Category Archives: Nostalgia

Those Were the Days

One summer evening, by the light of a dim kerosene lamp, my Great Aunt Alta (pronounced Altie in the South) told me a story.

The story was about the worst whipping her dad ever gave her.

I watched Aunt Altie’s brown, wrinkled face in the glow of the lamplight. Snuff had stained her teeth, and she massaged her gums with a little, chewed stick she almost always had in her mouth.

“Well,” she said, “One day I rode a horse to my friend’s house. I must have been about 12.

While I was there, we got the idea to cut the sleeves off the dresses we were wearing. We had seen short-sleeved dresses in pictures, and we liked them.

Oh, we were pretty proud of ourselves,” she said, and she cackled.

“Our arms were pasty white, of course, because we always wore long sleeves.

I rode home wearing that dress.

Dad was in the front yard, and he looked up when he heard me come riding in.

He pulled me off that horse and whipped me with the horse’s rein. Then he ordered me into the house to put on something decent.”

I thought about Aunt Altie this morning as I went for my walk. (3,190 steps before 9:00 a.m.)

I wore a sleeveless top on this walk.

I avoid wearing sleeveless tops most of the time. Not out of modesty but out of vanity. My upper arms are flabby.

They haven’t always been so. Here is a picture of me in high school, back when I never gave a thought as to how my arms looked.

My Aunt Altie and Uncle Art lived across the road from my family, and they played a big role in my growing-up years.

They refused to believe, in July 1969, a man had walked on the moon. The news clip of Neil Armstrong stepping out onto what looked like the surface of the moon was filmed in a Hollywood studio, they said.

In the early 1970s, Daylight Savings Time was introduced and incorporated into the lives of most Americans. Uncle Art and Aunt Altie refused to reset their clocks.

“We’re staying on God’s time,” they said.

It caused them problems, mostly with television shows. They didn’t own a TV at the time, but they walked across the road to watch our TV some evenings.

It irked them no end the first time they walked into our house to watch The Waltons, only to find the show had already ended.

Aunt Altie was superstitious. You wouldn’t catch her opening an umbrella in the house, laying a hat on a bed, or walking under a ladder.

Once when I had a stye on my eye, she swore she could make it go away.

“Go stand in the middle of the road,” she said.

“Then say out loud: ‘Stye, stye, leave my eye. Catch the next one who comes by.’”

 I followed her instructions.

I don’t remember if the stye left my eye or not, but I felt guilty soon after that incantation when Gene and Shirley Robbins, with their little boy, Tex, “came by” in their old blue pickup.

I avoided the Robbins family for a week or so. I never knew which one of them got the stye. I hoped it wasn’t little Tex.

Uncle Art and Aunt Altie had grandkids living in Kansas. Duane (my age) and Judy (my younger sister’s age) made great playmates when they came for extended visits.

Duane was amazing! He could run further and faster on a dirt road barefooted than anyone else I knew.

He was brave too. He once ate a pokeberry right in front of me, after I had just told him it would kill him.

The pokeberry didn’t kill him, but he died in a car wreck before he was 30. I still miss him.

Though I wasn’t supposed to know this, Uncle Art was a drinker.

It wasn’t easy to come by liquor where I lived. Ours was a “dry” county. But now and again Uncle Art found someone to drive him to the state line where he could buy booze.

When this happened, he stayed away from home for a few days.

Aunt Altie didn’t like to stay by herself at night, so my parents commissioned me to spend those nights with her.

It was on one of these overnight visits, I’m sure, when I heard the story about the whipping.

Young girls staying with lone women at night was not uncommon in those days where I grew up. We provided no protection. Just a bit of company to ward off loneliness.

I also stayed overnight with a woman whose husband was a preacher. When he went away somewhere to hold weekend gospel meetings, I stayed with his wife.

She was a wonderful old woman. Jewel was her name.

She drank her coffee from a tin can because, she said, it kept the coffee hotter longer.

