cleaned up, there was much discussion over who was supposed to be watching the pot that never boiled.

Today's Grand Adventure: Going through a list of all the Greek gods (and their titles) to see which one Will wanted to be when he grows up while we feasted on the 10 lbs (no exaggeration) of freshly boiled peanuts. As my Daddy used to say, "I wonder what the poor folks are doing?"

It's Not Nice to Fool Mama

Walter always said he was the only person he knew who was so likely to get in trouble, even going to church didn't help. As always there was a story. While he was a student at UGA he had committed some unpardonable wrong in the eyes of his dear mother. He said his father was a little more understanding but his mother held firm. (I never got the full story of the exact sin.)

Georgia was not playing on that particular Saturday and she wanted him to come home to Savannah for the weekend so she could discuss her disappointment and keep an eye on him. Fortunately, Walter had football practice, and you did not miss football practice, so his mother reluctantly excused him. However, she made it clear she expected him to spend the weekend practicing football, studying, and considering his transgressions. And, if he wasn't coming home, she specifically forbade him to leave campus.

Now, Walter loved his Mama, but he was also smitten with this cute blond from Augusta that, as my father would say, would make a tad pole slap a whale! This particular weekend, she had invited Walter home with her to meet her parents, after Friday football practice - of course. Now given that option, and figuring his Mama would never know the difference, Walter happily headed to Augusta for the weekend.

Walter said he was on his best behavior and he poured out all his southern charm. The weekend went very well. Sunday morning everyone got up, went to church, and then had a big Sunday dinner before they returned to campus. Even his Mama would have been proud of him - if she had known where he was.

Later that week, his mama called, "How was church Sunday? At the First Baptist Church in Augusta?" Seems, while in church Walter got bored and decided to complete one of the "Visitor Surveys" he found in the pew. Unfortunately, he used his home address. The church had followed up with a post card mailed to his home, thanking him for attending services that Sunday. Mama was not happy. Walter said he tried his best to get out of the situation by telling his mother all about the young lady and what a great family she came from. But his mother's only response was, "Walter, I'm sure she's a nice girl, but it doesn't matter. They're not Episcopalians."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Update from the Beach

Update from Mama's Beach Week

Day Two

Surprise of the Day: You're never too old to enjoy the water, especially when your young niece and nephew want you to go swimming with them. And, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon the temperature is perfect.

Crisis of the Day: Two many blue sky pieces in the jigsaw puzzle. By unanimous vote, the "Lighthouse" puzzle was aborted in favor of a "Made in America Selection" which sports more distinct colors.

Today's Grand Adventure: To the local vegetable stand for fresh low country tomatoes. They just don't make anything better. But with heat in the high nineties, you don't want to stay out long.

The State of Power

There is a difference between the power of the state and the state of the power. And, something to be said about state politics. Some folks think the political power is in the office but a true politician takes the power with him, long after the office. The Speaker was one of those. By the time I came to work for the firm, he was in his later years, but was still a legend in his own time. The length of his influence was such that I had studied about him and his cronies in my state history class in 7th grade.

So to work in his firm was an unique experience. That he was part of our state's history was not lost on me. But he was in his own world. Oh, it wasn't that he was mentally infirm. He was all there, just frustrated that his physical self was slower than his mental self. Still, he was a bit of the past, left over, but not overlooked. He always wore a hat. No one had worn a hat since the Kennedy administration, but the Speaker did. And, he had a driver - an older black man, always dressed in a suit, who sat outside the Speaker's door, reading his paper on the ready should his boss need to go anywhere.The Speaker's office was the first you came to when you entered the firm. Walter's was 2nd, which gave you an idea of Walter's seniority with the firm.

Often I would be called into the Speaker's office to assist with some legal matter since I was one of the only legitimate paralegals in the firm. (The others were all assigned to the asbestosis cases and, therefore, as far as the Speaker was concerned, they didn't exist. (See June 14, 2010)) I always found him to be polite and very business like, but not very personable. I doubt he ever learned my name the entire time I worked there.

