Friday, July 30, 2010

The Present Formerly Known As

Speaking of locations, there is always the assumption that you know the geographical history of our town. Visitors are often confused. When they ask for directions, they find local citizens very happy to help, however there is often a failure to communicate. And, we are not talking about a language barrier or even a problem due to our accent.

For instance, if someone was coming into town from the interstate and asked for directions to the middle school. They would get something like this, "Well, go down this road, and as you come into town and get to the old K-mart you are going to turn left at the stoplight. Go 2 lights and at the old Food Lion turn right. Now you will pass the Old Mall on your left. Just pass the next light, the school will be on your right. You know that used to be the high school."

Now, that visitor would have some issues here since K-mart moved from that original location 15-20 years ago and to confuse matters, is around the corner. There is no Food Lion, it left years ago, and left no evidence it was ever there. If they ever get to the "Old Mall" their ignorance will serve them well because even locals are having issues with this. Seems that what we call the "Old Mall" is really the "New Mall" because that property was abandoned twenty-something years ago when they built the "new" Mall on the by-pass. However, recently the "old" Mall has been redeveloped so it is now the "New Mall" and we are not quite sure what to call the old "new" Mall.

When the 911 emergency system was implemented the city and county had to certify the names of all the roads. That meant that some roads and streets that had had traditional local names for years suddenly had "official" titles. I can remember a friend of mine laughing that her family had "moved up in the world." Their address had changed from "Wannamaker Pond Road" to "Longwood Drive." It was bit confusing (and still is.) It would have been a lot simpler, if the powers that be, had just asked someone on every street (if they didn't already know), "Excuse me Mam, but what is the name of this street?"

And, jeez, they went out of their way to make it convoluted. Please explain why "Cherry Street" had to be renamed "Cherrywood Lane". And, with the long road that follows the river, appropriately named "Riverside", the powers that be, decided that that little quick turn around a block as the road came into town was confusing. I'm not sure, confusing to whom. Everyone in town had been using the road for years and I never saw anyone miss that turn. But, oh no, the road is now divided right there into 2 different streets - "Riverbank" and "Riverside". Official, or not, God help the out of towners asking directions.

I would imagine some sociologist, after doing a study of our town, would report that we live in the past. It's not so much the past, as it is the land marks of our lives. In today's fast times, it is comforting to hold onto something (even if it is just memories of days gone by.) We are all about tradition. Some would say we are just old dogs and these are new tricks. Perhaps the new street signs should read "Cherrywood Lane formerly known as Cherry Street".

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

By The Time I Get to Phoenix

By the time I get to Phoenix . . . it will be hot as you know what. And, everyone tells me, "Oh, but it's a dry heat." Well, so is my oven, but I have no desire to stay inside it. Seriously, it is a different type of heat. And, surprisingly, I find that I can adjust fairly well. You don't have to worry about "glistening" (a southern woman's variation of sweat.) But I digress.

I decided to fly in on Saturday to have a day to myself to drive up to Lake Powell. (A good idea at the time.) My flights went well. The temperature, a mild 102.  The nice guy at the rental car counter informed me that yes, I would be going through Flagstaff (which I thought was my final destination) but Lake Powell is on the Arizona/Utah border, 130 miles north of Flagstaff - a small error in navigation. My 2 hour drive just got extended by an additional 2 hours.

Another fun fact about Arizona is that they don't play by the rules. They don't like Day Light Savings Time, so they opted out (I didn't realize it was an option.) So even though all the states around them are on Mountain Time they are an hour behind. You know they are "special" when you go to program your cell phone and the choices are "Eastern Time, Central Time, Mountain Time, Arizona Time, Pacific Time". This is confusing. Do I subtract 3 or 4? Do I subtract 4 and add 1?

As I leave Phoenix the speed limit continues to rise, 55, 65, 70 . . . 75. This I can deal with , 75 miles per hour and wide open spaces. Although, I notice there are many white crosses along the side of the road, which I assume represent locations of loss of life. Maybe everyone shouldn't be driving 75. The Desert is incredibly beautiful, the scrub bushes, the tall cactus, the mountains in the distance. And, the occasional cars on the side of the road that had run hot. I am suddenly concerned about the lack of cell coverage out here. I can see the headlines now, "She headed north toward Flagstaff never to be heard of again."
As I start climbing into the mountains, the steep inclines slow traffic down. The scenery is incredible. If I had done my homework, I would have realized that I was going to the Grand Canyon. Of course, if I had done my homework and looked at a map, I would have realized that my hotel was 130 miles out of Flagstaff. A minor detail that is quickly becoming major as my day gets longer. Oh well, I'm sure the Grand Canyon is on the list of 1000 Places You need to See Before You Die. (I did check and both the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell,  as well as Red Rock Country are on the list. A Trifecta!!)