She studied her Bible daily and took notes, writing them in blue ink around the edges of the articles in The Gospel Advocate.

Doesn’t she have notebook paper? I wondered.

She fed me scrambled egg sandwiches for supper, and we played Hully Gully, a game played with dried kernels of corn.

Jewel herself was as wonderful a person as her name, though she had a slight mustache.

I rode my bike to her house when I spent the night. Sometimes she gave me a quart of fresh cream in a Mason jar to take home to Mom.

“Now, if you ever feel like you are about to turn over on that bike,” she said, “or are about to wreck it, throw that glass jar as far as you can. I don’t want you to get cut on broken glass.”

How I wanted an opportunity to throw that Mason jar of fresh cream! It would be exciting, heroic in a way, and would make a good story to tell my friends.

Alas, I never had that chance. The bike, the jar of cream, and I always made it home intact.

I hope my readers aren’t expecting a strong punch line at the end of this narrative. I have none.

I do advise women to wear sleeveless tops when they are young, though, if they plan to wear them at all.

And, remember this: You, today, are creating memories for children who will grow to be adults, like us.

One day, they will set out to do something ordinary, like take a walk.

Then they will think of you, and the next thing they know they will be strolling down Memory Lane.

Make it a nice walk.

 

PRECISELY

Facebook is a repository of both trash and treasures.

Almost every day I find there a golden nugget: a funny story or an inspirational quote that I forward to friends.

Other postings on FB make me cringe. Here is one from www.ign.com.

SUSIE LEE DONE FELL IN LOVE;
SHE PLANNED TO MARRY JOE.
SHE WAS SO HAPPY ‘BOUT IT ALL,
SHE TOLD HER PAPPY SO.

PAPPY TOLD HER, “SUSIE GAL,
YOU’LL HAVE TO FIND ANOTHER.
I’D JUST AS-SOON YO’ MA DON’T KNOW,
BUT JOE IS YO’ HALF BROTHER.”

SO SUSIE PUT ASIDE HER JOE                                                                        AND PLANNED TO MARRY WILL,
BUT AFTER TELLING PAPPY THIS,                                                                    HE SAID, “THERE’S TROUBLE STILL.

YOU CAN’T MARRY WILL, MY GAL,                                                             AND PLEASE DON’T TELL YO MOTHER.
BUT WILL AND JOE, AND SEVERAL MO’                                                           I KNOW IS YO’ HALF BROTHER.”

BUT MAMA KNEW AND SAID, “MY CHILD,
JUST DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY.
MARRY WILL OR MARRY JOE.
YOU AIN’T NO KIN TO PAPPY.”

I did not cringe because I am a Holier-Than-Thou who finds no humor in silly rhymes.

I still laugh at Ray Stevens’ funny song, I’m My Own Grandpa.

This poem made me cringe because I was raised in the Ozarks, a place where, as in parts of Kentucky, West Virginia, etc., residents are termed rednecks or hillbillies.

Crude poems like this one are assumed to have come from such people: lazy, unintelligent, ill-mannered, cousin-marrying hill folk.

At one time I was embarrassed because I grew up in the Ozark Mountains.

Today I am embarrassed that anyone bears an ugly label because of where he grew up.

My ancestors were countrified, yes. But they were hard-working, intelligent, trustworthy people for whom I offer no apologies.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my paternal grandmother, Eva (Crotts) James.

Today I am writing about my maternal grandmother, Gracie (Shoemate) Stephens.

Just as my Grandma James’ life was a study in strength, my Grandma Stephens’ life was a study in precision.

Grandma Stephens sewed the straightest stitches in the county. Whether done by hand or by machine, her work was flawless.

Grandma made clothes without using “store-bought” patterns. She looked at a pretty dress worn by another woman, did some calculating, and made dresses like it for herself and her daughters.

When she was a little girl, Grandma was given a threaded needle to practice sewing, but the thread had no knot at the end. Every seam she sewed could easily be pulled out of the fabric.