Every day, there would be a parade of sharply dressed dignitaries in and out to see the Speaker. Given that the state capitol was a good 70 miles away, they obviously thought it important enough to travel to see him. The combination of the dapper political types, Walter's red neck faithful, and the wheezing asbestos plaintiffs, all waiting their turn, made for an odd sight in the reception area.

One day, I commented to my father that I had met the football coach from the University of New Mexico in our office. He just smiled and said
"Hot Damn! You know what that means." I didn't have a clue. "That means he going to be the University's new football coach.There is only one reason he would be in your office and that would be to get the Speaker's blessing" "I still don't get it." "No decision is made at the University without the Speaker's final say." "But he's been out of office for years."
"But, not out of power."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Update from the Beach

Update from Mama's Beach Week

Day One

Surprise of the Day: Wi-Fi at the Beach House. Who Knew? (Of course if they told Mama, she would have thought they meant "Hi-Fi" and would look for the record player.)

Crisis of the Day: The Light is out in the refrigerator. If you think the proverbial Polish people would have issues fixing it, I found 3 seventy-something year old ladies standing in front of an open "fridge" door this morning looking into the dark abyss, as if the magic of the door no longer worked.

Today's Grand Adventure: To the grocery store for ice and pencils (Hey, it was a slow day, OK?)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Off to The Beach

This coming week is my Mama's annual "Beach Week" when she decides that we all need to spend some quality time together  My oldest daughter refers to it as Forced Family Fun. The jury is still out on that. Our goal is to get from one end of the week to the other and have my mother enjoy it without an exceeding amount of stress. Just pass go, forget the $200, and enjoy the Boardwalk. Hopefully, we too, will have some fun along the way.

Act I, I will meet my mother, her college roommate (from 50+ years ago), and a friend of hers at the beach house Saturday afternoon. The rest of the cast will trickle in (and out) during the week.
Mama has already informed me that she has gotten in touch with an old friend, she hasn't seen in years, who lives on the island and promised "we" would go visit. I fear what else "we" have planned. It would suit me fine if she had different friends or relatives coming in every day to amuse her. There is only so much amusement I can offer.

So I am packing up my chocolate and caramel cakes, pounds of BBQ, pimento cheese, healthy supply of Diet Coke with lime, and all the other food and supplies that were assigned to me.
And, no, I have not forgotten the queen size sheets. Let the fun begin.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Faithful Following

When I started working for Walter, I was the first person in the office, which suited me fine. I could get some of my work done before the insanity of the day began. Because once Walter walked in and the faithful started their pilgrimage, you never knew what would unfold.

One memorable morning, one of the partners walked in my office. "I just wanted to let you know that the partners met last night and after some discussions, Walter decided to leave the firm." I was shocked, but not really surprised. Walter's unconvential way of practicing law always flew in the face of the way the firm operated. The only thing that sustained their toleration was the amount of business he generated, and the fact that he was the first associate the Speaker and his late partner had hired. I always assumed as long as the Speaker was alive, Walter had a free pass.

"But, I hope that you will stay and continue to work with us," the attorney went on to say. "I assume Walter is going to want you to work with him. Of course that is your choice, but I personally wanted to let you know, you still have a place here." I thanked him and he left. Well, I thought to myself, this adds another wheel to the wagon.

Sure enough, about ten minutes later Walter called to confirm what his former partner had already told me. "I need you out here." "Where is here?" "The farm." "Are you thinking about what you are going to do?" I asked. "Hell no! I'm working. I need you to bring some things from my office. What did you think I was going to do?" "Just tell me what you need and I'll be right out there."