My main motivation for this journey was to tour Antelope Canyon. I had seen the most awesome photographs taken of this canyon. After doing some research, I learned that you needed to be in the canyon between 11:30 - 12:00 (AZ time) March - September for the sun to be directly overhead. After further inquiry, I found a well recommended photography tour which promised a small group for serious photographers only (and no young children.) I had a reservation for the tour on Sunday and I was excited.

When I showed up for the tour, there were 25 or so people standing outside the tour company. This was bad. Then they ask all the people in my tour to gather by the Ford Excursion, there were only 7 of us. This was good. The other six were French and spoke only passable English. This was unfortunate. As we load up with our guide, I asked her how we would be able to photograph in the canyon with all those other tourist (the remaining 17-18). "That's why we are leaving first to get ahead of them."

Then she explains that the upper canyon we will be in is only 1/4 mile long and fairly narrow. (I would later appreciate her use of the term "narrow". )

It took us 15-20 minutes to get to the canyon. In the meantime, I learned that my fellow photographers were from Paris, vacationing here, and chose Arizona for its "Wide Open Spaces" (this canyon not being one). As we turned a corner and first see the entrance to the canyon, there were 7 or 8 tour vehicles parked. (I assume they were not there for show.) This was not good. We climbed out and made our way into the narrow slot. The canyon is maybe 10 feet wide at a very few places, usually 6 feet wide, and at some places as narrow as 3 feet. It is probably 75 - 100 feet deep. It is hard to describe the effect the sun light through the small cracks in the top of the canyon has on the different colored striated walls.

But, when you put 75 -100 people in this canyon at the same time, suddenly trying to capture this beauty is a little frustrating. But beauty trumps all. Thankfully, our guide was most helpful working with us to manage the crowds and in some cases, hold them back (for a minute or so) to enable us to take a photograph of the natural beauty of the canyon with out little Jimmy in the picture trying the climb the wall. After two hours of, what seemed to me, to be hand to hand combat at times, we were making our way out of the canyon.  The crowds had thinned and we actually had time (and room) to take some (hopefully) great photos.

Now it was time to make my way back to Phoenix. I returned my rental car and boarded the shuttle bus to return to the terminal for transportation to my hotel. As I sat down, I looked down at my clothes. It was not pretty. I still had on my garb from earlier, that showed evidence of dirt and grime from crawling around on the canyon floor and generally being out in the desert heat. (Not what one generally sees leaving the car rental complex.) On the hotel shuttle I am with an American flight crew. But, I am not concerned. With the way I look, they will never recognize me if they see me tomorrow. Of course, that is if the hotel will let me check in.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Slow Bunnies

OK, I take back (some of what) I said about our reputation down here for being slow and perhaps some of us not being the brightest bunnies in the woods. If I were to drop in from Mars, and while waiting for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, pick up a local newspaper and read that my alien spacecraft has flown 4 million light years to land in a place where (1) a candidate for the most exclusive club in America wants to make and sell action figures of himself to jump start the economy (and his name is not Arnold Schwarzenegger), (2) a former city official is being investigated for stealing 1.8 million gallons of water, and (3) a man gets killed when he attempts to slap a moving train. (He did not heed the advice of a friend who tried to tell him you slap the back not the front.) And, for goodness sake, please don't go find the YouTube video of 2008 Miss South Carolina Teen USA trying to answer a question about maps. Charts and graphs can't help explain what was going on there. However, she knew how to smile and had the beauty queen wave down pat, but I digress.

Yes, sir Mr. Martian, you have sat yourself right slap dab in the middle of the most intelligent part of the universe. (I still swear we don't marry our cousins.)