When her stitches became even and her seams were straight, she knotted her thread and quilted with the adult women.

She showed the same precision in everything she did.

She made flowers from crepe paper and tissue to decorate family graves on Memorial Day.

The silky-smooth chocolate gravy she made had her 16 grandkids licking their plates.

Her cornbread dressing is a family legend. (I have that recipe in Grandma’s handwriting.)

Grandma would have needed to stand on her toes to measure five feet tall.

But she was a giant to me.

She had a keen intellect, was an avid reader, and held firm political views.

In fact, Grandma and Grandpa often disagreed politically.

On election day, Grandpa dutifully walked a mile down a dusty dirt road to the voting site to cast his vote.

An hour or so later, Grandma often traveled the same road and voted for Grandpa’s candidate’s opponent.

We teased them, saying they could accomplish the same thing by just staying home on election day.

As you can see, it is hard for me to write about Grandma without also writing about Grandpa.

My grandparents had seven daughters. No sons.

Five of the girls grew to be loving mothers themselves. One of them was my own mother, of course, and the other four my sweet aunts.

Grandma and Grandpa buried two baby girls, each dying of infections that are easily cured today by antibiotics.

My grandparents were churchgoers.

Their big, red-edged King James Bible had its chapters marked with Roman numerals.

I had to work hard to find chapter 62 of Isaiah in that Bible.

Grandma and Grandpa had access to a traveling library.

A librarian left books on loan at the general store. Then, after a few weeks, she picked up those books and replaced them with others.

Grandpa read every Zane Grey novel the little library offered, and Grandma read novels by Christian authors like Grace Livingston Hill.

They didn’t have much formal education, but they learned from their reading.

If Grandma heard someone say of a topic, “I could care less,” she said, “No, dear, you couldn’t care less.”

(Her habit of correcting grammar alone made Grandma a hero in my book.)

She detested steamy romance shows on television.

TV couples depicted sharing a passionate kiss looked to her “like two people fighting over a piece of meat.”

Grandma was one of those people who didn’t realize how funny her stories about herself were until her listener(s) laughed out loud after hearing them.

One story was about the day she tried to ignite her gas oven’s pilot light with a match.

I can picture her now, stooped low in front of her oven, waving a lighted match under the appliance in search of its pilot light.

The next second, her tiny body landed about five feet behind where it had started, seated on its bum in the next room.

Another one of Grandma’s funny stories is documented by a photo.

A black snake had been stealing eggs from the henhouse.

Grandma tied a fishhook to the end of fishing line, pushed it inside an empty eggshell, and put the eggshell into a hen’s nest.

Mr. Snake bit, and he was caught.

Here Grandma displays her trophy. (This picture is blurry because the snake was swaying, and because the photo is a copy of a copy.)

When Grandma and Grandpa’s girls were little, their house burned. The family was not at home. The only things that survived the fire were a few pieces of furniture and the clothes drying on the line.

A neighbor drove a flatbed truck through the countryside and collected donations of clothes and household items so the family could get back on its feet.

Mom wore to school dresses she had seen classmates wear, but there was no shame in that.

Times were hard.

Grandma and Grandpa planted a big garden every summer. Vegetables were canned or frozen.

Fruit was sliced into pieces and dried on flattened flour sacks on the roofs of the tool shed and smokehouse.

Grandpa worked for years at a sawmill. He came home each evening toting the empty gallon jar he had used to carry drinking water. His blue work shirt was whitened all over by sweat stains.

His lunch he carried to work in a lard bucket: two sandwiches made of biscuits and ham leftover from breakfast.

Not every man was willing to do the hard work required to provide for his family.

Grandpa described such a man this way. “Let’s just say if he had a third hand, he would have needed another pocket to put it in.”

The wives and children of these lazy men benefited from the food and firewood Grandpa took to their houses so they could eat and stay warm.

