I don’t watch TV much. Instead, I pick out shows that have some meaning or value. One of the few shows I watch is called Forever, the story of a man who, over 200 years ago was killed trying to do the right thing, yet, instead of dying, he became immortal. The show is his story of trying to find out why and how it happened while he attempts to keep secret that he is over 200 years old.
A fantastic, spiritual show with a wonderful cast. Yet, ABC decided to cancel it even though it had a very large audience, e.g. in the millions. They also never bothered to promote it and put it in a crummy time slot. I found it just by accident as have literally millions of others. But it is a loved show that entire families watch together. How many shows can you say that about today?
Those of us who watch the show are trying to save it. There is a petition which I hope you will sign:
Another Petition to Save Forever Please sign all petitions; make a difference.
If you’ve never seen the show, I urge you to watch the first episode. It’s a great story with a warm, loving lead character: Dr. Henry Morgan.
Read about the movement to save this wonder series HERE!
After thirty-two years of writing, I took a two year sabbatical. Well, I’m back.
For your interest, I’m broadening the scope of this site; some content from earlier years and some from the present will be added.Â Also, some updates about our school mates will appear.
The following short-short is a memoir that won me an award in the 75th WritersDigest Writing Competition.Â Enjoy!
MEMORIES LACE AND LARKSPURS
Mrs. Mamie Mills was a gnome of an elderly lady and ran her household with Victorian values and firmness.Â Year round, she dressed in subdued prints with white collars and cuffs of batiste and lace, guarded over by starched white aprons edged in Battenburg lace with sashes tied into wide bows.
She possessed splendid flower gardens and old trunks laden with intricately wrought needlework, which as a child, both combined to fire my imagination into visions of elven gardens where princesses gowned in extravagantly worked silks gracefully moved about touching one bloom, smelling another.Â I constantly contrived to gain entrance to these wonders.
In the afternoon, if luck held, I would have found her in the midst of feeding her chickens, talking to them and they back to her in assorted clucks.Â Mottled and fiery reds joined in stropping her ankles like beloved cats, and she, reaching down, stroked their combs and neck feathers, all the while telling them what fine ladies they were.
By the time Mrs. Mills finished, her blue eyes would have softened from their normal agate hardness.Â This meant that with discreet prompting, I might gain access to her treasures.
Strolling through her garden of blooms, she taught me about plants, stressing that larkspurs and poppies were for early blooms while verbena and marigolds were strong enough toÂ withstand the heat of an Alabama summer.Â Sometimes, she would share with me a cutting or a whole plant dug fresh from her garden.Â Those were precious items to me.
On the most fortunate occasions, she invited me inside to view her needlework. To me, her house was filled with shadows from things past and sounds of things unknown and smelled of bouquets long dead and tossed away.Â There were lots of pendulum clocks with ticks that were loud in the silence of this childless house.Â I looked upon going into this place with trepidation,Â but my fears were overridden by the desire to view the needlework and the enjoyment of her company.
The prize ofÂ Mrs. Mills collection was stored in a huge humpbacked trunk which she called “the trousseau”, where the memories of her daughter were stored.Â She had begun this collection within a month of the child’s birth, and had continued sewing on it for twenty years, even though the child had died at the age of four.
Not only her eyes, but her whole being would light up as she opened the trunk letting escape the smell of spring – peach and apple blossoms.Â On top of the wrapping lay a desiccated bouquet of larkspurs, said to be the child’s favorite
Mrs. Mills presented the treasures one by one, explaining what they were, when she hadÂ made them, and what kind ofÂ stitches were used.Â Then she, placing the item aside, would bring out the next one for me to admire, but never touch, for being so young I might stain one of the precious articles.Â There were cut work table clothes, crotchet doilies and afghans, tatted pillowcases and hemstitched linens with inlaid lace, but the most delicate and exquisite of all was her daughter’s christening gown which she would spread out, touch gently and stare at in silence.
When the last item was viewed, she would carefully fold and wrap them placing each item back in its spot within the chest.Â Replacing the lid, the smell of spring would leave and so did the light from her eyes.