When I got to the farm, I found Walter in his office which was in the horse barn. He didn't seemed phased. I didn't ask any questions. When I handed him the papers, he started asking questions and giving me a list of things I needed to do. "Wait a minute," I said. "Are you hiring me? Do you have any money? You can't work out of a horse barn." "Sweetheart. Of course, I'm hiring you. You don't want to stay with those jack asses do you?" "Well, no." "I called Charlie at the bank this morning, I have a business account set-up for my new firm, I called the printer to get some stationary, and you and I have to meet with the realtor in ten minutes." These were details handled by a man who just two days ago, couldn't manage his dry cleaning. I was impressed.

By 10:30 that morning Walter's new firm was in business and we had a new address. The only issue he had to deal with was Mary's edict that he was not to see any of his clients on the farm. They could wait a day until he had an office. (I always knew she was bright. She knew better than to let him start holding court on her front porch.) I was a little concerned about the financial standing of the new firm, but sometimes you just have to have faith.

The next morning I drove up to the new office and there in the parking lot were several cars. The faithful had followed. And, some I recognized - the Gleatons for one. I parked in the back and walked into Walter's office. "Why are the Gleatons out there?" I asked. "Probably because I won't make them wear shoes." Walter said with a big grin as he went to the door to invite everyone in.

Sure enough when the Gleatons showed up at the old firm and found out that Walter was no longer there, they weren't that impressed with Terry. They left and it didn't take them long to find Walter. Our first order of business was a letter to old firm informing them that the Gleatons had requested that Walter represent them as sole counsel. Walter had me personally deliver it to Terry.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Saint Mary

Walter's wife Mary was this lovely patient lady with a grand sense of humor (without it she would have perished, left, or drowned in the bottle). They had a lovely daughter, who was the apple of Walter's eye, and twin boys, John and Will, who Walter swore were his parents' greatest revenge.

Mary was an interior designer and very talented at that. She and Walter had bought an old farm about 5 miles outside of town and had restored the old plantation house on the property, as well as the barn and other buildings. Walter loved to hunt and he and his boys spent a lot of time on the weekends hunting deer, quail, dove, and wild boar.

When you went to visit their home, which looked like something you would find in the pages of Southern Accents, you may have to step over guns, waders, dirty boots, and the assorted hunting jacket as you entered. And of course, there was always Ugga, Walter's lovelable and dedicated pet bull dog, who you could find sitting by the back door, quietly drooling as he waited for Walter to come home. Mary just took it all in stride.

That was until one Sunday afternoon when Walter brought one of the twins back with a deep gash in his leg from an entanglement with a wild boar. While Mary failed to see the humor, the son was thrilled that he got to kill the boar. And, better yet, his dad had promised him that he would have a scar on his leg that he could show off for the rest of his life. (Walter had to remind his son, after Mary left the room that he wasn't supposed to tell his mother that part of the story.)

One morning the boys were walking out the back door to go to school. Will ran back in. "Mom - A taxi just brought Dad home." To appreciate the situation you have to understand that Walter's farm was 5 miles out of their small town which was in a rural area, which was 2 counties from the town he and one of his partner's had tried a case in the day before. Obviously, they had won, had a large celebration, and somehow ended up "catching" a taxi home. "Dad, where's your car?" Will asked. "You know," Walter thought for a moment, "that's a good question." Nothing phased Mary.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Brand New 'Church Going' Shoes

Most of Walter's clients didn't have an education or wear shoes for that matter. But, his entire practice was not pro bono. There were some legitimate paying clients that he represented. In fact, Walter brought in more than his fair share of the local business. Many people made the mistake of assuming he was some dumb washed up football player who had some how made it through law school. That was not the case, he was not slow by any means, in fact he was exceptionally bright. He just didn't get caught up in the game that all his partners did.

The managing partner of the firm, Terry, (actually he was just the partner who paid the bills) was this over weight weaselly guy who despised Walter. Unlike the other partners in the firm who all came from old southern families, I never did figure out where he came from or what turnip truck he fell off of. While the other partners were all very dapper, pleasant gentleman lawyers, this man always had on a cheap wrinkled suit that didn't fit, a bad hair cut, and paranoia coming out of wazoo. And, Walter made a sport out of driving him nuts.