Honest to God, it's a wonder that the Union doesn't want to reestablish the Confederacy just to get rid of this insanity. But, maybe they keep us around simply for the pure entertainment value. (And, the Baptists are concerned about us buying batteries on Sunday morning?) Now granted Illinois has had, what 3 of their last 4 governors indicted, but that's just politics and accepted. No news there. (Vote early and vote often.) And, as for our fair state, there are still some folks who can't understand what the Appalachian Trail, Argentina, emails, and a suburban parked at the airport have to do with the governor. Bless his heart. (Back to the slow bunnies.)

All this said, for the life of me I cannot explain why anyone would question the integrity of the citizens of a state where according to the law it is perfectly legal to beat your wife on the courthouse steps on Sunday and we have a town festival celebrating boiled hog intestines. (Well, how else were they going to raise money to buy the Christmas lights for the town?) I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Red Necks

There is a thin line between a "Red Neck" and the rest of us down here. Well, of course there are those Charleston "blue bloods", but that's a whole different group and it's real obvious who they are. And, if you have any question, they make it very clear. They have the lineage and the land grants to prove it. (Now, maybe the lands have long since been sold but they can show you where their family owned it "forever" until the Yankee carpetbaggers took it or they lost it through poor management.) But I digress.

Back to the Red Necks. Now down here, when someone says Red Necks, we think of a red car named The General Lee, old house trailers with cars jacked up in the front yard, or houses with peeling paint and a "dead" washing machine on the front porch. Jeff Foxworthy has made a fortune defining this genre. Apparently, the rest of country, thinks of the term as a description of the general population of most of the southeastern United States. They need to be educated.

I'm here to prove I am not a Red Neck
  • I have read Sherlock Holmes' and therefore am aware that that is not the name of a housing project
  • I do not think possum is the other white meat, it's spelled opossum
  • My name is not spray painted in any public place (that I know of)
  • The taillight covers on my car are not made of red tape (I don't think the duct tape on the seats of my old car counts)
  • I don't have three cousins named "Bubba" or "Junior" (However, I just learned that a niece of mine and her husband have adopted a new last name after moving half way across the country.)
  • I have never barbecued Spam
  • We do not have any "dead" major appliances on our front porch (we keep our "dead' washing machines and dryers in the garage)
  • I don't have any relatives named after Confederate Generals (as long as you don't count Stuart, Lee, Jackson, or Bragg)
  • I do not have a NASCAR item in my home nor in my possession
  • I have never shopped on QVC (although I understand Dale Jr has a wide variety of quality merchandise there)
So see, you have us all wrong. The rest of us are not Red Necks. If you came down here you'd see it is easy to spot the Red Necks, they are the ones who get dressed up to go to Wal-mart (they put on shoes.)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Six Degrees - Make that Three

When the idea of "Six Degrees of Separation" came out, down here we found it a bit perplexing. First, there would never be six "degrees" between us, most likely three, maybe four. And, what was news about this? When we meet some one new, the first ten minutes is spent finding out who they are and who their folks are so we can we see what our connection is. Because if they are true southerners there is going to be at least one. And, we'll find it.

Now, it may take some time figuring it out, but if you're from a "good family" (like my Mama always says) then our paths have crossed. Before we are through we have figured out that your mama's sister's husband's little sister was in the same sorority as my daughter (which means your cousin-in-law is in my daughter's sorority - three degrees- BINGO!). Heck before you know it, we'll be kin. But it doesn't stop there. Next you have to catch up on what all those connections are doing. And, the trick is to get more information than you give and make sure all the family skeletons are safely in the closet.

All this game malarkey about Kevin Bacon is for amateurs, down here it's not a game. It is a long standing ritual that follows "It's nice to meet you," with "Now, who's your mama?". Parlor games aside, these are things we need to know. Contrary to popular belief we don't marry our cousins down here and you need to know who you are talking to. And, there's always that "Ah Ha" moment when the connection is made. "So you're Louise's daughter? Well I'll be. We were in school together and she taught both my sons. You know her nephew married my cousin and they moved into a house next to my best friend. Well, it's a small world."

The goal is to dance through the mine field of black sheep in the family. Hopefully you can establish a safe connection avoiding any low life characters that would bring about some form of disgrace that you may never know has been afflicted upon you. (A good southern woman would only show her disgust in the most subtle way, so you may never know.) In your ignorance, your social reputation could easily be impugned. And, all you did was mention your Aunt Mary. (Your mama never bothered to tell you about her sister's unfortunate first marriage to the farm foreman's son. You did, come to think of it, always wonder about your cousin Paul's red hair).