Grandma was a seamstress and Grandpa was a whittler. They were both masters of their crafts.

I have samples of their work: quilts made by Grandma; and a cedar spoon, fork and knife whittled by Grandpa.

I remember Grandpa smelling of cedar, Lava hand soap, and Old Spice aftershave.

I sat often in Grandma’s kitchen with my eyes closed, identifying by scent the spices in her spice drawer.

Grandma made wonderful meals, but she was no short-order cook. Family and guests ate what was put on the table.

If someone complained about not liking the food, Grandma remained seated and pointed to a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread on a kitchen cabinet top.

In a conversation with relatives recently, I heard one of them remark that Grandma was not especially affectionate.

That statement stopped me cold.

“What?” I thought. “Grandma wasn’t affectionate?”

But upon reflection, I now realize Grandpa was the hugger, the one who swept grandbabies up in his arms and kissed their slobbery, chubby faces.

It was Grandpa who, every weekend I was home from college, came by to see me on Saturday morning, often rousing me out of bed at 10:00 o’clock.

Mom, my baby sister, and I lived with my grandparents when Dad was serving overseas in the Air Force.

Our presence stretched the seams of their little house because my mom’s three younger sisters were still living at home.

There Grandpa existed as the only male among seven squawking, high-strung females.

I remember standing beside their huge brown radio each morning, listening either to a man quoting cotton and soybean prices or to Elvis Presley singing Blue Suede Shoes, depending upon which adult had chosen the station.

I stood by that radio because it sat near the window through which I could look out and yell to my teenage aunts, “The school bus is coming!”

Grandpa spent half his earnings on Bobby pins, saddle oxfords, and face cream for the big girls, and storybooks and crayons for my little sister and me.

But on the day the three of us moved out because Dad had left the military and bought us a house, Grandpa said to Mom, “The only reason I’m letting you take these two little girls away from here is because they belong to you.”

He would have kept us forever.

And Grandma would have too. With fewer hugs and kisses maybe, but with no less love.

A friend who lived near me said she locked herself inside the family car whenever her grandfather visited, so he “couldn’t get at her.”

What did that mean? I wondered when I was a little girl.

Today I know exactly what that meant, and I am beyond furious.

Life isn’t fair.

Why was I born into a wonderful family who treasured me, and she had a grandpa who was a piece of scum and a family who tolerated his vileness?

The answer to that question is unknowable.

But I do know this.

I couldn’t care less where a person comes from.

It’s the people a person comes from who make all the difference.

 

 

 

 

 

STRENGTH

My paternal grandmother, Grandma James, was a strong woman.

Due to her mother’s debilitating illness, Grandma, at the age of 10, assumed the role of homemaker for her household.

She raised her own eight children during the Great Depression.

My dad said that without her, his family would have starved.

Those eight children didn’t include her twin babies. Born prematurely, they were buried in tiny boxes in unmarked graves.

Hardship and loss were her companions through much of her life.

Grandma was resourceful and wasted nothing.

She planted and tended a huge garden and canned vegetables and fruit for her family to eat during the winter.

Half-rotted and bird-pecked peaches might have been thrown out by some homemakers. But Grandma salvaged every edible scrap and canned or dried them.

She canned more than just what her garden and orchard produced though. When she had an excess of eggs, she boiled and canned them. She canned fish and other meats.

She made clothes for herself and her children. With the scraps of fabric, she made quilts.

She did her laundry, winter and summer, using a wringer-style washing machine and a clothesline.

On washdays, she had her laundry hung on the line before she made breakfast for her family.

That breakfast was cooked on a cast iron, wood-burning stove.

She mended and ironed her family’s clothes, and she gave to other people in the community who had less.

When my sister and I were little girls, Grandma made dresses for our dolls.

Her yard was filled with beautiful flowers, watered with the rinse water from her weekly laundry.

She took in more than one aging relative and cared for them in her home.