I can remember one morning I was working at my desk when I was summoned to Terry's office. I arrived to see him madder than a wet hen. "What is all this about?", he said as he threw a piece of paper across his desk at me. I picked up the paper and had to suppress my laughter. I was holding a bill from the local department store for $500. The only details were "clothes for Gleaton family" and it was addressed to our firm. "I'm not familiar with this, but I'll go check with Walter and see what he knows about it." "You do that." And, with that I was dismissed.

I walked into Walter's office holding the invoice. "Would you please tell me what this is about? And, how I'm supposed to deal with Terry?" He just gave me that huge grin of his and leaned back in his big desk chair. "Well, the way I see it, Terry told me he was tired of seeing the clientele I had, especially those who didn't wear shoes. And, you know the Gleaton's young son was in that automobile accident involving that big truck last week?" "Yeah." "Well, the Gleatons don't like wearing shoes, but I convinced them if they went down to Harold's and picked out some fancy 'Church Going' shoes to wear we'd pay for them."

"And, this is the bill for those shoes." "That, my dear, is the bill for the shoes. The Gleatons have asked us to represent them in their "unfortunate" situation with the trucking company. So you can go tell Terry if he wants his part of the attorney fees from this settlement, he'll pay the damn bill." "I'll do just that," I said with a smile and walked out of his office. There, waiting to see Walter were the Gleatons, all 13 of them, 4 generations in worn out clothes and brand new 'Church Going' shoes.

Yep, they all drive cars.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

They All Drive Cars

Walter gave a whole new definition to the term "piece of work." He came from a well to do old southern family in Savannah. He had been recruited to play football at UGA, had had an outstanding career on the football field, and after college earned a degree in law. If anyone took Walter for a dumb jock, they were sadly mistaken, he was a very shrewd southern lawyer.

He could charm the fool out of you, drink you under the table, and he was one of the funniest white men I ever knew. But his biggest asset (that often got him in trouble) was his heart of gold.

As you can imagine in a small town, there is not much money to made on your every day wills, trusts, and loan closings practice. Of course, we always had the various criminal trials going on. Invariably, you had your wayward children of wealthy families who found themselves on the wrong side of the law and our firm was happy to dig into Daddy's deep pockets to keep Junior out of prison. And, divorces in our part of the country can be pretty profitable considering how stupid some men can be and the lengths some resourceful scorned women will go to for revenge.

The Partners were always irritated at Walter and said he wasted time and was lazy. In their eyes, instead of working on cases, he spent his time seeing clients, with no money, helping them with piddly things that amounted to nothing. Everyday there would be a line of folks outside Walter's door waiting for an audience. And, once they gained admittance to his smoke filled chamber, he was extremely patient and generous with his time. He would listen to their stories, shake his head and agree with their plight.

Then he would offer some remedy, at which time he would call either his secretary or me into the room, very politely introduce us, explain the issue, and tell us what he wanted us to do to assist the client. We wrote letters to the phone company complaining about annoying phone poles, we called county jails to see if parents could get extended visitation with their incarcerated children, we wrote persuasive letters to GMC requesting that they consider replacing some one's pickup truck because it had thrown a rod after 100,000 miles (and no oil changes). Walter always felt their pain. And, even though we knew our efforts would not be every effective, the fact "Mr." Walter did it was enough to give them comfort. They would leave knowing some one listened, some one cared, and the next client would file in. This would go on all day, day after day.

After the first week, I asked Walter at lunch, why he was so patient with all these clients when he knew they couldn't pay him. He just looked at me and smiled and between deep drags on his cigarette, and said,"They all drive cars."