Of course, the winning strategy is to get them to show their hand. Show me a family down here with no black sheep and I'll show you some folks in a witness protection program. We all got 'em some where round the table. It's what makes the gene pool interesting. You know that smudge in the family Bible that no one wants to explain. Well, Aunt Julia had to come from somewhere - our family is special but please don't try to tell me we had an incident of immaculate conception half way down the line. We're Presbyterian for God's sake.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Too Much for a Little Mind

When I was a little girl, my father was very intent that I get a good education, not just K-12 and college, he wanted me to be "well rounded". As a young child, he would spend hours reading to me, teaching me to play chess, teaching me about our family and our proud Scottish heritage. He had a large collection of books on Confederate history and he shared his knowledge of the great campaigns with me. He spoke French as second language. As he worked in our back yard where, he raised Azaleas and bred Camellias, even at an early age I had watched him graft many cuttings onto stock Carmelia bushes in order to produce new colors.

He was always very proud of me. When I started school, I had a head full of knowledge - a little jumbled, but chocked full. In a child's mind, normal is what you are used to. In my mind, everyone knew a red shirt symbolized Wade Hampton's campaign, that a castle wasn't a home for Cinderella, but a strategic chess move involving your King and your rook, that a sport is a new unique Camelia color not basketball or football, and the answer to any question you wanted to avoid was "cum se cum sa". As you can imagine, life in kindergarten was bit confusing for me.

But thankfully, "Miss" Nancy, my teacher knew my father very well and appreciated my tutelage. When I threw out one of my random bits of wisdom, she would just include it in the discussion. Therefore none of my peers ever looked at me with this "Where in the world did she come from?" countenance. Our little class of five year olds just rocked along.

That was until one Friday when "Miss" Nancy started asking us geography questions. "What states are our good neighbors?" My friend Joey raised his hand and was called upon, "North Carolina and Georgia. My Aunt Carol lives in Georgia." I raised my hand, and "Miss" Nancy called on me, "Yes?" "But "Miss" Nancy, North Carolina is not a good neighbor." Puzzled, she looked at me. "Why do you say that?" "Because, they were almost the last to join South Carolina when we fought the Yankees." "Are you sure?" "Yes, mam." Then I stood up and started singing my song:

"First gallant South Carolina Nobly made the stand,
Then came Alabama, Who took her by the hand.
Next quickly Mississippi, Georgia and Florida
All raised on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
bears a single star
Ye men of valor, gather round
The banner of the right;
Texas and fair Louisiana
Join us in the fight.
Now rally round the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.-
-And here's to old Virginia--
The Old Dominion State--
Who with the young Confederacy
At length has linked her fate;
Impelled by her example,
Now other states prepare
To hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.--
Then cheer, boys, cheer;
Raise the joyous shout,
For Arkansas and North Carolina
Now have both gone out;
And let another rousing cheer
Now have both gone out
And let another rousing cheer
For Tennessee be given,
The single star of the Bonnie Blue Flag
Has grown to be eleven.-"

When I finished I looked at her. "My Daddy taught me that so I would always keep the states in order. He said it is important to remember who our friends are." All "Miss" Nancy could say was, "Oh my." Then one of my friends asked, "Can we sing that song?" Another chimed in, "Why were we fighting?" From the back, a little girl asked, "Who was Bonnie?" I turned to my classmates. "We were fighting the Yankees because they wanted to come tell us what we could do in our own backyard. And, Bonnie wasn't a little girl. It's a blue color. That was our flag. It was blue with a star in the middle." Then Joey piped up,"Who are the Yankees?" By this time "Miss" Nancy took control of the melee.

"Class, this all happened a long time ago." "Miss" Nancy said as she tried to briefly explain. Then she looked over at me with this, "Sweet heart, I know you can't help it, but please don't ever do that again" look. I didn't say a word but I knew I was right.

That night I told my father all about what happened. He just laughed. "It's not funny." I said. "Joey didn't even know what a Yankee was." My mother looked at him. "Yes, I am well aware of this. Nancy called this afternoon. Apparently she had some difficulty explaining to her class of pre-schoolers that the state of North Carolina is in fact a good neighbor." My father just looked at me. "Come on it's time for bed. Tonight I'm going to tell you all about the Trilateral Commission."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

An Unexposed Expert

First, I'll let you know, after this, I am stepping off the Amy Vanderbilt band wagon (for now) but I wanted get these last thoughts out of my system first.