Mrs. Mills would straighten her apron, smooth her white hair, check to see if the seams in her opaque stockings were straight – none of which needed the attention – and taking my hand would say, “My dear, you best be home before dark. Mustn’t worry your Mother.”
When I was in second grade Betty, my middle sister, rewarded me for helping her with the dishes by taking me to see Royal Wedding, a movie starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell.Â Of course with stars like those two, the movie, sprinkled with song and dance routines, fired my imagination, set my feet to tapping and voice to warbling when reaching for the high notes that Jane sang so beautifully.Â In junior high, this movie became the source for many of our skits.
In seventh grade, I spent a weekend with my other sister, Mary, who had one of those new fangled appliances called television.Â I only remember one show we watched – The Hit Parade.
Oh! My God!Â My compass finally found true north.Â My body itched all over to sing and dance on stage.Â When I got back home, I didn’t walk or run through the house – I danced.Â I danced up the steps, across the porch and circled the inside of the house.
Poor Mama, she did double duty on her knees praying for my soul.Â I figured it could only help my performance.
I couldn’t wait to get to school and tell the girls.
I managed to get the sheet music to Cross Over The Bridge.Â The skit, totally copiedÂ from the Hit Parade, was performed as a scene in a courtroom – all male.
We girls never let a little thing like gender get in the way of a good song and dance routine.Â Martha, Deloise, Marjorie, Minnie and I dressed up as men and did the skit for three or four teachers, whose expressions, afterwards, ranged from martyrdom to startlement.
Later that year, the school put on their first talent contest.Â Ah-hh, for me the world had become perfect.Â I was going on stage and this time with a real audience, but no teacher picked us to be in their class productions.Â No-oo problem.Â We chose a song from Royal Wedding.Â I borrowed the record from Betty, and another girl borrowed a potable record player.Â We got down to business.
This being a nighttime show for the whole community, we had to be at our professional best.Â I’d lip synch Fred Astaire while Martha danced Jane Powell’s part of a Latin seductress.Â Margorie, Minnie, Net, Deloise, Bobby and Louise played Latin course girls wearing loud colored, swirlly skirts and flowers in their hair.
The night came.Â I stepped on stage in my brother James’ dress marine coat, white slacks with red, crepe paper stripes and Daddy’s Panama hat. (see photo below)Â The hat was a must since Fred sang, I Left My Hat in Haiti –Â I guess he’d found the thing though, since he wore it in the skit.
The chorus was in place ready to start twirling.
The curtain pulled, revealing a packed auditorium.Â I was elated.
However, the record player took a powder and made no sound.
No Problem.Â I walked around stage, with lips moving.Â Martha and the girls glided around, swirling those skirts like everything was exactly the way we had planned it.Â This proved confusing enough to the audience, to get us some pity applause.
Afterwards, Daddy laughed long, tears running down his face, loving the whole event, telling us how gutsy we were to carry on the show as we did, rather than falling apart when the equipment didn’t work.
Having learned our lesson, we promised one another we’d always pretest equipment. Then, we got down to the business of planning our next foray “onto the boards”.
Happy Mother’s Day to all our mothers and daughters, forÂ “…all mothers are our mother and all daughters are our daughter…”Â Lester Levenson
My daughter, Kathleen, just called, excitement coloring her words telling me about putting in a raised 6′ square veggie garden in her backyard, expecting me to tell her all she needed to know about growing cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and what-ever-else in a twenty minute phone chat.
When I explained that one healthy cucumber vine could cover her 6′ square bed, and corn needed rows of itself to produce, she wasn’t deterred.Â Kat, busy seed shopping on the Internet was in the throes of throwing four types of seed corn and five kinds of seed tomatoes in her cart.Â Â Her gardening steamroller was far beyond my capacity to slow down with the mere tool of reason. After all, spring had sprung and the sap was rising.
So I just listened, and while I listened, I remembered – back to the early fifties and Mama going through the seed catalogues, choosing with care what vegetables were best for eating fresh and those that were best for canning and drying.