Friday, June 11, 2010

You Can Go Back Home

Mama's family reunion last year was held at the old family home place. Which was even sentimental to me. I can remember when my grandmother would come see us, she would take my brother and me out there to visit our cousins (that we hardly knew). Well, I say cousins, they were the second cousins, twice removed kind. You know the kissin' cousins you don't kiss. And, I was the fourth generation to gather at the house and at the reunion there were two more. Now, the first generations are long gone, and my Aunt Alice, is still here, God bless her, so there were still four generations present.

It is an old farm house that the family has kept up and now serves as a hunting lodge for Mama's cousins, their sons, and grandsons. It is unique because they haven't changed a thing. They have just preserved it. The furniture is the same, the drapes, the paint on the walls, even the cracked linoleum on the kitchen floor. It is like time, for once, is standing still. The screen door creaks when it opens and swishes just before it slams shut. There is that wonderful old house "musty" smell that I have always loved.

The family gathered and ate in yard under the pecan trees. I asked my cousin about the zip line in the front yard that we used to play on and she was thrilled to show me the rusted remains high in the tree. And, yes the tree still looked as high as it did the day she dared me to jump off the front porch just holding onto what looked like something from the circus. (But, I was not going to be called some city girl sissy.)

I commented to Mama that I would love to photograph the place and asked our cousin, who now owned it, if he minded. Obviously, he was thrilled and said to come on by anytime. (I figured I might want avoid hunting season unless I planned to wear orange.)

So late yesterday afternoon I picked Mama up and we headed out to the country, camera in hand. The drive only took 20 minutes but it was a running commentary by my mother down memory lane. "Now, remember we turn left here, if you go to the right you go to the cemetery." Around the next turn, "Look, there's Ma Hattie's house." "I remember her but remind me, she was Grandmama's step grandmother?" "No, her real grandmother." When we arrived at the home place, I could tell Mama was excited. The light was just right.

I headed off to the back yard. I wanted to make sure I captured the whole place, the grape vines on the wooden arbor, all the out buildings, and of course the house with it's porches. As I was shooting one of the out buildings way in the back it dawned on me that the building was actually made of logs (and about to fall down). This place was older than I thought.

There was the barn with the ancient GMC pickup truck covered with dust, the old tractor under the shed, and the implements neatly hanging on the side of the tool shed. Back on the front porch the swing and wicker chairs were waiting for company. And, Mama was standing there in her own world, long ago. And from the look on her face, it was a good place.

As we got in the car to leave. She asked me, "Do we have time for one more stop?" "Of course, which way?" "Turn to the left. I want to ride by Aunt Katherine's. When we would come for Christmas, the family was so big we always stayed there." Then she added, "Mama always said it was exactly one mile from here." And, exactly one mile later, we came to Aunt Katherine's house, which I remembered. Mama just smiled and said, "This has been great. I can go home now." I laughed and said, "I thought you were home."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Path Not Taken

Twenty five years ago our oldest daughter was born. And, no, although it was one of the most wonderful days of my husband's and my lives, I am not going to wax sentimental. (The main reason being she would not speak to me for weeks.) A quarter century (which sweetheart, much to your dismay, does not make you ancient) seems like a long time, but in retrospect it has been just a short moment in time.

The Dow Jones average was in its bull run and had just hit 1300. The "Big Eight" accounting firms were still in business and "Big Blue" was still big. We had yet to experience the Lion King, get know Forest Gump, or Harry Potter. And, Lady Diana, was the perfect princess living a fairy tale life. In a way, we all were. But we have since grown up. Think about it, we had no idea that we be going to war or our country would be attacked and citizens would be killed within our borders.

I have always said when I grow up I wanted to be my daughter. I wanted to be in her generation where women are not encumbered by the idea that one has a path to follow. You know, do well in school, go to college, find the right man (from a good family, mind you), have the fairytale wedding (that your mother always dreamed of planning), then settle down and have 2 children and a mini van, while learning how to make cup cakes, be a class mom, and master the rules of soccer. In other words - give your life to everyone, with nothing left for you. Of course, all the magazines touted how much you gained from the experience. And, you had the satisfaction of raising (or rearing as my Granny would remind me) two wonderful loving children, that even to this day amaze me. (And, I have no regrets about that.)

