The blue moon was a spectacle

A blue moon, the second full moon in one month.

The blue moon was out – and after the cloud cover disappeared, I saw it. A lovely full moon high in a sky with dark clouds scudding by. It was lovely as a full moon always is.

And I saw it so I’m set for 2015 when the next one appears – two full moons in a month.

I remember

I remember …

Those words are a gate to my past and even swing open slightly to allow me to creep into the past of my mother and grandmother.  They don’t, however, open the doors to the past of my paternal relatives. I can’t move into a male memory, not even in my imagination.

My brother and I spent three summers with my grandparents in the country outside Clio, S.C.  (half of those summers we also spent with my father’s family I Columbus, Ga.) Those years my father was stationed  overseas or out west with the U.S. Air Force and my mother was gaining her master’s degree at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.

My grandparents’ yard was sandy, and my grandmother swept it with a straw broom. I never understood why she would sweep dirt (now I realize she was clearing away chicken droppings as the hens and roosters roamed the yard). An old well was located near the house. It seemed to me the dark, still water in it might reach halfway to the center of the earth. I avoided that well because I feared it would cave in and take me with it.

The air was heavy with heat and sometimes seemed sullen. But the house wasn’t too hot (except for the kitchen) even though my grandparents had no air conditioning and I don’t remember any electric fans.

Since no kids lived nearby and my cousins lived about five miles away on the other side of Clio, Chip and I entertained ourselves. We played paper dolls with Sears catalog cutouts. Chip spent time with Dubert, our uncle. They often drove to Bennettsville and I occasionally joined them. Mother also let us help her peel apples when she made jelly. We competed to create the longest peeling – we must have wasted most of the apple in that endeavor, but she never fussed.

Chip and I played in the woods across the dirt road. There was a vine on a tree that we swung on. The creek ran clear and shallow and we could wade in it – if we watched for snakes. We also had to be careful and avoid the briars which infested the woods. They hurt.

I read, a pastime I still enjoy.  While my grandparents didn’t have many books, a favorite one was “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” My grandmother also had a travel book I read. I remember hearing somebody talk about rape one time. I knew enough to know that I should not ask for a definition. So I made my way to the dictionary to look up rape. There was the definition – the act of being raped. I knew no more when I finished than when I started.

She also would tell us stories about growing up in Dillon and about some of our relatives. She had a Japanese doll and an oiled paper umbrella, both from Japan. She would tell us about getting those from my parents (we lived in Japan for a year).  I wish I remembered  her  stories more clearly. But it never occurred to me that she would not always be around.

In my mind’s eye, I can see my grandmother, a sturdy woman with dull gray hair pulled back in a bun and bandages covering both legs at least part of the time. She had serious problems with varicose veins that ulcerated. But she wound that elastic bandages around her leg more neatly than anything I have ever seen. She always seemed to be wearing an apron (I have one of them hanging on my pantry door).

Mother spent most of her time in the kitchen, puttering around. I loved her cooking except for her gravy – you had to skim the grease off but then it was delicious – and her unsalted hoe cakes (which I thought tasted like raw cornmeal). I also felt guilt for liking bought apple jelly better than the jelly she made, which was too sweet for my taste. But her grape preserves were to die for.

My grandfather, a farmer, was a tall, slender man with a head full of beautiful silver hair. As he aged, it gradually got whiter and thinner.  Papa would go to the gristmill and take us. He’d go to the country store and talk with the old men there. But he had to go when sometime else could drive him there. He didn’t have a car. He’d also sit on the front porch with us watching the dusty road which may have seen one car an hour – if that much.

As much as I loved the old farm house, there were things I was afraid of. The outhouse was in the corn field. When the stalks were over my head, I thought I’d get lost on the way there or back. I never did.  And I always “knew” a black widow spider would bite me on the butt. I didn’t want to die in an outhouse. Besides that, I hated using newspaper for toilet paper.  Just as bad,  however, was using a chamber pot in the house and hearing the noise it made. That was embarrassing.

I was scared of the rats in the house as well as the rat traps. I never figured out which would be worse – a rat getting on the bed with me or getting my toe caught like a mouse.

After we went to be in the middle room, Dubert would sneak around outside and scratch on the window. We knew it was him and still scared ourselves silly about someone getting in and stealing us.

But the good outweighed the potentially bad.

We had the first watermelon on July 4. That’s when Papa said they were ready. I still don’t buy watermelon until then. We had homemade ice cream, made in a freezer that you churned. But even more often, my grandmother would make ice cream in ice trays – just a little for the family. Dubert made buckets of lemonade, which lemon slices and ice cubes floating  there. We had home-grown vegetables from the  garden. My grandmother cooked full breakfasts and she made salmon rolls, a recipe she created. She also never had a meal without  both cornbread and biscuits or flour bread, which was cooked on top of the stove.

Those sultry, lazy summer days taught me much. I learned to be away from my parents while in a safe, secure environment. I learned to entertain myself. I learned t6o play with my brother. I learned to appreciate a simple life.