Since most of my time during summer involved helping her plant, cultivate, gather, prepare and can from those gardens (notice the plural as in gardens) my watching what seeds she bought held special interest for me.
Especially the Tomatoes.
Each member of our family scarffed-down tomatoes, and it looked like Mama had at least six different varieties listed on the order form.
“I hope you don’t plant all those tomatoes you’re ordering.”Â I whined, seeing my freeÂ time dwindling.
“Why?Â You do like my soup in the winter?”
“And tomato juice with breakfast?”
“And all the tomato relish you can pour over ribs and pork chops?”
“Yes Ma’am.”Â Mama could be relentless.Â “Just don’t plant every cut in the field in one variety, so they all ripen at the same time like they did last year.”
“I’m ordering six different types with different maturity dates.”
“That’s what you did last Year.”
“Yes, but these are guaranteed to have staggered ripening dates,” she tried to assure me.
“And what will you do if they all ripen at the same time?Â Ship them back to the catalogue for a rebate?”
“Don’t you sass your mother, young lady.Â Have you practiced the piano today?”
“No Mama,”Â I admitted, andÂ slunk off to perform that most onerous of tasks all the while dreading another hot summer.
I came out of my memory with a smile on my face and Kathleen’s voice in my ear,Â “…and with these five varieties of tomatoes, we are guaranteed to have large fresh ones throughout the entire growing season,” she enthused.
My smile spread as I suppressed a laugh thinking – As my mother was; so is my daughter.
Anyone having lived on, or spent time on a family farm comes to realize the most prolific crop produced is chores: before school chores, after school chores and all summer chores.
In second and third grade, the girls and I competed to be the one with the most onerous before and after school chores.Â I admit, I always lost on that competition for some of the girls told horrific stories of what all they had to do.Â Although, none could lay claim to such an unusual one as mine.
Mom always had supper ready when we got home.Â Afterwards, she and Barnard went to the barn to feed livestock and milk.Â My sister Betty was left in charge of cleaning the kitchen.
I was seven, when one evening Betty crooked her figure at me and said, “You’re a suitable age to learn the art of drying dishes.”
That grown-up stuff sounded like fun, so I went with her to the kitchen.Â Well, after the third day, it proved to be not much fun at all.Â After school, I began to moan, play sick and if that didn’t work, run into the woods to hide.
All my schemes did not deter Betty in the least.Â She convinced me just how unpleasant being dragged out of hiding could be.Â And, oh yes, I was not to break any dishes on fear of death.
So, sullenly, I began my tenure of drying the dishes.
After several weeks when my dish drying was acceptable to her, she announced that I was going to learn to sing harmony with her.Â Well, I liked singing, but learning to harmonize sounded hard.Â From then on, dish drying time turned into sing along harmoniously with Betty time.
Singing wasn’t the problem.Â I had sung on key since I was three.Â It was the dad-blasted carrying a different part from the melody.
One must hand it to Betty, she was enormously determined and had Job’s patience.Â I did learn to harmonize.
After learning to stay on my part, I began thoroughly enjoying the time spent drying dishes.Â Then, she added dance steps to the singing.Â Fortunately, Momma was at the barn or she’d have stopped us and told us we were going to hell.
After I learned a few dance routines with her, Betty upgraded the difficulty of singing.Â Â She sang one song to one melody, while I sang another song to another melody.Â I struggled.Â I tried everything I could think of, including putting the dish-rag in my ears to block the sound of her singing.Â Finally, I learned that also.
One of those songs I still remember.Â I sang, “I here music and there’s no one there..,” while Betty sang, “It’s not so surprising…”
Singing and dancing had become to me what cream was to a cat.
She often told me of how she was going to Broadway, and she’d take me with her if IÂ learned all sorts of songs and dance routines.Â We’d be a sister act on the big stage.Â I shared inÂ her dreams with enthusiasm.
Betty finished school and moved to Birmingham as I started the fourth grade.Â The joys of singing and dancing left with her, and dish washing time became just a lonely chore.