I promised (or threatened) to share her notions on Brassieres. In Chapter 23 she says:

Brassieres have come a long way since Aunt Nellie was an adolescent and they bound her flat with a straight, tight bra which eventually broke down her muscles and, in her otherwise attractive forties, made her droopy. For unless support of abnormally heavy breasts is actually needed. For problem young people brassieres are not necessary except perhaps for active sports,figures the various types of new brassieres may be carefully fitted with wire, in a dress or a bathing suit, or flat-chested either. Ready-made clothes but never pressing on the soft tissues. No woman need look droopy today, either in a dress or a bathing suit, or flat chested either. Ready made clothes fit better if the bust line is something like the ideal even if this approach to perfection is considerably helped along by uplifts or falsies or both.

Now after perusing Ms Vanderbilt's 1954 tome (the 1974 revised version would not have been that entertaining!) I decided to look into her background which I knew little about. She was a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt, so I guess that gave her the credentials to speak for the upper crust. However, she was married and divorced in her early twenties. I find it interesting that she set herself as the "expert" on the etiquette of marriage when she had not much more personal experience with that institution than my Aunt Kat.

Also, she writes chapters on rearing children. Now, unless she experienced parenthood in another lifetime, I don't think anyone who has not dealt with a screaming toddler in a public place, a pre-teen who insists on wearing God awful clothes to family functions, or teenage daughters who think that their bedroom windows are actually escape hatches from the house, has any authority to speak on how to rear children. It is easy to tell everyone how the perfect world should be. If she had been in the trenches, I think her expectations would have been a little more realistic (even in her 1974 version.)

Perhaps Ms Vanderbilt should have stuck to chapters on Social Correspondence, Table Manners, Calling Cards, Weddings, and Managing the Household Staff. That was her bailiwick. Leave the messy stuff to those of us who live in the real world. No wonder my Aunt J'Nelle quoted Ms Vanderbilt, song and verse, since she too was a pompous old maid. I guess their thought was that we should have better control over our children. If they think children are to been seen and not heard. Please send in the staff!!! Nannies, boarding school, and summer camp.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Believable Fiction

I had a question concerning the correct way to address a note and consulted my always handy (well on the top shelf in the back corner) Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette: a Guide to Gracious Living. As I flipped to the correspondence section, I came across this part, which was listed under Chapter 56, "Divorce and Separation". (And this is a direct quote.)

It is the wife who still replies to formal invitations, whether or not it is she who has left home. She refuses any to which the couple has been jointly invited. She has her own quiet social life, as does her husband, but she should conduct herself always as a married woman should, carefully giving the impression that the marriage is intact and that for some reason that is none of the public's business. The couple does not attend social functions together at the moment. Or she may invent a believable fiction. Polite people never press for such information, anyway. If a woman has children she usually continues to wear her wedding ring, though she may either put away her engagement ring or have its setting redesigned.

I had to think about this for a while. So according to Miss Vanderbilt, the wife should just go on pretending that everything is OK, her husband has just taken an extended business trip. Or, perhaps his company has transferred him to another city and she has stayed behind with the children, as to not disrupt their lives. This is the "believable fiction"? Miss Vanderbilt never says anything about the husband. Perhaps he should conduct himself as if the marriage never existed.

And, I love the part about the jewelry. Maybe that's where the public takes their clue. I can hear it now. "I see that Jane is no longer wearing her engagement ring, just her wedding band." "Well, that would certainly explain Rob's extensive travel schedule and Jane's new diamond broach."

I read on and find a passage I think most attorneys representing husbands in divorce would find troubling, but we must remember that according to Miss Vanderbilt, etiquette trumps all:

If either judicial separation or separation-by-agreement occurs, no public announcement need be made through advertisements in the press, such as "My wife having left me, I am no longer responsible for, etc." This is never legally necessary. While he is still her husband, a man is financially responsible for his wife's debts for "necessaries," those incurred by her during the marriage, no matter how much he may protest to the contrary.