Grandma was not a big talker. She enjoyed visiting with relatives and friends, but she didn’t gossip. Prolonged pauses in conversations did not bother her.

If someone did an odd thing, such as naming a new baby Crystalline, Grandma said of the event, “Well, that’s hers fer it.”

By this she meant the new mother could name her baby whatever she chose.

Sometimes Grandma told funny stories, often about her chickens.

As she told the story, she rocked harder in her chair, laughed, and said, “Law, law! You should’ve seen that old hen take off after that hawk!”

I am certain Grandma didn’t graduate from high school. She may not have finished the eighth grade.

But she knew much that I’ll never learn.

I loved my grandma and miss her. I have a taped recording of her voice, but I can’t listen to it.

People who are born into abundance may become strong.

People who are born into scarcity become strong or die.

My love for Grandma includes a deep respect for a woman who did what she had to do.

Pondering the unfairness of life would have used up time she didn’t have to spare.

 

BOOM! BOOM!

I was (am) a Baby Boomer, born in 1952.

The following is the first paragraph of Wikipedia’s entry for Baby Boomers:

Baby boomers (also known as boomers) are the demographic cohort following the Silent Generation and preceding Generation X. The Baby Boom generation is most often defined as those individuals born between 1946 and 1964.

Interesting charts listing characteristics of Boomers can be found at:

http://www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf

https://emilms.fema.gov/IS0020.18/groups/103.html

These charts also compare Boomers to the generations before and after us. You might enjoy scanning them.

I may or may not be a typical Baby Boomer, but I will share a few of my early experiences. Some will be unique to me; others will be like experiences of my fellow Boomers.

My dad was in the Air Force during the Korean War, but he did not fight. For a while, he was stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa in the East China Sea. He also spent time in Formosa, today known as Taiwan.

When he was stationed in the States, my mother and I (and eventually my sister) lived at times near Air Force Bases in Missouri and South Carolina, and at an Air Force Station near Texarkana.

When we could not live near where Dad was stationed, my mom, my sister and I lived with my mom’s parents in rural north Arkansas.

I look at that little house today and marvel that my two grandparents, their three teenage daughters, my mom, my sister, and I managed to live happy lives in such a tiny space. But we did. Those were wonderful days for me.

Eventually my dad left the Air Force and became a store owner and Postmaster in the tiny town of Elizabeth, Arkansas. My brother and another sister were soon born, and that is where I grew up.

That part of Arkansas is near enough to the deep south to be miserably hot and humid in the summer but far enough away to be cold and often snowy and icy in the winter.

Our family was certainly not wealthy, but for that part of the country at that time in history, we were more comfortable than many.

I knew for certain I was loved. I never went without food, clothes or a clean bed.

I had cousins and friends to play with. I liked school and made good grades. My parents set boundaries, which we stayed within.

I grumbled about having to sweep floors, wash dishes, carry in firewood and pick up toys from the yard before Dad mowed, but I was not overworked.

I was never afraid of anyone except the Russians.

Mom disciplined her kids with a switch broken off her forsythia bush. Dad disciplined us with a look that kept us on the straight and narrow for a good month.

Since we lived in a rural area, my siblings and I roamed freely. We had never heard the term, stranger danger.

We knew everyone.

We played hopscotch and jumped rope. We hula hooped. We played jacks and kids’ card games. (I was deadly at Authors.)

My sister and I constructed beautiful hollyhock dolls from the plant’s blossoms and buds.

 

Our lone brother shot his B.B. gun and climbed and fell out of trees. We still joke that he was fortunate enough always to land on his head, so he wasn’t badly injured.

We played Mumblety peg, which none of my Indiana friends have ever heard of. It involved using a knife, but no one ever got hurt. Google it.

In summer, we tied strings to the legs of June bugs and flew them like kites. We swam in a nearby creek.

We put our black walnuts in the road for cars to run over and peel off the yucky outer husks. We then cracked open the hard shells with a rock and ate the nutmeats, digging out stubborn pieces with bobby pins.