Then you wake up at 50 and find that the witch is dead and everything is in color. And, before you is the yellow brick road that no one told you about. "Toto, we are no longer in Kansas." My life can now begin. Is this what "empty nesting" is all about? Is this the prize egg? If you survive, then you get a second chance? My Mama never told me, but then again, Mama never told me a lot of things.

Our daughter, on the other hand, found the yellow brick road early on and chartered her own course. No one told her she couldn't. She never asked. In her twenty five years, she has been around the world, seen the ruins in Angkor Wat, been on the river Ganges, flown in a hot air balloon over the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania, lived a summer in a the poorest country in the world (Malawi), was almost lost at sea, survived a crisis aboard a Chinese Air flight some where in the orient, and, if that is not enough, she just happened to be booked on a flight from Heathrow to JFK the morning of the planned terrorist attacks on the planes in London.

When the small college she loved as a freshman became too "provincial" after her overseas experiences, she had no compunctions about changing schools. And, do "we" live on campus? Oh, no. "We" manage to negotiate a rent low enough to live in downtown Charleston in the historic area. And, all the while keeping full time nannying jobs (that pay exceptionally good money - in cash) while finishing school in four years.

Her children will have a rich life because she will no doubt pass on that "life has no boundaries" attitude. That is if she ever thinks that they are old enough to cross the street by themselves. I wish I could take some credit for the choices she has made, and more importantly, the confidence with which she has made them. We tried to instill in both our daughters, among other things, that curiosity and passion are two of the most important virtues. Perhaps, they took. Perhaps, I should have taken my own advice and I, too, would have discovered the ruby slippers earlier.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Temperate State

OK, let's figure this out. It's election day in SC, which by the way, the national press refers to politics as a blood sport in this state, but I'll save that for another day. Personally, I think they should thank us for keeping things interesting. But I digress.

What the national press fails to see is that our state government (or the Baptists) have gone to extreme lengths to protect the citizens of our fair state - from our selves. God forbid we fail to exercise self restraint on election day. To ensure sobriety at the polls, all liquor stores are required to close on election day. But the winner, so to speak, is that all sales of lottery tickets are suspended for the day. Now I understand the temperate Baptists state legislature wanting to make sure that no citizen's vote is compromised due to the evils of the bottle. But, please explain the fear of the effects a lottery ticket or, God forbid, scratch and win card can bring about.

Is there some fear that a citizen will think the world is going to Hell in a hand basket, driven close to insanity by the constant calls from the candidates, their wives, sons, daughters, and best friends; numbed by the continuous campaign ads everywhere, and spend their life savings on lottery tickets. (Perhaps the state is missing out on some serious revenue here.) Or, could it be, psychological experts have proven that compulsive folks, with all that liquor money in their pocket, will find lottery tickets as an outlet for their spiritual needs. (Not knowing - or caring - that the churches were counting on those extra funds in their collection plates the following Sunday.)

Now, since the state passed an amendment to the Blue Laws in 1983 that allowed alcoholic beverages to be sold on Sunday at any auto racing event more than 250 miles in distance. (ie any NASCAR event), think of the conundrum should the Pepsi 500 be scheduled on an election day. Well, let's just say the turn out may just be even higher than usual if that was the only location in the state where alcoholic beverages could (legally) be sold.

But we are not alone in our temperament mentality. Some quick research shows that there are 6 other members of the union in a similar such state. Indiana, Kentucky, Utah, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Massachusetts. But, one small footnote here, Arkansas has made a concession in that they allow the liquor stores to open at noon. Party in Arkansas at noon on election day!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Life among the Dead

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of a day to myself. Unlike most women, I did not choose to sleep late, spend it a spa, or go shopping. I spent a delightful day with my camera - in a cemetery. Now before you think I have lost my mind, or what little I have left of it, I'll confess I have always loved cemeteries, the old ones with monuments to the dead. In a way, they are gardens of art. And, they are so tranquil. If you are still shaking your head, humor me here.