Good news

Good news on the job front.

With a recommendation from a friend, I seem to have found my way  to a public service organization that needs writing help. I’m going to talk with them the second week in September about writing short stories about “successes” among their clients. It sounds like fun. We haven’t talked finances, but I said we could work it out. I’m not volunteering, but I won’t price my help out of their range.

Shingles are no fun

The past couple of days have been rough – more so on my mother than on me. But when she hurts – physically or emotionally – I hurt, too.

Sunday,  we called the College Walk nurse after the rash was worse on her back and her chest. I didn’t have any idea what it might be. But it had been t here for more than a week because I saw t he back rash a week earlier. The nurse said a dreaded world – probably shingles – and called an on-call doctor. He diagnosed the problem over the phone from symptoms – one side, sort of in a band, boils that were oozing and then turning dark with a crust. He also said shingles, gave her a prescription and said to see her doctor on Monday.

I changed my plans and stayed to take her to the doctor at 2 p.m.  (I was planning to go home about 10 a.m.). Both the nurse and the doctor said shingles. My mother went into an emotional spiral. It didn’t matter that her case was mild (meaning not a lot of pain) or that it wasn’t contagious or that nobody can see the rash under her clothes. When you’ll be 96 in a week, don’t feel particularly good, are fighting back pain all the time – one more thing is just too much.

After we got home, I told her to rest and she slept for about 90 minutes. After supper, which I fixed, she was doing better. But she asked me to spend the night so I did. But she was pretty much OK by 10 p.m. or so.

I hope all went well today. I left for home about 10 a.m., picked up two canvases of my mother for Christmas presents and had the motor on my car window replaced. Good thing since it rained this afternoon.

This has been a tiring weekend and start of the week, but I think my mother is doing better. So all is well.

Family makes life special

Today was good even though my mother did not feel well.

Family from New York were in town for the weekend. These folks are the grandchildren and great-grandchild that she inherited when she married Ed. They seem like our family now. They’re, of course, staying with Becki and Roger, Jason’s parents. But they came over for a visit and we all went out for supper at the Garden Cafe on Main.

Gabe, 20 months old, was in no mood for a restaurant or to eat. Actually, he seldom eats much and has had problems with digestion and food since he was born. But he’s not skinny like he was as an infant. He had to be taken out to walk several times – nothing unusual for a kid that age.

He was given a book by my mother and a toy that jumps out of a box by Wanda, my mother’s friend.

Little kids can really bring family and friends together. Where would we be without them?

Letter writing again

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”  – Phyllis Theroux

I’m taking this to heart. I believe that we’ve gotten too far away from the personal and I want to start writing more letters. I can remember when t here was nothing more exciting than getting a letter in the mail. It was more exciting than any e-mail or blog or facebook item could ever be.

My mother complains that she gets only bills and junk mail. I’ll start sending her letters every week or so. That should be fun to receive – and I know it will be fun to write. Then I’ll add my brother and his family, neices, other relatives and far-flung friends. I could stay busy doing this.

While I’ll do some on the computer and bring them out, I think I’ll handwrite some on pretty stationery. What fun!

Writing is hard work but fun

I critiqued a chapter in a book on writing that a friend of mine is writing. She’s taught writing classes – relaxed writing – and she’s a beautiful writer. I enjoyed reading the chapter, found a few places I thought could be improved and regained the inspiration to do free writing – just put pen to paper and start writing (she said to do the exercise after meditating or exercise.

It’s been years since I’ve done that although I do lots of different kinds of writing now. But maybe this will rejuvenate and energize me. We’ll see.

Since I haven’t seen Nan in a while, I dropped the chapter off at her house. Ron is on vacation this week so I saw them both and we’re planning lunch on Monday – before he goes back to work on Tuesday. It was great to catch up a little bit.

Besides that, I made another run to Goodwill and worked on gathering everything off the floor of the rooms to be painted. I’m getting excited about that.

Retirement leads to joy – or to boredom

Today was great. I had lunch in downtown Greenville with a friend and former colleague at the newspaper. We got caught up on each other’s lives since early retirement. And we have differing reactions – partially due to age, I’m sure. I’m happy as a lark. Occasionally, I feel like I should be more concerned about working harder and having a schedule, but I’m not. She is now bored to tears. Of course, she always planned to find a full-time job; I never did.

We did see a public relations/communications company owner who said she uses lots of freelancers. So I’m going to get in touch with her. I am beginning to feel the need to have a more definite schedule (although not full-time work). Also, when I got home, a woman I worked with recently asked for a little more work. And I said, ‘sure.’

Jan and I also dropped by the newsroom. She hadn’t been up and I’d only visited once with Anna. I wanted to go because today is Ben’s last day (although we didn’t know that. We only knew he was leaving – graduate school in the U K, launching a magazine and more. It’s right up his alley. Woody looks good. However, I am really glad I’m gone from there.

And just for the fun of it, I shot some Main Street photos.

Prior to my lunch date, I had a pedicure (my second one ever) and had my nails done. They needed lots of work.