Most mornings, my young siblings and I watched Captain Kangaroo. We loved the antics of the Captain, Mr. Green Jeans, Tom Terrific, and Crabby Appleton. (He was rotten to the core.) We knew by heart the song, It’s Another Be Good to Mommy Day, that was featured on the show .

Our family owned one black-and-white television set, and since we lived in a rural area, we had access to only one TV station, KYTV in Springfield, Missouri. This was (is) an NBC affiliate.

No matter how hard we twisted the big metal antenna pole outside our living room window, we could not access any other station. I routinely watched Bonanza, My Three Sons, Fury, and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (in black and white).

The Beatles made their big debut on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. My neighbor, whose television antenna accessed a CBS station, let me watch the show in her living room.

Soon after, my parents allowed me to buy a pair of tennis shoes like these. (Today I found a pair for sale online for $475.)

Keeping with the theme of fashion, here is a photo of me wearing a pair of go-go boots in 1966. I was 14.

Ironically, one of the shows that made go-go boots popular, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In, was banned by my dad. Although it was an NBC program, it didn’t appear on our TV screen.

Dad also didn’t let us watch the part of the Dean Martin Show that featured the dancing Golddiggers.

Among my friends, not one of them had a dad who restricted their television watching. I felt deprived.

Speaking (again) of television, we watched the Huntley Brinkley Report almost every weeknight. As far as I knew, that news show would lead with heartbreaking pictures of the Viet Nam War for eternity.

At different times I had crushes on Richard Chamberlain (Dr. Kildare), Michael Landon (Little Joe Cartwright on Bonanza) and Glen Campbell (singer).

We had party-line telephones and shared our line with two other families. Each family had its own phone number but could use the phone only if no party-line sharer was already using the line.

We could also listen in on phone conversations of our line sharers. We didn’t do much of this, because mostly they just talked about whether we were ever going to get any rain and what was happening on their soap operas.

In elementary school, I said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag every morning, read a passage of Scripture, and sometimes listened to my teachers pray.

I sweated on a hot school bus half the school year and felt my toes go numb with cold the other half.

In my teen years, girls wore their dresses short, and boys wore their hair long, if their parents tolerated it. Girls either wrapped their long wet hair around empty frozen orange juice cans to get big curls, or they spread their hair across ironing boards and ironed it to remove natural curls.

We went to church three times a week. Each summer, our church had a “gospel meeting.” A preacher from another area visited and preached every night for at least one week, sometimes two. Our family heard every sermon.

I attended Sunday school and Wednesday night Bible classes from the time I was a baby.

While going through some of my parents’ old papers a few years ago, I found a Sunday school assignment I completed. The photo isn’t clear, but it is a rough draft of a report on Queen Esther.

In junior high school my friends and I made gum-wrapper chains long as our arms. Mostly we worked on these chains while riding the school bus.

We made and wore out many paper fortune tellers like this one.

My fortune teller told me I would meet and marry a guy from Indiana. We would have two kids and four grandkids . . . just kidding.

Was I a happy kid? I never thought about it. Life was what it was. I didn’t do much evaluating of my circumstances. I didn’t have everything I wanted, but show me a kid who does.

I had parents (and grandparents) who were always nearby. They loved me, saw that I had everything I needed, set boundaries, and taught me about Jesus.

Paraphrasing King David’s words in Psalm 16:6: The boundary lines fell for me in pleasant places, and I enjoy a wonderful inheritance.

 

 

TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE

I received my first love letter when I was 12.

Mom handed me the envelope as I ironed a blouse.

The letter was from Ronnie, who lived a state away and was a year older than I was.

I opened the envelope, skimmed the letter, and then tore it into pieces and put the pieces in the trash.

The letter ran along this line: I like you. Do you like me? You have pretty hair, etc.

I wish I had that letter now, but I don’t.

It didn’t go out with that day’s trash though because I dug out the paper pieces and taped them together.