In the South, in years past, there was much money spent on statues, markers, pillars, obelisks, mausoleums, and other impressive monuments to the dead. If someone just dropped in, from say Mars, they would think that the families of those in the past had to build these shrines to their God begging him to take their loved one soul. The larger and more impressive the shrine, the better the chance the soul would be saved. In truth, it was a way of keeping up with the Joneses. And it still would be the practice, except in today's south, such excess is seen as "tacky". No one from a "good family" would think of such. But they are awfully proud of the tributes to their ancestors that past family members erected.

This particular cemetery I visited yesterday was large, 128 acres with 35,000 graves of some of South Carolina's most famous citizens - 5 governors, 3 senators, 2 cabinet members, and other citizens, both famous and infamous, military elite, educators, mayors, engineers, writers, artists, crooks, murderers, madames, and various scoundrels, all with a story to tell. It was a former rice plantation very close to the city and designed to be a place for families to come and stroll among the grand oaks and resting souls - a park of sorts.

When I arrived early in the morning (for the best light), I drove through the gates and took one of the many named loops that meander beside the ponds, under the oaks, and around the thousands of grave sites. As I got out of the car, I knew I was in one the most beautiful places I had ever seen. (Now, I realize one has to over come any thoughts of morbidity, fear, or general sense of intrusion to share this feeling. So, if you can't, I understand, don't agree, but understand. - you're missing a lot.)

I won't bore you with the details (although I have included some picture to the right) but I found myself walking in and out of masterfully crafted ancient wrought gates. Low brick walls, covered with rich green moss, outlined family plots. The effects of wind, weather, and time had caused some tombstones to lean. The fine marble had also taken its toll from the elements. But unlike your pedestrian graveyard, here you saw mausoleums with Tiffany windows, pyramids, angels, crosses of all kinds, and some many different unique carvings I had to stop trying look at every one.

There are military graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers, the former still sporting small Confederate Battle flags (I'm sure placed there on Confederate Memorial day (See May 31, 2010)). Some southern soldiers killed at Gettysburg were later brought home and reinterred in this hallowed ground. The Unions soldiers used it as an encampment during the war and while there, burned the chapel and cut down many of the oaks trees (that were part of the original design) for fire wood.

I walked in silence, in awe, for two hours, reverently capturing images that I knew would fail to capture the beauty of the place. As the heat rose and the light became glary, I reluctantly decided it was time to go. But I knew I would be back. On my way home, I stopped at a Chic-fil-a for a cold drink. There was a delay (for some reason) and as I was waiting, the polite lady at the counter asked me what brought me to Charleston. "Photography" "Are you shooting a wedding?" That's a compliment I thought, I didn't have a camera with me. I must have sounded professional. "No, I was photographing a cemetery." "Oh, that's gruesome." "Not, really. I think of it as a garden of art. The the markers and monuments in the older ones are really beautiful." "Maybe. But, you still have all those dead people." I didn't know where to go from there, because that's just it, they are dead. Thankfully, by that time, my drink was ready.

So yes, on the day I had to myself, I spent it amongst the dead. But, it was a lovely place. It was quiet. There were no arguments, no disagreements. I was happy as a lark. Does this say something about me or my life? To find peace and contentment, I must stroll amongst the deceased. If so, I have found my spot.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Packing for the beach

Back to my mother's beach trip, I need to start packing, or at least thinking about what to pack. My brother and I will take all the food - and we'll deal with that later. We assured Mama that was taken care of - we didn't want to deal with weeks of drama over menus when the 2 of us could handle it in a couple of emails, 1 trip to Sam's, and 3 coolers. The main disaster last year dealt with linens - God forbid the home owners up-graded the beds (doubles to queen size) and proudly touted it in the contract (which mother failed to read). So Mama showed up with the wrong size sheets. This was easily remedied since we were coming in shifts and the next group just brought the correct sized sheets. But, it was enough to throw Mama for a loop for several days.