While I can handle the correct note, when to send flowers, and how to dress correctly as a guest at a wedding (something most people have long since forgotten - see Chapter 2). I can safely skip over Chapters 39, 40, and 41, ("Special Problems of Service", "Employer-Servant Relations", and "Dress and Duties of the Household Staff"). Chapter 42 fits me to a tee - "Gracious Living without Servants". It is too late for me to read Chapter 50, "Children, the Formation of Character." And, if I ever have an invitation from the Holy See I now know to consult Chapter 74, "An Audience with the Pope."

Did you know that: A well-groomed women is carefully girdled, if necessary, from the time she gets up in the morning until she undresses for the night. (Chapter 23) And if you have questions about the proper girdle, have no fear, our proper Miss Vanderbilt has the answer for you:

The most comfortable girdle is the two-way stretch, which allows free body movement and which is made at least partly of latex. Its loose weave permits evaporation of perspiration. Any girdle that pulls you in unnaturally, into some semblance of the currently fashionable figure, is likely to make you so uncomfortable and irritable that any striking effect your new clothes can make is nullified by your tense expression.

(I would never want the striking effect of my currently fashionable clothes nullified by my tense expression. Perhaps this was why Aunt Kat was always so cheerful - she wore a comfortable girdle.)

(I'll leave her comments on Brassieres for another day.)

All in all it's a handy book to have around. Without it, I would truly be "not up to snuff" (as my Aunty would say.) And you thought she just covered weddings and correspondence. Well, my dear, you would be incorrect. This is the thorough Miss Vanderbilt, who has a comment about every aspect of our lives. After briefly going through the book, I'd say I'm batting about 500. I am proud to say that my riding attire is correct. However, I need to work on my posture and funeral etiquette and remember it is not proper to wear costume jewelry (or anklets) with your black dress while in mourning.

Monday, July 12, 2010

You're Welcome, Thank you

"You're welcome" is now quaint. Just like the "Old South" it is becoming a thing of the past -something no longer needed. But I feel, the case is not that it is no longer needed, it is no longer understood. And, apparently Matt Zoller Seitz, a contributor to shares my view and wrote a wonderful op ed about it last week.

If this is the case, what is the answer to "Thank you"? (God knows how long that phrase can hang on before going on the way of "May I please be excused?" from the dinner table.) Seitz gives a scary answer to that question: "No problem". But it is a problem - at least to me. Our civilization is going the way of our language. We no longer express respect for each other. (If we still have any.) And, I do not think it is generational.

Everyone should have an appreciation for his fellow man. In any transaction, it being a business deal (buying that new pair of Stewart Weitzman shoes), someone holding a door open for a lady (it still happens down here), a compliment on a great meal - when someone offers a "Thank you" showing their gratitude for your action, it is only appropriate to reciprocate with a "You're Welcome". Folks, how long does this take, 2 nano seconds? The phrase has 3 syllables, thanks to the contraction. For most of us this comes as an automatic response.

Maybe the younger folks are trying to make a point, a statement if you will, that they are independent and are no longer restricted by the conventions of a life style gone with the wind. Seitz attributes part of it to the influx of Romantic languages and "You're Welcome" literally gets lost in translation. Thomas Friedman says the world is flat. If so, perhaps this is a sign of things to come - the steam roller of an international society.

I disagree. If someone learns a foreign language, they learn its nuances as to not offend the people who speak it. Just like English, French and Spanish are full of terms that if translated literally would make no sense. And, there is no doubt that languages from the Middle East are the same. But this is not about world peace, this is about maintaining civility. This is an everyday issue that is occurring around the corner and down the street.

But, luckily I am safely ensconced in the Old South. A land of bread and butter gifts, thank you notes on monogrammed stationary, yes mams and sirs, friends of my parents I call "Miss" Lou as sign of respect instead of Mrs. Guthrie, gentlemen who walk on the street side of the sidewalk, behind a lady going up the stairs and ahead of her coming down, I would never consider not saying "Please", "May I", "Thank you" or "You're welcome". Etiquette and chivalry are like that old sideboard, we inherited, it has been around for generations (may have been through the war), it doesn't matter what condition it is in, it may be worn or restored, the main thing is that it is ours, it is not going anywhere,we will pass it on to generations to come. Our manners are ingrained in the patina of our old world - Thank You!

Friday, July 9, 2010

More Vegetables? Please.