In my early teen years, I had crushes on movie stars like Richard Chamberlain (Dr. Kildare) and Michael Landon (Little Joe Cartwright).

Then my love shifted to Glen Campbell, whom I was certain I would marry. I wrote Mr. and Mrs. Glen Campbell inside hearts on all my school notebooks.

The first boy I had a crush on was a teenager who helped the man who delivered milk to our store. Through the front window of my house, I watched him load gallons of milk onto a dolly and roll it into the store.

I would have died a thousand deaths before I told him I liked him.

The worst thing a girl could do was tell a boy she liked him before he told her he liked her.

The first boy I went out with more than one or two times ditched me for a girl who performed I Gave My Love a Cherry at a school program. I mean that night, after the program, he ditched me for her.

Early dating is always clumsy.

Each partner wonders:

 

She: Will he hold my hand?

He: I wonder if she would let me hold her hand.

 

She: Will he kiss me?

He: I wonder if she would let me kiss her.

 

She: Will he ask me out a second time?

He: I wonder if she would go out with me a second time.

With every relationship, I made blunders.

I rejected one boy’s request for a date with these words: “I can’t go out with you. I’m taller than you are.”

Have I mentioned early dating is clumsy?

I didn’t buy a boutonniere for a boy who took me to a school social because no one told me I should do that. Few people noticed his lack of a flower though because they were looking at his cowboy boots.

Though classmates dropped out of school and got married because they were pregnant, I knew little about the sex those couples engaged in.

On the first night in my college dorm, after lights out, my roommate (a girl I had met for the first time that day) asked me, “So, how far have you gone with a boy?”

She wouldn’t have surprised me more if she had asked how many times I had been arrested.

I don’t remember how I answered, but I remember what she said next.

“I’ve been to second base with a boy a few times.”

Holey Moley!

Feeling in over my head, I kept a safe distance between my dates and me.

Boys nicknamed me “the girl who polishes the passenger side car door.”

But I wanted a real boyfriend, someone who chose me, someone who made me feel special.

The pregnant girls who dropped out of school were like me. They wanted love and acceptance.

Most of the time, that was not what their boyfriends wanted.

Guys use love to get sex and girls use sex to get love.

I will step onto my soapbox for a minute.

Moms, don’t let your daughters grow up unprepared to handle situations they are certain to face.

Dads, tell your daughters often they are beautiful, real treasues, just the daughters you want. Don’t make them wait to get affirmation from boyfriends, whose motives are not as unselfish as yours are.

I recommend this article about teenage sexuality. Check it out.

https://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/what-parents-need-to-know-and-do-about-teenage-sexuality/

In the past, I liked/loved several boys. But I have loved only one man, the man to whom I said  I do.

SNAP!

My mother was a woman of many talents. When I was a kid, she always knew where to find any item I had lost. She remembered the words to almost every poem or song she had ever heard. She warmed up to even the coolest personalities in our little community.

She also raised four children in a house that relied upon a dug well, not a drilled one, for its water supply. This meant we had to treat water as the precious resource it really was. As kids, my siblings and I joked about having to take our baths in teacups.

Our family conserved water as if the next day we might be without it, which was sometimes the case.

Mom grew beautiful flowers inside and outside. We lived on a stretch of land my grandpa called “glade rock.” By this he meant its soil was essentially dust scattered across stone slabs. A horticulturist’s paradise it was not.

But my mother planted a vegetable garden each year. Often it withered up and died for lack of rain, but optimistically she planted one every spring.

She was tenacious

In the yard she grew irises, peonies, lilies, daffodils, tulips, and crocuses that she watered with used rinse water from her weekly washing. She grew lovely lilacs, white ones and, well, lilac ones.

Inside the house she grew ferns, vining plants, and African violets. Her violets, though never entered in a contest, were prizewinners. She had pink ones, white ones, and purple ones; white ones with purple edges, pink ones with ruffled edges, and purple ones variegated with white.