This is her trip but we spend months before and most of the time there trying to keep her settled. If some dilemma like the linens are not enough, then whether we have enough ice will drive her nuts. We decided by Monday the first year we went that we had to use paper plates because having dirty dishes in the dishwasher was enough to set her back. One year she was convinced that the neighbors were going to party all night and keep us up (although it never happened.) My brother and I could not figure out where she got that idea and if they were, how we could get an invitation.

Early on my brother and his wife commandeered an area under the house to escape the madness where I would find them enjoying adult beverages and peace and quiet. After accusing him of going AWOL, I quickly joined them. However, we had to be very cagey so as to avoid suspicion from Mama. The kids became co-conspirators, letting us know when the "coast was clear" or when we needed to "abandon ship" and return to duty. Of course that cost us dearly. But, we were at their mercy. After all, our mental health was at stake.

I can remember as a child the most important things I had to pack were my new flip flops, beach towel, and bathing suit that I got to pick out each year before the annual beach trip. Funny, I don't remember what food we took because the cooler was always full of beer, but we did eat.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rain Rain Go Away

What's more challenging than camping? - Camping in the rain. What's more challenging than camping in the rain? - Breaking camp in the rain. Picture yourself in a shower - a cold shower, with your clothes on. Now add to that scene a small house and all the belongings that go with it. Now dismantle that house in the cold shower, while wearing your clothes, pack it into designated boxes (this is another instance where shurkas would be helpful), and head home. Oh, but the fun is just beginning. This is the gift that keeps on giving because once you get home you get to do it all again. Since everything is wet, we get to "make camp" again in the backyard, wait a day or two for everything to dry off, then once again pack it up. And, this was sold to me as a relaxing outdoor activity that would give me a chance to recharge my batteries in the great fresh air? Thanks, but I'll stick to the Duracells, if you don't mind.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Silver Side

I had been writing this Blog a few months when I started commenting on pieces of Sterling Silver. It didn't take long for me to realize that the two did not mix. So I launched another Blog, which I enjoyed, but did not take that seriously, Silver Pieces - The Strange and Peculiar. http://strangeandpeculiarsilver.blogspot.com/ This second blog deals only with sterling silver, patterns and pieces.

But my heart is in this Blog. I enjoy it simply because I take pleasure in writing and it is so easy to get up, just look at my life, and comment on it - simple non-fiction a scary thought.

But, since I don't start something unless I plan to complete it, I have spent time researching and writing about sterling silver on my Silver blog. Now, the oddest thing has happened, I have more readers on my silver blog than on this Blog. I will admit, sterling silver has a lot more to offer than my mundane life. And, a lot of the humor of my situations gets loss the further north or west you go in these United States. Few people understand the importance of pot liquor in collards or why, until the day he dies, Little Mack will be called Little Mack, even though he is now 60, is 6 ft tall, and Big Mack has long since passed. That's just the way we do it down here. But that's OK. It's like Bon Jovi says, "There's only one place they call me one of their own."

So I just thought that you may appreciate that there is hope. The world is still civilized out there. More folks are interested in sterling silver than someone who has to deal with an eccentric mother, two daughters (one who is constantly trying to be the death or her), and a Darling Husband who is slowly but surely taking over the house by eminent domain (and all I can do is fight for counter space in the kitchen among the various projects he has going on.)

Even though silver is a commodity that is traded on the market everyday, and I dearly love it, I'll keep plodding along here. After all, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Sometimes I do change names to spare close friends of some humiliation, just in case they do happen to be reading. And for those of you who do read it, thanks for stopping by every once in a while.