Last week when we were planning to go camping, my DH, and this where the "D" truly stands for Darling, offered to do what he could to help me prepare for the trip. I assigned him the duty planning the menus and going to the grocery store. And, that was where the discussion (and good will) went down hill.

His comment, as he started making out his list was,"Do you have any suggestions?" "Not really - just the usual meats and snacks and a variety of fresh vegetables." "I'm glad you brought that up because I'm tired of eating the same vegetables all the time."

"Excuse me. Besides green salads, I'm not sure how much more variety I can offer. You already get yellow squash, zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, sugar snaps, green beans, acorn and spaghetti squash, peppers, (even kale every once in a while), and we have tomatoes when I can get fresh ones from Edisto. What more do you want? Oh, and we have collards."

"I'm tired of all that." "Well let's see, you don't like butter beans, field peas, or green peas because you say they are 'too starchy'. You don't care for spinach, kale, turnips, rutabagas, and you despise cornflower, and if I remember correctly, you are not fond of corn." The more I think of it, the more I realize his mother really was a saint, but then she created this monster. I just have to live with him.

"I like collards." "I know and I cook them often." "But not often enough." "If you will think back, I started stir frying and roasting our vegetables after you decided you did not want them 'cooked to mush' any more. Your words not mine."

He went to the store and I finished what I needed to do before we left. I didn't think any more about our dietary discussion until I unpacked the food for dinner the first night. There I found broccoli, asparagus, peppers, and squash. I looked at him, but before I could say anything he said, "Don't think I'm done with that discussion, because I'm not."

Have stove - will cook. Since I know he has to have the last word, I can't wait to see what new varieties of produce he comes up with. I'm game to try whatever, as long as it doesn't involve a garden in the back yard.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Party Must Go On

Although, I had kept up with Walter through mutual friends through the years, I had not taken the opportunity to speak directly with him, which I deeply regret. I'm not sure what my reservation was. Maybe, I just wanted to remember him in his hey day. I would hope it was nothing more than a matter of physical distance and, perhaps, just laziness on my part for not making the effort.

Last year, a friend of mine, who happens to be a neighbor and close friend of Walter and Mary's, called to tell me that Walter had passed away after a long and difficult illness. But, she went on to tell me the details of his final days. And, like Walter's life, he went in style and grace and, I'm sure with a smile on his face.

He had been in and out of the hospital. One of the twins was getting married and the reception was planned to be held at the farm. That didn't surprise me since they all had a close love for the family home place. Walter had hoped to rally in time to be there for his son. But, it was not to be. Unfortunately, he was not even at home. He passed away at the hospital just days before the wedding. No one was surprised when the family announced that the wedding and all its festivities would go on as planned. That was the way Walter would have wanted it to be.

What was a little surprising for some of the wedding guests was that Walter had always wanted to be buried at the farm, and the family did not hesitate to grant that wish. The reception was held on a lovely southern afternoon on the lawn of Walter and Mary's home - just yards away from Walter's final resting place. The bar was appropriately set-up next to Walter's grave. Mary just covered the fresh dirt on the grave with magnolia greenery so as not to offend anyone. But the party went on, without missing a beat, Walter and all.

My only question was - Were the Gleaton's there with their "Church Going" shoes on.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Team Player

My nephew, at the ripe age of 9, has a great grasp of life and wicked sense of humor. I was reminded of this last week while we were at the beach. When all else was lost, Will would always come through with some comment that had us all in stitches or scratching our heads saying, "How is he that quick at 9?" (Remember, he was the one when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, said "A god".)

He and his older sister got along unusually well. I don't think I heard an ugly word between the two of them the whole week, which was a lot more than can be said for us adults. My brother commented that he just has that way about him. He is friendly, personable and if you just feed him enough, you rarely hear a cross word out of him. I asked my brother if he just worshipped his older sister. Well, it's an interesting relationship, he said. They are close and they get along really well, but I wouldn't say "worship".

My brother said several weeks ago they heard on the news a story of a young child who heard someone breaking into the house. Knowing his parents were not home, he got his younger sibling and rushed him into the bathroom, where he locked the door so the two of them would be safe and called 911 from a cell phone. The boys were saved, the burglar caught, and all was well.

My brother said he then commented to his daughter, "See, if that ever happened, Will would lock you with him in the bathroom, call 911 and save the day." "Oh no," said Will. " I'd lock myself in the bathroom. She'd have to take one for the team."