As any grower of these delicate plants knows, violets demand tender care. They require access to good sunlight and need just enough, but not too much, water. Withered blossoms must be plucked so new ones can grow. Dead leaves must also be removed.

But removing any part of an African violet requires the dexterity of a microsurgeon. If during the process a healthy leaf is accidentally tapped or bumped, even slightly, it breaks.

The snapping of a healthy African violet leaf comes as unexpectedly and unwelcomely as a paper cut. The sound it makes is one-of-a-kind, unmistakable.

  My mother lived by the motto: If you think you may have broken an African violet leaf, you have.

 She applied this proverb to more than the tending of her houseplants.

Her goal was to hurt no one, not her friends, her sisters, or her children. Her ears were ever cocked, listening for the snap indicating harm had been done.

If she suspected she might have wounded one of the people she loved, she reacted as if she indeed had. She couldn’t run fast enough to make an apology and restore kinship.

She knew that, unlike leaves on violets, relationships can be mended if addressed quickly and with love.

Never doubt that she pruned her kids. She diligently plucked from us any hint of disrespect, disobedience, and every other ugly thing.

But as she removed what was bad in us, she meticulously protected what was good.

And she never broke us, emotionally or any other way.

At a restaurant recently, I watched a bully who was masquerading as a dad. He snapped at his young son, “I’ll beat that kind of attitude right out of you.”

This man needed the lesson of the violet leaf.

We all do.

NEVER ONCE

I cut my teeth on the back of a pew in a small country church. My siblings did the same. I can take you to the church and show you the teeth marks.

In that church I learned that motives count. Not only should I give, but also I should want to give. I learned that honoring my parents meant more than being good in their presence. I learned the meaning of words I never encountered anywhere else: sanctification, regeneration, propitiation.

I knew from day one I was imperfect but God loved me and Jesus wanted to save me.

Qualities taught to me at home were reinforced inside that little church. Qualities like integrity, patience, and kindness.

God poured His grace down upon me, the little girl who wanted so passionately to be good but knew she would never be perfect.

My mind often wandered during church services. Sometimes I silently reviewed the memory verse I would be asked to recite in Bible class. I looked at pictures in my Bible of blind Samson breaking the pillars of the temple and Moses talking to God in the burning bush.

I studied my fingernails, picked at my cuticles, and passed an occasional note to my sister. I thought about what I would be doing that afternoon. I listened to my grandma singing alto in the pew behind me and tried to copy her.

I fanned myself with a paper fan provided by the Leland Carter Funeral Home. I watched mud daubers whizzing outside the window. I heard baby cousins fussing just a few rows back.

I watched my mother tend to my young siblings. I struggled not to laugh the Sunday my brother held chewing gum in his hand and eventually created a sticky, pink spider web between his fingers.

I tried to pay attention if the preacher wrote things on the chalkboard. I tried to focus as he pointed to places on one of the big Bible maps that stood on an easel near the podium.

Once, in a sermon about the tabernacle the Israelites built on their journey from Egypt to Canaan, the preacher flipped the map pages to one that showed the route they took. And right there, right in the middle of the map’s desert, a mud dauber had built a brown, crusty nest.

The preacher chuckled and said, “Well, there’s the tabernacle right there!” and everyone laughed.

I thought about going to college. I dreamed about someday driving a car, being a teacher, and having babies. I wondered if I was pretty.

I pondered unanswerable questions about whether or not Adam had a belly button and if God could make a box so tiny he couldn’t get into it. I contemplated trying to use faith to move a mountain.

I checked often to make sure my slip strap was not showing. I looked down and reaffirmed that I hated my old black, patent leather shoes.

Sometimes in church, I listened and learned. But, truth be told, much of the time I daydreamed and wondered and contemplated and planned and pondered and imagined and questioned and resolved.

But never once in all those Sundays did I worry that a lunatic with a gun might walk in and blow away my entire family and me.